Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nightcrawler, the movie. Is it just macabre and pastime, or does something ingenious lie beneath?

Yesterday, I watched "Nightcrawler", the movie.
Immediately after, I had mixed feelings about it. The film, the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy -- an established script-writer -- is rich, bleak, aptly written and directed. The casting choices are not the best: Jake Gyllenhaal is way beyond the appropriate age for the wandering, yet decided protagonist, and Riz Ahmed is too Asian/Arab to go by the name of Rick. However, both are great actors, especially Jake Gyllenhaal who gives one of his best performances. Rene Russo was good in her few scenes as well. I loved the characters, the backdrop and the psychological tension throughout.
I had one problem with the movie, albeit a big one - there was no story to be told, no moral, no real theme. The films tells of a young man who's devoid of morals, but determined as hell. One day he gets to know of nightcrawling (chasing crimes, videotaping them and selling them to news stations). His daring techniques and ruthless character help him get the best "emotionally-fit" shots, as well challenge every opponent, even friends at time, in this harsh career. Through a couple of incidents, he records good material, gets successful, eventually expanding his business into a two-van company, hoping one day he'll own his own news station. And, that's it. The movie ends.

I looked up a few reviews about the movie, but nobody seemed bothered about this particular pitfall.
However, today it suddenly hit me. What if Dan Gilroy actually meant for his story to end off-screen? What if his take home message was exactly that: Ruthless, determined bastards are the only ones who could - through sheer determination and conceit - fulfill their dreams, and eventually they are the people running our news and show business right now. Gilroy just gave us a glimpse at how those heartless entrepreneurs began their lives. The takeaway message might be just that, "Don't ever believe them. They are real scumbags."
Could it be really that, or am I way off the mark?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Man in White

In mismatching, color-washed and weathered uniforms, a trio of depressed National Guard soldiers slowly dredged across the empty streets of downtrodden Paris.
It was the early morning of Wednesday, May 10, 1871.
No sooner had the trio crossed the intersection of Rue de Rivoli and Boulevard de Sebastopol, than a bearded man dressed in white appeared, out of the blue, in front of them.
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” exclaimed Pierre Moreau—the young good-looking son of a wealthy soap factory owner, now a drafted soldier. His fellows, both volunteers since last September, frowned at the supplication betraying the kid’s catholic affliction. One of them, Alexandre Dupont, a Jacobin Republican and previously a book editor, was a Deist, while Gerard Roche, the other comrade, and commander of the trio, previously a factory accountant, was a radical socialist, and an atheist. Moreau bowed subjectedly, and loitered behind.

Friday, March 14, 2014

On writing the next big thing: Torn between 19th century Cairo, Paris, and Atlanta


For the few past months, I have been pondering over a new adventure novel set against the backdrop of a major historical event—an all-time favorite writing gimmick. Though I am a voracious reader of history, be it a book, article, or just a worn out paper clipping, it has been a while since the last book capable of triggering my creative muse. So eager to find a respectable history book, carrying the promise of intrigue and rich dramatic premise I began the hunt for my next great read.
Though I’m a digger for all history, I’m particularly fond of Post-bellum U.S., Post-1848 Europe, and 19th century Egypt. As an Egyptian, now particularly writhing uneasily by what’s going on in my country, I started looking up books talking about things all the way back, hoping to find the roots of the dilemma we are living nowadays and discerning out what had messed things up in the first place. Of course, I couldn’t go 7,000 years back, so with the formation of modern Egypt in the early 19th century, I started my journey in history.
Book after book, I slowly digested the dynamics that enabled an Albanian officer, Mohammed Ali, of the Ottoman army, and later Wali (governor) of Egypt, to transform the almost 300-years stagnant country, into the world’s sixth strongest power, and one of the leading economies (imagine a 1999 South-Korea strong economy); conquering land three times its size (invading Arabian Peninsula, Sudan, Syria, even plunging deep into Anatolia, and threatening Constantinople itself, twice)—all that in the matter of thirty years. However, that meteoric rise came to a sudden standstill upon breaching the balance of world powers set at the time by mighty Britain. Fearful of a sudden collapse of the Ottoman Empire and a compensatory expansion of the Russian Empire, Britain curbed the ambitions of the greedy Albanian and quickly disciplined him back to his boundaries. After another thirty years, his grandson, Khedive Ismail, exhibits similar grandiose scheme; however, this time, he takes permission from the current world powers, Britain, and France, and this time expands southwards, into Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Somalia, all the way down to the Equatorial lakes.
Muhammed Ali, Wali of Egypt
Coats of Arms of Egyptian Khedivial state

Khedive Ismail

Friday, October 18, 2013

Perry Mason, revisited nineteen years later.


I was an Erle Stanley Gardener fan for a long time.

Nineteen years ago, when I (a teenager then) picked my first Perry Mason case, I was fascinated…fascinated enough to pick twenty more Perry Masons, and then venture into other series written by ES Gardener. I read ‘Cool & Lam’ series; loved the cliffhangers, didn’t enjoy the potboilers…then was the district attorney ‘Doug Selby’ series; one that I didn’t like. Perry Mason remained my favorite hero. Give me one of his cases any time, and I’ll devour the delicious mystery zestfully.