Gold rush charlie chaplin
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Popular

The Gold Rush directed by Charlie Chaplin

Gold rush charlie chaplin So, this was the movie that Chaplin wanted to be remembered for the most
Your own jury can be out on that one but one thing is for sure, along with his other great classics like “The Kid” or “City Lights”, “Gold Rush” would rank as one of the all time classics – a feast that can be enjoyed not matter what your age or what your mood for that matter.
Its a measure of Chaplin’s genius that he could sustain his audience through a full length silent feature movie, a length which many modern movies struggle to fill with any meaning, with all the tech wizardy in hand.
Much like “The Kid”, which came earlier, Chaplin is able to combine comedy, pathos, a keen sense of human nature and a social  non-judgmental commentary and a sense of irreverent frivolity.
Many people today mistaken Chaplin with slapstick or physical comedy, which is a tragedy of ignorance. Almost none of his works are of the kind that would make you laugh without making you think, however subtly. And that is where the power of something like “Gold Rush” comes into focus.


The Tramp is now in the middle of the infamous Gold rush in Alaska of the late 19th century. And as ever, he is bumbling along alone, with his trademark top hat, ill fitting coat and stick, all in the wilderness of Alaska. He is the lone prospector trying his luck in the advertised El Dorado, with only a map drawn with just north south arrows.
On the way to struggle to fame, he meets quite a few characters along the way – the thug, the prospector who finds the mountain of Gold and then loses it, the ladies man Jack, and the woman who he falls in love with – Georgia, a dancing girl in one of the prospecting towns.
With his inimitable charm and bumbling confidence, the Tramp does what he does best – makes you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same  dance-halltime.
Between fighting a bear, almost getting eaten after being mistaken as a chicken and escaping from a see-sawing house on an cliff edge, the Tramp is the dreamer who falls madly in love with Georgia, who only finds him a useful foolishness.
Some of the most indelible imagery of “Gold Rush” is of the Tramp being a misfit even among misfits. The image of him facing the dance hall, back towards us, with people dancing gaily around him, while he just watches with us seeing his face is one of the most enduring image.
And of course who can forget the simply hilarious dance of the rolls – charliegeorgiazwone of the most famous scenes of all times. A scene that combines a comic timing, comic expressions, a virtuoso skill at the pantomime of dance using rolls, all happening at the backdrop of it taking place in a dream where the tramp is imagining a happy place with a reality quite different. If one scene can define the whole movie, it would have to be this one
What finally happens is something that you have to find for yourself as telling the ending is spoiling the fun. But unlike many of his earlier movies, I found the ending to be a bit equivocal.
The beauty of “Gold Rush” and probably why Chaplin wanted to be remembered for this is that this movie works so well on different levels. It depends on what how the viewer wants to take it. On the surface is a classic Tramp caper with his inimitable style.
Dig a bit deeper and you  catch glimpses of social satire – on human greed, on human frailty, on vanity, on capriciousness, of pride and of love based on material and physical aspects. And the ending with the kiss, with the Tramp acting the imperious millionaire, is an ending you can take in more ways than one.
Easy to see why the Tramp is such a loved character, even after almost a 100 years after he came on the screen and also easy to see why “Gold Rush” would remain one of the most well-loved of Chaplin’s movie.

The roll dance





Roll Dance Gold rush


Book Review, Humour, Satire

A Case of Exploding Mangoes written by Mohammed Hanif

81437 The subcontinent’s answer to Catch 22!!! and Slaughter House V!!

This book is one of the best dark political comic thriller that I have read in a long time..this is bitingly satirical and at times cuts you like a knife while making you split on the other side with laughter.

And for anyone who knows Pakistan’s troubled political landscape even passingly, this book is a realization that the best way to express themselves is by humour – the savagely comical variety. The truth which would be depressing in a factual format suddenly becomes something that can be laughed at and laughed with. You understand the anguish much better when you have shed a few tears of laughter…

The book is based loosely around the assassination of General Zia-ul-Haq, who died with almost his full military brass and the American ambassador in a plane crash in 1988.

But the story becomes a sort of “Murder on Orient Express”, with everyone trying to do the killing – the generals, trade unions and our hero and narrator,  Under Officer Ali Shigri, who seeks revenge for the death of his father, a decorated officer but who is ultimately haunted  by his actions.

The book is dark and funny at the same time. The events happening are dark but the narrative and the characterisation makes it humorous. There is intense lampooning of General Zia and other military top brass, which cuts them down to size and makes you almost feel sorry for them at-times. In fact Zia comes across as a dangerously deluded avuncular character who has got worms in his ass, who is browbeaten by his wife and uses the Koran as a daily horoscope.

That the author makes the country almost devoid of civilian in the hanif-book narrative is deliberate. It heightens the sense that the military are living in their own lie. And the occasional glimpses of the people only results in them abusing the ‘uniforms’, much to the soldiers’ amazement, who thought they were idolized…

The book alternates, in its chapters, between Ali and Zia, with our narrator stumbling from one hole to another (sometimes, quite literally), meeting quite interesting characters on the way especially the ‘Secretary General of the All Pakistan Sweepers Union’. Zia, on the other hand moves from one paranoia to another, convinced that someone is out to kill him (he was not wrong of course!!). The two characters converge in the closing part of the book, when Zia is killed in more ways than one!!!

What makes this book stand out is that the material it deals with is dark yet the author manages to bring out the laugh out of you almost every page. You feel like a phantom floating above a comic opera. And that is the best vantage point from which to see the panorama. At times what Zia and Co is doing almost seems unreal, but then you realize that we have been fed too many boring news reels!!! And seeing them bumbling around makes you almost closer to them and produces better laughs!!!

20050715001104902 And boy, is this book racy. I finished it in one sitting and its 364 pages long! It just keeps you on the edge, not only with the humour but also because you can see the plot thickening!!! And yes, the political satire is mature, which makes it even more enjoyable!!!

One of the best reads of the year for me definitely, if not one of the best of all times!!!


Comedy, English Movies

Curb your enthusiasm conceived by Larry David

curb_your_enthusiasm This is one of the most successful American comedy series so it is a bit of a surprise that it is so little known in India.

This is all about the most cynical social misanthrope that you cant help but fall in love with!!! Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, plays himself, albeit in a highly exaggerated form.  He plays a semi-fictionalized self, living as a semi-retired writer who has made a lot of money after the uber-successful Seinfeld series. A lot of other characters play themselves – Ted Danson, Richard Lewis, Mary Steenburg notably. A lot of delightful guest appearances happen throughout the seven seasons (there is another one to come out in 2011) – people like Mel Brooks, John McEnroe, Martin Scorsese, Ben Stiller, Shaquille O'Neal, David Schwimmer, Lucy Lawless  and the Seinfeld cast play themselves in sometimes more than one episode…

The show in mainly centred around the relationship that Larry sharesCurb Your Enthusiasm - Season 6 - Jeff Garlin and Larry David - Claudette Barius/HBO with the people around him – his wife, his friends, his manager, his friends and a lot of people that he meets daily – waiters, drycleaners, drivers and so on. He is a misanthrope with highly eccentric ideas and theories especially about social conventions and suffers from a foot in the mouth syndrome. But he is eventually good at heart and frequently goes out of his way to help his friends and other people around him, though he still manages to put off the people who he is helping.

The main feature of Larry’s characters  is that he is absolutely socially incorrect. He would say and do things that people would not because, well, we have been taught not to do so. Larry is always getting into troubles for this reason, frequently being thrown out of people’s houses 22_curbyour_lg and having to try and try and make up with people who are upset with his improper frankness.

He would almost always say what he has in mind even if it is completely out of context (which is very usual) or offensive (from mild to extreme). He is constantly getting into one warped situation or another. His manager, the incorrigible adulterer Jeff Green (played by Jeff Garlin) is almost always a partner in all the troubles – either as a direct participant or as an advisor or a confidante. In almost all the serials, Larry gets a tongue lashing from Jeff’s foul mouthed wife Susie (played by Sussie Essman).

At the end of each serial, Larry ends up with more trouble than he started out with. At the end of each serial, you wonder how people tolerate him at all. And at the end of each serial, you wonder why hisCurb Your Enthusiasm - Season 6 - Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman - Claudette Barius/HBO frequently embarrassed wife, Cheryl (played by Cheryl Hines) doesn't leave him (she does in a season, but comes back eventually).

And at the end of each serial, you end up laughing and grinning away like crazy – at Larry’s antics, his theories, the embarrassing situations he gets into and the way things always seem to go wrong for him. And it takes just one serial for you to get comfortable with the characters and it is soon that you become addicted to the series. You just want to see what other troubles he can get himself into…

This is one comedy series that you can keep for a long time and which you can watch anytime. There is no irritating canned laughter and that's the way I like my comedies. I want to hear my laughter. And I was constantly hearing it throughout the seasons…

I was almost heartbroken when I got through with the seasons. Life seemed a little less joyful but hey I can always watch them as re-runs. After all they are all on hard drive!!!




Book Review, Humour, Science fiction

Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy (all 5 books) written by Douglas Adams

6a00c22521073e8e1d00d4142a15843c7f-500pi1 The thing with cult-classics which you have not read or seen is that you many times you feel let down by the end of it, having driven your expectations sky high before you started off. Something similar happened with me with Star wars after I finally decided to see all the six movies in one go (the first three were enjoyable, the last three were a let down)…it has something to do, I think, with the fact that many of the cult classics became such at a certain time and place and with the decades passing and with changing technology and sensibilities, things that might have seemed extraordinary become pedestrian or archaic…

So, it was with some trepidation that I started off with this hugely successful series – a series that started with a radio show, grew into a trilogy and then five books, spawned comic books, movies and two types of towels!!!

After having finished all the five, all i can say is that I don't remember633715261840117110-HitchhikersGuidetotheGalaxy having laughed so much except for “Three men on a boat” and “Yes Minister” series…and I have never read such veritable nonsense that strangely seems to make sense. Even though I knew that Adams had improvised while writing, which led to some contradictions, the storyline is solid enough to be a immensely rollicking ride. You have to suspend your belief of course and after the first few pages when the earth is destroyed, it is not really difficult to do so!!!!

What pops out of the pages are not something alien as such but things you can almost relate to but they happen in such bizarre combinations that they cant help but bring a grin to your face. The combinations of hitchhikers_guide_to_galaxy_2005_te such absurdities are just too numerous to recount but one thing for sure is that out of almost every page would come out something that can only be the product of a feverishly creative imagination taken notches higher by a haze of cannabis!!!

I think that the cake for the most unintentionally comical character in literature has to go to Arthur Dent!! if the best humour is created by contrasts, Dent’s perennially flummoxed character has to be one of the best examples. From the moment he is rescued by Ford Prefect by the use of a towel and had a fish stuffed in his ear, Dent goes unboldly where no man has ever gone before!!! Along with Ford, Zaphod, Marvin the depressed robot and Trillian, a fascinating and unlikely group is formed to trawl the universe. They are helped along with the encyclopaedically unreliable ‘Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy’.

The incidents and the stories and the sub stories are just too numerous to recount but something that I found fascinating was that in the total of 1000 odd pages that make up the five books, the humour never flags and you never lose interest, inspite of the absolute nonsense that seems to be going in the pages. Strangely for all that nonsense, you never once feel alienated from it or feel that its been too much. 10002005_the_hitchhickers_guide_to_the_galaxy_wallpaper_001 pages of utterly fascinating nonsense – that's quality writing!!!

How can you forget the question of meaning of life, the actual rulers of earth, the real message of dolphins, Gods last message, the origin of cricket and the reason why the rest of the universe hates earth, the real ancestors of earthlings and so on…if you want the answers to all these, turn the pages. You wont be disappointed with the answers though you might be a little more than surprised

If I have to pick the best out of the five, it would be difficult to do so, since each one has a character of its own. The first one is the most hitchhikers2 fascinating, probably because its the first of the series and you get almost a culture shock when you read it. The last one is pretty dark at the end…

For someone who goes through life without reading these, it would be a huge loss. These books redefine a genre of their own and the humour is right there among the top in world literature…

The review has to go on for atleast two dozen pages if the books have to be described properly in all their humorous glory. Better still to read them…

Russians are coming russians are coming
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Satire

‘The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming’ directed by Norman Jewison

russians-are-coming-dvdcover This is a movie that you will not hear of easily and after watching it, you would wonder why…

This is about as good a political comic satire as you would get. True, the acting is woody and over the top at times but the storyline is funny and the over the top action seems appropriate for the mood of the movie.

A Russian sub runs aground off the coast of America, on a small New England island town, when the commander of the sub tries to get a closer look of his ‘enemy land’. Not wanting to create an international incident, a nine man contingent is sent to the island in order to secure a motorboat to help draw out the sub.

And that is when the fun starts…in spite of the best efforts (may I say comical) of the Russians to make themselves blend in, suddenly the island is in the throes of an irrepressible rumour – The Russians haverussiansposter invaded!!!

The movie panders to stereotypes, both of Russian and American, in order to bring out the humour but it works quite well. As is quite obvious, the story is about how rumour feeds off itself and how panic spreads by the mere repetition of the rumour. The sight of the hapless and bewildered Russians trying to make sense of it all in face of them being branded as the steamrolling invading force is incredibly funny. The American gung-ho style of meeting the invader head on becomes funny when they actually start to search all over the island for the enemy who were supposedly all over the place…

russians4 There is obviously a message in the movie, if you care to look for it – as to how stereotyping and propaganda creates caricatures of people whom who we consider as enemy. But the message is so obvious that you sit back and enjoy the comical satire and you wonder how the poor Russian are ever going to get out of this one!!!

Alan Arkin is the best character in the movie – the over-confident second in command who feels his English is top notch (the scene where he teaches emergency words to his colleagues is simply hilarious). He is the translator and the coolest brain in the sub.

I think that the thing to be considered is that when the movie was top10warcomedies_10 released, in 1966, the cold war was at its absolute peak, the time when Dylan was singing “Let me die in my footsteps” (about the government generated scare of Russian annihilation). This movie is about how senseless all the propaganda is and that, to me, is a brave statement to make. And the best way to make a statement like that is by humour.

That, this movie does brilliantly…




Drama, English Movies, Satire

Igby Goes Down directed by Burr Steers

20070423064402191 If ever you wanted to see Holden Caufield on the screen, this movie is it…

Some purists feel horrified at the fact that someone has taken the classic and turned into a modern story. I, however, feel that art must renew itself periodically, otherwise it atrophies. Especially when the portrayal is as beautiful and sensitive as this one…

Igby (Keiran Culkin) inhabits a world where he sees hypocrisy and duplicity everywhere. He is close to his father who now lives in a mental asylum and he hates everything else…Its a world that is coming of age but is already repelled by what he sees is the result of coming of age…

The story follows Igby as he stumbles from one relation to another, all the while keeping his humour and sarcasm up while he is gettingigby goes down SPLASH scarred…and his sarcasm really makes you go splits most of the times!!!

The movie is populated by memorable characters, from his elder  brother Ollie (Ryan Phillippe), a manipulative smooth talker, Mimi (Susan Sarandon), their mother who is a complex book all by herself, Rachel (Amanda Peet), the vulnerable mistress of his godfather D.H. Banes (Jeff Goldblum), who in turn is the classical alpha-male and Sookie Sapperstein (Claire Danes), the hippie love interest, who in a fit of conformity betrays Igby.

08542-1 The acting by Culkin, however, to me, is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is his character and his acting that holds the fibre of the story together. He is someone who is sensitive and highly vulnerable but who hides it all behind a mask of sarcasm and callousness. The times when his vulnerability comes forth makes for some of the most memorable moments in the movie. His leave-taking was one of the most poignant parts of the movie, especially the scene with his father…

A quirky, sensitive movie about people who are branded outsiders, by themselves and by others. As I said, Holden Caulfield in modern day New York…

Watch this and you would take away memorable characters, great acting and a wonderful bittersweet feeling…



the_ladykillers coen brothers
Comedy, English Movies

Ladykillers directed Ethan and Joel Coen

Ladykillers Except for a few unnecessary gags, this is one hell of an enjoyable comic movie. I understand that people compare it to the original and don't like it  as much for the same reason.

But hell, I have only seen this one and would then, fortunately, be able to judge it personally on its own merits…

The star of the show is undoubtedly Tom Hanks. He literally carries the whole movie on his shoulders. Playing a dandy professor with an overdeveloped sense of the literature (especially of Poe), Hanks (as Prof Dorr) is actually the head of a criminal crew who aim to rob a casino in a sleepy town in Mississippi. And the whole crew is uniformly and wonderfully eccentric especially Gawain(Marlon Wayans).

The gang is pitted against the landlady of the house from which the tunnel is to be dug (where Dorr has taken up tenancy as a cover),a pious black elderly widow (who is fat in the nice stereotypical black landlady way!!). A band of criminals against her…nice contest, wont you agree?!!!

The ups and downs of the gang through a series of mishaps makes this one seriously funny movie. There wont be any gags pulled nor any special action sequences. It would be just in words and facial expressions that you would get you giggling…and yes, watch out for Hanks. It was one of his best performances I have seen, in a role thatladykillers2 seems to be cut out for him. He is verbose, speaks in a eighteenth century tongue, is a wonderful orator and is also equally ruthless. Excellent combination!!!

Of course, beware – this is not a thorough light-hearted comedy. If you don't like darkness in your comedy, you may not enjoy it that much (and if you like it, you would enjoy this). I mean, this is not Mr Bean or Friends. This movie would fall into a dark-comedy-thriller genre if there is such a genre. It actually feels like a movie made in another era. Maybe because its a remake of the 1955 original. That feel only adds to the appeal that of this movie…

Though a few gags could have been done away with, this is a movie that you can watch many more times than once…if for no other reason, for the sight of Hanks' (or Dorr's) quotes and oratory especially his rendering of Poe’s “To Helen”…