Thursday, October 30, 2008

Son of Rambow

I have to admit that I teared up a bit while I was watching this film. Ok, it doesn't take much for me to cry while watching movies because I tend to get overly emotional. I mean, I cried while watching You've Got Mail (even though I am never going to admit this in real life, and before anyone gets all judgemental on me, I'd like to point out that I was thirteen when I saw it), so I get sensitive quite easily during films.

However, I was quite impressed with Son of Rambow. I saw some adverts promoting the film when I was in London last year on the public transport and mentally laughed about the title thinking it was some sort of a B-movie, you know like The Loin King, Romancing the Bone, Forest Hump, Saving Ryan's Privates, etc. A couple of months ago, I read a review and found out that it was actually an independent film that premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival. I have always had a certain love for indie movies even though I pretend not to care much about them because I don't want people to think I'm a hipster.

Son of Rambow is is not a life changing movie, and nor does it pretend to be. It is a coming-of-age film about two boys coming from different backgrounds growing up in 1980's England trying to enter a film competition by making a sequel to Rambo. Its got all the elements an indie movie needs - a good soundtrack consisting of unknown bands, quirky characters, bizarre minor characters, a deep and meaningful message at the end of it shown by a minor incident that occurs during the film, and a feel-good finale.

What starts as a small movie project between two friends slowly envelopes the whole school because of a certain French exchange student and ends up straining their friendship. What I loved about the film was the changing dynamics between the central characters, where the shy kid (Will) suddenly becomes cool throughout the school and the aggressive bully (Lee Carter) is the one who wants their film to stay between the two of them. The film has some really lovely poignant moments particularly in the scene where Will's mother tells her bossy, overbearing priest to literally fuck off or the scene when Will and Lee Carter decide to become blood brothers for life, and the scene when Lee tells Will why he always puts up with his older brother's bullying and defends him. There are some great scenes that show Will's imagination running wild. It kind of reminded me of the time when I was a kid and my imagination used to flit from one thing to another before I could even realize where my mind was going.

The in-between filming scenes of the documentary are most amusing especially the ones after Didier (the French exchange student) and his troop join in. The final product is utterly hilarious, and I love the bit when Lee's brother leaves him a serious and deep message while playing the Scarecrow in the final scene. In short, this is a cute movie that you should watch when you're in your house, on a rainy day, wanting to watch a light movie without any deep subtext, and can't think of anything else.

PS: One of the boys in the film is going to play my favourite character, Eustace Clarance Scrubb in the next Narnia movie, and I can't wait for it to come out!

PPS: An additional reason to watch this film is because its got Chuck Bass, playing Lee's older brother (with an adorable British accent that takes time getting used to even though that is Ed Westwick's actual accent), and anything that has Chuck's approval is definitely worth watching.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

9 to 5

I always though that I wasn't cut out for nine to five jobs, but working for three months in an office has made me realize that I don't mind them all that much. Ok, there is the whole 'Oh god, I hate this mindless drudgery' factor, but how many people can boast of earning money while doing something they genuinely like?

To tell you the truth, its not like I earned any money while I was working, since it was an unpaid internship. All I got was university credits and an experience to last me a lifetime, as the internship guide said. The problem with working in an office that is not paying you is that they don't care much about what you're doing, which is not always a bad thing because it gives you a lot of time to do other things that you've always meant to do but never got around doing (i.e blogging, catching up with tabloids, looking at universities, wasting time on wikipedia etc.)

Being the lowly intern that I was, I arrived at office in the morning at 8.45 a.m and was given some menial tasks for the day. I browsed the internet, did the crossword and/or sudoku, worked for a bit, had lunch, chatted with my colleagues, made a few calls for work, updated and charged my ipod, worked a bit more and then got ready to leave by 5.30 p.m. That sounds like a nice day, doesn't it? I don't know why people complain about their jobs so much. This lifestyle suited my lazy self muchly. Most of the day was spent hanging around and waiting for my boss to come to office, which was mildly irritating in the beginning, but I got used to it soon enough.

It wasn't a bad life, but it wasn't a particularly stimulating one either. The week used to pass so quickly that I didn't even have time to think where time was passing, and by the time I realized I was tired, it was already the weekend. If I had a choice I'd probably not get out of bed for two days straight, but my friends wouldn't hear it otherwise, and I used to occasionally be dragged out in the evenings by either my school friends or work colleagues. Before I had time to even think about what was happening, three whole months were already over!

I had a good time at work, but this could be because I wasn't burdened with work to do or because my colleagues were really fun or maybe because it was the first time I was working, so I was over-enthusiastic. Sometimes, when I am drudging through exams and finance calculations, I happily think back about the time where my day used to consist solely of writing emails, making phone calls sending out faxes, and then a nine to five job doesn't seem all that bad!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the most underrated city ever

The minute I stepped into this city, I knew I was in love. Maybe it was because I hadn't slept in over forty eight hours, or had just come from one of the hottest cities in Spain where the temperatures were 40°C into a suitable, temperate climate, or because of the fact that we were booked in a hotel for once, instead of shared dorms where I had been living for the previous fortnight, or it could have just been because the town was just so overwhelmingly picturesque; I knew that I was going to love it before I had even seen it properly.

I haven't travelled half as much as I would want to, but I've been around Western Europe a bit, and in spite of all my travelling, Porto caught me completely unaware. Portugal is a beautiful country; it has everything from good looking men to delicious food and fabulous buildings, and I expected it to be nice before I went there. But I had spent the previous week in Barcelona and Madrid, and its pretty hard to be impressed with anything after visiting these two places. I never thought that Porto would actually be comparable to anything we had seen in Spain.

I was very pleased to be proven wrong, because Porto was just beautiful. Its too small a place to be even labelled as a city, but too big to be called a town. Its one of those places that sits right in between a city and a town, where you can enjoy the pleasures of a big city, while having the calm, lazy atmosphere of a small town. It is a sort of place where you don't even need a map for navigation because all roads take you from the main square to the riverbank and vice versa.

The first thing that struck me about this city was that it was just so colourful. I've never seen a town more colourful that Porto, and I live in Italy, so I know about colour! Sometimes, I think that European cities look more vivid to the eye when you look at black and white photographs because they are so ancient, monochrome and made of stone, but in Porto, it is the colour that makes this city come to life.

The city is positioned on a hill, so you need to walk uphill quite often, which is very tiring, but you get used to that after a few hours, and the view from the top is worth the climb. I have never seen a city with more churches than I saw here. From any given place, you can probably count at least five to ten church roofs, and the churches are architecturally very different from anything you find in Italy or Spain. I must say that even though the churches seem quite bare after the extravagance you see in Italy, they have their own charm. I also fell in love with the blue and white tiles that are used everywhere, from residential buildings and random walls to church façades.

Everything in this place gives you feeling of being ancient. It is as if someone has built it a long time ago, and completely forgotten about the town they built, and it was not unusual to find abandoned or burnt down buildings while walking around. I just adored the buildings all around the city and went crazy talking pictures of random houses. They were so charming; I know it sounds very grandmotherly to use the word 'charming' to describe something, but I can't think of a more fitting adjective to describe these buildings.

If all this was not enough, the excellent wine and delicious food in Porto is should be able to convince anyone who still has any lingering doubts about how amazing this city is. The photo above doesn't do enough justice to the francesinha, which tastes just as good as it looks. Porto is also one of the cheapest European city I have been to. Everything there is about 10% cheaper than the rest of Europe. After Madrid and Milan, it really felt as if we had struck gold.

Another reason why I am never going to forget Porto is because it has the most adorable bookshop in the world. After Paris, I never though I would fall in love with another bookshop again, until I stumbled onto this one. We just landed there by chance while randomly strolling around. They should really make it illegal to have such overwhelmingly pretty bookshops because people are unable to concentrate on the books the shop actually sells.

Porto is definitely one of the most underrated European cities, and worth visiting by anyone who is thinking of travelling around Europe.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Parlez-vous français?

As a part of my university requirements, I have to study an additional language this year. When I say additional, I mean that this will be the second foreign language that I would have studied in the course of my three years at uni. My university well lives up to its Eurocentric reputation and only offers courses only in European languages. Hence, I had a choice between Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Unfortunately, I couldn't choose Italian as my second foreign language because I had already studied it as my first foreign language, which is why I was forced to choose something else from the above list.

Six years ago when I was still a young fledgling, I had to study French in my old school in Bombay, which basically involved the school giving us lists of vocabulary and grammar rules, and us memorizing them without understanding what we were studying. Can you imagine what Indianized French sounds like? Well, you shouldn't bother much with it because it is quite painful to hear. The only thing my French lessons from school helped me to do was to have a good topography of Paris in my head. I pretty much knew my way around Champs Elysée, Place de la Concorde, L'Arc de Triomphe, Le Tour Eiffel, Musée du Louvre, Rue Saint-Honoré, Avenue d'Opéra, Montmatre well before I went to Paris.

So when the time came for me to choose a language this year, I didn't even give it a second thought and chose French. I mean, however beautiful Portuguese and German may sound, you don't see me learning them in a year, do you? And keeping my love for Spanish men and Spain apart, I couldn't possibly learn a language that sounds as crude as Spanish. No, not even Gujarati sounds as vulgar as Spanish, and so I didn't even think about the other options.

It all seemed simple enough until I realized that someone had forgotten to mention that I had to learn my second foreign language in my first foreign language. Yes folks, I am actually studying French in Italian. All of you can probably stare at your computer screens and look mildly amused, but this is no a laughing matter. I can barely manage speaking and understanding Italian, throw French into the equation and my nerves just crumble like a pack of cards.

Its very scary to be put in a foreign language class with a bunch of Italian native speakers, most of whom have previously studied French the right way in high school. My teacher keeps reciting these long sentences that she wants translated into French. I have to translate the Italian into English in my head and then translate the English back in to French in my head and then actually say it out loud. All of this has to be done in less than a second while the teacher and the rest of the class is waiting for me to reply. Its so stressful, especially since my teacher has to policy of making everyone in class talk at least once out loud during the lesson. This means that I can't even hide behind people in the background and try to merge in with the crowd.

If this was once a week for an hour each time, I might still be able to happily handle it without getting terrified each time, but I have French thrice a week, two one and a half hour lessons and one two and a half hour lesson. This year is truly going to pass very slowly. However, being your spunky narrator that I am, I will not give up without a fight, may it be in Italian or French. I am determined to do well because I've wanted to learn French for so long, and now I finally have an opportunity, albeit in Italian. It is truly a beautiful language and I do have a soft spot for French men, so that is always an incentive, right?