A Six Movie Weekend: A Room with a Khan, Do(stana) the Right Thing, No Impact Thief

This was one of those weekends.

It was a long weekend. Six movies since Friday night. Can you decipher them from the title of this post?

Dostana
Friday night was Dostana, which came highly recommended. It’s the movie where mainstream Bollywood discovers homosexuality. It’s a comedy similar in premise to Le Placard or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry— people pretending to be gay because it helps them in life. And because it makes for good comedy. Except that I didn’t find Dostana very funny. Though I do like that they deal with the subject without parodying it (too much). It’s too easy to go over the top if you’re the first mainstream Hindi movie to admit that gay people exist. Dostana manages to keep it real. (And by the way, I highly recommend Le Placard).

My Name is Khan
I’ve already said a lot about this a couple of days ago, so no more.

Ok, one more thing: it made more movie per theater than any other movie this weekend. I paid $12 per ticket, and our theater was packed, so no surprise there.

No Impact Man
No Impact Man is a documentary about a man who tried to reduce his family’s environmental impact to zero in for a year. I used to read his blog a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t keep up after a while. I appreciated his experiment, but I couldn’t take reading about cloth diaper adventures or roof-top solar-powered laptops on a daily basis.

The documentary evolves in to a story of the family and how the experiment affects their relationships, rather than a more Super-Size Me-like chronicle. It’s hard to review the movie without reviewing the man (Colin Beavan) and his experiment. He admits that part of the reason for his project is to sell his books about it. But he’s candid about it. And is the message and its lessons any less valid if the intentions are not noble? Attacking the messenger, Colin Beavan (or Al Gore) simply muddies the waters, and distracts us from the message.

The Bicycle Thief
Or is it Bicycle Thieves? That is the literal Italian translation, but it was originally released in the English-speaking world as the singular, Bicycle Thief. And I think it works, because of the way the movie ends.

Made in 1948, the movie is set in post-WW2 Italy, and tells the story of a man who needs his bicycle to keep his job. And his bicycle is stolen. He spends the day searching for his bicycle with his young son in the busy streets and squares of Rome. It is about the plight of the working man. It is a great movie. (Also, reminds me of another movie I saw recently that had the theft of a bicycle as the inciting incident: Happy Go Lucky)

Aside for Hindi movie fans: The movie and its neorealistic style reminds one of the ’50s era rukhi-sukhi roti movies. There were probably a lot of parallels in socialist post-Independence India and post-war Italy. I would think this film influenced Satyajit Ray and Bimal Roy. Anurag Kashyap (Black Friday, Gulaal, Dev Dcites this film as his biggest influence.

Do the Right Thing
The best movie I watched this weekend, by far. Spike Lee’s 1989 tour de force about an especially hot day on a street in Brooklyn. The movie starts out as a light comedy about the many characters who live and work on this street– the kids looking for trouble, the Italian-American family that runs the pizza shop, the old folks who sit around at street corners, the radio host, the Korean shopkeeper and so many others. As the day (and the heat) progresses, the racial and social tensions bubble up ending in a spectacular, tragic climax. The cast is stellar, spearheaded by Spike Lee himself. In the end, it offers a choice between MLK jr. and Malcolm X. I choose MLK, but that might be because I’ve never really had to choose.

On a side note, Do the Right Thing was not nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. A shame. Driving Miss Daisy won that year, the very polar opposite in terms of race relations.

And again, for Hindi movie fans– last year’s Delhi-6 was trying to be Do the Right Thing. A cast of colorful characters in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, with social and religious tensions bubbling under the surface until they explode in the climax. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra gets it wrong in so many ways with that movie. The only reason to watch that movie is to watch Abhishek Bachchan’s dance to Genda Phool (embedded at the bottom of this post).

A Room With a View
A meandering Merchant-Ivory production. I appreciate parts of it– especially the impetuous suitor George and Simon Callows as the Reverend– but can’t bring myself to really like the movie.

Abhishek Bachchan doing the Genda Phool:

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