Inception

Rating: 3/4 (Minus the needless action and complexity, Inception is the stuff dreams are made of!)

Christopher Nolan returns after The Dark Knight to the much darker, deeper domain of the mind in Inception. The hero Cobb (Leonard di Caprio), a dream thief, is given his life’s mission when he is asked to plant an idea in the mind of Fischer, heir to a business empire. In true Hollywood fashion, Cobb assembles a team which includes his employer (Ken Watanabe), an architect, a point man, a forger, and a chemist. These diverse roles are needed for the Nolan vision of a dream heist. Ariadne (Ellen Page), the architect, builds the worlds of the dreams. The dreamer will dream the dream and the rest of the team and the victim will join it. The forger will shift his identity, taking on different characters in the dream. Cobb, the extractor, will steal or implant information in the dream of the victim. Cobb, who had only stolen from dreams up to this point is required to try inception, planting an idea in the victim for the first time. To achieve this he creates 3 levels of dreams, a dream within a dream within a dream. Only with such deception can the victim’s mind be fooled into accepting a foreign idea. It sounds complicated, but thanks to Nolan’s vision, the team achieve it. Things go south, when the demons of Cobb’s past return in his dream and he enters limbo, a dream of no return.

The concept of Inception is extremely interesting and Nolan pulls it off pretty well. He borrows generously from movies like The Matrix, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The dream worlds of Paris folding over, the dilapidated Limbo Land and the zero gravity Hotel are fantastic to experience! In contrast, the City Streets and Ice World look useless and seemed to serve only as arenas to throw in some mindless shooting and action. Nolan extracts great acting chops from Leonardo di Caprio, who is getting awesomer with every movie. Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are memorable, but Michael Caine is wasted with his tiny role. The movie gets a bit hard to understand with so many levels of dreams. It is one or two too many, since Nolan could have told a clearer, more focused story with less. The ending is perfect, in the sense that the audience is left wondering if Cobb is still stuck in a dream or it happened for real. Despite its mindless action and unnecessary complexity, Inception is still the most interesting movie this year.

Baa Nalle Madhuchandrake (ಬಾ ನಲ್ಲೆ ಮಧುಚಂದ್ರಕೆ)

Rating: 3/4 (Engaging plot, good writing and memorable music make this movie repeatedly watchable.)

Baa Nalle Madhuchandrake (ಬಾ ನಲ್ಲೆ ಮಧುಚಂದ್ರಕೆ) is one of the early Kannada movies by Nagathihalli Chandrashekar. Released in 1993, it was a romance and murder mystery based on the serial story of the same name written by Chandrashekar himself that was published in the Taranga Kannada weekly. Though the movie starred complete newbies Shivram and Nandini Singh in lead roles it went on to become a hit.

The movie revolves around the love between Vivek (Shivram), a poetic and philosophical guy and Preethi (Nalini Singh) who is materialistic. They are childhood sweethearts and after marriage head to Shimla for their honeymoon. While viewing a snow covered vista, Preethi slips and falls to her death. Figuring out whether this death was a murder and if yes, by whom and why forms the core of the movie.

Baa Nalle Madhuchandrake is held strongly by its writing. This may be because Chandrashekar is himself a writer and this is an adaptation of his published story. The plot is engaging and is peppered with flashbacks, which add relief, infuse twists and gives it a non-linear character. Poetic verses, philosophical musings and sarcastic ribticklers slip off the tongue of Vivek easily, all through the movie. Blink and you might miss them! On a first viewing you will mostly miss them because of the horrible acting talent in this movie. Newbie Shivram has the emotional pull of a mannequin, neither engaging in his looks or in his acting. Nandini Singh is just a pretty face and the rest of the cast does no better. Hamsalekha‘s delicious music saves the day. The movie has some of the best tracks and romantic lyrics of his oeuvre. The music has really endured the test of time and remain favorites even today. Minus the hammy acting and cheesy scenes, Baa Nalle Madhuchandrake is an engaging movie that stands up to repeated viewing.

ಬಾ ನಲ್ಲೆ ಮಧುಚಂದ್ರಕೆ

Microsoft File

This post is just for the sake of nostalgia. Microsoft File written by Nancy Andrews is a 1986 book about the Microsoft application of the same name for the Apple Macintosh.

Before Microsoft had an operating system of its own (DOS and Windows), it used to create applications. First came developer tools, like Microsoft Basic and later applications. Microsoft File was one of its earliest applications, which it created for the Apple Macintosh. Microsoft also launched its own computer book publishing arm, called Microsoft Press, pretty early on. Early titles from Microsoft Press were all about the applications that Microsoft created for the Apple Macintosh, like this one.

[ The back cover showing Microsoft Press books on other Microsoft applications for the Mac, like Excel. ]

The File application was meant for business users to create, edit and save their business documents. I was looking for the oldest Microsoft Press books available at the university library and picked this. The book is so old and irrelevant that it was in the Closed Stacks section and I had to order it up. The book was too boring to read, since the application itself is pretty boring. But, it was worth it just to flip through the application screenshots of that time. The author Nancy Andrews went on to write many other Microsoft Press books about their applications of this era.

The Shop Around the Corner

Rating: 4/4 (A romantic comedy gem starring James Stewart)

I had to watch The Shop Around the Corner, after friend Haas pointed out that it was the plot inspiration for You’ve Got Mail, one of my favorite romantic comedies. The original is a real oldie, from 1940, starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. The story is set in Matuschek & Co., a shop that sells leather goods, where Kralik (James Stewart) is head salesman and Klara (Margaret Sullavan) joins as a junior saleswoman. From the very beginning, they have a spiteful relationship with each other, spewing fire whenever possible. They are both in love with an anonymous pen pal each, with whom they exchange letters using a postbox at the post office. But, they do not know that they are writing letters to each other. Kralik discovers this first when they decide to meet up at a cafe. He is not able to reveal his true identity right then, but has to play along to make himself more loveable in Klara’s eyes so they can profess their love for each other.

[ Klara looks sadly at her empty postbox. ]

The Shop Around the Corner is a real gem, the plot is simple and tight and the acting is excellent. Not just James Stewart, who always delivers and Sullavan, but all the supporting cast leave their mark on the viewer. There is good natured humour all through the movie. The dialogues are especially endearing, with perfect English of a time long gone now. You’ve Got Mail has paid homage to this original in its cafe scene. The setting and dialogues of that scene are a perfect copy of the same in this movie! The Shop Around the Corner is a good old romantic comedy gem that should not be missed.