Author Archive

Brad Pitt is Chad Schmidt. Maybe.

Written by Ashna Ali on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts

Brad Pitt has recently rendered himself immune to criticism since the press and the paparazzi lap up his marriage to sexy philanthropist Angelina Jolie (and the adoption of her many children, the protective attention he shows her as she carries their still-to-come twins) and his efforts in reconstructing New Orleans. Even when we zoom out of his personal life (fancy that) and take a look at his career, he has a long line of interesting and intelligent roles played with talent. He appears on talk shows alerting viewers that something can be done to right the wrongs of the world, shaking his head at what the world has come to. It wouldn't shock me if I saw an OK! Magazine headline claiming he sprouted wings. As we continuously inflate our good-hearted celebrities however, we may take it bit too far and forget the degree to which we might fuel their existing narcissism.
 
I began to worry about Brad Pitt when at "Her Majesty's Stand Up: Comedy that Will Colonize Your Face" a show at the Magnet Theater in Chelsea where up and coming artists like the acclaimed John Mulaney of VH1's Best Week Ever and Joe Mande recent voted one of the 100 Jews to Watch by Heeb magazine shared some laughs and occasionally picked on Hollywood's bigger heads. One particularly funny nugget snagged my attention, because I wasn't quite sure whether it was actually a joke. Brad Pitt, claimed one comedian, may star in a film where he plays a struggling actor named Chad Schmidt, whose striking resemblance with rising star actor Brad Pitt relegates him to look-alike status. Pitt stars as the blatantly rhymed Chad Schmidt and Brad Pitt...

Continue reading "Chad Schmidt" here.
[ read more... ]

Be the first to comment on this post

Is Japan Making Superpeople?

Written by Ashna Ali on . Posted in Posts, Technology

We live in the age of superheroes and tech-obsession, with comic-book inspired flicks hitting the box office back to back. Today, we've gone much further than the Batmobile with funky controls. In the tradition of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, whose bodies were miraculously healed and enhanced into super-human machines after their near-fatal accidents, Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man made headlines as Howard Stark of Stark Enterprises, the genius inventor who aims to save the world wearing a suit of power armor with a glowing heart after a traumatic incident that left him in need of a heart transplant.

A seemingly bottomless bank account and the brains to be rated one of the top 10 most intelligent fictional characters in American comics by Businessweek make all this seamlessly possible, but root such stories firmly in the world of fantasy. With our growing technological capacities however, our fascination and excitement over superhuman capacity may be quickly crossing the line from fiction into fact.

One may look no further than Japan to see the shocking materialization of what may be our lofty scientific ambitions—or our worst fears. For some time, highly unlikely—but nonetheless interesting—inventions like the terrorizing Land Walker robot in 2006 were the only significant developments we heard of. Since then the Japanese government has put pressure on companies to make robotics a primary focus of development, resulting in the Honda Motor Company’s demonstration late last year of the Asimo Bots...

Continue reading "Superpeople" here.
[ read more... ]

Be the first to comment on this post

Boobs, Elbows and Asses: Lesbians Get Another ‘Reality’ Check With ‘Gimme Sugar’

Written by Ashna Ali on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


New on the menu this summer – wait for it – is yet another reality TV show about young hot drama-riddled scenesters cruising around LA. But this time, they're lesbians. In an effort to expand on gay culture's long overdue explosion into the mainstream media, MTV and Logo came together to piggy-back off the success of shows like The L Word and Queer as Folk and are offering the world a picture of the "real" West Hollywood lesbian club scene, Gimme Sugar. The premise: Five culturally diverse club-hopping girls in their twenties, struggling with their relationships and the desire to start their own Saturday night gay club, which, after much strenuous thought, they call Sugar.

The show is shot, edited and narrated following the MTV Real World template. The theme song could have easily been written by Cleopatra (Comin' Atcha!). The central conflict of the show occurs when Alex, an almost 21-year-old bisexual, throws a monumental hissy fit after being carded at the The Truck Stop, the local lesbian hot spot, where the narrator Charlene works as a promoter. Furious, she insists that they start their own club. Circuitous arguments ensue, interrupting their perpetual partying. The girls cruise from one chic, expensive location to another to heatedly discuss the non-issue dramas that inexplicably devour their lives (there are repeated conversations about whether or not the name "Sugar" is sexy, or sounds forbidden to non-dieters). And yet we never see them show any concern for going to work.

Charlene, the number one MC on the club scene is shown MCing for a matter of seconds, but her job seems to consist mostly of sitting on couches sipping drinks with her girls. Devonee, the aggressive jock player of the bunch, is a babysitter. Alex the youngster is a stand-up comedian. It doesn't matter. In the Garden of Eden that is West Hollywood, sex, love, money and hotties are in constant supply. In fact, the transitions between one event and another often consist of a noisy pan across the asses of booze-drenched bar top go-go dancers gyrating ala Coyote Ugly. During a random beach volleyball game, scenes of the girls bumping chests in bikinis inexplicably go into slow motion to showcase their tan slick sandy bods...

Continue reading "Gimme Sugar" here.
[ read more... ]

Be the first to comment on this post

Mike Meyers’ ‘Love Guru’ Hits New Lows in South Asian Brown Bashing

Written by Ashna Ali on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts



I usually look forward to movie trailers, and a new flick from Mike Myers' would generally spark my curiosity. Wayne's World will always be a childhood favorite, and I was greatly entertained and impressed with Myers' versatility in all the Austin Powers' movies, despite having some trouble with his degree of grossout humor. As a fan of non-PC humor, I have to give the man props for his extraordinary capacity for offensive silliness.
 
This time however, the look on my face as the trailer for The Love Guru came on was obvious enough for my friend Jon to lean over and whisper, "I'm sorry, we Americans are crude and ignorant." I'm not sure whether my South Asian ethnicity lies at the root of my disgust. I love Brown-bashing stand-up ala Russel Peters,  and am a huge (though guilty) fan of Apu Nahasaplemapetilon Jr., the owner of the Kwik-e-Mart on The Simpsons with the accurately horrific accent. I can take a little South Asian bashing. This, however, stepped over some invisible line that I didn't even know existed.
 
Mike Myers plays Guru Pitka, an American boy abandoned by missionaries in a rural town in India and raised by a guru. Myers is dressed in a bright orange Hare Krishna-esque robe and sports long hippie-hair, a Jesus beard and a wreath of marigolds as he travels to America to be the next big thing. He begins by distributing nuggets of sexual genius that make an Italian-American Justin Timberlake gyrate luridly in boxer-briefs and a mullet. Pitka gives an emptily gazing Jessica Alba (isn't she always?) nuggets of philosophy from the wall of a truck stop bathroom (because there are lots of gas station delis off the highways of rural India carrying coffee and Pop 'Ems) to the sounds of a classical sitar riff. Oh, and he makes his way around the U.S on a flamboyantly decorated elephant. 'Cause you know, that's how Indians roll.
 
I know better than to expect accuracy and cultural sensitivity from a Mike Myers movie, but I expected a little more courage. Not only is the film essentially a repeat of Daisy von Scherler's 2002 romantic comedy The Guru, in which Jimmy Mistry plays an Indian dance instructor who comes to the U.S. and manipulates New Age fads and the marketability of cultural exoticism to become a famous phony sex guru, but it falls short of it...

Continue reading "Guru" here.
[ read more... ]

Be the first to comment on this post

Let’s Hold Hands and Watch Cartoons: ‘Death Note’ Made Me Feel Cool

Written by Ashna Ali on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts


 
We walked into the theater to the faint smell of weed trailing behind a group of middle school girls with glasses and dyed black hair, bright-eyed and chattering, clutching Celtic crosses around their necks. Packs of boys in skull caps carrying enormous buckets of pop corn shoved each other around and yelled at the screen to begin. The theater was flooded. The silly, giggly anticipation was palpable through out the theater. When the screen crashed to reveal a Windows desktop background, someone yelled, "What is this, a fan sub?" to sniggering around the room. Strangers discussed their expectations as if with old friends. Not a single person over 40 and every nationality possible, this room at Regal Cinemas Union Square Stadium 14 felt like a gathering in someone's living room. I sat between two of my best friends and former roomies, one of whom was leaving the city the next morning. This (in a small, almost secretive way) was the culmination of our year. After endless graduation and farewell parties, countless dollars spent on beer and vodka shots, we escaped to watch the long-awaited finale to a semester-long hobby.
 
This was Viz Entertainment and Fathom Features' special two-night screening of the live action feature of Death Note, a popular anime and manga written and illustrated by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, recently adapted by Shusuke Kaneko. The story of the anime, in short, is that of a brilliant but bored young man named Light, who uses a Death Note; a notebook belonging to a death god, or shinigami, that comes with a number of rules, the most important of which is that if anyone's name is written in the death note, the person will die. The anime is an exhilarating battle of unparalleled intellect and moral ambition, serious and grizzly as often as it is goofy and purely entertaining, with a startlingly acute understanding and exploration of human psychology and sociology, and the question of justice.
 
My roomies and I had been watching the anime together for months, imitating characters in our regular conversations, drawing comparisons for any of our moral dilemmas...

Continue reading "Hold Hands" here.
[ read more... ]

Be the first to comment on this post

..