Thursday, 26 June 2014

Musings on a fourth Thursday

I'm going to be awfully busy over the next ten days as I rush to “close” the anniversary edition of my fortnightly tabloid-size newspaper which completed thirteen years in May. In my case and probably in the case of every other journalist on the news desk in India, the term “closing” is associated with sending a paper or magazine to print which means writing and editing stories, overseeing production, and meeting deadlines. It has become a sort of a joke in the family. If someone invites me over for a function around the due date of my paper, the word out is, “Oh no, he can’t make it. He has his closing this week” which is met with the predictable response “Not again!” I'm secretly happy, for genuine as the reason is, it has allowed me to skip many a social gathering.

The immediate casualty of my workload is a Forgotten Books review over at Patti Abbott’s blog, Friday, and a second quarter roundup of books and short stories I read during April to June. The summary will have to wait until next weekend.

These days I’m reading more books, watching more films, and reviewing less, because I’m afflicted with what I’d like to call review fatigue.

I finished reading three nice books recently—Stallion Gate by Martin Cruz Smith and The Hell Raisers (or Saddle Pals) by Lee Floren—both of which I started over a month ago, and The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. I’m undecided on which of these to review; most likely it’ll be the first-edition western paperback by Lee Floren. It has a couple of unusual cowboy characters who get involved in a range war between simple farmers and a devious cattleman in Wyoming, and some interesting elements with regard to life in the plains and the badlands.

NetGalley has sent me Rachman’s The Rise & Fall of Great Powers which I intend to read and review in July.

The six western movies I saw and wrote about in the third week of this month have had a few more companions since, in the form of The Avengers, The Towering Inferno, and The Dirty Dozen.

I’d forgotten that Fred Astaire had a part in The Towering Inferno, his last major picture, I think, or that O.J. Simpson played a young security officer in the ill-fated building. It was one of many disaster movies to come out of the seventies alongside The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, Hurricane, Avalanche, and the Airport series.

I'm now looking for The Cassandra Crossing, Black Sunday, Rollercoaster, and Damnation Alley.

As you can see I have a predilection for blockbusters with lots of famous actors commonly seen in war, western, action, and disaster flicks.

The death of Eli Wallach, June 24, had me watching The Magnificent Seven and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly all over again, and each time it seems like the first time.

There are a lot of memorable scenes in both the films and many of those involve Wallach. The Magnificent Seven opens with a fine musical score by Elmer Bernstein which plays in the background as Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his bandits ride into the farming village. In fact, the orchestral score plays throughout in the background. In the Sergio Leone classic, his ‘Ugly’ character, Tuco, is transformed into an ecstatic ten-year old as he runs circles around the gravestones literally in step with Ennio Morricone’s lilting score that has become a popular mobile ringtone.

How would you rate his performance in the two movies where he is said to have overshadowed both Yul Brynner and Clint Eastwood and the others? I don’t think he stole the limelight from Brynner, Buchholz and company as much as he did from Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in their respective films.

I’ll end this post by recommending one of Eli Wallach’s last films, The Holiday (2006), a nice little romantic comedy. Born in the second year of World War I, Wallach was 91 when he made this film. How is that for a perspective?

18 comments:

  1. You are having a lot on your plate! hope everything goes smoothly.

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    1. Thank you, Mystica. I've been "closing" editions of newspapers and magazines for over two decades. It has become a routine. Nonetheless, what surprises me is that just when I start to feel overwhelmed by work, everything falls into place, just like that. It often does in many situations in life.

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  2. You have been doing a lot and watching lots of movies. That is a good idea ... to watch some Eli Wallach films. As for disaster films, I do enjoy watching the Airport films. The later ones are so over the top.

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    1. Tracy, it's much quicker watching a Hollywood film as they are rarely more than 90 minutes long, unlike Bollywood movies where 180 minutes is the norm. I don't watch Hindi films for lack of time and patience. I haven't seen a lot of Eli Wallach films and I hope to get around to some of them eventually. He was one of the finest character actors of our time and much has also been written about his method acting.

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  3. Total contrast to me, June I read much less and watched much less. Good luck hitting your deadlines!

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    1. I'll need it, Col, as I'm about to get into the slog overs. I read more books in June than I mentioned though I think I read fewer short stories. Overall, I hope my second quarter looks better than my first. Yes, I've been hitting the movies harder lately.

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  4. I've heard good things about Stallion Gate. I think I have a copy here. I know what you mean about reviewer fatigue. It will pass!

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    1. Charles, I hope it does. I don't feel like reviewing either books or films even though I continue to read books and watch films when I get the time. STALLION GATE is a historical but fictionalised tale about J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, who is accused of being a Soviet spy.

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  5. I'm so pleased you mentioned The Holiday. I loved him in that movie.

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    1. Nan, I did too. In fact, Kate Winslet had high praise for the veteran who showed his professionalism and boundless energy on the sets. I can't believe he was the same man who played bandit decades ago.

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  6. Even though you are busy, I would love to hear your thoughts on The Imperfectionists - a book I really love.

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    1. Moira, thank you. I liked THE IMPERFECTIONISTS too, especially since I could relate to the newspaper world according to Tom Rachman. It had a lot of interesting elements from a journalist's point of view.

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  7. Lots to do, Prashant, so no wonder you've eased back a little on your blogging. I would too. 'Closing' takes precedence. :) But you've still found the time to read and watch a bunch of blockbusters. My favorite: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. I was so sad with Eli Wallach left us. But then, he did have a long wonderful life. What a terrific actor.

    "Generosity! That was my first mistake." My brother and I love to recite Calvera's lines along with him whenever we get a chance to watch THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. No one else in the family gets our love for this film. Ah, what do they know?

    I do also remember THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. On re-watch it's not bad at all. I think I once had it on videotape. :)

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    1. Yvette, thank you. There are some fine lines in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN including the one where Calvera wonders why a man like Chris (Yul Brynner) returns to the village of the peasants. I saw THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE again a few months ago and I was glad that it still held up. Gene Hackman never disappoints.

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  8. I never felt like Eli stole scenes from Clint and Lee. But one of my favorite scene in that classic is when he meets his brother as Clint watches hidden and then later lies to The Man with No Name about how much his brother loves him. Incredible acting. RIP, Mr. Wallach.

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    1. David, I agree, it was the one scene where both Wallach's and Eastwood's characters show their soft side. Eli Wallach was a natural actor and, I think, that was pretty much how he must have been all his life.

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  9. I hope your closing brings you a feeling of closure. Working in marketing communications, I always found the production phase of a project to be especially taxing. I can also speak to "review fatigue"--a good word for it. I'm behind on my own.

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    1. Ron, thank you. After nearly thirty years in journalism, I'm tired of closing issues and meeting deadlines even though it is a part and parcel of the newspaper world. I'm behind many reviews and hope to post at least some of them in coming weeks.

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