04 January, 2009

My Soundtrack

Got to thinking about this as I finally acquiesced and purchased an album I have been dying to have on my iPod the last few months. Everybody has their own soundtrack, the songs that they truly, truly love and the songs that speak to them. Well here are mine:

in no particular order other than slightly chronological ...

"It's Raining Again"

My teenage years gorged themselves on MTV, I think I can claim having been in front of the television as it first kicked on with perhaps one of the most 80s sounding songs of the 80s: "Video Killed the Radio Star". I definitely remember spending my summers and afternoons after school with the VJs of channel 26, MTV's home on Tulsa cable. I was an air-guitar wonder, thrashing through years of great pop hits as face-painted singers ran through Indian bazaars on the tv screen.

When I hear Supertramp's "It's Raining Again", I am instantly transported back to the dark-ish living room of my childhood, propped up on elbows in front of the wildly colorful videos flashing on the screen less than three feet from my face. While I neither danced nor air guitar'd to this particular tune, it is the one that always brings me back to MTV before it became anything but Music Television.

"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"

Bruce Springsteen was my first huge celebrity crush - another thing I owe to MTV. When I first saw the "Dancing in the Dark" video with him in a white t-shirt and pegged jeans, a guitar strapped around his beefy upper body and those beautiful dark curls held up from his face with that trend-setting red bandanna ... well, let's just say, I hit puberty at 99 miles per hour that very second.

Looking back, I never really liked the "Dancing in the Dark" song, nor very much on that seminal 80s album Born in the U.S.A. If there is a pattern to life, then my discovery of this hunk began in order for me to find Born To Run, a solid #2 or #3 on my top albums of all time. The story laid bare on that album is quintessential Bruce Springsteen, a man who came from totally normal and made sure he landed both feet in totally normal (with that one badly-placed sojourn into celebrity when he briefly married the briefly famous Julianne Phillips - her cameo in his video for "Glory Days" ruined that song for me).

"Rosalita" comes from his even earlier album, The Wild, The Innocent, The E-Street Shuffle. This is a song made for an air guitar hero such as myself. The video eventually run sporadically by MTV consisted solely of concert footage which was just fine by this lusty girl. I can't imagine they ran the entire song which clocks in at 7:05, far too long to hold the average viewer's attention but whatever version they showed, however long it played, it quickly soared to the number one spot in my Springsteen countdown. And I would be entirely remiss if I didn't mention the miracle that is Clarence Clemons, the saxophone god who wails through this entire song. Most bands use a saxophone as a bridge instrument, but Clarence Clemons can't wait that long to play.

"What a Piece of Work is Man"

This song helped me get extra credit in my 11th grade English class, thus boosting me up to an A for the semester. Using Shakespeare's speech from Hamlet, this is a lovely, lilting song on the Hair soundtrack immediately following the chaotic "Three-Five-Zero-Zero" (take weapons up and begin to kill/watch for long-gone armies driting home). The song doesn't follow the speech perfectly, it starts in the middle with What a piece of work is man/how noble in reason/how infitine in faculties/in form and moving/how express and admirable/in action how like an angel/in apprehension how like a god/the beauty of the world/the paragon of animals ... and then skips upward in the speech with I have of late/but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth ... then skips even more forward with a sentence fragment: this goodly frame/the earth seems to me a sterile promontory/this most excellent canopy/the air look you/this brave o'erhanging firmament/this majestical roof/fretted with golden fire/why it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. With this chunk long-memorized (my mom has been playing that record my Whole life long), the order and rest of that speech earned me the highest extra credit in the class. See, music can teach you things, wonderous things.

There is so much more, truly, but I won't get to that just yet. Suffice it to say, these three take you through my childhood, for the most part. Later on, eventually, I will do my best to take you through the next phase.

Slumdog Millionaire

Yep, I'm back

I actually have something to blog about tonight/tomorrow morning/this morning.

I have just returned from seeing one of the most amazing movies I've ever seen ... I know the word-of-mouth on it has been phenomenal and I can't disagree. Not one little, teeny, tiny bit.

Slumdog Millionaire deserves, but I'm sure won't get, the Best Picture Oscar this year. Hands down. Not that I've seen any of the other choices or even know what they are for I am not nearly the devotee as my friend Mel. But I'm still 99% sure SDM must be the very best of them all.

The storyline you can get elsewhere so in short, it is a love story. Set in India - Mumbai, to be exact. Yes, that Mumbai.

The story starts near the end, as the best ones often do. There's no harm in letting the reader/viewer know that the main character has survived long enough to at least make it to the most interesting part of the entire tale. I am always very interested in the journey, sometimes moreso than the destination.

Jamal Malik is a contestant on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. His success on the show is surprising, given his upbringing: he and his older brother Salim are orphaned at a young age in the Mumbai slums where lives begin and end under a patchwork of tin roofs blocking the alleys and aisles from the sun. Jamal's ability to answer the increasingly difficult questions posed to him on the game show stem from the various experiences and lessons of his nomadic youth. Of course, it is assumed he is cheating but he has a compelling story for each answer he gives.

The love interest, Latika, is another orphan who falls in with the brothers after a massacre of the Muslims in their ghetto. The three young children run familiar paths past friends and neighbors and just ahead of the nightmares with bats and fire.

While Jamal becomes obsessed with Latika, Salim becomes jealous of the easy connection the two share. Life for the three of them is fraught with panicked separations and tearful reunions. Salim follows an unsurprising path in the hard world they inhabit while Jamal always seems to think his way in and out of the box.

You know ... just your typical love story. Set in India.

Where this movie breaks entirely away from the pack is in the filmmaking. This well-written gem is wonderfully directed and beautifully shot with a soundtrack that pulses to the beat of the running feet throughout several scenes (escape is a running theme). The actors, all three sets of them, are no sloths at their trade. Dev Patel as the adult Jamal has the perfect face for this character: mostly brooding with a rare, shy smile.

I expected quite a lot from the movie given the reviews I had heard and read and I am so relieved that I didn't end up with unrequited high hopes. This is a run-don't-walk kind of film that mere words cannot properly portray.

Don't grab your coat too quickly once the final scene goes still ... in Bollywood fashion, the end credits begin to roll as the cast dance to an Indian pop song in the middle of a train station. I heard a couple of snickers in the audience behind me, but you know what? I am of the opinion that all movies should end with a full cast ensemble song and dance. I would certainly see more movies in the theatre if that were the case.