Friday, April 30, 2010

The Under-Rated

The world we inhabit loves to rate - cars, watches and houses have prices, exams and ACRs have grades, music and film reviews have stars, sports performances have points: we are continuously being assessed ourselves or involved in judging others. So far so good, but do we really, in today's times know the difference between price and value? Price is an assessment of a rank of an object or even person, since we are after all corrupt, whereas value is the true worth of one's contribution. Let's take our country: you can proudly put a price on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, since it can be assessed how much it cost us over the years, but can one assess the true value of the Electro-Weak Theory that Dr. Abdus Salam invented? Our nukes can destroy a few cities of people we don't like much, hence it's mostly tangible and we are all really impressed, but can you honestly measure the precise spread of humanity that benefited from Dr. Salam's tremendous contribution? No one needs to agree with me really, 'cause end of the day, let's also look at what we valued and what we priced: there were hordes of people unsure of where to provide the next meal to their children, governed by a Prime Minister who gave them the very pragmatic solution of eating grass actually, so as to compensate for the nuclear tests integral to our sovereignty and yet those hordes rejoiced on streets, indulging in dances that would make Elvis turn in his coffin and instead of buying that meal for their children spent the money on purchasing sweets to distribute to random strangers on streets. After all, they took the PMs advice seriously and now aspired to compete with horses for food resources. On the other hand, Dr. Abdus Salam: we decided he wasn't good enough for us, primarily because he belonged to a particular sect and we forced him into an unwanted exile. When he wanted to establish a state-of-the-art Research Facility at par with the then contemporary standards in Europe, he was refused amidst fabricated allegations of treacherous intent. It's no wonder then that we didn't end up inventing Hotmail; instead we are churning out me-too darlings of the hacking industry. 

The world is ignorant of its ignorance of value. I see everywhere that something or someone is under-rated. I see everywhere that brilliance is undermined. I see everywhere the Devil not getting its due: no wonder he's mighty pissed off.

Jay Jay Okocha, the dead-ball specialist from Nigeria played the majority of his career at Fenerbahce, Paris Saint Germain and Bolton Wanderers prior to having short stints at Qatar SC and Hull City. A versatile footballer, who played as both attacking and defensive midfielder and when needed even as a winger or forward, Okocha was the hands down star at PSG, even when Ronaldinho had spent his first season with the club. A tremendously talented team somewhere around 2001, the main football club of Paris could have been one doing the business had it retained major talents like Okocha, Ronaldinho, Pauleta, Sylvian Distin, Gabriel Heinze, Pochettino, Rothen, Alex and Nicolas Anelka - surprised? It's true; this was the Paris SG line-up at that time, which amusingly included Anelka, born and bred at Paris SG, sold to Arsenal for under 1 Million, transferred to Madrid for 16 Million and then back at his home club for 22 Million. The club instead chose to start selling players, which began with Jay Jay being sold to Bolton. Jay Jay really did the business once he started playing in England. He would score complicated free-kicks making them look as easy as Gazza's IQ. He was the cornerstone at Bolton and groomed the home-grown talent of Kevin Nolan, who went on to become one of the most reliable midfielders in England. It was Jay's step-over skill and technique that earned him the name Jay-Jay, as was the renowned chant of the Bolton fans. Prior to that, he was simply J Okocha. Throughout his career, he preferred to be the anchor of the teams he played for rather than be one of the options, which explains why any move to a gigantic club never materialized. Perhaps, had he strutted his stuff at Madrid or Barca, the natives of La Liga may have set some high standards and players like Yaya, Lass and Mahammadou, in spite of their talent, would not have been so over-hyped and over-paid. This guy was a gem that the world has forgotten about; however even in his playing days, he was never rated like he was the business. He would give most of the African players today a frantic run for their money and when one sees Madrid paying over the odds for Lass, it does beg the question: it isn't always about phenomenal talent really, is it? With our perception building holding the status of reality in today's time instead of the truth, it's hardly a surprise.

Playing By Heart was one of the rare movies even in the career of its maker, Willard Carrol who hasn't made anything else that you would even call good, which rises above its particular genre and hooks the viewer without resorting to any shenanigans. With an ensemble spearheaded by Sean Connery and including Angelina Jolie, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Madeleine Stowe and Jon Stewart, this narrative takes a cynic like myself by surprise, 'cause one look at the DVD artwork and you may just pass it off as another chick flick. The narrative is intelligently built up and the episodic attribute of this feature catches you unaware at the end of it all. Ryan and Angelina come up with great performances and Connery is well, Connery - that effortless charm very much intact. It's a movie that not many have seen and I know of a few far inferior cinematic products that have walked away with Oscars. This interesting tale that takes a look at relationships at different stages of life is grossly under-rated, pleasantly unpretentious and definitely recommended, err... if you can find a DVD - you see, this isn't The Devil Wears Prada.

Gary Oldman is the single greatest actor in the history of mankind. This isn't a matter of taste or opinion - I shall prove it scientifically. The intention is not to diss others to big up Gary, but I absolutely adore Brando, Olivier, O'Toole, Michael Caine, Nicholson, Hoffmann, De Niro, Pacino, Day-Lewis, Hanks, Hopkins, Freeman, Denzel, Russell Crowe, Hackman, Kingsley, Newman, Redford, Spacey, Geoffrey Rush, Sean Penn, Adrien Brody - these are all Oscar winners, right? Some of them with prized possessions of multiple Academy Awards. Ok, Redford won it for Best Director, but he makes the list to keep the ladies excited, in addition to his terribly under-rated performance in Spy Game. But the key question is: Where is Gary Oldman's oscar? Christ, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sinatra have theirs. Sid and Nancy, Romeo is Bleeding, State of Grace, Immortal Beloved, Dracula, The Contender, Hannibal - not good enough? Let's pick out one. Most of the world who's mainly seen Pacino only in Godfather, Scarface and Carlito's Way went ballistic when they gave Al an Oscar for Scent of A Woman. Sorry to break your hearts children, but that was a disaster; because the same year Gary Oldman was nominated for Dracula and I'm sure the small percentage of population whose IQ is still above 120 can easily testify that it's a no-brainer. Oldman's turn as Count Dracula in Coppola's masterpiece is historic - nobody has played it better and nobody ever will. You can gladly bet your mam-in-law, 'cause you sure as hell won't get her back. People enamored and mesmerized by Al's Scent probably forgot to see And Justice For All and Dog Day Afternoon - that is where Pacino was robbed and not given an Academy Award. If you liked his blind act so much, then watch him chanting "Attica, Attica", that was Pacino's true essence, not Tony Montana or what he did thereafter. Oldman gets tremendous respect from a lot of quarters, but isn't it a bitch that had to do Harry Potters and Dark Knights for the world to actually start knowing who he is. We rave over Brando 'cause he revolutionized the style of movie acting from the theatrical dramatization of Bogart, Tracy, Gable & Co. to what we watch today - the De Niros, Pacinos, Nortons all of them. We adore Nicholson 'cause he's seldom done a bad movie in his distinguished career. We idolize De Niro and Pacino for bringing integrity to the cinema of Scorsese, Coppola and De Palma. We respect Di Caprio, Pitt and Depp for not replicating Titanics but trying earnestly to contribute towards the evolution of today's cinema. Yet, we conveniently forget what Oldman has done quietly: he has, in his own way revolutionized acting. Watch him switch from Sid Vicious to Beethoven. From a lunatic Irish gangster to a conniving Congressman. From Count Dracula to Sirius Black. If you aren't an Oldman fan and follow his career, you would not know in a million years that this is the same guy enacting all those parts. This quality of his is unchallenged in his generation of actors and I don't see anyone in the future as yet either. The only ones in world cinema I rate close to him for the same quality are Geoffrey Rush and Naseeruddin Shah, ironically both of them criminally under-appreciated in proportion to their amazing talents - in today's superficial era, these thespians choose to be characters, not celebrities. These chameleons get into the skin of those roles; in fact literally become those people. They take no pressure that others with all their undoubted talent do - I love Pacino as a gangster but I see flashes of Pacino in his parts, whether it's Corleone, Montana or Carlito. When De Niro visits Casino as a Good Fella, I see him in both those parts. When Nicholson is exploring Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, The Shining or even as Hoffa, I cannot see his persona disappear. Watch G Rush as Peter Sellers and then watch him as Captain Barbosa in the Pirates and then watch Shine - I see characters over there. Watch Naseer in Bombay Boys and then experience A Wednesday. Had Bachchan played that common man who decides to blow up terrorists on A Wednesday, we would still be hearing superlatives of as to how his performance has taken the craft of acting to the next level. But this is what we are. There is no fairness or rationale in our assessments and appreciation. Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood make hundred times the money that Oldman does. I don't see this as injustice; it's just retarded. If these are the standards of reward, then this world will be sucked deeper into the quicksand of mediocrity that we see all around today. Somewhere along the line, we just forgot to appreciate and reward these guys in accordance with their talent and when history will look back at the maverick chameleons, who elevated the craft of acting, Gary Oldman will top that list. Always. 

Supertramp, my namesake, a cult British band that talked about stuff forty years ago that the world occupies itself with today. Their special reverence for the spectacular medium of Television is very gently dealt with in their lyrics. They envisaged the Fast Food Nation long before any of us could even imagine what the invention of Satellite would do to the world - well, other than spreading GSM cancer and other incurable physical diseases, promoting mediocre travesties in the name of art to fill up airtime and enabling donut munching, robotic IQ slaves to peep into my shower time paying exclusive attention to my increasing belly and cracking jokes about it with each other to amuse their regressive, useless purpose of continuing to remain alive; there isn't much that Satellites have done for us. Today, in the midst of Plant, Page, Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, even Axl, Slash, Tyler and Bon Jovi - most of us are unfamiliar with Roger Hodgson, the soul of Supertramp. Download Crime of the Century and Breakfast in America, listen to the unreal orchestration and vocals in Child of Vision, Gone Hollywood and Lord Is It Mine and maybe you shall begin to fathom what the real business is. The art of music is an interesting invention of man to explore oneself to understand life better and enhance the process of self-evolution. We have reduced that process to emailing each other Wall Papers of Britney and jerking off to Hilary Duff. The revolutionaries of the 60s and 70s have been systematically erased from our combined conscience - 'cause they were our conscience. They had something to tell us, which certainly wasn't I Was Born to Make You Happy or Bitch, I Wanna Bitch-Slap You. So long as generations current and generations to come will remain estranged to Supertramp and the ilk, the conscientious of contributing something concrete will continue to remain oblivious to us. Life in performing arts is a bit more than looking ugly like Lady Gaga. No wonder, The Arrivals accuses Madonna and the ilk to be bitches of Mr. Satan: delusion or not, if you stunt the growth of minds with crap, then conspiracy theories is all you shall get. No wonder, this world has ceased to produce the Dalis, Woody Allens, Bergkamps and Kishore Kumars of the times gone by. How will you produce them when there are no aspirational models of real talent? If Madonna is the supreme epitome of music, then is it a surprise that we have ended up with Britney Spears and Lady Gaga? If James Cameron is the Orson Welles of our times, then don't fret when all you will see on celluloid is size enhancement of computerized graphics. Supertramp, in a twist of irony named an album of their Crime of The Century - lest they knew it would apply on them more than anyone else.

Juninho Pernambucano and Marcos Assuncao - Brazilian compatriots famous for their stints at Lyon and Betis respectively. Both dead-ball experts, while Juninho is a versatile attacking midfielder able to play anywhere in the middle, Assuncao is a free-scoring defensive midfielder. Shining to prominence in the early 2000s, both players lit up the Ligue 1 and La Liga. Assuncao, as captain of Betis earned them Champions League qualification twice, which was a huge achievement in the club's history. During the same period, Juninho was at the heart of Lyon's superb run of winning six consecutive Ligue 1 titles. The French club could've perhaps realized Juninho's ambition of conquering Europe had they not sold several talents like Tiago, Essien, Benzema, Malouda, Abidal, Edmilson, Mahammadou Diarra and Ludovic Giuly. Combining with the ultra-majestic Denilson at Betis, Marcos Assuncao made his team on the most attacking and entertaining teams to watch in Europe. Had he played for a bigger club, he would probably be revered like Dunga. Nevertheless, the connoisseurs of football are well aware of the incredible talent both these guys have - the problem lies in the fact that most of the world can't even spell connoisseur, let alone know its meaning.  

Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me is a largely unnoticed, generally under-appreciated acting performance. Enacting a post 9/11 ex-family man, who loses his wife and child in the WTC attacks and now suffers a post-traumatic permanent distress situation, this performance touches upon the loss of human life, rather than jingoistic sermons that the Americans usually impose on us. Playing a perfect foil to Sandler is Don Cheadle, who struggles to bring him back to normal. This is one of those wonderful enterprises, which does not have a specific plot but yet manages to interweave an interesting screenplay with the its inherent aura of emotion. Sandler rises way above the script and ends up not even winning a nomination at any award farces - because he's well Adam Sandler, the guy who's supposed to play only Madison and Gilmore and not attempt to explore new territories. I'm quite certain that if Tom Hanks had played the same character in this movie, he would've been in serious contention for a third Oscar, with the world raving over his human portrayal of the agony that 9/11 caused to the average American household. You can experience the same when Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind chews up the scenery with a remarkable show portraying a lover who undergoes a unique procedure of having his memory erased, so he doesn't get hurt because of his emotional relationships. With Kate Winslet matching him in the histrionics, Carrey delivers a career best performance departing completely from the facial wizard that we saw in Liar Liar and the Ventura movies. Although Carrey already had Man In The Moon and The Truman Show to his credit, with Eternal Sunshine, he just takes it to the next level, as there's no stylized acting but just a natural display of varying emotions. Similar to the apathy of Sandler, had this part been portrayed by Russell Crowe, the bookmakers would be placing all their bets on the Aussie to rock the Academy Awards. Jim didn't even get a nomination, although Kate did. Why do we treat actors like labels? Just 'cause Leonardo did Titanic, our pseudo intellectuals to date do not rate him. Did you watch Gilbert Grape and Basketball Diaries that released way before James Cameron's over-rated monstrosity? It's a pity that marvellous actors like Sandler and Carrey are discouraged in this manner and then compelled to continue churning out the predictable trash that is great injustice to their vast internal reserves of talent.

Tony Scott committed the cardinal sin of directing Top Gun - for the rest of his life, the world will continue to berate his creative genius. I have incessantly explored the option of thinking up another film-maker as versatile; can't come up with one. Scott's repertoire includes Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of The State, Spy Game and Domino - he made films written by mavericks as diverse as Robert Towne and Quentin Tarantino. The aura of his films is strictly with relevance to the subject matter and no one can point out similarities. He has in his own way set trends for others to follow - do you remember a film with the feel of Top Gun prior to its release; however they were plenty after it. The fast-paced, whacky Black Comedy genre explored in films like Go, The Grifters, Grosse Point Blank, 51st State: where was it before. It all began with True Romance. The slick, 50 events in one minute, gadget personified treatment that are a common practice today started with Enemy of The State. And I've yet to see anything like Spy Game almost a decade since its release. Yet for all his achievements, Tony Scott is not as appreciated as his elder brother, Ridley. There's another stereotype in this case, that Tony Scott, being British is expected to make either period sagas or Guy Ritchie/Danny Boyle type progressive cinema. Whereas, Ridley opted to make epics like Blade Runner and The Gladiator, Tony Scott has in fact been the trend-setter for shaping and updating commercial escapist cinema the way it is today. The educated, narcissistic, pseudo intellectual inside of us can easily write off that achievement labeling it trash, but in reality it isn't child's play. The startling evidence is the fact that before Tony Scott, the standard escapist cinema was formed of Chuck Norris flicks. Tony Scott changed all that. As with others, he will seldom be remembered for it.  

You worldly boobs - take it up the batty. For so long as you don't learn the essence of value, true evolution and growth will continue to be stunted. 

Signing off with the wishful aspiration that in years to come, I won't need to make additions to this list.

Till the next chronicle, adieu.




  1. Nice one again Bro! Mediocrity is always praised in our society. This particular aspect of the society has not changed ever since its inception. People ahead of their times are never appreciated during their lifetimes. But believe me! We do not need to worry. These under rated mavericks will be the ones known as pioneers in future generations. It always happens! Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir struggled throughout their lives and now they are considered the masters of Urdu poetry. Vivaldi was making music in 1700's but was only a town hero. He was re-discovered in 1940's and now every one knows about The Four Seasons. Similarly, Bach became famous after 150 years of his death. Now he is considered the father of Western Classical music. Amedeo Modigliani was the main rival of Picasso during his lifetime. Picasso really appreciated his art nonetheless. Now Amedeo's fame is in resurgence and as time will pass, his fame will only grow. All these people will definitely get what they deserve. Unfortunately, none of them will be alive to see their work appreciated.

  2. bro, i didnt write about the guys that you mentioned and a few others coz that would be injustice to the readers: most of them would truly feel that UFOs have taken over. Just trying to gradually educate; hence the choice of subject matter a bit on the commercial side. but i agree completely with what you say. I think you should blog about the same with the people you mention here... it should be a cracking read.