About Justin O'Riley

A self-professed "nerd," I love to write about things that make me "geek" out, especially video games, film and tv, fantasy/sci-fi, pro-wrestling, football, and retro stuff. I'm a father of a wonderful daughter who drives me to nothing less than the best!

English 583- My Experience

End of the quarter! I won’t lie and say it went fast, but I will say that I did enjoy class. I’m not shy, but I am more of the silent type, and that’s because I enjoyed listening to what others had to say. I think it’s rather refreshing to get so many perspectives on something that is unfamiliar to most of us (at least me for sure). I did like the infusion of pop culture with the class, though I honestly would’ve liked to seen more of that. Most of the stories we read were very stimulating and different, though I admittedly thought Gandhi’s autobiography was an absolute struggle to read, and The Shadow Lines I didn’t really enjoy all that well, though it’s because of the novel’s structure, not the content. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed a jumping chronology is the Back to the Future trilogy.

Prior to this class, my experience and knowledge with India was very limited to much of what I blogged about, along with a couple of films I never mentioned (see Fire. It’s really well done and entertaining). I was initially concerned with how this would strengthen me as someone who one day aspires to write my own novels, but I can honestly say I feel much stronger as an author due to my experience in this class. Thank you all for making it very enjoyable!

-Justin O’Riley

Future writer of fantasy sci-fi

Review of “Firaaq”

I found Firaaq to be surprisingly a very good film. I was initially skeptical, as I do not usually like multiple narrative films (like Traffic and Babel). However, this did do a lot of things right. I didn’t find the switching of the narratives to be at all confusing, and it give the characters with more emotional weight the proper amount of screen time, such as Arati, Sameer, and Moshin. I actually liked the blending of languages (though I can’t tell the difference between English and everything else), although I did think it odd, as it’s something not commonly seen in American culture.

I did have some criticisms though. I did not like how the movie ended, as I felt it was a very cheap way to keep the “indie film” feel alive, though the movie did not need it. I think that more closure was needed with some of the characters. Leaving a bit of interpretation is fine, but too much just leaves too many questions. What is the fall-out of Hanif being assaulted (did he die?), leaving behind a wife and newborn? What was the deal with the marbles? Is Aarti coming back or going for good? For someone like me that has a very limited knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, I think some of these questions should have been dealt with.

Overall, it is a great and powerful film that is equal parts drama and thriller. It has its flaws, but what it does well it excels in. In hindsight, I’m so glad this movie was suggested over Slumdog Millionaire. After all, winning an Oscar doesn’t mean your movie is enjoyable (The English Patient. Trust me, it really sucks).

Firaaq

Image via Wikipedia

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Snake Charmers

This subject I noticed has not really been mentioned much, if at all, which I find interesting because it’s one of the most common stereotypes associated with India, especially the misrepresentations of Indians as mystical. I thought about this because of this infamous viral video that shows an infant playing with a defanged cobra. It’s very easy to judge upon viewing, because even a defanged cobra could be dangerous. However, I did read on Wikipedia (the most trusted source on the net…please don’t judge me) something that would not have made sense to me prior to this class, which is a better understanding of the caste system. Certain caste systems force entire families to become snake charmers. In many cases, it’s an inherited profession (similar to sweepers in some aspects), so a look at that same video with this new perspective, it’s not so….ok, so it’s still hard to watch, but growing up with snakes probably makes it easier to be a snake charmer, since both snake and human become acclimated to each other. I know I would cry, cause like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes.\

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ekv6k7tP3M

Gaming in India

I was reading some stuff on video games (as usual) when I noticed an article talking about various countries and what types of video games are popular. For US, Europe, and Japan it’s the home consoles (Wii, PS3, X360) that endure consistently, although the handheld market has also done well (DS, PSP). For Korea and China, the MMO games are so big that some players have actually died because they would continuously sit at home (or more likely internet cafes, which are still big overseas) and play until their body completely shuts down (World of Warcraft, Starcraft). India actually surprised me, as I guessed they would probably be similar to their neighbors and also be big into MMOs, but their most popular gaming platform of choice for several years has been mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, iAnything, cell phones). This trend is picking up steam globally, and a good example is right here in America. One of the most popular video games last year? Anyone? The answer is: Angry Birds. Seriously, Wal-Mart has stuffed dolls and wall stickers of these things. There is (supposedly) a movie being made on this game. All this is proof that mobile gaming is definitely gaining more popularity. I am a hardcore gamer, and I can’t name any original mobile game that was made before 2009. Does India deserve the credit for this trend? Probably not entirely (thank Steve Jobs), but it’s interesting to notice that the trend started there.

The Namesake

Promotional Poster for “The Namesake”

As I was researching, I saw the name of Kal Penn, who most will know from “Van Wilder,” “House M.D.,” and the “Harold & Kumar” stoner comedies. However, I remember watching him in this film in another English class (Popular Culture I believe), and after thinking about it I couldn’t help but feel that this would perhaps have made a great textual option for this class. It’s not a comedy (Kal Penn is an underrated actor who has made some pretty poor choices though), so those expecting to laugh would be better off renting “Malibu’s Most Wanted” or something. The Namesake focuses on Gogol Ganguli, who is named that after his father’s love of the works of Russian author Nikolai Gogol, and the struggles of cross-culture clash between America and India. The movie becomes incredibly sad at times, but it really captures a lot of good ideas with culture clashing and misrepresentation. If critical acclaim is your thing, it has an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 82% on Metacritic. I think this movie is fantastic, and highly recommend it.

 

 

Slumdog Millionare

I would like to preface this by admitting I have never seen Slumdog Millionaire, and honestly, I really don’t have much interest. However, I was curious, so I perused its Wiki page, and thought it was very interesting that it is listed right in its description as a “2008 British Romantic Comedy.” Really? Then I started looking at the people who worked on the film behind the scenes. Danny Boyle? Really? The same guy who directed 28 Days Later? Written by Simon Beaufoy, who you may know from another movie he wrote known as “The Full Monty.” The list seems to go on, which leads me to believe that, yeah, this is indeed a movie that is better classified as a British Romcom than a true Bollywood film. Anyone want a good idea for a Romcom? “Mannequin” from the late 80s, starring Andrew McCarthy (Weekend at Bernies….hey, I’m almost 29 years old) and pre-Sex in the City Kim Catrall.

Masterchef – An Internationl Success – Why?

I love Gordon Ramsay’s shows. I am not one for much reality TV, but there’s something awesome and entertaining about watching a British chef cuss out grown adults to the brink of tears. One of his newer shows is Masterchef, which is only in its 2nd season on FOX. The concept is a competition show where amateur chefs around America compete for $250,000 and the title of “Masterchef.” I don’t typically watch much TV, so I was unaware that Masterchef is not just a big show in America, but is itself a global phenomenon. Started in 1990 in England, it has branched out to several countries, such as Germany, France, and Israel. India had its first season on Amul Masterchef last year as well, and from what was mentioned on the American show last night, it sounds like it’s very successful. Hosted by famed Hindi Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, this show had a similar concept to the American version but made enough changes to make entirely a different product.

I think it’s pretty cool to see one show become such an international success. Granted, it’s been around since 1990, but all this success is very recent internationally. However, I wonder if credit will be attributed to the West, or is the concept itself so universally appealing?