Saturday, December 27, 2008


This may not be how you remember it

A long time ago, that is earlier this year, a lot of things happened. So as we bid farewell to the year, we recount some of the (few) highs and (many) lows of 2008.

But before we delve into the main events of the year that is but will soon be was, we must first take a look at what was happening in the background to make the year a little worse for the inhabitants of planet earth:


- Global economic/financial crisis: Making us wonder if there is some secret competition between countries as to who can ruin their economy the most, the world spiraled uncontrollably down the financial-crisis drain. Inflation, record high oil prices, increased unemployment, credit crunch, bankruptcy of investment and commercial banks, and stock market crashes ensued.
- Load-shedding: While US scientists came one step closer to cloning the Woolly Mammoth, WAPDA decided to give the Pakistani populace it’s own taste of the Stone Age by depriving most of the country of electricity for extended parts of the day for the entire year. Now we really know how the Dodo must’ve felt!
- Unrest: In their quest to make the world a safer place by bombing every country they can think of, USA was so successful in its fight against terrorism that there were hardly any terrorist attacks or suicide bombings this year. Of course there was the Marriott Hotel attack…and the Jaipur and Bangalore and Ahmedabad and Mumbai attacks, and the bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk and Diyarbakır and Dimona and Kabul and Kandahar, and the ones in Wah, and outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, and…
- Natural disasters: Feeling left out, nature decided to join in on the task of making people miserable. This resulted in calamities including earthquakes in Chengdu (China) and Baluchistan (Pakistan), as well as a tornado outbreak in Southern United States, floods in Santa Catarina (Brazil), and the Cyclone Nargis in Burma/Myanmar.

So with that out of the way, here it is: 2008 in all its (very limited) glory…


· Year of the Potato: The UN declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato, a fact that the majority of the population of the world would remain blissfully unaware of for the rest of the year.
· Iraqi Flag: The Iraqis, forever dissatisfied with the design of their flag, decided to change it yet again, the fifth time they’ve done this since 1921, and no, they’re still not sure it’s quite as perfect as they want it to be. Expect more changes soon.

· Pakistani Elections: General elections (originally scheduled for January and delayed till February due to riots following the death of Benazir Bhutto) were held. PPP and PML (N) agreed to agree with each other just long enough to form a coalition government with Yosaf Raza Gillani as the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, people tried to get justice for the deposed judges, including the ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry; the issue would remain a subject of much debate for the rest of the year.
· Kosovo Independence: Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Ten points to anyone who can mark either Kosovo or Serbia on the world map…
· Cuban Presidency: Big change in Cuba – President Fidel Castro (who resigned due to “critical health condition”) was replaced by, umm, his brother Raul Castro. Revolutionary.
· Yahoo! acquisition attempts by Microsoft: In it’s ongoing mission to ruin Yahoo!, Microsoft made various takeover offers to Yahoo!, all of which were subsequently rebuffed. By the end of the year, after being pounded with criticism by stockholders, Microsoft watched smugly as Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang announced that he will be stepping down as CEO.

· Russian Elections: After serving as the President of Russia for two terms, Vladimir Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term as the President, so they decided to make him the Prime Minister instead. Dmitry Medvedev won the presidential election and then nominated Putin for the post of the PM.

· Politics in Kenya: The formation of a coalition government and the appointment of Raila Odinga as the Prime Minister of Kenya marked the end of the political crisis in Kenya. Now you must be thinking “What? There was a political crisis in Kenya?!!” Yes, we didn’t know either.
· Indian Satellites: ‘India set a world record by sending ten satellites into orbit in a single launch’. Showoffs.

· Nepal monarchy: After considering its pros and cons for 240 years, Nepal finally decided to abolish monarchy and establish ‘The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal’.
· Premier League and UEFA Champions League: Manchester United retained their Premier League title, and also won the Champions League by defeating Chelsea in the CL final (6–5 on penalties, 1–1 draw after extra time). Take that, Man U bashers!

· Microsoft: Bloatware manufacturers Microsoft Corporation’s Chairman Bill Gates stepped down from “daily duties” to “concentrate on philanthropy”. Seeking redemption, eh Mr. Gates?

· 34th G8 summit: The heads of the world’s “richest industrialized countries” got together for a photo-op in Hokkaidō, Japan.
· The Dark Knight: The Dark Knight was released. It was depressingly awesome.

· US Presidential Election: John McCain decided that he didn’t want to be the US President after all, so he chose Alaska governor Sarah Palin as the Republican party’s Vice-Presidential nominee. The strategy worked. (See November for details.)
· South Ossetia war: Georgia and Russia went to war over South Ossetia, an issue the world would’ve paid a lot more attention to had it not been for the…
· 2008 Summer Olympics: Beijing, China. 08-08-08 to 24-08-08. Most expensive games ever. 43 new world records, 132 new Olympic records. China: 51Gold, 21Silver, 28Bronze; USA: 36G, 38S, 36B; Russia: 23G, 21S, 28B; Great Britain: 19G, 13S, 15B; Pakistan: 0G, 0S, 0B. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps.
· Musharraf Resignation: With the axe of impeachment swinging over his head, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf chose to avoid impeachment by opting to resign instead; he did this not because even “a single charge in the impeachment [could] stand against [him]” – of course not, how dare you even think that! – but because he loves Pakistan too much to ruin it any more than he already has in the last nine years. A true patriot, him.
· Tennis: The very amazing Rafael Nadal became “the 24th man in the history of the ATP Rankings to rank No. 1 in the world”. He replaced the very amazing Roger Federer, who was No. 1 for a record four-and-a-half years.

· Pakistani Presidential Election: Pakistani politics continued to astound/baffle/confuse/horrify people when Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari was “elected” as the president of Pakistan. While Pervez Musharraf had run the country on a strict ‘if it ain’t broke, break it’ policy, Zardari offers a new approach to the system as he seems to be following the ‘if it’s broke, don’t fix it’ program of governance.
· US Debt: Always looking for more milestones to achieve, America got another reason to celebrate when the U.S. federal debt passed the $10 trillion mark for the first time. Americans of the past had never even dreamed this day would come, which would explain why $10,000,000,000,000 would not fit on their debt clock, and the clock’s dollar sign had to be replaced by the extra digit. Congratulations America! Next target: $10 umptisquiddlyzillion.
· Big Bang Experiment: The world’s top scientists tried to destroy the Earth in guise of a science experiment that aimed to collide high-speed beams of protons in the Large Hadron Collider. LHC however ran into some trouble and will not be operational again until spring 2009. The estimated cost of the project? Somewhere between €3.2–6.4 billion. Good thing no one’s starving in this world and poverty has been eliminated from the planet, otherwise these scientists would’ve looked like a bunch of heartless morons.
· Zimbabwe Politics: Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal, as a result of which Mugabe would “continue to retain control over the army”, and Zimbabwe would continue to self-destruct.

· Kashmir Trade: ‘A trade route opens within Pakistan-administered Kashmir and India’s Jammu and Kashmir state after a 60-year barrier.’ Yes, it only took us six decades to figure out that cooperation might not be such a bad idea after all.
· Eid ul-Fitr: Dunya bhar mai Eid ul-Fitr pooray josh-o-kharosh sae manaey gaey.
· India’s Moon Mission: The Indian Space Research Organization launched its first unmanned moon mission, Chandrayaan-1, which aims to “survey the surface of the moon” and “attempt to locate resources”. Looks like someone didn’t get the ‘the moon is a barren piece of rock’ memo…

· US Presidential Election: Barack Obama was elected (by humans, sorry Isaac Asimov) as the president of the universe United States of America, becoming the first black president of the US, much thanks to George W Bush – had he not messed up his country so much, do you think they would’ve been open to such historic change?
· Formula One: At 23, Lewis Hamilton clinched the 2008 Formula One World Championship, becoming the youngest driver, as well as the first driver of black heritage, to win the title.
· Piracy in Somalia: Pirates (who had been hijacking cargo ships “off the coast of Somalia”) began hijacking ships “well outside the Gulf of Aden”. And just like everything else, this too is Hollywood’s fault; they just had to go and “glamorize” piracy, didn’t they. These pirates must clearly be inspired by Johnny Depp, because we can’t think of any other reason why they’d go around hijacking ships full of oil.

· Holidays: Eid ul-Adha, Hanukkah, and Christmas were celebrated by Muslims, Jews, and Christians respectively.
· Leap Second: Just when we thought the year was finally about to end, they decided to add another second to it. A WHOLE extra second. Like, WHY would anyone want to make 2008 any longer than it already is?!!
· End of the year: Thank God.


· Ahmed Faraz (77) – poet, considered one of the ‘greatest modern Urdu poets of the last century’.
· Arthur C Clarke (90) – science-fiction author and futurist, famous for his novel ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.
· Bernie Mac (50) – actor and comedian, appeared in ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and its two sequels.
· Charlton Heston (84) – actor, known for playing heroic roles in movies such as ‘The Ten Commandments’, ‘Planet of the Apes’, ‘Ben-Hur’.
· David Foster Wallace (46) – author of ‘Infinite Jest’.
· Edmund Hillary (88) – mountaineer and explorer, first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
· Heath Ledger (28) – actor, appeared in movies including ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’, ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and ‘The Dark Knight’.
· Michael Crichton (66) – author, wrote ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Lost World’.
· Mitch Mitchell (62) – drummer, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
· Paul Newman (83) – actor and director, appeared in hits like ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, ‘The Hustler’, ‘The Color of Money’, and ‘Road To Perdition’.
· Richard Wright (65) – musician, member of Pink Floyd.
· Roy Scheider (75) – actor, best known for his roles in ‘Jaws’, ‘All That Jazz’, ‘The French Connection’, and the television series ‘seaQuest DSV’.
· Sydney Pollack (73) – director, works include ‘The Way We Were’, ‘Absence of Malice’, ‘The Firm’ ‘The Interpreter’.
· Yves Saint Laurent (71) – fashion designer.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 26th December, 2008

Once more, without feeling...

music in 2008

- The very amazing Coldplay released their amazing new album ‘Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends’ which comprised of ten amazing songs, including the very amazing singles Violet Hill, Viva La Vida, and Lost. Plagiarism accusations followed soon after.

- New Kids On The Block – now neither new, nor kids – reunited, fourteen years after parting way, and released a new single, titled Summertime. We refuse to admit that we liked it.

- Queen and Paul Rodgers got together to make an album, which was subsequently slammed by critics.

- Weezer continued to do what they do best – hire directors who make really cool videos. This resulted in the amusing YouTube-celebrities-featuring Pork and Beans and the multiple-record-setting Troublemaker.

- Death Cab For Cutie released a song that had a mindbogglingly long intro.

- Scarlett Johansson’s vanity album, the Tom Waits covers set Anywhere I Lay My Head, was snooze-inducingly boring…unless it was meant to induce sleep, in which case it was pretty good.

- Amy Winehouse was in the news an awful lot. Most of it had nothing to do with music.

- Oasis’ Noel Gallagher reproached Radiohead, saying that their new material sounds just like their old material. “Correct me if I'm wrong,” he was quoted as saying, “they've been making the same record since 'Kid A', have they not?”, which Oasis-bashers translated to: “Hi kettle. I’m pot. You’re black.”

- With the music industry becoming increasingly ‘talent: optional’, Katy Perry showed us that one can still become a hit no matter how phony, obnoxious, and desperately attention-seeking one may be.

- Pharrell made Madonna cry while they were working on her album Hard Candy, therefore we like Pharrell. And after being informed by the tabloids that their marriage wasn’t working, Madonna and Guy Ritchie realized that they should get a divorce, so they did.

- Lynard Skynard’s Sweet Home Alabama + Warren Zevon’s Werewolves Of London = Kid Rock’s All Summer Long = Surprisingly infectious international hit.

- Disney continued to milk its cash cow, releasing High School Musical 3: Senior Year on the big screen, much to the delight of the world’s schmaltz-addicted pre-teens. Said tweens also helped skyrocket Disney-powered-boy-band Jonas Brothers to unwarranted levels of success.

- Kanye West’s ego continued to annoy/concern/worry/amuse people.

- Funny: A satirical take on reality TV in the form of a mock talent contest that parodies reality talent shows.
Funnier: The title of the show: Britain’s Got the Pop Factor and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice.
Funniest: The spoof single The Winner's Song, ironically beating actual 2007 X Factor winner Leon Jackson’s single Don't Call This Love in the British singles charts. Finally some reality that we approve of!

- The Pussycat Dolls revealed that when they were little, they’d dreamed of becoming famous stars with lots of groupies when they grow up. So basically they’ve become everything they always wanted. Now if only they’d grow up…

- Fall Out Boy set the record for “most radio interviews completed by a duo in 24 hours”, also setting the record for “setting the lamest possible record in the history of the world” in the process.

- Straining under declining rating, American Idol fizzled and then tried to over-hype their David vs. David finale, which frankly we can’t really see the logic behind, seeing how everyone already knew David would win.

- Britney Spears released the unbelievable irritating single Womanizer which featured such intelligent lyrics as “womanizer, woman-womanizer, you’re a womanizer / oh womanizer, oh you’re a womanizer, baby / you-you-you are, you-you-you are / womanizer, womanizer, womanizer (womanizer)”. And it ended up topping the charts in various countries. Seriously world? This is what you like?!!

- Bon Jovi made lots of money, then got sued for lots of money.

- Boyzone made it incredibly hard for us to love them when they returned after a 7-year hiatus with the godawful single Love You Anyway.

- Film stars got together to butcher ABBA songs in the movie musical Mamma Mia!, which according to Mark Kermode (BBC Radio 5) felt like “the closest you get to see A-List actors doing drunken karaoke”. With such positive reviews to back it up, it came as no surprise that the film ended up becoming ‘the biggest box office hit of 2008 in the UK’ and the ‘highest grossing movie musical of all time’.

- Pink got a divorce, wrote a song about the break up – which in part dissed her ex-husband – and then got her ex-husband to make a cameo in the video. Props to Carey Hart for being a good sport.

- Beyonce decided she wanted people to call her Sasha Fierce. She even released a double album titled I Am…Sasha Fierce, the first single off which talked about what she would do if she were a boy, and then she said she wants to play Wonder Woman in a movie. Poor girl…how identify crisis-ed is she?

- Much success was enjoyed by artists including Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Duffy, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, and T.I.

- Keane finally realized that guitars aren’t so bad after all.

- Metallica redeemed themselves by releasing an album that was actually good enough for their fans to forgive them for the Napster fiasco. Well, almost.

- And Guns N’ Roses FINALLY released their 14-years-in-the-making album Chinese Democracy. The album generally got a positive reception, but we still think it could’ve been so much better had Axl worked on it a bit more, and spend another decade or two perfecting the sound.

- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 26th December, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

And the award for the most boring award show goes to…

People continue to watch award shows. We continue to wonder why...

The Show

"Hollywood has its Oscars. Television has its Emmys. Broadway has its Tonys. And advertising has its Clios. And its Andys, Addys, Effies and Obies. And 117 other assorted Awards. And those are just the big ones." – Joanne Lipman

Award shows are usually described as events in which the rich and famous get together and congratulate each other on being rich and famous. By and large entertainment-free, these shows provide celebrities the chance to pat each other on the back, because apparently creating a piece of art, selling thousands of records, or being recognized worldwide and having a legion of fans who worship you isn’t reward enough in itself. Who needs intrinsic fulfilment when you can get a trophy to keep on your mantelpiece?

For even more ego massaging, such shows are televised so that the rest of the population can see how much more important celebrities are compared to the rest of us and how their jobs deserve much more accolade than that of an Average Joe.

But here’s the good thing about award shows: they guarantee that nothing fun will happen on tele during the four hours that the show is being aired, so they provide you with the chance to give your undivided attention to something more important – like actually watching the best movie of the year … twice – without wondering what’s on tele.

While one can sincerely hope that these shows get their ratings (which are declining, we’re glad to hear) based on TV sets people forgot to turn off, it does appear that millions of people around the world continue to watch something that will have absolutely no bearing on their lives. Why do people do that? I’m not sure, so I asked one of my friends, who replied: “I dunno, people do lots of stupid things, I can never understand why!”. So you can see why I like my friends. As for the reason why people watch award shows, I’m guessing it could be one of the following:

· To see how badly they’ll mess the event up: We like the way you think. Continue watching.
· Idle curiosity: Understandable, although your purpose can be served just as well by clips off YouTube; will help save many hours of your life.
· Because you have nothing better to do with your time: Consider yourself disapprovingly glared at, and adopt a new hobby NOW. We suggest soccer. It involves kicking a ball around a field with hopes that it will eventually end up in a goal. It might be just as pointless, but it sure as heck is more fun!
· To validate your low self-image by looking at others with over-inflated egos: Now that’s just sad. Seek therapy immediately.
· Because you genuinely want a program or movie or band to win: What? Seriously? WHY?!!

The Host

“When Laura Ziskin called, I was thrilled. There’s two things I’ve always wanted to do in my life. One is to host the Oscars. The second is to get a call from Laura Ziskin. You can imagine that day’s diary entry.” – Ellen DeGeneres

The host of the award show is the person who has the job of being funny, only he/she usually isn’t. So the host pretends to be funny, as the guests pretend to laugh, and the viewers pretend to watch. At best you’ll get half a dozen one liners which you don’t need to waste three or four hours for – you’ll conveniently find them online the next morning in an article that will point out why the show was the worst thing that has ever happened to television-watching humanity.

If, by some astronomical chance, the host is genuinely funny, rest assured that the celebrities in attendance won’t be amused, so the whole event will just be awkward at best. Expect uneasy smiles and forced chuckles. Hollywood appreciates easy, non-confrontational humour, and musicians particularly dislike laughing at themselves or their hypocrisy.

The Ceremony

"Two hours of sparkling entertainment, spread over four hours" - Johnny Carson

The award ceremony is the part of the show after which the celebrities will proceed to have a huge party and get lots of expensive gifts. The stars, clad in expensive clothes that will appear on fashion pages around the world the next morning, first walk down the red carpet where they give short interviews and tell the world which designer’s insanely expensive creation they’re wearing. Those of the local variety come complete with pretentious red carpet interviews where the celebrities (read: people who are under the illusion of being famous although ninety percent of our population doesn’t know who they are) pretend to act like they’re part of a show that will feature actual applause instead of fake one that’s added later.

The ceremony may include musical performances, commemorative bits, and – if time permits – handing out of awards. Awards are presented by presenters whose only job is to read off a teleprompter and hand the award to the winner. Very hard to mess up, you’d think, but the celebrities of the world are on a quest to prove you wrong. Expect flubs, off-the-point ramblings, and don’t be surprised if they forget to mention who the nominees are altogether!

The Performances

“Was that incredible? Britney Spears, everyone! Wow, she is amazing. She is 25 years old and she's already accomplished everything she's going to accomplish in her life. It's mind blowing.” – Sarah Silverman (MTV Video Music Awards, 2007)

In an effort to drag half an hour of proceedings to multiple hours, musical performances are added to award ceremonies in the form of artists lip-syncing singing songs that they’re sick of performing. Their lip-syncing performances might be accompanied by dance routines, choreographed to take the attention away from their lack of lip-syncing singing skills. This part of the show will also help the artists to validate their mediocrity, while giving you – the viewer – the chance to see what shows are on other channels and what you should be watching instead of the awards. Try seeing if a soccer match is in progress; there usually is.

The Awards

“I don’t know why we are so fascinated with actors. Playing dress up and repeating lines written for you in not genius. Roll the cameras, put on these clothes and pretend to be somebody else. Now say what we told you to say. This is not genius.” – Jerry Seinfeld (American Comedian Awards)

No one is quite sure how the nominees are selected, including the people who select the nominees. The winners, however, are usually chosen based on the following question: how ironic would it be to give the award to a person for a specific piece of work? The more the irony, the higher the chances of winning an award.

Occasionally, but not very often, the awards are accidentally given to people who actually did make an admirable piece of art, but such mistakes are deeply regretted by the award-givers. There is also speculation that the choice of winner is based on how badly messed up the life of the celebrity is, although these rumours have yet to be confirmed. The winners may be chosen by their peers, critics, the public, or through a lucky draw, depending on the award show. While the winner is ecstatic over winning a statuette, the losers can always take comfort in the fact that since their album/movie/TV show did not win an award, it must actually be good.

The Acceptance Speeches

"It's now official. There is no one left to thank in New Zealand." – Billy Crystal (Academy Awards, 2004)

Acceptance speeches are long-winded, self-indulgent tirades loaded with vanity remarks, uttered by those who receive awards. But what most people don’t know is that the acceptance speech is an experiment designed to show how much a person can embarrass themselves in one minute. Acceptance speech givers usually fall in one of the following categories:

· The forgetters: Will thank the entire population of Britain but will forget to mention their spouse. Expect divorce proceedings to begin by the end of the month.
· The criers: Are overwhelmed by the award. Or possibly saddened.
· The the-world-revolves-around-me types: See Kanye West.
· The humble: They try to pretend but are not very good at it.
· The just-won’t-shut-up-ers: Their speeches usually begin with the words “I will keep this brief…”.

The recipients are expected to speak for no more than – and this is the best part! – 45 seconds! A three or four hour ceremony and less than a minute to make your acceptance speech! Brilliant.

The Aftermath

“It’s a funny thing about winning an Academy Award, this will always be sort of synonymous with your name from here on. Oscar-winner George Clooney, sexiest man alive 1997, ‘Batman,’ died today in a freak accident.” – George Clooney (Academy Awards, 2006)

After the awards are handed out, the transmission concluded, the after-party over, the world will have a list of artists who have now increased their award count to mull over. Should that list matter? If it’s art, then should we be influenced by someone else’s judgement of it? Yes, there may be a part of us that wants our favourite movie/album/TV show to win, but the fact remains that we won’t like it any less if it doesn’t. And just because something or someone wins an award, we won’t – and shouldn’t – start liking it just based on the fact that it won an award. An actor or a musician should not be defined by the awards they get, and it’s sad if they are, because award shows are nothing more than self-satisfying gimmicks and publicity tools feeding off the world’s celebrity obsession. George C. Scott once described them as “a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons”, and one can’t help but agree with that assessment; at least it helps to explain why they call it ‘show “business”’!

The Other Side

While we’ve had a ball making fun of award shows, we (very reluctantly) decided to give musicians a chance to have their say on the topic. Do they agree with us? Read on to find out:

§ Abbas Ali Khan: It’s good to be rewarded for something that you have put your effort in. Award shows by Indus Network are getting mature every year as they are the pioneers of music awards in Pakistan, especially with MTV awards they are following the international pattern, so it’s much more professional. But otherwise most of the awards are biased and don't make any sense. By that I mean that categories and the nominations are absurd. Commercial artist are mixed up with alternative artists, and then they make the category “viewers choice” so who is suppose to get the award? The person who has a huge fan following despite average music or the person that has a niche but the music is great? Everybody should get a chance but then the categories should be specialized and not, for example, have musicians in the same category just because they both use guitars.

§ Umar Mansoor (Kain): In my opinion award ceremonies are pointless, because you only see actors, musicians, models and socialists showing off in front of the media. The jury is not fair most of the time. Mostly awards are given by votes or favouritism. Last but not least, to spice up these ceremonies dance numbers are choreographed which is totally pointless. It’s better to a little modest and organize a big private party instead of showing off like this.

§ Sam (Akash): I’m not in favour of awards, especially here in Pakistan, because here a style guru will be in the jury and judging a musician when he doesn’t know anything about the music. Mostly people in the jury give awards to the people they know, not just awards but even nominees as well. And our national awards…they don’t even know what is happening in the Pakistani music industry, so it’s better not to think about the awards!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 28th November, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mamma Mia!

movie review

A lot of hype accompanied the release of ‘Mamma Mia!’ – a movie based on the stage musical featuring the songs of the hugely successful Swedish pop band ABBA. With an all-star cast and music that still remains popular after more than three decades, the film seemed like a good idea theoretically. Then something went amiss: the movie was actually made.

Bound by possibly the flimsiest plot in the history of musicals, ‘Mamma Mia!’ is the story of Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) who is engaged to Sky (Dominic Cooper) and doesn’t known who her father is, so she invites the three possible candidates Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry (Colin Firth) to her forthcoming wedding, without telling her mother Donna (Meryl Streep). They all like to sing ABBA songs, it turns out, and that’s what they do throughout the film. Only, most of them – with the surprising exception of relative newcomer Amanda Seyfried (of ‘Veronica Mars’ fame) – can’t really sing (and by the looks of it can’t really act either). Everything from Meryl Streep’s overacting to Pierce Brosnan’s attempts at singing (appalling!!) lead one to the conclusion that a world where people break into song, that too of the ABBA variety, every two minutes would be a very VERY scary place!

In an attempt to seem fun, the movie goes for being campy and in the process collapses on its own ridiculousness. The plot – if you can call it that – has so many holes in it that it puts a sieve to shame. The costumes are unflattering, the direction lacking, the whole project so flat that Stellan Skarsgård seems to have given up on the whole thing and Colin Firth just seems embarrassed to be there.

Am I being too hard on the film? Perhaps. But that’s only because I expected so much more of it. By the end, it is fairly obvious that the only point of the movie was to make lots of money off the success of ABBA, which seems to have worked seeing how much the movie has grossed. Why the success? Possibly because if you choose to ignore all that’s wrong with it and take it for what it is – an elaborate excuse to sing ABBA tunes – you will find yourself enjoying the happenings and singing along to songs you had no idea you knew the words to, and are quite likely to be mesmerized by the enchanting Greek islands the movie was filmed on. So yes, if you’re looking for something campy and fun in an over the top way, then ‘Mamma Mia!’ was made for you. Everyone else, expect to be underwhelmed.

– By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 14th November, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What Happens In Vegas

movie review

If someone tells you that there’s a new movie out and it stars Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, you’d probably think the movie would be a heap of fun. I thought so too. I was wrong. ‘What Happens In Vegas’ is a cinematic example of why what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas. The makers of the movie seem to have set out to make a comedy; only, they forgot about this somewhere along the way, and decided to settle for lame instead. The plot (if I dare call it that) revolves around the inebriated marriage of two people who meet in Vegas, win a three million dollar jackpot, and have to stay married for six months or else their winnings will be confiscated. They then decide to make each others lives miserable, but instead end up inflicting this misery on the viewer, who is likely to spend the duration of the film thinking of all the things they could’ve done in ninety nine minutes that would’ve been so much more fun than suffering through this movie, like watching paint dry for instance. The acting is strained, the script devoid of that thing which makes a film funny (that is, humour), and the plot lacking what might be generally referred to as common sense. In short, ‘What Happens In Vegas’ is excruciatingly lame, mindnumbingly stupid, and disappointingly forgettable.

- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 7th November, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008


movie review

Over the last few years, Pixar has managed to deliver one classic after another. No matter what the setting – be it the kitchen of a French restaurant or the waters of the East Australian Current – each film manages to create a fascinating world, offering both loveable characters and intriguing storylines. This time, the setting is outer space, and the very unlikely hero is a rusty little robot named WALL-E.

The film begins on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the last remaining ‘Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth class’ robot finds itself in a world filled with waste and unable to sustain life. As WALL-E continues to clean up (or rather compact) the mess left behind by the humans, the unexpected arrival of another robot, EVE, triggers a journey into space that inadvertently ends up having some very significant consequences for the Earth and the human race.

A visual masterpiece, ‘WALL-E’ is a captivating cocktail of loneliness, hope, love, and perseverance, effortlessly possessing both wit and emotion, without using many words. Yes, there’s hardly any dialogue in the movie, but the very adorable WALL-E managed to say more with his actions, sounds, and big binocular-reminiscent eyes than most actors manage to say with spoken word. The movie is both heart-warming and thought-provoking at the same time. It remains original despite its many sci-fi influences, and its innovativeness is only surpassed by its charm and how deftly the visuals drive home the underlying message. A wonderful addition to Pixar’s line of classics, and undoubtedly one of their best efforts to date.

- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 19th September, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008


album review

Album: Breakout
Artist: Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus has a lot going for her. The Disney starlet and daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus is the star of the immensely popular TV show Hannah Montana, has reportedly sold over 7 million records, and earned around 3.5 million dollar in a year. And yes, she’s just 15! But with great fame comes great pressure. Heck, just being a teenager is hard enough, let alone having the entire world scrutinize every word you say and every picture you take, and criticize every note you (try to) hit. So, while Miley seems to be handling the pressure fairly well, it would seem only natural that after two Hannah Montana albums (one of which was a split/double disc, half of which ‘introduced’ Miley Cyrus), she would want to “breakout” and establish herself as a legit artist in her own right. That appears to be the point behind ‘Breakout’ – a twelve track record that probably aimed to define Miley’s sound and showcase her songwriting ability. And as far as a pop record goes, ‘Breakout’ is just what Miley fans would’ve wanted. However, as far as breaking out goes, Miley still has a long way to go.

‘Breakout’ doesn’t deviate from the records that preceded it, relying on the same flavour of pop-punk that has not only worked for Miley in the past but has also catapulted other teenage acts to success. There’s a tinge of Avril Lavigne’s style on Full Circle and the (very over-played) single 7 Things, the songs See You Again and The Driveway display a hint of Hilary Duff, whereas Fly On The Wall seems somewhat reminiscent of Britney Spears by way of Ashlee Simpson. And as predictable as the cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun may be, it’ll still work, as Miley fans aren’t likely to remember the original version of the Cyndi Lauper hit anyway. As for the songwriting part, with lyrics like “I've been in a rut/back and forth enough/heart like a wheel/without you around/so uncomfortable is how it feels”, it isn’t hard to believe that Miley co-wrote most of the songs on the album.

So while this record probably won’t be able to help her break away from her Hannah Montana demographics or her mass-marketed pop commodity image, the album continues to deliver what her fans have come to expect of her. And hey, the girl is just 15 and has an entire career ahead of her with plenty of time left to “breakout”. This album, in the meantime, will sell millions, the singles will be hits, and the tween/teen set that worship all-things-Miley will definitely love it. Everyone else, however, is likely to just roll their eyes and reminisce about how much more meaningful music used to be in the ‘good old days’.

– By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 15th August, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

With a little help from my friends

cover story

Friendship has been the theme behind countless movies, songs, sitcoms, poems, and books, and it’s something that plays a very important role in all our lives. So to commemorate Friendship Day, we decided to ask celebrities about their friends. To discover their take on friendship, we asked celebrities about their friends, the qualities they like and dislike, the arguments they usually have, and messages they’d like to send out to their friends. Here's what they had to say:

Kaavish guitarist Maaz Maudood values his friendship with bandmate and best friend Jaffer.
  • Best Friends: The answer to this question, without a doubt in my mind, is Jaffer Zaidi. A true friend, a brother, and quite honestly, a father figure for me at times…and I say this because it has been over a decade since we've known each other. We became friends back in the 9th grade when our classes merged and both of us were put in the same section. I can safely say that that’s when Kaavish came into being. And I felt the need to mention this because Kaavish is more than just a band for us. It's a bag filled with hard work, effort and dedication, love, honesty, heart and soul. It is who we are.
  • Qualities: Friend has to be good at heart. If his/her heart is tainted, then I don’t think I can ever be comfortable around that person. As for the latter part of the question, I believe that every person has a mix of good and bad qualities. That's what makes them human. It would be unfair to judge a person only cause of the negatives he/she holds. There may be some things which you don’t like about your friends, and there may be some things they don’t like about you. The key is never to let the negative side overshadow the positive side.
  • Fights and Arguments: There was a time when Jaffer and I used to get into fights almost every week. Heck, I even remember a time when he came over to my place to beat me up. Haha, priceless moment. But now we’ve reached this level of understanding where we don’t let minor issues take the shape of a fight. Thank God for that. You can’t let little things take over your ego and do something you might regret later. As Rumi would say, “The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore”.
  • Memorable Incident: Too many to pen down.
  • Message: My message to Mr. Jaffer Zaidi: hey man…here’s a toast to what’s in store for us in the years to come...*cheers* p.s. we'll take over the world one day!

Pop singer Faakhir thinks his friends are his most valuable assets, and (perhaps the lyricist in him?) can’t help but compare them to beautiful flowers:
  • Best Friends: Several friends! I am very rich when it comes to friends. However, some of my really great friends are Faisal, Imran, Junaid, Mohiuddin…though I have many other friends, too, but of course it would need a lot of space if I mention all of them. ;) Most of them are my childhood friends. I have been friends with Faisal since we were in grade 5, Mohiuddin and I became friends when we were in 10th grade. Junaid and I are together since we were in 11th.
  • Qualities: Your friends are like a bouquet of beautiful flowers. And like every flower is different from the other one, your friends are different from each other. You should enjoy being with them and they should enjoy your company. The essence of friendship, however, in my opinion, is not to expect anything. The lesser you expect, the happier you are.
  • Fights and Arguments: Yes I do fight with my friends and most of times the fights are due to very trivial issues. However, they don’t last long and we reconcile very soon.
  • Memorable Incident: There are so many incidents. Can’t recall a single one…
  • Message: My friends are a treasure. They are my most valuable asset. Dear friends, I am thankful to you all for being there for me. Stay in touch!

Tennis players Aqeel Khan, one of Pakistan’s finest, is (not surprisingly) friends with people who also play tennis!
  • Best Friends: I have three best friends. Their names are Shehzad, Ali Bhagat and the third one is an Indian, Arindan Datta. I have been friends with Shehzad and Ali for almost 15, 16 years now while Arindan and I became friends in 2004. Shehzad and Ali are my childhood friends. We used to play together and our mutual interest in tennis helped us in coming closer. I met Arindan, who is also a professional tennis player, while I was in India for a tour. We got along well and keep in touch after that.
  • Qualities: Friends should be sincere! That’s all. And that’s the most important quality that I look for in my friends. Also, they should be there for you when you need them and should be able to give you good advice.
  • Fights and Arguments: Fights are a natural phenomenon. And coincidentally, the memorable incidents involving my friends that I am going to narrate here is about a fight. Well, other than tennis, my friends and I also take interest in cricket. And when we play it, we play it very seriously. Once while playing a match, Ali was in the opposite team and we had a fight due to some issue and that was a fight to remember! If someone had seen us fighting, he wouldn’t have believed we were the best of friends. We patched up later but I still remember how seriously we took everything.
  • Message: Be my friends, forever!

Mustafa Zahid a.k.a. Musti, the vocalist of pop band Roxen, likes making frieNds with people who are hoNest and have a good seNse of humour:
  • Best Friends: Interestingly, I have few very good friends and all of them have the initial N in their names. Even my mum’s name is with an N, and she is one of my best friends. So all the people with names with an N are my best buddies so far. Most of them are my childhood friends so we have been friends since God-knows-when.
  • Qualities: Good sense of humor and honesty, I think, are something I believe my friends have, and that’s what I seek in people.
  • Fights and Arguments: We fight everyday and it’s usually while we are playing games or discussing music. They have their choices and I have mine so we contradict sometimes and it leads to tiny fights.
  • Memorable Incident: I fell from a bike once at around 200km/hr with a dear friend, both of us almost died then. It’s more of a memorable accident.
  • Message: Let’s take out our bikes and meet at Gloria Jeans! Ciao.

Singer Ali Azmat says he doesn’t have any friends…or perhaps he does and just doesn’t like to talk about them. Oh well.

Aaroh’s Khalid Khan, however, has many friends…
  • Best Friends: Many, many friends and if I name some, the others might mind it. But my band members, Farooq, Haider and Jason are some of my really nice friends. We have been friends for a long time now. I met Farooq at a studio where I was recording with some band and he was there, too. With Jason I played in a session and that’s how we became friend. Same was with Haider.
  • Qualities: The qualities I look for in a friend is that he/she should be understanding; should think in the same way as I do. And that’s the quality I like the most about my friends. They understand me and they are always there when I need them.
  • Fights and Arguments: I have fights with my friends when I say something that I think is right and they don’t agree with me. That infuriates me very much.
  • Message: Be happy, always!

…as does Call guitarist Xulfi:
  • Best Friends: Sajjad, Sami, Kenny, Sultan, Junaid, Farhan, Daud, Ahmad, Omeir, Ali, Hasib. A few are friends from my university, a few of them are fellow musicians, and a few of them are people who met me as fans and then developed into great friends. Above all, I believe my best friend is my ammi. There is nothing I cannot talk to her about, and there is nothing that she doesn’t understand. It’s surprising how she already knows what I’m thinking. It’s impossible to hide anything from her, hehe. She is always the first person I go to whenever I make a new song, or just even write a few lines. She is not just my best critic, but my super motivator too. Thanks ammi, I love you!
  • Qualities: Honesty, straightforwardness, not just being there when it matters, also being there when it doesn’t matter. I like the fact that all my friends share a pretty simple and clean sense of humour so it’s never difficult to lighten up when I am with them.
  • Fights and Arguments: Not quite often, but whenever we do, there is always a way back cuz friendship demands compromise sometimes, and you can’t ruin an amazing friendship cuz of one bad moment.
  • Memorable Incident: There are so many that mentioning one would be rather unfair to all of them.
  • Message: It’s always easy finding people to hang out with, to talk to. But finding a friend amongst all the people one knows is rather difficult. Only time and moments can help us realize a friend out of an acquaintance.

Model Sunita Hasan is lucky enough to be married to her best friend:
  • Best Friends: I have many friends, but my best friend is my husband, Hasan. How did we become friends? Well, that’s an interesting story. We met some four years back, no, it wasn’t even a meeting, as Hasan saw me at some airport and I guess he liked me. He got my cell number from someone and started texting me. I replied to his messages and this whole text message exchange thing went on for two months. Then we decided to meet and started seeing each other. And now we are happily married. :)
  • Qualities: I want my friends to have a good sense of humour. I also look for similarity in nature and thinking. That really helps. The thing I like most about my best friend, that is Hasan, is that he understands me more than anyone. Many times I don’t have to explain things to him. He just understands them without my saying anything. What I dislike about him is that I am somewhat a cleanliness freak while he is a bit careless when it comes to cleanliness. But I must say that he is catching on fast. :)
  • Fights and Arguments: If you don’t fight with your friends, sorry, you are not entitled to be called friends. Fights are very natural and we also fight. The reason for most of our fights is some little difference in our opinions while discussing something. But we fight very rarely.
  • Message: My message for Hasan is that please be the way you are. Always. I really, really love you and you are my best friend and the best hubby. :)

Call vocalist Junaid Khan has some friends in his neighbourhood:
  • Best Friends: Two guys who have been my neighbours for more than 7 years. We used to play together, go out for dinners and share our daily experiences.
  • Qualities: A friend is a person that you can rely on, and you can trust that if you tell something to them, it won’t pass on like fire. And most importantly, they are not fake and are modest.
  • Fights and Arguments: No serious fights. We take everything lightly and have the patience to understand each other and sort out if anything goes wrong, and mostly importantly give each other their space.
  • Memorable Incident: Well we used to go out on bikes and throw match bombs on streets which we soon realized was not a good thing to do and we still regret it.
  • Message: Well I would only say love the people around you cuz they are you assets and will always be there for you and encourage you to be the best of your capabilities.

Akash vocalist Sam says he hasn’t been very lucky as far as friendship is concerned, but his new friends are making him change his views:
  • Best Friends: Well, my band members are my best friends and I really love them, but I would like to mention two people who are really close to me: Mudasir and Auranzaib – they are my real close friends. I’ve known them from the last four months but indeed they are the best. They both have a band Alaao and they came for their recordings in my studio and after that we became friends. I’ve been unlucky in the case of friendships but now I have changed my views, thanks to my friends.
  • Qualities: Caring and sincerity. I hate opportunist people and in my life most of the people I met were opportunists; because of them I stopped making friends but now I have two good friends.
  • Fights and Arguments: No we don’t have fights. My friends are really nice but they also are too naughty and difficult to handle.
  • Memorable Incident: We just had a trip of northern areas and we all enjoyed it and have a lot of memories…can’t forget it.
  • Message: Enjoy every moment with your friends and I would like to dedicate KK song ‘Pal’ on this day to my friends and every one.
- By Sam and Jay

Us Magazine, The News - 1st August, 2008