X-Men The Last Stand movie review

I am no psychologist (apart from several courses I have taken in psychology and a lot of reading that I have done) but I often wonder if it is natural for human beings to discriminate. For instance, I heard horror stories of discrimination of foreigners in Japan when I lived there (though, I do not recall a single instance of overt discrimination myself) but on closer look I found that the Japanese happily discriminate against other Japanese. Starting all the way from women to handicapped to people of Kansai and Kanto regions against each other, the discrimination is integral to the Japanese society.

Similarly, we can look at many other societies and it turns out that at a given point in time someone is discriminating against someone else and if that discrimination is outlawed, human beings figure out something else to use as an excuse for discrimination.

So what will happen if mutants were to start living in our society and to make things even more complicated they will have more powers than the rest of the mortals? The first reaction will be discrimination. And that is exactly what X-Men: The Last Stand is about. When a pharmaceutical company wants to categorize a normal human condition as a disease (that sounds rather familiar), the mutant population is divided into two camps. Some want to take the medicine and become human while the others want to maintain their identity. In the second camp, though, some want to coexist with humans peacefully, but others want to fight the humans.

The movie is full of amazing digital effects and is a delight to watch if you are a sci-fi fan.

Hollywood Bollywood crossover genre

The Namesake and Mistress of Spices movies
Bollywood is a much larger movie industry in some statistics (number of movies made, moviegoers, etc.) but very small in other ways: the movie budgets are tiny (a fraction of Hollywood budgets) and the quality of movie is often awful (they appear to be made for a wide audience with a little bit of everything — I understand they are called masala movies, literally translated as a movie with a spice for everyone).

It turns out that the Indian petrochemical giant Reliance now wants to partner with Hollywood to what the Times put as “a new genre of crossover cinema with talent from India and abroad.”

Guess what? I was recently helping a group of investors decide exactly that and they provided me with samples of two films.

The first DVD was a film called The Namesake, based on a novel of the name by Jhumpa Lahiri and directed by a crossover director Mira Nair. It had a cast of Hollywood (Jacinda Barrett and Zuleikha Robinson) and actors of Indian origin (I have no idea if there were Indian-Americans or Indians). It was very obvious from the movie that it would appeal only to people of Indian origin or those Americans who are in a romantic relationship with an Indian. I am guessing that it might be of interest to Indians living in India, particularly those who have a family member in the US. The movie thrives on stereotyping, and unless you have very strong reasons to study the lives of Indians in the United States, it is an awful movie to watch.

The other movie that was recommended to me was The Mistress of Spices, a movie based on a novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. It stars Dylan McDermott and Aishwarya Rai (apparently she won an international beauty pageant and became an instant celebrity in India with movie and modeling roles). This movie is so bad (the only thing I liked was the beautiful spice shop) that I can’t imagine who can watch it. There is no plot and McDermott struggles to connect with Rai, who is a terrible actress (my understanding is that beauty pageants look at things like looks and likability and acting is not a requirement).

My recommendation to the investors was to stay away from such investments because of the tiny market for such films. A major barrier is that the crossover market has not really reached a point where you can be entertained by cultures that are vastly different. How many Indians in India will enjoy watching Stephen Colbert with what we think are great jokes? And how many of us can tolerate a woman in a sari trying to sell spices in California to cure all the ills of our lives?