Monday, January 25, 2010

This Is [sh]It

Nearly three years have passed since this blog was last updated.

2:37 came and went. The reviews were middling-to-bad; the box-office receipts, meagre.

The project seemed to curse many of those who were involved. Much of its young cast swiftly, embarrassingly, slid into obscurity, or, worse still, ended up with the kind of a career in which the highlight is a bit part in an Adam Sandler movie.

And, of course, there's the man himself, the Bunny's old bugaboo, Mr Murali K. Thalluri.

At the height of the controversy, Thalluri was on the cusp of big things - or, so he'd have us believe.

Even if one has talent and is willing to work hard, a career as a filmmaker is a rare thing. Many try. Few succeed. Some are lucky enough to catch the kind of break that leads to a real career - such as having one's first film accepted into the Cannes Film Festival.

Inexplicably, Thalluri was given this gift.

Even more inexplicably, he squandered it.

How many feature films has Thalluri made since 2:37?


How many short films has Thalluri made since 2:37?

None. (Unless you include this 2m 37s masterpiece of nuance and wit, featuring 'Writer/producer', Stealthy Selthy - or, maybe this dazzling, single unbroken take in which Thalluri bullies directs a bucktoothed little girl and her brother from behind the camera - apparently in order to try to impress Teresa Palmer).

What has he done since he made 2:37?

Well, there was the stint as Che Guevaraesque fashion icon. And then there was the 'celebrity' endorsement.

Understandably, Thalluri may have been smarting from all of the accusations that 2:37 was nothing but an inferior, muddled rehash of Gus Van Sant's Elephant. When barely a review of 2:37 was published that didn't note the obvious, blatant similarities between the two films, even Thalluri himself was forced to acknowledge he'd gone waaaay beyond homage.

Even Geoffrey Rush got in on the act, dubbing Thalluri 'Milli Vanilli' in the press - a byword for being a phony.

In order to rid himself of any further association with plagiarism (which, to this day, still earns him derision), Thalluri would have of course aggressively pursued unique, fresh projects. No?


In the wake of the hit film, Slumdog Millionaire, Thalluri was peddling Jewel - the tale of two Indian boys who escape from a cruel, Fagin-esque slavemaster, seeking salvation from a game show their Bollywood idol. Understandably, people were wary of sinking any money into the project - to the extent that a desperate Thalluri had to travel as far as Hong Kong to try hawking the thing before it finally died.

Following that, in an even more desperate move, came World War 3, a nakedly derivative ripoff of the Tomorrow, When the War Began series of novels by John Marsden. The project appeared to get as far as clumsily photoshopped promo artwork on Thalluri's website until, thank God, Paramount (with its own adaptation of Tomorrow, When the War Began in the works) apparently nipped it in the bud, forcing Thalluri to retract, tail between his legs.

[Editors' note - an advance copy of this entry was provided to Thalluri in November 2009 to provide him with an opportunity to identify anything that he considered was incorrect, prior to publication. Thalluri's only specific objection was to the preceding two paragraphs with an assertion that the Jewel and World War 3 projects were, apparently, still active. However, he declined to elaborate on his position, to provide any supporting material or, notably, to respond to the allegation that both projects appeared to be plagiarised.]

And then... nothing.

Until now.

Thalluri (who, apparently, still lives with his long-suffering parents) has now popped back up into the spotlight (albeit, on cut-rate movie website with a history of Thalluri obsequy) with a 'review' of the Michael Jackson documentary, This Is It.

Trying to refashion himself as a film critic, of all things, would seem to be an infelicitous move for Thalluri. Firstly, there is his vocal ignorance of/antipathy towards film criticism/history/culture. Secondly, there is his apparent inability to string together a coherent sentence.

Still, you might think, more than three and a half years have passed since the 2:37 hoopla - perhaps Thalluri has taken some basic writing classes since then? Maybe he's read a few film reviews and has acquired something of a sense of the process of critical evaluation?

The evidence, unfortunately, indicates otherwise.

Just when Thalluri thought it was safe to dip his toe back into the public domain, herewith, then, is a blow-by-blow dissection of his 'review'. It would be churlish, perhaps, to dwell on Thalluri's scattershot approach to punctuation, so the focus will be, primarily, on the review's structure and content.

1) Long before the world turned on Michael Jackson through tabloid sensationalism, long before the pigment crippling skin disease - Vitiligo - turned his color to a porcelain doll white, and long before the Peter Pan of Pop was accused and acquitted of child molestation, he was and remained to the end one thing, the greatest entertainer who ever lived.


The cumbersome, over-elaborate, illogical opening sentence sets the tone of what is to come.
Let's break it down. The point that Thalluri seems to be trying to make is that Jackson's talent was unfairly overshadowed by the notoriety resulting from his bizarre appearance and alleged child molestation. Fine, but the way sentence is structured just doesn't make sense. Thalluri sets out three negative events that happened in Jackson's life:
  1. the world turned on him;
  2. his skin turned white; and
  3. he was accused and acquitted of child molestation.

He next establishes a period of time during which Jackson 'was and remained to the end the greatest entertainer who ever lived'. This period of time occurs 'long before' the events listed above.

Let's say Michael Jackson's status as 'the greatest entertainer who ever lived' kicked off in 1971.

Following Thalluri's description as it is written, a timeline of events would look something like this:

This sequence is, of course, patently absurd and grossly inaccurate. By mentioning an ongoing time period with language meant to describe a discrete event in the past, Thalluri completely mangles his words. No stranger to corrupted chronologies, the only logically consistent way to interpret Thalluri's wording is to presume Jackson died years ago, (a theory that Thalluri already tried, and failed, to propagate on the internet), and must have somehow suffered these humiliations posthumously! For the interests of clarity, the sequence of events that Thalluri was likely striving for, with Jackson's vitiligo diagnosis in 1986 and first (public) accusations of child abuse in 1993, was meant to look like this:


'Long before the world turned on Michael Jackson through tabloid sensationalism...'

This does not make sense. The fact of your 'turning on someone' may be reflected by 'tabloid sensationalism' (whatever that means, in and of itself), but you can't 'turn on someone' through 'tabloid sensationalism' - you either turn on them or you don't.

'long before the pigment crippling skin disease - Vitiligo - turned his color to a porcelain doll white...'

How can a pigment be crippled? Surely he means 'the crippling skin disease, Vitiligo'? And why refer to it as 'porcelain doll white' - why not just 'porcelain white'?

'long before the Peter Pan of Pop was accused and acquitted of child molestation...'

Yes, Jackson compared himself to Peter Pan, and, yes - he named his ranch 'Neverland', but isn't the nickname 'the Peter Pan of Pop' usually reserved for Cliff Richard? Jackson's own nicknames, based on actual public usage, would include 'the King of Pop' and 'Wacko Jacko'.

Additionally, Thalluri's reference to Jackson being 'accused and acquitted of child molestation' is misleadingly suggestive that the accusation and acquittal was a one-off event - when, as Thalluri knows, it was anything but.

'he was and remained to the end one thing, the greatest entertainer who ever lived.'

Wait a second, Jackson was one thing? Only one thing, an entertainer? That seems like a horribly reductive way of weighing up a life, and one entirely consistent with the blinkered way that Jackson's abusive father apparently viewed his son.

2) The new documentary THIS IS IT shows us that despite what we were reading about him in the press, this was a gentle genius who just wanted to help the world through his art, it shows us the man still had talent, that when he sang, he sang with the voice of angels, and when he danced he did so with the grace of god, and though he is no longer with us, the man’s legend will live on through the legacy piece, THIS IS IT.


The sentence opens with the words '... THIS IS IT shows us that...'.

On this basis, the ostensible purpose of the sentence is to describe some of the things that This Is It shows its audience, namely:

    1. '... that despite ... the press, [Jackson] was a gentle genius... ';
    2. '... that [Jackson] had talent... when he sang... and when he danced'; and
    3. '[that] though [Jackson] is no longer with us... [his] legend will live on through the legacy piece, THIS IS IT.'
Yes, that's correct, reader. Thalluri just wrote that This Is It shows us that Jackson's legend will live on through This is It.


'[Jackson] just wanted to help the world through his art...'

This is sycophantic hyperbole at its worst. Does a man on the verge of bankruptcy set up a 50-concert tour that would have, apparently, netted him hundreds of millions of dollars in order to 'help the world through his art'?

'he sang with the voice of angels...'

Angels, plural? What, in harmony with himself? Like a barbershop quartet?

'he danced... with the grace of god'

While God is known for his grace, he is not known for his dancing ability. Thalluri seems not to realise that the word 'grace' has a specific meaning in the theological context - namely, forgiveness or benefaction. Not graceful, in the swan sense.

(Anyway, here is a video of a dancing God for your viewing pleasure!)

3) The film chronicles the final few months of Michael Jackson’s life from the moment he announced his eagerly awaited comeback right down to the night before he died.


Bear this sentence in mind later on and note, for now, Thalluri's suggestion that the film chronicles 'the final few months of... Jackson's life', beginning with the announcement of the concert tour and ending on the night before Jackson's death.


'... right down to the night before [Jackson] died.'

Right down to the night before he died or right up to the night before he died?

4) It is a mixture of performance as well as an in-depth behind the scenes look at the man at work. Together with the director of the show Kenny Ortega, Michael goes about directing his crew and team of dancer with grace and humility but also with a sternness that was not not expected from the softly spoken pop star.

Okay, just a couple of cheap shots:

    1. a 'team of dancer' - just the one?
    2. '[A] sternness that was not not expected'? Not not expected - so, what, a double negative? It was expected?

Still, though - things like this are just lazy, especially if:

    1. something you are writing is going to be available on the internet for all to see, forever, and picked up by aggregators such as Google News;
    2. the piece of writing is your own 'comeback';
    3. you purport to be a professional writer;
    4. you are writing on a topic that is particularly close to your heart; and
    5. you have a history of being publicly mocked for your poor writing skills.
Irrespective of the fundamental structural flaws with the piece, surely a quick read-through once it had been drafted would have eliminated glitches like these?

5) This was not a man who was eight hours away from dying, here was a man who was excited to bring his latest creation to the world, a man who despite his thin frame, moved better than the dancers half his age and despite four decades on stage still had the voice that thrilled the world.


Thalluri is, apparently, a Michael-Jackson-was-murdered conspiracy theorist. He seems to be trying, at the outset of this sentence, to make the point that, by the end of the film, notwithstanding Jackson's impending death, he appeared to be healthy, spry and in a positive frame of mind: therefore, his death must have been caused by something other than natural causes.

However, again, Thalluri's clunky, hamfisted sentence starts to make a point, but then branches out tangentially, without resolution.

Really, the way that the sentence should be structured as follows:

    1. The film closes with footage shot eight hours prior to Jackson's death. However, Jackson could not have died from natural causes, given that:
      1. he was excited to bring his latest creation to the world;
      2. he danced well; and
      3. he sang well.
By the second half of the sentence, however, Thalluri jettisons the original point and then abruptly shifts to making a separate point about how good a performer Jackson supposedly was!


'[Jackson, by the end of the film, did not appear to be] a man who was eight hours away from dying'

The 'away' is redundant. And 'dying' should be 'death'.

'This was not a man... here was a man'

If you are going to open the sentence with 'this was not a man', why then go on to write 'here was a man'? These kinds of inconsistencies disrupt what little flow there is in the piece.

'a man who despite his thin frame, moved better than the dancers half his age and despite four decades on stage still had the voice that thrilled the world'

The points that Thalluri wants to make are clear, but he consistently flubs them as he manufactures imaginary setbacks for Jackson to transcend:

    1. Jackson dances well despite his thin frame? Surely, being thin is a good thing if you're a dancer?
    2. Jackson still sings well despite four decades on stage? Again - what? Wouldn't those decades of experience be an asset for a singer?

Separately, Thalluri claims that Jackson had 'the voice that thrilled the world'. We get the point that Thalluri has some serious man-love going on for Jackson, but to say that Jackson had 'the', rather than 'a' voice that thrilled the world is excessive by anyone's standards.

6) The rehearsals were filmed for Michael Jackson’s personal archives and were never meant to be a movie, but despite that, this documentary proves to be one of the most revealing insight into Jackson’s persona.

Nonsense on all counts.

Point: 'the rehearsals were filmed for... Jackson's personal archives and were never meant to be a movie'.
Counterpoint: 'this documentary proves to be one of the most revealing insight (sic) into [Jackson]'.

Surely if the footage was shot for Jackson's personal archives and not for public consumption, it would be exactly that: candid, frank - revealing?

Separately, the second half of the sentence is contradictory. The point that Thalluri seems to be trying to make is that the documentary is a 'revealing insight' into Jackson's true personality, his psyche - as distinct from his 'persona', ie, the facade that Jackson presented to the public.

7) Starting with the explosive 1983 hit ‘Wanna Be Startin Something’ Jackson glides across the stage mesmerizing those watching in awe as the man moves with the some graceful aggression that defined him as the King of Rock, Pop and Soul.


Refer to the commentary on sentence #3 above. Thalluri has already clearly stated that the film begins with Jackson's announcement of the concert tour.

Now, it supposedly beings with, either, footage from 1983, or with contemporary footage of a performance of a 1983 song?


'... mesmerizing those watching in awe...'

If the audience is already mesmerised, the 'in awe' is redundant and excessive.

'... the man moves with the some (sic) graceful aggression that defined him as the King of Rock, Pop and Soul.'

Graceful aggression? Either oxymoronic or just plain moronic.

And Jackson wasn't defined as being the 'King of Rock, Pop and Soul' by his 'graceful aggression' - we can thank this renowned music critic and cultural commentator for that.

Also, this is the third - count 'em - time that Thalluri has used the word 'grace' in the 'review'. He seems to have a habit of fixating on particular words and using them over and over and over again...

8) From here the film jumps back to the announcement of the concerts, before splicing live performance with behind the scenes footage.

Again, refer back to the commentary on #3 and #7. Apparently, the chronology of the film does not move in a linear fashion after all and, rather, has flashbacks and flashforwards.

This is not a difficult point to make. Why has Thalluri muddied it in this way, to no apparent end?

9) At the concert announcement it was said that he would be doing the songs the fans want to hear, and the film delivers them all from ‘Billie Jean’ to the lesser known but beautiful ‘Human Nature’, from the highly political ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, to the plea for world consciousness in ‘Earth Song’.

'At the concert announcement it was said that he would be doing the songs the fans want to hear...' (emphasis added)

Thalluri has already said that that the film shows Jackson's announcement of the concert tour. Why then use passive voice and past tense? Why not just say that 'At the concert announcement, Jackson says that he will do the songs the fans want to hear'?

Thalluri then seems to try to set up two spectra in order to demonstrate the breadth of the Jackson back-catalogue. The first works - from Billie Jean, one of Jackson's biggest hits, to the lesser-known Human Nature.

However, in the second, for some reason, Thalluri then chooses two explicitly political songs. Why?

10) The entire stage was to be backed with a 130 foot 3D screen so the audience could watch Michael interact with 3D elements, something that was developed specifically for this show and would have been a world first.

An official press release from 3D Eye Solutions, Inc the company hired to perform the 3D conversion for the concert tour, states that the screen was a '90 foot by 30 foot LED screen'.

So, where did Thalluri pull the "130 foot 3D screen" from?

From deep within his own imagination, apparently.

11) We see the recreation of ‘Thriller’ in 3D, Michael Jackson’s army of love all dancing in unison to ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, and in perhaps one of the most stunning sequences of the film, he uses digital technology to insert himself as a character into an old black and white Rita Hayworth and Edward G. Robison movie before allowing it to transition into ‘Smooth Criminal’. I’ll say this, when I walked into that theatre I did not expect MJ to be shot at by a 1940s gangster in a variation of a film classic! Epic!

Edward G. Robinson and Rita Hayworth only acted in one film together, 1942's Tales of Manhattan.

Tales of Manhattan does not feature in This Is It.

Rather, clips from a number of films noir do, including those which feature Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, along with Robinson and Hayworth.

However, Thalluri - bless him - appears to have thought that the black and white footage all came from one film! A 'film classic', to boot.

'I have no film knowledge,' Thalluri once confessed.

Um, yeah.

12) As he glides through an extended ‘Billie Jean’, caresses his way through the sublime ‘Human Nature’, roars his way through ‘Jam’ and fights his way through ‘Beat It’ we see Jackson as he’s never been seen before - unguarded doing what he does best.

'... glides ... caresses ... roars ... fights'

Thalluri seems to have pulled the ol' Roget's for this one. Too bad he's used 'glides' already - see #7 above. And, how, exactly, does one 'caress' or 'fight' one's way through a song?

'we see Jackson as he’s never been seen before - unguarded doing what he does best.'

What, we've never seen Jackson 'doing what he does best' before? Presumably, by 'doing what he does best', Thalluri means singing and dancing? Or, does he mean that we've never seen Jackson 'doing what he does best' in an 'unguarded' manner? Very confusing.

13) The only issue I had with this film was that the Michael Jackson we see in the film was such a perfectionist that I’m sure he would turn in his grave if he knew that the world was seeing him in rehearsals and not the full blown show where he is putting in 100% of his effort.

If anything gets Jackson's corpse spinning, it is more likely to be something like this. Or, maybe these...

14) Whatever you want to think about Michael Jackson, there is one thing that can not be denied, the man was the best that ever did it and this film shows it. Even when not putting in a film effort, he still completely outshines today’s stars like Usher, Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown. This Is It is a beautiful film that will remind the world that Michael Jackson was far from all of the things that the tabloid media painted him out to be, he was a gentle genius. It is just tragic that it took his death for us to see that. I for one was looking for Michael-Mania to sweep the world once again through what would have been one of the biggest comebacks in music history, instead we get this emotive, thrilling and heartbreaking tribute to him, this shouldn’t be it, but unfortunately it is!

Again, more awkward purple prose that reads like a primary school assignment. In that vein, please discuss the following questions:

    1. What is a 'film' effort?
    2. Why does Thalluri, in his 'review', alternate between using, respectively, capitalisation, quotation marks and nothing to identify proper nouns?
    3. Why does Thalluri use the phrase 'gentle genius' twice in the same 'review'

One can't help but wonder if this 'review' would be yet another cause of chagrin to Thalluri's old high-school English teacher...

In sum, then - one piece of advice for Thalluri: he shouldn't quit his day job.

Oh, whoops, that's right. Almost forgot.

He doesn't have one.


Tony Coca-Cola said...

Ahhhh - so good to have you back.

Deep Throat said...

Have you seen this? $795 to submit a script for Murali to read

Deep Throat said...

Sorry they altered it to $495

Deep Throat said...

I would appreciate an analysis of Murali's company's new digital arm - I especially like the graphics ripped from the Apple site, the many employees (cartoon face and first names only) and the quote generator ($1,000 a month for search optimisation)

Anonymous said...

I think you have made the world a better place