Monday, June 13, 2016

Music & Movie Monday ~ Rock the Kasbah

We watched Rock the Kasbah (2015) via Netflix last week. Strange movie. It tried to be funny, but that's always going to be a lost cause when set in 21st century Afghanistan. The movie was actually filmed in Morocco, and by all accounts the cast had an enjoyable time during their time off there, which could partly account for the rather odd atmosphere of the movie.

Kate Erbland at Indie Wire wrote:

It’s fitting that Barry Levinson’s charmless "Rock the Kasbah" opens with a chyron announcing that the action we’re about to see takes place "in the recent past," because the rock n’ roll-tinged comedy feels like something pulled out of a very different time.
Me: I learned a new word :chyron:
An electronically generated caption superimposed on a television or movie screen.
The Bill Murray-starring feature doesn’t come with any of the sharp political humor that punctuates films like Levinson’s "Good Morning, Vietnam" or "Wag the Dog," instead opting to throw a bunch of "wacky" characters into a literal warzone and hoping that something amusing emerges from the subsequent friction. Although no one comes off looking especially good, an acceptable alternate title for the film could be "The Ugly Americans," because Mitch Glazer’s script takes some of the worst stereotypes about ex-pats and blows them sky high. The result is a film populated exclusively by people who make not only baffling choices, but genuinely rotten ones.

Nutshell plot: Bill Murray plays an ageing has-been (or would like to have been a has-been) rock tour manager who makes a last ditch attempt to make some money and fame by taking a mediocre female rock singer on an USO tour to Afghanistan. She hops it almost immediately, taking with her his stash of money and his passport, leaving him marooned in Kabul.

That fairly boring part of the film takes up too much time. Murray's character then gets himself into some sticky situations with a mercenary soldier who had helped the singer escape (Bruce Willis), some shady Afghan arms dealers, and a rather unbelievable American prostitute (Kate Hudson)supposedly building up her 401k by servicing long lines of eager clients in central Kabul. All this takes up another too-long slice before we get to what ought to have been the story's heart.

After narrowly escaping being blown up in a Humvee, Murray's character has to stay with a reclusive Afghan tribe out in the desert. He hears a beautiful singing voice one night when wandering outside, tracks it down to a cave, and finds a young Pashtun woman singing there and watching an old TV set playing an episode of Afghan Star (something akin to early American Idol before it became totally corporate). Enough to say (spoiler) that Murray's character manages to spirit the young woman, Salima, played by Leem Lubany, away from her father and the tribe who threaten her with death for her sinful singing, and get her into the final of Afghan Star, where she sings Peace Train (the Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam song) ...and...well you can guess the rest.

The film, directed by Barry Levinson, who also directed the excellent Wag the Dog - is a very odd and vaguely uncomfortable mix, but not entirely unpleasant. It has been really badly panned, far more so than deserved, in my opinion.

Rock the Kasbah carries a dedication frame at the end of the movie: Setara Hussainzada, who did come out from under her hijab in her final performance on Afghan Star, but the Pashtun contestant that year was another female, Lema Sahar. The excellent 2009 documentary Afghan Star chronicles the show’s tumultuous existence — and suggests that Rock the Kasbah exaggerates the paucity of women on the show. After the U.S. drove the Taliban out of Kabul, Afghan Star became a symbol of the return of secular culture.

And so to the the music part of Music Monday: from the movie, Leem Lubany's rendition of Peace Train:


mike said...

I haven't viewed this movie, but I'm aware of it, due to it's fictionalizing of the actual events surrounding two contestants, Setara Hussainzada and Lema Sahar, on the "Afghan Star" TV program. HBO's documentary, “Silencing the Song: An Afghan Fallen Star,’ centered on Hussainzada, the runner-up..."Silencing the Song" is a documentary about both, and is the basis for "Rock the Kasbah".

"Rock the Kasbah" may have low critic and reviewer scores, due to the topic...sorta like trying to make a comedy out of Christina Grimmie-"Voice".

The moral police are everywhere it seems, not just in the Middle East countries. We have our own right here in the USA, as yesterday's Orlando massacre demonstrated. Those Christian conservatives, both citizens and congressional delegates, are straining to correlate proper bathroom selection to moral deviation, classifying all gay men as pedophiles, women's bodies to be adjudicated, family values (do what I say, not what I do!), denigration of education for the creationist agenda (who needs science when one has gawd?), etc.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - And discussing cultural quirks-dichotomies, the religious disdain of homosexuality, whether Muslim or Christian, has an pathological element in Afghanistan's Muslim population. PBS' Frontline episode, "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan", presents a custom of heterosexual men purchasing the comfort of dancing boys, often during wedding ceremonies. Kinky, eh?!

Twilight said...

mike + (again) ~ It's a clumsy movie. Fictionalising the real events could have been much better done by not straining so hard for laughs, which really weren't there.
The film's triumphant ending did perk me up considerably though.

Yes, it's ironic that we scorn so loudly the customs and culture restrictions of societies in the Middle East, while proceeding to carry out the western 21st century version of them ourselves.

Agreed also - there's irony also, within those Middle Eastern taboos - as you've outlined.

Yesterdays awful, awful events had loose links to Afghanistan as the murderer's parents are Afghan immigrants to the USA. This post was prepared days before the massacre as well as before Christine Grimmie's murder; I almost ditched it, but eventually decided to leave as is.

mike (again) said...

Yes, quinky dink with your post and current events. I would assume Mateen's parents came to the USA for opportunities and maybe to escape the Afghanistan culture-regime. I always feel so sorry for these hapless parents of (mass) murderers, caught-up in the misdeeds of their child, going through their own grief, yet the media and authorities relentlessly hound them. Bad enough to know that your child is dead, but horrid to know they are a monster causing the rampage.

Fascist, anti-Muslim sentiments are trendy here, with some of the origins from the USA's ill-fated decision to create war and topple the regimes of two Muslim countries...homophobia is strong here, too. It must be difficult for the anti-Muslim, homophobic American to wrap his-her little head around the Orlando mass murder of homosexuals by a Muslim extremist.

My own Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a tweet coinciding with the Orlando mass murder, "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." I guess he favors Mateen.

BTW - We declared war on Afghanistan and Iraqi over the perception of the 9-11-2001 terrorism on American soil. Saudi Arabia had been suspect, but that quickly spiraled to a conspiracy theory. A congressional investigation, yet to be released, indicates Saudi involvement:
“So who was the most likely entity to have provided them that support?” Graham continued. “All the evidence points to Saudi Arabia. We know that Saudi Arabia started Al Qaeda. It was a creation of Saudi Arabia.”

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ I wasn't here in 2001, but I did wonder, from my home in the UK, why Afghanistan took all the blame and all of the reprisals, while it was clearly reported that Saudi Arabia was very closely involved in the plot and execution of 9/11.

I've just read The Rude Pundit's piece on the Orlando massacre - he is so angry that he hasn't used a rude word once, which makes his points even more impressive.

mike (again) said...

Some of the effected Sandy Hook families filed a class action suit against the assault weapon manufacturer, distributor, and retailer, and it was allowed to proceed:
"In a major blow to gun companies, a judge in Connecticut on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 10 families affected by the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School against the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting."

Our fascist, loud-mouthed, racist, POTUS wannabe stated that had the Orlando victims had guns, the carnage wouldn't have been as severe. I see in tonight's headlines that Trump has censored the Washington Post by revoking their press pass to his events. "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist...then they came for the..."

mike (again) said...

There is apparently more to Mateen's emerging story (Saturn square Neptune...nothing is as it seems):

"At least four regular customers at the Orlando gay nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people said Monday that they had seen Omar Mateen there before. 'Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,' Ty Smith said. ... Another Pulse regular, Kevin West, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen messaged him on and off for a year using a gay chat app. ... Cord Cedeno and Chris Callen are other Pulse customers who told the Sentinel they had seen Mateen in the nightclub. Callen said he had witnessed violent outbursts by Mateen. 'It was definitely him. He'd come in for years, and people knew him,' Cedeno said."

mike (again) said...

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves..." Oscar Wilde

Anonymous said...

yes, mike, I was wondering if Mateen's deed might not resonate with others who have 'fundamental' viewpoints: it only makes sense; and wondering what Chris Hitchens would have to say....

Oscar also described it as 'the rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror' - imagine brooding in a dark corner while others revel in the freedom to truly be themselves, never mind all the rest of the realpolitik. One's dreams (Neptune) of perfect inter-beingness* (Pisces) have caromed (square) off the brick wall (Saturn) of one's religious belief system (Sagg).

*Thich Nhat Hanh

Don't like to discuss films I haven't seen, Twilight, but I did enjoy Bill Murray enough in 'Groundhog Day' to have seen it twice over the years - which I seldom do - and 'Lost in Translation', which I've also watched twice - very unusual. (But LIT was such an excellent script, I think many different co-stars would have suited.) Not a fan of most contemporary American comedy: not 'adult' enough for this old crone. Buster or Chaplin? Harpo or Groucho? Chaplin and Groucho for me ;P

In the Age of Aquarius will the computer ask you to prove you are not a human before it will publish your comment?

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Trump is becoming more objectionable by the day - I feel sure he wants out - one way or another.

Yes, I had a feeling there was more to it, and the minute I saw his photograph yesterday I thought him nice looking and wondered...if...maybe...(not that it's always the case, but in young men it often seems to be).

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Bill Murray is versatile, can be quirky or serious and a good actor when serious. The film about FDR, "Hyde Park on the Hudson" had him at what I think is his best. I saw "Lost in Translation" but can't recall anything about it... :-/ should look to see it again sometime. I saw Murray first in "Mad Dog and Glory" with Robert de Niro - that one I always remember, for some reason, though it's a very long time since I saw it.

Husband likes those old stars you mentioned, but I'm not too keen - will watch 'em under duress! ;-)

anyjazz said...

What about Bob?

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ "Bob" the movie? Oh yes - another odd one that - but funny in a quirky way. Bill Murray can fill those peculiar parts very well.