TV/movies

casablanca

Ten Days of Movies

It turns out you CAN go to the movies in Islamabad. There are still no movie theaters here, but for ten days a “film gala” is running at the Pakistan National Council for the Arts. The PNCA is housed at a beautiful building right by the Parliament in downtown Islamabad, the film nights are free and include an extensive buffet of tea and fried things (samosas, egg rolls, fish fingers) before the show. I couldn’t pass it up.I went to the opening night of the festival with a group of friends. The movie was “Tin Cup,” telling you right away what kind of film festival this wasn’t (artsy, independent, serious) and what it was (sponsored in part by Pakistan’s new movie cable channel, “Filmax”). Even still, I thought “Tin Cup” was a strange choice. I happen to like the movie, and I know at least one person who considers it his absolute favorite, but a golf movie starring Kevin Costner from 1996 is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think “film festival in Pakistan.” Looking at the brochure, I realized the movie choices only got weirder. Girly teen flicks seemed to predominate, with “What A Girl Wants” and “A Walk to Remember,” but the festival redeemed itself by ending on a high note with “The Wedding Singer.” On Night One, the crowd seemed excited about doing something a little different on a Thursday night in Islamabad (Hong Kong or New York, this isn’t), pleasantly stuffed with fried food, and ready to settle into the adventures of Roy McElroy and his leggy love interest. Things hit a small snag when the disc […] Read More

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Illusions

Most things are cheaper in Pakistan. Fresh-squeezed sweet melon juice (.80 cents), getting a couch delivered to your house ($2.40), a housekeeper to come in and clean once a day ($50/month), pedicures ($6.50). Nowhere, however, is this more true than in the realm of home entertainment. Every expat in Islamabad knows about Illusions. It’s an unassuming 2-story storefront in Jinnah Market crammed with a wealth of the latest in movies and TV shows, always guaranteed to be busy on a Saturday night. It’s where you can pick up the entire “Six Feet Under” series for $10, or “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” for 100 rupees (barely more than a buck). The only catch is a certain lack of, how shall we say…legitimacy. The covers do an adequate job of keeping up appearances, but once you pop them open, the plain DVDs numbered in black magic marker inside do little to pretend that the bootlegs you are buying are the real deal. And yet the lack of formality doesn’t affect the viewing experience one bit. This state of affairs utterly changes your relationship to American entertainment. On one hand, I couldn’t tell you on pain on death any movies coming to the screen anytime soon. (I haven’t seen a preview for 4 months.) On the other hand, I’m more caught up on Californication and Weeds than anyone I know because there is only a week lagtime between when episodes air brand new on Showtime and appear in their shiny ghetto packages on the other side of the world at Illusions. I’m both saturated by media and totally out of the loop. Occasionally the gamble does not pay off. […] Read More

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Issues

Yes, I’m a sci-fi geek. I’ve been looking forward to the new Star Trek movie since I heard internet whisperings about it early last year. I got all hopped up after I saw the special trailer that has Leonard Nimoy at the end. I love the director, J.J. Abrams (Lost!), I love the original series, hokey uniforms and all, and I’ve loved watching Star Trek movies in the theater ever since I snuck out of “An American Tail” to go watch Star Trek IV back in 1986. (Trek. Time Travel. Whales. That movie will be hard to top.) So in putting together my mental list of “Pros and Cons of Moving to Pakistan,” I have to admit that “missing the release of the new Star Trek movie” was sort of on it. But like so many things I thought I would have to sacrifice when I became a resident of Islamabad (Italian food, driving, jeans) it turns out I can get Star Trek too. However, there are a few issues. Issue #1: Film Quality. If I wanted to, I could be watching all the geeked out action this very second. This is because Pakistan has a healthy and flourishing trade in bootlegged DVDs, and all the big movies basically become available immediately upon release for like 50 rupees (about .60 cents) at Jinnah Market. However, quality varies widely, from a shaky recording of someone who snuck their camera into the theater to a movie you can actually watch. And I don’t want to risk it where Star Trek is concerned. Issue #2: Safety. So this brings us to watching the movie on the big screen, […] Read More

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Unaccompanied Lady

First communication breakdown: hot milk with my breakfast cornflakes. But if that’s the most I have to complain about on my first day in Islamabad, I have to say things are looking pretty good. My 27 hours of travel time took me from Boston to Washington DC to Doha, Qatar and finally to Pakistan, arriving in the middle of the night. I have only good things to say about Qatar Air, which has nice wide seats, Jet Blue-like entertainment options, and sweet little candies and warm hand towels passed around at every possible opportunity. During my trip I watched 3 sitcoms, one episode of “House,” the pilot of “Life on Mars,” an entire movie (Marley & Me), and read an entire book (Eat Pray Love). (Hey, it’s about an American woman in her 30s who travels abroad alone for a year and learns all sorts of important lessons. Seemed too obvious to pass up.) A quick note about this glut of entertainment. I figured it would be my last American TV for awhile, so I really ate it up. The episode of “House” was fantastic–it guest-starred Mira Sorvino as a scientist with a mysterious illness trapped at the South Pole–and I enjoyed the pilot of “Life on Mars” way more than I thought I would. It’s about a cop who gets into a car accident in 2008 and wakes up in 1973, only no one is surprised to see him there. He finds himself in utterly unfamiliar surroundings, and yet he is immediately presented with a complete set of useful things: an apartment, keys, a car, and a job, and everyone seems to know his […] Read More