Skyfall

Last night I went to see Skyfall with my family. As this night out was funded by my parents I decided to come along, but I wouldn’t have seen this film on my own initiative. I’m tired of Hollywood’s constant sequels, especially they’ve been exploiting the James Bond franchise for fifty years now.

The trailers before the start of the film reinforced my belief, Iron Man 3 and Taken 2 are upcoming films. To be totally honest Taken 2 actually sounds interesting because Taken was cool, and if they keep limited to only one sequel I won’t complain. But as said before, generally I’m more interested in films which are not made by Hollywood.

The film delivered what I expected it to deliver: reasonable film, but not worth my time either. However, the excessive appeal to suspension of disbelief seriously annoyed me. While that is acceptable to some degree, it was so bad it made the film incredulous. Some examples:

  • The fight on top of the train was filmed at the Varda Viaduct. It is 98 meters high. Bond is fighting Patrice who had just shot him, gets shot by Eve accidentally and falls of the train into the canyon. For comparison, the deck of the Golden Gate bridge is 75 meters above the water and approximately 98% people who jump from there don’t survive, mostly because they don’t survive the impact they make on the water. While almost all of these people want to commit suicide, we don’t see Bond attempting to minimize the force of the impact he will make on the water either. Shot twice and falling from over 100 meters (if we add the height of the train), we are to believe he still survived?
  • After accidentally shooting Bond, you’d say Eve starts shooting at the Patrice as there is plenty of time to do so. Instead she starts agonizing over the mistake, allowing the train to reach a tunnel. She was using what looked like an M4, an automatic rifle which usually has a magazine with 30 rounds, so there was plenty of opportunity to shoot more.
  • Later in the film we learn that Patrice shot Bond with a depleted uranium bullet (strangely, getting shot by Eve apparently caused no injury). But why would you use depleted uranium in handguns? Wikipedia tells us that depleted uranium is only used in high caliber anti armor rounds. Much later after getting back to MI6 Bond cuts open his chest to extract the bullet fragments. If he doesn’t let a surgeon do it anyway, why did he not do it as soon as possible after surviving the fall? Depleted uranium is not exactly a safe substance to have embedded in your chest, you know. And of course only three bad guys in the world use depleted uranium rounds for small arms so they can be easily discovered by MI6.
  • Silva blows up a part of the MI6 building by turning on the gas after breaching their network. Such a building would have been constructed with no security protocols to prevent gas explosions? How could the gas leak, and how was it ignited at the right time, exactly?
  • When Silva escapes to the metro it doesn’t cross their minds to simply stop the train he is hiding in. When Silva is climbing a ladder in London’s metro system he is caught by Bond who aims his handgun at him. Bond simply allows Silva to press a button to detonate a bomb in the subway, which sends a train on a collision course with Bond. This provides enough distraction for Silva to escape. Bond could have shot him easily but does nothing.
  • And the most annoying of all, the Hollywood operating systems and the absence of computer security at MI6. More films are guilty of this, but Skyfall crosses the line. Q searches through Silva’s laptop which somehow allows Silva to crack the MI6 systems. That would have been impossible if he didn’t connect Silva’s laptop to the MI6 network with the UTP cables.

It appears I’m not the only one who is annoyed by the sequence of implausibilities. The script writers were obviously lazy as the script could have been written without all the unlikely events and assault on logic. No matter how good reviewers think the next installment in the James Bond franchise will be, I promise myself I won’t see it under any circumstance. I won’t pay for any more sequels, let them think of something new.

Films seen in July 2012

In July I made my usual trip to the DVD rental store and watched one film in the cinema. Because this post is a few weeks overdue, I forgot one of the films which I rented. The films I remember are:

All the other films were chosen because they were on list of well-received films to watch. That was not the case with the Japanese film Departures. I was walking past the Asian films section and noticed on the cover of this film that it had won an Academy Award, so I thought it must be worth seeing. And indeed it was, this film is a masterpiece and drew us in emotionally. We were so impressed it didn’t escape our thoughts for a few days. What is notable is that the film depicts an occupation traditionally associated with burakumin, even though this is not made obvious in the film for foreign audiences. According to Wikipedia they are like a lower caste in Japan, maybe comparable with dalits in India. In India discrimination against lower castes is still an issue, which does not surprise me because it is still a developing country. But Japan is on the same level of development as the western world. That’s why it surprised me when I read on Wikipedia that 5% of the residents of Tokyo would actively avoid burakumin, according to a 2003 survey.

I had high expectations of Hable con ella after seeing other films made by Almodovar, and after watching I can tell that they were met. While his film Todo sobre mi madre did win an Academy Award and this one didn’t, I feel that this film might have been even more deserving of an Academy Award. The red thread through Almodovar’s work is that he is something of a feminist director. Women and the differences between the sexes are very important subjects for him, which is also a trademark of this film.

Like in my many other martial arts films the story of the film won’t win awards, as is the case in Ip Man. The story is adequate, but not anything more, I’m already satisfied that it didn’t suck. The key ingredient for any martial arts film are spectacular, adrenaline inducing fighting scenes, at which point the film delivers. The actor playing Ip Man, Donnie Yen, is just as cool as more well-known actors such as Jet Li. He has also played in some other interesting films which I want to see, such as SPL: Sha Po Lang and Flash Point. Especially the latter has a spectacular action scene up on YouTube. I’m not sure if I can even find them in my DVD rental store though, because it doesn’t have a big selection of Hong Kong cinema. If necessary I’ll have to use those ‘other’ channels, in the absence of something like Netflix in the Netherlands. In Ip Man we see the martial art wing chun, which is quite fast and impressive, but I wonder why these and other more exotic martial arts are never used in sports like MMA? Does that mean they are not effective in reality?

Before I rented it I already knew that The Social Network had taken way too much license with reality. At first I thought that should be a reason not to watch it, but in the DVD rental store my curiosity got the better of me. Even if it’s not true to reality at all, it still is a well made film I’d recommend.

Then finally the film I watched in the cinema, De rouille et d’os. The film is partially about killer whales and street fights. After doing some research I learned that the risk of being a killer whale trainer as demonstrated by the film are indeed significant, killer whales (they sure have a cool name) shouldn’t be kept in captivity. What I’m missing though is an honest representation of the risks involved in street fighting.

I don’t want to blame this film in particular because the protagonist gets out of many street fights practically unscathed, but I think more serious films (so I don’t mean martial arts films) should give a reliable representation of the risks of street fighting. Using some sources in Dutch, here is an example of a person beaten to death in one blow, here is a second one of a fatality after three blows to the head. Here is an example of a one minute fight between two teenage girls which didn’t look like it did a lot of damage initially, but which led to a fatality several hours later due to brain damage. In real life even one unfortunate blow to the head by a bare hand can be enough to send you to kingdom come. Considering that the punishment you receive in street fighting is much more severe, the fatality rate probably reflects that. The film shouldn’t depict illegal street fights as a ‘noble’ enterprise of men who voluntarily want to test their limits and make money. The protagonist should not receive more respect from his lover because she witnesses him participating in them. They’re irresponsible and illegal for a reason.

Now I’m going to give a few spoilers. Not that it matters, because any sensible person can see it coming, I certainly did. At the end of the film we witness the protagonist skating on the ice with his small son in a remote place. Of course they had to invoke the cliche of the kid breaking through the ice without his father noticing immediately. When the ice breaks the camera focuses on the father so the son is out of view, presumably skating in the distance but not so far away. Later we realize as a viewer that the ice must have broken and the child fell in the water, because the father looks around and notices the hole in the ice. But we didn’t hear the ice breaking, the plunge in the water, or any screaming?

The father quickly runs to the hole and sees his child floating under the ice. Somehow the ice near the hole can’t carry the weight of a small child, but it can carry the weight of a male who is at least 190 cm tall? To get his son out he starts breaking the ice… with his fists. Obviously that is done so the closing lines of the film can be like “the broken bones of my hand won’t recover, which sucks for me if I’m a professional kickboxer”. Any sensible person would use his heels to kick at the ice and break it, or possibly use the elbow which is much tougher than the hand. The father should know that as he is a professional kickboxer, even more so than the average Joe, so don’t tell me it was because he wasn’t thinking straight. Anyway, he frees his child from under the ice. Of course they invoke that other cliche, small children don’t die, even if this child was under the ice for at least a few minutes, did not return to consciousness soon after his father got him out of the water, and first aid was not administered quickly because they were skating in a remote place.

Aside from this criticism, I think it was a good film. It seems as if French filmmakers have an special interest in handicapped people lately. First we had films like Le scaphandre et le papillon in 2007, and this year we have Intouchables and this film. Probably just coincidence, but I noticed that all three recent French films on the subject all were quite successful regarding their reception. I also noted that this film treats sex as comic relief, similar to how that was done in that other famous French film, Amélie. This is an stark contrast to Dutch films, which tend to depict it in a vulgar way. Finally, I wonder how they simulated the amputated limbs in this film?

Films seen in Januari and Februari 2012

In these two months I’ve seen the following films, most from the DVD rental store but the last one in the cinema:

The Expendables wasn’t meant to have the qualities of a good film, it’s an old school action film which aims at exciting it’s viewers with fighting, firearms and exorbitant explosions. It’s not as action packed as Stallone’s earlier work Rambo (2008) which probably shares the first place for the most violent film I’ve ever seen with The Passion of the Christ (2004), but that’s no wonder given the excess of that film. It’s good to see an uncomplicated action film like this once in a while, but I was not impressed by the hand-to-hand combat. Other films manage to do that better, this brilliant action scene from the film Flash Point (2003) is one of the best examples of what an hand-to-hand combat action scene should be like.

Howl’s Moving Castle is another one of Studio Ghibli‘s wonderful films. Some scenes in this film amaze me with their detail, and must have taken a lot of work to draw and animate. Spirited Away (2001) is still my favourite however. I hope to see some of there more recent films, too. Gegen die Wand shows us the life of Cahit and Sibel, two Germans with a Turkish background being torn between two cultures, not feeling accepted by both. It shows themes such as honor killing and averted love becoming true love, but it ends with Sibel’s sense of loyalty or duty to her children and new husband winning over her love for Cahit. It’s an ending which is sad but justified at the same time. Having become a fan of its director Almodovar, Todo sobre mi madre didn’t disappoint me with it’s brilliant dialogues and script. Låt den rätte komma in is one of those rare good horror films, the gloomy snowy winters of Sweden make a great decor. I went to see Shame after having seen Steve R. McQueen’s previous film Hunger (2008). While it doesn’t surpass Hunger, Shame is another great film from his hand. As someone who has had to cope with serious procrastination issues, I think I can understand how Brandon is affected by his addiction. We see that he suffers, he desperately wants to change his life and lose his addiction, but he can’t because his will has no control over his addiction. I had a wtf-moment when Brandon was walking around New York at night and is then invited for a ‘lift’ by a female in parked car who is is apparently preying on hot guys to pick up. I wish real life would be like that.

Why you should not watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

There is advertising for this film everywhere, so I couldn’t ignore this issue anymore. Not that I would have been silent on this otherwise, but now I want to convince people even more not to see this film in order to counter the marketing offensive. The film I’m talking about is the English version from 2011 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; there also is a Swedish version made in 2009.

On the one hand, remakes can be worthwhile. For example, I like both Infernal Affairs and The Departed. I think The Departed contributed something substantial over the original from Hong Kong. Also, more unfortunately a remake seemed to be justified because Infernal Affairs was barely known in the West. On the other hand, while I must admit that I have not seen the English version of 2011, let me point at the scores at Metacritic. The Swedish original scores 76 and the English remake scores 71. And that’s with a $13 million budget for the former and a $90 million budget for the latter. The Swedish original was not obscure, in fact it was broadcast by a Dutch public broadcaster a few weeks ago. There is merely a gap of two years between the release of the two films. So when the quality, age or availability of the Swedish original is taken into account, there is no reason to see the remake. This is yet another effort of Hollywood to steal foreign films so they can make easy cash off fools who can’t be bothered to read the English subtitles when they see the Swedish original.

So, unless a remake makes a significant contribution in comparison to the original, let’s refuse to reward the filmmakers for remakes like this. Vote with your wallet so Hollywood learns to be more creative instead of promoting the production of shameless copies. The English remake is on the same level as counterfeit clothes.

Films seen in December 2011

First off, fuck you WordPress! When I wanted to publish this post WordPress ate over half an hour of writing! This is the first time this ever happened, maybe because I left a tab with the WordPress ‘Add New Post’ window open in Firefox for too long. Did that make WordPress lose a connection or something? Whatever it is, you should have allowed me to save my work, WordPress.

Now that I’ve calmed down after striking my fist at my desk a few times, let me tell you that I’ve seen two films this month, La piel que habito (2011), also known in English as The Skin I Live In and Drive (2011). This is the second film from the hand of Pedro Almodóvar I’ve seen, the first being Volver (2006). After seeing another film directed by him I can say I’ve become a fan of this man’s work. The subjects of his movies are unconventional. His last work contains some murder and rape which makes for tougher subject matter than Volver. Because La piel que habito is a film which is as least as surprising as The Sixth Sense, I can’t reveal too much about it because otherwise I would spoil the surprise. If you are going to see this, which I certainly recommend, refrain from reading the plot summary in the Wikipedia article. Or I should probably say, refrain from reading the Wikipedia article at all. Reading spoilers against my will happened to me recently when I read a summary of the sixth season of Dexter. Before I was even realizing I was reading spoilers I shouldn’t be reading I had already given in to my curiosity and the temptation to read on. I could bang my head against the wall after reading them because it spoiled the fun for me. Returning to the film, I wonder if the encounter between Vicente and Norma could be considered rape? I thought that the end of the encounter certainly amounted to that, but strangely a woman with who I was watching the film as part of our date thought otherwise, she blamed Norma for freaking out. Almodóvar is on my side and made sure that what comes around goes around for Vicente, who is punished in a most fitting manner.

Drive is a great film which didn’t deserve to be overlooked by the wider audience. It’s got Ryan Gosling, the beautiful Christina Hendricks and a few car chases. Most importantly it has the ingredients to appeal to both the mass audience and the art film audience. The Wikipedia article says that the film was initially planned to be released as a blockbuster, but that it was finally released as an independent film. But I don’t understand why? Because the director is Danish? As a consequence I had to see this film in an art house cinema, but I think that if the release wasn’t limited (it certainly was very limited in the Netherlands) and the popular cinema’s also showed it, it would have grossed a lot more. Because of the limited release the wider audience has missed it mostly, but it’s their loss if they only get Hollywood productions shoved through their eyes and ears. The film’s opening scene works wonders with suspense, similar to having a hard time with evading the cops in car chases in the GTA games, but two scenes later in the film do it even better. What I didn’t like about the film was the protagonist playing shy and mute most of the time. Like La piel que habito it’s also violent, the scene with the depiction of catching buckshot to the head is justified because it’s realistic. But a violent scene close to the finale left me wondering what kind of message the director wanted to convey, just shock? Critics have frequently placed this film on their lists of best films of 2011, which is well deserved.

Something else which I’d highly recommend for viewing (for free) are the film reviews done by Plinkett. Especially his reviews on the Star Wars prequel trilogy are great to watch and frequently got me gasping for breath after I rolled over the floor laughing. I already thought that the prequels didn’t compare well to the original, but he manages to articulate so well and in so much detail what is wrong with these films, unlike other reviewers.

Life in a Day

Just a moment ago I finished watching Life in a Day. It’s a free crowdsourced documentary showing various events all over the world on a single day, 24 July 2010. At first it seems like this film is social criticism because it is so full of contrasts. A Western man is seen starting his Lamborghini while in the next scene we see a man from what appears to be the Middle East in who has almost nothing save his children and a roof above his head. One man, possibly an African, has nothing in his pockets, as opposed to two Western women who carry around handguns to feel safe. A sequence of scenes is related to food, which starts with a Western man buying his food, totally detached from the process of gathering it. After that we see his poorer fellow humans on another continent who gather their own food, and then we see a cow being killed in a slaughterhouse.

It is a film about love and loss, joy and sadness, hope and despair, comfort and fear, serenity and hustle. It shows both the bright and dark side of humanity. The film succeeded very well, and after giving it some thought I don’t think it deserves to be characterized as social criticism. Of course the producers were selective in their inclusion of the material made available to them, but all they do is portray what happens on a normal day in the life of humans, just as they claim to be doing.

My highlights? The Korean man who is a true citizen of the world and is the only recurring person in the film. The boy who doesn’t want to be filmed but is convinced by his parents to cheer up. The beautiful woman who loves the strange very abstract word. The parachute jumpers. The woman who waited for something amazing to happen that day but got disappointed.

Films seen in September 2011

This month I’ve seen Mongol (2007) on TV and Midnight in Paris (2011) and Tropa de Elite 2 (2011) in the cinema. Actually I saw the last one in October, but let’s include it in this post for convenience.

I can’t resist being the historical accuracy fundamentalist again when I evaluate Mongol. First off, kudos for the film being spoken in Mongolian and Mandarin and the great cinematography with all the beautiful shots of the Mongolian steppes. The film stays true to the story of Temujin’s life most of the time, but when Temujin is sold into slavery in China and his wife comes to rescue him it takes a very different turn. Life was hard for Temujin and we are shown frequently how he gets into trouble, loses to his enemies and then gets out of trouble to persist in his goal to unite the tribes. What I don’t like is the emphasis on the relationship with his wife and filmmakers trying to tell us that Temujin was the perfect family man.

What we don’t learn is how he gets his first allies to follow him, we simply learn that some people decided to accept his command out of nowhere. Even if he had a high social rank he was captured and enslaved by his father’s former allies, I don’t get how he could have convinced others to become loyal to him in his disadvantaged position after his escape. Yes, the Wikipedia article does not tell us this either and there is little reliable information on his early life, but the film makers should have invented a convincing explanation for it. The final battle between Temujin and Jamuha builds up to a climax but becomes a ridiculous anticlimax when we witness crazy suicidal ninjas on horseback employed by Temujin drawing their swords and simply racing at the enemy cavalry who simply ride into their sword edges. When the ninja cavalry take some losses they decide to retreat and get hosed down by volley of arrows from Temujin’s soldiers for some reason. Finally the god Tengri comes to save the day so Temujin can win, which is ridiculous. The script writers suffered from overindulgence in imagination. The use of Japanese actors for depicting Mongolians is a bit dubious I think, but maybe Mongolian actors were hard to find. My conclusion is that the film is good but could have been better.

With Midnight in Paris Woody Allen has again done nice work. I see some parallels with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, an earlier film of him. It’s fun and requires some knowledge about modern art and literature to appreciate and understand fully. Tropa de Elite 2 departs from the street level of it’s prequel, which had the daily lives of a few BOPE officers as it’s subject, and turns to corruption at the political level. The amount of (extreme) violence is much reduced compared to the first film, but the subject matter is very interesting. The message at the end of the film is not so positive: corruption affects higher levels of authority than we think and the system sustains itself so well that it’s difficult to eradicate it. I see a parallel with the banks who caused our financial crisis. They caused it but didn’t pay for it, they still earn sickeningly high salaries and they’ve infiltrated the politics of the USA so they can get what they want. Obama’s government is Wall Street’s government and nothing seems to stop them from causing an even bigger crisis in the future. I guess seeing the great documentary Inside Job (2010) influenced me to think more negatively about the financial sector.

Films seen in May 2011

This time I had to go to a DVD rental store which is far more distant in Utrecht. The place I used to visit closed up shop for some reason. While I might not be sure of the cause, that’s probably what you get if some people are too lazy to rent a DVD for a very affordable price, slightly more than € 1, and download illegally instead. Thanks to those people renting DVD’s got a lot more inconvenient for me. Anyway, I watched the following:

I had already seen Avatar on the flight taking me to Delhi when I went to Nepal, but I was so impressed I wanted to see it again on a large TV with good image quality. The CGI is awesome, the most impressive I’ve ever seen in a film. The way the powered exoskeletons are animated is amazing and the final battle at the end is awesome. But besides the technical aspect the world brought to life by the technology is just as impressive. The artists had a great imagination, the planet Pandora would be a paradise if the wildlife wouldn’t be so hostile. This film carries a strong political message, displaying the humans as greedy materialists who want to mine unobtanium, exploit the planet and rely on technology. This is contrasted by the Na’vi who are technologically primitive but ethically superior because they live in harmony with nature. The recent news about the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest reminded me of how well we’re on the way to end up like the humans seen in Avatar.

The Hurt Locker is a good film, but I don’t think it should have won over Avatar in the Academy Awards for 2009. It’s a solid film, but I noticed some quite questionable scenes. For example when the bomb squad composed of three men goes for practice in the desert somewhere in the middle of nowhere all alone. When they drive back to their base through the desert they meet some mercenaries and they get into a firefight with insurgents. The mercenaries are killed, but even though the insurgent sniper has plenty of opportunity to shoot the bomb squad guys as well the insurgent takes his time and allows himself to get shot. The protagonist sneaks out of the base to wander the very dangerous streets of Baghdad during the night all alone with a handgun, but doesn’t get into trouble. Later the three men decide to search for the perpetrators of a bombing all by themselves, and the protagonist even decides to split up, so that they ‘can cover more ground’. It’s almost like a horror movie stereotype where it is a recipe for getting yourself killed, and indeed one team member is abducted, but he is heroically saved by the two others before the insurgents can drag him away. When I read the Wikipedia article it not only explained the mysterious title of the film to me, but it also mentioned that veterans are critical of the film because it is out of touch with reality. If you make such a movie like this is it really to much to ask to do some proper research, so that the American soldiers depicted in the film would have used the right uniform? And to make a credible script?

A German film, The Baader Meinhof Complex has the German terrorist group the Rote Armee Fraktion as it’s subject. It chronicles the lives of the members of the terrorist group and in the process it answers the question how relatively ordinary people can turn into cold-blooded terrorists and killers. It sheds light on the causes of the foundation and actions of the RAF and left me with more understanding of the RAF members, but also with a certain degree of sympathy for them, which is a bit disturbing.

District 9 looks like a science fiction film but is more like a drama, so those who don’t like science fiction should have no objection to this film. What this film demonstrates is that often we lack empathy. Only when the protagonist begins to change into an alien himself and his life is turned upside down he is able to see things from a different perspective. Having a good sense of empathy is difficult, but it would make the world a much better place. The aliens in this film, which are extra-terrestrials, are similar to illegal aliens in the human sense. We often look down on them with contempt, and my political party calls economic immigrants gelukszoekers or luck-seekers in English. While I agree there should be a very strict policy for allowing immigrants into the borders of the European Union and that we should be very tough on illegal immigration, it is easy for me to take a very negative point of view on immigration and to forget that immigrants are human just like me. Were we in their situation it is likely that we’d behave in the same way and look for better opportunities.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is not your usual western, it more like a drama film set in the American Old West. The film received much praise, but has also been criticised for being too long and slow. That might be the reason why my brother stopped watching halfway, and there is certainly something to be said for such criticism. Yes, it is long and slow, but that’s acceptable. The relationship between Jesse James and Robert Ford is explored in great depth during the film. Even if the title already tells you that Robert will kill Jesse, the film creates suspense exactly because you’re wondering what will happen next while the film progresses towards the assassination. What amazes me is that Jesse James acquired such a mythical reputation with many people thinking he was a hero rather than an evil outlaw. This seems similar to how some ignorant Serbians see Ratko Mladić as hero rather than a war criminal.

The last film is an Afghan art house film, Earth and Ashes. This reminded me of that other art house film, Khadak. Like that film, Earth and Ashes also required me to deal with the slow pace of the film and the film being relatively uneventful. Suffering and loss is central in this film. Grief is like a virus, the protagonist chooses not to share news of family members having been killed with other relatives, because the news would destroy their lives. It is better not to know about this bad news. This means he has to take the burden of the grief all by himself. What annoys me is that the film never tells the audience why villages are apparently being bombarded for no reason. As far as I know, neither the Russians, Taliban or the West did or do this in Afghanistan. It seems like the destroyed villages are an invention made for the convenience of the plot.

Films seen in January/February 2011

I’ve seen two films in these months, the first one on TV. Sadly good films are always broadcast rather late on the public channels. The second was seen in the cinema.

Persepolis is a gem of an autobiographical animated film. While it’s animation is not as technically impressive as Waltz with Bashir which I’ve seen before, it has a very distinctive style with it’s black and white colors, apparently chosen because of it being based on a graphic novel which is also black and white. What I like in this film are the vivid memories and honest depiction of the author’s early childhood. She depicts herself as full of imagination, having a godlike figure as her close personal friend, but also as impulsive, not yet knowing the distinction between good and evil. This made me remember some stuff I did during my time in preschool education I’m ashamed of now, such as pushing another kid who had my favorite toy in some thorned bushes so I could play. It’s sad to see that she had to leave Iran because she wanted to live freedom and had to abandon her family. I hope the Iranian people will seize the opportunity during this revolutionary wave in the Arab world to get rid of their repressive regime so that they too will be able to enjoy the freedoms and rights every human deserves.

It’s good that the western genre received some love with the release of True Grit. It’s not your typical western film though, it’s a bit like a western version of the film Winter’s Bone which I had seen a few months earlier. Nevertheless an original film which was well executed.

Visiting an independent cinema

A few weeks ago I intended to visit the DVD rental store I usually visit to rent some films, only to be surprised to notice that it had closed up shop. I don’t know why, but this sucks, because other places to rent DVD’s are a lot farther away from me. I’ll guess I’ll have to visit another one in Utrecht then, where I also study. Ideally we’d have something like Netflix in the Netherlands too so that it wouldn’t be a problem.

I still had a ‘Nationale Bioscoopbon’ lying around, which is a national cinema voucher you can trade for a ticket and is accepted at every cinema in the Netherlands. I had received this as a present a a few months ago and decided it was time to use it. The mainstream cinema’s had no interesting films to offer at that moment, so I decided to visit an indenpendent cinema (meaning, a cinema showing independent films, which are not mainstream films or films made in Hollywood and such), which I had never done before. Utrecht has two of them as far as I know, the Springhaver Theather and the Louis Hartlooper Complex (LHC).

Visiting the LHC was an eye opener. It’s located in a renovated building constructed in 1928 which served as a police station. The architecture is quite beatiful and triggers nostalgia, it’s interior is also beautifully decorated with a lot of attention. Far better than the functional and maybe even bland architecture and interiors of most mainstream cinema’s. I really appreciate the fact that they don’t have breaks between the first and second half of the film and they don’t sell popcorn or other annoying junk food. Other visitors eating food when the film starts playing again after a break can occasionally be annoying in mainstream cinema’s because it distracts from watching the film as you can hear other visitors grinding on their food. What surprised me most is that the personnel also gives a short introduction to the film before they start showing it, talking about the director and actors for example. It’s obvious that these people like their work, the man received an applause for his introduction.

The film I went to see was Winter’s Bone because I had read about the critical appraisal the film received. Everything was done right in producing this film. It’s a drama film which focuses heavily on narrating a good plot rather than excitement and action which is featured in the majority of Hollywood and other mainstream films. Yes, Hollywood also produces drama films, but those are still different from an independent film like this, but I should also note that not all independent films are like this. The Wikipedia article on art film can probably explain the difference better. Although Hollywood produces junk it also produces quality, so I do not dislike it completely. Let’s just say that I’m very glad cinema’s like the LHC exist, and let me tell you that you’re missing out on enjoying cinema if you’ve never seen some of these masterpieces of independent filmmaking. I’ll definitely visit the LHC (even though I made it up myself for the sake of this post it’s an annoying abbrevation because I’m confusing it with the Large Hadron Collider) again in the future when there’s an interesting film to be seen.