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.

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