Archive for March, 2012

Blessuretijd – **

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Comedy, Netherlands, XX

Stayed in and watched tv. Saw this stand up comedy show, which made me laugh a lot. Had never heard of Daniël Arends before, but I need to check his earlier work now. Difficult to describe his humor for an English-reading audience. There’s wasn’t really a theme or so. The guy just talks and vents his thoughts, about all kinds of stuff. About kakkers (dumb people who live a rich lifestyle), having worked at he postal office, the inability of women to listen, and celebrities Wendy van Dyk en Chris Segers, etc… So you do have to know a bit about Dutch society to get the jokes. He has a billiard table on stage at which he plays from time to time. He does interact with the audience, which works quite well. He’s pretty arrogant and offensive. But he’s Dutch, so you can’t expect anything else. I liked it a lot. Tried to translate stuff on here, but it just didn’t work. As Daniel says: only 20% of communication is verbal and 80% are gestures and expressions. So when his wife tells him he promised to do the dishes and he didn’t, he looks and says: “honey, I may  have said yes, but 80 percent of my body language was very clear I didn’t want to do it”.

Attempted translations:

“The best thing about you and me is…. me”

“Why would you need to know how things are prepared when you visit friends who have invited you? You give me food, I eat it and then it becomes shit. Why should I care about how shit is prepared?”

“So many people get children to save their relationship. Why don’t we see that in the names of those babies?” “My child will be called ‘Weonlymadeyoubecausewehopedtosaveourmarriage’ Arends.

“Vegetarians eat plants because they don’t want to kill animals. But if they keep eating all the plants, the animals will die too. And it will be a slow death!”

“I started working at the postal office and let me tell you, if you want to work at the postal office you need to care a little tiny bit about people actually receiving certain letters they are waiting for, which I didn’t.”

Charlie Wilson’s War – **

Posted: March 15, 2012 in 2007, Drama, Political, USA, War, XX

The most important line of the movie comes at the end. A member of the US Congress says “We always go in with our ideas and we change the world and then we leave…” That is exactly why so many people are frustrated about the wars in Afghanistan (and other places in the world). First the American government arms the Afghan people to chase away the communists and after that’s been achieved the US government leaves the Afghan people in a mess of horror and poverty, resulting in fanaticism.  This all happened back in the mid eighties and it’s happening all over again now in 2012.

The above mentioned congressman is Charlie Wilson, a party politician who lives a rock ‘n roll lifestyle with a lot of booze, drugs and women. He’s a Democrat from Texas, not considered important at all, but fun to hang out with regardless if you’re from the press or from the Republican party or a stripper in a Las Vegas Casino. Because nobody really cares about him so much politically, he manages to raise enough awareness and money to arm the Afghan people in their fight against the Russians who kill and rape their children and bomb entire villages with heavy artillery. Wilson cares about this after he has visited a refuge camp in Pakistan and it determined to help the Afghan people in their resistance.

Interesting movie material and with the current troubles between the US and the Afghan people, I thought it was worth watching Charlie Wilson’s War. Unfortunately I wasn’t too impressed. Not about the story, because it’s still intriguing and I’ve been consulting wikipedia a lot after the end credits. But about the movie itself. It got a nomination as best ‘comedy’ at the Golden Globes that year, but I didn’t consider this movie a comedy at all. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy (even though the trailer has all the funny lines). It’s also a bit strange to make a comedy about such a serious matter. I do think the movie was historically correct, but there were several scenes that I thought were not genuine at all. Probably as a (failed) intention to bring in some humor. Wilson with a Jewish arms dealer and Pakistani politicians together in a nightclub in Cairo watching a sexy belly dancer perform? Wilson in a whirlpool with some tv producer, a wanna be actress and two strippers sniffing coke? Visiting a refuge camp with an important christian financial sponsor who breaks out in tears? I just didn’t believe it. The settings would have worked in The Hangover, but not in a political drama.

Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks. Sorry. He’s not Charlie Wilson. Julia Roberts is Julia Roberts. She’s not Joanne (a rich new born Christian Texan who pushes Wilson into caring about this situation). Phillip Seymour Hoffman is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Not a maverick CIA agent.

But I’m happy to have seen the movie even though it got me frustrated knowing very well that war mongers are evil everywhere. Why spend 500 million of dollars on arms supply to a country and then not spend one million to help re-erect schools. Insane!

Skoonheid – **

Posted: March 13, 2012 in 2011, Drama, LGBT themed, South Africa, XX

Hm. This is one disturbing movie. It’s the kind of movie where you’re interested in what’s going to happen to the main character even though you’re totally hating his guts. It’s actually quite a feat from the director and from the actor in the lead role to make you feel so disgusted. That and the fact that there are some awesome cinematic elements which re-occur a few times make it really worth the watch. But you need to be very open-minded I guess.

The cinematic elements that I just loved were quite simple actually, but I can’t recall having seen them been used so effectively before. The director loves to film a scene where the important action is taking place somewhere outside of the centre of the screen. I think that’s just awesome, how you get deceived by looking at all kinds of things and almost miss out on what’s really important. He also loves to film conversations of people without the sound, which works wonderfully here.

I knew nothing of the story, which was a good thing. Sometimes it’s great to be surprised. Had I known more, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching. There’s two disturbing scenes that you could warn people about, but it’s part of the intention of the movie to get the shock effect. All you need to know is that it deals about a macho South African wood supplier who’s having some serious issues with his sexuality.

I would have liked to learn more about the past of this man and a bit more about the other family members, such as his grown up daughters and his cheating wife. It would have made me understand the man’s behavior a bit more. Now I just feel sorry for this guy and I consider him very sad and sick in the head. I could also see him as a lonely, frustrated and traumatic man in a midlife crisis. But I don’t. He’s just a sad and sick creep.

Curious? I hope so. It’s really not a bad movie at all even though some scenes are just too long.

At age ten, Narayan Shripad Rajhans is singing in front of small audiences. Soon everyone important wants to see this kid with his ‘voice from heaven’. Deaf at one ear, but gifted with a fascinating timbre, he also gets the attention of a regional raj who sponsors him and who sends him to a top-notch theatre company where he becomes the most celebrated Marathi singers of his time. At age 20 he can still capture the imagination of his audience, but he also does it with tons of make up, jewelry, perfume and fancy sari’s. Yes, you read it right: all female attributes. Because the story takes place in a time when women were not allowed on stage and the men had to interpret the female characters.

Although the producers and distributors do not want to associate their historical accurate biopic with the world of drag queens and other transsexuals, I couldn’t help believing the director attempted to bring homosexuality on the Indian big screen. There’s too much focus on the loveless marriage of the main character and at one moment the famous singer gets along really well with a younger singer/actor who stars with him on stage. Nothing explicit of course, after all this is an Indian movie, but slight hints.

Even though the story is fascinating and the main actor does an excellent job, there’s something tedious about the whole movie. A lot of your appreciation of the movie will have to do with your liking of traditional Indian chants with very repetitive lyrics and singers that seem to stretch any sound like Mariah Carey can produce or piglets before they get slaughtered. It wasn’t my cup of tea, so to hear dozens of similar songs (that may well be part of the Indian cultural heritage) was a real torture. And you don’t really get to know that much more of the singer and his surrounding family and friends. It’s just one important moment in his life following the other, especially focussing on his excessive spending and his naive trust in his accountants. There’s also too much over acted crying in the movie, which make the intentional emotional scenes look like a parody.

Nick Balthazar’s previous movie, Ben X, scored well in international film festivals, but totally bored and annoyed the hell out of me. His second movie, Tot Altijd, sounded like it would bore and annoy me even more. It’s the story of the first person in Belgium to legally get euthanized. But, except for the tearjerking finale, I pretty much enjoyed this account of – in my opinion – a very brave person.

It may sound crazy to read the words ‘enjoy’ in a movie that deals with such a heavy topic as euthanasia, but the best thing of this movie is that it’s told with a lot of humor. Okay, the guy dies at the end and it gets very emotional on the big screen, but the reason why half of the audience in the theatre is also crying has much to do with the fact that they had laughed a lot as well. With the main character’s right on, at time cynical one-liners and his goofy relationship with his son. But also with his best friends, who just learn to deal with the possible passing of their best friend by blurting out all kinds of remarks that most people will find inappropriate. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this movie won’t receive laughter in cinema’s abroad, because the Flemish have a typical sense of humor which leans more towards British comedy with an extra focus on the absurd and politically incorrect. Humor is also very present in two other Flemish disease drama’s: Hasta La Vista and Adem and rightfully, because humor is incredibly important to deal with suffering.  A good thing about 50/50 and The Big C is that the US is now also including humor in their stories about people suffering from some kind of disease!

But, enough about the humor in the movie. It still is a drama and someone dies at the end. Someone who decided himself on which day he would be dying. The 30th of September, 2002. Not so long ago. I found the scene in which he choses that date very confronting. You can be the most fervent advocate for legalizing euthanasia, it does feel strange to see a guy decide when the actual euthanization will take place. Belgium was the second country in the world to pass this law (after The Netherlands) and Mario Verstraete became the symbol for the campaign: a man who was suffering from a very bad type of multiple sclerosis. Another great thing about the movie is that it does show the different views about euthanasia, be it with a bias towards acceptance. But it’s not a political pamphlet. There’s ample of moments where you also hear the concerns of people who oppose of it and who disapprove of it. Let’s put is this way: this movie will NOT change your opinion about the matter. I can’t imagine people who are against euthanasia, will suddenly be more favorable to it after seeing the movie. But they might have enjoyed a very well acted and nicely directed drama.

Koen De Grave is phenomenal as Mario Verstrate, who was a real person in case that is not yet obvious for international readers. Most people know him as the chubby and funny guy next door in several series and movies. The Flemish Matthew Perry, so to say. But here he just blows you away with his performance. His jokes come out very natural, the love he shows seems very sincere, but most impressive are his moments of suffering and frustration. You can feel the pain! Equally excellent is Geert Van Rampelberg, who plays the friend (and house doctor) of the main character. A great lead needs an ever better antagonist and in this case it’s very original as the antagonist is at the same time the side kick. Not easy for Geert to show both aspects, but he does is wonderfully. The rest of the cast plays the part they have to play. Stand-up comedian Iwein Segers brings comedy. Michel van Dousselaere and Viviane de Muynck are convincingly concerned and supportive as the parents. And Felix Maesschalck brings in the charm as the son of Mario, who seems to deal with his fathers upcoming passing in a very mature way.

I’m actually very curious to see what the reactions will be in other parts of the world if it ever gets released or shown there. I can imagine people will totally hate this movie for making euthanasia and suffering & death in general a commonplace in our lives. Everyone will refer to this movie as the one about euthanasia, but I watched it more as a movie about friendship and love (for life).

Mixed Kebab – *

Posted: March 10, 2012 in 2012, Drama, Flanders, LGBT themed, Turkey, X

Ibrahim is a twenty something from Antwerp who comes from a Turkish family and is gay. Unlike his troublesome teenage brother, Ibrahim is the ‘good son’ of the family, especially since he’s now going to get married to a niece from Turkey. That will stop the rumors on the street! But Ibrahim isn’t going alone to meet his future wife. He’s taking along a boy he’s been eyeing at for a while now. So far the introduction to this intercultural drama that isn’t half as controversial as it desperately wants to be.

The first 20 minutes are dead awful. The introduction of the stereotypical characters and situations make you want to leave even before the actual story begins. Two superfluous scenes of people sniffing coke as if it’s the most common thing in the world nowadays. WRONG! Even more annoying is the dialogue between the characters. It’s like they are all reading an auto cue and were told to do it as emotionless as possible. This is NO actor’s movie. Lucas De Wolf who plays the troubled adolescent is the only one that shines a bit. The rest look like they rehearsed every scene just once before the camera’s started rolling. But  it does get (a little) better at the end. Surprisingly enough the second story line of the movie intrigues more than the gay theme. The troublesome brother of the main character gets recruited by an extremist muslim organisation after he’s been ‘wrongly’ treated at the police station. Again thanks to the performance of the actor playing the part. Cem Akkanat, the actor who plays the main character, is so zen throughout the whole movie (apart from one small outburst) that you have no empathy for him at all. He seems to be totally okay being gay, so why would the viewer care about his so-called struggle. The adolescent who can’t seem to make any right decisions for society, his parents and himself is much more compelling.

You can’t really blame the movie makers for mixing these controversial topics into a popcorn movie that is shown in all the major cinema’s. Thought provoking and visually poetic or confronting master pieces about one of these topics would keep the mainstream audiences away. I guess this one is still attracting crowds. I saw several muslims in the audience (assuming the girls wearing head veils were muslim and their Mediterranean looking male friends as well) and I was curious to see their reactions. A real controversial movie would unleash interaction from the audience, but nothing during this screening. It is a very amicable movie that doesn’t offend anybody, which isn’t necessary, but well, sorry, it’s also a tad boring.

The movie makers just tried to mix too many different hot topic ingredients in the blender and produced a very tasteless smoothie of a bit of everything and nothing in particular. A missed chance.

Madeinusa – 1/2

Posted: March 7, 2012 in 1/2, 2006, Drama, Peru

Watched half of this weird movie about a guy who gets stuck in a remote Peruvian village while the inhabitants are celebrating the annual ‘holy time’ festival and then pushed the forward button until the end credits, stopping at what seemed to be ‘key moments’. It’s a surreal fable in an exotic location that is filled with unique, but not necessarily exciting scenes. Sure it’s all symbolic and I’m sure the people who liked this movie will find great explanations for them, but in the end, it’s just 90 minutes of weird images and dialogue.

Madeinusa is the strange name of a young girl who’s been elected the ‘virgin mary’ of the village for the festival. She lives with her father, who’s also the chief of the village, and her sister, who’s enraged with jealousy so it seems. Their mother has left to Lima and hasn’t returned since. During the ‘Holy Time’ festival there are no sins, so the selected ‘virgin mary’ gets her cherry popped by the mayor during this sinless time. Yes, that’s her father! Anyways, luckily the stranded stranger is there too, who the girls see as a ticket out of the village. Sounds strange already? Well wait until you see a guy flipping a board every second, because there are no watches in the town. Or when the men start cutting off ties without no reason.  Or when the sisters start picking lice out of each others’ hair.

In the end, I didn’t get this movie. I think you need to be in a very open-minded mood to finish it without forwarding. It helps if you see this kind of movie in the cinema after you paid ten bucks or so. Then there’s so motivation to actually watch it and try to figure out why it was made. I think Peruvians probably feel the same when they watch Het Varken Van Madonna.