Category: Movies

The women of Italy had a gigantic demonstration against Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi a few days ago. They have had enough of his sexist (and otherwise majorly corrupt) politics, demanding him to leave. Berlusconi has gotten caught in a sex scandal involving prostitutes and under aged girls. The demonstration, which took place on Sunday 13. February, involved women of all ages and occupations, ranking from young to old, Italian to foreign, hobos to nuns. This million woman (and men) march was not only a sign that Italians have had enough of political corruption, but also a beautiful manifest of female solidarity. That all of these women came together to express anger and demanding sexism to be stopped proves that Sisterhood is, and always will be, powerful!
Read a detailed and informative article about the demonstration here.

Also, for the first time since Dreamworks “Shrek” (2001) a major animated Block Buster film will be directed by a woman! “Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom” will be directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, this being her first full-length feature film. Ms. Yuh Nelson has worked long in several Art Departments, and been one of the directors for the cartoon TV-show “Spawn”. Even if I disliked the first “Kung Fu Panda” film (found the story to be quite ordinary and maybe a bit sexist) I will definitely go and see this sequel. Very, very few animated features are directed by females, or non-whites for that matter. Jennifer Yuh Nelson is therefor an extraordinary chose for directing in two ways: a woman and Asian-American!
Whats sad however is that Pixar fired Brenda Chapman (One of the directors for Dreamworks’ “Prince of Egypt”, 1998) from directing there up coming film “Brave”. Ms. Chapman would have been the first woman to direct a film for Pixar’s studios. It deeply saddens me that they decided to wait even longer for their first block buster film to be directed by a woman. Not to mention that Disney has also yet to make such a revolution.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” will be coming out in May, this year. Here’s the little info there Imdb can offer.

And lastly, the entertainment Magazine “Jezebels” coverage of the 2011 Oscars.
On a personal note, I was furious that Debra Granik didn’t get a nomination for her work in “Winter’s Bone”. Seems like the Academy thinks it’s enough to give an Oscar for best directing to one woman and only have total of four nominees through out time. Well guys, it’s not!

Take Care/ Maaretta

“Tangled” is Disney’s newest animation feature film and supposedly their last “Princess”-movie. It is an adaption of the fairy tale Rapunzel, which was also going to be the title of the film. However, since “The Princess and the Frog”, the previous animated feature film from Disney, didn’t make as much money as wished since little boys saw the film as “a girl’s movie”, “Rapunzel” was switched to more oblique and action-tinged title ”Tangled”. The commercials for this film also heavily toned up the fact that the main character of the film was to be a wise-guy thief named Flynn and not the imprisoned damsel Rapunzel. Which is what the film actually ended up (somewhat) becoming in its final cinematic form. “Tangled” is a very light, fun watch. It’s pretty funny at times and has okay characters. However, the story could have been worked on a little better and brought to better fruition. This post will feature spoilers of the film, so be warned.

“Tangled” begins with a voice over told by the thief Flynn Rider narrating the tale, as background information, of how Rapunzel came to be locked up in her tower. Rapunzel’s mother had grown ill while pregnant, and had gotten so sick she had needed a miraculous cure. The whole kingdom went searching for a legendary magical flower that could cure any wound or illness as well as restore youth. The flower was found, and the queen was healed moments before giving birth to Rapunzel. What the king and queen were not aware of was that Mother Gothel, an elderly woman, has been using that flower to stay eternally young for centuries. She realizes that Rapunzel, the newly born princess, has devoured the flower as well as its powers and steals the infant away. She keeps Rapunzel in a tower, raising her to believe that she is the young lady’s mother and that the world is so dangerous it is best for her to forever stay in the tower. This way she can use Rapunzel’s hair to keep herself eternally young. However, as Rapunzel reaches tender age of eighteen she begins to grow curious about the world. At the same time as this longing to experience the broader existence of the world grows in Rapunzel’s mind, the master thief Flynn Rider is found by the audience running for his life after stealing a priceless Tiara from the nearby kingdom. After betraying his partners in crime, making enemies with everyone, he comes across a mysterious tower and in desperation climbs to a chamber at its summit. There he meets Rapunzel and, after a mad negotiation culminating in striking a deal with each other, Flynn and Rapunzel leave the tower together and embark on a grand adventure.
When compared to Disney’s previous blockbuster, “The Princess and The Frog”, “Tangled” falls short. “The Princess and The Frog” had more memorable characters, more interesting story telling, more feminist and politically correct plot lines and subtext, and better music.

But not all is lost. As a movie “Tangled” has many strong elements and comes across in many ways as likable storytelling.
The best thing in this film was Rapunzel’s character. Her personality is well fleshed out and realistic for the background story given to her. One of the funniest but sadly honest scenes in the movie is when Rapunzel has just stepped outside of the tower and for the first time is out in the real world. She has taken leave of the tower, despite her “Mothers” adamant and strict prohibition of ever exiting the premises, out of an understandably human and intellectual curiosity. Merely walking around in the unknown and newly-experienced world both ecstatically excites her while simultaneously making her feels horribly disobedient. There is a short marathon of scenes where Rapunzel is first jumping around the forest, spellbound by all of nature’s beauty, and then in a next scene crying hysterically and proclaiming she’s the worst daughter in the world. She switches from euphoria to guilt in mere seconds. I really admire the realistic portrayal of Rapunzel’s feelings. As any child who has been brought up by an overly strict and protective parent, she wants to revolt and do new, forbidden things, yet feels bad for breaking the rules of a parent she loves. Even if the audience knows Mother Gothel is not Rapunzels mom, Rapunzel has all her life viewed this woman as her mother. Therefore she out of love wishes not to go against Mother Gothel, but out of natural interest in the world, and the experiences it can give her, has a need to disobey the figure of the mother. Rapunzel comes to the decision to rebel against the mother with sly thoughts of attempting to solve the dilemma of her guilt by planning to ask for forgiveness at a later time.

Another fun thing about Rapunzels characters is that they don’t make her helpless; when in danger, Rapunzel puts the danger at bay by waving, in her most threatening manner, a frying pan around. This is mostly used for comical reasons but the same time shows a realistic way of how one may defend oneself. It is a bit problematic to portray women defending themselves as “something funny”, though. Tiana, the heroine in “The Princess and The Frog”, defended herself as well in her film. Sometimes it was funny, but other times it was actually showing Tiana as an ordinary person trying to survive. That problem aside, Rapunzel was a delightful depiction of a female character in a children’s film.
The biggest disappointment in “Tangled” was, however, the fact that Rapunzel is not the one who gets to save the day in the end of the film. Flynn is the one who defeats Mother Gothel while Rapunzel quite passively stands by. Even if women in children’s films are becoming more active, they still rarely get to save the day. Out of Disney films, Mulan and Tiana are still the only ones who have done so. The rest have been Mrs. Brisby from “The Secret Of Nimf”, Susan from “Monsters vs. Aliens”, Anastasia from “Anastasia” and Chihiro from “Spirited Away”. There are twice as many, maybe even three times as many, men saving the day then women.

As the film-narrative unfolds, and Rapunzel discovers that Mother Gothel stole her away from her real family, this precipitates the films climatic conflict which plays out in a struggle between Rapunzel and her pseudo-mom. Given this narrative turn of events, and therefore in all honesty, Rapunzel should have become the one to defeat Mother Gothel, not Flynn. Another missed opportunity “Tangled” neglected was in the very end, when Flynn mentions: “After many proposals… I finally said yes”. He then quickly states that it was in actuality he who proposed and not Rapunzel. It would have been a lot more interesting if Rapunzel would have proposed to Flynn; the rules of marriage are still very conservative and for some reason the idea of women proposing to men is viewed as funny and not right. It is such a shame that “Tangled” felt it necessary at this point in the story to make a joke of women popping the question instead of making an obvious (feminist) point of the current contemporary re-evaluation of marriage and the realignments men and women have in relation to this institution. So yeah, “Tangled” was a letdown at the near end from a feminist (humanist) viewpoint, but overall the portrayal of women in this film was quite nice and modern.

The image of men, however, was not quite as thrilling. Flynn, along with all the other main male characters, was portrayed as a criminal with a heart of gold. The movie brags about Flynn’s cunning and his heightened and elaborate skills in stealing. There is also a subplot where a gang of criminals talk about their dreams to Rapunzel and Flynn after first behaving like blood thirsty crooks who try to hurt Flynn. This joke was not only predictable, but made me wonder what exactly it was trying to say to young boys. It’s okay to be a criminal for a short while until something better comes up? “Tangled” tries to add depth to Flynn by having him give a short summary of his tragic childhood in an orphanage. Even if this scene had some sweetness, Flynn’s reasons for becoming a thief still fell flat. He explains how he dreamed of owning lots of riches, but it is still unclear what exactly made him think stealing was the only way he could get them. A simple line implying frustration with constant struggling in poverty or lack of faith in the world would have fixed this issue. But the film failed to deliver such an explanation. It felt like “Tangled” didn’t really want to explain Flynn’s stealing ways: it’s just what little boy’s think is cool, so they will just make him a thief. Flynn does deliver lots of great one liners though, so his undeveloped character is not too irritating, just not very impressive or good. When compared to Prince Naveen in “The Princess and The Frog”, I felt like Naveen was a more fleshed out, humane male character. He starts out spoiled, a typical good-for-nothing rich boy, but when turned into a frog learns that he must become responsible and in the end starts too actually work, finally contributing to society. Flynn just becomes king, doing nothing as Rapunzel rules the kingdom. Nicely back slashed, Disney…

And shortly about the villain: Mother Gothel was a very bland, unmemorable villain. Her villain song on the other hand, “Mother knows best” though, was the only well performed song that left a strong impact on me. Kudos to voice talent Donna Murphy, her singing voice carried the song perfectly and had that perfect eerie feel to it. Her motivation in the film wasn’t very impressive though. They never made her thirst for youth and beauty interesting; Gothel never delivered any emotions that would explain her obsession. Neither did they make her relationship to Rapunzel fascinating or complex, which it would have been needed for character depth. They should have a showed of narrative tidbits, or merely hints, of why she wanted so desperately to be young (besides the obvious fear of death). We are left as an audience wondering about her psychology, what makes her tick or anything which may make us invest our interest in this character. Sadly, I must say Mother Gothel is not a special villain in any way. (Still, her outfit was amazing!)

And lastly, the politics in general. “Tangled” is a fairy tale, so the kingdom featured in it is ruled by an all-powerful monarch. I understand Disney was only trying to be loyal to the fairy tale, but what was so delightful about “The Princess and The Frog” is that both the films Prince and Princess had no real political power. Instead, they actually worked; being a part of common people and doing something the viewer knows they are committed to as well as good at. In “Tangled” Rapunzel single-handedly rules an entire kingdom. According to Flynn narration, Rapunzel is a good ruler. Frankly the idea of a woman who spent her eighteen first years in a tower now being the absolute ruler of all political bodies and governance sounds like a bad idea to me. On the other hand, I really liked that Rapunzel is the one who ascends to being the ruler at the end of the tale and not the questionably immoral Flynn. The bottom line in this passage is: “Tangled” had a disturbing dictatorship thing going on while the cinematic tale of “The Princess and The Frog” was very democratic with their monarchs having no power over people. So personally, I liked the portrayal of monarchs and politics in “The Princess and The Frog” better.

If you’re looking for a film that’s sweet and entertaining, “Tangled” is a good call. Not Disney’s best by a long shot, yet somewhat of a beautiful piece of comedy and fairy tale romance.

A Glimpse Of The Past

Ah yes, it’s 2011. A new year. Fresh new months, ready to be filled with new events, new movies, books and music. A whole new year to create new memories. So what to do? Look over what were the three best films of 2010 of course!
As in my post “Looking back last year…”, I will start with my “least” favorite movie of the three best films and finish with my favorite.

3. “Winters Bone” by Debra Granik – Ree, a girl of the tender age of sixteen, has to take care of her depressant mother and two younger siblings all by herself. Her father, a drug dealer, has recently abandoned the family. One day a policeman shows up at the family’s door, stating that Ree’s father hasn’t shown up to court when charged with felonies. Unless he shows up to court, the Bail bond Company who loaned him the money to make Bail (be out of jail until his court date) will take the house Ree’s family lives in. Ree sees no other choice but to go looking for her father, in hopes of saving her family.
“Winter’s Bone” is a film which truly tells the horrors of poverty. It shows people doing their best to get by, some taking destructive comfort in drugs, others shooting squirrels to be able to eat properly. The visuals are harsh. During the winter it is cold and dangerous. The viewer quickly understands that this is a world where if you take one wrong step, it could cost you dearly.

Even if this film was gripping, there was one major problem with this film: Ree is too perfect. Her role in the film is to be a hero, who is great, but Ree is written too much like a superhero than just an everyday hero. She never gets mad at the wrong people, never cries or shows sign of fears in dangerous situations or even complains about her situation to anyone. It is very hard to believe that anyone would be this noble, especially since everybody around her are somewhat, or completely, messed up. Compared to other recent female leads in movies about poverty or lower classes, I prefer “Frozen River” ‘s (2008) heroine Ray and “Fish Tank” ’s (2009) Mia much more. They have flaws, but still have a lot of good in them that comes through. This makes them more human and easier to believe in. Ree is more like a goddess you idolize. However Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Ree, pulls off a good performance and is able to pull the viewer into the brutality of her world.
The story’s climax is chilling. Without giving away the conclusion, I will say that the scene where Ree’s quest has reached its “destination”, is followed by a gruesome scene which will be very hard, for some, to stomach. Ree is put through such psychological torture it physically hurts to watch. Granik handles the films story skillfully and delicately. No clear answers to why the things that happen have happened. In the environment of desperation life is never easy. My hat off to Debra Granik!

2. “Toy Story 3” by Lee Unkrich – Even if I do believe this film was a little hyped, it still was a clever and witty, with some pretty touching moments.
Andy has grown up and is going away to college. His toys, which come to life when no one is watching, fear what will become of them. Luckily, after being shipped accidently off to a daycare things start to look up. But not for long…
Many critics had analyzed this film as being a comment on unfair imprisonment, totalitarian societies and a smattering of other social issues. What is actually playing out, and what is actually enough to propel a film to an enlightening endeavor, is a well-built film formed from a coherent aesthetics and subtle narrative. And Toy Story 3 is just that. “Toy Story 3” is a strong film about the hopes of friendship and the anxious truths about finding a new home and life. Few movie sequels are this funny and original.

3. “In A Better World” by Susanne Bier – Wow. That’s all I had to say as the credits rolled at the movie theaters. This film blew me away; it’s as simple as that.
“In A Better World” is a Danish film, set in both Denmark and Sudan. It follows two parallel story lines.
The first is the story of Anton, a man who works intermittently with “Doctors without Borders” travelling at times to a refugee camp in Darfur. While Anton tends medical attention to the needy, another (anti)protagonist, with an antithetical nature, called “The Bandit”, wreaks havoc and violence upon the landscape and people on the nearby refugee camp. The bandit’s violence and malignance seem boundless and devolve into even the horrific slicing and opening of pregnant women’s stomachs, and sadistic killings of small children along with his band of like-minded thugs. The husbands of these accosted and ravaged women often run to the Medical Facility with their lethally injured wives and Anton is often called upon to operate in hope of saving their lives.
Back in Denmark Anton has recently separated from his wife and may end up getting a divorce. The reason is that Anton had an affair. The clincher comes when Anton, who already has enough on his plate as it is, gets caught up in a moral dilemma in Sudan when the Bandit shows up in the camp one day asking for medical attention.

The second narrative line in “In A Better World” involves Cristian, a ten year old boy, who has recently lost his mother to cancer. He moves from England to Denmark with his father and starts attending a new school. There he meets Elias (Anton’s son), who is being picked on for being half-Swedish and for having very odd looking braces on his teeth. As one of the bullies tries to assault Elias, Christian goes to Elias’ defense. The two boys strike up a powerful friendship. Unfortunately for Elias, Christian has a way of believing in “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” and convinces Elias to follow him in his growing plans of vengeance against a variety of targets.
Bier has created a number of critically acclaimed movies, and is now seen as one of the biggest directing stars from Scandinavia. Her work is known for its excellent means of portraying human relationships. In this film, not only does Bier give moving portrayals of friendship and family dynamics, but also asks difficult questions about revenge. Is it ever right? Is it fair? Does it really solve any problems, or does it instead add much more? Bier also shows how all societies have their bullies, whether they come dressed with guns in a war-torn nation, or with bare fists and horrid words in the school playground. How should societies deal with these bullies in a progressive way?
Definitely a must see movie. Astonishing acting, smart dialogue and complex themes, Bier’s film won’t leave anyone unmoved.

As a final note, I would like to mention that I was deeply saddened that I couldn’t put “White Material” by Claire Dennis on this list, since according to Imdb the film was made in 2009. It came quite late to Sweden, so I hadn’t seen it yet when I made my “Looking back at last year…” list of the best films in 2009. In any other case, it would have earned a spot on either one of these Lists.

"White Material" by Claire Denis (2009)

So that was the best of 2010. Let’s see what 2011 has to offer us!

Since Christmas is nearly upon us, I’ve decided to list three of my favorite Angels from popular movies. Angels are perhaps the most iconic human-like creatures used during Christmas after Santa Claus and his Elf helpers. They are, additionally, commonly portrayed and discussed in contemporary modern day religions; most notably in Christianity and Islam. The winged angels have, also, begun a rapid rise in popularity as a motivating theme in young adult’s romance books; with examples which include Lauren Kate’s “Fallen” series of books and Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush Hush”.  Even if, personally, I find the modern religious ideas about angels uninteresting, and the idea of teen girls daydreaming about angels a bit slightly inclined towards the weird, it is still hard to argue against the fact that there have been several interesting movies featuring angels as major motivators of the action, as the main protagonist of the film narrative, or just some great characters who have been angels with that old fashion angelic nature. Here are some of my favorites.

Gabriel from “Constantine” – played by Tilda Swinton, this adaption of the archangel is creepy, strange and fascinating. Gabriel appears at first in the film as a source of information to the main protagonist and anti-hero, the exorcist and demon hunting Constantine. Later, as Constantine tries to stop Satan’s son from Conquering and enslaving the world, which would manifest itself as an eternal reign of darkness, chaos and danger enveloping the world, her nature is revealed to be something other than what we would expect.  the narrtive  turns on the pivot that the Angel Gabriel, far from helping Constantine, has instead been working against him and, actually, has been in league with Satan’s Son from the onset of the action.

The best part in “Constantine” is by far Gabriel’s speech as she explains to Constantine why she literally desires the destruction of the world and the trial imposed on the human race. Gabriel has come to the conclusion that humans, in modern times, have devolved into a state of immorality and corruption, and so have fallen from deserving of God’s love and concern.  Bringing about the end of times, which Satan Son wants, will change this, as she sees it, and bring about the necessary change to Humanity making them once again worthy of god’s attention. The Archangel Gabriel believes that it is only in times of hopelessness and misery that people can attain true goodness.  So by destroying the world, and bringing about the eternal Dark Days, all humans will have to means to grasp at nobility, thus earning God’s love. Swinton’s performance is incredible, being able to make this deranged angel both utterly frightening, yet somehow sympathetic. You understand why she feels she must carry out the horrible plan she has devised, even if there’s no denying her lunacy. This is a very different Gabriel, and angelic character, than we usually find or expect (and female!), and is a notable reprieve from the stereotype.

“Constantine” is a decent movie, and definitely worth a watch for the special effects and the realization of Gabriel’s character and exposition.  The films story centers on Constantine, a man who has the gift, and curse, to not only see angels and demons but also how to fight them.

The Metatron from “Dogma” – one of a generation of extraordinarily foulmouthed, yet, at the same moment, wise and sympathetic  angels. The Metatron, played by Alan Rickman, is one of the highest ranking angels in heaven whose job is to carry messages to people chosen to hear the proclamations of god and to perform various “tasks” for him. Metatron, as played by Rickman, is an angel wildly expressive in his emotions, bringing a clarity to every gesture and tone whethter he’s angry, upset or annoyed. The Metatron, also is portrayed as a very clever being, and easily stumbles into talk about theological and existential problems whenever it is required or it is  just on a mood.  Here we have an angel who is a very enjoyable character indeed.

The dark comedy “Dogma” has several angels in it, but Rickman’s by far is the best and most enjoyable one, while also being the funniest in the large ensemble of angels populating this film. The protagonist in the film is a woman who unknowingly is related to Jesus, and therefore gets the mission to stop two fallen angels from reentering Heaven after being banished by god.  If these angels achieve this goal the result would be the elimination of the world.

Kevin Smith directed this clever movie that not only has edgy, extremely funny humor but is surprisingly empowering to a number of social groups; in this film Jesus turns out to be black and God is a woman. This is pretty enjoyable for people who have been oppressed and annoyed by American fundamental Christians who get too wholly, and unrealistically, determine the characteristics of the “leading roles” in Christianity.

Clarence from “It’s a wonderful life” – Well, you can’t really deny what a memorable and delightful character this guy is. Clarence is nothing less than a true sweetheart. He’s clumsy, curious and devoted to doing good. He’s shown to enjoy literature very much, and during the entire narrative of the film he is shown reading Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, which is confirmed and a major plot device, in the last section of the film. Clarence, though seemingly a bumbler, is actually extremely verbally gifted, being able to deliver important messages when needed to keep the narrative and major character one track. One of his landmark scenes is when this distracted and deprived (of alcohol) angel is trying to order a drink in a bar; he’s curious about trying alcohol again yet has been dead for so long all the drinks he’s ordering no longer exist.

Clarence looking out for George Bailey

“It’s a wonderful life” is a classic and doesn’t really need any introduction here. But just in case some of you don’t know it, I’ll sum it up here: Clarence has descended to earth on Christmas Eve to stop a man, George Bailey, from taking his life. Since Bailey believes the world would have been a better place without him, Clarence decides to show him how truthfully terrible things would have been “if he had never been born”. The Story unfolds from this oddly enjoyable premise.

So those are my favorite cinematic Angels. Happy holidays to you all! If there’s any angels you feel should have been mentioned, don’t be shy to tell me!

Last year, in 2009, two major blockbuster films, the genuine, gritty “District 9” and the visually spectacular “Avatar”, were released with similar themes: the conflict of humans meeting aliens. In “District 9”, the Aliens are the unfortunate immigrants to a, all too recognizable, Johannesburg, forced to live in slums under cruel conditions. In “Avatar”, however, the humans invade a planet called “Pandora” and start a war against the aliens living there, the Navis. The “Avatar” story line is very much like another, more unknown film that came out in 2007, “Battle for Terra”. “Battle for Terra” is completely animated, CGI full length feature, while “Avatar” and “District 9” is partly live action (and acted) and a  partly computer animated set piece. All these afore mentioned feature films ask the question: what would happen if the human’s existence collided with that of the outsiders? If this is the question posed which of these films gives us the most believable and consistent answer? And given the history of humans and the trajectory of incursions into others places, or just coming into contact with another, how do these films fare? The question then is, given these concerns, and looking how the aesthetics intersect with the questions, are these films good, or not good? Beware as this entry will feature spoilers from all three films.

“Battle for Terra”’s main character is the curious and adventurous Mala, who lives in a peaceful and idyllic little village on the planet Terra. One day, a strange object shows up in the sky and a mass kidnapping of the alien citizens, including Mala’s father, ensues. As Mala attempts to rescue her father, she encounters one of the invaders in the persona of a badly injured human named James. Deciding to help him to help facilitate finding her father, James, after his recovery in the care of Mala, promises to help her find her father.

The first great thing about this film is that the main protagonist of this film is a girl, and the alien of the film. Since Mala is the person you follow throughout the film, the viewer feels more close to the alien’s culture and gets to see their society through their eyes. In “Avatar”, the Navi’s culture is strictly seen through the human’s eyes, the human heroes, and becomes the human viewpoint exclusively.

The “avatar” narrative is an okay way to introduce the viewer to the alien, but still leaves a bit of distance to them. This also holds for the film “District 9”, whose lead role is also contained by a human protagonist. Also, in “Battle for Terra”, as opposed to the other films, Mala’s species is not overtly romanticized, as we see done so strongly in “Avatar” (though not in “District 9”). Mala’s species, as it turns out later in the film, have had countless wars and brutal battles between themselves, bringing their own culture and species to the brink of extinction. Their leaders, upon restoring peace, keep this past history of their race a secret from the general masses in order to avoid any more violence which their species may invoke on themselves. The Navis, however, don’t seem to have any dark past or present day conflicts at all. This makes “Avatars” aliens seem like a sweet dream instead of actual living creatures. Mala’s species in “Battle for Terra” feel more real; like humans, they can do great violence, but they can as well create a beautiful peaceful culture. The film, oddly enough, does suffer from the beauty and vibrancy of the animation in one way, however. Even in the midst of horrible things actions and implications of the story line and images, like the brutal battles between the humans and the aliens, the random and unfeeling kidnapping of individual, and Mala’s horrific discovery of the nonchalant torture (and death sentence) that the humans impose so casually on the captured aliens, the film still has a sublime beauty and complexity to its animated surface. This creates in the viewer an eerie feeling while watching the film. It is hard to know whether you as a viewer should be horrified or utterly amazed at what you’re viewing. “Battle for Terra” sends out, in a way, double signals. It wants to be cute, but gruesome as well. An appreciation of the lush surface and a repulsion to the terrible narrative just beneath. Very few films can pull this off. This almost does, but not quite.

As for “Avatar”, the visuals are also a problem. Granted it is important to show the viewer how beautiful Pandora is, otherwise the viewer wouldn’t feel dismayed when the humans begin their task of destroying its natural environment. But it even when the film focuses on the scientific and military complex the humans live within on Pandora, the films atmosphere remains lush and overtly attractive. The protagonist in “avatar” is the human Jake, a marine who gets to inhabit the artificially constructed body of a Navi and attempt to live amongst them in order to gather information for the military. This is an alright plot, but as stated before does leave quite a bit of distance from the humans to the aliens culture and individuality. “Avatars” Character and protagonist as embodied in Jake is neither as strong nor as interesting as Mala, or of the heroes of “District 9”.
The Navis have no flaws, which gives them no credibility. Most of the humans of “Avatar” often feel to the viewer just plain and simply mean-spirited without giving an adequate reason or back-story for this. It is recounted early in the narrative of “avatar” that planet Earth is on the verge of total collapse, but we are give no satisfactory description of how this may happen or what it may mean to the humans. In “Battle for Terra” it is made clear that the humans are homeless after destroying Earth and starting a series of wars with future colonies on Venus and Mars which ended in mutual destruction for all involved. This narrative fact makes the humans cruelty to the aliens understandable, but not justifiable. In “Avatar” it seems almost as if the invasion is done mostly due to spitefulness, though there is an aside to “unobtainium” , one of the worst puns ever foisted on cinema.

This being said, “Avatars” biggest plus, which I love, is its independent warrior women characters. Both the human, as well as the Navi females, in the narrative structure, stand up for what they think is important and don’t let the males impose their wills, or personas, to exclusively in this context. This holds even more so for the character persona of Mala in “Battle for Terra”! Of these three Mala is shown as technically able, resolutely brave, determinately humane, and intellectually adept.

“District 9” on the other hand couldn’t have been any more stronger and effective in its message. This film understands that if you’re attempting a cinematic narrative about brutality and unbelievable unkindness, you have to create a filmic landscape and storyline which is visually gritty and painful in the story which it plays out. “District 9” wants us to believe the tale it tells could be real, and cleverly uses mockumentary-like effects, including fake interviews, to get the viewer to identify the events of the film with everyday life. The aliens don’t look beautiful, but are so noble that it’s hard not sympathize with them. Wikus, a man that accidently must work with the alien Christopher, is also a more complex character than Jake. He’s ambitious and eager to do a good job, which unfortunately requires oppressing the “prawns” (Aliens). This makes him unlikeable at first, but as time passes in the narrative and Wikus discovers all the terrible things done to the Prawns, he slowly starts to feel empathy for them and their plight. However even in the midst of this awakening of humanity Wikus cannot shed his dark well of conservative values, the same values which have imprisoned the “visitors” to the half-life of the slums and total ostracism from humane contact.

The film also follows Christopher, a prawn who lives in the slums the aliens are forced into. The viewer gets to see how unpleasant the living conditions for the prawns are and what being prey to human’s “racism” means for anyone (having to live amongst and under gangsters and living with garbage as a source of food). The aliens of District 9 are hardly at all romanticized by the saga of the film, even if they are compared to the humans here and come out as more kind and, even, intelligent. These Aliens rarely use violence, even to defend themselves (but, one of the lines of the story which plays out, if you push them around long enough they will bring suffering upon their attackers). The brutality of humans is shown as a response of irrational fear of the Alien, and the other, generally. The Humans xenophobia, which is hard to understand but easily recognizable to us all, feels truthful.

And of course, at the last, about endings: “District 9” is also more ambiguous in its ending. “Battle for Terra” has a bit of a forced happy ending and “Avatar” a utopian happy ending. “District 9” however has neither.

Definitively  “District 9” is the superior film about human’s mistreatment of Aliens out of these three films. It knows what it wants to do: shock us. And succeeds in devoting itself to this mission.

Yet “Battle for Terra” has its strong moments. But regretfully is a movie that is unknown, which I would guess is due to the cute look of the character animation while at the same time having a grandiosely sad story. “Avatar”, which came out only two years later than “BFT” has almost the exact problem, yet did not suffer this fate and is extremely famous and generally well received. So “Battle for Terra” got a bit of a shaft in my opinion. If you can find this film, check it out. Even if it may not be a great or good film, it’s still interesting.

As a follow up to my “Cool heroines in children’s animated films”, I have decided to mention a few female characters that I find equally cool to the heroines, even if they are not the “main protagonist”. I’ve gotten the inspiration to write this post from a very special and dear person to me. I want to thank him for the idea and suggestions for what “side characters” to write about. Thanks, man, you’re awesome!

Side characters are often used as comic relief, but can also be used to represent ideas or attributes, for example child sidekicks are often used to represent innocence. At other times side characters may exist as wise advisers or as the voice of reason. Whatever their purpose, there have been many fun and entertaining sidekicks in the world of animation. Here’s a few I like.

The Black Widow from “Corpse Bride” (2005) – The Black Widow is a perky, friendly spider that though she doesn’t have her own name does deliver some of the most memorable jokes in “Corpse Bride”. She is the best friend of one of the main protagonist in the film, Emily. The Black Widow is played out as the friend that’s always there for you and always on your side, regardless of the Situation.

“Corpse Bride” tells the story of a young man Victor that through a number of weird circumstances ends up marrying a dead woman named Emily. This means nothing but trouble to Victor, since he’s already supposed to marry and in love with another (living) woman, Victoria. Emily on the other hand has taken quite a liking to her “new husband”. This was Tim Burton’s first full-length animation movie which he himself directed, alongside with Mike Johnson. This movie is full of fun characters, but The Black Widow is probably the sweetest one.

Wilma from “A Flight before Christmas” (2008) – Wilma, a least weasel, is, alongside with impressive villains, one of the most memorable things from this Finnish animation film. Wilma first shows up in the film singing in her crazy manner while shoving snow on to a pack of wolves who are trying to eat the main characters. Wilma is quite an odd weasel. She fancies herself a great singer, praising herself constantly. Being a straight forward weasel, Wilma’s always speaking her mind, even if it at times annoys others. Her quirky personality brings a lot of good laughs but she also represents an experienced character who, despite certain illusions, understands a lot about the world. Her introduction in the film is one of her best: while bathing in self-adoration, she stylishly distracts the wolves with her singing. The singing weasel confuses the wolves so much they can’t see the obvious trap Wilma sets up for them. Hilarious scene with its own unique, Finnish touch of girl power!

“A Flight before Christmas” is about a young reindeer named Niko who believes his unknown father is one of the flying reindeer’s who pull Santa’s sled. Since he can’t seem to learn to fly, he heads out to the North Pole in order to find his father and to learn the secret of flying. This movie is not too bad. A long side with Wilma, there are a few other memorable, fun characters and scenes (For instance, it features a cute side love story of a poodle and a wolf that become interested in each other). However the moral of the story – “you can achieve anything by believing” – does feel a little old and tiring by now. Niko, the main character of the film, was also a little cliché-ish.

(Here’s a video of the film with Wilma in it. Couldn’t find her introduction scene. Sorry!)

Dot from “A Bug’s life” (1998) – This little princess ant is just adorable. She’s a brave youngling and a born leader. Dot is the younger sister of the crown princess, which means she will become queen after her sister, Princess Atta (who’s also a pretty cool character! Strong and independent). Dot, being a child side character, exists to represent innocence in the film. However, her role goes beyond that; she helps out during crisis’s, she stands up for the outsider of the film and is the leader of all of the ant younglings. Sweet!

“A Bug’s life” is, in my opinion, Pixar’s strongest work. It deals with an ant colony which has been terrorized by grasshoppers for years and years. The ant must give the grasshoppers nearly all of their food in order to be “protected” from the outside world (which in actuality is just from the grasshoppers themselves). One of the ants, Flik, however believes that they can get rid of the grasshoppers if they just found some kind-hearted, tough warriors to help them (a´la Kurosawas “seven samurais“). Flik goes out seeking these warriors, as the rest of the ants continue collecting food for the vicious Grasshoppers. This movie is pretty exciting and gripping. Check it out.

The Girl Squirrel from “Sword in the Stone” (1963) – possible the most coolest, most awesome female side character to have ever been created, this girl has it all. She’s funny, she has an extremely strong will, she’s kind and loyal, and a good fighter who’s not afraid to defend the people she loves. She appears in the film only for one sequence, making that part of the movie the most memorable one.

Wart, a boy who’s an apprentice to Merlin the magician, is turned into a squirrel for educational purposes. While gliding through the trees, he bumps into the Girl Squirrel who instantly falls in love with him. Wart tries and fails at explaining that he’s not a squirrel, but a human boy. The Girl Squirrel chases him in a determined matter and results in saving him from being eaten up by a wolf. In the end gets her heart broken after Wart turns back into a human. The viewer gets good laughs, gets to see her kick ass and cry with her, all in ten minutes.

The Girl Squirrel was probably one of Disney’s first strong female characters. She wasn’t helpless or weak and had a mind of her own. It’s also enjoyable to see a determined woman chasing after a man; even if you laugh at this scenario, you also admire her strong will. That’s why it’s so sad when her dreams are deferred. It’s also worth pointing out that the Girl Squirrel was probably one of the first females who officially saved a male in a children’s film. She saved “the boy” in a movie made during the sixties, a time when the majority of life saving in films was made by men. You could therefore argue that this squirrel was the feminist of this film: she questioned gender roles by her energetic behavior.

The Girl Squirrel is a character not often talked about, but clearly was one of the first cinematic presentations of very strong, goal oriented girl power. And, if you look at it closely, could be seen as one of the first presenters of feminism.

“Sword in the Stone” tells the story of Merlin who prepares a young Arthur for a great future. The film contains a series of fun adventures Arthur has during his lessons, while unknowingly destined to become the next king of England. The movie is completely underrated. Merlin’s character is brilliant and the story is quite fun. Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Or a re-watch, if you’ve seen it but don’t remember much of it.

That’s a couple of female side characters that I really enjoy watching. Do you guys have any favorites? What do you guys think about the women I just talked about?

Claire Denis’ newest film, “White Material”, takes place in an unnamed African country destroyed by civil war. Its main character, Marie Vial, is a white woman whose family has been living in Africa for generations. They own a coffee plantation, which is going into ruins since all the employees have fled the area. Marie refuses to leave the land she was born in since she rejects the idea of there being any real danger in the area and tries to desperately save the plantation. She denies the increasing danger and threats towards her family and denies that the violent fights between rebels and the country’s military are spinning out of control. This results in a series of tragic events which causes Marie to lose everything she has.

The film starts with a gang of militant black young men setting a house on fire and locking the doors, letting a white man inside burn to his death. It then cuts to Marie trying to get the employees at the plantation to stay. As the story unfolds, we find out who the man in the burning house was and why he was killed so brutally. We also get to see Marie doing the best she can to save her plantation, in which she has worked in all her life. This film, like many other great independent films, uses the dogma style of filming. The film also leaves out basic facts like the name of the country the plot takes place in and why the civil war has broken out. It also does not tell us much about the unnamed country’s past. Denis is fairly clever for doing this, for it feels more like her film is speaking to developing countries in general, instead of only talking about the experiences of one single land. It is shown, though, that the continent is Africa, where the rebels not only cause suffering and pain on their fellow man, but also cause a form of “reverse-racism” towards the few non-rich whites that have been living in the country. Denis states here that all forms of discrimination do take place in the world, sadly enough.

Even if the film has empathy for Marie and her family, it also condemns her. She is shown as naïve and righteous. Though she does treat blacks as equal and pays good money to work there, Marie is unable to sympathize with their growing fear of the rebels. Naïve and blinded, Marie finds the whole situation only a contemporary “uneasiness”, even if all the facts and signs point to the complete opposite. Marie is not a person you like, but you do feel sorry for her. For she is actually a hard worker, and has a strong passionate love for the country she lives in. You could say that her love for the country “blinds her”. A typical problem a privileged white person living in Africa might have…

The climax of the film leaves the viewer in a state of shock. I won’t tell you what happens, but I will say that the ending was heart-breaking yet perfect for this film.

Claire Denis

– I just said to George today that…
– Who’s George?
– He’s the devil. He’s not that bad once you get to know him.
“Bedazzled”, 1967

The Devil is a popular character humans love to analyze and make their own adoptions of. Satan, or Lucifer (whatever we decide to call him) has little to say in the Bible. He is mostly talked about by others. His biggest role in the Bible is tempting Jesus in the desert. Even if Satan has a small part in the Bible, the big book does make one thing perfectly clear to us: this creature is pure evil and must be avoided at all cost. But since Satan has so little lines, humans have naturally grown curious about this fellow. Who is he, really? What are his motivations? What are his feelings?

“Leaves out of the book of Satan” (1921), a movie by Carl Theodor Dreyer, is a movie based on D. W. Griffiths, movie “Intolerance” (1916). Dreyer’s film, as Griffiths, tells different stories from different times. The Devil appears in this movie as a sad person who must tempt people. For it is what is required of him. The Devil succeeds in tempting people, which hurts him and makes him feel bad. He doesn’t really want People to do bad things, but he must tempt them, for there must be a struggle between good and evil. Already in early cinema Satan’s character has been portrayed as sympathetic, humanely. The Devil is not a bad tempter; he’s a guy stuck with a job he hates.

John Milton wrote an epic poem in blank verse named “Paradise lost”. It was published in 1667. It tells the story of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. It is said to be Milton’s attempt to justify God’s ways to man, but the poem has become mostly famous for its portrayal of Satan. Satan is a complex character in the poem. He is the first major character to be introduced to the reader. At the beginning, Satan is the Angel Lucifer up in Heaven who rebels against God since he doesn’t want to accept the fact that God has power over the angels. He convinces fellow angels that Heaven is an unfair monarchy, and that the angels should have equal rights to God. Satan later shows up convincing Eve to eat the apple, promising her that she will become equal to God. Milton describes Satan as a charismatic and persuasive person who’s also quite in love with himself. But also as someone who is independent enough to question authority. Milton allows Lucifer speak his mind, express what makes him angry. His belief in equal power, i.e democracy, is interesting in the way that it’s considered a common, acceptable belief now a days, which actually make his attempt to overthrow God seem good. Here’s a part from the poem in which Lucifer convinces some angels to follow him:

Who can in reason then or right assume/ Monarchy over such as live by right/ His equals, if in power and splendor less / In freedom equal? or can introduce/ Law and edict on us, who without law/ Err not, much less for this to be our Lord,/ And look for adoration to th’ abuse/ Of those imperial titles which assert/ Our being ordained to govern, not to serve?”

A funnier adaption of the Devil is George Spiggott from the movie “Bedazzled” (1967). George Spiggott is a man who offers people seven wishes in exchange for their souls. He offers Stanley, a troubled young man, one of these deals. While granting Stanley his wishes, George also tells Stanley about his relationship with God and Heaven, telling his side of the story. In this version, the Devil has changed his name from Lucifer to George since he thought that Lucifer, which means “bringer of the light”, sounded a bit “Poofy”, as he puts it. George spends his time doing small pranks, since he must bring evil into the world to even out the good others bring in. He also is trying to get back into Heaven by winning in a deal he’s made with God. Spiggott has many wonderful, hilarious comments about himself in this movie, but the funniest one is probably when he explains why he rebelled against God. He simple explains that since he and the other angels were always worshipping God and telling him how great he was, Spiggott became bored and thought that they could exchange places for awhile. “Bedazzleds” portrayal of the Devil is of one who is stuck in a job and home that he doesn’t exactly like. He finds the world tedious and wants to get back to Heaven, his original home. It’s easy to sympathize with Spoggott’s character when you realize that he doesn’t really want to cause any trouble, he just does it since it’s a part of the deal. Satan in this version mostly is a person that has made a silly mistake – in his cause of going against God – lost his home for it, and does what he can to get back what he’s lost. Something we all can relate to.

The Portuguese writer Jose Saramagos adaption of the Devil in his novel “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ” is probably the most sympathetic one to date. The Devil goes by the name “Pastor” in this book which tells the life of Jesus Christ from Jesus’ point of view. Jesus first meets Pastor in his late teens. He and Pastor are shepherds for a flock of sheep while Pastor tries to warn Jesus about worshipping God. Jesus, a highly religious man who doesn’t know he’s the son of God yet, finds Pastor’s ideas frightening. They separate due to Pastor’s frustrations with Jesus. Years later, when Jesus is confronted with God and what Gods plans are for him he realizes that Pastor was only trying to help. God explains that Jesus must die for him so that he can get more people to worship him. Pastor, who shows up during this discussing between God and Christ, gets God to list all the people who like Jesus will have to die in order for God to get more followers. God lists them and how they all died painful, torturous deaths, making Jesus panic. Turning to Pastor, Christ ask for help, but it’s too late. In “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ”, God is portrayed as a power-hungry madman who wants people to suffer and die for him. Pastor is a calmer person; he doesn’t have any need to be worshiped and doesn’t see why anyone should die for God. He tries his best to help Jesus, but knows when it’s too late.

Even if I do love Pastor, I would have to say that my favorite adaption of Lucifer in any form and culture is that of Satan from “South Park”. “South Park’s” Satan is an insecure man often confused and tormented by the difficulties in his love life. His first major role in “South Park” was in the movie “South Park: Bigger, longer and uncut” (1999). There Satan plays the tragic villain. He desperately wants to take over the world since he longs to be where the sun shines, flowers bloom and people are happy. In Hell there’s only misery, which exhausts and irks him. Satan is also having problems with his boyfriend, Saddam Hussein, whom he feels neglects his feelings and who is only interested in sex. In this film Satan sings one of the funniest, but also most sympathetic, songs about being the Devil. (Check it out on the end of this post!) In other episodes Satan is seen as a very easy going fellah. He celebrates Christmas and has to choose between a nice boyfriend and a bad boyfriend. He’s undeniably human in his mixed feelings about the world and humans. His confusions are honest. Satan is so human he becomes hilarious. How can you NOT love this guy?

Last Saturday, I and a friend of mine saw Christopher Nolan’s newest movie, “Inception”. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. It was exciting. It was able to hold my attention and interest during the whole two and a half hours of its running time and had good actors and performances. I had expected to hate this movie – instead I can say that it was an okay movie. A little over average, I would say. However, now that I’m looking back at the movie, I realize that there’s a lot of questionable things about the plot of the movie. Before I go into this movie, let me just say that I have quite a few problems with Nolan. I disliked his “Batman” movies for instance (which I know will surprise many due to their almost universal love, but they just can’t hold a candle to Tim Burton’s Batman movies!). I’ll also want to say that many people have found this movie, “Inception”, to be complex. It has been said that you have to pay close attention during the film’s running to understand what’s going on. I must say that I wasn’t confused at any moment. I didn’t see how you could be since the main characters are constantly explaining everything that’s happening and why it’s happening.

The movies protagonist, Mr. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), is on the run from the law. He’s accused of murdering his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard). He desperately wants to go back home to his children, but has no way of doing so. Cobb lives in a world where technology has become so advanced you can actually go into people’s dreams and steal their ideas. Cobb is a thief who has been specializing in this area. He messes up, though, on one mission, making it impossible for him to work for the people he’s been giving the ideas to. Luckily, Mr. Saiko (the man whose ideas Cobb attempted to steal) offers Cobb a deal he can’t refuse: Cobb is asked to plant a destructive idea into Mr. Saiko’s rivals mind and Cobb will be freed from all criminal charges by Mr. Saiko, which will make it possible for Cobb to go home and be reunited with his kids. Cobb agrees to this deal, and so Cobb is off to gather a team for performing an Inception (the typical movie /television cliché of gathering up the “super” team), for the act off setting an idea into somebody’s mind. He forms up a team including a master thief called Eames (Tom Hardy), two architects to design the “dreams” known as Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Adriane (Ellen Page) and a protector, Yusuf (Dileep Rio). Mr. Saiko insists on coming with the team to make sure that Cobb does not cheat him. They enter the mind of a young man, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) by boarding the same 10 hour flight than him. There the team will have the time to do their operation. Before I continue on the movie’s plot, I just want to mention how happy I was to see Cillian Murphy again. He played “Scarecrow” in “Batman Begins”, in which he was seen way, way, way too little off. In this movie he gets the screen time he deserves; he is a talented actor who can pull of many incredibly different kinds of roles. He was creepy and scary in “Batman Begins”, in this he was a confused, sad man who’s lost in his dream world. I hope to see him in more block-buster movies!

What I find weird about “Inception” is that what the main characters are doing during the whole movie is just plain wrong. To go into somebody else’s mind and manipulate him to do something he perhaps normally would never do is a strange thing to do. Their basically brainwashing him! I know this might just be a typical movie convention to motivate the story line, but what they are doing is so hideously amoral that it goes beyond comprehension! Not only that, but also why they do it is highly questionable. Mr. Saiko is a successful business man who owns one of the world’s biggest corporate empires. The problem is that Robert Fischer’s father’s empire is as big, if not bigger than Saiko’s. Now, the old man has kicked the bucket and Robert is about to inherit his father’s corporation. Mr. Saiko wants to get Robert to destroy the empire which he is to inherit, so his empire can be the biggest in the world. It is mentioned that performing Inception is highly illegal, but everybody on the team – even Adriane, a young student – has no problem doing it. Even the motivation seems to never bother anyone, not even the director. In the end of the film, the idea is safely nested into Robert’s brain, he will bring down his dead fathers empire, and Cobb goes home. No problems or consequences for brainwashing (for the sake of money) at all. So it seems like the movie is trying to say it’s perfectly okay to violate somebody’s mind for the sake of money and being able to do better business. So… Is this movie for extreme capitalism? Everything is morally okay to do if it’s for money? You can toy with some poor innocent guys mind just because he makes a little bit more money than you? Now I know that Cobb is doing it to be able to be see his kids again. But this wakes up another question. How can Mr. Saiko just get rid of all criminal charges against Cobb? My interpretation was that he can do it because he’s so powerful and rich. Since it frees Cobb from false charges, the movie only shows that kind of power being good. Cobb was innocent, so it’s good he’s freed from it. But here’s the thing: Cobb happened to be innocent! What if he would have actually killed his wife? Then it would have been terrible that Mr. Saiko would have freed him from his charges. Having that kind of power while not actually being somehow aware of the law and most importantly it’s spirit is just plain awful and dangerous. He’s a business man, which makes it highly probable that he does things only for improving his money affairs. Why does the movie relate to this idea so calmly?

I have to admit that the special effects are breathtaking. Everything looks real. The different levels of dream just blend into one another. The movie has also an interesting take on what an idea is. It talks about ideas being a parasite; a virus that can take over the mind in mere seconds. This idea is similar to Richard Dawkins “meme” theory (that an idea wants to survive, which means that it evolves as time goes by and changes so that it can survive, grow and spread). Even if I like that part of the movie, it still doesn’t justify the weird pro-extreme capitalism attitude the movie has. The movie accepts a future where money truly rules everything as an okay and natural thing. Yikes! Another thing that bothered me was that the business man, Mr. Saiko, gets all these more “normal” people like Arthur and Adriane to work for him without getting anything out of it. So the business man has everyone wrapped around his little finger, just like he seems to have the whole world. Capitalism just seems to be blooming out of this film; long live ruthless and amoral money affairs!

Plot aside there are some other major problems with the movie. The music used in this film tries to hammer in emotions. A good example is when the team gets into any kind of trouble; the music then would play so loud and dramatically it felt like it was saying to the viewer “Be excited! Be very excited! If you’re not excited, then you’re an idiot!” Also the movie left me with the feeling that Nolan was trying to prove how smart he is. It felt very pretentious to me. Also Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, was disturbingly similar to the character he played in “Shutter Island”, which he made just before “Inception”. They both are tormented by their past due to feeling guilty about the death of their wives and are haunted by these women throughout the entire movie. Is it that Nolan copied some ideas from “Shutter Island” or is DiCaprio just such an average actor that he plays the same character in every movie?

“Inception” should be taken as a fun, entertaining action movie. Nothing more. “Inception” is a lot better than Nolan’s “Batman” movies. If you see this movie, you should watch it with a pretty laid back and non-analyzing attitude. You will no doubt be entertained and feel very satisfied when the credits roll. Also it is hard not to be touched by the honest and optimistic portrayal of the father-son relationship shown through Cillian Murphy’s performance. Robert Fischer’s feelings for his father go through many changes throughout the movie; he feels rejected and misunderstood by his father, but at the end comes to the conclusion that his father did love him (which he before strongly disbelieved).

“Inception” is not a bad movie. It’s just not great either. It’s good, but not the movie of this decade.

“Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” (2007) is a film by the young Iranian born Hana Makhmalbah. Makhmalbah made her first break through with the documentary “Joy of Madness”, which was about her sister’s Samira Makhmalbah’s work with the film “Five in the afternoon” (S. Makhmalbah directed it). “Joy of Madness” premiered at Venice Film festival in 2003. “Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” is her second film, for which she traveled to Afghanistan to make (she was living in Sweden at the time she made this film). The language spoken in the film is Persian.

Hana Makhmalbah
Hana Makhmalbah

“Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” tells the story of a very young, ambitious girl who wants to go to school so she can learn how to read. She sells eggs cheaply to be able to afford a notebook. Since she can’t afford a pen, she takes her mother’s lipstick and heads out to find the school. While trying to find the school, she is unfortunate enough to meet some ruthless boys who are playing “Taliban”. They discover that she has make-up on her, leading to them labeling her as a “appalling woman” and sentence her to be stoned to death.

Nearly all of the actors in this movie are children. The little girl, played by Nikbakht Noruz, is wonderful as a curious child who won’t stop fighting till she’s reached her goal. Her innocent, raw ambition is crushed by fierce bullies. Her lines are simple, but honest, which makes it easy for the viewer to get to know her and feel for her. The boys playing the bullies are good as well. The boys portray children that are imitating adults, learning the horrible behavior from what they see their elders do. By showing how these boys pick on the little girl, Makhmalbah gives us a good idea of how women were treated under the Taliban regime without showing us any gore or extreme violence.

The title of the film is a reference to the Buddha statues the Taliban’s blew up. The film starts with showing a clip where they blow up the statues. During the film, the young boys mention that “we blew him up, this is where he was” while pointing at a pile of rocks. So it turns out that they are playing where the Buddha statues used to be. The clip shown in the beginning is re-shown at the end before the credits roll. The films focus on the Buddha statues can be seen as a symbol of beauty and knowledge that is crushed by the tyrants. The Buddha statues were a work of art, made by talented ambitious humans that were destroyed by the tyranny of the Taliban. The little girl seems to have the same kind of sad fate as the statues; she has talents and ambition, but is crushed and destroyed by the bullies.

This movie is perhaps the best ones dealing with Afghanistan’s situations. It is a heart-breaking story of child-like innocence lost in a dark, unfair world.