These Final Hours (2013, Australia)

These Final Hours (2013, Australia)What would you do, how would your behavior change if you’d know that you and everyone on Earth would die within a few hours due to an unavoidable catastrophe? Would you let your inhibitions fall down and commit vile acts of abominations no matter how vile society thinks it is? Or would you commit random act of kindness even at the end of the world? The answer may surprise you. This would be the ultimate test of what’s inside you, what kind of person are you at the bottom of your heart. Or find out whether you even have one.

These Final Hours is the toughest and saddest movie I’ve seen in a while. Not just because it pauses the above questions. It shows that lots of people simply don’t have the mental capacity to handle such an impending disaster. I am not saying that it is possible to fully comprehend it at all level, but based on one’s emotional intelligence and even capacity the reactions are on a wide spectrum. Many takes suicide path either in order to avoid pain or out of desperation or to have a control over how they leave. Others just go for whatever they want to do, be it the worst crime that social contract can define against other human beings. Then we have the protagonist who starts out as a selfish, unlikeable character, but then ends up spending his last few hours not just saving a young girl, but also choosing love.

The reason I found hard to watch this movie is the feeling I felt throughout that there will be no redemptive value in it. No matter what happens, humanity, including the hero will be gone by the end of film. The sense of “no future” was so pervasive, that it blocked me on multiple levels. I was wrong (spoiler alert) and in the end love came into the picture. It didn’t “concur all”, but it enabled people to connect and see beauty at unexpected places.

Links:

  • Official site
  • Facebook page
  • IMDB summary: A self-obsessed young man makes his way to the party-to-end-all-parties on the last day on Earth, but ends up saving the life of a little girl searching for her father. Their relationship ultimately leads him on the path to redemption.
  • Trailer:

Concert videos: The Illumignarly, Standish Hickey, Screaming Mimi’s

Rock n Roll ugly Xmas sweater partyA month ago I went to a concert at Aubergine (now called 755 After Dark) titled “Rock n Roll ugly Xmas sweater party“. This was before Christmas and indeed there were people in ugly sweaters, there was even a competition.  I am proud to say I don’t have such sweater so I was only there as an observer. Four bands played that night, but I missed the first one, The Corner Store Kids. I have a two songs from each of the other 3 bands on my YouTube channel, check out the full playlist.

The first band I saw was the “Screaming Mimi’s“. They are a Santa Rosa band, but chose the name of a Sebastopol ice-cream place. They played good, basic, but not very interesting punk-rock, but judge for yourself:

The next band was Standish Hickey, who played covers of oldies/classics with a few originals. The singer captured well the spirit of the old tunes, including Elvis and Beatles.

The last band was The Illumignarly, who I wanted to see for a while and I finally did. They play surf punk well and without singing. Their music was really fun and so was their posing with shades in the middle of the winter so they would look like classic surfers on the beach.

The Giver (2014, USA)

Poster for The Giver (2014, USA)It’s easy to empathize with the obvious lesson of this sci-fi, romance drama: emotions, memory and their interdependence is what makes us human. What I would like to point your attention to is a lesson that is less frequent in movies and books with a target audience and protagonist of teens: what they can learn from elders. The movie’s title is the giver, referring to the older man, who shares wisdom with a young receiver, even though the former gets less screen time. He builds up not just a sense of history and opens up emotions and senses, but by doing so also builds up the receiver’s ego.

Yes, our elders in addition of being vehicle of information and knowledge that can help us understand the world are also mentors, and can shape our very own sense of self. I am in the fortunate situation of being in the middle generation, where I already see that my choices of words, actions and exposure to the wonders of the world that I share with my children will make them become the people they will be, while I finally also have the wisdom to pay attention to folks with more experience and years behind their belts. When I was a teen I was less interested in that.

I haven’t read the book (the 1994 Newbery Medal winner by Lois Lowry), but I hear that, as usual, it is much more nuanced. The film meanwhile was fresh and stirring. The pristine nature of the closed off artificial village (can’t really write community because that would assume some sort of bond between its members) was teetering just on the edge of being creepy and pleasing, cold and warm, orwellian and safe. This and the slow thawing of boundaries produced that right amount of tension. The elder actors (Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep) seemed more comfortable in their roles, which proves the point that experience counts, but the young were also adept. It’s a good enough science fiction movie with unique enough message.

Links:

  • DVD@ Amazon.com
  • Official site
  • Facebook page
  • IMDB summary: This film, based on Lois Lowry’s book, tells the story of a perfect world. Everyone here is happy. When Jonas is 18 years old, he’s chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. He enters into training with an old man called ‘the Giver’ who would give Jonas memories of the “real” world that the rest of the community is hidden from. From the Giver, Jonas learns not only of love and family, but also of pain, war, and all the unhappy truths the world holds. He quickly realizes that his community is fake. Confronted with this reality, Jonas faces difficult choices about his own life and the futures of many people he’s become close to.
  • Trailer:
    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvp6FnYWRZU

Haldeman: The Accidental Time Machine (2007)

Halderman: The Accidental Time Machine (2007)It was entertaining and left me, the reader, with several notions to ponder upon. It had interesting science with some obviously obfuscated with one. So what’s not to like in Joe Halderman’s The Accidental Time Machine?

You can get the story from many sources, like wikipedia, Amazon or Goodreads, so I will focus only on what I found interesting in the book, including heavy spoilers. It is explicitly about the potential downsides of four things: academia, theocracy,  capitalism and over/abuse of technology. Let’s take them one by one.

Academia: Besides painting a stereotypical picture of perpetual grad student, who stays in school, because doesn’t have the courage and will to do anything else, it also points out the ease that mentors/professors can steal the work of their mentees. Knowledge is power, so if they can explain better what the grad student discovers (particularly if it is an accidental discovery) they get the glory and the Nobel prize.

Theocracy: In one possible features our time traveler arrives in a future, that is reminiscent of medieval times, forced unto the willing people by theocracy (mixed with remnants of advanced technology up to the 22nd century.) It is a strong holographic Jesus, whose supposed second coming we don’t learn all the details. What our hero does uncover is that he, or the people behind the actor they use to portray Jesus) use technology to keep the populace in religious fervor, uneducated,and under fear.

Capitalism: A future further up the timeline could be utopia. There is no poverty in a society with an economy based on barter. There is not much else either, no mental stimulus, no arts, nothing to keep things interesting. So on one hand the life is comfortable in this ultimate capitalism on the other hand the quality of life as we understand it is impoverished.

Technology: Millions of years later problems of over and abuse of technology becomes visible. Bio-engineering gone awry renders parts of Earth inhabitable for humans and later the whole planet is devoid of us and we don’t even know what’s going on the Moon, which seems to have been terraformed. Also an artificial intelligence is trying to use the traveler’s special talent to its own purposes against the hero’s will.

These four short paragraphs barely touch the surface of  how these themes are treated. I recommend reading the whole book. You might even learn something about higher physics (I did), but don’t forget to disregard the specifics of the time travel machine.

Films viewed in 2014

It’s the seventh time that I share the list of  movies I watched the previous year:

  • 2008: 153 movies
  • 2009: 140 movies
  • 2010: 142 movies
  • 2011: 243 movies
  • 2012: 210 movies
  • 2013: 204 movies
  • And 2014: 105 movies, see below

Even though the list is probably not complete as I may have forgotten to track every movie, tit is still pretty clear that I watched much less in 2014 than in previous years. Work and growing family are the main reason. Hope I can catch up in 2015.:-)

Here are some stats about the films I watched in 2014

  • 28 of them was from 2014, 50 from 2013, and 3 from before 2000
  • 60 from the USA, 12 from Israel,  7 from the UK

And now here is the list

Title Year Country Amazon IMDB Trailer
24 jours 2014 France IMDB YouTube
47 Ronin 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. And Mrs. Kraus 2013 USA, Poland IMDB YouTube
About Time 2013 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
Above and Beyond 2014 USA IMDB YouTube
Absolute Deception 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Aftermath 2012 Poland IMDB YouTube
American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
Android 1982 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Appleseed Alpha 2014 Japan DVD IMDB YouTube
Autómata 2014 Spain DVD IMDB YouTube
Awaken 2012 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Before the Revolution 2013 Israel IMDB YouTube
Blumenthal 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Bomb Girls – Facing the Enemy 2014 Canada DVD IMDB YouTube
Brave Miss World 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
Chasing Mavericks 2012 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Clear History 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Closed Season (Ende der Schonzeit) 2012 Germany IMDB YouTube
The Counselor 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Cupcakes 2013 Israel IMDB YouTube
The Darkest Hour 2011 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Delta 2008 Hungary IMDB YouTube
Dom Hemingway 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Don’t Come Knocking 2005 France DVD IMDB YouTube
Eagles 2012 Israel IMDB YouTube
Easton’s Article 2012 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Edge of Tomorrow 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Employer 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Ender’s Game 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Enemies Closer 2013 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
Epic 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Equalizer 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Everyday 2012 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Expecting 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Flicker 2012 Sweden IMDB YouTube
For A Woman (Pour Une Femme) 2013 France DVD IMDB YouTube
Going My Way 1944 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Grand Seduction 2013 Canada DVD IMDB YouTube
Hannah Cohen’s Holy Communion 2012 UK IMDB YouTube
Her 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
High Plains Doctor: Healing on the Tibetan Plateau 2012 Canada IMDB YouTube
Homefront 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Hundred-Foot Journey 2014 India IMDB YouTube
Hunting Elephants 2013 Israel DVD IMDB YouTube
I, Frankenstein 2014 Australia DVD IMDB YouTube
If I Stay 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Igor & the Cranes’ Journey 2012 Israel IMDB YouTube
In the Fog (V tumane) 2012 Belarus DVD IMDB YouTube
Inside Llewyn Davis 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Kabbalah Me 2014 USA IMDB YouTube
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life 2013 UK IMDB YouTube
Land of Plenty 2004 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Locke 2013 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
Lost Town 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
Lucy 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Lunch 2012 USA IMDB YouTube
The Machine 2013 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
Le Métis de Dieu (The Jewish Cardinal) 2013 France DVD IMDB YouTube
Mince alors! 2012 France DVD IMDB YouTube
Mivtza Hamaniya (Operation Sunflower) 2014 Israel IMDB YouTube
Monsters University 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Monuments Men 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
A Movie with Catherine Deneuve 2014 Israel YouTube
Mrs Henderson Presents 2005 UK DVD IMDB YouTube
Next Year in Jerusalem 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
Nincsen nekem vágyam semmi (This I Wish and Nothing More) 2000 Hungary IMDB YouTube
The November Man 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Nuts 1987 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
A Place in Heaven 2013 Israel IMDB YouTube
Rapture-Palooza 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Rise of the Zombies 2012 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Rover 2014 Australia DVD IMDB YouTube
Rue Mandar 2012 France DVD IMDB YouTube
Run 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 2013 Israel DVD IMDB YouTube
Side Effects 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Sleepwalk with Me 2012 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Snowpiercer 2013 South Korea DVD IMDB YouTube
Space Pirate Captain Harlock 2013 Japan DVD IMDB YouTube
Sparks 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Spectacular Now 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
St. Vincent 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Still Mine 2012 Canada DVD IMDB YouTube
Stonehearst Asylum 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
The Sturgeon Queens 2014 USA IMDB YouTube
Sukkah City 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
Sukkot in Warsaw 2013 USA, Poland IMDB YouTube
Tammy 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Tell 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
They Came Together 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Thor: The Dark World 2013 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Transformers: Age of Extinction 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Transit 2013 Philippines IMDB YouTube
Under the Same Sun 2013 Israel IMDB YouTube
Unorthodox 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
Vive la France 2013 France DVD IMDB YouTube
Welcome to the Jungle 2013 Puerto Rico DVD IMDB YouTube
When Comedy Went to School 2013 USA IMDB YouTube
White Panther 2013 Israel IMDB YouTube
The Wonders 2013 Israel IMDB YouTube
X-Men: Days of Future Past 2014 USA DVD IMDB YouTube
Yalom’s Cure 2014 USA IMDB YouTube

Books read in 2014 (incomplete list)

Below is the incomplete list of books I read (or listened to) in 2014. It is not accurate, because I was tracking my reading inconsistently through the year. (Past list of books I read: 20132010, 2008(The linked titles lead to the particular book at Amazon.)

  1. Az id?utazás napjaBear, Greg, Jay Snyder: War Dogs
  2. Beckett, Samuel: Molloy
  3. Boudinot, Ryan: Blueprints of the Afterlife
  4. Brooks, Terry: The Gypsy Morph
  5. Clarke, Arthur C.: Childhood’s End
  6. Corey, James S.A.: Leviathan Wakes
  7. Doctorow, Cory: Little Brother
  8. Doctorow, Cory: Pirate Cinema
  9. Doctorow, Cory: Homeland
  10. Doctorow, Cory, Charles Stross: The Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations
  11. Gaiman, Neil: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  12. Glukhovsky, Dmitry: Metro 2033
  13. Gould, Steven: Helm
  14. Gould, Steven: Impulse
  15. Gould, Steven: Exo
  16. Hackett, Brandon: Az idoutazas napja
  17. Horn, Dara: A Guide for the Perplexed
  18. Howey, Hugh: Wool
  19. Howey, Hugh: Shift Omnibus Edition
  20. Ingermanson, R.S.: Transgression: A Time-Travel Suspense Novel
  21. Jonasson, Jonas: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
  22. Maleckar, Nicolette: The Lilac Tree
  23. Maron, Marc: The Jerusalem Syndrome
  24. Naam, Ramez: Nexus: mankind gets an upgrade
  25. Rossi, Veronica: Under the Never Sky
  26. Rossi, Veronica: Through the Ever Night
  27. Scalzi, John: The Last Colony
  28. Scalzi, John: The Ghost Brigades
  29. Scalzi, John: Redshirts
  30. Scalzi, John: Lock In
  31. Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman, Yair Hillel Goelman: Ahron’s Heart: The Prayers, Teachings and Letters of Ahrele Roth, a Hasidic Reformer
  32. Szorokin, Vladimir: Hóvihar
  33. Wecker, Helen: The Golem and the Jinni
  34. Weir, Andy: The Martian
  35. Yori Yanover: The Cabalist’s Daughter: A Novel of Messianic Redemption

Books posted on my Jewish Books blog in December 2014

I have a blog about Jewish books. Most of the time I post about new books, sometimes about events, book sales or older books. Here is the list of books that made it there during the month of December 2014:

Review of A Movie with Catherine Deneuve

Poster for A Movie with Catherine Deneuve I don’t enjoy movies, or people for that matter, making fun of others’ pain. On the surface “A Movie with Catherine Deneuve“* is not one of films, but if you are like me you get uncomfortable watching this comedy.  For causal viewers it follows an unconventional roadtrip of two friends: men in their fifties who are the opposite of each other. Halperin is shy, hesitant, afraid of decisions and a stereotype of neurosis. Mano, on the other hand seems worldly, loud, outgoing. During the course of their adventures (read the synopsis) though the role of being reluctant goes back and forth between the two of them. As they go through phases of chasing various elusive women they keep switching leadership roles.

Where does the pain seep in? When you realize that it is not just Halperin whose introvert life and self-esteem is broken, but Mano is less of a success than he seems. They are both victims of modern society’s alienation. One seeks refuge in isolation, but the other, with all his charismatic persona, is as much a victim, that hides his loneliness in plain sight. Nowhere comes this clearer than in this exchange at the end of the movie:

‘See Halperin, we’re in paradise. You can stop suffering,’ Said Mano to Halperin.
‘And what fun is that?’ replied Halperin.

Suffering is the basis of his existence and cannot imagine or even enjoy life without it. That is hard to comprehend in a comic mindset. If you need a kind of redemptive ending don’t get too disappointed as this movie provides only a mixed bag of that.

  1. It is a very light movie with plenty of easy visual and verbal jokes, and it even verges on slapstick, e.g. the scene when the auntie get stolen from the hospital with the help of a stolen van of a conned clown.  However it is also a deep movie, suggesting that the journey counts more than the destination. It also points out that the forces you think are driving you are not always the real ones. For those you have to look back to your past journey and actions and deduce from them what took you where you are.

A major theme in the movie is sex, sexual frustration and its opposite: tantric sex. The representative of the latter is shown as en enlightened guru, who brings light to others’ life and even has a brighter aura though a editing. He not just helps women to reach orgasm, but like the god Pan, can use his panpipe to create magical music. This touch and him being  a goat-herder makes one wonder what other aspects of Pan this guru embodies,

An integral part of narrative is a recurring puppet show with two characters, who are comparable to Mano and Halperin. This, the puppet characters’ conversations that do not seem to relate directly to the actions of the movie, adds another layer of complexity to this “simple” movie. I leave it to you to decipher what fragment of the identities are projected into them.

The acting and directing wasn’t top notch, but the story, particularly if you take the time to ponder upon the undertones, can hold your attention enough to enjoy Omri Yavin’s movie.

* As a member of the committee helping to put on the Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, I preview movies to help decide which ones to play at the Festival. I watched this movie as part of this volunteer effort.

** Crossposted at Jewishfilmfestivals.org

Books posted on my Jewish Books blog in November 2014

I have a blog about Jewish books. Most of the time I post about new books, sometimes about events, book sales or older books. Here is the list of books that made it there during the month of November 2014:

  1. the-synagogues-of-central-and-western-pennsylvania-a-visual-journey-by-julian-h-priesler-book-coverBeyond the Forest: Jewish Presence in Eastern Europe, 2004-2012 by Loli Kantor
  2. Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice by Mike Kelly
  3. The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel by Cary Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm
  4. Catch The Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom
  5. The Cave 4 Apocryphon of Jeremiah and the Qumran Jeremianic Traditions by Kipp Davis
  6. Challah: A Chewish Guide to the Torah by Rabbi Susan Abramson
  7. Choose Light!: Chassidic Tales for Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, Passover & Shavuos by Libi Astaire
  8. Creation, Covenant, and the Beginnings of Judaism by Ari Mermelstein
  9. Dear Darwish by Morani Kornberg-Weiss
  10. Death by Pastrami by Leonard S. Bernstein
  11. The Early Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings by Dr. Everett Fox
  12. Every Picture Tells a Story, Volume One: Bereishis by Chaim Natan Firszt
  13. A Family of Veterans by Mattityahu Yarom
  14. Four Mothers: Historical Fiction by Shifra Horn
  15. The Gelt Giving Golem by Carolyn Greenwald
  16. The Gender Challenge of Hebrew by Malka Muchnik
  17. GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation by Deborah Dash Moore
  18. God is In My Backpack: A Young Rabbi’s Epic Adventure by Rabbi Ben Tanny
  19. The Innocents by Francesca Segal
  20. The Jewish Confederates by Robert N. Rosen
  21. Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh by Janna Gur
  22. Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of teenage Holocaust Survival by Nathan C. Moskowitz
  23. Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death by Otto Dov Kulka
  24. Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Toward Traditional Rabbinic Ordination by Haviva Ner-David
  25. Masorah and Text Criticism in the Early Modern Mediterranean by Jordan S. Penkower
  26. The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner
  27. Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
  28. New York 1, Tel Aviv 0: Stories by Shelly Oria
  29. No Ballyhoo by Mauro Mevlud Martino
  30. Out of the Shoebox by Yaron Reshef
  31. People of the Book: Five Hundred Years of the Hebrew Book from the Beginning of Printing to the Twentieth Century by Akiva Aaronson
  32. The Pomegranate Pendant by Dvora Waysman
  33. The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein
  34. Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael
  35. Saxa judaica loquuntur, Lessons from Early Jewish Inscriptions by Pieter W. van der Horst
  36. Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas by Patrick Modiano
  37. The Synagogues of Central and Western Pennsylvania: A Visual Journey by Julian H. Priesler
  38. Three Early Modern Hebrew Scholars on the Mysteries of Song by Don Harran
  39. The Veterans of History: A Young Person’s History of the Jews by Mitchell Silver
  40. Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead

Angry Samoans + 4 bands (Concert videos)

Flyer for Angry Samoans' show in Sebastopol's AubergineI used to go to lots of concerts as a teenager. When I first came to the US in 1990 I was still in that phase and when I learned about a punk club in Berkeley I was happy to frequent it. I’ve seen many bands at 924 Gilman, but don’t remember a lot of them. Somehow, maybe because of their unusual name, Angry Samoans is a band that I know I’ve seen there. So now, 24 years later, when I saw the flyer that they will be playing nearby, at the Aubergine, I couldn’t miss them.

Considering that there were 6 support bands and my stamina isn’t as fresh as a quarter century ago I tried to be as late as I could. I still saw three and a half bands before the headliners. I go there in the middle of Thought Vomit‘s set. I didn’t care for their vulgarity, but I am familiar with the mindset, which dictates that punk equals that. Still I appreciated their energy and classic punk attitude. (I recorded two of their songs.) Next up was Flesh Gordo, more of a hardcore band where the singer was signing in the audience. It  was musically a bit more interesting as you can see from the song I captured. The last local band of the night was No Brainer, which had a local following as the pit became more active. (Check my video out.) Fourth up was Fang from the 1980’s Berkeley scene. They were clearly in a different age and experience group as seen in their mature stage presence. A touch slower, but more melodic.

Finally around 12.30 Angry Samoans started. Unlike the previous bands they were funny, didn’t take themselves as seriously. As a result they seemed to have more fun too. Unfortunately the sound mixing or amplification wasn’t as good as the previous bands, so they didn’t sound so full. Here is my whole video playlist of the evening, including the five songs from them.

And a few pictures: