Category Archives: Film/TV

I watch, love, and hate

Montage for “Escola das Artes“ (Portugal, 2018)

Pliés and clichés, thoughts on “Escola das Artes“ (Portugal, 2018)

I was really looking forward to flying for the first time with Air Portugal on a Transatlantic flight, so I could watch some Portuguese movies, which I rarely do. I was disappointed that there was only a handful available and only two looked interesting enough for me. I ended up not watching “Listen” about a Portuguese couple living in London and in danger of losing their deaf child to social services. I was not in the mood for a heart-wrenching drama, but it sure looked promising for another day. So, instead, I chose the lighter path, what promised to be a feel-good movie made for kids about kids. 

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Bird People

Parallel Alienations, thoughts on “Bird People” (2014, France)

“Compare and contrast” is a great framing tool for essay writing. I rarely saw it implemented in films though, which is exactly how “Bird People”–a 2014 French film directed by Pascale Ferran–is built up. The movie is framed with an amazing opening scene and a redemptive closing one. The two, taken together, help create the meaning for the film. In the first few minutes, we can observe people commuting and hearing their inner thoughts. What we are really exposed to is how everyone lives in their own bubble, despite sharing physical space with others. The long sequence of few second thoughts are mostly just banalities, but together they make up a story about us people, who are different yet with similar concerns.

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Rules and beliefs, thoughts on “La nuit des rois” (Côte d’Ivoire, 2020)

Humans are governed by rules and beliefs. How these can be enforced directly and indirectly, with or without violence, and how these intertwine is what I ended up paying attention to while I watched “Night of the Kings”, a French-speaking film from Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast, directed by Philippe Lacôte. The opening scene captured not just the confusion and disorientation we all feel when entering a space where we don’t know the rules, but also the fear one can feel if that space is an infamous prison.

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(Dis)advantages of knowing the future; thoughts on “L’aventure des Marguerite” (France, 2020)

Poster for The Fantastic Journey of Margot & Marguerite

How do you think it would have felt knowing in 1942 that the war would be over on May 8, 1945? Relieved that it would be over at one point? Tired that it would last three more long years? Curious, depending on which side you are on, who won the war? Or to put it another way, how would you feel if you would know something about world politics three years from, in 2024? Either way, I think knowing anything in the future with certainty would be a burden and an opportunity. To change or not to change the course of history for the better; or your personal life; or with who and how to share what you know: These questions could weigh you down and at the same time have the potential to free you up.

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TV shows I watched in 2020

TV shows I watched in 2020

The combined effect of spending the majority of the year at home and the family having a Netflix subscription resulted in me watching much more TV shows than previously. Below is an incomplete list of them.

I have seen every available episode of these shows from the very first to the very last

  • Barbaren / Barbarians (Germany, 2020): 6 episodes and there will be a second season
  • Better Call Saul (US, 2015-20): 5 seasons, 10 episode each, awaiting the final season, hopefully out in 2021; Season 5 on Amazon Prime
  • Biohackers (Germany, 2020): 6 episodes and a second season is coming
  • Dark (Germany, 2017-20: 26 episodes, with nice closure
  • Hollywood (USA, 2020): 7 episodes and second season is unlikely
  • La casa de papel / Money Heist (Spain, 2017-20): had “31” episodes (Netflix recut the first half of the series, not developed by then so 31 is an approximate number.) Final season is in the works.
  • Space Force (USA, 2020): 10 episodes, second season coming up
  • Unorthodox (Germany/USA, 2020): 4 episodes, no second season, no matter how many people want it
  • What/If (USA, 2019): 10 episodes, second season is likely, but not yet confirmed.
  • White Lines (UK/Spain, 2020): 10 episodes and then got cancelled.

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You gotta fight for your money; thoughts on “The Laundromat” (USA, 2019, 95 min)

Most people associate glamour with celebrities like movie stars, models and pop singers. The second association is that all these people make a lot of money. These images are reinforced by the (tabloid) media that regularly shares information about how many millions these kinds of people made. We hear far less often about bankers, brokers and other professions related to handling money and wealth. However they make (often not “earn” IMHO) much more than celebrities. (Before someone points out that there are lots of not too rich bankers I need to point out that it is even more so for actors and singers.) 

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Films viewed in 2020

Films viewed in 2020

It’s the 12th time that I share the list of  movies I watched in a given year. I am sure I forgot to note a quite a few movies, but even with these omissions the number is  lower than most previous years’. One reason for this is that in 2020 I watched a lot more TV series that is not on the list.

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Légiók c. film posztere

Thoughts on the movie “Legions” on National Independence Day of Poland

If you want to see amazing pictures and landscapes, I highly recommend the film Legions. Sometimes I was just sitting there in the cinema (yes there, the last day before the cinemas got closed down again due to the quarantine) and my jaw dropped, quite touched by the beauty on the screen. Jaroslaw Szoda, whose name I want remember, did a fantastic job as a cameraman and cinematographer. It is worth watching the film just for the sights of breathtaking Polish landscapes.

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Légiók c. film posztere

Gondolatok a Légiók c. filmről a Lengyel Függetlenség Napján

Ha olyan képeket, tájakat akarsz látni amitől leesik az állad akkor nagyon ajánlom a lengyel Légiók című filmet. Néha csak ültem a moziban (igen ott, pont az utolsó nap a mozik karanténba zárása előtt) és jobbról balra ámultam, egészen meghatódva a gyönyörűségtől. Jaroslaw Szoda, akinek direkt kikerestem a nevét, fantasztikus munkát végzett mint operatőr. Már csak azért is érdemes megnézni a filmet, hogy lélegzetelállító lengyel tájak látványán tudjunk ámuldozni.

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Film-making by targeting; thoughts on “Otherhood ” (USA, 2019, 100 min)

Otherhood film poster

Having a few good one liners and an easily identifiable and acceptable message doesn’t save Otherhood from being a predictable, mediocre film. Let me break this down.

 I have laughed out about 5 times during the movie, which isn’t bad at all. However, the next morning, when I am writing this I don’t remember any single jokes, which is a sign that  they were not that memorable. Here is the one-liner that everyone seems to love from the movie:

Mom: You didn’t call me on Mother’s Day.
Son: I texted you.
Mom: I birthed you.

You see this is cute, but nothing to text home about.

If you just read the short description of the movie you can already guess the message of the film: Moms should let their children grow up, make their own decisions and stop interfering with their children’s lives, although occasional nudging may be helpful. This is a common sense approach, that in the age of helicopter parenting (and then kids staying in the mama-hotel) sometimes gets lost. I am happy to see the idea of parents giving roots and WINGS to their children strengthened; something I identify as a parent with. Like this movie, similar to lots of other American movies, the message is so direct that the viewers have nothing to think about, nothing to “decipher”. I like movies that make me think and not just entertain. This movie did a sufficient  job of the latter but didn’t even come close to satisfying the former function.

In my experience great, original art comes from artists — no matter the field they work in — who has a vision and execute them regardless of the potential audience. Sure, lots of bad art is born the same way. However it is a prerequisite for an outstanding one too. This movie feels the opposite of this concept:  the authors wanted to give something to lots of target groups. Besides the adult mothers of adult sons it also tried to speak to African-Americans, Jews, LGBT people, urbanites, suburbanites… It gave a little something to identify with and create emotional attachment for all these and possible more types of people. In the process they lost focus and it shows. As a result, because there was no way to depict a deep or accurate picture of so many people they ended up using stereotypes of groups.

I don’t regret watching the movie, although it was more like listening, while I was going around the room doing my chores, because it was entertaining enough to run in the background. 

Sidenote: when I checked whether the movie is available on Amazon — it isn’t, although I found its book version — I came across a 2015 book titled “Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness” by Melanie Notkin. It explains how some women who others consider “childfree by choice” are not really so by choice. The reviews are mixed, but it still seems more enlightening as it includes at least some social analysis  on how society discriminates against this group.

IMDB: “A grounded, soulful, celebratory comedy about three mothers and their adult sons. The film explores the stage after motherhood, Otherhood, when you have to redefine your relationship with your children, friends, spouse, and most importantly, yourself.”