Category Archives: Film/TV

I watch, love, and hate

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.”

Trailer

Screenshot from The Banker

The power of editing; thoughts on “The Banker” (USA, 2020, 2 hr)

The banker could and should appeal to so many different kind of people: 

  • Those who believe in the rugged individualism myth – as this is a story of a person who had a goal and accomplished it through perseverance.
  • Those who enjoy the aesthetic of the 1950’s material culture – as it has beautiful cars, stylish clothes, magnificent buildings and interiors, objects of many kind stunningly shot.
  • Those who are poor – as it can give them hope that it is possible to rise above if you are hardworking and talented.
  • Those who are against racism – as it shows the triumph of an African-American man against systemic racism, although he doesn’t always prevail.
  • Those who enjoy learning about history – as this movie very much is based on a true story even if it took editorial liberties.
  • Feminists – as it shows strong female characters, although it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test.
Continue reading
Gabor Mate on authenticity and attachment

Who is a pet anyway? Thoughts on “Jexi” (USA, 2019, 84 min)

Poster for Jexi

People are cats’ pets. At least how it seems from lots of memes. Never been owned by a cat (nor the other way around) I can’t form a personal opinion on the topic. In Jexi, the 2019, often hilarious comedy, a  smartphone enhanced(?) with Artificial Intelligence takes a liking of the phone’s owner to comic and tragic consequences. There are several ways to approach our communal obsessions with our phones. One of the best one is with humor and this light movie does a good job at that.

Another one is how it is done in one of the books I am reading right now. In C. Gockel’s sci fi series, “Archangel” there is a cat-like species, called werfle whose mind is taken over at one point by extremely smart telepathic alien species. Some humans kept werfles as pets. So they thought. Meanwhile the superior aliens living in the werfles considered these very same humans their pets. It is the same in this movie, where the AI is (or wants to be) the dominant in a symbiotic relationship, while the puny human is degraded to a subservient role. Many of us have already become addicted to our phones and turn to it as an emotional coping mechanism. Just a few hours ago in John Kellden’s excellent “Conversation” Facebook group I saw a poignant distillation of this, so I will leave it here: 

There’s two cults in the western world: 
f2f: consumption digital:
consumption of shiny memes
The first cult: an island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, the size of France.
The second cult: a learned helplessness, a social cognition rot, reduced to a like button clicking creature of habit.

Setting is often as important to whether one likes a movie or not as the plot. In this case the outdoor scenes, all shots and depicting gorgeous San Francisco helped to ease this movie into my heart. I happen to have been to San Fran lots of time and love the city as a frequent tourist. Hence every time I saw an iconic location–or even not so iconic, just an average yet typical SF street– I got a little jolt of pleasure. 

A part of my education here was learning about Kid Cudi. I admit I don’t follow modern pop/rap music so I never heard of him. When I first saw his name in the movie I thought they just made up a famous-looking music star for the movie’s sake. Turns out he is real and seems to be really successful, including having sold 16 million records according to his wikipedia page. To learn more about him and close a hole in my pop-culture knowledge I searched on Youtube and watched the first video that came up. It was the “Pursuit of Happiness” from 2009 with close to 200million views. Its lyrics includes these lines: “Everything that shine ain’t always gonna be gold (hey) I’ll be fine once I get it, get it in, I’ll be good”. 

It entails the message of the film:
A, The plot revolves around the pursuit of happiness (through reaching for the impossible and following dreams.)
And B. it is not (through) a shiny object.
OK, message is delivered, even explicitly spelled out at the end in case someone doesn’t want to take the extra step to think even for a second what the movie was about. Now go watch it and have fun.

Buy/watch it on Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray or Prime Video

Official site: IMDB: “A comedy about what can happen when you love your phone more than anything else in your life.”

Trailer:

Scene from Hysteriia with Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal) showing the sink

Handwashing in the age of Hysteria

In the second scene of the 2011 movie Hysteria, set in 1880, an old school doctor confronting a young one over the existence of germs: tiny, invisible things that can make you sick. I heard that there is a TV personality who didn’t wash his hands in 10 years, because he doesn’t believe in invisible things. Amazing, 130 years later some people will opt for willful ignorance even in the smallest matters. I wonder whether he still keeps it up today, when good hygiene could save his life.

Here is a conversation later from the film, verbatim.

Charlotte Dalrymple: Occasionally we sneak in something slightly progressive. Oh…you might like this. Actually look. For example, this is where the children wash their hand. We use soap and boiled water. We do our best to keep the settlement sanitary, but you can’t imagine the filth and the germs.
Mortimer Granville: You know about germs?
Dalrymple: I do read, Doctor.
Granville: I spend years trying to convinced the medical establishment that the hand washing prevent disease and unsuccessfully. And then here you are teaching it to the children. And with great success.
Dalrymple: I know. With the parents is another story. But, eventually the children will teach them themselves.

This month most of us learned the proper way to wash our hands. What else should be teaching to our children with the hope they their children will always know it?

Buy the film on DVD or on BluRay on Amazon or watch it streaming.

IMDB: The truth of how Mortimer Granville devised the invention of the first vibrator in the name of medical science.

Trailer:

A bajnok, Il campione

Egy tisztességes(en megcsinált) film: A bajnok (Il campione, Olaszország, 2019)

Igencsak tudom értékelni amikor egy film mestermunka. Márpedig Leonardo D’Agostini rendező első filmje A Bajnok (Il Campione) az. Sok filmnyelvi ujdoságot nem kínál, viszont a történetet nemcsak, hogy tisztességesen és hatásosan elmeséli, hanem be is bizonyitja, hogy érti a szakmáját. Tujda irányítani a színészeket, jó érzeke van a dinamikához és a mise en scène-hez is. Ennél többet nem is igen vár(hat)ok el.

A történet kisé kiszámítható, de ez nem baj és nem ezért szerettem a filmet. Ahogy a vetítés előtti bevezetőben elhangzott: akit érdekel a fozi azért (is) nézze meg a filmet, akit pedig nem érdekel annak is bőven van miről szólnia. Volt is. A sztori tipikus “hero’s journey”, azaz a hős útját mutatja be Joseph Campbelli értelemben. Elindul egy egyszerünek tűnő, de érzelmileg nyilvánvalóan sérült, tehetséges focistával, akit mindenki ki akar és tud is használni az ő szeretet hiánya miatt. A film végére, viszont helyrebillen a lelki egyensúly és megtalálja az “igazi“ értékeket. Avagy a pénz helyére (vagy legalábbis mellé) beül a tudás.

Volt szerencsém megnézni ezt a filmet a 17. Olasz Filmfesztivál keretében telt ház első sorában a Puskin Moziban. Így alkalmam volt a film utáni beszélgetést is meghallgatni és fel is venni videóra. Leonardo D’Agostini rendező és Antonella Lattanzi forgatókönyvíró válaszolt a kérdésekre. Például arra,

  • hogy mi adta az inspirációt a filmre
  • hogyan választották ki a főszereplőt játszó színészt, Andrea Carpenzano-t
  • mi történik, ha egy 18 éves gyerek belecsöppen a foci zárt világába amiről mindneki azt hiszi, hogy ismeri
  • hogyan születik meg a kapcsolat egy tanár és egy önfejű fiatal között
  • hogyan lehet visszatérni egy elveszett útra
  • hogyan vettek fel a stadionbeli jeleneteket…

Ha tudsz olaszul akkor az alábbi videót élvezni fogod. Ha magyarul tudsz, akkor várd ki azokat a részt amikor a tolmács fordít. :- )

 

Iratkozz fel a YouTube csatornámra

My top dozen movies watched in 2018

My top dozen movies watched in 2018

Earlier this month I posted a list of all movies I saw last year. In the distant past I used to attempt to write sort reflections about each movie I watch. I more or less gave up this dream due to lack of time. I still dream to do it one day though. Meanwhile here are the movies I liked the most from last year and why. FYI: I am not including summaries, you can read short synopsis for each of these at the IMDB links. I only share personal reflections here.

Continue reading

Films viewed in 2018

Films viewed in 2018

It’s the tenth time that I share the list of  movies I watched in a  year:

  • 2018: 119 movies, see below
  • 2017: 127 movies
  • 2016: 86 movies
  • 2014: 105 movies
  • 2013: 204 movies
  • 2012: 210 movies
  • 2011: 243 movies
  • 2010: 142 movies
  • 2009: 140 movies
  • 2008: 153 movies

Here are some stats about the films I watched in 2018

  • 38 of them was from 2018, 29 from 2017, and 9 from before 2000
  • 73 from the USA, 13 from UK , 7 from France and the rest from 14 other countries.

(The montage of covers in large version)
Continue reading

The 64 movies added to JewishFilmFestivals.org in September 2018

Covers of the 64 movies added to jewishfilmfestivals.org in September 2018In September 2018 I added 64 movies to JewishFilmFestivals.org, see the whole list below and the covers of some of them.

  1. America (2018)
  2. Amnesia (2018)
  3. Amor (2016)
  4. Better Together: Names, Not Numbers (2018)
  5. Bobbi Jene (2017) DVD
  6. Call Me Alvy (2017)
  7. The Caregiver (2018)
  8. The Catcher Was a Spy (2018) DVD
  9. Check Please (2015)
  10. The Chosen People? A Film about Jewish Identity (2017)
  11. The Departure (2018)
  12. Egg Cream (2018)
  13. Etgar Keret: Based on a True Story (2017)
  14. Eyeless in Gaza (2016)
  15. Fractures (2017)
  16. Genesis (2018)
  17. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) DVD
  18. The Gravedigger’s Daughter (2017)
  19. Home Made (2017)
  20. I Heart NY (2017)
  21. In the Land of Pomegranates (2018)
  22. The In-Laws (1979) DVD
  23. The Interpreter (2018)
  24. Israel, Why (1973) DVD
  25. Keep Quiet (2016) DVD
  26. Kirk Douglas, The Untameable (2017)
  27. Kosher Love (2017)
  28. Laces (2018)
  29. Land of the Little People (2016)
  30. A Land Without Borders (2017)
  31. Layam (2018)
  32. Leftovers (2017)
  33. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) DVD
  34. Little Murders (1971) DVD
  35. Love, Gilda (2018)
  36. The Mossad: Imperfect Spies (2018)
  37. On the Spectrum (2018)
  38. One of Us (2017)
  39. The Outer Circle (2017)
  40. Paperock (2017)
  41. Present/Absent (2018)
  42. Red Cow (2018)
  43. Red Trees (2017) DVD
  44. Sante (2016)
  45. The Seven Men of Hanukkah (2016)
  46. Shattered: Journey into a Silent Past (2018)
  47. Signer (2018)
  48. Significant Other (2018)
  49. The Smuggler and Her Charges (2017)
  50. Strangers at Home (2016)
  51. Summer (2018)
  52. The Syrian Patient (2017)
  53. Tel Aviv Live (2016)
  54. Ten Bell Tolls (2017)
  55. A Thousand Kisses (2017)
  56. Three Identical Strangers (2018)
  57. Travelogue Tel Aviv (2017)
  58. Uncle Gloria: One Helluva Ride! (2016) DVD
  59. Violin (2017)
  60. Virgins (2018)
  61. Wait Until Dark (1967) DVD
  62. Who Will Write Our History (2018)
  63. You Only Live Once (2017)
  64. Your Honor (2017)

Movie Musing: Twice Born / Venuto al mondo (2012, Italy, 127 min)

Poster for Twice Born / Venuto al mondoBridges are multi-edged metaphors. In peace time they symbolize connections; we like to “build bridges” between people, cultures, seemingly disparate or even opposite fragments of the world, to emphasize the common ground. In wartime though it shows that there is no common ground under the bridge. Instead their symbolical meaning gets reversed. What once was a fragile road towards the and each other now becomes the place where nobody is protected. When you are on a bridge there is nowhere to run from a sniper. Nowhere to hide. By committing the brave or foolish act of stepping onto it you expose yourself to possible enemy fire.

Twice Born, with Penélope Cruz, painfully drives the point home, by showing both the way to the famous Mostar bridge, which was a symbol of multicultural understanding to the slaughtering of innocent people on various bridges. The symbolism gets even worse and stronger. As we learn towards the end of the movie the main surviving characters of the war live on an island. No bridges leading there, only ferries. They didn’t want to burn the bridges up behind themselves, but their country did it for them. The only more or less safe refuge they found was strictly off-coast.

Religion, Society, Technology

From now on, in my musings about movies and books I will pay extra attention to religion, technology and society. I believe every piece of artwork has something to say about them. Let me test this theory by pointing a few connections out.

Religion barely plays any role in the movie. At one point we learn about a couple, both of them university professors, where he is Jewish and she is Muslim. This fact is unceremoniously mentioned in passing and the point is to show that for being a loving couple they doesn’t have to be co-religionists. Much later when the bohemian photographer lost his joie de vivre and helps distributing food and supplies to people in a vest that bears a cross on its back, his scared wife compares him to a desperate Jesus figure. Yes, just like Jesus, he abandoned his self-preservation instinct in favor of helping others. For those who love him as a person it was hard to take.

What kind of pictures does the movie paint of human society? It is a war-story with its specific horrible atrocities. Hence it is best summarized by the words of a doctor, who after examining one of the victims in the movie says: “Her… orifices will heal slowly. It will take some time. I am ashamed to belong to the human race. God will not forgive us. Not even the children.” The things humans are capable of are seemingly unimaginable. The trouble is that some humans not just imagined but executed those atrocious crimes.

Everything is technology. The word’s meaning move on a large scale. Let’s narrow it down to man-made objects. For simplicity’s stake–and because that is one of my man interest–let’s further narrow it to computer technology. It only comes up in the very last scene, which is yet again a nice bridge between past and future. It is suggested to the 17 year old innocent boy, who was born twice, that the war should be explained to him by a comedian like Buster Keaton. So, on his way out of the island and the movie he snaps his cell-phone out and starts watching a Keaton film. New technology used by a new generation suggests progress and maybe, just maybe that he will grow up with more connecting bridges than killing fields. Also, him connecting to a classic oldie also gives hope that by studying history he and his generation will not repeat it.

Links:

  • Watch online (Amazon Prime) , buy DVD
  • Facebook page
  • IMDB summary: The fervent affair of the Italian Gemma and the American photographer Diego will be put to the test by the insurmountable problem of infertility, as the couple’s desperate desire to conceive will prompt them to make difficult choices. Now, sixteen years after the 1992 siege of Sarajevo, Gemma–after accepting her old friend Gojko’s invitation–will return to the once war-torn city accompanied by her 16-year-old son, Pietro, only to unearth powerful memories and bottled-up emotions. But, there, decades after her perilous escape, Gemma is also in for a terrible and tragic revelation–one that will uncover the true horrors of war and the full extent of her loss.
  • Trailer: