Movie thoughts: Taxi Driver

 

The scene

A man has his arms crossed across his chest. He stares into the camera. He challenges an unknown adversary: are you talking to me? Are you talking to me…? Whom else would you be talking to?

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Taxi Driver is about a man who returns from a foreign war to eek out a living  as a taxi driver. He lives in a crummy apartment, without any friends or family in a city that is as distant to him as it is to anyone else. He works in an underpaid job driving random people around.  He doesn’t mind who. As a taxi driver he just transports them.. but he never gets to know them.He is a  man isolated from the world.

He tries to connect to people, but soon enough when he interacts his inner strangeness surfaces to undo any approach. He will not connect.

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The whole movie gears to a point.. and at that point we still are not certain what will happen. And when violence finally erupts we might see a hero being made or a villain, but we as watchers know his inner thoughts: he  is just a pistol-shot away from being either a villain or a hero. It is a close call.

Taxi driver is a great movie as it explore the estrangement of  man  alone in a city.The story of this lonely man is well told and supported by music. The cinematography is great. Helped by the scenes of the city. A must see for the story and the combination of music and scenes.

Here some mood scene.

 

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Movie thoughts: Beasts of no nation

The scene.

 

Three young boys stand on the edge of a water basin. The fist is saluting repeatedly  the second one. The second boy tells the third one that he is training the first one to be a warrior. Less than 50 feet away of their comrades executes an enemy soldier.

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War used to be a man’s business.
I don’t  mean to write this in a melancholic way. Like something has been lost and should be shed tears over. For me it is an observation from history. A matter of  historical fact. History used to be my business a long time ago. Specifically warfare..Until I got fed up with it. I threw out all my books, but I kept one. It is called: Warfare in the Classical World.
It tells me that a warrior of the Greek age had to carry around armor that weighed something like 60 pounds. Not something a mere boy could carry to or on the battlefield..It requires a grown up man to do so. Mind you a modern day soldier still carries a hefty weight around, but if need be.. he can do without it in battle.

Modern warfare has been a kind of equalizer. That is to say: any man, when properly trained, could fire a gun that kills any other man. .And since no armor could stand up to a gun in the end, it inevitably caused the downfall of those who were privileged to afford armor. Back in those days personal wealth could provide protection in the days that knights ruled the battlefield. Common wealth provided the lowly citizen with the power to undo that. A beggar could kill a knight with something as cheap as a gun. And a lot of beggars could kill the few knights at random by using a lot of guns.

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History shows a few key moments. The battle of Arsuf; where crossbowmen ruled the field, or the battle of Agincourt where long-bowmen dominated, but more in evidence are the movies Kagemusha.. where the samurai are defeated by firearms and  The Last Samurai, that is about the final defeat of the samurai at the hands of a regular army equipped with modern firearms.

When it is possible to arm mere beggars with guns to defeat an army, it wouldn’t be illogical to arm mere boys to do the same.

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And that is what movie Beasts of No Nation is about.

Here is a movie that, without reservation or pastiche, just shows the bare truth. In modern times you can even arm a boys to kill men. And what is more: they would be better at it because sense is only developed a later age. Hence at that age.. there is no sense.. and without sense they can arbitrarily kill anyone without any reservation. You just point the finger.

They are killing machines…

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Arm boys with guns and guns and boys will rule you.. without mercy and predictability.Not because they are evil, but because that is how they are raised. They do what they do.. because they are boys.

Beasts of no nation shows this without reserve or pastiche. Without a message or anything. It just shows. It a well made movie.. and scary.

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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1365050/

http://www.metacritic.com/movie/beasts-of-no-nation

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/beasts_of_no_nation/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie thoughts:The Kill Team

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/

For who is unfamiliar with the name The Kill Team – we are, after all, not all American citizens -: it was given to themselves by a group of soldiers that were active in Afghanistan around 2010 and subsequently the name was taken over and spread by the media when these men were accused, arrested and convicted for crimes including pre-meditated murder during an incident known as the Maywand District murders(Maywand_District_murders)

The scene is set up well as we are introduced to the setting -Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century – then given some background on the soldiers in general and finally shift to the handful of individual soldiers that are the subjects of the documentary.

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In particular The Kill Team follows Adam Winfield, who had attempted to alert the army of The Kill Team’s existence prior to the Maywand incident. The actual whistle blower however was Justin Stoner. We should remind ourselves not to confuse Winfield with Stoner. The first made an attempt to alert the army, did not succeed, and then did not stop the murders from occurring. He was thus sentenced to prison and got an dishonorable discharge. Stoner did notify the army and thus the investigation was started on his instigation. He was dismissed with honorable discharge. I want to mention this because at first it seemed as if the whistle blower got punished for doing his duty.

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The documentary does an excellent job of portraying Winfield and his parents as they struggle with what he has become. We even get a moment where he cries over what has happened and tells us at one point that he once planned his own suicide. We get an in-depth view of the anguish of a man who knew what happened was wrong, what others did was wrong, what he did was wrong and did not stop it, mostly because he was unable to. It was a truly sad thing.

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But when the documentary wraps it up it feels like something is missing. In fact, besides the interviews and some spurious remarks about what happened to the key people involved, there is nothing that is lifted above the level of personal drama. Isn’t there a bigger picture?

Stoner sums it up at the end: Your job is to kill.You’re infantry.[] Well, why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?

And here the documentary fails. If soldiers are taught to kill and just kill regardless is that what we want them to do? And if we don’t, how come they do things that we don’t want them to do?
Would that not be a valid question to ask, explore and answer?

Here is a few quotes that gives us a startling insight in the armies way of thinking(see the wikipedia):

“Colonel Harry Tunnell’s (of the 5th Stryker Brigade) “inattentiveness to administrative matters … may have helped create an environment in which misconduct could occur.”

and

“The brigade, was reported to be “rife with lapses of discipline, misdirection and mixed signals about its mission.”

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“As an Army, we are troubled that any soldier would lose his ‘moral compass’ as one soldier said during his trial.”

Does it mean that soldiers get bad when their commanders allow them to go bad? Is losing your moral compass the expected behavior when a lack of proper discipline releases a soldier from the leash that his superior keeps him in check with? Like a dog?
Does morality come with rank? And has a general more morality than a private?
Is that how we see people?

But if that explains it, why were those soldiers punished at all? I mean, without their commanders keeping them on the right track, they are bound to go off in the deep end as the reports seem to suggest. They lost their moral compass.Can’t they plead insanity(as in A time to kill) or perhaps a sufficient lack of amorality?

The kill team is a well made documentary but also one that leaves something to be desired. The documentary doesn’t spent much time on the bigger picture and keeps the camera focused on the personal drama of a few individuals, which makes for a gripping tale, but not much more and that is a pity. It would have been a lot stronger if it they had asked themselves: why did this come about? It tells you the who, the what, the how but does not address the why.

Sources:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maywand_District_murders
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kill_Team

 

Review: Maleficent

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I often find myself among the cynical as it comes to movies, so when I see a movie that is heartwarming I suddenly know what I have been missing out.

Maleficent is such a heartwarming movie because it wants to make you understand the reason for the actions of the ‘evil’ person in an old fairy tale. It also incorporates a deeper tale as it shows the consequence of one (impulsive) action(the curse), which inevitably results in a series of actions that cause an inescapable result.

Maleficent is a magical being wronged by Stefan, a human friend who abuses her trust. He desires to be king, and therefore he steals her wings. The irony is that he only steals the wings and does not kill her as he was asked to do, he cannot bring himself to do it. His actions are therefore at the one hand selfish, but on the other hand: he also shies away from outright killing Maleficent.
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But stealing what is dear to her, her ability to fly, makes her hate him. So she plots revenge and when her old friend Stefan, now king Stefan gets a daughter she shows up at the celebration in the palace to place a curse on the child: she will prick herself on a spinning wheel the day she turns 17 and fall asleep until a true love will kiss her. And since Maleficent does not belief in true love, she is sure that it will never happen.

And this starts the tale. For Maleficent keeps track of her cursed victim, who grows up to be a lovely young woman. It puts her in a dubious position because to fulfill the curse the girl has to survive dangers and therefore she feels the need to rescue her unaware and unwanted charge. And thus the wicked witch thaws towards the girl.
But alas the curse can not be denied and inevitably the tale proceeds towards it’s predicated ending. Now Maleficent no longer has to make sure that the girl survives, she wants to rescue her from the curse. But how to do it?
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I won’t tell you the end, but the story gripped me. You probably see the twist at then coming from miles away, but I still find it a nice one and for once: what does it matter. This is a fairy tale and a lovely story.

However I admit that there are some things wrong with the movie. For instance, instead of explaining the actions of an ‘evil’ person, the ‘evilness’ attributed to Maleficent is in essence shifted on the shoulders of king Stefan. Now he becomes the evil guy as he has stolen her wings and turns into an unreasonable, uncaring and hatefu tyrant. It is sad that could not have him act withing the understandable limitations of humanity in that he intended to do good, but he ended up doing wrong. Now he is just the new bad guy.

And then there is one thing that was no pushed far enough. At some moments the relation between Sleeping Beauty Aurora and Maleficent seems almost of a lesbian nature. It could have been played upon more deliberately in my opinion. This would have given the movie an extra layer. However, considering that a lot of people would not understand nor like it and since this is a Disney film I can understand that they went as far as they went but not one step further.

The drill down: Angelina Jolie plays a marvelous Maleficent in a heart warming story that gives a twist on a well known fairy tale. You end up with a smile and a tear.

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LEA 10: The Oracle by Asmita Duranjaya.

The Oracle is an art installation made by Asmita Duranjaya at LEA 10. Lea 10 is an area that is made available by the Linden Endowment for Art to promote Secondlife and art.

The art installation is also meant as a game and a story that one can experience. The movie is made with this concept in mind.

Music is by DeVenus and called Mind. It can be found at CCmixter, and on You Tube.  I edited it a bit.

The movie is my own creation, that is the way I operate.

I have licensed the movie under the normal copyright at the moment because I have to figure out how different licenses work in the context of one product.

You are welcome to any comments regarding anything.

Oh and the neko: that is me.

Merit Coba.