Story telling: In the heat of the night 2/2

In the hunt for key scenes in movies, it was hard to make a decision for In the heat of the Night. In an earlier post I showed one scene somewhat one-third into the movie where Virgil Tibbs is sitting at a train station waiting for the train so he can leave the town of Sparta with its oppressive atmosphere of racism.
Another scene I find intriguing happens about halfway into the movie. Virgil Tibbs and Police Chief Bille Gillespie visit the local big wig plantation owner Endicott played by Larry Gates. The scene is set in a greenhouse where Endicott is tending to  Orchids. After an intro, which is in itself epic, talking about orchids and comparing the meticulous tending of orchids to the tending of blacks the two policemen seem about to leave.

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After the discussion about the orchids the suspicion against Endicott grows as fern was found in the car of the victim and fern is used in the cultivation of or orchids. Gillespie makes a move towards the exit.

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In these scenes we see Endicott change from amicable condescending, to downright condescending and then the quarter drops. The key trigger is Gillespie who basically uproots the exchange by suggesting to leave.
And you can see Endicott, beautifully played by Gates get suspicious and hostile. For why did they come here?

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This is a classic WTF moment.

The next scenes move the story towards the slap scene.

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Now the roles switches, staying perfectly formal and neutral Tibbs explains their presence, but it is obvious that he feels and acts in no way that Endicott finds acceptable. The ‘Negro’ becoming the dominant one and questioning him.

 

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Gillespie’s presence in this scene is important. He seems like a neutral bystander just watching what is happening.. Steiger plays Gillespie in a way that it is hard to get what he is thinking. People around him vent their opinions, but he never seems to have one. This is a handy way, for people often take it that by having a clear opinion he seems to agree with them.  As the movie progresses it becomes clearer that a kind of respect is growing between him and Tibbs. At the end of the movie this results in a scene in which Gillespie turns around and tell Tibbs to take care of himself.

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At this point Endicott drops all pretense of civility and enraged slaps Tibbs in the face.
Tibbs instantly returns the favor, to the astonishment of everyone.

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We are now halfway through the movie and Gillispie, a sheriff from a town deep in the south sees a ‘negro’  slap a white man. But this particular negro is a fellow policeman and the suspicion that Endicott might have been involved, which is what Tibbs believe or like to believe, might have gotten hold with Gillespie too.  And  so he doesn’t act. Or rather he acts by not acting. Hence Endicott’s reaction:

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The interesting part about the movie isn’t the investigation of the murder. It is pretty pedestrians as murders come. On the face of it, it seems like a movie about racism. And while that is true, it is more about the relation between Gillespie and Tibbs and how this unlikely pair of policemen work together and find common ground and respect. And thus racism might disappear.

Movie Thoughts: Saving Private Ryan

The scene

Captain Miller slumps against the wreck of an  abandoned motorcycle with a German bullet stuck in his chest. A dust cloud hides something big. Suddenly it is torn apart by the huge shape. A Tiger tank rumbles over the bridge towards Miller..  Miller draws his pistol and aims at the tank. He squeezes of one shot.. Then a second.. A third..Another… bang.. BANG. The tank explodes in a huge ball of fire.

 

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History it ain’t.

To understand Saving Private Ryan is to watch the official trailer. The story is given to us in a 136 seconds nutshell . A mother –  the father isn’t mentioned – loses three of her sons to war, two alone during the invasion of Normandy alone, that last great invasion during that last great war(so the movie has it), the fourth son is lost somewhere in Normandy at a place called Neuville. His exact location and fate are unknown. Nevertheless a band of brothers is send out to save this one man as to spare the mother the loss of her last son.

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The trailer keys us in on a few more things. For one there is not one shot with a German in it. It isn’t about them at all and their presence is more a matter of  necessity that an actual attempt to portray Germans at that time. During the whole movie we will not be meeting any Germans but one, who is portrayed as an ugly, cowardly  murdering man spouting foreign lines(his German is atrocious). French civilians also feature, for convenience sake they happen to speak English. The movie is not about them either.

The movie isn’t even about the question whether one man should be saved at the cost of another. Or  others.

The movie is about memory.  The clue is given at the beginning. We start with an unknown old man at a  war memorial cemetery. He isn’t named. We don’t know where he is. At the end of the scene the old man stares into the screen and the movie fades into June 1944. Normandy. This particular part of the beach is called Dog Green. Is this his memory? Or is this Captain Miller’s memory? 

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What we see is what that old man thinks occurred. It is the distorted memory of one man. It is a story he gobbled together in his mind, from survivors, from movies, from documentaries, from books and from people he met. After fifty odd years this is what he has in his mind. And therefore things happen that did not happen.

The movie reports that no tanks  reached the beach but as a matter of fact, Dog Green, the part of Omaha beach where Miller lands, had ample tank support. 40 out of 48 tanks actually made it to that beach.
The water  is colored red by blood. Alas it takes a lot of blood to do that. It is unlikely.
It takes them about thirty minutes to clear the beach and pierce the enemy positions. In reality it took them much longer.
Miller and men are send from Omaha to Neuville to find Ryan. Trace the route and one sees it an odd route to take, especially considering Omaha being heavily opposed, while Utah, much closer to the airborne troops, would have been a far better jump off position.
Did Tiger tanks and SS men assault a group of Americans defending a bridge near a place called Ramelle? There is no place called Ramelle in Bretagne and there were no SS and Tiger tanks until weeks later, and those were mostly deployed against the English sector and the connection between the English and American part. To drive a stake into what was believed to be the weakest part.
During that fight we even get an interesting image of Ryan. He isn’t fighting the Germans, he is screaming in terror doing nothing at all. He isn’t even in the battle. 

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Saving Private Ryan is what Ryan thinks about when he walks over the cemetery towards Miller’s grave. He stands before the grave and asks himself the question.

Am I good man?

At the end we do not get an answer. James asks his wife, but she hesitates and then sort of admits it in an ambivalent way. But we will actually never know, because how could we? We simply do not know anything about Ryan, but that he has family and that he says he tried to live a good life. But what does that tell us?

The question extends further into: was I worth the deaths of this man and all the others?  It is another question that never gets answered.

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The movie doesn’t actually turn around this, but around the idea that a group of men go out and do something because that is what they have to do. Not for any lofty reason. Miller says it in the trailer: if getting Ryan out is going to get me home, then that is what I will do.

He has to do a job, so doing the job is what he does.

The funny thing is: he had no choice in the matter.

There is a deeper message behind the movie. That warfare is something you do because you do it, not for something like patriotism, or honor, or god, or liberty, but because it is a job that you do. And here lies a great danger. For once a soldier is just a guy paid like any other guy, you can point the finger at anyone as long as you pay him. The soldier is no longer a citizen,  he has become a soldier of fortune: a paid killer.

As Vito Scaletta in the Game Maffia II says: in the war I killed who the president pointed at, now -back in the US- I kill whomever pays me points at.

It might be a dark future that gets revealed here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie review: American Sniper

american-sniper

Just like Fury isn’t a movie about World War II, American Sniper isn’t about the Iraq wars.
Nor is it about 9/11 and it’s aftermath.
And certainly not about an American Sniper.
This movie is about America.

This is what a hero should look like according to yourself, Eastwood tells us.. Did you not decorate him? Did you not buy his biography in droves. Did you not read the book from cover to cover? Did you not gulp down the story of an all American blond haired, blue-eyed Caucasian guy with a pretty girl-next-door wife, who goes out to protect the greatest country on earth?
A man of duty?
A man of inner nobility?
An all American hero?

This is why it doesn’t matter whether the movie is set in Iraq, the Outer Hebrides or Middle Earth.
This is why it doesn’t matter who the enemy is.
And this is why it doesn’t matter whether the movie contains a truth or not.
The only thing that matters is the larger than life depiction of an unblemished hero.

And Eastwood doesn’t hold back and goes one step further.
The American sniper invades, for it matters not.
The American sniper shoots enemy soldiers, because they are not.
The American sniper takes out women and kids, because they are not.
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Any unease that an American soldier might have shot a someone in violation of the Geneva-convention is taken away by clearly depicting the enemy for what they are: they are orcs

Is that what really happened, America? Was every civilian death such a clear case of the enemy using any means whatsoever and thus justifying a reaction in kind? Did you really wait for the civilians to show their hostile intent before gunning them down?Did the fog of war not exist? Or did you flatten their houses and mow them down with machine guns before they could become a threat? All to protect the greatest country on earth?

Perhaps it was Eastwood’s intent, or perhaps not, but the movie is a mirror to what America is not. The more shinier the American sniper becomes the starker the contrast with reality this picture is.

The American sniper is all what an American soldier should be like..
So unlike reality..

Story-telling: The hobbit – The battle of the five armies.

Yesterday I saw the Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies, and wrote a short scathing critique of the movie on metacritic. This third episode is simply a long series of fights interspersed with some dialog. However, besides giving criticism I want to learn from such movies, so I am going to write a few short notes the story telling in this episode.

The biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that Jackson wanted to make an epic movie that mirrored Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit wasn’t enough of an epic book to provide the material for such a tale. In fact the book reads as a bedside story the kind a parent tells to one of his kids just before sleeping. The hobbit is the kid undergoing the adventures in a world where magic and magical creatures exist. A wondrous tale of adventure and danger ending with treasure and the defeat of a mean dragon.

Because the story lacked body, it got expanded.. Hence the introduction of Azog, the orc, the addition of a love story between an elf and a dwarf and the adding in of a fight between Sauron and the good powers.One can be against adding such extra stories, but in itself I find this neither good or bad. You might not agree with it, but it doesn’t make for a good or bad tale merely because something is added that wasn’t in the original book or, the opposite, because something was left out.
To a certain extent a movie maker is at liberty to do whatever he or she wants with his movie, although if a movie maker changes too many things in the story, he or she might probably have to change the title to be fair to the original book or writer.

The problem with the last entry in this trilogy is twofold. The lack of things to tell becomes glaring obvious and what is added never feels part of the overall story as it doesn’t integrate well.The effect is that story telling suffers.

But how can this happen while at the same time so much is going on? In fact.. there is so much going on you might think that having enough to tell is the least of Jackson’s problem. Yet at the other hand; there is nothing much to tell either. This sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

theparty-
The party: a lot of dwarves and a hobbit. While having many dwarves with their own personalities in the movie is nice, it is a bit wasted as few get the attention they need. Less dwarves with more story might have been better for the story line.

The issue is that Jackson doesn’t seem to focus. He wants to do a lot, but never concentrates on a single thing.
Even with the massive cast he already has( the thirteen dwarves, a hobbit, bard, Gandalf, beorn, the elf king, the bad orc) he still adds more, like Alfrid the side kick of the master of the town who he made up himself(why if he already had the master of the town to fill that role) and Legolas, who isn’t in the book and could have been left out because he will get a big role to play in the lord of the ring movie. And he still adds more. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel, Elrond all put in an appearance to add an extra scenes that feel like filler.  And of course Radagast is in it too. And if that is not enough he adds a love interest for the dwarf Kili.
In fact he has pretty enough of stuff to tell. Like Thorin getting greedy and the impending conflict with the townsfolk.  And the battle between the five armies would have in itself given enough to tell about.

Ironically Jackson resembles Thorin in that he sits on a stack of stories that is more than enough to make for  good movie but he wants to add more and more. He hurries from one scene to the next, never giving enough time for things to develop. Like for instance the relation between Tauriel and Killi feels just rushed.

What than can we learn from this?

Kill your darlings
You and I have heard this before. Leave out the things that do not really belong to the center story.Legolas could have been left out. Like Alfrid, Radagast. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel: they are are superfluous. I am not against the introduction of Tauriel. I actually thought it was a good idea, but I don’t think the love story with Kili was such a good idea. Elves and Dwarves somehow don’t mix. Perhaps it would have been better to hook her up with Bard. Which might have been too much of a reprisal of the love between Arwen and Aragorn, but at least more believable.

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Cool but superfluous.

Concentrate on a few individuals
Unless you are planning a television series, it’s probably wise to concentrate on just a few characters. Thorin would have been an obvious choice. Bilbo of course, perhaps Bard and Tauriel.  Four characters that we follow that can be paired. Thorin with Bilbo.. Bard with Tauriel.

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Legolas: could have been left out the story. Tauriel could have filled in.

Make them change
Thorin was a great character with his faults and as such I think he was probably the best of the characters. We could see him change, make wrong choice and at the end he changes and become the great king he wants to be.
Bilbo we see change from a reluctant bumbling hobbit into a brave hobbit that does the right thing when Thorin doesn’t. It leads to betrayal. It is the ultimate setup for a good storyline.
Bard was a character that should have been worked upon. He could have been given some weaknesses that either make him change or make him a hero. He could have been a glory hound for instance,  believing himself to be marked out for glory from the start. Maybe he should have been portayed as a kind of William Tell. Perhaps he was even a poacher and that is where he knows Tauriel from.

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Gold! Gold! Gold! It is the MacGuffin in this movie.

Tension
Tension between characters make for a good story. It would be obvious that Thranduil would collide with Thorin. This could have been made more complicated by a relation between Bard and Tauriel  which might be souring the relations between Bard and Thranduil, who are allies opposing Thorin initially. The master of the laketown could have been give a kind of secondary role in opposing Bard. Since Bard claims the right of rule while the master is an democratic elected ruler. This could be done with all the available characters with the need to add or change things too much. Of course it would require some additional writing and some additional acting.

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Thranduil: he should have been the real mover of things. He was bound to clash with Thorin. Have him oppose a relation between Bard and Tauriel and we have a hefty complex situation as they are both rivals and allies.

Wrap things up neatly

One thing that perhaps needed to be done is wrapping the story line up. The Hobbit feels rushed and drawn out at other times. When the battle is won, the orcs are defeated and the next moment we see Gandalf and Bilbo in a very long end scene in which Bilbo say farewell to Gandalf travels towards his house where they are selling his property because they believe him to be dead.It is a strangely long out end scene.

Instead we do not get any idea what happened to everyone else. It isn’t really wrapped up neatly.

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It might be the cgi that many hate, but it I find it marvelous nevertheless.
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Cgi. I am not actually opposed to cgi as many seem to be. It can certainly help in the story-telling.

These then are some quick notes about the movie. I hope to add some more later.

Henry and Kristl travelled to Solaris(2002)

——

 

“It’s a George Clooney movie, so I bet we get lots of women wanting to see this,” Henry grinned, “Clooney smiling; Clooney sleeping; Clooney talking; Clooney looking hurt..Women will get a meltdown watching this movie.”

 

“Unless you’re a hardcore lesbian, I guess.” Henry continued and then glanced at Kristl, with her short cut spiky white hair, her firmly built frame, roughened black leather jacket, covered with buttons from demised eighties punk bands, worn black jeans, a tank top with some anti-establishment shout written across it and battered high laced combat boots., “Or a nun.”

 

“All this because of Clooney? Like you like to watch kickass babes in scanty clothes waving swords about?,” Kristal turned towards Henry, raising an eyebrow.

 

“You know, Kristl,  a movie is eye candy, why else watch a movie?  If it’s not eye candy, you better of reading a book, or listening to an audio play. Make up your own images. Have your own Clooney version.”

 

“It is not all about eye candy.. I mean it has to have something going for it, like a gripping story and characters that you care for, or at least are interested in. What is the expression: to root for?”

 

“Sure, but movies have a huge eye candy factor built in to them. Just like television series like CSI, filled with these eye blinding pretty people. Not one ugly, fat, old or decrepit  person around.  Who wants to see ugly people if you can watch pretty people. You suffer though, knowing you  never be as pretty as they are.”

 

“Like the female lead, Natascha McElhone. Eye candy too? With her vaguely British accent, her slender frame and her bedroom eyes. Although aloof and distant at the same time.”

 

“I was guessing you would mention her ,” Henry smiled.

 

“Well, there aren’t that many people in the movie. About four and two are women. ”

 

“It’s why it’s a George Clooney movie. You can see it even on the poster: George Clooney’s name is above the title, almost in the same large and bold letters as the title. Heck, they could have scrapped the title and called it Clooney.”

 

“ Would that work? I wouldn’t go to a movie just because Clooney is in it. Although, I would also not not go because Clooney is in it.”

 

“Not not go?”

 

“Stay away.”

 

“Right…”

 

“But maybe you are right, maybe it’s a Clooney movie, for it hasn’t got much else going for it. I vaguely recalled having seen the first movie and even read the book and these were things filled with mystery and longing. Like they attempt in this movie, but the actions of the people are so odd,” Kristl said.

 

“Like killing his  wife?,” Henry said.

 

“That scene is strange. You meet your long dead wife and the first thing you come up with is putting her in escape pod and ejecting her into space. Like who would ever do such a thing? You must be a complete cold hearted bastard to do that. Maybe that is why he is called Kelvin in the movie: as in cold? It is like someone remaking Solaris, but with some action movie in mind. Instead of wondering, you kill, cause it must be malevolent. Ejecting her into space.. is kinda cruel, ” Kristl said.

 

“Whatever floats your boat, eh,” Henry grinned.

 

“And the reason why they send Clooney to Solaris is so contrived. We need you to go to the space station at some planet called Solaris, because we lost contact with it and the military team we send, but we know that you have special skills to deal with the situation. So we send you, one guy, off to take charge of a situation that  a group of scientists and a group of soldiers could not handle. One wonders what those special skills are.”

 

“Well, he is a looker, that is what he is.”

 

“And then they ruined the movie at the end. Of course, they couldn’t let a mistery be a mystery, they had to put in some kind of closure.  So in very blunt scene George is absolved of all he has done towards the fake Rhye and the real.. Do not worry George, all is forgiven.”

 

“Why is that bad? I mean..”

 

“Because it’s totally at odds at the idea. Solaris is a mystery, nobody knows what is going on. Solaris does something to the people, for good or bad. It puts our humanity in the front, it is not something specific to absolve people of their sins..  Soderberg basically took the idea, twisted it about and then made something that resembled the previous movie and the book, but diverted from the essence by trying to take away the mystery, the strangeness. And he finally kills it by having the Solaris created Rhye expressing forgiveness.”

 

“I still liked the movie, actually.”

 

“Well, it’s not a bad movie, really. I think that it is just not a good remake. Had it been called Clooney, a movie inspired by Solaris, it would have been a good movie, but now it’s something like: Solaris, a lost love found in space: having nothing much to do with the original and the book at all.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

“You know, you resemble Clooney a bit,” Kristl said.

 

“Really?”

 

“If you build up some muscle, add some weight to that wiry frame of yours, shaved properly – instead of running around half shaven, and cut your hair shorter, then you do.”

 

“I shall take that as a compliment.”

 

“Whatever makes your boat float.”

 

“You were waiting to say that.”

 

“I bet I do.”

 

“No worries though. I won’t hold it against you..”

 

“Thanks. Want to take a look at my brand new escape pod?”

 

“Offering me a free ride?”

 

“A grande tour de l‘espace.”

 

“Sounds sophisticated.”

 

“It is, but it’s no trouble at all. Just have to find the eject button.”

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0307479/

Henry and Kristl spaced out on The Road(2009)

sun

“Bleak, bleaker, bleakest. Is there a word that would top bleakest?”

“Sunshine,” Henry said.

“Sunshine?” Kristl’s jaw dropped and she gave Henry a look of incredulity.

“Yes. It certainly would top bleakest.”

“I am somehow missing…”

“After the rain comes sunshine. Every dark cloud has silver lining. Come winter, come summer. So despair will inevitably result in..?”

“I am not sure that..”

“Sure you are sure.. look at yourself,” Henry beamed

“What?”

“Well, you are not hesitant to point out that you do not like war, while having spent a lot of time reading about it, watching war movies and writing about it. What would you say would be the lesson from all of that?”

“That war is hell and a waste of time and lives?”

“Sure.”

“So what does that say about this movie?”

“That bleak movies suck, can be turned of f and one goes to watch a bunch of nice movies that have uplifting nice endings and then you suddenly feel a lot better about watching films like,” Henry paused for a moment, “like…romantic comedies.”

“Those would top bleakest to,” Kristl shivered and then continued, “They make me feel down. Like this movie does.”

Henry suddenly rose, walked out of the viewing room and returned a few minutes later with a cup of tea which he handed to Kristl, “Have this yourself a nice cup of tea.”

Tea, Henry knew, was something handy to hand out. Even the most dedicated addict would not turn down a cup of tea and it gave you a nice feel to drink something warm.

“How come you are so..”

“Undepressed?”

“Yes, I mean. Geez,  this movie is.. I mean, well the world turns to shit and everyone is dead or dying and the only livestock that is left to eat are other humans. And even when they are not trying to have you for dinner they want to rob you or profit in another way from you.  And this in a landscape drained of color except for sepia and grim gray. The only thing that is positive is the dedication of the father to the son.  But that is even more depressing as it is either naive or totally at odds with what is happening. So what is the point ? At some they finally end up at a place where we hear the father says that at the other side of the ocean a father and a boy, just like them, are probably sitting and wondering if there is a better place to go? If there is no hope, why not take the gun and shoot your son and yourself before you run out of bullets? If you love him, would you not do that to spare him the suffering that lies ahead? I do not even understand why they would drag on when..,” Kristl swallowed hard.

Henry sat down next to Kristl and put his arm around her and for once she did not stiffen the first few seconds, “Gosh, Kristl it is just a movie.”

“A well acted movie. Well shot. I mean.. look at the cinematography, but in the end it is  not much different from say a movie like…. ‘The hobbit, the desolation of Smaug.’ Or one of the Lord of the Rings movie  for that matter,” Henry said.

“WHAT?”

“Well, it is about a make believe world, with make believe people, undergoing make believe experiences and acting in a make believe manner.”

Kristl smiled thinly at that, “You can not compare…this to.. It is in a whole different category.”

“Or say.. ‘Go west’, by the Marx Brothers,” Henry continued.

“But that is even… I mean that is an absurd movie.. With absurd people in it..totally wacky.. That is what a Marx brothers movie is..”

“Remember the train station scene you showed me once? It is from that movie”

“Yes.. That is very funny, but…”

“Totally silly over the top nonsense.”

“Yes.. but…”

“Did it make you laugh?”

“Well.. yes.. it..”

“Does it make you feel better thinking about it?”

“Yes..”

“Some people have that with romantic comedies.”

“Yes..but…”

“And so… wait.. Listen to this little story?”

“What..”

“A guy is hitting himself on the head with a hammer and in comes another guy who asks him.. why do you do that? Well.. he says, it feels so nice when I stop doing it.”

“That is absurd.”

“So there is your answer.”

“Huh?”

“I feel so undepressed because the movie ended. Somewhat cheerfully than expected. But it is done.”

“Uh.”

“In one movie one actor concludes a process by throwing a ring into the fires of the mountain after being beset upon by evil beings while wandering through a desolate landscape. In this movie they do the same, more or less, except the ring is now a boy and they do not throw him into the fires.. well not literally.”

“That is some comparison.”

“Yup, except this movie is more bleak because no doubt we are in a depression, so movies like these get made, just like we had this upsurge of disasters movie in the seventies of the last century, with earthquakes, meteors and global nuclear war threatening earth. And now we have that again. As sign of the times. But it’s just as much nonsense as any other movie.. including ‘Go West.”

“That one is at least funny.”

“So let’s watch that as an antidote to the bleakness of movies like The Road.”

“Let’s..”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/

Henry and Kristl dwell on Dune(2000)

“So that was Dune.” Henry said with a wry smile. Halfway through the movie they had started a game of backgammon and followed the series in a half hearted way. Then they had enjoyed a Chinese- Indonesian take out diner. Kristl had suggested to order it as it was her time to cook and she had given up on cooking some years ago because she her interpretation of a meal seemed to differ from the tastes of others.
Kristl nodded.
“It was funny. I mean it almost looked like the movie of Lynch, but with lesser actors, lame dialog and fake landscapes. It was funny but because there is already a movie the series seems a bit superfluous.”

“Yes.. it is.” Kristl said.

“But we watched it.” Henry said.

“Some movies are very nice as background imagery. You just can follow the whole thing even if you fail to see parts of it. Dune is like that.” Kristl nodded.

“So what is this?” Henry pointed at a white plastic container.

“It is called babi pangang. Just eat it. I’ll mention what was in it after wards.”

“Not something like monkey flesh or insect bodies?” Henry shuddered.

“No, it’s mundane.” Kristl shook her head.

“Anyway, what was your favorite scene?” Henry asked.

“Not so much a scene.. more I found the clothes the princess was dressed in pretty. She had the proper figure for these fashion dresses. Same with the emperor. So it’s not a particular scene, but more how they were dressed.”

“Strange to hear that from you. I would not have figured looks were something that interested you.” Henry looked Kristl up and down. What he saw was a woman in her mid forties wearing fade jeans trouser, heavy combat boots and a leather jacket that resembled one of those that were the fashion in the eights. Kristl, so Henry thought, has never gone beyond the punk of the eighties.. Fashion wise she was frozen or retro, because everything became retro after a while.

“The fact I look like left over punker from the eighties, does not mean I have no eye for beauty and fashion. I can not wear it, but I can enjoy looking at it.” Kristl laughed, “But what was your memorable scene?”

“The moment the Harkonnen baron was poisoned by that little girl. It was funny to see the surprised look on his face.” Henry laughed and then made gargled sounds.

“It is interesting you mention a girl doing that. Because I was not really impressed with the story and specifically with the role of women in the movie.”

“Ah. Not impressed means usually that you were offended.”

“That is a good description. The women in the movie have about two roles. Women either are helpless creatures good for breeding or they are backstabbing schemers not above sleeping with someone just to gain an advancement.“

“Ah.”

“So, no I was not impressed by the whole. But how did you like the story, Henry?” Kristl said
“It was okay, nothing remarkable. I liked the idea of the spice. If I am correct that spice is important because space travel over vast distances at great speed can only be accomplished by using spice because it allows you to see into the future. That is something I remember. It is actually not really mentioned in that series, only that without it you can’t travel in space. What do you think?”

“I think that if the story of the books resembles that of the movie in general outlook then it is a tacky badly written story. Let’s take the overall idea: there is an emperor that for reasons unknown puts the noble house Atreides in charge of the single most important planet in the universe, yet he fears the growing influence of those same Atreides to the point that he helps the Harkonnen in regaining the planet through bloody murder and open warfare. What is even more surprising is that the influence and respect that the Atreides have among the houses seems not to translate itself into any noticeable form of power.

And then this whole Harkonnen plot is visibly condoned by the emperor and secretly supported by him, but that does not seem to have any repercussion for him or for the Harkonnen.
Everything is contrived and would not work in reality. And while I can accept a certainly liberty for a story, it remains reality that determines what is likely to work or not. Fantasy, however pushed it its limits, is limited by reality.”

“But everything is just unbelievable. The good guys are very good and the bad guys are very bad. And then these fremen are so nonsensical with their system of killing each other of to establish a ruler. It is utter nonsense because no system like that can work. There has never been a society like that because such a society would rip itself apart and the fact that someone is good in fighting does not mean that he(it is always a he) is also good in making decisions or in any other skill that you require to lead a community. Therefore it is overall a badly written nonsensical story.”

“Hmm.. Lucky it is just a story.” Henry said

“Yes, it is.”

“And this series is just superfluous?”

“Yes, you can watch the movie instead.. it is a lot shorter and better acted and so on and as nonsensical as this series. “

“Hah”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0142032/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Henry and Kristl took the Bridge at Remagen

“Once more over the bridge, my dear friends.” Henry waved a stick around and was wearing a bucket for a helmet. Kristl had noted that this bucket was quite versatile as it functioned as helmet from any time period and place and universe, including ancient roman times, fantasy worlds like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Sometimes Henry would add something to make it fit the mood. Like adding a plume to it to signify it being a knights helmet.

However today the bucket was sprayed over for the occasion with army green and was a Second World War helmet. It would function like that for some days to come.

“I thought that it was Shakespeare who had some king say that.” Kristl mused.

“I made it up, although it was inspired by Shakespeare. King Henry the Fifth said something like, once more unto the breach, my dear friends..”

“Shakespeare.. I never took you much for a lover of the arts.”

“I saw the movie.”

“Ah..”

“So over the bridge, my dear friends.” Henry waved his hand.

“Yes?”

“And they took it. Right up the fritzes asses.”

“Uhm..Lucky for them. I think they tried to blow it up. It must have been painful to push a plunger and nothing happens. Or it went boom but not  boom enough. Like in the movie.
Here is an interesting notion. Should a movie about the historical taking of a bridge be historically accurate or not?”

“What do you mean. Was the movie not historically correct?”

“Not everything. I read that the movie actions displayed in the movie were not although the background was: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remagen#The_capture_of_the_bridge

“Wadda you know. The whole fighting was made up.”

“More or less.”

“But it was an exciting movie. A bit cynical.  Very sixties and seventies. It reminded me a bit of Kelly’s Heroes, but more serious.”

“I think Vietnam was already having an effect. Like it shows the enemy, Germans, as normal people. In fact this is something I haven’t seen for a while. I recall the Longest Day and Bridge too Far being the same way. And of course Gettysburg, but that is probably because the opponents were American. So here Germans are not crazy creeps that shave their heads bald and seem to take pleasure from killing other people by stabbing them to death slowly.. These are normal people; just opponents. Of course such movies are very disturbing, for what is a movie without a proper loathsome enemy?”

“Well, it makes it less justified to kill them. It is less troubling to kill someone when he deserves it.”

“There is even this scene where Gazarra kills  that German boy who is shooting at them. When Gazarra finds out it is a boy he killed,  Segal tells him to plunder the corpse another day. assuming Gazarra is again robbing the dead for souvenirs.  Sort of: war is not fun idea.“

“Hmm.. I rather have them as heroes, then as these disgruntled figures.” Henry frowned.

“You know. I always find that typical Hollywood or even American. The idea that the enemy has to be loathsome so we don’t feel bad when we kill them. I realise now that it’s not typical for Hollywood or America to do so. Many nations cast their enemies into the role of despicable repulsive beings. I recall an Indonesian movie where  the Dutch are cast in the roles of  dumb greedy foreign oppressors. An interesting aspect is how these roles change over time.. In the old days for instance Arabians were cast in the role of noble warriors, remember Lawrence of Arabia? The Turks were the enemy, so they were revolting individuals. I think there is even one scene where Turks rape Lawrence.. or at least it is suggested. Now the roles are probably reversed.“

“Well.. in the end it has to be an exciting movie. Where people fight each other and the good side wins.”

“Even if it is all silly and unhistorical.” Kristl said.

“The problem with most people is that they take movies far too serious. They start to think that the nonsense that is seen is the truth.” Henry said, “My rule is simple. Whatever is on a screen, big or small, is entertainment or opinion and therefore not true. Let is just be good at entertaining for it will never be good at  telling the truth.”

“The power of imagery. One false image says more than thousand lines of historically documented, investigated and checked information. Historians must be pulling their hairs when they see nonsense become fact, because history has become democratic. When the majority believes something to be the truth.. it becomes the truth because wikipedia makes it the truth.” Kristl said.

“Whatever.. I like this movie. It had some guys bickering with each other, but finally working together to capture the bridge.”

“Well, I find the matter of fact almost cynical attitude better than the hopelessly over romanticized mood displayed in…..” Kristl mumbled.

Henry put a hand on her mouth thus stopping the last words and  then he put an outstretched finger on his lips, “We will not compare this one to another one.” Henry said. “Kapish?”

Kristl shook her head in acknowledgment

Bridge at Remagen on imdb

More information on my weebly site

Henry and Kristl barely survived Gettysburg

“Oh my god..”  Kristl  was holding her head between her hands.

“Did you know there is an extended version.” Henry gave her a rueful look.. It is only seventeen minutes longer. So well,  if you plan to sit through the whole movie, you might as well add the extra eight percent of the extended version. Just for kicks.

“Oh my god.” Krist repeated as if in trance..

“Must have been really cool to be one of those guys in uniform. One with the guys.  Playing at soldier;the biggest danger being to get a sunburn. That is what it basically is:  a reenactment movie with established actors filling in the important roles. And one has to mention Jeff Daniels; he was great..”

“Oh my god.”

“I can imagine those reenactors sitting together in a shack to display this movie: their movie. Son, that is us marching there and that is Wily Bee. And there is Sam Navarra, you know he runs the grocery store down the road.. And in the background just between the legs of Lee’s horse you see Luke “the Doc” Mcpharil tending the wounded.  And that there is…” Henry smiled, “You see that picture?”

“Oh my…”

“You can stop now.”  Henry grabbed Kristls arm, “You made your point.”

“It is so boring.They should make two movies: one for the civil war buffs and another for the rest of the world. The last one should be the first but cut by half and arranged around Jeff Daniels. And perhaps throw in some maps so we have an idea where he is.”  Kristl said.

“Hmm”

“There is almost no dialogue, mostly speeches. The kind where  they stare into the distance as if it is the future and they say something like: this battle will be remembered by future generations because they will know we stood here with proud hearts… etc.”

“They did it all the time and that is why most battles were such muddled affairs.” Henry said

“Commander.. what are your orders?” Henry mimicked a voice with southern accent..

“Sorry soldier, got to ride to yonder hill to make a speech meant for destiny! And away was Lee, leaving the tactics of the battle in the hands of whomever was willing to supply the asker with orders.” Henry said.

“Oh my…”

“I tell you the most important lesson of this movie though. Which can only truly be evaluated when watching another movie which is called Civil War reenactment documentary. About everyone interviewed must have been about  thirty pounds heavier than their civil war counterparts. Which is probably why you never see them much up close. If they could learn anything of this is that the civil war soldier was more likely to die from a bullet than from obesity, while now it’s probably the other way around. “

Kristl shrugged, “I can not understand why people want to reenact warfare. Especially when it gets pervaded with an air of snobbery like: we are doing something worthwhile here, while you are doing not. If you want delve into history as part your identity crisis there are so many peaceful ways.”

“Ah peaceful. Nobody makes a movie about non-violent stuff, because nobody wants to watch it. This is guys playing with guns and someone once said: never get between a man and his gun..”

“Oh my god. I bet it was John Wayne.”

“You’re a man or you’re are not.” Henry grinned.

“Wait a moment” Kristl grabbed her mobile and started to press the keys.

“What are you doing?”

“I get you a few pizzas. With about thirty pounds extra on that frame of yours, you might blend in with the reenactment community. Then you put on any old rags you can find and pass yourself off as a confederate soldier. You play with guns and act all snobbery because you have something of historical value to pass on, while all the while you are nothing better than other people playing video games, drawing pictures, doing origami, climbing mountains or watching horror movies. Because the only thing a war learns is that it is a horrible affair that should be avoided because it kills people.”

“Uhm. You are quite vehement about that.” Henry was taken aback .

“Yes. And I will tell you why. I happen to have been so stupid to spend most of life on the study of warfare. Now you think 620.000 people is much. Compare that to the Taiping Rebellion at roughly the same time. It killed at least fifty times as many people and might even have killed a hundred times more. And this was no warfare in which women and children were spared. No everyone was killed. Cities destroyed, countries wasted.  It was total war. And I doubt you will find anyone willing to reenact that.  Now if some civil war re-enactor wants  to learn something from his past, he might at least learn to eat less and exercise more, because that war is a horrible thing is apparently lost on him.” And, overcome with emotion Kristl stormed out of the garage.

Henry listened to  the door shutting and thought that letting Kristl cool down was the wisest thing to do.He then went to the kitchen and brewed some home made coffee according to a trusted and tried recipe that his family had handed down the generations and he knew it was something from his American past that Kristl really liked.

Gettysburg on imdb
Taiping Rebellion Wikipedia
Taiping Rebellion on you tube
Civil War Reenactment Documentary 1 on you tube
Civil War Reenactment Documentary 2 on you tube

Henry and Kristl saw The Patriot (2000)

“They were not Germans?” Kristl asked

“What?” Henry said. “Who? The English? Germans? Germans! That was a
deliberate joke wasn’t it.”

“Well, they burned all those people in that church.. Didn’t something
like that happen in the Second World War. Although, maybe it would be
safe to say those were Nazis… not Germans. But that church thing? Did
that happen? ”

“Well, the point is: it could have. Cause they were the enemy. That is
it. Symbolism.”

“Ah.” Kristl said, “So they were Germans, but with an English accent.”

“Sounded English to me. British English. Stuck up English.” Henry said.

” Sah..” Kristl shouted suddenly, making Henry jump.

“Stop mucking about, what has that a country to do with anything? It is
America against the Brits.” Henry said, “With some French help.”

“Just reminds me of my now dead granddad. Fathers side.” Kristl said.

“What of him?”

“Well, he saw this movie, back when he still lived.”

“I would think so. It works better while being alive.”

“Huh?”

“Being dead spoils the experience.”

“Duh.” Kristl pouted her lips,” Anyway. He said the movie gave him
tears. You see he was always busy with those little tin soldiers and
uniforms and such. And he said he liked the uniforms in the movies. And
the soldiers. And the shooting. So beautiful. That is what he said.”

“He sounded a bit feeble in the brain department..”

“He might have been. He was in his eighties at the time. He died at
ninety one.”

“So your granddad liked the movie for the uniforms.”

“He gave me this tin soldier. See. I still got it.. I thought I take it
with me and show you.” Kristl held up a tin soldier with colors that
was neither the blue of the Continental army nor the red of the British
one. It was green with red.

“So what uniform is this?”

“Brunswick.”

“German?”

“Yes, but there was no Germany back then. All kind of small and big
states. Some were allied to Britain. Like Hessia and Hanover.”

“So the Germans were with the English?”

Well, there were Germans fighting for the Americans to. In the French
army that helped out the Americans. And there was a whole regiment made
up from German colonists.” Kristl stared at the tin soldier.

“Ok?”

“Well, he said. It would have been a nice movie without Mel Gibson
standing in the way. If they had just kept out the action bits. Like
the silly fights. And the dumb warfare.That is what he said.”

“What? Without Mel there is no movie. What is a movie without action, a
hero and a good bad guy?”

“A shorter movie?” Kristl said cheerfully.

“And a boring movie too. Except for crazy old men who play with tin
soldiers.”

“Well. I thought they could have made two movies out of it and please
both sides.It is long enough for it.”

“Nope. I don’t think so.” Henry shook his head, “It would be a short
nonsensical action movie and a boring historical one. They go together.”

“It was just a thought.” Kristl said.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0187393/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1