Saturday, January 31, 2009

seen-it: Kite Runner

Well, not a barrel of laughs!

A real choker of a film. I know the book had received loads of accolades but had no idea what the plot was at all.

A real emotional account of friendship, redemption & honour. Shows quite vividly the starkness and soullessness of life under the Taliban. If the depictions of life in Afghanistan before & after the Taliban are at all accurate then it shows just how low they have brought the country.

But it's not mainly about the country of Afghanistan but about the relationships between the main characters. Had very little sympathy for the main character - Amir - at first. He was as weak and cowardly as they intended to portray him, and his behaviour towards his friend compounded the shame he was rightly feeling. But the unfolding redemption story is very powerful & moving ... and the whole notion of honour & duty that undergirds it all is very challenging. His father's act of courage at the border crossing was particulaly powerful.

Glad I watched it. Inspiring and thought provoking. And a happy ending of sorts!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

seen-it: 21

Don't know where I heard about this film. I don't recall hearing much about (if anything) about it in the MSM.

It's based on the book "Bringing Down the House" - the story of the MIT black jack team which took Las Vegas for millions of dollars when they developed a highly successful card counting team. (I'm sure there was an article about poker and in last Christmas edition of the Economist which had a similar story to this - but about poker obviously. Maybe that's where I first heard about the film).

Good drama. Admittedly with lots of standard Hollywood plot features [love interest, 'mafia mob' baddy, faithful friend etc], but all done with reasonable credulity and to good effect. And I didn't see the little twist til it happened!

Watching the development of the corrupting effect of the money and the power upon the main character, Ben, was quite thought provoking & challenging. It wasn't all bad - it gave him lots of confidence, brought him out of his shell etc. But ultimately he lost more than he gained - and he realised it. Definitely got me thinking about how money / power effects me. Also made me wonder if there's any way of actually producing that sort of confidence without the money!

Interestingly(?), even in a film such as this where a love angle is just an aside ultimately, it's interesting that a full-sexual encounter always takes place on the very first 'date'. Not explicit or tastelessly done, but definitely a reflection of the mindset they try to inculcate. It's almost like it's not possible for them to demonstrate anything romantic - or even sexual - without the resorting to the 'bottom line'.

I always think a film like this has done a good job if it makes me want to go and read more / research more about the characters and events behind the film. I'll probably add "Bringing Down the House" to my reading list, but it won't be a massive priority. Only done a bare minimum of subsequent internet reading on them. So guess it can't have had the impact of some of the others I've enjoyed. But still, as a stimulating bit of entertainment & thought provoking bit of bit of commentary - I'm glad I watched it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

read-it: Animal Farm

After finding myself answering some quite involved political discussion with JE (6), promised I'd read Animal Farm with him over Christmas. Finished today.

A great book. Sobering & depressing but thoroughly insightful. Amazing how such a simple allegory (...'allegory' is the right word isn't it?!) can pack so much depth. Bit like the parables I suppose.

Whilst specifically an allegory of the Soviet regime, it was interesting reading it this time for me (aprox 20 years after the first time) how much of it was simply about the corrupting influence of any power - not just communism. The danger of becoming the thing we set out to change.

JE grasped more than I thought but it was interesting how his innate trust of authority kept blinding him to some of the deviousness of the pigs. He believed the pigs explanation that Boxer was taken to the vets in a knackers van! He did pick up on how they kept changing the rules and breaking them. He enjoyed it as an animal story and hopefully the allegorical stuff will dawn on him in years to come.

seen it: Goldfinger

First film of 2009. Promised JE I'd introduce him to James Bond over the Christmas break, so thought I'd start with a classic.

JE, AJ & EJ all watched quite attentively much to my surprise, and actually comprehended far more than I thought. Quite easy to explain in terms of 'goodies & baddies'.

Having watched Quantom of Solace just a month ago, re-watching this classic made me realise how far they'd left the James Bond trademarks behind (gadgets, puns, womanising!). And I could comprehend the plot of this one too.

Obviously there was a lot of stuff that seemed incredibly dated. But the innocence and simplicity of it all was enjoyable. Interestingly, the scene of James forcing himself on Pussy Galore(!) was something that seemed quite shocking now.

The appearance of the 'shooting woman' half-way is all a bit random. Other than the fact that she is the sister of 'Jill' (I think that was her name ... the iconic 'gold woman' on the bed), the scenes with her in are completely superfluous to the plot & a bit incongruous.