Everybody was kung-fu fighting

Roughly halfway through the first episode of American Gods, the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, its protagonist Shadow finds a large, bearded Irish American calling himself Mad Sweeney getting right in his face. The self-described leprechaun keeps goading Shadow, newly released from jail and trying to keep out of trouble. Finally, Mad Sweeney finds the right button to press – and gets exactly what he wanted: a fist in the face and a shit-kicking bar fight.

Afterwards, as the screen cut to black, my wife turns to me and says, “Now that is how you do a fight scene.”

American Gods

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The loneliness of the modern-day cowboy

The man doesn’t talk much. Mostly he smokes his cigarette and looks out over the untamed land. He’s come as part of a group planning to harness nature, to bring electricity and industry to these apparent outskirts of civilisation – one of several men who never question their right to be where they are and take what they want – yet he stands apart from them. They are not his tribe. He rides a horse into the small town where the natives eye him, not quite knowing what to make of the man. They don’t share his language and he doesn’t understand theirs, but that’s unimportant. Perhaps it’s even the point. The frontier feels like home to him.

It is 2017. The frontier is the Bulgarian-Greek border, and the man is one of several German construction workers employed to build a hydroelectric power station. The film is called Western – a surprisingly apt description for a surprising movie.

Western

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Holy Mother of…

Let’s face it: Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is not the best nor the worst movie of the year, or the decade, or of all of movie history. It’s an average piece of art from a filmmaker who, after making Noah in 2014, has used another narrative from the Bible, i.e. the Garden of Eden, mixed it with ecological concerns, and made a mildly interesting story out of it. The main problem I have with mother! is its lack of surprise for all of its two hours. Once you get that the Jennifer Lawrence character is some kind of Eve and ecological earth mother whose universe is the house she lives in, the rest sort of falls into place. The movie has only three kinds of scenes: Lawrence’s point of view, Lawrence in the frame, or shots over her shoulder. It’s the earth mother’s story and how her realm gets invaded by careless, selfish humans. She has built that house herself and will never leave it – the porch is as far as she will go. She can feel the house’s beating heart getting poisoned by unwanted intruders. The invasion is gradual, but unstoppable, and you know well before the end that we will be back at the beginning, where the house is in flames, with the earth mother dying in it, and her husband placing a diamond on its little altar so that the house can heal again. And so on. Continue reading

My Top Ten Top Ten Lists Of All Time

Top Ten lists are among the ten worst things. They’re facile and reductive, they’re lazy journalism, and still for some odd reason they’re so tempting that I tend to check them out, only to come away annoyed, both with the list and with myself for having been lured in.

So without much further ado and completely unaware of the contradiction, here’s a Top Ten list for you to look at!

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Tempora mutantur

… and we change with the times.

What’s that you say, though? Didn’t we change just recently? You may very well say that, but let’s face it, sometimes it takes a change to get the grey matter going, and then, over the next couple of months, it comes up with a new, better change.

Why is it better, you say? Because it involves coffee.

... but is it damn fine? Continue reading

Blood takes guts

On the outside, Julia Ducournau’s Raw seems like an endurance test. There are reports of audience members fainting and vomiting, interrupted screenings and official complaints. And all of these people have seen the R-rated version, not the original, unreleased NC-17 version. During the show I was in, a guy left twice, his girlfriend stayed on, but all three of us fidgeted and squirmed more than once. Yes, Raw is hard to watch, but once you think you can cope with the blood and guts, you will find one of the best-told horror flicks in a long time. Like Lady Macbeth last week, Raw is a feature debut in a double sense: Julia Ducournau directed her own feature-length screenplay, and Garance Marillier, who plays the main role of Justine, is a newcomer. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Continue reading