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Gandu – Qaushiq Mukherjee (2010)

  • drama

It is not all Bollywood that comes from India. “Gandu” is a very raw rap-punk drama.

The title is a swear word, but used as a reappropriation by the young main character. Apparently living with his mother and her new partner (and off his money) Gandu does nothing with his life but writing rap lyrics and use drugs. His lyrics are about everyday life in an Indian slum with no perspective in life. It are his more adolescent lyrics that make him being picked up as an artist.

We mostly follow Gandu as he steals money from his parents and hangs out with a friend. Cut between these scenes are videoclips of Gandu punk-type rap music. Towards the end he is also able to perform on a stage, making followers and finally losing his virginity in an explicit sex scene.

As I said, a raw film with videoclip-type montage, going from black and white to colour and with explicit lyrics and scenes. A coming raw coming of age from the country of sweet Bollywood.

Minore – Konstantinos Koutsoliotas (2023)

We follow the simple life in a rural part of Athens where a small community goes to a bar to sing Greek folksongs every night. There is one foreigner there looking for his biological father.

It takes quite a while before the film turns into the horror that usually describes it. There are strange sounds to be heard, people walk like zombies into the sea, but nobody is really alarmed until some sort of flying octopuses start to appear from the fog and eat people. When the group of familiars realise what is going on, they set up a plan to fight the monsters.

“Minore” is an alright film. It is a little weird, but nothing that you have never seen before. The typical Greek elements are nice, the horror towards the end is somewhat amusing.

Blonde – Andrew Dominik (2022)

  • drama

This film has on my watch list for a while, but it is long and I heard it is quite depressive. It is indeed almost three hours long and damn depressive…

The film is based on the “biographical fiction novel” of Joyce Carol Oats about Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as the alter ego that was created for her: Marilyn Monroe. Quickly scanning the Monroe biography on Wikipedia, it is clear that the book, and thus the film, are not to be regarded as a factual biography of Monroe. For example, a big theme in the film is that Monroe never met her father, while in reality she was abducted by him.

We mostly follow Norma Jeane. Norma had a troubled youth with a troubled mother which brought her to a foster home (in reality 12!). Growing up, Norma Jeane tried to make it into the modeling and film business. Her career skyrocketed when (according to the film) her alter ego Marilyn Monroe sex symbol was invented for her. Norma Jeane saw herself separate from Marilyn Monroe.

External pressure leading her to all kinds of bad situations. The separation between Norma Jeane and Marilyn first gets dissociative identity disorder elements and later also paranoia.

Everybody only hears about the glamour around Monroe, the beautiful and sensual woman that everybody loves, but in “Blonde” we mostly see a troubled woman that never grew up, who everybody seems to take advantage of and who slowly looses her mind. The film gets darker and more surreal as Norma Jeane slips away from reality further and further leading towards the inevitable and heart breaking end.

Certainly not a glamour feel good movie and I am not sure how far the gloom and doom really formed part of Monroe’s life. Did Dominik want to present a ‘smack in the face reality’ or did he enhance the darkness for other reasons? Some points may be given for the film and montage itself by the way, with black and white and colour and beautiful camera work.

“Blonde” is a good film, but a hard watch.

The Big Short – Adam McKay (2015)

  • drama

Just as in “The Laundromat” some big actors joined forces to criticize the Western financial system.

In the early 2000’ies former doctor Michael Burry (Christian Bale) finds a flaw in the American banking system. He expects the mortgage system to collapse and thinks of a way to turn that into a profit for the organisation that he now works for.

His idea is picked up by Jared Vennett (Ryan Goslin) who goes to the criticaster of the financial system Mark Baum to also turn the predicted event into profit. Two young dare-investors accidentally see the documents of Burry and they pick up the same plan consulting Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt).

The problem that Burry found was that the portfolios of mortgages of banks are no longer filled with (very secure) mortgages, but less secure investments are sneaked in which on their turn are put in another package, etc. etc. These packages are rated, but due to competition, ratings are always good and they say nothing about the security of an investment.

First individually, later conjoined, the different troupes start to make sense of the complex schemes that financial businesses use to sell their products and make the most profit. These complexities are explained in strange interludes. Basically “The Big Short” is more of a movie than a documentary about the gigantic financial crisis of two decades ago, that some saw coming.

Not quite the film that I thought that I was going to watch.

Sense8 (series) – Wachowski (2015-8)

I ran into this Wachowski series on Netflix. It does not have the pomp of some of their creations and (perhaps) not even the complex story.

Well, there is an ‘attempt’ at a complex story. The title refers to a different kind of human being. Besides the “homo sapiens” there is also the “homo sensibilus”. The series do not explain how these “sensates” are born to ‘normal’ humans. We follow eight such sensates. It seems that they all have the same age and that they discover their abilities only later in life. We have the Korean daughter of a wealthy business family. A German criminal. An Indian beauty about to marry rich. There is an LA cop, a Mexican actor, a Nigerian buss driver, a woman who used to be a man and an Icelandic DJ.

The sensates can be in each others presence whereever they are. Also they can take over each other’s bodies. Along the way our eight sensates learn that they are a “cluster”, that there are other clusters and that there are also people hunting them. The last element brings thriller elements to the series.

The series show the characters with both the personal and the joint problems. Nomi has frictions with her parents who do not accept her transition. Lito is a popular actor, but he fears the end of his career when his fans learn that he is gay. Sun takes the fall to save her brother’s career in the family business. Wolfgang tries to do his own thing, but the criminal underground of Berlin tries to draw him in further. Kala has a loving future husband but second thoughts about the marriage. LA cop Will has frictions with his father. DJ Riley tries to balance between succes and personal life. Capheus (played by another actor in the second series) unintentionally becomes the hero of his slum.
In times of crisis, another member of the group, or all of them, team up to solve a problem of one of them. This often brings unnecessary extra drama or another tension. This typical ‘enhanced drama’ that is present in many American films and series, also crept into the work of the Wachowski’s. Sometimes these elements even overshadow the development of the story.

Overall, “Sense8” is alright. Especially in the first season (which is directed by both Wachowskis) there is quite some stress on ‘minority issues’ (trans, gay). Later (only Lilly Wachowski, but also guest directors) the ‘larger story’ gets the upper hand, making more of a thriller. There is the earlier mentioned drama, but the creators also wanted to add a layer of sensuousness, both are overdone and superfluous in my opinion. The story develops alright, but it seems that some turns had to be made to allow for future episodes or seasons. The two-and-a-half-hour final episode seems to have been made to wrap things up (quite thinly) when there no more would be a new season.

Not bad, but not the Wachowski’s best work either.

Leave The World Behind – Sam Esmail (2023)

The hard working Amanda (Julia Roberts) spontaneously books a house for the weekend, leaving immediately. The house is not too far from the city of New York where the family lives and it proves to be a villa with a swimming pool.

Settling in, the first evening the doorbell rings and two people are outside claiming to be the owners of the house and asking if they can come in. The film grows into a psychological drama. Are these two really the owners of the house? The house is so big and they are black. Also, the man seems to know something about the fact that the internet is down.

The psychological drama becomes a thriller when it starts to dawn on the people in the house that there is something going on in the world outside. TV only broadcasts emergency messages. Animals act strangely, there are awful sounds, planes crash. Is the world falling apart while two families who did not yet know each other are stuck in the villa?

“Leave The World Behind” is descent thriller with a Stephen King type story. The alienation and rising panic of the people involved is well portrayed and people’s weaknesses are enlarged.

Then the film suddenly stops as if it is only half of a story.

Kærlighed For Voksne – Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg (2022)

Presented as a “Danish pulp thriller”. The title translates to “Love For Adults”, but the international title is “Loving Adults”. In any case, the title is ironic.

Christian and Leonora have had a few tough years with a sick son. Just when things are getting better, Christian falls in love with a co-worker. Leonora starts to realize this and proves to be a manipulative woman. Christian comes with one bad excuse after another bad plan so things get from bad to worse.

I suppose “Kærlighed For Voksne” is supposed to be a crime comedy. I find it quite unconvincing.

Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan (2023)

  • drama

“Oppenheimer” being directed by Christopher “Inception“, “Tenet“, “Interstellar“, etc. Nolan and all the talk about it being filmed on specially made Imax cameras, I wondered how Nolan would make the story about the development of the atomic bomb into a visual spectacle. I guessed I would better see it in Imax as it was apparently supposed to.

Well, the film is not that visually spectacular. Sure, there are some ‘visions’ and of course a big explosion, but basically “Oppenheimer” is a historical drama that, in my opinion, does not necessarily have to be watched on the big screen. Is it a good film regardless? Certainly!

Nolan gathered a star cast. Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey jr., Jason Clarke, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman and of course Cilian Murphy in the main part in which he can show that he is much more than a Peaky Blinder.

Julius Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) was an American scientist of Jewish descent. As a brilliant young man he continued where Einstein had stopped and he stood at the cradle of quantum physics. His mind went where few had gone before and his fame soon rose to the stars. He not only reasoned the existence of black holes, but also pondered the possibility of splitting atoms. When during WWII word was that the Nazis were also working on splitting atoms, but then with the reason to create a massive bomb, Oppenheimer used his influence to build a secret research facility in the middle of the American desert to try to outwit the Nazis and see to it that America would have the first nuclear bomb. In his mind, it would only have to be used once. After that, all wars would cease.

Oppenheimer was a colourful person. Just before the communist craze, he showed in interest in communist theories. Even though this was obviously not appreciated, he did not hide his ideas. Brilliant on many fields, many people forgave him for his ‘indiscretions’, but eventually these (old) allegiances would be used to try to silence the man.

We follow a man, timid, but persuasive; modest, but also a womanizer. Oppenheimer did not lack an ego either. Many people around him were both taken aback, yet fascinated and so he became the most important man in the USA. Even in the world perhaps.

The story is told in post war interviews and flashbacks, working up the test and what came after. Oppenheimer started to realise that his bomb would not end all wars, but would rather be the start of a whole new kind of warfare and he balanced between what would be right or wrong under the circumstances.

All in all “Oppenheimer” is a very good film, telling the tragic story of how mankind played the part of Prometheus giving an idea of how we came to the current situation. Of course, Oppenheimer’s role cannot be underestimated, both for the development of the bomb as the for call for a worldwide agreement to not use them.

Hulk – Ang Lee (2003)

So this was a Marvel film from before Marvel started to create a ‘Marvel comic universe’? Graphic novel to film, like other Marvel films, but with no references to other films then.

Bruce Banner’s father was a scientist who tried to genetically manipulate the human body so that it would restore itself after injury, like some animals grow back severed limbs. Since he was not allowed to experiment on humans, he tried his potion on himself. This he transferred to his son who accidentally ‘activated’ the manipulation. This caused him to turn big, green and incredibly strong when he gets angry. I guess you know the story.

We have a young Eric Bana, an also young Jennifer Connelly and actors such as Nick Nolte and Sam Elliot. The film is largely a drama, but in a few scenes there is action. There is -of course- a military interest in the experiment and Banner is unhappy with his ‘gift’.

Dahmer – Monster – Brennan & Murphy (series 2022)

The story of Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) keeps fascinating ‘the entertainment business’. I know the story of Dahmer mostly because of the “Dahmer” album of the “murder metal” band Macabre from 2000. Most elements that Macabre sings about, can be found in the series. There are a few noticeable differences. I will quote Macabre here and there.

The series open with the “man [who] got away from Jeffrey’s apartment. The police came in and Jeff was busted”. Actually quite at the end of the story of Jeffrey Dahmer. Initially the series appear to present two story lines. One from the end working towards history and one from the beginning and on. This does not stay that way.

In the first episodes we mostly see Dahmer. A difference between the series and the Macabre album is that the latter does say that “Jeffrey used to play with road kill”, but according to the series, it was Dahmer’s father who taught him taxidermy, the only thing the boy showed any interest in. Also we witness the problems with Dahmer’s parents. His mother taking a plethora of pills, also while pregnant and his father leaving when Jeffrey was a young boy. His mother did not really take care of him, so Jeffrey went back under the care of his father. Always making trouble, his father sends Dahmer to the army, but he “drank too much alcohol, so he got dishonorable discharge”. The blood bank and chocolate factory that we hear about on the Macabre album are also shortly mentioned in the series.

Not staying out of trouble, Jeffrey is put under the care of his grandmother. By that time Dahmer had made his first victim, by accident. Dahmer started to find out that he was homosexual and when he picked up a hitch hiker he liked, he took him home. When the man “tried to leave, he had to die”.

Later on we find Dahmer going around the local gay scene, picking up gays he found beautiful. He soon started to drug and kill them on the first date. The drugging part was even known in the “bathhouse” scene where gays went to spend the night with their hookups and Dahmer was banned from the bathhouses. Then we get another story that differs between Macabre and the series. Dahmer takes a man to a hotel and when he wakes up in the morning, the man was dead. Dahmer uses a suitcase to get the body out of the hotel. In the Macabre version the taxi driver helped him to get the body in the suitcase.

There is also an episode about one of Dahmer’s victim. Quite a tragic story, as this was the first person Dahmer actually had the chance to build a normal relationship with. He did not even kill them on the first date. Yet, after a night spent together, when Tony wanted to go to work “he had to die”.

The series also put some stress on the father of Dahmer. He left his son when he was young and blamed himself for what Dahmer became. A brave man who kept believing his son could be helped. Also his second wife was a brave woman who stayed with Dahmer’s father even when -after Dahmer’s apprehension- she and the father were slandered in the media.

A big part of the series is about Glenda Cleveland who lived next door of the apartment where Dahmer lived and where he made most of his victims. She kept calling the police, but was always ignored. Cleveland was black and Dahmer’s victims usually had a double reason to be neglected: they were black and gay. Also the (in)famous situation in which a 14-year old victim was brought back to Dahmer who “turned the boy into bones” gets some attention.

And there we have the more social implications of the story. The subordination of minorities, racism and incompetence in the police organisation. It is amazing to see that Dahmer was trialed for harassing a minor, whose brother was later brought back to Dahmer’s apartment to be his 10+ victim. Or Dahmer fined for expose, while his apartment was full of body parts. One of the reasons he did not stop, was that it was so easy, he told the police.

The series also have a bit of an aftermath. “The media circus”, the trial in which Dahmer (in spite of his own request) did not get the death penalty, but 17 times life in prison, his father writing an unsuccessful book, Dahmer growing into a cult figure and -at last- him being bludgeoned to death in prison and one more court case about whether or not to destroy his brain.

So, a few angles on the Dahmer story in a watchable series. Several episodes have been directed by Jennifer Lynch by the way.