Tag: Foreign

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children will probably be the last animated film I see from 2017. That is, unless some anime film I missed comes out in April or Summer, all late in the United States.

This too was a foreign animated film, based on a graphic novel. It was originally released in Spain (and Spanish), but the version I watched was dubbed.

I knew nothing about the film going in, except that it might be weird. And unfortunately, that too was an understatement.

Others
Yay animals! Time for a cute film!

This film takes place on an Island, far away from other lands. It had a peaceful animal community, that could talk, sure. Things were good, until factories joined their island. Eventually, the factories have an accident and a big blast rips through their island, killing hundreds, destroying the buildings in that area, creating rubble. No good at all.

This leads the land changed. It makes it sad. It makes it just feel, dead.

The families are now bitter. Kids are being non conformists, animals are fighting, animals are killing. And everyone is just rude.

Poor Birdboy, lost his dad, and can´t even get back to his lighthouse home. There are demons in there, and he hasn´t yet mastered how to fly.

He has friends, namely Dinky, a female mouse, are the only ones who care about him. She cares about him a lot. With the help of a fox and a rabbit, the gang plan to escape off of the island in a boat, to get away from this place of dissidence and sadness. But the island does not want them to leave. Its citizens are too bitter to allow a thing such as hope help anyone.

The four are going to struggle and face their fears, which is unfortunate, because in this case their fears are very real and dangerous parts of society.

Featuring the voices of Barbara Goodson, Jon Avner, Sofia Bryant, Dean Flanagan, Marc Diraison, Wayne Grayson, Yuri Lowenthal, Jake Paque, and Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld.

Fly
Learning to fly is also, unfortunately, a dangerous and very consequence heavy fear.

Yeah, Birdboy was weird. It was also terrifying. It was gruesome. It was nothing like I expected.

The only thing I know to compare it to is Heavy Metal, but that is based on my incredibly limited knowledge on this sort of animated film. And Heavy Metal was more sexy. We also had Nerdland recently, that was graphic in its own ways. This one is graphic in that it involves kid animals, in a disgusting world, dealing with entities trying to kill them and kill each other. We have bulging eyes, red veins, abuse, drugs, everything that would negatively affect a society, rolled into one tiny island.

It is definitely not for the light of heart.

It is a sad movie, with not really a happy ending either. Sure, maybe some hope is derived from it, but it is just a movie that will tear at your heart. Not like a romance, but like a horror, tearing at your heart.

And also, it is very, very confusing. I assumed the graphic novel tells the story a bit better. But there are sequences in this movie out of order, not a lot of exposition, and when I left I just felt confused. I did Wikipedia the plot outline, which is thankfully very detailed. I recognized some events and some scenes and could imagine them all working together, but it is not very easy to do that on your first viewing.

I appreciate that Birdboy is incredibly dark. I appreciate that the artistic style really draws you in and spits you out. I also appreciate that it tried to do something new. But in the end, it was not a very coherent plot, hard to follow, and left me feeling more empty than anything at the end.

2 out of 4.

On Body and Soul

What comes from Hungary? Some lame jokes, some World War I starters, and that is about all I can think of from my America centrist point of view.

So hey, I was excited for them just for having a film nominated for Best Foreign Film. Dozens of countries every year submit a film and only five are ever chosen, and only one wins. If Hungary has a rich film history, I am unfortunately unaware of it. If I have reviewed a Hungarian film before, then I totally forgot about it (just checked, shit, they had Son of Saul and White God. Totally forgot which country. Good job, Hungary!).

And now they have On Body and Soul. And I am thankful for Netflix for buying this film up so that lame uncultured swine like myself can watch it before the Oscars, and not five months after the fact.

Sleep
This is the kinky way Hungarians sleep together.

Taking place in some in Hungary, I have to assume, we have a slaughterhouse. They do good work there. Or at least, they kill cows and sell that meat for money. People have jobs, people are not sad.

Endre (Géza Morcsányi) is the CFO of the place, and is pretty complacent with his life. He is old, he is stagnant, he has a small group of friends. And a new girl starts to work there, much younger. Her name is Mária (Alexandra Borbély) and she is the quality inspector. She checks the cows and makes sure they have the appropriate grade rankings based on, you know, cow stuff.

Endre tries to talk to her, but she is off putting. Mária is very autistic, including a perfect memory and loves precision, so she makes some people upset when she is giving cows a lower grade than normal for technically correct reasons.

After an event occurs at the shop, a psychiatrist (Réka Tenki) is brought in to ask everyone questions to determine who the most likely culprit is. She is the first to find out that Endre and Mária are sharing a dream, where they are deer in a wintry forest. This connection is brought up to them, and it is up to them to figure out what to do with this knowledge, if anything.

Deer
You know, just being a deer, doing deer stuff.

On Body and Soul was a very touching film. Not physically touching, given how much Mária hated physical contact (note: I really enjoyed the mashed potatoes imagery). Just emotionally touching. Two lost souls who are very different, who find each other in an extraordinary way.

Not that I am implying there is a happy ending, just that technically, they find each other.

The Endre character is interesting in that he is supposed to be a normalish guy. A guy who has just been around for a loooong time and now is just drifting peacefully into retirement or death or something. I found at various points in the film that I hated him and found him endearing.

Mária is the real star though, and of course, Borbély. This is not some ¨hey look at the weirdo, being all autistic¨ sort of film, and it does not feel like it is making fun of people on the spectrum. We get to see her with a lot of struggles and a lot of pain. Seriously, a ton of pain. We get to see her grow, or attempt to grow, as she determines if she even can try to love another person.

There are some gross moments, there are some graphic moments (it is a slaughterhouse after all). But in the end, I still really enjoyed it the same.

3 out of 4.

Early Man

By all means, tell me that the movie is done by the people who did Wallace and Gromit. Yes I will watch it every time. I won’t always like it, but I respect it enough to give it the shot it deserves. It’s very weird, very British shot.

So why not Early Man, which is going to combine cave man jokes with very British football jokes. Ones I probably wont even fully understand.

And the best news about it is that the cast only has 3 or 4 recognizable names. They are giving roles to actual voice actors, instead of just laying us down with 40 celebrities, some which probably would have only had five or so lines.

Training
Lava is always a nice bonus, in any movie, regardless of context.

A long time ago, dinosaurs! Also this movie is saying cave people. Let’s let it slide. Meteor wipes them all out, not the people somehow. They find the hot meteor left over that created a giant valley, where it is really hot, so they decide to kick it to each other. They invent the game of football, get really happy, and live their lives in the valley.

Now, some time later, we can meet our new crew of cave people. They don’t know soccer anymore, they are relatively stupid as well. Dug (Eddie Redmayne) is young and a thinker, but the rest of the crew are content. They are content until some mammoths with armor come trampling in, as the rest of the world has decided to stop by and say hello. They are stone age cave people meeting for the first time a bronze age civilization, who is intent on mining out their secret valley for minerals, and letting them die.

Thanks to Dug who infiltrates their society, he learns that they play this game of football on the grand, coliseum like scale. This is their main religion! The only way they can probably get out of their jam and get their home back is by challenging their champions to a game. Dug saw these football paintings on their walls, but they never knew what it meant. But if their ancestors played the game, then they probably can figure it out as well!

Also starring Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Nick Park, Rob Brydon, Johnny Vegas, Selina Griffiths, Simon Greenall, Gina Yashere, and Kayvan Novak.

Soccer
With that much armor, this thing looks a lot more like…football, than football.

Early Man is one of those basic “ragtag team of misfits pull together to do a sport thing better than professionals, due to teamwork, friendship, and shenanigans!” You know the kind. Despite being the type of thing that we have seen before, Early Man still manages to bring something new to the table.

It has a lot of tiny jokes throughout, a lot of puns they worked towards. And yes, there are some modern British football jokes that mostly would have flown over my head. But I got one or two.

The characters are likable. The caveman crew has a lot of complete characters, who have their individual good jokes or moments to shine. I don’t feel like we only have a few supporting people. The whole crew got to feel supporting, always a great thing in a movie like this.

This is not going to be a game changing animated film. But it is still really well done, at points clever, and tells a fun story. Hell, even the final soccer match seems to deviate away from the norm for these sorts of things. Still some surprised out there for everyone.

3 out of 4.

Faces Places

The year of 2017 wasn’t great for me and watching documentaries. I didn’t do it as often as I used to (as I used to force one a week for review). I decided I needed them to come more naturally, to see what I wanted, what looked interesting, and sure, some that didn’t look interesting.

But still, I didn’t see too many. So I had been keeping track of the movies on the Shortlist for Oscars Best Documentary. I saw titles that seemed interesting and plots that I couldn’t wait to see. I was trying to guess what might be the top five picked.

And then Faces Places was picked. It was one of the ones on the shortlist that I just did not expect overall. The documentary just felt like something that could be a one season show on The Travel Channel, and not something that might change the world, like some of the titles on the list.

Doc
Yep, I see many faces and…wait, what’s that in the background?
Oh yeah, that’s a place.

Agnès Varda is a really old woman, but a famed director in her country of origin. She has directed many films and has had a wonderful, personal career. JR is a photographer, much younger, and a bit eccentric. The two met and decided to work together on this documentary project.

Basically, they were going to travel the French countryside, small villages and towns, meet people, hear their stories, and enhance their community through their faces. They drove around in a vehicle with a large camera on the side. You could go in, get your picture, and a large picture would print out that you could put somewhere.

They decorated the sides of homes, monuments, to honor individuals and make unique artwork for the folks who lived there.

And it was cute, it had some interesting moments, and overall, it just felt…pointless. I am not saying there is no point to bring niceness to the world. It is just that there are so many documentaries that bringing up untold stories, important political and social events, that this one just feels off in its own little happy world.

I wish the world didn’t have so much fucked up shit in it. And really, the rating comes from these two individuals who just wanted to make people happy and increase their own happiness. The relevance and importance of the documentary is just less than others.

Faces Places will probably be on Netflix, eventually. And it isn’t even one you can sort of put on and half ignore to just see moments of happy, given the subtitles.

I can’t imagine this one winning anything. I hope I still get around to watching Kedi.

2 out of 4.

Raw

2017 was a great year for horror. It exceeded my generally low expectations for the genre. It exceeded in a way that is inverse to the way that animation was a disappointment.

So I was a bit suspect of finding another good horror film after all the rest. But Raw looked really good despite knowing very little about it. I knew it would make me uncomfortable, it would have gore, and has shit ton of blood.

Heck, I didn’t even know it was a French film until it started and I got blasted with subtitles. Adding the foreign element is what made me realize early on that maybe it could also be great, because I knew America must have reached its peak.

Blood
There hasn’t been this much blood in a film since Army of Darkness. Which is arguably British.

Justine (Garance Marillier) comes from a very uppity family who expect good things out of her. She just got accepted into veternarian school and is excited about making the world a better place for animals. Her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) has already been there for a year and will help her get situated. Oh, and her entire family is vegetarian, they have been her whole life, and that is obviously relevant to the plot.

Now in France, I am led to believe that getting into a specialized school like this one is sort of like getting into a fraternity in America. They have hazing for the new recruits and a rush week, but it isn’t really optional since it is just everyone in the school. They have to submit, or else. As part of the submission, they get dumped with animal blood before important photos and are also forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys as part of their initiation.

So Justine doesn’t want to do that, she has NEVER eaten meat, and she doesn’t want to start now. She tries to get her sister’s help, but the sister denies their vegetarian upbringing and eats a kidney, so Justine has to as well. This does not go well, as she immediately feels sick. Hell, she ends up getting some sort of food allergy symptoms as well from it. No good.

And yet, his opens up something in Justine. She starts to crave meat, but made a big deal about being a vegetarian as well. So her gay roommate (Rabah Nait Oufella) tries to help her sneak this new obsession without others noticing. But it isn’t enough. Justine is constantly hungry, constantly looking for more and more. And you know where this obsession is leading.

Also starring Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, and Jean-Louis Sbille.

Face
Keep working on the Andrew W.K. cosplay little girl.

(Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it) Raw felt like a very authentic (whew) tale about, well, some cannibalism. Not a lot of cannibalism, just some. It had human emotions, it had great realistic actions from unrealistic situations, and the whole thing just felt raw. Fuck, I made the pun. That didn’t last long at all.

But seriously. I didn’t even know Raw was French when I went to see it. I have heard it hyped for a half a year and just assumed another indie horror film that gets rave reviews. It is good to see another country coming up strong with new ideas.

Raw has a some gross scenes and they just happen sometimes so unexpectedly it will take you by surprise. It doesn’t shy away from sexuality and hazing, normal college experiences, it just adds some extra human elements. Again, please understand I am referring to the eating of humans.

Raw is gross, it is creepy, it is well made, and yes, it is raw.

3 out of 4.

The Breadwinner

It took all year, but I finally found it. I found a great animated film that came out this year, that brought me something new to the genre while also being emotional with a fantastic plot.

This is the sort of things that I would normally save for the ending, but I know you can see the rating up there, I have nothing to hide.

The Breadwinner is a foreign film, about non-American problems, a non average hero, and an above average story. It is the type of film that more people should be hyping, but unfortunately, it is foreign and had a limited theatrical run and most people just want to talk about Coco.

But read on so that you can see what The Breadwinner is all about and get psyched about watching it in the future.

Girl
This relates in no way to some TV show Breadwinners.

Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is a strong independent girl around 12 years old. She knows how to read, she can write, and she wants to be able to do anything she puts her mind to. The only problem is that she lives in Afghanistan, currently under rule by the Taliban, who are getting more and more frequently dickish. They are recruiting younger men, who have a lot of grudges, who are making the area more into a police state. I am not saying early Taliban rule Afghanistan was great, just that it was better than it is now in the film.

Parvana knows all of these things because of her father, Nurullah (Ali Badshah), who lost one of his legs previously in a war. She has a mother, an older sister, and a baby brother, but because she isn’t yet fully “mature”, Parvana can join him at the market and help sell goods to help earn money for the family.

But at some point, a young soldier gets angry at Parvana for having such a free spirit and not being covered “Enough”. This leads to a Taliban raid of their house, where they find forbidden books, so they arrest Nurullah and take him to a prison far away. The family is left defenseless and hungry, given that the next male in line is less than 2 years old, and none of the others are allowed to buy goods, or even leave without a male escourt.

Their family may die poor and alone. But not Parvana. She is resourceful. She chops of her hair, dresses like a boy, and finally gets to feel that sense of freedom she has always longed for. It is up to her to provide food and money for her family, while also figuring out how they might help their father out of prison.

Also featuring the mouth sounds of Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Noorin Gulamgaus, Shaista Latif, and Soma Chhaya.

Boy
To really commit, she should have grown her beard like how all 10 year old boys do.

In The Breadwinner we get a regular story about a girl going above and beyond the call of duty, to protect her family and try to make things right. This isn’t some goddamn princess in her ivory tower discovering how to be good, but a girl who has lived a hard life and still rising above it all. This is set in the real world that has real issues, even if the setting is no longer accurate. This is the type of story that can resonate with the youth of the world regardless of their age while also providing factual knowledge.

And even more importantly, it is not a cookie cutter story. We get violence that might seem a bit extreme for a PG film, even if it is “off camera”. We have a goddamn war zone with people running around with automatic rifles and a high assumed death count. Their entire family is put into realistic peril several times, because that is the world they are living in and it is downright frightening.

It also has a story within a story, giving us a different art style, to sort of break up the main story into sections and give us a parallel to compare things to. A common idea and one that works wonderfully in this film.

But most importantly, the ending really resonated with me. Everything didn’t magically fall into a place and it certainly isn’t a situation where they lived happily ever after. They didn’t somehow cause the Taliban to disappear and run off into the sunset. It gives a realistic enough ending for them, without giving us the picturesque fairy tale finale.

This is an animated film that took some risks and they paid off. And it took Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg to work together apparently to give it to us (not: no middle eastern countries made this movie about Afghanistan). I didn’t know anything actually came out of Luxembourg! But I am excited for whatever they brought to the table because now I have the Luxembourgian tag on my website.

4 out of 4.

Thelma

When you hear the name Thelma, you really only think of one thing. Well, technically two things. You think of Thelma, and you think of Louise. You don’t even need to have seen the movie to have understood the reference. If you didn’t, then well, you suck at pop culture.

When looking up Thelma pictures, I was flooded with a lot from the 1991 film, despite putting a year in the google search as well.

But there was ANOTHER girl in these images as well. Because it turns out we had a Thelma movie in 2011, from the Philippines, about a girl with powers.

Huh, this is a Norwegian movie about a girl with powers. Today you just learned that Thelma is the most powerful female name around the world.

Brain
Blows your mind a bit, doesn’t it?

In Oslo, Thelma (Eili Harboe) is finally going to university, so she can learn at an accelerated pace and discover new things about the world. You see, she grew up in a smaller area. Her family didn’t have direct neighbors, but land around a lake, which is a real sweet spot for fishing, or skating, depending on the time of the year. Her father (Henrik Rafaelsen) is a huge Christian man, and her mother (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) also that, is in a wheel chair.

But yeah! College! Time to study all the time! And apparently, have seizures. In the middle of a study hall, in front of future friends, pissing her pants. The doctor finds it strange, as she apparently has no history of seizures. She just wants this thing to be kept secret from her parents. Thankfully she is an adult now, and doctor to doctor conversations will not trickle to her parents officially, even if her dad is also a doctor.

The seizure did do something good though. It helped Thelma meet Anja (Kaya Wilkins), who just seems like the most special girl she knows. She definitely likes Anja, AS A FRIEND OF COURSE. There is no way that Thelma, good Christian girl, would ever be tempted into something sinful like being a lesbian. Yet still, she has a way about her, and Thelma cannot but feel something unique there. However, whenever her mind gets a hold of situation, she gets into that shaky, seizure-y territory again. And when she gets there, some bad things have happened. Unexplainable things. Dangerous things.

Also starring a lot of Norwegian people. If there are any Swedish or Finnish people, I wouldn’t have noticed!

Love
I just see all Scandinavians as the same, to be honest.*

Thelma was a wonderful movie. It was a slow and careful. It moved at a speed that almost made me hate it, as I just wanted answers faster. I had to be patient and let the movie unravel. But even the very first scene, a flashback (can a flashback be the first scene, technically?), of our main character and father was haunting. It took a long time for that one to be answered, it certainly didn’t go the way I expected.

Thelma is a strange coming of age story. It starts with our protagonist already “of age” but just slightly underdeveloped mentally due to a closed upbringing. It has her alone for most of the film when it comes to her emotions and problems, because of fear of her parents, fear of regression, and fear of change. And it has some magic stuff too.

The magic isn’t some wonderful power of invisibility, or flight. It is a lot more accidentally sinister, in account of it being a repressed power that she really doesn’t have a lot of control over. You know, like Frozen. But in this version of Frozen, the parents don’t die and the power gets actively oppressed by others, not just the main character.

I was scared, I cried, and I loved Thelma. Good job Norway. This is officially their selection to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Picture. At this point, I hope it gets nominated.

Leap!

2017 has been a shit year for animation. That is basically how I begin everything for animation at the end of the year, by the way.

At this point the only films I gave okay ratings to were Coco and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, which is saying a lot about my opinions on these films.

Well, Leap! was released at the end of last year in France and Europe, but didn’t make it to America until August. I had been waiting for a bit and waiting even more. When it finally came out, no one seemed to care, due to lack of advertising, and even I forgot about it.

It is one of those weird films that is already in English, but has a slightly different voice cast depending on the country. Not many changes were made, but the European version had Dane DeHaan as the boy lead. And honestly, without hearing it, it was probably a good change. We don’t need to hear 12 year olds with extra deep voices as if they are constantly pretending to be batman.

Dancer
Now if DeHaan had voiced the lead? I would pay extra for that uncomfortable version.

Felicie (Elle Fanning) is an orphan in a small French town, in a Church. She doesn’t want to be there of course, she wants to escape and become a famous dancer! Partially because the only thing she has from her mother is a dancing figure in a music box, her main treasure. Her best friend, Victor (Nat Wolff) also wants to escape with her. He has dreams of being an inventor and is focusing a lot of his efforts on a flying machine.

Well, Victor finds a flyer for a famous ballet school in Paris, so they decide they should run away and make it there! And they do!

But they immediately get separated, so Felicie is on her own to achieve her dreams. She finds the dance hall, sees an amazing dancer, but gets found out by the groundskeeper and almost given to the police, but a cleaning lady saves her. Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) walks with a cane, clearly having once been a dancer and had her life ruined by something or another. She stays in the guest house of a mansion, she just also has to clean it up as well. And the owner, Regine (Kate McKinnon), is a huge bitch.

She is rich though, so she can be a bitch. She has raised a bitch daughter too, Camille (Maddie Ziegler), who just so happens to be a dancer. And because she is a bitch, Felicie steals her invite to the dance school and pretends to be Camille to get a shot of her dream coming true. She just has to be good enough every day to not be the one person cut, so she can have a feature spot in the upcoming Nutcracker show.

Also featuring the voices of Shoshana Sperling and Mel Brooks.

Friendship
Oh he is definitely in the “best friend for years until she loves me” role. Silly boy. This isn’t the 90’s anymore.

Leap! tells a very standard story about a girl and a boy running off to achieve their lofty ambitions, and do so, quite easily! How they both fall into their respective positions is meant to be quick and easy, which is part of the comedy and charm, so that is not an issue.

It has its moments, both funny and cute. The animation is fine, Victor makes a good comic relief, and Felicie a great go-getter lead! The film also had some Karate Kid moments, just to keep things interesting.

But the devil is in the details, and this film was a mess. I first noticed it on my own, after three very specific references happened, and I was curious if they all were around the same time. That would be, The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and Sherlock Holmes. The first Holmes story was in 1887, the Eiffel tower started being built in 1887, but the Statue of Liberty was already in America in 1886. So to show it barely built at the same time as the Eiffel Tower was barely built is just wrong. And it had the statue already green, which is also quite annoying.

So I figured it must be set in 1887 and they had one mistake, sure. But apparently the film was set in 1979, years before all of these things. In addition to those facts, the dancers were trying out for a part in The Nutcracker, which came out in 1892. I learned the last fact and more from IMDB’s goof section, after I already found out these inconsistencies. If they are going to set the film in a lively part of the world and go for a realistic story, then it just seems terrible to have so many references just wrong.

Another aspect that just consistantly threw me off was the soundtrack. There five or more pop songs used as montage music mostly, including songs from Sia and Jepsen, and these things took me out of the experience. They never quite melded well with the scenes behind it. Given the subject matter, actual ballet, opera, classical, anything music wise like that would have felt better for the story.

Despite being called Leap!, this film was unable to rise above other animated films this year. It just ended up okay like the rest of the best.

2 out of 4.

The Square

To be an effective satire, the audience has to understand what the film is satirizing. So if you told me I was going to be watching a movie that satirizes modern art, I might have changed my mindset going into The Square.

I don’t know shit about modern art, or modern art galleries, or modern tuxedo affairs, So I wouldn’t really understand when it was being made fun of. I mean, on the surface, one might just go and assume this is a normal art film about quirk art people, not going for some deeper meaning behind the whole thing.

Oh well, it is long, and it is Swedish, and I don’t have enough Swedish films on my site. I will take it.

Gravel
Life is like piles of grains of sand.

Things are about to get weird for Christian (Claes Bang), who up to now has been living a modest, yet successful life in Sweden. He runs a modern art museum, meaning they have to constantly be on the cutting edge of new and modern art. They are constantly seeking new sources of funding, new ways to advertise, and ways to stay relevant in the modern world.

I mean, you’d think everyone in Sweden would care about art enough to just go to their place every new exhibit. But maybe they aren’t as hip as we thought.

Their newest exhibit is called, The Square, with the statement, “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.,” as its punchline. It is about being nice to strangers and the homeless. It is not sexy or controversial. So when it comes to a new advertising campaign, they decide to go with an outside group who decide that they need to turn this nice idea into a controversy. To make a viral video anyway possible.

And sure, that will backfire. But that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with Christian.

Also starring Elisabeth Moss, Dominic Moore, Terry Notary, Christopher Læssø, and more.

Monkeyman
This man most recently played Kong in Kong: Skull Island.

The Square was definitely an experience and a hard one to really describe. At almost 2.5 hours long, it was about a lot of things, and a bit about nothing at all. It was about a man who would have a lot of hard experiences, some seemingly ironic given his supposed stances on life. A story about getting harassed by a kid. A story of lost items. A story about trusting strangers who will turn on you in a heartbeat. And a story about art taken to an extreme and a public unwilling to break away from their comfort zone.

The biggest moment comes from the scene in the second picture, which would have played out like a horror story if it went on any further. You don’t have to understand modern art in order to understand what the director is saying about that scene, in relation to the message of The Square. However, it turns out it was based on modern art as well. It was based on Oleg Kulik, an eccentric artist (read, asshole?), who imitated a dog as part of art and bit people.

Bang does good as our lead, looking the part of a man who we want to root for, but who makes strange decisions that question our own goals. Is he an asshole, is he down on his luck, or is he really a good guy? It is really hard to tell, but he is definitely a coward.

The Square is an experience, it is not for everyone, and it will be remembered in the future as a really weird film.

2 out of 4.

City of Ghosts

What a spooky week! Technically this review of City of Ghosts comes only one day after my review of A Ghost Story, and they couldn’t be more different. Well, if one was bad and the other was good it could be different. But they are both fantastic. Oh no, I spoiled the talk about this one being fantastic early!

City of Ghosts puts us in Syria, before the fall of Assad. During the Arab Spring in 2011, protests happened throughout the country and in Raqqa, the capital of Syria. The regime had been dickish in the past, but they tortured a bunch of school aged kids for graffiti that was anti-government, and that set the protests into a bigger momentum. Protectors fought with soldiers, and eventually the government was toppled over. Hooray freedom!

Just kidding, this started a country wide civil war, and it wasn’t long before a militant group referring to themselves as the Isalmic State came into Raqqa and took over. They promised to be nice, but also came in with machine guns and executed those faithful to the past regime. And then they kept killing. They took control over everything, and kept executing those who sucked. But they controlled the media in the area and sent messages about how awesome things were.

But things weren’t awesome. People were living in more poverty, there were food shortages, more and more of their basic freedoms were being taken away. Worse than when Assad was in control. But the militant group had their ranks grow still, because it was the only way to have a good life in the area.

One group of citizens decided that their city was dying and no one in the world knew about it. They started an organization, called Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS). Their goal was to smuggled out videos, information, pictures, to major media about the realities of their life and to let people know that this group called ISIS was doing a lot of harm and lying about it, putting their own lives on the line in the process.

ISIS
And now ISIS is on my website 🙁

That’s right, ISIS motherfuckers!

And I found the beginning of this documentary fascinating about the rise of ISIS in the area fascinating. They could have done the whole story on that and it would have been great on its own right. But no, this is by the guy who gave us Cartel Land. He wants to talk about the citizen journalists of RBSS and showcase them as heroes.

We learn about some of the men who founded the website/twitter account, and how they first got the word out. We learned about their passions and lives before the protests begin and how they saw their lives going. We saw them on the run in their own city, secretly recording and getting the message out. We saw them on the run out of their country, into Turkey and Germany, when one of their own was captured and killed with information on them.

And we saw them more importantly, double down on their efforts. Ramp up security for their own operatives still inside the city risking their lives, while worrying about political assassinations across country lines. We saw them feel like they were safe, but still get wrecked by the ISIS Hollywood level media campaign against them in their homes, as more of their family members were found and killed, while also dealing with protesters in their new homes who want the new “dangerous” immigrants out.

What we have here is an extremely powerful documentary that handles a broad subject with grace and humility. This is their story and another way they have to get their message out into the world. It also sheds a message on refugees and helps show just what they are escaping, and how ridiculous these protesters who are anti-refugee look. It should almost be required viewing just to get certain hard ass individuals to maybe open their goddamn eyes.

City of Ghosts tells of a world, a nation, a city, that was stripped of its humanity from outsiders. And the message they want to pass on is to not let these same outsiders destroy the rest of the world’s humanity as well.

4 out of 4.