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Monthly Archives: December 2015

 

You cannot go wrong with this story, the battle man against mountain, humans in a zone that is not made for human survival. This is what makes all high-altitude climbing films compelling, and especially so when you do not just have a scripted disaster, but one that is known to have happened, and on a major scale. The events around the 1996 catastrophe on Mount Everest has it all, including human failure, even by what are thought to be outstanding experts on the matter of surviving against the odds. There is the matter of greed leading to death, an oddly and uncomfortably guiltily rewarding insight. There is the sheer ferocity of nature, the merciless hammering of snow and wind, similar to scenes when tsunamis strike, sweeping away whatever is in its way. So it is not merciless, after all, nature is just ignorant about those little creatures trying to prove their own worth (physically and financially) by doing the most stupid and futile thing, just because they can.

Jon Krakauer’s book naturally has the space to paint this landscape in full desolate colours. We get to know the characters, their motivations and shortcomings, the institutional layout of the machinery that seeks to bring them to the top of a mountain that only qualifies for the challenge because it happens to feature Earth’s highest altitude. If you have seen the IMAX film that happened to be shot at the time of the disaster, you will see a worthwhile complement, in that it remains a fragment, its production being thwarted by the unfolding events, and throwing the film crew into the middle of a rescue operation. And now a feature film, a blockbuster… does it work?

Everest as a movie tries to do what the book does, within the necessary laws of the entertainment industry. Human drama can be done, that’s what Hollywood is good at. Nature’s forces are impressive, the feeling of being disoriented and lost quite an achievement in particular of the editors. What the film lacks to a certain degree is the reasoning: how could that happen? What was the difference to the hundreds of other occasions where the same kind of people with the same kind of skills (or lack of it) where trying the same thing? There is no feeling of inevitability, but merely one of unlucky circumstances. It was an accident, you say? I believe it wasn’t, but it was the realization of an almost 100 per cent chance of people dying on a major scale because that’s what you do when climbing into a death zone. It is like climbing Alpe d’Huez on your bike, wondering on the way why the hell you are doing that to yourself. Only on your bike, what can happen is that you fall off, take some breaths and roll down again. Or have another try. When you are meeting your limits on Everest, you die, just like that. The feeling of anger about those who claim otherwise and make their living from convincing less skilled climbers is what I remember from reading the book. What the movie leaves me behind with is a feeling of “bad luck”  … It is an entertaining blockbuster, but maybe that’s not what it should have been…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/everest_2015/

 

There are not many films in the history of movie making that manage to establish the concept of “goofball island” next to a surprisingly accurate depiction of the hell pit of abstract thought… how brilliant is that?

Not sure whether the film works on all levels to all audiences, but for a grown-up it is certainly up there with Toy Story in bombarding you with emotions about childhood lost, the struggle of parents to help their children grow up happily despite all those crazy emotions wreaking havoc, making the best decisions for the family and constantly feeling the pain of compromise. The best thing about it: the film brings you to the key message that you shall not try to push away emotions, pretend that all is joy (“Joy”) and happiness. Anger, fear, disgust and sadness all belong together, it takes all kinds to make a world… also inside your head. And so the film does not shy away from those moments where essential childhood friends disappear in the memory dump to make room for more life and adventure, where loss of friends is sad whatever “It will be all right” loops the grown-ups conjure up in their clumsy effort to sooth.

My favourite character is probably poor little “Sadness”, always apologetic, always sidelined as if she was evil, until somebody realizes what important part she plays in the making of a human.

Splendid voice cast, with Lewis Black towering above them all, he is the only person in the world to give such voice to rage, as the Daily Show viewers will testify!

And favourite (short) scene “GIRL! Alarm!”

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inside_out_2015/?search=inside%20out

There is nothing Matt Damon cannot salvage, right? Not just being shipwrecked on Mars and officially becoming the first colonist, lead botanist and singular pirate on the red planet, but also keeping this executive summary of a movie from shipwrecking itself. My guess is that the film is jolly good entertainment to all who have not read the book by Andy Weir. Myself, I was in Harry-Potter-mode, checking the boxes of what they covered in the film, but in particular being stunned by what was left out. While that is usually a dumb thing to do, I could not help but being disappointed by the lack of … let’s say scope of the endeavor. I did not feel the movie depicted the solitude over this stunning period of time, the vast stretches of working along, experiencing major setbacks, recovering from those and getting back to work. In particular, there is a devastating radio outage occurrence that plays a major part in the book, almost breaking our lonely hero’s will, and that bit was just ignored in the script. What we have is an entertaining astronaut with a good sense of sardonic humour, some excellent casting decisions also for the ground crew, and some pretty landscaping in the CGI machine. As it is, it is a thrill ride, but not the epic experience it could have been. Should have been three hours longer to achieve that, I know, but still… on the upside, there’s a butch Damon with a pretty butt and no signs of muscle deterioration through space travel.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_martian/

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