Firedrake: the Silver Dragon

93 min.

After nixing some too-kiddy-looking animation from my Netflix list, it was Firedrake‘s chance to prove me wrong.

It ticks all the (recent) animated films boxes: intro in a different animation style (which is always prettier than the main one used), goofy, too rounded characters (literally, definitely not characteristically – was Antz really the last film that dared to use angles?), and a Life Lesson plot.

Sadly, that also mean it’s riddled with clichés. Overly angry female sidekick. Annoying male sidekick viewed as heroic and wise. Only other female character? Old. Although this at least saved me from a dragon with fake eyelashes. Just as with The Harder They Fall this plot could have been tightened up: the entirety of Ben drags things down just to add that Life Lesson.

Honestly, I’m still shocked by how ugly the animation is. You have dragons and turn them into boulders. Who will stop animated Hollywood?

Bulado

87 min.

Voor een flink deel van de film doet het alsof het niet meer dan een coming of age/verhaal van onthechting is. Kenza pubert (deze keer gebeurt dat op Curacao), alleenstaande vader probeert daar mee om te gaan, terwijl opa haar Dingen leert.

Daarin ligt ook dat mijn mening veranderde van “wow mooie beelden” naar “Jezus, het klopt”. Het is vast een geval ‘juiste film op het juiste moment’, maar dat ik nu – dagen na het kijken ervan – weer dat ‘het is goed zo’-rust voel, is wel heel lekker en komt weinig voor.

Coded Bias

90 min.

Wat zegt het over mij dat ik al veel wist van wat in deze documentaire wordt besproken? Misschien lees ik te veel. Of genoeg, en de rest van de samenleving te weinig.

Want algoritmes beïnvloeden niet alleen wat wij wel doen en kopen, maar ook wat wij goedkeuren en afkeuren. Wat als de norm wordt beschouwd, en die norm wordt vastgelegd door (oude) witte mannen. Daardoor hebben zwarte vrouwen witte maskers nodig om gezichtsherkenning te gebruiken: waarom zou je als witte man de gezichtsherkenning aan zwarte gezichten laten wennen, tenslotte?

Naast die ongelijkheid laat de documentaire ook zien wat er nog meer mis is met het verafgoden van het technische. Mooi vond ik hoe ze zeiden hoe algoritmes in het verleden wortelen. Zij leren tenslotte van data, maar die data is seksistisch, racistisch en meer. We moeten dus nog véél meer kijken naar wat we de ritmes voeren.

Zei zij, op het internet.

Crip Camp

100 min.

First documentary of the month. An uncomfortable one because really; did anything change in how society handles disabled people in the past fifty years?

Crip Camp is about Camp Jened, but so much more. About the American government lacking in viewing disableds as citizens instead of their disability. They fight (for) laws, but first and foremost for the right of a multi-dimensional life.

The documentary is completely American focused, connecting to civil rights, racism and sexism. That also makes it easy to pretend it’s a local thing, but of course we know better.

That leaves Crip Camp as a reminder of how much change still has to happen to give disabled citizens the room in society they deserve.

Und morgen die ganze Welt

111 min.

Dat is two out of two voor Duitstalige films. Deze laat minder vragen achter, meer frustraties. Nee, geweld moet je niet met geweld beantwoorden, maar hoe anders bevecht je Nazi’s en hun gedachtengoed?

Luisa is nieuw bij een antifa-beweging, maar wordt al snel meegesleurd in grotere, aggressievere bewegingen. Waarom wordt nooit heel duidelijk, dat dit niet het gewenste resultaat (van de beweging en van haar) oplevert wel.

In een ruime twee uur zie je dat goede bedoelingen naar hel leiden, bijna iedereen machteloos is en mensen altijd erger kunnen. Daar zit je met je goede gedrag, want Luisa maar ook de andere karakters zijn leeg genoeg om jezelf in hun schoenen te plaatsen.

The Hater

136 min.

Very shortly put you could say this is about a young man being unable to deal with rejection.

Tomasz doesn’t turn to complaining to friends of family – he doesn’t have either. Instead he puts all his energy into his new job: influencing (social) media for the highest bidder.

This gets personal when he can get to those who rejected him. The horrors of successful online hate campaigns follow.

Main actor Maciej Musialowski manages to look the sociopath without laying in on too thick, but more about his (original) motivations would have made all this even more scarier and clean cut. Or maybe I’m just too attached to getting questions answered (theme of the month?). Maybe some people are fueled by revenge and chaos and nothing more, turning The Hater (original title is Polish) into a “humans are the monsters”-thriller.

A Long Petal of the Sea

The young soldier was part of the “Baby Bottle Conscription,” they boys called up when there were no more men, young or old, to fight the war.

A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende, Bloomsbury Publishing 2020

Author Isabel Allende warns that “this is a story of sorrow, displacement and hope” and that’s even a considerate description of it. The characters are fictional, what they go through isn’t and isn’t ancient history either.

It’s humans that live through Franco’s fight(/destruction) for power in Spain, only to go through a very similar thing in Chile (under Pinochet). Twice it’s shown how there is a large divide between class, political sides and ignorance and how this can lead to absolute massacre and destruction. The reader mainly follows Victor and Roser – middle class surviving, but also gets glimpses at the bourgeoisie, fans of waiting every development out so they can continue living as they have always have.

Yet this isn’t a horror story, nor a pamphlet for human monstrosities or a history lesson. Allende puts the people first, showing how life still goes on and can even be beautiful. Descriptions of people, thoughts and countries add such a layer that the story becomes three-dimensional. It makes for an appealing story – while getting your serving of (lesser-)known history.

White Ivy

Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never knew it to look at her.

White Ivy, Susie Yang, Simon & Schuster 2020

White Ivy is all over the place. As the summary and blurbs say it’s coming of age, a (second generation) migrant story, but Ivy manages to elevate (and worsen) all of it.

Because Ivy doesn’t fit into any mold. Maybe she doesn’t even have one. It’s maddening how she sabotages and destroys, but looking at her experiences and upbringing… maybe not that strange. Because how do you handle being left in a country only to meet your parents again after several years? Being the only Asian-Canadian in white surroundings? Having a violent tiger-mother and (mentally-)absent father? Lesser people would have gotten some trauma from that.

Again, sometimes you’re talking to Ivy to just unclench for once, give herself something, let go of all she’s carrying. Please, to give the reader some air to breathe as well.

I won’t share if she does, but it’s been a while since I’ve so rooted for and so disliked one and the same fictional character.

Greenwood

They come for the trees.

Greenwood, Michael Christie, Scribe 2020

It is well-known (here) that I’m a fan of family epics. There’s always the risk that the dullest character gets the most attention but still: throw in clear images of different eras and I’m in.

Michael Christie’s adds trees to his. From cutting to protecting, wood working and dendrology (- yes, I learned a new word), these Greenwood generations are willingly and unwillingly connected to the lungs of the earth.

The story ranges from 1908 to 2038 and with almost 500 pages – goes far and wide through Canada and characters.

The only thing that slightly bothered me was the imbalance between male and female characters and how the latter were all connected to motherhood somehow. I know that some of the historical settings limit female independence and freedom or maybe the male author simply didn’t dare but.. I would have liked to know more about them and their surroundings.

Except for Jake’s. Her 2038 is a loud, environmental warning we should all hope doesn’t turn into reality.

Anxious People

A bank robbery.

Anxious People, Fredrick Backman, Simon & Schuster 2020

“This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.” – don’t say Fredrick Backman didn’t warn you.

A bank robbery turns into a hostage situation but everyone involved is completely incapable of being a decent, well-functioning part of society. The bank robber takes over an apartment viewing, but everyone is more annoyed by this situation than terrified. And the bank robber is nervous and apologetic.

With flash-backs and flash..sides? we learn slightly more about this collection of fools and what made them this way. Backman does this in a quirky way, but manages very well to balance it before it gets annoying. This turns it into a comedy without having claimed to be a comedy, but there’s plenty of saddening details to add layers and depth to “Haha, weirdos!”.

It had me crying at the end. They might be idiots, but weren’t they made that way by situation and society? Saying more would ruin the few (small) surprises; read this for a solid laugh.