How to be an Antiracist

I despised suits and ties.

How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, Penguin 2019

With certain books you feel bad about not loving it. This is important information, this is something to learn from, and I struggled from beginning to ending.

That’s partly because of the style of this book: much too often it felt like I was paging through a dictionary because definitions are added to everything and repeated often. It could be that I spend too much time online that I am already familiar with plenty of terms, but no matter if it’s for rookie or the more experienced: the message has to be delivered in an attractive way. And I know repetition is key to learning and remembering things, but now I just remember the repetition; not the message.

Kendi combines his own story with the story of racism and anti-racism and doesn’t protect himself in either. Maybe it’s better to look at this like a part of encyclopedia instead.

Tick… Tick.. BOOM!

115 min.

To start things off, I didn’t expect there to be so many songs. I did know this was based on a theater-piece (right?), but not musical theater. Nor that the main character was based on someone who really exists. Yeah, this is what you get when you just follow the hype.

Add the run time of almost two hours on top of this and I was ready to be let down again (earlier I didn’t particularly care about Hand of God and Goodfellas was too long as well).

Yes, it took me a bit to get used to the amount of sudden singing. And Jon’s (the protagonist) anxiety is quite anxiety-inducing as well, and I’m not even 29-I-have-to-make-it-big-before-30 anymore. Still, Andrew Garfield sells it all and sells it well. He’s almost manic, can’t stop even though he knows he should if he wants to keep relationships healthy, friendships alive and the lights on.

This reminded me of Rocketman from time to time: also someone suffering because of talent and anxiety. Tick.. Tick swings less, but definitely touches you as well.

The Education of an Idealist

“What right has this woman to be so educated?”

The Education of an Idealist, Samantha Power, Harper Collins 2019

Pfew, this is a big one. I put this one on my list because I was curious about looking behind the curtains of the White House and the NATO, but those parts were the ones that made me lose (some) interest.

The idealist in question is Samantha Power and this book is her work memoir. Her resume includes foreign (war) correspondent), several functions within Obama’s team, author and US representative at NATO. Yeah, she went places.

All her experiences and insights into different systems are sad, frustrating and terrifying and they’re so many of them. Hundreds of pages on how American political actions work, sometimes even repeated (maybe to show how slow and grinding the system is?).

It’s all interesting, and I wouldn’t have had a deadline I might have spend more time on it, but for one week it’s just too much. A sharper edit, a tighter story telling or just more darlings killed might have left me feeling less relief when I finally reached the acknowledgments.

The Harder They Fall

139 min.

I wouldn’t have watched this if it hadn’t been this cast; I don’t care for westerns They seem to be the original genre in the category Film’s Too Long.

That’s one of the issues here: dare make it a straight revenge film without the unnecessary straight romance. Don’t bother fleshing out side-characters if you’re only going to do it half-cocked (because it a western, get it?).

The OST manages to carry almost the entire film on its back, but in the end it’s the running time that cripples us all.

Prince of Egypt

99 min.

A shorter animation, also to be found on Netflix, and possibly with an ever better soundtrack than that of my previous watched film, but it would be a close call.

I watched Prince of Egypt before, possibly even in the cinema. I can remember it being an Event and through the years it’s always (online) been a classic or at least the favourite of a generation. To watch it with older eyes is a risk, but I did it.

It still works. The animation is more beautiful than the C+P of today’s productions, the soundtrack is intense, the story is – even for heathens like me – appealing. I honestly don’t understand why the Vatican didn’t finance studios to do many biblical stories like this; I wonder if people turned to Christianity after watching Prince of Egypt.

Anyway, just telling you it won’t disappoint. I’m sure you still know the lines of When You Believe.

Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

58 min.

I almost definitely picked this film because it was just two minutes short of an hour. Okay, I’m always up for trying something animated, but a film that’s called Monster Hunter and created by CAPCOM (so probably based on a game)? Let’s not expect too much.

It turns out to be a very sanitised version of a Hollywood fantasy (no blood, dancing around violence and maiming, no naked boobs). Except for the statistician monster hunter. And a talking cat, and fun looking monsters – whom I rooted harder for than any human character.

It’s clear that I out-aged the demographic for this, but the potential is there. Right now it’s just cheap (looking) Saturday morning entertainment for cool kiddos, but imagine if the people behind Witcher ran with it. Or a young Tim Burton. You might have to see to see it.

The Hidden Palace

Of all the myriad races of thinking creatures in the world, the two that most delight in telling stories are the flesh-and-blood humans and the long-lived, fiery jinn.

The Hidden Palace, Helene Wecker, HarperCollins 2021

I don’t remember exactly why, but I remember absolutely loving in that swept-away-recommend-everyone way the prequel to this: The Golem and the Jinni. Maybe it’s a sophomore slump or the time between has dropped the rose colour from my glasses, but I didn’t love this one. Sadly.

My biggest complaint is how compartmentalized it felt: there’s never much room given to have the story flow, instead of continuously moving on to another character, another angle, another location. It’s like the notes for a story; not a story.

Of course, it’s still a wonderful look at a young New York city (although not that young anymore, with the first World War around the corner), a broad view at the mythology/-ies of golem and jinns. Some of the new characters add to the stories of the golem and the jinn, others take up too much space and sentimentally planned scenes (assuming, of course) don’t pull at the heart strings at all or only very little.

It’s all too one-dimensional, but there’s rumours there’ll be another book. Maybe the third time is the charm – again.

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 Good Liar

109 min.

Zo’n verhaal waarvan je al snel hoopt dat het af gaat lopen zoals je weet dat het af moet lopen, maar stel je voor dat je wel een ouderwets, outdated verhaal hebt gevonden en met de frustraties achterblijft.

Spoiler: gelukkig loopt het ook zo af. Al neemt de film er wel de tijd voor.

Het leeuwendeel van de film is het opzetten en volgen van de relatie tussen Roy en Betty. Twee senioren die toch nog iets moois bij elkaar vinden, al is dat wel nogal ongebalanceerd: Roy weet dat Betty miljonair is, Betty heeft genoeg aan gezelschap.

Als zijplotje wordt gedemonstreerd dat Roy wel vaker weet waar de centjes zitten, maar is hij dan alleen met Betty voor haar geld? Verdulleme.

De film is dan vooral een demonstratie van Mirren en McKellan in dialoog: heel de clue wordt met dik-hout-zaagt-men-planken neergegooid en gaat te lang door. Ja ja jeetje wat erg allemaal, maar eigenlijk te laat om impact te hebben. Ook wraakfilms hebben een goede balans nodig.

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.