Wild Strawberries (1957)


Link: Wild Strawberries

Summary: On his way to accepting an honorary degree at an award ceremony, an aging doctor is plagued with nightmares that remind him of his impending death and flashbacks of painful memories that change his opinion of himself.

Thoughts: The story reminded me a bit of Scrooge and A Christmas Carol in that flashbacks give an old man a different perspective on his life.  However, in Wild Strawberries, the main character is rarely present in his flashbacks.  Instead, he witnesses things that happened to other people that change his perspective of them, and in turn himself by their perspective of him.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, the story didn’t quite work for me because we never get to see the main character’s perspective in his own flashbacks.  We get other characters saying he’s cold and judgmental and selfish, but we never see how he actually acts that made them feel this way.  Perhaps these other people are simply interpreting his words wrongly.  For example, I sometimes raise my voice in passionate arguments, and people mistake it for anger.  It’s not; it’s just excitement.  I enjoy a good debate.  Or if you ever mention you’ll pray for someone, a person can take it as some horrible condescending judgmental proclamation.  But prayer is the opposite of condemnation.  So how can we judge whether or not the accusations these characters voice against the doctor are at all fair if we never get to see his actual behavior?

Anyway, that’s really the only thing that didn’t work for me, but it really annoyed me.  The nightmare sequences were great, very eerie, though certainly not horrific.  The film is full of director Ingmar Bergman’s typical fear-of-death theme.  Really, the characters in his film just need to go to confession and they’d be fine, but they’d rather linger on whether or not God and guilt are real, and then they quiver in fear in the terrible shadow of death and what awaits beyond, lest they can get their minds on something else, like issues of love.

Despite the elements that annoyed me, I still enjoyed the film.  I enjoy Bergman’s imagination, even if it blossoms best when his characters are fearing the darkness of death.  Of the small portion of Bergman films I’ve seen, I’d say The Magician is still my favorite, followed by Fanny and Alexander.

Mama (2013)


Link: Mama

Summary: After their father dies, two young girls spend months living by themselves in an abandoned cabin in the woods.  When they are found, their uncle and his girl friend try to make a new life for them.  But it won’t be so easy, because a ghostly deranged dangerous dead woman wants to keep the children for herself.

Thoughts: Some of the horror elements comes across as silly and ridiculous, such as the girls crawling around on all fours like feral children.  The visuals of the ghostly Mama were certainly creepy, yet there was something Ghostbuster-ishly funny about them too, as if her character really wasn’t very sinister, just stupid and crazy.  I found myself laughing more than being scared.  The ending was a bit of a disappointment; it just didn’t seem to fit the rest of the story.  Overall, though, it was a fun movie; the story was engaging enough.  I’d be interested to see what the director does next.  Also, the film featured a fantastic music score.  I’d love to get my hands on the soundtrack at some point.  Soothing yet haunting melodies, a bit like the music of Pan’s Labyrinth.  Very beautiful.  Lastly, don’t go in the closet!  The closet!  The closet!  The closet!  CLOSET!!

The Monk (2011)


Link: The Monk

Summary: A monk who grew up in a monastery has his faith put to the test as he is tempted by a devilish seductress.  Based on the famous Gothic novel from the late 1700’s.

Thoughts: I’ve never read the Gothic novel on which this film is based, and certainly have no plans to any time soon.  (I find it hard to read a lot of old fiction; the style is just too impersonal for me.)  Still, I somehow expected this film to be darker, both in tone and in plot.  The spiritual torment of the main character doesn’t come across for me very well, such as his anguish in choosing what he knows to be wrong, and his guilt after choosing it.  He seems to face his sins rather stoically.  Then again, when a main character is choosing what he knows to be wrong, it’s rather hard to have much empathy for him.  But it might’ve been a bit easier if he had made some noticeable sign of regretting it.  Anyway, interesting film.

Man of Steel (2013)


Link: Man of Steel

Summary: When the evil villain wants to turn Earth into a new Krypton, killing the planet’s population in the process, Superman must save the day.

Thoughts: This is the first Superman film I’ve ever seen.  I am completely unfamiliar with the lore.  Superman has never seemed like that intriguing of a super hero to me.  And this film doesn’t help with that.  The backstory was interesting and worked well, I thought.  I enjoyed seeing Russell Crowe as Superman’s real father, and I enjoyed the flashbacks of Clark Kent growing up, learning to use his powers and arguing with his father about their appropriate use and his relationship with the rest of the world.  The dialog writing was atrocious, but I can appreciate what they were going for.

Unfortunately, the adult Superman is a super-bland character.  He wants nothing concrete, and hardly seems to care that much about other people, saving a few of them here and there only because it’s the superhero thing to do.  There’s hardly any humor, and what little there is comes off as awkward and not very funny; overall, this film took itself way too seriously.  I also completely don’t understand the Christ connection.  The film rather blatantly portrays Superman as a Christ figure, as they are both, in a sense, persecuted saviors.  (Granted, so are countless story heroes.  And maybe the Christ connection is part of Superman lore, so maybe it works for other viewers better than it did for me.)  But the reasons they are persecuted and the ways in which they save people are far too different for the comparison to be at all valid, as far as I can tell.  Christ is about saving us from our own sins, saving us spiritually by teaching us about love and forgiveness, inspiring us to love as he loves.  Superman is only a physical savior, and there’s no chance you’re ever going to get his strength, because he’s not even human.  We persecuted Christ our of fear of our own condemnation, persuaded by the lure of our selfish desires.  We persecute Superman because . . . what, he’s too strong?  “Ah!  A strong man!  That’s just not fair!  Kill him!  Also, he can see under my clothes!”  Am I missing something?  Finally, what’s with all the destruction?  Yay, the world is saved!  And we have $5 billion plus in damages!  It’s as if the director said, “Look, I don’t really know how to do a good fight scene, but I reckon if things are exploding and crumbling and crashing and smashing all the time, that’s basically the same thing.”

Overall, very bland story, very bland characters.

The LEGO Movie teaser trailer


The trailer for the upcoming animated LEGO movie has arrived.  It’s just a teaser and story-wise, there’s nothing much of interest here.  But the animation looks fantastic, and I love how they make CGI look like it’s stop-motion.  It’s also interesting to see how the toy company behind LEGO uses other franchises to advertise their own; it reminds of how Disney did so with Toy Story and Wreck-It Ralph.  Anyway, I’ll definitely be interested to see this movie.  As of now, it’s set to be released February 2014.  Here’s the trailer: