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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 11:08 am 
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I recently watched Waterloo (1970), a not particularly well-known Soviet production. It’s interesting from a historical perspective because the battle scenes were filmed with fifteen thousand Red Army soldiers in Napoleonic-era uniform – probably the biggest single historical re-enactment of all time. It’s a truly remarkable spectacle, particularly in the pre-CGI era. I could only find the two-hour English version – apparently the original Russian was four hours long.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 11:06 am 
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Recently watched Peter Jackson's latest "They Shall Never Grow Old". And what a colossal achievement it is. Yeah sure it's all a great technical achievement and everything, but it's biggest credit is how it manages to connect so deeply with blurred and grainy video-footage and voices of people who existed 100 years ago, nearly all of whom are dead by now. It's epic but intensely intimate. And while the LotR films might be PJ's legacy, this might just be his masterpiece.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:26 am 
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I love history, but I’m possibly even more fascinated by historiography – how history is remembered and portrayed. Not just in writing, but in popular culture like film and TV. George Orwell said that he who controls the present controls the past, and this is really easy to see where the control of the present changes decisively.

A couple of years ago I watched the 2008 Russian film The Admiral, which is a biopic of Admiral Kolchak, the leader of the counter-Revolutionary forces during the Russian Civil War and recognised as Russia’s head of state by the western Allies. For the entire Soviet period, Kolchak was a villain – the great enemy of the people’s revolution. The Admiral gave him his first sympathetic portrayal in Russian media (to my knowledge) and was unflinching in its depictions of Bolshevik brutality.

Now I’ve started watching Trotsky on Netflix, a Russian-produced TV series.

Churchill described Russia as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. I have to agree. I don’t feel I’m all that much closer to understanding the country from watching the films and TV shows it makes about its past. I remember very well a comment Storyteller (a Russian-Israeli) made on TORC – Russia is not the easternmost of the western countries, but rather the westernmost of the eastern countries.

In particular, I haven’t really got my head around (and I’m not sure if Russians in general have got their head around) modern Russia’s relationship to its Communist past. Take the Name of Russia, a 2008 poll to find the greatest Russian. Polls narrowed the list down to twelve, each of which had a ‘promoter’ to advocate for them in a TV episode. One of them was Josef Stalin, and his promoter was General Valentin Varennikov, a hardline Communist who was one of the leaders of the 1991 military coup which tried to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev when it appeared he was becoming too democratic and pro-western. He came third (despite not actually being a Russian). He was beaten out for second place by Pyotr Stolypin, the repressive Tsarist-era Prime Minister (first was Alexander Nevsky, who defeated the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the Ice).

The current position of the Administration (and Russian state media) seems to be that both the Tsarist regime and the Communist era had problems, but it isn’t willing to completely disown either.

Which leads us back to Leon Trotsky, who can comfortably be disowned. And this series certainly paints him in a pretty unflattering light, to a lot of criticism from left-wing publications. But it doesn’t seem all that much more sympathetic to Lenin and Stalin, nor to the Tsarist Government. This makes it rather grim viewing. And the director has opted for a modern noir style reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, complete with rapid flicking through images, fancy camerawork and reality sometimes seeming to shift into fantasy.

I’m not sure if I’ll finish it. But I’m definitely going to keep watching modern Russian historical films and TVs. And when I’m in Georgia next year I hope to visit the Stalin museum at Gori to see if it sheds any more light for me on Stalinism in modern post-Soviet states.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:31 pm 
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In 1866, poet Fyodor Tyutchev wrote (with better rhymes in Russian)

You can't grasp Russia with your mind
Nor measure it with common yardstick
It will forever stand apart
You only must have faith in Russia.

The first line is among the most quoted in Russian poetry, sometimes in patriotic tones, but often as a grievance.

In 1997, poet Igor Guberman responded

It's a high time to /bad word that rhymes/
Start grasping Russia with your mind

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:52 pm 
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Frelga wrote:

You can't grasp Russia with your mind
Nor measure it with common yardstick
It will forever stand apart
You only must have faith in Russia.


From my perspective as Western Americans scum, that sounds positively distopian.

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Last edited by yovargas on Mon Aug 12, 2019 3:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:42 pm 
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That's because you are trying to grasp it with your mind. :P

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:40 pm 
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Oops, my mistake.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:05 pm 
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I didn't say you were wrong!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:56 am 
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Watched quite a few movies recently thanks to nearly 40 hours of air travel. Because sound is often poor, I tend to pick movies where missing dialog would not present a problem, but I did have decent headphones for some of the flights.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - I remember people weren't happy about the movie when it came out, but I am at a loss as to why. I missed the whimsy of the first movie and its adorable creatures, but otherwise it was solid, and the plot unpredictable. My disappointment was with what they did to the Queenie's character. It was good to see a woman be pretty and flirty, and also an intelligent and active character. But I guess a sexy woman cannot be a good woman in the movies.

Coco - brilliant animation, visually something very new, a touching and "safe" message about importance of family.

Venom - actually wished for better sound on this one. Solid action movie, and Tom Hardy dealing with Venom like he is saddled with a (very dangerous) toddler was hilarious.

Aquaman - wet Jason Momoa.

Shazam - because I'm giving DC a chance. There was a violent scene that I thought was out of place in a movie aimed at a younger audience, but otherwise it was entertaining. Another movie about the importance of family.

Alita: Battle Angel - beautiful movie. The story didn't really grab me, but I appreciated seeing a young rebel in a dystopian society who, at the end, neither succeeded single-handedly nor became a leader/inspiration for a revolution. I don't think I've ever seen a heroic inspirational speech fall flat like that.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:49 pm 
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My answer to this challenge was Venom because, even though the movie was terrible, man was that Hardy/Venom duo entertaining! :D

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:32 pm 
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Frelga wrote:
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - I remember people weren't happy about the movie when it came out, but I am at a loss as to why. I missed the whimsy of the first movie and its adorable creatures, but otherwise it was solid, and the plot unpredictable.


I think the problem that people had with it is that they found it too difficult to figure out what was going on. I, on the other hand, liked it for exactly that reason; you had to really think about it. I'm looking forward to the next episode.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:49 pm 
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V, despite watching on a tiny screen with mediocre sound, I had no trouble following the movie.

To Yov's challenge - I have a high bar for good movies and low bar for OK movies. I want them to be fun, not make me cringe, and not make me want to smack the male lead in the face with a cast iron skillet. Extra points for a hot male lead.

So for me, I'd go with Fantastic Four (2005), the later Fast and Furious movies (once they added Jason Statham), and yes, Venom.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:15 pm 
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Frelga wrote:
So for me, I'd go with Fantastic Four (2005)


To quote the comic - Seriously?! :P

Also, F&F doesn't count cuz the majority of those 9 (!) movies are over 50% on RT.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:42 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Frelga wrote:
So for me, I'd go with Fantastic Four (2005)


To quote the comic - Seriously?!


It's got both Ioan Gruffudd and Chris Evans, whom they show near naked at every opportunity. And I could write an essay on how the three good guys exemplify three types of positive masculine role models while the villain is toxic masculinity personified.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:56 pm 
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A very fair point.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:59 pm 
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I loved 'Coco'. Another really good film along that lines is 'Kubo and the Two Strings'.

I enjoyed 'Crimes of Grindewald' but it was hard to follow. It's one of those movies I'd find easier to watch at home than in the theater. My hearing isn't the best and sometimes there is so much background noise I can't make out the dialog.

I don't know that I watch enough movies to take yov up on his challenge. I'll have to think on it.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:29 pm 
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Yov, I knew you'd come around. ;)

Rose, Kubo and the Two Strings was excellent and remarkable for being stop-motion puppet animation rather than digital.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 8:02 pm 
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I went to Rotton Tomatoes and did a search based on rottonness and genre. I couldn't find anything in this century. Most of my formative movies were from the 20th century.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2019 5:49 am 
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For yov's challenge, below 50 for Tomatometer or audience score?

I liked 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' (2001- RT: 28%/50% respectively). It's far from a perfect film. I'm not the biggest fan of Nicholas Cage, but I give him credit for learning to play the mandolin for the songs in this film (I love the mandolin.) The cinematography is gorgeous as is the Stephen Warbeck score. :love: I also love the relationship between the father/daughter (John Hurt/Penelope Cruise) Seriously, if you don't watch the film take the time to listen ...
Palagia's song .... *sigh* Horgata beach. La Scala. Santa Lucia. The Mandolin. Agii Fanentes. Lemoni. Reunion. Oh.. just all of it.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:47 pm 
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I did the genre and tomatometer search too. Movies I liked that were below 50 and post 2000 are:
Bruce Almighty
The Time Travelor's Wife
Next
and
The Chronicles of Riddick

I'm not surprised by the time travel ones (they get kind of hard to follow) - but I'm a sucker for that kind of topic.

I was really surprised by the low scores on the other two. Especially "The Chronicles of Riddick" ! How the heck did it only get a 29% on the tomatometer? I loved Karl Urban in that. Riddick, (I mean Vin Diesel) not so much... but I'll definitely watch it again some time. When I'm in a Riddick binge mood.


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