She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014)

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
Director: Mary Dore
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 9.6.2017
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“Plot”:
Tracing the feminist movement in the USA in the late 60s, the documentary looks at the history of the modern feminist movement through interviews with some of the major players from that time.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry has interesting insights into the history of the feminist movement and tries very hard to not just include white feminism, but reproduces the lack of trans feminism in Second Wave Feminism and only touches on lesbian activism, which I found a pity. Nevertheless, it was a good watch.

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The Vegetarian (Han Kang)

The Vegetarian is a novel by Han Kang. It’s based on her own short story The Fruit of my Woman. I read the translation to English by Deborah Smith.
Finished on: 8.6.2017

Plot:
Mr. Cheong has been married for Yeong-hye for several years, leading a quiet, unremarkable life, which is just the way he wants it. But that changes rather drastically when, after a series of bloody dreams, Yeong-hye suddenly decides to stop eating meat. This decision singles Yeong-hye out and with it comes a distance from her family and deep discomfort for Cheong, who just wants things to be normal.

The Vegetarian is a very interesting book that works on many levels, except – at least for me – on the emotional one. Even as I appreciated the novel on an intellectual level, I remained at a curious distance, never really feeling the impact of events.

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Bar Bahar [In Between] (2016)

Bar Bahar
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud
Writer: Maysaloun Hamoud
Cast: Mouna HawaSana JammeliehShaden KanbouraMahmud ShalabyHenry Andrawes
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 8.6.2017
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Plot:
Leila (Mouna Hawa) and Salma (Sana Jammelieh) share an apartment in Tel Aviv. Their third flatmate, another young, Palestinian woman, just moved out and gave her room to her cousin, Noor (Shaden Kanboura). Leila and Salma, who think of themselves as progressive, are taken aback when shy, quiet Noor shows up, wearing a hijab. Leila, a brash defense lawyer, and Salma, a lesbian DJ, don’t really know how to deal with Noor, who studies computer science and spends most of her spare time with her strictly religious fiancé Wissam (Henry Andrawes). But in time, the three women grow closer.

Bar Bahar is a beautiful, touching film with great characters that gives us a rare complex and diverse portrayal of Middle Eastern women. I really have no complaints about it.

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Scarlet Road (2011)

Scarlet Road
Director: Catherine Scott
Seen on: 8.6.2017

“Plot”:
Rachel Wotton is a sex worker who specialized in working with (physically) disabled clients. At this intersection of taboos – sex work and seeing disabled people as sexual beings – she became an activist who is fighting for the rights of sex workers and the rights of disabled people.

Scarlet Road is an interesting look at a topic that’s usually not talked about. It – rightly – centers the perspective of the people at the heart of the matter, that is: disabled people and sex workers and shows what the topic means to them, making it very insightful, especially when you’re neither a sex worker, nor disabled.

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Baywatch (2017)

Baywatch
Director: Seth Gordon
Writer: Damian ShannonMark Swift
Based on: the TV series
Cast: Dwayne JohnsonZac EfronPriyanka ChopraAlexandra DaddarioKelly RohrbachIlfenesh HaderaJon BassYahya Abdul-Mateen IIHannibal BuressRob HuebelDavid HasselhoffPamela Anderson
Seen on: 4.6.2017
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Plot:
It’s time to find new recruits for the lifeguards of Emerald Bay, the Baywatch. Overseen by Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), the recruits prepare for a tough competition. All but Matt Brody (Zac Efron) that is, who finds that he shouldn’t have to prove himself at all since he’s an Olympic swimmer and Baywatch would be lucky to have him. But when a new drug hits the Bay, Mitch and Matt take it upon themselves despite their personal differences to clean up their bay and bring those responsible to justice.

I expected Baywatch to be stupid, sexist and childish, but with charm machine Dwayne Johnson at the helm, I thought it would still entertain regardless. But while the first part of my expectations came true – it is stupid, sexist and childish – the latter part unfortunately fell flat. The script is so bad, not even Johnson can save it.

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Iron Council (China Miéville)

Iron Council is the third novel in the Bas-Lag series by China Miéville.
Finished on: 4.6.2017
[Here are my reviews of the other books.]

Plot:
Cutter knows he has to find the Iron Council, the perpetually moving train full of rebels and dissenters who fled New Crobuzon. Among those rebels is Judah, who Cutter used to be very close to. And now Cutter has gained knowledge that the New Crobuzon militia is ready to strike against the Iron Council. Meanwhile in New Crobuzon itself, things are brewing, too, and Ori knows he wants to have a part in it, a hopefully very active part.

As usual with Miéville, Iron Council takes work to read and it takes a little time to get into this. But it’s worth it to stick with it, as Miéville gives us not only a wonderfully intricate world and complex characters, but also an awesome political slant.

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Obsession

Obsession
Director: Ivo van Hove
Writer: Jan Peter Gerrits, translated by Simon Stephens
Based on: Luchino Visconti’s movie
Cast: Jude Law, Halina Reijn, Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Chukwudi Iwuji, Robert de Hoog, Aysha Kala
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 3.6.2017

Plot:
Gino (Jude Law) doesn’t really have a home, instead he just moves around. When he reaches a new town, he finds employment with gas station owner Joseph (Gijs Scholten van Aschat) and decides to stick around for a bit. But work is only a small reason: the bigger motivation is Joseph’s much younger, beautiful and obviously bored wife Hanna (Halina Reijn). As Gino and Hanna fall for each other, Joseph becomes an obstacle they plan to get rid of.

Just reading the plot description, I had my doubts about this play, but I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to see Jude Law live on stage. So I went for it anyway – and all of my worst expectations came true, plus even some bad expectations I didn’t know I should be having. It was a profoundly bad production.

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Discotropic

Discotropic
Director: niv Acosta
Cast: niv Acosta, Ashley Brockington, BEARCAT, Bleue Liverpool, Fannie Sosa, Jay Boogie
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 1.6.2017

“Plot”:
In a performance space somewhere between Science Fiction, Disco and Tropics, six black, queer performers use the combination of the remoteness of space, retrofuturistic ambivalence of SciFi and the rhythm of music and dancing to negotiate visibility and marginalization.
[It’s difficult to sum up. You can get an impression of it here. And you can find my favorite part here.]

So far my experiences with performance art have been quite mixed. I made several attempts during the Festwochen, most with mild to no success. 2017 saw a change in the artistic leadership of the Festival, bringing a fresh (outspokenly intersectional) perspective and several performances that sounded way too interesting to pass up. Discotropic was one of them, and I have to say that I am very happy that I gave it a try despite my reluctance with (and little knowledge about) performances. It was a fascinating, immersive experience that made me question my own reactions and ideas in many interesting ways.

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All the Sex I’ve Ever Had

All the Sex I’ve Ever Had
Director: Darren O’Donnell
Part of: Wiener Festwochen
Seen on: 31.5.2017

Plot:
Six local people, all over 65 years of age, were found for this production and asked to talk about their sexual history on screen. So Burkhart, Hannelore, Herbert, Hermine, Moni and Veronika walk the audience through their history – in chronological order, of course – and every once in a while ask the audience some questions, too.

All the Sex I Ever Had is an interesting, ambitious theater project and a very entertaining experience for the audience. I would have wished for a little more diversity and maybe a little more critical commentary, but I did enjoy myself.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Director: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Sequel to: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Stephen GrahamAngus Barnett, Martin KlebbaAdam Brown, Giles New, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Paul McCartney
Seen on: 30.5.2017
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Plot:
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is approached by a young man, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), who needs to find the Trident of Poseidon to break his father’s curse, his father none other than Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). As luck will have it, Jack also desperately needs the Trident as very recently, vengeful ghost Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) managed to free himself from the Devil’s Triangle and is now hellbent on ridding the seas of all pirates, particularly Jack. And even more luckily, Henry runs into Carina (Kaya Scodelario) who happens to have all the necessary clues to find the Trident – if she can only get out of being tried and executed as a witch.

My excitement to watch yet another installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series was rather low (especially with Johnny Depp the abuser at the forefront of the film), but since it became a group outing and there is a certain amount of nostalgia attached to these films, I ended up seeing it anyway. I shouldn’t have bothered.

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