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Gattaca – still as gorgeous after 15 years

with 33 comments

“There’s no gene for fate”, says Vincent in an early scene in Gattaca, thus summarizing what the film is about: a man who decides to take charge of his own destiny, ignoring what his genes and society has to say about it.

The story about the underdog who challenges the establishment and aims for the stars has been told over and over again, not the least with the science fiction genre. But very few times has it been told as beautifully and touching as in this film.

And now you have to excuse me, because I’m about to write a pretty incoherent, rambling piece of a review. But you know how it is when you’ve just fallen in love – you get dizzy and can’t think clearly.

Fresh after 15 years
So after all those years I finally got around seeing this film and I can’t believe what took me so long. I bet many of you have seen it ages ago, maybe even in a theatre. But if there are any more latecomers out there who consider watching it after hearing me gushing over it, I can assure you that it’s top notch fresh 15 years after the premier.

That’s not always the case with science fiction movies. Due to development in science, technology, special effects and society overall, they have the unfortunate tendency to age pretty quickly and not always in a charming and flattering way. But Gattaca was made with a timeless style that makes it look vaguely futuristic without being tied to a certain year. With the exception of a couple of computer screens (always those computers!) it could as well have been made last year.

The film puts up questions about where the chase for perfection can lead us, and they’re more relevant than ever. I can’t tell exactly when it happened, but when I look back twenty years, I have the feeling that a lot of boundaries have been moved. Look at the tailoring of our offspring where future parents try to find an optimal sperm donator to increase the chances for their child to become a natural talent in some area. Look at the interruption of pregnancies where the fetus is “lacking” in the eyes of the parents. Look at the development of plastic surgery. It used to be something odd, almost eccentric. Now it’s a standard procedure. I would say that in the time that has passed since Gattaca was made we’ve gotten a little bit closer to the society it depictures.

I guess I should say few words about the story. So: this is the near future, where the genetic engineering is a bit more advanced than today.  Children with any kind of disease or handicap or other “flaw” are selected away before birth. The “imperfect” people who still exist are second class citizens. Vincent is one of the outcasts, burdened with an increased chance to get a heart condition. His dream is to travel to the stars, but to be hired for that you need to be a “perfect” specimen of a human. He comes up with a way to work around it. Will he succeed?

Works on many levels
Gattaca succeeds at so many levels. On one level you can see it as an exciting thriller. Without giving away any details I can say that there’s a crime story and an investigation and you’re also always on your toes, torn between hope and despair whether Vincent will succeed or not.

It’s also a great science fiction story that is a treat for all of us who prefer idea based science fiction to stories about space cowboys killing each other. Think Philip K Dick; think Ray Bradbury, and you’re on the right track.

But it’s also a piece of well crafted drama. The main characters aren’t just cupboard figures. We get to know them pretty closely and we see several relationships develop over time.

And as if this wasn’t enough, Gattaca is also a treat for the eye. It’s simply gorgeous to look at, with a beautiful, consistent and believable art direction that puts you in the right mood, and excellent cinematography by Slawomir Idziak, who previously has done the footage of The Double Life of Veronique among many other movies.

So here we are with a good looking movie with a story that kept me hooked and characters I genuinely cared about (not the least thanks to excellent performances by Ethan Hawke and Jude Law). What more could you possibly wish for?

I won’t be surprised if Gattaca snatches one of the spots the day I decide to make a top 10 list over my favorite science fiction movies. I liked it that much.

Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, US, 1997) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

June 12, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Gattaca

My first 5/5 rated movie of 2012

with 30 comments

My firstborn daughter didn’t seem to want to be in this world for her first four months of her life. She had colic and she cried constantly – loud and heartbreaking. The only time she didn’t cry was when we put her in a car and went for a ride. It didn’t take two seconds before she was sound asleep and she kept sleeping until we stopped, when she woke up abruptly, ready for more hours of screaming and crying.

When Eva, the mother of Kevin in We Need to Talk about Kevin, stops by a jackhammer, seemingly getting a relief hearing the sound of the drill over the sound of her yelling son, I know exactly where she’s coming from.

In our case the problems were temporary. One morning our daughter’s stomach was back to normal, she stopped screaming and began to sleep, at least as much as other babies sleep. In a snap those horrendous months became just a far distant memory.

For Eva however, her problems have only begun.

She and Kevin just can’t connect, no matter how hard she tries. And Kevin certainly isn’t an easy child to love. He seems to have a dark passenger, but unlike Dexter he appears to lack a code of conduct keeping it under control.

Eventually something will happen that makes Eva’s life go from bad to worse. She’s going through events that are the worst a parent could imagine and she’s torn by guilt as well as the uncovered contempt and hatred of the people in the neighbourhood.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is the first movie I’ve watched in a theatre this year to get a 5/5 rating. It was an amazing movie experience and I’m pretty sure it will be in my top 10 list of 2012. And as so often happens to me when I really, really love a movie, I find myself in a tough spot to explain why. True love is wordless. But I’ll make a five list to at least give you a few ideas.

Five reasons to love We Need to Talk about Kevin:

1. Because of Tilda Swinton
I can’t imagine Eva in any other way than how Tilda Swinton played her. It’s an amazing performance, on par with for instance Michael Fassbender in Shame. It’s beyond my comprehension why she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

2. Because it’s beautifully cinematic
We Need to Talk about Kevin is the opposite of “filmed theatre”, which I talked about in a post a few days ago. It uses the film medium to its full potential, showing rather than telling. It’s a movie that speaks to all of your senses. Even if it isn’t a “4d” movie, it was so sensual that I almost could feel the smell of tomatoes and paint and jam in my nostrils. It’s a mosaic of impressions and fragments of memory, forming a picture that isn’t complete until the final shot. The cinematography is breathtaking. While the topic is serious, it’s a joy for the eye.

3. Because it offers a new approach to an old topic
The story about what Kevin eventually does is one that has been told several times before in movies. But this isn’t yet another movie in that genre. We Need to Talk about Kevin is more than anything else a movie about Eva. It’s about what has led her to the point where she is now; it’s about what’s going on inside her – her depression, her guilt and her frustration. And it’s about how other people react to Eva and how she reacts to them. This is a perspective that I hadn’t given much thought before, but which I think is necessary to talk about. It’s thought provoking. Many people hold for true that evil deeds is something that doesn’t come out of nowhere, that it’s something that is caused by a crappy childhood. But how true is that?

4. Because the artfulness never is allowed to overshadow the storytelling
While the movie is very artistically made, it isn’t cryptic, hard to follow, overly subtle, slow or ambiguous to the point that you don’t know what the movie was about, which unfortunately sometimes happen with small arthouse movies. We’re jumping back and forward on the timeline, but it’s never hard to figure out where you are. And there is an underlying tension that made me feel fully awake, alert and eager to see what would happen next. It offers the perfect balance between being artful and engaging.

5. Because it haunts me
Some movies are just for the moment. Others stay with you, haunting you for days, months or even years to come. I have no doubt that We Need to talk about Kevin is one of those that will stay with me. It’s not only the stunning images or the creeping personality of Kevin that lingers in my mind. It’s also the perspective. The entire movie is done from the perspective of Eva, just like Martha Marcy May Marlene took Martha’s perspective. This is her recollections, her way of watching reality. But if you asked someone else, you would probably get a different story and how would that look? How much of this is real and how much is just going on in her head? I’m still wrestling with the thoughts over it and if you split the ticket fee on all the hours I will think about it, it certainly gives good value for your money.

And I’ll leave it there for now but if you want to hear more about my love for this film, you can listen to an upcoming episode of The Matineecast where Ryan McNeil and I gush over it. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lynne Ramsey, UK, 2011) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

February 21, 2012 at 1:00 am

Reuniting with Mickey Rourke 29 years later

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Once upon a time I had a crush on Mickey Rourke. It was in 1983 and I was 16 years old and laid my eyes on him in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish. He was the Motorcycle Boy with sad eyes, a gentle smile and just a little bit too old and dangerous for my own safety.

My crush lasted a few more years through 9 1/2 weeks and Angel Heart and then I lost track of him for many, many years. I think he went for boxing instead, though imdb says that he also kept doing movies meanwhile. They probably weren’t all that successful.

But Mickey Rourke wasn’t the only remarkable thing about Rumble Fish. I also remember it for being very stylish, all shot in black and white, apart from a couple of fishes which were displayed in glowing colors. For years Rumble Fish was my favorite movie thanks to the style and Rourke’s bittersweetness. To be honest I don’t remember much else of it anymore, but when I did my top 100 list I included it, just for old friendship and in honour of the 16 year old me.

A lot of style
The other night I reunited with Mickey Rourke in Sin City. He had aged, but who hasn’t? One thing was the same as on our first meeting though: it was the most stylish movie I’ve seen for a very long time and just like Rumble Fish it was shot in black and white with only a few dashes of colour just for effect.

But the magic wasn’t quite the same and it wasn’t just that Rourke had lost his sex appeal. I guess I’m not quite as easily seduced by style anymore. I ended up admiring Sin City more than I loved it.

I know this movie has quite a few fans and I bet some of them are having coffee in this café at this very moment, getting it in the wrong throat as they read this. What is this lady saying, you may wonder? Doesn’t she LOVE this spectacular adaptation of Frank Miller’s comics? It’s brilliant! It brings the art of turning graphic novels into movies to a new level! It’s as if the drawings are coming alive! Did you ever see anything blacker, slicker, darker, prettier? What is there not to love about it?

Well, let me put it this way: I was on my toes for the first 15 minutes, my jawed dropped, at awe with the sheer beauty of it. And the violence I’d heard so much about didn’t affect me very much. It’s not the over-the-top acts that make me nauseous. So what if someone gets turned into a pez dispenser, their head hanging in a thin slice? It’s just a fantasy. (On the other hand show me a father slapping his son or a man raping a woman and I’ll want cover my face.)

Lack of heart
My problem wasn’t the violence. My problem was the lack of heart. The film consists of four short stories. They’re told with the biggest amount of voiceover I’ve ever encountered in a movie and I think this might be one of the reasons why the movie had a sedative effect on me as soon as the initial jaw-dropping effect had worn off. All that reading aloud was as soothing as any goodnight story and I caught myself having stopped paying attention, dangerously close to falling asleep. Time after time I had to rewind and go back to where I had dropped the ball in order to make sure I’d watched the entire movie. For being a movie that includes a lot of action, violence, bad deeds, drama, sex and revenge it was strangely uninvolving, not to say boring.

It’s hard to put a fair grade after such an experience.

Let me put it this way: I would happily recommend Sin City to anyone who has an interest above the average for comics or films. It feels like a “must-see”, one in a kind. But on the other hand, I can’t hide that I didn’t connect with it. Not even with Mickey Rourke.

Sin City (Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez, US, 2005) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

February 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

Posted in Sin City

Hedwig made me feel ten years younger

with 16 comments

I’ve never fully understood the entertainment value of drag queen shows. I suspect it’s because I’m too open minded. I’m neither tickled, nor provoked by the sight of a man dressed like a woman. If you want to grab my attention and admiration it takes a great deal bit more than that.

Hence I wasn’t sure of how I would receive the film version of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. From all I could tell the entire movie circled around a (ex) guy wearing a gigantic blond wig, which made Dolly Parton’s hair style seem entirely natural. Not exactly my cup of tea.

But I needn’t have worried. Even as I mentioned that I was about to watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch in recent a blog post, I got some exclaims of enthusiasm in the comment section, and now I understand why.  Hedwig cut her through all my protecting layers right into my heart and entered my top 100 list of movies with a bang.

Not a standard drag queen
As little as Hedwig is an ordinary drag queen (well, strictly speaking she isn’t since she’s transgender, but she certainly looks like one, so I use the term anyway) is this a standard musical movie. It’s not cheesy. It’s not oversimplified. It’s not superficial.

And now I feel a bit helpless as I’m struggling to find the right words. I don’t know how to convey how bouncy it made me, how it teams with energy and creativity, how it is funny and sad and happy and angry at the same time, how it inspires me and challenges me and recharges me.

Would you believe me if I told you I felt ten years younger after watching it?

I guess I should tell you briefly about the story. Born in Eastern Germany, the boy Hansel goes through a (not entirely successful) sex-change operation before marrying a guy, fleeing to the freedom in the west. After being ditched, Hedwig starts a career as a singer, only to see her singing partner take off to make a career of his own, using her songs for his own benefit.

The plot is told mainly through song numbers, which sometimes include animations, with some dialogue and voice over explanations in between, except for the last 25 minutes of the movie, when there’s only music, one song after another (which works better than you would think.)

So what is it about this movie that I love so much?

Firstly I think the music has a lot to do with it. The director and writer John Cameron Mitchell, who also plays the leading role, is about the same age as I am, born in the 60s. And so is Stephen Trask, who has written the songs. You can tell that they’ve been influenced by artists that I love such as David Bowie, and that the punk era didn’t pass them unnoticed.

Sometimes musicals suffer from feeling a little soulless, acceptable for everyone but too anonymous to make any lasting imprint. Like airplane food. But the music of Hedwig has nothing of that. It is powerful, explosive, good enough to stand on its own and I wouldn’t mind putting it in my mp3 player along with artists such as David Bowie, The Who and Pink Floyd. It’s the first time since The Wall that I feel this way about a musical.

Secondly, I absolutely loved the performance by Mitchell. What a talented guy! Not only is he a writer and director; he’s also an excellent and charismatic singer and actor who manages to bring out an energy level which normally is something you only see in live performances.

And finally I loved the underlying message, how the movie challenged and broke every attempt to sort people into boxes, how it refused to recognize the walls we put up between the sexes. What is a woman; what is in the end a man, and do we really need to know or be one or the other? What matters in the end is that we’re all human beings, all searching for our lost, second half.

Extra documentary
With the DVD came an over one hour long documentary about the making of Hedwig. It tells the story about its origins, showing video footage from where it all started, as a live act at a small club. It also contains some great interviews, where I particularly enjoyed the ones with John Cameron Mitchell’s parents. If I ever nurtured any prejudices about retired militaries as being conservative and clueless about homosexuality and transgender issues, they are now gone. Seeing them proudly follow his success at the Sundance festival brought tears to my eyes.

One of the fans appearing in the documentary had watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch 400 times. I don’t think I’ll ever reach that level. But it’s safe to say that I will return to it every once in a while whenever I feel old and gray and un-punkish. I can’t think of a better cure for it than Hedwig.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, US, 2001) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

December 7, 2011 at 1:00 am

Could you stomach seeing the same movie 128 times?

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A friend of mine has seen the same movie 127 times since he saw it for the first time at the age of eight. The movie in question is The Third Man. He claims this is the best movie ever made, and that it’s absolutely flawless.

The idea of it is intriguing. How can a movie where you know every line by heart still be enjoyable? Perhaps it’s a different kind of enjoyment? It’s not about storytelling anymore; it’s more like a ritual or a session of meditation Instead of brooding on your breathing or the “ooohhmmmm” sound, you let your mind rest in the images of The Third Man. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

I can’t tell for sure which movie I’ve seen most times. I reckon it’s one of my children’s old favorites, probably a Disney movie or one of the screen adaptions of the the books by the children author Astrid LIndgren.

If we restrict ourselves to movies intended for adults, I guess Ivanhoe from 1982 starring Anthony Andrews would be a good candidate. They show it on the Swedish television every year around New Year and I’ve ended up watching it quite a few times by now (still getting annoyed since he always picks the wrong girl, even after all those years, ditching Olivia Hussey for a blond bimbo princess).

However the reason why I’ve seen it repeatedly has very little to do with quality. It isn’t a particularly good movie; it just happens to be around at the right time, when people are a little bored, recovering from the excesses of drinking, eating and socializing with the family. But I would rather have seen It’s a Wonderful Life every year, as they do in other places. A way better choice.

Another movie I’ve seen several times is Groundhog Day, which is kind of ironic considering its plot about a man who is reliving the same day over and over and over again. Unlike the case of The Third Man I can’t claim it’s the Best Movie Ever Made. However it’s one of those movies that feel “OK” to watch one more time if you’re mindlessly swapping between the TV-channels and it happens to be on or when you’re on an airplane and the film supply is limited.

My conclusion is that not all movies which are suitable for several views are masterpieces. But it goes the other way round: Not all masterpieces are the kind of movies you want to see over and over again.

Pan’s Labyrinth
For instance I recently found Naked by Mike Leigh quite remarkable, not like anything I’d seen before, but at the same time I had a horrible watching it and I definitely don’t want to go through that again, ever.

The same goes with Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a fantastic movie in many ways – imaginative and engaging, – but it’s also something of the worst, the most brutal and scary I’ve seen on a screen.  I closed my eyes from time to time, covering my face with my hands because it was so unbearable (not to speak of how awful I felt after the movie, since my 15 year daughter was even more devastated than I was, crying all the way home, making me feel like a BAD mother. How could I know? I thought it was more or less an ordinary fantasy movie!). If you ask me to rate it, it’s brilliant, but I wouldn’t give it a second time. And most certainly not a 128th.

Rather than rewatching good but unpleasant movies I think I should try find some time to see The Third Man.

I’ve never had the heart to tell my friend who is obsessing over it, but the sad truth is that I’ve never seen it. Not even once.

Written by Jessica

July 27, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Velvet Café’s top list of 2013

with 16 comments

Bloggers make their top lists of the year earlier and earlier. Publishing them in the beginning of December is not unusual. I insist on waiting until the year is over before I do anything about my list. However this year I’m a little later than usual, for no good reason. I’ve just been busy and haven’t come around to it.

I don’t expect anyone else to be particularly interested in my list at this point. But I don’t make it for you, I make it for me, because it gives me a sense of order and because I’ve found that those year lists are pretty useful as reference material. So here I go anyway. Late, but dedicated.

The rules
My rules are the following: movies that either had their first theatrical release in Sweden or were released directly for DVD can be taken into consideration. Screenings at film festivals don’t count, since they’re so limited and out of reach for most of us, including me.

If you wonder why I haven’t included a certain movie, chances are that I haven’t seen it yet. Here are some examples of movie which will be 2013 films as far as I am concerned, either I’ve seen them or not: Her, Only Lovers Left Alive, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Inside Llewy Davis.

Needless to say this was hard. Like super hard. And if you asked me tomorrow, the list would have shifted into a different shape. It’s mood relatd.

And now ladies and gentlemen – bring on the list!

Honorable mentions
First a few movies that didn’t make it into the actual list but which I want to give a nod:

The Bling Ring

I felt emotionally disconnected from Sofia Coppola’s movie, but it worked for me at an intellectual level.

Liv and Ingmar
This might be old news for Bergman experts, but to me this documentary put the relationship into a new light.

world war z
World War Z

The film is pale compared to the book it’s based on, with little more than the title in common. But I give it as much as that the mass scenes with zombies were awesome.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Another round of Battle Royale. It was enjoyable but I hope they’ll get do something different in part three. This was basically more of the same.

One of three movies this year about gangs with criminal girls. My initial sympathies for them faded pretty quickly.

OK, I admit that it was forgettable even if I dislike the word. But it was fun as long as it lasted


about time
About Time
It was a milk chocolate movie, for days when all you want to do is to hide under a blanket and comfort yourself with huge amounts of TV and sweets.

Anna Karenina
Oh, the dresses. The dresses!

Django Unchained

Five minutes was all it took for Django to win me over. Those five minutes didn’t just introduce the heroes – the bounty hunter Dr Schultz and his to-be partner Django, former slave. It also contained the main features of the movie I was about to see: a well balanced mix of drama, comedy and stylish, choreographed over-the-top violence.

Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a director  holds a lot of promise and if he decides to go on with a career not only appearing in movies, but also making them, I’ll be in line to watch them.

The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug

A little bit better than the first one, partly thanks to Tauriel, badd-ass elf woman.

Mood Indigo
The first half of the movie is just one long visual crazy party. It’s like having sparkling champagne straight into your veins

The gaze of a child gave it the shimmer of a fairy tale. Next time I’d love to see a female protagonist though.

Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Many claimed Oblivion was bad in different ways. I didn’t notice. I was too busy having fun watching it.

Only God Forgives
Only surface? Perhaps. But what a surface!

pacific rim
Pacific Rim

I didn’t have a good excuse. But I fell in love with it nevertheless.

Promised Land
Gus van Sant’s latest movie just disappeared. I wonder why. Could it be about politics?


Judi Dench defies the natural laws. She only gets better the older she gets.

Ruby Sparks
From my review:
“Ruby Sparks is by no means a profound movie, but I thought it was pretty damned fun, and considering how picky I am with “fun”, that is high praise. But there’s more to it than just the light hearted comedy; it puts its finger on easy it is to get into a mode where we try to reconfigure our loved ones and how unwise such attempts can be.”


This was surprisingly enjoyable – even for someone who couldn’t care less about formula one.

Side Effects
This made me think of director such as Alfred Hitchcock. It’s got the ingredients: a conspiracy, a battle of wills, cunning plans that are so entertaining that you forgive them for being implausible and women who are as dangerous as they’re beautiful. Besides it’s got Jude Law, who keeps aging with grace and dignity. In the absence of James Stewart, he’s a perfect fit for the role.

Silver Linings Playbook
This film did for mental illness what 50/50 did for cancer: took a bit of the drama out of it with humour.

Spring Breakers
The party went on and on and I didn’t know what point it tried to make. But it was pretty.

tom at the farm
Tom at the Farm

Xavier Dolan, the Canadian wonder, made it again. He’s got talent you could die for.

Warm Bodies
Braiiins! I was charmed.


A punk girl in Saudia Arabia and her drem of a cycle. Infuriating with a little rim of hope.


Beasts of the Southern Wild
The story of Hushpuppy – my hero!

Behind the Candelabra

It was a shame that this was marketed as a TV movie.

Blue is the Warmest Color
This movie quickly got a reputation for its sexual content. But far more interesting than the sex scenes is to see how the relationship evolves and what a struggle it can be to overcome class differences.


Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett was magnificent. The movie as such was good too. Regardless of the debate about Woody Allen’s person.

Café de Flore
A delicious movie for everyone who loves the bittersweet. Strangely it never got any cinematic release in Sweden; it went straight for DVD.

A 3D movie in black and white? Not a hit with the big audience, it appears. I was alone in the theatre watching this, which didn’t make it less enjoyable. Oh, Sparky! Movie dog of the year!

Frances Ha

Some movies have a “soul”, if you get what I mean. Others don’t. Frances Ha has it. And it has New York City. And Greta Gerwig, who is wonderful.

Fruitvale Station
From my review:

“I was reminded of that behind every news headline you see about someone dying in a crime or violence related incident, there’s also a hidden story about the people involved. There are children who lose their parents, mothers who lose their sons, partners who lose their loved ones. And each one of them is a human being, not as different from me as I may think as I throw a glance at them from the other side of the platform at the subway station.”

The Great Gatsby

I thank Baz Luhrmann. God knows how many more years I would have waited to read the book if it wasn’t for the beautiful, sparkling and loving (and actually surprisingly faithful) introduction he made with his movie.

I’ve seen it twice now. This is probably the funniest Swedish movie of 2013 – and at the same time it’s very gripping. Remake, anyone?


The Impossible
You enter the theatre annoyed by an issue with your computer, and you leave it with tears and a new spark in your eyes, grateful of what you have. Grateful of your family, grateful of your health, grateful of living in security. Grateful of being one of the winners in the lottery of life.

The Master
From my review:

“ The Master is the kind of movie that begs you for revisits. I would happily come back again to it, to enjoy the cinematography, which is stunningly beautiful, even if you haven’t had the opportunity to see it in 70 mm format, to once again be captured by the score and – above all – the outstanding acting performances.”


Les Miserables
From my review:

“Les Misérables is big, beautiful and shamelessly sentimental. I can understand that it’s not for everyone, but it is for me.

I left the theatre, satisfied as if I’d just had a delicious five-course dinner with the freedom song of the rebels ringing in my ears. This is a meal I’d be happy to eat again.”

A movie about nazi children that manages to not sort people into boxes. It stayed with me for a long time after watching it.


From my review:

“When I left the theatre I felt exhausted and a bit bruised. It’s not just because the running time is long (over 2.5 hours); it’s also that there’s so much to take in as a viewer during those hours. I couldn’t have been more tired if I had been binge watching an entire season of a TV series.”

The Reunion (Återträffen)
This film about bullying really got me thinking about what took place at my high school so many years ago.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Beautiful lens flares and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. Perfect.

Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley took a trip into the family swamp of myths and lies and got us all thinking about the stories we tell.

The Way, Way Back
The Way Way Back

Growing up can be a pain, especially in the neighbourhood of jerks like Trent. But it gets better. But it gets better.

We are the Best!
I was a punk rocker in the early 80s, so basically this is a movie about me. How could I possibly not love it?

Captain Phillips, film of the week

10. Captain Phillips
Why Tom Hanks didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this is incomprehensible.


9. The Broken Circle Breakdown
Leave your inner cynic at home.


8. The Place Beyond the Pines
A hard hitting, beautifully constructed drama in three acts. I bought each one of them.


7.  Zero Dark Thirty
Opening in the very beginning of the year, this movie made such an impression that it lasted through the entire year to appear in the top 10. Not bad.

cloud atlas

6.  Cloud Atlas
It breaks my heart to think about how badly this movie made in the box office so I avoid thinking about that part. I’ve seen this movie twice now, and it only gets better. This was a bold and beautiful movie.

Still from the documentary The Act of Killing

5. The Act of Killing
If you’ve seen it, you know why I’m tempted to give up on the future of humanity. I can’t recall any documentary that is anywhere near as disturbing, as horrifying, as nauseating as this one was. The villains are unspeakably evil and make the bad guys in ordinary action movies seem like decent people in comparison.

12 years a slave

4. 12 Years a Slave
From my review:

“This is so much more than a monument over people’s suffering in the post, more than a history lesson about something that you “should know about”. It’s also a movie about the present, about the uglier features of the human nature. It points out mechanisms that are still in use if we open our eyes. And this is what makes it such a tough – and important – movie to watch, relevant not only to an American audience.”

3. Before Midnight

With every conversation another layer is added. I want to grow old with the Before-movies.

2. The Hunt

This movie hit me like a punch in my guts when I watched it in the beginning of 2013.  I haven’t recovered completely yet. What’s most troubling about this film isn’t how the neighbours, family and friends treat xx when wrongly is accused of child molesting. It’s that I can’t rule out that I would do the same if I was in their situation.


1. Gravity
Am I a shallow person for loving Gravity slightly more than 12 Year a Slave? Maybe. But is my comfort blanket and biggest fear in equal measures. I neglect it, I ignore it, I forget about it at times. But it’s always present. Gravity reconnected me to space, and thus to myself. Besides it was a hell of a ride and I’ll never think of 3D the same way again. I don’t regret putting it as my number one. That’s how I felt about it, and there’s nothing I can do about it. My only regret is not watching it multiple times in a theatre when I had the chance.

My international 2013 list

Finally: here is another version of my top 10 list, where I’ve removed the films that are considered 2012 releases in most countries and included the ones that I’ve had the chance to see.

1. Gravity
2. The Hunt
3. Before Midnight
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Act of Killing
6. The Place Beyond the Pines
7. The Broken Circle Breakdown
8. Captain Phillips
9. Blue is the Warmest Colour
10. Prisoners


A few words on artists who become directors, bullying and a must-see Swedish movie

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Do directors who have a background as artists make movies that are different from directors who previously have worked as, let’s say musicians, psychologists, shop managers or nurses? When you watch a movie, can you tell if it was made by a former artist?

I can’t. But there is something about the artist profession that gives it a certain aura of mystery. I get the impression that artists are a step higher in the status hierarchy than directors. A film directed by a former artist is expected to be more than just a film among others. It’s “art”.

Personally I’ve never been able to tell the difference. It’s true that Steve McQueen comes from the art world and it’s true that he (or his cinematographer) has an eye for the visual language, as shown in 12 Years a Slave. But there are many other directors with no previous career as artists who are obsessed with the visuals nevertheless.

Art installation or movie?
In any case, we’ve now got a Swedish equivalent of Steve McQueen – a director, who people insist on labelling as an “artist”. Her name is Anna Odell and she recently won the Swedish film award Guldbaggen for her debut movie The Reunion. In her case I’m afraid the label has been hold against her on occasions. While the movie mostly has received praise from the movie critics, I’ve also seen people questioning why her film has been nominated in the first place, arguing that her movie isn’t a real “movie”, but an art installation.

I don’t agree with this view at all. The Reunion was one out of three Swedish movies from 2013 that I genuinely loved (the other two being Lisa Langseth’s Hotell and Lukas Moodysson’s We are the Best! I would recommend you to see them all if you ever get the chance, though it’s pretty unlikely if you live outside of Sweden – it appears to me that they’re mostly screened at film festivals.)

This is a film about bullying, but seen through the eyes of the grown-up. The first half of the film is a pretty straight forward story, taking place at a class reunion, where the director Anna Odell, playing a character also named Anna Odell, is one of the participants. In a scene that reminds of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration, she confronts everyone who treated her badly. She refuses to let sleeping dogs lie and doesn’t give a damned if this breaks the festive mood. She wants to say her truth, no matter what. This first half of the film alone is very good, but it’s in the second half that the movie really takes off, becoming truly inventive and interesting. It turns out that the class event never took place. This is Anna Odell’s imagination or day dream of what would have happened had she been there. Because in reality never received any invitation to the class reunion. Instead she contacts her old classmates, showing them the film she has made about the imagined party, inquiring what they feel about it.

There’s a documentary feel to the whole thing, not the least because of Anna Odell’s usage of herself in the film. But it’s not – all the classmates, both at the initial reunion party and the ones that are confronted in the second half, are played by actors. However – as far as I’ve understood it – it’s “based on a true story”. The real Anna Odell has been in contact with people who bullied her at school. And some of the script is based on real conversations that have taken place.

Is Anna a bully?
In Sweden there has been a debate about the film. After the initial raving reviews, there was a backlash, where some have accused Anna Odell for “bullying” her old classmates by doing this film. As a moviemaker and an artist, she’s in a stronger position, and therefor it’s “wrong” of her to take her revenge.

Well, I call this [insert suitable strong word]. Firstly: if you’ve been bullied at school you’re perfectly entitled to call people out about this and share your story, tell the world how it was. The fact that it was twenty years ago doesn’t change this a bit. Secondly: The film does more than just point out certain people as bullies. It doesn’t demonize those particular persons; it highlights a problem that we talk about far too rarely considering how common it is. It’s impossible to watch this film without starting to think back at your own school time.

I was never what I would call “bullied”, at the most I was teased, but not worse than that I could deal with it. However I was very lonely as a young teenager and when I left junior high school at 15, I rejoiced at never ever having to meet my class again in my entire life. There have been class reunions but I haven’t attended a single one. But what made me uncomfortable wasn’t my own situation back in those days. I thought about a girl in my class, who was very short, a little chubby and had a very bright voice. The boys in the class used to call her names. Sometimes they put her in one of the huge dust bins in the corridor and she was too short to get out of it by herself. They forced her into a locker to see if she fit in.

Those are horrible actions. And I think of myself. Where was I? What did I do? Did I protest? Did I turn them in, get help from a teacher? Did I comfort her, support her, stand up for her? I can’t recall that I did a thing more than hiding in my corner, staying as far away from my class as possible. Thinking back at it I’m not sure how guilty I should feel about myself. Had I done more I would probably have become a victim myself. But the movie definitely got me thinking.

A film about us
The Reunion is not just a film about Anna Odell confronting her old class with the help of actors. It’s a film about all of us. Even if we never have bullied anyone or been the victim of bullying, we’ve had it in our neighbourhood. We still have. It’s everywhere and sadly not only in schools. It’s not something you “grow out of”. There are fully grown-up people who bully their colleagues in working places. The same old mechanics at work, over again. And we should fight it and have the courage to confront it, wherever and whenever it appears

The Reunion is not an art installation. It’s a film, just a little more intelligent and unconventional than most films you see. Anna Odell is not an artist. Maybe she used to be, but I know her now as a film maker, a writer, director and actor. And I hope she’ll stick to this trade from now on.

The Reunion (Återträffen, Anna Odell, SWE 2013) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

February 14, 2014 at 12:43 am