selenak: (Breaking Bad by Wicked Signs)
( Nov. 25th, 2014 01:34 pm)
The assigned Yuletide story is posted, now to see whether I can manage the treat I want to write. Meanwhile, here are other people being creative:

Torchwood/Doctor Who:

The mind is its own place The on-going adventures of Toshiko Sato, because Missy never spotted the little things.

Tosh in the Nethersphere, poetically written, quietly saving the world. Absolutely canon compatible with both shows, and heartbreaking in the best way. Also the Owen cameo is perfect. (Err, spoilers for the most recent season of DW, of course.)

Breaking Bad/Frozen:

Do you want to build a meth lab? : one of the most hilarious vids ever, which I found via [personal profile] ffutures. I dare you to keep a straight face.
selenak: (Alicia and Diane - Winterfish)
( Nov. 24th, 2014 07:49 pm)
In which I'm seriously starting to wimper about two characters.

Read more... )
Spoiler-free version, for anyone curious whether or not the decision to split the final volume of the trilogy in two would come across as "we want to milk this cash cow a bit longer" or would be justified by the end result, it's definitely the later. There is no "post" in Katniss' PTSD, so I'd rather describe her as shell shocked (come to think of it, Katniss really has a lot in common with the WWI soldiers for whom the term was coined, more below cut), and since this film doesn't have to cover as many events as the previous ones, it has the necessary breathing room to convey this - great performance by Jennifer Lawrence, too - and to show the effect Current Events are having on everyone else, too, again, more below the cut. Also, what I hoped for re: the movie using the liberty of not being stuck to the first person pov the books are a bit more was indeed the case. If Mockingjay had been filmed as one single movie, all of this - Katniss' state, Panem's state, the fleshing out by scenes where Katniss isn't present instead of, as in the book, having her learn the result of those via reports - would have gotten short shrift, and we'd have been the poorer for it. Now, on to spoilery reflections.

The revolution will be televised )
selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Nov. 21st, 2014 06:26 pm)
Um, unexpected two parter is unexpected?

that's from Terminator! )
Or, the great Once Upon a Time catching up post.

Choices, Choices )
Yesterday's hotel was sans internet (yes, that still happens), today's has internet but only in the lobby, which is why you get last week's photos that I've been meaning to share for a while. For verily, in between working I had to chance to walk through the Bavarian Forest near the Czech border (on the other side of the border, it's called the Bohemian Forest), and in this national park era we actually have - well, see for yourselves:

 photo 2014_1113BayerischerWald0008_zps94ae241d.jpg
 photo 2014_1113BayerischerWald0026_zps32e9d8bf.jpg

More below )
selenak: (Tony Stark by Runenklinge)
( Nov. 17th, 2014 09:34 pm)
I was busy writing my Yuletide story these last few days and just sent off the rough version to be beta'd, plus tomorrow I'm on the road again, hence, once more, belated reviewing.

However, I had the chance to watch a fabulous new character vid about Tony Stark:


Go and do likewise, gentle reader!
I had great fun doing this last year, and see it's making the rounds again, so:

Pick a date below and give me a topic, and I'll ramble on. I'm good at talking. It can be anything from fandom-related (specific characters, actors, storylines, episodes, etc.) to life-related to pizza preferences to whatever you want.

They will probably be brief, or not, depending on the subject. Also, I reserve the right to decline prompts that I don't feel equipped to meet.

Topics: you can get an idea from my tags/from the stuff I usually ramble about/from things you maybe wish I talked about more but don't. Also, please feel free to check out last year's post and my replies.

December 1: The TARDIS's relationship with the Doctor and what her POV might be ([personal profile] intriguing)
December 2: Franconian, Bavarian, German, European or world citizen? ([personal profile] londonkds)
December 3: Angel's fourth season ([personal profile] frayadjacent)
December 4: My feelings about fandom - what originally drew me to it, what keeps me there, what turns you off about it ([profile] ljlorettamartin)
December 5: The stories of Liza Winter and Abbie Isaacs ([personal profile] kivrin)
December 6: Gaius (Baltar) and Six [personal profile] bimo
December 7: The Americans: what are you expecting/looking forward to Americans s3? ([profile] callmesandy
December 8: Dumbledore and Rumplestilskin
December 9: Donna Noble ([profile] cherrytide)
December 10: Fandom/media things I'm looking forward to in 2015 ([personal profile] lonelywalker)
December 11: Snow White and Cora Mills paralles [personal profile] grimorie
December 12:
December 13: Personal wish list for season 3 of Orphan Black ([personal profile] falafel_musings
December 14:Sir Malcolm Murray, by himself or in tandem with Vanessa Ives. ([personal profile] d_generate_girl)
December 15: Kitty Winter ([profile] ceebee_eebeee)
December 16: DS9 and Angel: The Series: Compare and contrast ([personal profile] endeni)
December 17: Babylon 5's biggest weaknesses (Doylist, Watsonian or both)
December 18: Wishlist for character developments in Avengers: Age of Ultron [personal profile] vonniek
December 19: The Good Wife: if I were TPTB...
December 20: The writing process ([personal profile] espresso_addict)
December 21: Buffy and Dawn ([profile] itsnotmymind)
December 22:
December 23:
December 24:
December 25:
December 26:
December 27: Noah Bennett and Jack Harkness, compare and contrast ([personal profile] ffutures)
December 28: Top Five or Ten Favourite Vids ([personal profile] goodbyebird)
December 29: thoughts on the current state and likely future of the publishing industry (either German or worldwide) [personal profile] edenfalling
December 30: Kira, Dax and female friendship on DS9
December 31:
selenak: (Team Bessie by Kathyh)
( Nov. 14th, 2014 09:05 am)
I was on the road this entire week and won't be back in my apartment until tonight, which is why I've fallen behind in my tv watching. More reviews once I can catch up, which won't be until Saturday.
The third volume of a fantasy saga is fiendishly difficult to review without giving away spoilers. And in this particular case, being unspoiled really pays off, as Resurrections delivers on a number of mysteries built up through the previous volumes. I reviewed the beginning of the saga here, if you missed it. Short version: this is a brilliant series of fantasy novels with a cast almost exclusively consisting of LGTB characters, which somehow manages to walk the tightrope between mythic/epic and intimate/modern. There are two distinct narrative threads through the entire story: one set in present day, told in third person, with Emma Jones and her girlfriend and partner Caroline as the main characters, as they become embroiled in supernatural shenanigans ranging from having to play bodyguard at an annoying elf/vampire wedding to full scale battles between deities and master the challenge with an ongoing refusal to be impressed and a tendency to quip, not to mention compassion for the victims of all these events. (Of whom Caroline is one; she dies at the start and is a ghost from then onwards. This makes her love life with Emma somewhat tricky, but not impossible.)

The other narrative thread is told in first person by Mara, aka the Huntress, and moves through the millennia, not in chronological but in thematic order. Mara, as opposed to Emma and Caroline, doesn't have much of a sense of humor, but what she has is dedication to one specific goal: hunting down and making short work of any being who made themselves into a deity by using "the rituals", blood sacrifices, and protecting the people suffering from the fallout, but note she's called "Huntress" not "Protector". Quite how the two narrative threads are intertwined (beyond the fact that at the start of the saga, Mara shows up in the present a bit too late to save Caroline, dispatches the entity who killed her, kisses a distinctly unimpressed Emma and disappears again) becomes more and more clear as the story goes on, and here we get into the trickiness of spoiler territory and not wanting to ruin the careful build up. I'll try my best.

Mara is such a force of nature that one of the most impressive feats is that our author manages to keep her sections suspenseful because she's more or less undefeatable in combat. But she can be tricked and incapacitated (something Robespierre manages in volume 2, for example), she can make errors of judgment (happens several times, with the most long term consequences happening in vol.1. and vol.3.), and above all, the people she cares for through the millennia are vulnerable. Moreover, some of the opponents the story gives her are truly impressive (every hero needs some good villains), and the friends she makes very endearing, so one desperately fears for them and is incredibly relieved about those who end up well (not all do).

In Resurrections, the Mara parts of the novel focus on Alexandria, with a dash of Jerusalem and a last section set in Paris. Alexandria is irresistable if you're writing about the ancient world, and our author gives us not one but two different eras of that most multicultural and magical of cities: Alexandria shortly after the Romans have taken over, only a few years after the defeat of Cleopatra, and Alexandria at the time of Hypatia centuries later. En route to Alexandria the first time around Mara battles a leviathan, because of course she does (the method is one of those Chekovian guns which are important in later sections both in the Mara and the Emma parts of the novel) and befriends two young Jews who are on their way to learn. These two will also be her allies when she fights with one of the most gruesome villains of the saga, Simon the Magus, who specializes in rebuilding himself with stolen bodyparts (and trying that out on slaves first) and is after aquiring the most prominent dead body residing in Alexandria at that point (and the knowledge of same, because if you're a megalomaniac in the ancient world, you definitely want to be the next Alexander the Great; see also various Romans who had that idea in rl).

Meanwhile, in the present Emma has finally met her and Caroline's mysterious employer, who is the most prominent new character in this volume and one on whose believability in characterisation depends a lot, so I'm happy to say this person won me over immediately, and not just because she gets introduced in very Sarah-Connor-esque fashion: "Come with me if you want to live." Not that Emma at this point isn't already an old hand at survival herself, mind you. Which is useful because the narrative, among other things, throws a lot of non-Caroline ghosts at her (my favourite is her duel with Cesare Borgia). And the challenge which a lot of epics usually forego or leave to others (as do, ahem, many current day politicians) - the clean-up operation once you've deposed a power, requiring, because this is a saga which for all its gruesome parts has a lot of heart, above all compassion and wisdom and the belief despite all, that the majority of people won't, given more than one choice and opportunity, go for the hurting-others-option.

While a lot of events come to a head in this volume, and a lot of mysteries, as I said, are revealed (from the major to the minor, such as where the Faun whom Emma and Carollne rescue early in volume 1 came from) , there are at least two still waiting to happpen. One of them is lead into by the ending, which had me biting my nails and very worried indeed for one of our heroines. Never mind G.R.R. Martin: this is the mullti volume fantasy saga which has me on tethers between books! As I require fellow sufferers, I can only reccommend aquiring all three existing volumes and reading them at once. Then we'll talk further. :)
Yesterday was pretty exhausting for me as I was either hiking and admiring bears or following the 25th-anniversary-of-fall-of-wall celebrations, so by the time I was reunited with my tablet, I was too worn out to type a proper review. But en route to the place of bears and hikes, I did have the chance to watch the DW finale. Above cut: this may be my favourite Moffat season. Not without nitpicks, but no season (no matter the show runner) ever is, and I found enough to please me in this one that I'll get it on dvd when it's out in totem, whereas with the previous Moff seasons them being on the internatinal iplayer were enough for me because while I liked individual episodes, I never connected to a complete season. Of course, the downside with finally emotionally connecting that way is that you suddenly dread reading other reviews and their listings of wrongs, whereas previously you just shrugged.

Aaaaanyway. Onwards to the actual review.

Hugging is a way to hide your face )
Visually, it's a gorgeous movie, and in a way that doesn't feel cheesy. Which isn't the case with all movies about painters by a long shot - on the contrary, sometimes the obvious effort to restage famous paintings can feel embarrassing. (Let's not talk about the other extreme, where you are an unfortunate film maker making a movie about an artist not dead long enough for his/her work to be out in the public domain and not given permission to use it.) Otoh when a director can pull it off, the result can be awesome - for example Julie Taymor's Frida.

Then there is, independent of any subject's profession, the fact that few people live their lives in three act structures, inconviently insist on having relationships with a lot of other people sharing similar names and functions in their lives, and even if you just pick a short excerpt of their life for your biopic, thus avoiding the problem of too much crammed in too little a space, they don't have necessarily the type of relationships easily identifiable. Some people manage to pull it off regardless. Scriptwriter Peter Morgan has made an art of out it, usually in movies and plays starring Michael Sheen. But Peter Morgan's speciality appears to be odd couple constellations (Blair and Brown, Blair and the Queen, Blair and Clinton, Frost and Nixon), i.e. very different characters sparking off each other in a mixture of antagonism and some shared goals, not necessarily in that order.

Mr. Turner by Mike Leigh, otoh, offers a good ensemble - both in the acting and in the writing sense - but while several other characters are important, no one has the same narrative weight as Turner, or is present throughout the movie, except for someone you could call the Greek Chorus, more in a minute. Speaking of Turner, Timothy Spall deserves all the applause he's been getting. It's an acting tour de force, making everyone of those many grunts multi expressive, never going for sympathy when Turner is horrid yet also also utterly believable in tender and gentle moments, and above all getting across that this is a man of curiosity about the changing times he lives in; you believe his Turner as someone able to see the beauty in a steam engine (and fascinated by it) just as he does in the sea, someone willing to let himself be tied to a mast so he can experience a snow storm on the open sea yet relying on being pampered by his father, his housekeeper and incapable of taking responsibility for his own children. Actors of Timothy Spall's age and looks usually get the character bit parts in movies (obvious example: he was Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter franchise), not the lead, so it's splendid that Leigh gave him that chance.

Given all of this, and agreeing with the praise in the media reviews, I still can't make up my mind how I feel about the film. It is very episodic: there are some overall story threads - Turner's relationship with his father in the first twenty, thirty minutes or so before Turner Snr. dies, which is highly unusual for a father/son relationship on screen because it's not conflicted at all but mutually tender (based on this movie, you can make a case that his father, who started out as a barber in Covent Garden and later become his son's studio assistant, mixer of colours and all around devoted caretaker, was one of only two people Turner loved), his relationship with his last mistress, Mrs. Booth, in the last third of the movie, the non-relationship (or relationship only in the sense of pure exploitation and complete disinterest in her as a person on his side) with his housekeeper Hannah - who'd be the Greek Chorus character - throughout) - but mostly Mr. Turner consists of small episodes, like the one of Mary Sommerville, a Scottish scientist and polymath, paying a visit to conduct a prism experiment with Turner - which is a delightful sequence, but we didn't see Sommerville before and we won't ever see her again, any more than we'll see the nobleman at whose countryhouse Turner dines (and makes a very bad yet for that oddly endearing attempt to sing Purcell) earlier in the film again. John Ruskin we do see three times in the later part of the movie (and Leigh makes relentless fun of him - this is a bad cinematic year for Ruskin, with his younger self ridiculed as a self absorbed twit in Mr. Turner and his older self portrayed as a creep in Effie) , but I don't think you get why he's there (other than for comic relief) if you don't already know who John Ruskin was to 19th century art going in. But that's a minor issue.

No, what makes me so emotionally unsure is this: reading reviews of the movie before watching it, I was concerned it would do the One Special Woman thing, i.e. would play out Mrs. Booth (who btw is as delightful and warm a character as the reviews had mentioned) against Hannah the Housekeeper and would excuse Turner's behaviour towards the later (and to his former mistress Sophia and two the two daughters by her he has zilch interest in) in the way biopics about many a male genius have done: all these other women weren't worthy/special/strong enough, but once the True Love is there, it's clear she's what X has needed all along. This I found not to be the case. The fact that Turner is able to have a mutually affectionate and respectful relationship with Mrs. Booth isn't presented as an excuse for his behavior towards his former mistress and their daughters, or towards Hannah. It's Hannah, not Mrs. Booth, who gets the movie's very last scene and shot. But Hannah's situation is so awful, and so unrelentingly presented as awful, that I found it impossible not be upset about it throughout the movie, whether she was on screen or not. Not because there was physical violence involved, I hasten to add. It's just the way Turner uses her, hanging up his coat treated no differently than sexual relief (as one reviewer mentioned, you can't even call her his mistress because that would imply he shows her the slightest bit of interest beyond a useful household equipment), her hopeless waiting for some kindness, some affection (and he can be kind; even to the hapless painter Haydon who owes him money) and the fact that you can't even root for her to get away because given that she's in increasing ill health, older and older, and hunchbacked, there's no way she'd get another job - it would be the workhouse for her. (Perhaps the only thing Turner ever does for Hannah is not to fire her once he doesn't need her anymore and has moved in with Mrs. Booth, but to keep up two households despite hardly ever being in the one with her. And there you can't be sure whether he doesn't just do that because he can't be bothered to make the necessary arrangements.)

Now, I feel a bit like a hypocrite because I do recall that back when I reviewed films like for example Lennon Remembered or The Invisible Woman (you can even throw in Einstein and Eddington for the Einstein part of it, I mentioned that while both of these movies show their respective brilliant males treating their first wives abominably, the movies still pull their punches as to the full extent of the ghastliness of their behaviour. Now I don't know much about William Turner whereas I did know a lot in advance about John Lennon and Charles Dickens. But the impression I came away with from watching was that this movie didn't pull its punches and did show the full ghastliness, and googling for reviews and short biographies hasn't given me a different expression; it seems the only complaints re: accuracy that were voiced were about good old or rather in this movie young Ruskin, not any of the women & Turner. But that very honestly makes for an emotional whipslash. We go from a comedy of manners scene like, say, Turner tweaking John Constable at the Royal Academy exhbition of the year, to a Jane Austenish (only for two late middle aged/old people) slow burning romance (Mrs. Booth) to a Dickensian-George Elliot horror story (Turner comes home, doesn't bother saying hello (or anything beyond the barest necessary orders) while accepting all the care from Hannah and at some point gets some gropes or penetration sex in before taking off again, at which point we're switching genre again, this time to the glories of nature and science as experienced by a 19th century eager mind and eye. And so on. Which paints a complete and full picture, and I tell myself: you love Breaking Bad, self, you know how to love a tale whose main character is horrid if the narrative doesn't make excuses for him. But it still doesn't work out that way and I feel whiplashed and keep going inwardly - "but Hannah?"

In conclusion: definitely a work of art. Probably not a movie I'll ever rewatch.
Described by the mother as: A lovely message from Peter Capaldi to my 9 year old autistic son. This arrived just before Thomas' nanny's funeral and helped him to deal with his grief in a profound way.

selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Nov. 7th, 2014 09:09 am)
Episode 2 of the third season is good as well; if this keeps up, I shall say we're over the s2 sophomore slump. Also, count me on the pro Kitty side of the force.

Read more... )
Not so coincidentally, I just finished reading, for the first time though of course I'd watched the movie by Alan Pakula a dozen times, All the President's Men, the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate case and their reporting of it. It still holds up incredibly well. Despite knowing a lot about the Watergate affair in advance, and the awareness Bob Woodward will end up as the prototype of the embedded reporter in love with power a few years down the line, the narrative is gripping, suspenseful, and despite featuring a huge cast (even huger than the movie, which prudently jettisoned a few players as movies must to get it down to a two hour tale), you never lose sight of all the interconnections or the developments. The various politicians, hangers-on, Washington Post staff people are given pen portraits, and what surprised me was that Bernstein apparantly was willing to either write himself or have included - all is written in third person, so you can't tell who wrote what - scenes which poke fun at him (Woodward not so much), like this one about a conference with the recently deceased Ben Bradlee ending:

Bernstein was dissappointed to see the meeting end. The editor had pushed his left sleeve up, and Bernstein had seen a tattoo of a rooster. Bernstein momentarily forgot about Watergate. Bradlee, whom he regarded with an unhealthy imbalance of respect, fear, anger and self pity (Bradlee didn't understand him, he had decided long before) was always amazing him. He wished he'd gotten a better look at the tattoo.

Because Woodward and Bernstein for a while ended up is the iconic reporters, it's easy to overlook how young they were when this all went down, and stuff like this humanizes them. (Another Bernstein-making-fun-of-himself scene is when his bike got stolen and he reflects how typical this is: when Woodward goes into a garage, it's to meet Deep Throat, when he goes, it's to find the remains of a lock and a stolen bike.)

Such neat touches aside: what makes the book is of course the story it tells, and the relentless way it traces and uncovers the corruption of the political process all the way back to the White House. (And Woodward & Bernstein, unlike today's readers, weren't even familiar with the paranoid Nixon rants immortalized on tape when writing this, as the book ends before Nixon leaves office.) Though it's not a little depressing that a lot of the campaign tactics they uncover today are taken for granted. To use a list from mid book: bugging, following people, false press leaks, fake letters, cancelling campaign rallies, investigating campaign workers private lives, planting spies, stealing documents, planting provocateurs in political demonstrations.

Planting spies and bugging, we were told by White House officials (and a lot of other people of all parties and persuasions) more recently, is absolutely okay because everyone does it. It's not something even Richard Nixon came up with as an excuse. (His most famous quote in the Frost interview being "if the President does it, it's not illegal", which is a similar idea, more personalized.) Which brings me to, you guessed it, Laura Poitras' movie Citizenfour about Edward Snowden and surrounding circumstances. But before I talk about the movie itself, some thoughts which have been plagueing me for a while. It is this: why didn't become Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras the new Woodward and Bernstein in the eyes of the American public? Especially the not conservative part of it? They certainly did in my part of the world (Germany), but within the States, at least compared to over here, the reactions were pretty much blasé. The right wing attacks on Obama focus on other stuff, and the democratic/progressive criticism of Obama and his government that I've seen mostly seems to be divided between a) "Why can't you be more like... *insert past democratic president of choice with ability to schmooze and intimidate other politicians on a nose-to-nose level*", b) "Why so sloppiliy organized?" , and c) "Where's the promised change, this "the Republicans are blocking everything" excuse isn't doing it for me anymore". Whereas voices like Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsberg's are rare, who firmly rejected John Kerry (and Obama) saying Snowden should have done as Ellsberg did and faced a trial in the US by stating he wouldn't do that in the current day US, either (and good lord, when you're told your government is less trustworthy in terms of human rights abuse than Richard Nixon's...), and witheringly added: (Snowden) would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court. Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. (...) Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense – or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case – Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to "make their case" from outside the United States. (...) John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Ouch. But like I said, Mr. Ellsberg as far as American voices are concerned seems to be in a distinct minority. And I don't think the reason is just the public as a whole having become fare more jaded. Becaube, Democrats, Liberals and Progressives on my list, ask yourself, and I'm truly curious: if Snowden had blown the whistle under a Republican president - doesn't matter who, McCain or Romney if they had won their respective elections, or Bush back when - would your reaction have been different? (And it could have easily happened. I don't think any Republican - or any alternate Democrat President, for that matter, i.e. Hillary Clinton if she'd won against Obama in the primaries - would have given the NSA & Co. less leaveway to spy on everyone than the Obama administration did.) Would you have been not only more outraged, but also seen the sheer extent of the licence to spy as something that does reflect the President's personal responsibility the way Watergate did reflect Nixon's? Because I really think the reason why Obama gets more leaveway here than any Republican President would have gotten is because Obama-as-bad-guy really, really, really doesn't fit into the narrative moderate-to-progressive Americans want to hear. Partly because it automatically associates right wing nutters (though these attack him for other reasons) and the sense of not wanting to give them more ammunition, I suppose. But partly because they seem so far apart: Tricky Dicky, Nixon paranoidly taping himself ranting about the Jews/Gays/Press/, and the first black President. He's supposed to be, at worst, the hero who couldn't due to the mess his predecessor left and the Republicans blocking his every move, not the licenser of tactics which any of the titular President's Men from Nixon's time would have wept for joy to be able to use legally.

Now, on to Poitras' movie. Which definitely treats Obama as one of its villains. He's not the prime target, which is the post 9/11 mass surveillance and the total lack of any checks on it in general, and it's made clear early on by veteran whistleblower William Binney, who quit the NSA in 2001, that the Bush administration started this, but among other things, Citizenfour is an indictement of Barack Obama. Glenn Greenwald early on in the film quotes from Obama's campaign speeches (for his first run), all quotes condemming what he now practices. Then Edward Snowden in his first physical meeting with Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald names as one of his key motivations the fact that the Obama administration contrary to its promises didn't reduce or curtail the surveillance but escalated it. And while Poitras throughout the film uses clips of various government officials (Keith Alexander, former NSA head, and various guys from the justice department) denying with bland smugness what the film then shows going on, the climax this builds up is a cut from the Guardian staff being forced to destroy hardware to Glenn Greenwald's partner David being held back at Heathrow after a meeting with her in Berlin to a newsclip of Obama (even smugger than the previous officials) saying Snowden was no patriot and should return to the US where lawful trial would happen. (At this point there was scornful laughter in the cinema.) And the very end of the movie, when Greenwald tells Snowden about a new source and its revelations, he draws the chain of responsibility on paper culminating in the letters POTUS, where camera lingers as a next to last final image.

Poitras' biggest problem as film maker must have been that this documentary by necessity takes place largely in hotel rooms where two or three people talk (or type), which potentially could have come across very static and boring. But she managed to avoid this trap, not least because Snowden and Greenwald (who do much of the talking, with fellow Guardian journalist Ewen MacArgill occasionally there as well) both come across as articulate and compelling. And as with All the President's Men, even though you know the rough outline of how this goes in advance - Snowden makes contact, eventually they meet in that Hongkong hotel room, data is transferred, explanation are given, Geenwald starts to release the stories, on the fourth day Snowden's identity is released as well, etc. - the way it plays out on screen remains captivating. Also like All the President's Men, the book, there's unexpected humor: when Poitras tells Snowden (via written communication online, since he's in Russia at that point) that the Merkel story is a go, but the German government hasn't publically reacted yet, Snowden types back whether she has tried to call Angela M. directly since she now has the number. :) There's even a mini subplot, as you'd say if this were a fictional story, about Snowden's girlfriend whom he worries about in Hongkong and whom we in the last five minutes of the film see has joined him in Russia in July this year.

It's, of course, an unabashedly partisan documentary, cum ira et studio, and never pretends to be anything else: the opening credits establish Poitras has been under surveillance since her first post 9/11 movie on the Iraq War, and while you get to know Snowden and Greenwald in the intimacy and extensive length of those hotel room conversations, administration members are only shown in (smug) newsclips. But the main argument, which Poitras lets Binney, Greenwald and Snowden make repeatedly, and also Joseph Applebaum, that surveillance is control, there are no restraints and no watchers on these watchmen anymore, that only a tiny part of the collected material actually can in any way be connected to counterterrorism and the rest is about competition between firms, industrial espionage and utter disregard of any privacy whatsover, and that the self censorship of people is already an every day fact because of this - all this can hardly be told dispassionatedly. Ditto for the point Snowden's pro bono lawyers later make about the Espionage act, which dates from WWI and doesn't differentiate between a whistleblower and a spy (Ellsberg has quite a lot to say about it in his article as welll) and gives the person indicted by it no chance of defense.

Stylistically noteworthy: as opposed to Michael Moore, who made his persona a part of all his films, Poitras remains invisible, though her voice is present throughout the film. And the clips she uses to establish the various locations (Hongkong, Berlin, Rio de Janairo) never show the obvious tourist sights; the most striking images not involving a person aren't of the cities, though, but of the NSA complexes being built in the US and the ones already existing in Britain and Germany, those ominous white balloons in front of landscapes.

Is the end result then a great movie? I don't know. But it's an important one, I think. And I hope it will be watched by as many people as possible.
selenak: (Allison by Spankulert)
( Nov. 5th, 2014 08:03 pm)
Orphan Black:

What's mine is yours : sharp, intense and marvellous vid about Sarah, Felix, Siobhan and Kira, with bonus Helena.

And a look at Agent Carter which makes me hunt for Peggy and Howard Stark friendship tales (hooray for m & f comradery of people who've been through hell together but still won't end up as a couple), only Darth RL is after me again. Also: I'm mysteriously thrilled human!Jarvis (whom Tony presumably modelled the AI on) is married. (In the comics, Jarvis had a lovely autumnal affair with Peter Parker's Aunt May for a while, only then Civil War happened, and then Brand New Day happened and Jarvis got retconned to have been a Skrull, so...) Because dammit, why not? There are enough Butlers devoting their entire lives to their employers' bratty offsprings and their angst. Good for MCU human Jarvis on having a partner of his own.

selenak: (Alicia and Diane - Winterfish)
( Nov. 5th, 2014 04:05 pm)
I only had the chance to watch this now, due to Darth Real Life.

Read more... )
selenak: (Gold by TheSilverdoe)
( Nov. 4th, 2014 09:13 am)
First Belle tale of the season.

Because that's what heroes do )


selenak: (Default)


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