This page collects MovieReviews that don’t necessarily make it into the best-of list. I also maintain a list of MoviesToWatch. RSS Search

2020-10-24 The Social Dilemma

OK, so I’ve seen “The Social Dilemma”. I felt I needed to watch it because I saw people caring about privacy and civil rights talking about it and saying it would be a good introduction to the problem we’re facing for friends and family – and recently I had friends recommend it to me and my wife, too! What a strange position to find myself in.

I agree with @cidney’s take:

Mixed feelings. I just saw the Social Dilemma last night. I didn’t learn anything new from it (this is old hat to anyone on fedi), but it’s aimed at a popular, nontechnical audience, and critiquing capitalism would have been out of scope and made it more polarizing.

It’s true. At multiple times I wondered: why isn’t anybody saying that the problem is capitalism? When they say the sector needs regulation, in a hand-waving kind of way, I wondered: why aren’t we simply breaking these companies apart? The US broke appart Standard Oil and the US broke appart AT&T. I got that idea from Cory Doctorow’s little booklet, “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism.”

The idea that “if you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product,” suggests the simplistic solution of just charging for everything. But the reality is that in a monopoly, you’re the product irrespective of whether you’re paying.

And more: we could force these companies to pay their taxes. We could force them to implementations the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and then we could make the GDPR better. There are options that don’t require Silicon Valley technology: they require state that isn’t coopted and divided by the big companies.

I got that from @aral who said, “Don’t ask me if I’ve watched The Social Dilemma if you haven’t read The Prodigal Tech Bro.” He was talking about an article by Maria Farrell criticising the fact, that the protagonists of this documentary are the very same people that gave us this shit!

The Prodigal Tech Bro is a similar story, about tech executives who experience a sort of religious awakening. They suddenly see their former employers as toxic, and reinvent themselves as experts on taming the tech giants. They were lost and are now found. They are warmly welcomed home to the center of our discourse with invitations to write opeds for major newspapers, for think tank funding, book deals and TED talks. These guys – and yes, they are all guys – are generally thoughtful and well-meaning, and I wish them well. But I question why they seize so much attention and are awarded scarce resources, and why they’re given not just a second chance, but also the mantle of moral and expert authority.

Previously, all I had read was Jonathan Cook’s summary of the situation, recommended to my by @LydiaConwell. Cook makes a good point: the solution to the problem isn’t simply censorship. I’m sure that’s one of the possible solutions to the problem, but I also don’t want to live behind the Chinese firewall with censors and snitches and police everywhere. We had fascism in Europe and it wasn’t pretty. We tried the censorship of books in the past and it wasn’t good, either. The idea that we can simply label what is true and what is not is a tricky one. Some things are easy to dispell, but we need more than that.

… it is easy to know that Flat Earthers are spreading misinformation, it is far harder to be sure what is true and what is false in many others areas of life. Recent history suggests our yardsticks cannot be simply what governments say is true … Technological digital breakthroughs allowed someone like Julian Assange to set up a site, Wikileaks, that offered us a window on the real political world – a window through we could see our leaders behaving more like psychopaths than humanitarians.

That is a good point. The solution is probably going to be multi-pronged: we want there to be more competition, we want the to be more points of view, less of a winner-takes-all system, less automatic bubble-forming, less algorithmic recommendations, and so on. All of these require legal backup. We need to break up the big companies, we need to hold them responsible for algorithms causing harm, and so on. I don’t have a program ready to share, but what I do know is that in The Social Dilemma, when they suggest that they need to do better, I’m thinking: perhaps there are solutions that don’t involve Silicon Valley and software engineers and we should make sure to try those, too.

The problem I see is “solutionism”. If the social media train wreck is a problem that only software engineers can solve, well then that’s perfect: a new market jumps into existence. Companies can write software to fix the problem, can sell the solution, and in the end the same people stay in power, the same market forces continue to pull us appart, and the fiasco is simply delayed.

And so we come to Jonathan Cook’s conclusion, which is spot on, for the long term:

The multiple ways in which we are damaging the planet – destroying forests and natural habitats, pushing species towards extinction, polluting the air and water, melting the ice-caps, generating a climate crisis – have been increasingly evident since our societies turned everything into a commodity that could be bought and sold in the marketplace. … It is an ideological conspiracy, of at least two centuries’ duration, by a tiny and ever more fabulously wealth elite to further enrich themselves and to maintain their power, their dominance, at all costs. … Its name is the ideology that has become a black box, a mental prison, in which we have become incapable of imagining any other way of organising our lives, any other future than the one we are destined for at the moment. That ideology’s name is capitalism.

The question is just: how do we deal with it?

The movie is a good starting point, but I’m going to involve people who watched it following my recommendation in a follow-up discussion! 😀


Add Comment

2019-12-26 Sex and The Expanse

I’m somewhere in the middle of season two of The Expanse and it continues to be very American: a lot of shooting but no nipples. This value system continues to amaze me because here in Switzerland practically everybody I know has had sex and nobody has experienced gun violence.

I don’t want to argue that I need to see more sex on the screen, I’m just amazed whenever I see how the material actively tries to avoid it – while showing gun violence, brutality, torture (cruel punishments, forced confessions and the like). That’s the part I don’t get. Maybe I’m a snowflake. Or perhaps the others are psychopaths without empathy, who knows. Anyway, in a way that too is discourse and that too shifts what is publicly acceptable.

I’m not sure where the exact lines are drawn. Is it the rating system? What European nations use the same rating system as the US?

I liked the earlier episodes better because I like space stations and ships and grime and all that. And I still like it! Really, the only thing that I keep returning to every now and then is how it feels like a very US product with all the torture and violence. Ugh. As so often is the case, we can do unspeakable things to the human body, as long as it is clothed. 🤢

Oh, and when I tried to buy the first season on Amazon they wouldn’t let me because I’m in Switzerland and they are in Germany.


Add Comment

2019-11-15 The Century of the Self

I’ve started watching The Century of the Self, Part 1. There are four parts.

I found a copy on YouTube at the time and downloaded it in 2018 after reading a discussion online. [1] It’s also available from the Internet Archive. [2] [3] [4] [5]

A few minutes in: Using propaganda for peace! Renaming propaganda to council on public relations… I’m liking this documentary already!

A bit later, the first experiment: convincing women to smoke in public. WTF this callousness is what creates evil in the world. 🤮

The idea that somebody had to discover a way to turn objects like cigarettes into a way to make a statement (”torches of freedom” and all the cigarette ads ever that followed), and that many other people were willing to come along, and benefit from the manipulation of their fellow humans… The disgust still lingers when people talk about marketing, when they work in marketing.

Did I think my stance against consumerism was a kind of hidden knowledge and nobody else had studied it? Or had the noise drained out all the truth from advertising? When I look at this documentary and hear bankers say we need to change society from a needs culture to a culture of desires, that people must be trained to desire new things before having used up the old, it’s as if somebody had removed my earplugs and said: yo, you’re not alone. We all know this! We’ve been doing it for years.

@technomancy asked me whether it was for a mature audience. Hah, I wouldn’t dare tell an American what to show or what not to show to their kids. The Atlantic is a cultural gulf we all try to ignore. I’m 24 minutes in and I’ve seen pictures of the first world war, but no corpses; I’ve seen women smoke but nobody was naked; there was no cruelty or torture. After all, it was shown on British television. If you’re watching it with kids ten or twelve years old and talk to them about advertising, you’re going to be fine. Also, I have no kids. 😃

This four part series looks like a must-see.


Comments on 2019-11-15 The Century of the Self

Thanks for recommending these! I watched them the other night and thought they were great.

I’ve seen another documentary by Adam Curtis called HyperNormalisation that I liked too, will have to go through his whole filmography.

– rjt 2019-11-20 11:09 UTC

You are welcome! 🙂

On Mastodon, I also saw the following recommendations:

@clew said: “There’s a book called No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart that’s good on that. Tom Slee. Not especially about Walmart, as it happens.”

@dredmorbius also recommended HyperNormalisation, and The Loving Trap.

@ludibrium recommended Noam Chomsky - Manufacturing consent (1992).

@krozruch said: “I’ve been going through all of Adam Curtis’ documentaries recently. The Mayfair Set most recently - which is more relevant to Brexit than I may have realised. All of them have something to say. I first watched a handful of them (The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, and All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace) as they came out and talked about them a lot. I’m working on reviews of a few of them now. Great stuff!”

So I guess you’re not alone.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-11-20 17:33 UTC

Adding his blog (which was last updated in 2016) to this little shrine to A. Curtis.

Seriously though, we seem to be victims of our circumstances and free will is a necessary illusion so that we can face ourselves in the mirror.

AlokSingh 2019-11-29 14:21 UTC

Add Comment

2019-07-23 Medium old movies

I don’t really go out to see many movies any more. We used to go a lot more! And yet, when @ajroach42 asked for non-American movies, I had some recommendations.

This trio of samurai movies by Yōji Yamada comes to mind:

  • Twilight Samurai (2002)
  • The Hidden Blade (2004)
  • Love and Honor (2006)

I also love Wong Kar-wai. The the last one is particularly good. Ashes of Time is a long and dream-like Chinese wuxia movie.

  • As Tears Go By (1988)
  • Days of Being Wild (1991)
  • Chungking Express (1994)
  • Ashes of Time (1994)
  • Fallen Angels (1995)
  • In the Mood for Love (2000)

Some European movies:

  • The City of Lost Children (1995)
  • Savage Nights (1992)
  • The Cuckoo (2002)
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

I was also seeing a comment by @ohyran and was reminded of Swedish movies I liked...

  • Jalla! Jalla! (2000) was funny
  • Fucking Amal (2000) might have been the first queer movie I saw?
  • Tillsammans (2000) somehow remained stuck in my memory

I think Fucking Amal was the best. Weird how it seems that I only watched Swedish movies in 2000. 🤔

Now that I’m thinking about Scandinavia... I was very impressed by this one:

  • Festen, aka The Celebration (1998), a Danish movie.


Comments on 2019-07-23 Medium old movies

I really need to subscribe to the newsletters of a few cinemas in order to create some enthusiasm for myself.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-07-23 20:06 UTC

As for American movies... the one I keep mentioning is Moon (2009).

I recently saw Winter’s Bone (2010) again. Magnificent.

I reminded me of Wind River (2017) which I also loved.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-04 12:33 UTC

How could I forget Romeo + Juliet (1996).

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-09 10:17 UTC

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-09 10:21 UTC

Add Comment

2017-11-23 Thor

I recently saw the third Thor movie (Ragnarok, 2017), and then I decided to get the first (2011) and second (The Dark World, 2013) movies as well and watched them over the weekend. I liked the third one the best. It took all the elements I liked about the first two and skipped the boring parts.

I never thought I would like superhero movies since I’ve spent my youth with Franco-Belgian comics, Lucky Luke, Asterix, the Adventures of Tintin. But when I saw the visuals of Jupiter Ascending (the story was weak but the space ships were fantastic), and then Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I discovered that I liked this baroque style. (Wikipedia: “exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur”)

This is what my high level D&D campaign should be about! And I feel vindicated for using Norse mythology as the cosmology for my campaigns. In the Halberds and Helmets Referee Guide, there are three pages on Gods and Demons, talking about it.


Add Comment

2015-07-30 Hayao Miyazaki

Das Filmpodium zeigt gerade alle Filme von Hayao Miyazaki.

Was ich bis jetzt gesehen habe:

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro war lustig. So viele Geheimtüren. So viel Unterwelt. Der Hauptperson gelingt es nicht, zu ihrer Liebe zu stehen. Eine durchgeknallte Agentin ist auch mit dabei. Der Hintergrund sieht sehr nach Schweiz oder Liechtenstein aus.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind war schön und unheimlich. Es gibt jede Menge Frauen in starken Rollen. Interessanterweise ist keiner so wirklich grausam böse sondern die bösen Taten ergeben sich einfach aus Positionen und Interessen der Personen. Mich hat fasziniert, mit welcher Ausdauer Nausicaä für friedliche Lösungen auf jeder Ebene kämpft und wie einfach es allen fällt, zur Gewalt zu greifen.

Kiki’s Delivery Service ist schön, ein wahrer Gutmenschenfilm. Das Mädchen hat Mut, ist unabhängig, findet Freunde, findet Lösungen. Einfach nur positiv.

Porco Rosso romantisiert die Geschichte, Piraten, Freiheitskämpfer, Beziehungen – zeigt im Hintergrund aber eine faschistische Welt und wieder mal einen Protagonisten, der nicht zu seiner Liebe stehen kann. Was ausgezeichnet funktioniert hat, ist die fehlende Auflösung. Woher der Fluch? Wie endet alles? Es bleibt offen. Die beiden Frauen werden Freunde, heisst es am Ende. Eine Firma wird ausgebaut und hat Erfolg. Die Männer haben die Action, die Prügel, enden als Hollywood Stars oder verschwinden.

My Neighbor Totoro hat sehr schöne und fantastische Momente, Freundschaft unter Kindern, Erwachsene, die sich helfen, doch im Hintergrund zeigt sich ein Haus, das verfällt, eine Mutter, die lange krank ist, und so drängt sich die Frage auf, ob die fantastischen Momente die Kompensation der Kinder auf das Elend der Gegenwart ist. Den Kindern im Publikum haben die fantastischen Moment sehr gefallen. Mir selber lastete eine dunkle Vorahnung auf den Schultern. Erst als im Abspann gezeigt wurde, wie die Mutter aus einem Taxi steigt und willkommen geheissen wird, hat sich das etwas gelöst. Auch wenn ich The Scary Theory That Totoro Is The God of Death nicht teile, so verstehe ich doch den emotionalen Kontext. Im Film rennt Satsuki und ist so ausdauernd, und so verzweifelt, und alles ist so chancenlos, und doch gibt man nicht auf, ich fühlte mich an vergessene Alpträume erinnert, an schreckliche Momente einer Kindheit, die ich verdrängt hatte. Nicht an die Schrecken selber, sondern an die Möglichkeit, dass sie echt sein könnten.

Ich freue mich auf alle Fälle auf die restlichen Filme!


Comments on 2015-07-30 Hayao Miyazaki

Meine Lieblingsfilme sind (unter anderem) TOTORO und WHISPER OF THE HEART. Ich habe sie oft gesehen; mag sie sehr, sehr. Bin immer wieder ueberrascht, wie wenig “Story” ein guter Film braucht.

Gruesse, aus Okinawa!

Chris 2015-08-02 12:19 UTC

Einige dieser Filme - Porco Rosso, Nausicaa und Totoro - kenne ich auch. Die sind grossartig und Deine Besprechung derer, die ich noch nicht kenne, hat definitiv mein Interesse geweckt! Danke!

– Johannes 2015-08-02 20:15 UTC

Gaaah, und ich habe Laputa: Castle in the Sky im Kino verpasst.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-08-03 06:40 UTC

Das Schloss des Cagliostro ist wohl einer von Steven Spielbergs Lieblingsfimen.

Mit dem Film Nausicaä bin ich nicht warmgeworden. Aber das lag daran, dass ich den Manga vorher gelesen hatte. Hayao Miyazakis Nausicaä aus dem Tal der Winde (Carlsen) ist eine epische Fantasy-Saga, deren organische Schraffur-Zeichentechnik vor allem Fans des frühen Moebius ansprechen sollte. Der Manga ist so schön, dass ich mir manchmal wünsche, Miyazaki-sensei hätte nicht Studio Ghibli gegründet und stattdessen weitere Mangas gezeichnet! Ja, uns wären viele exzellente Filme entgangen, aber so frage ich mich, auf wie viele noch viel exzellente Mangas wir so verzichten mussten...

Wenn du die Vielschichtigkeit der Motivationen der Protagonisten in Nausicaä beeindruckend fandest, dann schau dir Prinzessin Mononoke an - das ist in meinen Augen Ghiblis Meisterwerk.

Und Kikis kleiner Lieferservice ist einer meiner meistgesehenen Animes überhaupt. Der wird nie langweilig und immer besser, je öfter man ihn sieht.

Dirk R. 2015-08-07 14:25 UTC

Der Manga ist mir nun schon mehrmals empfohlen worden. Den werde ich mir mal organisieren! Danke für den Tipp. Prinzessin Mononoke habe ich schon zwei Mal gesehen und hat mir sehr gefallen. Ist mal für Sonntag den 16. vorgesehen. :)

– Alex Schroeder 2015-08-08 14:52 UTC

Bald muss ich eine weitere Seite zum Thema schreiben. Nur kurz: From up on Poppy Hill und Whisper of the Heart kommen gänzlich ohne fantastische Elemente aus und sind herzerwärmende Teenager Liebesgeschichten, die mir sehr gefallen haben.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-08-18 08:51 UTC

The Wind Rises. Eine Liebesgeschichte, ein Mann, der in seiner Arbeit auf geht, eine Frau, die Tuberkulose hat, der zweite Weltkrieg. Ohne fantastic he Elemente aber mit ein paar Traumsequenzenen. Sehr schön. Ein Blick Weg vom politischen. Beeindruckend: das Erdbeben und das Feuer.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-09-05 19:53 UTC

Add Comment

2015-03-08 Jupiter Ascending

The action scenes were long and the end involved a lot of woman-as-victim, the biology was crazy (speaking as a zoologist, here) — but the visual design was marvelous, the soundtrack worked for me, the sets, the costumes, the masks, all of it wonderful. I liked it!

Much better than Pacific Rim.


Add Comment

2014-05-16 Movies

Captain Phillips. I liked this movie about Somalian pirates and international waters.

The Hobbit parts 1 & 2. I could watch Jackson’s Middle Earth for days.

On May the Fourth I watched Star Wars Episodes 1–6.

Tracks. Makes me want to visit Australia.

Snowpiercer. Not so good.

Tempo Girl. Not so good. Includes an abortion.


Add Comment

2014-02-12 Red Cliff

I enjoyed Red Cliff (2008) even though it contained far more battle than I cared for. I liked Tony Leung. I kept thinking about the Three Kingdoms Book I started to read and the episodes of the Chinese History Podcast on the end of the Han, the Three Kingdoms Period, Daoism, the huge ships and formidable weapons the Chinese had.

☆ ☆ ☆ – I’d recommend it to anybody who likes the genre


Add Comment

2013-07-19 Pacific Rim

I felt about 25 years too old for Pacific Rim. It was a tiny bit better than Transformers. No quiet moments and insights like in Blade Runner. No mystic undercurrents like in Neon Genesis Evangelion. No character interplay like in Mass Effect. No singing and romance like in Robotech. No strangeness like in Akira. I did like the visuals of Hong Kong, the huge halls à la Star Wars. I find that good movies have me thinking back, recalling scenes, mulling the justifications and consequences of actions. This movie won’t be requiring much thinking back. It has giant robots and kaiju monsters. They fight. The solution to the problem is—as is often the case—a nuke. I expected as much but went anyway, willing to let myself be convinced. Oh well.


Comments on 2013-07-19 Pacific Rim

I felt exactly the same way. Guillermo del Toro’s other movies are action-packed, but also quite thoughtful. Disappointing.

Eugene Eric Kim 2013-07-20 00:13 UTC

Yeah. Pan's Labyrinth was great visually and it had a disturbing plot. A haunting movie and no comparison. And I’m saying that even though I felt Pan’s Labyrinth was too bleak. I felt punched afterwards. As one should feel considering a civil war I fear.

AlexSchroeder 2013-07-20 05:14 UTC

Add Comment



Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Note: in order to facilitate peer review and fight vandalism, we will store your IP number for a number of days. See Privacy Policy for more information. See Info for text formatting rules. You can edit the comment page if you need to fix typos. You can subscribe to new comments by email without leaving a comment.

To save this page you must answer this question:

Just say HELLO