Das Ist Gut (Dunkirk review)

Not every story told follows the same narrative path as what preceded it. I mention this because Christopher Nolan has been directing movies since 1989 but it wasn’t until 2008’s The Dark Knight that we began to expect a certain tone from his films.


Dunkirk (2017)

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Christopher Nolan
released on blu-ray December 19, 2017
********* 9/10

IMDB: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: *****/*****

Christopher Nolan is an English film director, screenwriter and producer extraordinaire. He also has dual citizenship in the United States. If you are unfamiliar with his work, he has also helmed the recent The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, and Following, his directorial feature length debut. There were three films he made before Following, but those were all short films.

An advocate for film preservation, Nolan’s films often explore themes of morality, the passage of time, and identity. He prefers to use practical effects where possible, incorporates wide angle shots to reduce the scale of his characters, and adjusts the narrative landscape through the use of gripping soundtracks (looking at you long-time friend Hans Zimmer) and by messing up the typical sequencing of scenes.

Dunkirk follows that tradition of Nolan’s films, but does so in such a way that the lead character becomes the evacuation itself, with Allied soldiers, Axis planes, and British civilians all helping to fill in for settings and props. I should be clear when I state that this is a war film, but the explosions, cries of pain, and bloodshed are not the focal points – it’s the magnitude of war and how it effects our personal decisions for right or for wrong.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1940, during the fall of France, hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers have retreated to Dunkirk. Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a young British private, is the sole survivor of a German ambush. At the beach, he finds thousands of troops awaiting evacuation and meets Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), who is burying a body. After a German dive-bomber attack, they find a wounded man. They rush his stretcher onto a hospital ship hoping to get onboard and escape, but are denied passage themselves. The ship is sunk by dive-bombers; Tommy saves Alex (Harry Styles), another soldier. They leave at night on a destroyer, which is sunk by a torpedo from a U-boat. Gibson saves Tommy and Alex, and they are brought ashore by a rowing boat.

The Royal Navy requisitions civilian vessels that can get close to the beach. In Weymouth, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) set out on his boat Moonstone rather than let the navy take her. Impulsively, their teenage friend George (Barry Keoghan) joins them. At sea, they rescue a shell-shocked officer (Cillian Murphy) from a wrecked ship. When he realises that Dawson is sailing for Dunkirk, the officer demands that they turn back, and tries to wrest control of the boat; in the struggle, George falls and suffers a head injury that renders him blind.

Three Spitfires head towards France. After their leader is shot down, pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) assumes command with a shattered fuel gauge. They save a minesweeper from a German bomber, but the other Spitfire is hit and ditches. Its pilot, Collins (Jack Lowden), is rescued by Moonstone.

Tommy, Alex and Gibson join a group of Scottish soldiers and hide inside a trawler until the tide rises. Her owner, a Dutch mariner, returns. German troops shoot at the boat for target practice; when the tide rises, water enters through the bullet holes. Alex, hoping to lighten the boat’s load, accuses Gibson, who has been silent, of being a spy and demands that he leave. Gibson reveals he is French; he had stolen the identity of the soldier he buried, hoping to evacuate with the British. Alex, Tommy and the Scottish soldiers abandon the fishing boat when it begins to sink. Gibson is entangled in a chain and drowns. Alex and Tommy swim towards a nearby destroyer, but it is sunk by a bomber. Moonstone manoeuvres to take on troops, including Alex and Tommy. Peter realises that George is dead; when asked by the shell-shocked officer, he lies that George will be fine. Farrier shoots down the bomber, which crashes and ignites the oil slick from the sinking destroyer. Peter reveals to Collins that his elder brother was a Hurricane pilot, killed early in the war.

Farrier reaches Dunkirk, his fuel exhausted. Gliding over the beach, he shoots down a dive-bomber to cheers from the troops below. He cranks his landing gear down and lands beyond the Allied perimeter. He sets fire to his plane and is taken prisoner by German soldiers.

At the beach, Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) watches the last British soldiers leave. He confirms that 300,000 have been evacuated, ten times more than UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill had hoped for. He remains to oversee the evacuation of the French rearguard. Alex and Tommy cross the English Channel and board a train in Weymouth. Dawson is congratulated for having saved so many men. The shell-shocked officer sees George’s body being carried away. Peter visits the local newspaper with a photograph of George; a front-page article later commends George as a hero. Alex expects public scorn as the train approaches Woking, but they receive a hero’s welcome. Tommy reads out Churchill’s address to the nation from a newspaper.

This is nightmare fuel. Beaches filled with men with nowhere to go watch in terror as German aircraft decimate them from above – the analogy of the boot stomping ants is sickeningly accurate in this case. The movie showcases the blender full of emotions in such a thoughtful way, allowing us to give pause and see faces filled with anger, others with pride, despite not connecting with anyone long enough to root for them. It’s an odd thing, given that Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Kenneth Branagh are all excellent character actors – Nolan only gives us a taste into each man’s personality knowing full well that war dwarfs our self-importance.

Pros: The action moves up and down, like a wave crashing on a beach. The sparse storytelling and tone of failure barely concealed by dumb luck work damn strong to force a response. It’s technically brilliant.

Cons: A lack of an emotional core, might be difficult to swallow. Tom Hardy’s Farrier could have been given a slightly larger role – showing his end at the hands of Nazi soldiers even. A lot of unanswered questions.

Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes

Points of Interest: Thirty or so Dunkirk veterans attended the Long premiere – they appreciated the accuracy of the story, but felt the soundtrack was louder then the actual bombardment. Nolan cast young and unknown actors based on accounts of how inexperienced the real soldiers of Dunkirk were.

As far as a military effort, the Battle of Dunkirk was an epic disaster on a global scale. But the evacuation of almost 300,000 soldiers and the moral victory of the British is considered by many historians as the lynchpin in the Allied story of fighting against tyranny. By giving the soldiers and citizens an equal footing, Winston Churchill was able to foster a spirit of resistance within this nation, and turn a tragedy into a triumph, which is echoed in the final moments of the film by Alex as he is welcomed home in Woking.

theories Summarized

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this film as a I watched it, if I am being completely honest. Mysticque and I watched it together, and she was not a fan of it by any means. I try not to let other opinions effect my own interpretation of a film, but rather to enhance it. In this case it was invaluable, because Dunkirk is a film of competing emotions, many personal narratives drowned out by a larger message. I think you should see this film, especially given that stories like Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbour exist. A film like Dunkirk will help to expand your worldview and introduce a greater perspective on World War II, a time that that provided such cognitive dissonance for humanity, theories and all.


Twilight Zone (Daylight Savings Time)

This isn’t nothing new. We’re playing for keeps in the daylight, in the dark, in the twilight of our hearts.

People have been setting back their clocks for the better part of a century now. First proposed by an American inventor and politician by the name of Benjamin Franklin, back in the late 18th century, Franklin’s idea was to have citizens of Paris wake up earlier in the day and take advantage of the natural light; a means of savings on candle usage.

Burning The Candle At Both Ends

Eventually the idea was refined and defined by New Zealand entomologist and astronomer George Hudson, with German and Austria-Hungarians being earlier adopters in 1916. Since that time numerous countries have adopted it into their calendar year with daylight savings time happening in late winter and ending during fall, when we switch back to standard time. The literal notion of daylight savings time is to spring ahead by an hour, but the rationale is far more complex.

In an industrialized society we follow a clock based schedule, with activities that are not dictated by sunlight, by changing the schedule as the days shorten, we effectively gain an extra hour of sunlight in the evening, when most people are off from their work.

But in agrarian work, daylight dictates how much time is spent in labour. Whether one way or another is better is unclear, but where you live in the world does make a difference in the impact of the event. The closer we get to the equator the less daylight varies throughout the year, while the further north we go, the more wildly the daylight length swings throughout the year.

Hands of Fate

To be honest, I don’t know where I truly fit into this debate. Having danced this dance for quite some time now, it often feels great to get that extra hour of sunlight during the day, but the disruption to my sleep in the first place is definitely unsettling. As something of a night owl, I usually better use of the evening hours anyway, and up in northern Alberta our winters are longer with less daylight, while our shorter summers with longer daylight can be a welcome distraction… And so I can see merit to both sides of the argument.

I will say this though. No matter what art form you choose to make dear readers, and where you live in the world, you absolutely need to find a schedule that works for your own predispositions. It is a daily fight to make that art, so no matter where you live, it’s your responsibility to work within the environment you live in.

theories Summarized

I’ve gotten quite accustomed to using the #liveyourlife whenever I can in social media creative cuties, and I think it rings true here too. Whether or not you need lots of daylight to function properly, and I’m betting that is true for most of us, then absolutely take advantage of what you can get in your climate. That may mean more productivity in summer months and hibernating in the winter, but only you can figure out what that really looks like.

With that mentioned, don’t forget to set your clocks forward this weekend, wouldn’t want you to sleep in on Monday and something melodic.

And just like that, I’m out of theories for the day. Or should I say time?



Begin Again (Arrival review)

Sometimes artists are misunderstood, and sometimes it’s just a case of poor translators. Or maybe those artists are operating on another level of language?  A love language if you will. Oooh foreshadowing…

I personally would like to think that our attempts to understand the alien are important and when a film does well at the box office, more so when it’s a film which is about the other, it’s time to stand up and take notice. And reframe some thoughts.

Another first contact film you say? Well, I say it’s the best one.

Arrival (2016)

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Director: Jeff Nichols
released on blu-ray February 7, 2017
********* 10/10


IMDB: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Audience Score 82%
The Guardian: ****/*****


Denis Villeneuve is a French Canadian director. Yay for Canadian content! He’s a pretty swell guy too. I’ve reviewed one of his films before, but this time I think he has a shot at real international success: if you consider the Academy Awards a big deal that is. And since I wrote that review he also started development on the new Dune movie, so yeah. Cool guy. Cool cool cool.

Arrival is a story about aliens. Well, on the surface anyways.

Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) relives the childhood of her daughter, who has just died of cancer. Fast forward to Louise in the midst of a university lecture, when twelve spacecraft land across the Earth. U.S. Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) enlists Louise to aid physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) in decipher the alien language to find out the purpose of their visit.

Visiting the spacecraft of the “heptapods” the scientists discover that the aliens have an advanced circular language which is communicated via ink flares and in which whole thoughts appear in ink circles within seconds, regardless of the complexity of the sentence. Louise also beings to dream of her daughter and the father.

When Louise unravels that the aliens want to “offer weapon” to them, similar translations of “use weapon” are uncovered at other spacecraft sites. Certain countries like China respond by closing off global communications, while other prepare for an attack. Louise further argues that weapon might mean tool in this case. Some US soldiers plan to bomb the spacecraft and succeed.

After an explosion goes off which almost kills Ian and Louise, Ian determines that the circular symbols relate to time, and that the twelve alien sites are each sharing part of the technology.

China prepares for war, and Louise finds her way back to the aliens. They explain that she has been seeing the future and that their tool AKA language allows humanity to change their understanding of time. They offer this gift in exchange for help 3000 years into the future. Louise returns to camp but has a vision of the future wherein the UN has implemented the language and the Chinese general who ordered the attack on the heptapods is thanking her for turning him around.

She was able to do this by calling him on his personal mobile in the present, while he shows her his number in the future – she convinces him of the truth in the present by repeating the same whispers of his wife’s dying words to her in the future. This is when we learn that Ian is the father of Hannah and the husband of Louise. It just hasn’t happened yet. Ian admits his love for Louise, while Louise knows the reason they eventually split up is because Louise knows Hannah will die.

Despite this future knowledge, when Ian talks about babies with his wife, she agrees to it.

Pros: The plot twists are original, the story is realistic, and the tone is gripping. The idea of language is carried throughout the film, and somehow we are taken right along with it, to a very satisfying conclusion. Amy Adams is a showstopper in this film.

Cons: At times the moodiness and melancholy are a bit much to take in. You need to be completely relaxed and willing to sit still for the full runtime in order to enjoy the payoff. The details are key in this story and Villeneuve is relying heavily on them. It’s a thinking persons’s scifi.

Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes

Points of Interest: The ink circles were created by Montreal artist Martine Bertrand. Yay Canadian content! It is also the artist’s son who created Hannah’s drawings. The movie is based on a short story titled Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

It might seem obvious at this point what Arrival is about. Aliens. Well no, actually. It’s about time and the relationships between people define our sense of time. Language is merely an activator towards that resulting outcome, and once we can appreciate another language, we open ourselves up to visiting and revisiting themes of our lives, and in some cases, becoming available for new ones.

theories Summarized

I cannot say enough good things about this film. I have to admit when I first sat down to watch it, I was a little bit tired and disappointed at how slowly paced it was, but then on a second viewing, starting over, which I find a tad ironic now, I was able to settle into Villeneuve’s dirty sci-fi and appreciate the thoughtfulness. And I kept thinking about it all week, which is what a good movie should have you do. The arrival of this realization was worth the wait.


Jockstrap-on (Everybody Wants Some!! review)

I kind of hated dating when I was a younger buck. Mostly because of all the hormones, the uncertainty of identity, and dealing with the scores of other impressionable youth who were in the same boat as I.

It was messy and unclear, but giving myself and others roles made it easier to navigate, and in hindsight it probably was the most mature way to deal with the situation.

But hey, I wanted some, and everybody else did too.




Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Cast: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman, Juston Street, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, Temple Baker
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray July 12, 2016
******** 8/10


IMDB: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Audience Score 76%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Richard Linklater is an American filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor. He is also one of my favourite directors of all-time. To quote Wikipedia:

Linklater is mostly known for his natural humanist films which mainly revolve around personal relationships, suburban culture, and the effects of the passage of time.

Linklater is responsible for Dazed and Confused (the spiritual predecessor to Everybody Wants Some!!), Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, Waking Life, Boyhood, A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation, School of Rock, and Bernie.

And those are just the movies of his that I’ve seen. I STILL haven’t seen Slacker, SubUrbia, The Newton Boys, Tape, nor Me and Orson Welles. But let’s not talk about The Bad News Bears remake. *shudders*

Influenced by the film Raging Bull, Linklater has always made movies about travelling, whether literal or a metaphor. Never focusing in on one theme or end goal, his movies resolve themselves in a loose way, much like life itself.

Everybody Wants Some!! is a perfect example of this play on suburbia, timing, and relationships. Set in Texas in the fall semester of 1980 and taking place over the first few days of college, we meet freshman Jake (Blake Jenner) as he moves into the house he’ll share with college baseball teammates over the period of his college education.

Sharing the screen time with Jake are his roommate Billy AKA “Beuter” (Will Brittain), teammates Finnegan (Glen Powell), Roper (Ryan Guzman), Dale (Quinton Johnson), Plummer (Temple Baker) and several others.

Over the course of the movie Jake and his new friends cruise the streets to meet women, get competitive over ping pong, basketball, drinking, and other games, and host a couple of parties. Not to mention attending a disco, a country bar, a punk show, AND a theatre house party.

We watch the group dynamic quickly evolves over the weekend, and Jake develops a relationship with Beverly (Zoey Deutch) (one of the women he met while cruising the streets at the outset of the film), it isn’t long before the film closes out with Jake and Plummer in their first class, sound asleep.

ProsLinklater has a delicate touch, and he’s able to inject us into the lives of his characters without giving us a villain to best or a heart to win. He manages to articulate brotherhood and time in such a venerable way, that becomes quite sad when you see the credits roll and realize it’s time to go.

Cons: You do feel tested at times in this experience, wondering if all of this competition really is necessary and if the characters wouldn’t benefit from some breaks in their self-imposed roles.

Runtime1 hour 57 minutes

Points of Interest: Linklater has said that Everybody Wants Some!! is a continuation of Boyhood as it picks up right where that movie left off, conceptually. The original title of the film “That’s What I’m Talking About” is a line from Dazed and Confused, and often quote in this film.

The major takeaway of this movie is that dialogue is at the centre of it. It’s a coming of age tale in a time when masculinity was overtly tied to direct competition. And it demonstrates rather well the challenges that young men face in their conquest of meeting young women, whether that means putting on bell bottoms, adorning a cowboy hat, ripping up a white t-shirt with blood and ash or ultimately (and cleverly on Linklater’s part) putting on a costume to cozy up to the artistic. And he manages to make interest in sports way more nuanced than it’s ever been on film before.

The attitudes these young men hold for themselves, their peers, and women are rather basic at the root, but underneath the costume of jock wearing costume to get a woman, they reveal they are complex and just as lost as the rest of us dumb nerds.


The Life You Want (Flea Markets)

I’ve been thinking a lot of about value in the past few weeks dear readers.

Maybe it’s because I want you to invest in certain things and avoid others, maybe it’s because I feel overwhelmed with opportunities and need to be more vigilant with my own time, but mostly likely I suspect it’s because I wrestle with dichotomies of all kinds on a regular basis. Good VS evil, work VS play, right VS wrong, love VS hate, indulgence VS frugality. Caring too much VS caring about nothing.

I’ve been told by many people that as we age we become more settled in our opinions and more confident in our lifestyles, but I often wonder if that is just an expression used to pacify and remove personal responsibility.

There is this comic I found a long time ago, by B. Patrick that I think helps with the explanation but is by no means a solution in itself. The comic series is called Eat Shit & Die and this one below is no.202 from back in 2011.


Let me elaborate – Whatever you can personally effect and control in your life is the portion of your life that dictates what you want. Whatever you cannot control, be it health related, genetics, things that are hardwired, those things you cannot control, but even if you remove those elements there is still a hell of a lot that you can effect.

And maybe circumstances change and things you used to control are taken away from you, but acceptance is important and the life you want needs to be within a framework, hence the expression play the hand that you’ve been dealt.

Which leads us right into today’s timely post. Which happens to be about flea markets.

The visit to the flea market for me is a perfect example of seizing opportunity, for both the buyer and the seller. The flea market is a community made up of people watching, treasure hunting, binging and bargaining.

Using myself as an example, I visit the market to find and reclaim objects that once held value for someone else and bring those objects back into the spotlight – What might seem like a piece of garbage can become a valued treasure, and if you know the market value of things, you can negotiate on a price that is fair and find a home for something that was no longer being used. This is one of the places I go to find albums and movies that are no longer in distribution readily because I know what those records are worth.

Flea markets are a type of space that all people to sell and barter merchandise. They can be indoors or outdoors, and the regularity of the market depends on the type of space used, but they always differ from solitary booths because of the community appeal.

These venues are a way to find goods that are invaluable and it’s all about perception vs expectation with them. As the comic says, if you want to change your life, change what’s important to you. Make an effort to pursue your dreams in unconventional ways, for me, sometimes that means visiting a flea market to get that sense of wonder back.

What do you think? I’m out of theories for now, but I’ll see you creative cuties on Sunday evening with something stimulating. Share! Subscribe! Join the conversation!