Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some Liam Neeson movies. I think he surprised everyone in rebranding himself as an action star with Taken, soon to be followed up by a bunch of other genre flicks. And then he surprised everyone again by blowing himself up in a press interview last year. I’ve heard he doesn’t want to do any more action movies, so maybe that was his way of signing off. It’s too bad, because even though few of these movies were any good, I think he did well in them.
It was an oft-repeated criticism of American involvement in Vietnam that the U.S. was waging a war in a country that few of its citizens would be able to find on a map. That was a zinger, then and now, though, in the American public’s defence, at the time Vietnam was only twenty years old (it had most recently been French Indochina).
I was thinking of this recently when preparing my notes on the movie They’re Watching, which was set in Moldova. This threw me. Before finding out this little tidbit of information, if you’d asked me if there was a country of Moldova I would have said there wasn’t. I associated the name with a province in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and thought that the filmmakers were invoking it as an imaginary place like Ruritania or the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. But actually Moldova is a sovereign state, having been one of the Soviet Socialist Republics and gaining independence when the Soviet Union collapsed.
This was humbling. I thought I knew enough of the basics of world geography that the existence of a European country I didn’t know of came as quite a surprise. But as I went flipping through a pocket atlas recently I found other examples of my ignorance of how the world is divided up. Just as surprising to me as the existence of Moldova was the discovery that there’s a part of Russia that isn’t connected to any other part of Russia (what’s called an exclave). This is the Kaliningrad Oblast, the old Prussian Königsberg. Who knew? Well, probably a lot of people. But I didn’t.
Political boundaries are often in flux, which justifies the printing of new atlases. I found several such boundary issues in my browsing. Suriname, for example, claims big chunks of both Guyana and French Guiana (the countries to its west and east respectively). I have no idea how valid these claims are, but on a map they look significant. Meanwhile, Western Sahara has been administered since 1979 by Morocco, but is still considered a (huge) disputed territory. I knew nothing of this.
The upshot is that I don’t have the right to make fun of anyone else’s ignorance of geography. There are plenty of places I not only couldn’t find on a map but that I’ve never even heard of. I guess I’m not a man of the world.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the Hellraiser movies, minus the last couple. You can say I wanted to cut my losses.
It’s disappointing how the series never went anywhere. I loved the first Hellraiser, and was actually at the world premiere of the second. But later entries were just cash grabs for the limited cash to be grabbed from direct-to-video release, often injecting Pinhead into scripts pulled off the shelf that had no connection to the Hellraiser mythos. Here’s the line-up:
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Over at Alex on Film I’ve posted my thoughts on Glass, which completes the M. Night Shyamalan comic-book trilogy begun with Unbreakable and Split. These movies make a welcome antidote to the usual run of Marvel movies, but I don’t think Shyamalan had enough to say to cover three films. Glass in particular seems to just be putting in time, before coming to no very great conclusion.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve posted my notes on two adaptations of Herman Koch’s novel The Dinner, the first an Italian production and the second American. Despite being the sort of material that I would have thought highly adaptable, neither film is a great success. The Italian version is, however, not without some interest.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some of the Death Wish movies. It’s almost a complete list. I guess the first film is of some historical/sociological interest, and if you’re interested in the whole rape–revenge genre they might even be considered essential viewing, but I didn’t find much of value in any of them.