Sunday, November 29, 2009


One could edit a 35-40 minute version of 2012 with only the CGI sequences of the world falling apart, and it would be enough. In fact, it would be more enjoyable than the current 158 minutes version with its preachy pro-family narrative. No one in their right mind goes to see the film to watch John Cusack reunite with his family. It's for those crumbling buildings and the world's largest volcano that once was Yellowstone. In that aspect, I found it plenty satisfying.

A few notes: as opposed to ID4, the American president does not save the world. Emmerich has now noticed that there are other nations on earth. Even Germans. And there are more African-Americans in the Oval Office than there have ever been, possibly including this administration.

Question: The US has a black president, the German Chancellor is a woman and the Californian governor is an actor with an Austrian accent. So why is the Italian prime minister a God-fearing family man with receding grey hair? Wishful thinking?

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon

I don't get the whole Twilight thing. He's whiny, she's needy. As far as human/vampire couples go, I'd much rather watch Buffy & Angel. Or Buffy & Spike. Or Sookie & Eric. Even Sookie & Bill, but that's pushing it. But this brings us to something far more interesting than New Moon: why is it always a male vampire and a female human? There's the blatant biting and penetration issue of course. But I sense that it may have to do with age as well: it's ok to have a 109 year old guy date an 18 year old female, but not the other way around. Or this: it's a bigger tragedy (apparently) that the guy remains to appear 17, as the woman ages than having an aging man around. There is one exception though, and interestingly, it comes from Europe: Let the Right One In. See it.

New Moon is well made and entertaining enough. I enjoyed it, especially since I didn't have to pay for the ticket. Its digital wolves look ridiculously fake, and I cannot find the film engaging in any way, but its male characters have a tendency to take off their shirts. Constantly. At least it's something to look at.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bornova Bornova

This is a movie that is not going to make sense to non-Turkish viewers. So I write in Turkish.

(bir miktar spoiler içerir)
Öncelikle, epeydir (hadi diyelim Masumiyet'ten beri) tüm oyunculukların bu kadar başarılı olduğu bir Türk filmi izlemedim. Bunun dışında senaryo (ki sıklıkla problem olur buralarda) saglam, sıkı, net. Birkaç yerde biraz fazlasıyla yavaşlıyor yalnız.

Masumiyet demişken, hafif bir Demirkubuz havası yok değil. Masumiyet'e ilaveten Üçüncü Sayfa. Hatta tam "Damla Sönmez de Başak Köklükaya'yı andırıyor" diye düşünürken... Neyse. Keselim orada.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Turks Fruit - better second time round

I still don't understand why Turks Fruit is the best Dutch film of the century, but I liked the repetitions, and acting is incredibly full of energy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I feel dirty

It's like going to a McDonalds. It's fun while you eat, but afterwards, you feel all that heavy and greasy crap inside your digestive system. That's what Mission Istaanbul feels like. It's so incoherent and inane, there's no point in even trying to review it. The story makes absolutely no sense, acting is not even there, product placement is infuriatingly blatant. The (Turkish) cops speak to each other in Turkish in some scenes, in English in others. Sometimes they switch mid-sentence. It's impossible to tell who is Indian and who is Turkish, and it doesn't even matter really, because everyone speaks fluent Hindi. Oh, and George W. Bush is in it.

I must admit that the film makes really good use of Istanbul though, every inch of the city is covered.

See it only with friends. Preferably in Istanbul. Preferably drunk.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Verhoeven in Istanbul

Istanbul Modern will be showing Paul Verhoeven's Dutch films, and he will be here to present Turks Fruit. Here's the Intro paragraph to my MA thesis about his highness:

"In the history of the Golden Raspberry Awards, only one director has been present to collect his award . That should come as no surprise, since Golden Raspberries, or Razzies as they are more commonly known, are presented to the ‘worst’ Hollywood has to offer each year. In 1996, Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, a flashy, NC-17 rated drama about a young dancer in Las Vegas received six Razzies, including Worst Picture and Worst Director. It was not the first award this Dutch director had won, nor would it be the last. Indeed, his various awards may start to reflect the uniqueness of Verhoeven. They include a Special Jury Award in Avoriaz and the FIPRESCI Award in Toronto for DeVierde Man (The Fourth Man, 1983), Best Director Award in Sitges for RoboCop (1987), a Golden Calf in 1999 for Best Dutch Film of the Century, Turkse Fruit (Turkish Delight, 1973), culminating in a Leopard of Honor, a Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Locarno Film Festival in 2000. "

There will also be a panel on Hollywood immigrants, with me, Engin Ertan and Burçin Yalçın.The full program is posted above (I tried posting it below, but couldn't - how does that work??)
P.S.: The panel will be in Turkish.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Money for Nothing? Eastern European Films at Warsaw Film Festival

(this article will be published on the FIPRESCI web site)

As the FIPRESCI Jury at the impeccably organized 25th Warsaw Film Festival, we are entrusted with the task of giving a prize to one of thirteen films, all first and second features from Eastern Europe. While this may sound like a rather straight-forward category, it does belie two predicaments. In addition to the classical problem faced by anyone interested in national cinemas (“what does it mean that a film is from somewhere?”), how would Eastern Europe be defined? Luckily, the films are chosen for us, and we do not have to concern ourselves with the geopolitics. Eastern Europe generally conjures to mind the countries formerly united with the Warsaw Pact, now mostly members of the European Union. As we watch our films, however, I notice a certain tendency among these films that set a clear partition between those from the EU countries and those that are not. In some strange way, the non-EU films tend to have money (or lack thereof) problems at their center, whereas films from the EU countries have other concerns. I do realize that such a statement is a gross generalization; nonetheless, a very clear division between thirteen films viewed over a week tempts me to formulate a thematic pattern. For full disclosure, I must note that I come from Turkey, whose elusive attempts at an EU membership may have rendered my perception somewhat selective.

It must be a coincidence that we first watch the four films that are not from EU countries: George Ovashvili’s The Other Bank (Gagma Napiri) from Georgia, Gulshat Omarova’s Native Dancer (Baksy) from Russia (although set in Kazakhstan), and Asli Ozge’s Men on the Bridge (Koprudekiler) along with Mehmet Bahadir Er and Maryna Gorbach’s Black Dogs Barking (Kara Kopekler Havlarken) from Turkey. Here is where the financial troubles start: the young protagonist of The Other Bank, portrayed wonderfully by Tedo Bekhauri, tries to survive on his own in a hostile environment, resorting to various scams. Survival is also at the heart of the two Turkish films; where men work hard on the bridge to make ends meet, Selim and Chacha from Black Dogs Barking attempt to enter the underworld to move upward in life, to tragic consequences. And in Native Dancer, which tells the story of an elderly shaman, it is the involvement of gangsters that sets the events into motion.

Ignas Miskinis’ Artimos Sviesos (Low Lights) from Lithuania is the first on our list from an EU country, and the contrast is startling. Three upper-middle class urbanites in their thirties drive their cars in the darkness of the night and encounter random strangers, all in an attempt to escape the mundanity of their lives and the alienation of the metropolis. Same themes inform a number of the other films such as Pawel Borowski’s Zero from Poland. In this tale of intertwined lives, a few of the many characters do have money problems, but the greater underlying subject matter is human relations in a big city. Listieky (Foxes), Mira Fornay’s debut feature from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, tells the story of two Slovak sisters in Dublin. The film focuses on the troublesome relationship between the two sisters and not on migration troubles, as a film from the previous decade might have. Even as the main protagonist in Kamen Kalev’s Eastern Plays from Bulgaria lives in near-poverty (as his step mother likes to point out), it is his drug addiction and his struggles to hold on to a meaningful life that define him. Roland Vranik’s Adas (Transmission) from Hungary is set in the near future where the television and computer screens no longer function. While the premise sounds like a science-fiction story, the film concerns itself with the despair of the people when they are forced to interact with one another rather than with their screens.

The sense of alienation, isolation and despair brings to mind another era in film history, the Italian cinema of the 1960s. While I could not possibly compare any of these films to the works of Fellini and Antonioni stylistically, their overall themes do bear a similarity that warrants a mention. There are of course other films on our list that do not center around desperation (whether for money or for meaning). Both entries from Romania, Radu Jude’s Cea mai fericita fata din lume (The Happiest Girl in the World) and Corneliu Porumboiu’s Politist, Adjectiv (Police, Adjective) tell stories of ordinary people in their daily lives, their styles defined by very long takes. And the recipient of the FIPRESCI Prize, Borys Lankosz’s brilliant Rewers (Reverse) from Poland, is a noirish black comedy largely set in the 1950s.

Heading to watch the last film on our list, I am curious if the pattern will hold. It is Aron Matyassy’s Lost Times (Utolso Idok) from Hungary, a beautifully shot story about a young man and his mentally disabled sister. Having lost their parents, the two siblings have to make it on their own, leading the brother to delve in smuggling gas from Ukraine. Smuggling and survival in an EU country? Is my pattern shattering? But then I remember the title that preceded the film: 1997. Lost Times is set seven years before Hungary’s accession into the EU. No need to worry. Admittedly, it would be quite a stretch to claim that EU membership is the one variable that makes a difference in these films’ themes and this is most likely a happenstance. Nevertheless, thirteen is a large enough number that leads one to think it just might…

blogging? me? naah..

i have stayed away from blogging for many years. only within the last few days have i realized that i'd like to keep my very brief film reviews on record, and that facebook or eksi sozluk are probably not the best places to do this. so here i am.

sinefil is also the name of my radio show on acik radyo, which i present with yesim burul seven. i admit i have not made a creative leap in choosing the title of the blog. but it is what i am above all: a cinephile.