I had heard good things about the new Dune movie, but I didn’t think I’d have the stamina to sit through a movie that’s almost three hours! But earlier this month, my father turned 81, and he wanted to go see the new James Bond movie — which is of comparable length. My mom asked me to take him, because she is not a Bond fan at all. I agreed: it would be fun to do something one-on-one with my dad, and it would get him out of the house.
However, logistically there were some challenges: he is almost blind — so would he be able to see anything meaningful? And with the length of the movie, we wanted to get an afternoon showing, so as to not make things too late. And since he can’t walk all that well, we also needed to find a cinema close to a parking spot. The Vue cinema in Eindhoven satisfied all the criteria, so that’s where we went.
Of course, we had to present our proof of vaccination, which is a QR code that, when scanned with the accompanying app, shows your initials and birthmonth. Very few places actually check these (so you could use someone else’s code), but here they asked for an ID so they could match this info. The lady scanning our phones saw that my father walked with two walking sticks and had some trouble moving around when searching for his ID, and she asked if we would rather use the elevator to go upstairs (where the screens are). Of course we would: the alternative was an escalator, which is kinda scary when you have to step onto it when you don’t see that well… But since the elevator was roped off because it was not part of the walking route, we needed some help to get there.
The lady simply closed the entrance and walked with us towards the elevator. Maybe that’s a small thing for her to do, but it meant a lot to us that she was willing to let other customer wait until we were on our way up. Later that week, I used the complaint form to give her a compliment for that — and her boss waved it off as “of course we do that for our customers!” but it was clear they were really happy to receive such a compliment.

The movie itself was (very) long, but there was a break in between so I could go to the toilet and get a drink refill. And I wasn’t bored a single second — it didn’t feel like three hours! I’m not going to spoil anything about the movie, other than wonder who will be the main person in the next Bond movie. It was a very satisfying end.

So emboldened by my success with the Bond movie, I proposed to Klik to go see the new Dune movie. Which we did last Sunday, in an afternoon showing.

Spoiler Inside: Dune, old and new

The showing turned out to be without break, but there was so much going on that we didn’t even have time to check a watch! We were a bit disoriented when we emerged from the viewing, though…

1) Pick one of your favorite movies: what is the title?
Laputa: Castle in the Sky

2) When and where and with whom did you first see it?
Probably at home, on DVD. But the most memorable viewing was in Rome, at the Cinema dei Piccoli in the Villa Borghese park. We got tickets in advance for the 22:00 showing, and the confused person selling us the tickets told us the movie would be dubbed in Italian — but of course we’ve seen it so many times that that didn’t really matter. The previous showing ran a little late when we arrived, and since the cinema is essentially a wooden shack, we could hear the end of the movie before going in.

3) What about the movie makes it one of your favorites?
It is a grand adventure that starts out in a mining town but then ends up in this mythical place, with lots of steampunk in between. Miyazaki’s love for airships is very apparent here. And the movie is also a technical masterpiece: the approach for the raid on the fortress where Sheeta is held with the pirate ornithopters is so exciting visually!

4) If you’ve watched this movie since the pandemic quarantine started, how did it make you feel?
I have not.

5) If this movie was remade, who would you cast for the five main characters and why?
A live-action remake would… not be good. It would probably amount to some human players standing in CGI decors, and that would give the movie a static look which doesn’t fit with such a dynamic story! And animating it again might make it look prettier, but would take away the ‘soul’ of the original.
But a remake with puppetry could be really fun! You can add in some CGI effects if you want to, but the decors would have to be physical. And while you can see that it’s puppets doing the action, the whole thing has a pleasing… physicality… to it that you can’t produce otherwise. The Jim Henson studio would be an obvious choice (their Dark Crystal prequel was fantastic), but the studio that does the wuxia puppetry series Thunderbolt Fantasy is also very much capable of showing lots of action.

Two weeks back, a colleague wore a shirt with a text that also included ‘NEO-TOKYO’. I asked him if this was a reference to Akira, and it turns out that he hadn’t seen that movie. In fact, he didn’t know what I was talking about! So I told him Akira is an iconic anime movie, set in ‘Neo Tokyo’. I offered to loan the DVD it to him, and he was curious enough to take me up on the offer.
So when he returned the disc, I asked if he liked it. He had been very interested, and had watched the whole movie through in one sitting… I offered to loan him that other cyberpunk masterpiece, Ghost in the Shell, which he also had never heard about… And now he has the second GitS movie on loan too, and he told me that he wouldn’t mind having a movie night every Sunday evening…

So now I’m planning out the whole list of movies I’m going to loan him, and a logical sequence between the movies… It’s great when you can share your interests in such a way.

If you think about it, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the most Buddhist movie ever. Of course, Indiana Jones has a lot of desires — the one that drives the movie is his desire to stop the Nazi’s from getting the Ark of the Covenant. And he does suffer because of his desires: he gets shot at, stomped, slapped and kicked — he takes a serious beating throughout the movie in his pursuit of this desire.
And yet, if he had done nothing, the end result would have been exactly the same: the Nazi’s would have opened the Ark and got their face-melting and head-exploding just rewards anyway. So if he would have learned to let go, he would have suffered a lot less, and things would have resolved themselves in the best possible way.

If that doesn’t tell us that desire begets suffering, I don’t know what does.

Facetime

Wednesday, we were in a bookstore, and they also had a display rack with DVDs and BluRays. One of them was a copy of De Nieuwe Wildernis on BluRay. It was reasonably priced, I read good things about it, so I picked it up on a whim.
It’s a feature-length nature documentary about the Oostvaardersplassen, a nature preserve in reclaimed land. Tucked in between Lelystad and Almere, it’s 70 square kilometer of marshes and grasslands. Deer, wild bovines and wild horses have been released there, and it’s a favourite spot for many geese and foxes. There is no active stewardship: nature is left to run its course — hence the title “the new wilds”.

One of the scenes shows a doe in winter, who is not going to make it. She lies down to die, and the movie shows a close-up shot of her eyes as she dies. Then there’s a timelapse of the close-up, and you see the moon rising in the reflection of the eye, and then the eye freezes over.
That was very, very moving to see. Which made us think: why is this so moving to us?

A philosopher friend of ours once pointed out that we tend to project ourselves into animals, and attribute emotions and thoughts when there are none. An important factor was whether the animal had a face that we could recognise and (try to) read. Almost all of our pets are predators, who have their eyes looking to the front, like we. That gives them a face similar to ours, which makes it easier for us to project a personality into the animal. Herbivores, like horses and cows, have their eyes on either side of their elongated heads, making it harder for us to identify with them, and we don’t ascribe as rich personalities to them as we do to our predator pets.

But if you zoom in on only the eye, then that’s all you see. That makes it easier to project a personality, or at least an emotion, to the deer — in the ‘making of’ documentary, one of the cameramen remarks that they chose to emphasize the eyes of the animals, to show ‘the soul of the animal’. In other words, so that we humans could more easily identify with the animal.
And that was why it was so moving to see that doe die: to see the life leaving her eye and it then freezing over.

I know that’s how it works, but it was still an emotional moment in the movie. I guess it’s hard-wired into us.

Skyfall

We went to see Skyfall this afternoon. I had ordered and paid tickets in advance through the magic of the internet, and we were assigned specific seats. And it was very busy, what with it being the last day of the vacation.
But when we entered the room, these seats were already taken by people who had been assigned those specific seats too — but from the ticket office. It took some time to get it resolved, and it resulted with us getting not the best seats. By then the trailers had already started, so we had to stumble across half a row of seats to get to ours.
I hate it when things seemingly have been taken care of, except that they aren’t and nobody told you in advance. I don’t think I’ll be taking this route for getting tickets anymore.

Anyway, the movie. We enjoyed it — it had all those traditional exotic Bond locales like tall skyscrapers, casinos and even an uninhabited island. But at the same time it’s also a bit grittier and ‘dirtier’ than Moore and Connery-era Bond, which I liked.
I disliked the new Q, though. His disdain for field work is uncalled for. And I can’t believe he thought himself to be so smart while connecting the laptop of a known super-hacker to the MI6 internal network. That’s just stupid — my clients don’t allow that, even though I have the latest virus scanners on my laptop.

All in all, a good time was had.