About That Ante Gotovina Film

I read this interesting story on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) about a week ago: In Casting Quandary, Croatian Filmmaker Lacks For ‘Enemies’.

Croatian director Antun Vrdoljak finds himself in a bind.

His current project, called The General, deals with Croatia’s recent past; it is meant to be a blockbuster about the exploits of Croatian wartime commander Ante Gotovina. Vrdoljak and his crew are currently shooting the film in the vicinity of the Croatian coastal city Split, recreating the final battle of the Croatian war of independence in 1995.

But he is having trouble finding actors willing to play “the enemy.”

Vrdoljak’s dilemma is that even in the filmmaker’s world of make-believe, Croatian actors refuse to put on the uniform of “Chetniks” — as rebel Serb fighters were dubbed to evoke the nationalist Serbian units that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II — while Serbs refuse to take part in a Croatian movie about General Gotovina.

The story—which is unfortunately written with a rather anti-Serbian bias—goes on to say that though this director is paying top dollar for actors to be in his movie, he’s still having trouble finding them. Croats don’t want to play Serb nationalists on film, while Serbs don’t want to take part in anything that glorifies Ante Gotovina. Gotovina was a Croatian general during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. He started his military career in the French Foreign Legion and then returned to his native Croatia. He helped mastermind Operation Storm in 1995, which greatly weakened the Serb side militarily, as well as driving out tons of Serbs from their homes in Croatia.

Ante Gotovina returning to Croatia in 2012.

Gotovina was indicted for war crimes and arrested. However, he was inexplicably acquitted on appeal after being sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. He returned home to Croatia a hero—and according to the article I linked to, much less of a Serb hater.

I’ve never been a great admirer of Gotovina since I’m more pro-Serb than pro-Croat (in the context of the Yugoslav breakup, that is). However, he’s definitely had a fascinating life and I really would like to see the movie when (if?) it comes out. In fact, I will see it no matter how anti-Serb and pro-Gotovina it is, due to one important fact: one of my favorite actors, Goran Visnjic, is playing the role of Gotovina. In case you don’t know what he looks like, I’ve included a helpful picture below.

Have I convinced you to see it, too? 😉

Seriously, though, as amusing as the director’s quandary is, I think a lot of people are missing the point. When you’re acting, the whole point is you aren’t yourself. I mean, I could play a character who really wants a tattoo or a nose piercing—those are two things I’m resolutely against. Just because I played a character who wanted them wouldn’t mean that I did. I could play a character who had political views that were completely opposed to my own—and that wouldn’t mean I espoused those views. It’s just like playing a Serbian soldier doesn’t mean that you’re pro-Serbian. Believe me, I know the whole history of the Balkans is very fraught with tensions and fighting and wars. But I think refusing to play a character who is supposed to be on “the other side” is taking things just a little bit too far.

Or maybe I’m too blinded by my obsession with Goran Visnjic and just really want this movie to be made so I can see it. 🙂

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Thoughts On Watching ‘The Patriot’ Again

I think they photoshopped Mel's eyes to make them look bluer.
I think they photoshopped Mel’s eyes to make them look bluer.

When I was younger—still a kid, because this was about fifteen years ago—a little historical film called The Patriot came out. Of course, I’m being facetious when I call it little because it was actually quite big, both in length (it’s almost three hours long) and budget. My parents and I were on vacation and they decided to rent it in the hotel we were staying at. I begged to see it with them. Even then, I loved history and historical things.

Unfortunately, I only got to see about half of it. It was so long I would have been up way past my bedtime if I watched the entire thing, and they also worried about objectionable material being present. When they determined it was fine for me to see, we rented it again once we were home and I got to see the whole thing. I loved it. Then I grew up and didn’t watch it for a number of years because I was too busy doing other things.

Last week, I read something online that reminded me of The Patriot, so I rented it and watched it last weekend. I know some people say they’re disappointed by books they reread or movies they rewatch because they don’t said book or film anymore. I’m happy to report that was definitely not the case with my rewatching of The Patriot. I love it as much as I did when I was a kid. Basically, The Patriot is a fabulous movie and you should rewatch it—or watch it for the first time if you haven’t seen it already. Here’s my advice if you decide to do so.

  • Getting the director’s cut is TOTALLY WORTH IT. Okay, since it costs the same as the regular version on iTunes, “worth it” may not be the best way to phrase it, but you get what I mean.
  • If you get the director’s cut, it’s an extra fifteen minutes or so, mainly of Jason Isaacs (the British guy, Colonel Tavington, who is the main antagonist). He’s such a great actor and it’s a shame they cut so many of his scenes. Besides, he really pulls off that British uniform quite well, if you ask me, so get the director’s cut!
  • It’s nice to see a good solid patriotic film. I feel like a lot of people don’t care about this country or it’s history. Heck, I’ve been fed up with a lot of what’s gone on recently, so it’s nice to see a reminder of where we came from.
  • And yes, I know some people may say that the British are portrayed too harshly in this film—but remember, dear British friends, you didn’t want to let us go back when we declared our independence. The government did put up quite a fight!
  • I completely forgot Heath Ledger was in this. It’s really sad to think that he was alive the last time I watched it…

Just go rent this movie, okay? It’s full of historical goodies: cool costumes, battles that look really realistic, and all sorts of other delights. Amadeus will probably always be my favorite movie ever—but The Patriot definitely vies for second place.

Russian TV Show ‘Rodina’ Is Awesome.

Obligatory photo of the hero, Aleksei Bragin (played by Vladimir Mashkov).
Obligatory photo of the hero, Aleksei Bragin (played by Vladimir Mashkov).

So, remember that Russian TV show I talked about called Rodina? I wrote about it here and then posted photos here. Well, I finally started watching it and OMG IT IS AMAZING. I love it so much. I’m understanding so many of the conversations—that’s always encouraging when you watch something in a foreign language! And the plot? Wow. There is so much going on. I’m only two episodes in and I’m already hooked. Oh, and the people who made it did not disappoint: I’ve already seen Vladimir Mashkov in that uniform I really wanted to see him in. 😉

I don’t know about you, but I know what I’m doing when I get home from work today! Rodina, here I come!

Stalingrad

I am too overwhelmed to write a review of Stalingrad right now. I saw it yesterday and it was so amazing and so powerful. I will write something at some point, but for now, just read this review: ‘Stalingrad’ a superb war film.

Stalingrad: The Film

This is happening tomorrow, people.

Russian version of the poster for Stalingrad
Russian version of the poster for Stalingrad

Yes, that’s right: I’m going to see Fyodor Bondarchuk’s epic Stalingrad tomorrow and I can’t wait. It’s only playing in IMAX 3D where I live, so I’ll have to pay an arm and a leg for it, but that’s okay. It’s Russian. I’ll do just about anything to see a Russian film.

Ender’s Game

Frankly, the poster looks a bit intimidating.
Frankly, the poster looks a bit intimidating.

I saw the film Ender’s Game one week ago. I saw it partly because the book was one of my favorites when I was growing up and partly to spite everyone who said that we (i.e. the movie-watching public) should boycott it. I don’t like being told to boycott things – I prefer to think for myself, thank you very much. Plus, if I boycotted books and movies based on authors’ political views, I wouldn’t be able to watch or read anything. (I have strong opinions, and lots of people don’t agree with my views. I’ve learned to just deal with it and enjoy the movie or book.)

As for the film itself, it was a decent adaptation (except for the end – they completely messed up the end). There was an entire subplot they had to leave out, which I understood, but that subplot was one of my favorite things about the book. (It involved detailed discussions of geopolitics and world affairs, which is right up my alley.) They also made the characters older than in the book, which I also understand. In the timeline of the novel, the characters age about six years, if I remember correctly, and that would be difficult to do in a movie.

All this has led me to want to read Ender’s Game again. I never really have been able to discuss the book with anyone. None of my friends have read it. They thought it was too militaristic. My mom thinks it’s too young. In short, it is one of my favorite books with thought-provoking themes, but I have never properly discussed or analyzed these themes.

That’s where the internet comes in, dear readers. I know the book has a large fan base, so surely some of that fan base will search the internet and be led to this blog. Which leads me to my proposal: I am considering re-reading the book and blogging about each chapter. Would any of my readers like that? You’d obviously be welcome to chime in in the comments section. Let me know what you think!

Pan’s Labyrinth

pans labyrinth

Warning: spoilers ahead! Also, if you haven’t seen this film, you may want to skip this post, as it will make no sense to you.

I re-watched Pan’s Labyrinth last night. It’s been a number of years since I’ve seen it. It was very popular at my high school back in 2007 and 2008, after it was released in the US.

Back when I first saw it, my mom and I watched it together on DVD. It was 2008. Even though I was deeply saddened by the ending, I interpreted the film as having some hope at the end. I thought the fairytale world that’s interspersed with the real and depressing 1944 world is meant to actually exist.

However, after watching it last night, I’m not so sure I hold that interpretation anymore. Now, I think the fairytale world was a figment of Ofelia’s imagination and her way of coping with all the unhappiness in her life. That means when she was shot at the end, she actually did die and there was no happy ending with her soul reuniting with her parents in the underworld kingdom.

This is actually really bothering me. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was trying to puzzle out this film. For those of you who have seen it, what do you think?

KGB Slang

farewell book cover

I read a book recently called Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud. It was really, really good, as is the excellent film that is loosely based on it (L’affaire Farewell). The book was translated from French and unfortunately, the translation leaves a bit to be desired in certain sections, but overall it is very interesting.

One of the main things I remember from this book was the KGB slang I learned. (Yes, there is such a thing as KGB slang.) The term I learned was мокрое дело (mokroe delo), which translates to “wet affair” – i.e. an assassination. (If I’m not mistaken, this term exists in English, too.) I’m not sure what this says about me as a person that one of my favorite aspects of the book was learning this slang. It probably just means that I am way too obsessed with spies and Russia, but we already knew that, right?

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should watch L’affaire Farewell. It’s available on DVD with English subtitles and is amazing because Emir Kusturica is in it. Emir Kusturica is one of my favorite filmmakers and actors ever. And now that I’m thinking of him, I am reminded of the fact that he speaks Serbian and I want to speak Serbian so badly and so I’m going to publish this blog entry and go study random Serbian words.

Dear Universal Pictures, I Want My Money Back.

I won’t be offended if you don’t want to read this entire review. Tl;dr version: this movie sucks and do not see it. I would not see it again if you paid me because it is the single STUPIDEST thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

This poster makes me want to vomit.
This poster makes me want to vomit.

I admit, I was skeptical when I first found out about the 2012 film adaptation of Anna Karenina. I did not like the casting of Keira Knightley as Anna – she is not my favorite actress, and I do not imagine the character looking like her. However, after seeing this horrid film, I wish to say that my worries were unfounded. Keira Knightley actually did a decent job, considering what she had to work with, and I did not mind her in this role.

The day before I saw the film, I found out that British playwright Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay. I do not particularly care for Stoppard’s work, so I was a bit apprehensive, but I ignored my apprehension and saw the film anyway. I so wish I had listened to my instincts, because not only did I waste my money on this film, but I wasted two hours of my life that I will never be able to have back.

Anna Karenina is by far the worst film I have ever seen in my entire life (and I’ve seen quite a few movies in my day).
Continue reading “Dear Universal Pictures, I Want My Money Back.”

‘The Master and Margarita’ is Russian, and Always Will Be

The official poster for the recent Russian adaption of this excellent book
The official poster for the recent Russian adaption of this excellent book

I read the most horrifying comment on a blog yesterday. The commenter suggested, in all earnestness, that there should be an American adaptation of The Master and Margarita. Long-time readers will know that this is my favorite book and its author, Mikhail Bulgakov, is my favorite writer, so this book and Bulgakov are sacrosanct to me.

But an American adaption of this novel would be so wrong in so many ways.

    • American adaptations of books almost always leave out some important stuff. The Russian adaptation, on the other hand, went all-out and serialized the book for TV and left pretty much every scene in the filmed version. Sure, we could adapt it for TV here, too, but I doubt anyone would watch it.
      The Master and Margarita was written in Russian and just has to be in Russian. Somehow, I cannot see Hollywood writing a Russian script and hiring Russians to act in it. (And if they did, they’d probably do something stupid like cast Mila Kunis in it. Not only does she not look like any character in the book, but her Russian is actually quite horrendous.)
  • The most egregious, offensive part of the aforementioned blog comment was the commenter’s suggestion that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart should play the title roles (of the master and Margarita, the characters the novel is named after). That was possibly the most repulsive thing I’ve read in a really long time. Not only are they totally unsuited to those respective roles, but they are just terrible in general. Robert Pattinson is not attractive (seriously, all these women who are mooning over him, I want to ask you: what do you see that I don’t see?) and Kristen Stewart is plain annoying. The thought of these two in the most important roles is horrifying. As my violin teacher once said, gag me with a goat.

    This isn’t to suggest that Americans are too crass and uncultured to adapt a great work of Russian literature – I wouldn’t watch a Russian version of The Great Gatsby, for example. And a French version of The Count of Monte Cristo would be better than an American or Russian version. (Though sadly, I can only read The Count of Monte Cristo in English or Russian translation, as I unfortunately do not know French.)

    As far as I’m concerned, there is no need for another version of The Master and Margarita right now, as the recent Russian serial is quite good. But if you were to make your own adaptation, who would you cast?