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Dec 14

My thoughts about the movie Gilda

Posted on Monday, December 14, 2015 in Classics, Fandom, Movies

One of the classic black and white movies that I really love is Gilda. I also like Spellbound and Casablanca, to name a few.

What people say about this movie is that it’s a covert way of depicting a (happy) gay relationship. At least that’s what seems to be carried over from the play or original script that the movie is based on.

You don’t get that many clues about what’s really going on. Johnny and Gilda just sort of show up out of the blue. I have tried to put two and two together over the years, when I’ve watched and re-watched the movie several times.

First of all, Johnny and Gilda come from New York. They’re probably quite poor. Their career is being professional dance partners. Maybe they also make a little extra on the side but Gilda insists that she’s never been unfaithful to Johnny and I believe that. So if someone’s cheating, it’s Johnny. He’s Irish (I think). Johnny Farrell, that’s Irish, right? He’s probably quite temperamental and jealous. They’ve come out to South America during the second world war to make more money. Why, I’m not sure. The US wasn’t involved in the war in the same way as the European countries, obviously. There should have been money to make right there.

After a while, Gilda can’t take Johnny’s jealousy and leaves him. While they’re apart, Johnny meets a rich man called Ballin Mundson who owns a gambling hall. He makes Johnny manager of the gambling hall. You get hints that the staff doesn’t like it. They only feel contempt for Johnny. For instance, Uncle Tio (which, if my high school Spanish isn’t too rusty, means Uncle Uncle) calls Johnny a ‘peasant’ which probably stands for something else, also derogatory) Ballin and Johnny also have a really weird conversation with a sort of double entendre. Johnny basically has to promise that there are no women for him, which Johnny loves to promise, since he’s angry with Gilda.

Now, I might have a dirty mind, but I interpret that as a sort of code for Ballin and Johnny getting involved in some sort of gay sexual entanglement, though not really an equal relationship. It’s more like a rich older man picking up a street kid to take advantage of him. For instance, later in the movie, Johnny is referred to as a boy, who will grow up unless you watch him closely.

That brings me to my next point: I’m thinking Johnny and Gilda are supposed to be a lot younger than the actors playing them. They are, if I’m not mistaken, about thirty, while the characters are probably about twenty.

One day, Ballin goes away on a trip. When he returns, he has married Gilda, which is a nasty surprise for Johnny, who probably feels as if he’s moved up in life and also taught Gilda a lesson. Gilda too, has a nasty surprise when she sees Johnny and probably puts two and two together.

There’s a lot of talk that’s supposed to mean something else. (About who taught what to whom and similar hints about certain activities that mean something other than the obvious – like swimming). You learn that Gilda’s superstitious, so when Ballin proposes a toast (“Death to the wench who hurt Johnny” or something along those lines), she’s forced to go along with it, even though it scares her.

Another thing about Gilda is that you never find out her real name. She’s always just Gilda then Mrs Mundson and later Mrs Farrell (which is a little spoiler).

The tension and the jealousy between Johnny and Gilda keeps growing and Ballin just loves it. It seems he gets off on fanning the flames of their conflict.

Gilda plays up to Johnny’s jealousy (he claims to be keeping an eye on her for Ballin’s sake, but it’s obvious he’s jealous on his own account). She goes out with other men, she puts on shows that are not just musical but rather provocative (at least I’m assuming they would be perceived as such back then). In one, she ‘strips’ though all she’s taking off is jewelry and gloves.

There are also other, exterior factors that increase the tension. Ballin does business with the Nazis and he is threatened, disappears, is believed dead….

I’m not going to go into every single part of the plot, but one day, Johnny wakes up and realizes that he’s been wrong about Gilda and for a second, he’s even prepared to grovel. If I’d been Gilda I would have let him grovel for just a moment longer, but she’s just so happy he’s prepared to make up, so she accepts his unspoken apology and that’s pretty much it. Everything works out. Even Johnny realizes she’s never been unfaithful. And Uncle Tio eventually agrees to stop calling him a ‘peasant’ and refers to him as a gentleman, which I interpret as a sign of Johnny’s having grown up and Ballin losing his influence over him.

The bottom line is this: I don’t see Gilda as the evil woman coming between two happy men involved in a happy gay relationship. In fact, she’s a victim, someone who ends up in the crossfire between two men fighting over her and probably other issues as well, that we don’t get to see too clearly, possibly their involvement. Johnny too, is in a way a victim, a victim of his own temper and his ambitions. He doesn’t seem to see why everyone’s contemptuous of him or that’s he’s being cruel to Gilda.

Aug 5

The Boy in the Dress, UK 2014

Posted on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 in Movies, Reviews

I was able to watch this movie for free online, on Swedish tv:s Play service, which was cool. On IMDB there was a review that gave this really nice movie just one star out of ten (making a negative comparison with the book it’s apparently based on), which I think is unfair. Of course, I haven’t read the book, and actually I’d like to do that, but since I haven’t, I enjoyed the movie.

It’s about a boy, Dennis, living in the UK. His life is boring and depressing. His mother has left the family, that also consists of Dennis’ father and older brother. Dennis only fun in life is football (and his best friend and team mate, Darvesh). And Dennis really is good. He’s the star of his football team. However, his dad has fallen into a deep depression and misses his former wife so badly, he isn’t really there for his sons. There are many sad little details to illustrate this state of affairs. For instance, Dennis’ dad has burned all the photos of his former wife, except for one that Dennis is able to hide away, only slightly singed. Dad no longer comes along to watch the football games, but Darvesh (best friend) and his mum are always there so at least Dennis has that.

One day when he goes to Raj’s news agent’s shop, he catches sight of Vogue and is obsessed. He instantly loves all the glamour, which is both funny and touching in a little boy who is so very ‘boyish’ in every way.

Everyone in school, admires a girl named Lisa, who is a bit of a rebel, loves fashion and dreams of being a fashion designer. One day she discovers that Dennis too is reading Vogue and they become friends. She soon finds out that Dennis loves her dresses and makes him try one on, then later makes him one of his own. To try it out, she dares him to walk to the news agents’ where miraculously Dennis isn’t recognized. Lisa introduces him as her new exchange student friend, Denise, from France.

Later, when Dennis is feeling very depressed, he wants to try his disguise in school, and though Lisa seems a bit hesitant, they soon stage the deception. They’re even able to get past the school secretary who is watching over the students’ school uniform and every single little differences is noted and punished.

At first the experience is everything Dennis was hoping it would be, but after a while complications ensue.

I won’t go into what happens next, but despite the complications and trouble eventually, the movie ends quite happily. Like I mentioned above, it’s a very nice, feelgood movie, with funny characters, great acrors and a very interesting story too.

Jul 24

Wadjda, arabic movie from 2012

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 in Movies, Reviews

Recently I watched the Arabic movie Wadjda (also known as The Green Bicycle). Ever since I first read about the movie the first time I’ve been wanting to see it and the other night I had my chance (though it ate up quite a bit of bandwidth). It’s really something out of the ordinary for me to get to see such an ‘exotic’ movie (or rather, one from such an unusual country and in such an unusual language). I have to admit I didn’t know all that much about the Saudi Arabia, except for the oil and the way women are treated. The latter was confirmed throughout the movie. You could say it’s a returning theme. Oppression of women.

Wadjda who is ten, wants a bicycle, because her best friend Abdullah, who is a boy of the same age, has one and her greatest wish is to race him and win. She’s actually not all that nice to Abdullah and answers him rather sharply. He, on the other hand, is prepared to do anything for her. A very sweet little boy.

Wadjda’s father doesn’t live with her and her mom and after a while you begin to understand why. The mother does everything she can to keep him in a good mood, and rigidly follows every rule women need to follow. She’s torn between her husband and and the opportunity to live a more modern life, with the help of a friend who works in a modern, almost Western hospital. The friend is prepared to help her get a job there, but at the last moment, the mother backs out. Unfortunately, it does her no good.

Wadjda is a bit of a rebel, even apart from the bicycle dream, which fits well into her personality in general. She’s listening to Western music, she’s wearing a pair of trainers under her long black dress. Other girls run when men are nearby, but Wadjda doesn’t even bother to cover herself better with her veil. One day she even arrives in school with her veil off and is ordered to cover up more completely. She doesn’t really care about studying, and doesn’t even read all that well, until the day she realizes she can win a lot of money by entering the Quran contest, arranged by the Religion Club. It appears the Quran is much more complicated than I imagined. The contest is only one way Wadjda is trying to make money to buy her beloved bicycle. In Saudi Arabia (and possibly in other Muslim countries) is that girls and women shouldn’t ride bikes, for many reasons. They even believe it can ruin their ability to bear children in the future.

The movie is full of scenes that really hits you hard, like when you realize why Wadjda’s dad isn’t living with them anymore, or when Wadjda studies her father’s family tree with a great deal of interest. It lacks all the female names. She tries to remedy that, but soon discovers that her father has crumpled her handwritten note and thrown it away. You get the impression it’s only then that she realizes what a situation she and the other girls are living in. She ought to have seen that before, but Wadjda is a rather self-absorbed girl. Her very Quran learned classmate, Salma, is married off at ten, but apparently she’s allowed to still go to school. An older girl, that Wadjda helped connect with her older brother (to obtain a permit to see a boy) is arrested by the Vice Squad, is expelled from school and married off. Two other older girls are publicly shamed for being ‘sinful’. I didn’t understand exactly what they were supposed to have done, except for reading magazines, but it was hinted that they were in love.

May 20

Veronica Mars – the movie

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 in Fandom, Movies, Reviews

I just watched Veronica Mars – the movie. It’s taken me a while to finally get round to it, but I’m glad I did. At first I thought ‘this is just for the devoted fans’ (like me), but after a while I started thinking that this is actually better than season 3. I laughed out loud several times. There’s something about the lines that really appeal to me.

What I didn’t like was the way Mac and Wallace had been relegated to being minor characters. After all, since Duncan disappeared, it’s really only been Veronica and her dad and Logan who were depicted as major characters, at least that’s the way it seemed to me. I would have liked to see more of Mac, especially. (And – were Mac and Wallace a couple? I couldn’t really tell.)

All in all, this was a fun movie to watch and I can really recommend it to anyone who liked the series or thinks they might like it. If so, I’d recommend you watch the series first.

Now I’m hoping for more. Another movie, another season of the series… On IMDB, it says Veronica would have been working for the FBI in the canceled season 4. That sounds like a great start to a new season. Oh, well, one can always dream.

Sep 12

Female role models in tv, movies and books

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 in Books, Children's books, Classics, Fandom, Fantasy, Historic, Humour, Literature, Movies, Mystery/Cop, TV series

I recently read an article about positive female role models in movies. In general, there is a lack of good female role models so I think the short list in the article is a good starting point in changing that. I began to wonder which female characters I would deem positive and came up with this list (some of which were in the original article):

Ellen Ripley/Sigourney Weaver, the Alien movies (especially the first and second)

I read that Ripley was originally meant to be a male character, which figures. What man would write a female character like Ripley? Or anyone? Which is too bad, because I think that any woman who was physically capable would have done exactly the same things Ripley did. All she did was save her own life and those her adopted kid/s and try to pay a corrupt corporation back for killing her crewmates and setting them all up to bring back a lethal weapon in the form of an ‘exo lifeform’.

Erin Brockovich/Julia Roberts in the movie by the same name

Erin Brockovich is an unedcuated rather simple woman who stumbles across corruption and finds that she wants to do something about and then does exactly that. Simple enough, but at least when I watched the movie, I was impressed with her development from someone who just wanted to make a living to someone with a conscience. Normally, I don’t like Julia Roberts, so I was surprised to find that I liked this movie and the main character.

Olive Hoover/Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Olive is anything but a cliche. You might say that her grandfather is not really the kind of person who should have been helping her create her act for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, and you’d think someone would have thought of that before the actual pageant, but I guess then there wouldn’t have been much of a movie. In any case, Olive is an amazing kid and several other characters in the movie are quite unusual and interesting too.

Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey

Catherine is adventurous, imaginative and though I understand she’s supposed to be a parody of the typical heroine of a ‘gothic’ novel, I really like her. She’s fun and human and flawed, but in general, just nice and you find yourself rooting for her throughout the novel.

Anne Elliot, Persuasion

Anne is also quite different from the other Jane Austen heroines, which is probably why she and Catherine are my two favorite characters from Jane Austen’s books. Poor Anne has been rather too obedient to her family and that has left her in the unenviable situation of being unmarried at the old age of 26. She spends her life trying to help her family and keeping them from bankruptcy. Then when she gets a second chance at life, she’s strong enough to go against her snobbish family and do what she wants for a change.

Beatrice Eliott/Stella Gonet, The House of Eliott

In the first episode of the House of Elliot, Beatrice and her sister Evangeline are basically slaves to their selfish father, but when he dies – which he does during the first five minutes or so of the first episode – Beatrice is the one who quickly finds a way for the sisters to support themselves, doing something they’re both good at and enjoy doing. Beatrice is fun, tough and the sort of person you really root for, except when she’s mean to Jack.

Trudy Joplin/Olivia Brown, Miami Vice

Trudy is the most fun member of the Miami Vice team. Crockett and Tubbs may be sizzling hot, but Trudy is fun, tough and cool. I love her outfits (when she’s not playing prostitute in sting operations).

The rest of my list:

Constance Peterson, Spellbound
Alicia Huberman, Notorious
Tracy Turnblad, Hairspray
Jane Eyre, in the movie by the same name.
Alice, Alice in Wonderland
Miss Froy, Alice Henderson, The Lady Vanishes
Eowyn, LOTR
Stephanie Plum, Lula, Grandma Mazur/mormor Mazur, One for the Money
Veronica Mars, Cindy “Mac” McKenzie, Veronica Mars
From Downton Abbey:
Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Lady Sybil Crawley
Lucy Pevensie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe + Prince Caspian + Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Morgan, Cutthroat Island
Janet, Charmed Lives, Diana Wynne Jones
Tea with Mussolini: Most of the female characters.

As you can see this is a mix of characters from movies, tv series and books. They’re in no particular order, chronological or otherwise. I just put them in as I thought of them. Some are from the early 19th century, others from this year or last year and the rest from anything in between. Considering how long a period of time this is (nearly two hundred years) you could say that it’s a pitifully short list, but of course I’ve probably overlooked several great characters that I might have come up with if I’d taken more time to consider. Also, it’s just characters from the English-speaking world. Anyway, for what it’s worth, this is my list. Do you have one too?

Mar 28

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Fandom, Movies, Reviews

I recently re-watched Ponyo on the Cliff beside the Sea. It’s such a sweet movie I just had to watch it again to try and cheer myself up. When I found out it was a sort of version of The Little Mermaid, I was surprised at first, but then I could see the similarities. There are of course also details that I imagine are based on Japanese culture, but also apparently references to Richard Wagner’s series of operas about the Ring des NIbelungen.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a movie about a little boy who lives on a cliff beside the sea (his father is a sailor). The little boy finds an unusual fish down by the sea shore and wants to bring it to his daycare center. He names the fish Ponyo, not knowing that Ponyo is really the daughter of a wizard and a sea goddess and her real name is Brunhilde. The wizard used to be a human but has retreated to the sea in disgust over how humans are treating the world. Ponyo, who ended up on the shore in the first place because she’s the most adventurous of all her hundreds of siblings (sisters?), immediately becomes fond of the little boy, Sosuke. She decides she wants to stay with him and become a human. Her father doesn’t like that at all, and her escape causes a tsunami. LIke the little mermaid, Ponyo risks turning into sea foam if Sosuke (a five-year-old boy!) betrays her.

I love this movie, it’s so sweet and cheerful and I like the underlying message too (if I’ve understood it correctly?). Some things confused me though. This movie has been translated from Japanese into English and, I imagine, then from English into Swedish. Some things might have been lost on the way. Of course it is still possible someone translated directly into Swedish from the original Japanese, but I doubt it. There were too many inconsistencies. For instance, the voices and the subtitles didn’t match at all.

One thing I was wondering about was why Sosuke calls his parents by their first names. Why is a Japanese mother named Lisa? Also, no one seems particularly surprised about a five-year-old girl showing up straight out of the sea and telling them she used to be a fish and about her wizard father and sea goddess mother. Still, the overall impression is just beautiful and the movie is very skillfully done.

May 9


Posted on Saturday, May 9, 2009 in Books, Movies, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

Since the (originally) Swedish Wallander mysteries have been successfully exported to the UK, I thought I’d put in my two cents’ on this topic. In an earlier post, I’ve already mentioned that they’re not quite my thing. What I would like to discuss is something else. In the UK reviewers are raving about Kenneth Branagh in Wallander. After seeing what seems to be season 1 of that, I must say I enjoyed it more than the Swedish version.

What I’m reacting to is just one thing that keeps being repeated over and over again, in the reviews, in the UK and even in the US. Sweden is gloomy. What? Ok, I’ll admit that the north, far away from Wallander’s Scania, could be described as gloomy, especially during the dark season, which, frankly, lasts almost all the year around. That’s the north, not Scania. If you went to Scania presumably you’d notice that much of Sweden is pretty ordinary. The scenery is beautiful. (I just had to mention that. After all, I live here. I like the scenery.) But let’s get this straight once and for all, Scanians are not gloomy. Not generally. Sure, anyone can get gloomy, especially if you work hard all day tracing killers and dealing with gruesome murders. Are the British sleuths any more cheerful?

This is how the rest of us Swedes (or Goths, as I am – and no, I’m not dressed in black, we’re called goths anyway and there’s a fascinating linguistic or semantic explanation to why there are so many goths worldwide, especially throughout history) view Scania and the Scanians:

They’re jolly, positive people. They love to eat and drink. Kind of, if you allow the metaphor or simile, like hobbits, though not as short and fat, well some might be, but then so can anyone. Scania is usually green and smiling, rather than gloomy, though personally I tend to agree that the area around Ystad might be described as gloomy, especially during the winter.

Oct 23


Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Movies, Reviews

Transamerica is an American movie from 2005. It’s about Bree, who lives in California and is seeing a psychiatrist. The reason for this is that Bree really is a man, who wants to have a sex change operation.

‘She’ needs two psychiatrists to sign in order for ‘her” to go ahead with the surgery. Everything seems to be going really well, when suddenly, out of the blue, Bree gets a phone call from a seventeen-year-old boy who’s been arrested for drug possession and prostitution, in New York. The kid claims to be Bree’s son.

When Bree mentions this to her own psychiatrist, she realizes she won’t be allowed to have the surgery until she’s met and hopefully connected with the son she never knew she had. Not at all pleased, Bree sets out for New York.

Once there, she gets cold feet and tells Toby (the kid) she’s from a church – ‘The Church of the Potential Father’. She takes him back to his apartment, hoping she’ll be able to disprove the claim that he’s her son. Unfortunately, she recognizes a photo of a girl she/he dated at college.

Her plan to just drop the kid off at his place and go back and tell her shrink that they connected, but not that much, just falls through. Her ‘son’ wants to come back to California with the ‘missionary’ who bailed him out. He’s hoping for a career in the movies.

She gets talked into buying a used car to drive back home and when she leaves she has her son with her.

While talking to the boy she learns he has a stepfather and she makes a detour so she can reunite the two. That plan too, falls through, when she learns that the stepfather used to sexually abuse Toby for years, and that was why he ran away to New York to become a prostitute.

Once again, her plans didn’t pan out and when their car is stolen, Bree is forced to return to his/her parents. They are delighted to find that their wayward son has had a child. Bree isn’t quite as delighted to be back. Unfortunately, there’s a falling out between Bree and Toby, after he finds out who Bree really is.

Bree returns to California alone and has the surgery. One day Toby shows up again. You get the impression things might work out after all, even though they’re an odd family.

This movie surprised me by not being nearly as tragic as I thought it would be. Actually, I found it both comical and interesting. Both main characters and most of the minor ones were really good. You begin to care about them and want to know how they get on.

There are plenty of fun scenes, as well as some that are a bit tragic, but the main impression is quite nice. A feelgood movie in a quirky sort of way. Of course, you have to be prepared for nudity and some adult situations, but those are not the main point of the movie.

I really enjoyed this movie, you might like it too, just be aware of what it’s about.

Oct 23

Pride and Prejudice

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Classics, Historic, Movies, Reviews

I’ve already seen Pride and Prejudice, at least once in some version or other, but that doesn’t matter. I love Jane Austen’s books (most of them anyway), but now I’m talking about the movie. One version was a tv series, but like I mentioned before, in whatever form, I love them. I’m not sure about a comics version, but who knows? Some Japanese comics can be really good and so are the French/Belgian ones.

In any case, the actors (Donald Sutherland, Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen) did a great job. The funny thing is, I’d already seen McFadyen in a tv series, and I didn’t like him there at all. In the movie, he was a lot better.

The plot can be summed up in a few words, even if there is much more underneath, so it’s not the basic plot that is so fantastic, it has to be the way it’s done. Jane Austen was brilliant in her deceptive simplicity.

You might want to consider how people lived in those days. For families in this social class (not nearly as wealthy as you might think) finding suitable husbands for their daughters was vital. At the same time, a woman’s life was sadly limited.

Jane Austen herself, who was a published writer, lived more or less on sufferance. When some domestic chore perceived as more important, was to be done, poor Jane had to pack up her writer’s stuff and move.

That reminds me of our own Selma Lagerlof. Once, right after she won the Nobel Prize in Literature, she was invited to some house in her home province. She assumed she was the guest of honor, because of winning that prize. When it was time to sit down at the table, she entered the room first. Her hostess was quick to reprimand her. “Wives first, Selma, dear.” Apparently, we hadn’t progressed any further in the hundred years or so that had had passed since Jane Austen’s time. Just a little food for thought.

One interesting detail about the movie is that there were two different endings shot. One for the America audience and the other for Europe.

In the American version there was something sentimental and the one we got to see here, in Europe, was quite fun. Watch the movie if you like historic chic lit. If not, don’t.

Oct 23

Spirited Away

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Fantasy, Movies, Reviews

Spirited Away is a Japanese movie from 2001. Chihiro is a sullen, ten-year-old girl. She and her family are moving into a new house. Her dad chooses to take a shortcut, to the new residential area, and ends up getting lost.

Quite soon Chihiro gets a bad feeling about the trip, because she catches sight of some ugly, rather scary warning figures. But naturally her parents won’t listen to her. After all, she’s just a little girl.

They arrive at what looks like an abandoned amusement park. There’s a restaurant filled with meat. Chihiro’s parents begin to eat, declaring that they will pay later. But Chihiro refuses. She thinks everything is scary and ominous.

Before long, it gets dark and faceless spirits show up. Chihiro runs back to her parents, but can only find two big pigs.

She tries to run away from the spirits and ends up hiding, but meets a mysterious boy, Haku, who promises to help her. He gets her work in a bathhouse for spirits and gods. It’s quite a scary job, and the people are odd, but Chihiro struggles on. She has to find a way of saving her parents who are due to be slaughtered and turned into food at that restaurant. In other words, they must have eaten other people in the form of pigs.

That’s quite funny, actually. As a vegan, I wouldn’t have been the least bit tempted to try that meat and besides, whatever kind of food it was, I would never have eaten anything without paying. But I don’t know what kind of customs they have in Japan. On the other hand, it’s always possible there was some kind of magic involved, so the parents might not have been able to help themselves.

In any case, it’s a funny, exciting and fascinating movie. I’m quite new at Japanese animated movies, but this one and Howl’s Moving Castle appealed to me. Don’t expect it to be anything like the usual, western type of animated movie, which seems to be almost exclusively for very young children (pre-school age). On the other hand, Spirited Away doesn’t seem to be intended for your average grown up, but it’s definitely for teenagers and young adults and anyone who’s young at heart.

This movie isn’t full of blood, violence and brain matter, but it can be frightening for younger kids. Of course, that’s not who this movie is intended for. I liked it a lot. The fantasy- or fairy tale ambiance was something I appreciate a lot. It’s well drawn and well made in every way. I can really recommend it.


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