He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

felafel

An Australian film from the 00s, He Died With A Felafel In His Hand (from now on known as Felafel) is very familiar if you know your Aussie dramadies (drama comedy – I  can’t take the credit for that one). In the ilk of Dogs in Space, Two Hands, Candy etc (if you haven’t seen them – do it already!)… These films make you laugh one minute and gasp the next.

They all depict an underbelly of Australia – the young and lovely but drugged up and breaking the rules.

(At this point I would like to point out, for the non-Aussies that the ‘felafel’ of the title is in fact a flat bread roll filled with salad (tabouli baby), assorted delicious sauces and felafels. I would usually call it a felafel roll, felafel wrap or felafel yiros but its usage in the title is acceptable to Aussies.)

Felafel continues the student underbelly theme (also well represented in American films) with the heavy smoking, walls of empty beer bottles in the rentals and the usual crowd of misfit housemates ranging from wiccans to neo-Nazis.

We find main character Danny (Noah Taylor – you may know him from such roles as the hand remover from Game of Thrones) living in his 48th consecutive rental trying to write stories and be a writer but stuck on the first line.

Danny and his mates spend time killing cane toads (if you are not Australian this sounds awful but they are introduced pests and they are killing the local fauna – so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds… quite), drinking beer, smoking pot and philosophising/whinging. Eventually Danny walks away and we meet up with him in house number 49 in Melbourne where his housemates slowly turn up on his doorstep and the drama ensues. Next stop Sydney and number 50.

There are so many funny bits in this film that the serious becomes all the more shocking. It is very cleverly a picture of someones crappy year and the parts of life that stay with you well after your student rental days are over.

I think this is a very Australian film in that there is humour to be found in even the darkest moments, as well indicated by the title. Us Aussies like to try and find the positive where we can and often its found in humour. Look to the current protests over our Federal Government and the best bits are the signs people make to get their point across, pure comedy gold. These are the slogans that make their presence known through sharing on social media. We all know its bad but at least we can have a laugh. I don’t think this is always the best attitude but it sure makes for some interesting movies.

Felafel introduced me to the concept of moonths (made up words FTW). There are 13 full moons in a year, therefore,  13 moonths.  Simples. Also, albino moon bathing (leaving it there).

I liked Felafal and, while I fail to see how you can continue to hold a falafel roll up when you die, I appreciate that ‘He Died’ is not as catchy a title. Plus it has an awesome Aussie classics of the 90s/00s sound track.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

camel

Mongolia looks like an amazing country. The colours of this film are just astounding split between the whites and yellows of the sandy desert and the blues of the sky that range from light blue to dark blue but always stunningly clear of cloud. All that said I would not want to live here. The protagonists are rugged up against the cold yet it looks like a summer’s day. The distant mountains are snow-capped and the camels are covered in their winter coats. I can only imagine the extremes of weather these desert dwellers must experience.

The Story of the Weeping Camel follows a three generation Mongolian family living far from the power lines in traditional yurts. A colt is born after his mother has laboured for two days and she rejects him. This is the crux of the film – the fight to get this mother to love the colt that hurt her so much. The whole family is affected by the desire to right the situation. The poor little colt is a white camel and cute as a button. The mumma camel on the other hand is huge! I have seen camels living wild in central Australia and they have the biggest heads. Those heads could really knock a human out if camels were inclined to head-butting bouts – luckily they are not.

They can be grumpy, they spit but watching this film makes you feel like they really are gentle giants; accepting and friendly to their humans. There are little asides from the grandfather telling the mythical tales of the camel and these as well as their treatment of the camels shows the respect traditional Mongolians must have for the creatures. After all, they provide milk, wool, a ride, a place to carry your yurt (it’s so hard to find a good place to carry your yurt right?) and meat. They are all-rounders.

Apparently, if all else fails, you can make a mother camel love her colt by singing to it and playing some violin. No-one in the family plays violin so the two young grandsons go off to the local city centre (it’s totally not a city just a conglomeration of yurts a ‘yurtglomeration’ if you will). They do have electricity though and the youngest’s transfixation with television is gorgeous – screen obsession = instant. (Yes, transfixation is a real word it just doesn’t belong in this sentence…don’t look it up it’s medical – gross.)

This film is slow and steady in its storytelling but it is beautiful in both the use of colour and landscape as well as in the delightful family we see living out there lives in an unforgiving desert. Apparently it’s spring in the Gobi Desert which I can tell by the animals giving birth section of the film but there are no blooms and there is no green. This family leads a hard life. It is a traditional life with daily blessings, singing, cups of tea and definitely no television. While what I’m about to write is truly cliched – the truth is this simple, hard life is filled with simple joys and it is a delight to watch.

Also, I can tell you without a spoiler alert that there is definitely a camel in this film and it definitely cries. I can’t tell you if mumma camel accepts the colt without a spoiler alert but – Weeping camel? Check.

Lady Snowblood (1973)

 LSB

You know that sound when you cut yourself and the blood gushes out like it’s coming from a tap? No? Well you will after watching Lady Snowblood. There is not one stabbing, slashing, swording, samurai-ing (definitely words) that doesn’t end with someone bleeding out like they’re more blood than anything else and they just turned on a geyser. Also, get used to it. There is a lot of stabbing, slashing, swording and samurai-ing in this film.

Lady Snowblood is a classic story of revenge but Lady Snowblood herself is one generation removed from the victim she is avenging – her mother. This makes for some intrigue as we travel with LSB as she tries to track down the bad doers with only their names to inform her. This is a grand old story and really quite clever in the use of flashbacks and backwards story telling so you are never sure of the whole story – just like LSB.

The film is pure Japanese fun times. Best to watch this in the original language I think. It would be too cheesy with American accents and mistimed mouthing.

Here’s something else I can tell you – Quentin Tarantino has seen this film. From the female protagonist warrior to the film’s ‘chapters’ this is Kill Bill circa 1973. There’s a mean all knowing warrior master too (yep, training montage!!). Even the over the top blood spurting is Tarantino-esque. I’m 100% sure QT watched it A LOT. So much so that he just had to go full homage on it. I can’t blame him. Lady Snowblood is all sorts of amazing.

If you like swording and samurai-ing and schlocky over the top action sequences with excessive blood spillage, well, this is the film for you. It’s no Kurosawa but it is all action and all samsploitation (samurai exploitation – new word).  Plus there are women taking the main stage instead of second fiddle. Classic exploitation film stuff – the one place you’ll find female main characters who can take care of themselves, although the women usually wear crazy not helpful to fight in outfits – which is also true of LSB although hers is a kimono. Of course you also see female main characters who can take care of themselves in  Tarantino films… that guy watched way too many exploitation films back in the day but oh how we love him for it.

Lady Snowblood is definitely one of the best samsploitation (if I use it enough it becomes a word right?) films I’ve seen. I can’t think of any others I’ve seen right now so I can’t compare but I’m sure it’s one of the best nonetheless. I would like to call it delightful but there was a touch too much blood and torture and stuff and swording for that. Plus blood geysers are not exactly a delight. They are, however, awesome. I shall therefore describe it as aweful, nope, too close to awful. Let’s try – delightsome. Yes, that.

World War Z

WWZ

Ever wonder why people are stressed out by zombies? Unless you’re asleep how likely are you really to get bitten by a stumbling, moaning, slow walking dead person? We should all be able to survive the zombie apocalypse just by walking fast in the opposite direction and shutting a door, right? If somebody was stumbling at me I wouldn’t be waiting around to find out if they were drunk or a zombie, I’d be walking pretty fast right out of there. Sure I get that if there are a big group of them but even then maybe I could try running fast in the opposite direction and shutting a door? Just thinking you know – of course none of these are things I’m willing to test.

World War Z on the other hand leaves no room for luxurious wandering in the opposite direction away from the zombie hordes those z-bombs are on you before you’ve even had a chance to wonder if they might be drunk. These zees are mad, bad and fast. Brilliant! You know what fast zombies means don’t you? That’s right – ACTION!

Brad Pitt stars in WWZ and he is on his toes the whole time. The action begins almost straight away (which I love – I spit on your boring back story, where are the zombies?!) and pretty much everyone is dead or zombie by that night.

Brad Pitt is a stay at home dad who just happens to be ex-military (or something – whatever – zombies! action! I don’t care). Of course he is the only one who can save the day (Brad action!) and really just be the touch of death to everyone around him (death action?).

I actually liked that there was some explanation of the zombie outbreak (part way through the film not at the beginning – I spit on that) and that the virus was mutating so surprises (and, no doubt, a sequel) are pretty inevitable.

”OMG – the horrible zombie virus mutated!!! We must make another movie!!”

I once read on a science blog (no action) that the only way a zombie apocalypse could occur within the realms of reality was if a super virus attacked the areas of peoples brains that controlled rage (no control all rage action! – which I realise is basically 28 Days Later) and the hunger controlling part of the brain at the same time (hunger action!). So maybe a super fast spreading zee virus is a possibility (yeah, action virus!). Maybe the WWZ zombies are actually more realistic than your general back from the dead kind. I’m going to stop with the science there because I just can’t science no more.

The whole movie is fast paced and non-stop except for the really stressful bit. It gets kinda slow there…

I liked the hint dropping along the way too. They were extremely obvious hints so I didn’t miss them (action is distracting okay). This movie sure ain’t subtle in its hint dropping. There may have actually been some slo-mo there just to be sure everyone saw the hint. If only it had been in slo-mo for Brad it wouldn’t have taken him so long to get it. Admittedly there was a lot of zee action happening to him.

Gasland

Gasland

Have you ever tried to set your water alight? Have you ever thought to yourself “I wonder if the water coming from my kitchen tap would burn?”. Hopefully you’ve never come close to this but maybe you have if you live near a hydraulic fracturing well and your ground water well has been contaminated by the chemical filled waters pumped down the mine to remove gas from between the shale rock.

This process is commonly called ‘fracking’ which the sci-fi geek in me loves. I used to work in energy and every time colleagues started up a conversation about fracking the giggling teen in me just wanted to explode! Thank you Battle Star Galactica – you have made it very hard to not associate fracking with the other F-word… (Do non-BSG’ers get it now? – yeah, my sense of humour is that childish).

Anyway, turns out fracking is totally fracking up the US of A. Classic villain Dick Cheney made it very easy for companies to move in and set up fracking wells where ever the frack they like, including National Parks. Hey, guess what – Dick Cheney’s fave company Halliburton is a major player in the shale oil extraction game. Dick Cheney loves money – frack yeah!

This picture shows where you shouldn’t drink tap water in the USA because of ground water contamination from fracking.

Red equals fracked

Red equals fracked

These fracking wells are seriously contaminating the ground water in the local area and now many householders can literally set their tap water alight. The companies have offered all sorts of ‘help’ to locals but generally it falls short of actually helping and not to forget quite a few have been paid hush money.

The chemicals used in the water that flushes the gas out of the shale rock is chock full of some seriously fracking dangerous chemicals but the locals are not warned that there is a chance (I use the word chance lightly here as it is more of an inevitability if this doco is anything to go by) that their drinking water could be contaminated. These poor people continued drinking the water for way too long and their health has suffered accordingly. Higher rates of cancer being just one of the fracked up results. They got paid for the lease but something tells me that they wouldn’t have signed the lease if they knew how fracked up their future would be.

So far it’s all sounding a little too conspiracy theory right? Well I thought so at the beginning but actually documentarian Josh Fox is very unbiased. He was offered an opportunity to lease his own land (for a frack load of money) to an oil company and he made this doco while researching whether or not he should take up the offer. It’s really not a spoiler to say that he told them to frack off.

Fracking is probably coming to a town near you as it is a seriously fracking lucrative business. You better hope that your country’s government does not contain any classic villains who are in it for the money as some serious risk management needs to occur for fracking to be even remotely safe.

I understand that Australia (my home) has some good laws in place but of course we’ve just had a change of government to one which does contain some classic villains including one oil industry kingpin and a Prime Minister who seems to appreciate his mining magnate and media magnate (try to think of an Aussie media magnate (worldwide much?) – yeah him) besties more than the average Aussie water drinker. Sounding familiar? Yeah, I think we might be fracked.