Naked and spectacular
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Cousins [2021] by Briar Grace-Smith and Ainsley Gardiner

 Entwines the very different lives of three Maori girls, cousins, through tumultuous decades, after one of them is taken from her family and raised in an orphanage.

A very moving and cinematic adaptation of Patricia Grace's novel, very effectively condensed into movie length while maintaining the scope and complexity of the multiple threads. The lives of these three women, though particular and intimate, effectively represents a larger story of a culture interrupted by colonialism but regaining its strength and groundedness. The interaction between the personal and the cultural, memory and the moment, are woven together with various events, spanning decades, creating a complex portrait revealing how the past, the present and the future interact with each other, how members of a family interact through space and time, in life and in death.  Though the performances were sometimes uneven, the editing and Terence Malick-like cinematography very skillfully conveyed a specific yet expansive spiritual and cultural journey through the entire lives of three compelling and tangible characters.


Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981] by Steven Spielberg

 American arrogance as entertainment product

Why is Indiana Jones the hero of this movie? He murders hundreds of people in order to steal valuable artefacts from poor countries. He's not even charming. He's just American. His intelligence is entirely unconvincing. His only apparent ability is determination, and of course miraculous amounts of luck. He is the hero cos John Williams's score makes a catchy noise when he takes action. Ford's performance is only grimace, brawn and hat.

The film assumes you are stupid, and you probably are slightly but distinctly more stupid than you were before you watched it. It not only signposts everything without any subtlety, it assumes you have only the most superficial and passing interest in anything that happens, and so it only aspires to that level of interest. It assumes you will forget instantly everything that has happened and be satisfied with that.

The film is utterly racist. The Americans are the good guys for no discernible reason. It is simply unquestioned. The Nazis and South Americans suffer familiar racial stereotypes, but the Arabs are simply set dressing. Jones smashes through their city and their bodies as if it was a field of corn. He trashes their cartoon city as if he was knocking over a pile of empty boxes and they flail their arms meaninglessly and helplessly. And the film assumes you feel the same way, and that it's all fun and games. The rest of the world is just a toy for the real people, the Americans, to play with. It is offensive and there is nothing remotely charming, inventive or clever to justify it.

The extreme lack of sophistication or cinematic flair and the huge commercial success can only suggest that Spielberg is a coldly-calculating commercial, good-natured psychopath firmly embedded at the centre of the American psyche. The idea that genius, intelligence or artistic skill could topple him is to misunderstand the nature of the industry. The fact that art gets exhibited alongside this type of product is merely a technical issue. They utilise the same technology but have nothing further in common. If this is art then a carpark is an installation.