Schindler’s List: Holocaust in Film

(For more on Schindler’s List, also check out this additional post that summarizes common criticism’s of the movie.)

Schindler's List DVD Cover Image

Schindler’s List is a movie by Steven Spielberg that was released in 1993. The movie is based loosely on a book written by Thomas Keneally, which is also called Schindler’s List. The book, in turn, is based on the eyewitness testimony of Holocaust survivors who were saved by the actions of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party who used his position and influence to turn his enamelware manufacturing labor camp into a refuge for Jews. The movie attempts to track the course of these events while also showing Schindler’s inner transformation from a cold, calculating businessman into a savior. The events depicted in the movie take place near the end of World War II in Kraków and later in the Płaszów labor/concentration camp, both of which are in Poland.

Various methods were used to turn this semi-historical information into an entertaining movie. Spielberg’s choice of coloring in the film was very intentional. Schindler’s List was designed in a way to make the audience feel as though they were viewing something historically accurate and making the film (mostly) black and white, rather than color, was a deliberate and effective means of making that connection. This was probably done to connect emotionally with the viewer and pull him or her along as the story progresses.  Spielberg also set up his characters in an oppositional way that is simple and easy to understand, probably to appeal to a wider audience, and reinforced this image of good vs. evil through the use of light and dark imagery.

Schindler’s List is almost entirely shot in black and white, but there are scenes that are in color for added effect. The opening scene of the movie is in full color and shows a Jewish family lighting the Shabbat candles on a Friday evening. As the candles burn down and the flame goes out, the film transitions to full black and white. The point of this switch to black and white is to give the movie a documentary-style feel, to impress upon the viewer the historical reality of what is being depicted and more easily elicit an emotional response. I won’t go into the problem of presenting fictionalized material in a way that makes it appear to be completely historically accurate here. Essentially, what Spielberg has done is make it easier for the audience to empathize with people they know are real. The climax of this effective use of color is in the final scenes, when the characters in black and white transition to the actual living survivors when the film was shot. They are shown moving across a field and then moving forward in a line to lay flowers on the grave of Oskar Schindler. That scene completes the emotional connection and reinforces the power of what the audience just saw in the rest of the film.

The most famous use of color in the film is the “girl in the red coat” in the Kraków ghetto liquidation scene. In this scene, everything is black and white except for the coat a little girl is wearing. The camera follows her as she walks down a street and adults are gunned down behind her and in front of her. This is meant to draw the audience’s attention and probably to emphasize the innocence of the children who suffered through this event. The next time the audience sees the red coat the little girl was wearing is when it is in a pile in a wheelbarrow. The audience is left to draw the conclusion that she no longer needs it anymore, because she is dead. Another instance of coloring in the film is during the Friday Shabbat candle lighting ceremony in Schindler’s factory. Schindler not only gives permission to, but insists that the rabbi in the factory welcome the Sabbath. During this scene, the flames of the candle are in color again, like they were in the opening scene of the movie. This may indicate a restoration of the Jewish people, through Schindler’s respect for them as human beings.

Color also plays an important role in the depiction of characters in the film, primarily in the use of shadows on their faces. This ties in with the essentially oppositional nature of the main characters in the film: Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth. To make this film more easily understood by a wider audience, Spielberg created a good vs. evil paradigm that posits Schindler as the hero and Goeth as the bad guy. Schindler is the troubled hero who starts out selfish and uninterested in others, much like Spiderman. Like Peter Parker, Schindler has to experience a traumatic event before he changes his mind about the Jewish people and uses his power for good. Like Parker’s uncle Ben, Schindler has the one-armed man and the girl in the red coat, among others. Schindler’s path to heroism is painted in a very easily understood way. Goeth is presented as an ultimate evil, a man that is beyond the bounds of sanity. He even has an evil sounding accent and an army of evil henchmen (the camp guards). To take the comic-book reference a bit further, we can think of Helen Hirsch as the damsel in distress that the hero, Schindler, rescues from the bad guy, Goeth.

This set-up of hero and villain is reinforced throughout the film by facial lighting effects. When Schindler is introduced, he is dark and mysterious and his face isn’t shown in full. When he is doing something negative, his face is in shadows. For example, when a Jewish woman shows up at his office to ask for his help, he is shown at the top of a staircase, in the distance and completely in shadows. Why? Because this scene shows him bowing to his dark impulses. In this case, he is acting on his lust for attractive women and because this woman is dressed conservatively, he sends her away. When she comes back dressed in a sexually appealing way, he agrees to meet her. When Schindler does something good, his face is shown fully lighted. An example is when he gives a chocolate bar to Helen Hirsch when questioning her in the basement, to reveal his good will toward her.

Fascism is not really addressed in this film, because it focuses more on Oskar Schindler and his transformation from Nazi party-man to Jewish savior. Oddly enough, the same can be said about the role of Jewish people in the film. There are many opportunities for character development, but the only Jew that really gets any serious screen-time is Yitzchak Stern. The Jewish people in Schindler’s List are essentially part of the backdrop of the Holocaust and act as supporting players to tell Schindler’s story. Not to belittle Schindler’s efforts, but it is odd that a film dedicated to the memory of six million dead Jews gives them so little time to tell their own stories, or act in any meaningful way.

Despite any flaws the movie has, Schindler’s List is an important part of the film industry’s portrayal of the Holocaust. It is the top rated Holocaust movie according to IMDB.com and has and will expose more people to the Jewish tragedy of World War II than any history book is likely to do, as sad as that may be. The use of color and the portrayal of the characters is very effective in drawing in and holding the attention of the viewer, allowing them to experience the film without having to think too hard about it.

Life is Beautiful: Holocaust in Film

(For more on Life is Beautiful, also take a look at this paper I did on general criticisms of the movie.)

Life is Beautiful DVD Cover
Life is Beautiful DVD Cover

Life is Beautiful, an Italian movie that was originally released in 1997 under the title “La vita è bella,” is a drama and romantic comedy. The story takes place in 1930s Arezzo, Italy and focuses on the life of a Jewish man named Guido Orefice, who arrives in town with plans to open a bookshop. Almost immediately after arriving in town, he becomes interested in a woman named Dora that he keeps running into (sometimes quite literally) around town. He begins to pursue her romantically, eventually winning her away from her fiancé and starting a family with her. Years later, Guido and Giosué are rounded up and deported to a death camp during World War II. Dora, who is not Jewish, demands to be placed on the train along with her husband and son, because she can’t stand to be apart from them. Ironically, she ends up as a prisoner in an adjacent death camp for women and is still separated from her family. For the remainder of the movie, Guido spends all of his time trying to convince his son that the entire experience is part of an elaborate game where the winner takes home a brand new tank.

Life is Beautiful is a complicated movie to analyze or compare with anything else because of how unusual the genre is for the subject. Comedy is not usually part of the Holocaust discussion, because there’s really nothing funny about it, in terms of the scope, the scale and the end result. When I think of the scene from Night and Fog where the camera pans out and then up, showing a mountain of hair, I think about how many people had to have died for that pile of hair to be created. It is both powerful and subtle and clearly indicates the nature and scale of the tragedy and it does so in a manner that I find wholly more appropriate to the subject. Nonetheless, comedy is used as an important plot driver in Life is Beautiful. Specifically, the main character, Guido, engages in slapstick comedy antics throughout the movie. In the first half of the movie, when Guido is attempting to woo Dora away from her fiancé, Guido’s antics seem to serve no real purpose, other than to entertain and endear himself to the audience. In the second half of the movie, the use of comedy is more questionable given the subject matter, but it is used to better effect as part of the plot. Guido uses comedy as a tool, along with distraction and elaborate stories, to distract his son from what’s going on in the camp. The problem with this use of comedy is that Guido sometimes ignores the well-being of himself, his son and everyone around him in an attempt to keep his son entertained, causing the situation to become unbelievable.

Comedy aside, one of the important themes in Life is Beautiful is the effect of the Holocaust on families. The first part of the movie builds up an almost fantasy-like love story where the “hero” gets the girl and settles down to raise his son and run his own business. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Then, the fascists arrive, and everything Guido has managed to accomplish, the fairy-tale existence that is meant to appeal emotionally to the audience, is suddenly destroyed, simply because Guido and his son are Jewish. To maximize the emotional effect on the audience, Dora is presented as being willing to sacrifice herself to remain close to her family. During his time in the death camp, Guido puts himself and his son at risk to find opportunities to let his wife know that they are still alive. The idea that anyone could have actually pulled off the stunts portrayed by Guido in the movie is ridiculous, but the inclusion of these scenes in the movie is probably meant to call attention to the fact that families were ripped apart during the Holocaust in a way that would be emotionally appealing to the audience. The moment that truly symbolizes this loss, however contrived the plot, is when Guido dies while attempting to find and save his wife from the guards’ final extermination efforts before abandoning the camp.

The presentation of Jews in this movie is two-sided. On the one hand, “the Jews” in the movie are a faceless mass that acts in a supporting role to the main story of Guido and his son. They are shown as docile followers of orders in a rather two-dimensional way. On the other hand is Guido, who is the main character. The story of Life is Beautiful could almost be said to be Guido-driven, rather than character or plot driven. He is a one man show that overwhelms the narrative with monologue. He manipulates people, takes risks and actively engages in his survival and the survival of his son and wife. So, this movie presents both popular narratives of Jewish people during the Holocaust: passive sheep allowing themselves to be led to the slaughter and active resisters in any way possible.

Because of its use of comedy, Life is Beautiful is difficult to take seriously and, in light of the seriousness of the historical events the movie uses as a backdrop, many people find it offensive. More than that, some people find it insulting to the victims of the Holocaust. Not everything in the movie is emotional fluff, however. There are still worthwhile messages and themes that can be pulled from the movie, though it’s probably not something I will watch again.

The Shop on Main Street: Holocaust in Film

Obchod na korze (original title)
Obchod na korze (original title)

The Shop on Main Street is a 1965 film directed by Ján Kadár. The film was originally presented in Slovak and Yiddish and was originally titled “Obchod na korze.” The film takes place in a small town in Slovakia during World War II and attempts to tackle the question of how the Jewish people were rounded up and deported to concentration camps. What was going through the minds of the Jewish people? Why didn’t they fight back? How did the average citizen allow their neighbors to be rounded up like animals and packed into cattle cars for deportation? Kadár addresses all of these questions and more. Besides being an informative and well-told story, The Shop on Main Street is packed with symbolism that further addresses the subject of the film. Symbolism is so prevalent in the film that Kadár was able to present much more information and meaning within the confines of the film’s running time than what seems possible.

The main conflict in the film is between the new fascist conception of the Slovakian nation-state and the Jewish people. Because of fascism’s focus on ultra-nationalism, “outside” elements had to be removed from perceived positions of authority and privilege, which resulted in Jewish people having their businesses removed from their ownership and placed under the control of an “Arisator,” an “Aryan” manager. The idea was that Slovakia was for Slovakians (expressed in the film through a marching cadence sung by soldiers marching down the street), and Jewish people were not considered to really be Slovakian. Later, the Jewish people were deported en masse for concentration camps. This conflict is the backdrop for the story that Kadár presents in his film, in which a bumbling “Aryan” carpenter named Tono Brtko is named the Arisator of a button shop on Main Street owned by a Jewish widow named Mrs. Lautmann.

Tono is a very complex character and his relationships with other people, how he interacts with them, is used as a plot device to symbolically portray the director’s opinion of the Aryanization and deportation process. Tono’s symbolism as a character in relation to other characters has multiple layers, starting with his wife in the opening scene, where Tono demonstrates a poor understanding of anything going on in the world while his wife badgers him for money. I felt that this was a critique of Slovakian society, and on a broader scale, Christian society in general, for the apparent greed displayed in the confiscation of Jewish shops and goods during the World War II deportations. It reminded me of something Elie Weisel wrote, when he said that while he and his family were being deported from their home town, he felt as if the people who had just previously been their neighbors were eagerly waiting for them to board the trains, so they could loot and pillage through their homes. Later in the film, Tono’s wife berates him for not finding the gold that Mrs. Lautmann must have buried somewhere in her house, as if all Jews were leprechauns and one need only catch one to receive a pot of treasure.

The other important symbolic relationship that Tono has is with Mrs. Lautmann, the owner of the shop he is supposedly taking over. Mrs. Lautmann is an old, slightly senile widow. Her late husband died in a war (World War I?) and since then she has been on her own, though technically she has been receiving a stipend from the rest of the Jewish community. Her shop is in complete disrepair, but she seems to be completely oblivious to the fact, and also demonstrates a lack of understanding of anything that’s going on around her, including her new “Arisator-Jew” relationship with Tono, until the last scenes in the film, when reality suddenly and painfully dawns on her. Even at that moment, however, instead of proactively trying to hide herself, she runs to her bedroom to study Torah. In this relationship, Tono clearly represents Slovakian society as a whole, while Mrs. Lautmann represents the Jewish community. In this film, while Slovakians are busy robbing the Jewish people of their property and preparing to deport them, the Jewish people are presented as being oblivious to the real dangers that are going on around them and only wake up to reality when it’s too late to do anything about it (Mrs. Lautmann suddenly recognizes the deportation event as a pogram near the end of the film).

The film does present a different view of the Jewish predicament in the form of Mr. Katz, who reminds the viewer that there really wasn’t much they could do in terms of rising up against their oppressors. After all, what could an old woman like Mrs. Lautmann and an old barber do when the fascist government troops were standing on every corner with automatic weapons? The film doesn’t present a clear and easy answer. I don’t think it intended to. It was meant to inform and make the viewer think about how and why something as tragic as the deportation and later near-extermination of the Jews could occur, and it does that well.

These observations are barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dissecting all of the symbolism and meaning in The Shop on Main Street. Ján Kadár’s film is excellently done, explaining both the mindset of the Slovakians and the relationship between the average Slovakian and the Jewish community that doesn’t overly simplify the situation into a black and white conflict. Other important aspects of the film are the references to animals and the natural order of the world vs. the activities of the Slovakian government, as well as an excellent use of music to set the tone, but those issues are beyond my ability to address in this short reaction paper.

Do you like cats? Do you like Japan and anime? Check this out!

I just stumbled across this trailer for an anime called The Cat Returns, from Studio Ghibli.  They always put out quality stuff, so this should be a lot of fun to watch, especially for my wife who loves cats much more than I do.  ^_^

The Cat Returns Trailer

Speaking of cats, I just started looking into the convoluted process of transporting my cats from Manila to New York City in the US via Singapore Airlines.  In some ways it looks like it’s going to be even easier than getting them from Singapore to the Philippines.  The US doesn’t require a lot of documentation to import them and the Philippines doesn’t require too much documentation to export them.  The Assistant Animal Transport Office at Frankfurt’s international airport assured me that all they need are their vaccination records and health certificate to be transported through Germany on the layover there.  The trouble seems to be Singapore, though I’m not entirely sure yet what all paperwork I’ll need.

I’ll go into that more later!

Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans is an exciting movie that delivered exactly what I expected: an action packed, special effects extravaganza that kept me entertained from start to finish.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it would be a mistake going into it thinking you’re going to walk away with any deep revelations about the mysteries of life, or leave with some profound new sense of well being.  That’s not what Clash of the Titans is about.  This really isn’t as serious a movie as I thought it would be.  It felt more like Scorpion King, where you’re meant to focus on the fun and action, rather than the storyline.

I really enjoyed that the movie didn’t try to be something it wasn’t.  The movie was all about action, and they kept the dialogue light, with lots of wit and humor thrown in to keep the audience engaged.  The only time the story veered from that style was at the end, when Perseus had to deal with the main antagonist, which is fitting.  It can’t all be fun and games.

I’ve always been a sword & sorcery fan and enjoyed reading about Greek mythology as a kid, so it was very cool to see the mythological characters and stories I’d read about come alive on the big screen.  I’ll definitely be adding this movie to my collection, to be re-watched when I want to see fast paced action and get a thrill.

It also didn’t hurt that the main female characters were all pretty hot:

Princess Andromeda

Io, cursed with agelessness for refusing the advances of a god.

Also, the boatman who ferries souls across the River Styx was pretty cool too.  Looking at this guy, and his boat, really makes you feel like you’re on your way to hell.

Update: We watched the 2D version, because the 3D effects reportedly suck pretty hard. The movie wasn’t filmed in 3D like Avatar was. It was done through rushed post-processing to try to capitalize on people’s excitement over 3D.

Avatar Used To Justify The Belief That 9/11 Attacks in NYC Were Staged

“In September 2001, the World Trade Centre was attacked allegedly by terrorists. I am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,” said Dr Mahathir during his speech at the General Conference for the Support of Al-Quds here. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

For those of you that don’t know, Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 16 July 1981 to 31 October 2003. He gave this statement, and others that will be in this entry, on January 20th, 2010.

Now that you have some background on this guy, let’s dive right into the heart of the matter. This guy is either senile, crazy, or both, but he’s most obviously a racist and should no longer be allowed to get near a reporter or microphone. How the hell can you say that because the US can make a 3D movie, we were capable of staging the September 11th attacks that killed around 3000 people? It’s absurd. Guess what, Dr Mahathir? Those holes in the ground in NYC aren’t special effects. They’re real. The people that died weren’t extras that shared a beer and laughed about the film later. They were real too. And they’re dead. Al’Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. The last time I checked, Osama Bin Laden wasn’t the Commander in Chief.

And, as if this weren’t enough, he went on to make plenty of off-color comments about the Jewish people and Israel.

“The Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom.

“Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world. The Holocaust failed as a final solution,” said the outspoken Malaysian leader who was noted for his anti-Western and anti-Zionist stand while in power for 22 years, until October 2003.

Nice job projecting your racist views about Jews onto the entire European population. He seems to imply here that all Europeans wanted to get rid of the Jews all along and that, given the opportunity, would have sanctioned their mass extermination. I must have missed that page in my history book, and I certainly don’t recall World War II playing out quite that way.

The only sensible thing to come out of his mouth was what he had to say about Obama:

“Well, I am a bit disappointed because so far none of his promises have been kept. He promised to get out from Afghanistan but he ended up sending more troops there instead. He promised to close down Guantanamo but he has not closed down Guantanamo. Even other things he has not been able to do.

“It is quite easy to promise during election time but you know there are forces in the United States which prevents the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, IPAC,” he said.

I wonder why he went easy on him? It might be because he feels like Obama is a fellow Muslim being oppressed by supposed Jewish powers in Washington.  This guy’s paranoia runs deep.

There should come a point in all of our lives, famous politician, rock star, or whatever, where we realize that we’re no longer competent to speak to the public. If we can’t see it in ourselves, someone should tell us, because obviously Dr Mahathir’s time has long since come and gone.

More Thoughts on Avatar

(Read my Avatar Movie Review.)

Some of the comments I’ve seen on Twitter about Avatar say that the movie has a weak storyline and that you should just watch it for the special effects.  It’s true that some plot elements of Avatar can be found in other movies, but I think people are being over critical.  Think about it.  Movies have been in production for about a hundred years now.  Some plot elements are bound to be reused.  You can see the same thing happening in books.  So, instead of watching the movie with the intent to tear apart the plot, you should appreciate the movie for what it is, and for how artfully the story is told.  Besides, it’s really not that weak.  The movie itself is symbolic of a problem that we’re all facing now, in the world around us.

The humans in Avatar have traveled across a vast distance to Pandora in search of raw materials.  They’re there to mine for an ore that’s very valuable on Earth.  I got the impression it was a fuel source of some kind.  In their pursuit of this raw material, they ruthlessly destroy the environment around them without regard for the impact it has on the native population.  The same could be said of what we’re doing to our own planet.  In the pursuit of industrialization we’re polluting our planet at an ever increasing pace.  We’re destroying the habitats of animals.  We’re causing the extinction of whole species.  In some places, like parts of China, we’ve caused the environment to be so toxic that the people living there are seeing massive increases in birth defects and cancer related deaths.

I think that Avatar is trying to teach us that we should be more aware of what we’re doing to our world.  We should take the time to find ways to reduce our impact and to learn to coexist with nature, rather than destroy it for our own ends.  For all our technology, if we continue to pollute our world we’ll one day find ourselves without clean sources of food and water.  The Earth has limited resources after all.  I’m not saying we should all become vegetarian ‘tree-huggers’ but if we can start making a conscious effort on an individual level to reduce our impact, it can add up to a huge difference.  Think about how much better the world would be if everyone recycled, if no one littered, if firm controls were put on industries everywhere as to how their toxic waste was disposed of.  We have the tools available to us already.  We just need to use them.

Avatar is a great movie with a great message that we can all enjoy and learn from.

Avatar Movie Review

Avatar is the best movie I’ve seen in years.  It’s so good in fact that it’s also the first movie to come out in years that I feel is worth paying more money for, to own a copy.  Before going to see this movie, I hadn’t really heard anything good about it.  People were all speculating about the budget and whether or not it would be justified.  I heard a lot of people predicting that it would be flaky.  I’m glad I didn’t listen to them.

Avatar is a breathtaking movie.  From beginning to end you’ll be amazed by the stunning visuals.  The imagery is vivid and lush.  The level of detail is astounding.  But it’s not just the visuals that will keep you glued to your seat.  The movie creates and entire world with depth, history, and tradition that’s full of life.  The Na’vi even have their own language. A sequel would only ruin it, but there’s enough room in the world James Cameron created in this film to spawn an entire series of books, expanding on the history of the Na’vi, the native population of Pandora.

Even though this movie takes place on Pandora, another planet, the human element isn’t lost.  The movie is all about bonds that people form with each other and with the world around them.  The Na’vi are a primitive race on the surface, but their society is very advanced, especially in how they interact with their environment and the role it plays in their lives.  The Na’vi live a simple lifestyle but they’re in tune with their surroundings and they live happily.  There’s also a romantic side to the movie that is predictable, but done in a way that’s touching and interesting.  It adds to the story, rather than serving as a distracting element.

The movie is fast paced and has a lot of action in it.  There really isn’t a boring moment.  With every scene you get to learn more about Pandora and the Na’vi.  There are also bits of humor thrown in, but tastefully.  Some of Sigourney Weaver’s lines are a great example.  This movie will probably appeal most to people who love epic fantasy stories like Lord of the Rings, but it’s hard to compare this movie with others I’ve seen.  It’s really in a league of its own.  It was like watching the rich world of a book come to life on screen.  There’s really something there for everyone.  I doubt anyone’s going to be disappointed coming home from this one.

At the end, you’ll find yourself lost in the world of Pandora and it’s people, wishing for more and reminiscing on the more poignant scenes of the movie.

(Read my follow-up post on Avatar and the symbolism present in the plot.)

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=talovecof-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0810982862&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=talovecof-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B002EZH804&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=talovecof-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0061801267&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

“Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” Review

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was definitely the worst film out of the series so far.  In fact, it’s the worst movie I’ve seen since that ridiculous thing they called a film and labeled “The X-Files: I Want To Believe”.

My first problem with this movie is that it felt entirely disjointed.  This was especially true of the first half of the movie, where the scenes bounced back and forth, and a lot of things were presented with no explanation.  Also, there were scenes that felt entirely unnecessary to further the plot.  Also, I’m not sure even the directors knew what they wanted the plot to be.  What I mean is that the trailers indicated that this would be a movie with a lot of action and a lot of important events, when in reality, nearly every action sequence in the movie was in the trailers.  The rest was dry.  It was like watching a high school love drama, complete with mushy kissing scenes, teenage angst, and jealousy.

Also, Harry Potter has always been about magic.  Where was the magic in this movie?  Again, the most astonishing thing you’ll see in the film was already shown in the trailers: Dumbledore summong fire.  The rest is weak.  Little balls of light flying from wands, and some steam coming from potions.  The previous films were special effects masterpieces that thrilled the imagination.  This, by comparison, was boring to the point of not even caring.  No magical creatures, very few magical devices.  Nothing imaginative in the least, which has been a staple of Harry Potter films.  There is nothing in this film that compares with the giant spiders, the flying car, the magic train station… none of it.  This was so sad by comparison.  I just can’t emphasize enough how… dry it was.  The whole thing lacked energy and seemed to deviate from what the story was really about.

Based on what we saw in the trailers, we were expecting some incredible event.  The trailers hinted that there would be some sort of magic spillover into the real world.  There was, for all of about 4 minutes.  And… what was the point of the whole bridge collapse anyway?  Just to have something exciting happen to keep the audience awake?  Just to use in the trailer?  I fought boredom for the duration of the film, constantly in anticipation of the action sequences that never came.

The last thing I’d like to know is where is the character development?  Harry Potter is supposed to be The Chosen One, but his abilities are, in most cases, less than extraordinary.  Shouldn’t he have learned something new by now, or at the least become powerful enough to defend himself?  Sure, he’s still in school, but… come on.  He’s The Chosen One right?  He’s supposed to defeat Voldemort, but he still has a hard time beating someone who’s supposed to be less than his equal, like Malfoy.

In the end, the film ended abruptly, leaving me entirely disappointed and in disbelief that a Harry Potter movie had been so bad, so dry, so … worthless.  This movie really sucked the life out of the series for me.  I’m not looking forward to the next Harry Potter movie anymore, and I even wonder if there would be any point to reading the books at this point.  Books are always better than the movies, but in this case, if the series gets this bad towards the end, I’m not sure I want to bother.

Typical Movie Experience in Singapore

Going to the movies in Singapore can be an ugly experience if you’re not prepared for it.  I’ve often been told by Singaporeans that this is a small island and there isn’t much to do.  I’m not sure I can agree with that, since there seems to be quite a lot to do here.  There’s definitely more to do than in most places I’ve lived, but I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. Regardless, I think that mentality is partially why going to the movies has become so popular here.  More so than what I’ve come to expect anyway. Every movie is packed, even the bad ones.

The first thing you should know about going to the movies in Singapore is that you HAVE to book your seats in advance.  That’s not something I was used to, coming from the US.  There, it’s possible to book your seats in advance through the internet if you want to, but it’s often not necessary.  In some cases, there is no internet booking and you just have to show up early enough to get a ticket before the movie you want to see is sold out.  In Singapore, even days after a movie has been out, if you wait til the last minute and try to get your tickets at the theater you’re likely to be disappointed.  Movie theaters here fill up fast, often leaving only the front two or three rows open to latecomers.  I’ve sat through a movie in the 3rd row before, and it was a very unpleasant experience that left me with a stiff neck.

So, booking online is a must. All of the major theater chains here offer the service and to get really good seats, you should try to book at least a day and a half or two days in advance. Ya, crazy right? That’s especially true if you want to book a ticket for a Friday or Saturday night. For example, about six hours ago (Thursday night at about 8pm) I booked tickets for tomorrow afternoon for a 4:40 showing. Half of the seats were already taken. Ah, and if you haven’t guessed, tickets are booked on a selected seat basis, whereas in the US it’s a first-come first-served when it comes to getting the best seats, regardless of when you bought your ticket.

An example of the seat selection screen for Cathay.  Notice the timer.  If you don’t finish in time the seats become available for someone else to book.  Also, keep in mind that this screen cap was taken 18.5 hours before the movie starts.  The blue Xs are occupied seats.

An example of the Cathay booking confirmation screen.

A friend of mine in Italy asked me what sorts of things you can expect to find at the refreshment stands in a Singapore movie theater, and in this regard things are basically the same as you would find in the US. You’ve got popcorn (sweet and salted), nachos, soda and other drinks and candies. I think there are hotdogs too. This is a bit off-topic, but I was amused to find out from Rowena that in theaters in Italy you can usually find beer at the refreshment stands. That’s an interesting example of cultural influence.

Once you get your refreshments and present your tickets you can head to the theater hall and find your seats.  You would think that at this point everything would go about the same right?  Well, sure, for the most part it does.  You sit down and get to see some previews, the admonition to turn off your cell phone ringers, and the warning that video recording is illegal.  But, interspersed with those previews and warnings are many, many commercials.  Half the time they’re local commercials for small businesses and they’re really not that great.  Also, there are a LOT of them.  I mentioned that right?  If your ticket says your movie starts at 4:30 PM, you can expect the actual film to not start until roughly 4:50 PM or a few minutes later.  I can understand sitting through a few previews and maybe a Coke or Sprite ad, but not 20+ minutes of the stuff.  So, when we go to the movies we tend to walk in a few minutes late, or we mess with our cell phones while waiting for the actual film to start.

After that it’s smooth sailing.

Just some other, dry info:  Tickets are usually 8.50 to 10 SGD apiece and refreshments are high as well, though that’s not anything new for most people.  For two people going to the movies and getting refreshments you can expect to spend 35 to 40 bucks.