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Salmer fra kjøkkenet (2003)
a simple and beautiful message
Picture sitting in a Psych 101 class, and being informed that part of your grade is to take a research survey. A graduate student plunks a stack of paper in front of you, and the first question asks whether you are Person Type A, Person Type B, or Person type C. Being person type R, this presents you with some difficulty. If that graduate student had watched Kitchen Stories, he would have realized that if you try to limit people into pre-determined roles, you sometimes end up missing some of the amazing things that they can do. This message is a playful gibe at social science research, but it opens up to be a much broader topic than you originally think. The characters in this movie, who are very different people, become wonderfully warm, lovable people by simply listening to one another. This is a message that our world might need to hear a lot more of. I'm not sure the casting could have been any better, as the two leads assume their personalities just so perfectly.
Exciting hockey games, but pretty one dimensional
As a young hockey player growing up, this was one of the movies that I adored. There is a very dramatic 80s style soundtrack, lots of dramatic stickwork and the evil goaltender has a mask that looks like a skull.
This is still a fun movie to put on, and if you've played hockey or ice skated, it is easy to relate to some of the scenes in the movie But once you watch it a lot, you realize EVERYONE is a one dimensional stereotype, from the aloof fathers who really love their kids, to the innocent young kid having to come of age, to the older brother figure, to the nothing-but-evil villain. It starts to wear thin.
Still, the opening scene with skating in the barn captures the excitement of being on the ice better than any other scene I could think of.
The Birdcage (1996)
one of the most human comedies i've ever seen
What makes this movie so wonderful is how good a job Robin Williams and Nathan Lane do as portraying loving, dedicated parents. Aside from the amazing soundtrack and the fun antics, it is their sheer goodness as human beings that stays in your head for a long time.
A fun thing to do is compare this movie to La Cage Aux Folles and see how different characters are interpreted differently. The son in the Birdcage is a much more complex character than the one in La Cage, and a lot of the movie is about him accepting his identity. The daughter, on the other hand, is much more of a three dimensional character in La Cage.
The other nice thing about this movie is that unlike in the original, you end up liking the girls parents to some extent. They actually do have a lot in common with the heroes. That isn't true in La Cage, where the girl's father seems to be almost sinister
The Burning Land (2003)
A graphic look at the Eastern Front, tied to a love story that seems improbable.
A Soviet army officer, an American singer, and a young boy are trying to get to safety after the German army has invaded during WWII.
The effects and the filming of this movie are simply amazing. You really get the feeling that you are in a panic, running through the woods from murderers that you have already seen commit the most horrendous crimes imaginable.
The actors do a very good job, and you end up liking them a lot, but the characters they have to play seem a bit unreal. They all look a bit too unscathed by what they have gone through, and at times seem capable of the most brilliant feats imaginable, while at other times they do some downright silly stuff.
Clearly anti-Nazi, this movie is fairly anti-Soviet as well. The Russian people are shown as good, and kind, and caring. The army, however, is seen as incompetent The beginning of the movie is incredibly disturbing and seems to be an accurate account of what SS units did upon finding Jewish villages on the eastern front. After seeing it, it will be in your mind for a long time
A wonderful movie, but IMDb shouldn't call it a comedy!
This was our second Kaurismaki film, and we absolutely loved it. I don't know of any actors other than Kuosmanen and Outinen who have the facial expressions to carry off this role. The sheer goodness and pain of the character of Juha are piercing, and Kati Outinen can convey a million different changing emotions just with her eyes.
We totally agree with the author who pointed out that the attention to detail is one of the things that makes this movie great. Watch Juha and Marja's wedding rings and how their position changes as the movie continues. The movie is certainly not comedy, although there is some very stark and surprising comic relief in very strange places.