tatjna (tatjna) wrote,


I saw two movies over the weekend - The Hurt Locker and Inception. I'm not going to say too much about Inception because lots of folks haven't seen it yet. It's very good, IMO, and worth the money to go see in theatres. The fact that most of our conversation after the movie stemmed from stuff raised by the movie gives it extra points.

It fails the Bechdel Test though.

The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, I'm happy to get spoilery about.

Not at all - the title suggested it might be a psychological thriller about a serial killer but it could just as easily have been a retrospective drama about a failed marriage, you know?

Anyway, turns out it was about Iraq - more specifically, about a small team of men whose job it is to defuse IEDs, and their last month or so of service in Iraq. More widely, it's about the way in which being part of a war gives some people a purpose in such a way that they can no longer function in the default world. It also won 6 Academy Awards and was the first film directed by a woman to do so.

But anyway, it was.. well, I watched the whole thing and I noticed how long it was, unlike Inception. It was well acted, the characters were pretty believable, the story was okay, but.. I guess I'm just not American enough to see what's so great about this movie.

For a start, there's quite a lot of glorification of the camaraderie of soldiers. There's a gem of a bit where we get to see how the higher-ranking officers are all naive and can't survive a day in 'real' war situations. There's the bit where the Iraqis are portrayed as monolithically cowardly, treacherous, inhumanly cruel, and stupid. I'm sure the makers or the film were trying to create an atmosphere in which the characters felt they could trust nobody, but I find it difficult to believe that every single Iraqi civilian conducts themself as a potential insurgent. Never mind the women, who only made their presence noticed in this movie by screaming hysterically. Because that's all Iraqi women do, you know. Baghdad is portrayed as filthy and crumbling. This is what Baghdad actually looks like:


So it's clear that the American soldiers are far smarter, nicer and more respectable people than the Iraqis. But then, enter the Englishmen. Yes, the movie has Englishmen. They are 'contractors' - apparently a fancy word for mercenaries - and our heroes run into them in the desert, where they have a flat tyre and two captive wanted Iraqis. Apparently their 'wrench' (yes, they actually say wrench - an Americanism - instead of 'spanner') is the wrong size. Because, you know, the English are also stupid apparently. But wait, it gets better. More insurgent Iraqis pop up out of nowhere and shoot a couple of the English, who immediately panic and cower in a gully while the Americans leap to save the day. Miraculously, the bomb disposal expert is also a sniper! That was lucky, eh wot old chap?

Thus ensues a long standoff in which our intrepid American soldiers try to decide if they've killed all the insurgents, never blinking for hours and hours. Eventually they decide they have and go home. Somewhere in this time the English have disappeared. All of them, even the dead ones. The vehicle is gone too - the one with the flattie. There is no explanation for where, when, how or why they went - it seems that as soon as the Americans turn up, the English are only useful as gun fodder and to look cowardly by comparison, and when they have served that purpose they just go *poof* and aren't there any more.

It was at this point that I stopped trying to see this movie as critically-acclaimable, and started to see it as yet another vehicle for the indoctrination of people into the mindset that the Awesome And Unbeatable US Military is Saving The Day Yet Again. And I also stopped taking it seriously, because a) I'm bored with that message and b) it's bullshit.

I know that part of this is my Little Country Syndrome rearing its head, but seriously. American war movies are frustratingly US-centric and almost always portray events in such a way a to glorify the US military at the expense of anyone else in the movie. And because most of the movies that make it to NZ are US movies, we get fed a lot of this stuff. However, we also know that the US did not win the Vietnam War, Russia was the first army to reach Berlin, and while the US did bomb Hiroshima the war was already won by that point, based in the work of a combined effort by many armies from around the world. A LOT of Kiwis died in both World War 2 and in Vietnam, and consequently having the might of the US military as winners of any war we were involved in rammed down our throats is frustrating and insulting. Just so you know.

Anyway, back to the movie. There are a few funny moments and certainly an insight into the ingenuity of the whole IED phenomenon, but really? The main message of the movie (other than 'hey look, America is great and Americans are better than anyone else') was about how some people really come into their own in a combat situation, to the detriment of their ability to function in normal society. War is a drug, indeed. But did they really need a two-and-a-half hour movie to say that?

Sorry, I'm completely failing to see what all the fuss was about with that one. I'm disappointed in the Academy for awarding it so well, and even though the director achieved something that no woman ever has before, I really don't think this movie deserved it. Unless, I guess, you're American, which might make the chest-beating a little less obvious and less insulting, which might allow other good points to come forth?

And the cinematography was nice. Perhaps not surprisingly, The Hurt Locker also failed the Bechdel Test.

Oh look John Key is at it again, this time giving employers power to insist on a medical certificate for one day off sick. He has, at least, said that the expense would be on the employer should they ask for this, but I imagine that would be in reimbursement form so it's not actually that useful. Never mind the inherent lack of trust that will be brought to the fore by this.

And for me? Usually when I take sick days it's about my mental health rather than my physical. I know, because I've lived in this mind/body combo for 40 years, that when I'm under emotional stress is when I get physically sick - witness right now for example. I had four days off work last week with a bad cold just after my mother died, after not being sick at all for a year. Usually, I am able to detect the signs of run-downness that I get when under stress and if I take a day off at that time, sleep in, take care of myself, I can usually deflect physical illness. This time I couldn't and four days off work was the result. For me, one day MHD can save more days of sickness. But watch me try to get a medical certificate for that.

Luckily for me, my employers are unlikely to insist because they understand that people are different and that most people are not trying to rip anyone off, and are good employers in general in terms of trust and flexibility.

But I feel very sorry for people in shearing gangs, freezing works, factories and the like. As usual, another law designed to marginalise the poor in favour of the business. Nothing new there really John. When do I get to vote you out again?
Tags: go watch inception instead, the hurt locker, who voted for these idiots?
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