Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Film review: American Sniper

If you haven’t seen American Sniper, then you must be living under a rock. This movie got the Academy Award for best film of the year and its star, Bradley Cooper, got an Oscar nomination for best actor.

I get the controversy surrounding the movie. Michael Moore slammed its “jingoistic portrayal of snipers as heroes.” But then, I have yet to see one of Michael Moore’s documentaries all the way to the finish. Midway, I just lose interest.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper was a box office hit, reaching $105 million on its opening weekend alone. It’s the story of Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper,  a U.S. Navy SEAL sniper who was so effective that an $80,000 award was placed on his head.

Kyle did four tours of duty in Iraq. His buddies nicknamed him “Legend” and he is viewed as the best sniper in US military history. The Pentagon confirmed Kyle got 160 kills, but his SEAL teammates believe it is double that. 

 Kyle won two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor in his four tours of Iraq. He survived six explosive attacks, was shot three times, lived through two helicopter crashes and innumerable surgeries. However, you won’t see that in the movie. You will see that his enemies called him the devil.

What the movie focuses on is his war duty, and the stress it puts on his family. A conversation with a doctor explains the thinking that makes him good at what he does, as follows:

Navy Doctor: Would you be surprised if I told you that Navy has credited you with... over 160 kills? Do you ever think that... you might have seen things or... done some things over there that you wish you hadn't?

Chris Kyle: Oh, that's not me. No.

Navy Doctor: What's not you?

Chris Kyle: I was just protecting my guys, they were trying to kill... our soldiers and I... I'm willing to meet my Creator and answer for every shot that I took.

Chris Kyle: The thing that... haunts me are all the guys that I couldn't save.

This is the sort of thing that some liberals might have issues with. But I personally recall a time I spoke to a Vietnam veteran. I asked him what kept him going in the war. He replied, “It’s all the other men in your team. It’s the guy who stands beside you.” 

Another issue that came to rise by critics is what historian Richard Hofstadter calls “America’s Gun Culture”, which he dates to the first settlers in the late 1600s in US history. From then, guns passed through generations within a family and are a part of many American family traditions. a gun represents protection, sport and food. Many Americans eat their kill. Kyle’s sniper skills, in fact, originated from his being a hunter.

American Sniper is a thrilling, fast-paced movie that is definitely worth your time and money. Bradley Cooper did an excellent job and Clint Eastwood’s direction provided enough old school to bring those core traditional values up front. 

Here's a link if you want to buy a copy of the movie:

Here's the official trailer:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Movie Review: Winter Sleep -- Interesting, Worth Watching

Winter Sleep  won the Palm d'or award in 2014.

The movie is set in a hotel in a neighborhood where houses are built inside caves in Cappadocia, Turkey. It's tone has been compared to a Chekhov story, where complicated lives are forced to intersect because they live in one place and spend most time indoors due to a long winter.

The main character, Ayden, is a former actor. Now he is a landowner and runs a hotel. He also collects rents from town folk who live in his properties; and he writes a column for the community newspaper. He's the richest man in the town, and his wife, Nihal, is young and beautiful.

 Ayden's sister, Necla, lives with them. Necla recently separated from her alcoholic husband.

While Ayden, Necla and Nihal feel secure indoors, even as they wrestle with their own demons, they are blind to the growing hostility of the town, especially when it's time to meet rent payments.

Winter "sleeps" because Ayden remains undiscerning of the "sleeping" chaos outside the hotel walls. He, Nihal, and Necla have also put their unmet desires and broken dreams to "sleep". But Necla's sleep is not restful and her dissatisfactions  often rise to the surface. she also refuses to allow Nihal and Ayden to let sleeping dogs lie.

A slice of a conversation between Necla and Nihal discuss a surprisingly Christian concept, forgiveness. Context: Necla misses her alcoholic husband, whom she recently divorced. Since then, her husband's drinking has worsened, and Necla is more miserable. Nihal advises Necla not to blame herself. This conversation follows:

Necla: "You want me to join the herd that believes all badness comes from others?"

Nihal: "No, but it still doesn't have to be "your" mistake." That's what I'm saying. Why do you never want to think like that?"

Necla: "Because I don't see any good in it. A sensible person should be interested in her own share of guilt."

Nihal: "I see no harm in some self-deception to protect yourself. But, well, where do you think you were wrong?"

Necla: "I don't know but let me say it as an example. If I'd overlooked all the evil stuff Necdet (Necla's ex-husband) did to me, if I hadn't resisted, if I hadn't divorced him, say, if I could have made him face his own evil side, I don't know. What would have happened if I acted differently?"

Nihal: "You mean, if you hadn't resisted all the bad things he did, he would have finally felt ashamed?"

Necla: "Yes. Yes, exactly."

A friend who is a former Muslim told me there is no forgiveness in Islam. But in secular Turkey, this movie touches on the idea of forgiveness in a way that meets the Catholic concept of forgiveness. A Catholic priest would have given Necla a stampita and talk of St. Monica, the patron saint of alcoholics (like her abusive alcoholic husband), and those affected by them.

Personally, I believe you can forgive, but you don't have to reconcile, ergo go back to your abusive husband to prove you've forgiven him. You have to be wise.

Turkey is a secular country. Islam here is different from other predominantly Islam countries, but the culture remains. The culture of protecting women, for example, such as Nihal who has been fooled by her involvement in a pro-poor movement whose members secretly abhor her husband.

The irony of the movie is that forgiveness does take place, but not by Necla. It is by another character, and the forgiveness emanates from love, rather than some religious nudge.

Meanwhile, outward expressions of repentance seeking forgiveness are precisely that -- a show with no substance. A boy who threw  a rock at the car of Ayden is brought by his father to Ayden's house to apologize.

Later in the movie, Nihal tries to  give money to the family of the boy to help them out. (There is only one wage earner for a family of four others, including a brother who was released from jail but is unemployable). She discovers, too late, that their hatred is the stronger force that guides them, rather than seeking help or exoneration.

In secular Turkey there are cultural nuances that make the response that Nihal got from the boy's family more understandable. Nihal's winter sleep was a sheltered cocoon of protection designed by her husband. She was, in his words, a "spoiled rich woman who lacks understanding of the intricacies of poverty and culture."

In another culture, this particular scene might have ended differently. In the Philippines the family would have accepted the money with gratitude and remained loyal to the giver. In a Western country the money may have been accepted with thankfulness and a promise to pay back, through installments.

If you buy this movie, be sure to get one with English subtitles. Here's a link to one that is subtitled in English:

And here's the trailer to the movie:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What is The Best Paint Ever

When you are doing a slow renovation of your home, you play with a lot of products and brands. Well, I tried a lot of branded paints, and at the end of the day, this is the best paint ever.

We didn't find this in a hardware store, we found it in a boutique store in President's Ave., BF Paranaque that specializes in paint. Be sure to look for RainShine, NOT Shine and Rain. Because the latter exists, but is not it.

We painted our first room with RainShine and it was beautiful. It's more expensive, but the extra cost is worth it. The paint is for outdoors, and it doesn't let dust stick to it. We used it indoors, anyway, in my daughter's bedroom. After that, I played with three other brands of paint indoors, and all the rooms are white. But the white paint in my daughter's room really is lovely, resonates, and is better than perfect. Because not all whites are equal.

We also used it for the front of our house, and the roof. Surprisingly, one coat of Savannah Brown RainShine was sufficient for the outdoors. I can't wait to get more RainShine for accent colors and to use for the rest of the house, both indoors and outside.

If you want to buy RainShine you can google it. It's really worth the added fingerwork, to find the nearest outlet from your home, that has this product.