District 9 – A Review

December 22, 2009

In the novel Disgrace, a privileged white South African is systematically destroyed for transgressing cultural boundaries (and for being a racist, chauvinist dinosaur). The novel was written by privileged white South African Nobel Prize in Literature winner J.M. Coetzee. As ever with Coetzee, the moral of the story is ambiguous. Although the white guy is a supercilious prick, many of his antagonists are, similarly, prickly. Coetzee creates a picture of South African society which is congenitally violent, enthralled by deviant sex, and fond of ostracism. The movie, District 9, is basically the same story, with freaky aliens, a big black robot, and lots and lots of guns.

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Avatar – A Review

December 20, 2009

Hating James Cameron is like hating He-Man. They’re both easy to ridicule, as they stand (respectively) in front of Castle Grayskull/the Oscar podium, bellowing “I have the power!” and parading their shortcomings for all to see. Both have a small boy’s adoration of physical strength: a certainty that size is preferable to subtlety. And they both seem drawn to strong women (Linda Hamilton/Teela). You can’t hate either of them properly – despite this litany of foibles – because they mean only to entertain. James Cameron’s new movie, Avatar, is a big, subtlety-free, Master-of-the-Universe freak-out, but it’s also visually astonishing to behold.

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Where the Wild Things Are – A Review

December 13, 2009

Every kid worries about the end of the world. And every kid knows – if they’re loved – the world can’t end. Childhood is best described as a mixture of anxiety and total acceptance, where a mother’s hug is like an apocalypse-proof force-field. That’s why, even though every kid feels vulnerable to axe-murderers at bedtime, they all know their bed-sheets will protect them. Home – and family – is a fortress, constantly assailed but impregnable to threat. A kid who knows this knows nothing on earth can harm him, but a kid who doubts this gets gobbled up with worry. The wild things in Where the Wild Things Are could also be thought of (by grown-ups) as “angst”.

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