faraway places — atw RSS



ATW in Movies: Winter in Wartime, Netherlands

I have a vested interest in stories about the Netherlands during World War II, since I spend many of my days thinking about nothing but. (Well, that, and if I have enough chocolate in my house to get through the evening without going to the grocery store.) I do believe that it is an outlier in a very particular way: Ask people if they know any stories of the Nazi occupation of Holland, and they'll likely say no—at least, that's what the people I know tend to say. Ask, then, if they've read Anne Frank's diary—perhaps the most famous text to survive, or, in fact, about the war, and, of course, a never-to-be-equaled story of the Nazi occupation of Holland—and—well, if they...

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ATW in Movies: Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium

There are, presumably, moviegoers out there who sat through Blue Valentine and left the theater saying to themselves: Well, that was great—but how much better would it have been if  in addition to the failing relationship, their kid was terribly, perhaps mortally, ill? For those people, we have Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium's nomination for the best foreign-language film Oscar in 2013. The comparison is fair: The two films belong roughly in the same box, in the sense that they are both forensic dissections of families on the verge of ruin, and both play with time, so that bits and pieces of the film are shuffled and rearranged and sequenced to provide us with information when director Felix Van Groeningen thinks we should...

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ATW in Movies: Leviathan, Russia

Leviathan is a tragedy, about what unfolds when a corrupt government seizes a man's home. I hate watching a tragedy. Not because they are sad but because they are inevitable, and you spend most of the movie, or play, or book, only waiting to see how the tragedy plays out: what crisis of mistaken identity will lead to the wrong person's death, or Bubbles kills Sherrod, or whatever. But see, that second one is a bad example, because Bubbles killing Sherrod was shocking and unexpected, which was why The Wire was so incredible. Most movie tragedies, it's like watching someone push a baby out onto a just-frozen-over lake: You're only waiting for everything to go through the ice. Leviathan is so beautiful that...

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ATW in Movies: Ida, Poland

So I'm doing this thing where I'm trying to watch one movie from every country but I got sort of carried away with Poland and watched three. I had barely seen any of Eastern Europe until I did this thing where I drove from London to Mongolia. It is easier to get to Mongolia from London if you drive through Eastern Europe, so we did—or at least through Prague, where we were going to spend the night in a parking garage but ended up at a hotel instead. A few years after that, I spent 36 hours in Budapest. In October, I went to Ukraine for fashion week, and it was amazing. But I still haven't seen nearly as much...

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ATW in Movies: Omar, Palestine

Two things in particular I noticed about Omar, which was Palestine's nomination for the best foreign language Oscar last year: 1: I've never been to Palestine. The closest I've come to seeing it in the past is another Palestinian Oscar-nominated film: 5 Broken Cameras. (You may remember this from the Veep joke if you haven't seen it, but you should see it, and Veep, too.) Threads of the tragedy in that film were Shakespearean in nature—and now, looking back, remind me quite a bit of Leviathan, the Russian film about surviving a corrupt state. Some of that is here in Omar, as well, named for the main character, a baker who pursues militancy as a means to push back against the...

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