Archives for posts with tag: poetry

Beloved Sisters

This German film tells the presumably somewhat true story of two sisters, Charlotte (Henriette Confurius) and Caroline (Hannah Herzsprung) von Lengefeld, and their shared love for Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter), a charming poet of frail health and uncertain fortunes. The offbeat romantic scenario and the performances are intense and largely engrossing, the love scenes erotic without being obscene; but costume drama buffs expecting another Pride and Prejudice may be put off by the gradually darkening tone of the film, which takes on the character of a tragedy without ever becoming a tearjerker, however. Beautifully staged and photographed, with a few quirky stylistic choices such as having characters address the camera directly, Beloved Sisters is unique and never feels like a run-of-the-mill Austen-derivative programmer.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Beloved Sisters is:

6. Pro-choice. “Do you want to have the child? … Why?”

5. Anti-Christian. A mother whose bastard child is of an uncertain paternity is compared to the Virgin Mary. Schiller also recites from one of his writings dealing with the inhumanity of the Inquisition.

4. Feminist/pro-gay. The sisters, who share Schiller sexually, also dress as men in order to attend one of his boys-only lectures. Caroline longs to be “a free woman, a single woman.”

3. Anti-marriage. Beloved Sisters depicts multiple unhappy unions, with marriage described as “tragedy”. Caroline’s husband is an “evil elephant” who “wants a dozen children, but only because he won’t come into his father’s inheritance otherwise.” Consequently, he “keeps pestering” her. The sisters, says Wilhelm (Ronald Zehrfeld), sent Schiller “not to paradise, but to the solitary confinement of marriage.” An incident in which a woman who fakes her death to escape her boring husband and run away with her lover demonstrates “international flair”.

2. Reactionary! Initially, Schiller is a naïve radical fired by the ideals of the Enlightenment. “I think humanity will evolve through knowledge and the sight of true beauty,” he says. Later, in the bloody wake of the French Revolution, and after having heard the horror stories of his friend Wilhelm, who has witnessed the carnage of the Terror firsthand, Schiller has more sobering thoughts. “Shouldn’t we have known, Wilhelm?” he asks. “Yes,” his friend replies. “Everyone who rang the bell for renewal should have known.”

1. Racist! That a movie – a German movie, no less! – would have the nerve to present a primitive, pre-multiculturalist Europe as something other than a totalitarian nightmare, and a place, indeed, of great natural charm and civilizational order, is a crime that this critic cannot forgive. Internet bigots obsessed with those supposed Cologne “attacks” will no doubt find much to admire in this dainty, escapist portrait of a racially homogenous society.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Wild poster

A career highlight showcase for star Reese Witherspoon, this freewheeling emotional odyssey into triumphant you-go-girlism concerns real-life tramp Cheryl Strayed, whose epic hike along the Pacific Crest Trail takes her from “piece of shit” and “hobo” to liberated and self-actualized piece of shit with an Oprah’s Book Club pick. As with all wilderness pictures, from Jeremiah Johnson to Rescue Dawn, there is an innate fascination to the scenes of Strayed’s one-woman struggle with the elements. The interspersed flashbacks to the unpleasant experiences that drive her to make her quest, however, are hit-and-miss, diminishing any sympathy this reviewer is able to muster for her. Laura Dern appears as Strayed’s long-suffering, cancer-ridden mother.

4 out of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Wild is:

6. Drug-ambivalent. Wild sends mixed messages about Cheryl’s life as a heroin addict. Marijuana, however, seems to be a laid-back thing to do. Alcohol appears as a no-no, though, with Cheryl vomiting after some hard stuff. (see also no. 1)

5. Anti-Christian. Foulmouthed Cheryl utters multiple blasphemies.

4. Anti-redneck. The rural white male is a constant menace hovering in the gloaming of Cheryl’s consciousness, leering at her and making unsavory advances.

3. Pro-choice. Cheryl has an abortion.

2. New age, peddling mass market paperback mysticism that might have been cribbed from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film ends with Witherspoon reciting some philosophical gobbledygook about how nobody knows what leads to what – the scientific method, contrary to this reviewer’s mistaken impression all his life, turning out never to have been invented after all – life being one big mysterious journey, each seeming adversity or disastrous decision constituting a necessary step toward destiny’s fulfillment. People – and, by extension, societies – might as well experiment to their hearts’ content on this starry trek of objectively valueless existence.

1. Feminist. Wild celebrates the junkie-adulteress-intellectual as heroine. One of its many nuggets of womany wisdom is that divorces, unlike marriages, tend to be lasting. Regarding her serial back-alley extramarital humps and heroin habit, Cheryl apologizes to her nice-guy husband (Thomas Sadoski) but later confesses that she harbors no regrets about anything. Adrienne Rich’s poem “Power”, a favorite of the protagonist, furnishes Wild with its theme. Marie Curie’s “wounds”, Rich explains, “came from the same source as her power”. Witherspoon’s body, accordingly, appears with unsightly contusions and cuts throughout the movie, these presumably being the feminist stigmata symbolizing the suffering through which she has attained her “power”. In a parallel characterization, Cheryl’s mother is an abused wife who abandons her alcoholic husband and goes back to school for her education because, she says, she never felt like she was in the driver’s seat of her own life.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Oprah’s Bucks Club

thingsneversaidposter

And the award for most forgettably titled film of 2013 goes to Things Never Said, the (indifference-) inspiring story of long-suffering streetwise poetess Kalindra (Shanola Hampton), a female exemplar of the elusive but far-from-endangered species Africanus cinematicus, or Hollywood black person, a versatile, unfairly pigeonholed, and defiantly ascendant figure who makes a sassy point of demolishing racist stereotypes by quoting Shakespeare, sipping wine, and eating salads, but who – make no mistake – still got it goin’ on.

Thrill as Kalindra, even after the pain of an unsatisfying marriage and a miscarriage, perseveres and self-actualizes, composing her verbal artworks and treating ethnomasochistically enthused poetry slam audiences to such profundities of expression as, “If you think my voice carries the hate of my ancestors, you’re wrong; it doesn’t carry hate, but the frustrations of the disappointed”; “The hate you thought you heard coming from us was nothing but the echoes of your own white mind”; and, even more gasp-inducingly poignant: “Who the fuck gives a fuck? Does someone give a fuck about me, my pain, my shit? I’m sicka bein’ a bitch for you, motherfucker.”

Shanola Hampton shines – no politically incorrect pun or other poetic device intended – in the moody role of Kalindra, particularly during roller coaster recitations of her poetry. The best scene in the film, however, belongs to an unknown actor, uncredited at IMDb, who brings a nasty naturalism to the minor role of Lem, a character written as an antagonist, but who manages with swaggeringly sleazy charm to swipe this reviewer’s affection. Lem is an old friend of Kalindra’s working schlub of a husband, Ronnie (Elimu Nelson), and represents the retrograde black ghetto culture Kalindra seeks to escape through art. Lem, who appears to view her poetry as some kind of ersatz style of rap, aims to humiliate the protagonist by worrying aloud that Kalindra wants to make Ronnie into a “new millennium ol’ sof’ ass nigga. What, you gonna buy him some skinny jeans next?”

Convincing moments of this variety are unfortunately few, more often yielding to Lifetime Network level feminist wallowing in degenerated and self-absorbed womanliness.

2.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Things Never Said is:

8. Pro-miscegenation. Extras include an interracial couple in a café. There is, however, a palpable tension and racial resentment on Kalindra’s part when she catches lover Curtis (Omari Hardwick) out on a date with a yellow cutie.

7. Pro-wigger, multiculturalist, and pro-immigration. A white wannabe ‘hood bard self-loathingly apes ghetto inflections at one of the slams, which bring together people of different backgrounds, including a “New Yorican”. A women’s support group is peopled by sisters of various hues.

6. Anti-white. Curtis recommends the “dead white motherfuckers that aren’t very interesting but they teach us how to be better poets.” Kalindra holds whites collectively guilty as a race for Africans’ lack of achievement when she gripes, “My ancestors never had a voice. They were too busy listening to you,” she explains, righteously bitch-slapping the audience of liberal hipsters that has come to hear her.

5. Anti-Christian. “Maybe the Bible’s fuckin’ wrong,” Kalindra sasses her mother. Better to go in for new age spirituality and “listen to your soul”. One of her vulgar poems also contains the lines, “Not some negro spiritual shuffle; this is what I truly give a fuck about kind of dance, like I’m dancin’ on a cloud, a cloud of groove and pussy wet and slow jams . . . Can you hear it? Poo-poo-shh, poo-poo-poo-shh . . .”

4. Pro-slut. “Until I can find a decent motherfucker who will love me and also my kid, then [the less than ideal] Steve’s all I got,” Kalindra’s friend Daphne (Tamala Jones) explains. “You know I love that dick, girl, especially when it’s good,” she adds. Kalindra launches into an affair with fellow poet Curtis after he ignorantly compares her to non-black African queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra, “two women whose names are our history”, and finishes with the romantic flourish, “Tell me sumpin’: can I fuck wit you?”

3. Misandrist. Men are “children that never wean.” Simple, blue collar Ronnie stands in for the typical man when he goes ape and beats up Kalindra. More attractive, clearly, is the sensitive lover Curtis, a preposterous figure who could only have been contrived by the feminist imagination: a tough, muscular, and tattooed but reformed and emotionally brittle litterateur with a sensitive heart of pure black gold.

2. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Marriage is equated with slavery. Kalindra’s husband Ronnie, who has a history of beating her, also has the male chauvinist gumption to wish that she could cook! Who can blame her for wanting to have an affair? Her miscarriage, it would seem, was serendipitous, saving her from having this monster’s child. Who needs a “shithead husband” anyway? Kalindra’s mother was also a victim of spousal abuse.

1. Feminist. “Sometimes we focus too much on how we’ll be seen and judged.” Things Never Said instead celebrates the strong woman living only for herself. “Do I feel guilty about how I live my life? Fuck yeah. But not the guilt you think. You low piece a shit.”

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