Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews her favorite film ever, CHICKEN RUN


Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park

Ms. Hen had seen this film when it came out in theaters in 2000. She loved the animation and the chickens, and the story of the desire for freedom. She watched it again the other night, and was still amazed at how the chickens were portrayed, with humanity and depth like no other movie about chickens.

There are few feature films that are solely about chickens. The story was based on the film THE GREAT ESCAPE, which came out in 1963 starring Steve McQueen and James Garner, which is about American POWs who attempt to escape a German prison camp during World War II. Ms. Hen has never seen this film, and she would like to, simply to compare it to CHICKEN RUN, but she is not that interested in watching films about men during war; she would much rather watch chickens.

Ginger is the leader of the chickens’ gang, fueling their desire to escape the farm. Ginger knows that the hens that do not lay enough eggs are destined to become dinner for the Tweed family. The chickens do their best to lay eggs every day, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, as all hens know.

Ginger leads the way in many escape attempts, but the chickens always fail. One day, a rooster named Rocky appears on the farm, and a poster with a picture of him flying lands near him. Ginger sees this and forces Rocky (Rocky is played by Mel Gibson. It’s difficult to imagine him as a rooster, but Ms. Hen tried her best.) to teach the hens how to fly in exchange for hiding him from the people at the circus. Rocky agrees to teach the chickens how to fly. Everyone, including Ms. Hen, knows that chickens cannot fly.

The stop-motion animation in the film is excellent. Very few films are made like this, and Ms. Hen enjoys watching these because they seem more organic than when they are made from a computer. Ms. Hen does watch computer-animated films sometimes, but they don’t seem genuine to her.

Ms. Hen doesn’t like to be entertained by a computer; she would rather be entertained by animation that is made by people. She realizes that somebody has to create the computer animation, but she feels that it doesn’t seem to have a soul. She is a hen with a desire for tangible art.

Ms. Hen enjoyed the story of the chickens trying to escape from the farm. It’s a film about the desire for freedom. Anyone who’s ever been in any type of place that’s like being trapped in a chicken coop or a prison has dreamed of escape. Ms. Hen knows that it’s not realistic that chickens could survive in the wilderness, but it’s a beautiful idea. If chickens can be free, why can’t anyone?

Ms. Hen thinks there should be more films about chickens. The plight of chickens in CHICKEN RUN could be interpreted as the plight of all humanity. All anyone really wants is to be free. Ms. Hen recommends this film to anyone who cares about chickens or humanity. She gives this film an enthusiastic five feathers up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews SWERVE and observes bogans in a film

Swerve 2011

Directed by Craig Lahiff

Ms. Hen watched this film because she saw the preview and she thought it looked like something she would like. She knows that the previews always make a movie look better than it is, as it was in this case.

The story is about a man, Colin, who finds a car crash and a dead body, a suitcase full of money, and he meets a woman who crashed her car to avoid the accident. Colin wants to do the right thing, so he takes the suitcase to the police. His car is broken, so he is looking for a mechanic, but the only police officer in town, Charlie, told him the mechanic won’t be around until the next morning. Charlie offers to let Colin stay with him and his wife at his house since there is no room at any of the motels, because they are all booked for the Battle of the Bands, a marching band competition.

Colin goes back to Charlie’s house and the men trade stories about Iraq. Jina, the only woman in the film, swims naked in the pool in front of Colin when Charlie goes back to the police station to do some work. Jina appears to be unstable, and Charlie is obsessed with Jina and keeps her as his possession.

The story unravels a little too perfectly. Ms. Hen seemed to know exactly what would happen at each turn, that when the body was thrown down the mine, he was not dead, and she knew who would win in the end.

This is an Australian take on film noir, but instead of dark shadows and the light shining through venetian blinds, the sun-drenched landscape of the Outback is the backdrop. The characters are astutely Australian: the men are wholly macho, and Jina is tormented by the men. Ms. Hen has never been to Australia, but she has heard about Australian men, that they can be brutish and misogynistic. Ms. Hen leaned the word for this kind of men when she spent time in France: bogans This word does not exist in America, but Ms. Hen leaned this from her Australian friend.

One of the great moments in this film came when Jina was crossing the street in the middle of the day, running from her boss and she had to cross between the marching bands. It seemed so innocent, a marching band competition, almost like a celebration, or a holiday, when the world of these characters is in the process of falling apart.

Ms. Hen was disappointed in the plot of this film, but she loved seeing the Outback and watching annoying Australian characters. She does not recommend this film if you enjoy a mystery, but if you want to watch a film with great scenery and learn about a different culture, you might like this. She gives this film three feathers up.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Rick Moody

Ms. Hen found a little free library outside of Harvard Square two weeks ago. She had seen this box before, but had never gotten any books out of it. A little free library is a box in a public place that has books in it that anyone can take or put in more books. Ms. Hen took the book THE RING OF BRIGHTEST ANGELS AROUND HEAVEN from the library because it was the only one that she thought she would be interested in reading.

The stories in this collection are disjointed. They are all different, sometimes startlingly so. The writing is beautiful and manic. The words dance on the page. But the subject matter of the stories did not please Ms. Hen. She found herself bored and drifting off when she was reading.

The story, “The James Dean Garage Band,” is about a group of young men in the desert in California in the 1950s who James Dean runs into upon and decides to join their rock band. The story is funny, and Ms. Hen felt sorry for the characters because she knew they would never end up anywhere. But the placement of James Dean as a character in the story was done well because the author gave him substance.

“Pip Adrift,” is about Captain Ahab’s cabin boy falling over the side of the Pequod. Ms. Hen didn’t realize that it was about MOBY DICK until the very end of the story because she couldn’t remember Pip. She thought he was a character she should know, but the name Captain Ahab did not appear in the story until the very end.

The title story, about misfits living in New York’s East Village, disturbed Ms. Hen because she knew she should have been more shocked, but she wasn’t. A lesbian hooker auction in the story at a club should have made Ms. Hen squirm, but it didn’t seem shocking enough to her. The characters in this story were losers and they didn’t get better. It made Ms. Hen wonder how people could live like this, but she knows there can be people like this, in the underbelly of big cities.

Ms. Hen thought Moody’s writing style was imitating the Beats, a type of manic poetic prose that spurts with energy. She wondered if Moody wrote in the same way as Jack Kerouac, but she does not think that he does, because Ms. Hen heard Moody give a lecture once and he said he prints all his revisions and Kerouac didn’t revise that much.

The book reminded her of the stories of Mary Gaitskill, crackling writing peppered with darkness and sex. Ms. Hen seems to think that Rick Moody and Mary Gaitskill are friends. She imagines them getting together over drinks and trying to talk to each other in the way that they write, words flying out of their mouths.

Ms. Hen noticed that most of the protagonists in the stories were men and they were not kind to women. The women characters were either weak or nonexistent. Ms. Hen doesn’t like to read entire books in which all the women are sniveling idiots. She wants to read about at least one woman who has strength.

Ms. Hen liked this book, but she didn’t like it too much. She wished there was more backbone to the book. It made her confused. She likes to learn about other cultures, but this book just showed that the world can be a sick place. Ms. Hen wants to escape from sickness, and if you do, too, don’t read this book.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and contemplates her inner vampire

John Ajvide Lindqvidst

This novel was on Ms. Hen’s Kindle for a long time, but she finally got around to reading it because she was tired of reading literary novels about problems people have in families. She thought a vampire novel would be a good remedy for thinking about the real issues of the world. She had seen the film many years ago, and she enjoyed it.

The story centers on a boy, Oskar, who befriends a young girl, Eli, in his apartment building, unbeknownst to him in the beginning, is a vampire. He is getting bullied at school and he needs to escape, so he goes to the playground and talks to the girl, who turns out to be a boy that is over one hundred years old. Eli can jump from great heights and she solves his Rubik’s Cube quickly, and he is not suspicious of Eli in the beginning, and it takes a while for him to figure out what his neighbor truly is.

Other characters surround the story: the group of alcoholics who eat at the Chinese restaurant, the other boys in Oskar’s class, his neighbor Tommy and his mother, and Oskar’s father. Eli kills one of the people from the restaurant and the victim’s friends are suspicious of the death.

A lot of death surrounds the story, but a lot of life fills it as well. The characters are sympathetic and realistic. This isn’t like any other vampire novel that Ms. Hen has read. She hasn’t read many, she has avoided the TWILIGHT saga, but she has read Anne Rice and Bram Stoker's DRACULA. This is a literary vampire novel, one that she was excited to read. She couldn’t stop reading it. It made her wonder about vampires and why there are so many books and films about them and why the public loves them so much.

Ms. Hen wondered if vampires were part of what Carl Jung called the collective subconscious, stories that are part of every culture because they are part of who we are as human. She did some research and found this to be true.

Carl Jung discovered that every culture on earth had a type of vampire, or blood drinking creature in its stories and myths. He thought that vampires are part of who we are, that everyone has a dark side, a shadow self, one that follows us and lives inside of us and is able to come out when necessary.

Vampire stories resonate with us because they speak to who we are as humans, the dark side of ourselves that we hide most of the time, or try to hide. Sometimes the vampire inside of us can take over and we lose the battle, such as with Marilyn Monroe or Jim Morrison. Sometimes a vampire can be another person who figuratively drinks our blood and can leave us lifeless.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN speaks to the darkness inside of us, but also to the hope that we won’t always live in darkness. Oskar finds a friend in Eli, and Eli accepts that Oskar does not want to become like him and turn into a vampire. Eli kills people to drink their blood, but he wants to be accepted. That’s what everyone wants in the end, even vampires.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! and thinks it's like ripping off a bandage, painful but pleasurable at the same time

Pedro Almodovar 1990

Directed by Pedro Almodovar

Ms. Hen is a fan of Antonio Banderas, despite his lifestyle choices. She had never seen this film, in which Antonio (it’s okay if we’re personal with him) plays a mentally ill man released from an institution. Our Antonio was very young in this film, and he plays a fantastic lunatic. There are parts of this film where he is very unattractive, such as when he wears a long wig and later a mustache, but we know who he is underneath.

This is a film about a deranged man, Ricky, obsessed with a woman he had a one-night stand with when he escaped from the institution a year before the film takes place. He finds the woman he is fixated on while she is making a horror film in which she is the star. He steals money from some of the actors’ pockets and leaves the actress, Marina, a box of chocolates. Ricky doesn’t know that Marina had been a drug addict and a porn star.

Ricky follows Marina to her apartment and he breaks in and head-butts her and breaks her tooth. He explains to her why he is there, but she complains she needs medicine for her toothache. She tells him regular painkillers do not work on her because she had been a heroin addict. Ricky unwillingly takes her to a doctor who will give her some medicine, but he handcuffs her hand to his before they go.

Ms. Hen is a big fan of a lot of Almodovar’s films, but this one seemed a little flat to her. She knew she was supposed to have sympathy for Ricky because he was so pathetic, but she couldn’t help but think she wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley in Madrid if she went there again, though if she met Antonio that would be a different story.

Ricky tied Marina up every time he left her apartment. This was supposed to be romantic and funny, but Ms. Hen didn’t think it was funny. In a normal dating experience, men are not supposed to tie up women so they won’t escape. It wasn’t like S&M, it was because he was afraid she would leave and he would never see her again.

This film is reminiscent of SECRETARY, in the way that it is an offbeat love story in which Ms. Hen did not expect things to work out between the characters, but they do. The film also reminded her of the novel THE COLLECTOR by John Fowles, which is about a man who kidnaps a young woman because he is obsessed with her. In THE COLLECTOR, Ms. Hen has a lot more sympathy for the protagonist than the one in TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! because she knew him better.

Ms. Hen thinks it’s worth it to watch this film if only to see Antonio Banderas when he was young speaking Spanish. But this film is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t like violence or are deeply offended by mistreatment of women, this film is not for you. But if you have a dark sense of humor, and can tolerate perversity, you might enjoy this. Ms. Hen gives this film three and a half feathers up.