Tag Archive: films

What do Guy Ritchie and raw salmon have in common? Find out when Christian Seiersen delves into his metaphorical pouch to present four film themes that are indistinguishable in likeness to Sushi, Japan’s national dish. 

Chicken Katsu- Chronicles of Narnia 


There is something eerily unnatural about sushi restaurants serving the fried chicken dish of Chicken Katsu, it’s like displaying the Beano comic strip at the Louvre. Don’t get me wrong, I love fried chicken as much as the next mechanic. I just want it served in its natural habitat, resting in a bucket and presented by someone wearing a hair net. When it’s served in unfamiliar surroundings where the accompanying sauce is not made by Heinz, and to the serene twanging of the Shamisen- a traditional three-stringed instrument- you feel a cat has just rested a mauled pigeon at your feet. It could have been done so much better.   


I felt similarly after seeing The Chronicles of Narnia. When it comes to translating children’s literature into the ‘Twilight’ Zone of films- yes, even rugged vampires aren’t safe-it’s a case of counting the casualties. So who’s the ringleader, who’s responsible for deep-frying the metaphorical chicken? A mastermind, perhaps, propped by an empire of cartoons, loved by millions. A certain Walt Disney, a man obsessed with drawing racist mice. I digress, we’ll leave such matters to Cartoon Network. 


Granted, Walt himself wasn’t single-handedly responsible for the butchery of Narnia, he didn’t personally slip fake tan vouchers under the fabled Prince Caspian’s door. And, to be fair to Mickey Mouse, he straightened out when he met Minnie, but you get the idea. 

Think of classic children’s literature as No Man’s Land, venture too far and you risk a deadly salvo from entrenched film critics. Like the Somme, you may get the results on paper, but at what cost? Stick instead with films like Inspector Gadget where casualties are minimised or, in the case of strained political analogy, the Falklands War. 

Nigiri- Hugh Grant’s rom-coms  


With only a slab of rice and assorted topping to its name, Nigiri sushi was never the shiniest bauble on the Christmas tree. It’s more an innocuous red one, used to make up numbers. That’s not to say Nigiri doesn’t have its uses, it’s a steady winch to lower newcomers into the realms of Sushi or the reliable mule for Sushiites, whose adventurousness has been curbed by a recent bout of food poisoning. In movie terms, a Hugh Grant rom-com. Done so many times it could morph into a soap opera, even with the same name. 


With his inane politeness, “Oh Golly, I may have piddled on your lavatory seat” and elegant plume of floppy hair, he would be more at home on the Discovery Channel. A treacherous gibbon, perhaps, that charms the feathers off a bird before stealing their eggs. 

In fact David Attenborough should do a documentary on the untamed lion that is Hugh Grant’s acting career. Nomadic, he has roamed the Hollywood plains searching for the spectral oases of a thriller film or, dare I say, an Oscar nominee, only to plod dejectedly back to the Bridget Jones’ pride. 

Though I mock him, Hugh has been a cornerstone of the romantic comedy sector. If you will, the equivalent of a lift operator who has worked, unquestioning, for 50 years. When he bows out there will be many a thirty-something, saluting him with their Haagen-Dazs ice cream tub while watching a pimple-faced alternative. Something with Michael Cera.


Sashimi- Guy Ritchie gangster films 

Well ‘ard


On a sushi menu where flavours are often intertwined to achieve the supreme combination, the raw fish that is Sashimi holds no alliances. Like a renegade cop it doesn’t need partners; rice would slow it down, ask too many questions and seaweed would smother it. Sashimi works alone.

But such brash characterisation is not enough these days. Unlike the flickering era of black and white films, it is no longer sufficient to dress a bad guy in a blackened cape and have someone appear beforehand, wearing glasses to bolster the veneer of intelligence and saying, “trust me, this guy is well evil.” Nowadays Sashimi needs a genial cockney accent, a sharp tailor and a drinking spot in South London. It needs a part in a Guy Ritchie gangster film.

Some wonton destruction and sharp one-liners later, and Ritchie would have late night crime thrillers from Bravo queuing up to get a piece of this Sashimi, the new, raw talent from the wrong side of the tracks. Just look at what the director did for British footballer-cum-actor Vinnie Jones’ career or Hollywood hardman Jason Statham.

In the films Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Ritchie succeeds on a well-trodden path, making criminals likeable. Lock Stock saw his depiction of London’s largest marijuana dealers as a gaggle of hippies, who defend against intruders with air rifles. Now tell me Sashimi doesn’t need some Ritchie magic to accompany its stab at being professionally ‘well ‘ard’.

Maki- Shutter Island


Comprising raw fish wrapped in a layer of rice and then seaweed paper, Maki is a product of meticulous preparation. I like to imagine that each responsible chef is fresh from learning the trade in a Japanese training montage, packed with close-ups of their master raising his eyebrow quizzically and stroking a swan. Outlawed by the fast food nation, the band is forced to meet in abandoned houses that double as a fight club for Brad Pitt.

Although not conceived in similar circumstances, for a film constructed with equal flourishes of skill see recent blockbuster Shutter Island. The opening scene is a cinematic omen for things to come. Waves lash furiously against the island’s rocks, an atmospheric score is carved over the backdrop; we’re in thriller country and director Martin Scorsese is in his element. The Johnny Depp to Scorsese’s Tim Burton, the ever-prolific accomplice Leonardo DiCaprio is along for the ride and together they engineer a blitzkrieg of shocks, scares and anything else needed to convince you that investigating a lunatic asylum is a really poor idea.

With an increasingly raucous entourage of successful films and a respectable South African accent on his CV- accents can be the graveyard of stars, just ask John Wayne when he played Genghis Khan in The Conqueror- it would take a brave man to bet against DiCaprio not getting an Oscar soon. Especially after previous winner Adrien Brody bore the thespian torch for his compatriots by fronting the recent remake of Arnie classic Predator, hardly screen-shattering.


What cinematic nuances can get an audience of such acquired taste and connoisseurship as Americans buzzing? Christian Seiersen hazards five guesses.

“This is Sparta!”— 300
Half the audience may have believed Sparta to be the name of a new budget supermarket, but there’s no denying the Spartan King’s roar of defiance tingled spines, raised hairs, and, most importantly, kick started Gerard Butler’s Hollywood foray. Faced with the endless waves of the Persian army, Leonidas opens proceedings with a well-placed boot that sends the make-up laden messengers flying down a pit. An act that has spawned countless online imitations, including pop princess Britney Spears in the place of the messengers, it embodies the American love of a good ass whoopin’.
I am of course no authority to question Spartan architecture, but said pit seemed slightly out of place next to the refined and classical city of Sparta. However, in a land where a lifetime membership to LA fitness comes with the shield, ’s finer details are mere frivolities. The Spartans, for example, seem to have discarded the lengthy prose of their literary Greek counterparts, such as Homer, in favour of sharp one-liners that veer more towards a 70’s cop show. When faced with the Persian threat of, “Our arrows will blot out the sun”, one of the soldiers replies, “Then we will fight in the shade”. That cat’s got claws.
Conveniently-placed pits, slow-mo six packs and an enemy leader with the voice of a Decepticon Transformer, what more could the American audience want from a film?

Training Montage — Rocky IV
District 9 and the Apartheid, Avatar and American colonisation, both political undertones were achieved with a degree of subtlety by their respective films. However, rewind back 25 years, and suggestion is no longer required.
Having won scores of high-profile bouts, grunting boxer Rocky Balboa is recruited for his biggest one yet, the Cold War. His on-screen nemesis is the monstrous, crew-cut clad and generically-named Russian Ivan Drago. No implications there then. But wait, there’s the famous pre-fight training scene still to come, which is heralded in each of the five Rocky films with a blaring of inspirational trumpets. This time Rocky swaps the stairs of Philadelphia for the howling winds of rural Russia and is forced to train by carrying wood and performing pull-ups on the wooden rafters of a barn. Now and again the camera will cut to Ivan’s routine, hooked up on various leads, surrounded by scientists and, ooh what’s that, a cheeky injection of an un-named fluid? You cheating Russian devil!
Needless to say, the steroid-fuelled powerhouse that constitutes Drago is overcome by some good ol’ fashioned American grit. In doing so, Rocky goes on to earn the acclaim of the previously hostile Russian crowd and rounds off his propaganda performance with a tear-jerking speech on how similar the two sparring countries are. With such innovative and political use of the classic Rocky training montage, it is no wonder the film was the most financially successful sports film of all time.

Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield—Pulp Fiction
A match made in the twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino, rarely has a duo owned the American screen like Jackson and Travolta. This is Samuel L. at his pre-Snakes on the Plane finest, crazy as hell, but with a religious twist. Think carrying a ‘Bad Mother*****’ wallet and quoting the Bible. Beside him was Travolta, never too far from the dance floor or a line of cocaine, but retaining that charming naivety. A trait that led to an accidental head shot and earned him a symbolic death on the crapper.
Whether it’s the argument over cleaning pieces of brain from the back seat of a car or the severity of foot massages, you would do well to find a self-respecting American who doesn’t know at least one Vega-Winnfield quote. Their dialogue is a showpiece for the continuous banter that is exhibited in such a strong friendship and, coming from a team of mob lackeys, is sheer genius.
The subject matter is run of the mill, but the pair treat such trivial matters with the same gravity as a life and death situation. On the way to collect a debt, a situation where the presence of guns is a given, what matters are they turning over in their head? A “Royale with Cheese”, need I say more?

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”—The Godfather
A prime advertisement for the detriments of a trilogy, The Godfather brought the Family onto the big screen. Led by Marlon Brando’s jaw-line, the dialogue is dynamite. A throaty accent, gesticulating hands and idiosyncratic phrases- such as ‘fingering’, create a whole new world and lend a romanticism to gangster life. In America, mob wars were a distinct reality—especially during the prohibition—and giving the audience an insight into this deadly game of chess is what the film was made for.
If you take Brando’s character, Don Corleone, his words are never direct. Everything he says has implications, like waking up to the sight of your severed horse’s head. The don is responsible, but his ties to the act involved the mere mumbling of a phrase. As a result, an aura is created around the character, who controls all but rarely get his fingers dirty. The puppeteer.

So we arrive at the godfather of phrases, the offer that can‘t be refused. Everything is again implied, and ‘offer’ promises benefits for both sides, but the context and delivery say otherwise. Their mantras may have been adopted by a new era of pseudo-gangsters, but the original family remains an elegant cut above the rest.

“Storming Dunkirk, Omaha Landing”—Saving Private Ryan
Some Americans will be quick to credit their country’s decisive intervention in WWII, and what better evidence than the sight of Tom Hanks leaping off a U-Boat into the bloody waters of the English channel. Spielberg earns his stripes as a man for the action sequences with his shuddering camera work, occasionally submerging underwater, and gritty set-pieces. There is no Rambo, tearing through enemy lines. This sequence terrifyingly approximates the realities of war and how life rested on a thread for every soldier—it didn’t matter who you were. One minute a radio operator was lying next to you, the next he was a corpse.

The scene used extras from the Irish reserve army, and, in some cases, real-life WWII amputees. It has received historical acclaim for its accuracy and is a welcome relief from the reality-defying offerings that line Hollywood screens. Bullets zipping through the water, searching for cover behind the beach defences and the sprint to the safety of the sandbank. If this intensity and individual heroism doesn’t get the adrenaline pumping, then there is no hope.
What I appreciated most, and large swathes of the American audience will too, is that the film does not hide behind anything. This is no pro-American spiel, this is the most realistic depiction of war. And, for people who found it hard, there’s always films with Schwarzenegger throwing grenades at Russians.
How Theatrical! is a series on the pleasures of a theatre that go beyond cinema itself.
Catch Christian Seiersen on christianseiersen.wordpress.com.

Globe-trotting journalist and cinema glutton Christian Seiersen gushes forth on how crowd calls and hot dog stalls make theatres unbeatable.

Ever since I was seduced by the glossy pages of gadget magazines, my efforts to visit movie theatres have been hindered by their cast of technological minions, clinging to my trousers and beckoning me into the realms of my living room. Even if I do make it outside, they can still be seen, clamoring at the doors of the cinema to out-maneuver this seemingly archaic means of experiencing movies. But while this horde of lesser beauties is growing in numbers, they still can’t hold an eyelash to the cinema experience. Although most visits will not be as eventful as the climax of Nazi killathon Inglorious Basterds, the benchmark for enthusiasm for the cinema was set, quite heroically, by a friend during a visit to the second Transformers film.
In his determination to make the pre-movie trailers, he leapt gracefully down a small flight of stairs, only to be met by the hard exterior of a low-hanging beam. Bloodied, concussed and in the presence of a female companion, he refused medical attention and, taking his place near the front, sat through the two and a half hour film, using his jumper as a makeshift bandage. It was only after the last credit had rolled that he allowed us to prise him from his seat and take him to hospital. Perhaps if the film’s producers had such a strong sense of pride, we would not have had to endure such a film in the first place.
Personally, I prefer to be more removed from the action and focus on the gastronomic offerings in the concession stands. Although they have yet to reach the heights of a Michelin star, the American hotdogs ooze a certain rustic charm, if not vats of grease that even Augustus Gloop might turn his nose up at. Whilst most culinary establishments prefer to embellish their offerings with the aid of a menu, you have to admire the frank honesty in which the frankfurters are displayed, leaving little to the imagination. As they revolve eerily around the large metallic machine, I can’t help but imagine it being more at home as a particularly inventive tool in a Saw film rather than anything, dare I say, productive.
This ‘grazing food’ serves its purpose for the charming romcom, but cinema food is all about choosing your battles, and when the stakes are raised to a three-hour epic, so too must you raise your game. To meet this challenge fully-equipped, look no farther than the picnic. It’s all about thinking outside the box, or rather inside the box. If it can be sealed in a plastic container and fit under the shirt, then its fair game. After that, the cinema is your oyster. Although I have yet to try that particular dish, my personal favorites include spaghetti and a well-cooked salmon.
Whilst these meals would be more appropriate for a film at home, that would also mean discounting the value of risk for ‘the smuggler.’ European cinemas seem to be leading the crackdown on this activity and more than once I have been unceremoniously removed, sushi still in hand, having given away my position by an overly generous use of soy sauce. I have found America to be far more lenient, namely, if you can smuggle it under your shirt, then the grease stains are deemed punishment enough. As a rule of thumb, I tend to pass on the more pungent food. Cheese and egg-related products are usually left at home; overpowering smells have the uncanny ability of turning an innocent face into a ruthless vigilante.
Bystanders can also be roused into action if the veil of silence, which descends over the theatre after the trailers, is broken. These keepers of the peace usually position themselves front and centre to allow for a sweeping view of their subjects. Unfortunately for them, this is also a prime spot for target practice, should their interventions go unappreciated. But, as much as we may throw popcorn at them, as soon as the cinema descends into wanton
anarchy, they become sorely missed.
One such occasion was at a cinema in Barbados, where one group of women took it upon themselves to provide a running commentary of the movie, The Dark Knight. Although most of the team’s efforts were below par, I felt a particular connection with their ring-leader when, after Maggie Gyllenhaal slaps the Joker at a dinner party, she got up and, with a dramatic wave of her finger, pronounced “Oh no she di-nt!” This cinema was all about the audience pitching in and I also appreciated the efforts of the backrow contingency, who provided their own sweet-smelling incense to contribute to the atmosphere and fragrance of the cinema.
Besides these communal efforts, theatres have their own tricks. The most recent of which has been the premium seat. Because people rarely buy tickets for these, it brings the art of gambling into the cinema. The technique I employ is the ‘stalker,’ taking a seat nearby the radiating row and pouncing at the five-minute mark into the movie. If you go in straight away, guns blazing, then you run the risk of being publicly ejected onto the aisle when the ‘premium party’ arrive fashionably late. On these occasions, backup seats are a necessity, but if you exercise a degree of prudence, the premiums are yours.
The only problem posed now is that of the toilets. To visit them would be to concede a lack of organisation on your behalf, and further still, especially for men, to admit that you do not, in fact, possess the iron bladder that you were flaunting to people as you squeezed past them to get to your seat. And even if you do make it out of the public’s glare, there is always a wizened cinema employee crouching outside, whose look of passive sympathy seems to say “My son, you should have held back on the Sprite”. No, the toilets represent a social faux-pas for the experienced cinema-visitor and, as a result, they can resemble a medieval swamp. Something I came across in a German cinema, of all places.
How Theatrical! is a series on the delights of cinema-going, the dark pleasures of a theatre that go beyond cinema itself.
Catch Christian Seiersen on christianseiersen.wordpress.com.