Napapiirin sankarit [2010)

Here is a masterpiece.

Not since Aaltra (2004) has a movie so perfectly made use of the dark humor pioneered by Louis-Ferdinand Céline in Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932).

Lapland Odyssey is Finnish film which is currently free to watch on Tubi.

I cannot give enough praise to the director, Dome Karukoski.

This is not just a miraculous feat of storytelling, but the mise-en-scène of a true auteur.

I was born 15 days earlier than Mr. Karukoski:  43 years ago.

Our director hails from Cyprus.

Where Eric Schmidt has recently applied for citizenship.

https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/11/9/21547055/eric-schmidt-google-citizen-cyprus-european-union

Funny timing, that.

Wouldn’t Eric Schmidt welcome a Biden Presidency?

Does Mr. Schmidt fear something in the United States?

Perhaps the former CEO of Google knows something we do not?

Might it concern impending public corruption trials?

And, just maybe, a reelection of Donald Trump?

Lapland Odyssey premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010.

That was the same year that Toronto-based company Dominion Voting Systems acquired not only Premier Election Solutions (an American company [Ohio]) from ES&S (Election Systems & Software [Omaha, Nebraska]), but also Sequoia Voting Systems [California] from Smartmatic [U.K.].

PES had only been acquired by ES&S the previous year (2009).  Before that, PES was owned by Diebold.

Premier Election Systems was formerly known as Diebold Election Systems.

Before Diebold bought it, it was known as General Election Systems.

Before General Election Systems bought it, it was known as I-Mark Systems.

You get the picture.

Dominion Voting Systems is now owned by American private equity firm Staple Street Capital (which has extremely strong ties to the Carlyle Group [George H.W. Bush’s former benefactor]).

https://www.osler.com/en/expertise/deals-cases/dominion-voting-systems

None of this would have been possible without Jussi Vatanen.

Vatanen is our hero.

He is tasked with the impossible.

Find a digital TV receiver (“digibox”) in one night.

After the local electronics store has closed.

This involves a trip to Rovaniemi:  the main city of Lapland.

[population 63,032]

Hundred of kilometers to get to Finland’s 17th most populated city.

In Finland, Lapland is not only the northernmost province, but it is also the largest province of the country.

It bears mentioning that there is also a Swedish province called Lapland.  

The cleavage of these two Laplands dates to 1809:  when Russia annexed the eastern part of Sweden and declared it the Grand Duchy of Finland.

My closest brush with this region was a single musical concert I played years ago in the town of Kiruna (in Swedish Lapland):  Sweden’s northernmost town [population 22,906].

It was an experience which profoundly changed me and which stays with me till this day.

Finnish Lapland borders Sweden’s Norrbotten County.  At Norrbotten’s northernmost point can be found Kiruna (north of the Arctic Circle).

At the southeast corner of Norrbotten County is Piteå:  my favorite town in Sweden.

The town of Piteå sits on the Gulf of Bothnia–just across the water from Finland.

I also played a musical concert in Piteå.

It was, perhaps, the happiest time in my life.

So I can imagine Rovaniemi.

A city just four miles south of the Arctic Circle.

Jussi Vatanen plays the loser who makes good.

Which makes him, in fact, not a loser.

I can intimately relate to that.

I have lost my job (again).

I am addicted to drugs (again).

And I am addicted to alcohol (a first for me).

It is in these days, when I am having the first true experience in my life with alcohol withdrawal, that I come to this film.

It is the perfect film.

It is just exactly the film I needed at this particular time.

Because I, like Janne (Vatanen’s character), am trying my damnedest to get my life together.

Last week, I got engaged.

Actually, REengaged.

I exercise (pacing back and forth in my parents’ garage as my phone records my steps).

I drink less.

I exercise.

I drink less.

Nausea.

Dizziness.

ANXIETY.

And extreme fucking INSOMNIA.

When I was in Kiruna, the sun only went down for four hours.

I didn’t see the Northern Lights.

But you can see them in this film.

And they are glorious.

If it is CGI, then I am losing my touch.

Because I don’t believe it is.

I appears to be the genuine article.

Aurora borealis.

And headaches!

Lots of sunflower seeds.

Big red welts all up and down my arms and torso from nicotine patches.

I can no longer afford my General Snus.

Sure, I have some stashed away…

But my wise old psychologist once told me:  “just move one thing at a time”.

  1.  alcohol
  2. tobacco
  3. valerian?
  4. Ambien?
  5. Xanax?

I put question marks because I am unsure of the order.

Main goal is STOP DRINKING.

Or, should I say, the FIRST goal.

If I can get an MBA, surely I can stop drinking.

[God willing]

For every hero, there needs to be a doubter.

To provide context.

The hero forges forward (when it would probably be best to just quit).

The hero quits (when it would be much easier to just continue).

The hero is determined.

The hero gives energy and inspiration to those around him.

But the doubter adds richness.

Because it is human to doubt.

Will Donald Trump be reelected President?

We will find out when the Electoral College meets on my birthday to ELECT a new President-Elect.

Till then, Joe Biden is at best the worst kind of poseur.

He is doing exactly what he promised Chris Wallace and the American people he WOULD NOT do:  to declare victory before the election is independently certified.

What a hypocrite.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-victory-election-independently-certified

Each state certifies its vote.

Biden does not have enough votes at the moment (by way of certified state votes and their concomitant electors) to declare victory.

N.B.  It is the Electoral College which will ELECT the next President (who THEN AND ONLY THEN becomes known as the President-Elect).

And so we doubt.

Me and Jasper Pääkkönen.

Was there fraud?

I believe so.

And you may doubt in the other direction.

Was there fraud?

You doubt there was.

But I know there was.

Because I have basic research skills.

And I availed myself of Rudy Giuliani’s masterful delineation of the case for fraud.

[no thanks to American mass media (which completely blacked out all coverage of Giuliani’s press conference with Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis)]

So we all doubt, each in our own way.

And someone may convince us.

The law may even compel us.

The U.S. Supreme Court may weigh in on the legality of certain ballots in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Cold states.

Particularly Michigan and Wisconsin.

Fort Meade.

4thPOG.

Dark Horse.

Fly fishing.

Fort Bragg.

Timo Lavikainen is the late-bloomer.

Along for the ride.

But absolutely essential.

Able to love.

You must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Sibelius.

Karelia.

1893.

News of war.

Siege.

National anthem.

At some point we might mention the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Which lasted about 500 years (until 1795).

For beauty, we have Pamela Tola.

She just wants a fucking digibox, for christsakes!

Something about those blonde bangs.

Then there is the villain.

A bit like Alex “Scott Evil” Soros.

A bit like Martin Vanger.

Kari Ketonen plays the boy who never got anything.

…and let it make him evil.

He plays the cheater.

The trickster.

A character with absolutely no morals.

Strictly driven by lust.

[and a good bit of narcissism]

He comes off looking a bit like Kip in another masterpiece of a film:  Napoleon Dynamite.

Imagine Kip as an irredeemably-unscrupulous character and you will have a pretty good idea of who Pikku-Mikko is.

Little Mikko.

Short.

Short people.

Randy Newman.

Mikko moves in for the kill while the matrimonial bed is still warm.

Mikko false-flags his way into manipulating his enemy.

Mikko is a master of PSYWAR.

But God wins in the end.

And Moa Gammel is the real star of this film.

In a strange way.

Principal siren.

Debussy.

A Swede.

Almost the doppelgänger of Pamela Tola.

The Swede is the world image of beauty.

Alluring.

Beckoning.

The Finn is more quixotic.

Cute.

Harsh.

Soulful.

None of this, of course, means a damn thing.

And all the while Timo Lavikainen just wants to see Miia Nuutila’s tits.

License plate.

Ali G.

There will be helicopters.

-PD

Austin Powers in Goldmember [2002)

Nice recovery.

To recap:  first episode, pretty awesome.  Second episode #prettyterrible.  And third episode?

Quite good.

In general, all of the things you may have loved about the Austin Powers debut film return here as progressed elements.

Likewise, the shoddy aspects of episode two are herein absent or otherwise fixed.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Mike Myers recovers some of the real-life mojo he seemingly lost in the shag-a-flopic middle piece.

The character of Goldmember (played by Myers) is a significant improvement upon the generally stale Fat Bastard.

Beyoncé Knowles is pretty darn good in this film as well.

I was skeptical coming in.  Didn’t really know her as an actress.  Only slightly know her music.

But there’s a reason I didn’t know her as an actress.  Because this was her film debut.

Thank you Wikipedia.

Now we’re getting somewhere…

However, perhaps the most genius (evil genius?) dimension of this film is the dream-within-a-dream fourth-wall-destroying cameo sequence of Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, and John Travolta (among others).  Lot ‘a Scientologists there…

Continuing:

The big add-on, however, is Michael Caine.  It was really a choice bit of casting to introduce him into the mix.

That said, I’ve been a bit harsh on Mike Myers.  Really, it is formidable that he pulls a Peter Sellers by playing Austin, Dr. Evil, Goldmember, and Fat Bastard in this film.  They are all distinct characters.  In truth, Myers succeeds admirably by way of his talent for dialects.  Dutch is such an odd choice (as a spin on English), but Johan van der Smut (aka Goldmember) is indeed a novel attempt.

888 to you, my friend!

Yes…it’s not coming to the Criterion Collection anytime soon (unless it’s April 1st), but that’s alright.  After a grueling day this might be just the perfect film to make you forget for a moment.

Crack a laugh if you can.

Heartily recommended for James Bond aficionados in need of psychic adjustment.

Or something.

-PD

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me [1999)

This one is painful.  No getting around it.

Mike Myers is a very talented guy, but this film is seriously lacking in creativity.

I get it…  The James Bond series is very formulaic, but a spoof franchise can’t afford to be so predictable.

And thus it is little wonder that Austin Powers only lasted three installments.

But to be fair, let’s give this film a chance.

Austin starts out learning that his luck was too good to be true.

Elizabeth Hurley.  Not a professional model until age 29.

Speaks of a certain beauty.  Timeless.

Perhaps.

Daughter of Angela Mary Titt (!)…you can’t make this stuff up.

Bruce Beresford cast Hurley in Aria (1987) [a compilation film which happened to feature a vignette by my idol Jean-Luc Godard].

Aria was her debut.

Ok, enough about Hurley. She’s not in much of this film, but I really did her a disservice by completely failing to mention her performance in the first Austin Powers movie.  Really, she is a fine actress and her contribution to that movie was significant and impressive.

By now you may be noticing that the current film under consideration (installment two) must be quite a clunker for me to be going on about an actress who appears in about ten minutes of this feature.

If you have surmised thusly, you have surmised correctly.

Moving on…

There are moments in this movie when things briefly coalesce.  Dr. Evil’s headquarters atop The Space Needle hosts one such moment.  The schadenfreude I felt as a patron of a particularly lackluster Starbucks (watch the movie) was, in this scene, among the highlights of a rather limp film.

There is, of course, the addition of the 2′ 8″ Verne Troyer in this installment.  Troyer does a fine job as Mini-Me.

Even the Fat Bastard character is entertaining (up to a point).

I suppose that is the M.O. of the Austin Powers franchise: to go beyond the limits of ridiculousness and good taste.

When it works, it’s quite special.  When it doesn’t (as in most of this film), it’s a rather tragic affair.

Unfortunately, Rob Lowe is not really allowed to shine in this film.  His comedic gifts deserved better.

One player who makes the most of her small role is Kristen Johnston.  Kudos to her for making the sport of chess as exciting and bizarre as Marcel Duchamp and Henry Miller would have done had they wound up in this shambles of a film.

And now on to the bright spot of the film:  Heather Graham.

Yes, I know…I know.

Though it’s not as powerful as her breathtaking performance in Boogie Nights, it’s not a bad performance.

No…far from it.

Graham takes the charm of Elizabeth Hurley and ratchets it up a few notches.

But the story…oy vey, the story.  Really, there is no story.  The same story.

It’s pretty sad when a spy spoof is less entertaining than a Bond clunker such as Moonraker.

Back to Graham…anyone who’s dated Adam Ant is alright in my book.

Pushing onwards…

Dr. Evil at least happens upon the perfect name for his doomsday laser:  The Alan Parsons Project.

Like the evil Starbucks Space Needle, it is one of few highlights.

One of the few storyline threads to come through intact is the one involving Powers’ mojo.

Unfortunately, the naïvete of enlightenment which somehow alighted upon the first Austin Powers film is not present here to sustain the promising premise of mojo lost and found.

Strangely, the series itself seemingly lost its mojo in this its sophomore slump.

There’s one final twist at the end involving Fat Bastard.  For a moment the film threatens to redeem itself.

But alas, as they say…

-PD