(2007; Russia; aka Русалка; aka Rusalka)

To those of you who regularly read my movie and book reviews, my opinion about magic realism will come as no surprise. I hate that twee crap. I hate it so much that it even constitutes a separate rule in the Scoopian Unities. It's called the Marquez Rule, and it reads as follows:

"I know they give all kinds of prestigious prizes to people who write magical realism. Now that I've admitted that, if you write a film that follows a gritty John Steinbeck path for an hour and a half, and then in the last ten minutes, the downtrodden hero escapes from his life by sprouting wings and flying away from the cannery; or if the hero makes the evil slave-driving boss into a nice man by cooking him a meal salted with the workers' tears, I'll have to send your home address to Hannibal Lecter."

But lately I've been thinking that my opinion is based not on the inherent nature of magical realism itself, but on the nature of those authors who have so far been dominating the genre. They're just too damned whimsical and sensitive. I now think it's not magic realism that sucks, but the magical realists. So I'm starting to wonder what could happen if the right people wrote magical realism, like Scots, or Russians. I mean, can you imagine Sean Connery doing any of that cutesy Zooey Deschanel crap that seems to permeate magic realism? Can you see Vladimir Putin being ever so precious? Hell, if you even acted a bit sensitive in his presence, he'd probably reach right into your chest and rip out your heart, like that guy in The Temple of Doom. It's not just Putin. Even the average Russian is rugged, manly, unsmiling and pragmatic; and can usually be found smoking unfiltered cigarettes, drinking vodka by the quart, and clad in combat boots, even during sex.

And the Russian MEN are even tougher.

OK, I know it's an old joke. Anyway ...

Russia could probably save magical realism from itself, by marrying that much-despised genre with the harsh, traditional elements of Russian storytelling. Now I don't mean to suggest that magical realism films should suddenly be four hours long, but I'm thinking that I could probably tolerate some Zooey Deschanel crap as long as Zooey ends up throwing herself under a train in a snowstorm, or dying face-down in a gritty Moscow street. For me, that would have the same cathartic effect that the censors used to demand from American filmmakers in the 30s, when sinners and evildoers had to be punished for their putative misdeeds before the credits started rolling.

And you know what? Lately I've seen two Russian efforts at magical realism, and I've enjoyed them both. The first was Absurdistan, which I watched last summer. The second is this film, The Mermaid. The film's heroine, Alisa, can grant wishes and control the elements, but her attempts to do so always end up with Monkey's Paw consequences. Every time she calls upon her powers to aid herself, she wreaks havoc and brings homelessness, despair, and even death to the people around her. One wish ends in a level of devastation that makes Hurricane Katrina seem too weak to ring the wind chimes. And her efforts to aid a man she loves, while they save his life, ultimately result in tragic consequences for about a hundred other people, and for her. She does, in fact, end up dying face-down in a Moscow street.

Now THAT is my kind of magic realism.

To be serious, or at least a bit more serious, I've also discovered that a magical realism pie is greatly enhanced when leavened by plenty of humor, and this film is pretty damned funny.

So let that be a lesson to you aspiring magical realists: incorporate plenty of humor, plenty of cynicism. In doing so, you may not win the Nobel Prize, but you may do the definitionally impossible, something as oxymoronic as "military intelligence" - you may create something genuine within the most artificial genre of them all, not magical realism per se, but more like "real magic."

This film has a lot of that.



The film also has quite a bit of nudity, which seems to spice up any genre, but the flesh is not always very appealing:

Mariya Sokova shows everything on the land and in the sea, but she's a little on the plump side, by which I mean that when she was swimming the Orcas showed her professional courtesy.

And then there's Masha Shalaeva, the film's star, who does a brief topless scene. When you look at her you're going to feel like a pedophile. After watching the scene I immediately went to IMDb and checked out her age, because she seems to be about 11. She's 30 now, and was 26 when she made this film, so you can breathe normally. The FBI will not be after your hard disk. At least not for this clip.

The only really attractive women in the cast is Irina Skrinichenko, who shows her breasts in one scene, and flashes a bit of her pubic area in another. I don't really get into her supermodel body type - too thin, and some of her body parts do not appear to be factory originals - but I think many of would will find her sexy. Even if you don't, the sex scene is pretty funny.

  • * Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

  • * White asterisk: expanded format.

  • * Blue asterisk: not mine.

  • No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.


"House of Lies"

1080p, s1e6

Megalyn Echikunwoke

Summer City


Summer City is a coming of age surfing drama cum revenge thriller (yes, really) starring Mel Gibson and Steve Bisley when they were still in acting school. Four boys, sensible Sandy (John Jarratt), skirt chasing smart arse Boo (Steve Bisley), pretty boy Scollop (Mel Gibson) and tag along Robbie (writer/producer Phil Avalon), go for a surfing weekend. After having some fun and getting into a little trouble, they arrive at their destination and spy Caroline (Debbie Forman), whose lives at a boarding house run by her overprotective father. That night, they go to a dance and Boo becomes smitten with Caroline and takes her to the town's water tank where they have sex. The next day, the boys go for a surf, but Caroline thinks that she is pregnant. Her father hits the roof and goes about hunting down the boys and it's not going to end well. Completely strange film that surprisingly works well. There's an end of the world feel about it the entire film that would seem completely out of place, but it gives the film a bizarre originality that surely has never been seen in a surfing film ever. Hell, there isn't even a lot of surfing going on. The stand out here is Bisley, who gives Boo a gusto that seems lacking with the other characters. Jarratt, who was the biggest name in the cast, seems muted and Gibson doesn't have a lot to do other than have dyed hair, but he sure does look pretty. This film is seems to be missing something and there's a fair bit of padding going on (apparently because the actors walked from the film before filming finished), but what has been scraped together is near impossible to describe fully, but for it's shortcomings, Summer City works, buggered if I know how ...

Debbie Forman film clip, collage below




Anne Azoulay in Lea (2011) Some awesome nudity.

Azoulay again in La Foret du Monde (2007)

Heather Lemire in Justify (2010) in 720p


Massive cleavage from Kim Kardashian at a Laker game last week

Angel Tompkins in Walking Tall, Part 2

Brie Larson in The Trouble With Bliss

Irina Shayk

Madchen Amick in Dream Lover

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz (2)

Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz

Angelina Jolie in Taking Lives

Diane Lane in The Big Town

Irina Novak in Savages

Nicky Whelan in Hall Pass

Reese Witherspoon in Twilight

Russia Hardy in Femme Fatales, s1e2

Wendy Delorme in The Final Girl

Saralisa Volm in Hotel Desire