Monday, 28 December 2015

5 things that 3 of my favourite movies in 2015 (The Force Awakens, Mockingjay and Mad Max Fury Road) had in common

This has been a great year for movies. And it's not over yet (can't wait for The Revenant, The Hateful Eight and The Peanuts Movie).
And as I was thinking about some of the movies I've enjoyed the most so far, I started to notice some things they have in common, so here it goes...

As usual, there will be spoilers, so if you haven't watched The Force Awakens, Mockingjay Part 2 or Mad Max Fury Road, you can stop reading.

5. They're all sequels to very long series: This is neither good nor bad, but they are all part of something bigger than a trilogy. However, the only one that feels like clousure is Mockingjay Part 2, as Fury Road is more of a reboot, and The Force Awakens sets the tone for the last three (that we know of) of a trilogy of trilogies.

4. The main team has to infiltrate the bad guy's fort: Whether they needed to get to President Snow's mansion, Inmortan Joe's Power Cave (or wathever the place from which he ruled the wasteland was called... which I just checked and it's called The Citadel) or The First Order's Death Star on steroids; in all cases, the main plot involved the need to get to the villain's domain, overcoming a series of death threatening obstacles.

Knock Knock / Who's there? / The heros, hahahaha YOU LOOSE

3. A brainwashed young man has a change of heart: As anyone who drinks a black sugary carbonated mix of chemicals and enojys it will know, brainwashing is powerful. But these movies do a great job reminding us that there is something more powerful than that.
In all three films we have a young man (Finn from The Force Awakens, Peeta from Mockingjay Part 2, and Nux from Fury Road) whose mind has been messed up by the bad guys, but somehow their true conscience manages to break through and they become a key person in the day-saving activities of the hero's crew. Whether they were raised and trained like Finn and Nux, or went through a Clockwork Orange-style session of Ludovico Technique (known in The Capitol as Hijacking), these guys are psychological time bombs waiting to meet the right girl to swap sides.

His beaten mind says KILL but his eyes say WHAT I'M I DOING?

2. An evil dictatorship Vs. heavily armed rebels: These movies won't end with a surrender and the ressistance knows it and it's ready to fight big fire with sneaky fire. On one side, we have armies of face-covered men defending a tyranical system (The First Order's army, The Capitol's "Peacekeepers", The Citadel's War Boys) enforced by an evil dictator-like ruler with absolute power (Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens, President Snow in Mockingjay Part 2, and Immortan Joe in Fury Road). On the other side, we have a diverse group of dissidents willing to sacrify themselves for a cause they feel very strongly about.

You can bet this won't end with a peaceful protest and a referendum

1. An action woman as a lead character: True, these are movies with more than just one protagonist, but Rey (The Force Awakens), Katniss (Mockingjay Part 2) and Furiosa (Fury Road) certainly make the plot advance in their respective universes. They are strong, have an objective beyond "finding love" and, unlike the Marvel Designated Women, their personalities are way more than a pair of boobs that know karate. 
When it's time to put a lightsaber/arrow/bullet in the big bad's heart, they are more than able and willing to do so. And yes, they're young, white and attractive (armless Charlize Theron is still Charlize Theron), but they are not all about looking pretty or using their looks to seduce their way into their goals. And besides that, there were also strong female characters of all ages and shapes, which is not something you see often: you had beloved Princess Leia as the main example in The Force Awakens, hated President Coin in Mockingjay Part 2 and the brave Vuvalini of Many Mothers in Fury Road.

Let's do this!
Three very different movies that are not so different after all when you try to see the big picture.

Monday, 14 December 2015

10 Times in which Irish Christmas and Venezuelan Christmas were alike

They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I bet we could check any time in history and people will think that the taxes are unfair, the next generation is useless and lazy, and the end of the year should be celebrated.
But since I can't do time travel, I'll focus now on space. As I'm celebrating my second Christmas in Ireland, I can't help to compare it to the Venezuelan way. And even though we're seven thousand kilometres appart, I feel the similarities are very strong.

So, allow me to list the 10 things we do oddly alike in Christmas...

10. We're both very early birds: Both in Ireland and in Venezuela, it's beggining to look a lot like Christmas very prematurely in the year. Back in Caracas, you could mark the unofficial start of the season in mid-September when the schools go back to class and they start preparing for the gaitas, an inter-school Christmas music competition which is serious business (think a South American Christmasy version of Pitch Perfect or Glee).
And while Ireland's high-end department store Brown Thomas launched their Christmas section at the end of August this year (causing a big media buzz and exposure), Venezuela's Beco was not so far behind, traditionally bringing the green, red and golden stuff at least three months before it's needed.

9. We're obsessed with snow (although we don't really see much of it): Nothing says tropical Christmas cheers like fake plastic snow on fake plastic trees. Surprisingly, we do get a tiny bit of snow in the top of Venezuela's highest mountain (Pico Bolivar) every now and then, which makes everyone in the country go mental and try to go on a hike to take a snow selfie. 
Snow in Ireland is a less abnormal occurence, but it's still odd, and everyone looses it when the weather forecast predicts it (although 90% of the time it's just slushy rain that is melt by the time it hits the ground).
FYI, if you see an adult doing snow angels, throwing snowballs and building a snowman while everyone is walking normally, it's probably a Venezuelan seeing snow for the first time, and doing all the things he has watched in cartoons' Christmas specials.
Me or any Venezuelan, watching snow for the first time as an adult (Via

8. Christmas markets are a big deal: You'll find them in shopping centres, in parks, in squares... Lots of people go for handmade gifts and these are the places to get them.
Expect artisan jewlery, knitted stuff, chutneys and Chritmas cakes.

7. We drink something better than eggnog: Whether you are team Ponche Crema or team Baileys, you know that there are better creamy drinks than the egg flavoured beige thing that comes out of a milk carton. Both beverages are available all year round, but both are Christmas favourites, and even though they're brands, many people do their own homemade versions, which are actually really good.
While they have similar textures and serving sugestions, Ponche Crema's flavour is closer to condensed milk, and Baileys' is more on the nutty side.
You know what, now I need to find out what happens if I mix them... cheers.

* Similarly marketed during Christmas
* Ponche Crema's alcohol is 14% and Baileys is 17%
* They're popular with coffee and ice
* They're very creamy
* They're better than eggnog

6. We love Christmas commercials that make you cry: If it's emotionally manipulative enough to make moms cry, it will be a success. The saddest the story a commercial tells, the more chances it will go viral. Lonely old men, little children, pets... the cuter and more vulnerable, the better.
For example, Ireland was loosing its mind over the heart breaking John Lewis Christmas advert you'll find below:

And Venezuelans loose it every year since 1987 to the Plumrose add (or some variation of it), in which a little girl wants to buy honey glazed ham but it's out of stock, and the store manager stops the presses to make sure she gets a ham.

5. We prepare an extremely laborious yet delicious dinner: For Venezuelans, the dinner table consists in hallacas (big beef and pork tamales), pan de jamon (ham stuffed bread), pernil (slow cooked pork leg) and hen salad (oddly similar to coronation chicken) [by the way, now you get why the girl in the add was so upset about not having a ham for Christmas, we put it on everything].
For the Irish, Turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, Brussel sprouts and vegetables make the menu.
Not the best time to be a vegetarian...
And in both countries, the Christmas cake has to be there, even if no one truly likes it. It's tradition.

4. Christmas crackers Vs. Cebollitas: There is something about tiny and controlled explosions that just seems to bring smiles to peoples faces here and there. In Ireland you'll have the Christmas cracker, wich looks like a giant candy and is filled with little toys or sweets and cute messages, and which makes a "pop" when you open it. It works thanks to the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically-impregnated card strip (thanks Wikipedia).
In Venezuela, you'll have the cebollitas (among many other small and safe-ish fireworks). The name translates like little onions and it's because of their shape. They also make a small "bang" but you have to throw them to the ground or step on them. They work thanks to a very tiny amount of silver fulminate high explosive mixed with gravel and sand, tightly wrapped together, causing friction when thrown.
Now that I think about it, both countries have a few traditions that involve cheerfuly burning stuff up in public, but that's another story.

Let it pop, let it pop, let it pop ♪ ♫

3. Last minute shopping: Despite the fact that Christmas arrives early to the shops in both countries, both Irish and Venezuelans can be seen running around city centre on Christmas Eve to get that last present or the outfit for the party they'll attend in two hours.

2. Lots of Skyping with scattered family members: In countries where immigration is common, you'll always have a cousin in Australia, a sister in Spain or a childhood friend in the States. And Christmas will be a time to get in touch with them, ask them what time is it there, and, if the budget allows it, send them a little something from home (usually food).
And if you are a Venezuelan or an Irish abroad at Christmas time, you'll probably try to do a mashup of the local traditions and the ones you grew up with.

1. We are just filled with Christmas spirit: You'll get the odd Grinch here and there, but in general, most people are VERY Christmasy. Both Venezuelans and Irish sing along to Christmas songs in a non-ironic way (and many even dance to them), it is normal to see adults wearing Christmas themed stuff (no one beats the Irish and their Christmas jumpers, though), we look forward to the office Christmas party which is actually fun, we go to Christmas shows and concerts, watch Chritsmas movies, and feel all warm and fuzzy while looking at the fairy lights in the streets and houses.


Well, whether you're in Venezuela, in Ireland or anywhere in the world, have a happy Christmas!