Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be


(dir. Andrey Tarkovsky, 1983)

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

There are few directors as universally revered as Soviet Union’s grand master of cinematic impenetrability, Mr. Andrey Tarkovsky. While I pretend to enjoy selected parts of his œuvre to appear more intelligent than I really am, the more advanced epics are, sadly, beyond my stamina. Hence, the acid test is easily administered: did I fall asleep during the movie? Solaris, Stalker, and even Zerkalo get a pass, while Andrey Rublev and now Nostalghia do not.


(dir. Damien Chazelle, 2014)


The Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer. Now am I right or wrong?

A fairytale of New York, wherein a young and ambitious drummer tries to make it in the topsy-turvy world of jazz as practiced in the fictitional “Shaffer” Institute of Advanced Jazz and Cymbal Throwing.  J.K. Simmons won the “best supporting actor” Oscar for his portrayal of the sadistic band leader Clarence Fletcher, and quite rightly so – he’s easily the best movie villain since Colonel Hans Landa and his milk-drinking antics. The pace is pretty intense, which makes up for the cartoonish characters and lack of logical plot.

Check out also DJ Wh1pla$h, where “a young DJ struggles to make it at Skrillex Academy.” And while you’re at it, although it has nothing to do with Whiplash, shiver with anticipation as James Bruschetta and Adam van Busen are about to drop the bass in 2MNYBTNS.

Me Rosvolat

(dir. Marjut Komulainen, 2015)

Me Rosvolat

We are the very models of a modern Major-General.

It’s easy to make a movie for children, right? Just dress up a bunch of actors in funny clothes – extra points for a cool theme, like dinosaurs or pirates – and get them to overact even more than usual, throw in a couple of kids the target audience can relate to, crib a script from a book (helps if the book is popular, but it’s not a requirement) and make sure it’s full of plot holes, and viola! A summer blockbuster is born, or at least something that can be used to show the Finnish Movie Foundation that their generous grants bought more than just gummy bears for the wrap party.

By the way, the pirate van is clearly influenced by the plane flown by Truman Sparks in Fandango.

Valkoinen peura

(aka The White Reindeer, dir. Erik Blomberg, 1952)

Valkoinen peura

The hills are alive with the sound of vampire reindeer succubi.

Full of “Wait, what?” moments, Valkoinen peura remains to this day as the only Finnish movie to ever win a Golden Globe. It’s also – as far as I know (spoiler alert!) – the only movie made anywhere to feature a leading lady who is not only a vampire, but also a reindeer. Oh, and a succubus, but that’s sort of implied by the vampire bit, isn’t it? Lots of reindeer action and beautifully photographed snowy vistas.


(aka The Punk Syndrome, 2011, dir. Jukka Kärkkäinen & J-P Passi)


Punk is not dead, it’s just sitting very still.

Finland’s entry in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest was Aina mun pitää by Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät, a punk four-piece from Helsinki. Much has been made of the fact that all the band members have learning disabilities. Four years earlier their unlikely story was made into a documentary, in places funny, in others insightful. Well, mostly funny, because life is.


(1980, dir. Peter von Bagh)


Rumour has it that Tapio Rautavaara was seriously considered for the role of Mr. Spock.

Tapio Rautavaara, the Elvis of Finland. Wait, that didn’t come out quite right. Elvis could have been the Tapsa of America, if only Elvis had been a world-class athlete in addition to being a rock slash movie star. The late, great Peter von Bagh got the camera rolling on the man of the hour and probably went down the pub to wait out the rambling. You’d be well advised to stick around for the stories though. Where else are you going to hear an Olympic champion in the javelin recount how he won the gold for his archery team at the World Championships, and what the team did to celebrate afterwards?

K-Chit? Not On My Watch

Vogue interviewed Jony Ive back in October, hot on the heels of the Apple Watch announcement. Here’s Sir Jony waxing poetic on, of all things, the sound the wristband makes:

“But listen as it closes,” he said. “It makes this fantastic k-chit.” He was nearly whispering. And when he said the word fantastic, he said it softly and slowly—“fan-tas-tic!”—as if he never wanted it to end.

Ive is definitely onto something here. Exhibit A:

The KA-CHIK! does have an atavistic appeal, doesn’t it? Of course, it doesn’t hurt that one of the most ultimate male symbols of days gone by, the only lighter that Marlboro Man would even consider worthy of using in his cancer-courting ritual – the Zippo – is all about the sound it makes:

Opening the top lid produces an easily recognizable “clink” sound for which Zippo lighters are known, and a different but similar “clunk” when the lighter is closed.

The Apple Watch is coming out in just a few weeks, and I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of unboxing videos on YouTube featuring that k-chit of Jony Ive’s dreams.


Apple’s MacBook line has featured a power connector called MagSafe since 2006. A very good invention it is too: the connector attaches itself to the laptop with a magnet, so that when (not if) someone trips on the cord, it detaches and the laptop doesn’t come crashing on the floor. Also, when connecting, one only has to bring the connector to the vicinity of the laptop’s (female) power port, at which time the magnet will take care of business and make the connection – complete with a resounding TCHAK! This is surely not a coincidence.

So: how come if, for the past decade, Apple has had this “fan-tas-tic!” power connector on its laptops… the newly unveiled new-generation MacBook, made of nothing but pixie dust and gilded helium, does not have a MagSafe connector? Jony, Jony, Jony. Where’s the TCHAK? Where’s the k-chit?

Does the new connector make an even more “fan-tas-tic!” sound? NO! The new USB-C connector just plugs in, and that’s it! The least Apple could do is make a k-chit sound come out of the speakers at an appropriate moment, and in fact I would not be surprised if that was indeed the case. After all, we live in a world where even electric cars must make noise to fill the noise pollution quota to which we’ve all become accustomed. And speaking of fake car noises, the 2015 Ford Mustang has a 4-cylinder engine, yet tries hard to sound like a V8.

Getting back to the Apple Watch, I’m afraid a “fan-tas-tic!” k-chit may not be quite enough to persuade me to part with my dearly beloved money, especially since I don’t have an iPhone and therefore would need to get one of those as well. Of course, this may all change once I get to experience the k-chit in the wild. Maybe I, too, will join the millions of people whose life will be made complete by k-chit. Complete, that is, until next year’s fantastic model. And an even more fan-tas-tic k-chit.

Moving Pictures

2014 is done and dusted and 2015 is well under way, which means it’s time for another “I watched these so you don’t have to” update from your intrepid author and humble servant, serving time here at Fiori e Baci HQ. In a twist that should surprise very few, I didn’t actually watch any of the movies I was going to in 2014, which means I get to keep the same New Year’s Resolution.

Penguins of Madagascar

(2014, dir. Eric Darnell & Simon J. Smith)

Boy, is this movie cheezy.

Boy, is this movie cheezy.

Now in glorious 3-D! Penguins of Madagascar is full of style and devoid of substance. Is this really what the target audience wants and expects? “Style” refers here to the quality of animation, which I must say is very good. There’s an abundance of breathtaking action sequences shot in a way that would be very difficult if not impossible to achieve in a live action movie. I’m using “substance” as shorthand for things like interesting storyline, characters one can relate to, plausible plot – all of which are sadly missing here. A quickly forgettable ride, if a fast and colourful one.

Uuno Turhapuro, Suomen tasavallan herra presidentti

(1992, dir. Ere Kokkonen)

Fan service is not a recent invention.

Fan service is not a recent invention.

Another installment in the epic saga of Uuno Turhapuro, Esq. (Previously.) Whoever said that “familiarity breeds contempt” got it horribly wrong. Familiarity breeds endearment, at least when it comes to anti-heroes of the silver screen. Anyone voluntarily watching this would already know what to expect: a barrage of lame jokes, a few genuinely funny ones thrown in, actors fully embracing the caricature-ness of their characters, Vesa-Matti Loiri as Uuno improvising his way through, an implausible setting & storyline – everything one would expect from a sitcom, here milked for 84 minutes straight.

Ripa ruostuu

(aka Ripa Hits the Skids, 1993, dir. Christian Lindblad)

It takes two to tango.

Ripa channels his inner Fred Astaire.

Speaking of familiarity and endearment, this must have been the umpteenth viewing for me, and I’m not quite sure why. There are more than a few parallels between Ripa and Uuno, and the brief but glorious appearance of V-M Loiri as Ripa’s father only works to underline these.

Ripa is a struggling movie auteur wannabe, whose movies (apparently full of sex & violence, although we never get to see any actual footage) have failed to make a dent in the annals of cinematic history. As a result, Ripa is struggling to make ends meet, which is kind of ironic in light of the fact that Sam Huber – who was rightfully awarded a Jussi (Finnish equivalent of Oscar) for his portrayal of Ripa – is a genuine real-life millionaire. Although it’s never spelled out as such, Ripa must be a big fan of Charles Bukowski, such is his womanizing laissez faire approach to everything in life, even if he does draw a line in the sand at a critical pivot point in the movie.

If you’re familiar with (and perhaps even a fan of) Aki Kaurismäki‘s brand of dry Finnish wit, you’ll be right at home with Ripa ruostuu. Recommended for all nihilists at heart.


(1993, dir. Mark Jones)

Here's Johnny!

Here’s Johnny!

Leprechaun is famous for, among other things, featuring the big screen debut of one Jennifer Aniston. A horror comedy that does not (and could not) take itself very seriously, Leprechaun provides surprising amounts of light entertainment and silly scares even after 20 years.

Loputon Gehennan liekki

(aka Eternal Flame of Gehenna, 2011, dir. Sami Kettunen)

And an apple pie, and a strawberry milkshake, to go, please.

And an apple pie, and a strawberry milkshake, to go, please.

Now here’s a real labour of love: a documentary about the Finnish black metal underground scene that consists mainly of interviews with scene doyens with names like Lord Satanachia (pictured above), Nuclear Holocausto Vengeance and Satanic Tyrant Werewolf. Probably best appreciated with a jug of something vile and strong in alcohol content in hand.

Remo Williams – The Adventure Begins

(1985, dir. Guy Hamilton)


See this finger? You don’t want to know where it’s been.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was, as the name implies, intended to start a franchise based on the (in)famous The Destroyer pulp fiction series. Sadly, this half-baked attempt marks (so far, one adds with a heart full of hope) the only silver-screen appearance of Remo and his mentor Chiun. What went wrong? Well, not the casting, that’s for sure – Fred Ward is the perfect choice for Remo, and Joel Grey is just the right amount of funny as the always hypercritical Master of Sinanju. There are rumours of a reboot, but I’m not holding my breath.

Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom

(2013, dir. Christer Lindström)

Note to self: remember to buy toothpicks. And maybe some floss.

Note to self: remember to buy toothpicks. And maybe some floss.

A movie about a Finnish 80s flashback synth trio, reimagined as a 70s Italian sci-fi genre flick, with generous helpings of Jodorowsky-like surrealism (spoiler: one of the main characters is an egg-laying transvestite) – dubbed in Italian?!?!? The end result is just as ridiculous as it sounds, which should be enough for anyone to figure out whether they’ll enjoy it (as I did) or not. It’s also only 24 minutes long, which in this case is quite enough.


(1987, dir. Clive Barker)

Didn't I meet you on a summer cruise?

Didn’t I meet you on a summer cruise?

There was a considerable amount of buzz when Hellraiser came out in the days of VHS. I must have viewed it at some point but promptly forgot doing so; nothing like a bit of déja-viewing to jog the old brain cells though. I doubt there’ll be a 3rd viewing – it’s not that good, to be honest. It’s a straight horror story made in a time when most horror was tongue-in-cheek, so kudos to Mr. Barker for that. However, there’s way too much promise (the Cenobites, who look like a washed-out punk band, to give you an example) compared with what is delivered. Apparently this started a franchise (unlike Remo) – I don’t think I’m in a hurry to look for the follow-ups, though.

Delta Force

(1986, dir. Menahem Golan)

Chuck Norris doesn't often use binoculars, but when he does, he makes them shrink just by squeezing on the sides.

Chuck Norris doesn’t often use binoculars, but when he does, he makes them shrink just by holding them in his bare hands.

Produced by The Cannon Group, directed by Menahem Golan, starring Lee Marvin (in his final role) and Chuck Norris as Special Forces operatives. That pretty much says it all, and frankly I doubt the script was much longer. The years have not been kind to The Delta Force, but I guess that was never the intention. Vincent Canby, writing for the New York Times, considered this the “film all others will have to beat for sheer, unashamed, hilariously vulgar vaingloriousness.” I think he may have meant to imply that vulgar vaingloriousness is a bad thing. Is it? Answers on a postcard please.

This is Halloween

Ah, Halloween, that festive occasion at the end of October when it’s definitely best to stay inside, not so much to steer clear of the monsters and ghouls but to avoid the less than clement weather. Here then are the voyages of your humble and intrepid explorer of the cinematic (under)world, charted below for your reading pleasure.

Event Horizon

(1997, dir. Paul W.S. Anderson)


OK crew, let’s do the Kobayashi Maru scenario again from the top.

I’m guessing the elevator pitch was “Alien… IN SPACE!” Add a generous helping of Solaris, The Thing and Hellraiser, and you get what sounds like it should be the most awesomest sci-fi horror movie ever. Sadly, in practice the movie doesn’t quite deliver. Compared with the movies just mentioned (with maybe the exception of Hellraiser, which is hardly a masterpiece) I’d say the blame lies with the director, and if not, let’s blame him anyway.

From Beyond

(1986, dir. Stuart Gordon)


Can you feel my pineal gland engorging?

Another Lovecraftian crazy scientist romp from the wonderful people who brought you Re-Animator. Over-the-top campy horror complete with Barbara Crampton in a leather dominatrix outfit – they definitely had me at hello.

The Howling

(1981, dir. Joe Dante)


Ewww! Don’t you ever floss?

What would Halloween be without a single werewolf movie? Full of cheap scares and cheezy special effects, The Howling does the trick, even if the acting is really wooden (but then, who watches werewolf movies for the acting?)

Elisabeth Brooks as Marsha Quist might just be the sexiest B-movie she-devil ever. What a Vampirella she would have made… (sigh)

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

(1954, dir. Kenneth Anger)


Smell at all those colours.

I’m led to believe Inauguration… is some sort of an experimental movie landmark. The 38 minute movie contains no dialogue; the soundtrack is Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass“. Art for art’s sake? There certainly are lots of pretty pictures to look at. Probably best appreciated while in an altered state.

We’re Going to Eat You

(1980, dir. Tsui Hark)


This isn’t quite what I had in mind when I said “Do you need a hand?”

“A secret agent investigates a village that is populated by crazed, inbred cannibals.” The summary from IMDb says it all really. Some nicely choreographed action, including a fight scene suspended by ropes. Very cartoony, but that’s par for the course. Bonus points for the somewhat rare mix of cannibal slapstick and martial arts action.

In Bruges

(2008, dir. Martin McDonagh)

In Bruges

What happens in Bruges, stays in Bruges.

Dark comedy with allegory galore and clever dialogue that takes forever to get started. Is Bruges Hell, or just Purgatory? Or is it simply worth a visit before you kick the bucket? Great soundtrack by Carter Burwell, brilliant use of incidental music.

Kelly’s Heroes

(1970, dir. Brian G. Hutton)


Intel reports say they have lollipops in that town down there.

Mix equal parts of heist movie and war movie, and you’ve got Kelly’s Heroes. The heist in the center of the action is a traditional MacGuffin chase, although there’s no shortage of mortar shells flying and tanks attacking, if that’s the sort of thing that bloats your goat. Telly Savalas, Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland ham it up as the Three Musketeers, whose ingenuity is only surpassed by their greed.


(2006, dir. György Pálfi)


Just a tiny wafer-thin mint is all I need right now.

Surreal imagery and incredible cinematography are the strong points of this Hungarian art house movie. The final scene is definitely a shout-out to Peter Greenaway, and why not. Not recommended for the squeamish, but if vomit and bestiality do it for you, give it a go – what could possibly go wrong?

Sweet Movie

(1974, dir. Dusan Makavejev)


Hold on, I think I left my watch somewhere here.

Now, I’ve seen some weird movies in my time, but Sweet Movie is definitely getting somewhat close to redlining the weird-o-meter. Makes a great double feature with Taxidermia – there might be less vomit (I would have to review both to be sure, which I’m in no hurry to do right now) but on the other hand, there’s way more urine and feces. Fun for the whole family!

For a more detailed (and spoiler-laden) take, check out Roger Ebert’s 1975 review of Sweet Movie.


(1981, dir. Norman J. Warren)


It’s funny how this planet in outer space looks absolutely nothing like a quarry somewhere in England.

Another entrant in the “Alien… IN SPACE!” games, in the shoestring budget category. Is it so bad it’s good, or so bad it’s bad? Either way, there are some cringeworthy moments, and I’m not talking about the overacting.


(2010, dir. Jorma Taccone)


The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

There is no shortage of puerile jokes in this 80s action movie parody. Spoiler alert: if you think seeing a grown man hopping around naked clutching a stalk of celery between his buttocks is funny, and who doesn’t, you just might enjoy MacGruber.

And that, my friends, brings us to the end of the 2014 Halloween movie extravaganza. Pleasant screams.

Kallio Travel Guide

Somewhere over the rainbow: Alppila to the left, Kallio to the right.

Somewhere over the rainbow: Alppila to the left, Kallio to the right.

Joanne O’Connor’s Travel Tips column in Sunday’s The Observer about Helsinki and in particular the suburb of Kallio rang a bell somewhere in the sub-cockle area of my heart. Now, I don’t claim to be a fixie-riding true Kallio boy, but I do live next door, so perhaps I can offer a bit of a local’s perspective on Ms O’Connor’s views.

Why go?

Helsinki (is) a breezy Baltic port with a strong tradition of design, an alternative nightlife and an edgier feel than some of its Scandinavian cousins. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Kallio, just north of the city centre. Once a no-go area for tourists, it’s now home to cool bars, cafés and boutiques.

“No-go area for tourists” sounds indeed edgy, if a bit hyperbolic. Suffice it to say Kallio is no favela, and never was. There are, however, a number of bars, some cooler than others. Read on.

What to do

At the heart of the area is the Hakaniemi market, where you can pick up everything from artisan cheese to local handicrafts (Hameentie 1a).

Agreed. The market square is open for business sporadically, but the charming red brick market hall is open daily. Inside you’ll find quality butchers and fishmongers, which is great if you’re preparing your own food, maybe less so if you’re in town for a weekend getaway. Anyway, it’s the place to go to for horse steaks, which apparently aren’t a hot item where The Guardian is published, and local delicacies such as false morel (please ask for cooking instructions or you’ll die – not a joke), lamprey, reindeer, cloudberries and so on (depending on season).

By the way, you know how all strange animals (such as crocodile) taste like chicken? Reindeer doesn’t; it tastes like kangaroo. Mm-mm.

Continue the spree in the secondhand shops and chichi boutiques of Fleminginkatu Street (…) and the attractive Torkkelinmäki district before stopping for coffee and cake at the charming Villipuutarha Café (Karlsgaten 13).

Coffee and cake? Did I hear you right? You came to Kallio, and want to have coffee and cake? Well, if you insist. Villipuutarha may well be charming, I’ve never been there. (Karlsgaten = Kaarlenkatu, by the way.) Only a block or so away, however, you’ll find the definitely charming (bordering on quaint) Taikalamppu (Torkkelinkatu 21).

If you’re already on Kaarlenkatu and can’t be bothered to venture further, there’s always Roskapankki (corner of Kaarlenkatu and Helsinginkatu) – not so much known for its great coffee as for its cheap beer. Plus, you’re guaranteed to meet interesting natives.

Helsinginkatu, by the way, is the place to go if you want to see professional beer drinkers doing what they do best. The north side of the street is littered with bars competing for the attention of price-conscious patrons and their (welfare) money.

No trip to Helsinki is complete without a visit to a sauna. The city’s hippest place to sweat it out is the Japanese-inspired Kulttuurisauna, which opened last year in a slick white building on the waterfront near Kallio ( Cool off afterwards with a dip in the Baltic if you’re feeling brave – or Finnish.

Again, I haven’t been to Kulttuurisauna – but just take a look at that description. “Japanese-inspired”? “Slick white building”? And most importantly, “near Kallio” – in other words, not in Kallio at all.

Instead, head to Kotiharjun sauna (Harjutorinkatu 1), take off your kit, head to the sauna (it will be hotter than +100C inside) and sit stark naked next to a sweating naked Finn. If you’re lucky, he may offer to beat you with a bunch of birch twigs. This actually happened to an Australian friend of mine. We were already getting dressed when Some Dude heard us talking in English, then proceeded to ask whether my friend had ever done this thing called vihtominen. He hadn’t (in fact it was his first sauna experience all up) – long story short, they disrobed, went back to the sauna and my friend got to enjoy yet another facet of famous Finnish hospitality. According to him, this sort of thing would have been unlikely to take place in Brisbane.

Don’t be surprised if there are people dressed in nothing but a towel chilling out outside when you get there – it’s is the done thing, even in January when there is snow on the ground.

Where to eat

The bouillabaisse served at Soppakeittiö, a no-frills soup kitchen in the Hakaniemi market, is a big hit with the locals. New kid on the block Bar Sandro is the current top spot for Sunday brunch: a Moroccan-inspired feast with a side order of live music (

The bouillabaisse is indeed very popular, and not a bad choice at lunchtime. Nearby you’ll also find Line Café – the lunch buffet has an abundance of vegetarian, meat and fish dishes. Edit 29.9.2014: Looks like Line Café has gone the way of the dodo. The nearby Sävel (Hämeentie 2) does buffet lunch, sadly not as varied as Line Café used to.

I’ve never done Sandro’s brunch (in part because I can never be bothered to book a table). Lately it seems that most bars in the area are getting on the brunch bandwagon, so there are several options. Pretty much the only one I can vouch for is Pacifico (Helsinginkatu 15), although a friend lamented the lack of fried bacon.

If you’d rather have pizza instead, your wish can be fulfilled at Salpimienta (Fleminginkatu 7) – the reviews are a mixed lot, but I’ve never been disappointed. Then again, my expectations are quite low when it comes to pizza. Another joint always good for a pizza is the aforementioned Juttutupa, but you might be waiting for a long time if the place is busy (it will be on weekend nights).

For something a bit more upscale (ie. food), there’s the local institution Cella (Fleminginkatu 15), which has been serving locals since 1969. Mash and fried liver with lingonberry sauce, how can you go wrong?

What to Really do

I’d skip the vintage shops for starters.

The answer is Beer

No trip to Kallio is complete without a beer at Pub Sirdie (Kolmas linja 21). Put a coin in the jukebox and pick a record – any record.

If you’re particularly thirsty, go for a false start (since it’s not in Kallio, strictly speaking) at Juttutupa (Säästöpankinranta 6). Try to get a seat at the Revolutionary Table, where according to legend Lenin and his homies sat and drank while planning the Russian Revolution (Lenin was a regular when he was in exile in Finland, the legend part is they’re not sure which table it was).

Other bars always good for a beer – including but not limited to local craft beers – are (in no particular order) Sivukirjasto (Fleminginkatu 5), Kuikka (Helsinginkatu 32), and Hilpeä hauki (Vaasankatu 7) – these won’t be the cheapest bars around, but who comes to Finland for cheap beer anyway?