Global Advent: Day 13

The Film: Night Watch [Nochnoy dozor] & Day Watch [Dnevnoy dozor] – Russia

Night WatchNight Watch and Day Watch are two of my favourite foreign films. In part because nothing and everything feels foreign about them. Does that make it clear? No, of course not. Let me explain.

I’d seen foreign films, I’d seen foreign action films, but nothing like this. From the effects to the original story, the smart and stylish action fun is mind-blowing, while the actors and characters stay grounded. There are definitely things that are over the top but as the story progresses we really get to know Anton and the challenges he faces. Even though it takes place in mystical world of light and dark, his struggles are genuinely compelling. If you look at other major action films from around the world, this is a very hard thing to accomplish. Especially over two movies.

Look at The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded. The change in quality between them is huge. But not here. Day Watch not only completes what’s left open at the end of the first film, but does so even better than the first. The list of sequels better than their originals, you could count on one hand. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a great example, as the reason it’s better is the same reason Day Watch ever so slightly trumps Night Watch — character.

Night Watch is very much about the world. If these two films had been attempted to be made as one, this would be the first 30 minutes. Not to say that it drags, far from it. Night Watch is exciting, visceral, and visual. The use of subtitles alone should tell you this is no ordinary film. It respects it’s viewers. The writers and director, Timur Bekmambetov, engage you with the complex story. But they also repeatedly prove they know you’re smart. This is what’s been lacking for me in so many of the comic based films which have come out in the American market for the last five years.

Night Watch sets the scene, gives you a piece of the story’s world. It’s creatively futuristic and modern, yet it still has a strong connection to both modern Russia and the Central Asian influences of its Kazakh born director.

Day WatchWhat I love about the entire series can be seen prominently in Day Watch. Just like T2: Judgement Day, the protagonist changes and the characters aren’t struggling in the same way which brings a fresh tone to the film. It’s slightly less dark, very funny, but the world of the story is expounded, deepened. Their new challenges are more meaningful this time. The most impressive part is how the story continues. There’s no feeling of it being tacked on as the source material, a pentalogy from Sergei Lukyanenko, clearly has plenty to draw from.

For me, the best parts are the references to Uzbekistan and the Registan in Samarkand, which I was lucky enough to visit when I lived there. I first saw these films when I was feeling very far away from the person who lived in those places and saw those things with her own eyes.

Night Watch and Day Watch are modern and classic — a Western style of filmmaking done from a distinctly Central Asian and Russian perspective. So maybe I love these films with a little bit of a bias as I see in them the bringing together of two of my loves — film and culture.

Holiday Spirit: +4

The Food: Minty Mushy Peas and Oven Chips

Fish Chips Mushy PeasDon’t worry, I didn’t forget about the food. Film, culture, and food. The trio of life. One can hardly have one without the others. Here I went for my best attempt at a UK favourite.

These two best friends need to make it a trio — battered fish. Of course my local stores didn’t have any good fish in, so I bought a wild caught pre-made battered fish.

Minty mushy peas from this Jaime Oliver recipe have been a common side-dish of mine since I discovered their absolutely awesome combo of taste and texture. It’s the kind of food I would never eat from a can, but with the homemade being so easy — there’s really no reason not to try it.

I swapped the spring onions for shallots

Minty Mushy Peas

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 handful fresh mint, leaves picked
  • 1 pound frozen peas
  • 2 large knobs butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water, optional

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions, mint, and peas. Cover and leave for a few minutes to steam.

Mash with a potato masher. You can do this with an immersion blender as well, but the texture will be different. I thought they were a bit dry so I added 1/4 cup of water and let it cook down.

When it’s done add the butter and season very carefully, to taste.

Fish Chips Mushy PeasOven Chips

  • 2 Baking Potatoes, cut into strips
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper
  • Dash of Garlic Powder
  • Canola Oil

Preheat oven to 475°. Cut the potatoes into wedges or use a french fry cutter for the classic shape. I use my vintage Miracle model, passed down to me.

Some recipes say to soak the potato for 10 minutes in cold water, then drain and pat dry. I didn’t do that. I just let them air dry a bit while I prepped the peas.

I lightly coated the cut fries with oil and a dash of garlic powder, put them on a baking tray and stuck them into the preheated oven. I put my fish on the side, which turned out great.

Turn the potatoes evenly. Timing will depend on the thickness of your chips. Pull them out when they’re tender and browned on all sides. Enjoy!

Holiday Spirit: +4

About Saint

Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Cinephile, Coffee Zombie
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