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Watching 2012 in China

Thompson on Hollywood By Nora Chute | Thompson on Hollywood November 22, 2009 at 9:47AM

On opposite sides of the world, my 20-year-old college student daughter Nora and I both enjoyed 2012, which was more fun than I was expecting. Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) crafted a truly global movie, starting off in a mine shaft in India and proceeding to blow up Yellowstone National Park and destroy the world's most revered monuments, from the White House and The Vatican's Sistine Chapel to Brazil's Christ The Redeemer. (Critics were mixed.) After its second weekend, the utterly implausible disaster E-ride has already racked up $268-million worldwide. "#1 Movie in the World!" reads the LATimes ad headline.
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Thompson on Hollywood

On opposite sides of the world, my 20-year-old college student daughter Nora and I both enjoyed 2012, which was more fun than I was expecting. Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) crafted a truly global movie, starting off in a mine shaft in India and proceeding to blow up Yellowstone National Park and destroy the world's most revered monuments, from the White House and The Vatican's Sistine Chapel to Brazil's Christ The Redeemer. (Critics were mixed.) After its second weekend, the utterly implausible disaster E-ride has already racked up $268-million worldwide. "#1 Movie in the World!" reads the LATimes ad headline.

Nora, studying abroad in Kunming, China, went to see 2012 on the day it opened all over the world. (The other western movie playing there now is Michael Jackson's This is It.) She got a kick out of watching the wreckage of her home town Los Angeles, which slides into the Pacific. Here's her report on watching 2012 in China:

The movie was 40 kuai to get into on a Friday night, or about $5.50 U.S., or we could have decided to buy the DVD for 10 kuai, $1.50, at one of my neighborhood’s several DVD shops. I was the only foreigner in the theater because I went with one of my best Chinese friends, Xiao Zhou, who speaks great English, and this was crucial because when the movie broke into Tibetan and French I needed her to quickly read the Chinese subtitles and tell me what was happening. She turned to me at one point in the movie and said, “This is so cool! First they destroy your hometown and then everyone flees to my home country to be rescued!”

Everyone cheered at the moment when John Cusak opens the map and declares that they’re going to China. I guess the idea was that they were fleeing to the highest point in the world, the Himalayas, and they couldn’t very well have them fleeing to Tibet so they decided on Western Sichuan. It was interesting, they barely ever actually speak Chinese in the movie, it’s all Tibetan, but that didn’t seem to stop the audience from loving it. When Danny Glover as the president came on the guy next to me said, “Oh! Ao Ba Ma (奥巴马),” Obama in Chinese.


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.