Please now to enjoy...
Happy Easter Y'all! Whether you're a pagan friend of mine (or rebellious youth) who enjoys revelling in (or strongly referencing) the inherent fertility of Easter's symbolic trappings, or a hearty Christian who enjoys celebrating the return of Jesus as he let his followers know that he had truly elevated himself in the spiritual sense and that his suffering on their behalf had been for a very good cause. Either way all are welcome as over the past I have had friends from all extremes and, being something of a chameleon due to my tiny, tiny childhood size combined with moving around a lot, I've learned to accept a lot of folks for who they are and not try to change them in any way.
Anyhoo...now that I actually have access to a computer and in the near future will be able to purchase one of my very own, I thought I might revisit some old habits such as creating an Easter "fun page" filled with all sorts of (hopefully) comic merriment as I have done in the past. But as I perused through Google pictures looking for an appropriately retro Easter header...oh, which would have looked thusly:
Not too shabby...a tad on the small side but as always I make an attempt to merge my love for old-fashioned pin-ups with whatever is the calendar theme of the day. Anyways whilst I was thumbing through the "retro Easter" pics that it culled up from the vastnessness of the Internet, I began noticing a decent amount of alarming and slightly disturbing pictures associated with the holiday; some intentional and some...not so much. Being still something of an ADD lad I decided to ditch my party blog and just lazily post some of the pics that caught my eye for your edification, amusement, or perhaps much to your regret for clicking on my abode. Enjoy?
I think the expression on the child says it all as, so stricken with apprehension it cannot even summon up the emotion of tears and terrors, stunned...it quietly ponders whether or not the giant expressionless bunny is about to consume it.
"I swear by my hands some child will die by chocolate this very day"
OK let's face facts. You and I both have seen enough horror films to realize that either the kid is about to look for her last egg, or she is about to serve as a catalyst for some upspeakable horror beyond horror that's about to rip you apart in such a manner that all the police involved in investigating your murder will have nightmares to their dying days. Either way...you know it's not going to end good.
If there's one picture on this blog that's going to stay with you and haunt you for days upon end until you slowly erase that memory with some very hard liquor, it's this one.
One of the hardest kinds of retro pictures to find is live model Easter pin-up girls as, other than great pin-up painters like Vargas and Elvgren, it's amusing to think before Playboy, folks back then couldn't quite summon up the sexy when it came to bunny costumes. Hallowe'en...no problem. Christmas...sure, you want to open a present little boy? But girls in bunny costumes? Not a chance. This picture is made all the more frightening as she seems to be presenting the egg in a manner which indicates that it is the result of an unholy union you and her have both been a part of. There is no escape!
OK I'll admit that this one isn't disturbing nor particularly funny. I just find it amusing because back in them thar pre-Hindenburg days pretty much everyone thought that traveling by Dirigibles was the wave of the future. But soon the tiny chicks will be leaping to their unknown fate surrounded by fiery carnage as their hopes of bringing us a happy Easter celebration is dashed along with the hopes of humanity. Oh the...oh wait, I just did that joke. Ah well...
And you thought when you died that at least your soul was free to rejoice in the afterlife. Think again. The Collectors have come.
Is it just me or do you also wonder if, when you pull this colorful napkin out of its holder, that you expect to receive a generous portion of the poor bunny's guttyworks as well? Anyone? Well...I suppose I am something of a morbid lad.
Just remember...if you make any noise, any noise AT ALL, no matter how small and they open their eyes...you're dead. Tread lightly my friend.
Did I mention how difficult it was in the pre-Playboy days to make women in bunny outfits look sexy? Lord knows it wasn't as if there weren't some really hot women back in those days as, personally speaking, I'm quite fond of girls from the '20s and '30s. But again...the technology just wasn't there apparently. Oh sad unsexy sexy bunny girls with their very hot had heads. So sad.
So that wraps up my minor attempt at amusing/terrorizing/boring your Easter day. I hope you all have a happy one whether you're church goin' or family gettin' together folks or even if you're just doing the same thing you did yesterday. For my part I unexpectedly have the day off and so I am resting my weary bones from the worst job I've ever had that's so physically exhausting that is may just kill me. But hey...it's a job even if it's just temp work and it puts a little money in my pocket which is more than I had a month ago. Have a good one everyone!
The other day Studio Ghibli announced the legendary Hayao Miyazaki's newest film project called The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) which is an adaptation of a Miyazaki manga of the same name. It's centers around the life of Iro Horikoshi the man who designed Japan's Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter widely used in the Pacific theatre of WWII. With the fighter pilots being anthromorphic pigs one can't help but think this might have a connection to the underrated Porco Rosso or the much rumoured sequel to that film. Either way it's nice to see Miyazaki doing a film based off of his own material once again and I for one am very excited and it will be a long wait until the Summer of 2013 which it is currently shed-yuled to be released.
I have seen literally thousands upon thousands of films and every day more and more that were once out of reach at last become "mine" through a mixture of good planning and just plain random luck as I stumble around this noisy world. Yet there are always those which I value more highly over others which particularly chaff at my mind that I have yet to see them. Two of my biggest out of reach films for quite some time have been King Vidor's The Crowd and the other one which I finally got to watch yesterday is Victor Sjöström's The Wind from 1928.
A pet project of Lillian Gish's due to her deep desire to work with Victor Sjöström as well as the leading Swedish actor Lars Hanson, the story involves Lillian Gish playing Letty, a sheltered woman from Virgina who moves way out to the deep desert to stay with her cousin. Letty displays an increasingly disturbing psychosis involving the omnipresent wind that envelopes the town as well as the film and soon begins to ascribe all sorts of mental terror to the metaphorical imagery that the locals have used to describe and explain the wind. These metaphors become almost literal to Letty's poor sheltered mind as increasingly she imagines the wind is hellbent on claiming her and as her mind deteriorates and her body beaten by betrayal this becomes literally and symbolically so as the hellish wind-swept sandstorm accepts her self-sacrifice and lovingly envelopes and erases her existence giving her some much longed for peace from the madness.
Well...at least in the original ending.
But that ending did not survive and thus did not happen and so I suppose I'm forced to go with my knee-jerk, mental rearrangement of assuming the wind being more of a literal representation of Letty's fear of the unknown. Not that it wasn't before, but with the happier ending it feels more pronounced. Letty's sheltered life left her unable to cope with any change and difficult for her to accept anything beyond the immediately familiar. This problem is exemplified in her simple inability to accept the love of a truly good man Lige (Lars Hanson) whom she rejects emotionally and physically even after they are married in a particularly excellent scene brilliantly acted by Lars Hanson demonstrating the exuberant joy of a newlywed quickly turned into deeply disappointed heartbreak and quietly respectful but depressed resolve. Only once she symbolically "puts down" her single hope of escape to civilization, which himself is representative of all the unnatural sleaze and corruption that a big city can contain, is Letty able to understand the natural purity of not only Lige as a man but her surroundings as merely a natural state of things in which she can defiantly exist with finally realized strength and conviction.
Though the ending was forced upon the creators and the end result was Sjöström leaving Hollywood forever, at least I felt the happier ending was worked into the film in a manner which I felt made some sense on a multitude of levels so it didn't feel too tacked on, say in the manner which things suddenly got all rosy and awesome at the end of Wellman's Wild Boys of the Road from 1933. Overall I wasn't initially completely blown away by the film, but I really enjoyed it and felt the director did a good job dialing down Gish a bit as opposed to D.W. Griffith who more often than not encourages Gish to go all out as he tends to go in for more emotion and less symbolism. But this was my first viewing and these are just quick impressions and since I taped the hell out of it they may change after a handful more viewings...or not who can say? I'm just happy to have watched it as this point and feel better for having done so.
I finished up revisiting Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colours" trilogy today and as might be expected a mighty good time was had by all...or me anyways. I suppose what impresses me the most with these movies as a whole is that despite their thematic differences their emotionally resonant concurrence in presented in a manner which is surprisingly free of not only the shackles of aggressive didactism, but also that of forcing any clear judgement upon any of its characters by refusing to label them as "bad" or "good" even if clearly some are perhaps overtly more magnanimous than others.
As are many overlapping ideals, this point is pounded down with a strong sense of finality in the last film 'Red' when the judge freely admits that perhaps he was in error to rule anybody as "guilty" as who is he to say that he would not have reacted in a similar manner as the criminals put before him?
It's a fairly common thought that Blue is the anti-tragedy, White is the anti-comedy, and Red is the anti-romance and to that point I don't disagree. But to take that further along my own initial point I find that overall the films are anti almost everything in their unwillingness to give into the familiar movie traps of themes involving so much morality and emotion. These films aren't only unwilling to judge the characters, they're also unwilling to wallow in any of its own emotional themes no matter how inherently tense they can commonly be.
There's this strange sense of calm brought to each and every film that, far from feeling contrived for the sake of some artistic goal of the director, give the films this pervasive sense of heightened realism -- a startling thought considering how the films deal with not only some very powerful themes but also how it lightly dips its toes into the fantastic in terms of coincidence from the mythic through the mundane. This pronounced calm has the effect of completely draining the films of any pretentiousness and allows the simplicity of the core narrative to hold sway. This in turn gives the film a simple honesty that allows them to be enjoyed by the casual viewer as much as the more experienced viewer who can appreciate the subtlety of what Kieslowski has crafted by employing a multitude of symbolic and emotional cures playing of the various themes and colors of each individual films -- or in the case of White the profound and literal lack of color.
So basically: Deceptively profound movies due to subtlety of craft and all that jazz.
Then I suppose we're at the elephant in the room as to which film is the best one. From what I've gathered over the years it typically goes Red>Blue>White but as anyone who vaguely knows me I'm not big on grading subjective works of art. I will admit that I have fun with lording this ideal over many other film fans that love to make lists n' such, but honestly it's just how I am and I truly don't know if that makes me wiser unwilling to turn films into chess-pieces, or just a coward unwilling to make a stand and defend my decision. Who can say? I am a bit of a coward so that's entirely possible.
I do obviously love all the films and appreciate what they bring to the table for very different reasons. Blue and Red have the big, big stars and Blue has Juliette Binoche one of my favorite actresses. I love the way Blue is visually and thematically so cold and distant and how music is so intrinsically bound around her character. But then again I love in Red how the natural distance between people in the modern era gets a sort of mythical spin in the way it plays with the "student is now the master" dynamic and somehow manages to remain grounded despite the multitude of overlapping parallels.
But if push came to shove I would concede that I appreciate White the most for the simple fact that the character resonated more strongly with me and I must say wandering about the internet it amuses me mightily to see poor misguided fools throw around that misogyny word in connection to White thereby demonstrating to me just how little they paid attention to the film. If you thought Dominque was an antagonist or that Karol was planning revenge...you might be a redneck. Or at the very least a fool.
Louise Brooks (November 14, 1906 August 8, 1985)
I was dutifully reminded by Miss Lisa Dabbs on my Facebook the other day that 27 years ago on this August 8th the great Louise Brooks was found dead of a heart broken down slowly by time. Normally I do something on her birthday -- such as last November when I impulsively watched all her films that I possessed -- but usually I don't think much about the day that people disappear from this world as it just seems a wee bit too sad. But the kernel had been planted and so I set about tracking down one of the only two films of hers that still exist that I hadn't seen and as luck would have it I managed a viewing of Prix de Beaute from 1930.
For reasons obvious to those with a smattering of knowledge of her films Prix de Beaute is a far better choice to my other unseen film the little trifle known as Overland Stage Raiders from 1938 which humorously has recently been released on Blu Ray of all things. Oh yes by all means...attend to minor quibbles because they starred a very young John Wayne and not pieces of art starring Miss Brooks that are forced to float around via crappy burned copies from film fans. Are you proud of yourselves now? Are You? Dumb ass punks...not that I wouldn't mind giving it a spin of course and for the record Miss Brooks despite her penchance at times for snootiness, found John Wayne to be a primal force of man hunky goodness. But then again though she considered herself very well educated and cultured, she did tend to highly prize people she felt were simple but honest in their intentions -- which lend itself to her high admiration for the emotionally fragile but blissfully pure Clara Bow.
Prix de Beaute was based on an idea by Rene Clair & G.W. Pabst and directed by Augusto Genina who does an outstanding job of not only constructing a solid film that belies its age with its subtle and restrained approach to acting, but he really knows how to shoot Louise Brooks in a manner in which only Pabst seem to be able. A large part of this is no doubt due to the presence of one of the best cinematographers ever to grace this planet namely Rudolph Maté a frequent collaborator with G.W. Pabst. Both these men really know how to allow Louise Brooks to alternatively light up the film with her lively, exuberant, personality just as effectively as they let her convey a contrasting tone of sorrow and disappointment through body posture and through something as simple as the sinking and dropping of the eyes allowing her character to convey much information which had heretofore been hidden. No small feat considering that apparently Miss Brooks somewhat overdid herself with the alcohol consumption on this particular film...but then this was a lifelong issue with her carried over from her rough early teen years.
Horrifically dubbed at the last second in order to be the first French talkie, the film's imagery is richly symbolic, stark, raw and primal and works infinitely better as a silent film and I found I enjoyed it a lot more if I simply turned off the sound and, as it's naturally dubbed in French, just let the subtitles act as a superior substitute for traditional intertitles used in the silent medium. The story is simple but effective in which Louise Brooks stars as bored typist Lucienne Garnier whose longs for a different life but her boyfriend André (Georges Charlia) is fine with a simple dutiful girlfriend. She impulsively enters a beauty contest and before she can reconsider her decision she quite naturally wins the local contest and goes on to easily win the ensuing larger beauty contest bringing with it many admirers and fame with various levels of desire and lust. But this sits very poorly with her boyfriend who greatly disapproves of the very idea of beauty contests and out of love she reconsiders but this decision ends up making her ultimately miserable. Eventually she is pulled back into the world of glamour...but her boyfriend is not quite willing to let her go leading up to a positively stunningly realized denouement.
Really an impressive film that, though it does have its faults, they seem minor in the face of its inherent beauty and overall superb execution -- especially that damn ending which is just incredible. Though simply plot, I think it's too easy to ignore the way in which the film deftly handles the ability to make nobody really the bad guy here and explore the inherent falsehood behind many dreams and wishes. Both Lucienne and Andre are mild egotists that want their dreams achieved but with not quite enough consideration towards how this will affect their partner. Obviously Andre has the much bigger problem with the nature of their relationship, but still it's important to note how false and possibly destructive Lucienne's naive lean towards fame bring with it.
Despite the bang-up ending that many who writer about the film tend to focus on for reasons that are obvious and fully understandable. Despite that bit of brilliance what struck me initially was early in the film when the young couple is having a novelty picture taken and without any explanation Louise Brooks eyes just drift away and sink as her face very slowly seems to collapse under the weight of her apparent unspoken unhappiness with the status of her life. It's just tiny moments like that which made me think highly of this film and it's easily one her best after those pesky works of art by Pabst quitenaturally. Not that Wellman's Beggars of Life is anything to sneeze at mind you but Louise just doesn't quite get enough to do in that film due to the very large presence of Wallace Beery. Wellman's film definitely has a far better story and some brilliant moments, but visually Prix de Beaute is far more compelling that allows Louise Brooks to fully express herself.
So happy right now to have watched the bloody film because I'm still typing and typing though I feel physically horrible but I just don't give a damn.
Pardon me while I test something as I've been having some problems with some computer things and thus a bit of randomness is in order for the moment. But since I have to throw up something I thought I'd include an animated GIF for your amusement (hopefully) that I've recently come across that's the result of a senior thesis by art student Yasutoki Kariya from the Musashino Art University in which he presents a playful take on the desktop staple Newton's Cradle which many are dubbing "Edison's Cradle" but which he simply refers to the 11-bulb installation as "Asobi" or "Playing". Here is his short YouTube video of his project if you want to see a tiny bit more of it.
A Cat in Paris (2011) directed by Jean-Loup Flicioli and Alain Gagnol
Pulled out of relative obscurity by an Academy Award nomination for "Best Animated Feature" in 2011, 'A Cat in Paris' as it is known in English is slightly better served by its original French title translated quite obviously as 'A Cat's Life' as its based on the long held fantastical idea that when cats go out at night after lounging about lazily all through the day, perhaps, just perhaps mind you...they go out and have amazing adventures the likes of which we can only imagine. In this case it's quite true as the cat in question spends his evenings running around the shadowy Parisian roof tops with the kindly and incredibly nimble cat-burglar Nico, helping him to lift jewelry and trinkets from all manner of well-guarded locations. But by day the cat returns to a little girl named Zoe, bringing her typical cat gifts of dead lizards n' such, and comforting her as best he can.
Sadly Zoe is in great need of comfort as despite her outwardly friendly demeanor she has retreated into silence as she has not spoken a word since her father was brutally murdered by a vicious gangster named Nico. She attempts to seek comfort in the arms of her mother Jeanne, but she is all too often unintentionally pushed to the side by Jeanne's busy work life. You see...Jeanne is the police commissioner and despite her typically busy work life, she is quite naturally obsessed with tracking down Nico and bringing him to justice for the murder of her husband. Though she does try to comfort Zoe as best she can and put up a strong and determine front, unknown to Zoe she is herself fighting the lonely fight of sinking into a dark depression as the imagined dark and insidious specter of Nico often attacks her during moments in which she finds herself the most vulnerable which continuously chip away at her resolve.
As sad as all that sounds, it's merely a wonderfully realized bit of character building against a backdrop of excitement and danger as the world of all these people collides little realizing how much of their worlds overlap each other. Clocking in at just an hour's worth of animation, despite the film's rather brisk narrative pace, it never really feels rushed because of the wonderful way in which Zoe and Jeanne are depicted with Zoe conveying much of her angst in her large expressive face but more importantly her body language, and Jeanne suffering under more literal representations of her fears as well as actual situational moments of dread and fear.
The film is wonderfully hand drawn in a delightfully modernist type of impressionism which serves greatly to enhance the character of Nico as he's defined by his ability to ebb and flow with any situation as he moves and jumps fluidly like a colorful bit of sentient water around people and through the roof tops. The film does tread a fine line between humor and drama quite tenuously at times as it presents harrowing, life threatening situations and juxtaposes these with bits of strange humor, quite a bit of this somewhat unusually emanating from Nico and his bumbling crew of hardened thugs. This is an odd choice considering they're the source of pain and suffering to others and though you would think this might serve to undermine their integrity as a viable threat, it actually works quite well to offset the sadness that Zoe and her mom are suffering from whilst fleshing out the character of the bad guys and truly demonstrating Nico as much more than one-dimensional gangster tough guy.
I wouldn't say 'A Cat in Paris' is an amazing film as the film is a little light in content to allow for that. But it is quite obviously a work of love from its creators and it shows by wearing its heart on its sleeve and achieving quite a lot in a very little time. It's hand drawn art design is wonderfully animated and helps to convey the beauty and the terror of its noir influenced world while the high adventure aspects of it bring the film to a satisfactory conclusion. It may not be perfect, but it's damn enjoyable and I can't even express to you how happy I was to finally catch it on the big screen.
Wu Xia (2011) directed by Peter Chan
One of my favorite experiences over the last few days was watching the new Donnie Yen vehicle 'Wu Xia' otherwise known by some silly English international titles such as 'Dragon' and 'Swordsmen' and the like. Built and advertised as a detective story wrapped in an eventual martial arts mayhem package, 'Wu Xia' is a film which tests the lengths to which someone should go in order to exact justice and if it's a good idea to divorce the analytical facts from the emotional and social content of the actions involved in the crime.
Donnie Yen plays Jin-xi Liu, a mild-mannered maker of paper who lives in a small village with his wife Ayu (Wei Tang) and his two children -- one by his wife and the other by her first husband who one day took off leaving her with severe emotional abandonment issues. One day two thugs come to their small village and attempt to rob a store and Jin-xi reluctantly and quite awkwardly manages to defeat them when the store owner's life is threatened. But when the detective Bai-jiu Xu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) becomes involved in the routine investigation of the events, he notices small discrepancies in the stories and minor details which strongly hint that there's just no way a simple country bumpkin could have taken both these hardened criminals down. His single-minded pursuit at uncovering the truth behind the killings and the larger truth behind the shadowy background of Jin-xi's character will eventually open up a Pandora's box of destruction that may never be closed again.
A very well constructed movie shot in very stylish and quite modern fashion by Peter Chan (The Warlords) who employs a host of effects and camera techniques to piece together the puzzle of both the characters and the events. Normally this would be a warning sign to persons such as myself as with period films I'm more of a traditionalist and prefer my action grounded and intricate. But though this film does eventually bust out some impressive fisticuffs impressively choreographed by Donnie Yen himself, it's mainly a rumination on the folly of pursuing knowledge and justice with a complete disregard towards the damage it will cause how small the purpose of this goal can seem. In this regard the film excels as Kaneshiro is quite impressive as the driven but highly quirky detective who torments himself with mistakes made in the past while his attempt to avoid this in the future leads him down yet another faulty road due to the fearless nature of his passion. Normally this would be a great counter-balance to Donnie Yen and his generally limited acting abilities, but honestly I've never seen Donnie Yen perform this well before. I wouldn't go so far as to say his performance is award worthy or anything, but it is quite solid and I found myself impressed with how he could vacillate back and forth with such ease in presenting his character as a shy, country bumpkin or as somebody who you truly fear knowing he could end your life at any moment. Really good stuff from both men who are traditionally just men of action.
Though highly touted as a martial arts/detective/mystery hybrid, the film is pretty up front about the true facts with their heavy-handed hints and so the journey of revelation is really only through the eyes of Kaneshiro's character but more horribly I suppose, as reflected in the sad panic-stricken eyes of his wife who serves more or less as a common man grounding to the trauma of the events that eventually unfold. As the dark events become an eventuality and things get ugly, I was extremely pleased to see some of the forces behind this darkness were represented by martial arts movie legends such as Kara Hui (so deliciously bad) and the amazing Jimmy Wang Yu -- whose involvement in the final conflict was a nice tip of the hat to the fact that this film was originally meant to be a remake of the one-armed swordsman character that Jimmy Wang Yu made famous. But all in all I happily found this to be a damn fine movie a realization made all the more happy due to my ongoing disappointment with all of Donnie Yen's films after 'Ip Man'. There's not a lot of kung fu, but what there is of it is pretty dark and ugly stuff and the characters are rich and satisfying so just sit back and enjoy.
Sigh...another month another flock of films, a murder of movies, a coalition of celluoid, a pack of photoplays, a parliament of pictures, a mischief of magic lantern projections! OK, OK...I suppose that was reaching just a bit as I didn't actually watch any lantern projection films but some of them were kinda old I suppose so all is forgiven. As I usually do I just sort of wandered about inserting film of great quality alongside really awful SyFy genre films just because as always that's just how I roll. Although I guess collected all together it may look like a large amount of films, in reality I've been kinda scaling down some of my viewings as I like to ruminate on some of them on my Facebook profile and packing too many films back to back, even though I do have the time, would just cause them to blur together a bit too much as writing about them helps me to focus a bit on their good and bad points and all that blah blah. I suppose you could "friend" me if you want to read my ramblings as I don't really seem to be writing review format type of musings anywhere else anymore. Both Netflix and Hulu Plus have been sneaking in tons of odd and cl@ssic films lately so I've been trying to track them down by throwing my genre viewing all over the place to see what springs up, and of course systematically flipping through some pages of film listings. Anyhoo...here's the stuff I watched last month for your edification and/or amusement.
The Kiss (1929) directed by Jacques Feyder
The Single Standard (1929) directed by John S. Robertson
2-Headed Shark Attack (2012) directed by Christopher Ray
Diary of a Lost Girl (1930) directed by Georg W. Pabst
Rare Exports (2010) directed by Jalmari Helander
Green Mansions (1959) directed by Mel Ferrer
Pretty Poison (1968 ) directed by Noel Black
Valerie & Her Week of Wonders (1970) directed by Jaromil Jires
Les Cousins (1959) directed by Claude Chabrol
The Grapes of Death (1978 ) directed by Jean Rollin
Cruel Gun Story (1964) directed by Takumi Furukawa
I Am Waiting (1957) directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
Caterpillar (2010) directed by Koji Wakamatsu
Splatter Beach (2007) directed by John & Mark Polonia
Love Among the Millionaires (1930) directed by Frank Tuttle
God Bless America (2012) directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
Tintin & The Lake of Sharks (1972) directed by Raymond Leblanc
Bad Blood AKA King of the Triads (2010) directed by Dennis Law
Justice League: Doom (2012) directed by Lauren Montgomery
The Unloved (2009) directed by Samantha Morton
Opening Night (1977) directed by John Cassavetes
Rango (2011) directed buy Gore Verbinski
The Troll Hunter (2010) directed by Andre Ovredal
Intimidation (1960) directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
My Lady of Whims (1925) directed by Dallas M. Fitzgerald
Therese and Isabelle (1968 ) directed by Radley Metzger
The Young Tiger (1973) directed by Ma Wu
Into the Abyss (2011) directed by Werner Herzog
Executioners from Shaolin (1976) directed by Kar-leung Lau
Get Your Man (1927) directed by Dorothy Arzner
Sleeping Beauty (2011) directed by Julia Leigh
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2006) directed by the Brothers Quay
Mad Detective (2007) directed by Johnnie To
Ask Father (1919) directed by Hal Roach
Among Those Present (1921) directed by Fred C Newmeyer
Haunted Spooks (1920) directed by Hal Roach
Get Out and Get Under (1920) directed by Hal Roach
Blue-Eyed Butcher (2012) directed by Stephen Kay
Minnie & Moskowitz (1972) directed by John Cassavetes
Ace in the Hole (1951) directed by Billy Wilder
Helen's Babies (1924) directed by William A. Seiter
The Skin I Live In (2011) directed by Pedro Almodovar
Old Joy (2006) directed by Kelly Reichardt
Shaolin Mantis (1978 ) directed by Kar-lau Leung
Rhinoceros (1974) directed by Tom O'Horgan
The Seventh Seal (1958 ) directed by Ingmar Bergman
Tarzan's Revenge (1938 ) directed by D. Ross Lederman
Alien Tornado (2012) directed by Jeff Burr
Westworld (1973) directed by Michael Crichton
Yakuza Weapon (2011) directed by Tak Sakaguchi
Insidious (2011) directed by James Wan
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974) directed by Brian Clemens
Battle Royale (2000) directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Youth of the Beast (1963) directed by Seijun Suzuki
Shaolin Intruders (1983) directed by Chia Tang
Cold Eyes of Fear (1971) directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Daisies (1966) directed by Vera Chytilova
Born To Be Bad (1934) directed by Lowell Sherman
Nazis At The Center Of The Earth (2012) directed by Joseph J. Lawson
Fighting Elegy (1966) directed by Seijun Suzuki
Alien (1979) directed by Ridley Scott
Warlock (1959) directed by Edward Dmytryk
The Big Bird Cage (1972) directed by Jack Hill
Space Twister (2012) directed by Sheldon Wilson
Not being terribly interest in College or "practice" sports, March for me was a return to my typical habits of watching lots of films and then watching some more films. As starved for attention as I can sometimes be, this is in no way a brag sheet as (1) I don't really feel competitive about devouring films as I'm not exactly a young virginal lad, and (2) I watch a lot of older "B" films which tend to run just a tad over an hour long so that's not really something I would call an effort worth bragging about. That's better saved for something like Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks or Out 1 I would guess.That is however something of the point of this post as I was suffering under some intereference in my typical movie watching ways and oddly in March I never go around to any of my loftier cultural goals of watching a series of films from a legendary or noteworthy director and so, for those of you interested, this is sorta what happens when damons are left to their own devices and wanders around all goaless and shiftless suffering from typical shutinables and just watches a bunch of stuff he casually wants to watch.
Although that being said I did actually spend some effort in tracking down a few Rita Tushingham and Clara Bow films I wanted to see so...there's that if that means anything to you and the pointless formula I've already presented...for no reason. I guess. Oh also this is all fairly chronological from the beginning of the month as I'm just far too lazy to reorder the films by year or by levels of perceived quality...although I suppose I should have...maybe...but I didn't. So there.
- Battleground (1950)
- Mantrap (1926)
- The Iron Rose (1973)
- Bombshell (1933)
- The Temptress (1926)
- Dangerous Curves (1929)
- Havana Widows (1933)
- Laughing Sinners (1931)
- The Silk Express (1933)
- Big-Hearted Herbert (1934)
- Angel Baby (1961)
- Having A Wild Weekend (1965)
- Midnight in Paris (2011)
- The Fugitive (1947)
- The Flying Fleet (1929)
- 'Frisco Jenny (1932)
- Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
- Gallant Journey (1946)
- Lafayette Escadrille (1958)
- A Taste of Honey (1961)
- Time To Kill (1989)
- The Wild Party (1929)
- A Generation (1955)
- Free To Love (1925)
- Leprechaun's Revenge (2011)
- The Saturday Night Kid (1929)
- Outrage (2010)
- Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010)
- J'Accuse! (1919)
- Men in White (1934)
- God's Gift To Women (1931)
- Hula (1927)
- The Common Law (1931)
- Inspiration (1931)
- Movie Crazy (1932)
- True To The Navy (1930)
- The Secret of NIMH (1982)
- O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)
- Creature (2011)
- Sweet Karma (2009)
- Little Norse Prince (1968)
- Dancing Mothers (1926)
- Hugo (2011)
- Machete (2010)
- Kid Boots (1926)
- The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
- THE KNACK...and how to get it (1965)
- Beyond the Rocks (1922)
- Father Takes a Wife (1941)
- The Trap (1966)
- Smashing Time (1967)
- Little Annie Rooney (1925)
- Ciao! Manhattan (1972)
- The Romantic Englishwoman (1975)
- Women in Cages (1971)
- 3 (2010)
- April Fool's Day (1986)
- Hallelujah! (1929)
- Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934)
- Elmer the Great (1933)
When I first bought my PS3 I was pretty much entrenched in my little XBox 360 gaming world and mainly picked it up as a cheap Blu-Ray player as figured I could also double up its value by playing the occasional exclusive. But as the years passed I found myself going back to it more and more despite the fact that I started ignoring some of the bigger high-profile games. I'm not fully sure why as despite some claims to the contrary and despite the PS3 being the hardest damn gaming system to program for that has ever existed, I haven't really noticed much of a difference between the two when competing games for them existed and I played them both. Perhaps it's just the fact that the PS3 controller feels a little faster and more responsive thus being slightly more fun to use in heavy action and fighting games. Then again perhaps it's that silly little last minute attempt for Sony to adopt the achievement goal era but attempt to maintain a brand uniqueness by creating the Platinum reward. Ahhhhhh the Platinum medal! Not only does it let everybody know you met and bested all the challenges, but it also shouts this out as a large demarcation of awesomesauce that further, and sometimes unwanted, DL additions can no longer sully your accomplishment as they do on the 360.
Now lord knows I'm the furthest thing away from being hardcore. Yes I'm an oldschool gamer that grew up gaming with no saves and only a limited amount of lives. But I get enough frustration in my day to day life and I don't really feel the need to press the issue and go for that platinum reward or get my 1000/1000 if it looks to be something I just don't want to tackle. Yet over the years I've actually slowly managed to pick up some here and there until the present moment in which I found that I've acquired 13 platinums which barely squeaked me into being level 13 and as luck would have it today's the 13th. So let's celebrate at Gamespot's loneliest little blog by checking out just what kind of crappy games damons played in which he did it all.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I believe one of the first games I played on my PS3. I had already 1000/1000 in on the 360 and I thought it was sad that I didn't have any games for the PS3 to try out. So my friend who had only a PS3 at the time gave me his copy to fool around with and darn it all if the game isn't just so much fun to play that I did all over again until I had my first shiny little platinum reward. This game often gets called out as an easy platinum game and while I agree the bulk of the game is not particularly hard as long as you take the time to build ol' Wolvie up, there are some difficult goals to be met besides just beating the game. The most annoying aspect is the fact that the game suffers from having a very annoying and very strange end boss fight on which you can instantly die from due to poor planning on the developer's part. This annoyance is amplified quite a bit when you face the boss on hard as it drags the battle out for quite some time which is quite nerve-wracking when you know that if he slips away from you at any moment he could teleport and crumble the world around you killing you instantly and you have to start all over again. An annoying end to overall a very fun game.
The next one I believe was Tekken 6 which is a game I dearly loved but one which was very bizarre to get the platinum for as most of the goals pretty much revolved around their strange expanded 3D adventure brawler mode which nobody seems to like and yet the folks at Namco seem to be very much obsessed with pushing. Once you get used to who you have to fight and what to expect in terms of resistance and their reactions it wasn't too hard. But if it wasn't for some nice little solutions such as machine-gunning Devil Jin far enough away from one particularly difficult and confined level that he would fall out of the area rewarding you with an instant victory, then I'm not sure if I would've been able to get it done. Regardless once all that nonsense side game stuff was over I had very little to do in terms of goals but at long last I could play the very brief arcade mode with all the characters I had unlocked. Often fighting games have those annoying to nigh impossible goals of beating gobs of folks online in a row and crap like that, but thankfully not in this game and thus a fighting game with a shiny platinum.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Another fine action game that not only deeply entrenched me in the beloved Star Wars universe I grew up with, but one which was also dark and gritty and thankfully completely free of the stink of the prequels. I really enjoyed this game as the developers really made sure you would have a great time exploiting your jedi skills in order to deal a helluva lot of carnage and destruction and some at times rather shocking feats. Like many adventure games as long as you built your character up properly the game wasn't too hard, but on the highest difficulty level some of the boss battles were quite a problem and the game really forces you to use all of the powers and skills you develop to their fullest in order to survive. Not the most difficult to be sure, but I not only really enjoyed the action and settings, I also really enjoyed the character to the point that I secretly wished somebody would make an awesome film covering the arc of this game. Fun stuff, cool characters, and a shiny platinum for me!
One of my favorite action games ever and probably the platinum I'm most proud of as I honestly never thought I would do it and pretty much decided it wouldn't happen after I tried my hand at a couple of the more challenging goals I had to achieve. But darn it if the game not only compelled me to keep playing it and get better and better at it, but it also allowed me the freedom to figure out how I would achieve those goals and I always get a kick out of the fact that I did some of the more annoying Alfheims in a way completely different from how my friend did them. A game which looks easy if you do what you need to do with solid precision, but if you don't things can get messy quite fast. But despite this the game isn't needlessly so hardcore that a single mistake will sink you instantly which is a lesson I wish more game developers would learn. There were some down moments such as the overly long motorcyle level and the needlessly long Space Harrier level which then dumps you right into a majorly difficult boss battle (a major gaming sin), but overall it was a challenging but incredibly fun game to play chock full of entertaining characters and some truly gorgeous character and level designs.
A fun but shallow hack and slasher in the God of War mold, Dante's Inferno was rich in character and packed to the brim with all manner of monsters and demons so perversely realized that I'm actually kind of surprised this game didn't cause more of a ruckus with the wall to wall nudity eventually resulting in a very large swinging penis courtesy of a not so shy Devil. A fairly easy platinum to get as long as you took the time to explore every nook and cranny, and though I'm not opposed to playing a casually fun action game, the game mainly failed in that it provided you with quite a laundry list of exciting combos you could pull off, but the developers forgot to challenge you so that you would need to use them as it was fairly easy just to keep moving and hack away with a standard quick combo to get the job done. Overall it was fun to play through, but it just wasn't as satisfying as it could have been had the developers spent a little more time with it.
I really enjoyed Mafia II as the mechanics of the cover system worked like a charm and some of the characters were actually quite fun to be around. The game itself is pretty easy and doing the game on hard just means you need to take things a little slower and make sure you utilize cover always remembering who is going to rush you from where. There were some really silly moments of immersion such as cleaning toilets and walking to and from in prison very slowly which I assume was meant to convey some sort of atmosphere but just felt dumb. Then of course there was the game's strange obsession with suddenly taking away all your money and clothes several times (always a big annoyance in games in which you collect stuff), but once you knew to expect it and realized you could get money pretty quickly it was no big deal. I wished they could've opened up the city more and included actual side missions to play around with and the odd avoidance of nudity seemed strange considering you collect pictures of nude women from Playboy in the game, but overall it was still a fun game that I played through many times. It's a shame the DL that would come out all involved beating the clock which is the antithesis of how this game operates making the DL pretty much the most miserable experience of my gaming life. Thanks idiots.
I really enjoyed this stealth sandbox game quite a bit and got quite a kick out of slowly bombing the crap out of everything without anyone noticing I was there. Initially the game takes quite a bit of technique to slowly take out a cluster of targets all being heavily guarded and patrolled. But once you unlock the ability to set bombs while disguised in full view of other soldiers as long as you didn't get too close to them the game really allowed you to abuse your enemy something fierce. I enjoyed figuring out ways to chain bombs and just unleash hell right as the Germans started to suspect something. Collecting vehicles was a blast as well and I managed to snag a platinum despite the usual bane of my completion in sandbox games, namely car racing, because unlike many other car racing mini games these were actually possibly to do...from my perspective anyways. A fairly easy but fun platinum but it takes quite of lot of bombing to finish up things so it's kind of a war of attrition.
Like I strangely do lately, I pretty much got excited for this title and then skipped over picking it up for no particular reason and pretty much forgot about it until Sony offered it up for free as their apology for their network being down for so damn long. Needless to say I enjoyed it quite a bit and with the exception of a couple of boss fights and the main end boss fight on hard I don't remember it being too difficult to get everything finished up to obtain my platinum. some of the mechanics were a little wonky and I was less than amused at yet another game poorly implementing morality decisions that basically consist of "kick a puppy for no good reason" and "don't kick the puppy". The "good" and "evil" powers were annoyingly uneven with the "good" side being far better due to their self-healing properties. Still it was a bag of fun and after struggling with that boss on hard I finally had me my platinum!
Pretty much played this as soon as I finished up the first game and despite my trepidation over the giant monsters that I watched my friend playing earlier that year, I still ended up having a good time and despite the changes I still enjoyed the characters and even the oh so obvious reveal. I was a bit disappointed that the folks at Sucker Punch somehow completely missed the fact that dying because your character keeps grabbing tiny out-croppings on the side of buildings was a problem in the first game and all they simply had to do was make the character NOT GRAB ANYTHING IF THE GRAB BUTTON IS HELD DOWN but somehow this obvious easy fix eluded them and...oh well. The evil powers were a little better this time out but really the main happiness about playing evil is that game is obsessed with attempting to make you accidentally kill the masses as they are quite fond of jumping between you and your target So when you are playing evil you don't have to worry about them and jog for a better position. You just note which direction your enemy is coming from and unleash every ounce of destructive force their direction...so satisfying. The game felt a bit easier but was quite a bit more epic and the challenges were more...um challenging so good times were had by all.
Saints Row: The Third
The newest iteration of Saints Row took one giant step forward and then a bunch of tiny steps backwards. I very much enjoyed the fact that tongue was firmly in cheek and now your character as leader of The Saints wasn't a super serious gangsta psychopath that nobody would actually follow, but now was quite a fun-loving silly sociopathic killer who I quite enjoyed playing. I was a little concerned that I would be able to complete the game as this time out you had to do versions of some traditional side missions that in older games I sometimes found nigh impossible to complete on the hardest levels. But this time out the racing was gone thank God and I managed to figure out a way to finish up the side missions on hard and along with grinding out like a madman to open up some very naughty legal cheat stats the game ended up being a lot of fun but probably a bit easier than it should have been.
Okay okay! I know it's a kids game right? Yeah well it is kind of and even on the hardest level the game is fairly easy except for some situations involving portals and the end boss' third attack which can kill you in two hits and if you guess wrong you can't get away from him. But really I just loved this game's character designs and overall clean and stylish aesthetic and so I just breezed through it giggling with glee at all the cute as buttons goals and outcomes of my silly attacks. Not a proud victory I suppose, but an enjoyable journey nonetheless. NINJAS! NINJAS! NINJAS!
Captain America: Super Soldier
Picked up a cheap copy because I was bored and fairly poor and I had heard this game actually wasn't terrible for a license game. While it wasn't anything I'd recommend, I'll agree it wasn't awful at all although it was awfully shallow and despite the presence of all manner of reversals, much like Dante's Inferno during most of the game you don't really need them so I kind of forgot that they actually were there. That is until I had to do the challenges a couple of which were actually a bit challenging and in which I had to take down my giant robotic foes with speed and precision in order to obtain my platinum. A fairly easy game overall but those challenges at least made it feel like I had to make a decent amount of effort to win my shiny medal.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Still sad and still fairly poor, I picked up a cheap copy of this old game as I played it years ago on my 360 and I kind of just wanted something fun to kick around. I was a little upset they took away the "build your own team" feature from the first game, but it's still fun, the new fusions are kind of nice, and the Civil War setting was a nice setting to stomp around in. As usual I went with Ms. Marvel as thankfully she's quite a bit better here than in the first game and sadly there's no god tier Spider-Woman to abuse the enemy with . Not too difficult of a game although there are a few combat scenarios on the hardest difficulty setting that are quite annoying. I never did completely finish up this game on my 360 as the danger room challenges made me a sad panda. But I sat down and figured out how to do them and kept at them until at long last I finished the last goal and got my 13th platinum reward! Thanks Ms. Marvel! ...oh also Thor who hits like...well like you would imagine Thor would hit like when he's fully buffed.
A sexy but exceedingly powerful super hero who all too often people forget is only slightly less powerful than Superman...oh and she's immortal -- though I suppose at the rate in which DC keeps rewriting stuff who can say what the future holds for our often pantsless princess? Anyways I thought the drawing by Yeso cute so enjoy!
Do you remember Andrea Bocelli? If you don't you're probably fairly young because if you shopped music stores in the mid to late '90s it would've been pretty hard to ignore his presence. He's an Italian tenor that rode the tenor craze that began with the Three Tenors (Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti) during the renaissance of cl@ssical music interest that surged due to the popularity of the compact disc format. Although he did have his champions and adoring fans, Bocelli was never fully accepted as a quality tenor in the world of opera and mainly excelled at singing traditional Italian songs in an operatic manner. But despite the nagging of the critical world, Bocelli was insanely popular and eventually sold over 70 million albums and broke world records in terms of sales and popularity. What made him so popular that he regularly outsold his more respected competition?
One of his big selling points was that Bocelli was born with very poor eyesight and due to an injury suffered when he was 12 he became totally blind. But Bocelli was exceedingly intelligent, very musical gifted and despite this setback he marshaled on to compete in singing competitions and began winning them one after another eventually garnering him quite a bit of attention. Although bringing up the fact that he was blind as a selling point might seem a tad crass, trust me it was and it would be foolish for anybody to think that it didn't add to the narrative of his popularity...because brother it did. You know how I know...besides all the advertising pointing this fact out of course. It's because during his rise in popularity I either worked at, helped to run, or flat out ran a music store or department -- and not some little side effort mind you, but a department that did 40% of the business of a $7 million a year store. Anyhoo...pretty much every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, a little old lady would come in asking for one of Bocelli's albums and each and every time those little old ladies would end the conversation with the same statements. "Isn't he great? He's blind you know!" which though impressive and something which definitely added an extra hurdle to Bocelli's climb to success, it's not something you would think was that impossible to imagine for a human to achieve.
Then my mind would drift to somebody in the cl@ssical world that climbed to success around the same time whose struggle truly did impress me. The person who this blog is really about after that exceedingly long preamble. A Scottish percussionist by the name of Dame Evelyn Glennie.
Here is a common entry for the biography of Miss Evelyn Glennie that you can find at many a music site:
"Evelyn is the first person in musical history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist. As one of the most eclectic and innovative musicians on the scene today she is constantly redefining the goals and expectations of percussion. By combining superb technique, a profound appreciation of the visual and her astonishing musicality, Evelyn creates performances of such vitality that they almost constitute a new type of performance.
Evelyn gives more than 100 performances a year worldwide, performing with the greatest conductors, orchestras, and artists. For the first ten years of her career virtually every performance she gave was in some way a first - the first time an orchestra had performed with a percussion soloist, the first solo percussion performance at a venue or festival or the world premiere of a new piece. Her diversity of collaborations have included performances with artists such as Nana Vasconcelos, Kodo, Bela Fleck, Bjork, Bobby McFerrin, Emmanuel Ax, Sting, Kings Singers, Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Fred Frith.
Evelyn has commissioned one hundred and fifty new works for solo percussion from many of the world's most eminent composers and also composes and records music for film and television. Her first high quality drama produced a score so original she was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards (BAFTA's); the UK equivalent of the Oscars.
Evelyn's recording career has been as illustrious as her performing and composing career. Evelyn's first CD, a recording of Bartok's Sonata for two Pianos and Percussion, won her a Grammy in 1988. A further two Grammy nominations followed, one of which she won in 2002 for a collaboration with Bela Fleck for Sony cl@ssical. Evelyn's twelfth solo CD, Shadow Behind the Iron Sun (BMG Records), was based on a radical concept and has once again questioned people's expectations. Despite working a relentless schedule Evelyn is in constant demand to release new recordings, twenty five so far.
Outside of actual performance the Evelyn Glennie brand is constantly exploring other areas of creativity. From writing a best selling autobiography, Good Vibrations, to collaborating with the renowned film director Thomas Riedelsheimer on a film called Touch the Sound, to presenting two series of her own television programmes (Soundbites) for the BBC, to regularly appearing on television across the world, which include The David Letterman Show (USA), Sesame Street (USA), The South Bank Show (UK), presenting and performing on Songs of Praise (UK), Commonwealth Games Festival Concert, This is Your Life (UK), 60 minutes (USA), PBS Profile (USA) and many more.
Evelyn's activities also include lobbying the Government on political issues, her consortium with Sir James Gallway, Julian Lloyd Webber and the late Michael Kamen successfully led to the government providing 332 million pounds towards music eduction. Other aspects include Evelyn Glennie Images which supplies photographs from a vast image library of Evelyn, Evelyn Glennie Jewellery, which is a range of Jewellery designed in conjunction with Ortak and based on her influences as a solo percussionist and Evelyn Glennie Merchandise. Evelyn is also an international motivational speaker to many diverse corporate companies and events. Evelyn also performs with Orchestras on the Great Highland Bagpipes.
After 20 years in the music business she has begun teaching privately, which allows her to explore the art of teaching and to explore the world of sound therapy as a means of communication.
In 1993 Evelyn was awarded the OBE (Officer of the British Empire). This was extended in 2007 to 'Dame Commander' for her services to music and to date has received over 80 international awards. She is brimming with ideas to improve the experience for the audience and continues to redefine the very format of live performance itself."
So if you bothered to read that I suppose you're probably reasonably impressed. But you might be wondering just why is it then that, other than perhaps a personal preference for percussion over operatic singing, just why is it I'm so much more impressed with Miss Glennie's achievements over Bocelli's? What that biography doesn't mention is the fact that similar to Bocelli Evelyn was born with a problem. You see her hearing wasn't so good and it diminished year by year so that by the same age that Bocelli went completely blind, at age 12 Evelyn became profoundly deaf. You read that right. One of the best and most highly respected percussionists in the world is deaf.
Despite her ever diminishing hearing Evelyn slowly began to notice that every tiny vibration that her percussive instruments made resonated and vibrated in different parts of her body depending upon the various pitches of the waves. Noting all these differences she became so attuned to all their differing wavelengths that she could tell the exact pitch of every note of music by how and where it resonated in her body to the point that even if she doesn't look at the drums she is striking she can feel exactly what she's playing to such an amazing degree of accuracy that along with her amazing playing level skill she has become...well all those things you read about above.
Unfortunately Miss Glennie often delves into somewhat formless sound projects that I'm not a keen fan of and so over the years I've sort of drifted away from her world. Recently on HuluPlus I ran across a little quasi-documentary called Touch the Sound which follows her wandering around the world playing with folks and unfortunately (for me anyways) a little too much of that aforementioned sound noodling. But one aspect of it was highly interesting to me as it documented a brief session in which Glennie was teaching a young deaf girl how their deafness can make them better percussionists than people with full hearing. It's really quite amazing to watch her face light up as she realizes that music is not really all that gone from her world of dominating silence.
So yeah...Bocelli was pretty neat and gosh was he popular. But you know who really impresses me...?
Once upon a time there was a girl who had 7 invisible horses. People thought she was crazy and that she in fact had 7 imaginary horses, but this was not the case. When autumn came the girl spent a whole day washing all her clothes. She hung them on a string in her garden to let the gentle autumn sun dry them. Out of nowhere, a terrible storm came and its fierceful winds grabbed a hold of all her clothes and all seven horses (authors note: since they are invisible they obviously didn't weigh much). The girl was devastated and spent all autumn looking for each horse spread around the country, wrapped in her clothes.
All photographs and text courtesy of Ulrika Kestere
And be sure to stop by her daily blog:
Norwegian Wood (2011) directed by Anh Hung Tran from Japan
It's always a tricky thing plunging into a movie adaptation of a book you've read, even more so when it's a book you're intimately familiar with by one of your favorite authors. Should I contrast and compare? Should I nitpick? Did it evoke the same kind of mood and fully represent the ideas of the book? Does it matter? In the end I suppose as a devoted reader of Haruki Murakami it does matter to me, but as a fan of movies I've found it easy to divorce myself from expectations and just take it as a different version of the same story...much like a movie remake in a way. That being said I can't help but make comparisons if I feel the movie suffered from its exclusion.
The story itself is a rather simple tale of Toru Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) a man looking back as his youth in the late '60s in which the tragic death of a close friend draws him into a relationship with his emotionally fragile girlfriend Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) whom he eventually falls deeply in love with even as she emotionally begins to unravel and become withdrawn. During his back and forth with Naoko, Toru eventually begins to casually hang out with and eventually date the lively and vivacious Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) whose lust for life is attractive to Toru even though her tendency to play those typical youthful control issue games gives him some pause. Though on paper the plot looks to be set up as a love triangle, the characters are all kept fairly distant from each other so the sole focus really becomes about three very different people with very different needs and desires and if they can somehow learn to grow to accept each other and indeed learn what exactly it is that they want from life.
Tran's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's breakout novel 'Norwegian Wood' certainly is a moody affair which strives to convey a lot of subtext into its gorgeous and haunting photography hoping to infuse them with as much unsaid information as possible to make up for the lack of the book's constant first person narrative. For the most part Tran's sumptuous natural settings and tightly shot character interactions go a long way to successfully convey the intensity of the prevailing emotion or to betray the true feelings or nature of their character as every inflection is closely scrutinized. But though it's indeed a poetically charged film the characters, most notably the lead Toru Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama), seem to be a bit too distant and kept emotionally too far at bay for the viewer to really become involved with their characters. Toru's particular problem with equating sexual interaction with emotional love while misunderstanding that others might not feel this way seems too muted and as a result his character lacks much of an emotional edge that the other character possess due to either their actions or dialogue specifically dealing with their issues.
But even with these issues in the end the film did succeed in emotionally pulling me into the characters even if the main protagonist is weakly presented. It's a flawed film, but a poetically gorgeous one that tries to convey a lot with what is left unsaid even though it takes quite a long time to do so.
The Artist (2011) directed by Michel Hazanavicius from France
I suppose on the whole this film isn't really meant for odd folks such as myself who regularly watch silent films although there are certainly a number of things sprinkled throughout the film to delight fans of film history -- the use of historical theatre locations, Douglas Fairbanks footage of his Zorro films, the use of Mary Pickford's actual bed in Peppy Miller's house, George Valentin dressed up as the criminal mastermind from the Fantomas series of films -- are just a few of the gems to be found. Yet despite these winks for the film nerds the film takes careful pains to evoke the feeling and energy of that particular time in film history and not to waste energy wallowing in the actual history of a period that the more typical film-goer would know much of or even care much about.
To that end the film's characters are a sort of grand, sweeping pastiche of the general feeling and knowledge that most people tend to reactively create when the their thoughts turn to the silent cinema and those early days of film. Our lead character is George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) a paper-thinly disguised analogue for Douglas Fairbanks although there's a lot of Rudolf Valentino in his character if you pay attention to the smaller details. He's the biggest star in the world and he knows it, but his fall from grace is fast and profoundly harsh as the period of talkies sweeps him away like so much dust. His lead partner is Miss Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) a character supposedly heavily based on Gloria Swanson but really I get more of a Clara Bow vibe from her due to her rambunctious go-getter personality sans of course all of Clara's horribly tragic personal background issues. She's the star on the rise who quickly adapts to the new format involving sound and her rise is as quick as Valentin's fall. Thrown into the mix is Al Zimmer (John Goodman) as that sort of uber DeMille-ish ideal of an angry, cigar chomping director and the at times far too tall James Cromwell as Clifton, George's ever faithful chauffeur/butler who would do anything for him. Thus the film has created a cast that is at once familiar and somewhat expected from both the knowledgeable and the ignorant but with the ability to forge its own course unfettered by history.
Playing into people's expectations of the s+yle of the times the film smartly has its actors depict every action and reaction in a very broad and overly animated fashion. Although this was not always the done and there were more than enough actors and director who delivered a more subtle approach in those days, it certainly was a common device and one in which the actors take to like ducks to water in quite a delightful fashion thoroughly allowing the audience to fall in love with their characters. Dean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo really deliver an outstanding performance with their ability to deliver such initially hammy performances, but ones which are tinged with powerfully unspoken (or in this case unwritten) feelings of love, desire and sadness. What I really enjoyed was how the characters progressed and changed as the film moves ever onward into the period of talking pictures. It wasn't just the natural progression of the characters' development, but how their very body language and acting s+yle became increasingly more mature and subtle as things got increasingly emotional and tragic. The initial overly animated acting slowly gives way to a decidedly more mature approach as the film progresses as the herky-jerky motions and emotions give sway to prolonged moments of tragic and quiet clarity as reflected in the smallest of motions or quiet often in the eyes of the actors.
This is not to say all the early shots are nothing but comedic mugging, far from it. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Peppy Miller first breaks into movies with small bit roles and sneaks into the dressing room of her idol George Valentin and ends up cuddling with his coat on the coat rack as she mimes a scene in which "George" devilishly makes advances upon her. George arrives and interrupts her private fantasy and although initially embarrassed, when she looks up at him just over his shoulder is a big poster from an earlier film of his entitled something along the lines of "He Instantly Captured My Heart" and just as instantly you can see the passion and love in the eyes of Peppy. But as George looks back at her during this moment with his character initially not making much of it, the camera slowly shifts just to the right causing her head to be framed by a round lit mirror in the background giving her an angelic halo causing her to seemingly glow and George immediately gives pause and realizes something very special and profound is occurring between the two of them. Really gorgeous stuff and there are little subtle moments like this sprinkled throughout the film from the director that impressed me a great deal.
But as the film progresses and charts the rise of Peppy's career from low bit role actress to headlining star juxtaposed with George's dismissal and refusal to deal with the oncoming popularity of sound pictures and his quick and dramatic fall from grace as he sinks all of his money into a big budget and oddly tragic jungle picture, the film seems to lose its focus a bit. The film ends up spending so much time kicking George when he's down over and over again that it becomes almost farcical as you wonder what new demeaning level of existence could the writers possibly have in store for him? How could people forget the most popular actor in the world in just a couple of years because he made one bad picture? You never really understand why he's so distant from his actual wife -- although her persistence in drawing on any picture of him she can find is an amusing running joke -- and the emotional bond between the protagonists just seems to get abandoned for such a long time that when it comes around again I found myself unsure as to what the nature of their relationship was. Lovers? Dear Friends? Father/Daughter bond? I dunno. The film also ends up striving to be such a vehicle for Jean Dujardin to demonstrate his abilities to emote that it goes perhaps a wee bit too dark with the only way out apparently is via a cheap inter-title joke in order to change the tempo of the film in a very abrupt albeit happy manner.
But despite these bumps along the road I must admit that I did enjoy the hell out of the picture and was mighty impressed with all the actors involved with the leads obviously delivering rather stunning performances. Yes I did mentally nitpick over the fact that there wasn't any color in the films (silent films were largely tinted), the fact that the happily sparse inter-title cards were sadly lacking in their use of excessive dashes as uber ellipses of their day, and that their posters for sound films stated it as "talking" and not "all-talking", yet it still managed to tickle my funny bone and make me care about the characters and deliver what is arguably the best performance by a dog (Uggie) in a film for quite some time. Who wants to bet how much work that dog's going to get? Really a charming film that manages to evoke the period of the time and the passion of the people involved and one in which even silent film nerds can enjoy along with the rest of the crowd.
Let the Bullets Fly (2011) directed by Wen Jiang from China
Taking place in the wild and fairly lawless days of pre-communist China in the 1920s, Wen Jiang directs and stars as "Pocky" Zhang the leader of a notorious group of road thieves who whilst robbing a passing train coach realize they have interrupted the plans of Ma Bangde (You Ge) a con artist and his wife (Carina Lau) to illegally take over the Governorship of the nearby city Goose Town. Zhang decides that he will take Bangde's place with Bangde serving as his advisor but their plans at executing a wealthy score become exceedingly complicated when they discover the town is in reality under the harsh rule of Huang Silang (Chow Yun-Fat) a warlord of considerable brains, ego, and firepower.
On the surface this sets up a highly rousing and endlessly amusing series of increasingly outlandish chess moves between Zhang and Huang as they match wits and battle not only for the power and money but for their own at times highly twisted moral ideals of what is best for the town and its people. But barely concealed beneath its darkly comedic and at times very silly slapstick detours into farcical fantasy, is a perfectly constructed allegory for not only the painful truth's of China's past social upheaval leading to the takeover of Communism, but also the current conditions under which they all live and how the masses and leaders interact in their strange day to day world mixing the harsh domination of a totalitarian government with the ever driving greed of a capitalistic society.
In much the same way director's in the USA during what is now considered the "golden age" of Hollywood had to come to terms with working under the awful Hays Code, after being banned from directing for 7 years in China by SARFT (basically the MPAA and FCC rolled into one uber powerful agency) Wen Jiang has learned how to temper his approach by taking a highly subversive approach in his didactic leanings by coating the whole affair in farce and delivering it all in an incredibly complex series of plot twists with a rapid fire delivery that compels the viewer not to look away lest they miss some vital piece of information the lack of which would result in confusion. The irony of course is that no matter what course is taken it always ends up breaking down into confusion and barely controlled chaos but with just an ever quickening revolving door of different players which leads you to question whether the result would really be all that different whether I shot my opponent or myself?
Let the Bullets Fly has since gone on to smash box office records in China by becoming the highest grossing Chinese film of all time. This seems an oddly huge leap to make for a seemingly former bad boy director who states that he "keeps his head down" and does what he wants and doesn't care if others understand his films or not -- a common accusation he has to address as many of his films are considered needlessly distant and difficult to understand. Yet it all seems to be some kind of horribly complex perverse sort of plan coming to fruition for Wen Jiang as not only did he have a team of writers (along with himself of course) writing and re-writing until the script was perfect, but he told them to keep Chow Yun-Fat in mind as they wrote his character and he reportedly approached Chow to take the role by informing him everyone would love him and that this film was specifically created to hit the box-office like a juggernaut.
Taking this in it seems a strange approach for a supposedly auteur director who has always followed his own muse regardless what the public or the government desires or expects. It makes me wonder if this isn't some all kind of horribly complex con pulled on the public to demonstrate the willingness of the masses to gravitate towards the guaranteed goal of instant gratification in much the same way the masses of Goose Town will not commit to either side unless they are guaranteed a win. Is this then the final endgame demonstrating in real terms that despite how big everyone likes to talk about saving face and not having to needlessly kow tow, in the end the masses are so tamed by the environment in their government approved world provides that they become all to willingly complicit in their own tyranny? Who's to say? Certainly not Wen Jiang as he is far too smart to make any sort of out spoken statement as the "true" meaning behind his film and simply states that people and groups will see what they want to see and nothing else.
So...in the end what does all this has to do with the entertainment value of the movie itself? Nothing and everything. On one hand it is an incredibly complex film with layers upon layers of assumed and not so obvious double-meanings behind every character, every action, and every aspect of the narrative. But on the surface it's still an incredibly funny film delivered with expert precision by not only the director but all the actors involved. Chow Yun-Fat hasn't been this good in years and it's wonderful to see him utilized properly in a humorous but meaty role and You Ge is pitch perfect as the third wheel advisor who has a bit more planned then you might expect. An incredibly enjoyable film, but the more I understand the more I can't but feel we are all just pawns in Wen Jiang's little world.
So it appears I've reached 100 blog posts and although normally I guess this might be kind of awesome, to be truthful I feel kind of embarassed as I've had tons of ideas and desires to post so many things over the years that I just gave up on or put off until it was far too late to be particularly relevent. But here I find myself and other than celebrating Louise Brooks' birthday by having a mini-marathon of her movies I guess it's nice to have a decent amount of work behind you even if it took a while to get there. Most immediate ideas as to what to do to celebrate this minor milestone seemed rather long (even by my standards) and unwieldy and so just for s**** and giggles I'll do one of those 100 question thingies since I usually ignore them when they're spammed my way.
Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4.it, and neither will the one after that or the one after that. First of all, look at
Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch? My Telephone
Before you started this survey, what were you doing?Posting about the Louise Brooks movies I watched today.
What is the last thing you watched on TV? The Daily Show
Without looking, guess what time it is 11:42
Now look at the clock. What is the actual time? 11:46
With the exception of the computer, what can you hear? Stephen Colbert rambling on his show
When did you last step outside? What were you doing? Yesterday. I walked down to the corner Walgreen's.
Did you dream last night? I rarely dream as I typically supress them...they're usually not pleasant.
Do you remember your dreams? I've trained myself to usually ignore and forget them so usually no. Every so often though...
When did you last laugh? Earlier today when I was watching W.C. Fields assault his tormentors.
Do you remember why / at what? I just answered that you idiot.
What is on the walls of the room you are in?
I have all sorts of paintings, photographs, sumo banzuke, and record albums covering most of my walls.
Seen anything weird lately? My brains transmits bizarre assaults of imagery into my waking consciousness the likes of which most people would define as weird. So...yes.
What do you think of this quiz? So far it's been kind of boring and I'm somewhat regretting my decision.
What is the last film you saw? Pandora's Box
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? San Francisco
If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? Car, Bills, House, My Friend's Bills, Go to the Doctor.
Tell me something about you that most people don't know. I met RZA once and we ended our conversation with him gratiously giving me "respect". Which was awesome.
If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do? Cause coconut to cease to exist. It destroys everything it touches.
Do you like to dance? No I hate it.
Would you ever consider living abroad? If it were possible I would leave in a heartbeat.
Does your name make any interesting anagrams? My name backwards is "Nomad" and I believe that's it.
Who made the last incoming call on your phone? My best friend that lives down the street.
What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer? The latest update to Firefox I do believe.
Last time you swam in a pool? Sometime in 1997 I think.
Type of music you like most? Alternative rock, cl@ssical and Jazz.
Type of music you dislike most? Light or Smooth Jazz...it's not jazz man.
Are you listening to music right now? Nopers.
What color is your bedroom carpet? I live in a studio so I don't have a bedroom...or even a bed really.
If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do? More storage room. I gots lotsa stuff.
What was the last thing you bought? I bought a PS3 controller for my friend's birthday.
Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
Yes I had one for years as that was my only mode of transportation.
Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? Probably not unless I were paid to do so.
Do you have a garden? I don't have a patio or yard.
Do you really know all the words to your national anthem? Sure. >_>
What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning? Pain.
If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be? Renee O'Connor.
Who sent the last text message you received? I don't use text message technology.
Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Amoeba's
What time is bed time? Typically from 4am - 6am
Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?
How many tattoos do you have? None. I'm too indecisive and have too many interests.
If you don't have any, have you ever thought of getting one? Yes but again...too many choices and too many interests.
What did you do for your last birthday?
I just watched movies and then my friend came over and took me out for cake.
Do you carry a donor card? Nope.
Who was the last person you ate dinner with? My aforementioned friend from down the street.
Is the glass half empty or half full? It depends how thirsty I am.
What's the farthest-away place you've been? Detroit, Michigan.
When's the last time you ate a homegrown tomato? I don't eat tomatoes.
Have you ever won a trophy? Just little ones for playing various sports at a very young age.
Are you a good cook? Not at all.
Do you know how to pump your own gas? Explain to me how it is that someone could not grasp this knowledge?
If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?
Hatchepsut would be ideal.
Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school? For a few years back in the '70s I went to a private school so we wouldn't be bussed.
Do you touch-type? Yup...using my fingers and everything.
What's under your bed? I don't have a bed.
Do you believe in love at first sight? No.
Think fast, what do you like right now?
Chocolate? Did I win?
Where were you on Valentine's day? I don't remember as I haven't had a girlfriend for quite some time so I don't pay attention to the date.
What time do you get up? Anywhere from 11am - 1pm.
What was the name of your first pet? I had a German Shepherd named "Duchess" back in the '60s.
Who is the second to last person to call you? Phones sales people.
Is there anything going on this weekend? I'm sure there is...you should probably check the local paper and see if there's something you'd like.
How are you feeling right now? A little annoyed as my TV Japan channel keeps going out.
What do you think about the most? Stuff I should talk about in public.
What time do you get up in the morning? You asked this already.
If you had A Big Win in the Lottery, how long would you wait to tell people? I'd tell the important folks in my life as soon as possible.
Who would you tell first?
My friend down the street.
What is the last movie that you saw at the cinema? Puss in Boots
Do you sing in the shower? Nopers.
Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? You asked this before too. What they hell kind of list is this?
What do you do most when you are bored? Watch movies or play a video game.
What do you do for a living? I'm typically a retail manager.
Do you love your job? Sometimes...it comes and goes.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A Paleontologist.
If you could have any job, what would you want to do/be? I'd like to run an independent movie theatre.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? The chicken.
How many keys on your key ring? Just 5
Where would you retire to? San Francisco.
What kind of car do you drive? I don't have a car anymore.
What are your best physical features? I don't really have any anymore. Maybe my eyes?
What are your best characteristics? I'm creative and pretty open-minded.
If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go? I suppose Japan so I could go take pictures of the sumo rikishi.
What kind of books do you like to read? Usually historical non-fiction.
Where would you want to retire to? You asked this before as well.
What is your favorite time of the day? Late at night when everybody is asleep.
Where did you grow up? All over Southern California and a few years in Utah.
How far away from your birthplace do you live now? Ummmmm....about 30 minutes.
What are you reading now? 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Night owl. You can't trust morning people.
Can you touch your nose with your tongue? Oh if only I could.
Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?Sure. Are there people that can't do that?
Do you have pets? No. I have a tiny cactus.
How many rings before you answer the phone?
Usually it's two but I don't really wait specifically for two rings.
What is your best childhood memory? Fishing and traveling the expansive roadways of the Western U.S.
What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life?Oh...nothing interesting.
Any new and exciting things that you would like to share? Over the last month or so I watched the entire Xena series. Not much happens in my life.
What is most important in life? Friends.
What Inspires You? Nothing these days.