Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale

People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

First and foremost, one thing that Diane Setterfield, the author, does very well is to make The Thirteenth Tale essentially a tribute to writing, to reading, to book lovers, and to the famous romantic Gothic novels a la the Brontes. The protagonist is an avid bibliophile and that mood, that feeling, and what it means to write and why reading can be oh so very special is all handled very well. (Personally, that's what I liked the most about this book.)

And then w/o considering the books Setterfield is trying to pay tribute to through emulation- the novel stands on its own, strongly. The story, the mystery is well crafted, and I didn't give Setterfield as much credit as I should have while I was reading (b/c for a lot of modern books that have been on the best seller lists, imho- they're decent, solid writing sometimes, but oftentimes they take the easy way out). Setterfield has certainly done her share of the work thinking and mapping out the story and I do admire her for that. Sure there are characters and plot points (eg. the protagonist's own family history and the whole Aurelius storyline) that really seemed more like plot devices than genuine character development but ultimately, it works and many of the characters do feel well-fleshed out. And you end up caring about some of them despite their faults that it is very sad when you reach the fire and understand why Miss Vida Winter's story had ended there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Mostly Miyazaki Kick

Tonari no Totoro

Probably my very favorite of Miyazki movies b/c I loved it as a kid and also b/c it's just a really great movie. It's magical (but more in a Shintu spirit/more spiritualistic form) and whimsical and ultimately quite melancholy. Rewatching it this time, I felt particularly affected- quite saddened in general about these two girls growing up w/o their mom and especially at Satsuki (SPOILER) breaking down completely to the grandmotherly neighbor after the telegram b/c she's just been so strong and so put together. And despite how ultimately short Totoro's appearances are in the film, he makes such a lasting, lasting impact.

Hot Fuzz

[Doris knocks down a female shop assistant with a yellow "Slippery floor" sign]
DS Andy Wainwright: Nice one, Doris.
PC Doris Thatcher: Nothing like a bit of girl on girl!
Through a good deal of the movie, I thought that the who-did-it question was so very obvious, as expected, b/c this is a parody movie and parody movies don't generally need a very good, logically thought out plot with non-obvious answers.


Oh how very wrong I was. The majority of the movie is pretty funny, full of ironic British wit and general slapstick. Eg. b/c I can't have a post about Hot Fuzz w/o quoting the protagonist, Nicholas Angel- it just seems wrong.

[Nicholas Angel is having a crackdown on underage drinkers in the pub]
Nicholas Angel: Oy! When's your birthday?
Underage Drinker #1: 22nd of February.
Nicholas Angel: What year?
Underage Drinker #1: Every year!

But wow, the last 30 minutes or so of the movie, after Nicholas walks in on the townspeople were epic. Purely epic and from then on I understood why this movie got the amount of good buzz that it did. So yes, I highly recommend the last 30 minutes of the movie, especially if you're someone who likes movies that mislead you. Often.

Kiki's Delivery Service It's always tricky watching a dubbed version of a movie. I wish I'd been able to watch the subbed version b/c I can imagine that in a lot of ways, it'd be more subtle and less direct than the dub. The English dub of Kiki's isn't bad per say, but there were definitely moments when I'm sure that in the original, everything wasn't quite as spelled out. Eg. Kiki voicing at one point that she really felt like an outsider.

This wasn't ever really one of my favorite Miyazaki movies growing up (probably due to the fact that I had a subbed version in Mandarin and I can't/couldn't read it very well) but I do like it a lot. The scenery is beautiful- a quaint European city by the ocean. Kiki works in a bakery with lots of tasty looking bread...there are no monsters or demons, just a little witch delivering various items. One thing I love about Kiki's world is how nonchalant everyone is about magic and while it wasn't in the scope of the movie, I'd be curious to learn about the backstory of witches and their training- if they left the towns after their one year of training when they were 13, if they stayed, if they had more training away from home, etc.

It goes to show how great a director Miyazaki is when the movie effortlessly shifts tones. It's generally a very episodic, leisurely paced movie, but in the final sequence with the dirigible- there's such great tension. And then of course there's the ending...which is just very beautiful and gives the story such a great sense of completion and finality.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Massive Catch Up Post

500 Days of Summer
Paul: Robin is better than the girl of my dreams. She's real.
In a lot of ways, I wanted to like this movie, but couldn't quite bring myself to. It was really hard for me to connect with the characters b/c while they weren't your atypical indie romantic comedy leads, they just...something just seemed like it was missing. Essentially "500 Days of Summer" just focuses on the two main characters Tom and Summer and while Tom's friends and sister made appearances, they really weren't there long enough for me to see who they really were like as characters- as characters with more to do than just being involved in Tom's life. And it's so hard to have a movie with just two main characters- it really gets myopic at times. While I don't mind a fragmented narration (actually I love it when movies/shows mess with time) nor an omniscient narrator in a movie when it's done well, these two elements don't work quite so well with the movie either.

What I did like about the movie that I wish they'd hit on harder is the idea of whether or not love was a result of fate or a result of random chance/coincidences- kind of reminded me of one of the main themes of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Other great moments in the movie: there is this great, profound sense of sadness seeing side by side, Tom's wishes of what would happen at Summer's party versus what actually happened- and then as he walks away and the background melts into animation- quite a beautiful moment. The other one, is when Paul, his friend who's had a girlfriend forever, talks about how he feels about his gf. I couldn't find the whole quote but essentially he talks about how his dream girl would have had larger breasts and liked sports more, but that "Robin is better than the girl of my dreams. She's real." That is...I think, is a very romantic, a very mature take on love that's very rarely seen in movies, and now I wish that the movie had perhaps, gone into that idea a bit more- perhaps let us see what Paul's relationship was like with Robin.

Ponyo on the Cliff
Lisa: So, what's your Mother like, then?
Ponyo: She's big, and beautiful! But, she can be very scary.
Sosuke: Just like my Mom.
Perhaps I'll come off sounding Scrooge-like by saying this but I felt a bit too old for this movie. It's not that I don't like movies about kids- I love love love Totoro for example b/c it's so magical and so precious and makes you feel nostalgic about the days when you could really let your imagination run wild but Ponyo was a bit more on the fantastical juvenile side and just sort of felt like a bit of a mashup of elements of his earlier films. Eg. the water reminded me of a less horrific version of the demon worms, the final task reminded me of the final task in Spirited Away, etc. A stand out moment in the film was perhaps when Sosuke and his mom were signaling to his dad away at sea. So essentially, while the movie made me crave ham+ramen, it doesn't really make me want to go back and re-watch it again.

I Love You, Man
Peter Klaven: I will see you there, or I will see you on another time!

Another entry into the genre of guy-oriented romantic comedies, which I prefer over female-oriented rom coms (naturally). I haven't watched too too many of these but I still think that the very first of these was the best: The 40-Year Old Virgin, which somehow despite all its crudeness still managed to be very cute and endearing. I Love You, Man is another solid entry into this category and I liked it more than I thought I would (gauging from expectations after watching the trailer). Essentially Peter has trouble making friends with other guys and sets out to find a best man for his upcoming wedding. Also has Adam Sandberg playing an amusingly flamboyantly straight gay guy.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

Juan Antonio: Maria Elena used to say that only unfulfilled love can be romantic.

Second time watching this movie- it's still a great movie. Barcelona is beautiful. Penelope Cruz is absolutely fantastic in this- as Maria Elena, she's crazy, funny, and ultimately full of this despair/sadness. What I love the most about this movie though, is how it really infuses this sense of summer within it.

Julie & Julia

The main reason to watch Julie & Julia is for Meryl Strep's performance as Julia Child. Even with an accent that will tend to come off as obnoxious, Strep's Julia Child is still lovable, adorable, and fearless. In general, Julia Child's storyline always tended to be the more interesting one, doing a good job in the background of showing the partnership that the Childs had, supporting each other as they had ups and downs in their careers/endeavors. In particular, I loved this one scene where at a Valentine's dinner, Paul Child tells everyone how much Julia means to him and she looks at him, thumping the paper heart attached to her blouse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Ron Weasley: [about Ginny and Dean] What do you think he sees in her?
Harry Potter: She's smart... funny... attractive...
Ron Weasley: Attractive?
Harry Potter: Well you know... she has nice... skin.
Ron Weasley: So you think he is going out with her because she has nice skin?
Harry Potter: Well, I dunno, I'm just saying it could be a contributing factor.
Ron Weasley: Hermione's got nice skin. You know, as far as skin goes.
Harry Potter: I-I've never thought about it before. But now that you mention it, yeah. Very nice.
Ron Weasley: [long pause] ... I think I'll be going to bed now.

I have to say that I am a bit miffed b/c I wrote a long and detailed review about what I thought of the latest HP and thought I'd posted it but hadn't yet, so long story short it's all gone. Grr...Oh well.

In short, I liked HP6 a lot. It might just be my favorite Harry Potter movie to date (although it's a bit of a tie between Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.) Azkaban was, in a lot of way, more subtle and I loved Alfonso Cuaron's take on Hogwarts, b/c his Hogwarts is not only beautiful but you get the sense that it's very magically alive with all the moving staircases and magical portraits.

What Half Blood Prince excels at is characterization and the portrayal of relationships between the characters. In a lot of ways, I think I actually like the movie versions of the characters over the ones in the books b/c they feel more real, more human. In particular, Hermione's a lot less prissy and up tight and Harry is much more focused. And while I'm not much of a fan of the Ginny/Harry romance in the books, I root for them in the movie and their kiss scene is actually a very tender, intimate moment whereas in the books, it's just sort of over the top. Also, while in the books, when Hermione sends the charmed birds on Ron, it's a very mediocore moment, not very memorable save for the fact that it's probably the angriest we've ever seen Hermione- In the movie, though, it's a really moving moment, and I absolutely love how through that you get to explore the Hermione, Harry friendship.

Other things I liked about the movie:
-It's ultimately a very good adaptation. The movie stands on its own feet, and while there were things I wish it included (which I will get into later), for the most part, I don't feel as if I'm at too much of a loss for not having certain things included.
-They included Luna! Luna was probably the best part of movie 5; I remember really liking the weird chemistry she had with Harry. While there's none of that chemistry in this movie, I'm really glad (and pleasantly surprised) that they give her a minor role in this one.
-The raising of the wands in remembrance of Dumbledore is very well done and a good adaptation of the funeral scene, which may have seemed a bit cheesy and too much in movie form (although it's certainly not in the book)
-They fit in Draco's story very well, instead of very abruptly as it is in the books (which is, I think, is a problem in the books mainly b/c they're all from Harry's perspective and towards the end of the series when things got darker, it would have been more effective had we been able to see others' perspectives as well.) And Tom Felton does a great job with Draco; I actually felt sympathetic towards him whereas in the books, he just comes off as annoying and pitiful. Felton's certainly come a long way from the slightly buck toothed wanna be (adorable) stuck up bully in movie 1.
-The locket retrieval scene is pretty flawless. The cave is very well done, epic looking even at times and reminiscent of LOTR. I imagined the Inferi to be different (more chilling) and Dumbledore to have suffered more, but all in all, fantastic stuff
-As is Harry on Felix Felicitus

Things I wish they'd included/things that could have been better
-One of my favorite parts of book 6 is at the beginning where Fudge and Scrimgeour are talking to the Muggle Prime Minister and telling him about all the damage that Lord Voldemort has been causing. At one point, the prime minister interjects with something along the lines of, "but you guys have magic- I can't understand why you're having all these problems." To which Scrimgeour replies with "well, so do they" which gah just raises the stakes a lot.
-No Merope/the Gaunts, some of the creepiest parts of book 6
-No Scrimgeour. Not that I particularly like him but I would have liked to see Harry been called Dumbledore's man through and through
-Why isn't Ron there in the last scene?? It should end with the trio, not with just Hermione and Harry.
-While there are some lovely parts to the score in this movie, I do miss the days when John Williams was scoring the HP movies.

Post Grad

I hope this doesn't ruin my credibility as a wanna be movie connoisseur but despite its abysmal 8% (or something like that) rating on, I didn't think it was such a terrible movie. Perhaps b/c I am a post grad myself and to some extent we can all relate to the situation that the main character, Ryden, felt when she's at a party and all her friends have things lined up after graduation except her. It sucks to feel like you're being left behind. It was rather enjoyable to watch as chick flicks go, not too many cringe worthy moments although plenty of awkward ones.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Knocked Up

Pete: I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles.
Ben Stone: That's sad.
Pete: Totally sad. Their smiling faces just point out your inability to enjoy anything.
Ok, so I could have picked a funnier quote but I like emo moments and I liked this moment a lot...
Generally, I liked it. Thought it was funny and found its depictions of relationships interesting, if not realistic. I don't know if I ever bought that Ben and Alison would actually work although it's far more realistic that it might after Ben grows up a little. It was interesting to an extent seeing how women and men viewed the same situation so differently but, ultimately, that's what I had trouble with in this movie. It seems that consistently, the guys get the better, funnier lines/situations and while I do agree that girls do take things more seriously than necessary, it doesn't mean that girls don't have as much fun/that all girls take everything more seriously than necessary.

Some Like it Hot

Osgood: I called Mama. She was so happy she cried! She wants you to have her wedding gown. It's white lace.

Daphne: Yeah, Osgood. I can't get married in your mother's dress. Ha ha. That-she and I, we are not built the same way.

Osgood: We can have it altered.

Daphne: Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all.

Osgood: Why not?

Daphne: Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde.

Osgood: Doesn't matter.

Daphne: I smoke! I smoke all the time!

Osgood: I don't care.

Daphne: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player.

Osgood: I forgive you.

Daphne: [Tragically] I can never have children!

Osgood: We can adopt some.

Daphne/Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! [Whips off his wig, exasperated, and changes to a manly voice.] Uhhh, I'm a man!

Osgood: [Looks at him then turns back, unperturbed]: Well, nobody's perfect!

I know it's a very famous quote, but it's such a great exchange that I can't help but to quote it. Some Like It Hot is a classic and rightly so. It's very funny without being lewd (it's sort of sad that it's hard for comedies today to be funny w/o the innuendo, not that I'm opposed to it, but I mean, this goes to show that comedies can work w/o the dirty jokes too.) Tremendous fun and very enjoyable. Really good banter.

Porco Rosso

A clip from the movie that's just too beautiful not to share. One of my creative writing teachers once told us that in a story, it's important to make the audience feel as if their characters have been existing, living lives beyond what's contained in the story- kind of like a refrigerator light. It's on (during the story) but you want the audience to feel like it's on all the time, even when the door's closed. I think Porco Rosso is a very good example of this. The characters have been around for so long, there're so many stories, but we only get a quick glimpse.

District 9

First new movie I've seen in theaters for a while. It's a good movie, a fine movie, though I don't think it deserves to be at #29 on the imdb top 250 movies list.

x-post from my lj

Today, I got to see District 9, which I recommend. It's got a pretty memorable trailer. Loved the documentary-esque approach they took to make the movie. The main character's named Wikus (what an awesome name!) and played very well by an actor who later from imdb, I found out he's never been in any other movies (which makes it all the more awesome). It's low budget (but still very well done) and as a bio dork, I very much liked the fact that (mild spoiler- only the aliens could use their own weapons since their weapons recognize their DNA- go aliens! Very smart aliens!). Of course, if there are aliens out there (and I think there should be b/c the universe is just too huge and vast of a place for life not to exist anywhere but here), I doubt their genetic make up would be DNA based or if it is, perhaps some different nucleotides. At least. Okay, but major tangent aside, found the beginning bit where they loop all the interviews on the aliens in documentary style and where Wikus goes around trying to evict the aliens particularly intriguing- especially from a sociological POV. But I suppose it's always easier dealing with issues as complicated as xenophobia and racism and apartheid when it's much further removed from reality. (Aliens in this case. House elves, werewolves, giants, and practically anything else that's a non-wizard/witch in Harry Potter.)


Merchant: Ooh, look at this. I have never seen one of these intact before. This is the famous Dead Sea Tupperware. Listen. Pbbtt! Ah, still fresh.

Aladdin is still a very fun, very enjoyable movie even after all these years. What I like the most about it is that so many of the characters are so darn likable: Aladdin, Genie, Jasmine (and a nod at feminism b/c she's smart, strong, and knows use her femininity to her advantage, Sultan (and his random toys), Raja, carpet, etc. (can't say I'm much of a fan of Iago or Abu though...they tended to get annoying.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Disney Kick


Prince Edward: [threatening Robert with his sword] Have you any last words before I dispatch you?
Robert: You have got to be kidding me!
Prince Edward: Strange words!

I absolutely adore this movie and think it's one of those things that can always cheer me up when I'm feeling down. It's saccharine and a lot more chick flicky than movies that I typically like, but somehow (probably the Disney magic) it works. Perhaps what makes it so entertaining to watch is seeing the worlds of the Disney characters clash with those in our world- cynicism and all the rest with hopelessly optimistic idealism. Love all the random Disney references- the fairy tale book in the beginning, "Part of your world" playing briefly by a fish tank, etc. Amy Addams is absolutely fantastic in this, and I think that's a huge part of why this movie works as well as it does and makes it mean a bit more than just a typical chick flick. It does make me a bit sad that Giselle doesn't really sing anymore at the end, but I have to say- absolutely loved what happens to Nathaniel. And the slow dancing scene- always swoon worthy especially when Patrick Dempsey sings for a tiny bit.


John Smith: Look, don't do this. Savage is just a word, uh, you know. A term for people who are uncivilized.
Pocahontas: Like me.
John Smith: Well, when I say uncivilized, what I mean is, is...
Pocahontas: What you mean is, "not like you."
I think that the movie could have worked a bit better had it been a bit less serious b/c Disney humor is quite good. A bit slow at times but the savages scene and finale are still pretty fantastic to rewatch. I do appreciate the fact that Pocahontas and the other characters in this movie are a lot more mature than other Disney characters. And maybe it's b/c they don't get their happily ever after, but I think that John Smith and Pocahontas might be one of my favorite Disney couples.

The Little Mermaid

What do they got? A lot of sand
We got a hot crustacean band
-Sebastian, Under the Sea
Little Mermaid has some a few fantastic moments- eg. when you see the underwater kingdom for the first time, Ariel on the rock with the waves crashing behind her, "Part of Your World"... And on that subject "Part of Your World" is perhaps one of my favorite Disney song ever- it's so lovely, so fun of longing. I almost wish the second half of the movie, when Ariel's on land, is a bit slower in the pacing b/c somehow the first part of the movie feels more a bit more memorable. Irregardless of that though, it's still a classic and Sebastian is endlessly entertaining- one of my favorite sidekicks.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Raiders of the Last Ark

Indiana: It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

As someone born near 1990, I don't think I can fully appreciate how great this movie is and what a big cultural phenomenon it was at the time. I suppose our best equivalent are the Pirates of the Carribbean movies- also highly entertaining as well. (or maybe not?) A few scenes in Raiders were actually quite reminiscent of a few scenes from the first Pirates. Eg. Marion in the tombs w/ the skeletons scene and vaguely, the scene in which Belloq asks her to put on the dress and she steals a knife).

It's very entertaining and very fun- an ideal summer blockbluster/popcorn flick. I like the low-techness of the action scenes. Although it took a bit of getting used to (the giant boulder is just not as big as I imagined it would be), the lack of CG, especially bad fake looking CG from the past, is a lot of fun and perhaps a reason why the Indiana Jones Stunt Show at MGM is still such a great show.

And on route to hopefully becoming a scientist one day, I wish that there was some form of entertainment whether it be a TV show or a movie that really glorifies and makes doing research endlessly exciting and sexy- like Indiana Jones did for archaelogy (never mind the inaccuracies of the depiction).

The Untouchables

Capone: Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork... Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don't field... what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I'm goin' out there for myself. But... I get nowhere unless the team wins.
I have to admit that I was actually kind of disappointed with The Untouchable b/c while it's all right, has some good moments, it could have really been great w/ its story content had the tone of the film been more set and more focused. Had it gone the serious route, it would have been fantastic b/c there were a few scenes that were genuinely quite shocking- to the level of the Joker does a magic trick in The Dark Knight. Eg. the beginning where the little girl notices that one of the men whose left has left behind a suitcase, Capone after his baseball monologue, the end of the train station confrontation, interrogating the first book keeper.

I also had a lot of problems w/ the score of the movie. While Ernnio Morricone has written some very gorgeous scores, I don't think his score fit very well with the movie. It's too epic at times when something more subtle and less romantic was needed. Also Sean Connery's character, Malone- how he's introduced and how he comes to become Ness's right hand man is somewhat too contrived and too convenient. While I know it's necessary to forward the story and perhaps it's what happened in reality, I wish that the movie had maybe approached it in a different manner since we don't know very much about him or his backgrounds or motivations. The Canadian liquor standoff, while entertaining, especially the accountant, it almost turned into a Western and had the movie really found footing w/ a tone (it's too serious to be a mildly comic/fun crime movie and not nearly serious enough for a gritty crime movie), it could have been so much more b/c the Touchable scene really was quite poignant.

The French Connection

I'm okay with movies switching POV for character development, but am not a big fan of movies that use POV switches just for plot forwarding. The French Connection is slightly guilty of that when they protray what's going on w/ the mob and drug sellers, b/c the drug sellers never really become anything more, for the most part, than one dimensional antagonists. The grittiness of the movie, however, really more than makes up for that. It has some really fabulous chase scenes, that are rightly famous, and very well done. I'm not sure that I'm too satisfied with the ending though, but it's a decent movie that's worth watching.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the book)

An analogy: The Lion King: Disney Movies:: Goblet of Fire: Harry Potter books

The Goblet of Fire- I've gotten how *good* it was. It's got all the elements that make you love Harry Potter: plenty of magic (the dragon!), candy for the fans (the Quidditch cup), humor (Divination homework), adventure, and most of all, friendship. And while it has hints of more terrible things to come, darker things to come- Harry's isolation, people becoming skeptical of him- it's the last "happy" Harry Potter book. The last few chapters, after the Quidditch cup, are some of the most fabulous, the most touching in the whole series. It really got to me this time at the end when Molly hugs Harry and tells him it's not his fault and him giving the twins all the gold.

Monday, August 3, 2009

An Incongrous Mix

Yin Shi Nan Nu (Eat Man Drink Woman)

Another one of Ang Lee's earlier movies. Although they're a lot of great Chinese quotes from the movie, I don't think I can quote any of them b/c I only have access to the English translations and my Chinese isn't really good enough for me to search for the quotes and be able to read them. While the subtitles for this movie are decent (they get the point across), there's oftentimes something slightly off w/ the original meaning and connotation.

I love the (almost) excessive use of food in this movie. All of it looks very very delectable. The first three minutes of the film are to die for w/ the gorgeous food pron or rather images :). I would say that this is definitely a movie worth watching multiple times. There's almost too much to absorb at once. It's funny what you notice each time and how different your perceptions are.

This time around, I found it a rather sad story and kind of especially poignant for where I am in my life right now (where a lot and seemingly everything around me is changing dramatically). It's a sad story b/c everything's changing and everyone's moving on with their lives without you- even the people you'd thought would have always been there. There are a lot of story lines, a lot of characters, a lot of different personalities, motivations and wants to keep track of and it can be hard the first time around to keep them all straight. Particular moments I really liked: the father and his old friend talking- felt very genuine, the two elder sisters coming to an understanding, the chaotic dinner, and the very last dinner.

A Clockwork Orange

Prison Chaplain: Choice! The boy has not a real choice, has he? Self-interest, the fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self-abasement. The insincerity was clear to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.

Minister: Padre, there are subtleties! We are not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime and with relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons. He will be your true Christian, ready to turn the other cheek, ready to be crucified rather than crucify, sick to the heart at the thought of killing a fly. Reclamation! Joy before the angels of God! The point is that it works.
Another fabulous film by Stanley Kubrick. What I love about his films is that despite all of their vastly different topics (so far I've seen 2001, the Shining, Dr. Strangelove, and this), they always stick with you after you've seen them and make you think and question.

The first 40 mintues or so of this movie are perhaps the very definition of subversive. Lots of phalic imagery, "ultraviolence," sex, and incongrous elements placed together. eg. soothing, classical music coupled with fierce fighting, the infamous "Singing in the Rain" scene, and a nearly unbelievable fight scene featuring a giant dildo and Beethoven bust. It's surprising how after Alex "becomes good," despite all the terrible things he does in the beginning, you still feel sympathic towards him when he's released back into society and treated terribly.

Midnight Cowboy

Joe Buck: Uh, well, sir, I ain't a f'real cowboy. But I am one helluva stud!

The movie has really great performances by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. Loved Joe Buck's endless optimism and found the last man, the man struggling with his religion and temptations, very fascinating. Definitely a solid, good movie, but not really my "cup of tea" so to speak.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Shining: Redrum

I absolutely love it when things live up to their expectations. Like the shower scene in Psycho, the awesomeness of the twist in the Sixth Sense, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Hal in 2001. And The Shining is no exception. The Shining's been so deeply integrated into pop culture that even though I've already seen numerous parodies of it (redrum, "Here's Johnny," blood pouring from elevators, eerie twins) and know how it ends, it's still immensely creepy and one of those horror films that really linger...that make you still feel slightly ill at ease long after it's over. I wish that more great directors made horror films and while I don't watch too much horror, I wish that more movies in that genre were based on actually creepy sensations rather than the slashers that many of them fall into.

I think you know you're in for something quite special right when the movie starts. It shows this gorgeous river and mountain and follows this winding country road. It's a gorgeous view but in the manner that it's filmed there's something not quite right about it- the way the camera films the scene. The camera work is probably one of my favorite aspects of the film. There are so many gorgeously filmed scenes. I love how it gives you the whole view of the room each time and lets you figure out what you want to carefully observe and focus on and how it follows the characters around the winding corridors of the Overlook Hotel. And although I was not completely sold on Jack Nicholson (he always carries this air of well...Jack Nicholson), when he loses it, he loses it and it's fabulous to watch. Also, despite the number of times you've seen a parody of the infamous "Here's Johnny" scene, it's dead scary when it actually happens and the events that happen afterwards were really pure hair-raising terror.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mischief Managed!

So I (probably along with a lot of other people I'm sure) have been on a big Harry Potter binge.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Finished HP and the Chamber of Secrets, which used to be the definite least favorite of the HP books but through many rereads and what happens later on, I like it a lot more now. I like how in a lot of ways, it's a harbinger to many things to come much later in the series when it's much darker: people's distrust of Harry after the attacks start, a peak into Horcruxes... The Basilisk through the pipes and Tom Riddle's diary are still pretty down right creepy, in a good way.

A Very Potter Musical
"You think killing people might make them like you, but it doesn't. It just makes people dead."
-Voldemort from Harry Potter the musical.

I've also recently discovered (found out from mugglenet) this fantastic Harry Potter parody musical.
It's really well done and really really funny in a lot of parts. HP has a huge fandom and it's always interesting seeing people's various takes on the characters. Harry plays the guitar, Cho Chang's Southern, Queriell and Voldemort miss being stuck to each other, Ron's constantly eating and sort of like a frat boy, and Draco wants to go to Pigfarts which is in space and is played by a girl but it's all good! Really a must see for all hard core Harry Potter fans.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I'm not a huge fan of the movies. I haven't seen the 6th one yet but am planning to soon. The movies-They're all right, don't compare with the books, and are great eye candy, but I decided (on my massive HP spree) to rewatch movie 3. I remember liking it, especially how unlike the first two movies, it was the first one to really stand on its own right.

Rewatching it, I am in awe with how beautifully filmed it is. It's probably my favorite HP movie take on Hogwarts. There are so many gorgeous scenes. The numerous portraits in the hallway, the giant pendulum swinging in the great hall, the lake, Buckbeak in Hagrid's giant pumpkin patch, Buckbeaks executioner- how eerie he looks sharpening his axe outside. Love the parts especially where you see the seasons changing, Hedwig flying overhead, and the whomping willow shedding its leaves.

In terms of the characters, I'm finding myself actually liking Ron and Harry quite a lot. They really grow on you, as well as the interactions b/n the trio. Hermione-there's something...she just doesn't quite feel as Hermioneish to me as she should be.

I find that I like the movie the best when it deviates from the books somewhat and comes up with new scenes, new moments. In particular, I loved this one scene where Harry, Ron, and the other Gryffindor boys in their year are in their dorm room, trying these magical candies- it's a simple scene but there's something really natural about it that we don't quite get enough of in the books since Harry's too busy fighting LV- wizards just being wizards and hanging out like regular kids. I love this other scene where Ron's having a nightmare about spiders making him tapdance; Harry's still up and tells Ron to show the spiders whose boss, and Ron falls straight asleep. Also loved the random Hermione, Ron moments scattered throughout the movie- especially at the shrieking shack.

Hermione: It's meant to be the most haunted building in Britain. Did I mention that?
Ron: Twice.
Hermione: Oh. Do you want to move a bit closer?
Ron: Huh?
Hermione: To the Shrieking Shack.
Ron: Oh, no. I'm fine here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

He didn’t know what he was going to- but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.

There's nothing quite like rereading old favorites.

Finished rereading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone today. Still a great book that makes me smile. In particular, I loved reading through those character defining moments...Hermione's now infamous (roughly paraphrasing) "We could die or worse get expelled" line, Harry's humbleness and desire just to be normal, Ron's loyalty (of course all three of them were going to find the Philosopher's Stone together), Dumbledore's brilliance and quirkiness (wool socks in the mirror of erised), Neville's awkwardness and clumsiness- of course we all know people like Neville who are kind but awkward and you want to be their friend but just can't quite do so, so you hope that he'll make other friends.

One of my favorite moments from the book has to be Neville finding out that he has magical powers- of course he tells it and it doesn't seem like a big deal (understated) but it *is*. Also loved all the really lovely lonely descriptions of Harry before he finds out that there are people out there who actually do care about him. And at the end of the day, it's not really about the magic but about the friendships. Another particular favorite moment towards the end of book 1. <3>

It seemed to be a handsome, leather-covered book. Harry opened it curiously. It was full of wizard photographs. Smiling and waving at him from every page were his mother and father.

“Sent owls off ter all yer parets’ old school friends, askin’ fer photos…knew yeh didn’t have any…d’yeh like it?”

Harry couldn’t speak, but Hagrid understood.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Xi Yan (The Wedding Banquet)

You're witnessing the results of 5,000 years of sexual repression.
- Guest at wedding banquet, Ang Lee's cameo

Xi Yan is fabulous. Sure, the plot's a bit of a stretch: the protagonist is Wai-Tong, a gay Chinese businessman living in the US with his American boyfriend Simon. His parents won't stop hounding him about getting married b/c his dad really wants a grandchild so finally one day, Simon suggests that Wai-Tong marries one of his tenants, Wei Wei, which will kill two birds with one stone: satisfy Wai's parents and also allow Wei Wei to stay in the US. there's this really awesome line from the movie where Simon finally manages to convince Wai-Tong to do this: by bringing up tax breaks for married couples. And while the scenario of the fake marriage is a bit far fetched, the characters are all so well developed and you end up caring about them all that it doesn't matter in the end. You just hope that everything works out. It seems like they will, but then've never sure.

I miss the more intimate feel of some of Ang Lee's earlier movies. Xi Yan does a really good job depicting the dynamics of an Asian family, especially the cultural gaps b/n generations. It showcases so many fantastic moments: Wai Tong finally telling his mom and expressing how much he really wanted to share his world with them, the mom scrambling for the purse, the dad walking faster than Wai Tong, Simon helping Wei Wei cook behind the parents' back, Wai-Tong's overenthusiastic college buddy at the wedding, Simon wiping Wai-Tong's mouse with a napkin after he kisses Wei Wei, the mom talking to Wei Wei about how her son will be straight once he sees his son and Wei Wei trying to explain to the mom that this isn't how it works, and the dad talking to Simon and how neither of them understands.

Princess Mononoke

Cut off a wolf's head and it still has the power to bite.
-Lady Eboshi

Ashitaka is not a cheerful, worry-free boy. He is a melancholy boy who has a fate. I feel that I am that way myself, but until now, I have not made a film with such a character. Ashitaka was cursed for a very absurd reason. Sure, Ashitaka did something he should not have done - killing Tatari Gami. But there was enough reason to do so from the humans' viewpoint. Nevertheless, he received a deadly curse. I think that is similar to the lives of people today. I think this is a very absurd thing that is part of life itself.
-Hayao Miyazaki

I feel like despite how great the dubs are compared to a lot of other anime for Miyazaki movies, there's always quite a lot lost in the translation and that there are a lot of subtleties that you won't quite get unless it was in its original language. While as a Miyazaki fan, it's probably blasphemous to say this, I can't quite bring myself to like this film that much. It's epic. It has lovely animation, a gorgeous gorgeous score (probably my favorite out of all of Joe Hiashi's stuff), and a good message. However, it's difficult for me to feel connected with the characters. I do like what the characters stand for and how most of them are quite multi-dimensional- like Lady Eboshi, who's so cruel to nature and rather harsh in her tactics, but ultimately compassionate to her fellow humans- she buys the contracts of prostitutes from brothels and employs and cares for lepers.

Les Triplettes de Belleville

Is that it, then? Is it over, do you think? What have you got to say to Grandma?
-Madame Souz

A very weird, bizarre movie. Sketchy Belleville mafia members who look like rectangles, grenades for getting dinner (frogs), a kick butt grandma, an awesome car scene, faux Disney castle, using a dog as a tire, etc. It was a generally enjoyable, although the animation is a bit odd, even creepy at times.

Fantasia 2000

It's cute, great animation, but doesn't measure up to the original Fantasia, which is probably one of my favorite movies ever.

The Dark Knight
Sometimes the truth isn't good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded...
What I love about this movie is that it's one of those movies where you notice something new each time you watch it. The first time, I was ensnared by Heath Ledger's Joker and the overall darkness of the film, psychologically and otherwise. That scene where the Jokerfied corpse hits the mayor's window still makes me jump and shiver. The second time, I was fascinated by Dent and Gordon's respective forces and their ideologies. Eg. Dent referring to County as Gordon's fortress. The most recent time, by the idea of what it means to be an outcast hero and filling in the finer points of the plot and how it all connects, and even though I miss Batman Begin's Bruce Wayne (the energy and ferocity he had in the first one where he was fighting X prisoners at once), I did love how longing and desperately hopeful he looked when he prodded Dent at dinner and found out that he was willing to take up Batman's mantle.

I still don't love it as much as the first one, but I do love the complexity, the intermittent scenes in which three story lines or more are progressing all at once. The warehouse sequence and the first string of Joker attacks are all fantastic. And the ending, the last fifteen minutes or so when it's Batman, Dent, and Gordon at the old warehouse and the last narration is pretty flawless b/c it brings everything back together: Fox finding that the computer system self destructs, Alfred burning Rachel's letter...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Short:: Sci Fi Kick and others

I, Robot

Pleasantly surprising and quite likable. What I liked most was that despite the fact that it was a summer block bluster, it wasn't always a typical one. In particular, I like how the movie kept throwing surprises at you; Sonny not being evil, the CEO not being the villain, the wink, what actually happened during Spooner's accident, etc. Although I initially was sort of turned off by all three of the main characters, they all ended up growing on me. Especially Sonny, the emo robot. Some of the things he said were quite pensive and thought provoking.

Sonny: [Looking around at the robots while he is about to be "killed"] They all look like me. But none of them are me.

As for Dr. Susan Calvin, she sort of annoyed me throughout the beginning when she kept explaining everything in a very inaccessible way that not even scientists/doctors talk to each other like that, so how could Will Smith's cop character understand any of that? It's hard to find scientists protrayed in movies well, and while Dr. Calvin wasn't perfect, she sort of became more real and way more likable as the movie went on.

Susan Calvin: [about Spooner's motorcycle] Please tell me this doesn't run on gas! Gas explodes, you know?

As for Calvin and Spooner's interactions, I like how they referred to each other by last name and how they don't actually hook up w/ each other at the end. There's, of course, the smiles at the end, but I like that they don't force it on you.

Detective Del Spooner: You must be the dumbest, smart person in the world.
Susan Calvin: And you must be the dumbest, dumb person in the world.

Now I really want to go and read the original Asimov short story.

2001: A Space Odyssey

: I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

A very good movie, very well done. People have described it as a "movie painting," and I think they're absolutely right; I can't think of a better way to describe it. It provokes thoughts, emotions, questions, and it's definitely a movie I will need to re-watch. In particular, I like how the movie is able to convey so much with so little dialogue and how it is quite haunting and eerie in some parts. Eg. the space scenes when all you hear is someone breathing.

And as for Hal, he's one of those characters who you hear so much about that it's hard for them to live up to the expectations bestowed upon them, but Hal is superb. He's very eerie...very stunning, very memorable...again raises questions always raised by AI in sci fi.

The Great Mouse Detective

An adorable take on Sherlock Holmes as a mouse. Not particularly memorable but still a good movie nonetheless.


Bob Rusk: I don't know if you know it, Babs, but you're my type of woman.

Likely my favorite Hitchcock film. Vertigo's still probably the best of his movies, but Frenzy has everything that I love about Hitchcock: plenty of dark humor, suspense, mystery, etc. The characters are far from perfect, but they're all so likable and believable. In particular, I liked the interactions between the detective and his wife. And the ending is just fantastic; it brings you to a moment, a really tense, suspenseful moment that you weren't quite sure the movie could pull off given it's earlier humorous tone, but it's really something quite special at the end when all the three main male characters are together in a room.