Sunday, January 23, 2011
Tell Me Something (1999)
dir: Yoon-Hyun Chang
More like "Tell Me Everything." You may as well go ahead and throw a bongo in my hand and give me a Red-hearted firecrotch to verbally abuse, because this movie's got some 'splaining to do! I initially decided to give it a chance because I'd read that it featured some heavily Argento-inspired murder set pieces, although I now realize that those comparisons were nothing if not a bit generous. This isn't a bad film by any means, and it probably features the most unexpectedly touching flashback sequence ever set to a children's chorus interpreting the musical background of the first popular Fugees song (WTF indeed), but seriously, what happened? All of the grotesque exploding bags of body parts "hidden" in the corner of a crowded elevator in the world can't really make up for the seemingly unending string of question marks that will probably forever hover above my head every time somebody brings up this film, which may never actually happen as I don't think it ever gained too much in the way of notoriety. Nor did it ever gain much in the way of logicality, reason or resolution. In some ways this is beneficial; the film maintains a palpable sense of dread throughout its admittedly excessive running time, continually subverting expectations and providing more red herrings than a Communist fish hatchery. But there is no real payoff by the end, primarily due to the fact that it is nearly impossible to decipher exactly what happened. A brief list of questions: 1) who did it?, 2) what did they do?, 3) why did they do it?, 4) Placebo? Seriously?, and 5) wait... what? Maybe it loses something in translation. Maybe it loses everything in translation. Maybe I should even give it another look and hope that a second viewing will bless me with some degree of illumination, but Piranha 3D just dropped on DVD and if I'm going to waste my time watching something twice then it may as well feature an operatic underwater lesbian scene and the goriest beach experience since Saving Private Ryan almost convinced the world that Vin Diesel isn't dumb and Tom Hanks isn't a pansy.
In completely unrelated news, I can't stop listening to this Jeff the Brotherhood album. This song is the only real "ballad" but I like the video for its accurate representation of teenage romance: the girls are in the kitchen gossiping and smoking and looking hot and girly while the dudes dick around in the living room and probably never get laid. Life is unfair (unless you can shred the guitar, which I cannot).
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
dir: Brian De Palma
I've got a half-sister and a half-brother. My sister is born of another mother and my brother of a different father. Technically, I'm an only child. But basically, I'm not. My brother always lived with us while I was growing up except for the summers that he would spend at his Dad's in New York. He was always a pretty cool guy, a bit nerdy in his early years and a bit douchy while at college, but he was always a really great brother and an all-aound good person. Very funny, very friendly, a little bit dumb. Now he's in a goddamned Amway cult and he gives me things like this bound-together mold of horseshit for my birthday and says embarrassing things out loud like "Law Abiding Citizen should get five out of five stars, easy!" Capitalist brainwashing aside, though, I love the dude and hope that he somehow manages to (probably accidentally) stumble upon the kind of superficial wealth and relaxed state of permanent emotional and mental stagnancy that he seems so desperate to be a part of. My sister, on the other hand, could not possibly be more of a class act, even if she had been hand-designed by some Serpentor-style superhuman embodiment of all classy female DNA throughout history. My high opinion of her may have something to do with the fact that she spent pretty much her entire childhood living with her mysterious mother and I never really had the opportunity as a kid to bond with her. So now every time we get to hang out it's a total treat. She's a pretty badass nurse married to a pretty badass emergency response guy of some sort and they have a super badass daughter who tells everyone that she loves them (and actually means it) and does things like draw pictures of my girlfriend and spell her name with unnecessary H's and stops eating pork products because she "really likes pigs." Both of my semi-siblings are into their own things and that's totally fine with me. Especially because neither one of them is actually just a violent manifestation within my own mind of my own dead siamese twin, you know what i'm saying? Brian De Palma gets a lot of shit for absolutely no goddamned fucking reason by a lot of film critics who seem to circle-jerk hatred all over this poor dude. His films are all good, though. All of them. Even the ones that should have been shitty because they were obviously work-for-hire projects so dude could pay the bills. But everything he's ever touched has been inarguably soaked within his own auteur obsessions: gender roles and sexual struggle, the myriad interpretations of "the truth" and the omnipresent concept of the double. You could think of him as Hitchcock for perverts, sure, and you'd be about 70% correct. But you'd also be short-changing not only the director who created the greatest Faust-inspired rock opera in cinematic history, had the audacity to successfully rip off Sergei* Eisenstein's most well-known sequence** for a goddamned gangbusters genre piece, inspired every rapper in the world to be an even bigger idiot and straight-up showed the entirety of one of his films as its own trailer . You'd also be short-changing yourself. Don't be a dick to you.
* LOL at myself for initially spelling it like "Fergie."
** not sure why this is in Italian. Or if it even is.
Friday, January 7, 2011
The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)
dir: Ji-woon Kim
I dated a Korean girl for roughly 2 years. It was during a particularly shameful period of my recent life, not because I'm prejudiced against lusty interracial couplings or because i'm some stereotypical young male who thinks long term relationships are like, the end of your life maaaaan, but rather because I had reached the inverted zenith of my 6-year foray into uselessness, albeit a uselessness that more than occasionally paid off with impressive bouts of world travel and more than a handful of night-time experiences that would most likely awe and inspire if they could ever actually be remembered clearly. At this particular point in my personal timeline, however, I was up to no good. I was up to no bad, either. I was up to nothing at all aside from working too way too hard pressing out top-rate (if i say so myself [and i do]) pizzas for bottom-grade pay, drinking too much even by the forgiving standards of a punk rock holdover in the city of richmond va and wasting the peak years of my sexual virility (probably) and aptitude for emotional barter/terrorism on someone whom i gradually realized i didn't really have any genuine feelings for. And also, she was crazy. Not because she was Korean, but because she was adopted. I know it's an ugly stereotype and there's always that nagging (because i have always been impressed by its succinct effectiveness despite having absolutely no basis for personal relation) lyric by the probably completely forgotten band Off Minor: "you can't compare a moment's conception to a lifetime of devotion." So yes, I do realize that by implying that all children of adoption will inevitably devolve into psychological trainwrecks with an incessant need for validation and complete inability to trust in anything resembling a close bond probably makes me seem fairly ignorant. I'm just saying that in this particular case, many of said Korean girlfriend's problems most likely took root within the catalyst of parental abandonment and subsequent replacement of said parents by two suburban white folks with problems of their own who most likely had no business taking on the massive amount of responsibility that such a charitable act entails. So what i'm basically saying is: girlfriend was crazy, but it wasn't her fault.
You could kind of say the same thing about this film. By all standards of zany cinematic entertainment, it's admittedly pretty great. Many (perhaps too many?) of the shots are extremely impressive, every single action setpiece--of which there are fuckloads; the entire film is basically a chase scene--is both technically awesome and as viscerally thrilling as anything in the first Kill Bill, and as an attractive slab of escapist foreign cinema it certainly shines. But the inescapable problem with adopting a genre as inherently American as the Western and throwing it into the undeniably singular prism of Korean cinema is that much of the original pathos, based upon a highly specific cultural barometer, is lost. Add to that the fact that this is in particular an homage to the spaghetti Western, itself a mutation of the genre, though certainly a far cry from abomination, that depends upon the stylistic particulars of what was happening in Italian film at an equally specific moment in artistic history. To disregard all of these factors and clumsily transport the idea and experience, brick-by-brick, into a new setting regardless of that setting's own particular strengths and limitations makes for some truly odd moments. Most notably being the film's final 20 minutes: excessively drawn-out and ostensibly awkward to Western viewers (as I find much of even the best Korean cinema to be at times, especially in relation to comedic moments), the finale unfortunately works to drain the film of its beneficial whip-crack pacing and non-stop slew of gunfire. The final showdown, as it exists, comes off as little more than a desperate yet unsuccessful attempt to emulate similar moments within Sergio Leone's own masterpieces. Still, you can't blame Kim for trying. He's a good director, he obviously has a great deal of love and respect for the films he has been inspired by, and a good 90% of this film is nothing short of pure, guilt-free entertainment. Also, his A Tale of Two Sisters is still probably the 2nd most terrifying movie that I've ever seen and not really understood at all, second to David Lynch's Lost Highway.
I guess in order to wrap up that admittedly awkward and probably unnecessary ex-girlfriend analogy: check out this film for the crazy hate-fueled sex appeal, but make sure you get the hell out of there before the impending, constantly-germinating downfall. Or not. That girl and I did have a whole lot of fun.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Branded to Kill (1967)
dir: Seijun Suzuki
I am currently pretty laid up with some serious flu-like symptoms, including but not limited to: my entire body feeling like i just got soap-socked by a roided-out battalion of drunken Chetnik soldiers, the inability to spend less than 2o minutes on the toilet at a time (usually with 3 to 5 minutes between trips) and the dried-out corn husk sensation of having spent the entirety of what should have been my always appreciated beauty slumber clutching onto sweaty pillows (and my REM-ed out, oblivious girlfriend) while desperately trying to keep tabs on the many ridiculous mental conversations that I was having with nonexistent characters from multiple fever dreams. Ironic, then, that my last act as a well man was to immerse my then-reasonable brain into the cinematic fever dream that is Seijin Suzuki's Branded to Kill. If you've ever read Chris D.'s "Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film" then you are already aware that Suzuki is an outlaw master of japanese film. But if you've never had the pleasure of checking out this film then you may not be aware that it features: a man urinating unbelievably casually onto a woman's face, the same man constantly demanding a fresh pot of boiling rice to smell, and poisonous butterfly slaves. To say much more would be to rob you of your own journey of cinematic discovery, and that's what SPOILERS are for. Just know that you are in for a treat, unlike myself as I valiantly struggle to type out the final few words of this paragraph with sweating fingers, nothing other than a mucus membrane of questionable authority preventing my bed from receiving a drastic and tragic change of color scheme.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Aight so here it is, my official New Year's resolution is to try to watch one new movie per day and then post something up about it real quick. I realize this will probably be impossible to do every single day, as some much tighter or much more ill shit might be poppin off and require all of my attention. So imma go a little easy on myself, which should be obvious since i won't even be starting this shit until tonight, january 3rd, and probably some time past midnight. But fuck it, it's my project and i can do whatever i want.
In other news i picked up some truly dope boxsets at a sale today. Look forward (at some point this year, anyway) to reviews of some lesser-known shit by notoriously Japanese-film-hating Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima and the absurdly sprawling Fassbinder adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz. That is the worst last name.