Monday, March 31, 2014

Captain America : Winter Soldier

It's really hard not to geek out when talking about this movie, but I'm going to do my best. It's good you guys. It's really fucking good.

It's not perfect. But for a guy like me, it's awfully close, and I can easily say that it's my favorite movie from the Marvel Studios. It has a lot of elements that I really enjoy in movies like this: Well-developed characters, a steady plot, great action, a wider message, and Batroc the Leaper.

I wanted to talk about the action in this movie as it is particularly amazing. Throughout the entire movie, they keep in mind the scale of the action sequences they're presenting, take great care to include tension into them and keep that tension rising, and uniquely utilize the characters' specific skillsets.

In the first Captain America movie and in The Avengers, you never really get a feel for what Steve Rogers can do fighting-wise. In this movie, they start the scale off small, with nameless hijackers, then slowly and steadily move up. With each fight scene, you get to understand a bit more about Steve's ability. Not only that, but since the following action sequence is "bigger" and more intense than the last, as an audience member, you always find yourself wondering if each task might prove to be too much. The movie starts out with nameless hijackers on a ship, and then a bunch of well-trained army-types in a small, cramped elevator. You see an elevator full of people with guns, stun batons and handcuffs surrounding Captain America and think, There's no way anyone could do this. And then he does. Then he fights a jet.

With this slow progression of action, the tension slowly increases as well, and this film has a great way of establishing different comparative levels of threats. It's hard to explain this, but stick with me. When they introduce The Winter Soldier, Captain America throws his shield at him and the Winter Soldier catches it, establishing that he is at least Captain America's equal. Later on, we see Winter Soldier get the drop on Steve, and the mathematical equation going on in your head is WS = CA, but WS + element of suprise > CA. And then, WS + element of surprise >> CA - shield. And then, WS + element of surprise + knife >>> CA - shield. You never quite feel that Cap has a handle on the events going on around him, and he's just two steps away from getting his ass kicked.

Speaking of getting his ass kicked, battle damage. Captain America at the end of a fight does not look like Captain America at the beginning of a fight. You may think this is a small point, but it goes a long way towards establishing the danger to your super-powered perfect soldier if he has a broken nose at the end of a fight instead of perfect hair.

They end up with three action heroes by the end of the movie, and they thankfully prevent all three of them from fighting in the same ways. Black Widow fights like an assassin, with moves designed to end a fight quickly. Falcon, despite being not the first flying superhero in a movie capable of holding guns, is the first superhero that actually puts those two together. I was amazed to see him doing something so simple as "flying backwards and shooting at the same time" because despite the obviousness of it, was not used by the makers of any Iron Man movies or the X-Men 3 movie. And, in the first movie, Captain America didn't use the shield much besides for blocking and throwing. Here, he's bouncing it off of things, using the edge of it to cut through metal, breaking through walls, and so on. I'm glad they put more thought into it besides "He throws it at stuff and hits stuff."

법률 3부

국제적인 법률은 어디에서 왔을까?

구성주의에 따르면, 법률은 규범에서 왔다. 그리고 이 규범은 사회에서 왔다. 사회는 일반인에게 어떻게 사고해야 하는지에 대한 기준을 제시한다. 사실 구성주의는 쓸데없는 이론이라서 중요하지 않다. 더 쉬운 Realism과 Liberalism은 원하는 것에서 법률이 왔다. Realism은 각 나라가 원하는 것을 법률로 만든다는 이론이다. Liberalism은 비슷한 이론이지만 나라가 아닌 개인이 법률을 만드는 것을 말한다. 부유한 사람들은 그들에게 유리한 법률을 만든다. 예를들어 높은 계층에 있는 사람들에게 너 낫다면 이건 Liberalism에 근거한다. 한 나라가 다른 나라를 정복하면 이건 Realism에 근거한다. 반대로 Institutionalism은 모든 나라의 공리주의를 바탕으로 한다.

전세계와 UN같은 기구 등을 위해서 법률을 만들고 지키는 것이 이에 해당된다. 내 생각에 가장 옳은 것은 Rationalism이다. Rationalism은 각 나라들이 공리주의를 바탕으로 다른 나라에게 도움을 준다는 이론이다. 하지만 도움을 주는 나라와 도움을 받는 나라가 원하는 것이 서로 맞지 않을때는 각 나라의 뜻에 따르는 것을 추구한다.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

X-Men #12

I have had something of an interesting relationship with the new X-Men series. There are times when I thought it was groundbreaking, there are times when I thought it was cloying and simplistic, but I have never stopped wanting it to be good. And so, I'm very pleased with the conclusion to the past story arc.

There were two unique and interesting things going on here, and the first was pragmatism. A lot of time in comics, there's a lot of this get to the fight mentality that really doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of the universe, where the ultimate goal is to protect people and not wage war in the middle of a city or something. Or, what's worse, is when the fight scenes are contrived from misunderstandings instead of conflict, where they could solve their problems easily if they just took two seconds to explain themselves.

Another problem one encounters in comics fairly often is what I'm going to call the "Joker Problem" where you have a dangerous character who kills people and a hero who refuses to kill. The end result is a lot of dead innocent people because the hero refuses to kill just one guy. (Not that this is something I think is wrong per se, because a good writer can handle this situation well.)

X-Men #12 goes straight to these problems and solves them. First is when Storm encounters two villains and suggests that they stop fighting. The villains really don't have a need to fight, so they agree and walk off. And that's it. Fucking, makes so much sense it's crazy.

This also highlights Storm's character. She seeks non-violent solutions first. This is important because we see Karima go straight for the kill in the next scene, and saw Monet curb stomp Enchantress is the previous scene. Storm don't roll like that.

The second instance is when they come to Arkea, the primary antagonist thus far. They decide that she is too dangerous to live and so they just...Well...

And that's it. Let me assure you that there is a dead body lying on the ground in the next panel. She didn't fire a bullet up into the air or anything like that. She straight up shot her in the head. But again, I feel that this is not brutal, but pragmatic. Whether it's a moral choice is another thing entirely, but nobody can say that wasn't a safe choice.

The second thing that this book is doing really well is the tensions and relationships within both teams. As you just saw, two antagonists weren't too heavily invested in their team, one committed suicide, one takes a single hit and then gives up. One hangs on until the end. The dynamic between Storm and Phoenix gets more interesting with every issue, and I'm interested to see where this goes. I'm also very happy to see that it is balanced. You can find yourself siding with Storm that Phoenix is frequently acting ridiculous and childish, or that Storm is taking her command too seriously and making too many harsh decisions. A lot of times when this dynamic is shown, you can easily say something like, "Well, Wolverine's the cool one, so I guess Cyclops is just being a dick." Not so here.

법률 2부

어제 규범에 대한 글을 썼다. 규범은 도덕이나 풍습에서 왔으나 법률은 아니다. 법률에 대해서 얘기하고 싶으면 "준수"를 이해해야 한다. 준수는 사람들이 얼마나 규칙나 기준을 지키는가를 나타내는 비율이다. 사람들이 10% 지키면 "낮은 준수 비율"이 되고 90% 지키면 "높은 준수 비율" 된다. 그래서 많은 것이 준수 비율에 영향을 미친다. 예를들어, 심한 벌칙이 있으면 준수 비율이 더 높아진다.

준수의 비율이 중요하긴 하지만 법률의 의미로는 중요하지 않다. 사람들이 상해하는데도 "상해하면 안 된다"가 아직 법률이다.

법률 필요한 것 2가지 뿐이다. 처음은 "효과"가 필요하다. 나쁜 것하면 나쁜 것 나온다. 다음은 "기준"이 필요다. "상해 하면 감옥간다". "컨닝하면 내쫓긴다." 또는, "수업시간 동안 열심히 공부하면 초코릿을 받는다." "수업시간 동안 산만하면 혼난다."

물론, 학교가 국내, 국외 법률이랑 관련이 적지만, 이제부터 법률에 "효과와 기준"이사용 될 것이다. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Hunger Games - More Hungierer

So, if you read the thing from yesterday, my incoherent rambling about the movie version of a book for children, you might have walked away with the impression that I absolutely hated it. That is not true. There's a lot that I liked here, even if the plot was nonsense, and I felt zero attachment to any of the characters.

Yes I am talking about you.

I will give the creators of this movie a bit of credit and say that they expected the "point" of the movie to not really be about the romance. Maybe they meant they to, but fucked it up so hard that people either didn't believe the romance aspect to it or that it was all for show, but I'm going to suggest that they simply chose not to emphasize or care about it.

Also, this movie gets a lot of comparisons to Battle Royale, which boasts a similar concept even if it is executed completely differently.

Pictured: Differences

Battle Royale had a similarly-sized cast, but managed to create unique personalities and back stories for almost all of them. The majority of the time, you actually feel bad when one of them dies, and that's a hard thing to do with such a large cast. In The Hunger Games on the other hand, you only ever really get to know 8 (eight!) of the tributes, and even then it's pretty superficially. I hated watching the girl kill herself in Battle Royale. There is one girl going around killing a bunch of people maliciously, but her backstory gives a reason as to why she's so vicious. It's relatable, and you don't hate her. Somehow, watching Tribute Boy from Disctrict Don't Even Fucking Know die didn't have quite the same impact.

And the love story in Battle Royale. Well, it is ten times more believable, and even more romantic. (Can I use the word "romantic" to talk about a bunch of teenagers killing each other? Judges ruling? Yes, yes I can.) The fact that the person was so love that they would die to let the other one win is a bigger sacrifice and a more powerful love than double-suicide.

Where The Hunger Games  succeeds, however, is where Battle Royale isn't as strong. The sound in The Hunger Games is amazing. I love the use of music when it's there, which is sparingly. It created a lot of tense scenes aurally (as opposed to Battle Royale's plot crafting them) and I dug it. Moments when the sound cuts out are stark and harsh, and they add a lot of drama to the scene.

Another thing Hunger Games has going for it is the use of colors. If you've paid enough to my thoughts on movies before (why would you do that?) then you probably know that I'm a big fan of using colors in a shot well. One of the aspects of film is that when paused, it should look like a painting: Characters should be framed and staged well, colors should be used to their full potential. You can't just film shit.

This shot is well put together: colors, framing, people, light, bread. The whole nine yards. It's too bad that half the movie looks like this:

1) Well made? - It should have been, but the shaky cam just fucked that up.
2) Contributed?  - Yeah, actually. I think there's room in the canon for this and Battle Royale to exist.
3) Good time? - I was pretty bored.
4) Watch again? - Nah. It was not fun enough and it's almost 2 and a half hours long.
5) Worth it?  - Yeah, actually. It has made an impact on pop culture, it's a somewhat unique idea, and it could have been worse.
6) Who should watch this? - Absolutely anyone who is not too picky about their movies.

법률 1부

안녕하세요, 여러분. 이번학기에 제가 법학을 공부하고 있는 중이고 흥미 많이 있으니까 법학에 대한 글을 하고 싶어요. 아시다시피 법률은 좀 복잡하고 률어휘가 많이 어려워서 쓰기가 좀 힘들것 같아요. 그런데 졸업 후 한국에서 법률나 자선사업 분야에 취직하고 싶어서 한글로 법률에 대한 글을 연습을 많이 해야 해요. 부탁드립니다^^

나는 법률에 대한 선입견(bias)이 있음을 선언 할 것이다. 내 생각에는 법률이 넓은 의미가 있다. (내가 왜 이렇게 생각하는지 나중에 설명 할 것이다.) 그래도 법률과 규범 차이가 있고 왜 그런지 지금 설명해 보겠다.

규범은 도덕나 풍습에서 오는 것이다. 규칙들을 잘 설명하지 못 하고 분명하지 않은 기준을 제시할 뿐이다. 예를들어 "상대방에게 착하게 해야 한다"라는 것은 규범이다. 규범에 관한 개념은 국제 분야에 많이 중요하므로, 나중에 국제법에 관한 얘기 할 때, 우리의 규범에 대해서도 다시 생각해볼것이다.

규범이 우리의 인생의 척도가 되지만, 법률적인 효과를 가지는가? 법률이 규범에세 왔습니까? 내일 법률들이 어디서 왔는지 설명할 것이다.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Hunger Games

Alright, it was ok.

It's a teen novel, so of course, it's not meant to be taken too seriously, and I feel like an asshole talking about the plot, so let's get that out of the way now.

There's a girl, alright. And, I guess she makes rash decisions. And that's like, her defining character trait? I guess. She doesn't do much throughout the entire movie so much as things happen to her, or somebody helps her out. This is lame.

I feel like part of the point of a movie like this can be one of two things. One is to put somebody in that "kill or be killed" type situation and see them overcome it. They find themselves in a perilous, inescapable situation, and decide to "win". And, for the first half of the movie, Katniss is talking about how's she going to win. So.

But then, there's also the opposite scenario. Instead of playing the game and trying to "win", you rage against the machine, try to escape, or fight against the organizers. Anything in between these two extremes will probably find you dead, first of all, and make for a boring confusing movie.

So I have no idea what Katniss wants. I was pretty sure at the beginning of the movie, she wanted to survive the hunger games so she could prevent her little sister from going, and to return home to her. She talks about winning all the time. She must know that means killing 23 other kids right? But then the only people she kills are via hornets, in self-defense, or people that she shoots-to-wound and then end up falling to their deaths. So...Katniss, did you not know what happened in these things or not? You knew that to win, you had to kill almost two dozen people, yet seem totally unprepared to do so.

Alright, so maybe she wants to fight against her captors. That's why at the end she's ready to commit suicide with Peeta. But no, because if she were going to do that, why not kill a few of them when they handed her a weapon and turned her back to her? Seriously. She shoots an arrow right at them and they totally don't see it coming. If they were her enemies, why not just kill them there?

Also, I was pretty sure throughout the entire movie that she was pretending to love Peeta for the sake of the audience. But, this never actually came up with the audience after it happened, did it? She gets a Dues Ex Medicine towards the beginning (further taking the results of this movie and then hunger games out of her hands), but after declaring her "love" for Peeta, it never matters again.

And then the end. I thought everything, everything, was for the sake of getting back to her younger sister. But then she's ready to die for a boy she met, which maybe makes their love genuine? Or maybe she was playing the audience, because she thought that if she threatened suicide the GM would react and save them both. But she didn't know that would happen did she? And, again, if the point was to get back to her younger sister, killing Peeta would have accomplished this just as easily.

Ugh. I hate that I'm going to turn this into two posts. I'll continue this tomorrow.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Series Debuting in March

I forgot that I sometimes write about comics and science, and not just movies.

I didn't have much of a chance to write about Avengers Arena when it first came out and when it got really good, so it's good that Hopeless is starting a new series called Avengers Undercover, which I guess will have Avengers going undercover. Presumably.

It is a follow-up to AA, and I could not be happier about this. Dennis Hopeless' writing was perfect at taking several characters that I had never heard about or cared before, and, well, making me care about them. The concept of AA was simple, and actually, unabashedly plagiarized -- Put a bunch of teenagers in a pen, have them kill each other until there's only one left. The good thing about this story is that a lot of the characters are brand new (I think), some of them are relatively more well-known, and a lot were D-listers in the superhero world. Being new or not well-known, Hopeless could expand on their stories and fill in their personalities, and he did a great job of it. Moreover, he introduces the notion of "real death" into the story, which of course, adds a huge element of suspense, especially when you're just getting attached to a character. I've written about death in comics before and how hard it is to do. Hopeless was/is amazing about making me care when a character dies and making me worried that my favorite characters were going to die.

This scene, in addition to being tastefully and beautifully drawn, was horrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. And it took place in the very first issue, the first time that I had ever read a story with this character in it.

In addition, he knew when to pull back. A lot of hack writers, when given the chance to start killing characters, get ridiculous with it, and just start offing people left and right, with no real emotional connection to the event. It's like murder porn. Hopeless treated all but the very first death with extreme reverence and severity, even when the "bad guy" dies, and -- in case you couldn't tell from the fact that a sequel series was made -- didn't let everybody die. Quality quality writing.

Also! The new Secret Avengers book came out. And if you get a chance to read it, I hope you walk straight on into I-Told-You-So Town, because I was expecting more books like Hawkeye and Superior Foes to start coming out. This is it: irreverent, quirky artwork, fast-paced cute story-telling...You can draw a straight line from Hawkeye to here.

Moon Knight also came out! ...again. I have no idea why this character has any kind of popularity. Maybe because he's like crazy Batman? I wonder if someone with a good idea could make this into a statement about superheroes in general, a post-post-modern Watchmen, if you will. But I doubt it. This is going to a "street-level hero" fighting crime, and they're going to use his split personalities to showcase some trippy art once in a while.

The new Moon Knight looks like it wants to be what the new Magneto is. In Magneto, Eric is just walking around being a tormented badass. It reminds me a lot about his character in First Class.

It's this kind of brutality that a juvenile book like Moon Knight wants to achieve, but doesn't have the grapes and the purpose that Magneto does. You see Eric doing some pretty morally ambiguous things, but you know why. You walk his path. Eric is doing what he set out to do in the first place: Protect mutants. He's just now doing it by himself, and with little concern for human life.

유명한 한국음악 많이 안 듣지만...KPop is Porn.

And, that's bad.

음악 산업은 수익을 내기 위해 실력이 아닌 겉모습에 더 중점을 둔다. 현재 음악시장은 가수가 예쁘면 인기를 얻을수 있다지만 요즘 걸그룹은 너무 야하다. 예전에 Kpop 몇 곡을 좋아했다. 그 중 "Gee"를 불렀던 소녀시대는 예쁘고 귀여웠지만 노출있는 의상을 입지 않았고 가랑이를 만지는 춤도 추지 않았다.

하지만 시간이 지날수록 음악 시장이 점점 야해진다. 이제는 유명한 Kpop 뮤직비디오마저 직장에서는 볼 수 없는 수준이다. 얼근들이 이렇게 가끔 좋아하고 중,고 남학생도 좋아하곤 한다. 이렇게 계속하면 우리 젊은 여자들이 어떤 생각을 받을 것이다?

문화, 특히 어디에나 문화를, 반대로 하기는 힘들다. 그런데 문화가 계속하거나 갑자기 바꿀 것이다. 바꾸면 "거품"처럼 더 커지고 반대문화로 전당 잡히다. 우리 아이들을 위해서 바뀌길 희망한다. 아마 크레용팝 때문에 더 빨리 바꾼다?

물론, 많이 도와주셔서 제가 랭8에 있는 친구들에게 엄청 감사해요.
거기에 여자 가수들이 아무것도 나쁜 것을 안 했고 우리 보호가 필요한지 저한테 기억했어요. 제가 이렇게 백프로 동의해요.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Remakes, Reimaginings and Sequels - Annie

Knowing how I feel about movies based on established properties already, you might be able to guess how I feel about the upcoming Annie remake. Or maybe you can't guess. Or maybe you could guess, but you just don't care. Either way, I'll tell you.

If you haven't heard about this yet, allow me to fill you on the "controversy" : Annie and the "Daddy Warbucks" character are black. BAM! Skin color change! Everybody freak the fuck out! 

It has the potential to be good. Really. That is not to say that I think it will be good, but just that there's an idea there that could work.

The story of Annie is one our most quintessential "rags-to-riches" tales, and if you're going to update a story like that for a modern American audience, it needs to acknowledge the wealth gap between whites and blacks. (Obligatory reference for people who refuse to acknowledge this is true: Which is not to say that if you're simply going to remake Annie that Annie's skin color would actually matter. The point of Annie is that she's poor, not a specific ethnic group.

However, making Annie black does open up the possibility of bringing that black/white gap to the discussion table. I'm not entirely sure that it will because this movie will probably be dumb to do that, and because Annie is being taken care of in a foster home, I guess. When a child in a movie ends up in family services, that might mean that the focus is going to either be on "hey, the system works", or "look at bad foster homes are!" Both messages are not entirely conducive to racial messages, but I haven't even seen the movie yet so what the fuck do I know?

Regardless of whatever message they could have sent, from the trailer it appears like the focus is going to be Look at horrible Cameron Diaz is. Seriously, she ruins the movie in the first twenty seconds of the trailer.

I'm not even sure what the joke there is supposed to be? Aren't I supposed to be married to George Clooney? Um, no. Why would you be? Who's George Clooney? I guess we're making fun of Clooney because he's old? Is that the joke? Little girls don't know who George Clooney is, but this mentally handicapped woman wishes she was married to him? Or...what? Because here it makes it sound like child services should have given notice, but they failed, and the world doesn't work out the way that it's supposed to be. But then, that would make child services the incompetent one in this scenario, and Diaz's character just trying to get shit done before they come over. But, I guess Diaz's character is the incompetent one that we're supposed to hate, right? So...maybe child services did give notice, but Diaz just forgot or neglected to tell them? In which case, a much better joke that I can think of off the top of my head would be: Aren't they supposed to give notice? I don't know. Aren't I supposed to feed you three times a day?

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Diaz makes me want to avoid seeing this movie. Is she just supposed to be annoying? And not a child-abuser? Is she supposed to be comedic relief? Is that why she yells? Why does she yell?

There's other things that make me see a potential wasted here. I imagine they won't even discuss the fact that Jamie Foxx's character is black. I bet the ideas about how much harder it would be for a childless, unmarried(?) black man to run for mayor won't even be mentioned. The music. Could you have updated the music a bit, guys? You're making a modern version of Annie about about a modern update the songs? Hopefully somebody will figure out that there's a good idea here and make a decent movie out of it someday.

300: 제국의 부활

최근에는 독립 영화관들이 없어지고 있다. 메가박스, CGV롯데시마가 너무 커서 작은 영화관들이 영업을 할 수 없다. 그서 나는 기회 있을 때마다 독립 영화관에 가곤 한다. 영화가 재미없어도 볼 것이다. 영화가 엄청 별로여도 볼 것이다. 영화가 쓰레기 같은 것이라 참고 볼 것이다.

어쨌든, 지난 주말에 300: 제국의 부활을 봤다.

사실 내가 지루한 액션 영화를 보기도 하지만, 작품성이 뛰어난 영화를 더 좋아한다. 그래도 300: 제국의 부활에 대 기대 많이 안 했지만 정말로 실망했다.

처음에는 피가 너무 나왔다. 액션 영화이라서 피가 나것을 예상하고 있었지만 내 생각보다 훨씬 더 많아서 싸움 장면 집중 없었고 재미없었다.

또, 야한 것도 너무 나왔다. 난 30살 남자인데도 이 영화가 너무 야하게 느껴지고 친구랑 함께 봐서 우리 다 불편해졌다.

이 영화를 추천 하고 싶지 않다. 영화관 주인은 우리에게 고맙게 생각해야 한다.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

콘 사토시의 극중극 5부

이제까지 제 이상한 글을 참아주셔서 감사합니다^^ 이 글은 마지막이에요. 조금 더 힘내세요~

지금까지 알아본 것들은 코 사토시 영화의 무늬에 불과하다. 그의 영화를 백프로 이해하기 위해서는 다른 영화와 비교해볼 필요가 있다.  콘 사토시의 필름은 팬타시 장르 중에 있어서 극중극하고 미술과 현실을 섞은 것을 기억하면서 다른 팬타시 영화를 비교 할 것이다.

먼저 다른 일본 애니메이션 보고 미야자키의 고전 영화 <센과 치히로의 행방불명>비교한다. 여기도 특별하지 않은 사람 한명이 팬타시같은 것을 경험하지만 옛날 팬티시 이야기처럼 주인공이 "임계값"을 교차하다가 맙소사같은 것이 나온다. 한 개 더 예를 들면 델토로의 <판의 미로>에서는 이 주인공도 임계값을 들어가고 현실적인 것을 받아들였다.

다른 팬타시 영화에서도 주인공들이 임계값을 횡단한다. <유령 신부>에는 주인공이 임계값을 횡단하지만 <판의 미로>와 <센과 치히로의 행방불명>처럼 말고 문같은 것이 없다. 문 대신에 다른 색깔을 사용한다. 현실적인 세계에 있을 때 갈색과 횐색만 있지만 팬타시스러운 세계에 있을 때는 밝은 색깔들이 나온다.

콘 사토시의 영화 작품들과 비교하면 "임계값"같은 것이 전혀 없다. 가끔 중극중을 볼 수 있는데도 현실랑 팬타시를 섞고 있다. 다른 팬타시 영화를 볼 때 관객들이 언제 팬타시같은 것이 나온지 알지만 콘 사토시가 삶과 미술을 혼합한다.

Remakes, Reimaginings and Sequels - Peanuts

So, I saw the trailer for the new Peanuts movie this morning and it got me thinking about a few of the other "reimaginings" coming out over the next year, and what makes a movie based on an already established property good and what doesn't.

It is probably significant that I just watched 300: Rise of an Empire this past weekend and thinking about what makes a good sequel. The 300 sequel had the right idea, albeit with poor execution (ha!) : Put your movie in the same universe as the last movie, with new characters and scenario, with a similar but distinct style. They didn't do a scene with Baby Leonidas fighting Baby Xerxes, and they kept the plot rolling in a way that realizes the audience is aware that the 300 soldiers at Thermopylae are all going to die. Thinking about it now, it really is a shame this movie wasn't better.

Now, you might think it's unfair to compare the 300 sequel to the Peanuts movie (not even the movie, actually, the teaser trailer) but the fact is that both of these things were based off of an established concept; They both have similar expectations that need to be lived up to, and both need to create their own unique contribution to the mythos they belong in.

Examples of this happening in both good and bad ways are numerous. One of my favorites, both of in terms of remakes/sequels and movies is general, is The Muppets from 2011. It took an established franchise, added in new characters and a new story, and focused more on creating within a world, rather than just throwing shit at the audience going, "Remember this? Remember this!?" Rather, it glosses over, tongue firmly in cheek, all the elements that the audience can understand quickly and easily.

So, back to Peanuts. I understand that it's only a teaser trailer. I'm keeping that in mind. But. This movie will probably be bad.

Number one, there is no reason to make this movie 3D. I actually think the style looks pretty ok here, but if the movie will be animated, why not draw it? Oh, that's right. That would be too much work.

I look at this trailer -- and again, I know it's a teaser trailer -- but I don't see anything new here. It's Charlie Brown. And Snoopy. And they're....? Oh, he said, "Good grief." Hey, I remember that.

The teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2, by contrast, introduces us to the same characters, but they've grown, they have new things going on. They are expanding on the universe already created. It is possible to do something interesting with a teaser trailer.

Tomorrow I want to talk a bit about the Annie remake because oh my god black people exist and can be in movies it must be a controversy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

콘 사토시와 극중극 4부

여태까지 콘 사토시의 영화 4개 중에 2개의 필름을 소개했다. 연대순으로 <퍼펙트 블루>와 <천년여우>가 개봉해서, 당시에는 콘 사토시가 여자와의 연애에 집중하고 있었다고 생각할 수 있다. 그리고 2003년에 세번 째 필름 <크리스마스 기적을 만날 확률>이 나왔고 다른 콘 사토시의 필름과 다르긴 하지만 사토시 스타일을 알면 이 필름도 이해 할 수 있다.

이 영화 줄거리는 노숙자 3명이 고아를 발견하고 그 고아의 부모님을 찾아나선다. 재미있는 일을 겪은 후에 결국 기아의 부모님을 찾는다. 줄거리가 쉬워 보이고 웃긴 장면들도 나오지만 여기도 극중극 쓰여졌다. 처음에는 노숙자 2명이 예수의 탄생에 대한 연극(nativity play)을 보고 있다. 이 연극은 예수와 부모님이 거부했지만 왕 3명이 방문하고, 선물을 주고, 아기 예수를 보호한다고 약속하는 내용이다.

극중의 극들은 "액자 줄거리"에 대해서 설명한다. 예를들어 "햄릿"에서 형을 살해했던 왕이 극중극을 보면서 내재된 느낌을 드러낸다. 이 극중의 극 때문에 "액자 줄거리"에 있는 사람의 진심을 볼 수 있다. <크리스마스 기적을 만날 확률>에 또한 극안에 다른 이야가가 있기 때문에 진짜 진한 감동을 느낄수 있다. 기아가 예수 (사실 불타)를 상징하고 노숙자 3명이 왕 3명을 상징한다.

또, 이 영화는 기적적인 것이 많이 나와서 이 영화도 "nativity play"같은 것이다. 우리 관객들은 영화 말고 현실 말고 "nativity play"같은 것을 본다. <퍼펙트 블루>와 <천년여우>가 현실과 영화를 섞었다면, <크리스마스 기적을 만날 확률>은 영화와 nativity play를 섞었다고 할 수 있다.

Monday, March 17, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

Hey, you know what you should do? If there's a small, independently-owned theater in your neighborhood, you should go there, buy a ticket, buy some food (because that's how theaters make profits) and enjoy the feeling you get from supporting what is (and should be?) a dying industry, no matter what movie it is you go to see. By the way, I saw 300: Rise of an Empire yesterday.

You know, I appreciate a movie that gives me something to talk about, even if it's bad. And, I can see that the makers of this film made a few choices that showed they cared, if only a little bit. For the first half of the movie, there is a CG storm covering the sky, which fills the screen with nothing but dark blue colors offset by the lighter blue of the Athenian cape. That's not an accident, you know, that's care, and it creates an emotional and visual effect.

Granted, a similar technique was utilized in 300...

...but compared to other action movies, this type technique is still a very welcome addition to the movie.

What kind of color scheme is going on here? I see blues, browns, reds, gray...
I have similar thoughts regarding actors as I do towards art in comic books. On one end of the bell curve, there are actors and artists who are so good they elevate the material, and on the other end, something so bad that it distracts from the material. However, for me, most art and most actors fall into a wide middle region. That adequate but not special region. I love Lena Headey, and the guys in the male leads in this movie do a great job, but Eva Green nails this role.

It doesn't hurt that she also happens to be the most well-written character in this movie by far. Our male protagonist claims to love freedom and unified Greece, but I have no idea why. He doesn't seem to have any motivation for loving these things and doesn't show that he loves them in any way. Eva Green's character, on the other, gets an extended origin story. We see the seeds of her revenge get planted and grow, and watch her take steps to accomplish her goal. Everybody else was just kinda hanging out. I wanted her to win.

But this is all faint praise, because, as I said, this is a bad movie. I was trying to figure out if the movie was being excessively bloody as a stylistic choice or just to revel in violence, but eventually I settled on the fact that it doesn't matter. It was still too fucking bloody. The blood effects are of course, not real and not even realistic CGI, and there so much of it to distract me every time somebody got killed, so I was offended twice.

I can get lost in a dumb action. I can. For all its faults, 300 had a distinct style to it and it was damn fun to watch. This movie was not fun, because every time a fight scene happened, I could only focus on the huge amounts of fake, plastic-looking blood being poured out of every wound. Every. Wound. I think somebody gets punched in the face at one point and a gush of blood squirts out. Again, I get that this is an action movie in love with excess, but it becomes a problem when it distracts your audience.

I have a problem with watching on-screen rape, especially in a movie where war and violence are glorified. It equates the two in a bad way. If you want to show rape in a movie that deals with it in a sober manner, alright. Uncomfortable still, but acceptable. Eva Green's character has "rape as a backstory", which is bad enough, but the fact that doesn't end up the victor at the end sends an awful message.

And the sex scene. Let's talk about the sex scene. There was a sex scene in 300. It was in the dark, with extreme close-ups, in slow motion, and represented the love that Leonidas had for his wife that he couldn't express verbally. The sex scene here goes on for way too fucking long, in too much light and far too violently. What really sucks is that it starts out serving a thematic and plot-related purpose, but, reveling in excess, just goes on too long and shows too much. You are not showing the characters' struggling with their attraction for each other, you are watching porn. You are watching people fucking.

1) Well made? - Those blood effects are awful, and there are very few new stylistic elements to this movie that didn't also appear in 300
2) Contributed?  - Not to anything. Maybe Eva Green's career.
3) Good time? - Nooo. It was boring at best.
4) Watch again? - Never.
5) Worth it?  - Not even. There is nothing to be gained here.
6) Who should watch this? -

Friday, March 14, 2014

콘 사토시와 극중극 3부

어제는 <천년여우>에 대한 글에 "필름중필름"을 소개했다. 오늘은 더 깊게 탐구 할 것이다. <천년여우>가 감독과 관객들과 내용 사이에 있는 벽을 흐릿하게 됐지만 <퍼팩트 블루>가 우리 현실의 생각을 파괴됐다.

<퍼팩트 블루>에서는 주인공인 가수가 배우로 전향을 하려고 한다. 가수라는 직업을 그만두고, TV법죄 드라마에 출연하게 된다. 그런데 스트레스를 많이 받고 있는 사람은 지속적으로 죽고 있다. 또, 스토커 한 명이 주인공을 따라다닌다. 주인공이 내내 미치게 되고 있고 자신이랑 비슷한 환상을 본다. 주인공은 배우같은 이미지랑 저번 가수 이미지랑 개인적인 이미지랑 전부 다 회상하는중에 자신의 생각이 사라진다.

그리고 우리 관객들도 현실을 모른다. 주인공이 살해하고 있거나 스토커가 살해하고 있는지 모른다. 또, 어떤 "현실"이 진실인지 모른다. 주인공은 가수이거나 배우이거나 범죄자일까? 결말을 이해할 때 까지는 헷갈릴 수 밖에 없다.

이 영화는 내 설명보다 더 복잡하다. 사실 내 생각에는 <퍼펙트 블루>가 feminism에 대한 영화이지만 이번주 "극중극"에 대해서 적고 있다.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Big Fish

Tim Burton is a director past his prime. I think we can all agree on that, right?

There was a point in time, I guess, where audiences were satisfied with "weird shit." "Weird shit" was a new thing, and nobody had ever seen a person with knives for hands before. Nobody ever saw a giant-ass worm before. Nobody ever saw...whatever the fuck is going in Nightmare Before Christmas before. And it was good. It was good, good stuff.

But then we get to the later years of Tim Burton. We get to the unnecessary-at-best reboots of Alice and Wonderland and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where the only thing we as an audience were treated to was a big mess of "weird shit". I can't tell you one thing that happened in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland remake that made me care about the movie. But it had Johnny Depp in it, and...I guess some costumes? 

Big Fish though, is a collection of stuff without much of a coherent plot. The central idea, I guess, is a son attempting to understand his father's life through the truth, instead of the obviously make-believe stories he tells. Except that when the movie opens, they haven't spoken to each other in several years, so apparently he doesn't care too much. And despite the fact that the son basically flat-out asks him to just be honest with him for a change, the father doesn't budge and insists that his stories are 100% real, so apparently the father doesn't care much either.

It could be argued that the father/son thing is more a peripheral plot, and the true story lies in the imaginary stories about the father as a young man. As a young boy, he is blessed/cursed with knowing exactly how he'll die, which is not anytime soon, so, stay with me here, the movie is completely imaginary with a character who won't die. The stakes are so heavy I can barely stand.

Not only that, the young man himself doesn't have a goal. He decides he wants to leave his small town, and then after that...get married to a woman he just met, and then after that, save some small town for some reason through methods not totally understood. We establish that Allison "I ruined Drag Me to Hell" Lohman is the love of his life, but it's never explained why that is, so when another woman attempts to steal him away, we as an audience don't really care, and might actually be rooting for infidelity. We spent way more time with the other woman than with the random female he suddenly decides he's in love with. So, him setting out without any danger of harm or purpose is a boring subplot, saving the small town is glossed over and unexplained, so that's boring too. The other woman is more likeable and more familiar to us than his wife, so, at best, we don't care about the outcome of the affair...What is the point of this movie?

Oh, I know. Weird shit. Hey, look at how tall that guy is! Conjoined twins? That's still weird right? Let's look at this for two hours. Fart.

1) Well made? - Technically and artistically, it is a cool movie. Not groundbreaking, for sure, but still good.
2) Contributed?  - A footnote in Tim Burton's life.
3) Good time? - I was offended by the fact that this could have been a good movie, had I cared about anything going on in it.
4) Watch again? - Never.
5) Worth it?  - Not even. Stick with Burton's more famous films.
6) Who should watch this? - Fans of Allison Lohman.

콘 사토시와 극중극 2부

일본에서 개봉하기 2년 뒤에 한국에서 개봉해서 한국사람들이 이 영화를 잘 모른다. 그러나 콘 사토시의 예술과 영화에 대한 생각을 흉내서 내가 먼저 표현 할 것이다. 천년여우에서는 다큐멘터리 감독이 카메라맨과 함께 늙고 유명한 배우를 인터뷰한다. 배우가 자신의 인생에 대한 설명할 때 옛날 영화 장면 등장한다. 예를들어 주인공 배우가 다른 배우랑 울 때는 닌자가 있는 장면 나온다....

기서 객들이 콘 사토시의 생각을 알 수 있다. 예술이 생명이고 생명이 예술이다.

그리고 다큐멘타리 감독과 카메라맨이 그 회상 장면에 함께 등장한다. 배우가 달리면 감독과 카메라맨이 따라간다. 영화 진행될수록 감독 장면을 바꾸게 됐다. 닌자 장면 중에서는 감독이 사무라이처럼 출연했다. 또, 카메라맨이 코러스처럼 얘기하거나 그들을 그냥 지켜본다. 영화 감독들이 "불신의 정지" (suspension of disbelief)를 해보지만 콘 사토시가 관객들에게 영화를 본다고 알려 준다.

천년여우 줄거리는 배우가 사랑하는 화가를 찾 지만 영화 진행되는 동안 찾지 하는 것이다. 결말에서 배우 사랑하는 남자를 못 찾았는데 괜찮다고 얘기했다. "찾는 과정이 찾은 결과보다 재미있고 의미있다고" 여기에서 화가 예술을 상징하고 모든 예술가들이 -- 화가, 감독, 음악가, 작가 -- 예술을 끊임없이 찾아 헤맨다.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ip Man

I take serious qualms with the way some Koreans hold an intense hatred for Japan, and because I live in Korea, I get to see this whole stupid farce get acted out first-hand. There are more than a few holidays dedicated to Korea "being better than Japan" and quite a bit of rhetoric floating around about how Japan is. To those of you who didn't know this was going on, you might be asking yourselves why this is. Maybe just a semi-friendly competition? No no, this is all about Japan's occupation of Korea, which started around the late 19th century and continued all the way up until the end of World War II. (You might remember the Pacific Theater as being that thing that America won. Amidst all this anti-Japanese, pro-Korean rhetoric, you'd think that someone would take the time out to show a little gratitude to the Americans? But I digress.)

In addition, there's a dispute that has been literally created out of thin air about a tiny rock in the Sea of Japan. An area that actually was explicitly stated to be part of Japan after the US won the Pacific Theater, but that doesn't matter; Korean politicians, for their own personal gain, created a territorial dispute over this rock for the sake of playing politics and continue the anti-Japanese fervor going long, long after Japanese occupation had ended.

Like I said, I take qualms with this, but mostly, it pains me to see this happen. Nowhere in the world should another nation or another group of people be villainized so strongly for something that happened almost 70 years ago. Furthermore, this is the not the only time people fought a war on Korean soil in the past 100 years. Koreans are being killed by other Koreans north of the 38th parallel as I write this very sentence and yet your average Korean citizen cares more about that fucking rock than their countrymen starving to death. It's especially strange, too, when you realize that not many other nations do this sort of thing (except China), despite the list of occupied and offended nations being equal to the number of nations in the world.

 The question then is why do the Korean people feel this way? Well, take a look at the films. You wouldn't be surprised if I told you that the Japanese are frequently the villains in Korean movies, would you? With that in mind...Ip Man

Ip Man is a kung-fu movie in the same vein as Korean movies. The Japanese have occupied China, Ip Man saves the day with kung-fu. This is a great movie. It is propaganda, absolutely, but still a great movie.

There are three things I think that can prevent a movie showing historical events with another nation's people as an antagonist can do to prevent it from propaganda (and, making it a better movie). They are:

1) Make sure it's not something people are still angry about. If you've ever seen a movie about the US revolutionary war, you know what it's like to watch a movie and not really care about whatever digression the opposing country committed. The US Revolution was such a long time ago you barely care, but making a movie about 9/11 in the 200s, on the other hand, is clearly banking on people's still fresh memories over the incident.

2) Make the opposing nation varied. They should not all look the same; they should not act the same; they should not be nameless, faceless human-shaped things. Again, featureless antagonists are less interesting bad guys. We see this a lot in movies about Germany during World War II, actually, where we sometimes find Germans who are good, Germans who are evil and Germans who are self-serving all in the same movie. You can make a character detestable, which is the path that Ip Man takes, but that does not make a character interesting.

3) Give them the occasional sympathy. Wars are fought between entire nations of people, and not all of them, on either side, are totally good or totally bad. Ip Man takes a stab at this by also including a Chinese antagonist early on, and reintroducing him later. At both moments, although you are opposed to the Chinese antagonist, what he stands for and what he does, you still understand where he's coming from, what his goals, and can understand his character a little bit. They should have done that with the Japanese characters in this movie as well, who are, sadly, just evil and cruel for pretty much no reason at all.

1) Well made? - Fucking amazing and easily in the top three kung-fu movies ever made.
2) Contributed?  - There is something to be said for a movie that outperforms almost everything else within its genre.
3) Good time? - An even better time for me, being a genre fan, but I think everyone would enjoy watching the action here.
4) Watch again? - Unless you're a Japanese WWII, there is nothing unpleasant in this movie, it's a lot of fun, and I would definitely watch it again.
5) Worth it?  - Yes, if only to partly understand how some Chinese might view Japan in the modern world.
6) Who should watch this? - Fans of kung-fu movies for sure. I would recommend it to people who enjoy action or drama films as well, but not as strongly.

콘 사토시와 극중극 1

나는 좋은 감독을 찾으면 그 감독 일생의 작품을 다 보고 싶다. 작품을 볼수록 그 감독의 주제와 스타일을 더 이해하게 된다. 최근에 일본 감독 콘 사토시의 필름을 3 봤다. 그의 작품들 중 영화 1편 밖에 안봤지만 그의 작품 주제를 이해할 수 있다. 그러서 이번주 콘 사토시 작품 3개에 (Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, and Millennium Actress) 대해서 표현 할 것이다.

사실 콘 사토시의 주제들을 이해하고 싶으면 고대 그리스 시대를 봐야 된다. 당연히, 그 때는 영화가 없지만 연극든이 매우 유명하고 중요했다. 흔히 "코러스(chorus)"방식을 많이 썼다. 코러스는 주인공이 아닌 조연 같은 것이었지만 줄거리에 영향을 주지 않았다.
코러스가 줄거리에 대한 얘기했고 관객들의 생각을 흉내냈다. 예를들어 배우 1명이 미치게 하고 관객들이 미치게 한다가 생가하고 코러스가 미치겠어라고 얘기했다.
코러스 방법은 시간이 갈수록 점차 바뀌었다. 예를들어 셰익스피어의 연극은 "한여름 밤의 꿈"에는 배우 4명이 연극을 본다. 이건 "극중극" (a play within a play)였다. 가끔 극중극들은 "한여름 밤의 꿈"처럼 웃긴 효과있거나 "햄릿"처럼 줄거리를 따라하거나 "천일야화"처럼 줄거리였다.

콘 사토시 극중극 방식을 사용할 때는 좀 다르다. 내일 나는 영화와 예술을 표현하는 영화 "Millennium Actress"에 대한 글 적을 것이다.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perfect Blue

The time I watched Inception, I was racking my brain trying to figure out if Cob was still stuck in a dream or not. I'll admit, it was even pretty fun trying to go through and remember the scenes in the movie to "solve" the ending like a puzzle. It made me reconsider what I just watched and what each scene meant, and how the meaning of the scenes and movies changed depending on the ending. And indeed, the movie changes entirely depending on whether it was all "real" or a dream, moving further into "complicated heist plot" territory or "symbolic abstraction" territory respectively.

After so many repeated viewings and searching for a definitive piece of evidence that the world was "real" or if the whole thing was a dream, or if Cob began in reality but ended up in a dream at the end, I began to see that there was no right answer. The ending is never explicitly spelled out. I thought Nolan was leaving clues for astute audience members to deduce the result and what the movie "meant", but instead, despite a number of hints that perhaps it was all a dream, there was no way to know for sure. Was Nolan just fucking with us?

No, not at all. We were fucking with ourselves, actually, for thinking that a movie needed to have a clearly spelled-out ending. With Inception, it's not that the ending was ambiguous, but that the ending was "the ending is ambiguous". The point of the ending is that you don't know, and again, this changes everything in the movie, but for the better. Instead of worrying about "dream or no dream", we have to focus on the characters; Whether their experiences and tribulations are "real" doesn't matter, because either way it matters to them.

This is why the ending to Perfect Blue left me so disappointed. The setup to the movie is that Mima, a young pop singer, decides to shift roles and become an actress, and then crazy shit starts happening. Her debut role is that of a murdered woman's younger sister on a crime drama. It's eventually revealed that the character has multiple personality disorder, and was attempting to take over her prettier sister's role as a model by killing her. At the same time, people associated with Mima begin dying as she's stalked by a security guard. With the pressure of the entertainment industry (including being cajoled into performing a rape scene) and the threat of a possibly dangerous stalker, Mima begins losing her mind and her sense of self, as she imagines the pop singer version of herself following her everywhere and constantly mocking her, and usually can't tell the difference between reality and her imagination.

As an audience member, you can't figure out what the fuck is going on, but it's all so engrossing that you don't care. At one point, I tried counting how many different possibilities of what was going on. Here's a few:

-Mima the actress is being stalked by a security guard who keeps killing people. The movie we see is reality.
-Mima the actress goes insane and her other personality, Mima the singer, keeps killing people. The movie we see is reality mixed with Mima's personal confusion.
-Almost the same: Mima the actress is mimicking Mima the TV character and keeps killing people. Again, the movie is reality mixed with Mima's confusion.
-Mima the actress is actually just a character in the crime show. The movie we see is a performance; none of it is real.
-The crime show itself is reality, and Mima the character is actually a real person imagining Mima the actress as she is arrested for killing her sister. The movie we see is a dream played out by a real person.
-The movie Perfect Blue is a performance put on for us, the audience, by actors playing characters who play actors in a TV show about people playing characters. The movie is total performance and only we are real.

Now, after hearing my thoughts on Inception and its ending, can you imagine why I was disappointed with the ending of Perfect Blue?

1) Well made? - This movie is gorgeous start-to-finish and visually stunning the entire way through.
2) Contributed?  - This is the first of Satoshi Kon's movies, and began his theme of reality vs. dream vs. performance that would carry onto his next three films.
3) Good time? - I was so engaged throughout the entire movie that the definitive ending disappointed me extra hard.
 4) Watch again? - Absolutely. Like Inception, one could watch this movie and search for "clues" even if they lead nowhere.
5) Worth it?  - Easily.
6) Who should watch this? - People interested in psychological thrillers, for sure, but also people interested in visually engaging animation, fans of the slasher horror genre, and anybody who loves mindfuck movies.

Friday, March 7, 2014


In 1890 Ambrose Bierce wrote a story called "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" which involves a man about to hanged. He escapes and comes back to his wife and family, only to realize that he didn't escape at all, and was just lost in a dream before his death. A hundred years later, the film Jacob's Ladder came out, which featured a very similar plot with a soldier being shot in Vietnam. He dreams up the entire movie and at the end you learn that, again, it was just a dream he had in his final moments.

Despite having pretty similar plots, these two things should have different places in our culture, and comparing either one of them to North by Northwest makes me realize why I don't like Hitchcock.

Let's start with "Owl Creek", which I would define as having one unique idea that was more or less executed poorly. I can't be entirely sure that the twist ending of "he was dead all along" first came from Bierce (in fact, I'm relatively certain it didn't), but we can be sure that the appeal to the story is the twist ending. There's really not much else to the story, and really no reason that anybody should read it in an undergraduate literature class except for the twist ending, the gimmick.

Jacob's Ladder, on the other hand, took the same twist, but added a lot to it. For one, you really get a feel for the character, Jacob, as he tries to sort out his life and doesn't know where he's going, what he's doing, and what's important to him. He has an actual journey. Also, there were a lot of stylistic choices that make that journey a creepy ride. Observe:

This one's good too. Thanks Google!

What I'm getting at is all about notoriety. "Owl Creek" did something first (maybe) and didn't do it well, but gained notoriety for being the first. Jacob's Ladder did something that's been done before, but did it better than anyone else. I would recommend the latter, but never the former.

So what does this have to do with Hitchcock? Well, I don't really like Hitchcock. I admit when he does something cool...

...especially with the camera. If you've never seen that scene before, let me assure, it holds up even today. It's a camera technique that you don't see too often, but gives you a really...dizzying feeling. There are film critics out there that I'm sure have written whole books on this scene, so I won't bore you with my plebeian analysis, but, it's good. However, when you think of the film Psycho, you don't really hear about this scene, do you? It's the shower scene. You know the one.

But why is that scene so familiar with everyone? Well, it is not poorly shot or anything, but the reason that scene was so famous was because that actress, whose name I don't even know, was pretty popular at the time, so it was unthinkable that she'd be killed off in, what, the first 30 minutes of the movie?

That's my main issue with Hitchcock, I guess. He wrote a lot of twists into his movies, and became famous due to those twists, but a lot of those movies don't hold up to today's standards. He's basing his movies around star power and story twists that modern audiences don't get or appreciate. Or, I don't know, maybe I'm just dumb and don't get Hitchcock.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rethinking Genres

I've said before that I like to use this blog as a way to organize my own thoughts and ideas. For some reason, I always tend to think better when I'm writing. What I'm getting at is that today's post is going to be one of those rambling ones where I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to say until I've said it.

Anyway, I think the genre "western" should be eliminated, why "animation" needs to be more clearly defined, and why "horror" needs to be divided into separate genres.

The problem that we have with genres now is that we think about them more in terms of the tropes and cliches associated with them than with what their intended effect is. Film, as with all of the arts, is a conversational medium, or, if you prefer, a reactionary one. Another way to say it is that any time you take in any kind of art, the creator either intended it to have a specific reaction in you or give you a specific kind of thought.

This is not that hard to imagine, is it? And I suppose I don't need to explain it much. A stand-up comedy act, of course, wants its audience to laugh. A survival horror video game wants its audience to feel scared. A romance novel wants the audience to mimic the feeling of being in love. Have you ever wondered why people have gone nuts over Twilight, specifically, over which male character they like the most? It's because the creator wanted her audience to feel the love that the protagonist feels. I'm suggesting that Twilight fans are literally in love with these characters, which, by the way, was what was intended.

This gets more complicated when genres get too wide, or get confused with being about tropes rather than emotions and effects. Let's take Shaun of the Dead, one of my favorite movies and apply a traditional understanding of genres to it: Well, it has zombies in it. Your average everyman gets thrown into a strange situation. There's a bunch of people trying to survive and they slowly get whittled down to two. Sounds like a horror movie, right? Well, the problem with this line of thinking is that, and this should be be obvious to anyone who's seen an Edgar Wright or Broken Lizard film, these elements are only there to prop up the comedy. The point, the intended effect, if you will, is to make you laugh.

But then we get into the fact that not all horror movies are intended to scare you. Take a like at Miike's Audition. There are some creepy things in there, but the intended effect on the audience is more to disturb than fright. Then you look at Raimi's Drag to Me to Hell, where the effect is to have the audience "jump" at the scares. Or how about something like The Human Centipede, where the intent is to disgust? You already know that most horror movies can be divided into "jump scares" and "creepy", like comparing Nightmare on Elm Street to Ringu.

"Western" is particularly bad at the "defined by its cliches" style of placing things into genres. Films in the western genre don't really separate much from other action-style films or even some kung-fu style movies. Let's assume for generalization's sake that the "point" of a western movie is to make the audience feel like a badass in the same vein as the main character. How is that different from 300?

Animated films are a huge problem when talking about genres, because really, the only thing they all have in common is that they're animated. Actually, we don't even differentiate between the way it's animated or the type of technology used. Then somehow How to Train Your Dragon is in the same category as Nightmare Before Christmas and Akira and Sleeping Beauty. If the genre is so wide to include such a varied amount of movies, why not just break that barrier down all the way and not divide between animated and live-action at all? Something like How to Train Your Dragon is way closer to Harry Potter than it is to Perfect Blue, but we put the animated movies in a separate category. Doesn't make any sense. Doesn't make any damn sense, and needs to change.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bride of Frankenstein

I think one can easily argue that movies from the 1920s and 1930s should be regarded differently from regular movies. In terms of the silent era, sound alone adds so much depth to a movie, and the lack of sound in the film itself lends to a completely different style of film. (It also creates a completely different "entertainment experience" as silent films were accompanied by live orchestras. The fact that no two silent film-watching experiences were exactly alike, and versions today can have different sound accompaniments, means that each experience is closer to a concert than a film, but this is not really important to what I'm talking about, so...)

Moreover, the fact that silent films were still being made in the 30s, after the advent of films with sound, and being made after the heyday of silent films means that they were inadvertently related to silent films. 

I want to make it clear that I'm not really talking about special effects or production values, but the style of filmmaking itself, a topic which I am woefully inadequate in discussing in terms of modern movies, let alone silent film. But, I can still talk about things that I like and things that I don't like.

So, Bride of Frankenstein kinda sucks. You might know a little bit about this movie just through cultural osmosis, and the image above is relatively iconic, even today. Like me, before watching this movie, you might go in there with a few preconceived notions. Mostly all of them would be wrong. I suspect (again, not qualified to say anything about these films and this time period) that this film was something of a watershed moment in terms of filmmaking, marketing and audience appeal.

Can't stress this enough: I don't know what I'm talking about, but assuming that there's a reason this movie is on quite a few "best of" lists this was either the first film to do certain things or exemplified them better than any films of this era. Before I saw this film, I was expecting it to be a horror film, and to maybe have a few memorable images. I was expecting this because even films of the silent era had some creepy or unique visuals:

Films in the 1930s with sound could even have some cool scenes:

And even Frankenstein was built to resemble a horror movie more than anything else. Many of the scenes in Frankenstein were designed to have a chilling effect on the audience:

Now, whether or not this can scare a modern audience is irrelevant; What matters is what the filmmakers tried to do with this scene. They turned off all sound, including footsteps, and just had the Monster follow Frankenstein's bride around. It was intended to be a creepy horror scene.

So, again, I don't think I'm expecting too much from Bride when other films of this era can be well-made or at least contain unique visuals. I contend that Cabinet and Metropolis still have merit even today. But Bride wasn't trying to make a good movie, they were trying to make a good movie-watching experience, and money.

I think the first Frankenstein movie had its heart in the right place. They wanted to make something scary. The makers of Bride wanted people to just have fun while watching the movie. There are scenes meant to frighten, scenes meant to astonish, and a lot of scenes meant to invoke humor.

With so many things going on in this movie, it wouldn't surprise you to know that it fails at most of them, all with the big hook "The Monster finally gets a bride!" that doesn't come to fruition until the final 10 minutes of the movie. They made this movie for people to essentially just have a good time, and titled it with a dumb schtick to get people interested in seeing it, but ultimately I don't think this film has much redeeming value.

But then, I don't know what I'm talking about, so there's that.

1) Well made? - Maybe the scene with the little people was impressive in 1930, but otherwise, not really.
2) Contributed?  - This movie might be the first all-ages blockbuster extravaganza, and again, the special effects might have been original in its time.
3) Good time? - Nooooo
 4) Watch again? - Noooooo
5) Worth it?  - Probably not. If you like horror movies like me you might be thinking that this could be part of a greater understanding of horror in general, but if you're familiar with the image of the Bride and her hair then you pretty much understand its contribution to the world of horror.
6) Who should watch this? - People born in the 1910s

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Whisper of the Heart

I'm sorry to say, but there gets to a point where the works of one's favorite artist -- whether it be a director, musician, visual artist or what have you -- not only no longer appeals to an individual, but they might actually come to hate it. For me, this happens a lot with directors. I used to be quite a big fan of Tarantino, for instance, but I've seen so many of his movies and gotten to used to his traits as a director that I can't stand to watch any of his films, no matter how critically acclaimed they might be.

Which why when I was trying to watch the top 50 animation movies on imdb, I came to Whisper of the Heart very, very begrudgingly. To date, I have seen 8 Miyazaki-directed films, not including this one (which was only adapted for the screen by Miyazaki) and Grave of the Fireflies. It's safe to say that I'm a fan, and I think he does good work. But, since this is, like, the 10th of these types of movies I've seen, I was really, really not looking forward to it, and spent the better half of the first part of the movie making fun it. I mean, look at that poster. "Oh, this is where the cat leads her to a fucking magic world." "Oh, I bet this guy's a wizard." This makes me pretty sad that I had this reaction, but maybe it's normal after seeing so many of these movies.

Regardless, I ended up walking away from this movie thinking that it might be either the best or second-best Miyazaki film. (The contender being Mononoke.) The poster (and the entire oeuvre of the director) would lead one to believe that this story is about a plucky young girl getting whisked away to a magical land, saving a broken home and finding love along the way. About none of that is true. It stands out from other Miyazaki's films and because of that, reminded me why I started loving this director's work in the first place.

The beauty in this story and movie is in its simplicity. The image you're seeing in the poster actually only takes place once as part of the protagonist's efforts to write a first novel. The story itself is about a middle-school-aged girl learning about what she wants her goals to be, applying herself to something, and learning how to act in a relationship.

Despite the plot revolving around a teenage girl, I thought a lot of the subject matter is applicable to adults. The romantic subplot is about being your best for, and being inspired by, one's partner. These two characters actually have what I thought was a mature relationship, where they strive to help each other out and encourage one another's goals.

Moreover, the novel subplot is just as important as the romantic one, where the protagonists has to learn to balance school, family, and her hobby/dream. She feels that she's not good enough to be a novelist, and the movie being what it is lets the audience know that this is true, but is dedicated to keep trying. This is not necessarily a childish message.

So, bottom line, despite (because of?) going into this movie expecting to utterly hate it, and despite (because of?) its simple nature, I really loved this movie.

1) Well made? - I guess, but the art and story were so simple that it would be hard to screw up.
2) Contributed?  - I actually felt like this contributed to the romance genre more than to the animation genre. I like this couple more than...100% of the couples in rom-coms.
3) Good time? - The movie feels like it's runtime, but every aspect of it is crucial to the overall plot. I loved watching it despite going in expecting to hate it.
4) Watch again? - It wouldn't hurt, but it is a touch long, and I already got the point.
5) Worth it?  - Absolutely. Like I said, my favorite or second favorite.
6) Who should watch this? - I hope people who like romance movies might enjoy this, and I hope that people who like animation might like this, but who knows? I know that it's not a fast-paced, fantastical type of story so people expecting that will be sorely disappointed.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Movie Week

This is actually going to be something of a general update and less a review or discussion about anything in particular. Today marks the first day of the new semester both at the school I work at, the school I attend, and my Korean studying cycle. All of these happen to be starting on the same day, right after I took a vacation for a week. So, what I'm trying to say is that today is somewhat busy, and I'm also a little rusty on writing.

In addition, I wanted to get started talking about the movies that I watched while I was on vacation, but, there was so many of them, I don't even know where to begin. Starting with Frozen a week and a half ago, I ended up watching 14 movies. Some of them kept me thinking for at least a few days afterwards (Perfect Blue, Whisper of the Heart) and some of them were so boring I could barely make it through them (North by Northwest, Bride of Frankenstein). Regardless, I want to get started reviewing these, but might not make it to, or care enough about all of them to do. They were:
Perfect Blue
Whisper of the Heart
North by Northwest
Bride of Frankenstein
Lilo and Stitch
Throne of Blood
The Seventh Seal
Ip Man
The End of Evangelion

As I sit here right now, I can tell you that I have at least a little bit of something to say about Whisper of the Heart, Perfect Blue, North by Northwest and Hitchcock, Metropolis, and Evangelion, but who knows how I'll feel tomorrow.