CATCHING UP WITH FILM - THE QUEST FOR A PERSONAL CANON

 

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Theme Tuesday - A Taxi Driver

For the month of February, I will be revisiting and discovering Korean blockbusters. Many countries are very careful with their foreign distribution, selecting films that will appeal to either the arthouse crowd or for the sizable minorities within foreign countries. Regardless, the biggest foreign blockbusters tend to be mostly unknown to foreign audiences. Despite the stereotype of the “meek Asian,” Korea, South Korea in particular, has had a long history of protest. And despite the presence of a strong patriarchy and Confucian ideals about respect for your elders and people in power, many of these protests have been against people in authority - the Japanese, seemingly countless dictators

Canon Entry - The Hole (1998)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. For those who remember it, the year 2000 was met with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Constant news reports of Y2K, when apparently the computers of the world would all malfunction since everything would set back to the year 1900, inundated the media of the time. Of course, there were countless predictions of doomsday or at least some major natural disaster. It was not a good time to be gullible and easily manipulated. Perhaps one of the most interesting projects that came about because of “millennium fever” was the 2000..

Canon Entry - Beau Travail (1999)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. A non-straightforward adaptation of Herman Melville’s and Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd (the music of the latter featuring prominently in this film), Beau Travail follows a regiment of the French Foreign Legion as they train in Djibouti. Denis Lavant plays Galoup, the leader of the regiment. We know from the very beginning that something will force Galoup to leave the regiment since the film soon settles into Galoup’s mental voiceover. That something comes in the form of Sentain (Gregoire Colin) a handsome, young soldier who im

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. The last name of the family Princess Anastasia belonged to. This element has the symbol Fe on the periodic table. The land mass that Vespucci discovered and gave his first name to. Army, Carpenter and Red are all types of this creature. The heroine of Gone With the Wind. Revolutionary socialist organization founded in1966 by Bobby Seale

Short Film Wednesday - The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day. The Metamorphosis is one of those texts that lasts because it is so baffling yet so abundantly clear at the same time. My fiance helps out with her family business, and many of her employees are high school students. One of them showed a clear enthusiasm for the text, which they were reading for class, even giving a thoughtful, unprompted interpretation of what Gregor Samsa’s new state could represent. I won’t bother to say what he thought because it was absolutely right, and it wasn’t. This beautiful animated short exists in that same flu

Theme Tuesday - Sunny

For the month of February, I will be revisiting and discovering Korean blockbusters. Many countries are very careful with their foreign distribution, selecting films that will appeal to either the arthouse crowd or for the sizable minorities within foreign countries. Regardless, the biggest foreign blockbusters tend to be mostly unknown to foreign audiences. Before Girls’ Trip was a smash success at the American box office, there was a Korean film that featured mostly female characters trying to rediscover the bonds of their friendship after years of estrangement. Sunny was the 11th most successful film at the Korean box office in 2011, no mean feat considering that South Korea is the third

Canon Entry - In the Mood for Love (2000)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Adultery has long been popular subject of many works - Anna Karenina, Fatal Attraction, etc. Often they are about people trapped in loveless marriages, looking for a way out. When the cheated on partner is featured in the film, it’s often unsympathetically. I personally don’t get the popularity of movies about adultery, so maybe it wasn’t surprising that a film about adultery that I really love is about the cheated on people instead. The traditional story about adultery is not the only trope Wong Kar Wai subverts. It is a roman

Canon Entry - Millennium Actress (2001)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. When it comes to Japanese anime, it tends to be seen as a medium purely for the fantastical. From giant robots to super-powered aliens, anime has been home to some of the most creative storytelling and art that have ever been seen in the genre. While anime is considered just as niche and “weird” in its home country of Japan as it is in other countries, at its best it can open your eyes to new ways of seeing conventional stories and figures. So it’s a little strange that Millennium Actress, which is essentially a biopic, was the

Canon Entry - Femme Fatale (2002)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Brian De Palma is not a visionary director. He loves to burrow into the basest of genre filth and wallow in it. Accusations of misogyny and sensationalism have been leveled at him since the beginning of his career, and there honestly isn’t much defense against them. The not-so-big secret to this is that De Palma does not give a damn what you think of him. Consider Femme Fatale, which is the most bonkers feature out of the ones I have seen by De Palma. The movie starts out conventionally enough. We see a Mission: Impossible type

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. These popular Nabisco cookies are surprisingly vegan. Although it looks like a bear, this immensely popular creature is more closely related to the raccoon. This iconic villainess really loved her pelts. Studio, Upright and Grand could all be used to describe what? This popular breed of dog originated in what is now modern-day Croatia. T

Short Film Wednesday - Six Shooter

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day. There are a lot of directors who wish they could do what Martin McDonagh does well - produce pitch black comedies that get genuine laughs. Often the products of such endeavors tend to be either too dark (Birdman) or too broad (Deadpool). I think McDonagh’s strength is that he is brave enough to make characters unlikable, extremely unlikable, yet he trusts us to see their humanity buried within their flaws. I think McDonagh’s not-so-secret weapon is Brendan Gleeson. Actually, Gleeson is every director’s not-so-secret weapon. If a film he’s

Theme Tuesday - As One

For the month of February, I will be revisiting and discovering Korean blockbusters. Many countries are very careful with their foreign distribution, selecting films that will appeal to either the arthouse crowd or for the sizable minorities within foreign countries. Regardless, the biggest foreign blockbusters tend to be mostly unknown to foreign audiences. At the 2018 Winter Olympics ceremony in Pyeongchang, spectators were greeted with the sight of the athletes from both North and South Korea walking under a special flag, which portrayed the two Koreas united as one. It is called the unification flag and was first introduced at the 41st World Table Tennis Championships, the event portraye

Canon Entry - All the Real Girls (2003)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Sometimes a great review can change your mind completely about a work of art. When I watched All the Real Girls for the first time not too long before writing this review, I dismissed it as mumblecore noodling even though I had mostly positive feelings towards the film. I really was expecting more from David Gordon Green, my exposure to whom was limited although I knew that I loved George Washington and appreciated Pineapple Express. Then I read Roger Ebert’s review. He spoke so eloquently of the preciousness and folly of young

Canon Entry - Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Shaun of the Dead is definitely a low-budget movie. Most zombie movies are actually, but I was still a little surprised on rewatching to see that aside from the zombie makeup, there are definitely not a lot of special effects, and shooting tended to happen in real locations. Much of the movie, especially the last act, takes place in one location, the Winchester. And Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg famously called on fans of their TV show Spaced to volunteer to be extras in this film. However, the first time I watched this film, the

Canon Entry - Three Times (2005)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Some films invite you to live in them. They are not about the narrative per se, though they are not necessarily lacking in that area, but rather about the mood they invoke in you. Three Times is one of the films that I want to live in, not because the worlds and times it portrays are particularly extraordinary but because the emotional experience between the two lovers (Shu Qi and Chang Chen) is so rich. Consider the first story which takes place in 1966. Chang Chen basically plays phone tag without the phone to reunite with Sh

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. What a full moon on the summer solstice is called. The nickname for New York City. One of the first smartphones, known for its full keyboard and popularity among businessmen. What a car that doesn’t work is called. Popular show on Netflix that takes place in a women’s prison. A native of New Zealand, also a name of a flightless bird. A c

Short Film Wednesday - Wasp

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day. Andrea Arnold’s work is a lot to take in. Her work is distinguished by its focus on people that not only do not regularly feature in movies, but many people would actively avoid out of fear, prejudice or both. On the surface, she is similar to Sean Baker who similarly focuses on the disenfranchised. Unlike Sean Baker, Arnold is more in the cinema verite camp. Baker makes films with strong narratives and with a great deal of more conventional craft. There are stunning images in both Tangerine and The Florida Project, and great composition a

Theme Tuesday - The Thieves

For the month of February, I will be revisiting and discovering Korean blockbusters. Many countries are very careful with their foreign distribution, selecting films that will appeal to either the arthouse crowd or for the sizable minorities within foreign countries. Regardless, the biggest foreign blockbusters tend to be mostly unknown to foreign audiences. The upcoming Ocean’s Eleven reboot with all women seems like a novel (or not so novel idea). At its worst it smacks of opportunism and at its best, it will still be viewed in the shadow of the original (which itself was a remake, of course). Regardless of how the movie turns out, it is definitely a mistake to think that nothing similar t

Canon Entry - Children of Men (2006)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. In this grim, fully-realized world of Children of Men, which is set only a few years in the future as of the writing of this review, women have mysteriously become infertile. As a result, many countries have exploded into chaos. Only Britain “soldiers on” as a fortress against the swarming, foreign masses. Theo (Clive Owen) is a former revolutionary who is contacted by his still radical wife (Julianne Moore) to help a young refugee get out of England. Soon, he becomes embroiled in a desperate escort mission as he discovers that

List Sunday - Best non-Oscar worthy performances

The stereotype about Oscars for performances is that you have to play someone with a disability (Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot) or a real-life person (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote). Also, playing someone of a different nationality (any number of British actors playing American) or going full Method (Charlize Theron in Monster). It’s easy to give awards to people with big Oscar moments in their movies, but often performances that are close to the perception of that actor are overlooked. Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick Most people realize that it’s really difficult to play yourself in a film. Nanjiani manages to tap into real pathos and emotional depth while still being funny and witty

 
 
 

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