Patrick R

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Everything posted by Patrick R

  1. Allegorical prejudice in genre fiction

    The problem with District 9 is it ties everything into Apartheid but the aliens are refugees, not an oppressed indigenous people. I find most genre fiction that tackles prejudice head on (The Spook Who Sat By The Door, Deep Cover) to be more effective than allegory, as allegory almost always waters down or distorts the actual cost of prejudice. I think rather than the allegory serving the message it serves the fiction. X-Men probably* isn't a great metaphor for civil rights (whether addressing racial prejudice in the original comics or gay rights in Bryan Singer's films) but by centering on that metaphor it feels realer, richer, more emotionally urgent. It works gives the superhero combat opera more weight, rather than being a better way to explore prejudice. I think there's a lot of horror films that do a great job exploring prejudice (usually misogyny, occasionally racism) but they tend to work as barely hidden subtext and not an actual allegory. Night of the Living Dead has racial subtext to it's tensions (though, given Ben was not originally envisioned as black, I always read it as more about generation gaps) but it's not as if the zombies represent something specific about prejudice the way they represent consumerism in Dawn of the Dead. I don't know if it qualifies as genre fiction (and it's been over a decade since I've read it) but I always thought Maus was really good. But then again I just checked the Wikipedia and there are many who have similar criticisms. *I've read a fair bit of classic X-Men but am by no means an expert, so maybe it's actually amazing.
  2. The Asian Film Thread

    Didn't end up wanting to finish The TIme To Live and The Time To Die (too similar to Dust in the Wind, and I wasn't in the mood for it), so I'm calling it quits on Hou Hsiao-hsien but keeping things in Taiwan by moving to Edward Yang and Tsai Ming-Liang. I dipped my toes into Edward Yang (ew) with Taipei Story and my reaction to it was actually quite like my reaction the first time I saw In The Mood For Love, which is to say I found the experience so overwhelming, so ingeniously directed on a scene by scene basis, and so sad that I couldn't really piece all my feelings on it together too coherently. Made me cry, though! The title "Taipei Story" was apparently invented for English audiences to evoke Ozu's Tokyo Story, and while there aren't that many formal similarities this has a similar concern with familial obligation and an anxiety about a nation's transition (in this case it's the repeal of martial law that Taiwan was under for over 38 years). The latter is a touchstone of the 80's Hou Hsiao-hsien films as well. This wikipedia article sums up the Taiwanese New-Wave pretty well and was helpful for contextualizing both Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien I'll probably end up rewatching it some time this year, maybe after I've seen more Yang. But it's by far the best movie I've seen as a result of this exercise. Tsai Ming-Liang's The Hole was another great film. I was already familiar with Tsai Ming-Liang's work and adore his strange sensibility. He tells stories of loneliness and longing, but with an eye for incredible environments and an odd, surreal (and queer?*) sense of humor. The Hole takes place in the then-very near future of 2000 where parts of Taipei have fallen under a quarantine over an odd illness known as "Taipei Fever" that makes people act like cockroaches. Most the entire film takes place in a single apartment complex where the only two people who haven't evacuated the area live in apartments located on top of each other, with a hole in the floor/ceiling connecting them. It's all squalid and most the film focuses on them dealing with the omnipresent rainfall and their apartments leaking and falling apart. It's a compelling take on a sort of apocalyptic sci-fi film, but it's clearly intended to be metaphorical (a metaphor for what is open to the viewer) and on that level there's a shot towards the end that was one of the most beautiful and heart-rending images I've ever seen. An odd thing about The Hole is that it's lonely arthouse brooding is periodically interrupted by peppy musical numbers (like the one I linked to above) set to songs by Chinese actor and singer Grace Chang, all set in the same rundown apartment building. The meaning of these is open to interpretation as well, but they work wonders to vary the tone, provide ironic counterpoint and tap into an emotional undercurrent that's mostly understated. The Hole is a great example of what makes Tsai Ming-Liang's work so compelling and is one of his best films. I also watched Fist of Fury today. The first Hong Kong martial arts films I ever saw were The Big Boss and Fist of Fury (via a cheap Bruce Lee dvd collection under their respective English-language titles of Fist of Fury and The Chinese Connection) and while the DVDs looked and sounded atrocious and the films themselves were kind of junky and poorly constructed, Bruce Lee is a legend for a reason. As a screen presence he's riveting, and while I've grown to prefer the more elaborate choreography of wuxia films, it's not hard to see why his hard-hitting and realistic fight choreography was such a sensation. HE'S SO FAST. The fight scene I linked above is one of my favorites ever, perfectly shot and edited for maximum "realism" and demonstration of Bruce Lee's power. He plays such an indestructible force of nature in these movies, so the fact that he really appears to be reacting to multiple assailants coming on him at the same time sells the action so well. Nothing else in the movie can top this first fight scene, but it's watchable enough and it was nice to finally see a nice-looking transfer of it. *There is something I connect to on a very deep level with Tsai Ming-Liang's work and when I found out he was gay it sort of made a lot of pieces slide into place for me. I couldn't exactly put a finger on what is "gay" about his films (the musical numbers in The Hole are by far the campiest moments I've seen in any of his films, which tend to be about straight people and not break reality so freely) but I definitely feel like they speak to me as a queer person.
  3. I Had A Random Thought...

    New word I hate: luncheon.
  4. I had a random thought about movies

    Also I'm not saying "boycott anyone who works with predators, boycott anyone who works with anyone who works with predators" and so on. That wouldn't send any kind of clear message. But Kate Winslet used to be an actor I really liked and respected and now she's worked with both Polanski and Allen in the recent past and my opinion of her has greatly diminished. And now I'm less likely to be enticed to see movies because she's in it. I heard great things about The Dressmaker but thought "Eh, I don't know if I'm into Kate Winslet anymore." It's not a conscious choice, but it happens anyway. On the other hand Tiimothee Chalamet is an actor I only discovered this year and liked alright in both Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name but I have no strong opinion on. I was curiously optimistic to see where his career went, waiting to form any kind of strong opinion. And now he's going to be the lead in the next Woody Allen movie and I'm already way less excited to see where his career goes. If he's ever to become an actor that draws me to the box office, he now has that to overcome. Hopefully, if that's true for enough people, there will be a natural chilling effect to working with predators without hardline boycotts cutting across half the industry.
  5. I had a random thought about movies

    Below the line people have less financial safeguard against not taking jobs, less say in projects they get on, less ability to send any kind of message about toxic people by not working with them. I do not think this absolves someone of any moral responsibility (I have quit a minimum wage job when I found out my boss was a sexual predator and his superior said I was making a big deal out of nothing) but I personally don't feel the need to nor see what is gained by shunning the key grip on Wonder Wheel. Most above the line people (producers, actors, directors, screenwriters) have way more power in these situations*. Directors are absolutely in a position to say "find another stunt coordinator" and to convince any studio that it's also not in their interest to hire Joel Kramer either. It's not like he's being accused of making inappropriate jokes or something that can be rationalized away as no big deal. (Also it's not just Eliza Dushku.) My guess though, is that he's been a high-profile stunt coordinator for huge movies for decades and is 61 years old so he'll probably decide that this is a good time to retire. *A possible exception would be screenwriters who, once selling a script to a studio, often have no power in what happens to the project. If I sold a script to Paramount who then decided the perfect director for it would be Roman Polanski I can protest all I want, but it's now their property. The moral question then would be how much I protest the choice in public, how much I speak out about it, how much I'm willing to risk my career by doing so. I don't think there's any one answer to that but I would hope that, if in that position, I would feel a responsibility to wrestle with it and make some sort of stand.
  6. I had a random thought about movies

    You can definitely refuse to see any movie he (Joel Kramer) works on and/or any director who would choose to continue working with him. Of course being vocal about it on social media will always make your intentions clearer (and encourage others to do the same). His last job, Blade Runner 2049, was done well before Dushku came out about the assault. The next director to choose to work with him will forever be suspect in my eyes.
  7. The Asian Film Thread

    If you've never seen his films I'd recommend Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives! Weerasethakul's work is absolutely wonderful and warm, though you definitely need to be prepped for slow cinema and watch it in a way where you can fall under it's hypnotic spell, without having a phone out or pausing it too often. I've started with Hou Hsiao-Hsien and I'm not sure I'm that into his thing. The only one of his films I saw previously was The Assassin, for which Hou won the best director award at Cannes. I saw in theaters in 2015 and realized about 15 minutes in that I hadn't been reading any of the subtitles. I decided to watch the rest of the film that way and appreciated it alright as a purely visual experience but, naturally, I felt distanced from it. This time I'm actually watching the movies properly but a lot of that distance still remains. Millennium Mambo, a film about a young woman disenchanted with the Taipei nightlife and her abusive boyfriend, has an interesting formal approach: every scene is done in one master shot in which the camera is almost always rooted in place but free to pan and zoom across the scene. It has a lot of the loneliness and long takes one would associate with a lot of slow cinema but not the stillness. It's restless without being too energetic, which fits the story perfectly. My problem is that it's a story that's way too familiar. Even as someone who isn't a dedicated Asian cinephile has seen this story of lonely alienated Chinese youth burnt out on meaningless pleasure on the fringes of the criminal world before in movies like Unknown Pleasures, Fallen Angels, and Rebels of the Neon God. And even with the main character narrating the film (from a vantage point of ten years later) the characters feel opaque and underwritten. The film's objective camera is too objective for me to form real attachment to them and I found the entire experience rather cold. (This trailer has a couple shots of a butt in a thong, so possibly NSFW) The same was true for much of one of Hou's earlier films, 1986's Dust In The Wind. However about an hour or so in there's a moment that recontextualized the vague directionless dissatisfied young adult narrative into something much more specific, large and sad. Overall I found the film much more rewarding, and it's milieus (mid-century Taipei, a small village in north-east Taiwan, and an army base) absolutely captivating. There was less formal rigor here as well, though most scenes still play out in a limited number of master shots with no shot/reverse shot kind of coverage. Taiwan looks absolutely gorgeous in this movie. I also balanced out all this graceful arthouse fare with the classic Godzilla monster mash Destroy All Monsters! The first Godzilla is a masterful sci-fi film, one of a few to perfectly capture national trauma in the guise of crowd-pleasing genre fiction, much moreso than any atomic anxiety in 1950's American sci-fi. The sequels I've seen, however, are usually pretty clumsy, clearly aimed at children and usually get way too bogged down in a bunch of boring sub-plots involving the humans on the ground. I was under the impression that Destroy All Monsters! corrected this last point, but this too has a whole bunch of scientists running around on the ground doing inane things for inane reasons. However the art direction in this film is INSANE, with tons of spaceships and alien technology and high-tech science labs that all look gorgeous. The movie pops like a four-color comic book and there's a LOT of monsters and miniatures to enjoy. I don't think I really like Godzilla movies outside of that effects work, though. I'm probably gonna give Godzilla vs. Hedorah (with the reputation of being "the psychedelic Godzilla movie") a shot sometime this year, though. I got one, maybe two more Hou films to check out (The Time to Live and The Time to Die & possibly The Puppetmaster) and then I'm gonna pivot into two other seminal Taiwanese filmmakers, Tsai Ming-liang and Edward Yang.
  8. XCOM Enemy Unknown

    This doesn't show a choice between the two on the menu screen but maybe this is the menu screen that you get after you choose Within on a splash screen? Anyway, it doesn't matter, I think I'll just opt for Within.
  9. XCOM Enemy Unknown

    Meaning, in the menu, there's the option to just play the base game with nothing added?
  10. XCOM Enemy Unknown

    I am thinking about buying a copy of Enemy Unknown or Enemy Within for X360 (I'd love to use a mouse and keyboard but my laptop can't run it). Which would you recommend to someone who's played zero XCOM and very few strategy games?
  11. The Asian Film Thread

    Is A Brighter Summer Day that long because it depicts a long period of time/many events or is it a slow-cinema sort of thing where you will occasionally just watch someone chopping vegetables for 4 uninterrupted minutes?
  12. The Asian Film Thread

    So I've finished up with Ringo Lam! I think when I finish with a director I'll make a personal ranking of the films I've seen, just so if people want to dip their toes in they'll have an easy guide to see where to start. RINGO LAM DEFINITIVE 120% OBJECTIVE QUALITY POWER RANKINGS FROM NOW UNTIL FOREVER 1. Full Contact 2. City on Fire 3. Burning Paradise 4. Wild City 5. Prison On Fire 6. Replicant Prison On Fire is a look at prison politics and brutality, but it suffers in 2018 because, since 1987, that topic has been covered frequently, with more depth, a keener eye towards social issues and more exploitative violence. It's a prison film in which rape and racially motivated violence are non-existent and snitches are punished not with death but punches to the stomach. It's a condemnation of our country's justice system to say it, but Prison on Fire almost seems quaint. Certainly, despite it's setting, it's the least brutally violent Ringo Lam film I've seen, and that's kind of his bread and butter. Chow Yun-Fat is super charming though as the lifer who takes the newbie under his wing and there is a riot at the end with some very well-orchestrated chaos. Burning Paradise is Lam's (only?) wuxia film, and it delivers everything you would want from Lam, with bloody comic book violence set in a fantastic magical world. It's based on The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple, a lost silent film serial thought to be the first wuxia film ever made. It certainly shares the roller-coaster pacing of the serial-inspired Indiana Jones films and, more specifically, the setting and gross-out sensibility of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It's not an homage to that film but the wonderfully elaborate sets were certainly influenced by it. If you can imagine Temple of Doom as a martial arts film couched in the real history of Shaolin monks battling Manchu forces, you get the idea. The story kind of grinds to a halt once they reach the Temple and the characters are thin, but the fight scenes and art direction are incredible and it's well-paced. Lot of fun. (The following trailer is NSFW: gruesome gore) I also watched Seeding of a Ghost. It's produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers Studios, who popularized kung-fu films, and is one of their "black magic" films, a sub-genre of supernatural horror movie known for it's nasty sensibility and gross-out gore. The only other black magic film I've seen is The Boxer's Omen and that was the best film experience I had last year, so I think it may have set expectations a little too high for this one. This still has a lot of great special effects work and bizarre moments (as you can see in the trailer above) but it lacked the imagination, pacing and conviction of The Boxer's Omen. The set-up is slow and misogynist while the pay-off is kind of the same scare sequences happening to an interchangeable series of people. Still a great bugfuck movie experience, but not nearly the masterpiece The Boxer's Omen is. ---------------------------------------------- But that's enough disreputable exploitation cinema. Next up is arthouse darling Hou Hsiao-hsien! Think I'm gonna start with Millenium Mambo.
  13. I wonder if the name is an attempt to cash in on The Wild Geese (1978), another men on a mission film starring Roger Moore. Given that Code Name: Wild Geese is an Italian production (from the director of Cannibal Apocalypse!) that would be my guess, though I don't know if Wild Geese was a big enough success to garner that sort of imitation.
  14. The Asian Film Thread

    Bollywood is a must! I've seen one Bollywood film in my life (on a lark for my birthday, a family drama about Progeria) and it's actually kind of embarrassing for me. Provided I can get access to it, Dabangg will be seen by me!
  15. The Asian Film Thread

    I agree with a lot of this but I think it's worth saying that, of every film made in Asia (a big continent that includes India, which makes way more movies than America), we in America only get exposed to those that western critics and distribution companies have deemed most likely to connect with a small market of discerning American moviegoers who have an interest in seeing films with subtitles. It may or may not be the best stuff out there, but I bet there's a lot of meaningless impersonal crap that gets made as well. One of my goals is to not just watch the work of criticially acclaimed Asian auteurs (I've never seen anything by Kore-eda, Hong Sang-soo or Edward Yang and I'm excited to change that) but also some random Asian movies that haven't been recommended to me by anyone. I'm a firm believer that you can't know why something's done well unless you've seen it done poorly, and trash is a regular part of my movie diet. To is on my list for sure! And I do like Castle of Cagliostro quite a bit, but I forgot to mention it because it's not Ghibli.
  16. The Asian Film Thread

    Thanks for the rec! My local film society is showing a film print of Beat Takeshi's A Scene At The Sea at the end of April, so I'll try to time giving those a look around then. I adore Wong Kar-Wai! I'm going to be rewatching some stuff this year, and In the Mood For Love (a close runner for my favorite film ever), Fallen Angels and Happy Together are definitely getting watched at some point. I've always avoided Ashes of Time because I heard the Redux is a downgrade but I suppose the original is forever lost and if you vouch for it I'll give it a look. I've seen zero Mizoguchi but my video store has both Sansho and Ugetsu so I'll give them a shot. I run hot and cold on Miyazaki (though there's always something dazzling to appreciate), absolutely adoring Kiki & Spirited Away while mostly not liking Totoro, Howl's & Ponyo. I will make an effort to see Porco Rosso, though, in part because your recommendation lines up with my partners who said it's very much my kind of thing. Weirdly I have a better success rate with non-Miyazaki Ghibli films like Grave of the Fireflies, Whisper of the Heart, From Up On Poppy Hill and When Marnie Was There, which I'm all very fond of. Honestly I think one of my goals for this year will be to branch out into non-Ghibli anime, particularly from the 20th century. Maybe even a series or two, though I'm trying to keep the focus to film. The only Thai cinema I'm familiar with is that of slow cinema stalwart Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose work couldn't be further away from the bone-crunching action I've seen from Tony Jaa via YouTube clips. Ong-Bak is definitely a seminal 21st century Asian film, so it's going on the list! I missed the Funeral Parade of Roses restoration when it played here and felt like a real chump. My partner is doing an LGBT film challenge this year and they were interested in seeing it so I'll try to track it down. The new release doesn't seem to be at any of Chicago's video stores so I may just buy the blu-ray sight unseen? We'll see! Kurosawa is definitely one of the major names I'll be tackling at length, though I tend to find his dramatic work too cloying and sentimental. The genre stuff like Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, though, I am all about. Harakiri is on my radar for sure, and maybe I'll pair it with Miike's remake for a double feature. I never played the video games, but his Ace Attorney adaptation certainly seems...faithful to the experience of playing a video game on DS. Miike's a director I'm already quite familiar with (though it won't be until after he's dead that anyone in the West will be able to sort out his career in any kind of definitive way) so I don't think I'll spend too much more time on him. Tokyo Drifter is wonderful, and I like Seijun Suzuki's Fighting Elegy even more, but Branded to Kill feels personal and subversive in a different, more complicated way that I just wasn't able to parse out this time. Right now the plan is to end the year with as many Seijun Suzuki and Yasujiro Ozu films as I can access. Those are going to be the folks I dive deepest into. I love The Host, Memories of Murder and Snowpiercer, so Mother is one I'll be watching for sure. I haven't seen Shaolin Soccer or Kung Fu Hustle since Hustle came out in theaters, so maybe if I can track down God of Cookery and King of Comedy (both I've recently read very good things about) as well I'll make a real go of it. --------------------- As for my schedule going forward, I have two more Ringo Lam films to see (Prison On Fire and Burning Paradise) and one Shaw Brothers black magic film (Seeding of a Ghost) and then I'm majorly switching gears to Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, director of subtle arthouse films such as Flowers of Shanghai, Millenium Mambo and 2015's The Assassin. From there I'll probably transition to my favorite Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang, who directed one of my favorite films ever Rebels of the Neon God. I'm wholly unfamiliar with Hou Hsiao-hsien but I can recommend Tsai Ming-liang to anyone who has a taste for slow or unusual cinema. Rebels of the Neon God and What Time Is It There? are both A+ examples of films about loneliness, while Goodbye Dragon Inn is a maddeningly slow paced film that follows, nearly in real time, the final screening of a rep theater before it closes down for good. It's haunting and beautiful but it also tried my patience and feels designed to be specifically seen in theaters. I'll probably follow up Tsai Ming-Liang with another action or martial arts director, but not definite plans on who yet. Also I rewatched Ringo Lam's Full Contact this morning and rather than wax poetic about it, I'll just link to the trailer which does a very good job of selling it as the ultimate action film via the music of early 90's heavy metal songbirds Extreme:
  17. Recently completed video games

    I "completed" Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+, which is to say I've completed all the challenges and unlocked everything there is to unlock without paying (though there are 3 badges related to sharing your score on Facebook that I'm ignoring). I've put 11 hours into it but I'll probably keep returning to it for short bursts of play for a long time to come, or at least until I can S-Rank everything.
  18. Time for Another Pac-Man

    10 hours into the game later I see. Oh I see so clear. This game is awesome. Clearing out all the trials for the first time was a very satisfying, if simple, but now I'm at the point where I'm running the same challenge over and over again to shave less than a second off my time.
  19. Star Wars Episode 8

    We get it, Ben, you worked really hard on your Star Wars fan-edit. None of us said anything because we really thought it was better suited for the Plug Your Shit thread.
  20. AGDQ 2018

    Can't figure out how to add a run to your playlist (this is what I see): Unless you're offering to add any video we link to here, in which case:
  21. Favorite/Best Game Trailers

    I read in an EGM that George Romero directed the commercial for Resident Evil 2 and I taped it off TV and watched it about 8 times in a row. I was so psyched about both Romero and that game. It wasn't until years later that I learned that he directed some Japanese-only commercials and the North American commercials were just hastily chopped together from that footage. And the NA counterpart: "THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY WRONG HERE." really creeped me out and I built this game into something so crazy in my head. Watching it again gives me real intense flashbacks to being 11 again.
  22. Recently completed video games

    Axiom Verge had terrible writing but it was really fun and stylish and one of the few Metroid style games I've ever been able to beat. I had to refer to a walkthrough a couple times when I was lost and traveling around every nook and cranny I'd already explored was getting tedious but for the most part I had fun retreading ground and collecting power-ups I missed. The weapons were really fun too. I mostly stuck with the short-range Kilver because a lot of the enemies were fast and I didn't want to time my projectiles but every once and a while I'd stumble upon an encounter that seemed impossible until I played around with my available weapons. I'm kind of interested going through again and trying to 100% it, see what I missed.
  23. Quitter's Club: Don't be ashamed to quit the game.

    Cats Are Liquid is a platformer I bought on on a whim for a buck. It's very clearly made by someone teaching themselves a game engine (probably Unity but maybe Gamemaker or something else, I can't pick out engines that well) with bland amateur graphics (single colors and geometric shapes) a nonsense story that consists of text on the walls saying "The cat [that you play as] looked at this strange room and wondered how to get out." with little variation, over and over. However, there is a slew of movement options that feel a little wilder and looser than your average platformer and you can really get some insane momentum going on the early levels and whipping past whole rows of obstacles when it doesn't seem like you should is a lot of fun. However later levels are tighter and more demanding and when it becomes that game it starts feeling tedious. I think I got my money's worth from it, though.
  24. Movie/TV recommendations

    I really didn't like Phantom Thread. It's an incredibly tedious movie with a boring great artist abusive to his muse plot, only to have a twist in the final 10 minutes that completely changes what it's about. Why PTA hides subtext necessary for most of the film to be at all interesting is beyond me. But I'm way in the minority on PTA and actually find him to often be a really bad screenwriter, so if you are a super-fan maybe you'll still like it. It seems to be getting a lot of really positive response. I think it's easily his worst film.
  25. Favorite/Best Game Trailers

    I mean, this needs mentioning: Also: