Wednesday, November 30, 2005

About guardian angels

'A guardian angel comes when you are very young, and gives you special dispensation.'
'From what?'
'From the world. Yours might be luck; mine is money. Most people have a guardian angel; that's why they move slowly.'

(Jane Bowles, Two Serious Ladies, 10)

Billy Madison (Tamra Davis, 1995)

It's a good film to peek into the classroom atmosphere of a typical American grade school. Funny thing about Adam Sandler is that he's not terribly funny at any given point in time, yet he manages to give an impression of being funny. The lead role girl, Bridgette Wilson, is very seductive. The story is hilariously empty and the cinematography has nothing stunning. Yet I didn't think I wasted my time on it. It was rather fun, actually.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991)

This is such a lovable film that you wish it went on forever. But it comes to an end with the band members fighting one with the other, leaving us with a thick flavour of working-class Dublin. Their nice language has a "fuck" in each sentence. A habit I'll take up from now on, I fucking swear! It's so fucking shocking to my fucked ear, but I fucking get used to it. That little bit about the irish being blacks is so convincing. A lovely film that I can live with for the rest of my life. It's time to strike up a band!

The film makes me realize the NZ accent is heavily influenced by the Irish accent. I'mstill trying to get used to it!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Poetic Justice (John Singleton, 1993)

It's the real thing, as far as I can imagine. Her mother committing suicide, her first boyfriend shot to death literally in her arms, this Justice girl survives, all alone. Think about how much trauma she's been suffering. And she writes poems to survive. Janet Jackson can use some dieting, I agree, but the story is beautiful. Tupac is good, too, RIP. I particularly like the story's very understated ending. I mean, the director must have had to fight the temptation of making the story glorious and rampant. He resisted it to the end and opted for the ordinary. The cinematography is superb, especially at the coast. California. The farthest western coast of Africa!

The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005)

I haven't read any books by John Le Carre. This film is based upon one of his books. One basic premise of a suspense story is its credibility, probability, plausibility. It should be "likely to happen somewhere." It exploits its resemblance to what we perceive as reality. This film treats such possible parallelism very well. It calls the audience attention to Africa and what is (supposedly) being done there by multinational corporations. It's as ugly as reality, our reality, is (supposed to be). The beauty of Kenya is astounding. It's captured through the director's Brazilian eyes. Which makes it all the more interesting. A great film, but I had difficulty following the story line. It leaves you dizzy, too, because of the camera's unstable point of view. Still, you'll enjoy it. Then, we are invited to come back to the real reality of Africa and Euro-American capitalism's continuing exploitation of the continent. A sad, sad story.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Intolerable Cruelty (Joel Coen, 2003)

With a bunch of people involved, the flavour of the Coen brothers is never lost. The final reversal of fortune after the pen-ultimate reversal of fortune after ... well, I get confused. Purely brilliant. Clooney and Zeta-Jones are both impeccable and one can't imagine anybody else in their roles after watching this. Isn't that the surest sign that the casting was just right?

The Ladykillers (Joel Coen, 2004)

Another delightful crime story from the Coen brothers. It's like a cross between O, Brother and Fargo. People get killed, but this time only bad (and funny) guys. Money gets stolen, but to no one's damage. And the old black lady in the end prevails. To hear her deep south accent offers solace to my ears. Two thumbs up and more!

Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005)

A great study of the time, social structure, and mores. The main concern of a middle-class mother was how much each single man is earning per year and in which order he chooses the dancing partner at a ball. An utterly tribal and very bizarre custom that dominated the world middle-class in the following century. We are fortunate it came to an end!

Think about the time when the only career chance for girls was marriage. This class thing, which is only another name for the measure by wealth, is crude and disgusting. Everybody in the world should watch this... and the flip side of this class structure is colonialism.

But Jane Austin's genius remains.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Clueless (Amy Heckering, 1995)

What a surprising gem. It teaches you all you need to know about the Hollywood area teen brat jargon in the 1990s. They say it's based on Emma, by Jane Austen, but it's not all that pshychological. It's a comedy of moral and a study of the ethos. And I liked it very much.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jennie Trescars

I had a strange dream. Yesterday, a friend of mine told me that he had had a nightmare around 3 am and couldn't go back to sleep after. Maybe it had affected me.

In my dream a girl named Jennie Trescars appears. But no, only as a name. The story is essentially that an unkown guy tells me that there's a girl named Jennie Trescars without further explanation. I begin deciphering her name.

At first I think her name could mean "very scarce" or "very scary," taking the "tres" for the French word. Then I shift into the Spanish mode and think it could mean "three scars."

After this interpretation I conclude, without knowing anything further about the girl, that she must be a very scary person with scars. I don't know where the name "Jennie" comes from. But at the end I thought: so, this must be my nightmare for the day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)

After Beetlejuice I think I was prejudiced against Tim Burton. But this is a gem. The people in the suburbia are so well performed and plausible, starting from the Avon lady mother, Peg. The film has moments of laughter and suspension in equal doses and very well develops its story. A fantasy, whose culmination is Winona Ryder's Kim dancing under the scissors-made snow. It's seducingly beautiful.

There's Something About Mary (The Farrelly Brothers, 1998)

A delightfully stupid film about obsessions. What's fascinating is Mary's biographical displacements: Minnesota, Rhode Island, Princeton, Miami. It's so, what can I cay, American. Cameron Diaz is lovely, but not a moment to betray her Cuban background by speaking Spanish in Miami. The border terrier was horrendous!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2005)

It's a good film, for sure, but a little too good. Story of a daughter looking for her lost father, and a father rejected by his own daughter. They team up to pursue the world championship. The woman's childhood memory of her father and his german shepard is an obvious clue to her later fate. The boxing trainer reads Yates, and the Irish nationalism (beyond national boundaries) is moving, but it's not surprising. The man's dilemma is understandable but it relates very weakly to his religious questioning. The film never goes out of the horizon of expectation. A well-made film that never doubts itself and thus an essentially conservative piece. Nothing comparable to the Coen brothers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The World's Fastest Indian (Roger Donaldson, 2005)

This is a film that shows the quintessential kiwi spirit. DIY, be outrageously megalomaniac, have no fear... All culminating in a moment of fulfillment beyond imagination in the beautiful salt desert of Utah. It's about a guy who began his travel in Invercargill and went through all intercultural comedies on the American continent. And the man is portrayed by the formidable Anthony Hopkins, who has learned his kiwi accent very well. A superb film from down under. I mean, HERE!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995)

This film created its own genre: a sheepdog-pig movie. As such, it's incomparably good! The taste is English (of my imaginary England) and it shows you how cute and smart-looking a pig can be. The question remains: after watching this, will you refrain from eating pork?

This is a problem I've been avoing for years since my childhood...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raising Arizona (The Coen brothers, 1987)

What a brilliant piece! This counts easily as one of my all-time favouritse. It was released in 1987 and come to think of it I remember seeing its poster at the University Cinema near the U of Hawaii, Manoa, where I was then a graduate student in anthropology. Somehow I missed this one! Thanks god I could finally catch up!

Well, and that's probably for the better that I see it now. 1987 was my pre-Arizona days and I wouldn't have appreciated its landscape and such as I do in my post-Arizona days! A lovely, lovely film to be watched over and over again. Nicolas Cage is super. Holly Hunters got a great accent.

It's hilarious through and through.

Stromboli: Terra di dio (Roberto Rossellini, 1949)

It's so mythical. What's so mythical? The presence of the active volcano and the lights of the sea. And the most beautiful woman who's ever trodden on the white wilderness of the screen: Ingrid Bergman. She's just gorgeous.

The story is simplissima and not very impressive. No earlier points are pursued in depth. The character of the heroine is very shallow. Her past is only allusioned, and her stupidity (trying to survive only by manipulating men) remains on a lukewarm level.

What's so astounding is the scenes of tuna fishing and the irruption of the volcano. It's like watching an ethnographic film executed with finesse. Those gigantic tunas! Three times wow.

The main interest of the film, all in all, is Bergman's nordic beauty contarasted with the island's almost helenic, barren landscape. Rossellini himself didn't see any further, it seems. This is a Bergman picture show.

And on this island also there are many "Americanos," those who have been to the US, made money in New York and other cities, then came back to retire and wait for their passing. Seen from this perspective, this is also an immigration film. And no blond is ever integrated.

I enjoyed the film.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Stuart Little (Rob Minkoff, 1999)

Wacthed this with my children. We enjoyed it all right, but nothing exciting. What surprised me was that there was no hint of Night Shyamalan (he co-wrote the screenplay). Something could and should have happened!

Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)

This must be about the fourth time I saw this film through. It still gives me some feeling of, what, release from, what, some kind of stagnancy. The subject is not at all my genre, heavy hopeless down and out drugging and the fear of a very lunatic mate by the name of Begbie. Pettiness abound. Full of shit (no metaphor). And yet, and yet, it has its own serenity. I enjoy the Scottish accent (or is it?). The bit of speech about Scotland being colonized by the worst nation, England namely, is an impressive introductory material to be used in a university course on postcolonialism. It will remain watchable for some more time.

Monday, November 07, 2005

An ultimate irony

I saw a boy, 9 or 10, walking his little terrier. The dog was distracted by something on the road, sniffing. It wouldn't follow the boy. Then the boy said, pulling the lead: "Come on, man!"

As if.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen, 2000)

Geez. There is no end to my stupidity and one of the biggest blunders of my life is that I have been overlooking this INCREDIBLE masterpiece! It's a sheer joy to watch this illusory south of the 1930s with thick Southern Drawl brimming and floating in down-to-earth melodies. If this was Mississippi, that would make it the most attractive state of the Mainland US. The music is great. Full of fun. You've got to watch it tonight. The under-the-water scene near ending is stunning.

I don't know how much of the depiction of KKK is true to the fact, but it was very interesting. Faulknerians of the world, unite and let's watch this film!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)

I watched this masterpiece when it was released in '87 (I think) in Tokyo and then on a flight from Tokyo to Honolulu. It was pretty good then and after 17 or so years it still looks great. I watched it this time with my 15 year old son for whom already the age 12 is history, the object to nostalgically look back on. He loved it, too.

All the interactions among four boys (plus their elder-brother brats) are really hilarious and give good material to learn Americanism. The confrontation between River Phoenix and Kiefer Sutherland is good to watch and makes us all the more sorry for River Phoenix's premature death.

Of the four kids I always liked bespectacled "Teddy Duchamps" the best. My son is of the same opinion. "He's a bit like me," he says. Talk about heredity.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


It's Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) and fireworks are everywhere. Without any reason whatsoever to celebrate (neither pro nor con) the death of Guy, we nontheless did some firing into the rainy air. Not so impressive as what we do in Japan in summer.

My son told me about the phoenix in Harry Potter being named Fawkes after Guy and we discussed the author Rawling's attitude toward the conflicts between Catholicism and the Anglican church. This is the field of which I have no material at hand to discuss, sorry.

I only thought of the possibility that "Guy" in the early 17th century England could have been pronounced in the French way, like Maupassant. I'm not sure. It would make a Tough Guy a Tough Ghee.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Freaky Friday (Gary Nelson, 1976)

My friend Han-up said his daughters liked this film so much. I picked it up at local Warehouse and we watched it this evening. Well, it's reasonably good. The plot is around a super-natural quiproquo, or body exchange. The daughter is Jody Foster and considering this was released in 1976, hey this is the reverse side of her stunning Taxi Driver appearance.

But this film is all Disney and almost over-disneying that Volkswargen flic with what's his name, Herbie, no. 53! Unnecessary car chases and absurd destruction. Baseball is good to see from this hemisphere, and the middle-class mother smokes! This fact alone can tell us we are back in the 70s and the kids at school are exactly dressed that way.

So I liked it all right. Then I found out the one my friend mentioned was the 2003 Freaky Friday! The two are based on the same story but different screenplays. (The 1976 version was written byt the original author of the novel.) Well, it gives us a nice occasion for a comparative study of retelling!

Spanglish (James Brooks, 2004)

A charming film that is at the same time deeply disgusting, too. It must be hard to make such a contradictory and ultimately enjoyable film. What is charming is the presence of "matria" Mexico and Spanish (although the beautiful heroine is performed by a Spanish-born actress). The daughter-interpreter is hilarious! The husband of the employer family is very deftly done by Adam Sandler. But the most impressive of them all is the family's warm-hearted, chubby daughter. She is so good.

On the other hand, the film makes the Mexican experience in the US abominously stereotypical and the economic devide to be a matter taken for granted. Well, it's all about American dream, I guess. And how illusory it is.

It depicts a conflict between pure love / physicality that is so conforming to the illusory Anglo/Latino divide. I say illusory, but I may at any moment fall dupe to it. The mother-daughter relationship, the concealed machismo and Adam Sandler's well chosen "femininity" are both so schematic, but you might at some moments want to believe in them.

This makes the film a "romance," in the 90 minute-long airport-purchased gaudy covered paperback reading sense. Take it or leave it. But you can enjoy an evening if you decide to take it. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)

My, my, what a story. Finally I saw this and its craziness was so arresting that 90 minutes passed in a zip. Minnesota is okay, but ah, North Dakota. It's chilling. And I thought I knew it!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Daddy Day Care (Steve Carr, 2003)

I love Eddie Murphy. I wish I could talk like him. In this family-oriented film again he is a full-throttle Eddie Murphy who tickles you to near-death of happiness. Children love it, too. We enjoyed a great after-dinner viewing. Angelica Huston plays a very serio-comical role that becomes her like none. This made me feel like watching Beverly Hills Cops all-over again. And maybe Dr. Dolittles, too!

Snow Falling on Cedars (Scott Hicks, 1999)

A great, ambitious film that takes as its frame the experience of the Japanese-Americans' internment during WW II. The whole story is set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, the region I deeply love, and superbly captured on the screen by careful locationing (seems like they went across the border into BC, too).

Actors are all fabulous. Yuki Kudoh is great, and so is super-charming Anne Suzuki (my son is crazy about her) who played her childhood years. Max von Sydow as the old lawyer is incredibly good, and Sam Shepard's appearance is a nice surprise. A gorgeous film by any standard. This makes me want to read the book which I have bought way back in Seattle without really looking into it. What a shame.

I've got to watch Scott Hicks's former work Shine, too.