dreamer_easy: (Default)


This movie wasn't at all what I was expecting. After watching too many South Korean movies about war, police, gangsters, and/or serial killers, I anticipated a bleak film laden with violence and gore. Well, there was enough of that to get the point across (a scene involving skeletons will be hard to forget)  but this wasn't another story of hard-bitten professionals; rather, the heroes are a hapless and frequently ridiculous family (a scene of their hysterical grief tips over into comedy). They are desperate to save a little girl from the monster.

This is a very political movie. The very first scene, in which the Korean assistant of a scientist from the US obediently pours a ton of mutagenic chemicals into the Han River, is repeated in different ways through the movie, as Korean authorities meekly go along with brute force American tactics. Their Kafkaesque refusal to listen forces the family to go it alone with whatever meagre resources they can muster. The director, Bong Joon-ho, played down the anti-American angle in an online interview, but the movie's climax repeats that first scene of careless poisoning.

The monster is incredible. It's fast and agile. Its integration into the live footage is seamless. Its design is simultaneously like and unlike real-life animals - you don't have to browse through too many pictures of marine worms online to see some truly unpleasant and overcomplicated mouths. The scenes in which the heroic little girl tries to outsmart it are frequently heart-stopping.

This is one of those movies where, with setback after setback, you cannot fathom how the protagonists can possibly prevail. And yet, somehow, in the face of an actual monster and metaphorical monsters of bureaucratic indifference and political expediency, they muddle through on sheer determination and love.
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Movie Poster

What goes up must come down. I'm feeling pretty awful right now. Nothing to do but get on the sofa, fire up Stan (which we have at the mo for Twin Peaks), and see if they have any Korean movies. Not many, but there's something called "Age of Shadows". Oh, and Lee Byunghun's in it - one of my favourite Korean actors (and a honey to boot). And - a particular shot through a car's windshield gave this away - it's directed by Kim Jee-woon, whose work I admire, if perhaps not exactly like.

The movie (its Korean title is 밀정 "Spy") is set during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The main character is a Korean working for the Japanese police. From the start, he's played as unexpectedly sympathetic; the plot hinges on whether this double agent will eventually choose one side over the other.

The direction is elegant and sometimes beautiful. It's a visually striking period (compare The Mystic Nine), with so much Western influence alongside traditional Korean and Japanese dress (spot the gat in the courtroom scene). I wonder if the handful of white faces in the movie are there for exotic colour! (I wondered this about Mystic Nine, too.) The action extravaganza that opens the film typifies this, with dozens of Japanese police in Western-style uniforms swarming through the streets and over the tiled roofs of Seoul like black ants. The use of Ravel's Bolero later in the film was hair-raising! There's a far bit of blood and a severed toe, but nothing like the rivers of gore in "A Bittersweet Life" by the same director.

In most but not all of the Korean movies I've seen, women have been marginal (this may partly be because I've seen so many gangster movies!) - the story revolves around relationships and questions of loyalty between men. Given the content of "I Saw The Devil", in which naked women are literally cut into pieces and consumed, on the whole I'd rather Kim Jee-woon left female characters out as much as possible. In that film, as in "Age of Shadows", women suffer in order to motivate the men; the fiance of the hero of "I Saw The Devil" (Lee Byunghyun again) is literally fridged so that he can pursue the cannibalistic baddie for private vengeance, getting two women sexually assaulted in the process (there's an unforgiveable shot of a schoolgirl's body as the cannibal molests her); in Kim's movie "A Bittersweet Life", the female character is caught between a gangster boss and his underappreciated lackey (Lee Byunghyun again - are you seeing a pattern here?). To come back to "Age of Shadows", Yeon (Han Jimin) is given a badass moment before being tortured and dying to feed the guilt and grief of our heroes. At least the director didn't get her waps out.

I've seen enough Korean movies now that I'm starting to recognise actors from other things. The lead, Song Kang-ho, was also in Shiri, Joint Security Area, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird. (Yoo Gong, on the other hand, is in things I haven't seen yet, like Train to Busan and the Kdrama Goblin.)

Well, my mood can't have completely collapsed if I have the energy to write this. The movie took me out of myself, for which I am duly grateful. Now perhaps an episode of 파수꾼 ("Lookout" / "Guardian").
dreamer_easy: (snow kate)
태극기 휘날리며 (Taegeukgi Hwinallimyeo) aka Taegukgi, directed by Kang Je-gyu, starring Jang Dong-gun and Won Bin as two brothers drafted into the South Korean army at the time of the Korean War*.

For me, this movie was too sentimental to be really great. Having said that, I've never seen anything which so powerfully showed what war is: chaos. Men desperately trying to reduce each other's bodies, these orderly configurations of parts, to randomised shreds and chunks. On and off the battlefield, this breakdown in the order of the body is mirrored by the breakdown of law, morality, and simple fairness, with the summary executions of POWs and civilians; and finally by brutal madness.

The other thing I want to mention is the film's recreation of pre-war Seoul - a big town, with signs in Chinese characters (Hanja?), people wearing traditional dress, etc. By the end of the movie the place is wrecked, of course, but there are signs of hope, such as an open-air school in the rubble.

(I've now seen enough Korean movies and TV that I'm starting to recognise actors. There's a chap in this who was also in Chuno, and Bin Woo was the ajusshi in Ajusshi (aka The Man From Nowhere.)

* Turns out this is what the war is called in SK as well as the Anglosphere. (Did they get the term from us?) Compare what the Vietnam War is called in Vietnam: the American War.
dreamer_easy: (Default)
Re-watched "The Egyptian" (1954), which I first viewed in the early 90s as "research" for Set Piece. There are some good lines, including some fun comic relief provided by Peter Ustinov, but mostly it's pretty dreary. How'd they make ancient Egypt look so dull? Despite some intrigues, it's not even sexy. Plus the story gradually winds down from the moderate excitement of hunting lions, abusing tarts, inventing iron, etc, to characters standing around making looong speeches about God. I suppose it was expected in a sword-and-sandal epic. This movie's characterisation of Akhenaten as an epileptic peace-loving visionary is partly the reason I made him a cunning bastard in the novel.
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
The Shape of Things To Come (1979) with Barry Morse is the greatest movie ever made. I am speechless. You must see it at once.
dreamer_easy: (GENDER)
"Our initial image of Marion is as a woman who is physically tough and mentally determined. Furthermore, she is a 'presexual tomboy', the ideal companion for Indy, whose masculine quests would only be undermined by any love interests in the peripheral plot... Showing no remorse for placing Marion into these precarious situations, Indy criticises her for wearing a dress given to her by Belloq. His criticism is, in fact, a criticism of her blossoming femininity. 'Whereas Indy treats Marion like an irritating kid sister,' Biskind states, 'Belloq treats her like a woman.'"

- Biber, Katherine. The Emperor's New Clones: Indiana Jones and Masculinity in Reagan's America. Australasian Journal of American Studies 14(2) December 1995, pp 67-86.
(I periodically find my photocopy of this article in the piles of paper about the place, and get something new from it every time I re-read it.)
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
As per Lloyd's recommendation, am watching Local Hero, co-starring an impossibly dewy Peter Capaldi. Also an unfeasibly young Denis Lawson, whom I saw last year playing John Jarndyce in Bleak House; only the eyebrows give him away. ETA: FAR OUT MY MUM EMAILED HE WAS WEDGE IN STAR WARS LOLOLOLOL Also, I just read an SF story which included therapy through insults, but what the heck was it?
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
I'm going to compile a list of the movies I've identified amongst the welter of unlabelled clips which make up the marvellous but frustrating compilation of British comedy movies, To See Such Fun. I'll add more as I puzzle them out.

The Man in the White Suit ("Do you think we should try it now? Or wait until after lunch?")
Monty Python and the Holy Grail ("We're coming with you!")
London Town (the sissies; the golf game)
A Home of Your Own (Ronnie Barker and the cement)
The Rebel (Tony Hancock the artist)
Carry On Henry
Over She Goes ("Side by side!")
I See Ice ("In My Little Snapshot Album")
Top of the Form (cheats in the schoolroom)
Very Important Person ("Scottish swine!")
Doctor in the House ("What's the bleeding time?")
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
song-chart-memes-blockbuster-movie
see more Funny Graphs

Man. This so accurately describes my reaction to perfectly good recent movies like Wolverine and Star Trek. :(
dreamer_easy: (THE HELL)
Found on YouTube, another TV memory from my childhood: Eddie Cantor singing Keep Young And Beautiful, from Roman Scandals (1933). If The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari had been a musical written by Al Jolson on acid, it might have looked something like this.
dreamer_easy: (torchwood ianto wheeeeeee)
I'm never going to be able to make this into an LJ icon, am I? It's just the wrong darn shape.

The Hidden Fortress )

Also, GIP.
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
Caught the trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes avec Robert Downey Jr. It looks like lots of fun, and whiny Watson gave me the lol. Somehow, though, I don't think this one's exactly going to pass the Bechdel Test, either. (Bit of a shame given the numerous kickass women in the Canon.)
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
In the past week we've seen the new Trek and the Wolverine flick and I've enjoyed them both: well-made, well-acted movies with plenty of pace and laughs. And yet I find myself oddly unmoved by either of them. SPOILERS for both films )
dreamer_easy: (AND MORE)
Can anyone identify the genius responsible for this image?



I adore this outfit. Seriously, it is beautiful. I wish he'd kept the scarf on.

The NYT on Internet book shopping: Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It

Rover sends us holiday snaps from Mars.

It kills me that this caption competition had to specifically instruct us not to slash him with the dog.

Robert Heinlein's 1940 short story —And He Built a Crooked House is available online in its entirety. I read this as a teen and it permanently warped my mind.

7 Classic Kid's TV Shows Clearly Conceived on (Bad) Acid. Mainly notable for the #1 choice.
dreamer_easy: (oldfart)
Can I just mention that music from the TRON soundtrack featured in Top Gear this season? I thank you.
dreamer_easy: (MOVIES)
The opening of Quantum of Solace is clearly a Top Gear challenge.

In other news, I have, tragically, been eaten by a coyote in the guise of a toy cow. I did request to be "put back" by niece Maeve, four, but she informed me that there was "NO WAY". The cowyote devoured a number of other friends and relations and was last seen lurking in the hood of someone's parka.

Finally, Marsha and I just had to do CPR on a nun in Starbucks. Yay us.

Angel Crepe

Nov. 3rd, 2008 07:39 pm
dreamer_easy: (DEATH NOTE)
Watching L: Change The World, and really enjoying it. I love this guy. SPOILERS )
dreamer_easy: (colossal drug bender)
Another gem from the Internet Archive: 1967's Narcotics: Pit of Despair. Opens with a handy demonstration of how to prepare a hit of heroin; promptly confuses amphetamines with barbiturates; and refers, bewilderingly, to "the pot needle". There's a scene of interminable dancing to rival the second Matrix film or The Web Planet. Lost fans may recognise the protagonist.

ETA: Or is it "pop needle"? "Pop" is used later in the film to mean a heroin injection.

ETA ETA: The nefarious drug dealers haven't got any Valium?

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