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Monthly Archives: January 2008

I was just running through the previous entries of this blog, meaning I was running down memory lane on the films that I’ve seen over the last year or two, and there are some candidates that really require and deserve a re-watch. New Year resolution (Chinese New Year… a bit more time): Watch This!

* Zodiac
* Syriana
* Children of Men
* Pan’s Labyrinth
* The Departed (and while we’re at it: all Scorsese)
* Volver
* The Descent
* Dallas Pashamende
* Vom Suchen und Finden der Liebe
* Race to Belleville
* Mar Adentro
* 21 Gramms
* Young Adam
* Crash
* Million Dollar Baby

I don’t know who Ernest Dickerson is, and after this episode I do not want to find out. He directed it. Mick Garris wrote it, confirming again that inventing a horror show does not mean one should necessarily hire oneself as an author for it. Maybe the worst episode in two seasons so far: breaking and entering into a morgue zombie chase, results in more zombies. All this in a teenager setting. Bah! I really have to do away with the remaining episodes and move on to better stuff. IMDB:

Number 2 of the Season was much better than the first one, even though the story of the all-American, traumatized couple, wanting a new start after their kid had died, but unfortunately setting up shop next door to a serial killer who will soon be after them is a bit … transparent… predictable? But the characters are pretty good, and the killer himself (George Wendt) is the guy I always initially think of as John Goodman’s big brother. Everybody gets what they deserve, only the thing about little girl’s new big sister did not work out. And what is John Landis doing these days anyway? IMDB:

Catching up with season 2 of the recently discovered Anchor Bay / Showtime show: A bit of a boring start into the new season, with some black blurb coming and possessing the family line. Duh…not worth mentioning, if not for the strange fact that it has been directed by Tobe Hooper, but is still very boring and unworthy as a season opener. What happened?? IMDB:

Very strange. Me of all people watching two comedies within two days (which have been comedies number 2 and three within the last 12 months, I guess), and most weirdly finding that the same guy plays a lead character in both.

I watched Superbad first, and it was interesting to wonder (again, after “Knocked Up”, which was number one of the last 12 months’ comedies I watched) why this specific film has created so much critics’ blitz. It has its moments, the cops on their own psychedelic night roam are quite fun, the nerdy fat guy and the quiet loser are a well-proven constellation to create some teenage party amusement. Interesting also to see how the third lead character (McLove) increasingly takes over and makes it basically his film from halfway through the action (culminating in a well-deserved, yet interrupted “Oh my God, it’s actually in!”). But then again: will be part of the big blur into which all those avergage film merge at the end of the day. (IMDB:

“Juno” may be a bit different in that respect. First of all, because the actors are way more sophisticated. Not only Ellen Page of grisly “Hard Candy” fame (bitch! I never will be able to feel sympathy for her misery again after that…), but also in particular the newspaper editor from the “Spiderman” franchise, making it (weird again) the second time in three days (after the completely out of place performance of McGuire in “The Good German”) that I see Spiderman people outside Spiderman – only much better here. It is absolutely useful to have two or three beers to get your humour and sentiments liberated before you start watching, but then it is an absolutely hilarious and funny ride. It is a lot about catchy one-liners (“I was hoping she was expelled or into hard drugs” – “Have you ever felt like you were born to do something? – Yes, heating and air conditioning.” – “Being pregnant makes me pee like Seabiscuit.”), but that’s not half of it. The characters are just utterly friggin’ cool (father, stepmother, girlfriend, boyfriendandimpregnatorofSuperbadfame) or absolutely despicable (all evil happening to that Jennifer Garner character in her hopefully long life is well deserved in advance). And it’s moving and tear-jerking – oh when she kisses the child’s father near the end and finds out what true love is … As I said, it helps to be a little bit drunk, but then it’s really entertaining and rewarding. (IMDB:

Here, writers’ guild, eat this! As they are unwilling to produce more sustainable stretches of Lost, 24, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica or Life (at least they will finish off Jericho decently, even though I am not sure the screener episodes are too promising – even within the first three episodes a serious deviation from the principal mythology?? Killer virus flu?!?), they have to bear the consequences, being: me checking out other and new programmes, off the radar stuff and the hidden gems of US cable stations. I am currently personal-test-screening:

* Californication: oh, yes! See previous entry.
* Dexter: starts a bit clumsy, the dialogues moving like sirup on a plain, and a horrid voiceover narrator, somewhere positioned between CSI, Life and any other serial killer, forensic investigation. The starting point, however, is so tailor-made to my tv needs (I love serial killers, I love CSI LV, I like Jerrey Deaver’s Lincoln-Rhyme-novels, I find Seven and Silence of the Lambs to be entertainment at its best) that I just have to keep watching.

* Entourage: very entertaining, I can watch 4 episodes in one go, but then I need three weeks’ break from all these fake identities and indecent levels of casual sex

It is all but a sad substitute for Starbucks, Sawyer, Jack Baur and Co., but better’n’nottin’

There are those who say that Mr Soderbergh has somehow lost it. The idea of having a geek who manages to balance between multi-million dollar industry and tiny arthouse flics is very charming, but the question is when did he last manage to perform in the arthouse segment – and which one of the blockbusters is actually worth watching? "Oceans 11" – more boring than it should have been. 12? Unwatchable gibberish, in which I missed the main plotline because I could not stand all that crappy dialogue anymore and listened to other things such as my grumbling stomach. 13? Forgot – I canot even remember whether I watched it or not. "Sex, Lies, Videotape" was pretty good at the time, even thoug it may have been more important from an industry point-of-view than from the audience’s. Terrible "Kafka" nonsense. "Erin Brokovitch" was pretty interesting and fun at the same time. I was also one of the few people who liked "Traffic", but was very much underwhelmed by the "Solaris" remake. "Bubbles" and "Schizopolis" I have not seen. "The Good German" I now did, because I still believe in DVD package blurbs, and what you get when you fall for those is… boredom. And confusion. You are expected to believe that there is drama evolving, but the drama is about nothing. A bit of nuclear physicist nonsense material, around which Hitchcock would have created a thrilling world of espionage and murder. A not very pretty love interest that gets penetrated from behind by Spiderman, which is a bit ridiculous to watch (you expect Kirsten Dustbin to blow around the corner and tell him off for it, or shoot him in the face. Thank God they spared us from this!). George Clooney’s part makes you go to IMDB to check out why this guy became  famous and respectable in the first place – and that is not a very good idea, because there you are reminded that hardly any of his earlier roles deserve too much respectability (except the fact maybe that he showed up in ER not only as Doctor, but a couple of years earlier in a different role, apparenly. Not that I care, having never watched it). (And except From Dusk til Dawn, of course, because his tattoo is pretty).

You see how ambitioned the film is about re-creating the atmosphere of the 50s, by being accurate to the point of annoyance and using for example old camera lenses to be true to the kind of crap look-and-feel our parents or grandparents were used to and could rightly call state-of-the-art. I don’t want all this cinematic masturbartion. If you don’t have an interesting story to tell or a fascinating character to introduce, just don’t. Go read a book, Mr Soderbergh, because you are staeling our time, and I’m not getting younger.


I will admit that I am prone to addiction, and it is easy as hell to get me on the hook: just write passages into your teleplay such as…

“Getting your asshole bleached would be much more fun than having him make up things about your life.”
“Now you’re giving me that look like I fingerbanged your cat.”
And my personal Season 1, Show 1 favourite:
“Father!” – “Daughter, what’s up?” – “Why is there a naked woman in your bedroom?” – “Stay here, I’ll take care of it.” – “She has no hair on her vagina, is she allright?” – “I’ll check.”

Thank God it’s only 12 shows in that first season, because I will have to watch all of it tomorrow!

I frequently go back to the UME website – always nurturing the dire hope that there must be a day when more interesting produce than “Assembly” and “Warlords” hits Beijing’s big screens (I think I would physically give my left arm to see a non-censored version of “No Country for Old Men” on one of the Beijing big-ass multiplex screens – both arms for a double feature with “There will be blood”). During the comfort of the No-US-Movies moratorium that of course did not exist, the screens filled with some extravagant stuff (most if which was outright rubbish) and with a bit of threshold material, pretending not to be American (My Blueberry Pies, I think it was called).
Now I come back to see whether it’s better to go for the DVD collection on an uncomfortable Saturday afternoon, and here he is: Will Smith and the Film With the Spelling Mistake in The Title. I would have much preferred to see the IMAX version of I am Legend, of course, but this is not so much a film now, but more a light on the horizon, indicating the point has been made about the WTO and the Chinese film’s market share has been re-established (or maybe it’s a technicality and one of the producers had an English grandmother? Never mind, it’s the signal that counts!). At least this promises a couple of blockbusters in a decent technology setting. Get out the 3-D goggles, Beowulf can’t be far!
UPDATE 2008-01-20: The colleagues at point to recent schedules with quite a few US and other foreign movies waiting in line: “Doraemon (Japan, 01.24), Salir pitando (Spain, end of Jan), The Water Horse (US, 02.16), Atonement (UK, end of Feb), some Russia movie that I can’t find a translation for (end of Feb), and then in March, Golden Compass and National Treasure” linking to this Chinese source and to this slightly different Canadian one. Let’s sit and wait…

I must assume that I am not a big fan of the Simpsons, and I judge this from not remembering when I watched them last. Must have been in their first or second season, whenever that was shown back home. Watching the movie now was a bit eerie, because despite this long time of contact moratorium, all the main characters felt immediately famlliar. I guess that what makes a truly trend-setting and style-defining show with massive global impact on popular culture.

I did not get any of the references to the decades of the Simpsons’ TV career, but never mind: despite my initial scepticism and readiness to turn off the film whenever it started boring me, I stuck to it (with mild surprise) and enjoyed myself the way I enjoyed myself during some of the tv episodes. And it is nothing more than that, just a bit longer than the regular episode, call it a Christmas special edition. Nothing to write home about, but when the icestorm is blowing outside the window and you have a mug of coffee on your table, watching this is one choice that should not be regretted. I am just trying to remember what happened to that pig…
Nicely done official website:

“Paradise Now” has caught some attention around the … Berlin festival? Or was it Cannes? In any case: as it is one of those typical festival films, you really have to take a note to keep hunting it down, in your local train-station-turned-into-arthouse cinema or – more likely, unfortunately – through the DVD mail order service. Here it is, I am glad I have not forgotten about it, because it is a pretty well-done film.
You have to be seriously one-eyed to be offended by the fact that the suicide murderers of the film start out as regular guys, quite nice guys, actually, and that their evolution into terrorists is shown as a process that comes quite natural if you have suffered enough oppressions. This is done exactly done the same way in Ken Loach’s “Barley” film, and in a bit more elaborate (and maybe less souvereign) form by Salman Rushdie in Shalimar the Clown.
So the film follows the two friends down that road, observes them do some kind of reversal of roles.
I would not say that this is a masterpiece of a film, but it is definitely a solidly performed and directed narraryion that allows those of us for whom the regional conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a very abstract tv event to get closer and get a stronger believe in its reality.
Plenty of Reviews:

This is a good chance to catch up with the films missed over the last years. Rotterdam (January 23 to February 3) will screen some outstanding examples from China’s Fourth Generation film makers:
See here for the details and here for more on the respective films:

The films are:

Troubled Laughter / Kunao ren de xiao, Yang Yanjin, Deng Yimin, 1979

Little Flower / Xiao Hua, Huang Jianzhong, Zhang Zheng, 1979

Evening Rain / Bashan yeyu, Wu Yigong, Wu Yonggang, 1980

The Alley / Xiaojie, Yang Yanjin, 1981

River Without Buoys / Meiyou hangbiao de heliu, Wu Tian Ming, 1983

My Memories of Old Beijing / Chengnan jiushi, Wu Yigong, 1983

At the Beach / Haitan, Teng Wenji, 1984

Narrow Lane Celebrity / Xiaoxiang mingliu, Cong Lianwen, 1985

In the Wild Mountains / Yeshan, Yan Xueshu, 1985

Sacrificed Youth / Qingchunji, Zhang Nuanxin, 1985

Woman Demon Human / Ren gui qing, Huang Shuqin, 1987

Black Snow / Benming nian, Xie Fei, 1989

This is a lineup that would be great for a Beijing filmfest, actually. I am sure most of those movies have never really seen the light of China’s day.

Not that I enjoyed the film too much (let’s take it from the positive side: if Michael Bay can be a director, then who can’t?), but this story (found by Rick Martin’s Little Red Blog) is spectacular enough. Somebody in Nanjing got bored (probably had a bit of leasure time after playing an extra in one of the 25 Nanjing Massacre versions to be filmed on location) and built a full-sized Bumblebee. So if you happen to be in the area, pay him a visit.

This is appalling on every level,outrageous, tasteless. It’s also pretty funny (found through The Movie Blog):

That’s beijing (or The Beijinger? I am currently a bit lost on what they’re called) has quite an interesting article / posting on the whereabouts and whatabouts of the current generation of Chinese big screen directors (even though big screen means for some of those guys being screened at Cherrylane or in the “black box café”. Big Big Screens are mostly taken by other stuff). The interesting part is the ralisation that after a clearly identifiable Fifth generation of film-makers (most of who have already sold out, most would agree), number 6 is scattered and less tangible. However: with Jia Zhang-Ke and Li Yu among others, there are now some people around who not only do love and pictures, but also intellect and politics. That is a good sign for the Chinese arthouse cinema, even though it comes at the price of becoming harder for those artists to perform their jobs in mainland China. Let’s hail them at least in the festival circus and in the European arthouse theatres!

Not mine, no no no, but those resolutions that’s Dalton Ross shares with us include some highlights. Next to the obvious "I resolve to not impregnate any member of the Spears family" that every one of us should subscribe to, I found this one particularly interesting.

"I resolve to stop telling people to watch The Wire, recognizing that if people haven’t checked it by now — in its fifth and final season — they ain’t gonna start no matter what I or any other critic says.",,20170630,00.html

But man! it’s plain wrong! I enjoy the benefit of neither living in the US, where US shows apprently screen first (duh, that was a brainer), nor do I actually have a tv set. Meaning that there is no regular influx of tv shows unless I buy them in a nice packed DVD box, the larger, the better. And the best way to do this is after the whole show is done. Hard to find, but you can do this with the "Muppet Show", with the "X Files", "Twin Peaks" and – the one I am really looking forward to foir this year: "The Sopranos". Just imagine my year: I see the Sopranos for the first time, and I see them from beginning to end! Yes, die of jealousy! And having had three seasons of Lost in one go, or 7 of CSI to devour is not bad either. "24" has to be seen in one rushed weekend, anyway. Once you get hooked onto the weekly addiction, all those shows lose quite a bit of their appeal for me. I want to dive in deep, and 40 minutes is just not enough to do that.

The “Huber Buam” (Huber Boys) are two German mountain climbers who (out of boredom or better marketability – that is not quite clear from the picture) set out to break speed climbin records. They try to achieve this at the supposedly famous “Nose” somewhere in California, but between efforts and after accidents, the documentary needed to deviatre from that story a bit and also follows them to Patagonia, which makes more interesting pictures, but leaves it increasingly unlcear what the film actually is about. At the end of the day, maybe it is about the relationship between brothers working in the same line of business – needing to cooperate in order to reap the best benefits, but never being able to escape jealousy and this long history together.
I think Danquart’s Tour de France film “Hoellentour” (Hell on Wheels) is vastly superior to this one both in cinematic terms and the personnel under scrutiny, but I dare not judge whether this is because I feel much more attached to the cyclists and can come up with only some form of zoological interest for speed climbing.

Ken Loach is a fascinating fellow: looking into the history of his films, there is such an amazing number of amazingly well-done and thoughtfully conceived films, that it is hard to explain why shivers go through my spine whenever I start seeing a new one. The reason for this is Land and Freedom (Terra e libertà) , a surely very important and heartfelt assessment of the personal drama and the political turmoil during the Civil War in Spain. Very good film, up to the point where a group of mostly non-professional actors stages a debate about whether or not the villages land property should be communitized or not. Horror! I did attend my share of townhall meetings in the early days, and they are hateful. This was even more hateful, I could not stand the chattering and shouting, the posing and tactying. It was one of very few occasions in my life when I left a theatre early. Since then, I think I have not seen another Ken Loach film until now.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is in many ways very similar to “Land and Freedom”, because – well apprently it is also about land and Freedom, this time in Ireland. It is more strictly and more cinematically directed, however, and hence much more watchable. My initial fears were quickly overcome (even though there is a slight relapse during discussions on whether or not the violent resistance against the British should continue or not – but that, at least, was an important topic…).
The film moves follows the development of some characters who get initiated with violence and hatred, who decide to take on the fight, and it moves irresistibly towards the unavoidable finale, where the group that started off together take different courses which also lead them towards opposing each other. There is a lot of realism involved, plenty of desperation, and at the end we are being confronted with the mother of all conflicts – to be resolved without compromise. Well done, again.
New York Times

It is interesting to see that David Cronenberg develops some form of mainstream talent that seems quite inconceivable when looking at his early works. It appears he found a fascinating way to stick to his old topics of obsession, yet present it in a form that is more accessible to those who do not so much appreciate the sight of exploding heads or non-living things being inserted in living bodies, if you get what I mean…
After “History of Violence”, now “Eastern Promises” as some form of beginning of a “Viggo Mortensen Trilogy”? Would not be the worst trilogy, indeed, as Mortensen appears to move towards an honourable seat in the actors’ olymp. He is intense, he is very uncompromising in what he plays, he is maybe one of very few actors who can play a deadly fight wearing nothing but his skin, and still come across credible and impressive.
This story about the Russian mafia in London may suffer a bit from an Armin Müller-Stahlwho is not too believable as Russian mob and restaurant owner. But the charme of the London location, the sheer force of Mortensen’s play, and the quality of Vincent Cassel make up for that. And I guess we have lined up the Oscar race now between Mortensen, Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem? That will be interesting, indeed.
Mark-Kermode’s enthusiasm

Very nice piece by Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly (where I go compulsively to find the latest Stephen King column: )

"This Christmas’ guilty-pleasure DVD indulgence was a multidisc collection of five different versions of the 1982 film Blade Runner, which is itself based on a 40-year-old Philip K. Dick novel. Personally, I’m holding out for a SuperPlatinum Deluxe Psychotic Edition, which will arrive in a crate containing 47 discs and Ridley Scott himself, who will hang out with you and then rewire your home sound system.",,20169296,00.html

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