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The result of the Dgenerate poll on the best Chinese films of the decade is out. An excellent list to catch up on I frankly admit, some of the films I never heard of, and more I have not yet seen. But I am working on it now. The interesting thing to me: the expected "winner", but apart from that very few Hong Kong movies on the list:

1. In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-wai (of course, brilliant)

2. Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, Wang Bing (ahem… I got the DVD now)

3.  Platform, Jia Zhangke (I cannot remember, to be honest, whether I saw that)

4. Yi Yi, Edward Yang(must have missed it)

5. Still Life, Jia Zhangke (yes, one of my favourites)

6. Devils on the Doorstep, Jiang Wen (I think I saw that, but cannot remember at all)

7. Oxhide, Liu Jiayin (never heard of it)

(tie) Summer Palace, Lou Ye (I have the DVD, but…)

(tie) The World, Jia Zhangke (yes!)

10. Blind Shaft, Li Yang (yes, yes!)

(tie) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee (funny choice, I never even thought if that)

Full article and list:

Just got this through the Chinese Cinema Digest Newsletter, looks very interesting, even though I have bot yet read myself: the publication of Tang Xiaobing‘s essay "Why Should 2009 Make a Difference? Reflections on a Chinese Blockbuster."

The paper starts with a "The Founding of the Republic" and introduces a larger question of how to regard and rethink contemporary Chinese culture. The author argues for the recognition of the Chinese cultural production as a vibrant and complex ecology that we cannot afford to reduce or ignore.  It is not just a question of knowledge or appreciation, but also has to do with different memories and visions of history, which then raises further questions about our ability or willingness to accept them as such.

Full paper can be found here:

I just came across this piece by film review Godfather Roger Ebert in the “Spectator” ( ), and I trust the collaborative efforts of the two film masterminds Ebert and Kermode may at last be able to do away with the 3D nonsense.

Just one quote from Eberts comprehensive analysis:

Simply put, has anyone ever attended a 2-D movie and thought, If only it were in 3-D?”

Exactly! And after I caught a glimpse at the brilliant images, those colours! of Pixars “Up!” in 2D how could I possibly stand to go back to the grey veil behind which a 3D film must hide its useless face. Never mind the money or the uncomfortable glasses. Nobody is asking for 3D, and it does not look as good as a regular 2D print. Should that not be enough for an exterimation note?

For a while (from age 14 to 34, I think), I kept saying that before I die, I want to have accomplished some feats in the world of arts:

1 read and understand Ulysses in the original English version and live to talk about it at least for one dinner party
2 read "Buddenbrooks"
3 quit smoking, because it intolerably decreases my chances of achieving 1.

As I have accomplished 3 and 2, life is somehow on the edge. But The Movie Ness ( has pointed to another challenge that is sitting between me and the grave now, the 100 movies that "one" needs to see before dying. I suppose the idea behind this is that when you run out of great movies to watch, life has nothing to offer anymore, implying if you reach Nr 100 you are about to drop dead on the spot. So save one! I will save "Blazing Saddles", because if it is what I seem to remember what it is, then there is no loss in stopping at Nr 99.

So I mark below those films I have seen in bold, and comment that such a list without (after just 10 seconds of consideration, there should be some hundreds more) "Once Upon the Time in the West / in America" or "Local Hero" should be thoroughly ashamed of itself.

Where I cannot for the life (or death) of me remember whether I have seen them, I mark a "???", and where seeing the name on the list made me shout "OH, NEED TO WATCH (AGAIN)!", I marked "OH, NEED TO WATCH (AGAIN)!"

12 Angry Men
2001: A Space Odyssey
400 Blows
8 1/2

The African Queen

All About Eve ???
Annie Hall
Apocalypse Now
The Battle of Algiers ???
The Bicycle Thief
Blade Runner

Blazing Saddles
Blow Up
Blue Velvet

Bonnie and Clyde
Breathless ???
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Bringing Up Baby

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Citizen Kane
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Die Hard
Do the Right Thing ???
Double Indemnity ???
Dr. Strangelove
Duck Soup
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Enter the Dragon
The Exorcist
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
The French Connection
The Godfather
The Godfather, Part II
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Graduate
Grand Illusion ???
Groundhog Day

A Hard Day’s Night
In the Mood For Love
It Happened One Night
It’s a Wonderful Life??? Yes, well, probably 111 times, but cannot remember


King Kong (1933)
The Lady Eve
Lawrence of Arabia
The Lord of the Rings

The Maltese Falcon
The Matrix

Modern Times
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

National Lampoon’s Animal House
Network??? I think I did, but
On the Waterfront
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Paths of Glory ???
Princess Mononoke
Pulp Fiction

Raging Bull
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raise the Red Lantern

Rashomon ???
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Roman Holiday
Saving Private Ryan
Schindler’s List
The Searchers "OH, NEED TO WATCH (AGAIN)!"
Seven Samurai
The Shawshank Redemption
The Silence of the Lambs
Singin’ in the Rain
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Some Like It Hot
The Sound of Music
Star Wars
Sunset Blvd ???
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Third Man
This is Spinal Tap

To Kill a Mockingbird ??? "OH, NEED TO WATCH (AGAIN)!"
Toy Story
The Usual Suspects
When Harry Met Sally…
Wild Strawberries
Wings of Desire
The Wizard of Oz

Women On the Verge of Nervous Breakdown
The World of Apu

Thanks to The Independent, I am now even more tempted than usual to burn some months / years of my current life by watching things that I missed in the previous one. Gratefully, I have already worked my way through some of these (Entourage, 24, the Stanley Kubrick Movies [well, most of them]), others I am immune against (why anyone would want to watch "Seinfeld"…) and others are on the list of "things to do before the world ends" (read "Ulysses, watch "The Sopranoes" – yes, and "The Wire", of course!). But how to ever get through all these brilliant BBC documentaries without taking a Sabbatical? After retirement maybe? Need to file for early retirement, then. Now!

Some stuff I never heard of before (like "Father Ted" or "Shameless" – highly praised here, but how come I never even heard the titles?)

Noted (Christmas presents, anyone?):
* Bruce Parry – The Tribe
* Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy (of which I have seen "Oldboy")
* Louis Theroux: the Strange & the Dangerous
* David Attenborough’s Life Collection (70 hours? Easy… )
* John Pilger: Documentaries That Changed the World

Currently Working on:
* Michael Palin – Around the World in 80 Days
* Michael palin – From Pole to Pole
* David Lynch  

The list oddly lacks "South Park", but as compensation includes all the BBC Shakespeare recordings, which amounts to the same overall level of adult entertainment. It also mentions that Stanley Kubrick’s favourite film was the German TV show "Heimat", which proves that he was wise and deserves all the praise we have available.

See the whole list here at

I have no idea, of course, what the definition of an independent movie is, but I like to see them honoured. The award list of the Independent Spirit Awards as the probably most important Indy award is hence impressive, and lacks some of the duller moments we will see at the Oscars: Yet – this year’s Oscar nominations shied away from many of the blockbusters, so most of the films can be found at least on the nominee lists of either champagne-sipping event. There is of course one annoying mistake, which is giving a script award to "Vicky, Christina, Barcelona" instead of the National Lobotomy Award, but maybe they just mixed up the envelopes.

And the winners are:

The Wrestler

Tom McCarthy, “The Visitor”

Synecdoche, New York

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Woody Allen, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

Dustin Lance Black, “Milk”

Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”

Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

James Franco, “Milk”

Maryse Alberti, “The Wrester”

Man on Wire

The Class
5 crooks get rounded up after an arms transport disappeard. They realise they can start their own next mission together, but it goes wrong, with a ship going up in flames and lots of people dead. It is Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) who survives and through his interrogation, we learn how the story around the plotting of super-villain Keyser Socy unfolds. And if you really want to know what has been going on, here is the full synopsis:

Interesting to see that one again, especially as I have not seen it since it originally was released. Since then Kevin Spacey got famous, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne has become a well-known face (even though I relaised that apart from Miller’s Crossing, there is not a single movie with him I can remember having seen), and there are so many more big-scale supporters (Pete Postlethwaite, my fabourite one) that it is just heart-warming playing the thin line between  fact and fiction.

The movie does not hold up to time as strongly as – say – Seven (wasn’t it released around the same time), but it still a great production design, well written, well played and surely even today Bryan Singer’s prime directorial achievement.

A little boy trapped in a religiously fanatic family finds his dream counterpart, a spoiled brat who is completely disobeying any rule the world has ever invented for 10-year old kids. Through the joint work on a "screen test" movie, "Son of Rambow", they both learn a bit about the charms of leading other lifes.

If not for the high praise that travelled ahead of the film, I might have enjoyed it more (but probably would have missed it, too). It is a charming little film with surprising high production value, even a fantasy dreamworld is being developed that is sprouting out of the hero’s fantasy. For a grown-up audience, the drama evolving and the mix of slapstick elements in a real setting, with a rather undecided director, not sure whether to go for the hilarious comedy, the religious critique or the boyhood / coming-of-age transition… all this leaves a grown-up observing rather than immersing. The French class visiting the English school is a bit eery and displaced, the stunts performed during the film shooting are in a slapstick mode that does not really want to fit the rest of the picture. Jolly entertainment, but not there to stay. Maybe with the exception of the final scene, where tear-jerking moments of "Cinema Paradiso" quality are being summoned.

The story of a young boy who discovers his ability to leap though space at will, allowing him a life in style by withdrawing cash directly from the bank vaults (of which he makes generous use) and allowing him to safe people trapped in floods and take them out safely (of which he abstains).
Trouble hits his calm life between breakfast on top of the Gize pyramids and taking a ride on a London double decker, when Samuel L. Jackson sniffs his trace and decides to hunt him down. “Jumpers are the worst.” he sighs, but we never learn the worst among which specific sub-group of society and why anyway. Whichever it is, his intention is to kill them all with a big knife, which is why the Jumper boy is in trouble. And his girlfriend, and his Jumper buddy from Scotland. In the end, it is about jumping away a house, which has never been managed before, so … you guess.
There is a new rule in movies. After we have safely established the “Whenever Ben Kingsley plays the head of a secret organisations: beware!” rule, now here comes the “Whenever Samuel L. Jackson plays in a movie having a supporting role and his hair dyed white, beware!” rule. Or maybe “Any films with Samuel Jackson and Hayden Christiansen and a metal tube electronic gadget: beware!” Some bits of the special effects are quite pleasant to watch, with the possibilities involved in this particular ability rather well developed and not too many holes in the setup of this idea. What exactly the problem is between the Jumpers and the other guys (what are they called again? Centurions??) we do not learn, but it is a very old battle they are fighting, just like those vampires and Blade, you know? The whole drama, however, does not have a point and nothing happens that would be above mediorce in terms of directions, design, editing, camera, or acting. Script is actually way down the bottomless pit of terribleness: “We have his girlfirend, now he must come to us.” Arg! The director did do O.C., this terrible tv show before, so I hope for him that he is on a long-term contract with the networks – this movie I would not include in my job application package!

Part 1: National Treasure
Ben Gates is Nichoals Cages is the son of John Voight, and like a scaled-down version of Doctor Indy he is being chased around the world by the quest after a giant treasure, hidden by Freemasions and Templers and all the usual suspects of hiding things and conspiring about it. Digging up a ship in the Arctic ice, stealing the American decleration of indepedence, wearing coloured glasses and other stuff that I don’t remember 24 hours after I watched it happen.

With the producers in the background, an admirable cast and plenty of money to spend on location shooting, there is a film that shouts “rollercoaster”, and that’s what it tries to do. A bit of physical action, a bit of heist, a bit of high tech mission impossible, a bit of this stuff and of that, and admittedly this potpurri stays entertaining and most of the time well-paced throughout two hours of running around. It is very hard to remember what exactly they did, but the feeling of a well-choreographed Indy-rip-off and the realisation that well, maybe sometime it needs to be admitted that this is what Nicholas Cage is bet at. The German model playing his girl is actually not bad, too, and comes across quite refreshing – surely she will attract hordes of new students to study the ancient arts of whatever she was a scientist in.

Part 2: National Treasure, Book of Secrets
Ben Gates has to wash clear the name of his ancestor, who was supposed to be a war hero, but now comes under suspicion of having been a part in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. This leads him to a new trasure hunt, this time it is some Maya city of Gold he needs to find, and the quest takes him through the Queen’s and the US president’s desks, the latter desk’s owner’s kidnapping as well as to a book with all the secrets you ever wanted to know about. Area 51, anyone?

The cast is quite likeable, actually. Same as first time, plus Ed Harris and the Queen and the nice woman with the cute nose from Jericho. They are doing the expected things, but why is it that whenever directors like to Wow their audiences, they have to include car chase scenes in their movies. Adventure films do not need car chases, they need pygmae canibals and poisoned darts stuck into the heroes’ hearts. Anyway: the tourism boards of London, Washington and wherever Mount Rushmore is have kindly contributed to this breath- and slightly brainless hunt. Unfortunately the script is predictable on a painful level (yes, the water dams will break, yes, the Ferrari will be crashed etc. etc.), and there is basically no humour.

The summary from the double feature: the films (both directed by John Turtletaub) are expensive follow-ups to Romancing the Stone, not in the same league of the original, lacking the charme and humour of Indiana Jones’ Goofy Adventures. Entertaining, of course, but only a serious alternative when it’s raining outside and the there is no new “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica” episode around.

An elephant stumbles across a speck of dust in which apparently a whole world is hidden. He goes at great lengths in order to protect the speck and the world from being boiled by a nasty kangaroo sceptic.

I think it is difficult to assess what this film means to an American audience who grew up with Dr Seuss books and knows the story with nostalgic intensity. If you see it without that history, the story appears to be incredibly thin, the characters all pretty non-edgy and the – in terms of the way it has been produced for the screen – the animation very very not interesting, none of the characters particularly original, cute, nasty or any adjective. I hope this works for the little ones. For the slightly elderly there is a short sequence reminiscent of Japanese manga comic books and films (without context, though), and a short reference to Apocaplypse Now, and that’s about it. Uninspired and way too family friendly in the word’s worst connotation. review:

The two compilations (, from …er … lectures? Q&As? Shows? Ok, from shows Kevin Smith ran through some US and Canadian  universities and (on the second volume) in London are entertaining ramblings by somebody who just runs a loose mouth and knows his fan community well to enough to pull their strings and press the right buttons. Neither Kevin Smith movies nor his narrations do have too much redeeming value or even enough wit to survive another decade, but never mind: these hours are full of mindless are sometimes well-written and usually well-performed fun under the "artist talks about his work" cover. Which he does rarely. But there are very good stories about the first time he had sex with his wife, about his involvement in such projects as a Prince doumentary or a Superman film, and that is fair and funny enough.

Some reviews:,,,,

I am not sure whether it does the film any justice, but this summary of
Bruce LaBruce's "Otto: Or, Up With Dead People"
is just hilarious: "Jey Crisfar plays Otto, a zombie who's discovered by an
aspiring filmmaker and cast into her political porno movie."

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

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:

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.

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