I spent most of this week in a bit of a slump due to a pretty terrible fever that hit me on Wednesday. This meant that I wasn't fit to come in and help the public program offices of ACMI on the following Thursday. How unfortunate. On top of that I had some other nasty illnesses plague me in the week which wasn't great. Nasty stuff.
And just as a personal aside, I always look forward to coming in on Thursdays to help out. It's a learning curve for me in some respects but its also nice to be doing something that's completely different to what I'm accustomed to (okay sitting down at a computer and typing stuff isn't exactly different BUT its the work and the environment that is!). I hope that I'd get to work for ACMI in the future in some capacity as opposed to volunteering my time with them although I really enjoy the volunteer experience - I mean I have been volunteering with them for almost two years now. Unpaid work may sound unattractive but I genuinely think more people my age should get out there and volunteer for things they're passionate about. Okay that got a bit preachy towards the end there but I just kinda wanted to say something about that!
On a more positive note, one of my recent blog posts got some attention from the Publicity Manager over at Madman Entertainment and he kindly offered to add me to Madman's media list which was pretty awesome and very unexpected news. Four years (technically five) of blogging and it has now yielded some pretty awesome results! So I'll be most likely reviewing much more content that Madman Entertainment supply and distribute in future posts. Thanks Ben!
WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING
In 2009, Korean director Bong Joon-ho, responsible for fantastic films including Memories of Murder and The Host, added another great film to his already outstanding oeuvre - Mother. The film is reminiscent to Memories of Murder but instead plays out more like a Hitchcock film than a police procedual. Mother is about a woman who investigates the murder of a local girl after her mentally challenged son confesses to the crime, a crime the mother firmly believes was not committed by her son.
In recent years, Korean cinema has seen an upward trend in quality dramatic thrillers and mysteries and Mother is no exception. The film has all the great spectacles of any great murder mystery and tells an equally great story. Bong's direction is masterful and his portrait of the mother is terrifying and heartfelt and we wouldn't feel that way about her if it also wasn't for the marvellous acting job by Kim Hye-ja. Equally impressive is Won Bin who plays the son in the film. I last saw him in The Man from Nowhere, another awesome action thriller, where he played a completely different character to the one presented here. If you liked films like Oldboy, I Saw the Devil or Memories of Murder - absolutely give this movie a chance. It's sensational.
With Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, The Master, coming out soon, I thought I should continue watching more of his films and settled down to some Hard Eight over the week. Unlike the ambitiousness and scale of his later films, Hard Eight, Anderson's debut feature film, was a lot more low-key and minimal. I get the feeling that Punch Drunk Love is also a return to minimalistic settings and characters but I haven't seen that yet, nor have I seen There Will Be Blood yet.
Not much is made by way of story here - there is one but it doesn't seem to be the focal point of the film. Instead Anderson is more interested in characters and much like his following films, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, explores his characters and gives us ample time to care about them. Hard Eight made a great impression on me with its style and at times reminded me of Takeshi Kitano's personal style of framing conversations - characters look at the camera and talk directly to it. Whether or not this was intentional is beside the point though, Hard Eight is a fantastic entry point for a director who understands the language of filmmaking and uses his knowledge to excel stories he's interested in. It's a great bit of pulp fiction and Philip Baker Hall (also seen in Boogie Nights and Magnolia) provides an exceptional performance as Sidney, the world-weary mentor to John C. Reilly's character.
The Nanking Massacre is no easy thing to discuss and to present on film is an equally harder task to accomplish. I would assume that the Nanking Massacre is somewhat common knowledge but, as Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust, suggests, it would seem the atrocities that occurred in the city of Nanking are largely forgotten when compared to the devastation of the Holocaust.
Presented in beautiful black and white photography, City of Life and Death, a Chinese film made in 2009, is an exhausting presentation of the Nanking massacre. The film doesn't answer why the Imperial Japanese army stationed in Nanking did what they did and it would seem that history wouldn't have a definitive answer as to why they did what they did. The fact that there isn't an answer might alienate viewers and I was wondering what the point of this film was at all. Instead, we see the events of the film unfold through the eyes of various people, a Chinese official, a resistance soldier, a young boy and a Japanese soldier and it is through them that we see the wickedness that humans are capable of.
And despite it's depressing subject matter, City of Life and Death is a beautiful looking film - the choice to do it in black and white is an inspired choice, reminding one of films like Raging Bull and Schindler's List. And in it's harrowed bleakness, there's a deep philosophy that runs through the core of the film in that death is easier than life - especially when life can throw you a bone as tough as this one.
Oddly enough, even though City of Life and Death is one of the most depressing and eye-opening films I've ever seen, I feel that it has some rewatch value. There's a lot to take away from this film. Highly recommended.
Ten years since the first Spider-Man film and now we have a reboot in the form of The Amazing Spider-Man. Its the second of the big superhero films this year and one that attempts to re-establish its hero. Unfortunately, what we see is an underdeveloped movie with a story that too closely resembles the original, matching it beat for beat in some instances.It might be unfair to compare the two but when the marketing of the film has said that this is "The Untold Story", then you'd have to make the point of seeing just how different this is to the 2002 original.
There's a lot that the film does right and a lot that it does wrong. The casting for the film is exceptional - Andrew Garfield, last seen in The Social Network, shows us a different side of Peter Parker that we're not used to. He's not the clumsy nerd from Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, he's a loner with a lot of heart - heart which only grows after he gets bitten and becomes a hero. His relationship with the kind hearted Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is strong and palpable unlike the relationship we see with Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson in the original films. This is attributed to the real-life relationship of Stone and Garfield, both of whom began dating as a result of this film.
The supporting cast is equally impressive - veterans Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Denis Leary all take their roles and run with it, making the most out of their otherwise rudimentary roles. If only the same could be said for Rhys Ifans who has a lot to do in the film but never amounts to anything than "crazed scientist" with a bizarre plan that doesn't have much logic behind it (but then again, most comic book villains are usually like this). It's a decent film with a strong and very likable cast but its more or less the same as the first film (which I actually prefer over this one).
TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS
The first trailer for a little independent film called, Compliance popped up this week and was a controversial stand-out at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year. The film is based on real life events and explores our attitudes towards authority - that is to say how we, as humans, are naturally conditioned to follow the orders of a person we believe is exerting some form of authoritative force over us. The trailer is quiet but eerily powerful. Here's hoping this pops up at MIFF!
And oh look, a new minute long trailer for Quentin Tarantino's upcoming western, Django Unchained! Not a lot of new footage but still nice to oogle over. The more I see of Dicaprio in this film, the more I'm loving it! He looks like he's having an absolute ball playing a character that is so atypical of his other characters.
And that is all for the week. Childish Gambino's new LP, Royalty, was released this week and for me the track that really stood out was the one embedded below. Which is exactly why I've chosen it for this week's blog post title. So have a listen and enjoy some fine tunes.