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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:41 am:   

   By Gordon Van Gelder on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 08:53 am:  Edit

Lucius, point taken about wanting to see more of it in movies. But I doubt we will. Science fiction and spectacle are synonymous in Hollywood.

You've probably seen some Goodis film adaptations:

DARK PASSAGE (with Bogart and Bacall)
THE BURGLAR (with Jayne Mansfield and Dan Duryea---I've never seen this one)
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (Truffaut)
AND HOPE TO DIE (one of Robert Ryan's last movies)
MOON IN THE GUTTER (Depardieu, Natassja Kinski, and more pretentiousness than most humans can bear)
STREET OF NO RETURN (directed by Sam Fuller)

I can name another satirist you enjoy (at least, I think you've said you like his stuff): Brad Denton. But it might not be the satire in his books that you like. He's amazing at balancing naturalism and satire.

Gardner Dozois has a low tolerance for satire in SF also.
   By Lucius on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 09:12 am:  Edit

I don't know, Gordon. Indie film, such as it is, gives us stuff like...what was that movie with Donofrio and Tomei (Kathy reviewed it), as well Pi and etc. My story, A Traveler's Tale, is currently in the latter stages of development by a production company with a studio deal...There are some outlets for it. Then there's TV. It's possible we'll see more.

Thanks for the Goodis info. I have seen a couple.

Oh, yeah. Denton. Forgot him.
   By Gordon Van Gelder on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 09:27 am:  Edit

Yeah, I know the movie you mean. I want to call it CROSSING DELANCEY but I know that's not the title. It's a Brad Anderson movie---HAPPY ACCIDENTS, that's it.

Wasn't PI the one you said that if they'd had a big budget, it would have been a Hollywood thriller?
   By Lucius on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 09:43 am:  Edit

Yeah, that's it. ACCIDENTS.

I did say that about PI, but Hollywood would have made it more a corporate struggle, enlarged the scope, thrown in chase scenes, etc, and would have lost the personal story. Aaronovsky has another small budget (it had a big budget, but got clipped back) scifi film coming, supposedly this year -- The Fountain.

There won't ever be a lot of it, but there'll be some, I think.
   By Gordon Van Gelder on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:21 am:  Edit

If there are some such films, that's cool. My concern is that when Hollywood makes SF films that aren't centered on spectacle, they tend heavily towards sentiment. (I never saw K-PAX or that John Travolta film PHENOMENON, but the reviews of both led me to think they didn't skimp on the sentiment.) But of course that's true in most genres, not just science fiction.
   By Gordon Van Gelder on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:21 am:  Edit

If there are some such films, that's cool. My concern is that when Hollywood makes SF films that aren't centered on spectacle, they tend heavily towards sentiment. (I never saw K-PAX or that John Travolta film PHENOMENON, but the reviews of both led me to think they didn't skimp on the sentiment.) But of course that's true in many genres, not just science fiction.
   By Lucius on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:35 am:  Edit

You know I agree, Gordon, and KPAX and PHENOMENON were as loathesome as you would expect. I just hold out hope for the Fountain and for other semi-small projects, like Knowing and others. What I said to your reader about always thinking that the movie's going to be good until it proves me wrong is true--my cyncism is underminded by an optimistic naivetee. And I do think that we may have more small good films once the new generation gets acquainted with the new technology. I can't bear the thought that the future will be like the present, only worse, even though that's what I at heart believe.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:08 pm:   

It was a good thing it was a satire, I thought. A straight film would have been unbearable.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:21 pm:   

I didn't think Verhoeven did satire. I just thought Starship Troopers was unintentionally funny.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:27 pm:   

I'm pretty sure Verhoeven's entire American film career is performance satire, but Robocop and Starship Troopers both play pretty obviously as satirical sf in their own right. I thought the boardroom massacre in Robocop was pure Golden Age of SF Sheckley/Pohl/Kornbluth satire.

http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s2028equi.html
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:28 pm:   

You see Robocop? Showgirls? You thought all that right wing whiz in ST (Do you want to know more?) was unintentional? I don't know, man. Verhoeven was a very good director when he was in Holland -- check out Men of Orange with Rutger Hauer -- and when he came over here, once he found he couldn't make real movies, his tongue seemed very firmly stuck in his cheek.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:28 pm:   

Um, crap, that link related to the original reason I jumped back in here:

A new release of an old horror movie, Equinox:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s2028equi.html

Here's the question: I think Fritz Leiber might be in this. I have some correspondence from him, early-mid 1970's, where he talks about playing a part in a low budget horror film of this title. Anyone know if this is the one?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:33 pm:   

Marc---

IMDB.com says yes, Fritz was in EQUINOX:

http://imdb.com/name/nm0500020/
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:35 pm:   

Yes. There's a Fritz Leiber Jr mentioned in credits, but the movie looks pretty bad.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:44 pm:   

Heh, he didn't say it was good.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:45 pm:   

I saw Three Burials of Melquiades Estaban the other night, btw. Nice movie, maybe a tad overwrought at points, but with some great moments.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:45 pm:   

With Verhoeven, it may be like a Spinal Tap thing. ST poked fun at bands, but later bands made ST look tame. Verhoeven may have intended the stuff as satire, but when everything else Hollywood puts out is equally (or more) outlandish, it's easy to miss the satire.

There were scenes in Robocop that worked as satire, but I didn't think the whole thing was satire.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:46 pm:   

:-)

Yup, it's notable for being the first film work of FX guy Douglas Muren...
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 12:49 pm:   

Well, I think Verhoeven was being subversive -- as long as he dropped in the requisite sentiemental scenes with Wellers family and the splatter, he could fit in his satire and the execs, hey, they don't know from satire. But it was, for me, pretty clearly satire. Would you buy that for a dollar?
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jk
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 04:30 pm:   

Yeah, Starship Troopers was like Triumph of the Will in space.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 04:56 pm:   

Marc, I know what you're saying about Three Burials, but it was still purty good. And a nice move to the director's chair for Tommy Lee.

JK, exactly.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 05:28 pm:   

I read about Jones and Arriaga both being fans of Cormac McCarthy and working up this film between them, and I think they did a great job. It anticipates NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in some ways, although it is more sentimental than McCarthy. And it didn't feel like they were simply trying to do a Cormac McCarthy film without paying a fee. My favorite bits were the gruesome comic moments; they were genuine. Barry Pepper worked out a nice arc for his character, but at the end it seemed a bit thin...like the final close-up that made his make-up look like, well, make-up.

I haven't seen THE PROPOSITION yet, but it seems to justify my fear and suspicion that filmmakers who know they will never ever get rights to an actual McCarthy property would decide to do their own version--grim to excess, full of Biblical grit and apocalyptic surrealism, wallowing into excessively florid and pretentious territory. In other words, Nick Cave at his worst. (And I speak as an occasional fan of Cave; The Mercy Seat is one of my very favorite songs.)
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 06:06 pm:   

I'm continually amazed at some people's blind spot to satire--not in their appreciation of it, but in the sense of actually perceiving that something strives to be satirical. Starship Troopers (the film) is a perfect case; a lot of people hate it, I think, because they don't realize it's satire (perhaps, thinking that it can't be because the book wasn't).

I recently read a review of Richard Morgan's novel Market Forces, and the reviewer said something to the effect of "I wasn't enjoying the book too much, until about half way through I realized it was satire." I was like, DUH! It's so obviously satire, how could you miss it? Though judging from the reader reviews of that book on Amazon, I think a lot of people missed the satire (though I think a lot of them also just so violently disagreed with the politics in the book that they railed against it for that reason alone).

As for best American SF film of the last 20 years, I'd say Gattaca has to be in that conversation as well, though I also have a great fondness for Donnie Darko, so I don't necessarily disagree on that front. (Though perhaps such an honor should not be given to the man who wrote and directed that unforgivable piece of rubbish, Simone.)
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 06:47 pm:   

Marc, I didn't know that about 3 Burials but it makes sense. I truthfully never thought of McCarthy during the Proposition, so I judged it according to how it played. It's diminished over time. I thought it derived more from spaggetti westerns than CM.

JJA, I don't like satire often in lit form, but I'm more lenient when it comes to film. That said, I'm often blind to things in films that seem obvious to others, as are many of us.

I agree that Gattaca belongs in the conversation. As for Simone, hopefully Nicol has gone somewhere he can make good movies.
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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 09:24 pm:   

i tend to think some of the problem with satire is that it's not billed as that. when i saw STARSHIP TROOPERS i thought i was going in to watch some action flick, and i had a really negative reaction to it cause the trailers and promotional stuff had made me think one thing, but the film was another. second time i saw it away from that, and knew it was a satire, i dug it.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 09:39 pm:   

I think the best young director on the planet is China's Zhang Ke Jia. His first three films, The Shanxi Trilogy, Pickpocket, Platform, and Unknown Pleasures, were made with the sanction of China's film board and thus were seen as underground films. His fourth, The World, has the approval of the board and perhaps as a result is less successful, but still stands as a remarkable portrait of China in the spirtual vacuum created by the end of the cultural revolution and the Deng-era lunge for free markets. All of Zhang's films treat of the effects of globalization and are populated by young dreamers (in the case of the World, mostly young folk who have migrated from the provinces) who yearn for a bigger life, to inhabit a larger world, but are trapped in the one they have chosen.

The World is a theme park in the suburbs of Beijing where you can see the wonders of the five continents built to scale (Big Ben abuts Mahattan), pastiches of ethnic shows all looking a little Las Vegas-y, and where live a cast of dancers and guards and etc, making small money, lusting after luis vuiton purses and doting on Taiwanese pop. They are lost amid the industrial wasteland surrounding the World, acting as if seduced by the Muzak Beethoven, traveling to and fro on the parks gondola-like monorail, so alienated that they don't connect -- the one moment of true intimacy in the film occurs between two women who don't speak the other's language.

The central story is of Tao, a dancer, and Taisheng, a patrolman who is her boyfriend, who likes to ride a pony across the steppes of the World's faux Mongolia, but there are several stories and they all express the suffocating pressure of modern chinese life.

Beautiful long-take cinematography and a trancey score underline Zhang's themes. If you haven't seen his films, this is a good place to start. The pacing may be slower than you want and the ending flirts with melodrama, but he's already the most relevant director in China and soon he'll be the best.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:26 pm:   

To correct--the Shanxi Trilogy was made without the sanction of China's film board.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:47 pm:   

I just finished watching BURNT BY THE SUN. I thought it was good, but some of the symbolism was pretty heavy-handed (the actual sun floating through various houses was too much for me). Also, I didn't like the antics of the extended family (they reminded me of the buffoonery of the rural family in FORBIDDEN GAMES, an otherwise dark and heartbreaking French film; is the country-bumpkin family a motif of pastoral films?). That said, the closing 30-40 minutes were desperately sad and very well done. The scene where Mikhalkov's daughter stares at the big black car with such naked happiness just about made me cry.
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MarcL
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 10:57 pm:   

One of my favorite low-key sf films: Bertrand Tavernier's Deathwatch (1980), based on D.G. Compton's The Continuous Katherine Mortonhoe. Starring Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, Max Von Sydow and Robbie Coltrane. No special effects to speak of. None needed.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 11:13 pm:   

Nathan, It's hard for me to think of Burnt By the Sun as a pastoral film, because it's clear that the circumstance of the characters is not pastoral. What it depicts is a highly placed Russian family at their dacha or summer home, as I recall. Their "buffoonery" is redolent of the way a certain class of Russian famiIes are. I liked the image of the sun drifting through the houses. I thought it reflected the obviousness of the circumstance, the thing they lived with and were always trying to deny and could not deny. As such, Mikhailkov wasn't using it as a symbol as much as an actual presence. But everyone sees things differently...
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, July 05, 2006 - 11:20 pm:   

Deathwatch, huh. Gee, I thought that was older than a 1980 film, but I guess not. Yeah, that was pretty cool. I think someone came out with a recent dvd that was being sold on Exploited.
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PM
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 12:27 am:   

Given the Terminal and Lord of War, Gattaca is an ever distant memory.

We can discuss films initially released in America.

But if we change it to directors actually born in America...

Speaking of satire. eXistenZ exquisitely captures the wooden acting in so many video games. Not to mention the addictive nature of the game --- so addictive that one loses sense of reality.

CBerg of course is unAmerican...
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Rich P.
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 01:44 am:   

Lucius, thanks for the tip on Zhang Ke Jia and the Shanxi Trilogy. Should be a treat. I know I've seen Platform and Unknown Pleasures in the shops before (had the latter confused with Address Unknown for a while), so I'm sure I'll spot them again.

I worked in Jejiang, Shanxi a few years back. Spent a year there one month. Agreed to leave without pay at month end cause I just couldn't hack the place. Very depressing. Huge environmental problems…
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 05:02 am:   

Let's not jump on Nicole, PM. He wrote the first great script for the Truman Show and did Gattaca straight out of the box. Another victim of Hwood. Thankfully, IMDB shows that he has no upcoming projects and so may have returned from whence he came, hopefully to renew and rebloom creatively.

Not a big fan of Existenz...
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 05:13 am:   

Rich, I really feel bad in not having asked earlier if you had seen Jia's stuff. He's definitely a guy to watch. Going by the trilogy, Shanxi's no bed of roses, for sure. Nor is China, for that matter. I'm beginning to view that country as a vast container barge on a polluted river that runs past an endless sprawl of poisoned villages and a stone dragon hidden by industrial detritus.
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 05:38 am:   

In Zhang Ke Jia's trilogy, does one plot run through all three films? That is, do you need to see Pickpocket before the others? I ask because Netflix has Platform, Unknown Pleasures, and The World, but not Pickpocket.
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Rich P.
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 05:48 am:   

That description nails it, Lucius. Shanxi (west “xi” of mountains “shan”) has a beautiful mountain range that runs down it's eastern side, but from the city you can't see the mountains for the smog from coal refineries. Jejiang isn’t far from the Shoalin Temple. It sounded good on paper :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 07:32 am:   

JJA, no....it's not that sort of trilogy. They're all shot in Shanxi, which is Jia's home province.

I'm sorry to hear that, Rich. Oh, well. It'll be interesting to hear your reaction to the films.
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 12:04 pm:   

Anybody seen the new doc on the creation of the New York Cosmos?
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 12:21 pm:   

Nope. I saw Chinaglia talking about it, though, and some clips.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 07:44 pm:   

I thought I'd heard the Coen Bros. were going to do NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Does anybody know if that's true?
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luciusx
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 07:55 pm:   

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477348/

Yup.
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luciusx
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 08:01 pm:   

I wonder if it'll be any good. The Coens have been going pretty mainstream of late.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 09:26 pm:   

Yeah, it's been a while since they've done anything truly remarkable. For me, BARTON FINK was their high point. But I have to admit I'm excited by the potential.
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luciusx
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 09:50 pm:   

I didn't read the book, the plot didn't intrigue me, though I'm sure Cmac got off....But the prospect doesn't really grab me. I'd like to see a director with a stronger visual sensibilty essay a McCarthy flick. Someone like the Beresford of Black Robe, or Inuritu (sp?)...
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 10:06 pm:   

I always thought the Coen Bros.' visual sensibility was one of their strengths. Although I certainly wouldn't quibble with old-school Beresford. I haven't read this book, either, though it's one I intend to get around to eventually. I don't know; the match intrigues me, for some reason. I'm looking forward to it.
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luciusx
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 10:14 pm:   

OK, maybe I said that wrong. Some with a more stylized camera. A la Fernando Mirielles (City of God). The Coens have a nice visual style, but they're not real adventurous with their camera, not in a way that matches the pyrotechnic/superorganic visuals typical of McCarthy.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 10:24 pm:   

Fair enough. I'm still pissed at Mirielles, though, so he doesn't get to do it. :-)

But I do take your point.
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luciusx
Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2006 - 10:37 pm:   

Yeah, Mirielles was just a for-example. He's not the right guy. Too hyperactive. But the Coens are better than Brett Ratner. :-)
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Kelly Christopher Shaw
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 10:33 am:   

Miller's Crossing is their highlight for me. And I'm hoping, since they've been making throwaway films lately, that they'll be primed for something special with No Country.
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luciuss
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 11:13 am:   

Miller Crossing's cool. But I'm not all that eager to see their McCarthy film. I just don't think it suits them, though Javier Bardem's an interesting casting choice.
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Dave G.
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 11:51 am:   

Has anyone seen anything by Bigas Luna?
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luciuss
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 12:05 pm:   

You mean the Big Tuna? :-)

Yeah, I saw something by him, kind of a softcore thing, but wasn't all that impressed.
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Luciuss
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 09:28 pm:   

I like Toni Colette, I'll watch anything she's in. She's among the best English speaking actors in the world. They should remake Meryl Streep's Dingo movie and let her show Meryl a thing or two....that is, if la Streep has time for such. She may be too busy mailing in a series of one-note Joan Crawford roles. Meanwhile Colette is not getting any leads, not here anyway. But back in Australia she did, and I watched one of them this afternoon, Japanese Story. It's not a great flick, but it lets Colette show off her range as few of her American films do. It starts off as your basic odd couple romantic comedy, but then Sue Brook takes it down a different road. Worth watching if you like Colette.
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luciuss
Posted on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 09:47 pm:   

....plus great shots of Aussie desert...
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MarcL
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 09:16 am:   

Coens were lined up to do TO THE WHITE SEA at one point. Brad Pitt, no dialog, script by David Peoples. I'd have flinched going into the theater, but I'd still watch it. One of my favorite books. Oh, yeah, it's a "horror novel" if that would get more people to read it.

Saw Pirates 2 yesterday. Best tentacles ever in a movie, beating out Hellboy. Davy Jones's face is worth the price of admission. But it's weirdly talky...long static scenes of exposition, and nobody chewing the scenery to the extent of Geoffrey Rush. Also, be warned: It's essentially part one of a two-picture story. Worth seeing in the theater, if only because Jones's ship and crew are crammed with detail that you'll never see on a TV screen.
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luciuss
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 09:58 am:   

I liked To the White Sea as well. Don't know if I could have taken it as the movie you describe,

Much as I like Bill Nighy, Pirates 2 or 3 or 25 is not for me. Maybe if Keith RIchard's had played his father...

Heard some stuff about the Illusionist, starring Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti, based on the Steven Millhauser story. Spoke to Paul Giamatti's agent and he said the movie isn't very good, Paul G's unhappy with it. If an agent says that about his guy's picture, take it to heart. :-)
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MarcL
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 10:17 am:   

Keith Richards is supposedly signed on for #3.
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luciuss
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 10:22 am:   

Well, maybe I'll check out P3, then....I hope he doesn't climb any coco palms twist now and then...
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Rich P.
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 10:30 am:   

They'll have to apply fake skin for the scenes when he's not in moonlight. :-)
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luciuss
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 10:41 am:   

It'll be in his contract -- Must shoot in moonlight.
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luciuss
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 10:55 am:   

Yeah, he was asked to be in 2, but they couldn't work it out or something.
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MarcL
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 11:09 am:   

Pirates ended when I thought there were still 20 minutes to run, so I was a bit surprised that it ended and didn't wrap up in what I thought would be the remaining time.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 05:55 pm:   

Saw an Israeli thriller, Walk on Water. The first hour or so is brilliant. Eyal, a Mossad assasin, returns after a mssion to find his wife has killed herself. He's sent to keep an eye on Axel Himmelman, the gay grandson of an ex-Nazi who is visiting his sister. Eytal hates Germans, hates Palestinians, hates gays, yet he's forced to pretend otherwise. The performances are wonderfully complex and the setting is harrowing, a city under seige and haunted by the complicated nature of its hatred. It's so much more revelatory than Munich about the Israeli psyche -- you see the tendon strings of how the nurturing of their past has cause them to become the author of an equally abhorrent tragedy. When Axel returns to Germany, Eyal goes with him, and that's when the movie goes astray. Ridiculous plot twists (Eyal meets the missing Nazi at a birthday party), the characters resolve into less sharply etched people. It's really a shame. Like I said, for the first hour or so, I thought this was absolutely brilliant, but then it slumps into the ordinary. I'm glad I saw it, though, for its portrayal of contemporary Israel, which is sort of summed up when Eyal says, "Why do they always play sad music after suicide bombings. It pisses me off!"
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MarcL
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 11:14 pm:   

I liked both Nappy D. and Nacho L.

See you in court when you sue me!
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Rich P.
Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 11:20 pm:   

Japanese Story: I really like Toni Colette. She’s an intense actress who is a real chameleon. You’d hardly recognize it was the same actress in all the stuff she’s been in. I watched ‘Japanese Story’ with a Chinese friend a while back… My friend started laughing about halfway through the movie and didn’t stop till the end. I asked her why she thought the movie was so funny, after all it wasn’t exactly a comedy, and she said, “I loved the part when the Japanese guy goes swimming”. Oh, well.

Jia films are on the way... Once I got the DVD man to recognize the director's name (little problem with no-one here reading pinyin and me thinking Jia's family name was Zhang - more common), he promised to have all four by next Sunday. :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 06:33 am:   

Marc, why would I sue you? You're everyman. You're entitled to your pint of mudge. Still, Nacho Libre, dude. Wow. That's seriously dubious. And as for Nappy, what was HS like for you? I'm doing a survey.

Rich, well, the Chinese and Japanese have a problematic history. Maybe that explains it.

Good on the Jia films.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 06:55 am:   

Oh, yeah, Rich. Also recently watched Dirty Deeds and Muriel's Wedding. Having a Toni Colette festival.. I also like Sam Neill a lot. He has a small part in Dirty Deeds, which isn't that great, but has Sam and TC. Have you ever seen Death in Brunswick? Great black comedy with Neill cast against type as a short order cook/loser.
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Rich P.
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 08:12 am:   

Yeah, the Chinese hatred for the Japanese is right there on the surface... Especially in this neighborhood around Shanghai. No one bothers to hide it. Haven't seen Death in Brunswick, is it Australian?

I walked a little further down the street today and found a copy of PLATFORM. First impressions...

It’s the most realistic/naturalistic Chinese film I have ever seen. Absolutely fucking brilliant in it’s detail. I know of only a couple of other Chinese films that approach this level of realism (Zhang Yimou’s “Not One Less” and Ye Lou’s “Suzhou He”), and neither of them actually embrace it like this.

The English blurb on the back of the DVD is a riot of misinformation, no doubt sanctioned for western consumption… for example: “In the small town of Fengyang [I’ll bet there are at least 2 million people in this town. The Chinese call any city with a population of less than 2 million a village], which is in the remote western province of Shanxi, [Shanxi is directly south of Beijing, in the north east, and hardly remote.] the teenage members of a state theatre troupe stage propaganda plays in praise of Chairman Mao.”

OK, so the marketing here is probably geared towards making the film sound unrepresentative of China, but the film itself gets everything right…

The lighting is absolutely perfect. I know if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I’d be tempted to think Jia had used crappy film stock or everything was overexposed or something… but what he’s done is brilliantly capture the suffocating feeling of the atmosphere of northeastern mining towns. You can be standing outside on the sunniest day of the year and the sky still looks overcast. Every frame of this film is lit the same way… like you're seeing everything through a film of dust (even in the indoor scenes, where Jia captures rays of sunlight through the windows, and then has his characters smoke).

But that’s all peripheral stuff… I’m so distracted by the details that I haven’t concentrated on the movie yet… off to watch it again.

I vote for a top ten (or twenty) best Chinese movies list and/or article on Chinese movies to follow the one on Australian films :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 08:21 am:   

Death in Brunswick is Aussie. Good movie.

I haven't seen that much chinese film, haven't like that much of it til Jia, but I'd put all of Jia's films right near the top, the best--to my mind--being Unknown Pleasures. What's your list.

Glad you liked Platform. I thought it felt real.
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Rich P.
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 08:38 am:   

A list? That's going to take some thought and a few more Jia films to put things in perspective. I'll get back to you on that.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 08:53 am:   

Okey-doke.
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jk
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 01:23 pm:   

Lucius, have you seen that movie Firecracker with Karen Black and Mike Patton? Seems to have gotten pretty bad reviews as a third-rate David Lynch-type movie. Might be funny to watch Mike Patton in his "acting" debut.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 01:28 pm:   

Mike Patton? Kee-rist! No, haven't seen it. But I used to live next door to him when he was in Seattle. Yeah, it might be worth it.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 05:55 pm:   

The new Mike Judge comedy sounds perfect! Here's the IMBD description:

Private Joe Bowers, the definition of "average American", is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program, set 1,000 years in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he's easily the most intelligent person alive.

Also along for the ride is a hooker named Rita, Joe's co-guinea pig in the project. When a base closure occurs in the present, Joe and Rita are forgotten about.

Co-written by Ethan Coen. His first film since Office Space.

Yes!
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 07:29 pm:   

sam neil is cool, but he tends to have ended up doing a lot of forgettable things. like that tv series merlin. or those jurrasic park films ;)

what'd you think of DIRTY DEEDS, lucius?
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 07:42 pm:   

I thought it was pretty good. I liked it when Bryan Brown got medieval with that one guy. Toni C and Sam N were underused but good. It was a clever little movie.

Did you ever see Death In Brunswick? I'm really humping that one today. :-)
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 08:00 pm:   

yeah, bryan brown is pretty good in it. he does a nice gangster. i disliked how it ended out int he outback, though. it's my little pet hate of movies in australia. this sort of romanticisation of the outback.

DEATH IN BRUNSWICK rings a bell, but i haven't seen it, i don't think.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 08:21 pm:   

Does nothing begin there? ;) Yeah, it's kind of like Monument Valley for Westerns over here.

If you like Neil, DIB is worth hunting up. He plays a short order cook-loser who gets involved in a murder. Black comedy.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - 09:14 pm:   

So when sick, as now I am, I'm given to watching movies on Lifetime Television for Women. Women in peril from evil men, woman stalkers, woman slashers. It's also a place where good directors go to die. So today I'm watching this move called Last Exit about two women who're having, separately, very bad days whose lives converge violently -- one an ad exec, the other a secretary with a handicapped child. And I'm thinking, this movie is way better than it has to be. So I look it up on IMDB and, lo and behold, it's directed by John Fawcett, the guy who made the original Ginger Snaps. He's fallen on hard times. Doing TV, no projects in the offing. So the next movie comes on. It's Final Jeopardy, about a female sex crimes DA who's got a woman stalker. And I get to thinking, wow, this is a lot better than it has to be. So I look it up on IMDB and, lo and behold, it's directed by Nick Gomez, the director of notable indie films such as Laws of Gravity, New Jersey Drive, and Illtown (which features the one great Tony Danza performance as a gay mobster). He, too, has fallen on hard times, doing TV (albeit higher end TV than Fawcett--HBO stuff, etc.

Weird, huh?
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:20 am:   

Just got back from seeing A SCANNER DARKLY. I will not opine without more time for reflection. Overall, it was better than I feared. The end felt exactly as lopsided as in the book. The cartoon overlay was required to make the scramblesuit work, but it had other effects as well--some better than others. I enjoyed the stoner ensemble scenes, Woody Harrelson presiding. And I was relieved they avoided the dogshit sequence completely, thus keeping my favorite part of the book pristine in memory. (It's referred to in an aside about rubber dog turds, and that's about it.) There were points where I thought "Dick would have loved this," and that it was probably the best adaptation yet of one of his books; but I'm still not sure it worked all that well as a movie. I'd still recommend it though. It's the sort of s.f. adaptation I wish they'd do more of. I'm not sure if it would have been as good if they'd reserved the overlay effect for the scramblesuit, and shot the rest straight.

Dick's coda (Basically, to quote Jim Carroll instead, "They're all my friends...and they died.") is intact, but it merely sharpens the film's failure to convey Dick's message. It felt tacked on. The film is most effective as improv/ensemble comedy, and not as social satire or dystopian sf. Maybe it's just that the book has dated badly. And rather than sending me back to the book on which it was based, it made me want to dive back into the churning chaos of VALIS.

I guess I opined more than intended. I have mixed feelings.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:23 am:   

I've been hearing about that Judge film for a few years. Is it actually on the horizon?

Always wondered if someone would parody Poul Anderson's BRAINWAVE and do something like BRAINWANE: The solar system passes out of a cosmic field which has artificially stimulated human intelligence for millennia, and everyone suddenly gets incredibly stupid.
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 05:13 am:   

Does nothing begin there? ;) Yeah, it's kind of like Monument Valley for Westerns over here.

CROCODILE DUNDEE films. i need say no more :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 06:15 am:   

The acme of Australian filmmaking. Is Paul Hogan still alive? Can anyone tell for sure? When comes such another? "That's not a knife. This is a knife." Memories.

"There were points where I thought "Dick would have loved this," and that it was probably the best adaptation yet of one of his books; but I'm still not sure it worked all that well as a movie..."

Marc, that's basically how I felt about Scanner, except I think you liked it more than I...and I think you like Dick more than I, too.

The judge movie is coming Sept 1. I can't fucking wait to see America lap this one up.
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Dave G.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 06:22 am:   

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who likes Lifetime! Women acting crazy...what could be better! I mean Virginia Madsen as a murderess? Come on!

The night the Heat wrapped up the NBA Finals, I was watching SHATTERED DREAMS with Lindsay Wagner!
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 06:46 am:   

I'm ill, Dave. I have an excuse. :-)

But yeah, everybody loves lifetime....except for the plethora of Patty Duke and Tracy Gold movies....
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Dave G.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 08:56 am:   

During the World Cup final, saw my first TV ad for THE DESCENT. Aug. 4 is the release date!

I also think LADY IN THE WATER looks interesting. Anyone seen it?
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 09:05 am:   

Nah, I'm going to have to have proof that M. Night can make a good movie before I'm sucked in again. The Village...Ick.

I think you'll like the Descent. I may go just to see it in the theater.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 09:55 am:   

I'm holding off on Lady in the Water. Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were decent, but his other films have been bad. The Village was especially bad. I'm waiting until he can write a good ending, rather than some crappy "twist" ending that was obvious from the beginning.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 10:01 am:   

Yup, Exactly. I want to hear from people I trust that this is watchable, before forking over ten bucks.
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Dave G.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 10:41 am:   

Guess that leaves me out! :-)
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Dave G.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:02 am:   

Love BLADE RUNNER. One of my all-time faves.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:12 am:   

Dave, I trust you where Seagal's concerned. :-)

Bladerunner's okay, IMO. Some good, some way bad.
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Dave G.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:51 am:   

You mean you don't appreciate Darryl Hannah's greatest screen moments? :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:58 am:   

Yeah, but she had William Sanderson to play off of...
:-)
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Rich P.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:00 pm:   

Here’s a list of good Chinese flicks. Mainland only… no Taiwan or Hong Kong.


Seven Swords (Chat gim - Tsui Hark, 2005) Better than “Crouching Dragon” or “Hero”. A great kung fu movie and the closest thing there is to Chinese Kurosawa.

Not One Less (Yi ge dou bu neng shao - Zhang Yimou, 1999) The only “realistic” Zhang Yimou film. No professional actors. Great story. Zhang’s last “fuck you” to the system.

Suzhou River (Suzhou He - Ye Lou, 2000) An “underground” Shanghai flick that plays off a riff from Vertigo. Has she come back from the dead, or is she a body double? Virtuoso low-budget technique.

Mountain Patrol (Kekexili - Chuan Lu, 2004) Set in the 90’s and based on the true story of a group of Tibetans who form a patrol to stop poachers. I was expecting propaganda but it didn’t happen. Good movie.

To Live (Huozhe - Zhang Yimou, 1994) An epic set against the rise of Mao between the 40’s and 60’s, this is the film that got Zhang “retired” for three years. A couple become heroes in the new regime due to their misfortunes.

Platform (Zhantai - Jia Zhang Ke, 2000) China’s most “realistic” director. Still have lots to learn about Jia. If/when I ever make it home, this is what I’ll show people who ask me what China was like.

Big Shot’s Funeral (Da wan - Feng Xiao Gang, 2001) A comedy. A famous director (Donald Sutherland) is fed up with the east’s interpretation of China and goes to Beijing to remake ‘The Last Emperor’. Some very funny moments.

Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou, 1991) Classic.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:01 pm:   

Lady in the Water looks terrible to me. I can't think of the last time a trailer failed to create any suspension of disbelief. I've avoided his last few movies based on the previews alone.

Re Scanner, I think I like it a bit less this morning than I did last night. A well meaning film that falls far short of source material. It had a few good moments, but I think they would have been just as good in a random sitcom, detached from the story's environment.

Also, Anaheim doesn't look like Austin. You'd think they could have done a bit to fake the backgrounds to make it look more like SoCal. Or else just don't call it Anaheim.

Bladerunner is not very Phildickian. Some of the most PKDian films are not actively based on his work: Cronenberg's Scanners, eXistenZ, and even Naked Lunch have more of the feel of Dick than the official big budget PKD productions.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:06 pm:   

Hey, Rich, you're the first person to give Seven Swords high marks. I am a big fan of Tsui Hark, so I have always intended to see it as soon as I can, but it did not exactly get critical raves.

I thought Hark was a HK director, though. Do you consider this a mainland movie because it was shot there? In this case, would you consider a lot of his other films (such Dragon Inn) to be mainland productions as well? I guess I consider his Van Damme movies to be American movies.

I sure hope Netflix or the library have some of thos movies.
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Rich P.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:18 pm:   

Marc: Yeah, I called shot-in-China Chinese. If I considered director's birthplace or the country of finance there'd be nothing left :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 12:30 pm:   

Nothing...except Zhang Ke Jia. :-)

Thanks for the list. Appreciate it. Have seen Red Lantern, of course. And Platform. And heard about Big Shot. The others are new to me.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 01:08 pm:   

It might have been more fortuitous to call it GIAMATTI IN THE WATER. :-)
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 01:53 pm:   

Cool, Rich, the library has almost all of those films. Now I just need time to watch them.

Mountain Patrol was in the theater a few weeks ago--a botanist friend of mine who spends a lot of time in Tibet working on environmental projects said it was very good.
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Kelly Christopher Shaw
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 04:57 pm:   

Mountain Patrol will be out on R1 at the end of August.

Speaking of Tsui Hark, I wish someone would put out a quality DVD of his mid-90s masterpiece, The Blade. This movie, at least in my memory of the shoddy video tape, is an absolute masterpiece of physical action and choreography.
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 05:28 pm:   

Holy crap, I've never seen THE BLADE. What's wrong with me?
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Rich P.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 07:41 pm:   

Marc: The acting in Chinese films is generally not to the level of Korean or Japanese... Don't expect too much and you should like most of them.

Lucius: imdb lists Jia's films as financed in France, which may explain why my copy of 'Unknown Pleasures' has only French subs (@*$!). Sure I’ve seen it around with a different cover though.

Kelly: I’ll give 'The Blade' a try, thanks.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 07:51 pm:   

Rich, that's weird. It's got English subtitles on my copy. Did Platform have English subs.

The actors are good in the World.

Marc, I still think that Barjo is the most faithful Dick film I've seen. From Confessions of a Crap Artist.
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Rich P.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 08:27 pm:   

Platform was no problem (English synopsis on the cover too), but this UP wasn't manufactured for western consumption. The cover is a still from the movie of a guy riding his motorcycle past a bus stop. Nothing like the tidy English cover. An interim copy.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 09:15 pm:   

Oh, okay. Thanks. I'm gonna try and pitch a piece on Jia.
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Rich P.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 09:50 pm:   

That would be great, Lucius. Hope you can work it out.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 10:15 pm:   

If it flies, I may call on you for Chinese detail. :-)
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MarcL
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 10:38 pm:   

I hated Barjo. Maybe it was faithful in some sense, but I was too familiar with the source material (down to specific settings) to be able to deal with the translocation to France. Many of the locations were well known to me, and I had a strong connection to them. (I used to work at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, where Dick was a patient; and Children's Fairyland in Oakland, where the final chapter is set, was also familiar stomping grounds.) It was sort of like, if they'd taken A Fan's Notes and set it in Prague, and instead of obsessing on football, the main character was obsessed with miniature golf. Too many dislocations. Just didn't work for me.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:37 pm:   

Well, I had the advantage (a double advantage, in some ways) of never have been to Anaheim until recently. :-) And of never having read the book until after seeing the movie. I noticed some changes in the characters that troubled me in retrospect, in their cinematic form, but the atmospheric changes didn't bother me a bit. Then, too, I didn't love either the book or the movie that much, so I'm not likely to get picky about an adaptation...as I might, perhaps, with a book I cared greatly about. Yet I don't see a problem with setting a Fan's Notes in Prague, and I liked that book considerably better. A more accurate analogue would be to have the Prague guy obsess about soccer, not miniature golf. That could work just fine. Perhaps the cultural specifics are more important to the Dick book, but I don't believe the American-ness of A Fan's Notes is the crucial quality of the work. Nor is it, for me, the crucial quality of Confessions of a Crap Artist.
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Rich P.
Posted on Monday, July 10, 2006 - 11:40 pm:   

Been a long time since I saw Barjo, but I recall thinking it was the first movie to have an authentic Dickian feeling to it (the competition at the time was Bladerunner, Screamers and Total Recall). But then, Crap Artist isn't exactly a representative Dick book.

Lucius: Happy to help if I can.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 12:15 am:   

Thanks, Rich.

What is a representative Dick book? I've read Do Androids..., the Three Stigmata..., Man in the High Castle, A Scanner Darkly..., and part of Valis. One of them? My take on Dick is, he should have had Kurt Vonneguts career, but wasn't consistent and even wrote just plain badly and had an engaging basic rap like a street hustler which wasn't anywhere near as profound or depthy as it seemed on first take, but has taken on luster since his death, That's a pretty cool rep, legacy, whatever, but there are those who, if they heard those words, would curse me. :-)

Anyway, fuck...It's late, I'm sick, and out of here.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, July 11, 2006 - 12:19 am:   

New thread.

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