Sunday, November 29, 2009

That angry yell/growl thing Japanese chicks do is so adorable

Some Thanksgiving stuff, starting on the night before and following through to dinnertime. Less a rambling I want to post and more a way to get my monthly minimum of 4 posts. This is where you mouse it on over to the top left corner and click away.

Over at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre (how about that for a simple name for a place?), they were going to screen a Japanese flick last Friday called Love Exposure. It's from the director of Suicide Club (or Circle) and supposedly this movie is so good it'll bring sight to the blind and peace in the Middle East. In these trying financial times, only movie marathons and court ordered appointments bring me to the city of Los Angeles, so I wasn't going to be able to catch this one.

But the cool video store where I was able to rent imported DVD's of Ong Bak 2 and Red Cliff I & II -- yet inexplicably only stock the full-screen version of Gran Torino and the theatrical cut of Watchmen -- happened to have the Region ? DVD of Love Exposure, so right on.

The movie starts with a young boy in a religious family, named Yu -- we're not talking Carrie White's mom over here, these are ultra-devout but kindhearted believers -- everything's cool until one evening, right after saying grace before dinner, Yu's mom has a sudden coughing fit. Since this is a movie, you know that there is no other cough in cinema but the Cough of Death, so a couple of scenes later, Yu's mama is on her deathbed. Before she kicks, she gives Yu a little statue of the Virgin Mary and tells him to find a woman just like her to marry.

While Yu grows into his teens, his dad takes it up a notch with his beliefs and becomes a priest -- and not just any priest, but one of the cool priests, the kind who give entertaining sermons and are very down-to-earth with the parishioners and don't fuck little boys. Despite being minus a mother/wife, Yu and his pops do pretty well for themselves and they seem to have achieved that ever-elusive state of contentment.

Then that fucking woman came into their lives.

One day, some drama queen shows up at church sobbing up a storm during one of the priest's services. Next thing you know, she's totally into the Jesus thing and gets baptized and all that. This bitch inhales anything Catholic, and that eventually includes the priest. Yup, a man's brains and a man's morals have nothing on a man's dick. This dude ends up shacking up with the crazy lady on the down low, going as far as moving out of the church and getting a place of his own so they can live together.

Yu is pretty bummed, not so much because Bros Over Hos has gone by the wayside, but because this bitch is a real pill. Goddamn nuts, is what she is, but I guess because Yu's father is lonely/horny, he puts up with all of it. But as time goes on, the lady becomes more and more bored and more and more tired of living with the priest. She even starts acting pretty cunty with him, but you know what? Fuck this guy, this dumbass who wants to get some pussy but won't marry her and still shows up every week at church acting as some kind of example to follow. She gets in his face about that, like Hey motherfucker, you like to talk shit about that corrupt Zero Church cult, but you're just as corrupt with your "I can't marry you 'cause I'm a priest" while still wanting to fuck me. She has a point, this dizzy broad.

Eventually she grows tired enough to leave him for a younger man, which was probably gonna happen whether or not he married her, and Yu's dad goes into a deep funk. A funk so deep, the priest starts acting creepy and starts giving depressing/scary sermons and getting into his son's face about being a sinner. This fuckin' asshole. Yu is a goddamn saint, a Good Boy, and here is is, being given shit every morning about how he's not good and will never be good. Yu is being punished for his father's douchebaggery.

Yu is forced by the old man to come to confession every day and confess made-up sins. Soon, even THAT isn't good enough for the priest, so he forces his son to go out and commit sins just so he can have some real shit to fess up about. Fuck This Asshole, and while I'm at it, Fuck The Bitch Who Fucked Him Up. And while I'm at that, God Help This Kid Yu.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've given away the first 20 minutes of the movie, and yet, I've given away nothing. Because there is so much that follows, so many little turns and detours and twists and reflections and new plot strands, what I've spoiled for you amounts to bupkis in the story department. So I'll just get into other things about this flick.

Sion Sono is the director, and while I thought his Suicide movie was alright, the guy jumped quite a few notches with this one -- quite a few. Shit, let's be real, this guy has jumped a lot of fucking notches. This is his Goodfellas, his Boogie Nights, his Pulp Fiction. This is Sono strutting confidently up to the big boy table of cinema and throwing down his motherfuckin' gauntlet and declaring "Here's MY postmodern epic, motherfuckers!" Except he'd say that shit in Japanese; Scorsese, Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, et al, would all look at him like "I don't understand you".

But I honestly do think it's just about as good as those movies, in my humble opinion. It both shares similar tricks to some of those flicks (my fave being what I like to call the Wes Anderson Camera Zoom), but mostly the style of Love Exposure is very much its own. It's also very much its own when it comes to running time; this motherfucker is three minutes shy of FOUR HOURS.

That's why I'm not too heartbroken about missing this on the big screen; an intermission is the least you can do when showing a movie of this length, and that's not necessarily a given with these screenings. I still remember going to see the 227 min. Once Upon a Time in America at the American Cinematheque and finding out they were NOT going to have an intermission. I don't care how good your movie is, that's some bullshit right there. Even Hitchcock knew you shouldn't make a flick longer than your bladder can take, and if you have to, then you better place a break somewhere in that motherfucker.

As long as it was, the flick never felt the least bit boring or tiresome. If having my own intermission (15 minutes to hit the head and brew up some coffee) at the two hour mark had something to do with that, I don't know. I just know that it had a damn good pace going. I will admit that there was a good 90 minutes or so that weren't as fun to watch as the rest, but I think that was the point. These 90 minutes are to Love Exposure what the Clementine's Loop sequence was to Boogie Nights; Yu's character goes through the most fucked up shit here, and it really got me riled up. There were many loud exasperated breaths and "Oh no!" and "This is bullshit!" coming from me during this period. But do you criticize a film for doing its job? I mean, I think that's how the audience is supposed to feel for this stretch.

Sono is a goddamn brutal manipulator of the audience's emotions; during this film, he can make you dig a certain character and make you think they're cool until an hour later when you're screaming for someone to shotgun this motherfucker, and vice versa. You think the movie is gonna be about one thing and then it turns into something else, and then when you've grown accustomed to THAT movie, this crafty bastard switches it up yet again. A villain can go from someone you despise, to someone you pity, to someone you pretty much forget about. And other stuff like that I don't want to spoil.

It's pretty funny the kind of subjects and themes Love Exposure delves into and how they manage to feel natural, part of the world of the movie, rather than coming off like the filmmaker bragging "Look at the crazy shit I put in my movie". The main stuff here seems to deal with religion and perversion, which I know go together like peanut butter & jelly, but still, Sono seems to be on the "pro" side of both those things. If there's anything that he's against, it's cults. There was some similar shit in Suicide Club or Circle or whatever that shit was called, the whole idea of blind sheep following and doing whatever the fuck the motherfucker they worship tells them to do. Maybe it's because I'm thick and stupid, but to me, Sono doesn't appear to come from the camp of "cults and religion are all the same shit" because he's far more damning of the film's Zero Church than he is of Catholicism.

Anyway, I'm going into the movie a bit more and that's not how I want to go about this, so I'll stop. It's a great flick, definitely one of my faves of the year, and hopefully this gets some more play here in the States rather than the occasional screening. The copy I had featured some pretty dubious subtitles on occasion, and I still dug this one pretty deep. By the time the credits rolled, I was both drained and ecstatic. It didn't bring the dead back to life or create a new messiah, but it gave me four awesome hours of entertainment.

Usually, when I watch a movie that good, I quit while I'm ahead. But because this was the night before Thanksgiving, I had my annual viewing of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. This is cinematic comfort food at this point, and it just seems like a very Turkey Day thing to do. I won't go into the movie, because you're probably as familiar with it as I am, but I will bring up how it would be nice to someday watch the rumored ninety minutes or so that hit the cutting room floor.

The production tales of going way over budget and shooting way too much film make it sound like this could've been John Hughes' Heaven's Gate for all the behind-the-scenes madness that occurred. But unlike the Cimino movie, this one was a hit, so I guess all was forgiven. You do tend to notice that the movie feels noticeably trimmed down, kind of like Dogma, another flick that was cut down to the bone in post. I had to look up online why John Candy suddenly had a black eye in one scene or what the fuck they were doing in Wisconsin in the first place, and sure enough, it's all shit that was shot but cut down for length or something. I doubt it would ever happen, but I'd love to see some of that footage make its way to a future release.

So then came Thanksgiving, where I had my second cinema-related tradition; I catch a flick at the theater before I go to meet the folks for dinner. I time it so that I arrive for dinner anywhere from 15-25 minutes before chow. This is good for all of us. Schedule-wise, it was best to go check out Ninja Assassin.

I barely remember the story, because the story was barely worth remembering. Something about Interpol agents in Berlin trying to figure out who is killing the fuck out of gangsters or KGB agents or politicians or something like that. They figure out this must be the work of a ninja, and the flick focuses on one played by Rain, who I only know as the guy Stephen Colbert has beef with. In between the dull detective-ing being done by some Brit and a cute Brit actress playing American, we have scenes of Rain eating noodles and looking pensive as he has flashbacks to his tough childhood upbringing as part of a ninja clan. The ninja clan master is played by none other than muthafuckin' Sho Kosugi, which goes a long fuckin' way towards showing you where the filmmakers hearts lie with this material.

This is an apologetically bloody ninja movie. That's all they wanted to make here and they accomplished it. The fuckin' movie is called Ninja Assassin -- he's a ninja who kills other ninjas, so calm the fuck down about redundancy -- and that's what you get here. They don't pussy out with the blood or the missing limbs, and even though a good portion is CGI'd, it's the best looking computer blood I've seen yet. Plus, they were going for a stylized blood pattern effect anyway, and CGI is the way to go for that shit. I'm more upset when I see guys like Romero use it, but couldn't care less if the director of V for Vendetta wants to do that shit.

I just wished I cared more for the actual goddamn story, or at the very least, I wished the story and dialogue were enjoyably bad like the Ninja flicks of the 80's. Instead, it's far worse -- it's just dull. It really is just blah. The girl is cute, so that helped a lot, but that's about it. But as soon as Rain and at least one other person of the Ninja persuasion found themselves in a room together, right the fuck on. The opening scene and last fifteen minutes are the best, and this will make great DVD/Blu-ray material because you can just jump to the bloody Ninja ownage. I liked Rain's voice/accent, too. Digging Sho Kosugi's voice/accent goes without saying.

One last thing, though. If you own a theater and project your shit in digital, for God's motherfuckin sake, turn up the goddamn motherfucking brightness on your shit. Christ almighty. I'm sure some of the shit in Ninja Assassin was cool had I been able to SEE it. Ugh. Really, people.

Then I went to have dinner. This time I decided to take a chance and try some cranberry sauce with my turkey for the first time. That's right -- I'm such a pussy, I actually had to man up to eat cranberry sauce.