SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001)
What a hoot! Never thought soccer was a good subject for movies. And the
people who made this don't think so either. That's half the humour. This
film takes the piss out of how sport movies take the sport and hence
themselves too seriously. Trust me, see Oliver Stone's ANY GIVEN SUNDAY,
then contrast it with BULL DURHAM (personal opinion: any form of seriousness
in sport is too serious). The humour of equating the wisdom of soccer with
the disciplines of the Shaolin monk results in a richness of irony that
would justify this film in itself. But, SHAOLIN SOCCER's lightness of touch
and deft approach to endless funny soccer game situations turns this film
into a very fast and anti-furious comedy of exception. But then as if that
isn't enough, this fulfills itself as a total feel good flick with all its
likeable characters and charming outrageousness (the Bruce Lee impersonating
goalkeeper is my favourite). And the real miracle? The whole feel good
nature doesn't feel forced or contrived or even remotely insincere. Even
the feel goodness is not to be taken seriously. Yes, the people who made
this (principally writer, director, star and Hong Kong comedy legend Stephen
Chow) actually did want you to feel good, not just have your money. This is
not Hollywood. And just like not Hollywood, they understand the proper use
of their materials. This is a special effects rich film but it's all for
the fun of the movie. The marvelous miming and CGI ball play make it the
best effects I've seen used for comic effect and thus the best I've seen in
a comedy. And these hoopy effects, in conjunction with the execution and
performance by all involved, makes this perhaps my favourite feel good movie
in a very long time. Like I said, it's a hoot.
SHAOLIN SOCCER will get a US release this year, but the
official Miramax site don't say much.
There are plenty of sites that talk about it but no good ones in english.
The View From Mt Pootmootoo
Here we are at the Temple of the Rubber-Suit Monster, within the clouds atop Mt Pootmootoo, hidden somewhere in the sea of suburbia. This is a journal of casual thoughts and comments regarding speculative, innovative & fantastic film and the post-modern cinematic condition.
Friday, February 28, 2003
Thursday, February 27, 2003
GHOST IN THE MATRIX
There's a moment in GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995) where the female lead jumps
from a notable height and lands on the pavement low and hard cracking the
concrete. It's very stylish and cool. In THE MATRIX (1999) the lead female
does the exact same motion resulting in that cracked concrete. In GHOST IN
THE SHELL the lead female has a machine body, manufactured in a factory
(it's the opening title sequence) and a significant part of the
philosophical aspect to GitS involves the artificiality of her body and the
weight of it is something that's remindful of her tenuous link to humanity.
In one scene she gets in touch with her mortality by allowing her body to
sink into the darkness of deep water and using levitators to bring her back
to the surface. Without these devices she'd sink like a stone. She is a
machine with a human mind, a heavy machine, questioning the existence of her
soul. A heavy human machine that can crack concrete.
In THE MATRIX she cracks concrete because it looked really neat when they
saw it in GHOST IN THE SHELL. Within the film there's no logic to her
cracking the pavement. Yes, she's in an artificial universe which allows
her to leap further than any normal human can. But going by the training
others get it is assumed you sort of make yourself lighter or defy gravity
and no reason one would become heavier and harder, hard enough to crack and
crush concrete. Perhaps she does suddenly have higher density on the way
down, but that's just conjecture to try to explain it in the movie without
using any internal logic. Such has nothing to do with the actual
intentions of the filmmakers. They're intention was simply that it looked
real hot in GHOST IN THE SHELL so they'd do it too.
The different reasons the two films have that scene sum up the value of both
Still, that's just my opinion. William Gibson expressed his positive view
of THE MATRIX in his blog. I wonder if he's seen GHOST IN THE SHELL?
And I'm certainly not denying there's some entertaining and visually pretty
stuff in THE MATRIX, but though I intend to check out the two sequels, I
must admit a greater enthusiasm for the sequel to GHOST IN THE SHELL coming
out next year.
Monday, February 24, 2003
Woohoo! Finally got round to seeing that one. Yes, Jess Franco's
"masterpiece of erotic cinema" and "psycho-sexual horror freakout". But I
ain't talking the tame Spanish version first released in 1974. I'm talking
the 'Franko Manera' German language version from 1971. Yes, ze nawty
version. Lots of nudie lezbo bloodsucking in this one. Lots of it while
speakin' German. And we all know what German does to nudie lezbo vampire
films. It makes them even more...weird. VAMPYROS LESBOS is set in a Turkey
of 1970. That's a cool, smooth, dressy Turkey that knew how to wear scarves
and tight suits and over-sized sunglasses while lounging on hotel terraces
as speedboats shoot past Turkish minarets. Very groovy Turkey. Groovy
Turkey of naughty cabaret and free love in designer dresses that fall off
real easy like. And with all this titillating grooviness you don't have to
be brilliant with the camera or with the acting or anything creative like
that. It's all in front of ya. Concentrate on that. But the grooviest
thing wasn't the scenery or the, um, scenery. The grooviest thing isn't
that this forgotten classic has obviously inspired a few film-makers and
novelists (there's one scene INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE parallels and most
of THE HUNGER was here first). It isn't the repetative zooms of significance or
cutaways to insects or dripping blood. It isn't the side-burns or macho
moustaches or the turtle neck sweaters. It isn't that real blondes and
brunettes are real blondes and brunettes. It isn't that these naturally
exotic women have dimply bottoms or breasts no contemporary Hollywood
casting agent would Polaroid for a role in BEDROOM EYES Part Six. No, the
grooviest thing in VAMPYROS LESBOS, the most grooviest thing, is the music.
Yes, the music is wild. Psychedelic lounge is the best way to describe it.
Like those wicked theme tracks from cool British TV shows from the '60s but gone
to sleaze. The idiosyncrasy of bachelorette pad anthems under the influence
of sampling and nitric-oxide. This soundtrack is worth getting, even if
just to pull out and play to unsuspecting friends as you shout out, "Man,
isn't that just groovy keen?" And when you get a quiet moment between
tracks, just say to yourself, as if no one else is in the room, "Those
naughty vampire gals. They sure in need of a spankin'." Deal?
Wanna know more about the film? Go here.
Wanna know more about the music? Then go here.
And if ya want more of that sort of thing, then go here.
Friday, February 21, 2003
THE EYE (2002)
Hong Kong film-makers Danny & Oxide Pang made the Thai flick BANGKOK
DANGEROUS (1999) which was one of the most visually exciting films I saw
last year. With THE EYE, set both in Hong Kong and Thailand, the Pang brothers
do a very interesting take on the spooky, I see dead people genre. This film
may seem inspired by SIXTH SENSE (1999) but this very Chinese style ghost/horror
tale remains original in feel and purpose. Creepy and involving, the Pangs
tend to restrain themselves from their past exuberant techniques, but that's
so the tone remains sincere for the telling of an elaborate creepfest. The
narrative is inconsistent and the three part structure tends to strain
concentration for keeping you in the mood of every second, but the overall feel
and look makes this film quite rewarding well before the unexpected
spectacular ending of blood, fire and chaos. That's because despite the
frequent and heavy moments of horror, this remains an intelligent and compassionate film. Like
the Japanese PULSE (Kairo 2001) and the Korean WHISPERING CORRIDORS (1998), THE EYE successfully
becomes far more than a well made piece of BOO! It's very cool.
The official site for THE EYE is here.
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
"Basketball is a peaceful planet."
Just watched HARDWARE WARS for the first time since 1979. When I saw this
ten minute movie back then it was on 16mm at a science fiction film
festival. It was amusing then and to my pleasant surprise it's still rather
amusing now (the scene when The Wookie Monster goes for Princess
Anne-Droid's cinnamon buns again raised a chuckle). Sure, I was a kid and
thought it a hoot from a fannish viewpoint, but seeing it again did not just
bring the fanboy memories back for my own reverie, but allowed me to see
this short film in a historical context. The symbiotic relationship between
STAR WARS and this modest parody has grown over the years and the cult
status of HARDWARE is almost as interesting in some respects as its original
counterpart. You see, everyone knows STAR WARS and has seen it, but with
HARDWARE WARS we have a film that many fans know about but have not seen.
Sure, HARDWARE WARS isn't a work of great filmmaking (though it's quite
competent considering the conditions) but being a cute take that itself
reflects the seventies like the original makes it all the more an honest
parody. Seriously, forget SPACE BALLS, a piss-take made well after it could
be relevant, HARDWARE WARS does help put STAR WARS back into historical
context and does more good for Episode IV than Episode I or II ever could.
It has become an asset. The other thing of fascination is how HARDWARE WARS
has become a sub-cultural yard stick. HW was made at a time when
home-filmmaking was with 8 & 16mm cameras and circulation was done through
festivals, university cultures and obsessive fan screenings (I think I saw
HW a second time on 8mm at highschool along with a highlight reel of STAR
WARS effects scenes which could be purchased at the time). In all those
years since 1979 the only equivalent work to appear is the web film
TROOPS. Better in many respects than HARDWARE WARS, but hardly touching
upon its significance, the very funny, clever and rather sophisticated
TROOPS is very much a turn of the century piece of sub-culture filmmaking.
Entirely digital and intended for circulation via small windows through the web,
TROOPS is the orbiting space platform to HARDWARE WAR's bone flung
in the air by an enlightened primate. Trust me, a detailed comparison of
history, culture and technology between HARDWARE WARS and TROOPS is worthy
of a Master's Thesis.
The official HARDWARE WARS site is a promo and purchase place, but I
recommend this good and thorough piece from Salon.
To view TROOPS go here.
Oh, for the record there is a "special edition" of HARDWARE WARS meant to
parody the STAR WARS re-release with added CGI material. I've yet to see
it, but honestly, I don't really see the point.
Saturday, February 15, 2003
TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER (2000)
A western from Thailand!?! Absolutely. And we need more of them. This one
is a Romeo & Juliet tragedy where a handsome cowboy outlaw laments lost
innocence and the woman that symbolises it. But move over any plodding
sentimentality, this is an all action take broader than just a loving
western parody/tribute. Yes, packaged, at times, like a Broadway version of
Oklahoma - except that under these painted skies are psychopath bandits and
slick dressed gunslingers - TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER runs through every
decade of Hollywood in style and culture from silent melodramas to thirties
gangsters to Jimmy Dean teen angst to modern blow it up hero spectaculars.
Though the best moments for me were the periods of pastel expressionism and
realist moments of Thai peasantry, it is all done with a knowing love of
cinema and its history. But this chameleon attitude and sense of
story-telling universality only reinforces this as a Thailand tale. And the
juxtapositions are everything. There is a scene where two drunken Asian
cowboys, share blood in shooter glasses and laugh and dance, blood spilling
from there mouths, waving their guns, all done within an ancient Buddhist
temple. There's the ride of the posse - horses, guns, boots and cowboy
hats - amidst classic Thailand scenery. Shootouts in rainforests. And then
there's the line by the suffering heroine, "In this life I'll never love
another." A normal line in a western, sure, but in a land of reincarnation
it takes on a different meaning quite intended. The line works humourously
and straight. The whole film works humourously and straight. Even the
Asian answer to Johnny Depp successfully plays both clown and a man to be
feared. Even when six shooters meet German lugers meet tommy guns meets
grenade launchers, the film's continual shift from earnestness to eloquence
to raw emotion allow it to pull off tributes to John Ford, Sergio Leone,
John Woo and Rogers & Hammerstein. And even with the touches of stylised
uber-violence the story and the souls lost within remain something rather
touching to behold.
Sorry, it's in French, but go here to get an idea of how resplendent this movie looks.
Thursday, February 13, 2003
MAN, MONSTER AND THE WATCHER
In the dark, rich and wonderful BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) there is a scene near the very beginning where the monster strangles a man and tosses him aside like dead meat. This is witnessed by an owl. You see the owl, you see the murder. The body falls into the water. The owl watches indifferently. Forty three years later in BLADE RUNNER (1982), Roy Batty crushes Tyrell's skull. Again, this murder by an artificial human is witnessed by an owl. You see the owl, you see the murder. The body falls to the floor. The owl watches indifferently. Both special cinematic moments in themselves. But they also bridge two most significant films, allowing their meanings to pass across time from one to the other and back again. Both present the silent witnessing of the creation turning on its irresponsible creator (the former figuratively, the latter literally). BLADE RUNNER is enriched by knowing the reference to its precursor, but BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is also enhanced in retrospect, especially that this film and its expressions have been so remembered over the decades. We have the link of a universal fear and macabre obsession with our mortality and fascination with the recreation, even just as automata, of ourselves. It only adds significance that in the film set in a future, rather than a past, the owl is as artificial as the tragic figure it sees take human life. Beautiful.
Monday, February 10, 2003
RULES OF ATTRACTION (2002)
The children of Kubrick have come out to play.
Roger Avery tries to turn Bret Easton Ellis' cult novel into a cult movie. His success is far from assured, but it's interesting and sometimes entertaining to watch this earnest attempt to cry, "I understand what Stanley was trying to do". The first half hour is engaging in the po-mo sense with neat plays in time and tempo. And this does seem to make the tawdriness of it all swallowable, so to speak. However, fun with tenses and narrative can only go so far in carrying callous and naive characters failing to learn their lessons before their inevitable punishments. Split screen and groovy music selections do prop the film up for quite some time - as well as those moments where Avery proves he indeed gave creative input to PULP FICTION - but it starts falling down near the end because no matter how groovy a next-gen audience wants their sight and sound packaged, quaint, old fashion narrative techniques usually need to be used and used well to bring that audiovisual baby home.
So the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll motifs wear a bit thin before 90 mins is up and one suspects that rather than be an expose of American college life and a crushing statement on the teen condition this flick is just a flashy monument - as friend Keira McKenzie said - to a writer's need to convince people he's cool and got laid heaps. But I don't want to be too mean. This crit is not meant as a damning of a sincere piece of flickery. The film is good enough that you do want to care about the characters, you do wonder what will become of them. But, though Shannyn Sossamon does sweet underplay and James Van Der Beek does the best Kubrick close-up since Vincent D'Onofrio's FULL METAL JACKET psycho stare, the bombardment of ďhot to the touchĒ direction that, admittedly, copies only from the best, means your burnt out before you get to the point. And points about pointlessness have to hit the heart of an audienceís want for dťnouement otherwise the point become pointless.
Regardless, cool is much of this movie and cool is cool enough for many an audience member. If it's cool enough for you, I have to admit to a touch of envy. I did want this film to work. But it's overworked for the content and its wild dance along the line between legit style and indulgence means I lost my compassion. And regardless what harshness you witness on the screen, compassion has a lot to do with what should have made this film more than what it will end up being; yet another cult movie. Thus, with all its in-the face exploration of shocking, yet trendy teen issues, RULES OF ATTRACTION may well end up being remembered as just another indi-movie with a non-credited Eric Stoltz appearance.
Sunday, February 09, 2003
FROM THE EDGE OF POOTMOOTOO
Well, I'm back.
Where have I been?
Incarcerated. Yes, incarcerated. But it was for my own good.
For you see, I had gone mad.
It had to do with monsters and the seeing of them. But I wasnít put away cause I could see monsters. No, I needed help cause I couldnít see them anymore.
Sure, like a normal person, I once saw monsters everywhere. In the shadows, behind the wardrobe, on the street, next to you in the movie theatre. There they would be, munching on a building, frightening children on buses, making footprints in the local park. Then one day they werenít there. I couldnít see them. And I knew I had a problem.
And, of course, once I mentioned this to my pals, Hampton and Francher, they stuffed my backpack with clothes, put a water bottle in my hands, and told me to take the trek to the mountain.
When I got to the gates and the monks greeted me I said, ďI donít see monstersĒ. They gave me calm, gentle smiles, then bung me in a cell.
There I have been till recently. I wonít go into the rigors of my treatment, nor about the hours of meditation and the watching of decent videos. Suffice it to say that I am now free again. And free to see all those monsters once more. Monsters in all their different forms and densities and dimensions. From their vague shapes to their explicit hides. To see them as little darlings and as big shits.
And now, when I put my mind to it, I can see all the monsters of the world. And thus continue my search. The arduous and lifelong search for an elusive creature. That being the rare and sacred monster of wisdom and purity. Only the finding of it and that one moment to stare directly into its eyes will give me the answer. The answer to a question I don't know. Wonít know till the answer is shining in my brain.
Regardless, I pray you wish me luck in my journey. That journey of which Iíll attempt to keep a record of here.
MEANWHILE IN JACKíS CAF…
HAMPTON: I didnít like it, but it was interesting.
FRANCHER: I didnít like it, but it also wasnít interesting. It was just crap.
KINK: I thought it was interesting and it was crap. I liked it.
HAMPTON: It wasnít crap. Some of it was interesting. Some of it was well done. I didnít enjoy it much. It didnít really work for me. But I wouldnít call it crap.
FRANCHER: It was crap. I plan and simply didnít like it. So I dismiss it as beneath my critical sensibilities.
KINK: Iím sure it was beneath my critical so-called sensibilities as well. But what does that have to do with anything? I enjoyed it, crap and all.
HAMPTON: How can you say it was crap? There was some interesting narrative technique. Some attempt at fresh stylistics.
FRANCHER: It was crap.
KINK: Yes, it was crap.
HAMPTON: It was not crap. I canít believe Iím defending a film I didnít like.
KINK: I canít believe it. But Iíll defend it with you, if you want. Even though it was crap. Fun crap. But crap.
FRANCHER: Defending a film you didnít like shows that you donít understand the art of pure criticism.
FRANCHER: Pure criticism is to love it or hate it. To be even-handed achieves nothing.
HAMPTON: How does even-handedness achieve nothing?
FRANCHER: Well, if youíre even-handed then the chances are no one will argue with you. If they donít argue with you then what was the point?
KINK: Thereís meant to be a point?
FRANCHER: Of course. If you canít get someone riled up over whether you loved or hated a film then whereís the critical friction? No friction, no reaction. No reaction, no point. No point, no criticism.
HAMPTON: So I have to love it or hate it?
KINK: Thumbs up or thumbs down?
FRANCHER: And no dicky rating out of six or ten. Gawd, I hate that.
HAMPTON: And no ďI didnít like it, but it wasnít crap.Ē
FRANCHER: Exactly, it serves no purpose. No debate, no purpose.
HAMPTON: Debate? Canít I just have an opinion?
FRANCHER: An opinion that doesnít stimulate a response is no opinion. No opinion, no debate. No debateÖ
HAMPTON: Iíll debate you in minute, with my fists.
FRANCHER: Well, I guess that would create some friction, butÖ
KINK: I think I like this kind of critical discourse. Hey Hampton, want me to hold him for you?
Friday, February 07, 2003
Announcing that Pootmootoo will start up again this Sunday (being the 9th of Feb).
Well, that's the plan.
And that plan means to begin a fresh and hitting the ground running.
And, hopefully, hitting the ground running in all sorts of directions.
But I cannot deny my own nature, so expect it to still be about cinema of the innovative and the fantastic.
But there's a chance things will occasionally divert to associated culture.
It should be fun and, at times, a little weird.
But hey, that's the post-modern deconstructualist in me.
Sad as that may seem.
See ya soon.