14 May 2020

MIDWAY/2019/AN ALMOST OLD SCHOOL WWII MOVIE THAT ENDS WITH A WOKE SLAP IN THE FACE


Higaisha Ishiki: The Japanese term for "victim's consciousness" and pertains often to the sense that the peace loving Japanese were pushed into being noble warriors.

Watched the Emmerich WWII drama last night with the wife. We both liked it actually and had a good time but something has been eating at me all day today. I'll get to that shortly. Important to note my wife is Chinese and that the Chinese people have a different take on WWII and the Japanese. At best we can say it is a less forgiving attitude of the events of the time. I think it is important to realize this, that there are more than two points of view on any situation in the world. The American view vs. the point of view of whomever is on the other side. For example the Vietnam War. It is still seen as some sort of lone American military excursion for which the US is entirely culpable on on counts. But the truth is it was a UN led operation and other countries have their own histories of the war and even their own movies. Both Australia and South Korea have made Vietnam War films with stories that focus on their troops and their loses. The reason I bring up this point is because this movie was okay in a big budget b-movie fashion. It had the feel and vibe of one of those war epics that may have starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda or Charlton Heston. In fact over all it was better than most of those in terms of the special effects (no stock footage) and editing and such. Some reviewers are pretty picky in these areas and I think they are unfair. In terms of acting it is okay enough. Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid seem to be the big names and the rest are a lot of faces you spend time trying to place from other movies or TV shows. But not a big deal deal there. In the end we liked the film and found it rousing and exciting in places even. At spots even rooting for the "good guys", just like in old time movies. When there were good guys and bad guys. Maybe the good guys weren't always good and the bad guys weren't always bad but they pretty much stood firmly on one side of the fence or the other. Maybe the bad guys didn't call themselves bad of course, but the good guys knew they were evil and that in the end an event like WWII was a battle between good and evil. Or so you would think, right? But in the topsy turvy world of today maybe that isn't case at all.

I am not a historian but I have read a few books on WWII on both the European and Pacific theaters. I have seen a crap load of old movies and these days there are so many short and/or long documentaries on YouTube to watch. Most of what I saw in the film rang enough bells and seemed close enough to what I remember to make it solid enough for a Hollywood movie. One expects a certain license with a film that is going to skim over pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Doolittle raid before finally getting to the titular event, the Battle of Midway. There seems to be little doubt that after Midway, only about a half a year into the war with Japan, the eventual outcome favored the US. Japan continued to fight to the bitter end either out of fearsome bravery or reckless, face saving  stupidity. Maybe a little of both but maybe more of the latter.

The film to its credit is not anti-American and does not portray the Americans in any bad light as so many war films do any more. No unarmed prisoners were executed by American troops for a change. The story didn't go on preaching about how women were treated unfairly or black sailors were discriminated against. It also showed the Japanese military in a way that gave them a bit of sympathy and even understanding. I feel Hollywood has for the most part avoided the Pacific War conflict in films in the last few decades, with a couple exceptions, and it has down so out of fear of "stereotyping" the Japanese military of the time. As if that is some greater crime than what they,  the Japs*, were guilty of. Oh in reviews many pussies are more offended by that term being used in the wartime context than by American sailors being killed while still in their bunks sleeping at Pearl Harbor. And so then what about the "woke slap in the face"? What is that all about? At the very end of the film's credits there is the statement:

The film is dedicated to the American and Japanese sailors who fought at Midway. The sea remembers its own.

This is a totally What The Fuck remark and for me, and others, and it abruptly pulled the carpet out from under our feet. This movie was released on Veterans Day even and why it had to include a "woke" ass commemoration of our wartime enemy who killed thousands of American soldiers and sailors in a chicken shit sneak attack is beyond me. Roland Emmerich seems to feel since he is German it allows hi to see the "other side"of the story or something. Here is a quote by Emmerich explaining his reasoning for humanizing the enemy (as if Hollywood has never done that before) and including the dedication at the end  to the enemy:

When asked about the rationale for his portrayal, Emmerich replied: “Well, it’s maybe because I’m German. I know this from my father who was in [the Second World War] as a 17-year-old. It’s just like, all people do their duty and do what they have to do. It’s the politicians who screw up and start wars, and not the normal soldiers… I didn’t want a war movie that kind of reinforces old enemy images… They were as brave and noble as anybody. Their society is quite different to the American society… Nevertheless, I didn’t want to make them you know, kinda like bad guys, because they weren’t bad guys.”


Yes, they were bad guys. They were THE bad guys of THAT time. In other places he makes it clear his dad (above quote) wasn't a member of the Nazi Party. He just served in the Nazi Army. Not the same thing you know. did his noble duty. Yup, that's what he says. He also says that the Japs were as brave and noble as the American, British and Australian troops they waged a savage war against. That is bullshit. They were the bad guys and fuck them. At the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at Midway are two types of soldiers and sailors: Brave Americans and a bunch of Japs. As the credit cues roll by take note of one that says the bloodthirsty Japs killed over 250,000 Chinese farmers and villagers as punishment for helping the crews of the Doolittle raid who parachuted into the Chinese countryside. 250,000 just for that alone. See? Bad guys. Evil. It is a movie worth seeing but there are, of course, some mixed up unAmerican ideas all through it. But the movie was made, ultimately, by liberal Hollywood by a german guy whose father may have shot Americans and British soldiers for all we know. This is as good as it gets anymore folks. And it will only get worse. I personally would like to see a film about the Bataan Death March and how cruel and evil the Japs really were to the prisoners. But these days you can't do that. You can make another film about Japanese living in the US during the war being interned in internment camps (or concentration camps as the cry babies like to call them now)but you cannot make a realistic movie about how the Japs treated their prisoners of war. That would, for some reason be racism. The world is needlessly upside down anymore. You cannot have good guys vs. bad guys. Either both sides are bad (especially the American side) or, in this case, both sides are good. I can see a war between good and bad. I can see a war between bad and bad. But I just do not have the vision of Roland Emmerich to envision a war between between good and good.

* And yes I think it is okay to use a derogatory term to describes one's wartime enemy who is hellbent on killing you and who you are equally hellbent on killing. Hopefully you kill them first and in greater numbers. That the the term is on par with the N word is absurd.  I have lived a quarter of my life in Asia (and am am living in an Asian country now) and three of those years were spent in Japan. The Japanese of today are not the same animal that they were back then, as are modern Germans. But back then they were Nazis and Japs. And while modern Germany has made great strides to try and atone for and distance itself from past misdeeds Japan really has not. They are the poor, poor misunderstood victims and their lovely cities, much of them made of paper and wood, were firebombed and nuked. Executed war criminals are still venerated as near religious deities, war crimes against the Chinese (like Nanjing) and Filipinos are denied or dismissed and a new crop of jingoistic Japanese war films, mostly unheard of outside Japan,  shows the evil Japs in a brave new light. Forced into saving their motherland by outside forces like America. And this is hinted at the beginning of Midway. Who says history is only written by the winners?

GOOD ARTICLE ON "JAPAN AS THE VICTIM" WAR FILMS











31 December 2018

RADIOACTIVE IMAGES

Random images sometimes gathered together for some other purpose and meant to be deleted but in the end are fairly share worthy.






10 December 2018

iPad SCREEN CAPTURES OF TAKASHI MIIKE'S AUDITION


Takashi Miike's 1999 crime/horror film Audition is without a doubt one of my favorite's of the genre. I am not going to do a review here but I may shortly as I recently rewatched the film and it seemed to leave a new impression on me. I have seen it about six times I am sure. I cannot say I really enjoyed most of the Miike films I watched. They had moments but in the end I prefer something with a more linear narrative. Many of his films are hard to follow storyline wise but Audition is not. In fact it a brilliant piece of filmmaking and storytelling but not an easy watch for most people. So I made some nifty screen captures on my iPad and some came out pretty good and I thought I might share them with the reader here.  I left the subtitles in as it can create a cool effect. If you have not seen the film and want to I advise not looking at them as they are set up in a sequential order and would most definitely add a spoiler effect to the viewing later. 






OPEN FOR LOTS MORE AUDITION SCREEN CAPTURES


21 November 2018

THE TARKOVSKY EXPERIMENT




I am not the biggest fan of what one might label "art house" films but not because I have not put in many long hours trying to be. Especially during my ten years in Seattle I watched quite a few such films as they were so readily available there. Saw some in the cozy little theaters they have there that seat maybe 20 or 30 desperate souls. Many I even rented on VHS from the legendary Scarecrow Video store. A lot of stuff I liked, such as SOME films by Fellini, Truffaut, Bergman, and Kurosawa. I emphasize the word some, because I did not like a lot of stuff by those guys and the films I liked tended to be more linear in narrative style. Some other directors like Jordorowsky, Terrence Malick and Wim Wenders did not appeal much to me though they have at least one film I liked. However, longer is the list of these "avant-garde" auteurs that I have never seen a single film by. One person on that long list of filmmakers, whom to many is the epitome of high brow cinema, is Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.  I often find him to the fist name dropped by people who can either be called, flatteringly, film connoisseurs, or, insultingly, film snobs. These are people who know and appreciate "real" cinema. Like a foodie know good food. Of course one has to be honest that there exists a type of reverse snobbism as well. Where people who tend to like more popular or even low brow fare like to insult and ridicule people who favor the "finer films in life". I guess I would have to fall into this latter category, but I want to point out I served in my time in the art house trenches. I tried my best and yet in the end found myself often trying to attach meaning and significance to films that really seemed simply like poor film making in the end. Bad camera work for the most part, poor acting and poor editing. Not in all cases. But in quite a few. Gilded lilies at best. And in the end many so called art house films to me have a big problem in that they lack a linear story line that is somehow or another resolved by the film's end. This is important to me, especially if a film is like three fucking hours long! And two hours of that is hot in one room!!!  When the film connoisseur tries to defend the work they can reveal their near misanthropic disdain for the common film buff's lack of philosophical and intellectual depth. They may say something like "each scene is a metaphor for something deeper" and the common film buff may be left wondering, rightfully, what the hell that even means. It means nothing of course. It means they don't know what it means either. But in "art" something can have no meaning and yet mean something.

Okay, this is not a real Tarkovsky qoute. This is one of my clever, witty little memes that really pissed off a couple film snobs in a Facebook group. Truth can be painful folks.

So I have decided to watch three Andrei Tarkovsky films I downloaded from the film site Karagarga because I want to little by little close out my account there. It is too hard to maintain a good ratio on just seeding alone and I no longer rip DVDs and upload them like I did years ago. This begins my process of getting some films from there regardless of the impact on my once good ratio. I have actually never seen a Tarkovsky film and I will try to go into the viewing with an open mind. Like trying a new food. One has to put  the new food in his mouth and chew it and try a couple swallows first. Unless you live in China like I do, and sometimes the food comes flying out quickly. I will try the films Solaris, Mirror and Stalker. My wife just watched Stalker and I will wait to share her opinion on it until I have seen it myself. I did watch some of the film with her and my curiosity was piqued a little. I did not watch the film with her as she is Chinese and so she watched the Russian version with Chinese subs. I may well be at a time in life when some of these film may appeal to me a little more than when I was younger. But I equally may well not like them in the least. One way or the other I will write up a post here when the Tarkovsky Experiment is finished, in a week or two. I will not claim I liked them if I do not just to appear smart or refined, and conversely I will not dismiss them if I liked them just to sound hip and cool.

This quote however is real. But I think it is basically saying the 
same thing my wise ass meme above is saying. 

04 November 2018

TV SHOWS/DAREDEVIL



So I actually like the Daredevil TV series from Marvel and Netflix. There are a couple little problems I will mention but they are far from deal breakers. And while I am on the topic of Daredevil I will say I did not hate the 2003 movie version with Ben Affleck though most people seem to really give it a hard time. But lets not dwell on that. The comic book of Daredevil when I bought it (during the early 70's) was drawn mostly by Gene Colan with some issues drawn by Bill Everett. I was never a super fan of Colan's work but I loved Bill Everett. Everett has a lot of writing credits on the show and I think that is great though I am not sure whether he actually wrote anything or is given credit for story ideas from the original comic books. The character in the days I bought comic book (when it was about 15 cents) was not so dark as the one he evolved into later, becoming a sort of Marvel version of Batman's "Dark Knight" persona. The character had marginal super powers was a sort of an outsider and seemed a bit apart from the rest of the Marvel superheroes. I seldom recall him teaming up with other characters like Captain America or Spiderman. He was not Avenger material. And the TV show seems to capture that aspect of his personality. Daredevil/Matt Murdock is played pretty darn well by Charlie Cox. He is in great shape as Daredevil and as Matt Murdock the blind, sympathetic lawyer he is equally convincing. So far in my viewing he has dealt with Wilson Fisk (I am assuming he is King Pin from the comic books) and now he is scrapping with Frank Castle (The Punisher), played by Jon Bernthal. Elektra has entered the drama and I know from reading ahead that Dex will be introduced soon. As allies he is partnered up with law associates and friends Karen Page and Foggy Nelson. 



What I like about the series is the dark mood and eye to detail in the shots and scenes. The camera work is really exceptional. The fight scenes are never boring. Rather bloody and violent and super fast paced. I quit watching Iron Fist because I found the kung fu sequences to be pretty weak and dull. But here they are carefully choreographed and shot to near perfection. In one recent episode there is an almost single shot sequence where Daredevil fights a bunch of Irish mobsters as he goes down a staircase  and it is simply of the highest calibre of filmmaking. The acting for the most part is pretty good as is the most of the dialog. Of course there is some padding here and there and some parts drag on a little longer than necessary, but for the most part (not 100%) I can handle it. And I will mention that Matt Murdock has a hell of a work ethic. He gets his ass beat, shot and stabbed the night before and for the most part misses a lot less time on the job than I ever did in my prime. I will watch it as long as it stays on the air so that is as good a recommendation i can give to a TV show. Iron Fist didn't make it too long with me and I can explore that in another post. TV shows are not like a movie. In a movie you may have to lose, if you choose, ninety minutes to two hours of your time. A TV series requires more of a commitment. I had read that Netflix may even pull the plug on the series after season three but I hope not. 



I have a couple problems and will mention them just because I like to talk about things I don't like. One problem I have is the use now and then (not all the time) of shaky cam work. Usually when two or more people are in a room talking. I hate shaky cam work. I just hate it, but I hate it more when it is a situation where a steady cam seems the only option. In a fight sequence or battle scene (like the beginning of Saving Private Ryan) it can work. But in a room with two people talking I do not want to be reminded there is a hungover guy walking around with a hand held camera. I also feel like some of those talking scenes go on a bit too long. Like, way too long. In fact last night I just could not take a scene where Frank Castle is opening up to Daredevil on top of a building about the roots of his anger. Good grief it just went on and on. I even began to click the advance scene button on my video player, moving it forward ten seconds. And it just kept clicking and clicking! Maybe they don't have another scene to cut back and forth to or something, but it just has the feeling of gratuitous padding. "We need to fill in five minutes of film time here folks, so... ah...talk a lot." I do find myself skipping forward during some of these type of scenes. Another small peeve I have is about the shapely Karen Page character. Seems every time Foggy or Matt makes a piercing legal pint to an opposing member of the legal community the camera pans to Karen and shows her snickering and gloating in the background. I really is a cheap shot in terms of laying out the scene's message and does not look professional at all. It has happened so far three or four times and it just does not fit in with how the characters should be evolving or whatever it is characters do. But she's pretty hot in those office dresses so I can let it slide. (NOTE: A few episodes later and this issue with Karen snickering and smirking while Foggy or Matt is talking some heavy duty law stuff to the DA or whomever is still going on. Really annoying.)

And the last thing that bothers me, and bothers me the most, is the character of Foggy Nelson. Not only does actor Elden Henson annoy me whenever he is on screen but Foggy seems to be the most poorly written character of the show. His shaggy long hair, pot belly and baggy pants and attempts at comic relief are just off putting. It is as if the writers and director and Henson himself decided they would try to recreate one of those goofy sidekicks from the old matinee movies whose sole function is to make the hero look even better. Even worse are scenes where he becomes serious and emotional, or even tough. He is a necessary character and the comic book character was a tad slovenly as well with his bad suits and bow tie. But to be honest I do not think this actor pulls off whatever it is he is trying to do with the character.

One cannot have everything the way they want it in life and I can live with one irritating character and a few quirks in an otherwise well made TV adaptation of one of my favorite Marvel comic book superheroes.



07 October 2018

TV SHOWS/MINDHUNTER


I thought I would do a few posts on some TV shows I have watched, or tried to watch, either recently or in the past year or two. Now I must make a couple things clear. I live in China and so none of these play on either Chinese TV or Chinese streaming services. I have to download them and I tend to binge on an entire season at a time or in some cases (like the current Better Call Saul episodes) I download online as they come out and watch them week to week. I also tend to not even know what is playing or what new shows are coming out. I do not scour the web that often looking for movies or TV shows. I find out about things from other people's blogs or from some place like IMDb. And I probably will not get into who the actors are since I usually do not care about the names of most TV actors. In some cases I do, but usually I don't care. They become something like "the guy who played the skinny genius on Criminal Minds".

So, with that as a background let me get to the first show here. It is Mindhunter from Netflix and I will assume that this show needs little introduction as it is considered super popular. Its what everybody at the water cooler is talking about these days. It is rated really high on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. But guess what? I didn't like it. I got sucked into It because David Fincher's name was attached to it so I figured it couldn't be too bad. To have the name of a renowned director like that involved in the project surely guaranteed success. Then I remembered goddamned Twin Peaks.

Mindhunter's general premise is the development of the FBI's serial killer profiler section back in the 70's. The storyline here is fictional but it is a compelling premise nonetheless. I have read loads of serial killer books in my life (comes from spending ten years in the Pacific Northwest) and so the names of the killers were familiar as were many of the terms. Of course for some reason the development of the department is met with detective show cliché resistance from superiors and in true form of newer crime shows at least one of the team will be a sexy, powerful and sophisticated female. All of this is okay. If these were obstacles I could not watch anything. The first two episodes directed by Fincher were nice looking (and I understand he directed the last two episodes of season one as well, but I did not make it that far) but one could really tell when he was not helming the camera and direction. The other directors were okay but they were not David Fincher. But even with that the first two episodes were really slow. Like, really fucking slow. And therein, along with a couple other issues, lies the paramount problem for me. The mood of every episode was just… well… boring. I kept waiting for things to get developed and move along. Even the interviews with infamous serial killers were dull and contrived.  The FBI interviewers employed all the routines, from good cop bad cop to  sympathizing with and even buddying up to the killers. But it was dull to me. Unless shifty eye glances is exciting. Okay, one sick ass guy whacked off on a high heel shoe. That was riveting I guess. I was looking forward to it all but I gave up on the series at about episode six or seven I think.


If you stare long and hard into the abyss 
you know what stares back? High ratings!

The series also had a social justice laden agenda against white men and I sensed a theme being espoused was that all men (especially white, straight  ones) were innately misogynistic an dangerous animals. The series seem to moving in a direction showing the similarities between the two male FBI agents and the killers they were interviewing. Like when the FBI guy looks in the mirror, maybe he sees a rapist killer looking back! Holy shit! It is so thought provoking. I also took issues with other obvious social justice messages that were progressively anti-American. For example the remark about (referring to Richard Nixon directly but methinks Donald Trump by way of "clever" innuendo) how could a person be the President of the USA and not be a sociopath. What? The? Fuck? And I also did not get into odd remarks about serial killers being the sick by products of a sick society. How can you not have serial killers in a decadent culture like America that spawns such confusing issues as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War and (of course) Watergate. The young white FBI agents in training are painted as misogynistic, homophobic racists. Give me a break.I felt I was being clubbed over the head every episode with one message after the other.

I wanted to see serial killer drama and suspense, not another liberal Hollywood critique on evil white guys and conservative politics. And hell, I could have accepted that even. But the long drawn out scenes of people moping and brooding and being sour like a pack of European existentialists was just to much. You know, they staring into the abyss and it is staring back. The scenes are all washed and dark out and the score is always bleak. Okay, I get it, I get it. Serial killers and rotting America and the fermenting evil in the hearts of men and so we need all this artsy dark photography and actionless acting. Yea, I get it. Maybe for a two hour one shot movie it may have worked, but not for a TV series. Not for me anyway. I seem to be in the aesthetically enlightened minority here and the other people who did not dig it seem to have the same gripes. Pretentious liberal messages. Anti-American (at least anti conservative America, as liberal pot head hippies are all portrayed in a more favorable light), anti-white male and simply BORING.  Seemed like my cup of tea at first but I had enough pretty early on.


Well, from this scene can you guess who wears the pants on this team. 



04 October 2018

4/20 MASSACRE

Well I guess you can learn something new everyday if you want to. Keep your mind open. Sometimes I actually do not even want to learn anything new and yet I do. Like regarding this crappy ass independent horror movie called 4/20 Massacre. I already knew that most independent horror movies sucked big time, and this one was no exception. It sucked so bad I think I watched less than  ten minutes of it total before I just could not take it any longer. But I did learn that pot heads have an actual "holiday" of sorts on April 20th each year. Why the 20th exactly? I guess I could Google that up but I don't really care. Just knowing that there is an actual day of celebration for nothing other than huffing on cannabis was more new information than I could take in one day. Now mind you that while I do not drink or do drugs myself any longer in life back in the day I smoked my share of pot and did some other pretty wild ass things related to being "cool" and drinking and drugging. Yea. It was pretty hip and enlightening and all. But back then we did drugs, like marijuana, the way drugs should be done. With the knowledge that we are actually harming our minds and bodies and deep inside under our hippie arrogance and paranoid conspiracy theories about "big brother" watching us, we knew we had a problem. A serious problem. And we longed to actually not be smoking pot and drinking and snorting shit. Sure, we were young and dumb, but guilt ridden. In a good way. Well, now a new generation of dumb ass young people with smart phones have a Weed Day. It must be like Earth Day or Gay Day I guess. For Weed Day they must stand up and toke away and be proud and take selfies of themselves all stoned. And hell, nowadays pot isn't bad for you any longer. What the hell did we know back in the Led Zeppelin days? We didn't have the Internet yet so we were a bunch of unread hicks back then. I know I was. Hell, If you knew something you had to have read it in a book, newspaper or magazine. And that stuff ain't nowhere as reliable as Reddit or Google +. So guess what! Pot not only does not cause cancer or other ailments, but it actually cures them all! Hell yea. We didn’t know that shit back then. We just assumed inhaling a burning weed that caused immediate mental impairment into our lungs and holding it as long as we could had to cause some slight bit of harm. Nah. And anything you read to the contrary is propaganda from the tobacco and alcohol industries. 

So, in any case, what is this movie about? I really don't know. I hated it so much I turned it off. It was too bad for me. I don't know want to know anything about it. Maybe you have to be stoned on some of that marijuana stuff to get into it. Takes place out doors. Teenagers hiking and camping. Bunch of dumb girls with bongs. So, pretty original from the start. And the "dense forest" the girls are often turned around in and that the killer creeps around in camouflage in looks more like the type of sparsely wooded area you might find around a rest stop or State park. Shit you can see fifty yards away in any direction. Later, I gather from some frustrated fast forwarding, some psycho in the woods starts killing them off in typical slasher style to protect his crop of homegrown dope. But this so called action does not occur until about  about two thirds of the way into the film. Or more. So many of these crappy outdoor movies rely on lots of walking and lots of talking to move the story along. The filmmakers are too dumb to do anything else with the cheap actors and expensive equipment. In one dismal sequence even fast forwarding couldn't save me. It seemed like I could not get out of a section of the film where two stoned girls were just walking and talking through the "deep dark” wilderness. It just went on and on. Unbelievable to be honest. And just what the heck were they yammering about for so long? Who cares. Who fucking cares! It is a way of just filling in frames of film to pad out the movie. I am sure the thing was shot on video but you get my drift. I just began praying for the slasher killer to start shredding them to bits, to make the misery end. This movie is bad, bad, bad. Not in the so bad it is good sort of bad, rather it is just so bad it is simply fucking bad kind of bad. This is what happens when loser stoners make movies I guess. I suggest people avoid this film. It may well be a gateway movie. After this you are may start thinking Troma films aren't really so bad after all. Just say no. 




Yes brother! Kill them all! Kill! Kill! I am with you!