Thursday, July 27, 2017

Italian for Beginners (Scherfig, 2000): Mini-Film Review

Italian for Beginners (2000), directed by Lone Scherfig, is a Dogme 95 film produced in Denmark. Viewers unfamiliar with the stripped down aesthetic inherent to the movement, which lasted from 1995 to 2005 (notable Dogme 95 films are listed here), will be surprised by, among other possibilities, how stark the film appears in contrast to Hollywood production values, how ubiquitous this aesthetic approach has become in the mainstream since Dogme 95 (considering shows like The Office), and, regarding the narrative itself, how surprisingly easy it is to find oneself absorbed in the lives of multiple Danish characters from various backgrounds who are united by attending a beginners Italian course in this brief (90 minute) film.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Baby Driver is Guardians of the Galaxy

Really enjoyed Baby Driver (Wright, 2017). It begins with a car chase that puts the opening car chase in Drive (Refn, 2011) to shame, then puts Drive in its entirety in the rear view mirror after that.

But I keep coming back to the connections between Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy though (both vols, Gunn, 2014 & 2017). Ok, they're not exactly the same, but:

A young protagonist who lost his mother at a young age...
absorbs himself in music (fortunately we can hear what's playing through those earphones)...
works on the wrong side of the law...
but has a noble heart and purpose...
as he pursues the love of this life.

Not complaining, just saying!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Beguiled (Coppola, 2017): Mini-Film Review

The film that captures the ethos of the United States right now more than any film in 2017 is, to me, The Beguiled. Sophia Coppola's film presents an injured AWOL Union soldier during the Civil War who finds himself in an all-women's seminary in the south. When grateful, he is full of praise towards the women and girls there; when distressed, he is as ugly as he was magnanimous.

Sophia Coppola is a master of making movies that have absolutely nothing at their core, which makes them nearly impossible to duplicate or replicate. Although Lost in Translation is an exception, because a certain atmosphere imbues the entire film, I love Coppola's movies for this reason. The Beguiled begins in this "nothing at the center" fashion, then stuff goes awry in a though-provoking way--at first, it reminded me of The Hateful Eight but that comparison doesn't really work. Here, violence is always lurking in the background.

YouTube Lecture: CSUSB Modern China Lecture Series

My lecture by invitation, “Sympathetic Views of Japan in Café Lumière & Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles,” is below. It was delivered on April 20th, 2017 at California State University, San Bernardino.

You can access the conclusion of the paper first by clicking the link here.

Via the YouTube channel: CSUSB Modern China Lecture Series

A couple stills from the lecture:

A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, 1991): Mini-Film Review

Edward Yang's epic work A Brighter Summer Day records more insightfully than any film in its class, a singular moment in Taiwan in the early 1960s. The nearly four hour film, which took three years to make, based on a script with more than 100 characters who deliver their own distinct lines of dialogue, documents a teenage boy's psychological descent in an era of transition generationally, politically, and culturally.

It is without a doubt a masterwork. So when I find myself hesitating to recommend the movie to those who are not familiar with the turmoil in Taiwan during the time period depicted, or reluctant to recommend A Brighter Summer Day because it is primarily dialogue driven, I return to Abbas Kiarostami (1940–2016), who describes how films like this are made--namely, perfectly. (See Kiarostami clip, below).

#skatethru: Skateboarding Through Various Spots, Pt. 1

In some ways, I need both surfing/skateboarding and the academic life to keep me sane and balanced.

Here's a series of leisurely videos of riding through a handful of spots: Beijing, Seoul, places in California. Nothing fancy, just riding around. Thanks for viewing!

Qianmen Street, Beijing (2017)

SIAS Zhengzhou, China (2017)

Seocho neighborhood, Seoul (2017)

Hangang-daero Road, Seoul (2017)