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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Everyone knows this film kicks some serious ass.

So I’m not going to regurgitate comments about the complex and brilliantly dark villains, the depth of the overarching themes, or the mind-blowing action scenes. I’m not even going to talk about the “disappearing pencil” trick.

What I will talk about is a deleted scene from the film that was released just a few days ago. I could understand why it was cut, considering the characters in it never appear anywhere else in the film and the scene itself is a rather unnecessary tangent. But I can’t help but imagine how the film would’ve looked if it was left in.

Is it just me or does the girl kind of look like Maggie Gyllenhaal?

Song of the Day:

Brian Wilson – “Heroes and Villains”

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“Having toured the world over, Sigur Ros return home to play a series of free, unannounced concerts in Iceland.”

A beautiful semi-music documentary on the amazing band, Sigur Ros, and their homeland, Iceland, premiered full and un-cut on youtube yesterday. It’s old news, I know, but I own a copy so I wasn’t really looking out for it and I stumbled on the video like 5 minutes ago. I’m posting it because I’ve been meaning to write a post about the DVD for a while. Trust me, it is worth your time. The youtube quality will not come close to doing it justice but it will have to do:

After you watch it, I think you’ll want to buy it. Thoughts and a review of it will be posted shortly.

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Whooo! Happy Valentine’s Day! Yeah…umm…now that that’s out of the way, I’m getting to my post. I spent my V-day watching game recordings of Manu Ginobili channeling His Airness while scoring 34 and 46 points in two incredibly efficient games in a row this past week. And now I’m blogging. I wish I had some chocolates and a teddy bear to keep me company.

But anyways, I feel like telling a story. This is a story I’ve told a few people already. First, let me start off by stating that Back to the Future is, in my opinion, one of the crowning achievements in the history of cinema. Okay…the inclusion of “crowning” may be debatable in that last sentence….No! That sentence is perfect just the way it is.

I watched the films in my childhood and even at that young age, I knew the third one sucked. Okay, I didn’t/don’t think it was that bad. It was all right — just a bit too lengthy and bland for a little kid. I found the second one dark and kind of scary, even though the hoverboards, self-drying jackets, and automatic-fit sneakers were very cool. But of course, the first film in the series was my, and many others’, clear-cut favorite. It has that perfect combination of fun, wonder, and excitement.

It also has this gem of a scene in it, which has Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) playing in a band at his parents’ high school prom:

“Chuck, Chuck! It’s Marvin…your cousin, Marrr-vin Berry! You know that new sound you’re lookin’ for? Well, listen to this!”

This scene made me want to become a rock star…or at least learn how to use the main instrument of the Rock Star. So, after seeing the movie several more times over and over again, as kids are wont to do, I asked my mother if I could learn to play the guitar. Being a typical Asian mother who had already succeeded in getting both of her sons started on the piano, which every good little Asian child knows how to play (I wanted very much to play the piano though, making it easier for her), playing the electric guitar and trying to become a rock star was probably the last thing on her list of things her children should learn to do. It was probably right next to “getting grades that don’t start with ‘A'” and “exhibiting rebellious behavior” on the bottom of that list. But, surprisingly, she consented quite readily to my request.

After I watched Back to the Future several more times in my excitement and anticipation, we finally made that trip to the local music store to set up what would be my first guitar lesson. I was thrilled…until my mother gave me the sad news that I was too small for a regular guitar, and that they unfortunately didn’t make guitars small enough for me. But she soon conveniently discovered that they did have multiple sizes for the violin. She made sure to mention how after a few years of violin lessons, I would be able to smoothly translate my skills to the guitar, which I would be big enough for by then — since, you know, they both have strings, making them basically the same instrument. Oh man…my mom was a clever lady.

Not knowing that most of what I heard was completely made up, I promptly signed up for violin lessons. Hey, if this was the path I had to take to being able to play “Johnny B. Goode” like Marty McFly, then so be it, right? I didn’t hate the violin or anything either.

I eventually discovered that I had been jipped and conned. They do make small guitars that little boys could learn on…and knowing how to play the violin gets you absolutely nowhere on the guitar. And what happened when I finally got “big enough” for the guitar five years later? My loving mother affectionately pointed out that I couldn’t quit because I had made her pour money into my lessons for the past handful of years, and by quiting I would be throwing away all of the money and time that was spent on the violin. So my last few years on the instrument were absolute hell until I just refused to play the thing at all.

In my later years of high school, I finally convinced my mother to let me take guitar lessons. (I needed a way to pay for the lessons.) I found a surprisingly nice acoustic guitar at Costco and set out for my first lesson… except I wasn’t aware my mom was only going to pay for the lessons under one condition: I was to learn classical guitar. No rockin’ power chords. No cool full-armed rock-star strumming. My lessons would be filled with chromatic scales and intricate finger picking sessions. After about two months of boredom, I quit. I still have the guitar though. It’s sitting in its nylon zip-up case behind my door. I haven’t even taken it out in close to two years. I don’t remember exactly when I last played it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for even getting to learn the violin. I don’t resent it…okay, I hated that instrument. (Oddly, I really like listening to the violin though.) I have since realized that my mom only wanted the best for me in my life…she just wanted it a little too much most of the time.

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Have you seen Knocked Up? If you haven’t, you should definitely check it out. Like now. It is amazingly hilarious. It has one of the funniest references to Back to the Future:


“I’m gonna throw you in my Deloreon, gun it to 88.”

And while we’re on the topic of films, I want to mention that I finally saw Closer last week. I had been meaning to see it for a while and I just hadn’t gotten around to it. The acting really is superb. All four members of the ensemble cast brilliantly play the hell out of their characters — and brutally and throughly intertwine, tangle, and crash into each other throughout the film. I don’t mean to just pick on the youngest one but if there is a weak link, it’d be Natalie Portman, and she really only stumbles once or twice. Thinking about the film in light of today’s great holiday, I’ve actually never been more thankful of my current relationship status.

Songs of the Day:

Outkast – “Happy Valentine’s Day” / (album link)
Chuck Berry – “Johnny B. Goode” / (album link)
Damien Rice – “The Blower’s Daughter” / (album link) — Rice’s music is featured and utilized well in Closer

*****

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.”

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The title of my post serves no other purpose than to put the two film titles into one sentence. But did you also know that I find improper grammar annoying? Especially when it is featured proudly in the title of a blockbuster film. Man…first Timbaland’s song and now this. Are you a legend? Is your name actually Legend? (I’m aware that it is the title of the book that it’s based on. I’m just messing around. But can anyone tell me why the author chose to do this?)

I know these movies have been out for a while…I just felt like writing about them. Maybe for the people who haven’t seen them. Or the people who hated them and need to see them again. =)
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I am far from being a regular moving-picture-flicker-show attendee, but I did see two films fairly recently that I really enjoyed. One was a highly-promoted box office juggernaut of apocalyptic proportions while the other was an innocent, happy, fuzzy and warm little love story. And both I Am Legend and Juno were worth the ticket price and the time.

I Am Legend
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Golden Compass I was reading through some Xanga.com blogs and I came across an entry by Nathon, titled “Tarnished Compass,” about the new movie, The Golden Compass. If you don’t know already, the movie is based on the first of a series of books by an atheist author, Philip Pullman, who has expressly stated that at least one of the motives for him writing his books is to discredit, and turn people away from, Christianity. Nathon (the Xanga blogger) is a Christian and his charge to other fellow Christians is to boycott the movie, not to “protect” against its “harmful message,” but “solely for the principle of standing up for what you believe in.” I see where he’s coming from, but I don’t think I’m going to actively boycott the movie. At most, I may end up involuntarily boycotting simply because I don’t watch many movies in the theaters as it is.

Okay, let’s go back, wayyy back….to the basic foundations of the story as described by Philip Pullman himself. In the novels, “Dust” is like the ever-present, spirit-like force of Light and Good, while “The Authority” is the evil-God, on which the theocratic society is based on. The origin of life and creation story in his novel series is summarized thusly :

[…] the notion is that there never was a Creator, instead there was matter, and this matter gradually became conscious of itself and developed Dust. Dust sort of precedes from matter as a way of understanding itself. The Authority was the first figure that condensed, as it were, in this way and from then on he was the oldest, the most powerful, the most authoritative. And all the other angels at first believed he was the Creator and then some angels decided that he wasn’t, and so we had the temptation and the Fall etc – all that sort of stuff came from that. (The Telegraph, 2004)

In Pullman’s world, the Authority basically tricked everyone into believing he was an all-powerful God — the Judeo-Christian God, in fact. He even birthed a Jesus through a virgin named Mary and created a dove-like Holy Spirit; and together, as a “Trinity,” they ruled the world through their various churches and organizations, the most powerful of which is “The Magisterium.” The foundation of the story is influenced by ancient mythology and clearly draws heavily from the modern interpretation of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Fast forward a number of millenniums and we arrive at the beginning of the series. The story is about a girl named Lyra who lives in a world ruled and governed by the “Magisterium.” In the Catholic Church in our world, the magisterium is actually the “teaching body of the church.” (Note: This pattern continues throughout as the bad guys are referred to and labeled with very Christian or church-like terminology, while the good guys are labeled and described with vocabulary that has been traditionally looked down on by the Church — e.g. witches, gyptians [like “gypsies”], and “daemons,” which are, ironically, essentially the soul of a person.) This “Magisterium” has strict rules and guidelines for the people to live by and operates under the authority of…well, “The Authority.” (Were you running a little dry on the creative juices there, Phil?) The narrative follows Lyra on her adventures that lead her to discover the Magisterium is evil and the Authority (aka God) is not really an all-powerful, benevolent god, and both of them are working together to stay in power and prevent people from connecting with Dust, which is the Good that will free everyone…and undermine the Trinity’s power. The last book in the still-continuing series ultimately ends with Lyra, some other kids, and all the other good guys, finding and destroying the God figure, “The Authority,” and being connected with Dust, which leads them to truth, and true self-knowledge. There are giant, talking polar-bears, magical hot air balloons, cool nymph-like witches, maybe some midgets/dwarves, and umm…I don’t know…a lot of magical stuff, along the way. Oh yeah, there’s also a special, golden compass. (It tells you the answer to any question…sort of like one of those psychic cube toys, except it’s 100% accurate.)

I guess one could see how it could be a little controversial. I guess. It seems pretty damn creative to me.

I’m not really that fervent in my “evangelical” beliefs. I’m actually more on the fence about faith, God, and religion than ever right now — which is probably why all this controversy surrounding the movie has so firmly caught my interest. And I can’t help but find all the hype and dialogue about the movie somewhat peculiar. I don’t understand why the author is so outspoken and bitter in his statements and views. Before this huge mountain of controversy over the film adaptation, Pullman was met with a small amount of controversy (relative to what’s going on now) a few years ago when his trilogy of books, His Dark Materials (the first book from the series is the basis for the film), began growing in popularity and acclaim/criticism. Back then, he said some stuff which I’ll quote now:

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I wish I were a genius or had some kind of incredible gift—not really a super-power, but more along the lines of Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting; or Damon’s character in the Bourne series; or Jamal in Finding Forrester (which Damon also makes an appearance in…that guy likes being in movies with unusually gifted characters). It just seems like it would be so cool to be able to see things that no one else can see; understand everything in the blink of an eye; have a photographic memory; be able to mold and manipulate language into anything you wish it to be—and be extremely gifted athletically (like Jason Bourne or Jamal in Finding Forrester).

Before we go any further (not “farther”), here is one of my favorite scenes, taken from Finding Forrester: “You should’ve said, ‘Further.'”

And let’s continue….
I just recently re-watched Good Will Hunting so let’s use Good, little Will Hunting as an example. (I and, as we shall see later, the pompous jerk from the bar scene, enjoy the play on words that the title of the movie provides.) Will can not only memorize huge textbooks and works of literature as if they were a short grocery list, but he can thoroughly and completely understand it at the highest level. He can solve any mathematical proof or problem as if they were grade-school chalkboard problems. For him, it’s all as easy as breathing.

To be able to understand anything you can ever encounter as easily as it is for anyone to breathe…that would be awesome. Think of all the stuff you could do. You can do anything you want. If you have gaudy, insane, super-fantastical balling skills, what more can you do than make millions and millions playing ball and selling shoes? If you’re Will Hunting, you can unlock the secrets of time travel, find a cure for cancer, write a great American novel or two, and do whatever the hell else you want.

But one thing that no amount of genius can do is help one understand people. In fact, there’s a substantial amount of evidence that says genius makes it much harder. People can be more complex than the highest form of mathematics or the most difficult passage of text (which I’ve heard would be something like James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake). In fact, I think the genius of someone like Will Hunting would make understanding people more difficult in some ways. But I would still love to experience that struggle.
And if people are that difficult, think of the beautiful complexity that the struggle to find and know God (or whatever Truth or Reality is) would be like in a genius’ mind.
Man…I wish I were a genius.

The Bar Scene, Round 2:

“Applesauce, bitch.”


Song of the Day:

Elliott Smith – “Miss Misery”

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The rest of this entry is for only if you feel like you just haven’t had enough time-wasting and want to just keep on wasting it away.

Here are some other memorable scenes:
“You’re just a kid.”
“Mathematical Dick”
“I don’t know much but I know that.”— complete with subtitles for all my Chinese readers out there.
And one of my personal favorites, “club a baby seal”
Also, the original bar scene with the “apples” bit included at the end, with the audio/video out of sync (just skip to the 5 minute mark): “Do you like apples?”

And this is an excellent re-cut that uses all real clips from the movie to create the enticing trailer for…”Good Will HUNTED!”:
Good Will Hunted
What clinched it for me was poor little Will Hunting bawling for his life at the end.

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