Do yourself a favor...

...and find Legend of Eight Samurai (articles may or may not be in this title).

1. 1980s action flick from Japan.
2. Bad English dubbing that not only doesn't match up to lips, but changes samurai to ninja.
3. Quotable lines like, "Show me your crystals."
4. Bad special effects on the level of Power Rangers.
5. Competent fight sequences (martial arts?--awesome!)
6. A guy with no pants and short tunic.
7. Over two hours of enjoyment.
8. Soft rock theme song. Just watch the trailer:

9. How have you not bought this yet?


Medley of the Day: Creepy songs about teenage girls edition

I don't know what it is, but songs about 16- and 17-year-olds are incredibly creepy. Probably because they are obviously sung by men far too old to be hitting on or to be with teenage girls. Here's a fine playlist of of some "hits" about teenage girls:

Enjoy the creepy pinkness of this widget.

1. "You're Sixteen You're Beautiful (and You're Mine)" Johnny Burnette--Why is it so creepy: an obvious fascination with childish and little girly things like ribbons and curls. Also, putting a girl on a pedestal proving that he's not really into talking to her/finding out if she has a personality.

2. "Sixteen Candles" The Crests--Why is it so creepy: emphasizes the youth of the subject (the birthday girl) and wishes for reciprocated love even though he's probably about ten years older. Ew.

3. "Only Sixteen" Sam Cooke--Why is it so creepy: Actually, this one isn't creepy because it's sung from the perspective of a 16-year-old boy. In fact, it's rather sweet (16?). I just included it to break up the grossness.

4. "I Saw Her Standing There" The Beatles--Why it is so creepy: "You know what I mean."

5. "Seventeen" Foreigner--Why is it so creepy: Assumes a girl of 17 is capable of playing games with someone's heart in some sort of mature manner--although she was probably trying to get out of this controlling/emotionally abusive relationship.

6. "Seventeen" Winger--Why it is so creepy: I owe the discovery of this song to Pajiba's "The Dark Age of Metal." Just watch the video in that post and be creeped out by the hairy creepiness of 20-something rockers hitting/preying on 17-year-olds.


Just because I talk with an accent doesn't mean I think with an accent

So I was searching YouTube for some scenes from A Walk in the Clouds* when I happened upon this:

The combination of someone piecing together the most dramatic (cheesiest?) bits of the film to one of my all-time favorite Mariah Carey ballads** is just brilliant. I can't decide if I want to puke or just love it. Needless to say, I did not continue my search. This video encapsulates everything you could ever hope to glean from A Walk in the Clouds.

*Also known as the Great Film of the 90s.
**Remember when she was awesome?


In which I talk about the Red Curtain Triliogy

Baz Luhrmann--you either really like him or really hate him. I fall more into the like category, although the more I watch his Red Curtain Trilogy, the more I discover things that I don't like his directing. Last night I attended a Baz Luhrmannaloozathon* and I finally watched all three in one night. Almost overwhelming. I will say this: his films are viewed better in a group that will react/make fun of/sing along with/question the movies.

Strictly Ballroom (1992)

I know I've written about Strictly Ballroom before, but it was fun to look at the beginnings of Baz's directing style. Some of his trademarks (cliches?) found include post-production slo-mo, lots of sparkles (most of the costumes in this film), the Coca-cola sign that later turns into a L'amour sign with a Coke logo in both Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!, quick edits (although not as frenetic in this film as his future ones), and yelled echoy key line ("WE LIVED OUR LIVES IN FEAR!").

I find this to be Luhrmann's most accessible film--if you can get past the ballroom dance world. It's editing/cinematography style is mostly unnoticable and allows the actors to shine. In fact, highly emotional scenes don't end in screaming lines so it's like the characters mean them/know what they're saying**. There is an element of the fantastic in this film, but it's just real enough that it's easy to go with.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

The last time I saw this, I was in 9th grade English, and after 7/8 years, it's still crazy. The beginning is fun, full of quick zoom-ins, visual puns, and fast edits, but things soon devolve into screaming, dramatic close-ups, and slow-motion. In other words, it starts weirdly awesome and then starts to suck. It's Casino but with young teenagers. Examples: Casino beginning vs. Romeo + Juliet beginning. They both start out awesome. And then this happens: Casino screaming at minute 2:20 (warning lots of language) Romeo + Juliet Avenging Mercutio at minute 8:50. Screaming rarely gets the point across if that's all that's happening. In fact, I quit paying attention. And in Baz's case slow-motion following screaming is too manipulative to actually be moving. We don't see the character change or realize a mistake, the camera makes it obvious for us.

To be fair, I hate Romeo and Juliet as a play. I have no sympathy for the main characters since they're stupid. Yeah, they're young, but that doesn't mean I can't be annoyed by them. I can't even stand the leads in West Side Story (speaking of Romeo and Juliet remakes), but at least the side characters make up for it***. Stupid star cross'd lovers.

And the fact the Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes can't handle the material doesn't help. The Hot Fuzz version isn't too far off on how I view the two leads' abilities, although they are prettier.
Some of the actors actually do rise above the crazy editing and actually deliver lines (even when the only direction is "just scream it"): Pete Postlethwaite as Father Laurence, Harold Perrineau as the cross-dressing Mercutio, John Leguizamo as Tybalt, and Vondie Curtis-Hall as Captain Prince. Other highlights include a baby Jesse Bradford as Balthasar and 50s golden boy
Paul Rudd as Paris (both part of some great teen movies).

Though the fact remains that Shakespeare's works are all about the language. Dressing it up distracts and detracts from it. In this case, you don't need to listen to the words at all to understand what's going on. It could have just been any other story or done without the beautiful language. The saving grace of this viewing was talking over it with othe people.

Oh, and the key line screamed: "A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!!!!"

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

I've seen Moulin Rouge! a ridiculous number of times. I could probably recite it for you. I'm not even that big of a fan, but it's just great entertainment. And it's where Baz's insane style comes to an apex and somehow works. The first 30 minutes are overwhelming with color, editing, slow-motion, computer graphics, quick introduction of characters, sexual innuendo, and of course sparkles. Once the film settles, it's becomes humorous, dangerous, and tragic.

Somehow the goofiness of this film works. I think it's because of great music, competent actors (has Nicole Kidman ever had this much personality on screen), and a setting that's as transient as the editing (meaning it makes sense). And after you watch it enough times and often enough, you don't even notice all the craziness. Plus, the emotional ending is enhanced by slowing down the editing and keeping a take going for more than 2 seconds so the actors can actually emote (imagine that!).

And really, I think I would like this film even if I only saw "El Tango de Roxanne." Jacek Koman's gritty voice combined with intense/sensual choreography is unbeatable. Here's a version the just focuses on the dancing scene (no splicing with the Duke and Satine):


*If you want to see how dorky I am, here's my friend Shuana's post on the night. I'm the overly enthusiastic one.
**Yeah, I'll rant about this later.
***Anita being intense and somewhat reasonible. And Maria being lame.


I finally saw a Sundance Film tonight

This is my 4th winter in Utah and I finally got to see a Sundance film. My awesome friend ke had an extra ticket, and of course I obliged. We saw Nollywood Bablyon which gave an overview of the 3rd largest film industry in the world centered in Nigeria. The main focus is on the filmmaker Lancelot who has made more than 150 films. From there, interviews with Lancelot and others bring to light some of the issues and concerns in the Nollywood cinema business. Implications/influences included poverty, religion, a need for local film, and a desire for film as art.

More than anything the film gave rise to ridiculously deep conversations while trying to grapple with some of the issues the film raised. I'm still thinking, so here are some thoughts:

1. Can cinema as art exist without wealth? It seems that the beginnings of cinema and those in the avant-garde movements were independently wealthy. In such a poor nation/continent, can art for art's sake exist? Is it practical when money needs to be made? Is art an important commodity?

2. The film touched on religion being a focus in many Nollywood films. A mixture of traditional, Christian, and witchcraft seem to be regular themes. While the film obviously explored religion as a business in such a harsh economy that fueled the film's themes, is there something to be said about religion in film? While the Western world seems to be focused more on secular topics, aren't religious topics worthy of exploration as well? Will religion in film always look cheesy and cheapen religious messages?

3. Speaking of cheesy, honestly, many of the clips shown in the documentary from the films looked cheesy as hell. Like, Chuck Norris/Steven Seagal film cheesy (that you pick up at The Dollar Tree) with a dash of Lifetime. I wonder if they look cheesy to the intended audience and if that matters.

4. Technology dates films terribly. That's why sci-fi rarely holds up. Many of the film clips showed special effects (of mystical/religious significance) that looked terrible. Just imagine McGyver explosions. Again, does that poor technology matter for the intended audience?

5. I am extremely Eurocentric and know little about Africa. I think I boiled down my knowledge of/exposure to Africa to this documentary, Hotel Rwanda, the beginning of Roots, and The Poisonwood Bible. What I know: Africa is poor and corrupt. Colonialism ruined everything. There is no obvious/easy solution.

I would like to learn more, but the implications of trying to actually "know" anything about such a different place is discouraging. So summarize, the whole list of Stuff White People Like.

6. I think expressing yourself through any medium is important. I think what Nollywood is doing now is important. I don't know if it's "lasting" (such a quick and prolific industry), but there's something about creating your own anything that is part of humanity. Being able to identify with something outside oneself is helpful, builds communities, and asserts one's importance as a person.

7. This film is fascinating, full of information and a culutre I've never known about, and for that, it's worth viewing.


The best part of the LOST season premiere

Sean Whalen as Neil "Frogurt".
AKA the heckler from That Thing You Do!
AKA the one that Lenny asks, "Isn't that our fan?" about.

You got to give it to Lost for casting people that look familiar, but aren't quite famous enough to place--unless you've seen the movie that they're a minor character in about 23498 times.

Side note: Sean Whalen is also in that Got Milk? commercial about peanut butter and Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton---AKA my favorite federalist. I'm seriously part of this facebook group.


Things I like about Howl's Moving Castle

1. It's an animated film for children/young adults that wasn't boring or obvious. In some ways, the plot is just ridiculous*, but it's fun and exciting to see where things are going next. I'm not familiar with the source material, but Miyazaki delightfully animates a fun and interesting fantasy world.

2. The anime style brought me back to my Sailor Moon obsession days. Dubbed over cartoons are the best since the lips never exactly match up anyway. I saw Howl's Moving Castle in its original Japanese with subtitles, but I've heard the English dubbing is fantastic**.

3. A gorgeous and romantic film score written by Joe Hisaishi. The 3/4 time signature gives it levity and the feeling of an ever-turning Viennese waltz. A good soundtrack can get me through any film, but in this case the score made the film even more magical.

3. The side characters/animals are neither obnoxious or overwhelming. I appreciate that. They also fit into the group regardless of what form they are in (most are bound by a spell in some form) which I think is a fantastic message.

4. The main character is a young woman who looks old for most of the film because of a curse. The animated films I grew up with (Disney) glorified in making the princesses as pretty as possible, but Howl's Moving Castle is more interested in how Sophie gains confidence in herself and makes do with what she has (even if that's a decrepit old body).

5. The love interest, Howl, also has a character arc and has to grow up and be responsible in the course of the film. And even when he does step up to protect Sophie, Sophie's the one that solves everyone's problems in the end. I love movies that loves spunky women. And I love it when the male lead has a personality and grows as a character***.

6. Anyway, this is my first Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki film, and I enjoyed it immensely. I don't usually seek out animated movies, but I'll have to check out more if they're all this fun, lovely, and magical.

*I'm still not sure if everything even makes sense, but I'll go with it.
**And has Christian Bale voicing the role of Howl. Yum.
***Edward Cullen is not an interesting or appealing character since nothing ever changes. Yeah, I just went there again.

Medley of the Day: songs of my childhood

My taste in music isn't very divorced from the music I was raised on. Mellow pop-rock with a good dose of the blues/folk influence. It's the kind of music that makes me feel like I'm driving to a soccer game on a Saturday morning with my dad. Anyway, I'm feeling a little reminiscent.

1. First, the awesome Bonnie Raitt "Nick of Time". You've got to love a woman with an alto range and guitar chops.

2. Then, you have to love the awesomely sloppy vocals of Van Morrison with "Russian Roulett". My favorite is his use of the horn section and a wicked good backup singer. And somehow, you still focus on his voice.

3. Last, the always great James Taylor and his backup singers with "Shed a Little Light." Anything that has fantastic harmonizing vocals always makes me glad.


Playing with the format

My blog might be changing around the next couple days, but don't worry, I'm keeping the picture.

UPDATE: Question: Is this hard to read and/or hideous?

My Top 9 TV Show Crushes: Female Edition

Over a year later, I figure it's time for my female half of My Top 9 TV Show Crushes. My rules for choosing are that 1) the characters had to be show regulars, 2) I can have no more than one crush per show (in this case it's not so much crush as I really want to be them/be friends with them even though some of them are quite hot), 3)I had to be seriously attached to their character, and 4) they had to be female. I've included short clips of the shows the characters are on so you could see the ladies in action.

But first, I'd like to replace Henry from Ugly Betty on the first list (because his character became really lame) and replace him with...
Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Rewatching Buffy is so delightful, but I forgot how much I loved it--especially Xander. I remember him being funny, but he's hilarious. A fully formed character from the start, Xander's one liners are the highlight of every episode. Here's a short clip about the character of Xander (believe me when I say you never want to search for videos of Xander--all but 3 are terrible fanvids):

Now for the ladies, in no particular order:

1. Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) from Alias - Alias came on when I was 14 years old and I will never forget how awesome I found Sydney. Yeah, I already watched Buffy, but Buffy's character arcs and relationships started to get weird by season 4. I needed a new girl that was feisty, violent, and trying to balance separate lives. While the show started to wane in it's 5th season, I never lost love for Syd.

2. Maxine Gray (Tyne Daly) from Judging Amy - I know I just barely assaulted you with videos of Maxine Gray, but it should be done again. She's a confident and smart older lady that's not afraid to speak her mind. I can only dream to approach her awesomeness. Here she is chewing out a coworker:

3. Daria Morgendorffer (Tracy Grandstaff) from Daria - At one point in high school I had a friend nickname me Daria. The combination of monotone sarcasm and pre-calc brains earned the name, and it was one of the more flattering nicknames she gave me that year, so I went with it. The show came out in the late 90s during my "tween" years, and I watched it everyday after school. If only MTV would realize the power they have to influence girls to be smart and above the crowd to counteract any bland Disney channel idols. This isn't so much a clip as an entire episode, but it's one of my favorites: "It Happened One Nut."

4. CJ Cregg (Allison Janney) from The West Wing - I am one of the least eloquent people I know which is only one of the many reasons I idolize CJ. She's passionate, thinks on her feet, and does her best at her job. The fact that she keeps things (mostly) together is a testament to her strength as a character. I can only hope that the people that actually work in the White House are as dedicated to their jobs as CJ. Here are some scenes from "Hartsfield's Landing" (S03E14) which show CJ's puckish side when she deals with Charlie:

5. Liz Lemon (Tina Faye) from 30 Rock - Even if I never achieve professional poise like CJ, I can at least aim to be pretty good at my job and likable like Liz Lemon. I think my favorite part about her is her mixture of basket case and cleverness. She tries and mostly fails, but with humor. Here is a conglomoration of Liz Lemon's random confessions:

6. Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) from The X-files - The other half of a great duo, Scully is just so smart. She's an contradicting mixture of smart, skeptical, and spiritual which I can relate to. She can also run in heels, which is impressive since I hate even walking in heels (although I can). Again, I'm going for levity here, but this clip is great and kind of flirtatious. Scully's showing her fun skeptical side:

7. Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) from How I Met Your Mother - Speaking of contradicting character traits, Robin is always a surprise. I enjoy how cool/smooth she usually is, but ultimately is a goofball. This is the sweet "Let's Go to the Mall" song from season 2 which exemplifies how uncool she can be. Also, it's the only clip I could find that doesn't have Neil Patrick Harris stealing the scene:

8. Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) from Northern Exposure - My favorite television feminist of all time. She's always trying to prove something--especially to Joel--and even if she's not completely right, she has a point. I also love Maggie's neurotic inability to quietly deal with things showing that she's tough, but vulnerable. Here she is with Joel from the episode "Spring Break" from season 2. A lovely scene rife with sexual tension (another great thing:

9. Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) from Gilmore Girls - My ultimate goal in life is to be Lorelai Gilmore. Yeah, she sucks at relationships for the most part, but she's smart, successful, and strong. Also, I envy her ability to slide in the perfect pop culture reference into every conversation. Here's a scene where she stands up against Christopher and even slides in some great references:


Buffy vs. Twilight: No competition

So I recently discovered hulu.com has the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and now that I'm off my Bones addiction, I figured I could get into again. Little did I know that it's just as awesome as I remembered. But the one thing that stuck out the most is how much better this saga is than Twilight. In fact, episode 7 of season 1 "Angel" boils down the problems with a human dating a vampire into 44 easy minutes, not hundreds of grueling pages.

Besides time, other things about the Buffy/Angel love story is just better than Bella/Edward:

1. Actual personalities and non-obnoxious character traits. Buffy is witty and spunky; Bella is bland and codependant. Angel helps out Buffy only when necessary; Edward looms over Bella creepily.

2. Buffy can take care of herself for the most part and when Angel does help her, they both fight demons/vampires. Bella is lame and can't do anything but annoyingly beg to be a vampire.

3. Vampires in the Buffy world actually get injured and feel pain and presumably sleep. Vampires in the Twilight world are statues and everything about them is awesome except the feeding on people thing (see book 4). Um, way to create NO CONFLICT.

4. Buffy combines kitsch, myth, comedy, and drama all into one successful package. Twilight combines an interesting idea with boring characters, Tolkeinesque tangents, and superfulous repetition to create an unsatisfying package.

5. I'm too tired to list more ways. But seriously, just watch the "Angel" episode. Angel stays at Buffy's overnight without creepily watching her sleep the whole time like a creepy stalker face. Also, he reveals the truth without being lame and making her guess.

To wit, Buffy takes the sting out of reading all four of those terrible books. Joss Whedon is 2349 times more clever and interesting than Stephenie Meyer and her half-formed ideas that only tease at greatness (or at least not terribleness). So, count this as my super-obvious post forthe day and go watch Buffy.


Some thoughts on Benjamin Button, numbered:

1. It's long.

2. Interesting concept and loved the short story, but the short story remains interesting and short unlike the film.

3. Favorite moments:

  • Tilda Swinton's fling with Benjamin. There was an actual connection between the two characters that wasn't developed in the main love story, probably because they actually spoke together.
  • Hot bearded twins on Captain Mike's ship. Seriously, I think they're twins in real life.
  • Younger playboy Brad Pitt montage. Good because 1. he's attractive and 2. quick pacing.
  • Update: Lightning guy.
4. Lovely composition and cinematography.

5. Cate Blanchett's character was insufferable, mostly because I couldn't figure out why she was there. Yeah, this was supposed to be some epic love story, but within this gimmicky context I have no idea what the attraction is between Daisy and Benjamin. My lousy suggestions: the screenwriter should have either chosen gimmicky concept and just done quick vignettes throughout his life (like the short story), or had no gimmick and just done a decades long love story.

6. I like comparing movies and Forrest Gump succeeds at keeping your interest through the whole film, maybe because it acknowledges the time period beyond music and costuming.

7. It seemed like there were anachronistic attitudes toward casual sex which took me out of the aimed time period (early 20th Centurdy). I really just wanted to know how no one had syphilis.

8. How was the screenplay written? It has so much of everything it gets bogged down. There are fun moments (like I mentioned before), but then things slow down and all I really wanted was for the movie to end. Someone needed to go through this screen play one more time...or 12. I'm going to keep going back to my Casino post, but biopics are so hard to keep interesting and engaging.

9. What was with The Bridges of Madison County modern day journal-reading by a daughter? Madison County creeped me out enough (who wants to know about their parent's sex life?), but assuming everything we see in the film is written in Benjamin's journal/memoir, I feel sorry for the daughter reading that to her mom. Also, could have done without that story line.

To summarize: visually lovely, but had waaaaaay too much crammed into one movie. Pick a theme please!


Sylvia Scarlett: Possibly the most spastic movie I've ever seen

One of the most random gifts I got this Christmas was a Katharine Hepburn collection filled with a bunch of her movies I've never seen. So far I've watched the surprisingly unfunny and unlikeable Without Love (1945) and a masterpiece in ridiculousness, Sylvia Scarlett (1935).

Let's look at random pictures and commentary of this most sloppily scripted yet awesome comedy, Sylvia Scarlett. I'm leaving out most of the plot since 1. it's impossible to follow, and 2. I wouldn't want to take away any of the surprises.

It starts out with a dramatic cutting of the hair so Sylvia can run away from France with her father who's some sort of con artist or something and only boys can be on the run. Lovely histrionics.

So Cary Grant is really good looking in this movie.

And Katharine Hepburn makes a pretty young man.

Cary Grant: making cigarettes sexy.

I love the idea of charlatan Cary Grant with a cockney accent.

Even in nasty high-waisted pants, Mr. Grant is adorable.

Here he is flirting with a maid that eventually joins the group.
(Again, I'm not giving a lot of context, but believe me when I say it's better if you don't try to make sense of it).

Katharine Hepburn trying to be tough.

Awkward hug from maid girl (dressed in the mistress' finest).

Cary Grant dances in this movie. Notice that his feet are literally in the air.

New outfit. Have I mentioned Cary Grant is in this movie?

Katharine trying out a mustache.

Awkward girl-on-girl kiss. No wonder this was unpopular in 1935.
(The maid girl couldn't resist a drawn on mustache, obvs.)

Cary Grant undressing.

Commedia dell'arte costume!
(They started some sort of song and dance troupe...of course.)

What a handsome heckler!
Brian Aherne my new old-school Hollywood crush.
Also, a pipe.

Bask in Mr. Aherne's glorious smile. And maybe grab onto him like Ms. Hepburn.

I'm pretty sure Brian Aherne is also Kevin Kline.

Epic slap! to Aherne's woman.

"Oh, he's actually a woman!" he thought as he lit his pipe.
And yes, he his wearing a robe tied together with tassled rope.

Wet hair and rain slickers.
(Her dad is missing.)

Cary Grant is hot again.

Androgyny in a jail cell.
I actually really like this picture.

And this is how the film ends. It's accurate to say that the ending laughter from Cary Grant is how I feel about the film. Absolutely hilarious.


Awesome Cultural Exposure of the Day: 19th Century Entertainment edition

Do-it-yourself x-rays used to be a thing. At least for the bored and rich.

DIY x-rays were a mechanical spectacle of the late 19th Century that rivaled the phonograph, Diorama shows, and early cinema. I think I would want my own x-ray machine if I didn't think I would die from radiation poisoning or cancer. I can't imagine seeing the x-ray as a new invention.

Wired Science has a post about a recent exhibit at San Fransico's Museum of Modern Art with some awesome pictures: X-Ray Discovery Sparked 19th-Century DIY Craze.

Film this makes me think of: The Prestige*. I love newfangled inventions!

The 19th Century: A time of invention and great mustaches.

*note: the book is way weird and not as interesting, but both are equally creepy and 19th Century magiciantastic.


Medley of the Day: Christmas Break Wrap-up

Random selections of music to define my time home for break.

I saw The Presidents of the United States of America on New Year's Eve. Considering that I went into it only knowing about 3 of their songs, it was a good concert. They're solid group live. Here's a mid-nineties version of "Lump".

I spent a day in downtown Portland and picked up a bunch of used CD's. One of them was New York Dolls*, who are a pre-punk band that sound like a mix of The Rolling Stones and punk. Here's "Personality Crisis".

My friend Miss Marbles and I were having fun with her turntable and record collection from her grandparents and ended up listening to the majority of Jesus Christ Superstar. Surprisingly catchy music, although the urge to tell Jesus to "sing it" is a little weird. One of my favorites from that night sung by Judas, "Damned for All Time/Blood Money".

But what I've spent the most time doing this break is watching Bones. I even got my dad hooked and he ended up buying a CD of one of the artists playing on
Season 2, Episode 18 – The Killer in the Concrete. Here's Poco's "Keep on Tryin'":

*Random aside: I heard about the band watching the documentary New York Doll, which I'm comfortable calling the best movie based on a Mormon ever. But that's another discussion.