Category Archives: Films

Impression of “Life of Muhammad” Trailer

So this seems to be the trailer of the film — supported by the controversial Terry Jones — that rioters in Egypt and Libya used as justification to attack the United States, and kill our Ambassador.

Watch if you want, but it’s not well edited or well directed. The quality is below the quality of the Full Motion Video that was common on computer games in the 1990s. “Triumph of the Will” this is not.

The film’s purpose appears to be to defame Islam — Jack Chick style — rather than be informative, so the trailer appears to make a number of novel and false accusations against him. This is puzzling, given that Muhammad was definitely a pedophile by the modern definition (which may not have been that rare for the time and placed he lived in), and was arguably a genocidier, one would have thought it was pointless to make up facts about him or his religion, when there are so many laying around ready to spin!

If the purpose of the film is to lower Americans’ view of Islam, the riots in Egypt and Libya probably mean that the director succeeded. Unlike other artists who labor to bring beauty to the ghastly (Leni Reifenstahl, Zhang Yimou, and Jack Chick himself) there seems to be no sense of artistry or beauty in this film. As ghastly as National-Socialism, Chinese imperial fascism, and general bigotry may be, Reifenstahl, Zhang, and Chick all use the gift of art to make that view seem — if only for an instant — beautiful. The trailer for Life of Muhammad never reaches this level.

Now compare Life of Muhammad to Life of L. Ron Hubbard The Master, a film trailer that attacks the founder of a religion that also is beautiful:

What a better world we would live in if the Arab street would riot for bad taste!

Impressions on Re-Watching Battle Royale

Re-watched the film Battle Royale last weekend. This is the first time in nearly a decade (!).

It holds up pretty well, but the experience of watching farther removed from high school is different. Young watchers are clearly supposed to project themselves into Shuyu Nanahara. Watching it now it’s clear that in many ways Shogo Kawada and Teacher Kitano are more interesting characters.

Talk about making someone feel old…

The book’s pretty good, too.

Both the book and film are less shocking than United Red Army, which actually happened.

Short Review of “United Red Army,” directed by Koji Wakamatsu

I thought about it over the night — it was hard to get to sleep last night — and I can say that United Red Army is the most disturbing film I have ever seen.

United Red Army is the story of birth, life, and death of the URA, formed by an alliance between the Japanese Red Army Faction (RAF) and the Japanese Revolutionary Leftist Faction (RLF).

I started watching United Red Army knowing only about the events which concern the middle part of the film, and those only in outline. I recommend going into the film with as little knowledge as possible. The craziness of the United Red Army is underscored by not knowing what happens next.

Think of a cult or revolutionary terrorist organization. The URA is more dysfunctional. The horror of United Red Army does not come from the civilians or police they kill (Though there are a few). The horror of the United Red Army is how they treat their own members.

It is amazing that except for one moment of comic relief (“There is no such thing as a counterrevolutionary cookie!”) there is no sense of the absurd in the film. The insanity storyline is much closer to a comedy or satire than something that could have actually happened. Imagine The Office with Trotskyite-Maoist rhetoric.

Except United Red Army is not a comedy. The United Red Army actually was.

Buy from Amazon. Rent from Greencine. Stream from Netflix.

Avatar Imax 3D

I liked the film quite a big, back when it was made fifteen years ago, was called Dances with Wolves, and didn’t have the weird left-wing Vietnam fantasy ending.

David Brooks calls the film racist. The only question is if the film is racist against whites, racist against non-whites, or simply misanthropic against everyone in general. (Or biased against alien species?). Either way, the plot is a joke.

But then again, the plot of most games by iD Software have been a joke, too.

Avatar is a 2.5 hour tech demo. It is an amazing demonstration of the way that movies, television (especially sports), and video games will look in the future.

The Greencine Five, Part XII: Purple Butterfly, Happy Together, The Road Home, In the Year of the Pig, King of Chess

purple_butterfly

Purple Butterfly is a slow-moving spy thriller that takes place in Shanghai immediately before Japan’s invasion of China. Purple Butterfly is really good, but the lack of dialogue and the physical similarity of two characters leave some reviewers confused. The film centers around a Japanese intelligence service’s secret war against the Purple Butterfly Organization in a setting that could easily be transferred to Peshwar, or Bali. The set-up, that a Chinese factory worker is mistaken for a Japanese spy, sounds like a comedy. Instead, an increasingly dark story of betrayal, confusion, and revenge brilliantly defines the murkiness that is the fog of war.

happy_together

Happy Together is a film by Wong Kar Wai, better known for his atmospheric “Hong Kong” trilogy (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046), as well as Chungking Express. Happy Together was released to controversy, as it his first homosexual romance. Those who enjoy atmospheric Chinese-language gay romance films will enjoy Happy Together.

the_road_home

The Road Home is Zhang Ziyi‘s break-out performance, and probably her best. The film is set in Manchuria before the Cultural Revolution, which is rememberd similarly to the 1950s in the United States: stable, prosperous, uniform, culturally conservative, and safe. It is the story of an illiterate farm girl and the teacher she falls in love with. The film’s style is consciously taken from Titanic (the most popular movie in the history of Chinese cinema), and even shares with it the use of flashbacks to tell the main story.

in_the_year_of_the_pig

In the Year of the Pig is a pro-Ho Chi Minh documentary about the Vietnam War, produced in 1968. I was shocked at how different the style and tone is from Hearts and Minds, an anti-war movie films in 1974. Year feels like its policy film from the 1950s, where clean-cut men in suits criticize France, discuss why some American policy was reasonable at the time, and argue for the need for a change. If the speakers are indeed Communist-sympathizers, then it is striking just how serious and alluring that movement must have been. Alternatively, Year may the voice of a lost moderate-liberal position on foreign policy that has yet to reemerge.

king_of_chess

King of Chess is weird. It looks like someone spliced together documentary footage of the cultural revolution, added a rock anthem soundtrack, and then proceeded to combine two featurettes (one about the rustification campaign, the other about a psychic boy and an evil professor in Taiwan) together. That’s because it is. The production of the intended movie collapsed early on, requiring the filming of another, parallel story to fill out the running time. My friend criticized it as the most boring we watched since The World. It definitely isn’t the best film we’ve watched.

The Greencine Five, Part X: Take Care of my Cat, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, This Divided State, Mean Creek

take_care_of_my_cat

Take Care of my Cat is a Korean coming of age movie, which means it centers on students who graduate high school and begin their lives. The setting for the story is Inchon (site of Operation Chromite), about 20 miles from Seoul. The tone of the film is meloncholy and sad, as the world of school crumbles as new friends, new lives, and new careers intrude.

guerrilla_the_taking_of_patty_hearst

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst should be watched with The Weather Underground, which I reviewed three years ago. The 1970s were seriously, seriously, crazy. The Hearst family was so willing to give into demands that state prosecutors threatened to charge them with being accessories. At the same time, the Symbionese Liberation Army disintegrates as its leader is killed into a rogue band of thugs. No “darwinian ratchet” here!

z_channel

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession is the clunker of this set of movies. It’s not actually bad, just not particularly interesting. It is almost a documentary about movie culture in Los Angeles in the 1970s. It is almost a documentary about arthouse movies. It is almost a documentary about the Z Channel itself. Instead it revolves around Jerry Harvey, Z’s programming chief and a generally unpleasant fellow.

this_divided_state

This Divided State, made for less than $50,000, is a documentary about the controversy surrounding a visit by Michael Moore to Utah Valley State College immediately before the 2004 Presidential Election. Now that most of the issues of the 2004 election are moot, this film is best viewed as a study of the internal divisions of both the pro-Moore and anti-Moore factions.

mean_creek

Mean Creek is an American coming of age story, which means it centers on a group of middle and high school kids. It is good. Take the story elements of The Body / Stand By Me, but them in a blender, make the characters more realistic, and you have Mean Creek. The main conflict comes from a hot-headed, stupid, but well meaning older brother trying to protect his sibling from a socially blind, learning disabled, but well meaning high school bully.