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We Were Movie Gangsters


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Chungking Express (1994)

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express is the interconnected tales of two police officers who’ve just undergone heart-breaking breakups and face loneliness in a city of millions.

In a swirl of beautiful imagery, Chunking Express tells the stories of Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), depressed about the end of his relationship with a pineapple-loving girl named May, and Cop 663 (Tony Leung), likewise depressed about the end of his relationship with his beautiful flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow). Similarly, both cops become interested in new women: Cop 223 becomes captivated by a mysterious drug runner in a blonde wig and sunglasses (Brigitte Lin), while Cop 663’s storyline becomes entangled with that of a quirky, well-meaning, California-dreaming snack bar worker named Faye (Faye Wong).

The two narratives are separate from each other, though loosely connected in that both of the lovesick cops frequent the same restaurant, and both deal with heartbreak, though in different ways. Cop 223 collects cans of pineapple with the expiration date of May 1, telling himself that once he has collected 30 of these cans, he will either be reunited with his ex-girlfriend May, or his love will, like the cans of pineapple, “expire”. Meanwhile, Cop 663 pep-talks the various objects around the apartment he used to share with the flight attendant girlfriend who left him.

Though Chungking Express is humorous and smartly written all throughout, I found the second part of the movie (Cop 663’s storyline) to be the most compelling. After falling for Cop 663 (Tony Leung), endearing snack bar worker Faye begins sneaking into his apartment he shared with his girlfriend and brightening up the place, unbeknownst to him. Eventually, though, he figures it out (although it takes him a ridiculously long time). It’s pretty goddamn cute.

This is only the second Wong Kar-Wai film I’ve seen after In the Mood for Love, and I loved it a whole lot. I can’t wait to watch more!

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Oldboy (2003)

Park Chan-wook’s South Korean revenge thriller Oldboy is overwhelming in every possible way. Watching this movie was such an intense experience that I kind of don’t even know where to begin with this review.

First of all, Oldboy is one of those movies where giving away too many crucial plot points beforehand would ruin the experience for any viewer. The thrill of Oldboy is the gradual release of the truth; the slow reveal of the intricate details behind Oh Dae-Su’s kidnapping and release.

I didn’t really know much about the movie before watching it (other than a lot of people telling me it was amazing), which in hindsight was definitely the best to watch it. Everything was a surprise, and my eyes were glued to the screen the entire time (other than a few moments when, squeamishly, I had to look away). By the end of it, I felt like I had been run over by a train.

Without giving away too much, though, in case anyone reading this hasn’t seen it, the basic premise of the film is that businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is kidnapped one night and imprisoned for fifteen years, torn away from his life and daughter and all of society. Without any explanation as to why, he is trapped in a room with no human contact, and nothing but a TV to keep him connected to the outside world. It is through his many hours watching this television that Dae-su learns of his wife’s murder, a case in which he is a suspect. After fifteen years, Oh Dae-su emerges from his prison extremely changed, and now must seek answers and revenge. The new Dae-su — who is dark and intense and played beautifully by Choi Min-sik — is taken in by a young woman named Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung), who he meets at a sushi restaurant.

Oldboy is raw, gritty, violent, and powerful. It’s shocking and emotional and a complete roller coaster ride of a movie. It’s also filled with a lot of really memorable scenes involving hammers and live octopuses. The famous one-take hallway scene, in which Dae-su single-handedly fights his way through an army of henchmen, is particularly brilliant.

Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) and Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung)

Fun facts from Wikipedia about the octopus scene: “The octopus being eaten alive was not computer-generated; four were used during the making of this scene. Actor Choi Min-sik, a Buddhist, said a prayer for each one. It should also be noted that the eating of live octopuses (called sannakji (산낙지) in Korean) as a delicacy exists in East Asia, although it is usually cut, not eaten whole. When asked in DVD commentary if he felt sorry for the actor Choi Min-sik, director Park Chan-wook stated he felt more sorry for the octopus.”

Now, about that remake. A couple of days ago, the first trailer for the English-language, Spike Lee-directed 2013 remake of Oldboy was released, and I saw a lot of outrage in response to it. Outrage that I think, after viewing the original, is definitely justifiable. Halfway through watching the movie, I found myself asking, “Why are they even remaking this?” To cash in on English-speaking audiences (and close-minded people who refuse to watch movies if they have to read subtitles — I know for a fact that these people exist) who haven’t seen the original, maybe? Remakes are acceptable if the source material can somehow be improved upon or reinterpreted, but I don’t see any way that this remake of Oldboy can do either of those things. And from the looks of the trailer, it’s not going to.

The concept of Oldboy is brilliant, and it is beautifully constructed and executed. I’m not exactly sure how any remake could improve, let alone measure up to, the original’s excellence. I just hope that viewers who go to see Spike Lee’s remake (which is out October 8 of this year) will watch the original first. Or, honestly, I just really hope that, at the very least, viewers know that the original even exists.

I had been meaning to watch this film for ages, and put it off because the version Netflix has available stream is an English-dubbed version (I really, really don’t recommend watching anything — especially this — dubbed unless you have no other option), but the other day I was informed that you can watch Oldboy for free on Hulu, so I ran to it with open arms. And it definitely paid off.

My advice to first-time viewers: prepare yourself. Oldboy is a movie that you should open your mind to and allow yourself to be absorbed into (getting sucked into it isn’t hard). The plot twist(s) and overall intensity will hit you like a freight train. After watching it, I felt dazed and drained — it’s a movie that you really experience. And it’s one hell of an experience. I’m still in shock, and I think I will continue to be for days/weeks more before this film fully sinks in.


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The 400 Blows (1959)

On Friday, TCM honored French filmmaker François Truffaut in their Friday Night Spotlight lineup, so I camped out on the couch with a frozen pizza and some blankets to watch Les quatre cent coups (The 400 Blows), Truffaut’s first feature.

The 400 Blows is the first of Truffaut’s films centering around Antoine Doinel, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, whose life in this film mirrors the real life struggles of François Truffaut. Like Doinel, Truffaut was born out of wedlock but accepted as a son by the man his mother soon married. His childhood was troubled, as shown by the life of Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows. So brutally honest that his parents were hurt by the film (Truffaut defended his portrayal of his childhood, which he told them really was that unhappy), The 400 Blows is a touching story about growing up, touched with incredible insight and personal experience.

Antoine grows up in a cramped apartment with his mother (who really doesn’t seem to like her son very much) and stepfather, where he always seems to be unwanted and in the way, or else left completely alone. Misunderstood and mistreated by his callous and largely uncaring parents, Antoine engages in a life of petty crime and juvenile delinquency, eventually leading to his arrest for the theft of a typewriter. He is sent to an observation center for troubled youth, where, at the end of the film, he escapes and runs to the nearby sea.

Director François Truffaut

Director François Truffaut

In the famous final scene of The 400 Blows, we see Antoine Doinel standing on the shore and seeing the ocean–something he dreamed of all his life–for the first time. In literature, art, film and elsewhere, the ocean can often be a symbol of hope and renewal. As the final frame freezes on young Antoine, at the brink of the sea, my thoughts were that there is hope for him. Children are in the vulnerable position to be molded–for better or for worse–by their environment (which includes parents, who probably have more power than anyone in shaping the adults that we become). But as they mature, they have the opportunity to free themselves from their past, or from oppressive environments. That hope seems to exist for tender, movie-loving Antoine, who, as a maturing boy, has choices he can make to determine his own future.

Antoine’s real-life counterpart François Truffaut did just that, becoming one of Europe’s most celebrated filmmakers and a huge influence on the New Wave movement through his passion for and dedication to film. Movies became a kind of schooling for the future filmmaker, who, as a young’un, set goals for himself to watch more movies and to read more books. The 400 Blows, with its depth, sincerity, and honesty, shows that Truffaut’s dedication to cinema paid off. Henri Decae’s cinematography and the young talent of Jean-Pierre Léaud add to the impact of Truffaut’s touching debut feature.

After finishing The 400 Blows, I was already deeply attached to the character of Antoine Doinel, and wanted to see more of him, as well as learn more about the life of François Truffaut. I can’t wait to watch Truffaut’s other movies about Antoine (Antoine and Colette, Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and Love on the Run), as well as more of Truffaut’s films in general. Shoutout to my fellow Moviefellas writer Miranda for letting me know this was on TCM!

The final shot of ‘The 400 Blows’


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The Searchers (1956)

Searchers1

“We’ll find them in the end, I promise you…We’ll find them.” This line is my first recollection of The Searchers. I was about seven years old and we were in Disney for our family vacation. Back then at Christmas, all the rides would have two hours+ waits, including The Great Movie Ride; but that didn’t bother me. Instead, I was in awe of the larger than life movie screen in the faux-Gruman’s Chinese Theatre, playing trailers of various classic films featured in The Great Movie Ride, such as Footlight Parade, Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, etc. and, of course, The Searchers. I can’t tell you why that particular line stuck out to me; perhaps it was the determination and grit in John Wayne’s voice or the composition of the shot. Whatever the case, it did and it made an impression on me.

I’ve never been a fan of the Western genre, mostly because its setting doesn’t appeal to me but also due to its treatment and view of Native Americans. I pushed this film off for quite some time because of those reasons; but once I began watching the films of the 1970’s (ex. Taxi Driver), I knew that it was probably time to watch The Searchers. Brushing aside my bias for Western films, I sat down and began the film.

Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns to his brother’s home three years after the Civil War. Still bitter about the Confederate’s

An example of framing the shot from inside the cave.

An example of framing the shot from inside the cave.

loss, Ethan comes off very cynical, somewhat cocky, and hard-edged but also very alone. Ethan is pleased to see his brother, Aaron, and his family again but takes an instant dislike to Martin (Jeffery Hunter) because of his part-Indian blood. Right off the bat we learn that Ethan is racist towards the neighboring Indians. The next day, a neighbor’s cattle are stolen and Ethan and Martin go along to help find the culprit. When the men find the cattle dead, they realize it was all a trick by the Comanche Indians to lead them away from their homes and families. Ethan and Martin come back to find that Aaron, his wife, and his son were killed and their two daughters kidnapped. Ethan and Martin go on a search for both daughters Debbie (played by Lana Wood and Natalie Wood) and Lucy. Ethan eventually finds Lucy dead near the Comanche camp but does not find Debbie. The rest of the film covers the next five years of their search for Debbie and ‘rescuing’ her.

I’m really not sure what to say about this film. I’ll admit that if it wasn’t for Martin, I don’t think I would have been able to stand it. Ethan came off very strong and almost dislikable to me. Martin didn’t allow Ethan to keep pushing him around and stood his ground; plus his story line offered comic relief in a few scenes. It was hard to put aside my contempt for the representation of Native Americans in this film but that was where Martin helped.

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Notice Debbie in the far back, almost like a black dot. Gradually gets larger as she runs towards Ethan and Martin.

Let’s establish the fact that John Ford is an absolute genius with the camera and Winton C. Hoch’s cinematography fully captures the tone of the film. Ford frames as many of his shots as he can through some sort of opening, such as a cave or a door. I love this idea as it helps focus the attention and emphasize the landscape of the shot. Ford also utilizes depth very well. Perhaps the most obvious is the shot of Debbie running down the sand towards Martin and Ethan. Overall, Ford is a master at making a Western a GREAT Western by going above and beyond.

I’m going to have to watch The Searchers again just to appreciate Ford. I think it will be better because I won’t focus so much on “what happens” but rather the directing and acting. For me, watching a movie a second time is very beneficial because I know the story so I can focus on the little things that I missed before. Even as I was going through the film to take screencaps after I finished it, I was stunned by the composure and set-up of his shots. Perhaps I will add more Ford films to my list but I think it’ll still take me awhile to warm up to John Wayne and the Western genre.

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It’s very clear to see why this film was such an influence on films in the 1970’s; there were so many aspects of The Searchers that I saw in Taxi Driver. But perhaps the one most similar to it is their disconnect from the world. We meet Ethan and he is alone and by the end of the film, after five years of searching and riding with Martin, he is alone. I love the last shot; Wayne standing in the doorway and to me, he almost seems unsure of himself. No one is there is to say thank you to him for bringing Debbie home as they’ve already gone inside with her. But the inside is black and empty and Ethan stands outside of it. It’s foreign to him; then the door closes. We don’t see what happens to Ethan. So what does happen to him? What is his purpose now? What will he do? The answer: we don’t know.


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Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Jean-Pierre Melville’s cool, stylish French crime drama Le Cercle Rouge (1970) is the slow-paced but brilliant story of an escaped murderer (Gian Maria Volonté), a high-class moustachioed thief (Alain Delon), and a police superintendent who really loves his cats (Andre Bourvil).

All men are guilty. They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.

Corey (Delon) is released from prison the same day Vogel (Volonté) escapes from police commissaire Mattei (Bourvil) while being transported on a train. Road blocks are set up all throughout the area, but Vogel manages to elude capture and ends up stowing away in the trunk of Corey’s car. The two inevitably meet and, along with alcoholic ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand), set up an intricate plot for a multi-million dollar jewel heist. They carry out the heist, but Mattei, a former colleague of Jandsen who is still searching for the murderer Vogel, is on their trail.

Melville’s deliberately paced thriller unfolds slowly, set to impressive cinematography and a bleak atmosphere that make it well worth the watch. Alain Delon is probably the smoothest criminal in town — everything he does looks super cool. Maybe it’s just the moustache. I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that the whole film is super cool. Criminals, police commissioners, and potential informants rendezvous in Santi’s nightclub, where cigarettes are inevitably lighted and girls are always there to entertain audiences and provide a glittering backdrop.

Overall, I was deeply impressed by Le Cercle Rouge, and thrilled by every second of it. I couldn’t help but take two hundred screencaps, some of which I put to use in this photoset on tumblr. Also, shoutout to our Star of the Month Alain Delon, who is one kool kat as Corey. Full disclosure: I watched this because I found out Alain Delon has a moustache in it. But whether or not you are a fan of Alain Delon/facial hair, I definitely recommend it. It’s worth the 140 minute running time if you want to watch a moody crime thriller.


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Star of the Month: Inventing the Abbotts

My mother was right: if the Abbotts didn’t exist, Jacey would have had to invent them. But it seems to me that inventing the Abbotts was something that almost everyone in Haley did, and still do.

Inventing the Abbotts (1997) is a movie steeped in 1950s nostalgia, something that seems common in films from the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a film about a small town boy from “the wrong side of the tracks”, Doug Holt (star of the month Joaquin Phoenix), and his older brother (Billy Crudup) who holds a grudge against the richest family in town, the Abbotts.

Crudup, Tyler, and Phoenix in Inventing the Abbotts.

The Abbotts are the closest thing to royalty in the small Indiana town of Haley, known for their glamorous parties thrown in honor of their three beautiful daughters. Doug is fascinated by the Abbott girls, but his brother, Jacey, is interested in them for a more malicious reason: he believes that their father, Lloyd Abbott, stole a business patent from their own father (who died when they were young), and proceeded to get rich off of it. He executes his revenge by seducing the Abbott daughters, one by one, and jeopardizing the blossoming relationship between Doug and Pamela Abbott (Liv Tyler).

The film centers around Doug and his naivety concerning his brother and the Abbott girls. Joaquin Phoenix does an excellent job of portraying the awkwardness of adolescence and the loss of innocence that Doug goes through. Stepping out of his brother’s shadow is a slow, subtle process that Phoenix masters, especially as Doug begins to fall in love with Pamela. He almost holds her up on a pedestal and can’t believe that one of the elusive, elegant Abbott girls could care for him in return. Knowing the behind-screen relationship unfolding between Phoenix and Tyler adds another dimension to Doug’s feelings: Phoenix once remarked to Jennifer Connelly (who plays Eleanor Abbott) that he could never get a girl like Tyler.

While the film focuses on Phoenix, it would be hard to review this film without taking note of Crudup’s performance as Jacey Holt, Doug’s older brother. Jacey has everything going for him: good looks, brains, and a bright future at the University of Pennsylvania. But he is a ticking time bomb; he’s held in his rage towards both his mother and Lloyd Abbott (the patriarch of the Abbott family) for years, and he’s ready to explode, not caring if he hurts himself and others in the process. Jacey is a character that’s hard to love but difficult to wholly hate, even as he messes up the lives of those around him, because in the end, his whole persona is built on a lie.

Tyler and Phoenix, on and off-screen sweethearts.

Inventing the Abbotts is a slow film, and both the plot and the drama gradually build up to a poignant crescendo as Jacey’s toying with the Abbott girls affects Doug in a way he never expected. It’s billed as a light-hearted romance (it’s not), but to me, the film is a story about growing up and learning to live. It’s a story about how to move on from everything you’ve ever known and how to grow into your own person when you’ve only ever been known as the “little brother.”

The film concludes sweetly, as Doug’s passion is the true to key to his own happiness and the happiness of others. The conclusion to his story is satisfying, if a little saccharine. Doug is an observer and he learns and grows from both his experiences and those of others. Told from his perspective, the film gives us some integral lessons about life and loving someone no matter what they do. In the end, it’s a sweet film; not one of Phoenix’s best, but one that shouldn’t be missed nonetheless.

There’s different kinds of love. Some people you love no matter what, and others you love if the situation is right. To me, the best kind of love is the “no matter what” kind.


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Star of the Month Monday: The Master

“Man is not an animal,” proclaims the charismatic, seemingly placid Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), leader of a movement dubbed ‘The Cause’, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest cinematic achievement.

But animal is what Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) seems to be. He is a bundle of loose ends, boiling rage and animal urges. After much wandering, Freddie is eventually drawn into Dodd’s Cause, attracted to the safety it seems to offer. Dodd (to his followers, the ‘Master’) and Quell become fast friends in spite of their vast differences, Quell filling the role of protege and right hand man after Dodd takes him under his wing. Both men are mysteries that The Master delves to the core of in a long, engrossing character study.

Freddie, an incomplete, animal-like being, is filled with rage, lust, and loneliness that drive him to brew chemical cocktails and get it on with a lady sculpted from sand. Freddie’s drive for sex and violence is fierce, with an underlying inability to connect emotionally with a real woman–it cuts back continually to scenes of his sand lady, as well as the extremely young and naive Love of His Life–and control his fury. Under Dodd’s wing, Freddie is, from time to time, temporarily subdued, but never mastered. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that he was not made to be mastered–the question is if he can learn to be his own master.

“If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master,” says Dodd to Freddie, “be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world.”

Upon its release back in the fall of 2012, The Master earned some criticism for being lengthy, slow, and devoid of a solid, linear plot. I disagree, though. The Master is engrossing and contains some of the absolute best acting this side of the century. Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance of a lifetime. If nothing else, watch it for the acting.

Parts of it play out like a comedy, in the same way that Daniel Plainview’s “I drink your milkshake” rant never fails to make me laugh out loud, in spite of the overall tension of the scene and Daniel Day-Lewis’s powerful acting. The Master is filled with some similar weird, twisted humor that elicited nervous laughter from the little crowd of five in my theater when I saw it back in October.

Though very different, The Master possesses many of the elements that make There Will Be Blood so good, such as outstanding performances on all parts, gorgeous cinematography filled with rich colors, the incomparable direction of Paul Thomas Anderson, raw emotion and energy, and a chilling score by Jonny Greenwood. Shot on 65mm film, the look of the film alone is spectacular. The blue of that sea is too pretty for words.

The film is also notable for Joaquin Phoenix’s return to film. Phoenix is back, and better than ever. I’m not only overjoyed to see him again, but to see him again giving such an incredible performance. Convincing and animal-like, thin and hunching, handsome and brutish as Quell, Phoenix makes the character explode off the screen. Don’t ever leave me like that again, Joaquin.

Phoenix wasn’t the only one who gave a masterful performance, though: Philip Seymour Hoffman played Dodd with quiet intensity, and Amy Adams shone as his hard, icy wife.

Much as I love me some DDL, I have to say that Joaquin Phoenix deserved an Oscar for this film. I was torn throughout the entire awards season, because Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix are both my favorite actors of all time. I wasn’t sad that DDL won, but… Joaquin :( I’m less torn about my thoughts on Amy Adams’ loss, though. My blood is still boiling about Anne Hathaway’s win, but I’m going to stop there before this gets ugly. Don’t even get me started on the Academy completely snubbing Paul Thomas Anderson. I can only hope for Oscars for all three soon.

For me, The Master was one of those rare films that dramatically heightened my love and understanding of film, and gave me an even greater appreciation for the work of Paul Thomas Anderson (if you haven’t watched Boogie Nights, every day you go without watching Boogie Nights is a waste). Thoughts of The Master rolled through my brain for weeks afterwards, and continued to distract me as I tried to unravel the many mysteries it contains. It’s a great, powerful film with great acting. Not one I’m likely to forget about anytime soon, even if I wanted to.


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The Pretty Good Gatsby: Because I’ve Never Seen Such Beautiful Shirts Before

Let me start off by saying this: sometimes, our perilously high hopes and dangerous, reaching desires can do us more harm than good. And sometimes, our perilously low expectations can yield pleasant surprises.

I was so utterly convinced that I was going to hate 2013’s The Great Gatsby, and yet I actually found myself enjoying Baz Luhrmann’s spectacle of sparkles and color, a roaring circus of booze and excess. Once you allow yourself to get swept up in the fast-paced, jazzy/hip-hop whirl of parties and pretentiousness, it’s an enjoyable, visually overwhelming film, based on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that will always outmatch any adaptation.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel, the basic premise is that Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious, wealthy man shrouded in a carefully calculated, respectable persona, seeks to reclaim his lost love, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), a wealthy, married woman whose “voice is full of money”. More than that, though, it’s Fitzgerald’s reflection on American society, wealth and recklessness and excess; a glittering facade covering something shallow and ugly.

Luhrmann definitely made use of the symbols (such as the green light) woven throughout The Great Gatsby, though without much subtlety, and pretty much adhered the plot and overarching the themes of the novel. Arguably, the most rebellious felony he committed against the source material was the use of a hip-hop/pop soundtrack against the backdrop of the Jazz Age, which I actually thought worked pretty well. The music was good–modern with a jazzy twist, laced with bits of recognizable 20s dance grooves–and fit in with the ridiculousness of the whole thing. My mom made an interesting argument for the anachronistic soundtrack: jazz music isn’t new to us. In the 1920s, everything was shining and glimmering and fast-paced and new, and jazz music characterized that, but, in today’s context, jazz music is, to some, kind of a relic. It isn’t exciting or scandalous to us. The music of the film fit in with the feeling of raw excitement, and made those crazy Gatsby parties seem even crazier.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Gatsby was certainly praiseworthy, with his pretentious “old sport”s and outward appearance of coolness broken by those moments of shaking nerves and bursting temper. Tobey Maguire was not particularly remarkable as Nick Carraway. My favorite performance came from Joel Edgerton’s rendering of Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s brutish, snobbish husband. He was really good.

There’s something to be said for a movie that can make you cry, no matter how or why. I got a little bit misty-eyed over the tragic end, yeah, but I found myself crying–I mean really, actually shedding tears–at the shirts scene. The part in the book where Gatsby brings Daisy to his opulent mansion is pretty sad, because you can see that he’s done all of this for a dream, an illusion of her. He has accumulated a mass of things and cultivated an attitude of respectability, always staring at that green light across the bay, in sight but out of reach. Naively, he believes that he can reclaim the past, if only he buys enough things. He’s a collector of things–things that he thinks will impress Daisy–and the thing he wants to collect most is Daisy herself, a sparkly thing who likes sparkly things. Daisy says, “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before.”

Now in that euphoric, post-movie rush, I can say that I definitely enjoyed the film. Did I love it? Nah. Did it leave a great impact? I really don’t think so. But it was an enjoyable watch, and exceeded the expectations I had that were born of a dislike for Luhrmann’s flashy, overwhelming style. I have to say that I thought that style worked here. You could argue that the film lacked depth, but I still enjoyed it, and don’t regret going to see it. I would argue that Luhrmann’s film does the novel justice more than the stiff 1974 adaptation with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Luhrmann’s Gatsby is marked by excess and perhaps self-indulgence, but, like I said, I didn’t particularly dislike it. Had I seen it in 3D, though, I think I would be throwing up right now. Don’t do it.

Crackling with excitement and summer heat, The Great Gatsby is dizzying, sometimes disorienting and tacky, and actually pretty humorous. You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting a love story (that’s not what this is and I hope you know that), and even more disappointed if you expect it to stand up to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. As a movie to venture out to see on the weekend, I liked it.

The film swirls to its dramatic close and concludes with some of my favorite lines from literature:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


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Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2

Uma Thurman as ‘The Bride’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill

Quentin Tarantino is always full of surprises, and when I watch his movies I never know what to expect, aside from a lot of blood and a great soundtrack. Kill Bill more than delivered on the blood factor, but also on the high quality factor I’ve come to expect from Tarantino. It’s a stylish revenge film that somehow manages to be a western, samurai film, and martial arts movie all at once.

Uma Thurman is the Bride, who is out for revenge after (almost) being murdered by her former lover (Bill, played by David Carradine) and his team of dangerous killers known as the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, to which the Bride used to belong. Determined to deliver justice to her would-be assassins after waking up from a four-year coma, the Bride works her way down a list of Deadly Vipers: O-ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and, of course… Bill.

Kill Bill is fast-paced, violent, and absorbing, with Tarantino’s typical super-cool, perfectly integrated soundtrack and quick, well-written dialogue. It’s a mind-bogglingly brilliant blend of genres that Tarantino–obviously a lover of film himself–pays homage to with perfect execution.

The O-Ren Ishii plotline is probably the most memorable of the series, ending in unrealistic but engrossing violence with a mix of classic elements borrowed from Asian film. Lucy Liu is fantastic in the role of the ruthless assassin/underground crime leader of Tokyo.

Although probably not my favorites of Tarantino’s movies, I immensely enjoyed both Kill Bill vol. 1 and Kill Bill vol. 2, and highly recommend them. I think the most accurate way for me to describe this is that they were fucking awesome.