Tag Archives: cinema

Would You Wear the Green Sash?

Envision yourself on a quest where you must arrive at a specific location by Christmas and follow through with a promise you made the previous year.  If you keep your word, you will lose your head…literally.  A woman offers you a green sash (or is it more of a large ribbon? belt?) that as long as you keep it tied around your body, you will never die (or at least never be mortally wounded).  Do you accept?

Of course you accept…and to wonder anything more would be to venture into spoiler territory, which I shan’t do.

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Since the start of the year, I’ve only vaguely kept up with what movies would be playing in theatres in my city.  I still have not been to a movie theatre since I watched Tenet a year ago.  Among other films, I skipped The Green Knight (David Lowery, 2021) when it came to town.  As the months went by, I was no longer sure I would see it at all…and then it came out on DVD.

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Passively waiting until it was available on DVD was the right choice in the end.  I got to enjoy the subtitles and a few making-of featurettes, which really contributed to my positive regard for the film.  In one evening, I viewed the film nearly twice from start to to finish with a few repeat-watches of specific segments.  I wasn’t expecting to see a fox companion…that eventually talked [somewhat like the one from Lars von Trier‘s Antichrist (2007) but minus the ridiculous delivery].

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Not long after Gawain (Dev Patel) encounters the fox, he sees giant entities traversing across the landscape before him.  On the one hand, it shifts abruptly the viewer’s perception of the time-and-place and even genre of the film, but on the other hand, Gawain did just unknowingly eat some fungus that isn’t meant for dietary consumption.

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I really like The Green Knight and I don’t know why.  Perhaps it is due to the film’s fairy-tale tone and story.

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In sports headlines, the Atlanta Braves may bring competitive glory to this here city once again (in general but also for themselves and longtime Braves fans).  I remember the 90s Braves and watching them win the World Series in 1995 against Cleveland on TV.

This moment…the pile-up at the end:

Now that I think back on the last decade before the turn of the 21st century, there was a period of time when I watched a lot of televised baseball and so many of the games were of the Braves.  Why?  Now that decades have passed, I realize fully that it was because of Fred McGriff (who played first base) and Javier Lopez (the catcher).

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While we’re at this juncture in the corner of reminiscence, check out these videos:

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Et plus, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Miami Dolphins 30 to 28 (via 3 touchdowns and 3 field goals).  Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Pic creds: IMDB

Four Years after Train to Busan

I finally got the chance to see Train to Busan: Peninsula (Yeon Sang-ho, 2020) the sequel to 2016’s Train to Busan (also by Yeon).

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The main two reasons I watched the first film were Ahn Sohee and that the VP of my department at work recommended it.  I loved it.

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Yes, that Sohee from the Wonder Girls.

Did a few of the characters frustrate me?  Yes.
Did I think some poor decisions were made?  Yes.

But, the audience has the luxury of knowing that the characters are in a zombie movie; the people in the movie do not.  By the time the bulk of the action in the sequel happens, though, the people know there’s a highly infectious disease that has led to the Korean peninsula being quarantined.  Four years have passed and it took one day for the government of South Korea to fall.  The story world has no neighboring countries taking in any more refugees.  Weirdly alternate reality vis-a-vis what has actually occurred across the planet this year.

The main character is played by Kang Dong-won, who reminded me a lot of Cantonese actor-singer Daniel Chan.  They don’t look that much alike, but I kept thinking, “Daniel Chan!”

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OG Kpop singer Lee Jung-hyun is also in Train to Busan: Peninsula and I didn’t recognize her until halfway through the movie!
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I like the first Train to Busan more but the second one was so tense in some car chase scenes I had to fast-forward.  Overall a fun time, but I’m not sure when I’m going to watch it again.

Let’s all sit back and enjoy some LJH tunes, shall we?

Her debut song “Wa”:

Dara Dara:

Ari Ari:

Lee Jung-hyun came onto the Kpop scene when techno was very popular.  As evidenced in her music videos, she incorporates a variety of visual and multi-cultural elements into her album concepts.

Pic creds: IMDB, YouTube screengrab

A Peculiar thing about Barton Fink

Writer and scholar Colin Dickey‘s book Ghostland tackles the historical and cultural implications of haunted places in the United States.  From houses to hotels, public spaces to cities, Dickey discusses the many ways that places retain energy memories of the past.  The chapter entitled “Passing Through” is devoted to Los Angeles, California and includes an astute observation about the film Barton Fink [Joel Coen (and an uncredited Ethan Coen), 1991].  Dickey suggests that “one of the strange beauties about [the film] is how [it] eschews standard cinematic practice and avoids establishing shots: we’re brought immediately into interior scenes without a sense of what the buildings look like.  And so we see the Hotel Earle’s lobby, its elevator, its corridors, and its rooms, but never its exterior” (140).  As soon I read those words, I had to find out if it was true.  So, I put the DVD on and watched it, making the total number of times I’ve seen this movie to be approximately five (outside of any schooling purposes).

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Below are the notes I took while watching Barton Fink; there are spoilers ahead, so I highly recommend you proceed only if you’ve seen the film (or aren’t bothered by spoilers):
~ The film opens with a medium shot of wallpaper; the camera zooms in as several cast members’ names, the film title, and then “New York CIty, 1941” appear on screen.  Camera cuts to the pulleys of the backstage area of a playhouse.
~ Next scene: a restaurant, no exterior.  The camera is from Barton Fink’s POV.
~ Transition scene: a giant rock on a beach with an ocean wave crashing against it (from the ocean toward the beach).
~ Next scene: camera is deep in the lobby and Barton Fink (John Turturro) is just inside the doors.  No exterior!  I never noticed that before!
~ The stationery of The Hotel Earle has the tagline: A day or a lifetime.  How fitting, especially considering Dickey pointed out the exchange that the front desk clerk (Steve Buscemi) has with Fink about being a transient or a resident (140, 141).

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~ The picture of the girl on the beach on the wall of Fink’s room is as “outside” as the film has gotten so far.

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~ Next scene: Capitol Pictures film studio, no exterior, instead it’s studio head Mr. Lipnick’s (Michael Lerner) office and the camera is already inside.
~ Camera cuts from the office door closing to the hotel hallway.  Bam. No exterior.
~ 1st John Goodman scene.
~ Next scene: inside the reception area of Ben Geisler’s (Tony Shaloub) office.
~ Next scene: restaurant, just inside the door.  Omgerds, no exterior!  Since it’s a Coen Brothers film, it’s got to be a deliberate artistic, thematic choice, but part of me wonders if it wasn’t just easier logistically to film without exterior establishing shots.
~ Next scene: bathroom at the restaurant with WP Mayhew’s (John Mahoney) first appearance.
~ Next scene: outside Mayhew’s office!  We see Barton walking a ways down an outside walkway towards the camera.

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~ Next scene: Barton’s room, replasting wallpaper.  John Goodman demonstrates a wrestling move.
~ Next scene: outside lunch with Mayhew and Audrey (Judy Davis)!

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~ Next scene: Barton’s room, John Goodman and shoes.
~ Next scene: match on action cut with typewriter keys to Ben Geisler’s office reception area, and then cut to inside his office.
~ Next scene: on set of a wrestling picture, which turns out to be footage from the dailies that Barton is watching in a screening room.
~ Next scene: camera zooms in for a slight high-angle close-up of a typewriter in Barton’s room; he calls Audrey.
~ Next scene: Audrey pays Barton a visit.
~ Bathroom sink transition back to Barton’s bed; Audrey is in bed and she’s dead.
~ Some hallway footage, back to Barton’s room.  John Goodman pukes in the toilet, Barton sits in the bathroom.
~ Next scene: backyard of Lipnick’s house.  There’s a pool.

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~ Next scene: Barton’s room.  John Goodman gives Barton a box for safekeeping.
~ Hallway transition back to Barton’s room; he’s reading the Bible.
~ Next scene: hotel elevator–> lobby, front desk, two detectives from the LAPD talk to Barton.
~ Next scene: Barton’s room — what’s in the box?
~ Hallway transition back to Barton on a roll typing at the typewriter.  He makes a phone call.
~ Next scene: USO dance hall where Barton is dancing. No exterior!
~ Trumpet transition to the hotel hallway.
~ Next scene: Barton’s room.  The two detectives show a news clipping that Mayhew is dead.  Camera cuts to the hallway and the elevator is on fire.  The detectives go into the hallway, John Goodman comes out of the elevator.  Fire is at the end of the hallway.  He takes a shotgun and shoots one of the detectives and comes running down the hallway (towards the camera).  Fire follows him along the walls.
~ Next scene: Barton’s room.  John Goodman bends the bars at the foot of the bed so Barton can slip out of his handcuffs and then goes back to his room.  Barton takes the box and his manuscript and leaves the room.
~ Next scene: Reception area of studio; he calls home.
~ Next scene: Lipnick’s office.
~ Next scene: that rock on the beach from near the beginning of the film.  Barton walks down the beach with the box.  He sits down and sees a woman walking.  She sits down in the same position as the woman in the postcard on the wall.  A bird falls from the sky into the ocean.

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There’s only one scene that begins with something resembling an exterior establishing shot: when Barton walks down the outside walkway to Mayhew’s office.  And why do we see it?  Because Barton never goes inside?  Where are the other scenes with any outside time?  When he has lunch with Mayhew and Audrey, the poolside backyard of Lipnick’s house, and the last scene at the beach.  Barton doesn’t go inside Lipnick’s house either.

Had I not come across Ghostland, had Colin Dickey not pointed out the lack of exterior establishing shots, specifically of the hotel, I would never have noticed myself.  Now I understand a bit more why I’ve always found Barton Fink to be unsettling.

Curioser and curioser.

A shout-out to Caitlin Doughty‘s book From Here to Eternity for introducing me to Dickey’s book Ghostland.

You can find clips from Barton Fink here.

Pic creds: IMDB, Penguin Random House, dvdcover.com

Film Phonics: The Column I wrote for Film Threat

Once upon a time, in the mid-2000s, a couple years after I started writing for FilmThreat.com, I wrote a column for them called “Film Phonics” that lasted for twenty-two weeks.  The idea behind it was that the word that got the most votes in a weekly poll would determine what movie I would watch and review —  the film I’d choose had to have the winning word in its title.  It gave me the opportunity to watch films that I’d been indifferent to, had only seen in pieces on TV, didn’t know existed, as well as those that I’d seen before and wanted to watch again.

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My weekly Blockbustering wasn’t just for pleasure, it was also for this column.  FilmThreat.com had gone through host/provider changes over the years that I had written for them and I’d assumed that there’d be mostly if not all dead links, so I was uber-pleasantly surprised to see that all of my Film Phonics articles are still there (some of the formatting is a bit odd).

I wrote about the following:
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You can read them here:
Deuces Wild for Week One
Personal Velocity for Week Two
Minority Report for Week Three
Playing by Heart for Week Four
Layer Cake for Week Five
Hamburger Hill for Week Six
Sex, Lies, and Videotape for Week Seven
Color Me Blood Red for Week Eight
EM Embalming for Week Nine
Two Weeks Notice for Week Ten
Shag for Week Eleven
Better Luck Tomorrow for Week Twelve
China Dragon for Week Thirteen
Possession and Onegin for Week Fourteen
The Hi-Line for Week Fifteen
Brokedown Palace for Week Sixteen
Butterfield 8 for Week Seventeen
The Night Porter for Week Eighteen
Enemy at the Gates for Week Nineteen
Killer Nun for Week Twenty
The Taste of Others for Week Twenty-One
A Nightmare on Elm Street for Week Twenty-Two

I’m putting a screenshot of my Killer Nun entry below because it’s one of my favorite reads.  Since I started blogging again regularly, I’ve rekindled the joy and satisfaction I get from analyzing film and other media texts.  After going through these Film Phonics musings, I want to excavate that part of my enthusiasm again.

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Pic creds: dvd-covers.org, Amazon, Best Buy

Ethan Hawke through the Decades

…of his acting career.

Happy Birthday, Ethan Hawke.  He has been alive for half a century.

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After looking through his filmography in making the above collages, I’ve learned that Ethan Hawke has been in a sports film, The Phenom (Noah Buschel, 2016), where he plays a rookie baseball player’s intense dad.  I’ve also noticed that he’s got facial hair of some kind in most of his films.  The Before Trilogy is what comes to mind whenever I hear his name.

I’d love to see him in a dark comedy revenge film where he plays a bartender who loses his ability to talk due to physical trauma sustained after a horrendous motorcycle accident.  Having a difficult time adjusting to being unable to speak to the transient crowds after returning to work, he quits and gets a similar gig at a boutique hotel for the hearing and visually impaired.  He befriends a few of his new coworkers, who help him track down the hit-and-run driver from his accident.

It will be funny, there will be blood loss, very good foley effects, and smartly done brand awareness for drinks and motorcycles.  The writing would have to be superb.