Today I tossed seedless grapes; chopped Fuji apples; chicken thighs chopped, roasted and Kosher-salted; and chopped walnuts, together with mayo and honey. It's not quite Waldorf Salad, but it tasted pretty good--sourish Chilean grapes, honeyed mayonnaise, crisp apples, crunchy walnuts, meaty roast-chicken flavor. Was damned easy to make, too.
Tossed some chicken legs and thighs in a roasting pan along with potatoes, carrots, onions, and several cloves of garlic. Sprinkled everything with olive oil, kosher salt, cracked pepper. Stuck it in the oven for fifty minutes at 350 degrees, to broil. During the last ten minutes, twisted a couple of sprigs of rosemary and scattered em all over the pan.
Put the contents on a plate, set aside. Poured out most of the oil except about two tablespoonsful. Tossed in flour, mixed till it was smooth (more or less). Poured a fifth of white wine, chicken broth, flavored some more with kosher salt and cracked pepper.
End result was roasted rosemary chicken and vegetables, with gravy. Not too bad, and I only had the roasting pan to wash after.
But those are minor cavils, especially the ones about psychology--at least, they don't totally destroy enjoyment of the film per se. Quark, unlike say fellow Filipino filmmakers Erik Matti or Yam Laranas, know how to juggle his storyteling, to inject just enough style to make the film watchable, pay enough attention to the story so that it's not blatantly stupid, give enough emphasis to character and story so that your interest is sustained. He knows how to keep his balance, in other words.
It's fun; I think the best part is the musical number, which makes fun of and at the same time is an affectionate tribute to all those musical numbers in local commercial films (I think Quark's best humor comes from his knowledge of his social class and age group, and from his knowledge of local cinema).
I think the final final scene is fairly original (at least I don't remember anything exactly like it, if someone could tell me otherwise please do so), a sort of joke about what kind of film this really is.
Oh, and just to satisfy some people here...no, there's not a lot of profound social comment in this film. Some acid commentary, some satiric subtext of among others male models, untouchable politicians (or their sons), policemen, and the state of morality of the Filipino youth.
The film IS, however, a pretty accurate portrait of the state of mind of a certain kind of middle-class youth today, one that I'm sure the professors of a certain educatonal institution holds in utter contempt. Well, this is their movie, nor do I think they care about who would feel contempt for them. It's one more film to add to the diversity of Philippine cinema.
Finally saw Quark Henares' "Keka."
I can see where Quark borrows--basically, Truffaut's "The Bride Wore Black" with maybe a little of Brocka's "Angela Markado" (which takes off from Truffaut), some heavy influencing by Mike de Leon's "Batch '81" and, I'm guessing here, deadpan black-comedy tone via the Coen Brothers. I wouldn't know where "Kill Bill" comes in--I'd say Quark and Tarantino just mined parallel sources.
Nothing wrong with borrowing; as a matter of fact, Tarantino's bag is bigger and more varied. But there's borrowing extensively and there's making a film; one requires knowledge, the other talent. Tarantino's knowledge may be far bigger, but I'd give Quark, smaller budget and all, the credit for being the better talent, somewhat. He knows how to cut and frame his images, he knows how to put together his shots and make them flow. It's not just a style cobbled together by an expert cinematographer and a good editor; it's a look that's an extension of the filmmaker's sensibility. Well, I suppose Tarantino has an edge on scriptwriting--but I'd say that's an extension of his grab-bag knowledge.
But Quark's young--damned young. He'll grow, for sure.
Some flaws: the Bhong character feels more like a plot function, and his and Katya's conversations seem unbelievable, talking so breezily about murder and all; I thought it would have streamlined matters better if she went at it alone, and the relationship be mainly a triangle betwee murderer, cop, and intended victim.
Also, the psychology isn't deep; this isn't much of a character study of a young girl turned vengeful psychotic. The motive felt weak--Angela Markado had a far better reason for cracking up and killing (so did The Bride in "Kill Bill," come to think of it). There are some plot loopholes--the cop when he realizes the answer shouldn't have gone elsewhere to confirm his suspicions, he should have gone straight to the girl. I'd like the confrontation between girl and final victim to have been more physically inventive. (con't)
Anthony Minghella's "Cold Mountain"--well, I haven't been all over North Carolina, but seeing as Jude Law traipses over a good portion of it, you'd think I'd recognize some portion of the landscape (it was mostly filmed in Romania). I'd also had the impression that quite a few excellent actors are Carolinian--why cast a Brit and an Aussie for the lead roles?
Okay, okay, boxoffice appeal. You'd think if they wanted a little more boxoffice, they'd retool Kidman and Law's characters to be a little more uppity; they're such sodden wet blankets you're almost grateful for the appearance of Renee Zellweger (I never thought I'd ever get to say that) to liven things up (Philip Seymour Hoffman is here too, but he doesn't stick around for very long). And I object to any movie that considers the sexy Kathy Baker a mere matron--that's one terrific woman being wasted there.
Minghella's got too much good taste tho, so Jude Law doesn't get to use his best asset, his brash effrontery, and Nicole Kidman spends most of the film simpering and speaking in a breathy voice like a debutante (she doesn't even get sexually molested). Kidman I thought was excellent in "The Others," but there she had a terrific character to play--a woman with a cold facade that slowly cracks under hysteria--and she had Amenabar's wonderful style to prop her up.
Here I understand coming from Charleston she'd look sore-thumb beautiful, but after her father dies? During the worst of the war's privations? That's just star vanity speaking. Oh, and poor Ray Winstone's saddled with a one-note villain role.
A lot depends of course on whether you like the characters or not, I suppose. I did, and that was a big help to liking the film as a whole.
Forgot to add, Bloom's having to work--what, three years?--to win Sandra reminds me of the biblical Jacob and how he worked for years to win Rachel.
Tim Burton's "Big Fish" is wonderful fun. It makes full use of Burton's fantabulist storytelling, but yoked to characters and a storyline that carry more emotional heft than you'd expect from a Burton film.
I love it that Albert Finney's tall tales, at least the early ones, have a quasi-biblical take to them--the big fish is relative to Jonah's whale, McGregor vs. the giant recalls David vs. Goliath (and in fact McGregor tosses a rock at his chest), the snake swimming towards the beautiful blonde nude evokes Eden, the same snake turning into a stick reminds us of Moses' showman side.
Also love it that for such a fantastical film (it's what "Forrest Gump" aspires to, only without the sticky sentimentality) Burton takes it easy on the CGI effects--there are a few, but they're not done in a way that looks like your usual CGI, and thankfully, there are no roller-coaster POV shots, like the kind done to death in the Matrix and Star Wars sequels.
And Billy Crudup's feelings towards his father--it's the first time in a long time I've believed in this kind of relationship so strongly (even if son-reconciles-with-estranged-father is one of the oldest storylines in showbiz). I know how it feels like to realize you've been lied to for years, by someone you trusted and believed in. The sense of betrayal, the hate, is very palpable.
From a discussion group:
"if the Pope thought this film (Passion) is accurate, then it certainly parallels the Bible's account of what really happened to Jesus"
Well, we have to trust that the Pope's memory of the Bible is accurate. Then we have to assume Gibson stuck to the Bible, and didn't include those crazy visions of some medieval saint as some reports say.
Also, not everything in the Bible is historically accurate; a lot of it has allegorical and even political purposes. I mean--women were born from a rib? So we have to trust that Gibson stuck to the bible even when it deviates from historical accuracy.
"I wouldn't expect the Pope to claim that the Bible is inaccurate."
He won't, it's his bread and butter. Church dies if people stopped believing in the bible. It's in his interest to approve of this movie.
So I got this reaction:
Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" ends what may be the single most massive production in recent cinema, a $900-million, four-to-five-years-in-the-making, nine-hour-plus adaptation of the works of one shy Oxford don....
Obviously you did not make enough research. LOTR Trilogy's budget is not $900 Million!
FOTR - $93 Million budget + $50 Million marketing
TTT - $94 Million budget + $45 Million marketing
ROTK - $94 Million budget + $50 Million marketing
that's a total of $426+ Million, not $900 Million, you idiot!
By the way, I visit your yahoogroups movie reviews, mukhang hindi para sayo ang movies. Majority of those movies have negative reviews.
"LOTR Trilogy's budget is not $900 Million!"
I included the cost of KY Jelly.
One last thing about the terraces vs. the pyramids: The pyramids look old, dead, sterile; the terraces in rainy season are very much alive, blooming with green rice shoots and far more beautiful in their curvaceousness (they arc like the back of a woman lying down).
The pyramids are giant tombstones, monuments to a dead religion. The terraces are still being used, and sustain the descendants of their creators, and are the source of some of the best-tasting rice in the world.
Again, I've been there, I've tasted the rice--cooked and uncooked. Sprinkle rock salt on it and it qualifies as a meal. Has not needed a single bag of fertilizer for thousands of years. Last I heard about the pyramids, they're still gathering dust.
My god, you just have to see the manure pouring out of Hollywood to see their creative bankruptcy; the fact that they import filmmakers from France, Hong Kong, India; the fact that they do remakes, not just of old films but foreign films, comic books, children's cartoons and freaking bad '70s TV shows (did you know that the next big production is the Dukes of Hazzard?!).
Even Filipinos are not immune. Lino Brocka's classic Insiang was remade as an American TV movie, according to Tikoy Aguiluz.
We are NOT a second class culture. We are, however, poor salesmen, and take little pride in our culture. That's why it looks second class; because the packaging is poor.
Americans on the other hand are great salesmen, the greatest in the world; I give them that much, with Hollywood as their great propaganda arm. The quality of their product, though, leaves much to be desired. (con't)
"In fact, what I am trying to find is the scientific explanation as why Filipinos and other second class cultures remained underdeveloped"
We are a second class culture?!
"and that America and some western cultures flourished?"
Their GNP flourished; their military might flourished. Is the worth of a nation to be measured by its bank account and arsenal?
"Now if you are calling me as one with a colonial mentality, the closest that I can associate myself with them is my being creative, inventive like them."
Americans creative! Inventive! A hoot and a half! (con't)
"It's not I'm belittling the Banaue, but as far as I my knowledge, it didn't measure up to the quality to make it one of the eight wonders of the world."
It does. I've seen it, I've talked to people there about how it was constructed, and it's every bit a miracle as the pyramids. The difference--the only difference--is that it's not as well known, and not as well sold.
In other words, marketing.
"I have been watching the series of documentaries depicting the construction and precise science and mathematics employed by the pyramid builders, and it is incredulous."
Saw Bobby Flay eating at Peter Luger's in Brooklyn, finding out how they cook their steaks.
Begins with a square-foot slab of tenderloin about two inches thick, ringed and marbled with fat and dry-aged for an undisclosed period of time (I hear it's 21 days, and that they lose some 20% of their beef trimming the meat). This is salted, shoved in the griller where it roasts at 900 degrees for some minutes; then it's sliced, put on a large thick plate, melted butter is poured, the whole thing plate and all is shoved back in the griller for some more minutes, then served.
Wife overcooks like a dozen sourdough biscuits, so I broke em up in a bowl, poured in milk, heavy cream, molasses, raspberry jam, grape jelly, Dundee orange marmalade, raisins, pinch of salt, and half a squeezed lemon, let it soak overnight, poured them into a couple of molds and baked them for what's supposed to be 350 degrees for an hour.
Took more than an hour, the mix was so damned wet. Came out dark and I was sure it was charcoal, but I took a bite out of the crust and it's sweet and sticky. The inside was moist. Might not be officially bread pudding, but it'll pass for me.
From Chris Jarmick:
I agree with Chris, it's an intellectual film made to be enjoyed. Thrilling stuff like the man about to be run over by a train, funny stuff like the tiny cameraman setting up on top of the giant movie camera, mysterious, brooding stuff like the mining sequences.
My favorite are the poetic images: the window shutters opening several times, then Vertov blending them together in a series of dissolves so that they look like a flower blooming. Lovely.
(pls. read previous post)"Thurbers My Life and Hard Times and E. B. Whites Charlottes Web are two minor classics"
I'd agree on the minor part, and note that Charlotte's a mother figure who guides (is the pig's name Wilbur?) Wilbur to some knowledge about death and life. A woman with a crucial role in the story.
"Ive never reacted emotionally to any book (even if they were better) more than I did to To Kill a Mockingbird, which I first read when I just turned 15. In fact, I became a serious reader for the explicit purpose of recapturing that experience. Why is that a bogus or unworthy experience?"
I'd venture to say (it's your life, after all, I can't be putting words in your mouth) that it's your experience that's worthier than the actual stimulus that triggered that experience (I'm not a big fan of Mockingbird either). Like a cheap song can trigger a profound feeling of nostalgia, or regret, or some other emotion.
I can see LOTR inspiring that sort of reaction--but I'd insist on the difference between reaction and inspiration.
"For one thing, you get a much better basic education from LOTR than , say, Moby Dickin a way you can say Tolkien knew a lot about a lot more things to a degree similar to that which Melville knew about blubber."
I'd rather get my education with Melville. He knows darker secrets.
"To write as if, to be uninfluenced by, these personages, is quite a feat, I would think, whether it is one that just comes naturally or one that has to worked at. Thats part of what is so refreshing about him."
It would be refreshing if it had more flavor to it.
And still the debate continues:"any relating to women is not sufficient to make it sexual, unless, again, your definition is so broad as to be indiscriminatingly pointless"
I don't think I'm defining anything, just noting differences--Huck's interest in that one family's daughter is a sign of his budding sexuality, women play a prominent role in Huck Finn, where they are practically absent in Tolkien.
"That is part of his charm, what makes him unique, special. Why must you insist on viewing it as a negative. Many fairy tales and fables are like that."
And yet many fairy tales aren't. Many of the Brother Grimm's fairy tales have a dark sexuality to them.
"In a way its also sort of like the androgynous characters of Oscar Wilde"
On Wilde, I think his characters are sexual, only not necessarily heterosexual.
"only with Tolkein, its their asexuality. I would think that alone would make him pretty interesting."
It would make him interesting if he has an attitude about his sexuality--fear of it, like with Hitchcock, or total disdain for it, like Kubrick. It just doesn't exist in his works.
"Why are you so insistent on denigrating childs play?"
Not all child's play, mainly the ones that are epic in scope, and I think pretension.
Inarritu's "21 Grams" is basically "Amores Perros Goes To America"--multiple stories linked by a car accident, shot mostly in gritty verite style with a lot of handheld camera footage.
Seems to me that Inarritu, like Gaspar Noe, realized he didn't have much of a film if he didn't jumble up the timescheme (in Noe's case, the storyline's too thin; in Inarritu's case it's too absurd).
It's worth watching for more of Inarritu's signature style (which can get tired fast if you have low tolerance for this sort of thing; my limit just about covers this film and that's about it) and for the consistently terrific acting. Sean Penn I find better and far more understated than in Mystic River (I suppose it helps his character has a weak ticker); Benicio del Toro just blows Penn away without even much effort; and Naomi Watts pretty much holds the film (and my interest) together with her emotional (and literal) nakedness. Of the supporting roles, I thought Melissa Leo and Charlotte Gainsbourg were especially good (and hot).
Jim Sheridan's "In America" is more easily likeable--not so much because it's less violent or more uplifting, but because it has a linear story that is able to build and accumulate on what went on before (I thought "21 Gram's" time scheme too jumbled to build much of anything).
That said, a lot of it is pretty sticky and anything to do with Djimon Hounsou's artist giant dying of AIDS is just plain embarrassing. The opening sequence alone is problematic--the immigration officers sense something wrong, the father admits they lost a child, the officers feel sorry and let them go. That was when I knew the movie was going to be pure malarkey. Immigration officers never feel sorry. Well, maybe for white people.
So this is another one I was able to sit through mostly for the visual texture (which I liked better than Inarritu's--more confident, less gimmicky) and the performances. Morton I couldn't stand the crewcut, but she grows on you; Considine is a charmer. Sarah Bolger, yes she's terrific towards the end, but her statement "I carried this family since Frankie died" really threw me off--when did we see this happening? She just turned tragic and thoughtful just in time for the end. Sure there's the voiceover narration--but I've never liked them anyway, and especially not when they're meant to add "depth" and "meaning" to a movie.
Now I'm comparing Tolkien to Mark Twain!
Someone brought up the question of whether or not there's sex or women in Huckleberry Finn, and I replied:
Huck Finn was shaped greatly by the fact that he had no mother, but an abusive father; along the way he meets several well-drawn female characters, one who penetrates his disguise (and outlines the difference between the sexes, at least on the surface), and another who he is attracted to.
I remember some article mentioning that Huck was around fourteen but that to make him believable for a musical (Big River, I think it was) they had to make him ten. Actually, in his abused, debased state, and in the kind of society he lived, and the level of that society he occupied, he was probably ignorant of sex, except for the stirrings he had for the girl 'full of sand.'
Oh, and For Huck, women also stood for civilization and higher society. That's one reason he clears out again, because a woman aims to 'sivilise him.
But see, Twain sketched this out, and made us aware of the lack or the need or avoidance of the role of women in our lives. With Tolkien, women are nothing, almost irrelevant. Oh, they're given dregs of roles--if you peek hard enough at the corner, you'll spot Eowyn (Jackson pumped up her role some), and in the glossary I think you'll read about Arwen's doomed romance with Aragorn (pumped up again), and Galadriel has one spotlight cameo, but it's significant I think how isolated she is in her little forest kingdom.
Also significant I think is the story that when Cate Blanchett who plays Galadriel came to do her scenes, she glided in and out, and hardly had anything to do with the manly 'fellowship' of Elijah Wood, Astin, Mortenson, and company.
Which makes the LOTR books feel more--well, child's play. Maybe not children, the maps are a bore to kids, but adolescents who aren't too interested in girls yet. The impression I get of the books is of something you can read and enjoy in high school and maybe even up to college, but forget in your later life where you move on to better things.
"For you, I have developed a PIKON (Loosely, short fused) Theory"
Tsk. Actually, I'm enjoying myself. Sometimes I desist because I feel guilty I'm enjoying myself so much.
"people react with loath to criticisms that zeroes in on ones own intimate defective reality. I'd label them as contagions."
"What is reprehensible about attempting to identify and open for discussion Filipinos frailties as an ethnic? It is said that when truth is spoken, it hurts? Prove me wrong."
Y'know, my only reply to this is this: that one of the most reprehensible traits of Filipinos is the tendency to sit above the fray and thumb their noses at everyone down below. What I find grotesquely funny is that some of them can't even find their noses with their thumbs.
Thank you veddy much for the night's amusement!
"A wise person, to me, is someone who views a situation in panorama. Regardless how unsightly, unpleasant, displeasing something might seem, there is a chance that a kernel of knowledge or truth can serve an eye opener to a blinded purview. Evidently, you lack such a trait evident in your reasoning ability."
Do I have to exert the necessary effort untangling your discombobulated grammar to unearth some unpleasant truths--if there are any? That's too much effort.
"Learn to articulate yourself."
The pot calling the kettle burnt! You did say you studied at an International School, did you? What did they teach you--pidgin?
(con't in next post)
Oh, he's an action filmmaker all right, pretty good one. I'd call his The Terminator the best Dick adaptation I've ever seen (sorry Harlan), all the more ironic considering Dick isn't even mentioned, and easily his best work. Aliens was fun, and I like the mother vs. mother subtext (not subtle, but effective).
His succeeding stuff had topnotch action sequences in them, but a gigantism and loutishness began to infect his films...misogyny in True Lies, a head scratching ending in The Abyss, a rather repulsive moral hypocrisy in T2 ("this extremely violent popcorn movie is anti-violence"). Then there's Titanic, which is two hours of the Love Boat in the Edwardian era that you have to slog through before you get to the sinking. Better to have cast DiCaprio as the bo'sun and film it as the story of an overconfident crew shown the error of its ways.
MEM: "So Noel Vera that makes LOTR your No. 6 Fantasy movie"
Maybe No. 60, maybe no. 600. I haven't thought about it, and there are a lot of great fantasies out there. Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro, Takahata's Pom Poko, Max Fleischer's Popeye cartoons, ang dami.
"So you admit that LOTR > HP?"
Oh yeah. But I'm not sure about the third one. Baka Cuaron can make a difference.
"Now if you contest all religions are fantasies, then you are in danger."
All religions are fantasies.
monsterboy: "are you saying that, a director should follow his own interpretation, disregarding "displeasing the fans" would score more credit to you in a book-to-film translation? "
Score more with me and maybe a few others and its own integrity.
Take something like The Godfather. Coppola took a potboiler (tho very excitingly and colorfully written) and made a family epic out of it. The elements where in the book, but it's Coppola's choice to emphasize the relationships, the weddings, the meals, the talking of brother to brother, brother to sister, father to son, husband to wife. And because Coppola is Italian-American, he knew how to get the feeling of being in a large Italian-American family right. It's a flavor that he captured better than any American filmmaker I know.
A subtle reinterpretation and a way of making a personal statement that improves on the lurid original--and all without being afraid of the books' fans (Godfather was a monster bestseller). That's art.
"I do like big battle scenes, and Jackson presented his in a manner which made them intelligible"
The big picture yeah, but when he got on the ground and came in close, all coherence was lost. He's not quite a good action director. A visionary, sure, in this case and in my opinion misguided and overrespectful, but not very good on action.
"I thought the Battle of Helm's Deep in "Two Towers" was handled exceptionally well in terms of cutting from individual action to mass scenes and back while keeping viewers aware of the status of the engagement."
The big shots were fine. The up close, yuck.
Check out, oh any samurai film of Kurosawa or Welles' Chimes of Midnight for great editing re: close combat; heck, check any recent Hong Kong filmmaker, from Tsui Hark to John Woo to Ringo Lam; their editing is crystal clear, no matter how chaotic it may look at first glance. Jackson doesn't even reach the level of Ronnie Yu."if I see Woo's doves or diving-to-the-side-in-slomo-while-firing-two-guns-slightly-sideways again, I'll scream"
Ever seen his Hong Kong work? I thought The Killer was silly, but Hard Boiled? Bullet in the Head? How about Lam's Full Contact, or Hark's Once Upon a Time in China series (the first three, anyway)?
I agree, doves and two-fisted shooting are silly, but look at the editing. There's a huge difference between their editing and Jackson's. David Bordwell wrote an excellent book on the Hong Kong action style called Planet Hong Kong, shows where Hong Kong does it beautifully while Hollywood mostly misses the boat.
Some reactions re: Tolkien fans:"You don't have to be a Tolkein groupie, or think they rank with War and Peace or the Iliad and the Odyssey, or Ulysses, to appreciate that they represent nevertheless quite an accomlishment"
That's not too bad an assesment, tho I'm one of those who are less than enthusiastic about the books. It's just that, well, I've visited the discussion groups at www.tolkienonline.com, and they do just that--claim Tolkien is the equal of Shakespeare, and Wagner and whatnot. It's the kind of blind idolatry that turns my stomach, you betcha.
"the over reaction to that on that basis says something about the standards and abilities of those who confuse a psychological turn-off with meritorious literary criticism "
Heck, Ted, if my stomach DIDN'T turn I'd trade it in for another (and it's not the delicate type--you know what I like to eat).
I've reasoned on my dislike for Tolkien, book and films, elsewhere, in a more reasonable manner. I'm just commenting on a certain species of fanaticism--specially one that seems to lose all sense of perspective.
Tonya mentions fans of American Pie, and good for em, more power, but I doubt if they confused the merits of Pie with, say, Shakespeare.
"I also understand some people just don't like certain genres of film"
I love fantasy. Fantasy films I far prefer to LOTR include: Excalibur, Last Temptation of Christ, Faust, Wizard of Oz, The Adventures of Prince Achmed. And that's the short list.
"So, why put yourself through watching a movie from that genre"
You were hoping it would be good? Or the succeeding ones better?
"and then harrass each person that enjoys it?"
I'm expressing my opinion (and enjoying it); wasn't aware that I was harassing anyone. If anything, I've been harassed by Tolkien fanatics.
"It seems there is a trend to hate something that is popular because it is so much cooler to hate something than to like it"
There's also a trend--I don't think you're part of it, most everyone on this thread seems reasonable enough--to defend LOTR against all and every criticism or contrary viewpoint, come hell or high water. I've seen it, it ain't a pretty sight.
Peter Pan's not too bad. At first I was put off by the slapstick pace of the actors in the London sequences, the Home Alone-style pratfalls (one of the kids flipped by the St. Bernard into his bath) and all the CGI flying. The Lost Boys are recognizably kids without (as Spielberg so horrifyingly did) being updated and politically corrected for the 21st century, the eroticism between Pan and Wendy is nicely played up (okay, it's practically pubescent smut), and were some interesting enough extrapolations (Hook learning to fly, Jason Isaacs playing both father and Hook etc.) that I was won over (it helps that my favorite hijinks--Pan imitating Hook's voice, for one--were actually taken from the book). Tho it was an effort. Oh, did I meniton that the kids were mostly terrific? That Isaacs is dashed good? That Olivia Williams is about the loveliest Mrs. Darling I've ever seen?
What a piece of shit The Last Samurai is. Cruise doesn't even begin to convince as a broken-down Civil War soldier haunted by his memories of Indian massacres (at most he looks like he has a serious migraine). He goes to Japan and essentially goes through the same "callow man attains wisdom and maturity" journey he's been doing his entire career, from Risky Business thru Jerry Maguire to here. The Japanese are pictured with such nobility they're embarrassing--even Kurosawa never made them look this good. Koyuki as Taka, the wife of the samurai Cruise kills (almost by accident) is either a lousy actress or badly directed because she insults the memory of her husband by looking like she's halfway in love with Cruise the moment he's carried into her house (no sex, but there's a scene where she dresses Cruise in her husband's suit of armor that's almost as good; the man must be spinning in his grave).
Ken Watanabe acts circles around Cruise with his doe eyes which either glitter like hard diamonds or with a deft mood flip turn meltingly soft and soulful. Tony Goldwyn as usual is effectively despicable (and totally wasted) as the merceneary Col. Bagley. The movie's an insult to the Japanese culture it grossly misrepresents, to the many Japanese films it copies from (badly), and to the Meiji government, which may have been hard on samurai but was a boon to the ordinary Japanese (there's a reason why they outlawed swords on the streets--it was to help stop the practice of cutting down innocent bystanders who happen to look at samurai the wrong way). Call it "Jerry Maguire Dances with Wolves in Japan."
Also saw Potter's "Mesmer" and I don't remember who said it where, but this doesn't have a very high reputation. I understand--as someone at imdb.com put it, Mesmer doesn't cure anyone, doesn't have any lasting successes, convinces no one of his powers. Potter gives Mesmer his full anti-glamour treatment, and the film (by Roger Spottiswoode, who I think is pretty good, but not at this sort of thing) is stubbornly dark and grim.
Still, I do think something does shine through--the argument made that imagination and the mind have as much effect on the body as mere drugs might be something Potter would champion (and probably is the reason he was interested enough in the character to do this script), and the relationship between Alan Rickman's Mesmer and a blind girl is, when all is said and done, touching in its fragility. I wouldn't know how accurate this is about Mesmer's real life, but it's indubitably a work of Potter's.
Saw Dennis Potter's "Brimstone and Treacle," and it's interesting enough, with Potter giving full voice to the bitterness and despair of Denholm Eliot and Joan Plowright's elderly couple. Sting feels like a plot function, tho he acts lively enough. 'Sokay, but I can't help but feel Guare gave this a fuller treatment in his Six Degrees of Separation (both play and film).
Saw The Animatrix. It's okay, holds up better than the Matrix sequels. Shinichiro Watanabe's work is classy, but the one that stood out was "Beyond," where some kids find what they call a "haunted" house and delight in the strange things they find inside. It's an oblique look at this Matrix thing that's both quiet and somehow charming, mainly because we see things through the children's enchanted eyes.
Actually, I'd go as far as saying that "Beyond" is the best and only affecting thing to come out of this Matrix shebang, period.
This was in response to a post in pinoyexchange:
Q: "Reasons why we read a book several times: 1. We love the book. 2. We didn't understand it the first time or the second time or the third time we read it. 3. We know we'll get disillusioned by it afterwards?"
My reply: I used to love the book. Read it two, maybe three times. I reread books sometimes, especially if I like it. Then my tastes changed, and when I dipped into the book again, I couldn't stand it.
What's the big deal?
Q: "And if the book sucked, or if you got disillusioned by it, after reading it several times, then why bother watching the film based on the same book that sucked?"
A: Because I believed in Peter Jackson. I liked his Bad Taste, I liked Dead Alive, I loved Heavenly Creatures. I thought: if anyone can get poetry out of CGI (which I admitted might be the only way LOTR would ever get to be made), then he's the one to do it (on the basis of Heavenly). If anyone had the balls and effrontery to do LOTR HIS way, with maybe more sex and maybe a better understanding of evil, it would be the Jackson of both Bad Taste and Heavenly Creatures.
Only he made three films of essentially good taste (as Godard said, the enemy of art), and veddy veddy respectful. I'm disappointed, and it's taken three years to finally realize the extent of my disappointment. So can you understand if my, uh, disappointment is almost as epic as the films themselves?
Start with two and a half to three cups chicken broth, bring to a boil; stir in grits (stone-ground, not store-bought), and let simmer (stirring often) for twenty minutes.
In the meantime, saute a small onion, chopped, and a pound of Italian sausage (I prefer spicy, but use mild if you like), chopped, in two tablespoons olive oil until well browned. Add a tablespoon of flour, stir until it forms a roue, then add a cupful of chicken broth.
By this time grits should be ready. Pour in half a cup of heavy cream, top with a couple of grinds of fresh pepper, set aside.
When the sauteed sausage and sauce is bubbling, toss in a pound of shrimp--tiger shrimp would do very nicely--stir until shrimp turns pink. Toss in a whole green onion, chopped thin, and two tablespoons chopped parsley. Pour over grits, and serve. Should feed four.
Some nice variations: I took the shrimp shells, and boiled them in the broth I used to make the grits; that made them tres flavorful. Also, I've used cilantro instead of parsley, and sometimes even basil, which adds an intriguing scent that goes well with the shrimp.
Grits is mainly ground corn; it doesn't taste like much, so the addition of fried sausage and shrimp, chicken broth and onions bulbous and green, does make for a flavorful meal. Stone-ground is much preferred, incidentally, for retaining their nutritive value (the nutrition in store-bought is washed out by lye), and for having the sweet flavor of corn .