…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “1993

Short Take: Hello, Diana.

I love him and all, but it’s strange that out of the main cast of Indecent Proposal, it’s Woody Harrelson who’s more famous. Well, not really, as Demi Moore is making headlines with her nervous breakdown and Robert Redford has Sundance. The proper phrase for Harrelson might be the one getting the most acting work. To whichever number of you who don’t know, Indecent Proposal‘s conceit is that Redford’s character has to pay a million dollars to bed someone, Diana Murphy (Moore) who leaves him for anybody else, that being her husband David (Harrelson). I wonder what younger generations will think of this already dated movie. If they’ll buy the sex symbol status that I’m old enough to have gotten from him unlike say, Warren Beatty who I never got until I saw Splendor in the Grass.

I saw the ending before watching the movie and as with every movie where I’ve done that, the last scenes are mostly a deal breaker for me. David gives an architecture lecture that reflects his life. Although despite the score and director Adrian Lyne’s many tendencies, it’s sentimental but not as I previously thought. Long process of healing, etc. Supporting cast include Oliver Platt and Billy Connolly, the latter playing himself in a situations when he’s probably been.

Jurassic Park

ph. Universal

I saw Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park for the second time as part of the Toronto Underground Cinema’s first anniversary celebration last Sunday. They celebrated by showing the first twenty minutes about a documentary about their cinema, which featured my ass. That day was also James Mason’s birthday. This is important because Sam Neill looks like James Mason.

Above is Sam Neill with the tail of a CGI dinosaur. Half of the dinosaurs in this movie are real, the rest, excluding the first Brontosaurus, only look real. Correct me, but 90’s was one of those eras where if you wanted a dinosaur, a monster or a natural disaster on-screen, you had to make it and not draw it.

Dennis (Wayne Knight) has a snake-life face. He is hateful and is frustrated by Dr. John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) condescendingly low wages. Even if the latter pushes his employees, his intentions are good. He shuts down all the security systems and runs away from the fortress-like abbey Jurassic Park laboratories to smuggle some priceless Jurassic DNA out of the island, angering Hammond who knows nothing about Dennis’ foul scheme. Dennis runs through the poisonous forests, wearing an alluring yellow raincoat, gasping at any animal he might cross. Dennis tries to return to the fortress, only to be eaten by a dinosaur.

Iron Monkey on morals and men

Iron Monkey has a pace that I’m not used to. It’s a story about the titular Iron Monkey (Rongguang Yu) whom a 19th century municipal Chinese government is pursuing because he’s stealing from them and giving the money to the refugees. It moves from drama to fight scenes to slapstick to ridiculous sadism to showing beautiful Chinese architecture all within the same scene. Some of Iron Monkey’s fight scenes have comic interludes on them, throwing rocks at those who deserve it or kicks and stands on them as if slapping or disciplining them. And if this martial arts movie looks like it has enough on its plate, there’s romantic tension and foodie moments in there too.

ph. Miramax

It isn’t until half an hour into the movie when I realize the film’s moral ambiguities. Wong Kei-Ying, (Donnie Yen) a man trying to arrest the Iron Monkey, is trying to buy food only to be turned away repeatedly. A vendor who sells him food in the hush-hush gets stuff thrown at him. Yes, Wong is more fleshed out as a character than the vendors, but it’s not that either’s fully in the wrong. The vendors snub Wong out of loyalty to the mysterious Iron Monkey, who brings them gold and defends them. Wong has to capture the Iron Monkey to get his son back from the government and believes the latter doesn’t help the situation and actually brings animosity between the government and the people. Then everything clicks. The film’s portrayal of early 19th century China is a country where children enslave each other. Iron Monkey, hiding as Dr. Yang, also contemplates surrendering to the police to save the boy even if his time in the dungeons mean that the refugees won’t be protected.  These characters, testing our sympathies actually make the film richer.

The film also has an interesting spin on masculinity as both male characters, adversaries and eventual friends as they are, are capable fighting machines who also know how to cook. Dr. Yang, and Wong also have a sense of community with the things I already mentioned. Not to mention that both fight for and against female characters too. This film of great fights, both internal and physical, end in a bigger fight involving bamboo poles and fires that’s both ridiculously lengthy and elegantly choreographed.

The Toronto Underground Cinema is playing this film tonight. They’ve managed to get a print with the original Chinese audio, even if , apparently, the subtitles are inaccurate.


ph. DVDBeaver

Two scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s swan song Madadayo say it all, and in a way the latter scene repeats the same message as the former. The first scene of the film shows the Sensei, a German professor, appearing behind a blue door and entering a classroom. He stands in a platform most Westernized classrooms are equipped with. He announces his retirement from teaching. The whole class tells him that he will always be their Sensei, stands to show their allegiance to him. He pulls a handkerchief and dries his tears.

The second scene is Sensei’s first Madadayo banquet, in a German beer hall, a party held with the constraints of postwar finances. He drinks a glass of beer as big as his arms. His former students perform some curious, culturally esoteric ritual where they ask him if he’s ready – to die – and his frail old voice confidently bellows, “Madadayo,” meaning not yet.

Both scenes show the Sensei towering over his students, then seamlessly make him short and meek and humble within five minutes or less. He’s a great man, raised by his status, but he’s human and relatable. Kurosawa’s always shown masculinity as a contest but he refreshingly shows manliness as gentle and civilized. There’s still the war context and the Westernization of Japan. None of the men in the movie are shown literally fighting, but the Sensei is defiant and has successfully taught that defiance to his students.

Also, it’s a story about a man and his cat, if you’re willing to endure something like that. As a character study, it’s difficult for Madadayo to become a great film. His students repeatedly call him “a lump of gold without impurities,” which may be applied to this film. It’s no bracelet, but you’d be a fool to dismiss its beauty.