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Bangkok Knockout

Directed by Panna Rittikrai, the fight choreographer for Ong Bak. This trailer makes me want to run out and punch someone right now.

Inception thoughts (and spoilers)

Non-spoiling thoughts: The movie pitch version is that Inception is Memento meets The Matrix meets Synecdoche, New York. It’s terrifically ambitious for a summer action blockbuster, and has more than a few inventive tricks up its sleeve. At the same time, there are some extremely frustrating gaps in story and motivation, and you have to look at Leonardo DiCaprio’s furrowed brow a lot. With all of its flaws, I’d recommend it to pretty much anybody.

Many, many spoilers below, after the rotating-gravity fistfight.

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Winter's Bone

I saw Winter’s Bone over the weekend and can’t recommend it enough. This film has been critically praised since its Sundance debut, and in my opinion it isn’t just hype: I can’t think of a single way this film could’ve been better. It’s scary and gritty and heartfelt all at the same time.

The story focuses on Ree, the 17-year-old caretaker of her family, looking for her father so the law won’t repossess their home. As she searches, the film gently but thoroughly fleshes out her small world in the Missouri Ozarks. The story ping-pongs from a local high school, to the quiet forest behind her house, to a crowded, booming livestock auction, and you get a sense of the community she lives in. You might get the same sense of place from a slower verite story, or a documentary, but here it’s used expertly as a backdrop for a harrowing noir tale full of dangerous secrets and violent standoffs.

I think that’s why a film like this, made by educated urbanites for educated urbanites, doesn’t come off as condescending to this way of life. (Or at least that’s how it felt to me; I wonder how poor white folks would feel about it.) Winter’s Bone shows a world full of violence and poverty, but there is still neighborly compassion and the harsh beauty of the landscape. Over the course of the film you see Ree shine as a tough, compassionate heroine, but perhaps just as importantly, you start to understand why somebody so strong would choose to stay in the Ozarks, close to the land and the people that she knows. This is pretty much a perfect film.

Because American moviegoers don't like subtitles. Or being reminded that other countries exist.

It’s probably unfair to judge a movie unseen by its trailer, but I’m not always a fair person. The Hollywood remake of Let the Right One In looks pretty ham-handed to me:

I’m now trying to think of a Hollywood remake that actually improved on the original, but not coming up with much. It doesn’t seem completely impossible, though.

Wu-Tang Vs The Golden Phoenix

Somewhere in the future, there is a midnight screening with my name on it:

Who Killed Bambi

I had no idea this was ever a thing, but the world is poorer for the fact that it never happened: A movie starring the Sex Pistols, directed by Russ Meyer, co-written by Roger Ebert.

For dinner, I suggested Beauchamp Place, then not as trendy as now, a street not far from Harrods’s that was chockablock with restaurants. In the black cab [Russ] Meyer informed [Johnny] Rotten: “You look like you haven’t eaten in a week.”

“That fucker [Malcolm] McLaren doesn’t pay us anything. He gives us an allowance of five quid a week. I’m living in a dosshouse.”

... Meyer opened up by informing Johnny Rotten that with his stovepipe arms he wouldn’t have survived one day in the army.

“What do I want with the fucking army?” Rotten said.

“You listen to me, you little shit. We won the Battle of Britain for you!”

I reflected that America had not been involved in the Battle of Britain, and that John Lydon (his real name) was Irish, and therefore from a non-participant nation. I kept these details to myself.

After dinner, we drove Johnny in a cab to where he lived, in an anonymous street in Notting Hill. “Fucking McLaren,” he said. “That was the first decent meal I’ve had in a month.” Meyer gave him five pounds and we waited outside a convenience store for him to buy lager and canned pork and beans. “Fucking great,” Johnny said.

Roger Ebert: McLaren & Meyer & Rotten & Vicious & me

A day with Werner Herzog

... spent going over the first 17 minutes of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, as described by Roger Ebert:

As we watched them descend, [Herzog] froze the DVD frame to discuss several of the actors. A fat man who ate all the mangos. A close friend, semi-literate, who had bicycled 35,000 km around North America and later became a great photographer. Above all, his star Klaus Kinski, about whom some years later he made a film: “My Best Fiend.”

Kinski, in constant rage. Describing himself as a “natural man” who could live in the forest like an animal. Then complaining that his tent leaked. Then complaining that the thatch shelter built over the tent leaked. Then moving at great inconvenience to the production into a shabby hotel where he beat his wife nightly, the crew discreetly removing the blood stains.

“A coward,” Herzog says.

“Is it true,” a voice from the dark asks, “that the Indians asked your permission to murder him?”

“No. That was on ‘Fitzcarraldo’.”

Incidentally, this isn’t the first collaboration between Herzog and Goodbye Solo director Ramin Bahrani:

At least it's not a tramp stamp, Dame Commander

“I decided to get a tattoo because it was the most shocking thing I could think of doing… Now I’m utterly disgusted and shocked because it’s become completely mainstream, which is unacceptable to me.”

Helen Mirren ‘Disgusted’ by Her Drunken Tattoo

Incidentally, in the mediocre film 2010 Mirren plays a tough Russian cosmonaut with a bad perm. It’s basically the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.

Movie decade list-o-rama

For people whose taste in film are exactly like mine. And yes, I’m saying the past decade ended in 2009. You could tell me why this is wrong, but really, I could care less.

Five great therapy substitutes

One of my favorite movie-going feelings is that of being put through some sort of emotional wringer and then being given a glimmer of hope at the end that, in spite of the fact that we’re all fundamentally broken and needy creatures, it’s really gonna be okay. I don’t take Kleenex to movie theatres but maybe I should.

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Back-of-the-seat-in-front-of-you cinema

When it comes to movie consumption, there’s no truer democrat in America than the slightly inebriated airline passenger. You’ve observed it, I’m sure—how at a certain altitude, and after a certain number of Bloody Marys, every prejudice of class and gender begins to be dissolved; how in that strange and hurtling passivity the grandmother in the aisle seat will submit with a kind of rapture to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, while the tattooed young man by the window gratefully dabs his eyes at the last frames of 27 Dresses.

—James Parker, Double-X Films

I actually watch a lot of rom-coms on airplanes. I suppose my interest is primarily sociological: What is this category of pop-culture telling women about love? Obviously I could also just ask my female friends but sometimes you want to get it from the primary source material. Also, occasionally they’re decent movies: “Four Christmases” had some amusing scenes.

For whatever reason, I don’t watch a lot of action movies in planes, or on the ground for that matter. Could be because video games leave that part of me pretty well-sated, and your average action movie just isn’t that interesting in a cultural studies sort of way.

And, once in a great while, I can actually watch a good movie on a plane. I saw “The History Boys” on an Alaska Airlines flight once, which is pretty astounding when you think about it. Not to give too much away, but the Wikipedia entry for the film uses “Modern pederasty” as one of its categories.