Monday, October 29, 2007

Lust, Caution

Absolutely a Great Film - I can't stop thinking about it - so moving, disturbing. (you tube trailer)and site url here. Before the movie began, there was a large woman talking on her cell phone, something about, yeah I decided to see a movie, the ticket agent said this was good....and I thought, lady do you know what you are in for? Almost 3 hrs of a chinese film, in mandarin, cantonese, shanghainese, english and japanese, extreme violence, and S&M sex in extended explicit scenes! Not only did she fall asleep, but she woke up during one of the sex scenes (because of the screaming and grunting) and walked out! Anyway, this is another great Ang Lee film, great acting, what impressed me was the tension throughout the film, you knew the characters were involved in something life threatening, something more than they even knew. This is about the Japanese occupation of China (where they buried people alive) and a group of young, innocent students who want to kill an evil police chief collaborator. Its also a film about the role of women, repressed sexuality, and love. Well, I think its about love in a perverted way. This is a big production movie, lots of locations, involving lots of extras, recreating the streets of Shanghai and Hong Kong of the 1930's. It is extremely violent, and the sex scenes are....well....I guess they are acting, but if they are only acting, then they are really good actors. Long and intense, this is an incredible movie. What impressed me is that the tension extends throughout the film, even the ending leaves you wondering about what will happen next to the main character, Mr. Yee. Here's a longer trailer with music in chinese. I didn't watch to watch at parts, because it was so disturbing - I knew there would be great tragedy in the film. But I couldnt stop watching either. The film is emotionally exhausting.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

McDonalds Bathroom attendant

These guys went to McDonalds on Times Square and set up a tuxedo'd attendant. They told the manager it was a promotion from Corporate office. Very funny. Lots of pictures here.

"A Vision of Students Today"

Really great video about what students think of today's college educational environment. Its true - class size is too large, books contain more info than they really need to read (I am thinking about ending textbooks - they will be tested on what i cover in class). Media is important - use of media in class is the way to teach. The days of going over reading material in class are gone....

Monday, October 15, 2007

El Espinazo del diablo (The Devil's backbone)

I don't usually like horror movies, or ones with children being mistreated, but this is by the director of Pan's Labyrinth so I decided to see it. Wow! There is so much going on in this film. Its about a ghost of a young boy (really scarey)at an orphange, but also an allegory for the Spanish Civil War. The ghost is a gray, decaying little boy with a bleeding head. There is a rumor about a ghost, but only one boy can see him. When the ghost whispers, "Bring him (Jacinto) to meeeeeeee...." is really chilled me. But its also about the Spanish Civil War, about civilians who were targeted, mass murders, greed, lust, fear. Jacinto is the bad guy, but represents the violence of the war. But what is a ghost? the movie's narrator asks? "What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber." Even Jacinto has a ghost to deal with: his own unhappy childhood. What a movie! What an ending! The audience applauded at the end (all 50 of us).
Here is an excellent analysis, how the film is an allegory about the civil war:

It is unlikely that Mexican-director, Guillermo del Toro, will ever top this film, it is his greatest-achievement. While certainly a horror-film, it so-much-more, an allegory of the betrayals that led-to the rise-of-fascism in Spain. Most small-arms came-from Mexico, and Del Toro has said in-interviews that he lived-in a neighborhood populated by Republicans who had fled after-1939. Some have commented that the film takes-place after the fall of Republican Spain(the 1939 fall of Catalonia), but this is incorrect. The fall hasn't come-yet, and this free-fall state is the universe that the film inhabits. Taking-place in a Republican Orphanage for fallen-anarchists, Leftists, and Republican-politicians, the film is always in a state of anticipation and a kind-of limbo. All the Republican-caretakers can do is wait for the fall, and the repression that was surely-to-follow. Betrayed by the Catholic Church, the Soviet Union under-Stalin, political-infighting, and even the Western Democracies, Franco was given a blank-check to slaughter legitimate, democratic-forces by-1939. 2,000 Americans joined the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade" to fight Franco's forces, and a "United Front" of Leftists and Unionists from throughout-the-world had went to Spain to "fight the good-fight".

Meanwhile, the Roosevelt-administration banned all-sales of war-material (most-particularly, aircraft-engines and ammunition) to Republican-forces. Franco had many-allies, and would remain-in-power until his timely-death in November, 1975...Spain has been-celebrating ever-since. And-so, "The Devil's Backbone" can only be-about the ghosts of this period, particularly those Spaniards who were betrayed by politicians who shared so-much with Franco. The title, incidentally, comes-from a range-of-mountains where Republican-forces were bogged-down, then-defeated; it is referred-to as the Sierra de Alcubierre. Even George Orwell was there, and he wrote a book on his experiences fighting to save Republican Spain.

If "Devil's Backbone" says-anything, it is that "these were times that showed what people then were made-of." Dr. Cásares and Carmen represent the weakened-Republic, with her leg-missing, and he being-impotent. Then, there is Jacinto, once an orphan, now a caretaker of the orphanage--a betrayer, a criminal, and a murderer. Even-worse, though, is that amidst-the-chaos of the Civil War, the orphanage is haunted by the ghost of a former child-resident who may-have been murdered. The orphanage IS Spain, with its' fascist-bomb, unexploded in-the-courtyard, a direct-reference to the bombing of the Spanish-town, Guernica. Guernica was the first-incident of the bombing-of-civilians in modern-history, and was immortalized in a painting by-Pablo Picasso The deformed-fetus in the jar is the Spain-that-never-was, still-born, unnaturally. Dr. Cásares, then, is the legacy of Spanish Republicanism, a good-legacy that literally aids the living in the finale of the film. However, if I tell you anything-else this character, the film will be ruined! You can figure-out the rest, most audiences aren't given enough-credit. Stand-and-be-counted, these are "times that try men's souls". History never ends.

here is link to actual ghost town from Spanish civil war.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My lunch at Holsten's

Noah and I ate at Holsten's, the alleged last supper of Tony Soprano. We had grilled cheese sandwiches and onion rings - I ate them whole like Tony. Only I wasn't shot by one of Phil Leotardo's goons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"How Long" new release by The Eagles

The new Eagles single is released here on youtube.comsounds better here on

Friday, October 05, 2007


Great movie: The story is set in ancient Japan, where three passers-by seek shelter from intense rain in the ruined temple called Roshomon. Two of the witnesses, a dumbfounded woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) and a priest (Minoru Chiaki), are narrating the crime trial to the commoner. More than the crime, they are astonished to witness the testimonies of three people, connected with the crime, which shatters their faith in humanity.

A man (Masayuki Mori) has been murdered, and his wife (Machiko Kyo) was allegedly raped, while they were traveling in the woods. A notorious bandit (Toshiro Mifune) has been arrested, regarding this despicable act. As the trial starts, the fabricated lies resurface over truth. According to the bandit, he and the man waged a war after the rape, resulting in the man's death.

But the woman's version is that she was rejected by her husband, after being raped. So, with uncontrollable grief, she killed him. However, the dead man testifies, through the medium, that the bandit insisted to marry the woman after the rape, but the woman demanded the bandit should kill her husband first. The angry bandit left the place and the guilty-conscious man committed suicide. According to the woodcutter, the woman had manipulated the two men, who were finally pushed to gruesome fight that lead to the man's death.

What is liked especially was the dead husband's testimony from the afterlife: the way he was costumed, his make up, the wind, and his movement's (supposedly he was told to move like a lion, and watched some nature documentaries to learn). The ending was great: after watching how selfish and violent humans are, the film ends with a beautiful act of compassion. Rashomon means "gate" - the story was told at an old gate, abandoned - it looked like some kind of temple, but it was a gate that would ward off evil spirits. The fact that the "gate" was abandoned, run down, that the men telling the story were tearing off wood from the gate to build a fire (it was cold and raining) suggests that there is a lack of protection against evil, that the "gate" that protected the people was ruined, and that evil is abundant in the world. Absolutely brilliant movie.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reality imitates Fantasy: Donnie Darko strikes again!

This too weird: this is right from the movie Donnie Darko, when the motivational speaker "Jim Cunningham" (Patrick Swayze) turns out to be running a child porn ring.

Motivational speaker sentenced for child porn
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
The Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A motivational speaker who made numerous appearances on national television has been sentenced to 11 years and three months in federal prison for a child pornography conviction, U.S. Attorney Robert Balfe's office announced yesterday.

Michael V. Fortino, 47, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to a charge of transporting child pornography across state lines, and faced up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and lifetime supervision.

In sentencing Mr. Fortino, U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren also ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine and to serve 20 years supervised release after he gets out of prison.

Mr. Fortino previously admitted that, while traveling for his work as an author and speaker, he took his laptop computer from Texas to Fayetteville for a speaking engagement Nov. 4, 2005. The computer contained images of child pornography that Mr. Fortino admitted were previously downloaded from the Internet.