Friday, July 15, 2011

Who the (Bleep!) Did I Marry?

A robbery in pursuit. Fast, loud and frenzied. A masked man fleeing sirens, lights, the sound of running. Cut to a full body image. He’s outrun them. He slows down. He pulls off his mask, composing himself. Acclimating to his new environs. He carries the duffle as if on his way to abscond with something. The music. The mood. The song. It plays like a 30-second short.

Who the (Bleep Did I Marry)?

If you like the song, check out the extremely watchable video by Swedish rockers PB&J. If you like it, explore the band’s site.

“Young Folks” by PB&J

I watched three episodes; none as compelling as the first one featuring Judith Mawson, Gary Ridgeway’s third wife. The show uses a tongue-in-cheek-peppered-with-schadenfreude storytelling style. Watch the first three minutes and tell me you don’t want to watch the rest:

Judith meets Gary…How It Began

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Noruwei no mori (Norwegian Wood) (2010)

Winning streak has ended.

Norwegian Wood is a coming-of-age story that delves into suicide and its effects on the survivors. Toru (Ken'ichi Norwegian WoodMatsuyama) and Kizuki (Kengo Kôra) are old friends. Without any indication, Kizuki kills himself. Toru leaves for university and runs into Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), Kizuki’s girlfriend at his death. The two become involved as they share their grief and indulge in sexual awakening. See, it’s the 60s. Naoko digresses and ends up in an asylum in the woods (is this how they treated the mentally ill back then?). Feeling a sense of responsibility and longing, Toru visits Naoko, as she progressively gets worse.

At university, he meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), the peculiar ray of light in this dark tunnel of suffering (Naoko’s roommate at the asylum also provides some odd humor). She likes him. He isn’t available because he is trying to do right by Naoko. Meanwhile, his roommate encourages him to take advantage of being young and single in the sexually liberated ‘60s.

Parts of the plot are compelling, but the experience goes on for too long. Scenes are uneven and plod together, but the landscapes are palpably beautiful. With several suicides and rare moments of levity cushioned between so much calamity and, at times, boredom, it’s difficult to sit through. I’ve watched more distressing movies that have ended too fast; something is missing here. The movie ends on a hopeful note that feels wrong.

Based on the novel by Haruki Murakami, the movie will likely appeal to the author’s die-hard fans. I’d love to hear how someone who revered the book felt about the movie. It’s possible that the story is too cerebral to capture accurately on screen.

Director: Anh Hung Tran

Country: Japan

Genre: Drama

Run time: 133 minutes

Scale: 2

Friday, July 8, 2011

Beginners (2010)

As of late, I am winning too, Charlie Sheen. On a winning spree of movies, that is.

BeginnersBeginners is a love story—part rom-com, part dram-com. Introspective Oliver (Ewan McGregor) falls in love with Anna (Mélanie Laurent) in the months following his father Hal’s (Christopher Plummer) death. Oliver absorbs himself in the memories of his father coming out after 45 years of marriage to Oliver’s wacky mother, Georgia (Mary Page Keller).

Shortly thereafter, Hal reveals another doozy as Oliver continues examining his own life and why all of his previous relationships have failed.

The movie has a winning personality—uncommonly witty yet humble. Extremely well cast. One reviewer stated that McGregor gets better with age; I couldn’t agree more. I’ve admired him since Shallow Grave and Trainspotting but haven’t felt bowled over by him again until now. He plays Oliver with genuine compassion and warmth as he supports Hal, even getting a kick out of his discoveries in his new lifestyle, such as house music and falling in love. There are no recriminations or angry declarations—this isn’t that kind of movie. Rounding out the stellar cast is Arthur (Cosmo), Hal’s charming long-haired Jack Russell terrier. Arthur holds his own opposite the speaking characters. He even gets subtitles. It’s brilliant.

Beginners is a semi-autobiographical, based on writer/director Mike Mills' experience with his own father coming out. Mills uses old photographs and random images to help visualize parts of the story. He also presents LA scenes. Instead of the usual frenzied and sprawling, you get a peek at the tranquil spots in its neighborhood landscapes.

This one is a gem that shouldn’t be missed.

Director: Mike Mills

Country: USA

Genre: Drama

Run time: 105 minutes

Scale: 4.5

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seattle Gay Pride Parade (June 26, 2011)

Not having had attended this event for years, I was struck by the vibrant energy, the enormous crowds and the big smiles. Even the sun made an appearance.

Roaring past crowd

Blading with pride

Proud ladies on Harleys

100_6854_Marching band

Happy happy joy joy

Pride belly dancers

More marching band

Boys on truck

Smiles and flair

Boy (2010)

New Zealand’s Boy combines Michael Jackson mania and coming of age to create a dark comedy with a talented, eclectic cast.

The lovelies of BoyIt’s 1984 and Boy (James Rolleston) fantasizes about his father arriving home to see him and his brother, Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu), who live with their grandmother and several other parentless cousins on a farm in rural poverty. Boy is certain that when his dad returns, he will be the father Boy has dreamed of and will take him to see Michael Jackson live.

Boy’s granny, Alamein’s mother, is away for a week and has left Boy in charge. But, he’s 11 and soon the place becomes a madhouse. During this same week, his father, Alamein (Taika Waititi also Boy’s writer and director) returns after seven years in the clink. The wanna-be gangster is joined by the two sole members of his gang—the Crazyhorses. Boy falls under his spell. Alamein is set on finding an old stash of money and bolting. Rocky is having a crisis, convinced he has magical powers that can cause injury to others. Boy’s obsession with Michael Jackson is a vehicle for killer dance moves by Alamein, the red and black Thriller jacket (as well as other winning ‘80s fashions) and unforgettable choreography.

Director and co-star Waititi also directed some episodes of Flight of the Concords (and had an uncredited cameo) and Eagle vs. Shark. Rolleston, Waititi and Eketone-Whitu are outstanding. Each member of Boy’s posse could lead his/her own movie. And, Boy’s female cousin deserves a shout-out as the old soul who knows none of this will turn out well. With her mere looks and expressions, she boldly carries her character.

This movie is like the shy kid in the corner, who once you get talking you cannot believe you never noticed because he’s an irreverent delight. Boy delves into difficult themes positively, avoiding sentimentality, and finishes with a must-see rendition of Thriller. Will Boy make it to the US? Check out the official site where you can view trailers and read much more about it.

Writer/Director/Star: Taika Waititi

Country: New Zealand

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 86 minutes

Scale: 5