movies

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So 300 was amazing. The story and dialogue was predictably trite, but the shots were absolutely stunning, especially the long fight sequence in the first battle. Xstine went nuts over the painterly aspect of several shots, the ones that gave an illusion of no perspective points. I loved the claustrophobic set, complete with static props and painted backdrops.

The cherry topping it all was the total lack of political correctness. Asia! These terrorists are from ASIA! Promise! The film vomits patriotism, and makes no excuse for the need of violence to resolve all problems. While the speeches get long in the tooth, it provided ample ampules of adrenaline. So caricatured and comic it was that I don't seen how there can be a hang-up. I'm just surprised as an liberal an industry as Hollywood even let it reach the public.

As if timed by Zeus himself, God of War 2 comes out this week. Today in fact. In fact I don't know why I'm writing this and not picking up my pre-order from the store. I even prepared myself for this release by playing Golden Axe for the first time in a decade. I'm still a badass with the dwarf. While the AI is terrible, the game is still somehow fun, thanks to the visceral and unashamed action. Kinda like 300.

One last thing to check out is this jaw-dropping but heart-warming new game from the creators of Rag-doll Kung Fu. Most surprisingly, it's coming out for the PS3, not the Wii. While Sony's hodge-podge embrace of card-carrying "indie" developers hasn't impressed me yet, this one looks far more substantial than a Flash in the cell like Flow. Keep this up, and I might actually want a PS3. Provided it plays well. User-created content spawns more paupers than princes, and I've grown out of sandbox-style games. They're usually nothing but ludologized technology, and technology grows wearisome. Hurrah for LittleBigPlanet.

As your dutiful reporter of the asian masculinity-pedophilia complex, I must share with you one of the most disturbing things I've seen. English lessons, teaching subtextual phrases like "take anything you want," performed in spandex; may include random close-ups of sports bras. Doesn't any director in Japan just crack and say "Dammit guys! Just once let's do a piece without rape fantasy in it!" Thank god they never got their hands on Sesame Street. Their penchant for sesame and violating tentacles would have left Oscar lecherous and the Count breathless.

Just in time for the Oscars, we watched Little Miss Sunshine over the weekend. It is a real desert american comedy, and I loved the spot on commentary on underage beauty pageants. It tickled me to no end that people dress their girls up as whores, but when they actually act as such, some indefinite line is crossed, and they are suddenly morally conflicted. Moreover, it shows that the american ideal for beauty has girls dressing up, increasing age, whereas in Japan, they dress down, with sailor skirts and high-pitched childlike squeals.

Trying to understand why this difference exists, I think it comes down to values. Americans prize the confidant power of the femme fatale, and the Japanese prize the innocence of a lolita. I attribute American men as more self-confident, and asian men as one of two extremes: passive, or excessively male dominant. Often both. I read in the Economist recently a study that showed sexual satisfaction between couples is correlated to equal social status. It was no surprise then that Japan had one of the lowest ratings among developed nations.

The San Jose dating scene that I've seen has been indicative of cultural difference. Is it an accident that white guys and asian girls are far more common than the other way around? It would follow that if american women have the same tastes as american men (power, confidence, independence), but asian couples have a great divide what they value (master and submissive), the combination of aggressive american women and passive asian man would suffer.

Of course, when I say american, that encapsulates asian-americans, so the issue is hardly that simple. The latter is very diverse depending on which generation they are, how much cultural tradition they've absorbed, etc.

Having never seen his other movies, I still should have realized Robert DeNiro was going to be a perfectionist as a director, as he is as an actor. It’s been so long that I had almost forgotten the pleasure of watching a film as nuanced and rich as The Good Shepherd. There wasn’t a wasted sequence in the three hours it ran, and the irony didn’t escape me that half the theater walked out on a movie whose title implied the blissful masses were the CIA’s sheep.

DeNiro’s character, based on Gen. “Wild Bill” Donovan, once said that conservatives were those who believed people were flawed, and liberals were those who believed people could be changed. DeNiro’s film, particularly in this war, is a daring discussion about the motives, good or wrong, for sacrificing liberties (and how much!) at wartime.

Wild Bill, who ruthlessly hired socialists, liberals, and even communists in his intelligence battle, was a viciously pragmatic man, and he defended his men to the end when the OSS was investigated by the McCarthyists. He said “We face an enemy who believes one of his chief weapons is that none but he will employ terror. But we will turn terror against him…
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Wow. Just… wow. This is the movie I was waiting to be waiting all year for. Today was the first time I've heard of the movie adaptation of Frank Miller's 300. The visuals in this are jaw-dropping. Lush, liquid sets with almost prop-like backdrops for backgrounds to frame some incredibly Grecian poses, epic character staging, and ultimately, still true to paper comic stylings, this is pure sickness. OK, sorry. The gush stops here.

EDIT: The HD trailers here!

We return refreshed from Thanksgiving in thankless LA with more than turkey under our belt, but a few things learned as well!

– Do not enter the Alterdimension of Wedding Preparation wantonly. Trying to balance our desire for a humble affair with my parents' desire for a sort of go-for-broke-extravaganza-cum-Chinese-cash-machine was a hopeless venture, as if taking the back-end of a No. 2 to the indelible Dorian Gray. I'll end up kowtowing to a much more showy affair… literally.

– Daniel Craig fuckin' rocks as the new James Bond. He's got equal parts soccer thug, rapier wit, and loyalist to the crown, making him the most British of the Bonds. The Bond girls this time are top notch too, the Tanqueray Ten to Brosnan & Co's Tanqueray. Pay the man some respect and go watch Layer Cake if you haven't already.

– The Wii is being marketed in a completely new way. I stood at Target watching the infomercial? trying to decide if they were selling a game console or a sonic toothbrush. The very fact that I hated the approach probably means they'll tap into a geriatric mother lode of casual gamers.

– Democrats may be a good change for Congress, but they're stopping at nothing to be a disaster on the economy. Between the populist minimum wage promises that really affect only 5% of the workforce (mostly part-time teens), the complete avoidance of the Alternative Minimum Tax law (which you'll learn about very soon if you didn't get surprised by it already), the lowering of mortgage interest rates (are they nuts?), and their simultaneous insistence on Republicans balancing tax cuts with budgets cuts while their own tax cuts are being paid by the ghost of Christmas past, we're in for trouble. But that's ok, since they get to blame it on Bush's expensive war, you know the one that made us forget about Clinton's social security scam?

If you've ever watched the classic short film The Way Things Go, you can't help but be fascinated by the frightening fluidity with which a precarious but self-conscious house of dominoes will fall, and how fascinating it is to watch as it unwinds. Car-crash syndrome. It gives us an epic tale of constructions and deconstructions, near-misses and satisfying clunks. It is, after all is said and done, a turning mobile gently emanating musical chimes to the delight of the tot in us all.

This is but a long-winded way of saying, the housing market is FUCKED. And I'm dancing the happy dance in anticipation for a market-bottom in a year or two, which will be followed by a globalized recession as consumption contractions shatter the world of fiat trade. One researcher from MIT said that the people in the best position were young, first-time home buyers who can enter that bottom in a year, and rent for now. That's us!

Following Santa Clara housing statistics and Foreclosure.com, you can see that it's a bloodbath out there with median housing prices diving -$47K in four weeks! In the local paper, I saw a whopping y-o-y six-fold increase in for-sale listings in Palo Alto!

For those of you who want to know more about why a recession is going to smack us in the ass, and not on our lips, I recommend this EXCELLENT article by Nouriel Roubini summing up the situation:

Eight Market Spins About Housing by Perma-Bull Spin-Doctors…And the Reality of the Coming Ugliest Housing Bust Ever…

Indeed, in a matter of months, the gravity-defying housing boom and bubble turned into an alleged “orderly slowdown”; then, the orderly slowdown turned into a euphemistic “soft landing”; and next, the soft landing slipped into a “slump”; most recently, the slump worsened into a hard landing; while the latest data suggest that the hard landing recently turned into a bust. And soon enough this housing bust will turn into a rout and an unprecedented meltdown.

Interesting stuff happening this week…

  • Michael Bay ruins the Transformers movie even more with his go-for-broke misinterpretation of Megatron's design. Whether this image is legit or not, who knows, but AICN was asked to take it down shortly after it was first leaked there. All I know is, it's an utter abomination, destroying the iconic visage of the Decepticons with all the over-embellishment of a pre-ejaculatory teenager subconsciously twisted by last year's anime.
  • Ben Bernanke finally says something that I can agree with, that protectionism needs to end. Of course, the market replies with a loss in enthusiasm. Really, it's the market that turns him into a bad guy, it's not like slowing housing growth and inflation haven't been right under Wall St.'s nose for a long and obvious time.
  • Also, Penny Arcade has a big surprise at PAX, which incidentally enjoys a skyrocketting attendance figure thanks to the demise of E3 (rightfully so IMO). This article leaks the secret into our parched mouths- they have hooked up with Hothead Games to develop an episodic adventure game based on their comics. Very. Very. Cool. I used to think the indie community in the world of games couldn't stack up to that in film, but I'm starting to think the seeds have been sown to make me very very wrong, and very very happy. This is just damnably grassroots, this wonderful success fable in a fairy land where suits don't make ALL the games.

Air stocks plummeted for us and our British brethren over the news of an intercepted terrorist game of cowboys and indians. Heathrow was in chaos as travelers were forced to remove all liquid carry-ons, since the terrorists had planned to use their iPods to detonate British Gatorade. Had these quasimuslim MacGuyvers succeeded, they would have eventually been able to blow-up eleven planes over the Atlantic.

So now what? With their plans foiled, I fear the worst, and that is that the Al Qaida's obsession with airlines will slowly divert into other vulnerable areas of our society. Perhaps they'll bomb our energy grid, our utilities infrastructure, our tech companies, our landmarks, or even Allah forbid visit their Armageddon upon my precious Netflix just as I'm about to rent some blasphemous film of the American degenerate… or some erogenous anime.

Actually, the film I am desperately waiting to see is Iñárritu's next epic tri-plot, Babel. This trailer fluidly sums up for me the very real dangers in believing in the universality in this technological Babel we've built. How he ties the threads together will probably mirror the consequences of love in Amores Perros, and the consequences of regret in 21 Grams. Babel looks to be about the consequences of technological vainity, and I say it's about time.

For a pre-finals field trip, I took a couple of my students to catch a matinee of Superman Returns. Verdict? It’s a Brian Singer film; well-written story, excellent cast, beautiful direction, but, well, the action was about as exciting as betting on whether or not gnats can stop trucks. Superman is invincible. Plausible action sequences are entirely dependent on whether or not the citizens of Metropolis survive, since we know Supes will just be a little dusty none-for-worse after demolishing the biggest, flaminingest threat.

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