There are times you just want to get out of your chair and cheer and this is one of those times! I read on YTSL's blog that the webmaster of the old Hong Kong Entertainment site has put up a blog. No one in the Hong Kong film internet world was more loved than Sanney and his site. He was sidelined with illness for a while - but he is back! Please go check in with him.
The House Where Words Gather
The only two Asian films I have seen over the past week were two very solid Korean movies out on DVD - "No Mercy for the Rude" and "A Dirty Carnival". Both were terrific films that were ensconced in a pretty violent shell of a narrative but within had strong elements of drama and pathos. Both films also portray characters that are savage and unmerciful, yet still manage to be very smypathetic to the audience. Between the two of them there were was more slicing and dicing than in a sushi bar.
No Mercy stars the always fascinating to watch Shin Ha-gyun who mezmerized so in "Save the Green Planet" and always manages to catch the off-beat side of his characters. He has these furtive fugitive eyes that hold so much potential chaos within. Here he plays a hired killer who would prefer to be a Matador but who still has the opportunity to utilize his knives to great effect - but only on the rude and avericious. He is also a mute - not because he can't speak but because he is too embarrassed to do so. A woman of fallen character and an abandoned child enter his life to form a very peculiar but working nuclear family. Full of blood, dark humor and whimsy, this very stylish film kept me on edge and fascinated from the start.
A Dirty Carnival treads very familiar ground in its exposition of the rise of a young hoodlum from lowly status to a big boss and then his descent down. What makes the film so interesting is how it fleshes him out to be someone you can understand so well and in fact care for even through his violent rise. He is a guy who cares for his mom and siblings, is loyal to his friends and is still in love with the girl he was too shy to approach in high school - but he is tired of being a lowly sub-boss and the only way up is to step over those ahead of you. But it all comes full circle in this tragic tale. At over two hours it could and should have been trimmed, but still manages to hold your attention throughout.
Here is a historical tidbit I came across in the Herald Tribune's book review of a new book called "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World". Maybe everyone already knows this but it had escaped me. Back in the early 1970's during the heart of the Cold War, the Soviet Union approached the United States and told them they wanted to nuke China and was it all right with the U.S. At the time there was a huge amount of friction between the USSR and China and the USSR believed that Mao was certifiably insane after he had launched the Cultural Revolution and his bizarre economic plans that had killed millions of people through starvation. So they wanted to preemptively bomb China and no doubt thought they would get a sympathetic reception from Nixon who was virulently anti-Communist and one of those "Who Lost China" accusers. Instead Nixon warned the USSR against doing so and not much later he visited China and began relations with them. And the world has and will never be the same.
Here is a blog from a real fanatic Bollywood viewer - it kills me that I just don't seem to have time to watch many these days. It's called Beth Loves Bollywood.
I learned about this site on Teleport City which has a review of a Bollywood film called Commando that sounds like a must for fans of bad movies and Disco Dancer.
Another Asian blog I just came across is called "The Golden Rock" and is full of links and news and other good stuff. Can there be too many blogs/sites regarding Asian films? Hopefully not.
Some Top 10 lists are out. Darcy the webmaster from the incredibly valuable Koreanfilm.org lists his top Korean films from 2006 here - just go down a bit. Clearly I have a lot of viewing ahead of me as I have only seen four of these - Ad Lib Night, The Host, A Dirty Carnival and Host & Guest. Lately I have noticed some comments on various forums that were fairly negative regarding The Host. Can I just say thank goodness people are finally coming to their senses! Easily the most over hyped over praised film in eons.
And a little bit ago YTSL gave her Top 10 HK films from 2006. Again I have much viewing to catch up on as I have only seen four of these - Fearless, Dog Bite Dog, The Heavenly Kings and Isabella.
One more historical tidbit - of a more recent vintage - also come across in the Herald Tribune. We all recall the term Axis of Evil - no, not Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton - but Iraq, Iran and North Korea. This was a term that Bushie used in his State of the Union back in 2002 to group these three countries together and condemn them. The origin of this term is rather a fascinating and repugnant look at how government policy is formed. Initially in the address Bushie was primarly only bashing Iraq when someone suggested that this was too one-sided and we should widen the list to water it down. Then someone came up with the term Axis of Evil that brought on memories of another Axis - Germany, Italy and Japan in WWII. Cool Bushie said - and he called up Condeleeza to come up with two other countries to fill it out. She thought Iran and North Korea would fill the bill. Now at the time it turns out that Iran was actually trying very much to help us out in Afghanistan and had been very sympathetic after 9/11. Perhaps this was an opportunity to build relations? Naw. We need a third country for that term and so in they went. We attacked the first member of this axis and surprise surprise - the other two quickly went into let's develop a nuclear weapon mode. And the world may never be the same again. It's like having foreign policy made by the Bowery Boys.
And I just came across this sad news that happened a bit ago - the Korean actress Jeong Da-bin committed suicide. She was so adorably cute in "He Was Cool".