Monday, November 08, 2004
odds & ends
As the days count down toward my departure of Japan, I've made an attempt at trying to start early in packing my possessions for the trip home, either via post office surface shipping (AKA making my packages FOB-ulous) or in my suitcase (self-carried air mail).
However, several character traits I possess all seem to conspire against me in completing this task:
1) I save everything. I have stacks of newspapers and magazines 5 months old in my room, along with the original boxes several Transformers came in.
2) My organization is divided into two types: stacks or piles.
3) My mind conceives time as relative and artificial; consequently, procrastination is inevitable.
It's in times like these that the GF is sorely missed.
Where do I get the time to watch movies? Hmm, refer to number 3 above.
House of Flying Daggers
Synopsis: During the Tang Dynasty in China, civil unrest leads to open, armed rebellion - the biggest group being the so-called "House of Flying Daggers" - a bunch of hot ladies who live in the forest, wear green clothes with big hats and dispatch their opponents via throwing sharp knives at 'em. Two Tang Dynasty soldiers (Andy Lau & Takeshi Kaneshiro) hatch a plot with they suspect blind, but hot girl (Zhang Ziyi) of being the daughter of the ex-leader of the House of Flying Daggers.
Plot twists, broken hearts, and sword fighting ensues.
Gar's Thoughts: A great movie if you enjoyed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero - though arguably, both films are better than House. Zhang Yimou is one of my favorite directors, and his trademark love of strong, bright colors are evident in the cinematography. "Love" seems to the main theme of this movie, but the political undertones here aren't as strong as in Hero. A good movie if you enjoy the genre.
Synopsis: A powerful Triad gang wars with the Hong Kong police in modern day Hong Kong, but with a twist - the two main characters are moles in the respective organizations. Andy Lau is a Triad who was planted in the police force; Tony Leung is an undercover cop who was planted in the Triad underworld. Both were given their roles from a young age, and the movie follows the final cat and mouse of game of who will outsmart who...
Plot twists, forlorn facial expressions, and gun fighting ensues.
Gar's Thoughts: Very stylized movie with very likeable and 3 dimensional characters. Andy Lau and Tony Leung do a great job of illustrating via facial expressions, body language, and speech, the pain of modern men whose identities have been lost because of their obligations to their chosen careers. The main weakness of the movie is perhaps the abrupt ending, but if you enjoy Triad / police drama type movies, it's worth the watch.
A good study of Asian male character, and the faults of our so-called culturally ingrained "stoic silent suffering".
Tasogare Seibei (Twilight Samurai)
Synopsis: A poor, widower samurai (Seibei) lives a mundane life - by day he crunches numbers as a clerk at a castle's provisions warehouse... by night, he makes insect cages for extra cash. He's not rich or respected by his co-workers; even his senile mother forgets who he is. His only joy in life is his family - his two daughters.
But life becomes more complicated when a childhood friend comes back into his life and when it's discovered that Seibei is actually a skilled swordsman... well, you can imagine.
Drama, unspoken love, and fighting ensues.
Gar's Thoughts: This is the anti-stereotypical samurai movie - all drama and virtually no action. Directed by Japanese director more famous for a series of adventure / comedy movies called "Tora-san", Twilight Samurai shows the life of a samurai who is neither rich or blood-lusting fighter.
It's stark view of the reality of feudal life may be bit of a turn-off for people who prefer the romanticized versions of samurai film - a good comparison would be to think about two different (and classic) American mafia movies: The Godfather (romanticized, powerful, epic gangsters) and Donnie Brasco (painfully realistic, scrappin' to get by, Pacino-breaking-into-a-parking-meter gangster.).
Nevertheless, it's study of the shikata ga nai mindset so prevalent in the Japanese cultural character and the quiet, humble perservance that springs from it. A good watch for anybody interested in Japanese culture and human drama.
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