Twins Effect II

"I just woke up from the strangest movie..." said Gillian Chung, as she grasped her neck.

Back when Forced Perspective was still in its teething phase, I gave Dante Lam’s 2003 film The Twins Effect a glowing recommendation – albeit, a recommendation as a guilty pleasure. In hindsight, I still feel Lam’s film is more of a “silly” film than a “bad” film for many of the same reasons I’d stated earlier: despite the subpar plot and acting, it’s technically well-crafted and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’d even forgotten to mention how entertaining Anthony Wong was.  The film was a financial success as well, so it is no surprise that less than a year later Emperor Motion Pictures sprung forth Twins Effect II, a sequel-in-name-only directed by Corey Yuen and Patrick Leung. Like the original, it combines a carefree silliness with a sense of technical skill. The big difference between the two films is that Twins Effect II genuinely sucks.

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Sawako Decides

Hikari Mitsushima is one hell of an actress. I haven’t looked too much into her past, but from what I gather she is a gravure idol-turned-actress, who started out with small bit parts in feature films, notably the live-action Death Note series. I have not seen these films, so this means next to nothing to me. She first really made waves in circles of Japanese Cinema fans in Shion Sono’s masterpiece, Love Exposure, as the protagonist’s obsessive love interest, who put him through hell. Though she was one of the major characters in Love Exposure, it is in Yûya Ishii’s Sawako Decides which she truly shines. After having only seen two of her films, she has already put herself in contention to be one of my favorite young actresses working today.

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Wild At Heart

David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is the slowest, cruelest kind of train wreck. It runs off the rails and plunges through a carnival freak show, throwing up bits of colorful fabric, garish lights and the viscera of the lamentably and comically deformed, before grinding to a stuttering halt in a near-by ravine, saturated with the stench of human offal and the screams of the dying. Calling the film excessive, or indulgent, is a grotesque understatement. This is, without a doubt, Lynch at his most tonally schizophrenic, as even Inland Empire kept up a mostly persistent mood of dread throughout its enigmatic overkill (random dance numbers aside). Thoroughly obscene and laughably revolting, the film constantly whips through a gamut of tones, from forced romantic tripe, to hokey, anorexic noir, to Dadaist nausea. Then it has the balls to go back and do it again, and again. All the while, it’s punctuated with bizarre non-sequiturs that give the audience nothing, but maybe the occasional aching jaw, or bleeding scalp. This isn’t just a train wreck, it’s vomit that coalesced into a train wreck! It is a savage, unpleasant, and overdone torrent of acidic, steel nastiness, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stripped the enamel off Mr. Lynch’s teeth on the way out, and left nothing but scorched nerves.
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Stalag 17

When Gil Stratton’s character “Cookie” announces in the voiceover that opens Stalag 17 that “it always make me sore when I see those war pictures — all about flying leather-necks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerillas in the Philippines… what gets me is that there never was a movie about P.O.W.s” he wouldn’t have been accurate, even in 1944 when the film was set; Renoir’s The Grand Illusion was released in 1938, but it’s French. What’s really happening there is Billy Wilder is already winking at the audience to think about what POW films have been made, and I’m guessing he was betting that his audience hadn’t seen The Grand Illusion, or British productions like 1947s The Captive Heart or 1950s The Wooden Horse. Read more of this post

Ajami

It was probably inevitable that a film like Ajami would come along—an Israeli/Palestinian collaboration, directed by a Christian Israeli Arab (Scandar Copti) and a Jewish Israeli (Yaron Shani) about a group of Christians and Muslims in a small Arab neighborhood, the titular Ajami, in one of the oldest port cities in the world, Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Everything in the film itself, from the setting and characters to the plot, to all of the meta-aspects including the directors and production, feels like the cinematic culmination of the conflict that’s been raging in that part of the world for so long. It produces a melting pot of socio-cultural conflict that, in true artistic fashion, manages to boil everything down to the all-too-human people caught up in it all. Read more of this post

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

In one issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, it’s revealed that there’s a library in the realm of The Dreaming that contains not just every book ever written, every film ever made, etc. but also every book, film, etc. ever conceived. You can just imagine that within that library exists the other 8 hours of Stroheim’s Greed and the lost hour of Welles’ The Magnificent Andersons. You can add David Lynch’s Twin Peaks to that collection, in which the third season and everything cut from the film remains locked away. It’s a tremendous shame too, as the show’s first season revolutionized American television, bringing an unheard of cinematic quality to the medium, as well as adding Lynch’s unique brand of surrealism, humor, and art-house tendencies. Read more of this post

Black Swan

Before Black Swan was released, but when the hype machine was already in overdrive, I stated on one film message board: “Aronofsky has earned my willingness to see any film he makes. Even his failures are interesting.” Indeed, Aronofsky may be the most interesting young American director working today, if only because with every film he genuinely seems to be shooting for the moon in an age where most directors are much more modest in their ambitions. But he also makes the kinds of films that are as fraught with faults as they are strengths. In many respects, I’ll take interesting failures over uninteresting successes any day, because it’s often just a matter of time before those faults are transformed into strengths upon reconsideration. Read more of this post