Do you think you're what they say you are?
During August 1997, before my junior year of college, I watched the filmed version of Jesus Christ Superstar approximately 7 times in row in less than 2 days. After some viewings, I would cry.
It was a confusing time and, frankly, my weepiness was much more a pharmacological by-product than a spiritual awakening.
Needless to say, I approached the new direct-to-video version of JCS with some trepidation. Filmed in 2000, the goal of the producers was to update the look so as to reach a wider audience. So it's out with bell bottoms and in with the Gap.
As a result, when we first see Jesus, he's wearing a ribbed wifebeater and cargo pants. The apostles are portrayed as some kinda metrosexual paramilitary group outfitted with blue camo muscle tees and automatic weapons.
Which brings up a confusing part of the whole production ... who exactly are we rooting for here? The apostles force Jesus to go pop, his followers quickly become an unruly mob, even the lepers are shown as being annoying ... well, maybe that's not a stretch.
Pilate, as is the modern style, comes off amazingly well. Sure he's wearing Goering's hand-me-downs, but that's just 'cause he's Roman. Pilate hearts Jesus.
In fact, one of the movie's more interesting touches is the scourging. In the film, folks from the mob come running up and slap their hands on JC's body as Pilate counts out the lashes. Their hands are dripping with red paint so the streaks they leave on Christ's torso represents the whipping. At the end of the scene, we zoom in on the ghoulish jewmob (they're wearing goth eye makeup) as they reach out with their blood stained hands.
Them's my peoples!
As part of the 9th Silent Film Festival some friends and I had the opportunity to see THE DRAGON PAINTER which was released in 1919.
The film was accompanied by a live performance by Master Benshi Midori Sawato and the Mark Izu Ensemble played along with an original score he composed for the film. Benshi is the art of speaking along with the silent movie to add depth to the screen characters. It ends up being a little like Mystery Science Theater 3000 without snarky comments.
The story stars Sessue Hayakawa as a painter who is convinced he has lost his muse to spirits. When he meets the character played by Tsuru Aoki, he is convinced she is his reincarnated muse. They marry, he still is "painter blocked" --- she then fakes her own death, he gets depressed, she reappears and he is reinvigorated -- able to paint again.
The film is remarkable given the context of the time it was produced in. This was a Hollywood that made Asian actors the villains and required their death at the end of the movie. "Yellow face" was common at this time and this movie isn't spared (Edward Peil), but the movie sought (and succeeded!) in portraying a story that was free from western cultural bias of the era.
It made me think of the movie indusry in the same way I think of the modern experimental art scene. People like Hayakawa (who opened his own production company) gave themselves the tools to display the type of art they wanted to see. Their only obstacle (besides racism) was creating the initial work. Because there wasn't a huge catalog of films, if you could do a good job at producing a movie, it would most likely get shown. Show business was not the formidable monster it is today.
All for Whitecastle Sliders
HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITECASTLE is a very light romp in the vein of DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR? (written by the same peeps). The movie is enjoyable in the same way as well. Weird things happen to Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) as they embark on an Odyssey worthy search for Whitecastle Sliders after smoking out in their apartment.
Their very long evening includes Neil Patrick Harris on ecstasy stealing their car, a ride on a cheetah, the offer of a foursome with a hot woman and her disfigured husband, bullet wound surgery, a trip to Princeton University, and a jailbreak.
Critics will very likely point to the undeveloped female characters as the main disappointment in the flick. (And yes, that could be better.) Others may point to some of the very obvious race focused jokes, but you know what - that's just life. The characters of Harold & Kumar come off like regular Asian American guys and for Hollywood that is very commendable.
I'm not a fan of these types of easy-gag type of movies, but I enjoyed Harold & Kumar for everything that it is. And when I left I told my friend that I liked it much better than DODGEBALL.
Note: [This is the same review I posted at sfiaaff.blogspot.com].
Is there a life coach in the house?
METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER is a compelling portrait of Metallica not only as a band, but as a business venture. Whether you're a Metallica fan, music fan, doc fan, or looking for a new profession you can find something compelling here. I'm not a Metallica fan, but that didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the documentary.
The doc follows the band as they gear up to record St. Anger (2004). After 22 years, the band is in dire need of some overhaul and therapy. They hire a therapist named Phil, a type of "life coach," to help them deal with each other as they record the album. The film is at turns funny, frustrating, and almost, but not-quite heart wrenching.
The filmmakers do a great job of training their lens on the band members for a heartbeat longer than necessary. It's comical and poignant at the same time as Hetfield rolls his eyes in response to Ulrich's speaking about his feelngs to the assembled group. As the band replaces their bassist and confronts the past loss of band members, in the midst of Hetfield going to rehab -- one understands that Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield run the show with minimal input from Kirk Hammett. But things haven't been working very well.
To Metallica's credit they (seemingly) allow unlimited access to the filmmakers. They also don't shy away from controversial issues. (E.g. Ulrich's very vocal anti-downloading stance.)
As far as likabilty - in the same way that Bernard Sumner came out looking good in 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE - Hammett comes out looking the best in SOME KIND OF MONSTER. He doesn't seem as self-focused as Ulrich or Hetfield and when no one is talking to each other they are still talking to Hammett.
And at the point when Dr. Phil's salary is mentioned ($40,000/month) anyone with doubts about their career path might just consider pursuing a new profession in life coaching.
At the end you'll get more insight into the individuals that make up the business venture called Metallica.
Good fun, you'll find yourself continually laughing.