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On Cinco de Mayo, I celebrated by watching the classic silent film The Lost World at the Castro theatre in San Francisco as part of the International Film Festival. In addition to being an awesome silent film with stop motion dinosaurs, there was a live band accompaniment to the film. This band was none other than Dengue Fever, the most awesome combination of punk, jazz, rock, and Cambodian lead singer you could ever imagine. I went, admittedly, mostly to see the band, but I ended up really, really enjoying the film.

Favorite line of the movie said by my favorite character Dr. Challenger, in response to Malone’s request to join him on the expedition to the Lost World:

“Most likely the brain of a child, but the body of an athlete. Accepted!”

Seriously some excellent use of italics and exclamation points in silent films. Plus Dr. Challenger’s hirsute head was practically a character in and of itself.

The first half hour of the film and music was amazing. But then it seemed as if Dengue Fever mostly played the same chords repetitively for the other hour and 10 minutes. And Chhom Nimol only sang like 4 songs. I expected her to 1) sing more and 2) sing some in English. I’ve never heard her sing in English! I was all excited. So the music portion was a trifle disappointing.

Also upsetting was the number of dinosaurs mawled upon by the allosaurus. I have to say I really hate allosauruses now. I was pretty happy when the herbivore brontosaurus got him in the jugular and bit down hard. Take that, allosaurus!, I cried silently, beaten by a leaf-eater!. But then the bronto fell off a cliff, sad. He’s shipped back to London to prove to all the scientific naysayers that live dinosaurs do to exist, suck on that. Of course, being a stupendous story of adventure and romance by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the dinosaur gets loose on the streets of London and rampages, sending the citizens fleeing! It’s very exciting, made more exciting by a driving Cambodian rock beat. Eventually she destructors the London Bridge and falls into the Thames, swimming off back home to the Amazon plateau from whence she came. Probably intent on gnawing on some more allosauruses. Sweet! I’d watch that sequel.




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On Monday evening I went to Berkeley to see Kimjongilia, a documentary about North Korea, its escapees, and its dictator. The film had its high points but these were tempered by some seriously awful camera work.

For the most part the film was made up of interviews with defectors from the Communist regime. The majority of the interviewees had been prisoners in North Korean gulags sentenced for a family member’s crime not even their own. The practice in N. Korea is to send three generations of a family to the gulag as punishment. So if your father is caught listening to an unsanctioned radio broadcast, for example, his parents, your mother, and all your brothers and sisters are also sent to prison. In prison, N. Koreans perform forced labor; the goods of which contribute to the country (military uniforms, raw minerals, etc), but some are also sold abroad (paper flowers to France, bras to Russia). The fact that other countries continue to buy items from N. Korea astounded me.

Of course, not all the interviewees had been sent to prison, two notable exceptions were a pianist and a singer. The piano player had been raised in the Conservatory–one of the country’s elite. If your family has never been accused of a crime you might remain near the top of the ranking system (there are 32 levels in all). Pretty much all of the country’s members in good standing live in Pyongyang, have access to food, and are granted more privileges than the rural people who eat grass, tree bark, and mice to survive. That is, if they can catch the last item. So the piano player was sent to Russia to continue his training and was flabbergasted to suddenly be exposed to the entirety of Western music. In N. Korea you play what is allowed by the state or you go to prison. Predominantly this means classical Korean music; nothing connected to capitalism is allowed. So the greats of Western musical traditions are neglected. Anything modern is completely unheard of. The piano player tried to practice some French composer once he was back in Pyongyang and was overheard. He stole money to bribe the border police and escaped the country because he didn’t want to have his musical tastes stifled. But not before being hung up and beaten for 14 hours.

The singer’s voice was compared to South Korean popstars which was, obviously, frowned upon. She fled the country with her mother and sisters to avoid prison. But once in China, they were all sold into sex slavery. She and her family didn’t escape that condition for five years when she stormed the South Korean embassy and demanded asylum.

One of the escapees wrote a book titled Aquariums of Pyongyang. His family (three generations) were sent to a gulag–I think it was No. 14–but he was allowed to bring one of his aquariums with him. He doesn’t say in the film, but I’m willing to guess his family eventually ate the fish. Another defector, who was a captain in the military, escaped with his family via boat down across the 38th parallel. He now works for Free North Korea Radio in Seoul. They broadcast to N. Korea (illegally by N. Korean standards) for 6 hours a day trying to describe to a beaten people the tenants of democracy and how they need to stand up to their oppressors to gain what they’re entitled to. Human rights in N. Korea are obviously non-existent due to the totalitarian control of the government and Kim Jong Il and that is one of the ideologies of the developed world that Free North Korea Radio is trying to deliver to their countrymen.

Several of the interviewees claimed that upon the collapse of the government they would be back in North Korea within a day. Others cry while expressing their bitter hatred towards the country of their birth and state that they will never go back.

As a documentary, I think Kimjongilia was well done. It showcased a situation with first hand testimonials that many people know very little about. It did this with care and real feeling for what has been suffered. The director also chose to intersperse the interviews with clips from propaganda films made in North Korea as well as performance pieces glorifying the state and the Kim family that have been filmed and smuggled out. In addition due to her theatrical/dance background the director chose to incorporate some footage of ballerinas doing interpretive dance. One was dressed in a modified Korean garment and the other was in a traffic cop uniform. I liked these all right but thought some of the editing effects detracted from their impact. In addition the camera work in a few of the interviews was horribly distracting–super shaky close-ups with jerky movements. So as a film Kimjongilia still needs some work but on the whole, I think it contained a powerful message raising awareness of an awful situation.



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yesterday i saw atonement at the dome with ellie. sadly, it was not IN the dome because they tricked us with double showtimes and alternating times in the dome and our time was not a dome time. so i had to go all the way around the corner past the collapsed Monkey Ward (which is the montgomery ward shopping alley for those of you not privy to my brain).

atonement was this gorgeous visual piece which i really liked. the cinematography and direction were perfect. kiera knightley and james macavoy were excellent at passion. especially when she pops out of the fountain in the slip all dripping water and sexual tension and anger. and in the library in the green dress. oh god, that green dress is incredible.

brief plot outline: the story is about a well-off british family starting just prior to WWII. there are 3 children. the oldest brother is maybe late 20’s, the middle daughter (cecilia) is early 20’s, and the youngest daughter (briony) is 13. cecilia and robbie (the house-keeper’s son) declare their passion for one another. briony gets pissed and claims he raped her cousin and he gets sent to jail and then the war. the story is mostly told from briony’s POV, but she is relating the story of cecilia and robbie (she’s a writer who within the book actually wrote the book).

i read part of the book before giving up to read some vampire YA and it was lovely writing. what i got out of the part i read was that the book was trying to describe a young girl’s moment of understanding that what she perceives as the truth is not always the truth. that there are multiple sides to every story and that a person’s role as the removed voyeur is very different from the person who is a participant in the central action. the film version highlighted this moment of realization by repeatedly showing same scenes from different viewpoints. which generally i would consider boring because i am impatient, but in this case i thought it was really well done.

there’s this scene on the beach in france when all the british soldiers are waiting for the navy to come collect them in their retreat. they did a continuous shot that was absolutely amazing to watch as it started on macavoy and went all over thru the soldiers, around in arcs, and back to macavoy. i mean, it went up stairs, around corners, up a sand-dune, and it was all smooth and graceful. so pretty (and horrific as they were shooting the horses they had to leave behind so the germans couldn’t use them, also destroying cars, ammunition, etc.). and there was a group harmonizing a patriotic song in a gazebo that the camera went around in a full 360. a-fucking-mazing, i tell you.

so, gorgeous lovely film, well done and worth seeing. though seeing it IN the dome would have been so much more delightful. that long shot on the enormous screen? man, that would have been good.


I am Legend


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i’d suggest not reading this if you want to see the movie and don’t want anything spoiled for your viewing pleasure.

it’s a sad day when you go into a movie expecting will smith to be his normal sci-fi film snarky self and instead get a slightly crazy, wholly unfunny smith. in the grand tradition that started with independence day and came through in wild wild west, men in black, and i, robot, i EXPECT will smith to be sarcastic while kicking ass and taking alien/robot names. i do NOT expect him to pant in terror, talk to mannequins like a crazy person, and kill his dog. the will smith i know would have found a cure before snapping the dog’s neck. this is just depressing.

also depressing was the inclusion of emma thompson as the originator of the disease. i do not like her to be the destruction of the human race.

the infected people were pretty fucking scary. they did the whole open-the-mouth-downwards-really-wide-roar thing that the mummy in the mummy did (a movie which i, admittedly, love because there’s an ass-kicking, name-taking, sarcasm-making male lead). annoyingly smith did not seem to catalog on his stupid streaming video camera that the infected HAD redeveloped human-like cognitive behavior in their creation of an alpha-male general character who set up booby traps and attacked smith’s dog with slavering infected dogs. but luckily god and butterflies come to him and he found the cure at the end in time to give it to the completely unrealistic duo that just saved him from a suicide run. you know what i enjoyed? how the infected found his house and he blew up washington square.

basically this movie started with chasing deer through the middle of new york’s devastation and i had to cover my eyes for THAT at the thunks the deer made as they ran into things. it didn’t get any better from there. stupid hank at the video store, stupid will smith crying to a mannequin, stupid flashbacks, stupid god/butterfly theme, stupid depressing/terrifying movie. and the ending, oh god(butterfly), seriously? voice over? VOICE OVER? not ok.



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and speaking of cool ass films, did you know that they made persepolis by marjane satrapi into a movie? hell yeah! who wants to see that? it’s playing in SF on december 12 and should be pretty good. the graphic novels by satrapi are good, after all. it is $25 though. but this includes a reception and talk by satrapi and the director.


Marjane Satrapi, with codirector Vincent Paronnaud, brings her acclaimed memoirs about an irrepressible young girl growing up in Iran and Europe to the big screen with a style that combines bold visual design with amusing and heart-rending storytelling. Thematically rich, the film covers the changing political climate in Iran during the ‘70s and ‘80s, the difficulties and challenges of boarding school and expatriate life, as well as the admirable efforts of the Satrapi family to maintain a warm and open home life amidst an increasingly hostile external environment. Featuring the vocal talents of Chiara Mastroianni and her real-life mother Catherine Deneuve as Marjane and her mother, this Cannes prizewinner (and submission

for Best Foreign Language Film) is a sensational film for adults and discerning younger audiences.

The screening will be preceded by an onstage interview with co-directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Following the screening, join Film Society staff in the Bistro to discuss the film.


the covenant

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you know what’s wonderful about nuala being in town? being able to go see horrible, truly horrible, YA fantasy movies with someone else.

the covenant is about teenage male witches. hot male witches. with bad lines. and speedos. really quite good looking though. they’re all seniors at some private prep school on the east coast and descended from witches that went into hiding during the salem witch trials. at the age of 13 they get some wicked awesome powers. and at the age of 18 they “ascend” to full powers and then start dying. because the powers are their life force, and oh so seductive. everytime you use them you die a little on the inside. and every time you use them you want to use them more. as a premise goes…this one was pretty lame.

it became lamer as they didn’t have the intelligence to use the powers to full potential. moreover they constantly drove around in the rain with the top down on the car. and every time the girls were alone in their dorm room, they stripped down to tiny tank tops and underwear. i know this is male wish fulfillment, but girls don’t really do that. especially when it’s freezing. they’re called fuzzy warm pajama pants, people, learn it, live it, wear it.

there were some horrific moments with spiders where nuala and i cringed and squealed in our seats. they did the laying eggs, baby spiders erupting from a sore thing. oh god, it was awful.

the best lines:

reed: “harry potter can KISS MY ASS!”

as he drove the car over a cliff and used his powers to levitate it in concert with the other three hotties.


chase: “how about i make you my wiotch?”

WIOTCH?!?!? ha ha ha ha ha!!! i changed my phone to have nuala’s # under ‘wiotch’. i am so excited for the next time she calls me. so, SO excited




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basic plot: scarlett johannsen gets an insubstantial visitor–the ghost of a dead reporter–while in the magic disappearing box of splendini, played by woody allen. she then goes on quest to follow up the ghost’s scoop of the century–the identity of the ‘tarot card killer’, who may or may not be peter lyman, the son of lord lyman, played by hugh jackman.

it’s rather distressing watching scarlett johannsen channel woody allen. especially when she’s standing next to him and he’s also talking. it turns out she’s best when she has one word lines because she can’t actually deliver them in a woody manner then.

though you get them exchanging lines like:

SJ: stop telling people i sprang from your loins.

WA: did you accomplish anything besides a possible pregnancy?


hugh jackman does not play woody allen. it’s probably because he’s too hot. he does however react in an unfeigned manner when woody allen tells him that scarlett, his “daughter”, once dressed up as petunia pig for a masked ball. a delighted snort of laughter = adorable.

some elements of the movie were a delightful surprise: scenes on charon’s boat, giles’ cameo, and a smart car appearance. plus, of course, the petunia pig line.

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