Apr 27, 2002

It's Saturday again?
My housemate's been back for a week after an almost three month hiatus in New Zealand and Toronto. I had come to enjoy having an apartment to myself, but the sheer freedom from any form of social obligation meant my schedule's been slipping back towards that university lifestyle. You know the one, where all life's necessary functions except for sleep transpired under the light of the moon or flourescent tubes; daylight hours existed for the purpose of exams and handing in papers. In this past week I think I've seen my housemate twice. Typically, he's off to work before I awake, and I get home after his lights go out. I've spent too many hours at work this week. And in the midst of it all there just wasn't the time to blog about the past weekend, and I already find it's Satuday again. And since I haven't had time to mention it, here's the sad news of the week. Not only do we get bombed by Americans, but we pick up their eating habits as well.

Last Saturday was actually quite interesting. Billy and I caught a full-house screening of Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) (2001) at the San Francisco Film Festival. This is the lastest film by Hayao Miyazaki, released last summer in Japan, December in Hong Kong, and supposedly September 20th, 2002 in North America. Like many other Miyazaki features, this one was made "For the people who used to be 10 years old, and the people who are going to be 10 years old". I've realized I'm slowly losing the ability to see things as a kid. I think kids would love this movie, but I wonder whether they really would, or whether they'd find parts of it slow moving (much like Totoro). As an adult I'd say it's the best Miyazaki film so far. It's got the typical themes that recur in his films - uncertain child heroines, fantastic creatures, tradition, magic, humour, victory and love. The fairy-tale plot follows Chihiro as her family curiously wanders into an abandoned Japanese theme park, where they are sucked into a magical world in medieval Japan. Chihiro struggles to find her own identity and free the friends she meets and her own parents from the witch Yu-baba which runs the alternate reality. Like most films for kids, this movie comes off as heartwarming and uplifting. Like most other Miyazaki films, it manages to do it honestly, without resorting to cheezy cliches. This one should be coming into wide release from Disney by the fall. Watch it. 4.5/5

We spent Saturday night wandering North Beach for something interesting to do. Having passed by all the 'hip' looking spots, at the point of calling it a night, we go back to the live music blaring from a small bar, simply named 'Saloon'. We weren't quite sure whether the '1232' of the address was part of the name or not, but it was an interesting spot in itself. The bar itself was old and run down. It could have been out of a western if it weren't for the fact that we're too far west for cowboys. The clientele were in their early thirties through to what must have been their 70s. All caucasian, and mostly obese. A slice of the American crowd you'd least to expect a couple of Chinese kids to hang in. Up on stage, a guy I've never heard of named Daniel Castro was wailing out some sad song about walking down some road, but he was mighty lively about it. The whole of the crowded little bar was on their feet grooving to the beat of the blues guitar. This kinda thing doesn't quite have the right sound on CD, it's not stuff I'd normally go buy, but one of these days I gotta get myself back in a blues bar.

How does Yu-ling manage to post just about every day? Kids and co-op these days. Oh, wait, I remember, back in the day when my mailbox handled 400 emails a day while I my catatonic brain fermented in the basement of some unnamed bank tower. Speaking of Yuling, his posts on sex and the arts are quite interesting. Just last week the Supreme Court made a relevent ruling.

On the topic of sex and film, the theme this week is love stories, although there are quite a few variations on that theme.

Boys Don't Cry (1999)
After making quite a buzz in many gay & lesbian film fests, this one netted a Best Actress Oscar for Hilary Swank. As an independent film, you get the gritty low cost cinematography often seen in indies. Based on a true story, the story follows an underacheiving teen girl (who wants to be a boy) wandering stupidly through white trash America looking for love. Although the plot only gets about as complicated as it could when you throw tomboys, pretty girls, and drunk jealous boyfriends together, the ending's a real doozy.

The Crying Game (1992)
I'm a decade late in watching this one, the buzz has long died and everyone knows the 'twist' in this one already. It certainly would have been more of a bomb if you weren't expecting it coming, but even then it's still a great movie. Unlike the previous movie, the visuals are lush, vivid and intentional. The plot (which I actually knew nothing about) actually follows a group of the IRA as they kidnap a British soldier from a local fair and hold him. One of the IRA volunteers, Fergus, builds up a friendship with the soldier, Jody while guarding him, yet In the end, their demands are not met and Fergus leads Jody off to his execution. That's actually just the introduction as Fergus then tries to put his IRA past behind him and somehow find redemption in searching out Jody's girlfriend in London. It does a great job of portraying love and sexuality - how they're both intertwined and yet two vastly different things. Worth watching but not everyone will like it.

Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
Despite having raked in tonnes of awards in its home country of Mexico, this film was highly dissappointing, especially if you're expecting some sort of drama. Writer Lauren Esquivel (who also wrote the novel, which I haven't read, and don't plan to read) does herself a great disservice, falling into the stereotype of an overly romantic feminist woman writer). Tita is born, the youngest daughter in a 19th century Mexican family, must live by her family's tradition and not marry, but fulfill her role and care for her mother until she passes. All is well, with Tita growing up in the kitchen, until a charming but stupid boy comes along, and the desire for love and freedom draws out the rest of the story. The only non-standard fare are the fantastic elements here and there - the magical effects of Tita's cooking and her visions. Although the characters do show a hint of humanity - living torn between the desire for freedom and the bounds of propriety and tradition, making mistakes, growing up - they're still mostly cliche. The cooking scenes don't come across as particularly sensual (I don't think Mexican food ever truly attains that). And the passionately romantic love scenes end up coming across as comedic and gauche. Maybe you'll like it if you're looking for a romantic chick flick, but I think this is even too much for that.

Angels and Insects (1995)
I had heard of this one before, something to do with Victorian era prurient interests. But Sinyee rented it and she had no idea what it was about. A shipwrecked naturalist returns penniless to his aristocratic benefactor, a reverend struggling between God and science at the time when Darwin was novel. Despite the biologist's meagre upbringing, his benefactor accepts him into the family, as he marries the much desired, beautiful older daughter and assists the father in his entomological research - much to the dismay of the antagonistic brother. The plot twists from there, leaving the viewer is trying to decipher whether something is indeed going on beneath the surface of the house. It actually reminds me of the recent bruhaha with the RC church. This film starts off painfully slow, the well enunciated Victorian speech and formality drags the entire first half; only in the end do you realize how masterfully intentional the whole pace has been set.

And speaking of watching what you watch, you may or may not be interested in these, since they all have scenes with full nudity (uh oh!).

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