Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Girlfight (2000)

I've heard of Karyn Kusama before. But it's puzzling why I haven't heard of her as often as I should, Girlfight's luminous helmer and storyteller. A quick glance at her directorial credits at Wikipedia offers hints about this mystery.  Kusama has only directed three feature films since her debut in this film, the biggest of which is Aeon Flux (2005), with a budget of $62 million from Paramount, but only grossed an estimated $52 million worldwide.

On the other hand, Michelle Rodriguez, the girl in the title, has become a box-office name - in fast and furious mode, no doubt - since her promising appearance as Diana Guzman whose passion to be a boxer glows in her scowl, braids, and courage to beat up her own father for making comments about that desire. But then Kusama handles different genres. This interest should work on her favor.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Skyfall (2012)

Since Daniel Craig played James Bond, the secret service agent hasn't been what he used to be, even though Craig certainly has all the qualities of his predecessors: handsome, debonair, sexy, and witty. But Craig's Bond, here, is darker, edgier, as though his brooding glances hides a past, even amidst death-defying, action sequences. That past shows up in Skyfall. We discover his roots, where he grew up. Thus, the story shows a more serious aspect of the agent that, at times, denies any intervention of wit and humor. This bond film seems to be preoccupied with shadows, which brilliantly merges the idea of shadows, in the context of terrorism and its politics, with the shadows of Bond's past, especially how that past surges back into the present and terrorizes it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)

In this documentary, Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg explores the life of Joan Rivers. We hear the comedienne behind the stage, philosophizing about ambition, endurance, and what drives her to not retire yet. Workaholism has been her vehicle to success, fame, respect, wealth, including disrespect. To this Barnard grad, work is air.

At seventy-five*, it's amazing how energetic this woman is, performing to this and that city, constantly traveling.  She seems hungry for something beyond revenues and the residuals of fame. You can feel she'd lose it, if she's not out there, entertaining people. Is it simply work, the urge to perform? She's in some kind of rhythm that cannot be domesticated, the kind we can only see as glamour. 

* Her age when the film was made.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bashing (2005)

In many ways, Masahiro Kobayashi explains the film through its title. It is a story about being different, its complications, struggles, and perhaps irrationalities. Fusako Urabe’s presentation of these elements in Yuko takes us far into the mind of someone who has always felt different since she was a child. As an adult, Yuko makes a bold decision to volunteer as an aid-worker in Iraq, which clues us into her sense of empathy, that somehow her personal struggles have conditioned her to feel the struggles of other people miles away from Japan. Unfortunately, fate is not on Yuko’s side in Iraq. She is caught in a hostage situation. Her family’s worries become Japan’s.

Soon, Yuko is released, and returns home from the Middle East.  This part of Yuko’s life is where the film starts, bleak, hopeless, hard to watch.  Her return is not filled with happy faces, but rather with insults, jeering faces, and condemnations that she has disgraced a country for being hostaged.  As hostage, she brings down an entire race, and makes it look weak.  Thus, her co-workers, former boyfriend, and neighbors do not want to be associated with her.  Being in public spaces becomes a personal threat.  Store owners harass her.  Strangers want to hurt her.  She is not wanted in Japan.  Even her own father loses his job, as though he is bad blood for the company, that he has failed as father to raise Yuko.

Now does Yuko give in? Yuko’s situation only drives her to open her eyes, wider, beyond the realms of Japan, to a point where her hopes and struggles to live and be alive becomes highly personal. Perhaps in her silence she is bashing fate itself, that no matter what, she is in control of her own life.

Directed by Masahiro Kobayashi
Monkey Town Productions, 82min, Japanese, 2005
Fusako Urabe,Nene Otsuka,Ryûzô Tanaka.