Lonely Boy Finds Friend in Blood-Craving Pixie!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 9, 2010
… through Wednesday, December 15
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The Social Network. Let Me In. Aftershock. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
“Lonely Boy ...” headline (above)
from NY Times
This newssheet is also online! Go to:
This is Issue Number 6 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year! Back issues are available on the blog.
Luang Prabang Film Festival in Luang Prabang: Continuing until Saturday, Dec 11. Open air, free.
The Bangkok International Film Festival has been cancelled for this year.
Oscar season begins!
... and The Social Network finds itself well out in front. The National Board of Review last Thursday awarded The Social Network several top prizes, including best feature, best director (David Fincher), best actor (Jesse Eisenberg) and best adapted screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). The group’s president, Annie Schulhof, lauded the truthy drama for being a timeless story that will “appeal to many generations,” especially if or when Facebook takes over the world.
Lesley Manville got the best actress nod for playing an alcoholic secretary in the Mike Leigh film Another Year, and Jennifer Lawrence, who has earned best actress buzz for Winter’s Bone, got a breakthrough performance award. Christian Bale won best supporting actor for playing a strung out ex-boxer in The Fighter, and Jacki Weaver got best supporting actress for “Animal Kingdom,” an Australian crime drama. Toy Story 3 won best animated film, Waiting for ‘Superman’ captured the best documentary prize and Restrepo, Sebastian Junger and Tim Harrington’s year-long look at a military base in Afghanistan, won for best directorial debut.
The slimeball himself, from
The Social Network
The National Board of Review, a New York non-profit organization known mainly for doling out adulation (“the Board’s core activities include fostering commentary on all aspects of film production,” according to its Web site), has been a harbinger of Oscar fortune in the past, picking winners like Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men. But last year, its top prize went to “Up in the Air,” which saw its Academy standing decline gradually through the rest of the season. The event, held this year on Jan. 11, does have a reputation for getting a lot stars in one room, since the board members are generous with the trophy giving. This year, for example, Sofia Coppola will get a “Special Filmmaking Achievement Award” for writing, directing, and producing Somewhere, and The Town, starring Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner, earned a nod for best ensemble.
This year the N.B.R. “Freedom of Expression” prize went to not one but three films with noteworthy casts: Fair Game (Sean Penn, Naomi Watts); Conviction (Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell); and Howl (James Franco). The list-happy N.B.R. also anointed its 10 best films, its five best foreign films, its five best documentaries and its 10 best indie films. The full list of deserving winners can be found on the organization’s Web site.
How many of these will make it to Chiang Mai? That’s the question, of course. Two already have, the great Toy Story 3 and the current The Social Network, which you should not miss. And the Chinese foreign film entry is playing now at Vista, to mostly empty seats. Those who have seen it have been deeply moved.
The race is on toward the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on 27 February (Hollywood time – Monday 28 February here in Thailand). My money is on The Social Network at the moment.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: US, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 1 hr 55 mins – Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace where they meet up with Prince Caspian for a trip across the sea aboard the royal ship The Dawn Treader. (You know what a treader is, right? One who treads or trods – to walk along, press beneath the feet, trample. A Dawn Trader he is not.) Along the way they encounter dragons, dwarves, merfolk, and a band of lost warriors before reaching the edge of the world. It turns out this is a post-production 2D to 3D job, which has been bad news so far. We’ll see. This digital 3D version is playing only at Airport Plaza in English with Thai subtitles. Airport Plaza also has a 2D version, and a 2D Thai-dubbed version. Vista has only a 2D Thai-dubbed version, with no English subtitles. Mixed or average reviews: 55/57 out of 100. (The scores, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from Metacritic.com, and the other is from RottenTomatoes.com. Movies released in the US only.)
SBS, Simon Foster: Over the interminable 112 minute running time of Michael Apted’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, not a single discernable artistic reason emerges as to why 20th Century Fox would have wanted to adopt the third installment of Disney’s jettisoned franchise.
Given the relentlessly listless and uninspired approach all involved seem to have taken in the making of the film, one can only assume the purchase of the rights to the ongoing adventures of the Pevensie children was on the recommendation of Mr. Murdoch’s business advisers. Expect to see the exponential exploitation of the Narnia brand in the years ahead, most likely in the form of ultra-cheap, straight-to-DVD spin-offs that will have little to do with the spirit of C.S. Lewis’ work but prove profitable.
Given the first film of the series is a personal favorite that I rate as highly as the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the ‘adapted fantasy’ stakes (No. 2 – not so good), such cynicism is sad but cynicism is about all that Apted’s film inspires. Setting aside his role shepherding the extraordinary Up series, Apted has always been a journeyman director whose best work has been in the feature-length documentary field (Bring on the Night, 1985; Incident at Oglala, 1992; Moving the Mountain, 1994) or the result of fully-realized source material, often based on true events (Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1980; Gorky Park, 1983; Gorillas in the Mist, 1988). But he has always been uncomfortable as a hired-gun on studio fare, his directorial disinterest evident in the lesser works of Richard Pryor (Critical Condition, 1987), Gene Hackman (Class Action, 1991, and Extreme Measures, 1996), Jennifer Lopez (Enough, 1999) and James Bond (The World is Not Enough, 1996).
He’s not the only one involved with ...Dawn Treader who appears blasé. Ben Barnes, returning in the role of Prince Caspian, couldn’t be less charismatic if he tried. His expressionless performance seems to suggest he just wanted to hit his mark, get it in the can, and move on to better things. Also returning are Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund, two likable kids whose acting range has not developed that much since the first film. (The casting of the Pevensie children has always been the one liability of the Narnia films; none of them have ever been particularly good.) Favorites from past installments (William Moseley’s ‘Peter’; Anna Popplewell’s ‘Susan’; Tilda Swinton as the villainous White Witch; and Aslan, the Liam Neeson-voiced Jesus metaphor) make fleeting non-contributions.
The meager plot involves the search for seven swords that have been spread far and wide across Narnia; recovering the swords will release innocent spirits captured and kept in the dark recesses of the Lost Islands. Transported from 1940s London to the deck of The Dawn Treader, Lucy, Edmund and their thoroughly unlikable cousin Eustace (played by a thoroughly unlikable Will Poulter, last seen to much better effect as the Stallone-obsessed ne’er-do-well in Garth Jennings’ Son of Rambow, 2007) face-off against....well, nothing really. There are pirates and storms and cloudy apparitions (green, not black like the ones in the Harry Potter films, but mostly the same thing), but there is no specific bad guy in the narrative, thereby lessening any suspense-inducing threat.
Filmed on the [Australian] Gold Coast, if any of the film’s contributors can hold their heads high it is the Australian technical contingent and supporting cast (which includes Gary Sweet as the ship’s captain and Terry Norris and Bruce Spence as two of the mystical lords). Apted rewards his effects team for their stellar work on the lifelike animated characters Aslan and the rodent warrior Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg) by turning the last 25 minutes of the film entirely over to their mastery; they fire up their computer programs for the overused dragon/sea-monster/giant wave effects template. It will send the kids out on a high, but it’s too-much-too-late in storytelling terms.
The post-production 3D conversion benefits from a bright, mostly sun-drenched palette, but blurred images still proliferate. Directors Louis Leterrier and M. Night Shyamalan will be breathing a sigh of relief, now that Michael Apted has taken some of the focus off their respective duds, Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender, in the race for this year’s worst 3D fantasy film hack job crown.
* Let Me In: UK/ US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Mystery – 1 hr 56 mins – I am overjoyed that this film has made it to Chiang Mai. I haven’t seen it, and am very anxious to. I enjoyed the original Swedish film very much, it played here recently at Film Space, and it was a highly regarded film , even playing at the Bangkok Film Festival. This has gotten excellent reviews. Director Matt Reeves's remake of the Swedish Vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In, is a fine film in its own right, an eerie, poignant thriller that makes for a nice companion piece to its source. Let Me In stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as a lonely middle schooler in New Mexico who's the victim of frequent bullying. He takes solace in the company of a girl from the neighborhood (Chloe Moretz – one of the few good things about the film Kick-Ass – she played Hit-Girl), but there's something a little off about her -- why has her arrival coincided with a series of brutal killings? The film is filled with outstanding performances -- particularly the two young leads -- and if it doesn't quite pack the punch of the original, Let Me In maintains its predecessor's mix of bloody disquiet and pre-adolescent angst. At Airport Plaza only, with thanks for bringing this off-beat film to our city. Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence, language, and a brief sexual situation. (It has swearing and gore.) Rated 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews: 79/78 out of 100.
New York Times, A. O. Scott: The title of Let Me In might be understood as a plea to the audience. Even if you think you’ve had enough of the vampirization of popular culture — Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and so on — find room in your heart for this one. And though it teases out the usual horror movie sensations of dread and anxiety and eyes-averted disgust, this movie also makes a direct and disarming play for affection, eliciting in viewers something akin to the awkward, resilient tenderness that is its subject.
Vampire romanticism is nothing new, of course. Millions of us, not just teenage girls, have followed the courtship of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen through every deep breath and smoldering glance. But the love story in Let Me In, between two 12-year-olds, one of them a blood-craving undead pixie named Abby, is both more intense and more innocent.
The subtext of the relationship is not sexuality, as it is in Twilight or True Blood, but rather the loneliness of children and their often unrecognized reservoirs of rage. Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her pal, a trembling, big-eyed boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), are fragile and quiet but also capable of horrifying violence.
Let Me In, Matt Reeves’s worthy and honorable remake of Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish adaptation of the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is disturbing because it takes you inside the minds of its young main characters, Owen in particular. Ignored and harangued at home by his mother — his parents are in the midst of a divorce — Owen is easy bait for bullies at school. He compensates for his powerlessness by bingeing on candy and shutting himself in his room, where he spies on the neighbors with a telescope and acts out sadistic serial-killer fantasies in front of the mirror.
“Are you scared, little girl?” he whispers, brandishing a kitchen knife and calling his imaginary victim exactly what his locker room tormentors call him.
The little girl who does arrive in Owen’s life — moving into the next apartment in his shabby little complex with a shambling, put-upon adult guardian (Richard Jenkins) — becomes the boy’s ally in a pact of mutual protection. “We can’t be friends,” she tells him when they first meet in the courtyard where he likes to sit alone at night, eating Now-and-Laters.
But of course they do, even as their moments of easy companionship are punctuated by a series of gruesome crimes, committed by the man Owen assumes is Abby’s father in order to feed her appetite for human blood. When the poor man messes up these hunting missions, as he often does, Abby must gather her own prey, which gives her (and Mr. Reeves) a chance to show off some creepy computer-aided monster skills.
The story holds a few surprises, but what makes Let Me In so eerily fascinating is the mood it creates. It is at once artful and unpretentious, more interested in intimacy and implication than in easy scares or slick effects. Mr. Reeves also made Cloverfield, a movie whose genuine formal cleverness was overshadowed by an annoying pseudo-documentary gimmick — recalling The Blair Witch Project and anticipating Paranormal Activity — as well as by some very annoying characters.
With Let Me In the director demonstrates, in addition to impressive horror movie chops, a delicate sensitivity and a low-key visual wit. Much of the action takes place in semi-darkness (the sunlight-allergic Abby’s preferred ambience), and Mr. Reeves and his cinematographer, Greig Fraser, warp and blur the images, using shallow focus to convey the isolation and disorientation of the vulnerable children. Michael Giacchino’s score glides effortlessly from jarring sonic freakouts to lush swells of melodramatic orchestration.
All of it — and the quite haunting performances of Ms. Moretz and Mr. Smit-McPhee — allows you to see how Abby and Owen construct their own world in the face of various threats and misunderstandings.
There is, in addition to the bullies and the parents, a dogged cop played by Elias Koteas, who thinks some kind of Satanic cult must be responsible for the bloodletting. There is not, refreshingly enough, a lot of pseudoscholarly demonological lore. No Volturi or rival werewolf clans; no excursions into the sociology or mythology of the undead; no Internet searches turning up images of medieval woodcuts and esoteric Latin text.
No Internet at all, for that matter, since Let Me In following the lead of the original, takes place in 1983. David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” is on the radio, along with Culture Club, and Ronald Reagan is on television, lecturing the nation about good and evil. The period evoked seems to be a sad, anxious time. The setting — Los Alamos, N.M., perhaps for reasons having more to do with local tax incentives than with anything else — is drab and wintry, like the Sweden of Mr. Alfredson’s original, though the emotional tone is more American emo than Nordic melancholy.
The early-’80s cultural touchstone that Let Me In brought to my mind — indirectly and perhaps perversely — was Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” Mr. Smit-McPhee looks a bit like Henry Thomas, and both play boys from broken families living in the Southwest whose lives are changed by the intervention of a supernatural (and potentially immortal) friend. That one is a warm science-fiction fable and the other a dark horror film makes the similarity more striking, since both movies begin with, and build their fantasies against, the terror and fury of childhood.
Roger Ebert: Let Me In, like the Swedish film that inspired it, deals brutally with the tragic life of the vampire. It's not all fun, games and Team Edward. No lifestyle depending on fresh human blood can be anything but desperate. A vampire, like a drug addict, is driven by need. After a certain point, all else is irrelevant, and the focus is on the craving.
The film is remarkably similar in tone and approach to Let the Right One In, and it is clear that the American writer-director, Matt Reeves, has admiration for the Swedish writer-director, John Ajvide Lindqvist, who made the original. Reeves understands what made the first film so eerie and effective, and here the same things work again. Most U.S. audiences will be experiencing the story for the first time. Those who know the 2008 version will notice some differences, but may appreciate them.
The core story remains similar. Owen, a boy on the brink of adolescence, lives a lonely life in a snowbound apartment complex with an alcoholic mother, hardly seen. He is bullied at school by a sadistic boy, much larger. A girl named Abby and her father move into the next apartment. She announces "I can never be your friend," but some latent kindness causes her to feel protective toward the lonely and abused child. Abby is a vampire, but vampires have their reality forced upon them, and having lived for a long time, may have seen much to make them pity the living.
The story focuses tightly on Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz, of Kick-Ass). Two other adults are of consequence: Her "father" (Richard Jenkins), who can hardly be her father and was probably, long ago, in Owen's shoes. In vampire lore, he is her Familiar. The other adult is a local policeman, played by Elias Koteas as a saturnine and solemn man. He's investigating a serial killer in the region. Where there are vampires, there must always be serial killers.
The night and the cold are also characters. The film is shot in chill tones of blue and gray, Owen and Abby have uncanny pale skin, there is frost on his breath, but not on hers. She doesn't feel the cold, we gather. Or the warmth. Many of the events are the same in both films, although the U.S. version adds one surprise that comes at a useful time to introduce frightening possibilities: This is not a safe world, and bad things can happen.
Both films end with scenes set in a swimming pool at night. The windows, high up under the ceiling to admit sunlight, are dark and cold. We can imagine the clammy tiles, the chill in the locker-room where Owen is so often picked on. The bullies call him a "girl" and seem obsessed with seeing his genitals — homophobic cruelty that casts a sad light on the first film's revelation about Abby's body. Both these characters feel sexually threatened or inadequate. It may only be me, but as I recall indoor swimming pools at night in winter (at high school, or the YMCA), they always had a whiff of mournful dread.
In the "Twilight" films, sexuality is treated as a tease. The handsome Edward is cast as a sexy but dangerous threat, who manfully holds back from sex with Bella Swan. She's tempted, but the films are cautionary fables about the danger of teenage sex. In Let Me In, sex is seen more as a troubling encroachment on privacy. Owen and Abby for their own reasons quail from intimacy and contact, and their only sensuous moments involve the comfort of close, tender hugs.
Where this will lead is easy to guess. Owen will move into Abby's life as her next Familiar. She will protect him. Among the things she will save him from is the necessity of growing up and functioning as a normal male. She will control everything. Thus Bela's sweet masochism will become Owen's hunger to give over control. To be a servant is the price for not being a victim.
Those hoping to see a "vampire movie" will be surprised by a good film.
* Lulla Man / Lunla Man / Poo Chai Lunlla / ผู้ชายลัลล้า สูตร 3G ซ่าส์ ซ่าส์หากิ๊ก: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 1 hr 50 mins – “Three fun-loving married guys always sneak off to have affairs with girls. With sophisticated skills to avoid being caught by their wives, the guys are reckless and never realize that their wives have now teamed up to give them a bitter lesson.” Extended TV comedy show, with Mum Jokmok and the usual Thai comedians.
More from Sweden!
* Millennium 1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women): Sweden/ Denmark/ Germany/ Norway, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery – in Swedish and English, with Thai and English subtitles – 2 hrs 32 mins – Studio synopsis: “Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vanger's are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves." Rated R in the US for disturbing violent content, including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews: 76/72 out of 100. At Vista only.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Its graphic violence and sprawling length will prove too much for some viewers to take, but Noomi Rapace's gripping performance makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an unforgettable viewing experience.
Trivia note: David Fincher, the director on a roll from The Social Network, is now in the process of filming an English language remake of this starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, and Christopher Plummer, due out next December.
The third film of the series, following the third in the series of novels, recently played in Bangkok as Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. All three novels and all three films have a large following world-wide.
Philadelphia Enquirer,Steven Rea: Rife with nightmarishly violent and horrific behavior. It's intense, graphic, frightening. And, yes, exhilarating.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Colin Covert: A densely plotted 2 1/2-hour saga, with enough mutilation, serial homicide, S&M rough stuff, cold-blooded violence, and frank nudity to spice up the saggy bits.
Roger Ebert: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a compelling thriller to begin with, but it adds the rare quality of having a heroine more fascinating than the story. She's a 24-year-old goth girl named Lisbeth Salander, with body piercings and tattoos: thin, small, fierce, damaged, a genius computer hacker. She smokes to quiet her racing heart.
Lisbeth is as compelling as any movie character in recent memory. Played by Noomi Rapace with an unwavering intensity, she finds her own emotional needs nurtured by the nature of the case she investigates, the disappearance of a young girl 40 years earlier. As this case is revealed as part of a long-hidden pattern of bizarre violence against women, memories of her own abused past return with a vengeance.
Rapace makes the character compulsively interesting. She plays against a passive fortysomething hero, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist who has six months of freedom before beginning a prison sentence for libel against a Swedish tycoon. Mikael, resourceful and intelligent, is hired by an elderly billionaire named Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), who inhabits a gloomy mansion on a remote island and broods about the loss of his beloved niece Harriet. She vanished one day when the island was cut off from the mainland. Her body was never found. Because the access bridge was blocked, the killer must have been a member of Vanger's large and greedy family, which he hates. Three brothers were Nazi sympathizers during the war.
The notion of a murder with a limited list of suspects was conventional even before Agatha Christie. Niels Arden Oplev's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" pays it lip service, with Mikael covering a wall with photos of the suspects. But this is a new age, and in addition to his search of newspaper and legal archives, he uses the Internet. That's how he comes across Lisbeth, who has been investigating him. She's described as Sweden's best hacker, a claim we have no reason to doubt, and the intensity of her focus, contrasted to her walled-off emotional life, suggests Asperger's.
They team up on the case, and might become lovers if not for Mikael's diffidence and her secretive hostility. They become efficient partners. Scenes involving newspaper photographs and Internet searches create sequences like a "Blow Up" for the digital age. The film is unique in my memory for displaying screen shots of an actual computer operating system, Mac OS X, and familiar programs like e-mail and iPhoto. Ever notice how most movie computers work like magic?
The forbidding island setting, the winter chill, the frosty inhabitants, all combine with dread suspicions to create an uncommonly effective thriller. It's longer than average, but not slow, not after we become invested in the depravity of the case. There are scenes involving rape, bondage and assault that are stronger than most of what serves in the movies for sexual violence, but these scenes are not exploitation. They have a ferocious feminist orientation, and although "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" seems a splendid title, the original Swedish title was the stark "Men Who Hate Women.".
About Stieg Larsson:
From Wikipedia: Through his written works, as well as in interviews, Stieg Larsson acknowledged that a significant number of his literary influences were American and British crime/detective fiction authors. In his work he made a habit of inserting the names of some of his favorites within the text, sometimes by making his characters read the works of his own favorite authors. Topping the list were Sara Paretsky, Agatha Christie, Val McDermid, Dorothy Sayers, and Enid Blyton.
When Larsson was 15 years old he witnessed the gang rape of a girl, which led to his lifelong abhorrence of violence and abuse against women. The author never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth - like the young heroine of his books, who is also a rape victim. This inspired the themes of sexual violence against women in his books.
He was the second best-selling author in the world in 2008. By March 2010, his Millennium trilogy had sold 27 million copies in more than 40 countries.
Larsson was initially a political activist for the Communist Workers League, a photographer, and one of Sweden's leading science fiction fans. In politics he was the editor of the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen, journal of the Swedish section of the Fourth International. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen.
Larsson spent part of 1977 in Eritrea, training a squad of female Eritrean People's Liberation Front guerrillas in the use of grenade launchers. He was forced to abandon that work due to having contracted a kidney disease. Upon his return to Sweden, he worked as a graphic designer at the largest Swedish news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) between 1977 and 1999.
Larsson's political convictions, as well as his journalistic experiences, led him
to found the Swedish Expo Foundation, similar to the British Searchlight Foundation, established to "counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people." He also became the editor of the foundation's magazine, Expo, in 1995.
When he was not at his day job, he worked on independent research of right-wing extremism in Sweden. In 1991, his research resulted in his first book "Right-wing extremism" ("Extremhögern"). Larsson quickly became instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations; he was an influential debater and lecturer on the subject, reportedly living for years under death threats from his political enemies.
At his death, 9 November 2004, Larsson left behind manuscripts of three completed but unpublished novels in a series. He wrote them for his own pleasure after returning home from his job in the evening, making no attempt to get them published until shortly before his death. The first was published in Sweden in 2005 as Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men who hate women"), published in English as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was awarded the prestigious Glass Key award as the best Nordic crime novel in 2005. His second novel, Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire), received the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2006. The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, Luftslottet som sprängdes ("The air castle that was blown up"), published in English as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, was published in the United States in May 2010.
Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer, now possessed by his partner, Eva Gabrielsson; synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth in the series, which he intended to contain an eventual total of ten books, may also exist.
Larsson died in Stockholm at the age of 50 of a heart attack. Rumors that his death was in some way induced, because of death threats received as editor of Expo, have been denied by Eva Gedin, his Swedish publisher.
* One Piece Film: Strong World: Japan, Animation/ Fantasy – 1 hr 53 mins – Hugely popular animation from Japan, setting several boxoffice records, the tenth and final but uniquely excellent feature-film episode in a series based on a popular manga, Eiichiro Oda's 56-volume pirate manga, One Piece. Oda personally supervised the production of Strong World, created the film's original story, and contributed over 120 pages of rough drawings. Furthermore, he placed his own name on the film's credits to indicate that this film that is entirely different from its nine predecessors. At Vista only, shown with the original Japanese soundtrack and Thai and English subtitles.
Ottawa International Animation Festival: Fresh off its record-breaking performance in Japanese theatres comes the Canadian theatrical debut of One Piece Film - Strong World. The tenth animated feature based on Eiichiro Oda’s popular Manga series drops us straight into the action as Luffy and his crew set sail for the ocean territory of East Blue. Their quest takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious flying pirate ship and band of pirates — arr, matey — appears out of the sky, piloted by none other than the legendary Golden Lion Shiki, who sends the crew on a whirlwind adventure, during which they must confront terrifying beasts and unfamiliar terrain in a battle for survival. Fans of the One Piece series will not want to miss Strong World, which was written by Oda himself in honor of the series’ 10th anniversary, while those new to the franchise will enjoy this vibrant, action-packed adventure.
Aftershock / Tangshan dadizhen / 唐山大地震: China, Drama/ History – 2 hrs 15 mins – By Feng Xiaogang. We know of one film for sure that will be up for Best Picture at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on 27 February (Hollywood time – Monday 28 February here in Thailand). It’s this one! Though, to be sure, this is in the best foreign film category. It’s China’s official entry, released in China on July 22 of this year, and is considered to be the first "big commercial IMAX film" created outside the US.
Based on the Tangshan Earthquake in 1976, the story concerns Li Ni who returns home only to find out that her 7-year-old twins are buried under the debris. She's left with a dilemma on deciding whom she chooses to save, her son, Fonda, or her daughter, Fan Teng. She chooses to save her son in the end without knowing that Fan Teng overheard the decision being made. Miraculously, the little girl manages to survive but suffers from the painful memory of her mother’s decision. Later, a young couple adopts her but she remains traumatized by this childhood experience. Generally favorable reviews: 64 out of 100. At Vista only, with the original Chinese soundtrack, and Thai and English subtitles – the way movies like this should be presented!
Twitch, Al Young: Director Feng Xiaogang is poised to bring audience to tears this summer in China's major blockbuster film Aftershock. Budgeted at somewhere between $10-25 million, the disaster drama is based on the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that claimed the lives of at least 240,000 people and severely injured a further 164,000, making the tragedy the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. It deals with the heartbreaking fallout between a mother (Fan Xu) and her quake surviving daughter (Jingchu Zhang) and their eventual reconciliation.
When a mother is informed by the rescue team that, as her 7-year old twins are buried under the debris close to each other, digging one out would result in further collapse of the wreckage on the other, she is forced to make the most difficult decision of her life. As the clock ticked away, she finally ended her struggle and chose to save the boy, and though heartbroken, she had no idea her decision was overheard by the daughter. Deemed as a dead person, the little girl miraculously survived and was rescued after being buried under for days. Suffering from the emotional shock of the disaster and the painful memory of her mother's choice, she refused to reveal who she was. She was adopted by a young couple and later moved to the US, but shadowed by the traumatic experience from her childhood, she forever remained emotionally closed up.
When the Sichuan earthquake takes over 80,000 lives in 2008, she volunteers to join the rescue team and returns to her homeland, China. As she witnesses the tribulations people go through when a natural disaster takes place, she finally unlocks the pain she had felt all these years and finds forgiveness. She finally reunites with the mother and twin brother she had parted from after 32 years. A human drama about finding forgiveness, Aftershock depicts not only the fatal tragedy that is brought on by a natural disaster of great levels, but also the strength and courage that is demonstrated when we are in face of extreme and devastating situations.
Twitch, Eight Rooks: It's frustrating following Feng Xiaogang's transformation into the Chinese Steven Spielberg. This isn't innately a bad thing. He's still a talented director capable of doing astonishing things with moving images. It's just a huge disappointment seeing Aftershock come so close to being something extraordinary only to waste far too much of its potential on saccharine melodrama and nationalist chest-beating, with a climax which feels completely unearned.
Based on the Chinese-language novel of the same name, Aftershock was released to tie in with the relief efforts following the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. The film tells the story of a family in Tangshan, beginning more than three decades earlier, when the great earthquake of 1976 devastated that city, killing nearly a quarter of a million people.
The family become separated in the chaos following the quake, when a dreadful misunderstanding sees the mother, Li Yuan Ni, giving her daughter up for dead. Rescued by the army, the daughter, Fang Deng is adopted but remains haunted by memories of the disaster, while the son Fang Da - now crippled - struggles to balance what he wants out of life with his mother's expectations of him as her only surviving child.
Feng is clearly out to make a piece of matinee entertainment aimed first and foremost at mainland domestic viewers, and in many respects he succeeds admirably. By Hollywood standards the budget was minute (around $22m) and much of the production design funded by donation drives, but the money was largely well spent.
The introduction is a slick, polished bit of sun-drenched nostalgia, lulling the viewer with childhood horseplay and idealized scenes of family life in a bygone decade. The quake itself, while not up to the breadth and scope of contemporary disaster porn, is still a hugely impressive set piece. Parts of the CG are overly showy and somewhat rough around the edges, but much of the destruction is physical effects work which comes across as terrifyingly realistic.
And 2012 this is not. While it's doubtful anyone could get away with glamorizing Tangshan in front of a mainland audience, Feng still deserves plaudits for making the aftermath look like hell on earth. While it's not especially explicit, the images of shell-shocked survivors stumbling blankly through the wreckage are harrowing stuff.
While Aftershock never again becomes quite so gut-wrenching, the conviction from everyone involved lends even the most melodramatic passages a great deal of power. The terrible choice that sets up the rest of the film is obviously contrived, but it never feels entirely implausible, and the cast sell much of the psychic fallout from it admirably. ...
But the problem with Aftershock is Feng insists on playing to the crowd almost from start to finish. Again, the propaganda elements in many mainland films aren't necessarily wholly bad, but here they slowly drag the film down, cheapening what should be something genuinely compassionate and humanist through the sheer volume of treacly schmaltz. ...
Aftershock ... does contain some absolutely enthralling moments of populist cinema. But it returns to the well for naked appeals to Chinese nationalist pride one too many times to feel like anything more than an exercise in flag-waving at the expense of credible character development or lasting emotive power, and can only be cautiously recommended.
Samurai Ayothaya / Yamada The Samurai of Ayothaya / ซามูไร อโยธยา: Thai, Action/ Drama – 1 hr 30 mins – Based on a true historic figure during Ayothaya Era, the film depicts the life of Yamada Nagamasa, a Japanese adventurer who gained considerable influence in Thailand and became the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand. At Airport Plaza only.
Watch out for this one! I haven’t seen such violence in a long while, and this was just in the trailer. Way too much breaking of bones for my taste, seemingly photographed in loving detail, with sounds of snapping and crunching that leaves nothing to the imagination. Too violent for me, and should be for you.
Cool Gel Attacks / Kra Deub / กระดึ้บ: Thai, Comedy/ Sci-Fi – 1 hr 30 mins – Pa and Maow are neighbors who have hated each other for a long time. But, when an unidentified gel-like object falls from the sky in their neighborhood, and it turns out to be a deadly creature from outer space, the two foes abruptly team up to get rid of the alien one-eyed slug. Directed by and starring Jaturong Mokjok. No doubt with the usual Thai light comedic touch. Oh, and of course, with the ever-present Kohtee Aramboy. English subtitles only at Airport Plaza.
Kapi / กะปิ ลิงจ๋อไม่หลอกจ้าว: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 30 mins – An orphan boy lives with a mischievous monkey in his coconut field by the sea, working in the traditional manner of coconut growers using trained monkey coconut pickers. When his coconut field is intruded by some selfish villagers, the boy and his monkey team up to compete in a monkey contest to save their territory from being occupied. English subtitles only at Airport Plaza.
The Social Network: US, Biography/ Drama/ History – 2 hrs – By David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Panic Room). In only a few short years, Facebook has morphed from a campus-wide phenomenon to revolutionizing the way that we Studio synopsis: “On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history... but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.” Reviews: Universal acclaim: 95/95 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
See this mesmerizing film for its portrayal of the type of person you apparently have to be to make it in the world of internet marketing. You won’t be pleased, but you will be gratified at some of the turn of events. Excellent performances, and a very unsettling one from the lead.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I: UK/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – 2 hrs 26 mins – The first of the two-part conclusion to the series; Part II due in July of 2011 – both directed by David Yates, who has directed the last two Harry Potter films. You know you’re going to have to see it, so why fight it. And you know what you’re in for: a superbly told tale, with some of the finest British character actors. Now showing only at Vista, in regular 2D, in English with Thai subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 68/71 out of 100.
Paranormal Activity 2: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 31 mins – After experiencing what they think are a series of "break-ins", a family sets up security cameras around their home, only to realize that the events unfolding before them are more sinister than they seem. I’ve seen this, and if you’re up for another “found amateur film” where you’re asked to believe these things actually happened to regular people who happened to tape them, then this film will offer a few really off-the-wall scary moments, when you least expect them. And you’ll be asking yourself what did you really see happen in the last few minutes. But you have to really want to suspend belief and hang in there during the nights when the camera was taping and nothing happened. Great believable acting by the family dog. Rated R in the US for some language and brief violent material; only 13+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 51/61 out of 100. At Vista only.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Paranormal Activity 2 doesn't cover any new ground, but its premise is still scary -- and in some respects, it's a better film than the original.
* = Coming soon (hopefully)
AF = Alliance Française FS = Film Space
At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon." A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
On Friday, December 10, 8 pm: No film showing – Holiday! – Constitution Day.
On Friday, December 17, 8 pm: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) by Jacques Tati – 1 hr 54 mins – France, Comedy. In Black and White. No English subtitles, but you don’t really need them. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 90 out of 100.
With Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Michèle Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault.
Mr. Hulot goes on a holiday to a seaside resort, but accidents and misunderstandings follow him wherever he goes. The peace and quiet of the hotel guests don't last very long with Hulot around, because although his intentions are good, they always turn out catastrophically...
– Alliance description
Monsieur Hulot comes to a beachside hotel for a vacation, where he accidentally (but good-naturedly) causes havoc.
Variety: Tati is the semi-articulate, blundering, but well-meaning clown, reminiscent of the early Mack Sennett types. Whether he is being chased by dogs, setting off a cabin full of fireworks, or blundering into a staid funeral, he is a very funny man.
Roger Ebert: The first time I saw Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday, I didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to. But I didn't forget the film, and I saw it again in a film class, and then bought the laserdisc and saw it a third and fourth time, and by then it had become part of my treasure. But I still didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to, and now I think I understand why.
It is not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness, and good cheer. There are some real laughs in it, but Mr. Hulot's Holiday gives us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature--so odd, so valuable, so particular.
The movie was released in 1953, and played for months, even years, in art cinemas. It was a small film that people recommend to each other. There was a time when any art theater could do a week's good business just by booking Hulot. Jacques Tati (1908-1982) made only four more features in the next 20 years, much labored over, much admired, but this is the film for which he'll be remembered.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
December is “The Month of Animation” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting. All films not in English are shown with English subtitles.
At Film Space Saturday, December 11, 7 pm: Waking Life (2001) by Richard Linklater – 1 hr 39 mins – US, Animation/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Mystery – A boy has a dream that he can float, but unless he holds on, he will drift away into the sky. Even when he is grown up, this idea recurs. After a strange accident, he walks through what may be a dream, flowing in and out of scenarios and encountering various characters. People he meets discuss science, philosophy and the life of dreaming and waking, and the protagonist gradually becomes alarmed that he cannot awake from this confusing dream. Rated R in the US for language and some violent images. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82/76 out of 100.
IMDb viewer: Dreams. What are they? An escape from reality or reality itself? Waking Life follows the dream(s) of one man and his attempt to find and discern the absolute difference between waking life and the dreamworld. While trying to figure out a way to wake up, he runs into many people on his way; some of which offer one sentence asides on life, others delving deeply into existential questions and life's mysteries. We become the main character. It becomes our dream and our questions being asked and answered. Can we control our dreams? What are they telling us about life? About death? About ourselves and where we come from and where we are going? The film does not answer all these for us. Instead, it inspires us to ask the questions and find the answers ourselves.
IMDb trivia: The basic plot of the film is based on a physiological phenomenon known as "lucid dreaming". Lucid dreaming means dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. The term was coined by Frederik van Eeden who used the word "lucid" in the sense of mental clarity. Many of the dream state idiosyncrasies described in the film, such as the inability to read time on a digital watch or the tendency of light switches to malfunction, are described in studies authored by Dr. Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University, the leading American authority on lucid dreaming.
IMDb trivia: Shot entirely on video cameras, mostly handheld, then rotoscope-animated on Mac G4 computers and later transferred to 35mm film. The whole film was shot and edited into a complete live-action version before animation began.
Roger Ebert: "Waking Life" is philosophical and playful at the same time. It's an extravagantly inventive film that begins with actual footage of real actors and then translates them into animated images; it's called motion-capture, and you can see it in "Beowulf" and "300," but it was startling when Linklater made his film in 2001, and showed it didn't need to cost millions. A founding member of the Austin, Texas, filmmaking crowd, he collaborated with a software genius named Bob Sabiston, who did it all on Macs. It's visually bright and alive -- a joy to regard.
Linklater likes to listen to people talk. His standard for what they say is very high. His early film "Slacker" (1991) followed one character around Austin until that character encountered another, and then followed the new character, and so on, while they were all the time acting out their everyday lives. It was fascinating; I'd only seen that done before by Bunuel, in "The Phantom of Liberty" (1974). In Linklater's famous "Before Sunrise" (1995) and "Before Sunset" (2004), he followed Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke around first Vienna and then Paris as they talked all night and then all day. They turn up in "Waking Life" in an impossible scene, because it shows them together between the two movies; perhaps that's a clue this is Linklater's own dream.
His characters seem engaged in all the conversations we ever had in school, or should have had. In "Waking Life," the hero (never named, played by Wiley Wiggins) does more listening than talking: In college lectures, bars, coffeehouses, on the sidewalk, to musicians, to philosophers, even -- in a quick jump in space -- to a guide on the Brooklyn Bridge. That one's easy to explain; he must have seen "Cruise," the documentary about the self-appointed king of tourist guides, Speed Levitch, who of course appears as himself. That's how dreams work.
There are also scenes with abrupt disconnects. An angry man with a red face prowls a jail cell issuing imprecations at the world. An activist drives the streets shouting at people through the loudspeakers on top of his car, but there are no people on the streets and eventually he just stops. A man who despairs of life sets himself on fire, and the hero stares at him, and then his dream continues elsewhere. Dreams often cut out in midstream.
There's a crucial scene where the hero is told a story involving synchronicity. A novelist meets a woman at a party who has the same name as a character in his novel, and her husband has the same name, and the man she's having an affair with has the same name, and so on and on. That can happen in dreams. Strangely, I've been involved for a few weeks with ongoing discussions on my blog about free will, the afterlife, politics, existentialism, the theory of evolution and what it is to be alive. I sat watching the movie and realized the characters were discussing the same topics, sometimes in the same language. Cue "Twilight Zone" music. We've been discussing man's place in the tree of life; a biologist argues that there is more of an intelligence gap between Plato and an ordinary human than between that human and an intelligent chimpanzee. I'm a subscriber to Darwin, but I wouldn't go that far. Still, it makes you think.
Linklater has fun with the inevitable paradoxes of dreaming. The hero complains to a friend that he feels trapped in his dream, and keeps waking up into another dream. How can he break free? The friend warns him it is easy to be deceived by dreams. You can direct them and change them, but whatever you do with them, they seem to be happening now, and your changes seem to flow naturally, even when you detour to Brooklyn or start floating above Austin. The one thing you can't change, his friend says, is the lighting. If you try to turn a light switch on and off, and it doesn't work, you're dreaming. It's a test that never fails.
The hero thanks him for this advice and gets up to leave the room. He tries to switch off the light, but he can't. Of course he can't. But is there anything to the original advice, or is this dream logic at work? Maybe he was able to turn off the lights in earlier dreams, but now that he knows the rule, he'll never be able to do it again.
Richard Linklater is one of the best directors we have. He makes commercial films ("The Bad News Bears," with Billy Bob Thornton). He makes wry films that are applied sociology (his "SubUrbia," with a screenplay by Eric Bogosian, was about a crowd of teenagers who hang out pointlessly at a strip mall). He makes quirky comedies ("The School of Rock"). He makes bold experimental films ("Tape," which starred Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Robert Sean Leonard as three friends in one motel room for continuous talk and dispute, shot with a hi-def video camera). He makes period films (his "Me and Orson Welles," one of the best films at Toronto 2008, re-creates the early days of Welles' Mercury Theatre and his brilliant but sometimes not pleasant behavior).
Above all, Linklater is a man who doesn't like to be bored and doesn't want to bore us. You can tell that from his films. He's intensely interested in his subjects. You may think you'd know all about "The Bad News Bears" just by reading the title, but you wouldn't. In my review, I said Billy Bob's character "is like a merger of his ugly drunk in 'Bad Santa' and his football coach in 'Friday Night Lights,' yet he doesn't recycle from either movie; he modulates the manic anger of the Santa and the intensity of the coach and produces a morose loser who we like better than he likes himself." That's not boring. Linklater has never made a formula story, and I don't believe he ever will.
At Film Space Saturday, December 18, 7 pm: Tekkonkinkreet (2006) by Michael Arias – 1 hr 51 mins – Japan, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Crime. Rated R in the US for some violent and disturbing images, and brief sexuality. Generally favorable reviews 65/66 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: Black and White, two street urchins, battle an array of old-word Yakuza and alien assassins vying to rule the decaying metropolis of Treasure Town - where the moon smiles and young boys can fly in this adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto's beloved manga. This is the first Japanese manga to be written and directed for the screen by Americans.
Film Threat: If anything, it’s a mournful poem about childhood and adulthood. White and Black may be tough and they may jump around and fight like Samurai in the best tradition of Anime, but they are just children after all. When their home is threatened and they have to battle the forces of Snake, the cost of winning the fight means losing their innocence, something that White isn’t prepared to do and that Black is all too eager to accept.
Director Michael Arias has made a beautiful looking kinetic film that’s always in movement. It’s a bit slow at times and the plot has a tendency to meander, but other than that it’s hard to find fault. This is the sort of film that’s so profound that I wouldn’t have any objection about showing it to children despite the violence and adult situations. It would speak to them in ways that their parents never could.
At the Gay Film Series
Next showing December 12: The Lost Language of Cranes (1992). Films with a gay theme shown generally every two weeks, with very limited seating, in a private home. Reservations a must to attend films in this series. To reserve: send email to: Chiangmai.firstname.lastname@example.org, mark in subject area “reserve” with the number in your party. To be placed on the mailing list for advance notice of movies just put in the subject line: “mailing list.”