Following The Amazon Prime Recommendation Worm #4: High Kick Angels (2014), The Pinkie (2014), The Ravine of Goodbye (2013), Gyeongju (2014)

I did make it out of South Korea for three films in Japan, but then was thrown back there. I feel like this is turning into MASH on me.


High Kick Angels (2014, dir. Kazuhiro Yokoyama) – Hmmm…can’t say I have. I unfortunately can say an elementary school girl tried to grab my genitals when I was in the 4th grade, but I don’t think that counts. Well, with a poster like that you might be thinking Sailor Moon.

Sailor Moon

Maybe Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)?


Perhaps even Lollipop Chainsaw?

LPC Screen 69_cc_01_00001-noscale

Nope, it’s Die Hard (1988).


Seriously, it’s Die Hard with schoolgirls in a school rather than a tower. It even recreates two scenes very obviously just to make sure you know this. And we have trailer this time!

If you are thinking you probably just saw all the fighting scenes in the movie, then you’re pretty much right. There are a few more, but not many.

The movie starts with some girls filming a zombie movie at a school when I guess no one is there. I really wasn’t sure if this school was abandoned or if everyone else was just on vacation. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that a girl they admire who knows martial arts shows up for some reason and bad guys show up looking for treasure or something.

The two scenes explicitly recreated are the safe lock bit and the body with writing on it dropped down to the bad guys. The body part is self-explanatory. The lock bit is done by having a little tower that requires several USB sticks which will allow the bad guys to see where this treasure is in the school. Of course the schoolgirls get one of the USB sticks and need to be tracked down. Basically it comes down to the big girl who knows martial arts working with these girls out of a safe room a la Die Hard. Really, what you see in the trailer is what you get besides conversations among the girls about not being very confident, but finding the strength to go kick some ass.

The only scene that really stuck with me is when the big martial arts girl convinces the girl who does ballet dancing that she can curl her toes and use them like a spear. I expect to read about Lisa doing this to someone who liked The Leisure Class any day now.

I really can’t recommend this one. It’s a bit of a letdown.


The Pinkie (2014, dir. Lisa Takeba) – Ever wanted to see a comedy by someone who wants to make a David Cronenberg movie from before his tragic accident when he lost the ability to make good movies while high on whatever Nobuhiko Ôbayashi was on when he made House (1977)? Too bad! Cause director Lisa Takeba essentially did just that with this weird slightly dark and bizarre romantic comedy with echoes of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988).

The movie is about guy who gets his pinkie cut off. It had something to do with the Yakuza. I learned back in the 90’s thanks to the TV Show The Pretender that they take your finger as punishment. What didn’t happen in The Pretender though is for that finger to wind up in the hands of a crazy stalker girl who then uses it to make a clone of a guy she is obsessed with. Having two of these guys going around made me think of Dead Ringers at the time, but in retrospect it also makes me think of Hirokazu Koreeda’s Air Doll (2009). That’s the one with Doona Bae from Cloud Atlas (2012) playing a blow up sex doll come to life.

Air Doll (2009, dir. Hirokazu Koreeda)

Air Doll (2009, dir. Hirokazu Koreeda)

The movie is as wacky as that trailer makes you think, but it also definitely has it’s more Cronenberg-ey dark moments. In particular, the clone finding out it’s a clone and the issues that raises. The real guy is there too and actually uses the clone as sort of slave labor. He even has him prostitute himself as, I hate to use the expression since I’m trans but, a chick with a dick.

Oh, and did you notice the lightning near the end of the trailer around the guy? Yeah, that’s cause the clone shows up like The Terminator in a ball with lightning around him.

The problems with the clone basically start when she makes the clone aware it’s a clone and of course when the real guy shows up. From then on the movie just gets more wacky.

I kind of recommend it. It’s not that great, but I like really bizarre things and Japan is great at them. Plus, the movie is only about an hour long. It’s not going to take up much of your time. Unlike the next movie and the one after that!


The Ravine of Goodbye (2013, dir. Tatsushi Ohmori) – I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I will again, and probably again and again. I used to watch a lot of the established film canon. Basically that’s all I watched from about 2005 to 2012. I mean it’s not normal for someone to just know right off the top their head that Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni was commissioned by 1970’s China to make a documentary about the country, they hated it with a vengeance, and so they basically got Dutch director Joris Ivens to make another one for them. That’s really not a good thing. However, I bring it up cause is this is that kind of movie.

Let me be straightforward cause the movie sure as hell isn’t. The film is about two cops looking into how exactly this couple got together. Turns out he raped her, and neither of them really got over it, so they got together as a couple. There’s also something about a dead kid as well. Honestly, despite what IMDb says, that’s not really important. In my opinion, what the film does is try to reflect the confusion created by trying to follow a story as the facts slowly trickle out in the way its story unravels. The jumping to conclusions before all the information has come in thing. It does this by basically backing it’s way into what I told you in a couple of sentences. However, for me, it felt like the narrative structure was reflecting the experience of being a small child forced to watch Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982), and then explain it. In other words, watching this was for me like how the children look in Godfrey Reggio’s anti-TV BS propaganda film Evidence (1995).

Actually, in that the kids were supposed to be watching Dumbo (1941). Yeah, right!

If you enjoy films like those of Michelangelo Antonioni, then you might enjoy this. The same probably goes for the next film as well. Amazon Prime doesn’t make these recommendations based on nothing. Just expect a lot of still shots on things that made me think of why I don’t enjoy a majority of Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s films.


Gyeongju (2014, dir. Lu Zhang)

Wow! That may be the most deceptive trailer I’ve ever seen! It appears to be real, but it’s like a fake trailer that takes Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) and makes it look like a romantic comedy. That movie had someone mysteriously disappear. Then a man and a woman wander around drifting towards each other as the architecture/environment around them changes to reflect the state of their characters. It’s the first in his trilogy of alienation. Sound like a romantic comedy?

This movie is about a Korean professor on Asian relations living in China who goes back home for a funeral and basically wanders around with a woman from a tea shop. Sound like a romantic comedy? It isn’t!

That really is the movie. I have a feeling that just like Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975) is only fully understood by Russians, this movie is only fully understood by Koreans. I believe the movie is a long mediation on what it’s like for a Korean born person to return home to a place divided in two and in other ways pushes itself away from other parts of Asia as well. The movie reminds you of the conflict with Japan via a Japanese woman who wants to forgive the professor and the tea shop owner for the crimes committed against their country by Japan. Another time a man will ask the professor how long he thinks North Korea will stay in business and flips out when the professor says a century. North Korea potentially attacking is brought up too, but I’m not sure if it’s serious or not. It almost comes across as a joke. Of course technically to the best of my knowledge, South Korea is the only country I’m aware of that is in a constant state of war because I believe they never signed the treaty ending the Korean War. Perhaps that’s why this film seems to evoke Antonioni’s trilogy of alienation with it’s cinematography.

It likes to use still shots of the environment and a lot of pans. There’s at least one 360 degree pan in it. It also breaks the 180 degree rule. It just stops and freezes on a pole in the tea shop for no discernible reason. I think there’s a scene that’s out of order. Also, near the end it appears to flash black for a less than a second. I’m really not sure what to make of that last one.

I would say this film is for cinematic explorers. I won’t say it’s bad, nor recommend it. You know who you are if this is your kind of thing. I’m just telling you as somebody who’s seen quite a few of these sort of movies that you probably won’t be disappointed.

The Art of Noir: Fritz Lang’s SCARLET STREET (Universal 1945)

cracked rear viewer


One of my favorite movies of any genre has always been SCARLET STREET. I used to watch the grainy Public Domain print on my local cable access channel over and over. When I saw that TCM was running the film last October, I recorded it for future reference, as I was in the midst of my “Halloween Havoc” marathon. I finally got the chance recently to sit down and enjoy this beautiful, crispy clear print and watch the film as it was meant to be seen.


Meek, mousey cashier Christopher Cross receives a gold watch at a party honoring his 25 years of service to J.J. Hogarth’s company. Chris has done his boring, repetitious job without complaint, though his dream has always to be a successful painter. When Hogarth leaves the party, Chris watches him get into a car with a pretty young girl. Walking home with friend and co-worker Pringle, Chris muses aloud what it would be like…

View original post 502 more words

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Cabaret (dir by Bob Fosse)


The Godfather is such a classic film that it’s always somewhat surprising to be reminded that it wasn’t exactly an Oscar powerhouse.  When the Academy Awards for 1972 were handed out, The Godfather may have won Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Actor but, out of 10 nominations, that’s all it won.  Francis Ford Coppola did not win Best Director, Gordon Willis was not even nominated for Best Cinematography, and neither Al Pacino, James Caan, nor Robert Duvall won Best Supporting Actor.  According to the fascinating book Inside Oscar, Godfather producer Al Ruddy started his acceptance speech by acknowledging that, “We were getting a little nervous there.”

When you look at the 1972 Academy Awards, what quickly becomes obvious is that the year’s big winner was Cabaret.  All of those Oscars that people naturally assume went to The Godfather?  They went to Cabaret.  Out of ten nominations, Cabaret won eight.  It set a record for the most Oscars won by a film that did not win best picture.

If it hadn’t been for The Godfather, Cabaret would have won best picture and it would have totally deserved it.  Oh my God — how I envy all of our readers who were alive in 1972!  How wonderful it must have been to have not one but two legitimately great and groundbreaking films released in the same year!  Five years ago, I was lucky enough to see both The Godfather and Cabaret on the big screen and it was an amazing experience but I can only imagine what it was like to discover these two films for the very first time, with no preconceived notions.

Seriously, I need a time machine and I need it now.

Cabaret takes place in Berlin in 1931.  Germany is still struggling to recover from World War I.  When the reserved English academic Brian (Michael York) first arrives in the city, he barely notices the buffoonish men standing on street corners, handing out anti-Semitic pamphlets.  He’s more interested in earning his doctorate.  When he moves into a boarding house, he meets and cautiously befriends Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), a free-spirited American actress who dances at the Kit Kat Klub.  When Sally tries to seduce Brian, he is curiously passive.  Finally, after she asks him if he doesn’t like girls, Brian tells her that he’s tried to have sex with three separate women and each time, he failed.  However, Sally is not one to give up and eventually she does manage to seduce Brian, telling him that the other women were just the “wrong three girls.”

To make money, Brian gives English lessons.  One of his students is the wealthy and innocent, Natalia (Marisa Berenson).  While Brian teachers her English and Sally gives her advice about sex and love, Natalia finds herself more and more of an outsider in Berlin.  She’s Jewish and as a result, her dog is murdered.  Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper) falls in love with Natalia but marrying her means publicly revealing that he’s Jewish and putting both of their lives in danger.

Sally performs at the Kit Kat Klub, where the Emcee (Joel Grey) gives the wealthy audiences a taste of decadence.  At first, the audience is full of well-dressed and upper class people but, with each performance, we notice that the audience is changing.  More humorless men in uniforms appear at the tables, like constantly multiplying cancer cells.  Outside the Klub, men are attacked in the streets but the show inside continues.  Though they may not know it (and Sally would certainly never admit it), we watch the performances in Kit Kat Klub with the full knowledge of what is going to eventually happen to the majority of the people who we see on stage.  (That the Emcee is played by an actor who is both Jewish and gay only serves to drive the point home.)  As a result, the performances are both entertaining and ominous at the same time.

It’s easy to be critical of Sally.  In fact, I think it’s a little bit too easy for some critics.  Sally may be apathetic and she may be self-centered and apolitical but how different is she from most of us?  With the exception of Natalia, Sally may be the only truly honest character in the film.  She alone understand that life is a nonstop performance and that there’s nothing she can do to change the world in which she’s found herself.  All she can do is look out for herself.

Sally and Brian eventually meet and enter into a brief ménage à trois with Max (Helmut Griem), a wealthy baron.  Sally occasionally allows herself to dream of being a baroness while Brian struggles to deal with the jealousy he feels towards both Max and Sally.

Of the three of them, Brian is the only one to eventually become alarmed by the rise of the National Socialism.  Sally refuses to take consider anything that’s happening outside of her own life and her own dreams.  Meanwhile, Max holds the Nazis in disdain but insists that the aristocracy can control them and that the Nazis are useful for keeping the lower classes in line.

And then this happens:

This scene is one of the most important in the history of cinema and it’s one that is even more relevant today than ever.  With the U.S. currently in the middle of a bitter and angry election cycle, everyday seems to bring more of the political mob mentality that this scene epitomizes.  In Cabaret, the mob sang in a beer garden.  In the modern world, they hop on twitter and start hashtags.

Whenever I watch Cabaret, I always think about that old man in the beer garden.  He alone sits there and does not sing.  He alone seems to understand.


Cabaret is a powerful and important film, now more than ever.