Tag Archives: movies

Cold Weather

It’s seventy degrees outside now, up from where it dropped last night, possibly the last chilly hurrah before summer latches on to us for good. I had the windows open last night despite the chill–or perhaps because of it.  It’s like free air conditioning, after all.

I love cold weather.  Love it for the way it makes me feel and the things of which it reminds me.  I’ve never been much for the heat.  In fact, I wilt in humidity.  Cue an image of salad greens and ovens or some such.

Cold weather means cozy sweatshirts and pajama pants.  It means blankets, curled up on the couch with movies and hot chocolate, holding coffee mugs with both hands in order to warm them up, soups and stews, sitting outside on the porch in a beam of sunlight to warm up.

Cold weather means fall, when the temperature drops and the leaves begin to turn orange and yellow, and it means cold, wet, rainy, and overcast days, where the leaves and water and dirt mix into a gritty grime that covers sidewalks, crunches under my shoes, and reminds me just how nice it is to stay inside.  On the tail of the first fall weather means October isn’t far away, and that Halloween–my favorite holiday–will be here soon, so it’s time to get a costume ready.

The cold also reminds me of books and stories. Maybe it’s because I write stories, and so many things remind me so, but maybe it’s also because the cold weather keeps us inside, glued to a book or Harry Potter DVDs, and encourages us to retreat deeper into our imaginations to defeat or escape the grey outside.

I’m doing my best to enjoy the cool while it lasts.  Summer will be long and warm, a relentless mix of humidity and misery that won’t let up for months.  But for now, the windows are open, there’s a chill on the breeze, goosebumps on my skin; and it is amazing.

Kung Fu Movies: Mar’s Villa (1978)

A much more “classic” kung fu film this time around.  Or, at least, what I feel like a classic should be, given my uneducated state.  Starting with the previous movie (Circle of Iron) looks like a mistake now that I look back.  But part of this whole project is trying to discover the movies in the first place.

So in this movie, we have a lot of the elements that I think should be in any classic kung fu movie: bad dialogue, contrived traps and killings, random acrobatics, jumping off of tall structures, lots of staring and fast/tight zooming into and out of actors’ faces, forced marriage, weird hair and eyebrows, twins who fight as a team, and so on.

But the ending was abrupt.  Enough so that I went, “*blink* Huh?  That’s the end?” and skipped back to see if maybe something had gone wrong.  But I was streaming it from Netflix, and sure enough, that was it.  A very fast, “hero and his wife start walking” and that was it.  Cut.  No fade, no moment to watch them, nothing.  Just bam.  End.

So that felt a little lackluster, given the epic fighting scene that took place before it.

There were also a few areas where it seemed as if some important stuff was left on the cutting room floor.  Or else it should have just been edited out.  For instance, the brother of the wife dies, there’s a few seconds of the hero being upset because he didn’t get there in time to save him, and then we never hear about the brother again.  Not even to get a reaction from the wife whose brother just died!  In another scene, the hero and his sidekick talk about how he should leave, it’s too dangerous with all the opponents around, and the hero states that no, he will rebuild his school and wealth, you’ll see…. oh, and by the way, do you know where they took my wife when they kidnapped her?

A few things I noticed in this movie:

  • apparently, in kung fu movies, people walk everywhere.
  • The prime role of a student is to run around yelling, “Master!  Master!”
  • It’s a pretty bad idea to walk into a building/temple/field/etc that’s completely empty, because by now you should know that a horde of opponents are going to jump out from every nook and cranny (think English muffins, except with weapons and more yelling).

Another thing I noticed is that it’s not dishonorable to have a cohort join the hero in his battle against the villian. Maybe villians undergo additional training to handle this.

Oh, another thing: somehow, people can get beat up for 10 minutes without looking worse for the wear, then other people (not just the hero / villians!) can get hit twice and die.

Themes:

  • quest for patience over violence
  • challenger of a technique
  • kidnapping and rescue
  • uncertain adversary: friend or foe?
  • vengeful family
  • training for goal

Kung Fu Movies: Circle of Iron (1978)

The first film in my kung fu film foray was Circle of Iron with David Carradine.   I didn’t know this before watching it, but the intro screen of the movie told me that Bruce Lee (and two others) wrote this script under the original name The Silent Flute and that he wanted to incorporate some of his (mostly Zen) philosophy into a movie.  As such, the movie did have a preachy element to it.  It was obvious that the writers were trying to make points, especially in a few scenes where a character (usually one of Carradine’s four) infodumps some philosophy.  Given the time period of its release, the movie likely served as an introduction for eastern philosophy and martial arts for some viewers.

What struck me the most about this movie was the editing. Some scenes went on way too long.  Others felt too random and out of place within the narrative.  I didn’t write about it, but I remember thinking the same thing back when I watched Mad Max: “What the hell did that have to do with anything?”

It makes me wonder how much of it is a sign of the times and how much is just the project, its budget, and the staff available.  I don’t doubt that movies and visual storytelling has changed in the thirty years since this movie was made.  Yet I also know from other movies that the nature of this film isn’t de-facto across all movies of the time period, either.  I expect to get a better view of this as I continue to watch movies.

Themes/archetypes:

  • competition as selection for task
  • wrong person chosen for task
  • character goes anyways and overcomes what chosen one could not
  • series of trials
  • hidden teachers
  • real / assumed nature of the sought-after thing differs

Classics: Friday the 13th

I’ve made a return to classics lately: getting back to those books, movies, and other “stuff” that I somehow missed the first time around, whether I wasn’t old enough when it came out or if I somehow dodged the required reading back in high school.

Finally got around to watching the original Friday the 13th last week.  I’d initially confused it with Nightmare on Elm street when my friend suggested it, which I’m sure will result in the revocation of my horror honor badge.

I wish I could take credit for the following observation, but it was actually my friend’s thought, and all I had to do with it was saying, “Whoa, dude, you are SO right” when she said it.  But I think it bears mentioning.  One of the biggest differences in this movie versus more modern horror is that the characters in this film had no idea that they were in danger. It wasn’t until the very end that the short-haired blond chick had any clue that someone was after her.  For the rest, it was just random killing:  a faint glimmer for the viewer that something is amiss, the character stumbles in somewhere either on accident or to investigate, and then squick, it’s the end of the road for them.  Plain and simple.

My friend realized this, pointed it out, and also suggested that the movie might have been better had the characters realized what was going on, so that both we and they could have the suspense of trying to stay safe and get away.  Instead, it was more like random stabbing until the final scenes of the movie.

I’m not at all an expert on the horror genre, but now Friday the 13th has me wondering what other films in the genre are like and how this has changed over time.  Perhaps a marathon is in order.

Conlang behind the ‘Avatar’ Film

USC professor creates an entire alien language for ‘Avatar’ | Hero Complex | Los Angeles Times

Cameron had come up with about three dozen words of the Na’vi language at that point in his project document, which was like a quasi-script or a long treatment (“They called it a scriptment,” Frommer said, “and that was a new word to me”)  but most of the words  were character names.

“It gave me a sense of the sound that he was looking for and then I expanded it. Given these sounds and the possible combinations, what further structure could I bring to the sound to make it interesting,” Frommer said. “That was the starting point. Probably the most exotic thing I added were ejectives, which are these sorts of popping sounds that are found in different languages from around the world. It’s found in Native American languages and in parts of Africa and in Central Asia, the Caucasus. “