3.31.2007

Finishing The Game



Last night, I went down to the Gene Siskel Film Center to check out Justin Lin's (Better Luck Tomorrow, Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift) new film Finishing The Game at the 12th Annual Chicago Asian American Arts Showcase.

I had originally heard about the movie from a round-up of the Sundance entries done by G4tv (search: "Sundance", then click on the first result). Set in the 1970's during the aftermath of Bruce Lee's death, Finishing The Game is a "mockumentary" that follows 5 actors vying for the role of Bruce Lee's body double in the studio's attempt to finish The Game of Death.

After seeing G4's short profile of the film, I noticed a great article in Wired the other day. The article just happened to mention the film would be showing at the Chicago Asian American Arts Showcase so I copped a ticket online and headed down there.

Sung Kang and Justin Lin (in the Lyrics Born tee)

I really didn't know what to expect when I got there, but was surprised to find both Justin Lin and Sung Kang just sittin' around chillin'. There was music, art, hors devours and Roger Fan was hanging around too. I spoke with Justin and Sung for a little bit and they were really cool.

Anyway, the movie was good. Lin's first attempt at comedy was quite hilarious. Especially considering that most of the actors in the cast had not really done comedy before. I have to say though that the film was not quite as over the top as I had expected. It was still very funny, but felt like it could have been a little more ridiculous without sacrificing anything. Pushing the absurdity envelope a little more could just be left over desire after watching similar efforts like Men With Cramps. To be fair though, the movie is plenty funny. For instance the opening scene in which actor Breeze Loo (Roger Fan) takes on a Nazi Kung Fu Master in a film called Fists of Fuhrer. There are also a few moments of serious dramatic merit. One scene of particular genius features Sung Kang acting very intensely, but given the context of the scene the whole thing comes off as being completely hilarious. It's a pretty interesting moment and one that is indicative of Kang and Lin's talent. The film as a whole also serves as quite the commentary on casting Asians in film projects within the Hollywood system.

Also, totally worth checking out is the soundtrack. Written by Brian Tyler (who has scored almost all of Lin's other films), the music in the film is a blast of retro funktastic soul grooves. If you like funk, you will adore this soundtrack... whenever it's released. The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift Score was so good I actually broke down and bought it off iTunes, so I will definitely be snapping this up as soon as it's available.

Festival organizer Tim, Justin Lin, Sung Kang & Roger FanIn the end, Finishing The Game was really entertaining and I highly recommend it. After the film there was a Q&A session and Tim (the festival organizer on the left) and the others discussed the tribulations of independent film and ways we can help spread the word (ie: throwin' up blog entries like this one). There was also a lot of talk about the state of Asian-American cinema, about which I was informed is vastly different and compartmentalized from Asian cinema (as in cinema that's actually from Asia). I really had never considered the difference before, but it makes sense. Asian-American films are marginalized in the West because of marketing demographics, yet can also be snubbed in Asia because Asians want American films featuring white people, not more Asians.

Lin told me that we can hope for a wide theatrical release sometime in the fall, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Finishing The Game.

3.29.2007

Coined: Hero Version

Hero Version (adj.) used to describe one in a series of items that is of good quality.

Taken from film prop terminology in reference specifically to swords, the hero version was one of several versions of the same prop that was made to stand up to up close scrutiny. The hero version of a sword generally looked real while the others were made of wood or rubber or something not nearly as cool.



   vs.   

"The pointy end goes into the other man." --Mask of Zorro


Dude #1: "Hey dude, grab me that DVD of 'Children of Men'"
Dude #2: "This one?"
Dude #1: "No that one's dented. Grab me the hero version behind it."

3.25.2007

300 Thoughts

So I just came from the theater having seen the movie "300". The movie was pretty good. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't without clich├ęs or shortcomings. I am ashamed to say I have not read the Frank Miller graphic novel on which it was based, but you can certainly see Frank Miller's style present in the imagery. From what I've garnered from others, it is extremely faithful to his original work.

I also recently saw a very will done History channel special on The Battle of Thermopylae which kinda ruined things for me. Little historical details that were changed for the movie were painfully apparent and of course, bothersome (ed. note - if you're planning on seeing "300" see the movie before you read up on the history). However, I must point out that the movie and by extension the graphic novel are actually very true to history (despite a handful of exaggerations), unlike most of the other films in this genre (Alexander, anyone?)

Anyway, one of the other things that kind of ruined the movie for me was the amount of controversy that's been brewing around it since its' release. After hearing so much about it, I couldn't help but focus on it, rather than just sit back and enjoy the movie.

If you haven't heard what all the hubub is about, here's a recap:

First up, "300" outrages the entire nation of Iran (scroll down to the bottom), which purports that the movie is a "'deliberate distortion' of ancient Persia... part of Western efforts to demonize Iran."

And then, Savage Love Warning Adult Language (scroll down to the bottom) - Dan Savage rips "300" a new one for being homophobic, xenophobic and some kind of pro-war allegory.

Having seen the movie, I think both the entire nation of Iran and Dan Savage are way off.

Let me preface my opinion by saying that film interpretation is always subjective. In my view of the film, I did not consider it to be an allegory of the United States' war on Islamic terrorists. In fact, quite the opposite.

*SPOILERS BE HERE*

The Spartans were basically facists. They talk a lot about freedom but so do most facists (and conservative republicans). Freedom is also extremely subjective so don't let that fool you into thinking the Spartans are meant to represent or evoke feelings of sympathy from Americans. Spartans weren't free. They didn't have the freedoms that most United States citizens take for granted.

In fact, of the two groups in this film, the Persians best represent the United States. A vast empire that stretches its' influence across half the globe and counts multitudes of people among its ranks including those of different religions, races, and even crazy beastie freak people. America is a melting pot of religions, races and we definitely have our fair share of what Isalmic fundamentalists would consider beastie freak people.

The Spartans don't accept dissent, they are defiant to outside influence, determined for self preservation and devout in their beliefs. These same descriptors could also be used to describe most Islamic fundamentalists (like the Taliban or Al Qaeda).



In real life (but not in the film), the Persians hoped to conquer Greece, but not to burn it. They simply wanted Greece to bow before Persia's might. Sparta's resources would go to Xerxes and Persia, but the Spartans themselves would be left unharmed so long as they followed the rules set out by the Persians. (Sounds kind of like The United States, moving into the Middle East, not 'conquering' but simply changing the order of things and taking resources for their own in the meantime). However, this is true of many of the lands that were "conquered" by Persia and would have been true of Greece if not for the revolt at Marathon.

The Spartans viewed this as a blasphemous act of aggression. They feel that the Persians will certainly enslave the citizens of Sparta. Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East have similar views of Americans. Of course, after the revolt at Marathon, Xerxes vowed revenge and the film reflects more of the destructive desires that Xerxes harbored for Greece. As Dan Savage points out: "The Persian army is an armed gay pride parade, a threat to all things decent and, er, Greek." He's 100% right, but the United States is the gay pride parade in this allegory.

Ultimately, I have a feeling the movie ended the way the conflict in Iraq will eventually end. The United States with its seemingly infinite resources will eventually overwhelm their enemy, but not before they give our god complex a bloody mouth.

Make no mistake, I'm not defending "300" and trying to say that it was an excellent film with a subversive political commentary. The movie is what it is, and as far as quality goes, it was decent with neat, stylistic action. However, I feel that people are unfairly prescribing an agenda to the movie that isn't there unless they want it to be there. "300" isn't homophobic unless you want it to be homophobic. It isn't pro-war unless you want it to be pro-war. I went to the theater and had a vastly different experience than pretty much everyone else.

Also, I don't care what anyone says, I thought Xerxes was bad-ass. If you want a drag-queen villian watch Stargate and compare.

3.21.2007

Coined: Tactical

Tactical: being sensible, useful or utilitarian in nature.

A lot of people misunderstand my use of the word tactical.  Regardless
of the normal definition, tactical in this sense refers mostly to
clothing and gear.

Inspired by a line from Blade (Wesley Snipes) in the movie "Blade: Trinity".

Examples of things that are tactical:
-clothing w/ pockets
-bags/backpacks w/ expansion capabilities
-any clothing that is appropriate to a specific season (worn during that season)

Examples of non-tacticalness:
-wearing a leather jacket in the dead of winter
-not having a single pocket; forcing your boyfriend to carry around
your chapstick
-Carrying all of your possessions in three bags rather than being able to fit them all into one

Tactical can also be a state of mind or mode of thinking.

Dude #1: "Nice jacket."
Dude #2: "Thanks, it'll protect me from temperatures as low as -50.
And it has 78 pockets."
Dude #1: "Whoa, that's mega-tactical!"

3.20.2007

Move Over Chuck Norris

I just found this... well, I'm not going to tell you where I found it. It's hilarious. So watch it. Or George Washington will punch you apart.




WARNING MATURE CONTENT

3.19.2007

Review: Incubus - Light Grenades


Incubus - Light Grenades



Incubus' sixth studio album 'Light Grenades' (released in Nov. 2006) is a a solid release that any fan of Incubus' previous three albums should enjoy and exalt.




Arguably, Incubus fans were split in 1999 when the band released 'Make Yourself' and made a go for mainstream notoriety. In 2001 the group released 'Morning View' further refining their new sound and creating one of this reviewer's favorite albums of all time. Later that year the world began to unravel a bit and even more so in 2003 and in 2004 Incubus responded with 'A Crow Left of the Murder'. This album brought Incubus' musical style back to formula and created something darker and pessimistic than before.

With 2006's 'Light Grenades' the band has struck a degree of synthesis between the two sounds. Whereas 'A Crow Left of the Murder' played as a confrontational statement of lamentation regarding current politics and society, 'Light Grenades' comes off more as psychedelic escapism.

This could not be more apparent than the opening track 'Quicksand' with its rolling waves of audio transmission coupled with languid, distored guitars and capped off by the sliding string intro of 'A Kiss to Send Us Off'. Incubus still demonstrates their propensity for rocking out on their second track.

For those who enjoyed the song 'I Wish You Were Here' from 'Morning View', the song 'Dig' will be instantly enjoyable. As soon as the bass rolls up under the shrill guitar and swells into an outpouring of emotion it's clear that even though this is familiar territory for Incubus, it's what we love them for.

The title track takes fans back to a sound they haven't heard from the band since 'S.C.I.E.N.C.E.', while 'Earth to Bella' balances delicateness with a heaviness we've not heard from Incubus before.

'Oil & Water' might be the hidden gem of the entire album. A driving melodic love song that is unfamiliar and yet fitting to Incubus' canon. Its' powerful rhythms and precise guitars overlaid with pining vocals and even bells(?) make the listener feel as if the whole world were insignificant compared to the subject of the song.

Other stand out tracks include 'Diamonds And Coal' (evocative of 'Morning View'), and 'Rogues' (evocative of 'A Crow Left of The Murder') as well as 'Paper Shoes' which starts out with an acoustic noodling that builds into purposeful rock.

In the end, 'Light Grenades' reconciles the differences between 'Morning View' and 'A Crow Left of The Murder' while managing to keep some of the soft and ethereal qualities of some of 'Morning View's' stand out tracks without loosing the bite of some of 'A Crow Left of The Murder's' stand out songs. Fans that were split one way or other over the last two releases should be able to find something to enjoy on the sixth album.

3.18.2007

Super Mega Bothering Me

Okay, so I was Googling myself... stop giggling.  I was checking to see if my blog is being indexed.  My Friendster one is not and it pisses me off, so I started a new one which I think will be ten times more kick-ass (http://www.ahren-sievers.blogspot.com).  I was checking to see if this one has been indexed yet and so far... not.

So then I decided to check other websites and what better way to do that than Metacrawler.com.  But I found something there that is totally super mega bothering me.  Type in 'ahren sievers' in metacrawler (sans quotes) and scroll down to the 18th entry.  It's in German, which is common when you search for Sievers, but it not only mentions me but also my brother Ryan!  So I clicked on it and I couldn't get to it.  What the hell!  What is Buckr.org?  I can't access anything on Buckr.org.  I must know!

3.16.2007

Archive

Gardening Zen

Moving into this new space, I would just like to point you to my old blog for all of my previous posts. I'll be double-posting new entries in both spaces for a while, but the older entries will remain over on friendster.

-Ahren