Pan’s Labrynth, Babel, Stranger than Fiction, Volver, The Host
and…my rant

After long day of work, I like to indulge myself into movies or TV shows.

PAN’S LABRYNTH

Lately, my life has been evenful in daily basis therefore, I almost didn’t feel like needing to watch as many movies I used to. However, last friday, I went to see Pan’s Labrynth which left a deep impression on me. The theater was packed and some people in front seat moved up on the staircase for better view and sat there, right next to me… I would say ‘a ghetto style’ seats. But, audience were together. I could hear them reacting to that little girl(Ofellia)’s journey.

First of all, this is not a fairy tale for kids although I do think fairy tales are very often gruesome than you realize if you really think about them realistically. The movie is beautifully written and played. Spanish has been sounded this good in any movies. Great casting + believable characters. Before you think ‘oh, another labrynth movie…,’ You should pay attention to the title, “Pan’s” part. Pan is an interesting mythical creature people very often wonder if one can trust him or not. I was one of them while watching this movie. (btw, a greatly make up & costume of Pan character in this movie!) I won’t spoil the story but, let me list few things I noticed;

  1. Contrast between reality and fantasy worlds was absolutely fantastically done. The viewer realizes that reality is more scary than fantasy as one witnesses what war brought to people.
  2. visuals are astonishing. This movie totally deserves a “Best Art Direction” award in Oscar.(it’s nominated for it – 6 nominations for Oscar this year) The intentional use of color tones are very natural & it works. The girl’s fantasy world is always warm, orange, red colorful tones and reality in Spanish Civil War were dark and cold nuetral color tones. The viewers get immediately reacts emotionally toward these visuals.
  3. In many scenes, there were many scenes that describes the girl’s childishness. She seems to be brave and smart but, I couldn’t help thinking she is just a child. It had a great scene with a toad where many bugs crawling over her shoulder and etc. , which reminded me of my own childhood when I wasn’t afraid of bugs which was about Ofellia’s age.
  4. Parellel stories of adult sibling characters (Mercedes & Pedro) and young girl, Ofelia and unborn brother/her baby brother. Two older sisters show their courage & compassion to save their younger brothers and how they relate toward each other.

I heard that Pan’s Labrynth didn’t do well in asia (neither in china or korea – they never heard of it.) I’m sure they had a limited marketing fund to advertise – also, this film speaks for itself. This movie is worth watching in the big screen & shouldn’t be missed.
———————————————————————-

BABEL
I became a big fan of the director, Iñárritu since I watched “Amores Peros” – a raw powerful movie. I also like “21 Grams” so, I didn’t hesitate to go see Babel in first week it was released.
The only mistake I made with my frieind was that we met at the theater like 10 min before the movie started and the seats were mostly taken… so I had to sit in the front – a bad idea for this kind of movie, I thought I learned my lesson from Martrix 3 movie but, apparently I didn’t.
So, “Babel” is third film of this triology (I have a hard time pronouncing this damn word in English!)
I also forgot to warn my good friend that Iñárritu’s movies are all very depressing… I think I told him at the last 10 min of the film… he sacaristically thanked me for that.

Generally, I liked the movie, Yiriko Kikuchi stole the show and each stories were interesting and powerful. The only flaw that was raised by most of my New Yorker friends were basically, his subjects were a bit too stereotypical; ie, Immgration problem – Mexican, Teenager girls who want to get laid – Japanese, Middle Eastern – terrorism threat that was wrongly accused… Anyhow, this third film was more formatted and edited for American audience, I think.
———————————————————————-

STRANGER THAN FICTION
When I watched the trailer, I thought this movie would be lightly funny but, when I actually watched the movie, it was even more funnier and has an insightful message. Emma Thompson and Will Ferrell’s performances were stunning and of course, Maggie Gyllenhaal is always great in any films. I liked the graphic treatment as he counts his walk and etc and I truly enjoyed this movie, very Flash like motion graphics.

My favorite scene: Will Ferrell character brings a box of flours to Maggie(the baker) and confessing his love to her by saying, “I brought you flours.”

———————————————————————-

VOLVER

I went to see this movie for my ladies night hangout – which is actually an occassional gathering of 4 Thai girls & me in NYC, usually begins with a chick movie and ends with a dinner. It was good but, I still like “Talk To Her” better. Penelope Cruz still didn’t convince me that she is a struggling single mother to me despite of her fat ass suits. Her arms and legs were too thin and well toned and she was just too pretty to believe to be the character she was playing. It has a nice, similar touch like “All About My Mother”, Almodovar’s touch. A good movie to watch in DVDs.

———————————————————————-

THE HOST

(by this movie, you can imagine that I really really like watching movies)
This is the second film by director, Junho Bong I watched since “Memory of Murder.” It is an excellent movie that everyone should check out. The Host also has a scary storyline with Korean inner jokes which I’m not sure if non-Korean audience can get the jokes. Just like “Memory of Murder” this movie contains many symbolism regarding today’s political and social scene. Here is the interesting scrap I got from http://www.imdb.com. “Memory of Murder” was based on a real serial murder it happened in 1980 & they never caught the murderer and “The Host” still based on a small actual incident happened in 2000.

The event described in the beginning of Gwoemul is based on an actual event. In February 2000 in a US military facility located in the center of Seoul, US military civilian employee Mr. McFarland ordered to dispose formaldehyde into the sewer system leading to Han River despite the objection of a Korean subordinate. Korean government attempted to prosecute Mr. McFarland in Korean court but US military refused to hand over the custody of Mr. McFarland to the Korean legal system. Later, a Korean judge convicted Mr. McFarland in absentia. Public enraged at the Korean government’s inability to enforce its law on its own soil. In 2005, nearly five years after the original incident, Mr. McFarland was finally found guilty in Korean court in his presence. He never served the actual prison sentence, however. No sighting of mutant creature has been reported in Han River, yet.

The scene where Nam-il kicks Kang-du at the funeral ceremony was improvised

———————————————————————-

THE CURSE OF GOLDEN FLOWER

I did not watch this movie. I refused to watch this movie. I’ve figured that it’s probably a lot like or worse than “Hero” with bigger budget and more golds. “Hero” was basically about flying warriors with a hidden propaganda idea of the great china they wanted to show the world. I figured this would be another greater propaganda movie perhaps? To me, “Hero” was too ordinary like any Hong Kong movies I’m used to. It was entertaining to watch but, didn’t leave me any impression like Zhang’s other older movies. Although I do respect director, Yimou Zhang, lately I’m not sure what happened to his films… Bigger budget, worse movies… hollywood-fied entertainment but, no soul.

I miss Yimou Zhang who directed “To Live” With low budget, he pulled an amazingly beautiful film that spoke its insightful wisdom. Gong Li was so alive in that movie. What really happened to them? Because “Crouching Tiger” was once a big hit in Hollywood? (I think I consider other movies by Ang Lee is a lot better. Especially “Ice Storm” & “Wedding Banquet”) I haven’t given up on Yimou Zhang. I hope he makes a beautiful film one day again that is nothing to do with huge budget and shining golden entertainment.