Introducing: Short Film of the Week series

January 22, 2010

This marks the beginning of a new series here at Something Offensive.  Pretty self-explanatory if not exceptionally original (that’s fast becoming my M.O., I know).

I think this will provide a nice outlet for myself and others to expose ourselves to and discuss more experimental works and help us better appreciate the cinematic form.

I plan to watch a fair amount of shorts every week, by filmmakers known and unknown, with content and ideas ranging all over the map.  And come each weekend, I’ll post my favorite find.

If there are any short films you would like to see featured in the weeks ahead, let us know in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to check them out.

This week’s selection: “There’s Only One Sun”  (2007)

director: Wong Kar-wai

I wanted to kick things off by getting an obvious choice of filmmaker out of the way.  I’ve often touted WKW’s more well-known feature work, and in case you haven’t seen Fallen Angels or In the Mood for Love, this might serve as a good primer.

Philips commissioned the director to showcase their new HD TV’s capabilities, and couldn’t have possibly made a better selection.  Here we’re treated to Wong’s brand of narration, his striking use of light and color,  tragic romantic characters, very particular soundtrack, bold titles, notes of interpersonal isolation, etc.   I find both the French language and the futuristic neo-noir set-up are natural fits for the director; the central concept really allows him to demonstrate his craft.  My only major critique is that I  wish the narrative had maintained a greater sense of mystery.  The first minute or two had me fully intrigued, so I couldn’t help but feel somewhat letdown once it sort of revealed its hand.

All in all, between this and Wong’s somewhat aesthetically-similar 2046, I’d be greatly interested to see him tackle a feature-length of this or something close in line provided he had a more refined story.  It’s just a painfully beautiful vision to behold.

What are your thoughts?


AK—Film #1—Rashomon (1950)

January 13, 2010

It seems the two times I’ve watched Rashomon I was sleepy and not entirely alert. Likewise, the film has felt almost dreamlike in my mind (just watched it within the hour). Rashomon is about truth—or rather the subjectivity of —as well as the inherent good/evil of man. Much like a dream, it is difficult to make out what really happens. The same story is told several times from differing perspectives. Simiar Obi-Wan telling luke that Vader killed Anikan, the stories all contain a bit of truth in them, albeit from different points of view.

Much could and has been said about Rashomon. Symbolism, camera techniques, storytelling: Rashomon breaks ground in these areas and more.

Both the music and the camera shots are dreamlike at times—not a criticism at all. The pulse of the drums, the shadows of the leaves—everything plays on the senses.

Aside from Kurosawa’s greatness, Toshiro Mifune (above) really shows his acting talent here. Very charismatic and energetic. He holds a screen presence much like a Brando—suspending our disbelief and captivating the audience without encroaching on the film. Mifune gives exactly what the story needs: no more, no less.

Rashomon is probably the best starting point for Kurosawa and maybe early foreign cinema. Some have criticized it for being too western and not Japanese enough. I say Rashomon transcends cultural boundaries, establishing itself as world cinema. It takes the best of film everywhere, and innovates just enough. Most importantly, Rashomon ultimately leaves the story up to the viewer to decide. What do you take from it?

Much like my viewing, this post feels dreamlike. I do hope coherence made its way into the post somehow…

That concludes part one. In case you missed it, here is the rest of the viewing schedule:

  1. High and Low (1963)
  2. Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
  3. Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945)
  4. Seven Samurai (1954)
  5. Throne of Blood (1957)
  6. Ikiru (1952)
  7. The Most Beautiful (1944)
  8. Kagemusha (1980)
  9. The Men Who Tread on The Tiger’s Tail (1945)
  10. No Regrets for our Youth (1946)
  11. The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  12. One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
  13. Red Beard (1965)
  14. Drunken Angel (1948)
  15. Scandal (1950)
  16. The Idiot (1951)
  17. Stray Dog (1949)
  18. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
  19. I Live In Fear (1955)
  20. Dodes’ka-Den (1970)
  21. The Lower Depths (1957)
  22. Yojimbo (1961)
  23. Madadayo (1993)
  24. Sanjuro (1962)

My Decade Wishlist (in Film)

January 9, 2010

Now that everyone’s exceedingly sick of recounting the odd events, great successes, glorious failures, and myriad other memorable moments of the last ten years, I think it’s time we make concrete our visions for the duration of this presently virginal decade of ours.

Below are ten things I’m hopeful will occur (or not occur…) these next ten years; none too terribly original, but things I still have my fingers crossed for nonetheless.

1) Christopher Doyle and Wong Kar-wai reunite, matching their 1st decade’s output.

2) Bill Murray writes his own feature, maybe directs a small indie.  He formerly wanted to be a playwright. I’d like to see what his imagination would conjure.

3) A comic book movie hiatus.  Realistically, this wouldn’t take effect until 2013 or 2014 with the current slate.  But point is most of them have been trash.  Maybe put an end date of 2020.  Let it sit dormant for 10 or so years.

4) Studios more supportive of concepts, wise spending, new talent, new ideas, promoting ‘smaller’ fare.   Tired of the 1-2-3 franchise glut.  Rural theaters should be aided in playing and nurturing foreign/indie works.

5) Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah’s Ark” movie.  Would be amazing.

6) Rangier animation, style-wise and content-wise.  Love Pixar, but it’s going to wear thin if Dreamworks remains its only “competition.”

7) A push for more experimental features.  40-minute shorts of acclaimed directors finding programming (television perhaps?).  More international casts, playing up international venues and international stars, and non-English languages.  Wes Anderson has the right idea, venturing into stop-motion.  Tired of trends.  Just because of Avatar, I don’t want to watch 3-D video games every summer for the next 15 years.

8) Let foreign directors shoot their scripts within our studio system.  Our resources.  Our budgets.  Send more of our writers, directors, actors overseas for collaborations.

9) The Academy Awards will never regain relevancy.  Awards coverage should move toward focusing on the world stage.  Domestic networks should air coverage from the Cannes film festival, allowing critics to do the reporting/interviewing instead of entertainment correspondents going on ad nauseam about fashion flubs and other shallow crap.

10) With the demise of print, many questions surround the future of film critics.  Unquestionably, they’re our connection to a world of lesser seen films that would otherwise never see the light of day.  We need to find a way to preserve and continue to support the work they do.

How about you, faithful readers?  What are some items on your own personal decade wishlists?

Upcoming Akira Kurosawa Series (of sorts)

January 8, 2010

So, I got this for Christmas.

If you can’t tell, it is the 25 films of Akira Kurosawa box set. Four films of his aren’t included (Dreams, Ran, Rhapsody in August, The Quiet Duel, Dersu Uzala), but as you can see: most of his work is amply represented here. As you can guess, I’m gonna begin going through these film by film—a sort of study if you will. I shall post my thoughts/musing/etc and perhaps a review on each film as a way to keep me up to the task and for both our reader’s enjoyment. I would love to do this weekly, but I’m sure i’ll get off track somewhere due to lawschool (especially near semester’s end). However, there are plenty of weeks in the year, and I’m sure to be done before next Christmas. For those playing along at home, I thought I would provide a list of planned viewing. I don’t wish to go through the set chronologically, as that might prove too stale and daunting (you wouldn’t start a study of Scorsese with “The Big Shave” or “Who’s that knocking at my door,” you would start with Taxi Driver or maybe Raging Bull). As follows is my planned watch-list. This is subject to change aside from the first few films (I think).

  1. Rashomon (1950)
  2. High and Low (1963)
  3. Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
  4. Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945)
  5. Seven Samurai (1954)
  6. Throne of Blood (1957)
  7. Ikiru (1952)
  8. The Most Beautiful (1944)
  9. Kagemusha (1980)
  10. The Men Who Tread on The Tiger’s Tail (1945)
  11. No Regrets for our Youth (1946)
  12. The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  13. One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
  14. Red Beard (1965)
  15. Drunken Angel (1948)
  16. Scandal (1950)
  17. The Idiot (1951)
  18. Stray Dog (1949)
  19. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
  20. I Live In Fear (1955)
  21. Dodes’ka-Den (1970)
  22. The Lower Depths (1957)
  23. Yojimbo (1961)
  24. Madadayo (1993)
  25. Sanjuro (1962)

And there you have it. Quite a long list now that I’ve typed it all out. They’re arranged mostly based on runtime and sometimes date of release. I didn’t want to be watching 3 hour epics in a row, so they’re split up as well as possible. Hope you can join me on what should be an education and entertaining foray into the films of Akira Kurosawa.

P.S. First post probably this weekend or by next (don’t hold me to it!)