Sometimes I go to garage sales on Saturday mornings. There are a few things I like to collect, namely video games and anything to do with Japan, but I rarely find those (games, in particular, get sold very early in the morning.) So when I buy something, it often ends up being a DVD. On the one hand I know it’s not worth buying DVDs, there’s a better format (Blu-Ray) and physical discs aren’t really necessary these days anyway. I also don’t have the shelf space for them. But on the other hand, when I see a collection of 8 Jackie Chan movies on DVD for a buck, or see Hero with Jet Li, one of the prettiest-shot movies of all time, I can’t turn it down. Those aren’t just examples, of course, they’re the two best garage sale finds I’ve had in the last month or so. I haven’t watched anything from them yet, but Hero is a movie I’ve been wanting to rewatch since I first saw it, which was way back in 2002 when it came out. Since then I’ve seen its costar Tony Leung in Red Cliff (see my blog entry on that here), so I’m even more eager to revisit it soon.
Intolerance — ★★★★
I watched D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) recently. It’s a masterpiece, of course, despite some very questionable politics; it wouldn’t be a Griffith movie without those. But what struck me on this viewing (I’d seen segments before, but never the whole thing) was the hilarious, manic performance of Constance Talmadge as “The Mountain Girl” in the Babylon segments.
Red Cliff Part 1 — ★★★☆
Red Cliff Part 2 — ★★★☆
A while back I mentioned that I’d been watching a lot of long movies lately, and that the 5-hour, two-part Chinese movie Red Cliff was on the agenda. I finally got through them. Solid movies. Director John Woo is a bit heavy on the (excessively) stylized action, but he includes lots of beautiful (and appropriately) stylized character moments to make up for it. Zhang Fengyi is a show-stealer as the villainous warlord Cao Cao, who tried to take over China during the Three Kingdoms period at the end of the Han Dynasty nearly 2000 years ago. Kaneshiro Takeshi (he is of Taiwanese and Japanese descent) gives him a run for his money as Zhu-ge Liang, the master strategist who unites two southern kingdoms against Cao Cao. The music, which is often diagetic, is one of the most impressive parts of these films; it’s somewhat punched-up Chinese traditional music played on traditional instruments.
If you’ve got five hours to kill, there are worse ways to spend it! It’s better than the trailer makes it look.
The first movie I saw in this young year was the 70-mm presentation of The Hateful Eight, which ran 187 minutes. I liked the Western first half, but the grindhouse second half is silly and rapidly fritters away the emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic interest earned before intermission.