Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday movie blogging
I just signed up for Netflix. I've been putting off doing so for years, mainly because I didn't think they would carry anything that I actually want to see. Well, it turns out that their repetoire has expanded considerably and they now carry all the stuff (anime, Hong Kong action movies, Japanese horror) that ye olde local Blockbusters does not. So, I'll probably be babbling about movies I've seen over the next few weeks. Knowing me, I'm sure that both politics and feminism will end up in there somewhere. Such as in this, the very first movie I got from Netflix.
Sin City. I loved comics as a kid, and still love anime, so I though that this might be a good movie for me. Damn, was I ever wrong. This is, literally, the only movie I've ever turned off and refused to finish within less than half an hour. I hated it. Not only did I hate it, it left me feeling so skeeved out that I felt like I needed to take a shower and wash my mind out with soap while I was at it.
The people who made Sin City really hate women. I've noticed a bit of that in Roberto Rodriguez' movies before, but it was really obvious here. Every single plot point seems to revolve around an overly-sexualised woman being abused or killed in some way. They even start it off with a kidnapped little girl, with a voiceover gleefully telling you about how all the other little girls kidnapped by the same guy have been raped before being murdered. Now don't get me wrong - I like horror movies. Blood doesn't phase me at all. In fact, the next 2 movies on my list are the notoriously bloody Battle Royale and Audition, which is so scary that Rob Zombie said that he had to sleep with the lights on after watching it. My own fiction can be quite notably dark. It's not as if I'm afraid of confronting disturbing material, but this movie left me with a quite palpable sense of threat, and I'm having a hard time explaining why. It's as if I get the sense that the people who made this movie are actually deriving genuine sexual pleasure out of the abuse of the women (and female children) in the story. It feels like they're savouring those women's suffering like a delicious meal. It's creepy as hell. What's interesting is that the media lauded this movie as daring and controversial. Apparently open hatred of women and a blatant desire to see them hurt is considered sexy. Ick, ick, ick. When they added in the little girl they really lost me. Interestingly enough my husband felt the same way, calling it a movie for the "fledgling serial killer demographic". I get the feeling the Green River and Zodiac killers would have viewed Sin City as the best porn ever made. Like I said, creepy.
Also, the wierd visual effects are interesting for about 5 minutes and then rapidly become gimmicky and annoying. And it's got Mickey Rourke in it, which is always a pretty good sign that a movie is going to suck.
The other movie was one that I can recommend though, albeit with a few caveats. "Returner" is a Japanese sci-fi movie that throws every sci-fi premise of the last 20 years into a blender and then serves up the results in high style complete with transforming alien ships and Takeshi Kaneshiro in a leather trenchcoat. Pretty much everything is in there - little kids being kidnapped to be harvested for their organs, alien invasion, time travel, bullet time, scene-chewing villain, manipulative Triad godfather, cackling elderly Chinese lady who deals in guns while sipping tea and adorable defenceless alien baby. That plus the aformentioned pretty-boy-in-leather. It sounds like a mess, and it kind of is, but it's an exhilarating mess. It's derivative, as many critics complained, but then criticising the Japanese movie industry for being derivative after all the blatant thievery (Matrix anyone?) and outright remakes that Hollywood has come up with is a bit hypocritical. If you like action-oriented sci-fi you'll probably like this. And if you're either a straight woman or a gay man you'll definately like Kaneshiro, who is beyond a doubt one of the most beautiful people in the history of the movie industry. I could probably quite happily sit and watch him fold laundry, but seeing him scale the side of a tanker or ride a motorbike and shoot at people while wearing a fabulous suit is even better.
What I really enjoyed about "Returner" was the ways in which it deviated from the rigid gender roles that are ever-present in Hollywood action movies. Miyamato (the Kaneshiro character) is a gun-toting, ass-kicking hero but he isn't inhumanly perfect or unnaturally fearless - he gets confused, freaked out and despondant, and there's a lot of sarcastic humour in the character. When the Milly character (played by Ann Suzuki, the kid from "Snow Falling On Cedars) plants a bomb on his neck to force him to help her, he does a panicky little dance of frustration that you would never see from any American action hero. The Milly character, who travels back in time to kill the first alien invader (or not, as it later turns out), behaves like an actual teenager. She's neither a pathetic little flower needing to be rescued nor an overly-sexualised fembot, she's just a determined kid. If this were a Hollywood movie I'm sure they'd have found some way to turn this into a love story, but in "Returner" the two form more of a big brother-little sister relationship (appropriate, as Suzuki was only 14 at the time).
One point to note for those who may have read reviews of this movie - many Western reviewers babbled on about the "chemisty" between the two leads and how "sexy" Suzuki is. I don't know what kind of wierd projection was going on there, but this is in no way a romantic movie. Anyone expecting some "hot" adult man on early teenage girl action is going to be very dissapointed. The most physically intimate the relationship gets is a quick hug after he finds her when she's having somewhat of an emotional meltdown, and her resting her head on his shoulder while riding on the back of a motorbike. The fact that some of the reviewers were apparently unable to see "cute Japanese teenager" without thinking "hot sex" is rather depressing to me. I blame the porn industry.
"Returner" also got me thinking about the differences in the way men are presented in the Asian film industry and the way they're presented in the West, but that's a topic for another post. More later...


StealthBadger said...

Meh, I suggest turning captcha on -_-


I'd blame the advertising industry more than the porn industry. Porn tends to follow least-common-denominator ideas of style and attractiveness, not set them. Historically, the U.S. "Adult Film" industry is about as financially "Conservative" as you can get, new "trends" generally come from overseas.

Unless, when you say "porn industry," you're talking about the "Paris Hilton, covered in soap-suds-as-blatant-metaphor and fellating a cheeseburger" film industry, which would mean we were talking about the same thing, and I apologize.

StealthBadger said...

*fines himself $5 for double-quote-abuse*

Tuomas said...

I suppose I'm a bit sceptical about the media usage of the word "controversial". It usually prompts a response, or a thought of: "Great, is it racism,(stronger than usual) sexism, homophobia or all three?"

Really controversial movies are damn rare.

drumgurl said...

Thanks for the tip on Sin City. A co-worker has been trying to get me to see it, and now I'm sure it would not be a productive use of my time!

Cassandra Says said...

What is captcha? Will it enable me to block all the annoying spam that I've been getting recently?
In this case I'm specifically talking about the porn industry, particularly that segment of it that has a penchant for Japanese teenage girls in school uniforms. Not that the ad industry doesn't suck too - it does. This particular brand of stupidity can pretty much be blamed on porn, though.
Tuomas - agreed. In this case it manages to hit both sexism and racism, since Devon Aoki's fembot assassin character literally does not have a single line in the whole movie. Hey, normally I LIKE pretty girls in leather, but is there any good reason why they couldn't let her talk?

Cassandra Says said...

Red - glad that I could save you a couple of hours of abject boredom.

FoolishOwl said... has some new options for dealing with spam, like requiring typing in the text in a graphic.

I spent half an hour cleaning out the spam comments on my blog today.