Saturday, March 7, 2009

While I Was Away...

Priorities got the best of me, making my blog hopelessly idle. However, the world did not stop spinning, and here were a few things that deserve some yabber, albeit late and abbreviated yabber:

New Yorker Films: Au revoir! さようなら! 再见!
No way do I want to make light of this very sad news. After 43 years New Yorker Films, distributor of some of the finest films made, calls it quits. I have always appreciated New Yorker's willingness to take on films for the sake of their artistic value instead of their bottom line value. Specific to my interests was their commitment to Jia Zhang Ke (such as Still Life, left.) Xiao Wu, Platform and Unknown Pleasures were not going to get releases in their home country, so I was really at the mercy of someone picking these films up in either the UK or the US. Taking a gander at the titles of the films New Yorker represented reads like a "best of" in foreign film: Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor, Clair Denis' Beau Travail, Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni's The Story of the Weeping Camel, Lynne Ramsey's Ratcatcher, Lars Von Trier's Manderlay, Tsai Ming Liang's Goodbye Dragon Inn, Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life and Nobody Knows, Anh Hung Tran's Cyclo, Hong Sang Soo's Woman is the Future of Man and Woman on the Beach, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Amores Perros, Hou Hsiao Hsien's Three Times and Flight of the Red Ballon, Bahman Ghobadi's A Time for Drunken Horses and Turtles Can Fly and so on. Not to mention the catalogs of Werner Herzog, Pedro Almodovar, Ousmane Sembene, Zhang Yimou and Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet. I could go on, but the point is, from a film fan's standpoint, New Yorker will be missed.

Surge in Movie Ticket Sales
Depressed about the economy? Go see the Jonas Brothers: 3D Concert Experience! Or Medea Goes to Jail! Or the Watchmen! Although escapism-via-the-movie-theater is my middle name, the American people have long tossed that entertainment option to the side for some time. From within the article, "the portion of the American population that attended movies on a weekly basis dropped from around 65 percent in 1930 to about 10 percent in the 1960s, and pretty much stayed there." Wow. It's a wonder how movies make money at all. However, the slight increase (17.5 %) in sales for the year has everyone excited. I fear the onslaught of 'happy crappy movies,' but the bigger picture of more viewers is never a bad thing.

Departures wins Best Foreign Film
Departures was an upset win against Waltz With Bashir. Waltz may be the better (and more important) film, but I am glad to see this weepy melodrama win. The Oscars is all industry bullshit that is nauseating at face value, but the win for this film will give the Japanese film industry a new lease on life. After the Oscars, record crowds bombarded theaters in Japan to see the film, gaining support it may have never seen without the win, locally and internationally. Director Yojiro Takita muscled moderate domestic success with his 2001 period drama Onmyoji, but it will be nothing compared to Departures. The film focuses on Daigo, a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved. When he answers a classified ad for a job, simply entitled "Departures," he gets roped in to becoming a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. Check out the new US website in the link above.

Hong Kong International Film Festival
The HKIFF program went online last week. I was THIS close to going this year, but, as fate would have it, the fragrant harbor will have to wait another year for me. If missed opportunities was a sport, I would be a professional. The program is chock-full of films that make me excited, even if I'm not attending. Although the program features some films that have either played here or will play here, it is the boatloads of films that will never ever play here that I wish I was there to see.

...Blu-Ray arrives to my house...and I am scared.
Researching Blu-Ray players ever since HD went kaput always led me down the same frightening road: having a video game console in my house. If my attentiveness to film is any indication, I have some OCD issues. Television and video games are something I have reserved to retirement, knowing that they present a potential threat to my involvement in the 'real world.' However, the deal on a PS3 a couple of weeks ago at Target was too good to pass up, and I am now a proud owner of a PS3. I have yet to test my willpower and unpack the player with the excuse that I want to find a cheap new receiver before I go digging around in the web of wires. Perusing the available Blu-Rays at the local video store and Nit-wit-flix, I am trying to stay focused...

Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow
I will not being reviewing books for this wonder blog, but I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the inspiration. When the folks at J-Film Pow-Wow posted a search for someone to review Japanese Film related books, I was interested. In doing a little research of books I would like to review, I uncovered a treasure trove. Although I didn't get the book review gig, the Pow-Wow folks offered me some motivation to throw some book reviews up on these very pages. Until then, check out the barn-burning and informative posting that goes on at the J-Film Pow-Wow.

Molding young minds into Cineastes
Teaching may not be in my future, but a friend of mine let me guest speak in his Oppositional Cinema class on the Japanese New Wave movement. I'm not sure if I won any fans, but it sure is fun to show Branded to Kill to an unexpecting audience of young adults.

Universal Noir, Women With Vision, 3D Film Festival, Italian Film Festival, and Blockbusters
Don't blame me for ignoring my blog.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Although the demise of New Yorker Films is a sad sign of the times, I can appreciate your feeling of loss. Even I recognize some of the movies on your list...

"Nit Wit Flix"? You are trashing my only link to the movie world? Whatever their frailties, they are our only link to film in this house. What have they done to irritate you?

Ryan will be proud of your PS3 purchase. He has been launching a campaign with us and the 'Rents that this is the only way to go. Most likely when we upgrade our viewing experience (when our old TV dies) we will travel this path. Be very very scared!

Kathie Smith said...

More local video stores have been shuttered than I like to think about, some of them owned by friends. This was part of Netflix corporate strategy - to put video stores out of business. (Granted, they were talking about Blockbuster, but nonetheless.)

This too may be a sign of the times, but not one I like. They are the Walmart of video store rental.

joetron2030 said...

Congrats on the PS3.

I keep wavering. I want to wait and get a PS3.

But, recently, I started to think that since I have a 22" panel for my computer and a small surround system for my office, I could just as easily get a BD drive for my computer.

It's so tempting because I've seen BD drives for under $100, I think.

But, then I also think about Ideally, I'd have a PS3 and the Oppo BD player for the living room.

"Sky Crawlers" at the end of May, I can't wait!

Kathie Smith said...

Hey Joe. What's the deal with that Oppo player? I looked at the specs but it just made my head hurt. What's the advantages?

I keep thinking about a Blu-ray drive for my computer too! Although I don't have the surround sound, I do have the 24" iMac and when I'm too lazy to pull down the screen for the projector, it is pretty nice to watch movies on.

I've been up to ears recently and have yet to hook up the PS3. But I have Akira and Ashes of Time Redux sitting here when I do!