Adapt or Die: Fawning Over Hanna

This is a good movie year, for me.

At the very least, I find myself fortunate that, for all the things that may be happening this year, I find islands of escape in new movies that touch, amuse, awe or excite me. Yay, world!

Hanna is one such movie.  It feels like a fairytale, with action movie elements.  Plus one dash of music video-ness, and a pinch of Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. (The official movie site isn’t too bad either.)

Saoirse Ronan might be key to the magical feeling though.  Her face is just so..otherwordli-ly (what an awkward word) beautiful in this movie.

via toblia.tumblr

Of course, I’m not sure if the movie is perfect; I was too immersed in it to care about whether the plot had holes in it.  Although I do know that I winced whenever Cate Blanchett’s inconsistently present Southern accent resurfaced after fading away.

I’m a sucker for movies where young girls train and devote their lives to an ideal, usually an aggressively physical one.  I think I love seeing the passion for craft and dedication.  The single-mindedness intermingled with a yearning for an outside life, while coldly focusing on strength-building. Yes – big, abstract words.

I just really like it.  The opening scenes that set-up her skills.  Wow.  I love the part where she arrives home, and is kind of sullen, but Erik quizzes her on the different languages she’s supposed to know.

I also love how the movie showcases some of the richest “street” culture in the world.  In fact, it never really showcases “glossy” city exteriors.  And I think that’s just great.  You have Morocco, Spain, Berlin – all focusing on back streets and fringe or mass culture.  Raw flamenco dance, dingy Moroccan inns, trailer parks, graffiti-ed up walls.  It was like a slice of the world through Hanna’s eyes.

I also like how the action sequences, though few, aren’t fancy-schmancy ones.  They’re just brawls or knife fights that are straightforward.

And, how can I forget, Hanna’s escape from detention. Wow. I loved that.  From the psych questioning, to her jumping into nooks and crannies in the blinking-light tube.  Seemed like an MTV, yes, but it had powerful visuals, and well, I guess that kind of running-like-hell-and-successfully-finding-a-way-out craftily is part of every little girl’s dream adventure (Unless, that’s just me.)

I just find the movie beautiful.  Not in a deep “look into the human condition” plot sense, but in a “wow, this looks good and makes me feel nice…” sense.  Inception can draw you in with its twisted fantasies, but Hanna is quiet, like a fairytale.  It’s an action flick for chicks, if there ever was one (others in that list might be Fast Five, and Hitman – and this one is the prettiest of the bunch).  There’s no sex, no grand explosions.  Just a chase. And lost-ness, and sadness and cunning.  Tumblr-meets-grappling for the emo girl set.  I am going to get myself a copy, for nights when I want to relive her training and adventure.

Also, kudos to Shrine to Actors for a great review of Hanna!

Japanese Movie List: Sorry, Film Outfits

I realize I really have to unload all my open tabs.

First in my “Open Tabs” series is my set of Japanese Films I’d eventually want to get to watch.  Dear Japanese Film Production Outfits, I will try my best to find a legitimate way of getting my hands on these.  Good luck to us.

Cafe Isobe

Adrift in Tokyo

Bare Essence of Life Ultra-Miracle Love Story

The Great Happiness Space: Tales of an Osaka Love Thief


And, of course, another Japanese movie I fell in love with in the past year: Supu Opera.

Heart, Soul and Rhythm: I am a new fan of A Tribe Called Quest

I am music stupid in many ways.

I was an almost full-time athlete for my formative social years.  Because of spending my third grade to senior high school years in a gym, with 10-12 year olds and middle-aged coaches, I wasn’t exposed to the particular set and variety of music that most people my age listened to.

That’s just a brief disclaimer about why I don’t know a lot of songs that were/are considered well-known in my generation.

Fast forward to last night, where I got to attend a screening of Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.

I loved it.

I’m a sucker for passion, dedication to craft.  The magic ingredient in Chef of South Polar.  And you also felt that in Beats, Rhymes and Life.  It was real.  Four talented young people coming together, forming bonds, honing talent, and going through the conflicts that do naturally happen since people really have different personalities.

The storytelling treatment didn’t assail anyone, which was amazingly careful of the creators, since they showed the tension that formed by the group’s third album – all without finger-pointing.  In fact, you even saw the steadiness in the group’s bond despite fighting and fall-outs.  Q-Tip, the creative diva of the bunch, knocked heads with Phife, but in the end, there was still concern and appreciation.

They were quirky, they loved music, they were grounded.  Their music is so honest.  That’s what I love about it – it’s honest but skilled.  Like all the best music.  It’s what keeps Benita Applebum and Hot Sex from seeming sleazy.  They’re about sex, but the sound is playful and the writing…the writing isn’t trying to be cool, or macho.

So, wow, A Tribe Called Quest.  I’m sad that I only discovered you now.  But, better late than never.

Bittersweet and True: Chef of South Polar

I’m sorry, Before Sunset.  I have loved you for so long, but it is now time to step down as my all-time favorite movie.
The Chef of the South Pole (南極料理人, 2009) is my new benchmark.

The movies I love are usually the ones I feel I can never describe fully.  Like nothing I say can accurately express how good and real and delicate it is.  Inception, for example, is a good movie, but also easy to take apart.  You can dissect it — cinematography, special effects, plot, acting.

For South Pole Chef….it isn’t even like a movie for me anymore; it just feels like life.  It feels like a peek into a strong and fun friendship.  It’s the only movie in a long time that’s kept me happily engaged throughout the entire length of it.

But, I’ll talk about it anyway.  Even if I really just enjoy soaking the film in.

The Chef of the South Pole

First unfair advantage: It revolves around meals.  And employs many gorgeous shots of food – in preparation and consumption.  Fried lobster! Ramen! Noodle-making! Sashimi! Inch-thick steak!  I love seeing Mr. Nakishima’s focused artisanship and inherent joy and apprehension while he prepares his food and watches his colleagues stuff their faces!  And, as in almost all South Korean and Japanese films involving meals, the Dome Fuji guests all eat with gusto!  I love how South Korean and Japanese films embrace and celebrate passion for eating, in a way that is so enjoyable but, sadly, typically frowned upon by Western etiquette.

Okay, sorry about gushing about the food part of it.

It’s a really beautiful story.  I don’t want to talk about the plot points; I just want to describe what I loved about it.

It’s…delicate.  Slice-of-life.  Like little cut-outs in actual human days, like my two other favorites – Before Sunset and Soup Opera.  You just feel the… the meat of their friendship.  In the oddball funny moments where they’re in the bathroom all together and tease the person pooping, to the subtle sadness and tension under the surface, when they each get lonely in their own way.   But, despite the real sadness in the kind of life the characters had to go through in the Antarctic, I love how the program was never melodramatic.  It was just quiet and funny and honest.

And, yes, I will go through the technical bits.  It’s a stunning movie.  I love the apt and accurate cinematography – the quiet shots of the Station before the movie ends; the sweeping shots of the tundra, especially when they were getting water; the establishing shots of the darkness and harsh windy coldness.  Aaagh.  Agh. So beautiful.

And the music! I love the quirky tune during the fun parts; the solemn silence during the awkward realizations of rejection, and how the music ends right before punctuating events like one of the characters tripping as he runs through the snow and when Mr. Nakishima finishes a dish during Winter Solstice dinner.

There are no in-your-face life lessons; no grand realizations or enlightenment; just life.  A celebration of food, friendship and hopeful, steady human fortitude.