Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Gran Torino"


So, here, Clint bring us a modern, more dramatic version of "Dirty Harry". My assumptions of this intent are evidenced a bit by the fact that there was a long advertisement for the "Dirty Harry" collection, meaning all 5 parts (I thought there was only one movie!) on DVD prior to the film starting. When I first seen the trailer for this, I thought it looked to be a bit weak, sloppy and self-indulgent, especially for Mr. Eastwood. After watching it, I found all three of these traits to be present, but generally it was very good film. Racist, so I thought, but very good.


Walt Kowalski1 (Eastwood) is a recently widowed Korean War veteran living in a Michigan suburb. He dreads the day-to-day interaction with his cold and distant family of sons trying to rush him to a funeral home and granddaughters waiting to steal his stuff when he dies. But things start to change when his life crosses path with the lives of a Hmong family (from which country it is never stated) next door when he stops their boy, Thao, from trying to steal his Gran Torino in the name of gang initiation. From then on, the bitter, gruff and grizzly voiced Kowalski2 finds his peaceful life of upkeeping his house and sitting on the porch with his dog more and more interrupted, but his connection with the Hmong family more and more strengthened.

The story ended up being a lot more in-depth and substantial than I expected it to be. I guess, the action hero in his retired life would be the proper theme to labeled this with. Eastwood's character still has that "make-my-day.....punk" energy, but now he'll only put a fresh hole in your head after he cleans his gutters, sweeps the porch, mows the lawn and fixes a neighbor's sink. A man constantly trying to find purpose for himself, big or small, in his day and age which takes place after a larger purpose for himself has incinerated to ashes and blown away in the wind3. All of this came across with great clarity and grabbed my sympathies immediately.


However, I think, when it comes to filming stories about foreign Asians, Eastwood cannot bring himself to see them as.....you know.....actual human beings or characters4. I did not see "Letters To Iwo Jima" but I was reading somewhere how his filming of the Japanese side of WW II in the story was a bit unfair and bias. In "Gran Torino", besides his character being a "lovable racist", there's no particular bias or anything but the Hmong characters are severely under-developed. It could be the lack of experience amongst the two main Hmong youths, Sue and Thao (this is the first time both actors, Bee Vang and Ahney Her, appeared in a film professionally), but it seemed to me like Eastwood was the only one following an actual script. The actors had no scenic rhythm, often repeated the same lines over and over, stumbled over each other in performance and had no real characteristics. Sue's intelligence peaked out a little bit, but Thao was a sloppy character altogether. In one scene he's afraid to speak up after being repeatedly insulted, in another he's taking it upon himself to touch things that aren't his, in another he's making demands and treating elderly people like they're fellow teenagers. In addition to this, there was about zero sympathy for his character. Yes, we know he did not have any direction in his life prior to meeting Kowalski, but he was nothing. Didn't like to play sports or read or write or....just.....didn't have anything going for him. Like he was some sort of..........Hmong stand-in instead of an actual person.

Generally, the movie was really good, though I would not say it was Eastwood's best. The whole duration of the movie (which is also the same amount of time Kowalski's face is on camera), it seemed to me that Eastwood just wanted to prove to the world that a sprinkle of take-no-sh** gunslinger still existed in his soul. The entire cast just lived in his shadow, and nothing even seemed to be of any real importance unless he was involved. A little self-indulgent if you ask me, but still worth watching.



Notes:
1) -sky, makes me think of Buchinsky (Charles Bronson) for some reason.
2) Right. Never seen Eastwood play this role before. Never.
3) "Dust in the wiiiiiiind, all we are is dust in the wiiiiind" - Kansas - "Dust In The Wind" (1977)
4) Well......I mean.....he is Conservative.....but I digress.....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Seriously Joking. Just kidding, but for real........

Hello. I'm the Clandestine Samurai. You may have seen me in such films as the Oscar Award winning masterpiece "The Curious Sword of Benjamin Samurai", the slapstick comedy "Dude, Where's my Blade?" or the action-packed thriller "Brokeback Mountain 2: Breakin' Backs with a Vengeance, Bitch!". Studies have shown that, in today's society, a very large amount of witty and graphic jokes go clean over the heads of a large portion of the young and old. Great pieces of irony, sarcasm and satire are delivered with great rhythm and tone, but unfortunately do not touch the funny bone of most of this population and symbolically go speeding to a crash landing right on the cutting floor. However, studio execs have paid me $3000 and a Ziploc bag of Nicaraguan Brown1 to appear in this instructional blog post and tell you a little bit about joke structure and mentality. So please, sit back, be enlightened, and aid our mission to reduce the abortions of fresh snarky joke babies.

No, but seriously. It's a bit of a let down, disappointment and question of general intelligence when I hear someone or myself be sarcastic in everyday life and it gets lost on whatever audience is present. I'm not saying they have to laugh, but there is a sharp absence of evidence that shows that the person or people understood that a joke was just told. At the same time, or, on the other side of the coin, there are people who express things that are absurd or insanely stupid by default, but take themselves very seriously. My guess is that people who are exposed to the latter situation train themselves to be sensitive to people's various personalities, and so mistake sarcasm for someone being serious. But both situations are funny. Confused? Bored? Genocidal? Let me give you an example:

Picture a woman sitting somewhere: a park bench, a bus stop, the throne of 18th century Japan. Now picture a man approaching said woman and saying "Girl, you look so good that I want to start a magazine just to put your face on every issue, and then be my only subscriber!" or "Girl, you must be a potent seed, because you make the tree grow in my forest reaaaaaal quick." or, "Girl, you could be the violent video game that makes me shoot up my high school anyday!" Now, this man could be quite serious or he could be playing around. We don't know his intent. But we do know that in both cases, it is perfectly ok to laugh.

When things are this exaggerated, you must automatically turn off the serious switch. You have to have the I.Q. of a glass of Jim Jones' Kool-Aid2 to think a serious conversation can start like this. I mean, a serious convo can start from anything, but you cannot consider yourself attempting to start one with those lines. The man can be very serious when saying these things, but then you'd have to find comical the fact that he thinks living beings other than badly written aliens from any given Star Trek episode actually talk like this to each other prior to engaging each other socially.

So, I guess the point here is, when exaggeration is present, it can be considered funny. As a few skillfully literary artists3 have illustrated, sometimes comedy even appears in the tragic and devastating. But then the comedy is in the fact that someone else thinks they are logical in their own exaggeration. So, take this bit of wisdom with you for start of your next day or even now. Look at the people around you. Examine the ironies and paradoxes, the strange and bizarre, the so-empty-it's-absurd, and remember, you have permission to laugh.

Surgeon General's Warning: This is unless, of course, someone is telling you they are going to kill themselves or are about to do a suicide bombing or something, then you help or seek help. Double unless they're telling you they're about to do this because they ran out of staples or pens or they lost an important "Halo 3" tournament, then you can definitely laugh. But make sure it's short and you seek help right afterwards.

Notes:
1) A type of marijuana I totally just made up. Feel free to replace with: Panama Red, White Widow, Lumpy Bullet, Cyclopian Green or Nashville Dirt.
2) Jim Jones - the leader of the "People's Temple", an organization in the 1950's in Guyana (South America) infamously known for performing a mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Over 900 members killed themselves.
3) I want to say Shakespeare, but no particular work comes to mind. Chuck Palahniuk is certainly a master of this, though.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back on the Business

Here I am. There we are. Thus we go.

Alright, so, over the years of having to clean up behind the completely ridiculous messes of infant-minded managers, in addition to doing the work they have some sort of problem putting their own hands in (regardless of the fact that they're so pressed about things getting done when I'm not there), I've noticed something about the customers. They think there's some sort of link between morality and luxury. Like they are one in the same or something.

I get the usual pointless rote responses from people who look at the prices of some of our merchandise: "Don't you guys know this is a recession?" "Rich, white folk probably shop here." "This duvet cover is beautiful, but it's way too much." "Did you know that lighters were invented before matches?" But the one response that truly shows the product of being raised to shoot Cristalup their veins and study for Harvard mid-terms by doing lines of China White in their friends' dorms is: "This isn't fair. This is supposed to be cheaper."

Really? So, you're own greed and imaginary knowledge of what our company's money is like told you this? You think this duvet cover is supposed to be cheaper because you.....just...think so? I mean, besides the business not really giving a crap what YOU think you should pay for it, why not just ask for it to be free? If you're going to make up a price, why make a price at all? Because you think we still have to make money on the sale? You don't even know how much we paid for it prior to selling it to you...........

Whatever. That's all here and there. My point is, for all of you that walk into stores and ask to pay for headphones or bedsheets or food or books some price that you think you should pay: please take your delusions and selfishness somewhere else. Preferably in front of a speeding truck.

All that's happening is your greed is competing with the company's, and neither one is greater or more sympathetic. A business does not care about you being able to pay your cell phone bill, keep gas in your car, keep your daughter in Catholic school AND be able to match the lilacs on your curtains with your blanket. The world does not bend to your lifestyle problems. Nor should it in the least bit.2 In return, if you do not like the numbers you encounter in your shopping experience, you should a) take your business elsewhere. It would be the company's fault for the loss from ridiculous prices. Or b) go straight to the underground sweatshop in China or India or whichever country the President of the business threw his dart at on the map on the bulletin board, and get your stuff straight from the manufacturer. The goal of the company is never to make things easier for you to buy, it's to get as many Federal Reserve Notes out of you as possible. It considers itself trying to survive in the Recession just as much as you do. At the same time, it is completely pointless to sell things to you if the company does not profit from it. There is no such thing as "If you give me this for half off, I'll buy it." or "Here's a deal! I'll definitely buy this for $150, instead of $2,500." or "Did you know Mark Wahlberg was supposed to be on the plane that flew into the World Trade?" These questions are just stupid. If you see something you like but don't like the price being charged, find it for cheaper somewhere else. If you don't, purchase or do without.

Notes:
1)Cristal - A expensive champagne made popular in Hip-Hop music in the 1990's. Rappers usually mentioned being able to buy bottles of it "in da club" in their songs to show that they had a lot of money.
2)Respect it? Yes, definitely. Go out of their way to cater to it? Go suck an egg.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Descending from the Mountain

Alright people, I'm coming back.
I've been going to a string of people's events without time to read or write, in addition to having writer's block anyway.
But lo! I have ideas for two new posts about subjects that need addressing. A third if I count a film review that I was supposed to do a long time ago.
Hopefully I'll have more ideas in the midst of writing those two. I will get back to reading your blogs.
And since this is my 100th post, I will have to erase it and put something much more substantial in the future. I shall returneth!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Time is your enemy and friend

Ok, so once again, some sort of attempt at an ordered life has fallen to the wayside and I feel a little oppressed and useless from the fact that I am currently going nowhere with myself. Need some sort of simple schedule for progress. For some reason I've started thinking of "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind*. Bloody Hell.

I'm not sure if I'm on anyone's RSS Feed, but if I am, you may or may not have noticed that two blog posts appeared there but are not here anymore. I had posted twice, both on subjects negatively involving someone from my church: one about what I thought was a fruitless idea to attend to the homeless, and one about still believing in gender roles. But I felt a bit guilty and rift-causing by writing them, even when telling myself that they were objective issues like any other. So they were deleted. Not really sure how this is important to any of you.

I was also compelled to post them because I haven't been at blogger in long time. Mornings that I'd usually spend writing something here, I've been using to attend to the novel. But I guess I'm just posting here to say that I will try to make time. Try to make time to read everyone's blogs and to post regardless of whether I actually have something to write about or not. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take Pelham 123 to get to work.

*"I want something else, to get me through this, Semi-Charmed kind of life, baby, baby"