365 Days of Roku: Day 2 – Crackle’s GODZILLA

the earth remembers
the stones remember
If the earth and stones could only speak
they would tell us many things
—Native American Proverb

godzillamattack

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2003) – This movie is generally considered the best Godzilla film (ignoring as it does every other Godzilla film except the first one) and by the 25th minute mark, when the central conceit of this film is revealed, I begin to believe that.

Never a Godzilla fan I’ve seen other Godzilla films and they generally do not transcend the campy concept of watching rubber suits attack each other, with no real story.

This movie however has a story, only gingerly touched on, of Godzilla as some interpretation of the vengeance of God, a punishment for the attrocities of the War in the Pacific; an engine of destruction powered by the restless dead. It is a movie that has an unexpected conscience, calling to memory Japan’s (in many way’s overlooked) attrocities during the pacific campaign.

From rape and concentration caps, to ethnic cleansing and wholesale genocide, the Godzilla of this film is the personification of all the wrath for those wrongs, married to the mindless, unthinking attrocities of the atomic bomb, of true holocaust.

Godzilla is very much Japan’s antagonist in this film, and the antagonist of all the industialized world, a howling tirade against all that creulty and science that went into his creation.

And if Godzilla is the film’s heavy, the trio of other monsters he squares off against in this film are the protectors of Japan, the souls of earth and air and glade and all that should endure in the flora and fauna and hope of Japan. However it’s hard to, while not condoning Godzilla’s destruction, not root for him against all adversaries, Man or Monster. Given Man’s history it is hard not to root for the King of Monsters and the spirit of vengeance, and see man as some particularly virulent termite deserving of the heel.

This dichotomy makes it a far more complex film then its cheesy and campy origins should allow, as this particular Godzilla film becomes a film about war by walking acts of god, and as such beyond the judgement of men; can at best only be endured and hopefully survived by men.

Or for those seeking to read less into their rubber monster movies, it is also just a good monster throw-down. Either way it grades a solid B+.

Five FAVORITE AVENGERS Posters!!

So I was at the post office flirting hard, with the fetching postal worker behind the counter. And to her credit she was throwing it back pretty capably, and we got on the subject of the AVENGERS movie. She has no interest in the AVENGERS movie or any superhero or action flick.

She was much more psyched by THINK LIKE A MAN and WOMEN THOU ART LOOSED and other relationship tinged flicks. I must admit I died inside a little to know my future wife has no interest in slam, bam action flicks, but oh well. Diversity they say makes a happy home. :)

On a serious note, taking a page from her book, I’m glad the AVENGERS movie is finally here, and I’m glad Joss Whedon is helming it, but I’m not really that wowed by the trailer I’ve seen, or the poster.

Of course I’m going to go see it, and I hope it’s great as everyone thinks it’s going to be, but I’ll be happy with good. Let’s put it this way, on anticipation level, not crazy about the default AVENGERS poster, this one:

The poster just bothers me, because it’s so un-artfully done, if you take my meaning. I can’t quite define what grabs me the wrong way about it, but it does. It definitely puts me off. It is so bad it actually has me worried about the movie. :)

If you can’t take the effort to make a decent poster it just hints at sloppiness or laziness somewhere else in the film. I’m hoping that’s incorrect and the buck stops with a lazy marketing department (which is far from an isolated thing in Hollywood, unfortunately.)

So I went searching for AVENGERS posters that did look good, and found these top 5! (Some of the best ones are fan created) Enjoy!

First the honorable mentions. The solo posters with Scarlett Johansson for obvious reasons :) :

Now counting down to the best, #5:

#4

#3

#2 A great poster from Australia!

And my #1 favorite AVENGERS poster, is this simple but sumptuous use of open space and duality in this Japanese poster. I show the logo and logo free posters. It’s great!

Well I don’t know about you, but I feel better for having seen those nice looking posters! Easily pleased aren’t I? :)

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Movie review: HARIMAYA BRIDGE by Aaron Woolfolk


I had mentioned in a previous post some films that you wouldn’t see at a Theater near you, this review is about one such film.

Typically films that don’t make it to your local multiplex, are looked over for reasons having to do with economics of course, but also for less quantitative reasons. Reasons that can best be defined as… a belief in preserving American cultural ignorance. Movies that should make it to theaters but don’t, stagnate largely because Hollywood not only knows how to sell you the staus quo, particularly when it comes to characters of color, but is most comfortable doing just that. The MGM lion, 86 years later, is still surrounded by laughing sambo faces afterall.

So when I get a chance to see a film that has been kept from a larger audience, I am always very enthused. The chance to stumble across a CAPPUCCINO or an EL BENNY and introduce it to others is something I actively seek out. Something I take some… honor, in doing.

One of these hidden films, HARIMAYA BRIDGE I recently got the chance to see in full, thanks to the great folks at ELEVEN ARTS.

It was necessary to sit through HARIMAYA BRIDGE twice for this review. As my initial reaction to it was both odd and conflicted, and I thought this movie, particularly considering the cast, deserved as full a screening as I could give it.

Deserved both a full viewing from me, and a fair and full review. I hope to bring that to you below:

HARIMAYA BRIDGE is a beautiful film. We have to begin there, because that truth is what first struck me. It is a film of pauses and fragments, stillnesses and loss. I was quite enamored of the beginning of the film. Aaron Woolfolk showing early a clear eye and a steady hand. And patience.

And patience.

Unfortunately these necessary traits of the filmmaker are lacking to a troubling, and for me, an unnatural degree in the lead character, Daniel Holder played by Bennet Guillory.

Rarely does a single character color completely my feelings on a film. That happened here, with this film. With Guillory’s Daniel Holder.

Around the 40 minute mark I just couldn’t take anymore of the lead character. He was just too much of an obstinate, arrogant character.

We get into some minor specifics here, nothing standout or essential I think, but if in doubt just jump down to the last couple of paragraphs for the wrapup.

Holder’s character comes to Japan… to take away gifts. I mean seriously taking away gifts?! Really? Who does that? He also manages to call Japanese soldiers evil and is incapable of understanding why they, the Japanese, would revere their military dead as much as any nation. And he spends much of the movie lurching around Japan like a Bull in a China shop, seemingly oblivious to tact, or manners, or common decency, or simple humanity. I mean I get that the whole point of the story… is for the character to have this redemptive arc, but I just felt it was a way too heavy handed and unsubtle film.

I thought it was crafting the character from a false state of melodrama and idiocy, to get to a payoff of reconciliation and understanding.

And that never works, The destination never rings true, if the character fails to ring true.

And the character of Daniel Holden played by Bennet Guillory fails to ring true. I find him, for too much of the movie, a thoroughly ignorant and detestable character. Around the 80 minute mark the Holden character begins to show some humanity and character growth, but it is a case of two little too late. It takes him 90 minutes to come to a conclusion about the paintings that we all see coming 70 minutes ago.

Life is too short for me to spend time with characters I detest in the hopes of getting to like them in the fourth quarter. No thank you. Not my cup of tea. And I’m not saying a film has to be filled with nice characters, but whether good men or bad, I have to believe in their reality, the reality of their viewpoint and stance for me to stick with a film.

I didn’t believe this film.

I like the look of the film, it looks beautiful, and I generally like Woolfolk’s pacing but I think the whole premise of the story, and the near caricature of ignorant bigoted stupidity the father is, is just that, too much of a caricature.

I mean the protagonist stance/views would have been more valid in 1959, in the shadow of World War II, but filmed in 2009, the film just comes off as very late to the game, and slightly dishonest. Particularly considering in 2010 there’s not a city in the US, that doesn’t depend on Japan for their cars, tv, electronics, movies, and much of their jobs.

So for someone to be oblivious to Japan having respect for their dead soldiers in 2010 comes off as utter bs. The character has to be both a moron and a bigot, and that’s not someone I want to waste precious minutes of my life, watching a film about.

So yes, this film has been done by Hollywood, the coming to terms with Japan and World War II many times, only thing is those films were all done between 40 and 50 years ago.

The performances of just about everyone else in the film is great. Misa Shimizu as Yuiko Hara is astonishing, and carries much of the film’s humanity. She is the only thing making the more obnoxious scenes with Daniel Holder’s character remotely palatable. And Danny Glover is always great, and here as the elder brother Joseph Holder, is no exception.

And it touches on themes of Identity and Miscegenation, that is rarely touched on in Japan, outside of the mature films of Takashi Miike. Miike films such as BLUES HARP, CITY OF LOST SOULS, THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA(one of my favorite films) and his BLACK SOCIETY TRILOGY.

However HARIMAYA BRIDGE hinges on following the central protagonist of Daniel Holder, and if you find him a detestable human being for nearly an hour of the films running time, regardless of how you try and do a Scrooge redemption at the end, for me it is too late, Because I’ve soured both on the heavy handed character, and the film that also now feels heavy-handed (one of the flaws with the aforementioned BLUES HARP).

So the film becomes more like a chore to finish, than what cinema ultimately should be, a joy to follow to the end. Bennet Guillory is a strong, imposing presence, and I believe a talented actor, unfortunately the script gives him too little chance to do anything beyond portraying the obstinate and culturally ignorant Black man.

I think Woolfolk is a talented filmaker, in his use of silence and quiet. And I can not stress enough, how absolutely beautiful this film is. Much praise of course must go to cinematographer Masao Nakabori, who grants the film a lush and timeless look, befitting such a fragile and full fable.

I just think the film was severely hurt by the extended and unsubtle portrayal of the protagonist through too much of the film. The film begins strong, and ends strong but the middle is frustrating and unlikeable. I think you could have easily brought this film in at 90 or even 80 minutes, lose a lot of what I disliked in the center, and had a far stronger film.

I definitely would like to see more from Woolfolk, hopefully something far less… forced. Less CRASH like. Overall I have serious issues with HARIMAYA BRIDGE as a whole, but if you can fast-forward through some of its more forced conflict and dialog, it is worth a look.

Indeed I started this review feeling one way about the film, not sure if, given my issues with it that it would be something I would want to add to my DVD collection. But I find it… sticks with me. Some of its images. There’s a lovely bit of stillness that happens particularly in the beginning, something reminiscent of Beat Kitano’s languid static shots, while being its own animal. And for that, quiet filmmaking, it earns a place on my shelf when eventally available on DVD (Check with the distributor ELEVEN ARTS for if and when that happens).

I said at the beginning I was conflicted on this film. It is a flawed film but, in its defense, what works in it… works exceptionally well. And based on this debut, I am looking forward to what the future brings from this Director, as well as from Distributor ELEVEN ARTS.

Grade: C-/D+

Kazushi Sakuraba MMA Royce Gracie Japan’s Folly and National Treasures


It’s damn near inscrutable, the things that go through my mind.

And the odd, out of the blue things that will take stage center in my attention.

In a very busy, holocaust strewn news day, a conversation with co-workers gets me thinking about mixed martial arts. We talked about some local schools, one that teaches Jujitsu among other disciplines, and has to its credit a Gracie as a teacher. And discussing Gracies always gets me onto the topic of Sakuraba, The Gracie Hunter.

Sakuraba is not a name known in the UFC dominated Americas, but for those who let their exposure to MMA extend beyond the borders of the US, Sakuraba a few years ago, fighting almost exclusively in the Japanese PRIDE fighting league, was one of the most celebrated names in Mixed Martial Arts.

Depending who you ask… he still is.

He gained world-wide acclaim for his defeat of living legend Royce Gracie. And he didn’t just beat Royce Gracie, a man who for a long time WAS not just the most domineering and feared fighter in mixed martial arts, but arguably was Mixed Martial Arts… Sakuraba destroyed Royce Gracie. It’s not putting too fine a point on it to say he humiliated Royce Gracie, walked through him like he wasn’t there.

All these years later and the fight is still in rotation throughout the Internet. This led to what amounts to a family fued, with Gracies lining up to avenge Royce’s defeat. Sakuraba, stoic and game, took on all comers.

4 Gracie fights. 4 Gracie victories. (Though recently Royce in 2007 came back to avenge his defeat)

In a field of walking monsters, of engines of destruction, it’s hard to explain what makes Sakuraba special, what makes him stand out if you haven’t seen those early fights. He was clearly not the biggest, not the strongest, perhaps not the fastest, definitely not the most brutal or the most intimidating, but this ex-performance wrestler, what he had… was an all around skill unlike anything anyone else had brought to the table, he was technically the most exciting and skilled fighter I had ever seen, he could beat you standing up, or on the ground, and his heart— his heart was the stuff they make movies about. They write ballads about.

And there was something amazingly likeable about him. He got in the ring, this stoic but seemingly affable enigma, and he beat you in a chess game of moves, of holds, of submissions, of punches, and you knew, the way people who saw Jack Johnson, or Joe Lewis or Sugar Ray Robinson or Hagler or Hearnes or Ali or Foreman or Holifield… you knew, you were seeing something pure, violence distilled into something not far removed from… art.

Some odd mating of the technical wizardry of a Roy Jones, with the heart of a Roberto Duran.

Yeah years ago when I discovered Sakuraba, he quickly enshrined himself for me, as what this always questionable sport of MMA could be about, at its best. Not cracking people skulls open, or pit bull brutality, but technical wizardry, and sportsmanship. I think that’s what came across in the fights of Sakuraba, yeah this was a tough guy, but he walked into the ring, with respect, both giving it and getting it, not like an animal, but like a man.

But even then, I could see, he was taking too many hits. And just as the sport outgrew Royce Gracie, grew better, tougher meaner, by his example, Sakuraba’s popularity brought an ever more devastating class of opponent to his door. Men often weight classes heavier than him, and men increasingly younger, stronger, and more brutal than him.

Life being what it is I tuned out of the mixed martial arts scene for the last few years, but often I would think of the wizardry of the man called Sakuraba. My discussion with my coworkers piquing my interest enough to do an internet search of recent Sakuraba news.

I came across ever more recent fights. And what I saw…increasingly sickened me.

I’m not one overly given to sentimentality. Well maybe I am. God knows someone needs to be these days.

But I think the most important thing for a fighter is to have someone who cares about him in his corner, someone he can trust with his life. Because ultimately a fighter’s manager, should be there to preserve the well being of his fighter, to defend him, when he is no longer capable of defending himself.

Sakuraba obviously has no such person in his corner.

I watched a recent fight with Sakuraba, a Japanese PRIDE fight, where the Gracie Hunter, this poet of the ring, where he was literally kneed in the head over twenty times, until his skull cracked.

—-

Yes, I said until his skull cracked.

And the referee, just let it go on. And his corner-men just let it go on, and the crowd just— let it go on.

And Sakuraba, he could have yielded, he could have surrendered, but because he is Sakuraba, he to his detriment does not know how to yield. That is why he is the stuff of legend, and that is why I fear for him continuing to fight. He will endure, everything you throw at him even onto his death… he will endure.

And he, has nothing left to prove. He shouldn’t have to. But he is a warrior, he will not yield, that’s why it’s important for the referee and his corner to be there to keep a competition from escalating into a bloodbath.

And increasingly at Sakuraba’s fights… they’re not doing their job.

And it’s enough to make one both sick and mad.

A lot of people talk about the rules of UFC and how it’s weak compared to PRIDE, and I was one of them. But Let me tell you something, thank god for the rules of the UFC. Because what I witnessed happening to Sakuraba is not a sport, it’s a travesty. It’s putting pit bulls in a ring until one dies. The referee should be admonished at the least, and more likely fired and charges laid against him. Sakuraba’ cornermen, his manager and friends, should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the butchery to continue. Obviously with the first couple of blows, the fight, the contest is over, stop the damn fight.

I mean Sakuraba was, is a fucking national Japanese Treasure, and they let him increasingly get nearly murdered in the ring, for no good reason. The contest was over long before the 2nd knee landed, and I’ll tell you something about a knee to the head, it doesn’t take a fighter to hurt you with a knee or an elbow to the head, just about anybody’s knee or elbow will do the job, so when you have a 200lb, trained fighter, whose knees and elbows can break stones, you don’t want anybody getting hit more than once or twice by such a fucker if you can help it. Cause the only possible outcome of such abuse is brain damage or murder.

Sakuraba is older than me, and I’m older than Methuselah. And seriously there’s no way he cannot have brain damage, with the abuse he has taken. Someone, his manager, his friends, the Japanese fight board really needs to tell him, “you know what, you’re the greatest, but… in the ring is not the place for you any longer. You’re not as fast as you were, and you’re getting tagged too much”.

So here’s hoping the karma of this message gets out there, and maybe infects people, who infect people, who infect people, and it gets back to Sakuraba’s people that… “hey… you did us proud warrior… now time to rest”.

At least I hope so.

Because for Sakuraba to die in the ring is a waste of a great warrior who would be better served training a new generation of Sakurabas.

Here endeth my rant.