I think most viewers have an idea of what a Quentin
Tarantino film is going to be like. That being said I was surprised,
entertained, and was a bit put off about the some of the graphic violence in
Inglourious Basterds, but not enough to nullify my enjoyment of the film. There
were some really wonderful performances in the film in particular those by Melanie
Laurent, Christopher Waltz, and Michael Fassbinder. There were some really
great set pieces and the usual Mexican standoff that Tarantino has used in his
films since Reservoir Dogs. I also like dhow he recycled David Bowie’s great
theme for Cat People “Putting Out A Fire (With Gasoline).” However, I can see why
this film was controversial. But I think you just need to approach it in the mindset
of a film universe and accept it on those terms alone as a fantasy. I’m glad I
saw it on the big screen.
The AV Clubs list is: Pastorilia (2000), George Saunders, Toast (2002), Charles Stross, Novelties & Souvenirs (2004), John Crowley, Runaway (2004), Alice Munro, Magic for Beginners (2005), Kelly Link, Fragile Things (2006), Neil Gaiman, Twilight of Superheroes (2006), Deborah Esienberg, Shakespeare's Kitchen (2007) Lore Segal, 20th Century Ghost (2007), Joe Hill, My Father's Tears And Other Stories (2009) John Updike.
I have only read the Saunders collection, which didn't make much of an impression, and Esienberg's stories from this list and I thought they were inferior to her earlier stories. I would also say that there are some great collections that are missing from the list. 2008 was responsible fro three great collections: Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff, Like You'd Understand, Anyway Jim Shepperd, Unacustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I would also add Natasha by David Bezmozgis (2004), Sightseeing (2004) by Rattawat Lapcharoensap, and Shepperd's earlier collection Love and Hydrogen (2004), God Lives in St.Petersberg by Tom Bissell (2005), and Brief Encounters With Che Guevera by Ben Foster (2007).
Eating The Dinosaur is
Chuck Klosterman’s latest book of essays on pop culture. There’s a lot to enjoy
in the book, but I don’t think it’s as entertaining as some of his earlier books.
It seems that (unlike the majority of his fans) I tend to find his sports essays
among the most entertaining and thought provoking. In this book he takes on the
disappointing untapped potential of Ralph Samson’s NBA career in “What We Talk
About When We Talk About Ralph Sampson: Society's Reactions to Public Failures.”
I also enjoyed his discussion of innovation in football in the essay, “Football:
Liberal or Conservative?” I found his essay, “Something Instead of Nothing: Why
do people answer questions? For who's sake? What does that say about us?” on
the difficulties of interviewing and being interviewed interesting. This is
mainly because I think he writes terrific profiles-like the classic one he did
on Brittany Spears. He himself is also usually an engaging subject. “It Will
Shock You How Much It Never Happened” is also pretty interesting in his discussion
of advertising and Mad Men, my current favorite TV series. Some of his other
musings on irony, canned laughter, and ABBA have their moments. But overall, it is not as strong as some
of the earlier efforts, but a worthwhile read nonetheless. I’d say wait for the
I am a big fan of Juzo
Itami’s entertaining Tampopo and I’ve heard a lot about A Taxing Woman. It
lived up to the hype. It is a sort of dramatic comedy where a single mother,
played with comic aplomb by Itami’s wife Nobuko Miyamoto, who is hard working
tax auditor who is hard working and gifted at her job. She stumbles upon a love
hotel operation that seems to be falsifying its revenues and this bring her in
contact with a tax cheat named Gondo, convincingly played by Tsutomu Yamazaki.
The confrontation creates some mutual respect for each other and they both are
single parents of children a bond that resurfaces alter when Gondo is having
trouble with his son. But Gondo has dealings with the yakuza and they threaten
her and her tax division but get outsmarted in the end. Itami is taking tax
cheats and the yakuza to task in this film. Later he reserves special attention
to the yakuza that may have gotten him killed.
While reading Aaron Gerow’s book about Japanese director
Kitano Takeshi, also named after the director, I would watch any film that I
hadn’t seen yet after reading the section on that film and then usually
rereading the section. It was a like a mini-course on the films of Kitano.
Gerow tends to discuss the films in terms of how they were received by serious
critics, Japanese audiences, and international audiences, while paying special
attention to the auteur qualities of Kitano as a director. One major aspect of
his film making process is repeatedly undermining expectations by changing
style and thematics from film to film. In this sense, he reminds me of Steven
Soderbergh who also has a penchant for experimentation and different stylistic
genres. Essentially this book forced me to pay closer attention to Kitano’s
films and that gave me a greater appreciation for his work overall, even though
I had seen several films that I admired. It also made me realize that his films
were more complex than they appear on the surface. I came to realize that he
has a great pride in the artistic traditions of Japan and refrained form
pandering to the international community generally speaking (that is not
speaking of his only Hollywood co-production, Brother).
Here’s my take on the films discussed in the book:
Drag Me To Hell is a return to the Raimi brothers’ schlocky
past. It is the story of a bank loan manager who denies a Romanian woman’s
request for an extension and is then cursed. The young woman then suffers
through several horrifying days before coming to terms with the curse. It was a
wild ride with some homage to their great dark comedy The Evil Dead 2. That
being said the big twist seemed to be telegraphed very clearly to me. That
being said I enjoyed it nonetheless.