Why Woody Allen’s Moonlight Is Anything But Magical

Greetings loved ones! Liu is the name, and views are my game!

After sitting through writer-director Woody Allen’s latest romantic comedy, Magic in the Moonlight, all I could ask myself was, “how in the hell has this man managed to stay in the good graces of audiences for nearly fifty years?” I mean, forget about hating him for marrying his own daughter, this film by itself should give you reason to dislike him. It’s junk; plain and simple. Worse still, its recycled junk. Unoriginal junk. Now you might make the argument that no movie ever made is original, that elements of preexisting works can be found in every new picture, but you see, Magic in the Moonlight is not simply unoriginal as a film. It is unoriginal as a Woody Allen film. The movie, which tells the story of one magician’s attempts to expose a self-declared psychic as a fraud, has so many characteristics of his earlier work–its set in France, the main character is an annoyingly nihilistic nebbish, there’s a romance involving magic, metaphysics and moral outlooks on life–that its not even funny. Look at almost any other movie made by him–Annie Hall, Whatever Works, Midnight in Paris–and you’ll find these exact same features. As one critic writing in the Washington Post so eloquently put it, “Allen shows us here that he’s as good at recycling plots as he is bottles and cans.”

But of course, on its own, banality is not a good enough reason to hate a picture. Forced dialogue and gaping plot holes, on the other hand, are. Good writers will tell you, “show, don’t tell,” and almost every single sentence that a character utters in this movie is telling us something. For instance, in one scene, a man is talking to his wife and he TELLS her the exact character of Stanley, the magician whose been sent to debunk the supposed psychic. Why not simply have Stanley’s actions SHOW us who he is as opposed to having someone TELL us? BUt what bothered me about the movie even more than the dialogue was the romance between Stanley, the magician, and Sophie, the girl he’s trying to prove a fraud. It just didn’t make any sense. Its made painfully clear why Stanley is attracted to her–he’s a rational man whose bleak, unexciting outlook on life is shaken up and made more interesting by her mercurial and mystical lifestyle–but you never understand why she is attracted to him. He’s older, overweight, not that attractive, and harangues her , and what she does, at every opportunity. I don’t know about you, but he doesn’t seem like that good a catch to me. But, for all its flaws, I will give the film credit for a few things. It’s costumes, sets and soundtrack are both beautiful and appropriate to the 1920s, the era in which the film takes place. It certainly does a much better job of representing that period than Buzz Luhrman’s Great Gatsby. (shutter) Good god that was bad!

But, anyway, I wouldn’t recommend this film to anybody, whether their a fan of Mr Allen or not. It’s clunky, cliche, and just not that enjoyable to watch. 6 out of 10, if you ask me. Don’t waste your time on it.

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A Chronicle of Carnage

Part 1: The Confession…

Nate: Hey, uh, Dad? Can I talk to you for a minute? Okay, cool, cool. Listen, uh, when I was outside—bringing the rakes back into the house—I accidentally scratched your car. Now, hold on! Before you get angry, before you overreact, just let me explain! It’s not a big scratch—I could barely see it when I was standing five inches away—and you don’t have to worry about cost. I’ll pay for the damages. Granted, I haven’t gotten my allowance in almost three months but, still, I promise I’ll get the money.

 

Part 2: The Aftermath…

Alex: Aw man! What happened to you?

Nate: I told my dad that I scratched his car with a rake.

Alex: And he gave you a black eye?

Nate: No, actually, I got that from my neighbor, Mrs. Ostrinski. Turns out it was her car after all.

 

 

 

 

District 9: An Homage To The Honorable FW de Klerk?

I’ve watched Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 several times over the past few years, and each viewing has elicited a completely different reaction from me. The first time I saw it, I enjoyed myself, but I didn’t give the movie much thought. Sure, I knew it was supposed to be an allegory for Apartheid and racism, but I personally felt that the director spent too much time on flashy fight sequences and special effects for any real social commentary to get through. The next time I viewed the picture, I absolutely hated it. To me, what had initially seemed a creative commentary on racism had instead become a disgusting display of racist stereotypes. The fact that the Aliens, who are supposed to represent South Africa’s Black population, were portrayed as stupid, ugly and easily provoked to violence, was very troubling to me. Worse still were the film’s actual Black characters, who were either shown as cannibal thugs (the Nigerian gangsters) or docile sidekicks frequently referred to as “boy.” But what really bothered me about the movie, and what I didn’t understand was, if the film was supposed to tell the story of Apartheid, why wasn’t there any Alien equivalent to Nelson Mandela, the ANC, the Truth Commission or any of the other people and parties involved during that period in South African history? Needless to say, I felt no strong urge to watch the movie again.

The third, and final time I saw the film, my feelings toward it were considerably warmer. I realized that, while the movie did show its fair share of racial stereotypes, that was most likely done deliberately as a means to illustrate how racist whites viewed non-white people. Also, if you think about it, its much more realistic, and even respectful, to show an oppressed people as being divided and flawed, and not simply noble, unified savages. Plus, the violence that we see the Aliens exhibiting towards each other could easily be seen as the tribal warfare among indigenous Africans wrought by European colonization. Anyone whose familiar with African history knows that several of the ethnic conflicts in the region–like the one between the Hutus and the Tutsis–were actually created, or else exacerbated by, the Europeans, who got them to hate one another as a means of keeping them subservient. But anyway, another thing that I liked was the fact that, this time when I watched the movie, I was able to find some fictional parallels to actual people. I saw the two main characters, Wikus van der Merwe and Christopher Johnson, as representations of presidents FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela respectively. Both van der Merwe and de Klerk are Afrikaners (Dutch South Africans), and both initially find themselves at the heart of the system that is oppressing people. While both do eventually end up helping those that they were oppressing, they do so out of self interest, and not moral conscience. This, while something I originally disliked, actually ended up being an aspect of the film that I most appreciated. See, very rarely do people do the right things just for the sake of doing them. They have to feel that they can benefit from their good deeds in some way. Otherwise, why go to all the trouble? Wikus helps the aliens because the idea of becoming one is so thoroughly repugnant to him that he’ll do anything to stop the transformation from occurring. Similarly, de Klerk only brought about the end of Apartheid because South Africa couldn’t hope to survive with international sanctions crippling its economy. Yes, he did end up doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons, and having his fictional counterpart do so as well is both realistic and interesting. As for Christopher, District 9’s only Alien protagonist, I saw him as a very good thematic representation of Nelson Mandela. Both were trapped in places where they had no rights and no freedom. For Mandela, that place was Robben island. For Christopher, the prison is Earth. Both found themselves separated from their traditional culture and way of life–in District 9, the filmmakers illustrate this by having the Aliens be physically unable to reach their spaceship–but both manage to maintain their dignity and, eventually, find a way to work with those who are oppressing them. Both lay the groundwork for reform, but don’t magically bring about an end to the injustices that are occurring. In real life, Mandela’s presidency did mark a huge turning point in South African history, but it didn’t solve several issues, like mass poverty among Blacks, urban violence and crime, all of which are still present to this day. Similarly, Christopher does manage to regain control of the spaceship and to leave the Earth, but his actions don’t really effect the vast majority of Aliens, who are simply shepherded into a new ghetto and left to wait for change.

To me, having a film discussing race end on such an open-ended, ambiguous note was the best thing to do because, whether we like it or not, race will always be a part of our society and our lives. We might pass laws prohibiting discrimination, we might do our best to be respectful and open-minded, but we’ll never be able to escape certain thoughts or expectations we have about certain groups. For instance, some White person might be completely for equal pay, employment and educational opportunities for Blacks, and yet still feel nervous when riding a bus with them. Is it right for that White person to have such contradictory thoughts and feelings? Well, in a perfect world, I would say no. But, the fact is, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where this kind of hypocritical thinking is quite common. See, contrary to what people like Karl Marx might think, equality, be it racial or otherwise, simply isn’t feasible in the unfair world we live in. The fact that one filmmaker, Neil Blomkamp, decided to have his fictional world be just as biased and unbalanced as the real one is promising to me. Why? Because if we, as a society, can accept our own limitations, even if it is just in a film, then maybe, just maybe, we can make the right choices for the future.

What A Bloody Mess Part 3: Eli Roth’s Hostel

Greetings loved ones! Liu is the name, and views are my game.

And welcome to the third, and final, installment in my What A Bloody Mess series.

There is a place, at the edge of the Earth, where all one’s darkest, sickest fantasies are possible. It is a place where the wealthy pay to watch the weak suffer. A place where the words “mercy” and “restraint” have no meaning. It is a place whose true name has never been uttered, but one that will, to those who were lucky enough to return from it, forever be known as “that cinema where they showed Eli Roth’s Hostel.” Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

Okay, I admit, that was a weird way to start off the essay, but actually quite appropriate given the subject of today’s review. Hostel, a 2005 film widely considered to have created the “gorno” sub-genre of horror, deals exclusively with the subject of paying to watch others feel pain. A gruesome tale of death and destruction, the film tells the story of a group of American backpackers who, after being lured to a remote Slovakian hostel by the promise of sex, are kidnapped by an organization known as Elite Hunting, which sells people to wealthy clients to be tortured. Easily one of the most unpleasant, and naively simplistic pictures to have hit the big screen in a while, Hostel was nevertheless hugely financially successful, raking in some $80 million worldwide from its modest $4.8 million budget. It even garnered critical acclaim, with many people seeing it as a biting critique of excessive consumerism. It won the 2006 Empire Award for “Best Horror Film,” and was even debated by a panel at Rider University’s 2010 Film Symposium. Yup! A movie who’s plot, characters and themes are about as sophisticated as the one sentence summary I gave earlier, was debated (DEBATED) by, not one, not two, but THREE doctors (Barry Seldes, Robert Good, and James Morgart). And what aspects of the film, you might be wondering, did the panel discuss? It’s Marxist and Nietzschean undertones. (Sigh)

I suppose that this just goes to show you how low our sensibilities have sunk, that three highly-educated individuals actually have to debate, on a University platform, no less, the moral and philosophical implications of torture porn. Now, don’t get me wrong, people have gone on far larger platforms, and discussed far stupider subjects than this, but its a little more disheartening here because colleges are supposed to be centers of higher learning and elevated conversation. But what, you might be wondering, is so appalling about this picture that I hate it to this level? Why, and please forgive the pun, am I so hostile towards Hostel? Several reasons, actually, and if you will do me the great pleasure of reading further, I will share them all.

Firstly, the story is just plain preposterous. To say that the plot is simple would be an understatement. The film opens with three backpackers, two Americans and an Icelandic, on holiday in Amsterdam. The trio doesn’t appear to have any interest in the art or culture of their Dutch surroundings, and instead looks only to smoke weed and sleep with prostitutes, both of which they are shown doing. In the middle of all this debauchery, they are approached by a mysterious stranger, who tells them about a hostel in Slovakia where all they’re wildest sexual fantasies are possible. The trio, being the horny idiots that they are, agree to go with the man, and set off for a place so obviously evil that it’s a wonder that it doesn’t have 666 written all over it. As you can imagine, things take a sharp turn for the worse after they arrive. One by one, the three get axed off, and in some of the nastiest, gnarliest ways imaginable–decapitation, slicing of achilles tendons, chainsawing of limbs, drilling of holes into ones chest and legs, etc. But, of course, in keeping with the “lone survivor” horror cliche, one of the protagonists, Paxton, does manage to escape, and he even tries to rescue another victim, a Japanese girl named Kana, but she decides she would rather die than live deformed, proving, once and for all, that if you’re not beautiful, you have nothing to live for. (Sigh). Where the hell do I begin? First off, who the hell goes all the way from the Netherlands to Slovakia just to get some booty? I mean, its 1,444 kilometers. That’s a 13 hour trip. You have to go through all of Germany and the Czech Republic just to get there. And as someone who’s actually been to that part of Europe myself, I can tell you, its not worth the trouble. Amsterdam is a much funner place to visit, especially if all your interested in doing is getting stoned and banging hookers. Prostitution and pot are legal there, and the movie even shows the protagonists taking full advantage of this fact. So, why the hell would they go all the way to Slovakia? Why couldn’t they just stay where they were and have all the fun they wanted? That would be the logical thing to do. But, then again, this is the horror universe we’re talking about here. It’s inhabitants aren’t exactly famed for they’re critical thinking. Also, how on Earth could a global human trafficking organization like Elite Hunting possibly go unnoticed by the UN? The film establishes that the group’s cliental are wealthy individuals from all over the world–we see Dutch, American, and German businessmen all taking part in the carnage–so tell me, if pretty much everyone who’s got cash knows about this company, how the hell has the US, or any other government, for that matter, not heard about it and done everything in their power to shut it down? I mean, in both the real and fictional world, the UN has signed numerous resolutions, and spent millions of dollars, trying to stop human trafficking in developing nations like Mexico and Cambodia, so why wouldn’t they extend that same courtesy to their own countries. In fact, I’ll bet you anything that they’d put more time, energy and resources into stopping an organization like Elite Hunting if they knew about it. After all, it’s operating within their borders and presents a more immediate threat. (Groan). But, once again, that would be far too logical for a horror movie. You can’t have governments and police forces that actually get involved on their citizens behalf. Better to have them turn a blind eye to all the illegal activities happening right under their noses, or else have them be so totally incompetent that they wouldn’t be much help if they did get involved. Either way, the bad guys get free range, and the victims have no one to rely on but themselves. (Rolls eyes). Anyway, on to the next area of weakness in this movie.

The “heroes” of Hostel are anything but fully developed. I stated in an earlier review that, if there’s anything more important to the success of a movie than having a good hero, its having a good villain. And while I still stand by that previous assertion, I would like to add that having only an interesting antagonist is not enough to carry the weight of a story. After all, it is the heroes who’s eyes we see this fictional world through, and they whom we are supposed to sympathize with. True, a well-rounded villain can also be sympathetic, but its the heroes who are supposed to win in the end, so you can’t have the bad guys be too likable. In Hostel, however, as it is in most horror films, the protagonists lack any depth or backstory. And unlike other movies, which at least have recognizable cliche characters–the whore, the virgin, the jock, the nerd, the token black guy–Hostel’s protagonists don’t really have any distinguishing characteristics. They’re all young. They’re all horny. They all just want to get stoned. There’s only two “good guys” who even slightly stand out–Kana, the Japanese girl, and Oli, the American backpacker’s Icelandic friend–and the only reason they’re even remotely memorable is because they’re just that; a japanese girl and an Icelandic friend. It’s not like they’re given unique, quirky personalities. You never learn how any of these people met each other or what their interests are–beyond booty and bongs, of course. Hell, the villains are given a lot more back story than the heroes. The Dutch bad guy wanted to be a surgeon, but could never pass the board’s tests, and so now is searching for a body to experiment on. The American bad guy has gotten bored with plain old drugs and hookers, and is now looking for some newer, more intense stimulation. True, these simplistic desires can’t form an entire personality, but they sure as hell are more than what our heroes have been given.

But, as a friend of mine once said, it’s easy to say what you didn’t like about a work of art without actually giving any suggestions of your own, so, without further ado, here are some changes that the director could have made to improve the quality of the movie. First of all, flesh out the characters. No, not literally! Emotionally. Personality-wise, I mean. Have one of the trio of backpackers be interested in Rembrandt or Van Gogh, as opposed to smoking pot and popping cherries. This more intellectually and culturally-grounded person could stay in Amsterdam when the other two leave for the hostel. Then, when his companions don’t return, he can do some research on the existence of said hostel, discover that its a front for a human trafficking organization, and then alert the Dutch authorities and the representatives at the Slovakian Embassy. These people, in turn, could send in police to bust up the operation. Also, explain why Kana and Yuki, a pair of Japanese tourists, are in a remote corner of Slovakia. Yes, they’re relatively minor characters, and yes, It’s not unusual to see large groups of Japanese in Europe these days but, seeing as they’re the only female protagonists, they deserve to be given a little more depth, and plus, you generally only find Asian travelers in pretty on-the-beaten-track-type places like Paris or Prague, and Slovakia is a relatively obscure country in the former Soviet block. Actually, that’s probably what happened. Kana and Yuki were taking a train through Slovakia to Prague, when their ride broke down, and they found themselves, completely, or not at all by accident, in the very town where Elite Hunting operates. Then Yuki, a more adventurous spirit, went out to explore this strange new environment, while Kana, a shallow soul obsessed with her appearance, stayed indoors to do her nails. This explains why Yuki was captured first, and why Kana would rather kill herself than live with a less than perfect face. These changes I’ve listed are small, I admit, but they’re all that’s necessary to give these naively simple characters in this naively simple story some three-dimensionality, and let me tell you, if either party had some of that, Hostel would be a much more enjoyable film to watch.

And that, dear friends, is what draws a curtain on my What A Bloody Mess series. I hope that, whether you’re a hardcore fan of horror, or simply someone who’s too terrified to see the movies I’m reviewing yourself, you had as much fun reading these essays as I had writing them. Good night and god bless!

To His Parents

Oh Father! Dear Father.
What a woe-filled song you’ve sung.
But now you’re banner’s flying high.
The war you’ve fought is won.

Your prize is near!
Your crowds are here!
Your people all exulting!

What say you then?
You son of men?
Deny you them their calling?

Oh Mother! Dear Mother.
For strength I’ve looked to you.
On stormy days you cleared the skies.
You made them bright and blue.

You sang the night!
You gave me flight!
Through dreams which clouds did cover!

What say you now?
You sullen sow?
Hate you still my lover?

I know you will not answer.
I know what’s in your head.
I know that you don’t want to think,
I’ve fallen, cold and dead.

What A Bloody Mess Part 2: Takashi Miike’s Ichi The Killer

Greetings loved ones! Liu is the name, and views are my game.

And welcome to the second installment in the What A Bloody Mess series.

There are some movies out there that are so vile, so depraved, so unspeakably awful, that they actually transcend the realm of bad taste and, in the eyes of certain critics, become worth watching. No, I’m not talking about Flowers Of Flesh And Blood or The Human Centipede: Full Sequence. I’m referring to films such as Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and, of course, Takashi Miike’s Ichi The Killer. These movies not only sickened audiences to the point of vomiting, walking out and, in the case of Ichi The Killer, unconsciousness, they also got people praising their directors’ “artistic vision” and critics raving about their “social, cultural and political relevance.” Why? Well, at one point in the not to distant past, I would have said, “I have no idea,” or else, “as a means of self-defense.” I used to think that critics and cinephiles made cult classics out of these movies because they just didn’t want to believe that someone would put the time, money, and dare I say, effort, into making something so profoundly twisted. Now, however, I’m not so sure I can stand by that previous assertion. Yes, these movies are disgusting in every sense of the word, but the fact remains, some of these films were actually made with a specific social and/or political agenda in mind. A Clockwork Orange, for example, is a story about freedom, the freedom to do and think as we please, and how society strives to limit that freedom by forcing us all to conform to a certain standard of behavior. As for the others, they might not necessarily have been made with a specific message in mind, but they are just vague, and over the top enough, to have the potential to be profound. Case and point; Ichi The Killer.

This 2001 Japanese film, described by some as horror, and by others as old school thriller, is notorious amongst moviegoers, has raised widespread controversy, and is banned outright in several countries, due to its high impact violence and graphic depictions of cruelty. When it was first released internationally, the Norwegian Media Authority classified it as Rejected and banned it due to “high impact violence and cruelty.” It’s been banned outright in Malaysia since its distribution in 2001, and the uncut version is unavailable in Germany. Basically, it is so, so violent, that practically no government is willing to let its citizens watch it.

And yet, despite all the negative backlash that the film garnered due to its excessive bloodshed, Ichi’s general critical reception was quite warm. The movie currently holds a 64% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 72% approval rating on IMDb. Most critics who’ve managed to sit through the whole thing agree on two points: 1) that it’s way, way, way too violent, and 2) that it’s reasonably well made. And you know what? I would tend to agree with them. The intense, acid soundtrack lends itself well to the visuals, the dialogue is natural sounding, the performances are decent (for a Japanese film, that is), and the intricate plot is reasonably well developed. Some critics, like the Dutch journalist and author, Tom Mae, have gone even further, and suggested that the film is actually a sophisticated commentary on violence, and how the media plays a role in our perception of it. “It’s a paradox,” he writes, “but Ichi the Killer, a film that sets new boundaries in the portrayal of violence and bloodshed, takes a strongly critical stance towards the portrayal and the consumption of the violent image. However, it does so without ever taking a moral stance towards either the portrayal or the consumption, thus circumventing any accusations of hypocrisy on the part of the director. Miike does not moralise or chastise, but provokes the audience into questioning their own attitudes towards viewing images of violence. He steers them into a direction but leaves it up to them to draw their own conclusion.”

When I first read Mae’s review, I thought it was complete rubbish. I mean really. A violent movie that’s critical of violence? Who’s ever heard of such a thing? Now, however, having seen the film for myself, I can almost believe him. ALMOST. Sure, the movie shows us all different kinds of violence, ranging from the intense and brutal (a prostitute being beaten up and raped by her John), to the absurd and humorous (a pigeon crapping on the windshield of a woman’s car, causing her to crash into a guy), and it was interesting to see how I reacted to each of those images. But I never got the sense that Miike was challenging me to question my own tolerance or acceptance of them. I’ve seen plenty of his other pictures, and take it from me, Ichi is just a collection of his usual cinematic fingerprints on steroids. He’s made movies about the Yakuza before. He’s made movies about prostitutes. He’s made movies that involve torture and, yes, he’s also made movies that have rape in them. The only thing that stands out about Ichi is that, in the past, he’s tried to soften his pictures–make them more approachable to the public. Here, he just threw caution to the wind and made the kind of no holds barred, in-your-face intense violent movie that he’s always wanted to do. Which is sad, if you ask me. See, Ichi The Killer is not a sophisticated commentary on violence or the media or whatever else writers like Tom Mae might assert. But it had the potential to be one, and that, dear friends, is what makes up the back bone of my argument in this latest addition to the What A Bloody Mess series.

See, Ichi The Killer is a violent movie, and in more ways than just showing violent images. Every single thing that a character says or does in this film is aggressive or threatening in some way. Either they’re shouting at each other at the top of their lungs, which is a form of violent communication, or else their talking about violence. For example, one minor character, Karen, is introduced to the audience in a scene where she tells a client of hers about a time she strangled her neighbor’s dog. Similarly, the titular character, Ichi, is first shown to us in a scene where his boss brandishes a knife in front of him and orders him to kill himself for serving the wrong drinks. So, even when nobody’s getting mauled on screen, there’s no escape from the brutality in this movie.

Now, usually, when a director is this consistently over the top in his or her film, there’s a reason. If the film in question is a comedy, like Tom Hanks’ The Burbs, the constant absurdity lets us know that we’re not supposed to take the movie seriously and, therefore, think of the whole thing as just one big joke. Similarly, when a certain character or series of events is consistently over-the-top in a drama film, like in Rosewood or To Kill A Mockingbird, we know straight away what the movie’s underlying message is. With Ichi, though, which lies somewhere between comedy and drama, horror and thriller, its difficult to say what Miike’s intention was by making it unrelentingly bloody and aggressive. Maybe he’s trying to say that we shouldn’t take this movie seriously, that, in its own sick way, Ichi The Killer is one big joke. Maybe he is, as Tom Mae suggested, trying to provoke us into reconsidering the way we look at violence by giving us no rest bit from it. But, honestly, I don’t think either is what he had in mind. As I’ve said before, he’s made similar, less violent movies in the past. In all likelihood, he simply made Ichi The Killer unnecessarily aggressive as a means of compensating for all the other times that he couldn’t make his films as bloody as he wanted. Which doesn’t make sense, if you read the film’s source material.

Yeah, I should probably have mentioned, Ichi The Killer was originally a manga series written by Hideo Yamamoto. While the graphic novels are every bit as violent as their screen adaptation, they do possess a certain amount of heart and depth that the movie lacks. In the manga series, Ichi, a timid but skilled martial artist, is manipulated by a scheming old geezer named Jiji to assassinate key Yakuza bosses in the hopes of raising turmoil and making money in the Tokyo underworld. Jiji convinces Ichi to do what he says by filling the latter’s head with lies about his childhood. According to Jiji, Ichi was severely bullied in school, and was a helpless witness to a rape of a fellow classmate named Tachibana. Jiji manages to convince Ichi to kill the people he wants him to by stating that they are the bullies that hurt him and raped the girl. In reality, there was no rape and ichi was never bullied, but, as you can imagine, Jiji doesn’t bother to tell him that. While we’re shown, quite extensively, the kind of carnage that Ichi can create, we also get a look at his gentler, more sympathetic side. He acts as both a mentor and father figure to a young boy from his dojo, and appears to have real feelings for Sheila, the prostitute he frequents. In the movie, however, Ichi plays a significantly smaller role, and is considerably less likable. Don’t believe me? Well, why don’t I show you. First of all, the guy who’s face is on all the movie’s advertisements is not Ichi. He’s Kakihara, a yakuza enforcer who’s on the lookout for the person who killed his boss. Ichi doesn’t show up until we’re about 20 minutes in. Second, the film’s Ichi is less of a sympathetic, emotionally scarred man that you want to see prevail, and more of a sadistic, seriously terrifying psychopath. He’s still shy and cowardly, and Jiji still convinces him to do what he says by lying to him about his past, but Ichi doesn’t seem to mind the fact that he was bullied or that he watched a girl get raped. In fact, in one scene where he’s talking to Jiji about the event, and Jiji asks him if he wanted to help Tachibana, Ichi replies, “Nope. I just wanted to rape her too.” Wow! Way to suck any hope for relate or likability out of your titular character, Miike. Similarly, both the manga and the movie show Ichi killing Sheila’s abusive pimp, and then her as well. The two media, however, present these events in drastically different manners. In the manga, Ichi is shown killing the pimp as a means of avenging Sheila, and he only regretfully kills his love when he remembers Jiji’s orders to not let anyone see him. In the movie, by contrast, Ichi is seen spying on the pimp as he is beating the living shit out of her, and only gets involved when the pimp catches him and slaps him around a bit. Then, when Ichi does kill the pimp, he turns to Sheila, smiles, and says, “From now on, I’ll be the one that beats you up.” He ends up killing her because she attempts to defend herself, and he doesn’t appear to mind doing so in the least. As you can see, movie Ichi is not exactly the nicest guy in town.

But what, you might be wondering, do all these differences between the manga and the movie really add up to? Do they matter in the long run? After all, it’s an adaptation. You’ve got to make changes, right? Yes you do, but, generally, when you make changes, they’re ones that make the plot or characters more interesting, or else more compatible with the limitations of a motion picture. Having Ichi be both less important and less sympathetic does neither of these, which is why the movie flops in my mind. See, in the manga, even though the story was violent, you were willing to keep reading it because you had this rakish, off-beat protagonist to go back to. Sure he was seriously messed up, but his heart was still in the right place, and that made the excessive murder and torture easier to get through, because you wanted to see this sympathetic person prevail. In the movie, there’s just nothing likable about Ichi, and so, with no one to sympathize or relate to, you don’t feel obliged to finish it.

But what would have helped the film even more than making Ichi halfway decent, in my mind, would have been having him find out that everything Jiji told him was a lie. This would open up the possibility for an internal analysis, on Ichi’s part, of his own violent behavior, and by extension, the violent behavior of all. Why do we see certain acts of violence as more justified, or else less heinous , than others? Does the fact that the person we’re hurting is “bad”–they’re a bully, a rapist, a murderer–really excuse the fact that we are hurting someone else? This kind of internal dialogue would have been very interesting to watch, and even if we never saw Ichi act on it, this whole set up would make the confusing ending scene more comprehensible. I should probably explain, the film ends with a shot of an unknown corpse, most likely Jiji’s, hanging from a tree while a group of school children look on. None of the characters in this scene are mentioned earlier in the movie, and so most critics are uncertain as to what it means. If, however, Miike had had Ichi find out that everything Jiji told him about his past was false, it would help narrow down the number of possible readings. Perhaps the corpse is Jiji’s, and Ichi put it there after killing the former for lying to him. Or perhaps its Ichi’s dead body that we’re looking at, and he killed himself as an act of atonement for his past deeds. Either way, the “Ichi finds out” set up would make the film as a whole much more interesting to watch, and give it a certain level of depth that it does not, at present, possess.

So, is Ichi The Killer actually an astute analysis of society’s consumption and perception of the violent image? Not really. But if the director and screenwriter had made the titular character more important and more sympathetic, and had him undergo a thorough self analysis, it might have been.

And that, loved ones, is all I have to say about that. Hope you enjoyed my latest essay, and I’ll see you all soon.

My Fifteen Favorite Underrated Films.

Greetings loved ones! Liu is the name, and views are my game!

Have you ever come across a movie that you just loved, but no one else around you seemed to like or understand? I have, and on multiple occasions. So many times, in fact, that I’ve decided to compile a list of my fifteen favorite underrated films. Why fifteen? Because I like to give 150%. Anyway, my hope is that, by sharing the names of these pictures with the readers of my blog, I’ll be able to expose more people to their brilliance, and subsequently aid the talented artists who made them. Just to be clear, when I say “underrated” I’m referring to a well-acted, well-written, and well-produced film that, for whatever reason, was either critically or financially unsuccessful at the time of its release. It can have a large or small budget, be directed by a Hollywood A-lister, or an obscure Art House Intellectual. All it has to be is a good movie that wasn’t appreciated when it first came out. But, why waste any more time telling you about these pictures? Let me show them to you! Here are my fifteen favorite underrated films!

Number 15: The Lady Vanishes, by Alfred Hitchcock.

The name of Alfred Hitchcock will forever be linked to such classic thrillers as Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window and North By North-West. But what many people forget is that he had quite a successful film career back in the UK before he came to America. The Lady Vanishes is just a single excerpt from that impressive earlier portfolio. A humorous and exciting tale of intrigue and espionage, it tells the story of a group of British tourists and their misadventures while on holiday in a fictional Eastern European country. Possessing many of Hitchcock’s trademark storytelling devices, including a slow, atmospheric start, constant misdirection and continuous narrative twists, Lady kept me laughing and on the edge of my seat until the very end. Considerably lighter in tone than other Hitchcock movies, Lady is a good place to start for any cinephiles out there who might be too timid to watch Psycho or The Birds. Its always enjoyable to see the early work of a genius, and with Lady, that work is both interesting and impressive. I would strongly advise any fans of Mr Hitchcock or simply of good cinema to check this one out.

Number 14: Miller’s Crossing, by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Anyone who’s familiar with the Coen Brother’s movies knows that much of their work is inspired by classic noir. The title of their first film, Blood Simple, is a reference to the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest, while the classic stoner comedy The Big Lebowski is, in essence, the Coens interpreting how their real life friend, Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, would react were he placed in the Raymond Chandler novel, The Big Sleep. Basically, the Coens are no strangers to the world of wise guys, spies, and private eyes. What’s unique about their 1990 flick Miller’s Crossing is that here, rather than simply allude to or draw inspiration from the gangster genre, they went ahead and made a full fledged mobster movie. And what a movie it is! Blessed with superb dialogue, exquisite costumes and stellar performances from its stars, Gabriel Byrne, John Torturro and Albert Finney, Miller’s Crossing was lauded by critics when it first came out, but only managed to collect a modest $5 million at the box office. I suppose that, with so many other mobster movies coming out that year–Goodfellas, The Godfather Part III–people were just weary of the gangster genre, and so didn’t find the time or energy to go see an intelligent, intricately-crafted film like Miller’s Crossing. But that doesn’t mean that you all shouldn’t! Give it a look when you’ve got the chance.

Number 13: Turtles Can Fly, by Bahman Ghobadi.

There are some movies out there that are so shocking, so eye-opening, that they change the way we look at the world. For me, Turtles Can Fly was one such movie. I doubt that any of you have ever heard of it, but this harrowing and heart-breaking Kurdish picture is the first foreign film ever to be shot in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Set in 2004, in a small refugee camp along the Turkish border, the story revolves around a group of children, many of them disabled, as they struggle to survive day after day with the threat of an American invasion looming on the horizon. It was the first war movie I’d ever seen that dealt with the suffering of the civilians, with the total squalor and penury that the dispossessed live in before and after the last shot is fired. I’d never heard of the Kurds before I watched this movie. I didn’t know about the absolutely atrocious conditions that people lived in under the HUssein regime. I never would have imagined that children would also be the victims of rape and torture until I saw this film. Turtles Can Fly sickened me, saddened me, and educated me, and allowed me to look at the War in Iraq, a conflict I’d long been opposed to, in a far more nuanced light. It’s a film that I’ll never forget, and one that I think all people who’d like to understand the Middle-East conflict and Iraq a little bit better should see.

Number 12: Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles, by Zhang Yimou.

Though he’d already won critical praise for such exquisite dramas as Raise The Red Lantern, Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou first broke into the American mainstream with the martial arts epic Hero. And for good reason. A colorful, visually-striking spectacle, it synthesized unbelievable fight choreography with strong performances from its leads–Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung–and also managed to raise some interesting questions about the role of government in ensuring stability and the point where personal loyalty must be sacrifice for the greater good. In a word, it was awesome. Another equally awesome, but considerably less well-known film from Zhang Yimou is the 2005 drama, Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles. A quiet, touching picture, it tells the story of an aging Japanese man trying to make amends with his estranged, and terminally ill son, by going to China to videotape a rare nuo opera performance. What I was most struck by when I first saw this movie was that the majority of the actors in it are amateurs. You’d never guess it to look at them, which is a testament to how good they are. Plus, I enjoyed the fact that Yimou chose to follow the grand, ostentatious extravaganza that was Hero with this gentler, more realistic piece. In my mind, Riding Alone showed the true depth and range he had as an artist, and made me that much more interested in his other films. And honestly, what could be better than watching a movie about love, reconnection and reconciliation?

Number 11: Dead Man, by Jim Jarmusch.

Thanks to directors like Sergio Leone, the Western genre will forever be associated with bar brawls, gun fights, and other such ridiculous displays of machismo. JIm Jarmusch’s slow-paced, cerebral, black and white potboiler Dead Man is about as far from all that as you can imagine, which, in my mind, is what makes it the ideal Western movie. Part poetry, part satire, part psychedelic rock, Dead Man is an intelligent, engaging and altogether unreal audio-visual experience. Anyone who’s read my early blogs knows how adamant I am about this picture, and if any of you get the time to watch it as well, you’ll understand why.

Number 10: Lake View Terrace, by Neil Labute.

Horrendous flops like 2006’s The Wicker Man have made director and playwright Neil LaBute a laughing stock. But what the people who hurl the most biting remarks often forget is that, before and after his embarrassing collaboration with the king of kabuki acting, Nicolas Cage, Mr LaBute made several financially, if not critically, successful films, the most notable of which is Lake View Terrace. A harsh, racially-charged thriller, it tells the tale of Abel Turner, a black LAPD officer, and his increasingly hostile relationship with his new neighbors, a young interracial couple. With such stars as Samuel L Jackson and Kerry Washington in the lead, it almost goes without saying that they acting in this movie is superb. The cinematography is also something to be admired. In keeping with the effect that extreme heat can have on people’s judgement, the filmmakers drained all cool colors from the movie’s images. But what I truly appreciated about Lake View Terrace is that each of its characters is realistic and well-rounded. Few films made these days can claim to have no real villain, and Lake View Terrace is one of them. People who’ve seen the movie might argue that Abel is the bad guy, but I would tend to disagree. True, he’s not the friendliest of men. He slashes his neighbors tires, and sends a burglar into their home to mess it up but, we also see him act as a loving, if strict, father, and a dedicated law enforcement officer. Hell, the first thing we see him do is look at his wife’s picture and pray. Basically, Lake View Terrace is too thoughtful, too complicated, to be categorized, trivialized or demonized. To quote the late Roger Ebert, “Some will find it exciting. Some will find it an opportunity for an examination of conscience. Some will leave feeling vaguely uneasy. Some won’t like it and will be absolutely sure why they don’t, but their reasons will not agree. Some will hate elements that others can’t even see. Some will only see a thriller. I find movies like this alive and provoking, and I’m exhilarated to have my thinking challenged at every step of the way.

Number 9: Red Belt, by David Mamat.

The first film I saw Chiwetel Ejiofor in was not, as it was for many of my classmates, 12 Years A Slave, but rather, this slick, low budget, critically-acclaimed neo-noir martial arts thriller. I enjoyed this movie so much when I saw it, and have so thoroughly associated it with Mr Ejiofor as an actor that, now, whenever someone mentions his name, my first response is usually something along the lines of “Oh! You mean the Red Belt guy?” The story of a morally stalwart, if financially insecure jujitsu instructor, this film deals with corruption and intrigue within the world of professional fighters, and is populated by a number of extremely interesting, highly unique characters, including a young lawyer recovering from the trauma of a rape, an emotionally unstable LAPD officer, and an aging movie star with anger issues. When I first saw the film, I had just begun to study Aikido, and so its fight sequences and philosophy really resonated with me. Then, three years later, when I stopped taking martial arts and reexamined the movie, I found that I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than the first time. True, its ending is a bit abrupt, but the film more than makes up for that with plot intricacy and character development. So, whether you’re a diehard fan of the martial arts, or simply someone who likes good cinema, Red Belt should definitely be at the top of your Netflix queue.

Number 8: John Rabe, by Florian Gallenberger.

If ever there was a movie made with me in mind for an audience member, it would have to be John Rabe. A 2008 German-Sino-French film, directed by two time Oscar winner Florian Gallenberger, this modern masterpiece tells the true tale of John Rabe, a German businessman who, while living as an expatriate in China, witnesses the horrors of the Rape of Nanking first hand, and decides to get involved. Working with several other foreigners, including a French teacher, an American doctor, and a German-Jewish diplomat, Rabe establishes the Nanking Safety Zone, and saves the lives of nearly 250,000 people. When I first saw this movie, I was overcome with a multitude of emotions, foremost among them, gratitude. For three years after I moved to Maryland from Germany, all I ever heard from people was how I was a “Nazi” and how “all you krauts are evil.” This film, a true an inspiring story of a German risking his life and business to save innocent civilians, was more than refreshing. The fact that it was set in China, and revolved around the Rape of Nanking, an event that I have long been interested in and have a personal connection to, was a huge bonus. Add to that the fact that its shot in all the right languages–German, Japanese, Mandarin, English–and the fact that all the actors portraying Germans, Japanese, Chinese, French and Americans are actually from these countries, and I’m one happy camper. Now, some of you might be thinking, “okay Nathan, you’ve told us why it made you feel good, but what about us? Will we, people who don’t have personal connections to Germany or China, enjoy it? Is the movie actually any good?” YES! YES! YES! In addition to being visually striking and historically accurate, the film has a beautiful soundtrack and astounding acting. The movie’s stars, Ulrich Tukur, Daniel Bruhl, Zhang Jingchu, Anne Consigny, and Steve Buscemi (Yes! That Steve Buscemi. Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, Big Fish, The Sopranos) don’t simply portray their historical counterparts, they become them. You actually believe that they’re in a horrendous, inhumane circumstance, and that they want to help, knowing that doing so will likely just make the whole situation worse. Each character has a personality and an arc, and you feel genuine sympathy for all of them. It’s not too long, it’s very well acted, it’s historically accurate and it addresses an event and people that both merit greater attention. What can I say? It’s awesome. Check it out.

Number 7: Rosewood, by John Singleton.

Every great director has, at one point in his or her life, made a movie that, while as interesting and well crafted as his or her hits, nevertheless remains unknown to the public. For the Coen’s that movie is Miller’s Crossing, for Christopher Nolan it’s Insomnia, for the Wachowski Brothers its Bound, and for John Singleton its Rosewood. An intense, perfectly cast, beautifully shot drama, this last film gives a fictionalized account of the 1923 Rosewood Massacre, the burning of an all-black town that took place down in Florida. A rich, multi-layered movie, Rosewood was showered with praise upon its initial release back in 1997, and yet only managed to reclaim a modest $13 million from its $30 million budget. Which doesn’t make sense, if you ask me. Sure, the movie is over two hours long and it takes some serious liberties with history, but its so well acted, and has so many interesting scenes that move the plot forward, that you never get bored or really care if its inaccurate. But what really stands out to me about Rosewood is the amount of depth and internal strife that every character has. Each person that’s presented to you has a name, and some individual issue that needs to be addressed. Within the single family of Jon Voight’s character, for example, there are at least three separate conflicts–his desire to protect his black neighbors while not endangering his family; his sons’ distrust of their new step mother; his new wife’s sense of isolation in Rosewood, and so on. A truly great film is one that has several believable sub-plots that are continually addressed throughout the story and add color and texture to the overall narrative. Rosewood possesses plenty of these, and they are what truly makes this film, in my mind, an underrated masterpiece.

Number 6: Snow Falling On Cedars, by Scott Hicks.

I’m always somewhat weary when I go to see a movie adapted from a book, especially if the book in question is one I grew up loving. There’s always the fear that the picture won’t be accurate, that it won’t stay true to the events or themes of its source material. That’s why I was extremely anxious when I rented Scott Hick’s Snow Falling On Cedars. Few books have influenced, or touched me, as deeply as Snow Falling, and I didn’t want to see it get turned into Hollywood trash. Well, I’ll tell you right now, I felt more than relieved when I finished watching it. Not only did the film capture the raw emotion, sexual energy, and unforetold beauty of the original novel with its striking visuals and lyrical soundtrack, it even managed to add a new dimension to the tale which I could never have foreseen. For those of you who aren’t familiar with either the book or the movie, Snow Falling On Cedars is a rich, multi-layered story of love, murder, betrayal and prejudice. Set in a small island community off the puget sound in the years following World War 2, it centers around the murder trial of a Japanese American fisherman, Kabuo Miyamoto. Several other townspeople, including the accused man’s wife, Hatsue, a local reporter named Ishmael, and the dead man’s wife and mother, all give testimony, and in so doing ,reveal the scars that the recent war and internment have left on their island community. A slow-paced, atmospheric story, it is one that left millions, including myself, in tears, and one that I feel every fan of good literature and good cinema should be exposed to.

Number 5: The Beautiful Country, by Hans Petter Moland.

My senior year of high school, I landed a speaking part in the epic rock opera, Miss Saigon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the play follows the tragic romance between a young Vietnamese woman and an American GI during the final days of the Vietnam War. Among its many themes is the one of abandonment, specifically, the Americans’ abandonment of their mixed-race children, known in Vietnam as “Bui Doi,” an offensive term that means “less than dirt.” I was so touched by the plight of these children, that I decided to do some research of my own and, in so doing, came across this gem of a picture. The Beautiful Country is a bittersweet independent drama that tells the story of one “Bui Doi,” Bin’s, journey to America to find his father. Shot on a relatively low budget, it still manages to capture all the color, heartbreak and tenderness of a major hollywood movie. It’s acting is quiet and subdued, which fits the somber subject perfectly. It’s writing is simplistic, but powerful, the reason for this being, as the screenwriter said in an interview, to give depth and dignity to people who might only speak two or three words of English, and I can tell you now, it does that perfectly. The Beautiful Country might not have the flare and style of its thematic counterpart Miss Saigon, but its every bit as powerful, and every bit as touching. The last fifteen minutes are guaranteed to leave you in tears, and in the best possible way. So, don’t hesitate. Put it at the top of your Netflix queue.

Number 4: Mystery Train, by Jim Jarmusch.

One of the reasons why I enjoy watching Jim Jarmusch moviesis the music. See, unlike most filmmakers, Jarmusch doesn’t let it just play in the background or add a little flare to a moment that’s supposed to be dramatic. No. He uses it. He has it permeate every scene, every character, to the point where it almost becomes the story. From that regard, one might be able to look at every Jim Jarmusch movie as a sort of cinematic representation of a different kind of music. Dead Man has the rhythm and chords of classic rock, while Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai synthesizes elements of both hip-hop and jazz. Mystery Train, Jarmusch’s 1989 anthology film, has the soulful, mournful, and almost wistful feel of blues. A fascinating and genuinely funny picture, the movie is set in Memphis, Tennessee, and focuses on three separate, yet equally colorful groups, a young pair of Japanese hipsters, an Italian woman accompanying a body back to Rome, and a trio of depressed and out of work young men, all over the course of one night. Each of them encounters the legacy, and in one instance, the ghost, of Memphis’s most famous resident, Elvis Presley, and each of them manages to find their way to the same flea bag motel. The dialogue and acting both feel natural, and the movie manages to capture the quiet despair of the former American music capital beautifully. And yet, despite its warm critical response, the film failed to break even with its modest $2.8 million budget when it was first released. A shame, really. Maybe it just didn’t have enough explosions. But, then again, who knows what the public will go see?

Number 3: 13 Assassins, by Takashi Miike.

Very few people in the West have ever heard of Takashi Miike, and even fewer have heard of his 2010 samurai epic 13 Assassins. Which is too bad for them, because they’re missing out on one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. If you can imagine a movie which pays as great attention to story and character development as Seven Samurai, but is also as fast paced, visually striking and tightly choreographed as The Matrix, you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for with this film. A remake of the 1963 black-and-white epic of the same name, 13 Assassins follows a group of samurai who have been given the task of killing the shogun’s sadistic half brother, Naritsugu. An action-packed, yet oddly meditative adventure, the film is as much about friendship, loyalty and the desire of warriors to feel useful in a time without war as it is flashy fight sequences and impressive visual effects. What’s most astounding about it is that its a surprisingly un-gorey movie, and it was produced by Takashi Miike, a man who made a name for himself directing unbelievably bloody cult films. I guess every artist has got more than one side, and in the case of 13 Assassins, its a side that’s worth seeing.

Number 2: In Bruges, by Martin McDonagh.

Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is easily one of the funniest, most mean-spirited, and deeply moving motion pictures I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The fact that its all of those things at once should give you an idea of how truly unique it is. A 2008 black-comedy crime thriller, the film follows a pair of Irish hit-men, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who, after a botched job, are told to hide out in the small medieval town of Bruges, Belgium. Having lived for several years in Europe, and visited Bruges myself, the movie offered a lot to me in terms of nostalgia. But don’t worry. It’s great for more reasons than just that. Its viciously funny to begin with–within one five minute sequence, for example, Collin Farrell manages to insult both a group of overweight tourists, describing them as “a bunch of fucking elephants,” and the town of Bruges itself, stating “If I’d grown up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me”–but the film quickly turns down a much darker path. We learn that the reason the two are in hiding is that, on his last job, Farrell accidentally killed a child, something for which he has never forgiven himself. Had the movie been made by any other director, or starring any other actors, the transition from raunchy, biting comedy to brooding meditation on morality, personal responsibility and guilt might have been jarring or unnatural seeming. As it is, though, with McDonagh behind the camera, and Farrell and Gleeson in front of it, the movie manages to seamlessly shift from hilarity to depression in almost every scene. Some will find it too bleak, too vicious, but i personally think that it is precisely this film’s dark tone and subject matter that make its sparks of comedy shine all the brighter, and the picture as a whole an underrated masterpiece.

And my absolute favorite underrated film is…

The Flowers of War, by Zhang Yimou.

Where do I begin? This film is beautiful, in every sense of the word. Not only are its sets and costumes astounding, the vibrant color scheme is gorgeous, the lead actresses are all jaw-dropping, the performances are amazing, and the soundtrack is so hauntingly lyrical that it will stay with you for months after you hear it. As for the story, it deserves to be in a class all its own. A heartbreaking tale of redemption and ultimate sacrifice, the film gives a fictionalized account of the Rape of Nanking, and focuses on a group of people trapped inside a Catholic Cathedral, one of the few places untouched by the marauding Japanese hordes. Among those left for dead is a class of Chinese school girls, a group of local prostitutes, and a drunken American mortician (Christian Bale) who’s been sent to bury the priest. None of them likes each other to start off with, but as time passes, and conditions worsen, they all grow closer and do their best to help one another. Bale sobers up and takes the place of their fallen priest, while the prostitutes impersonate the school girls when the Japanese arrive. As the grandson of someone who survived the war in China, the film was extremely difficult to watch. Yimou doesn’t hesitate to show us all the atrocities committed by the Japanese–the worst scene, by far, is the protracted gang rape of Dou, a kind-hearted prostitute–and let me tell you, even though its all staged, he makes it look pretty damn real. And yet, in an odd sense, I’m actually quite grateful that he took such an unflinching approach to the subject matter. What happened to the inhabitants of Nanking in 1937 was more than inhumane. It was evil. Portraying it as anything less than that would be disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands who were slaughtered. Anyway, when Flowers first hit the theaters back in 2011, it gathered nearly $96 million at the box office. And yet, in spite of all the money it made, it was almost universally panned by critics. Many, like Roger Ebert, hated the fact that a Chinese movie had a white man (Bale) as one of its leads. Writing in the Chicago Sun Times, he asked, “”Can you think of any reason the character John Miller is needed to tell this story? Was any consideration given to the possibility of a Chinese priest? Would that be asking for too much?” No disrespect to the late Mr Ebert but, he clearly didn’t know what he was talking about when he wrote that review. Anyone who’s familiar with the history of the Nanking Massacre knows that foreigners played a HUGE part in protecting the civilian population. The Japanese had absolutely no respect for the Chinese, whom they viewed as sub-human. They did not, however, wish to start a war with Western nations like America or Germany, and so were willing to negotiate with people from these countries. So, if Bale’s character had, as Mr Ebert suggested, been Chinese, the Japanese would likely have shot him and then pissed on his corpse. And if Mr Ebert–who, by the way, gave such stinkers as El Topo, The Devil’s Double, and the 2011 remake of Straw Dogs positive reviews–had actually paid attention, he would have seen that all the film’s real heroes, the prostitutes, Major Li, Mr Meng, George the alter boy, are Chinese, and that Bale himself is actually quite a minor character. And honestly, is including a person from another country in your movie really so heinous an offense that it merits terrible reviews? No! Absolutely not. And that, dear friends, is why you all should have absolutely no trepidation about watching this film.

There you have it! My fifteen favorite underrated films. Hope you found this list helpful if you were looking for new stuff to watch. If you’d like to list some of your own underground idols, please leave a comment. Alright, that’s all for today. Good night and god bless.