Thursday, May 31, 2007

siff hotties: juan josé ballesta

The second installment of SIFF Hotties! The first featured Gaspard Ulliel, Elias McConnell, et un trio des garçons. Today...

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...the spotlight hottie is none other than Juan José Ballesta from the uneven Spanish film, Doghead. I don't know much about him, except that he's 19, from Madrid, and really really hot. Oh, and I think I read somewhere he's gonna be a dad soon? Anyways, he did a decent job in the movie, even if his role consisted mostly of looking mopey and slightly confused. If you have anything to add about Señor Ballesta, please do.

On to the films!

My Best Friend (Mon meilleur ami). Rating: 4. So, at it's heart it was a formula movie. The build-up goes here, the climax goes there, etc. but it was really well done. A man is forced by his co-workers to come up with a "best friend," he realizes he has no friends, only business contacts, and so goes in search of a friend. It was funny and sad and gripping in all the right places, even if the conclusion was completely predictable. Best use of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" in any movie I've seen. Well-written, well-directed, well-acted, go see it.

Fido. Rating: 3. Okay, it was funny, but except for a few parts, it wasn't terribly intelligent humor. I guess I knew that going into it, but still expected a little bit more out of it. In an alternate universe 1950s Canada, after a victorious war against zombies, people now keep zombies as pets/servants. I felt like the premise could have offered such great satire, but a lot of it just fell flat. That isn't to say when Carrie Anne-Moss shot her kid's friends-turned-zombies in the head, I didn't laugh, but you know... there should have been... more. But overall it was a good time.

Doghead (Cabeza de Perro). Rating: 3. Like I said above, this uneven film was mediocre at best. A kid with some sort of mental condition in which he blacks out and does crazy things when under stress tries to break out of a sheltered life. A lot of the visual quirks didn't seem to work so well, or weren't employed in the best way. Most of them just felt misplaced in that they were in the wrong places in the movie, or they didn't belong in the movie at all. We sort of see that the main character makes progress within the movie, but I feel like I only see that because he was supposed to, and not because the filmmaker showed us in any meaningful way. The movie seemed like a bunch of free-floating interesting ideas that weren't tied together very well. But Juan José Ballesta was hot. I'd also like to note that a car accident served as a plot device in this film, a movie moment sure to reappear at the very least a few more times in this festival.

Exiled (Fangzhu). Rating: 4. This was a fun Johnny To movie. Well, as fun as a Hong Kong gangster movie with a high body count can be. A gangster exiled for trying to kill the boss makes his way back to Macau to try to live a normal life with his wife and child. Yeah, that never ends well. The action was well-choreographed and well-shot, and all the characters were slick and cool, especially the security escort played by Richie Ren. I liked how the movie seemed to start right after all the exposition that usually occurs in other movies. It saved us 30 minutes of boredom by dropping us right when the action begins, and it worked well. Now that I think about it, I guess a lot of Hong Kong movies do that. I can't think of much else to say about it, except that if you like Hong Kong action, and you like Johnny To movies, then you should probably go see this movie.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

my good deed

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Today, I helped a man in one of those motorized wheelchairs up a hill to a bus stop. He was stranded at the bottom of the hill because his wheelchair had stopped responding to his controls. Let me tell you, those motherfuckers (motorized wheelchair + handicapped man) are really fucking heavy, and it took me way too long, while expending way too much energy (I'm a delicate flower), to accomplish the task. He may have had some kind of palsy, because I couldn't understand what he was saying beyond, "I need to get to the bus stop." I don't know if he really wanted to be pushed up the hill, or if the bus stop I left him at was the right one, or even if his wheelchair had really malfunctioned. All I know is that this is my one good deed of the year. I am now free of any obligation whatsoever to perform any other good deeds for the rest of 2007. So, friends and family, if you need help moving? Please look elsewhere.

Monday, May 28, 2007

siff hotties: des hommes de paris

I almost never have time during the festival to review the movies I've watched (I always have at least one or two movies a day), and when the festival is over, I'm too lazy to go back and do it. Not this year! As an additional incentive for myself, I'll be reviewing not just the movies, but my favorite hotties from said movies, and we all know I like talking about hot guys.

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From left to right, Gaspard Ulliel and Elias McConnell from Gus Van Sant's Paris je t'aime short Le Marais.

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I don't know the name of the guy on the left (if you do, please let me know), but the one in the center is Thomas Dumerchez and on the right is Cyril Descours, from Gurinder Chadha's short Quais de Seine.

Gaspard was most recently in the title role of the shitty American movie, Hannibal Rising, but before that, I saw him in a good French film, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement with Audrey Tautou (who was recently in a shitty American movie herself called The Da Vinci Code). Elias was last in Van Sant's Elephant, where he played a gay teen photographer who is shot in the face during a school shooting. I am less familiar with the French actors from the other short. I only recognize Thomas from a movie I thought about seeing two years ago at SIFF 2005 called, Three Dancing Slaves, but I didn't. I don't know Cyril from anything else. Hopefully, if I watch more French cinema, I will encounter them again.

Okay, now on to the reviews and honorable mention hotties. Everyone who goes to see a movie is given an opportunity to vote via ballot for that movie on a scale from 1 (bad) to 5 (great). All the ratings are tallied at the end of the festival, and the Golden Space Needle awards are given out to the winners (which are usually undeserving middle-of-the-road crap, but I still feel the need to participate). Anyhow, that's what the ratings that follow the title of the film are.

Paprika (Papurika). Rating: 5. Really, director Kon Satoshi can do no wrong. I have loved every movie he's done since I watched Perfect Blue my freshman year of college (and immediately downloaded the CHAM! single Ai no Tenshi). The story isn't particularly revolutionary (A device that lets you enter the dream world is stolen and abused. Who's doing it? Why!? It can only lead to a catastrophic merging of dreams and reality if our heroes don't save the day!), but it examines the topic of reality, dreams, and fiction in a really interesting way. The visuals are mind-blowing, and the music by Hirasawa Susumu is amazing. I had an impulse to watch the movie again right after walking out of the theater. Unfortunately, there were no hot guys in this movie, animated or otherwise.

After This Our Exile (Fu zi). Rating: 3. This is the story of a deadbeat dad and the son who stays frustratingly loyal to him despite all the horrible things his dad puts him through (the literal translation of the Chinese title is Father and Son). At almost three hours, this movie was too long. I'm not opposed to long movies, but the point had been made after an hour and a half, so the rest of the movie just felt like a little like sadism. This sometimes happens when someone writes, directs and edits their own movie. The director doesn't throw out any of the unnecessary stuff the writer put in, and the editor doesn't cut out any of the unnecessary scenes the director's shot, because it's all the same guy. I love Patrick Tam and everything, but dear god, man, have some self-control. Malaysia never looked better than it does in this film, and really that might be the only thing that kept my attention for the entire length of the movie. It was also too bad that hottie Aaron Kwok was such an asshole in this movie (but I guess that means he did some good acting).

Vanaja. Rating: 4. This movie was enjoyable, even if the pacing was a little off. It's about an Indian girl (named Vanaja, surprise!) who wants to learn to dance, but encounters hardships flung at her by the society and culture in which lives. The main character was excruciatingly likable and being able to watch her dance in this movie is worth the price of admission alone. It was extraordinary. There was a hottie in this movie, model Karan Singh (find him on the movie's cast page) who had a really great body, but he played a rapist, and that's not very hot.

Paris je t'aime. Rating: 5. I loved this. I know a lot of people don't like shorts or whatever, but I loved the little sketches we got from so many different directors. It made me feel so much in such a small period of time, and it was lovely to see all the different directorial styles up against one another. I think I liked Alexander Payne's (14e arrondissement, with Margo Martindale's perfectly accented American French) or Isabel Coixet's (Bastille, with my favorite use of Le Tourbillon since Jules et Jim) the best. Gurinder Chadha's (Quais de Seine) and Gus Van Sant's (Le Marais) were really cute. The Coen Brothers' (Tuileries, with Steve Buscemi) was funny. And... well, okay I liked most of the rest too. A lot of them were screaming to be made into a full-length. The one that was just too weird for me was Christopher Doyle's (Porte de Choisy). I'm sorry, guy, I love your cinematographic work, but your directorial stuff? Not so much.

A Battle of Wits (Mo gong). Rating: 2. What a bad movie! I only didn't give it a 1 because it wasn't a complete technical failure. A peace-loving Mohist in China's Warring States period attempts to save the state of Liang from being overtaken by the state of Zhao. This is ultimately a losing battle, because Qin eventually conquered all the states in 221 BCE and united China. But that's beside the point. The writing was really, really bad. The dialogue was made up mostly of those predictable brave-men-in-war clichés ("We must fight for honor and glory!" "I will do anything to save your live!") shouted at each other, and it was so god-awful that for the last 30 or 40 minutes, I couldn't help zoning out. Really, I stopped listening, but I know I didn't miss out on anything. The subtitles also read like they were written by a complete idiot. For one, they kept misspelling the name of the states. And then they referred to "Mohists" as "Mozis," which is wrong. Mozi is the philosopher; his followers are called "Mohists." It would be like referring to Marxists as "Marxes." There are not a bunch of Karl Marxes running around. There is one Karl Marx, and a group of Marxists. Similarly, one Mozi, many Mohists. The movie stretched believability pretty far, but to top off the what-the-fuck factor, there was a black guy in the movie. And he played a slave. I'm not sure there were any Africans in China during the Warring States period, let alone any mixed African-Caucasian guys (the dude's skin was pretty light). And then why was he a slave? I guess I just don't get it. But then again, this movie was so bad, I don't think I care. Okay, so the action sequences were not bad, but that's about all the good I can say about it. I almost forgot to mention hotties Andy Lau and Choi Si-won. And Nicky Wu if you're into that sort of thing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

siff 2007

It's the end of May, so you know what's coming: the Seattle International Film Festival. I'm so excited!

This year, there are a lot of films from directors whose previous work I have liked: Kon Satoshi (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers), Patrick Tam (director of Final Victory and editor on Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild and Ashes of Time), Johnny To (Turn Left, Turn Right, Breaking News, Election), David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer), Lee Jae-yong (Untold Scandal), Feng Xiaogang (A World without Thieves), Otomo Katsuhiro (Akira, Steamboy), Kurosawa Kiyoshi (Cure, Pulse, Bright Future, Doppelganger), Andrew Lau (Young and Dangerous, Storm Riders, Infernal Affairs, Initial D) and Shin Dong-il (Host & Guest). Yes, can you tell I'm a total Asian cinema junkie? I tend to avoid all but a few of the American films in the festival, because they're all going to be released in theaters later this year. Unless something has a lot of good buzz (like Half Nelson last year), I will probably skip it.

Three years ago, for SIFF 2004, I saw 18 movies. Two years ago, I saw 20 movies. Last year, I saw 22. How many am I seeing this year?

Breaking it down by location of origin, that's 6 Chinese films (3 from Hong Kong, 1 from Taiwan, and 2 from the Mainland), 2 French films, 1 Swiss film, 4 Japanese films, 1 Indian film, 2 Canadian films (1 Québécois, 1 not), 2 Spanish films, 1 German film, 3 British films, 3 Korean films, and 5 American films. A grand total of 30 movies. Let's hope I survive to the end!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

bryant chang

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I'm going to get my hair cut tomorrow, so I was flipping through all my magazines looking for a good hairstyle. I found a lot of stuff I'd love to rock, except for the fact that I'm too lazy to make it look nice every single day. Plus, we'll see how this new stylist works out.

But while I was flipping away, I found that the cover model for April's Men's Uno Taiwan was none other than Bryant Chang, one of the guys in Eternal Summer, which is the gay Taiwanese movie I'm gonna go see in a couple weeks! I like how his hair looks, but I will never wear it. Hair in front of my eyes bothers me so much. Anyhow, he looks hot, as does the other guy in the movie, which makes me really excited to see it. Also, let it be known that Bryant won the Golden Horse award for Best New Performer. And another picture of Bryant, profile text translated below:


Zhang Rui-jia / Bryant
Birthday / March 31st, 1985
Zodiac Sign / Aries
Height / 182 cm Weight / 68 kg
School Background / Taipei Physical Education College
Movies / Eternal Summer
TV Series / Tokyo Juliet, Express Boy, Love Contract, Seventh Grade

You know, I realize now you didn't really need a translation for that...

Embedded video alert! It's the trailer for Eternal Summer.

Do you remember? Our relationship started with a rule.
We can never return to that summer again.
No one should be alone.
Do you still believe that?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

stories from the closet

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Previously on... Stories from the Closet.

The following is a short exchange I had with my mother today. My mother will be played by Victoria Beckham (I still love you, Posh, even if you're fucking my husband), and I will be played by Gisele Bundchen (I'm so hot):

Mom, inquisitively: "Why don't you have a girlfriend yet?"

Me, indifferently: "Like I said... They are too much trouble."

Mom, starting to get annoyed: "Well, are you ever going to have a girlfriend?"

Me, also starting to get annoyed: "I dunno. We'll see."

Mom, now annoyed: "Am I ever going to carry a grandchild in my arms?"

Me, also now annoyed: "What about my sister?"

Mom, being a total bitch: "Her child won't have our surname."

Me, tired of being asked these questions: "Then I guess you're shit out of luck."

A pregnant pause... wait for it...

Mom: "Are you even into girls?"

Needless to say, being the coward that I am, I ran away.

Monday, May 21, 2007

soft poached eggs

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There is truly no finer way to prepare an egg than to poach it... softly. I think soft poached eggs are my favorite way to eat eggs. Of course it's not appropriate everywhere, but I love runny yolk like I love my right arm, and in the soft poached egg, the yolk is perfectly runny. I like them on toast, on salads, in noodles, in soup... If there is a place I can put a poached egg, I will try my best to put a poached egg there.

One of the best poached eggs I've had at a restaurant was at Momofuku in Manhattan's East Village. The entire white of the egg is soft and gelatinous, while the yolk is suitably creamy. I imagine they use room temperature eggs and cook the egg at a consistently low heat for an extended amount of time, but I've not yet tried to achieve such a feat. It'll definitely be something to attempt.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

moral quandary

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First of all, I am so sorry if you're looking at this at work because the above picture is so not safe for work, unless your work involves looking at porn, but you know, I have to retain my artistic integrity no matter where you're reading this. Hey, look, at least I blurred out the best part, right? Oh, and as a disclaimer, pretty much all the links in the following post are also NSFW.

Anyway, as you may have heard, some days ago they arrested two guys in connection to the murder of Bryan Phillips (né Bryan Kocis), the founder of gay twink porn studio, Cobra Video. As it may be aware to some, I love watching porn (really, what man doesn't?), so when I heard some months ago that Bryan Phillips had been murdered, I was shocked and a little saddened. Whence will come the kind of cute, damaged twinks that Cobra was famous for? I can't live on the memories of Brent Corrigan (né Sean Lockhart) forever!

While it didn't really answer my question, the news that they'd caught the killers was a relief. Yeah, Bryan Phillips was probably an exploitive, manipulative, underage-boy-loving asshole, but people shouldn't get away with murder (If it sounds like I have a double standard about enjoying porn created in such an environment by a man I prejudicially dislike, that's because I do have such a double standard. What do you want me to do about it?).

Of course, after I found out who the killers were, I was immediately struck with a moral quandary. I think one of them, Harlow Cuadra (the blowee pictured above), is hot. But wait, he's a murderer... and... I shouldn't think murders are hot... right? What is the emotional response deemed by our society as "correct" in such a situation? This is not something that I remember being taught in kindergarten. Is it okay to think he's hot, as long as I do so guiltily and feel bad about it? Am I allowed to think he's hot at all? The truth is there is no porn actor I would actually, really want to do (there's that double standard again), so is it okay in that context? I had similar feelings during the whole Scott and Laci Peterson thing, though only after Scott lost all that weight in guilt.

Also, sort of on a tangent... Do soldiers' spouses have the same sort of moral reservations when their beloved comes back from war? Do they think about how many people they killed while they were there? Or if all the people they killed really deserve to die?

I guess it doesn't really matter. My soul is black and my heart is dead and cold, but I suppose I was just wondering what one's supposed to think in such a situation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

oh so hot

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Not that further proof is required, as it is obvious to anyone who spends any amount of time outside when it's sunny, but here is further proof! When the sun comes out, so do the hot, hot, hot boys! How else can you explain the torrent of new missed connections? Twelve on Tuesday alone!

We had a record high of 84 degrees here in Seattle yesterday (not hottest ever, just for the recorded history of May 15th), and it was very nice. I suppose we've got to enjoy the climate change while it's still bearable, before the lakes dry up, the animals all die off, and we're forced to live in underground tunnels where everyone will be ugly. Guess how much faith I have in humanity to change the course of what we're all doing to our planet.

Also, let's give thanks to Diesel and Chad White.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

praise be to the lord

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I woke up this morning to the news that Jerry Falwell, professional bigot and all around hateful lump of flesh, finally died. This is great news for the world. He spent his life making money by instilling fear and hatred into the hearts of the undereducated. That's right, people gave him money to hear him spew vitriol about how much he hated blacks, Jews, gays, and liberals. There is absolutely no need for that bullshit anywhere, at any time.

I'd like to say that God wrapped his hands around his heart and squeezed until it stopped beating, but there is no God, or if there was one, He left us long, long ago. Falwell lived to the age of 73 and amassed a fortune those of us who live honestly will likely never see. No god would have let that happen. So it's a disappointment that Falwell is not now being sent to the Gates of Hell for what he wrought on Earth.

What annoys me most is that I expect the mainstream media will, as they always do, look back on the life of the departed, and somehow only remember the good things that they did. Not everyone's a fucking saint, and Jerry Falwell was an especially horrible person. But of course, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter. No matter what they say about him, he's still dead. And that is comforting.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

night owl

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I am a night owl. Always have been. I'm trying to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier, like normal working people do, but I just can't do it (it might have something to do with the fact that I am not a normal or working person). Even if I force myself to wake up early, and I am tired all throughout the day, after the sun goes down, I am full of energy to go do something. Unfortunately, practically nothing is open late (except for bars, but who wants to spend all their nights in a bar?) in the US; in Taipei, I could still go out to the night market and pick up some snacks or shop for CDs, DVDs, clothes, and other shit I don't need, and I wouldn't be the only one! But what usually ends up happening (if i don't go out to a bar...) is I try to get to sleep at a decent hour, but it doesn't work, so I read. I read until my eyes get blurry and I am actually tired, and then I go to sleep. Of course, when I do get to sleep, I don't end up sleeping as much as I think I ought to, and so I am tired again for the next day... until the night comes, and I am ready to go. The reason this bothers me a little, is I almost wish I was more of a morning person. Whenever I accomplish something in the morning, I really feel like I've used my time well. If I get what I want done by noon, then I have the entire rest of the day to do something else. Bah, I don't know. Perhaps, I will just have to go back to accepting my night-owl-hood, and get things done at night like I have been doing since I was little. (Did I mention that I think I think better at night too? Though you couldn't really tell by this rambling mess.)