House of Flying Bloggers

Wednesday, 24 November 2004 — 10:29pm | Film

Earlier tonight I informed one of my regular readers that a sharp rise in the quantity of academic responsibilities on my shoulders this week is to be held responsible for the dearth of updates to this website. His reply: “That’s no excuse! You have legions of fans to cater to.”

Okay, so maybe he’s right.

One thing is certain – the sparsity of posts this month is not because there is little to write home about. In the past week I have gone for another ride on the thrill that is The Incredibles, seen The Polar Express (but regrettably, not in full IMAX 3D), finished Tales of Symphonia (logging just over fifty hours, leaving most of the side-quests incomplete), and spent countless hours on the new Super Mario 64 DS.

By the time I actually have a chance to sit down and discuss all of these at length, I will probably have added Oliver Stone’s Alexander to the pile. I would like to say that I will also see the Bollywood megahit Veer Zaara sometime in the near future, but it is currently only playing at the Gateway 8 Famous Players in Edmonton, and finding transportation there is less than convenient. Apparently, three-hour-long Hindi musicals do not constitute the most popular genre around here. It’s a shame, really.

I have now sat through The Incredibles twice, but only twice. From experience, two screenings is never enough for a Pixar feature to truly sink in, as all of them are so meticulously constructed from end to end that the unity of the entire piece only begins to reveal itself once every scene can be reflected upon in reference to the rest of the film.

And yet no matter how many times you see it, some things will always be mysteries. That’s the power of narrative ambiguity in small, teasing doses. (There’s a terrific Irvin Kershner quotation to that effect in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays in reference to The Empire Strikes Back.) Just how did Gazerbeam come upon the password to Syndrome’s Cerebro-esque megacomputer, anyway?

There is honestly too much to say about the movie, and for the benefit of a truly insightful post, I implore my readership to show a little patience. I will note, however, that the first thing I intend to discuss is the matter of what The Incredibles says about education reform.

I have a lot to say about The Polar Express as well, but I feel I may be doing it an injustice if I review it without having seen the IMAX 3D version. At the same time, I am not sure I want to sit through it a second time – not because it’s a bad film, but because much of it initially comes off as a one-time affair.

I also have a terrible confession to make. I have not seen Hero. Zhang Yimou’s followup project, House of Flying Daggers, is almost out in North America – 3 December, I believe – and yet I have not seen Hero. As a martial arts film aficionado who knows his Wong Fei-Hung from his Fong Sai-Yuk (both of whom were famously played by Jet Li in his prime, and with identical late-nineteenth-century hairstyles to boot), this is more than a bit shameful.

There are two reasons for this, and they are connected. The first is that although I have been in possession of an import DVD of Hero for well over a year – some may recall that the film was even in contention in the Foreign Film category at the 2003 Oscars – it has no English subtitles. As the film is in Mandarin, this is a problem. The second is that Miramax handled the North American distribution, which – considering their record with Shaolin Soccer – immediately raised some red flags.

Now, I heard some very positive things about how for once, Miramax did not completely butcher the film, and left it almost entirely intact, a few misjudged subtitles aside. By the time people got around to telling me this back in late August, I was too busy fawning over Garden State to notice; Hero was removed from theatrical distribution shortly after, with the exception of a few inaccessible second-run houses.

And apparently, the Region 1 DVD transfer sucks. I may have to rent it anyhow.

Thankfully, House of Flying Daggers is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. My Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon says that they know how to release the best of Asian cinema and turn it into a Stateside hit.

There are really only two basic rules to follow when releasing a foreign film. 1) Don’t leave out a single frame; 2) Always subtitle. Never dub.

Crouching Tiger followed the First and Second Laws, made a ton of cash, revitalized North American interest in Asian cinema, and was nominated for ten Oscars. Quod erat demonstratum.

It’s amazing how many people don’t get this. I never managed to see Spirited Away, one of the finest animated features in modern history, until its DVD release. Why? Because when it was in theatres, it was dubbed in English. Apparently, some people are under the impression that if it’s animated, you’re allowed to do this, because you don’t have to worry about bad lip-sync. I have news for you: you’re not.

Speaking of things that come from Japan – briefly for now, on the subject of the Nintendo DS: Get one. I am in dire need of a Metroid Prime: Hunters sparring partner. Well, maybe not that dire, given how much amusement one is able to derive from the unlockable minigames bundled with Super Mario 64. But as is the case with The Incredibles, doing this subject justice requires more words than I have at my disposal at the moment.


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