Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Thursday, Apr 22, 2010
The latest film from the Amélie director shows a good deal of promise with his signature visuals and a plot to destroy weapons manufacturers.

To quote the official synopsis, “our inspired and gentle-natured dreamer is quickly taken in by a motley crew of junkyard dealers”. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, just watch the trailer for Micmacs, and you’ll quickly remember why anything Jeunet makes is worth watching. Perhaps best known for the amazing visuals of Amélie, Jeunet has delivered solid films, like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Micmacs follows Bazil, whose bad string of luck with weapons leaves him orphaned and with a bullet lodged in his head. Having found a hodgepodge crew of characters living in a junkyard, Bazil sets out for revenge on the mega corporations who are responsible.



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Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010

After decades of special editions and CGI prequels, the good folks over at Star Wars: Uncut had a solution to all that. They uploaded the entire movie in 15-second clips, and any aspiring film maker could claim that clip and produce a lo-fi version of that scene. The site will then compile the clips and recreate the movie in it’s entirety. It should be kind of amazing. Check out the preview below.



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Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010
The ostensibly real and not-at-all-fake Japanese film Big Tits Zombie might be dismissed by an American audience fed on the "Japan is weird" line as confirmation of their tar-brush beliefs. But surely, a cynical Western perspective must recognize blatant irony when it sees it.

The trailer for Big Tits Zombie (Kyonyu Dragon)—done all grainy and presented by Snobbish International Pictures, no less—is a testament to what irony has done to popular culture. Director Takao Nakano is quite content to straddle the line between genius and insanity, and while he might envy genius, I feel insanity is more his cup of tea.


Look, the concept is simple and one would say, blissfully so. What could an audience want more than zombies and tits? If this was made in the ‘80s, it would be considered the High Temple of Camp—no less than four out of ten hipsters would be carrying an official “20 Year Anniversary Tote Bag”. It has everything that the West has come to expect from “Weird Japan”: nonsensical plots, batshit insanity, gratuitous nudity, cannibalism? Check and CHECK.


But there has to be so much more. The Japanese culture so adored/reviled in the West is not Japanese culture. The truth lies somewhere between the Zen-and-Geisha-and-Tea-Ceremony ideal, and the Anime-and-Neon-and-Schoolgirl-Fetish debasement. And so when a young, irreverent filmmaker makes such a film, a foreign audience might be baffled where a Japanese audience might detect all those digs and jibes at them thar gaijin.


Japanese culture has been expropriated to various ends in the West since at least the rage of Japonisme made Western European artists swoon in fanning adoration. Director Takao Nakano is merely aping that trend. If the likes of Quentin Tarantino can make an homage to old Japanese films based on Western perceptions of Japanese culture, then why can’t contemporary directors make an homage out of that? The hilarious/ridiculous/brilliant Sukiyaki Django did a quite wonderful job a few years back.


And now, we have Big Tits Zombie. It clearly is a joke. The badly narrated English, the misspelled adult model names (Sola? oh, haha, Japanese people can’t pronounce the letter ‘r’), nyotai mori, samurais-geishas-MountFuji-oh my!


There has been a recent-ish trend (of sorts) in Japanese cinema that has been mocking Japanese pop culture. Few other cultures have had the reset button pressed on their national ideas like Japan in the post-World War II period. Films like parody Everything Other than Japan Sinks, Machine Girl, and Big Man Japan can’t be taken at face value: there’s so much misinterpreted baggage left to decipher. You could nearly say, ha ha, that it has been Lost in Translation. Instead, films like this that mock and sneer at the Japanese self should be viewed as one of the pre-eminent forms of national self-mockery—and not as, say, confirmations of those “Japan Is Weird” boo-boys.



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Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010
“How To Train Your Dragon” beats “Kick-Ass” at the box office.

When the family film How to Train Your Dragon debuted about a month ago, Hollywood insiders were surprised that it didn’t do much better. Back then, the only thing the movie had going for it was its 3-D screenings and critical acclaim. Now, those same experts are surprised that the much-hyped Kick-Ass failed to meet its expectations, because it was narrowly outperformed by Dragon.


The reason why this happened is obvious. While most adults don’t want to see an R rated movie about crime fighting adolescents, all adolescents aren’t allowed to see it alone. This leaves families, a huge part of the movie-viewing audience, looking for something else to see.


Recently, Wal-Mart launched a slew of print ads and TV commercials touting their in-store displays of Dragon themed clothing, toys, and food, making it seem as if the movie was the latest, biggest trend among today’s kids. So there you have it, Wal-mart slayed the box office.



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Tuesday, Apr 20, 2010

This powerful short film by Shawn Morrison and produced by Garrett Murray shows two people who connect during the final hours before a meteor annihilates New York. In just a few short hours, they move from strangers to acquaintances to lovers.


Forever’s Not So Long is the kind of science fiction which I find most moving. Make one supposition about a situation and see how people react. Here, the situation is a vehicle for examining the two individuals. These two people would have likely never met without the impending disaster. Rather than sink into despair alone, they make one last desperate connection, clinging to each other and facing the end together. 


The pair condenses at months of a relationship into a few hours, and give the audience an indication that this may have been the only way for these two people to connect, and that out of a pointless and random doom, some happiness was found, however fleeting.


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