Mike Mills’s & Kasper Tuxen’s Beginners

Mike Mills is capturing what he can of the human soul. I do not mean he is out there with a box. I do not mean he has a box and a net and he is trying to coax the human soul into a box using a wad of bacon and magical snare. Mike Mills is not a hunter. He knows nothing of snares. But Mike Mills does have the noblest of ambitions – he is trying to capture something magical without possessing any actual magic. He is recreating the brevity of the soul’s movement through THE HOUSE.

Our problem is the assumption THE SOUL is IMMORTAL. This could not be further from the truth. The soul is brief. The soul is moving. When something touches our soul we say WE ARE MOVED. Movement above all implies a temporality. The soul is constantly and happily deteriorating. When I say THE HOUSE it is to say this world is not OUR HOUSE. We have no claim to it. No entitlements. We are visitors passing though this space. The soul is a tenant moving through THE HOUSE. It is very difficult to watch. It is almost impossible to map. It is like a handful of flour moving off the board in a bakery. Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent are tenants moving through the temporary space of light and screen and film gelatin. Mike Mills is mapping the human soul. He tries to anchor the experience down using concrete details – the stars, nature, the president . . . but even these are representations and must succumb to their own temporality. Even these are made of gelatin. Gelatin implies a temporary fixedness.

Perhaps none of that will make sense to you. Suffice to say Beginners is the best film moving through our screens right now. Soon it’ll be gone like anything. The reels recalled and burned in the crematorium. Maybe one or two copies will be hidden away, to echo, flickering like a ghost on a private screen. But the nostalgia and the ephemeral nature of a film’s run is part of the point. Mike Mills enacts brevity as his subject is BREVITY.

Ewan McGregor has charmed his way back into my heart and my pants. Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer never left. Goran Visnjic has burned a new poison into my heart. Together they perform the excruciating ballet of grief, new love, longing, heartbreak, sexual desire, loneliness, splendor. Perhaps I am making this film sound too serious since at its core it is a comedy. And I’ll be the first to admit I laughed a thousand times greater than I cried. But what better currency to operate in than laughter? A moment of ephemeral and coincidental bliss – whose novelty degrades over time. There is so little need to cherish something if we really do think it will last forever. The soul’s brevity defines its value – there is a dire importance we cherish what can vanish at any moment. Even if I’m wrong about all the rest – you’ve still got about the cutest pup I’ve ever seen . . . $12

If you heart Beginners:

Recommendations by Cheet Cheet
John Cameron Mitchell’s & David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole
Yojiro Takita’s Departures
Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Imagine if Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood had a Korean baby: this would be it.  Korean dudes on horses in Manchuria?!?  Clearly, you gotta see this.  Plus, some of Korea’s most respected actors as the good, the bad and the weird.  Song Kang-ho is a supremely talented actor, previously in films like Miryang (The Secret Sunshine) and Park Chanwoo’s Thirst, Sympathy for Mr. and Lady Vengeances and JSA.  In this he plays the Weird, a treasure-seeking thief, who’s ultimate dream in life is just to go back to Korea and raise chicken and goats.  Jung Woo-sung is the Good, a bounty hunter who hunts bad dudes just cuz, well, they’re bad.  And Lee Byung Won plays the Bad, and plays bad so good…..

The movie has a good pace to it, and always steps on the border of ridiculousness, without quite overstepping the bounds of wanton superfluous violence that it could easily slip into.  The context is as insane as the get-ups; pre WWII, post Japanese occupation of Korea, where these Koreans have escaped Korea to try their fortune in the Chinese desert.  History doesn’t rule the storyline however, it just adds a bit of flavor in the plot.

Did I mention Lee Byung Won plays bad so good?  He also plays hawt so well.  HOLLA!  There’s like a good 10 minutes or so of a shirtless Lee Byung Won, seemingly for no reason but to show off his chiseled abs.   To the people who don’t believe the asian man can get cut, just take a good look at the pic above.  Show ’em how it’s done, son!

All in all, enjoyable, and oh so very cool…$8

P.S. Also available on netflix streaming!

If you heart The Good, The Bad, The Weird:
Recommendations from …:
Inglourious Basterds
Old Boy

Inglourious Basterds


goes to show it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Or at least, all about what people yap about during the journey, yapping a lot.

is one of the most fascinating flicks I’ve seen all year, if for nothing else a badass soundtrack, and because it carries its panoply of characters through a moderately-complex plot in so few scenes (the film is divided into 5 chapters and hardly more scenes). Perhaps to prevent confusion, Basterds’s storytelling is more linear than I’ve seen in Tarantino’s previous efforts and the dialogue runs through periods of heavy repetition and exposition. While this could be negative criticism 98% of the time, in this case, it isn’t. Tarantino is one of the few writers who can float a “tell don’t show” policy without losing momentum or freshness in a nearly three-hour movie. I watched Basterds three times in theaters and was baffled by how little tension got lost in multiple viewings. Tarantino is perhaps unmatched at keeping an audience engrossed through long periods of talk. Not to mention unmatched at name-calling (see Brad Pitt telling Richard Sammel that if he ever wants to eat a sauerkraut sandwich ever again he’ll take his Wiener Schnitzel-lickin’ finger and point out the German position).


Christoph Waltz stars as Hans Landa (AKA the Jew Hunter), a detective whose prowess has landed him as a head officer in the Third Reich. Landa is essentially what would happen if you took Bill Pullman in Zero Effect, cross-pollinated him with Tim Curry in Clue, and then dressed him up with Nazi oak leaves on his collar. Little emotionally detached. Eccentric as a MF. Simultaneously despicable and oddly noble. Waltz playing Landa is in the top acting performances I’ve seen this year.

Some people may find the violence of Basterds troubling. There are a handful of empathetic portrayals of German soldiers, but in general Tarantino makes the terrorizing and killing of Nazis extraordinarily gratifying. On some level an audience member (at least an American viewer) would want to be like, but they’re just Nazis, so if a theater full of them die in a fire/dynamite explosion, isn’t that totally justified/awesome? But I felt a little dirty after finding so much pleasure in watching Nazis (and their wives) get mowed down by machineguns. I guess I’m saying that while watching a Jewish terrorist group torture and slaughter Nazis seems like good, clean fun, it might not actually be constructive therapy when treading upon the obscene tragedies of WWII. For constructive therapy, see Life is Beautiful. Basterds’s obsession with style overshadows its ethical reasoning.

Though I do see Basterds as a visionary and well-executed film, I don’t think it will be worth everyone’s $10 admission. But if you can make it for the matinee price . . . $9

If you heart Inglourious Basterds:

Recommendations from Yolkie:
Lady Vengeance
Kill Bill – Volume One

Recommendations from Sneak da Keek:
Cecil B. Demented

Recommendations from …
Reservoir Dogs
Battle Royale

Trailer: Inglourious Basterds

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