February 6th, 2009

Cooper and Bowie

It was the Best of Ghosts, It was the Worst of Ghosts

I went back to University Town Centre yesterday and to the strange Crown Books. Just as I'd thought, the place was filled mostly with things like exposes on Saddam Hussein written in 1995 and books by figures in nationally prominent legal battles long forgotten. There was a book with a grinning, dark haired Larry King on the cover that couldn't have been published more recently than 1985 called Tell It to the King.

Then I struck gold--a big, hardcover, boxed, 50th anniversary edition Lord of the Rings for twenty dollars. No more hunting around for my sundry individual copies of the trilogy--this edition's so big, I can live in it.

I decided to take yesterday off completely, mainly because I hadn't gotten enough sleep to do anything. So I went to see a movie for the first time in months. Yes, I could've seen one of the Oscar contenders. There was the crotchety Gran Torino, the enigmatic The Reader with the naked Kate Winslet . . . But, no. I didn't see anything like that. I guess 'cause I'm a fucking rebel or some shit. I saw The Uninvited.

I think I mainly saw it on the strength of Roger Ebert's review, as I've long suspected he and I have similar fixations on psychological explorations of pretty girls. I'm not sure what it is--maybe it's the spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down, maybe it helps to draw you through problems by your compulsions.

In any case, Ebert's quite right about Emily Browning. She looks like a young Tori Amos, and more importantly, she has one of those faces that have a thousand tiny things twitching, moving, and telegraphing what might be going on in her head. And The Uninvited's directors, the so-called "Guard Brothers", know it, as it felt like 70% was close-ups on Browning. I'm not complaining.

Elizabeth Banks is in the movie, too, giving kind of an interesting performance. I respect Banks, mainly for the diversity of projects she chooses and the people she seems to like to work with and I think she was another factor in drawing me to the movie. Though mainly her performance here made me wish I was watching Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion, where Cary Grant had the similar task of saying things that sounded utterly sinister while at the same time having almost irrefutably innocent interpretations. It's a precarious sort of performance that basically requires an actor to make the audience feel like they might be going crazy and thereby identify the vulnerability of the POV character (Emily Browning in this case).

But the Guard Brothers dropped the ball on this, unfortunately--where Suspicion used Grant's character to make an utterly credible nightmare for Joan Fontaine, that truly makes us fear for her as a lot of us don't know how we'd do better in her situation, The Uninvited relies on a lot of horror movie clichés requiring the character to behave in ways that don't make sense in any context except in the context of a movie trying to create tension. There was also a twist ending that I saw coming a mile away, though I didn't mind that so much as it helped me appreciate Elizabeth Banks' performance a little more.

When I got out of the theatre, I discovered it was raining pretty hard. After a very long drive home, I discovered The Uninvited is a remake of a South Korean movie called Janghwa, Hongryeon. I felt sort of stupid for not having seen it, so I immediately sought it out.

Janghwa, Hongryeon means, according to the Wikipedia entry, "Rose Flower, Red Lotus", though the English language title of the film is A Tale of Two Sisters, as I suppose Red Flower, Red Lotus just wasn't boring enough. I guess someone probably thought they were being witty--"Everyone's heard of A Tale of Two Cities, right? Well, they're gonna be thinking, 'Hey, I know this title' when they start reading it, then--whammo! What the heck? Sisters?! Not cities?! Impossible! I have to see this movie!"

No, this movie has nothing to do with the Charles Dickens novel. I expected it to be a bit better than the remake, though, and expected to feel like a schmuck for it, but I was surprised to find it isn't actually much better. Instead of the grisly, walking, burnt corpses of The Uninvited, Janghwa, Hongryeon has the old Japanese standby of skinny pale ladies with their faces hidden by hair walking around with jerky movements, something that has yet to really register an effect on me, so that part of the movie was lost.

Janghwa, Hongryeon makes a lot more sense, that's for sure. One scene that The Uninvited had directly lifted had a girl cowering under her covers when something opened her door and came into her room. It made no sense for the girl in The Uninvited to behave this way, but it was appropriate for the character in Janghwa, Hongryeon. But I kind of missed the sort of subtle, devilish humour in The Uninvited--Janghwa, Hongryeon, like a lot of Asian horror, is a movie that takes itself maybe just a bit too seriously. Also like most Asian horror movies, it's chock-full of dreamlike editing influenced by David Lynch. These filmmakers might have done well to have observed Lynch's humour, too.

I finished the day watching the sixteenth episode of Battlestar Galactica's second season, which dealt with a hostage situation taking place in what looked like an expensive Los Angeles club filled with lazy rich people. It occurred to me a big part of the show's problem may simply be the inability of the writers to imagine poverty or desperate situations.

Anyway, remember, new Venia's Travels to-day.
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