Archive for June, 2009

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Michael Jackson

June 29, 2009

Why the hell not do this? I could pretend to be one of those disinterested cynics who has nothing to say about the death of Michael Jackson but that would be dishonest. Everyone is going to have a take on this, so here is mine.

Although I’m no fan of intense outpourings of sanctimony and hyperbolic hysteria in the media (I lived through the intense embarrassment of the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death after all), the death of this man is monumental. This is now the post-MJ era. That said, a conclusion to the Michael Jackson story was long overdue. The man had been haemorrhaging dignity for years now. His considerable, massive eccentricities had long overtaken his prodigious talent and his was an increasingly sad spectacle. I wasn’t aware until recently that the forthcoming London concerts were supposed to be fifty dates. Did anyone seriously believe that Michael Jackson was going to fulfill that promise, especially given his increasing notoriety for reneging on deals? I don’t wish to sound as if I’m happy the man died, I’m not. However, this was as good a time as any for this increasingly tragic tale to come to an end. Can anyone honestly say that they foresaw anything good in the next ten years, twenty years for Michael Jackson?

Part of the debate that I’ve witnessed over the last few days is between those who have revisited the (not inconsiderable) scandals that plagued Jackson and the fans who want to focus instead on the man’s immense cultural contribution, his status as easily one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived. My interest in Michael Jackson, however, has long been concerned with how his life story stands as a testament to the ways in which celebrity culture can completely destroy human beings, especially when it involves people who become famous initially when children. Celebrity, in this case allegedly combined with a considerable amount of child abuse (though I see it hard to doubt that Michael Jackson was an exploited and overworked child unless we think he was so good as to not need to rehearse any of the highly polished Jackson 5 routines), completely chewed this man up and spat him out. What was left in the end was something quite inevitably weird which few could possibly hope to understand or make sense of.

Making celebrities of children is a terrible idea and Michael Jackson has the dubious honour of serving as arguably the most extreme example thereof.

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A Baleful glance at Terminator Salvation

June 26, 2009

This is a guest post by Nick Mann.

Much has been made about just how bad the new Terminator movie is, but two things that I find people have been going easy on are: the idea of revitalizing the series in the first place, and Christian Bale’s performance.  I want to address these two things, because they are abstractly linked, at least in my mind.

First of all, revitalizing the series… I guess enough people that grew up with the first two James Cameron films have a special place in their hearts for the lore and characters those movies introduced into pop culture and would welcome an expansion of that world – provided it was done right.  I don’t count myself among that camp.  Personally, I was surprised that my friend David and other reviewers of the new film mentioned the ‘flashbacks to the future’ as some of the more impressive of the first two movies.  To me the scenes set in the future were just there to accompany some expository information which contextualized a story firmly set in the ‘present’ of 1980/90 society.

Maybe I shouldn’t go any further before admitting I’m not a HUGE fan of the first two films.  I thought the first one was a good, the second a great, film.  But they didn’t change my life.  The third film, not written, directed, or (in my opinion) even conceived of by Cameron is not worth discussing in association with the first two as it was a sloppy kind of ‘sequel’ in the classic sense – cashing in on the success of the original by simply trying to one-up the original (bigger explosions, more advanced robot, etc).  I would go so far as to say that, given the limited involvement of the original cast and crew; and with special effects that don’t hold a candle to the originals, despite advances in CGI in the interim between the films; it was pretty much of ‘straight-to-video’ quality.  All that the third one manged to do was ruin the first two a little bit. Here’s how… Read the rest of this entry ?

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Lee Byung-hun

June 22, 2009
Lee Byung-hun

Lee Byung-hun

It seems as part of what I’ve identified as a tendency towards “going native” I have begun to more fully appreciate Korea and Korean pop culture with each passing day. Concordantly, I have developed a filthy man-love crush on the dreamy Korean actor, Lee Byung-hun.

The first time I saw Lee Byung-hun was in the excellent Dalkomhan Insaeng (“A Bittersweet Life“) where his striking, uber-handsome turn as Sun-woo, the mob enforcer, was the main focus in an altogether beautiful and extraordinarily well made Korean gangster flick. Since then, various images of this ridiculously sexy individual have been gradually seeping into my life. I next saw Lee as the titular “Bad Guy” in the big-budget Korean action adventure film Joheunnom Nabbeunnom Isanghannom (“The Good, The Bad, The Weird“) when I caught a partial viewing on a flight last year. Soon, I was reading about his role in the upcoming G.I. Joe with Brit actress Sienna Miller tantalizing mentioning in interviews that she was working with the man with the best body in Korea. Now I find my local gym has a picture of Lee Byung-hun stripped to the waist adorning one of the walls. The chiseled cheekbones, ripped torso and the soulful eyes looking down at you, an East Asian image of perfection for mere mortals to hopelessly aspire to.

Swoon!

Swoon!

G.I. Joe is allegedly a complete piece of shit (even by the standards of the guy who made The Mummy flicks and Van Helsing!) but I may have to go and watch the sexiest man in my adopted home making his Hollywood debut as the dangerously gorgeous ninja-villain, Storm Shadow.

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Terminator: Salivation

June 22, 2009

So my title is a cheap-shot. An across-the-bow, off-the-cuff, moment of puerile frivolity. I was at a loss trying to conjure a decent gag out of the name of the new Terminator flick and so I just pulled the above out of my ass. Confession aside, it’s not entirely inappropriate given that the latest installment could quite accurately be described as the cinematic equivalent of excessive drool.

A few days before setting out to watch Terminator Salvation at the cinema I had the distinct pleasure of catching the original, The Terminator, on Korean cable TV. I am still puzzling over whether this resulted in me being in the best or worst possible condition for watching the fourth installment in the franchise shortly thereafter.

I was freshly primed with the details of the Terminator mythos as I went into the new movie so all the in-jokes and references in its (Terminator Salvation‘s) script seemed glaringly obvious, groan-inducing examples of lazy writing. It isn’t clever, charming or remotely witty to have a character once again utter “I’ll be back” or “Come with me if you want to live”, it’s insulting to the audience. Insulting, that is, unless the target audience are drooling (salivating!*) morons who will guffaw approvingly at such tawdry entertainment so as to gleefully waggle their slick, wet chins around in the cinema and feel a curious twinge of numbed satisfaction at having “got” the joke. Read the rest of this entry ?