Ocean Heaven (2010)

Ocean Heaven

Ocean Heaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“This film is dedicated to all the ordinary heroes among our parents”Ocean Heaven

*SPOILER ALERT*

Not the typical action film I was expecting from Jet Li–so  I was pleasantly surprised ^.^

What a lovely movie! Jet Li plays an ill father by the name of Wang Xingchang, who spends his last dying months, teaching his Autistic 21 year old son how to take care of himself.

What makes this film feel authentic is in the story development, which takes its time to mature, and of course, the little peices of humanity one feels when one recognizes the father is pushing through the pain, to make sure his son will be fine without him.

Really captures the little sacrifices (that mean SO much), that good parents do for the sake of their children. Whether something small like giving us the last chicken wing, or useful skills like teaching us  to find answers for ourselves; this film shows how love is immortality.

It’s the lets- make- things- into- a- fun- game- so- he- doesnt- realize- this- is good- bye- and-that- he- has- -to- fend- for- himself, that gets me all teary–and reminds of other great film-fathers like Roberto Benigni in “Life is Beautiful” (1997) , Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happiness” (2006), Brendan Fraiser in “Extraordinary Measures(2010) and Tom Hanks (my favorite actor) in Extremely Close And Incredibly Loud” (2011)

And may I add that it’s so refreshing to see films with the “father” character being an admirable positive role model, instead of the lazy iggit dads on tv (no offense to the entertaining Mr. Simpson and Mr. Griffin.)

7 Tips For Foreign Film Beginners

I LOVE the simplicity and utility of making “lists.” I make a list for just about everything: what I’m about to do, where I’m supposed to go, and of course, what I’m going to watch.

This  starter list, describe which foreign film characteristics may be easier to digest, for people who don’t normally watch foreign films–the do’s and don’ts if you will.

Find films that…..

Cover of "Absurdistan"

1) don’t have too many dialogue; in fact my favorite foreign films are the ones that are visually striking, and can evoke emotions with very little words spoken like Fiona Gordon & Dominique Abel’s “L’Iceberg” (French) or Veit helmer’s “Absurdistan” (Turkish.)

The Story of the Weeping Camel

2) are family friendly; movies like “Happy Times” and “The Story of The Weeping Camel” have the je ne sais quoi that I love about foreign films, but is easily relatable.

Amélie

3) are creative BUT not confusing; I love surrealist filmmakers like Jan Svankmajer  who might harmoniously mix character inner monologue with actions, but can often be confusing and can therefore be misunderstood.-Start with “Amelie” or “Billie Elliot” at first, as it is better to be able to appreciate complex films like “I Am A Cyborg, But It’s Okay” or “Wool 100%” when you can accept it as is.

Promotional poster for the US release of the C...

4) aren’t too long; magnificent films like Zhang Yang‘s “Sunflower”  and “Aftershock” by Feng Xiaongang are phenomenal films that can only do justice to character development, if the film’s plot took it’s time to unfold. An antsy beginner may not have the patience to watch a heavily dramatic film that is more than an hour,  and in turn may despise instead of understanding them.

Gong Li at the Cannes film festival

5) look for familiar faces; many talented foreign actors such as Gong Li, Audrey Tautou and Michael Caine have become internationally known and have crossed over and captivated Americans with their exotic charms. A familiar face may make it easier to follow an otherwise different culture.

6) sound familiar; and I don’t mean similar plots to typical Hollywood box-office hits. I mean, pick a language that is already familiar for you. Language such as Spanish or Italian may be easier to follow–just by tone and common day exposure alone! I’ve gotten used to subtitles, so much so that I turn captions on even when when watching regular American television (smh.) Which leads me to #7…

Rosario Tijeras

7) do not use subtitles as an excuse not to listen; at first, subtitles are crutches that aid us into the world of foreign languages. However, as you start absorbing the movie, you should slowly ween-off of  using subtitles alone, to understand the story. Sometimes, I am so involved in the narrative of story–like in “Rosario Tijeras”, that I forget it’s a foreign language ’cause it’s that engaging.

 

***But Of course, we all enjoy and appreciate films differently. I wish I knew which to watch first before I started; as I disrupted & shunned classic films like “Farewell My Concubine” because it didn’t interest me at first glance. Good luck at your ventures and always!

Aftershock (2010)

FlickJist: Which of your two children will you choose to save, if you can only save one? How would you  feel if you are not chosen—but survived?

Title: Aftershock

Release Date: July 22, 2010

Country: China

Directed by: Feng Xiaogang

Starring: Daoming Chen, Chen Li & Yi Lu

Other films by director(s):  If You Are The One (2008), A World Without Thieves (2004)

Aftershock is what movies are all about: to be able to express complex human emotions with the poetic license to us music, dialogue and visual storytelling.

It’s odd, because although the film is in Mandarin (Chinese dialect), the cinematic quality made me feel as though I was watching a western film. Used sparingly and only when required, digital effects can enhance (rather than destroy) the human experience (like too much 3D.) Either my education in digital media is paying off or I just watch too many movies, but it was bugging me to know that something feels different in this movie, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Naturally, I turned to Google and I found that Aftershock was produced by IMAX— making it the company’s first (and China’s first) internationally-produced digital media remastered (DMR) film!

As a student in film, I’ve experience how hard it is to re-create everyday simplicity—and end up being dramatic, unrealistic or scripted. This film however, was a happy marriage of feeling theatrical, all the while keeping a sense of authenticity. Usually I get lost in time period films if it’s suddenly brought into the future, because it feels unwarranted and displeasing. However, the 2 hours and 14 seconds of Aftershock didn’t feel like 2 hours, because the characters are well-developed; making it almost necessary to move on into present time.

The last scene of the movie is set in the memorial for the 242,769 who lost their lives from the 1976 Great Tangshan Earthquake (USGS.gov.) It makes me wonder, if this could happen to one family, imagine what the possible stories of the hundred thousands of people who also survived the earthquake?

Like I always say: great movies should always make you think. I’ll be thinking for days.

Castaway On The Moon (2009)

 FlickJist: I will never look at instant noodles the same way again.

Title: Castaway On The Moon

Release Date:  May 14, 2009

Country:  Korea

Directed By: Hae-jun-Lee

Starring:  Min-heui Hong, So-yeon Jang and Jae-yeong Jeong

Other films by director (s) Like A Virgin (2006), Au Revoir, UFO (2004)

I felt the strong urge to write about this film at 3:24am, having just watched it and fallen in love.  If I ever had to make a emergency review , this is one of them.

***SEMI-SPOILER ALERT***

A man attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge finds hope and self worth, in an unlikely place– a deserted island only a few reaches away (but not easily accessible)  from civilization.

If a movie can make black bean instant Jajangmyeon dramatic—it’s a GOOD movie. Truly inspirational WITHOUT being corny and force fed, THIS is what we all strive for in life. When you find someone or something worth the time and effort, whether intentionally or coincidentally, it forces you out of your shell.  We each of us have the power to trap ourselves into an island of our own creation…and perhaps it takes looking at someone else’s life to figure a way out. Nearly 2 hours at 1:56:15 minutes– I never wanted it to end!!!

The concept of no man is an island, has never been this appealing (nor has it ever been this captivating.)

Like all of my favorite foreign films, although the plot can often be farfetched, the film is so engaging that I want to believe that all of it is remotely possible; almost hoping it’s all possible. Unlike other films with realistic events, but horrible dialogue, this film has that certain je ne sais quoi (aside from being very well written) that I just adore.

Definitely one– if not my favorite Korean movie to date.

-JRB

 ***This movie was suggested by Research Techy & Guest Writer Danielle Parker who will also be posting her review on this film (and more)

6 Reasons To Watch Foreign Films

Wool 100% (2006)

As I posted in Why I Love Foreign Films: Magic Without Needing Graphics, I have particular reasons as to why I prefer foreign films over standard Hollywood box-office hits.

These are a few reasons why I think everyone should watch at least a few foreign films for leisure:

  1. Learn a different way of life- Although not all foreign films are realistic, most of the foundations are based on cultural or social norms and mores. Watching an obsessive amount of foreign films has made me adapt to loving the japanese dietary lifestyle. I’m not saying I’m an expert at using chop sticks ’cause I watch foreign films that involve chop sticks, but I am saying that since I’m exposed to it on a regular basis, that I am more likely to try new things. It could also be that Asian  films always have food or “eating”, as it is a vital part of our (speaking as an Asian-American) culture.
  2. See the world- sick of the everyday norm? watch a foreign film like The Story of The Weeping Camel  and you’ll see the vast contrast between your life, in comparison to a family of Mongolian nomads who round up camels and elks for a living. Watching foreign films ignited my desire to travel the world, but until the day I can afford it, I’ll live vicariously through movies.
  3. Learn a different language-  Okay. So you may not be able to speak French just by watching French films, but if you can’t tell one Asian culture from another and you think they all “look” or “sound” alike, by hearing different tones, dialects, and being acquainted with the expressions and mannerisms in multiple films, you may start to pick up slight differences.
  4. Tell better stories-  I have no doubt that watching an immense amount of films has made me a better story teller. Watching and learning how the deliverance of a story affects the outcome of how the story is perceived, makes a HUGE difference when trying to get a point across. I use my body, my face, my whole being when I tell a story, sometimes all I have to do is make a gesture and it’s hilarious. A foreign film like Rumba  that is 77 minutes long has very little dialogue, but I guarantee that if you watched it on mute you’d still laugh your butt off.
  5. Become cerebral- for those of you who don’t know what  the phrase “being cerebral” mean, watching a few foreign films may help make you feel smart. Not pretentious-smart where you pretend to understand what’s happening, but the exact opposite. Don’t ignore why you don’t understand a scene, think about why it’s happening. Why would we need to know that a lady that lives in a farm has a collection of baby shoes when she doesn’t have a child?! You tell me! Is it essential to character development or are they just being random?  Great movies (foreign or not) should always make you think! Challenge yourself and watch films that aren’t  dummy-proof. You’ll be surprised by how much the brain can understand, without taking the easy way out.
  6. Be aware of world issues- a lot of foreign films touch on subjects that people may not want to see, but have to know. Of course, they are no substitutes for the daily news, but the news cannot possibly inspire you to care as much as you would, if you were to watch a full story. Movies add a sense of wonder and value, to the human life that can be expressed through music and visual storytelling; something the news can’t touch  in under 1 minute. Humanizing people by adding character, background and personality makes the issue they are going through a lot more interesting.  I’m aware that as a woman living in America, I am blessed with the freedom of choice and the ability to pursue happiness (while others may not.) But I never felt so much gusto and determination to make my freedom count, till I saw The Stoning of Soraya.

Whether based on fact or totally imagined, movies (foreign or not) can be an entertaining way to see the world in a different light. Who knows…maybe your life’s purpose is only a movie away (just don’t forget to put the subtitles on ^-^)

-JRB

Time (2006)

Time (2006) FlickJist: Insecure lady gets a new face, but looses her mind

Title: Time

Release Date:  August 10, 2006

Country: Korea

Directed By: Ki-duk Kim

Starring: Jung-woo Ha, Ji-Yeon Park & Jun-yeong Jang

Other films by director (s): 3 Iron (2004)  Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall…Spring (2003)


“The South Korean Answer to Vertigo…a dance along the rim of insanity”, hailed John Anderson of NY Newsday), I found the tale of this twisted heroine (if you can call a crazy chick with severe body  dysmorphic issues that) surreal yet relatable.

I notice that a lot of my favorite foreign films have unbelievable plots, YET are so well told and executed with perfection, that the  suspension of disbelief  lingers to the point where you actually question “wait…is that actually possible?!”

Time forces you to recognize the ugly insecurities in past (or present) dysfunctional relationships you’ve had, with a cautionary tale of  you-never-know-what-you-have-till-it’s gone.  “A calmly assured spellbinder” (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune), both women and men will identify with disturbed Seh-hee, in that sometimes…we go a little koo-koo for the ones we love, and push the delicate balance of sanity towards disturbing.

A timely twist in the end that leaves you with the feeling of  confusion, all the while nodding in sense of  ” of course. It makes sense now…but not really?”, great movies should ALWAYS make you think.

-JRB

The Ghost of Movies Past

image

A bit dramatic I know, but it’s true. Yesterday I started making a list of foreign films I’ve already seen–from the year 2000 to present.

I just got back from the local library and added another +20. So far, I’ve listed 83…but will be bouncing from one library to another, before checking at last in Netflix with the help of Danielle Parker (’cause I’m too poor for Netflix at the moment.)

I couldn’t help myself (of course) so I rented 3 more films to watch lol, and will probably rent more from the next library. I am a woman obsessed!!!

THIS is going to take a while ^.^

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