Ninja Assassin is exactly what an action movie should be. Too often, most Hollywood Big-Budget action films spread their stories so thinly that they come off as silly and tacky. Sure, the argument could be made that they’re supposed to be mindless, so the lack of development is passable, but it is more than just a lack of development. Most of the time, action films try to at least give the appearance of having a real plot or emotionally complex characters even when all they are concerned with is fight scenes and big explosions. The difference with a film like Ninja Assassin is that there isn’t even anything here to even spread thin. The plot already barely exists. There is no pretense. Rather than feigning a narrative, it gets right to the point understanding that it is a waste to put any energy into an aspect of the film that is not in the slightest important.
Basically, there is a secret society that steals children and raises them to be trained ninja assassins. A “Europol” forensics reacher, Mika (Naomie Harris) uncovers a worldwide conspiracy involving multiple governments hiring these ninjas to carry out assassinations and she becomes a target. She eventually comes to be protected by a defector, Raizo (South Korean pop star Rain) of the group who betrayed his master when ordered to kill a traitor. The stories converge when not only do the assassins attempt to stop the investigation but try to kill the defector as well. Beyond that there is a thinly written lost love story and relationships between Raizo, Mika and Mika’s coworker developed only on the most superficial level. There is just enough to keep the story moving along at a reasonable pace while waiting for the next action scene.
The action scenes are fantastic. They are violent and gory without being gratuitous. Since much of the action takes place in shadows or in the dark, what would have otherwise have been over the top is rendered subtle and suspenseful. The editing is kinetic and unlike most action films, the action is not effaced by hyper ADD cuts. There are times when the camera doesn’t cut at all during action sequences. For example, during a scene in a large warehouse, instead of cutting to different shots, the camera circles Raizo and intermittently smash zooms into him. The scene also uses the slo-mo technique, but it is not overdone.
While the darkness of the action sequences can be scene as a problematic since most of the action is obscured, it turns the ninjas into something more than human. The feeling I got during some of the scenes, particularly everything in the warehouse, was that I was watching Aliens or Predator. It wasn’t that the ninjas had a supernatural quality, but their stealthness imbued them with a horrific quality. Seriously, the scene with Naomi Harris and the soldiers in the large corridors when the red lights are flashing reminds me so much of the scene in Aliens when the Xenomorphs are bearing down on the marines when they are coming through the ceiling.
The last thing I can think to say is in appreciation of a minor detail of the film. If only to add to its own awareness of its pulpy nature, the blood in the film was not only unrealistic but reminded me of the bright viscous blood of 70’s films that resembled paint more than it resembled blood.
He also has maybe my favorite quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
You know, it makes perfect sense that Chloe Sevigny plays the main character in this film. She is the iconic “celebrity hipster” that I guess is supposed to represent the whole Vice/Williamsburg Hipster Chic (Emphatically so when you consider that not only did she do the cover of Vice only a few months ago, but it was for their “90s throwback” anniversary issue. The whole “appropriation of the past” thing as a trend is perfectly on display here). Ironically enough, however, she is probably the least interesting character in this film with the least to say among everyone else. In fact, she is extremely boring. But maybe that was the point?
Last Days of Disco is, as the title suggests, about the waning days of Disco and how a group of friends are trying to get by in the big city while this is all happening. As I began to watch the film I cringed at the heavy handedness of the token era markers reminding everyone that this is a period piece. There is a point where self awareness becomes mere indulgence and artificiality. The characters come off as too obviously aware of the era they are living in and wax pseudo-philosophical through out the whole film about what this whole Disco era is supposed to mean.
And yet, as the film progressed, I became more drawn in and began to reevaluate this hyper awareness. Was the film aware of its own hyperawareness? Did many of these character come of as superficial albeit ironically self-aware because that very same awareness was what was superficial about them? The characters themselves are played seriously without a tinge of irony or self-effacement, but I get the feeling that the film as an object itself doesn’t necessarily respect these characters very much.
The reason I mentioned Chloe Sevigny first and in the way that I did is because if this is really at all what it was like in the 70s in New York City during disco, then not much has changed since then. Or maybe it did all change and it has finally come back. And in that sense, the film itself is very prescient. It came out twelve years ago and it represents every cliche or stereotype or judgement you will hear leveled at the Brooklyn Hipster set nowadays. And these cliches, stereotypes or judgements are impossible to deflect or to ignore especially when considering a film like this because of the level of awareness that are at play.
What I mean is, from many of the conversations I have had over the “hipster issue” you get so bogged down those levels of awareness that it ends up turning into an infinite regress that descends into meaningless. And from the proceeding dialogue the film itself is just as aware of this phenomenon as the characters it is critiquing:
Des McGrath: Do yuppies even exist? No one says, “I am a yuppie,” it’s always the other guy who’s a yuppie. I think for a group to exist, somebody has to admit to be part of it.
Dan Powers: Of course yuppies exist. Most people would say you two are prime specimens.
And to a lesser extent:
Des McGrath: Yuppie stands for “young upwardly mobile professional”. Nightclub flunkie is not a professional category. I wish we were yuppies. Young, upwardly mobile, professional. Those are *good* things, not bad things.
It’s unavoidable and impossible to even talk about. It’s not worth the fight, there will never be any resolution between either side. Just take my introduction for example. I come off as judgmental and critical but I don’t necessarily believe everything I said or agree that if those critiques were true that they would be a bad thing.
Among these shallow moments of self-awareness however, there are some that shine as at least seeming to be sincere. Maybe because this is a question I have asked myself before, but this piece of dialogue really stood out for me:
Des McGrath: You know that Shakespearean admonition, “To thine own self be true”? It’s premised on the idea that “thine own self” is something pretty good, being true to which is commendable. But what if “thine own self” is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad? Would it be better, in that case, *not* to be true to thine own self?… See, that’s my situation.
But now that I think of it again, and when you consider that it was this Shakespearean quote along with “Et Tu Brut” that were chosen by the characters to discuss, you realize that although each character comes off as intellectual, they’ve just chosen quotes that even people who haven’t even read Shakespeare know. They’re all pretense. It’s as if they’re both complex and shallow at the same time.
This is especially exemplified by what Tom says to Alice after they meet again in the club after having sex. He saw right through her attempt to be the shallow sex prowler at the club and called her out on it later on. (Uncle Scrooge? Sexy? Ridiculous!) She has chosen to be shallow even though she is intelligent. Although by the end of the movie she’s moved on (Or has she?)
The film ends with with a monologue that is one of the worst era-aware perpetrators. It sounds so artificial, so after-its-time, that it just sounds written. Nobody talks like this when they’re living in the era they are talking about. It sounds like a thesis. Eras for the most part are usually named or qualified years after they have disappeared or evolved.
Josh Neff: Disco will never be over. It will always live in our minds and hearts. Something like this, that was this big, and this important, and this great, will never die. Oh, for a few years - maybe many years - it’ll be considered passé and ridiculous. It will be misrepresented and caricatured and sneered at, or - worse - completely ignored. People will laugh about John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, white polyester suits and platform shoes and people going like *this*
[strikes disco pose]
Josh Neff: , but we had nothing to do with those things and still loved disco. Those who didn’t understand will never understand: disco was much more, and much better, than all that. Disco was too great, and too much fun, to be gone forever! It’s got to come back someday. I just hope it will be in our own lifetimes.
[Des, Charlotte, Dan, and Van stare at Josh like he’s crazy]
Josh Neff: …Sorry, I’ve got a job interview this afternoon and I was just trying to get revved up, but… most of what I said, I, um… believe.
It’s down right silly to hear him talk like this. It can’t be real. But maybe it is. You can see that he plays it off as if he was just revved up and went off on a silly thought that he decided to expand upon. But even after this he states that he believes it. Self-Awareness and Irony get to a point where you start intellectualizing your own era before it’s even over. You become aware of the fact that you are aware no matter how silly you sound in the effort. He puts up a wall to shield himself from his own sentimentality by reframing it ironically. And people talk like this even now. I know I have been guilty of it. You try so hard to explain or describe something large than you, without realizing how futile the attempt is. You still do it no matter how shallow you may sound.
In the end you either fool yourself into believing you’re ready to become normal or you embrace your own shallowness and accept it. Probably the two most sincere characters are Des and Charlotte. “Settling down is just a way of killing your night life”. They know how shallow they are and they don’t care.
Everything Charlotte says in the movie comes of as so quantified and explanatory of everything that she seems to reduce it to a formula which if anything foregrounds her own artificiality and her own awareness of it. And everything Des says everyone else sees right through as a way of putting on a front to get things.
Josh Neff puts it perfectly when he’s meeting with Alice.
Josh Neff: Did he tell you the story about how he was traumatized by a Radcliffe girl taking off her shirt, suddenly revealing her largish breasts, which he never thought about before? He tells that story all the time. To get sympathy and to justify himself as if he were the victim of female aggressiveness and duplicity.
Alice Kinnon:That wasn’t true?
Josh Neff: No, it was true. He was the victim of female aggressiveness and duplicity, but so was everyone else. Not everyone then went on a rampage exploiting the opposite sex.
Alice Kinnon: He thinks his problem is just that he falls in love a lot
Josh Neff: Well a lot of people fall in love a lot.
Des creates something out of nothing by using his own problems as a pretense when his problems aren’t really problems, they’re simply the kind of thing that any normal person goes through. It’s strange that the two most shallow characters in the film end up being the more honest with themselves.
Alice Kinnon and Josh Neff seem to believe they are becoming “normal” when it fact they are just as superficial in their attempts to become what is quantifiably normal. Alice through out the entire film, like I said, barely says anything. Everything is just going on around her and she becomes a tableaux for that influence to impress upon her. But she isn’t even aware of it. Josh appears to be starting to become aware of this about himself, but like I mentioned above, he corrects himself by reaffirming his beliefs.
I apologize for my lack of brevity.
The Ipad is just the first step in making productions more interactive. And it’s that very interactivity that will actually incentivize the actual purchase rather than pirating of material. When individuals are allowed to participate they are more willing to contribute or give back. Give the power of the creative process or production to the amateurs and they will no longer feel like passive consumers. This is important. Not only does incentivizing encourage participation but it creates a community of creatives and subsequently a plurality of ideas. The more ideas, the more possibilities and the more variety in art.
There are some people who opposed this idea (Ahem, Lanier) and believe instead in the elevation of the individual genius as a way of retaining the spirit of the artwork. As if incentivizing that individual success and impact of the individual’s creative work at the detriment of other people somehow fuels the value that artwork is supposed to have. I fundamentally disagree with this idea especially since this idea of the individual genius is so exclusionary. The value of an artwork isn’t directly synonymous with economic success. The more people who fancy themselves creative, the more that creativity spreads and the less stifled and passive people will feel.
We are living and will continue to be living in an “idea culture”. The more people who are willing to participate in this kind of community, the better. The more people who feel as though they have something to say instead of quieting themselves in the shadow of a “genius” the more potential we have as a society for a more colorful and multifaceted culture. It is wrong to believe we should be passive consumers of the the genius’s work. That is intellectually oppressive and narrow-minded. There should be just as many ideas as there are people and just as many works of art as there are people. And each of those works of art should not be a passively framed painting on a wall but something that in its own functionality recontributes to society.
Here are some key quotes from the article:
there is more of a future in media consumption for those producers who create the whole environment. This has definitely been done by many movies and shows but usually with more of a consumption-of-information about the show, rather than a rich interactive experience where fans of the show are as important as the producers.
Such an experience would be almost a cross between a typical television program and a video game environment. Sure programming is part of what can be consumed on the site; but there are competitions, games, back stories;
Any unauthorized distribution of content will only be distribution the content, not the experience of the program in its full glory.
…summarize their approach as CwF + RtB = financial success: Connect with Fans and give them a Reason to Buy some scarce goods.
I agree that CwF + RtB is part of the future: we can’t charge for infinitely distributable digital goods but we can charge for scare goods (or services) promoted by the music.
That the meteorite is a source of the light
And the meteor’s just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee
And the meteorite’s just what causes the light
And the meteor’s how it’s perceived
And the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee
Here is an excerpt:
“Psychologist Professor James Cutting and his team from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, analyzed 150 high-grossing Hollywood films released from 1935 to 2005 and discovered the shot lengths in the more recent movies followed the same mathematical pattern that describes the human attention span.” … “Cutting made his discovery by measuring the length of every shot in 150 comedy, drama and action films, and then converted the measurements into waves for every movie. He found that the more recent the films were, the more likely they were to obey the 1/f fluctuation, and this did not just apply to fast action movies. Cutting said the significant thing is that shots of similar lengths recur in a regular pattern through the film.”
Read more: The Editing of Successful Hollywood Movies Follows a Mathematical Formula | /Film http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/02/23/the-editing-of-successful-hollywood-movies-follow-a-mathematical-formula/#ixzz0gPKqisp6
Of course, the name of the professor who lead this research is named “Cutting”. Of course.
There isn’t much I can think to say about this film at the moment, which is not to say there is nothing to say about it. A Serious Man is a film loaded with meaning, too much for me to go into here, especially since it’s been days since I watched it.
However, I found it both peculiar and fascinating how little appears to be happening in this film. It is as if the entire film is building up to some large explosion, but without ever showing the explosion. It could really be summed up up by pointing to the scene(s) of the bully chasing but never catching Danny Gopnik. Which is then even more emphasized by the fact that when Danny can finally give the bully the 20 dollars he owes him, probably the most dramatic event in the film prevents him from doing so.
A pointlessness, or rather an insignificance permeates the film. Each of the characters are trying to get somewhere or be something, or earn something, but it never leads to anything profound. It never leads to a resolution. The only resolution the film has is to heap tragedy on all the characters right as it is ending. The profundity of their lives is sucked right out just and there lives become just as superficial as the Rabbi’s story of the carved teeth. It doesn’t matter if the message means anything, but nothing matters. It just is. No matter what good or bad happens, these are personal judgements imposed upon an indifferent reality. Nature and sickness happen.
It reminds me of how I felt after seeing Watchmen, but in a more positive light. When I left that film, the only thing I could think to say about it was, “Watchmen is -“. That’s it, it was so hollow of any real meaning that it was impossible for it to do anything but exist. It was a major problem for a film whose source material had so much purpose and character development. It wasn’t simply reduced to its most superficial qualities, it also meandered and moved places without any real resolution. Things just happened with no resolution or reason. But not because they couldn’t have resolution or reason, just that nothing was fleshed out in any satisfying way. It was like floating in space but not even knowing how you got there, not even feeling like a dream. You really just materialize into space with no explanation.
But I digress. While that feeling of nothingness and shallowness was a problematic for the film Watchmen, it the foregrounding of that very same feeling that is A Serious Man’s most important quality. It is perfectly aware of its own insignificance. It starts off profound through the period prologue suggesting a trope that will continue through the film. However, it never really does. Everything escalates, then deflates, and after a kind of normalizing during the third act of the film, the final two bombs are dropped right before the end credits.
Later in the night after watching the film and processing it, I texted my friend Matt asking him if he thought the film was about “nothing”. I wish I had not erased my inbox or else I would have posted his brief response. The reason I had asked him, however, was that I was motivated by his explanation to me of the “Seinfeldian Nothing”. Seinfeld is a show that calls itself “A Show About Nothing”. Well obviously, things are happening in the show, but what makes it different from other sitcoms is that that kind of dramatic turns that would typically occur are either absent or reserved for the conclusion of the show. There is nothing climatic or overdrawn about episodes of the show. This concept of nothing then operates relativistically to the type of drama that one expects from a television production. Nothing functions as something more realistic when compared to the artificiality to the events that occur typically on a sitcom. Profundity is stripped away for simple “happenings” that we are used to in our everyday lives which would explain why most fans of the show find it so easy to compare to their own lives.
(minor spoilers now)
It is interesting that two of the most important plot points that are both revealed at the beginning of the film are not only not resolved/unresolved until the end of the film, but they barely remain present through the entire film. They only come back later on to remind the characters of their own insignificance when it is assumed things may finally be looking up.
In other words cancer doesn’t care if you’re granted tenure and nature, in this case a tornado, doesn’t care if you can finally pay the bully back.