a Healthy Disdain


In the grand tradition of Jesse’s Diets, here’s what I’ve been watching this week:

My second and third viewings of Fantastic Mr. Fox cemented Wes Anderson’s stop-motion gem as a recent personal favorite, and compelled me to extol its virtues to the Internet at large, via this very blog.  Although it was criminally under-appreciated by cinemagoers, if not by critics, I’m hoping it’ll get the love it so richly deserves now that it’s available on DVD, and in an outstanding Blu-ray edition, from (who else but) Fox Home Entertainment…

Having greatly enjoyed both The Host (2006), and Mother – which recently debuted in North America to rave reviews – I thought it high time I check out 2003’s Memories of Murder, the film that heralded Bong Joon-ho as a luminary of new Asian cinema.  Like his compatriot Park Chan-wook, Bong’s film’s trade in dark subject-matter, but exude an invigorating originality that defies genre convention.  True to form, Memories of Murder is somehow a thrilling, tragic, and uproarious procedural, based on the case of South Korea’s first documented serial killer.  The built-in bonus for foreign viewers is that the film’s haunting final frames will arrive as a genuine surprise…

Black Dynamite may have been in and out of theatres faster than you can say “bad muthaf–”, but this 70s blaxploitation spoof – out now on DVD and Blu-ray – has all the makings of a future cult classic.  These include laughably authentic (i.e. poor) production values, a comically nonsensical plot, and, most importantly, a comprehensive sense of its own absurdity.  While the gags do begin to wear thin over its 90-minute run time, Michael Jai White’s charisma and surprisingly legit action chops quite literally save the day.  Which is to say nothing of his ladykilling winks and smiles…

After managing to sleep on Mulholland Dr. for nearly nine years, I was increasingly taken aback to see it crop up in several recent “Best of the Decade” pieces, and often in the # 1 spot.  Quite whether it’s the decade’s best may be up for debate, but having now belatedly experienced David Lynch’s fever dream neo-noir, I can certainly attest to its standing as a contemporary masterpiece.  Indeed, given all the praise the film has garnered, I’m not sure what I can add – other than to note that I wasn’t in any way disappointed, despite what became a great weight of expectation.  It may well reappear in next week’s post, as I need to get on that second viewing ASAP…

Speaking of which, I also managed to return to Blue Velvet, which, unlike Mulholland Dr., hadn’t totally lived up to its reputation the first time around.  What shocked and awed back in ’86 simply hadn’t blown me away in 2010.  After a second viewing, however,  I can begin to appreciate where its rapturous supporters are coming from.  Whether it was Mulholland Dr.‘s magnificent afterglow, a greater context for Lynchian noir, restrained expectations, or all three, my most recent impressions are that Blue Velvet, in fact, holds up remarkably well.  It turns out that this David Lynch guy is actually pretty darn good.  Who knew?



Not to beat up on Hot Tub Time Machine, but it’s difficult to peruse this week’s “Now Playing” listings without experiencing the vague sensation that your intelligence is being insulted.  In truth, that’s nothing new, and as with most weeks, if you’re willing to ignore the marketing blitz for whatever 3-D Hollywood hack job that happens to be premiering, there’s usually at least one film to be found that’s genuinely worth your while.

This week, that film is Mother, the latest in a trio of thrillers that affirm writer/director Bong Joon-ho as one of the hottest talents in world cinema.  Like his North American breakout, The Host, and South Korean sensation, Memories of Murder Mother is yet another demonstration of Bong’s unique aptitude for marrying horror, hilarity, and genuine pathos.

Bong also appears to revel in subverting audience expectations, and does so, in Mother, by casting 68-year-old Kim Hye-ja in the title role.  Beloved in her home country as a matronly TV mom, Bong transforms Kim into an irrepressible manifestation of maternal fervor, more ruthless – yet more real – than Tarantino’s Bride.  Hers is a roaring rampage for justice when her mentally challenged, grown-up son is conned by police into confessing to the murder of a local school girl.  The audaciously unpredictable plotting is typical of Bong, but it’s Kim’s bravura performance that truly needs to be seen to be believed.  Mother is currently playing on select screens across North America, including at the Cumberland in Toronto, so catch it while you’ve got the chance.

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