May 16th, 2005


Well, I've been a bit slow updating lately, both because of busy-ness at work and home, but also because my attempts to upgrade my internet service to DSL have so far flopped, with the result that neither DSL nor dial-up is working. Rats! I'm in the process of replacing the modem I was sent, and also fixing my browsers, which seem to have become corruped in the process--.

The spring continues in a sort of stasis. The continued cold weather has made the daffodils and tulips hang on longer than I've ever seen, but everything else is well behind time.

We've caught a number of movies recently:

Kung Fu Hustle: Probably the wierdest movie of the year so far. Set in a "mythic China" of the 1950's according to the cars (perhaps Kowloon) this split personality picture starts out as a classic gangster movie with a very brutal set-up killing in which the Axe Gang becomes (almost) undisputed masters of the city's underworld. The immediately celebrate with a dance number. After that, we have a blend of traditional martial arts movie blended with Warner Brothers cartoon. Two down and out grifters attempt to shakedown "Pig Sty Alley", probably the poorest slum in town, pretending to be Axe Gang members. They get their butts kicked by the ragged denizens, which altercation drags in the real Axe Gang, who are also repulsed when several of the locals turn out to be retired kung-fu masters living in seclusion. Since the Axe Gang can't afford to lose face, this results in an ever more fantastic escalation of kung-fu battles until the Axe Gang brings out what they believe to be the ultimate kung-fu assassin--.

Besides the overt cartoon references, the film is rife with other references, including that the Axe Gang all wear top hats (a reference to Bill the Butcher's gang in "Gangs of New York,") and black suits, which make some of the battles distinctly resemble those between Neo and the multiplexed Agent Smith--.

Once past the rather shocking opening scene, the violence is all of the kung-fu movie style, with little gore and lots of flying, leaping, throwing, etc. Very good fun if you care for the genre. If not, it's probably a waste.

Key Largo

Partly as research for our upcoming film noir party at WisCon, we went to our local art house to see "Key Largo," a classic featuring Humphrey Bogart, lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, and Lionel Barrymore. Bogart is a soldier returned from World War II, visiting the out-of-the-way Key in the steaming off season to visit his fallen comrade's father and widow. He is disgusted to find their resort infested by Robinson and his thugs--a Prohibition Era gangster, since deported, trying to regain a foothold in the USA. "Johnny Rocco" represents all that Bogart's character fought against in Italy, but his disillusionment with events since the war makes him wonder if it is worth risking his life to fight yet another petty tyrant. The tension within is echoed by the tension without as a hurricane gathers. John Huston does a brilliant job of directing the contrast between true courage and the treacherous bravado of the criminals. A real gem of the cinema.