Wednesday, May 30, 2007

MY WALK OF SHAME. Everyone has their dirty little secrets. Those ugly facts about ourselves which we keep hidden in the dark, dark recesses of our unexamined lives. I am no different. I have a secret shame that I keep covered up; far from the prying eyes of passersby. But now I've decided to come clean. Kick off the shackles of silence and confess my dirty little secret. So here goes:
As a self-confessed major movie fan, I have to admit that there are some MAJOR MAJOR motion pictures which I've never actually seen. . .and I should have. I know I know. You gasp! You reel back in disgust. But it's true. Some of the biggest films . . . films EVER movie buff should have seen . . . I haven't seen. It's not that I don't WANT to see them; I just never have had the opportunity. Or the stars weren't aligned just right. Or something. These are FAMOUS movies, folks! I stand disgraced and sullen. So try not to think less of me (I know it's IMPOSSIBLE to think any LESS of me), try to control your shock when I admit to NOT having seen the following films:
STAGECOACH (1939) directed by John Ford starring John Wayne.
NIAGARA (1953) with Marilyn Monroe
THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) I heard a gasp coming from Souf Joisey.
ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) with Marlon Brando
MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936) directed by Frank Capra with Gary Cooper
CAMILLE (1936) with Greta Garbo
GRAND HOTEL (1932) with Garbo, Barrymore, Crawford, Barrymore, etc.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) with Liz Taylor & Paul Newman
YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939) with Henry Fonda
ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959) with Jimmy Stewart
CAPE FEAR (either one)
THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) with Tyrone Power
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) with Sidney Poitier
MRS. MINIVER (1942) with Greer Garson
DINNER AT EIGHT (1933) with Jean Harlow, John Barrymore etc.
OF MICE AND MEN (1939) with Burgess Meredith & Lon Chaney Jr.
SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941) directed by Preston Sturges
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943) with Jennifer Jones
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1958) with Spencer Tracy
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) with Judy Garland
THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946) with Judy Garland
SILK STOCKINGS (1957) with Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse
ON THE TOWN (19595) with Gene Kelly & Frank Sinatra
CABARET (1972) with Liza Minnelli
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) directed by Martin Scorcese
SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa
BAMBI (1942) yeah, I said it.
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975) with Jack Nicholson
THE ENTIRE "DOLLARS" TRILOGY starring Clint Eastwood
CASINO (1995) directed by Scorcese
Geez, what the hell was I watching all these years??? Ernest Goes To Camp?!?!? Of course, if ANYONE would like to donate free copies of these movies. . .

Monday, May 28, 2007

As happy as I was before to acquire those other items, I am THAT MUCH STOKED-ER because I finally AT LONG LAST managed to pick up the perfect item; the one I kept getting outbid on ... but not THIS time! This is another singing bowl but this time it's a MASTER grade bowl according to the grading system on these things. Basically the grading system rates the tone of a singing bowl from 0-100. Well, this one was rated a 99.9; making it master grade. It's really tip tops in healing bowls, it's tone sounds in my personal fave key of "G" (throat chakra note) and the tone will continue sounding for 3-4 minutes before it ends. It's also frikkin' humongous: 11.50" in diameter and 4.5" high -- and the sucker weighs over 4 lbs. Once again, I've provided 3 views of the beauty ... mostly so I can drool over it at work until it arrives. The first photo is a side view, the second inside and the third the bottom. How gorgeous is that?!? As someone once said: "Holy Mittens in Heaven!" But fear not, gentle reader, since this one required a somewhat large layout of a chunk of change, I won't be acquiring anything in the near future; this means you will be spared (for a time) having to sit here while I jump around displaying my boodle! In fact, I may be lunching on water and Fink's peanut butter for awhile. Ah, but I'll have all this loot to keep me company. Take a picture, folks. I'm a happy boy! It CAN'T last long!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Well, wait a minute ... not THAT kind of crow. Crow T. Robot is rad but I'm not talking about him right now. I just had to crow about some new stuff I was lucky enough to pick up because I'm a little proud of them and . . .well . . . I had to brag to somebody. You're elected. But hey, at least you get to look at some pretty pictures.
The first item on our hit parade is my brand new (new for ME not newly made) 108 bead bodhi seed mala. Ain't it a beaut? You see, the Buddha was sitting underneath a bodhi tree when he became enlightened. And while I had more than several malas already (including a bodhi seed wrist mala), I never had a long 108 bead bodhi see mala until now. There are also several plusses about this one: besides the three tassels (you usually get only one), it has spacers of turquoise each surrounded by red coral beads and Tibetan silver rings (as you can see from the photo). Not to mention the two ring counters and the Tibetan silver bell and dorje.
Second on our hit parade is this set of 4 polystone Tibetan Dyana Buddhas. I first only wanted one but then I dug around and found I could get 4 of em for only a little bit more. So guess what I did. That's right. I gottem all. Well, I'm an only child, right? So you saw THAT coming a mile away. Anyway, here we have a photo; as you will no doubt notice each Buddha is in a different Mudras. And all the Lost fans among you will notice the one in the front left is giving the Namaste (hands together) gesture. Each of the little guys is about 4.5 " tall.
Last but certainly nowhere near least . . . I finally FINALLY managed to get myself a singing bowl. I've wanted one for eons and this one appealed to me. It's a little'un (about 5 inches in diameter). Also, this bowl "sings" in the key of "G" (which I've found I relate to the most); the "G" note represents the "throat chakra" and provides a beautiful, soothing sound which can be used for relaxation, stress reduction and healing. Now, a singing bowl is either struck with a leather-wrapped wooden mallet (called "gonging") or you play the bowl as follows: you hold the singing bowl in your hand, take the mallet and, with an even pressure, run the mallet around the outside of the bowl. You actually use an arm movement as if you are stirring a big kettle of soup. The bowl will sing. This one here is hand etched all around with the Buddhist prayer for peace (Om Mane Padme Om" (seen in the first photo), inside it has etched the "Phumpa" Wealth vase (second photo) and on the bottom is the "Double Dorji" for Wisdom and Wealth (third photo).
Anyway, I think it's keen.

Friday, May 25, 2007

CHILLBLAINES: THE BEST CHILDREN'S MOVIES (IN MY HUMBLE). Now, I've always said that I'd like to see a lot LESS of everyone's inner child and a lot MORE of their OUTER ADULTS. Having said this, I must stress that this refers to BEHAVIOUR and not viewing preferences. So, when I think about my favourite kiddy movies, here are the ones I think of: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Disney meets Jules Verne! James Mason is an incredible Captain Nemo. And we get Kirk Douglas AND Peter Lorre playing off each other. Not to mention one of the greatest designs in cinema history: the Nautilus.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks - Mary Poppins lite. Sure. Hey, it even has David Tomlinson. But this has a lot to offer; like it's a lot more "witchy". Overtly. Angela Lansbury (or is that Sir Paul McCartney) plays a witch-in-training during World War II. 3 children are evacuated to her country house during the London blitz; Angela ain't too thrilled (refreshingly). When the Nazis invade, it's up to Angela, the ghosts of British wars past and "substitutiarilocomotion" to save the day.
Benji - OK, when I was a little kid I badgered EVERYONE to take me to see this film in the theater. So I must have seen it about 7 times. It still makes me cry like a lil beeyotch.
A Christmas Story - You'll shoot your eye out.
Fantasia - I liked this one even WITHOUT hallucinogens. Yes, Bela Lugosi was the basis for the drawing of the "Night on Bald Mountain" demon. No, I dont like the "Rite of Spring" dinosaur section AT ALL.
Finding Nemo - Can I help you?
The Fox and the Hound Ahhwoooooowooooowoooowooowoooooooooo. Cry at this one too. (Hiya Cheekies!)
The House Without A Christmas Tree - Was obsessed with finding this early-70's TV movie for decades. Now I got it. Jason Robards plays the gruff father who won't let his daughter have a Christmas tree in the house. Too painful memories of his dead wife. Now the girl and her grandmother (played by the wonderful Mildred Natwick) have to work on the guy and melt his heart.
The Jungle Book - Really. The "I Wanna Be Like You" sequence with King Louis (Prima) and Babaloo (Phil Harris) is one of the most classic Disney scenes EVER.
Labyrinth - Yeah, I always had a strong crush on Jennifer Connelly. We were about the same age so it's OK. Strangely enough I love this movie but HATE The Dark Crystal. Well, Jennifer Connelly wasn't in the Dark Crystal. And neither was Bowie. So, there probably lies the tale.
Lady and the Tramp - simply one of the best Disney movies EVER. Plus one of the most romantic scenes in movie history (the "Bella Notte" scene with the spaghetti, of course). Notice I said in ALL movie history; not in ANIMATED movie history. Quite simply this scene outdoes 2/3rds of ALL other romantic scenes in LIVE ACTION movies. Completely.
Mad Monster Party - Take the classic Rankin-Bass "claymation"-type animation they used in Rudolf and all those other Christmas specials and apply it to a movie-length Halloween film with the voice of Boris Karloff in it and waddaya get? A TV classic. All this and the song "Do the Mummy" too!
Mary Poppins - I guess this is probably my favourite Disney movie bar none. I love it from beginning to end. I've seen it hundreds of times. And I'll watch in many hundreds more. Funnily enough, again, I HATE The Sound of Music.
Matilda - One of the funniest kids movies ever made. Pam Ferris and the school principal from hell (Agatha Trunchbull) is one of the greatest screen portrayals of all time. Roald Dahl's story perfectly brought to life on the screen. Even if it IS named after that thing we used to push the cucumbers down into the vegetable slicer at Rustler with.
Peter Pan - The second star to the right.
Return To Oz - The REAL adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. A Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) that is the correct age. The genuine SCARINESS is kept in the film (as it should be) as well as the bizarreness which was softened for the 1939 Wizard of Oz.
The Secret Garden - One of the best children's movies EVER MADE. This is the superb 1993 version which captures the magical qualities necessary to make the garden really evoke a lost childhood oasis. I wish I had a secret garden like that. And I'll take the spooky old mansion that goes with it TOO! Paradise!
Sleeping Beauty - The scary second half is terrifying and action-packed. Maleficent is one of the greatest Disney villains (and I'd like to marry her what a hottie). Um, OK let's move on.
Time Bandits - Terry Gilliam's delightfully Pythonesque tales of a little boys and a band of "little people" who steal a map that allows them to travel back and forth through time.
Treasure Island - Terrific adaptation of a classic novel. Robert Newton is the quintessential Long John Silver. Along with 20,000 Leagues, one of the best of the "dramatic adventure" live action Disneys.
The Water Babies - This is a perverse love of mine. I adored this movie as a kid. Watching it now kinda makes me cringe. But it still has a soft spot in my heart. Hell, it's got James Mason AND Bernard Cribbins as two criminal ne'er-do-wells. And it's got animation mixed with live action. AND it tries shamelessly to be Mary Poppins. AND it has a KRAKEN!
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory - Haven't seen the remake. I love Johnny Depp but Gene Wilder will always be the quintessential Willy Wonka to me. This movie is simply perfection. I can't really back up my thoughts that the remake was a remake that didn't need to be made but I suspect I'm right about that. And as a little kid, I got the ice cold shivers during this scene: "Up the airy mountain, down the rushing glen, we daren't go a-hunting for FEAR of little men!" Brrrr, I got chills AGAIN!
The Wizard of Oz - What can I say? This one is a stone classic and there's nothing I (nor Peter David) can say to convince anyone to the contrary. Sure it doesn't even have internal logic. Sure "Return To Oz" is a MUCH better Baum adaptation. But hey, you gotta love this one, right?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Perhaps it's Davy's Dinghy then?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mosura ya Mosura
Dongan kasakuyan
Indo muu
Rusuto uiraadoa
Hanba hanbamuyan
Randa banunradan
Kasaku yaanmu
What all dat up dere means (in Malay):
Mothra O Mothra
If we were to call for help
Over time
Over sea
Like a wave you'd come
Our guardian angel
Mothra O Mothra
Of forgotten kindness
And ruined spirits
We pray for the people's
Spirit as we sing
This song of love

Monday, May 21, 2007

FINALLY! CECE PENISTON! Oh. No. Wait a minute . . . FINALLY AT LAST THE SOLUTION TO THE FIVE HOUSES BRAINBUSTER. The answers to the 2 questions are:
QUESTION 1: The Russian drinks diet soda.
QUESTION 2: The American owns a spider monkey.
Here's how they all shook out. The order of the houses appears up top there.
Russian man
plays racquetball
owns a camel
drinks diet soda.
plays pool
owns a rat
drinks coffee
plays backgammon
owns a toad
drinks milk
plays solitaire
owns a puppy
drinks vodka
THE GREEN HOUSE: American plays charades owns spider monkey
drinks lemonade
When broken down this way, the five houses fulfill all 15 statements. Thanks to everyone who played. I hope you had fun and didn't lose your mind TOO much.
Since there was no winner, the prize (of a kiss from me) will not be awarded. Just a news flash, though: the kiss I was gonna give ya was made by Hershey. So get over your bad selves!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

HEY! THAT AIN'T ENGLISH (PART DEUX). Concluding the list of fave foreign language films, we pick up again with the second half of the alphabet.
M (1931).
Country of origin: Germany. This is the one that catapulted Peter Lorre to world fame. Lorre gives an absolutely stunning performance as a child murderer hunted by both the police AND the criminal underworld. His final speech is devastating. One of Fritz Lang's best films.
Matango (1963) aka Attack of the Mushroom People.
Country of origin: Japan. The American title is stupid; disregard it. It's also hard to believe the Matango was made by the same people who thrilled the kiddies with all those Godzilla movies; this one, however, is very adult in theme and execution. A group of rather unlikeable people is shipwrecked on a mysterious island with black sand and creeping parasitic fungus. One by one the starving castaways eat the fungus and. . .well, let's just say the film is something akin to a Japanese "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Spooky and suspenseful. The dynamics between the survivors is fascinating.
Meng gui da sha (1987) aka Thunder Cops.
Country of origin: Hong Kong. OK, how to describe THIS one? Well, police set up a sting operation in an apartment building. Trouble is: the building's haunted. This is a horror comedy that never lets up. Particularly memorable is the disembodied (and homicidal) flying woman's head which chases (and IS chased) all over the apartment building as if jet propelled.
Odishon (1999) aka Audition.
Country of origin: Japan. Takashi Miike hits a hammer blow with this one. The first half is a total romantic drama with a lonely widower seeking a woman to marry. Suddenly, without warning, the film takes a full 180 in the second half into gut-wrenching horror. This is one where I actually looked away from the screen. "Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri."
Onibaba (1964).
Country of origin: Japan. Absolutely beautiful black & white photography graces this haunting tale of two women (a young girl and her harpy of a mother-in-law) who have to survive by waylaying soldiers, bumping them off and stealing their armour and personal possessions. The story takes place in 14th feudal Japan among the mysterious swaying swamp grasses which are taller than a man. This sea of reeds almost becomes a character itself. Fear and mistrust run rampant through this almost Hitchcockian psychodrama. Oh yes, and then there's that mask which seems to have a will of its own.
Ringu (1998).
Country of origin: Japan. This is really the one that started the whole Japanese horror boom of the late nineties-early aughties. The American remake "The Ring" was only about 10% as scary as the original Japanese film concerning the haunted video tape that, once you watch it, will kill you in 7 days. It's because of this film we all know to be uneasy around pale women with long black hair. Overfamiliarity may have blunted some of the startling power of this film but the spooky suspense is slowly built up throughout the picture beautifully. Then the final scary payoff STILL packs quite a punch.
Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji Tit Ma Lau (1993) aka Iron Monkey.
Country of origin: Hong Kong. Here we have a wonderful martial arts fantasy featuring a Robin Hood-type vigilante named Iron Monkey who battles injustice. Spectacular martial arts stunts. A nice treat for Chinese martial arts fans is the fact that the little boy kicking major ass in this film is actually Wong Fei-Hung: the legendary (but actual historical personage) who was sort-of a Chinese Robin Hood character. Wong Fei-Hung appears in many Chinese martial arts films; most notably the Jet Li "Once Upon A Time in China" series.
Terrore nella spazio (1965) aka Planet of the Vampires.
Country of origin: Italy. Maestro Mario Bava directs this movie which gave me the shivering willies when I first saw it as a kid. The ending floored me. And so did those cool black leather space suits (which seem to be echoed slightly in the costumes of the X-Men movies. . .just a thought). Here we have a crew of space explorers (headed by token American actor Barry Sullivan for marquee value back in the States) crash landing on a planet which just happens to be inhabited by vampires. One by one each crew member is "vampirized" as the dwindling human crew members desperately try to get off the planet. I'm slightly cheating here because the DVD I own of this film does NOT contain the original Italian language track but only the English dubbed one. So sue me.
Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933) aka The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse.
Country of origin: Germany. Evil criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse (played by demonic looking Rudolf Klein-Rogge) can still control his underworld empire from his prison cell -- with the power of his mind. The first half has strong 30's-era horror overtones while the second half is a fairly straight ahead crime thriller. However, there are still one or two spooky occurrences toward the end of the film. Quite reminiscent of Fritz Lang's "M", this is one of a series of Dr. Mabuse films. . . and a bizarre one at that.
Thomas est amoureux (2000) aka Thomas In Love.
Country of origin: France. Thanks to Ernest for supplying me with this one. The film takes place in the near future. Thomas (whom we never actually see; we experience the whole film from his point-of-view camera) has agoraphobia and has not left his apartment in years. He conducts all his human contact through his computer internet connection. What first seems like a mere gimmick film soon reveals some real depth as Thomas' yearning for human contact (and love . . . and lust) battles with his refusal to leave his apartment. Which side of Thomas will win? His seemingly endless (and seemingly doomed) tries at on-line dating are particularly fascinating.
I Tre Volti della Paura (1963) aka Black Sabbath.
Country of origin: Italy. This time I'm NOT cheating with this Mario Bava film because it is INDEED in Italian. The only minus to that is the fact that Boris Karloff's voice is dubbed in by an Italian voice actor so we miss out on the King of Horror's melifluous tones. Everything else about this film is a near-masterpiece. It's an omnibus/portmanteau horror film consisting of three stories: the first story (A Drop of Water) and the final story (The Wurdalak starring Karloff) are bona fide classics with only the middle story falling flat. Possibly Bava's best film.
El Vampiro (1957) aka The Vampire.
Country of origin: Mexico. The granddaddy of Mexican horror films; this is the one that started it all with German Robles as the title vampire in a film which takes inspiration from the classic Universal monster movies of the 30's and 40's. Incredibly atmospheric and more adult than the Mexican monster movies to follow, this one can stand shoulder to bat wing with Universal's or Hammer's vampire movies.
Wild Zero (1999).
Country of origin: Japan. Totally indescribable; you have to see it to believe it. Briefly, this horror/science fiction/comedy is a cross between The War of the Worlds meets Dawn of the Dead meets The Wild One meets Pulp Fiction meets The Crying Game meets The Three Stooges meets Goodfellas meets the Ramones meets. . .oh geez I don't know. You JUST have to see it. Motorcycles! Flying Saucers! Zombies with exploding heads! Transgender confusion! Rock and Roll! Hey, the movie poster alone described it as a "Rock & Roll-Jet Movie" (whatever THAT is), "Trash and Chaos", "The Great Psycho of Them All" as well as "Thrill, Speed and Stupid Zombies"! All this. . .and SHIM too!
Wo hu cang long (2000) aka Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Country of origin: China. Sure it won 4 Oscars and sure it's got magnificent & magical fight sequences but the REAL heart of the picture is the achingly unrequited love story between Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat. The picture also looks stunning, of course. The fantastic wire work may have been something new to American viewers at the time but it actually went back years and years. In fact, it was just this type of "magical" martial arts movie that Bruce Lee was fighting against with HIS films; he wanted "real" martial arts without trick photography and wire-work. I, however, am free to love BOTH kinds. You may also be asking why I don't have any Bruce Lee films in this list. Firstly because I love them ALL and can't really pick one above the others and secondly because those films are usually available in English language versions.
Wong Fei-Hung ji yi: Naam yi dong ji keung (1992) aka Once Upon A Time In China II.
Country of origin: China. I didn't really like the first "Once Upon A Time in China" but this one turned me around. I've only seen the first 3 (there are 6 so far) but this is my favourite. Chinese folk hero Dr. Wong Fei-Hung faces the deadly nationalistic organization "The White Lotus" who plan on driving all foreigners from China -- by killing them. Whereas the first film was rather disjointed and uninvolving, this sequel hold your interest from beginning to end. . .especially after the bizarre opening scene involving the strange quasi-cult performance of the White Lotus. Lots of laughs (intentional) accompany many fine martial arts sequences by Jet Li.
Yokai daisenso (2005) aka The Great Yokai War.
Country of origin: Japan. Takashi Miike surprises once again with something completely unexpected: a remake of an old 60's series of children's monster/ghost movies (seen in the next entry below). Who would've thought the perpetrator of "Odishon" would be equally at home with this appropriate-for-all-ages movies where a young boy becomes embroiled in a war between 100 goofy-looking folklore-based ghost-monsters. This movie is every bit as fun as the earlier films upon which it was based and the modern special effects improve things while keeping the "look" of the yokai EXACTLY the same. Yes, there is the return of the Umbrella Monster; my personal fave.
Yokai hyaku monogatari (1968) aka Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters.
Country of origin: Japan. Here is the first movie in the Yokai Monster trilogy from back in the 60's featuring all the fairy tale spirits we know and love. This one concerns an evil land developer whose machinations anger the Yokai spirits and cause them to take a hand in his defeat. The sheer number of Yokai (obviously the number given in the title is one hundred) and their visual diversity stems from Japanese folk tales and art so you get the feeling that each one of the 100 monsters has a backstory to tell. But yes, my favourite (how can you NOT love him) is still the Umbrella monster (called kasa obake) who is the trickster ghost and likes to play.
Ying xiong (2002) aka Hero.
Country of origin: China. Jet Li as the Nameless warrior who has to defeat the assassins out to get the warlord leader of his ancient province. Visually sumptous with scenes corresponding to individual colours (i.e. the "red" scene, etc.); the movie also boasts spectacular special effects and fight sequences in the "Crouching Tiger" tradition. Wonderful to look at with a surprising amount of heart.
Yume (1990) aka Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.
Country of origin: Japan. Not really up to Kurosawa's best but the movie itself is a feast for the eye. The dreamlike quality is matched by masterly shot composition and colour photography. You can lose yourself in this movie. The film itself features a group of stories; each one based on actual dreams experienced by Kurosawa. This makes the film very personal and the viewer can experience that feeling as well.
Of course, there are other foreign language films I've seen and liked but these are just a handful of favourites. I'm sure I've missed some and, naturally, there are a great deal I haven't seen as yet. I WILL say that it breaks my heart NOT to include "Dellamorte Dellamore" aka "Cemetery Man" in this list but, despite being made in Italy, the language is English. So there ya go. So, the next time someone wants you to "read" a movie; don't fight it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

HEY! THAT AIN'T ENGLISH! And neither are these bunch of films which are some of my favourite movies in a different language. Other than the one I speak, that is. And SOME would say I don't really speak English either but that would make the list MUCH too long. So here they are (Part One of Two). . .
A Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma (1964) aka At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul
Country of origin: Brazil. This is the very first "Coffin Joe" movie starring (and directed by) Jose Mojica Marins as the blasphemous gravedigger searching the city for a woman to bear his demon child. Warped and twisted all the way; the film plays like a waking nightmare and there's simply nothing else in cinema like it.
Batoru rowaiaru (2000) aka Battle Royale.
Country of origin: Japan. What to do about those unruly, disrespectful teenagers? Well, create a reality game show where a high school class kidnapped during a school trip, taken to an island and told to kill each other. The last one alive wins. Provide them with weapons, sit back and watch the fun. Gripping and emotionally harrowing in some parts; darkly funny in others.
La Belle et la Bete (1946) aka Beauty and the Beast.
Country of origin: France. Jean Cocteau's dreamy retelling of the classic fairy tale. Don't give me this Disney nonsense; THIS is the only one to see. Hauntingly eerie and beautiful at the same time.
Bijita Q (2001) aka Visitor Q.
Country of origin: Japan. Cinematic terror Takashi Miike strikes again with the sickest, most warped and disturbed film ever made. Anywhere. Featuring the most disfunctional family ever portrayed. This movie cannot be described; only experienced. But brace yourself. You won't believe your eyes!
Der Blaue Engel (1930) aka The Blue Angel.
Country of origin: Germany. This is the one which shot Marlene Dietrich to superstardom. . .and she hadn't even ventured to Hollywood yet. Josef von Sternberg crafts a dark and pitiless film.
Daimajin (1966).
Country of origin: Japan. This is the first of three "Daimajin" movies. Here we have a giant blue-faced statue with a spike in his head that comes to life and stomps the living daylights out of a medieval (and Pure evil) warlord who is terrorizing a village. There's just something about that scowling blue face trampling over the countryside that warms my heart.
Dracula (1931).
Country of origin: USA. Universal shot this Spanish language version of Dracula on the same sets, using the same script but a different director and cast. In many scenes, George Melford's Spanish version is superior to Tod Browning's stagey English language version; however, it does NOT have the benefit of Bela Lugosi's performance. Since Bela learned all his English lines phonetically, I always wondered what the Spanish language version would have been like had Lugosi simply learned SPANISH phonetically and played the role in BOTH films. Now THAT would have been spectacular. The "superiority" of the Spanish version to the English one has been overstated for years; all things considered I think the Browning/Lugosi version has the slight edge. However, the Spanish version of Dracula has many MANY things to recommend it.
Geung si sin sang (1985) aka Mr. Vampire.
Country of origin: China. Here we have debatably the best example of the wild and wacky world of Chinese ghosts and hopping vampires. It's only rival is Spooky Encounters (down there a little ways). If you haven't experienced Chinese hopping vampires, nothing I can say here will prepare you for it.
Gin Gwai (2002) aka The Eye.
Country of origin: Hong Kong/China. A blind girl gets a cornea transplant from an unknown donor; result being she can suddenly see ghosts. Sort of a Chinese version of The Sixth Sense but more than that. Another spectacular spookfest in the turn-of-the-21st-century Japanese horror boom.
Gui da Gui (1980) aka Spooky Encounters.
Country of origin: China. Another prime example of the delirious world of hopping vampires; this time aided by the slapstick presence of martial arts master Sammo Hung as the cowardly fool who somehow ends up having to do battle with the supernatural (while spying on his philandering wife).
Honogurai mizu no soko kara (2002) aka Dark Water.
Country of origin: Japan. Ever read "The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall" when you were a kid? This is kind of the Japanese version. A mother and daughter move into a CREEPY apartment building and the patented Japanese ghost story (made famous by Ringu) gets underway. The eeriness of the film is also greatly helped by the performances (which ring SO true).
Ju-on (2000).
Country of origin: Japan. While there are many contenders, this is my choice as the BEST of the Japanese ghost/horror movies of the last decade; better than Ringu and it's many imitators. Whatever you do; avoid the American remake "The Grudge". Despite having the SAME director, the American version is severly blunted. Not only is Ju-on the best of these Japanese horrors but it's also one of the best ghost movies PERIOD.
Kaidan (1964) aka Kwaidan.
Country of origin: Japan. This Oscar-nominated film features four ghost stories; all of them prime examples of ghostly folk tales. It's almost like an Amicus "Tales From the Crypt" transferred to Japan. These are tales told in front of a fire on a winter's night. My favourite of the four stories must be "Hoichi the Earless" which features a beautiful retelling of the famous Heike sea battle before the gripping tale of the blind Hoichi's encounter with the dead. The whole film, however, is stunningly beautiful to look at; it emulates Japanese paintings.
Kairo (2001) aka Pulse.
Country of origin: Japan. Another of the most effective Japanese ghost movies of the past decade, Kairo was slightly lost in the hype surrounding "Ringu" and "Ju-on" but it's right up there with them. Here we have an internet website which can contact the dead. The problem is. . .once you log on to the website, the ghosts become aware of YOU. Incredibly eerie and threatening.
Kumonosu jo (1957) aka Throne of Blood.
Country of origin: Japan. Akira Kurosawa's masterful retelling of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" with the great Toshiro Mifune in the title role. Unbelieveable imagery from the very first frame of riders emerging from the incredibly dense, ghostly white fog. And later when those birds suddenly fly into the throne room. . .Wow! Probably the best filmic representation of what would happen if Burnam Wood were REALLY to come to Dunsinane.
Kung Fu (2004) aka Kung Fu Hustle.
Country of origin: China. The word that best describes this film is "RIOTOUS". Bruce Lee meets Looney Tunes by way of Quentin Tarantino. Hilariously inventive with spectacular special effects and martial arts stuntwork, this delirious movie has everything.
Las luchadoras contra la momia (1964) aka Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy.
Country of origin: Mexico. This is without doubt the GREATEST Mexican wrestler monster rally movie ever made. The only thing it doesn't have is Santo. Other than that, it's a nuthouse joy from start to finish. There's also no describing this film if you're unfamiliar with the Mexican wrestler monster movies of the 60's and 70's. This is a world where superheroic wrestling women saving the world from evil monsters suddenly take time out to fight a wrestling match. It all makes PERFECT sense, doesn't it?
Well, this is the FIRST half of my list of foreign language film faves. Stay tuned for the conclusion.