Sunday, December 04, 2011

Crepuscule Junction

My short story, "Crepuscule Junction" is available in Underground Voices' annual anthology, Hotel Oblivion. It's only available in print, so buy it (please).

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Funny that there is a form of dancing that mimicking the artificial motion of slow motion and freeze frames, and it is so convincing that when filmed, you can't tell if it's real or not.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Karin Chien on Independent Chinese Cinema

A while ago I was talking to a Chinese filmmaker about a Chinese film (not his) that I found lacking. Its style (slow, contemplative) somehow didn’t match its subject matter, draining it of the power it should have had. My interlocutor’s position was that China’s increasing wealth has rendered a significant number of its artists complacent. Their films now lack commitment and energy.

But there is a sector of Chinese cinema where energy and commitment still hold sway, as this essay by dGenerate Films founder Karin Chien proves. Chien, who used to produce American indies, chides American filmmakers for putting business considerations before artistic ones, for spending more time lining up financing and marketing than on the content of their work. Independent Chinese filmmakers, on the other hand, proceed from the opposite side. They don’t expect to make much money, but they are passionate about getting their stories out, and are willing to work underground to do it. In other words, they work like there’s something at stake. It’s a provocative read, and well worth checking out. (Image, by the way, from Huang Weikai's excellent Disorder.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Taking Chances: The Busan International Film Festival 2011

Busan (formerly Pusan) is probably the most intense stop on my festival circuit. There’s too much of everything: too many movies, too many meetings, too many friends to catch up with that I only see once or twice a year. In years past this tended to stress me out, but this year I resolved to keep calm and suck it all up like the raw shrimp a mischievous old lady served me in her food stall by the beach one night.

Much of the coverage of the 16th edition of the festival was about the changes - a new name, a new director, a splashy new festival center (pitched to do for Busan what Frank Gehry did for Bilbao), the relocation of most activities from lovely beachside Haeundae to corporate, anonymous Centum City – but the films are the real point. Read on for my take.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Finally: The Chaser

A while ago my lady and I sat down to watch The Chaser, a Korean film that was generating a lot of buzz at the time. A few minute in, a serial killer, after imprisoning a prostitute in a filthy bathroom/torture chamber, sets about trying to bash her head in with a hammer. Thinking we were in for another serial killer flick trading on the brutalization of women, we turned it off.

Well, I tried watching it again recently, and, as surprising as this may sound, I’m glad I did, because it turns out that The Chaser is a textbook example of popular Korean cinema’s way of confounding expectations by tweaking well-worn conventions into something new and thrilling.

TVRB: Can't Stop Won't Stop

The Hip Hop Kung Fu Connection events we did at the Freer a couple of weeks ago inspired me to dig a little deeper into hip hop history, so I picked up a copy of Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation. Chang’s subject is not just the music, but the social and political contexts from which it sprang. This may sound dry, but the result is a compelling, even angry book that recounts in impressive detail hip hop’s rise from underground Bronx party music to global cultural, economic and political force.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Even though I saw it several weeks ago, I’ve been avoiding writing about Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The reason is that thinking too much about those Chauvet cave paintings threatens to make one weep uncontrollably (in the film, even the caves’ curator has to pause to gather herself before discussing the extraordinary wall of horses.) It’s not just their beauty, it’s the palpable presence of the people who made them, people not much different from us, who lived some 35,000 years ago and coexisted with animals, such as cave lions, that don’t even exist anymore, lived so closely with them that they could depict not just their forms but their attitudes, their movement, to the point that we know what they were like simply based on these paintings. They communicated something to us, across what Herzog calls “the abyss of time.”

A similar elemental shock runs through John Vaillant’s book, The Tiger.

It's Comedy! Part Two

Last week two important documents hit the internet. In one, Mrs. Bourne, a stern English mother-in-law-to-be scolded her future daughter-in-law regarding her "uncouth" and "vulgar" behavior during a visit in April. In the other, an ambitious young Los Angeles woman regaled her 15 closest friends (and eventually the entire internet) about her first hand encounter with Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish.

I have mixed them together. After the jump, Quentin Tarantino's victim meets her mother-in-law-to-be:

It's Comedy!

Last week two important documents hit the internet. In one, Mrs. Bourne, a stern English mother-in-law-to-be scolded her future daughter-in-law regarding her "uncouth" and "vulgar" behavior during a visit in April. In the other, an ambitious young Los Angeles woman regaled her 15 closest friends (and eventually the entire internet) about her first hand encounter with Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish.

I have mixed them together. After the jump, Mrs. Bourne writes to Mr. Tarantino regarding their recent one night stand:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Nats Fan's Notes: Behind the Foul Pole

A couple of weeks ago my friend T---, who programs films at another area theater, decided it was time for a business meeting, and what better place to have it then at the ballpark? The date we chose turned out to be auspicious. By some form of science (picking names out of a hat?) or divination (seeing a vision in the pattern of Dubble Bubble pieces spilled from an overturned bucket?), Jim Riggleman had arrived at the idea of batting his pitchers in the eighth spot, and for some reason it was working.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Nats Fan's Notes: Marcia's Birthday Edition

It’s getting to that point in the season when the Nats have settled into their underachieving ways. Everyone is performing slightly below average. Manager Jim Riggleman’s habitual perplexed grimace has become the default position of his face. I kind of like Riggleman’s philosophy of stacking his roster with just-emerging talent and versatile veterans who can be plugged into the line-up as needed, but this does not a consistent team make.

TVRB: Richard Brautigan and the Aesthetic of Failure

When I was in a bookstore in Tokyo a couple of years ago I came across a framed, signed edition of Richard Brautigan’s devastating little “Love Poem.” I hadn’t thought about Brautigan for a while, years probably, and it was somehow reassuring to learn that he’s still, in some way, “big in Japan,” because he’s been virtually forgotten here.

Even more gratifying was seeing his creative spirit alive in a couple of Southeast Asian films I saw over the last couple of years: Edwin's Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Madness of Kim Ki-young

Imagine walking around Washington, DC on a spring night. You happen upon a museum that’s open, and find out there’s a movie playing inside, so you go in. You’ve never heard of the film or the filmmaker, and you’ve possibly never seen a movie from Korea before. For the next two hours you are pinned to your seat watching a husband, wife and housemaid alternately screaming and shambling around like zombies while repeatedly trying to kill and/or fuck each other in a claustrophobic house full of madly ticking clocks and gaudy stained-glass lampshades. This happened to one lucky couple on Friday night.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

TVRB: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition, by Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer is a hero for those of us who still don’t know what we want to do when we grow up, both a ray of hope and an object of envy for any writer who ever feels trapped in their specialty (see, for instance, the title of this blog.)

A Nats Fan's Notes: Double Header

To devote yourself to a losing team is a strange act of faith. Growing up near Philadelphia I rooted for the Phillies, of course, but by the time I’d come to baseball consciousness they were in the playoffs every year, so why not root for them? But as a DC-area carpetbagger, there’s no real reason I should be rooting for the Nationals, who are even newer to the city than I am, and generally terrible.


Today we introduce two new sections to this collection of rare posts and frequent comment-spam: The Tom Vick Review of Books (TVRB), an occasional series of pieces on books and authors, and A Nats Fan's Notes, occasional thoughts on following Washington DC's sad little baseball team. Enjoy.