The other day I asked a comic book writer, “What is your favorite comic book?” His answer? “Ahh… ummmm.” In other words, he didn’t know.
The ancient Greeks said, “Know thyself,” that is, know what makes you tick, know what turns you on, know what turns you off.
Recently, the BBC published the results of a poll which answered the question: what are the greatest films of the 21st century. Of course, they didn’t ask me, but that didn’t stop me from answering the question because I find lists are great tools for helping me “know myself.”
The BBC’s list names 100 films. I’ve only seen a bit more than half those titles, so perhaps I’m unqualified to make a list. However, of the ones I have seen there was no question of ever including most of them. They just weren’t interesting enough. Or at least not nearly as interesting (to me) as the following:
1. In the Mood for Love
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. The Big Short
5. The Hateful Eight
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
7. La Commune
8. The Avengers/The Avengers: Age of Ultron
9. Fantastic Mr. Fox
10. The Host (2006)
11. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
12. Los Angeles Plays Itself
13. Where to Invade Next
These are the new films I’ve seen since January 2000 that knocked my socks off. Others, at best, were “OK.” For example, Mulholland Drive, which tops the BBC poll, is a film I find inferior to other works by Lynch, mainly Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. But it’s “OK.”
So, having done this list, do I know myself a bit better? Yes, status confirmed: still a weirdo.
This film was not boring.
It was not boring despite not being original.
It’s not original in the same way most movies out of Hollywood are not original nowadays.
It’s a re-mix. A re-mix of many familiar elements.
First and foremost, X-Men. The posters already suggested that, as did the title.
But it’s also Brigadoon.
A bit of Grimm, the TV show.
And especially Burton movies. Lots of them. In fact, you could say it’s a Burton sampler, a parade of his greatest hits.
Alice in Wonderland.
A lot’s there, all cleverly stitched together.
Like I said, a re-mix, or as Burton likes to say, “re-imagining,” but it’s a re-imagining of stuff that’s been re-imagined several times already.
No, it’s never boring, but it’s not original, either.
Not for lack of trying. There are some peculiar things in the mix that could just be new to the Burton universe.
Maybe. Possibly. I’m not so sure.
But even if there’s something new there, it’s not enough to add up to something unique and memorable like the originals from which this film borrows (steals?) so much.
But rest assured, don’t worry, you won’t be bored, or maybe you will. Maybe the film needs you need to be peculiar, too; that is, peculiar enough to have never seen a Burton film.
I don’t know.
However, I do know this: if you choose to stay home and watch Frankenweenie, or Edward Scissorhands, or Ed Wood, or even Big Fish, instead, don’t worry. You won’t miss a thing.
But that’s just sad.
I saw the film about a week ago at a Hollywood preview.
Martin Landau (who was present at the footprint ceremony that preceded the screening) may have been in the audience, watching the film with the rest of us. Why do I think this? Because I spotted him making his way to the nearest restroom. No one bothered him, perhaps because they did not recognize him. Perhaps they did not care. I cared, but I, too, did not bother him. (However, it would be a lie to say the thought did not cross my mind for I was carrying a script of Ed Wood and that script was calling out, indeed, screaming for the signature of Martin Landau.)
Back to the preview: it was supposedly a “fan screening,” according to my ticket, but most seats were off-limits to fans:
The few seats that weren’t reserved were already taken. So we experienced a bit of adventure as we waited to see if any of those “reserved” seats would open up. Finally, they opened the unfilled reserved seats, we sat down, and the show began.
It began on an exciting note with short intro’s by the novel’s author (Ransom Riggs) and the film’s director (Tim Burton).
And then, more than two hours later, it ended with scattered, polite applause.
I’m not going to spoil this book by posting any of its many, splendid pictures or attempting to describe what you’ll find inside.
All I should need to say is this:
If you’re a film fan, you need this book. You need THE CINEMA OF WONG KAR WAI by Wong Kar Wai and John Powers. Just buy it!
However, for those who need a bit more, I’ll say this:
Cinephiles often dream of a book by their favorite filmmakers in which the filmmakers do not shy away from any subject. In this dream book, the filmmakers talk freely, about the meaning of their films, how they did certain tricks, and even their personal lives.
THE CINEMA OF WONG KAR WAI is that book.
In it Wong talks personal, he talks meaning, he talks shop. Wong himself says he has not previously been willing to talk about most of the things in this book. Why the change? If you take the journey with Wong and John Powers from cover to cover, something I recommend, you will come to an end where Wong explains why he decided to open up and you will be moved.
To say more will spoil the book. Even to flip through the pages will spoil it. So save up your pennies (it ain’t cheap), buy it, tear off the cellophane, open the book to page one, and start your journey with Wong Kar Wai and John Powers. You won’t be disappointed.
9/10 stars (At least one star off for numerous typos. I counted four typos in Young Orson by Peter McGilligan (yes, I’m one of those people), but four was enough to drive me nuts. I don’t know if there’s even a word to describe what all the typos in the Wong book did to me.)
FYI: I paid for my copy. It was NOT a free review copy.
EXTRA: When a book is as expensive as the Wong Kar Wai book, why not treat it nice? First, if it has a dust jacket, Brodart it, that is, put a plastic cover on the dj. Second, to avoid bending, or even cracking, the book’s spine, do this:
Finally, I recommend putting the book in a plastic bag. Books hate dust, but plastic will keep them safe.
Maybe you think plastic bags are a bit much. Maybe you think it’s all a bit much. But do you really want your beautiful copy of The Cinema of Wong Kar Wai to end up like this?
If you say, “Yes!,” please don’t try to borrow my copy. I won’t answer the door when you knock and I’ll hide in the dark until you go away.