Archives for category: Film

Yi Yi (2000) Directed by: Edward Yang

Yi Yi, meaning A One and a Two, draws the complex portrait of a rather conventional family who lives in Taipei. Nearing three hours, Yi Yi’s poetic and contemplative musings on life’s banalities, sorrows, regrets, magic, redemption, and love captivate even the most restless viewer.

To summarize the narrative of Yi Yi simply wouldn’t describe this movie. To say it’s about life is a platitude. To say it’s about finding happiness through simplification is an over-generalization of the film’s plot. To say that this movie makes banality extraordinary is only a partial truth.

The movie is a poem, and in this poem, the players dig their way through heartache or boredom or confusion and find the beauty in routine as well as in sadness and loss.

Although the characters and the pensive script create a world so raw and true and beautiful, the real magic comes from the camera work. Director Edward Yang’s frames and camera angles work to enhance the film perspective. At times, Yang replaces the character with the camera, so we can hear the character talking or sobbing, and we can see what they see, whether it is a cityscape or a dying grandmother. At other times, Yang pulls the camera far away from the scene’s characters. Instead of the viewer playing the role as omniscient viewer, the shot creates a voyeuristic effect, as if the camera (or viewer) is a passerby, who happens to stop to watch an argument or a kiss.

All throughout the movie, Yang draws us in so close and then pulls us so far away. It is almost as if his camera work is a philosophy or wisdom in itself. These varying frames and shots let us look through different hues of glass to gain a wiser perspective on the life of this family in Taipei.

This movie is long, and at times, tedious. I advise a fruiter wine to draw out the movie’s sweetness. As we are all moving through our years, we all need to be reminded, at times, how lovely and sweet life is. Therefore, I pair Kali Hart Chardonnay with Yi Yi.

Kali Hart 2008
Grown, Produced, and bottled by Robert Talbott

Kali Hart

Kali Hart

Kali Hart, named after Robert Talbott’s youngest daughter, is not your typical Chardonnay. Most people think of Chardonnay as an easier drinking wine that pairs well with popcorn or a buttery, French meal. Kali Hart, however, stands out and takes the drinker on a journey. Containing notes of pineapple, mango, and a little butter, Kali Hart finishes with soft citrus hints. You don’t want to smother this Chardonnay with a meal. This wine deserves to stand alone, or with a movie such as Yi Yi, so you can savor each note the wine presents.

Dead Snow

Dead Snow

Local Legend

During WWII, Nazi Germans stationed themselves at various locations in order to combat the Russians and Britons. One of these unlucky places was Øksfjord, Norway. For three years this particular band of Nazis, led by the evil Colonel Herzog, tortured and killed quite a few Øksfjord occupants. Nearing the end of the war, the Nazis started to fear their fate and feel the unwanted arrival of the Russians. So, they started to steal the townfolks’ silver and gold and shot anyone who protested.

At that, enough was enough. Secretly, the townies gathered together to create a militia; they collected anything to “break a skull” and ambushed the Germans at night, killing several. Colonel Herzog and many of his diabolical followers managed to escape into the snowy mountains and were never heard from again. Assuming that they froze to death or were buried in avalanches, the area inhabitants felt there remained an intensly evil presence in the mountains and resolved to tread lightly upon the snowy heights that surround Øksfjord.

Such is the legend that propells Dead Snow. And such is the lengend that a group of classmates unwittingly trammle upon with noisy snow mobiles while escaping the drugeries of medical school during a winter getaway.

Dead Snow (Død Snø) is a self-aware hommage to the great horror flicks. The movie, and its characters, make no secret of worshipping the Evil Deads, Friday the 13th, and April Fools Day. So obviously, the director, Tommy Wirkola, was very careful to adhere to the classic gore fest paradigm: a bunch of good-looking young-adults, vacationing in a remote location with no cell-phone, radio service, or car. Furthermore, the movie honors the golden horror rule: sex equals death. Thankfully, or not so thankfully, Dead Snow manages to outdo most “sex equals death” scenes by framing that old stardard in an outhouse (of all things gross). So, a debaucherous outhouse scene equals a most henious death.

It goes without saying that Dead Snow takes one, colossal hurdle foward by creating a fleet of Nazi zombies. These “craven bastards,” though, are a slight derivative from the norm. While seemingly losing the ability to converse in their native language, the zombies can still execute war tactics and strategy through a series of grunts and screams that echo through the snow covered peaks and icy fjords of Norway. (Thank God the Norwegians are required to attend a military academy to fulfill their community service requirements.)

Military training or not, the group’s reliance on zombie movies of the past, might prove to be their downfall, for these our not our house-hold zombies. During the initial attack, the movie geek of the lot screams, “Don’t get bitten! Ok!” Even in this inaugural raid, one gets the feeling that these zombies are in want of much more than planting a few infectious bites.

This movie suffered mediocre reviews in Scandinavia, but really, what recent zombie movie (besides 28 Days Later) received stellar praises. The director and actors manage to create and rely upon some hilarious stupefied pauses that are really effective in establishing the “I can’t believe this is happening” sentiment. Of course, there is a wealth of freaky fake-outs and an overabundance of intestinal mayhem, brains, self-mutilation and cauterization, and hemoglobin.

Dead Snow is a definite watch for horror fans! If nothing else, you’ll want to see a particular scene, in which a duo of terrified Norwegians run through the snow, banging a pot to create a distraction for the zombies while the others run for help. Priceless, I tell you!

This movie is in select theaters.

When Dead Snow comes to DVD, I would pair Baron Herzog Chardonnay from California’s Central Coast merely because the name matches the head “craven bastard.” Originally, I thought to pair a bottle of Akvavit, a Scandinavian sipping alcohol, to this movie. Upon second thought, however, draining a bottle of that stuff might result in a trip to the ER, and…I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

Pinot Noir
Chili, Lontue Valley


Normally I avoid organic wines because when it comes to wine, it’s not just the thought that matters. This organic pinot noir, however, is one to savor. It’s fruit forward, with hints of wild raspberry that quickly melt into dark chocolate. The aftertaste is long but gentle: a little chewy and earthy. You can purchase this wine for $11.99 (on sale) at The Nature Stop on Grant Street in SF. This wine pairs extremely well with a movie, such as The Wrestler, or a historical fiction novel that reinterprets the mass confusion at the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky (2008)

The casting directors of this soul-stirring drama deserve many accolades, indeed; Suzanne Smith and Mary Vernieu’s casting decisions added even more depth to the movie’s effective and focal parallel between the wrestler and the stripper. Mickey Rourke, a steamy heart-throb of the 80’s and early 90’s, has returned to the scene radically altered from reconstructive surgery resulting from his boxing career in the 90’s. Twenty-five years ago, I’m sure he had his pick between many lovely ladies-in-waiting, but now he seems to find solace from his chihuahuas, one of whom is named Jaws (an examplary name for that particulary fiesty breed). So, it is no surprise that Rourke’s portrayal as former headlining professional wrestler, Randy the Ram, whose body and therefore life is breaking down, is stunningly accurate and heartbreakingly realistic. Additionally, Marisa Tomei’s depiction of the aging stripper is flawless. Tomei, still gorgeous, is an older actress who can steam-up the screen or sober her audience with a raw and candid performance such as this one. Her versatility as an actress compliments her role as Cassidy: the empathetic, single mother who strips for a living. Unlike Randy the Ram, she’s completely able to separate her stripper persona from her real life outside of the club. This is why the friendship and parallel between Randy and Cassidy is so integral to movie’s purpose: the relationship amplifies Randy’s tragic inability to divorce his wrestling career with his life. And, without giving too much away, that is where the ultimate tragedy lies.

Amazon: The Wrestler

 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1974)

*won the Pulitzer!

To be completely honest, I’m not into war novels. Battle strategies and other such war tactics don’t intrigue me. For years my father has been telling me to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and I finally did and loved it. This novel follows in the footsteps of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood; Capote, the inventor of the literary genre called literary non-fiction, expertly captured the heinous 1950 murder of the Clutter Family by writing not only of the factual events, but the inner thoughts of the main characters. Likewise, Shaara creates and showcases the inner dialogues of the main guys (i.e., Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Armistead) at the Battle of Gettysburg. Not only does this humanize these historical figures, it illuminates the actual confusion at the battlefield and uncertainty about what the Civil War was about. These men were fighting against former friends and allies; some of the Rebels weren’t fighting for slavery but for their states and intangible “rights.”

I think that at times, we tend to think of these men as ideas or merely as two-dimensional figures. This novel, however, fleshes out all these wonderfully brilliant and loyal men and offers their morals, perplexities, and souls for the audience to savor, examine, and respect.

 Overall this book is paced perfectly, and it is accessible for someone who doesn’t know much about the Civil War.

Amazon: The Killer Angels

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