Monday, September 17, 2012

Opium Den

This is the third (and last) clip from Once Upon a Time in America. I wish I could find the original uncut version of this movie that is 269 minutes in length. The version I have is only 220 minutes, 9 minutes shorter than the version presented in the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. I don't know what I am missing, but I certainly do not agree with many, if not all the "professional" movie reviewers who analyzed this movie in many aspects. Incidentally, the majority agreed that this Sergio Leon's last movie is one of the very best movie made.

In this clip, which is at the very end of the movie, you see a "Noodles" De Niro sinking into the lowest point of his life, worse than when he was in prison. He finds solace in the bowels of opium dens. The movie ends with a focus on a grin on his face that opened all kinds of different interpretations of what director Leon was trying to convey.

All the reviews I read concluded that Noodles went into opium because he felt immense remorse after his betrayal of his friends and caused their deaths. I say the critics are all wrong. He sunk to that depth because of what he did to Deborah at the end of my previous clip that I chose not to include.

This clip now made me determined to look into movie scenes depicting opium smoking. There are plenty of movies for that, but the best scenes I remember are from Indochine and The Last Emperor. These clips will come next. Opium

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Broken Hearted

Noodles, out of prison and resumed his mobster life with his pal Max (played by James Woods) now is flying high. He cannot forget his love for Deborah and finally was able to get her to accept to a night out, filmed at the fabulous hotel Excelsior in Venice, Italy. The film's leitmotif "Amapola" returns in this scene. You heard this song in the previous blog. That was a jazzy version played on the gramophone while this is a string version. Amapola was a favorite song for many opera singers, and Leone adopted it in his movie after hearing it in the film Carnal Knowledge.

In case you do not know this movie, Deborah may have loved Noodles but she did not approve of Noodles' relationship with the mob. With that background, you may better understand her attitude during the dinner date. Her decision to leave the next morning did not go down well with Noodles and that lead to a despicable scene in the movie that marked Noodles' life forever. With that background, you will appreciate Noodles' behavior in my upcoming third and last clip of this great movie. He was devastated and sought to forget.

You ought to rent or buy this movie to watch it multiple times... Stay tuned for the next clip...

Thursday, September 06, 2012


It has been a while since I post a movie clip here. It's simply because it is not so easy to find a new movie worth spending the time talking about. But... you can, if you try hard, find something to say about some older movies. Here is a clip from a very famous movie by a great Italian director: Sergio Leone; and the film is "Once Upon a Time in America." The movie is billed as a gangsters/mobsters/organized crime genre, but what I will show you is a love that is quite beautiful... and sad at the same time.

Here is a first of three clips: Amapola. Once Upon a Time in America is a 1984 Italian epic crime film co-written and directed by Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. The film is a story adapted from the novel "The Hoods," written by Harry Grey. The original version by the director was 269 minutes (4 hours and 29 minutes) long, but shortened to director Leone's immense grief, in the US to a mere 139 minutes (2 hours and 19 minutes.) That is the version I own, and I am still unable to find the original version that may still exist in Europe some place.

Robert De Niro played the main role of David "Noodles" Aaronson. Noodles first (and only) love was Deborah Gelly when she was a young girl, strong willed and determined to become a big star in the entertainment world. In this clip, Noodles was released after a 12 year prison term, saw a photo of Deborah and had a flash back to his unforgettable encounter with Deborah. Amapola is the main leitmotif of this movie, anchoring the doomed love of Noodles to Deborah. Amapola "(Pretty Little Poppy)" is a 1924 song by Cádiz-born composer José María Lacalle García (later Joseph LaCalle), with Spanish lyrics. After the composer died in 1937, English language lyrics were written by Albert Gamse. The music in this movie, by Ennio Morricone, is reminiscent of his work in the movie "Cinema Paradiso," another great Italian movie by director Giuseppe Tornatore.

Come back here soon to see my second (of three) clip of this movie coming up next when the leitmotif of this song returns in the only romantic but ill fated courtship of Noodles and Deborah. This Must Be The Place

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vietnamese Mothers

Today is Mother's Day in the US which is a special day for all mothers. But why make it so restrictive? Let's make it a special day for ALL mothers on earth. Of all countries, Việt-Nam possibly has mothers who have suffered the longest and hardest for generations. That sentiment permeates its country in the music that sings and honors its mothers. Here is a CD dedicated to the mothers of Việt-Nam. Click on the photo to see and play the twelve tracks of this CD. Happy Mother's Day to all! Ca Dao Mẹ

Sunday, April 29, 2012

This Must Be The Place

I left this movie... but on second thought, there is another clip with the title song sung by Tommy, the son of Rachel. This scene subtly exposes the tenderness in the words of the love song that touched Rachel's heart and visibly moved her. You have to pay attention to see that because it came and went in a split of a second. If you did not read or do not remember the words of the song, they are here. This Must Be The Place

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'm Married

Continuing on his saga to look for the man who tormented his deceased father in the distant past, reclusive goth rocker Cheyenne got to his grand daughter Rachel who is a single mother of a boy named Tommy who has a fear of water. This clip is a bit long, lasting 15 minutes and 6 seconds. It shows a wacky, witty, emotional and caring gentle soul of a sad man aptly portrayed by Sean Penn, in which, again, the title song of the movie is repeated. After viewing the three clips of "This Must Be The Place" here, if you want to see more, I recommend you check out this movie and watch it a few times. You may like it after all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm John Smith

Sean Penn, in the role of retired goth rocker Cheyenne, went to America to look for the man who tormented his father to seek closure after his estranged father's death. He first found a former school teacher, Dorothy Shore, from whom he learned about her grand daughter Rachel. Dorothy (is she the wife of fugitive Lange? This movie is very mysterious... and I am trying to figure out who is who etc... she says her husband was dead for 10 years, but she must be lying...) is walking with the woman in the walker and Cheyenne is tracking her in this scene. The main music theme of the movie is heard at the beginning of this short clip of 5 minutes and 32 seconds. If you want to see the developing story of Cheyenne finding Rachel, return here in a few days to see the third and last clip of this movie.
Nazi Hunter

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Love Song

There is a new movie with Sean Penn in the role of a burned out Irish rock star that screened in Cannes film festival in 2011. This Must Be The Place was directed by 40-year-old Italian director Paolo Sorrentino. This is a difficult film to watch and it is not liked by many reviewers. I think these critics just don't get it when they see a good movie. Here is the first clip to give you a peek at one of the scenes that is lauded by many critics. It shows a stunned Sean Penn watching the performance of David Byrne in a live concert singing his band The Talking Heads' signature song "This must be the place." You may not know that that is a love song so the lyrics that follow below may help:

"This Must Be the Place" written by David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison and Chris Frantz.

Home, is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around
I feel numb, born with a weak heart
Guess I must be having fun

The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground, head in the sky
It's okay, I know nothing's wrong, nothing

I got plenty of time
You got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money, always for love
Cover up and say goodnight, say goodnight

Home, is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home, she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place

I can't tell one from the other
I find you, or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I'll be, where I'll be

We drift in and out
Sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view

I'm just an animal looking for a home
And share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead

Eyes that light up
Eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head.

This movie has many beautifully composed scenes and I will add a few more in the coming days. Come back here to see them ...
The Talking Heads

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Demon Buster Li

Here is a clip from The Sorcerer and the White Snake, as promised, to show you the what and how of oriental mythology of demon exorcism, akin to the western style ghost buster craze. Unlike the werewolves, the oriental demons often times originate from forest foxes. The demonized foxes impersonate beautiful women to lure unsuspecting men, young and old, into having sex with them. Not unlike draculas, the foxy ladies deplete vital energy from the men and they eventually expire without fail. Jet Li, chief demon exorcist hunts them down and capture them a la ghost buster in this scene. This is a minor job because the foxy ladies did not put up any serious fight. When it comes to the White Snake Bach Xa, that is an entire different deal. He almost got killed... suffice to say, he prevailed and put an end to the illicit love between Su Su and Xu Xian.
Foxy Ladies

Friday, March 09, 2012

Green Snake-White Snake

The Sorcerer and the White Snake, previously known as "It's Love" and "Madame White Snake" is a 2011 3D-film directed by Ching Siu-tung and starring Jet Li. It is based on the Chinese Legend of the White Snake. This movie was released in Hong Kong in September 2011. Jet Li, a major martial art Chinese star is a safe bet for a wide audience. In this movie, he plays the role of a monk "Ghost Buster," Fahai. The Legend of the White Snake has been a major subject of several Chinese operas, films and television series. In VietNam, the same legend is known as "Thanh Xa, Bach Xa" (meaning Green Snake, White Snake.) In oriental mythology, it is widely known that animals, with adequate time in meditation, become demons and can take the form of human, usually beautifully seductive women. Bach Xa, the White Snake, has under her belt a thousand year of meditation and thus has acquired super dark power (she's a demon) and can transform into a beautiful woman in white. Green Snake, with only 300 hundred years of training, is less powerful but nonetheless can become a beautiful woman in green. Other animals can do the same thing. The most formidable one is a female tiger. More common are foxes. All these demons seduce men to have sex the purpose of which was never explained in mythology. In any event, men always succomb after such adventure so that is to be avoided, and the monks are the force to prevent that to occur. So this movie is about that premise and Jet Li is the Chinese Ghost Buster. This movie is really a love story. The love is doomed, of course, but the medicine man Xu Xian and Bach Xa Su Su are truly in love at first sight. The Sorcerer and the White Snake was produced by Yang Zi, Chui Po Chu, assisted by several other producers. The acting is ... what can I say? But the computer graphic and special effects are products of a big budget of 200 Million Hong Kong dollars (about US $ 26,000,000.)

This movie has received less than stellar reviews in the US. Rotten Tomatoes gave it only 1 star out of 5. I was looking for a movie to talk about Chinese mythology, so this one is just perfect. Besides, you may be interested to know that many Chinese movies are beautifully filmed and this one is one such movie. One main complaint is that it has too much computer graphics and digital special effects.

The first clip lasting 4 minutes 10 seconds introduces the main characters Su Su, Qing Qing and Xu Xian. Su Su and Xu Xian fell in love after she saved him from drowning because the poor man can't swim! Come back in a few days and you'll see a full fledged ghost buster scene against the foxy ladies.
Green Snake-White Snake

Friday, February 24, 2012


"Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" is a Spanish movie, but you wouldn't know it (when watching it) if you were not told. You'd think it's a Japanese movie. This film is by director Isabel Coixet and the movie is a thriller, but it starts with a definitely eyebrow raising feast called "Nyotaimori" that caught my attention. Feminists cringe and protest in drove because of the practice of eating hot sushi out of a woman's naked body. They do not care much if that is sometimes the price of doing business in Japan or copy cat in other countries simply for the fun of it. Columnist Julie Bindel of The Guardian, in February 2010 paid 250 English pounds to attend a real Nyotaimori in London and wrote an article about it. Needless to say, she despised it!

According to Jack Herbert, this is how "Body Sushi" is done:

"Before becoming a living sushi platter, the person (usually a woman) is trained to lie down for hours without moving. She or he must also be able to withstand the prolonged exposure to the cold food. Before service, the individual is supposed to have taken a bath using a special fragrance-free soap and then finished off with a splash of cold water to cool the body down somewhat for the sushi. In some parts of the world, in order to comply with sanitation laws, there must be a layer of plastic or other material between the sushi and the body of the woman or man."

Watch this clip and let me know if you would participate in such a feast. Not me! I think this movie was a financial loss. It was produced at a cost of US $8 Million dollars but only grossed about $3 millions. I think the Japanese tint of this movie did not fare well with the Spanish movie viewers.
The Way to Calvary

Monday, February 20, 2012

HTML5 Music Player

While talking about the tree of death... let me follow that somber thought to test a new music player to take place of my now aging Flash music player... So let's take a little detour to listen to the beautiful music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his Requiem.
Mozart's Requiem

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Life and Death

This is the third and last clip from the movie "The Mill and the Cross." In this clip, the painter, Pieter Bruegel, explains the composition of his famous painting. It contrasts life (the left half of the painting) to death (the right half of it.) The crows perched atop the wagon wheel on the trees of death and the ones flying in the sky are birds of prey that feed on the dead. This movie has scenes of that and I thought are too gruesome to include them in this blog. All famous paintings from the ancient masters have stories to tell. What does La Gioconda tell you? Do you know? She was Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo... A very interesting story to tell there.
The Way to Calvary

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Tree of Death

You have seen the first clip from The Mill and the Cross. Are you ready for a second clip of that movie? A mild warning to you that this second clip is a bit hard to watch due to some violence, especially that if you watch the clip closely, you will see that the man being severely mistreated execution style is an innocent man. He was killed nonetheless! This clip is necessary for me to show you the meaning of the tall pole with a wagon wheel on top in the extreme right of the "The Way to Calvary" painting. Please pay attention to the first minute of the clip as it provides clues to understand how that painting was created. In a few days, you will see the third and last clip of this movie that contains in some details how this painting came to life... Come back if you have time...
Mill and Cross

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wind Mill

The US makes about 2,500 new movies each year! You'd think that it should be easy to find good material for a movie blog. Nothing is further from the truth! Many times, at least for my taste, I need to reach back to years bygone to find movies worth talking about. It is interesting to note that many foreign movies, movies made from countries other than the US, are excellent proofs that one does not need budgets in the hundred millions of US dollars to make good movies. Here is one that fits such bill: Lech Majewski's 2011 Polish-Swedish co-production "The Mill and the Cross." This movie was recently made with a meager 1.1 Million Euros and it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 23, 2011. It focuses on a dozen of the 500 characters depicted in a famous Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting "The Way to Calvary" that sets against religious persecution of Flanders' Protestants in 1564 by Spain's Catholics.

As way of background for you, here is The Way to Calvary as it is displayed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna:
The Way to Calvary
This film painstakingly recreates the painting with live persons, using blue screen technique and computer graphics to immerse the viewers into the painting that comes alive. In this movie, the actor portraying the painter provides detailed explanations to his work of art, at the same time giving a historical depiction of 16th century life in Flanders. There is a couple of scenes that are quite disturbing due to the senseless violence during persecution scenes. You will see one in the next blog following this one. Come back here in a few days...

This blog shows you the cinematic interpretation of life inside a wind mill as seen through the eyes of the movie director Lech Majewski. What is remarkable is the opening sequence that slowly morphs live action shots to a digital still life painting that looks like this:

Click here to see the video clip.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hedgehogs and Foxes

I hesitated, but what the heck... let's embark on a theme that is almost universally found in movies... not only American movies, but worldwide in international films, and that is love and sex. However, I am not so sure how daring I can be to approach the many movies that are very very saucy... the likes of Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct or even In the Realm of the Senses... That is to be decided as we go along in this blog. To begin, let's talk about... the Hedgehogs and the Foxes.

In way of background, I think I should mention in passing that it helps to have some background of Darwin's work and if you are philosophical in nature, you'll feel right at home here. You may also want to look up a subject named "The Botany of Desire." Yes, all the aforementioned have something to do with love and sex... and orgasm.

In movies, I'd say Woody Allen is the best director who can approach sex and love (and also death) with panache and at the same time, he educates the mass with deep philosophical thinking that easily get lost for the casual movie watchers. Take his Husbands and Wives (1992,) a famous scene from which much have been talked about and analyzed in depth by many scholars at many famous learning institutions. The real subject under consideration was anorgasmia. You know that in medical parlance, many nouns that terminate with the suffix "mia" are bad for you: anemia, leukemia, arrhythmia... The prefix "a" says that something is missing. So "anorgasmia" must be bad for you because that says you cannot experience orgasm. That's a major theme in this Allen's movie. Why don't you watch this clip first.. then we'll talk when you return...
Well, what did you get from the clip? Let's make sure you got it by dotting the i's and crossing the t's: The movie revolves around two married couples: Jack (Sydney Pollack) and Sally (Judy Davis;) and Judy (Mia Farrow... did you notice that? Mia is a bad omen as a name, medically speaking as explained above) and Gabe (Woody Allen.) Sally and Jack separated and took on new lovers, Jack with Sam (Lysette Anthony) and Sally with Michael (Liam Neeson.) The scene is when Michael was finally able to convince Sally and take her to bed. This is when you realize that she is anorgasmia, from a session with her psychiatrist, when she confesses her continued frigidity while with her husband Jack. What you hear in the clip is her infamous "hedgehogs and foxes" analysis. She was asked: "Why were you able to have an orgasm with Michael and not with your husband?...What makes it so difficult for you?" Her answer was:

"I didn't. I was trying very hard to go with it. I was tense. I came close... (She lied, she was nowhere close!) My mind just gets racing with thoughts. You'd laugh if I told you. I get so mentally hyperactive....I thought that I liked what Michael was doing to me, and it felt different from Jack. More gentle and more exciting. And I thought how different Michael was from Jack. How much deeper his vision of life was. And I thought Michael was a hedgehog and Jack was a fox. And then I thought Judy was a fox, and Gabe was a hedgehog. And I thought about all the people I knew, and which were hedgehogs, and which were foxes. Al Simon, a friend, was a hedgehog, and his wife Jenny was a hedgehog. And Cindy Salkind was a fox. And Lou Patrino was a hedgehog..."

It is the writing for scenes like this that this movie was called a "philosophical film." The "Hedgehog and the Fox" is a famous and popular essay by the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin. The title is a reference to a fragment attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Berlin expands upon the original idea and divides writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea: Plato, Lucretius, Dante, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, and Proust; and foxes who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea: Herodotus, Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce, Anderson. Tolstoy, was considered different. He had multiple talents like a fox, but was a giant thinker that qualifies him as a hedgehog.

With that as a background... Many a discussions I found about this scene immediately delved deeply into the philosophy of thinkers originated by Berlin, and none really tried to interpret what Sally was really saying. I bet you a cookie that Woody Allen was trying to say something about how hedgehog and fox relate to orgasm, which is a big thing! Only hedgehog can achieve it, because foxes only circle the wagon and generally miss the mark. What do you think?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Worst Movie Ever

Today is the first day of a brand new lunar year, the year of the Water Dragon. Let's celebrate and watch a clip of the worst movie you'd ever find: Super Shark!

This is my verdict: Worst movie, worst director, worst actors, worst actresses...But they have the best shark, and it is much better than the one used in Jaws!

Remember this name: Fred Olen Ray. He's a movie director and easily made it to my list of worst movie director ever! The man likes women in bikini, obviously, judging from the movies he made over the years: "Bikini Time Machine", "Bikini Frankenstein", "Bikini Royale", "Bikini Royale 2," "Bikini Jones and the Temple of Eros," "Super Ninja Bikini Babes," "Bikini Chain Gang," "Bikini Drive-In", "Bikini Hoe-Down", "Bikini Round-Up." I never saw any of his movies and am not qualified to say much, except that I have seen a clip of his latest movie: Super Shark, a new movie that will be released in DVD soon, on February 7th of this year. What? No bikini word in the movie title? That's a first! But, as expected, all the women appearing in this movie wear bikinis. This movie is so bad, I'll let you watch its climactic scene, which really is a movie spoiler, and be the judge yourself. So, a word of warning... if you intend to see this movie because that's the kind of movie you like, do not watch this clip because it's a spoiler. Here we go... watch and grin... or cringe. Here he comes, the Super Shark!

The premise of the final scene is this: the military has a walking tank to battle the WALKING shark (it's super, remember?) the super plan is to have a radio station with a super DJ to broadcast and taunt the shark so he'll swallow the radio baited with dynamite and blow itself up! Good enough? Wait until you see the tank karate kicks the shark, it's a scene not to miss! It's only 9 minutes and 13 seconds so you will not suffer too long.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Toshiba English Intelligence

Do you know that today is the eve of the new lunar year, the year of the Water Dragon? Let's have a festive time with something not quite serious or Academy Award caliber, but funny. This film is as silly as George of the Jungle, and it helps to bring a chuckle or two, or more... to our lives. It does mine!

Johnny English is a 2003 British action comedy film parodying the James Bond secret agent genre. The film stars Rowan Atkinson as the incompetent titular English spy, MI7 Agent Johnny English. The film received a largely mixed response from critics.

A sequel, Johnny English Reborn, began filming in September 2010 and released on October 7, 2011 in the United Kingdom, and on October 31, 2011 in the United States, in which Johnny was shown to be training in Tibet when MI7 head Pegasus calls him back to London, where Johnny is sent on a mission to investigate a plot to assassinate the Chinese premier. Here is how it started. Have fun watching this very short clip of only 6 minutes 26 seconds. I turned on the English subtitles so you don't miss any of the jokes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Let's rewind the clock 40 years and revisit a young and sexy Sophia Loren in a film by Vittorio de Sica, Sunflower. de Sica was a great Italian movie director with films like The Bicycle Thief in 1948 and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Movie in 1970. Sunflower was also produced in 1970 when Sophia Loren was 36 year old. There are three clips combined into one: when she met, fell in love and married Marcello Mastroianni... He then was sent to the Russian front during the war and did not return. The second scene shows an almost universal anti-war theme in Italian movies: Sophia went to Russia to look for him. The sunflowers are metaphors for the longing of the missing soldiers. The third and last clip shows a radiant Sophia looking for new love after she found the husband with a new wife and daughter in Russia.

This film shows the world how beautiful Sophia Loren was and how Italian women rode motorcycles... not so tame as the way Audrey Hepburn did it in Roman Vacations. Of course, Sophia had to show off her beautiful legs so the director made them fall off the motorcycle as a pretext. Sophia is now 77 year of age, but remains as sexy as ever. Her last film appearance was in Nine, with the role of Mama, Guido's stunning mom.