Dysfunctional families aren’t a modern day phenomenon, and Curse of the Golden Flower illustrates just how bad things can really get. Incest, intrigue, poisoning, jealousy, power plays, murder. Oh, and did I mention ninjas? Yeah, ninjas.
It’s the Tang dynasty in China, and the Empress’ heath has taken a sudden turn for the worse. She’s been drinking an herbal, medicinal tea for ten years, under orders of the Emperor, but she begins to suspect foul play. A strong woman, she still finds herself helpless to fight her powerful husband. Still, women have their ways, and the Empress plots with her step son (who has been her lover), and her eldest son to break the Emperor’s iron grasp on them all. Continue reading →
Everyone else is watching It’s A Wonderful Life, or Charlie Brown Christmas, and I’m watching a movie about teens who spend every waking moment having sex, doing drugs, and stealing. And every non waking moment passed out between a toilet and a bathtub in a flophouse. I blame Sweetie, who has taken control of my Netflix queue and inexplicably orders these movies during what should be a cheerful holiday season. Continue reading →
Jessica is smart and successful with a loving, tight-knit family, but she just can’t seem to find the right guy. She tries, but all the men she goes out with are duds. Her boss, and ex-boyfriend from college, Josh, lays the blame at her feet, saying she is critical and picky. Like magic, the right person appears through an ad in the relationship classifieds. Smart, interesting, with a quote from Jessica’s favorite book. It’s fate. It’s a match made in heaven. Except the person in the ad is a lesbian and Jessica is straight.
After another miserable date, Jessica can’t help herself. She answers the ad and meets Helen, but doubts herself from the first moment. The two inexplicably move forward in their relationship as Jessica flits around like a frantic bird, wanting one thing, saying another, changing her mind from one second to the next and over analyzing her emotions and reactions. Helen really likes her, and honestly has the patience of a saint as she waits for Helen to break through her reservations in having sex with another woman. The movie does end happily, although probably not the way some would anticipate. Helen is the catalyst for Jessica’s awakening. She is able to return to her art, take risks to express herself emotionally. She’s still neurotic, but has become someone who is open, intimate, and able to create. Continue reading →
Tired of those sparkly, emo vampires? The brooding ones that would rather play hide the salami than bite someone in the neck? Journey beyond the confines of Hollywood and experience a Swedish film full of dark humor, and more chewed up bodies than a tank of piranhas.
The movie starts out with a flashback from WWII. A group of German soldiers are separated during battle and end up trudging through a snow packed woods, before sheltering at an abandoned farmhouse. But the farmhouse isn’t abandoned, and the soldiers find themselves attacked at night by wall climbing creatures that rip their throats out. Fast forward to modern times. Annika and daughter, Saga, have moved to a small town in northern Sweden, where Annika is excited to be working as a doctor in a hospital with eminent geneticist Gerhard Beckert. But Beckert has secrets. Sounds serious? Well it might have been were it not so darned funny. There’s creepy Bekert, earnest Annika, and there is an entire box of stolen pills that wind up at a house party, turning drunken teens into bloodsucking vampires. Really funny drunken teenage vampires. Continue reading →
(Winner of Swiss Film Prize for Best Film of 2007)
Vitus (played in part by piano virtuoso Teo Gheorghiu) is a child genius whose life is carefully guided along by his loving, but ambitious parents. He chafes under the regimented schedule by sassing his teachers and occasional displays of stubborn independence. One by one, his world is narrowed and choices taken away. His teenage babysitter, whom he secretly loves, is dismissed. His beloved piano teacher is replaced by a more fitting one. The only relief that remains is the time he spends with his Grandfather, carving boomerangs, making model airplanes, and discussing a dizzying array of life choices that Vitus finds outside his reach. As the pressure grows, Vitus makes a dramatic choice, launching himself off his balcony with play wings to land crumpled on the courtyard below. His injuries are minor, but he has lost his genius and testing reveals he is “normal”. As his parents struggle to come to terms with the change in their son’s prospects, Vitus’ grandfather discovers the truth. It’s at his home that Vitus can truly be himself, playing the piano and amassing a stock market fortune in his grandfather’s name. Will Vitus be able to live both worlds? Can he break free of his parent’s expectations and pursue the life he wants?
This is an amazing film, showcasing not only how parental excitement over the possible future of their children can blind them to their real needs, but how kids are kids. Vitus stubbornly refuses to play for the exalted piano teacher his mother has worked so hard to provide an interview with. He argues against taking his exams at such a young age, not wanting to be thrust in with kids twice his age. He wants to connect with other children, make friends, have an unrequited crush on his teenage babysitter. Just like everyone else. Is it sad that Vitus sabotages what could have been a stellar piano career? Not really. He loves piano, gets great joy out of his music. Sometimes living up to your potential is another person’s dream, not yours. And that is probably the hardest thing for us parents to realize.