Xyon's Rambles

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

8:32 AM

Some More Stuff From Film Class

Hollywood and Hong Kong
A Genre of Style

The dominant form of Hollywood film is the big blockbuster. The popular genres of the past (drama, melodrama, comedies, musicals, etc…) that were popular in the Classical Hollywood period have taken somewhat of a shift to more action adventure and science fiction blockbuster film. This is not saying the before mentioned genres of the past are not made anymore, just that there is a demand for what was the B-movie with new and improved special effects.

Hong Kong pictures, on the other hand, cannot afford such luxuries as the budget for those films are significantly lower than that of Hollywood. These pictures rely on pure, unadulterated action to keep the audiences coming back. The type of action that does not have fancy computer screens to shoot in front of (blue screens / green screens) and action that is more human centered.

Generally speaking, Hollywood first set the standards of making special effects in a priority with George Lucas’
Star Wars (1977). The movie was rewarded with being the most successful movies of all time at the box office (at the time) and spawned two sequels and 3 prequels (the last due in May of 2005). This success also led to the formation of Industrial Light and Magic, a special effects studio created by George Lucas, which has become one of the most successful special effects studios of all time. As the movie continued to appear, the American audiences were left with a hunger for bigger and better things. Hollywood had begun the shift into special effects and there was no turning back.

The late 1970’s showed a new direction for Hong Kong films as well. A “New Wave” of action films had begun to try and profit off of extreme violence. While not worried too much about the story, Hong Kong films started focusing on extreme forms of kung-fu and traditional weapons that had there own form of mass destruction. These new films were made by people who were no longer immigrants into a British Colony, but citizens where were born there and worried about the nearing re-incorporation back to Mainland China.

These fears proved to be jumping point for Hong Kong film as they revamped a failed style of Cantonese cinema from the 1960’s. Many of these new wave directors trained at vocational schools in the West and returned to make their films that had Westernized settings with glorified violence from gangs and technical competence. These films would become the staple element of how people would view Hong Kong cinema. While the money was not available to pay the stars that compared to Hollywood standards the industry moved forward at a constant, but slow pace.

During this time of popular bloodshed in Hong Kong, Hollywood was continuing its course into special effects by making ultrahigh money producing films in the 1980s. Stephen Spielberg ventured in with George Lucas for the highly successful
Indiana Jones trilogy (1981, ’84, 89), Robert Zemeckis made Romancing the Stone (1984), the Back to the Future trilogy (1985, ’89, ’90), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit(1988), and Ridley Scott offered Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), and Legend (1985). These movies fueled the fires that were raging in the movie industry’s special effects departments.

During this same time there was record breaking box offices receipts in Hong Kong, but at only a fraction of the total in Hollywood. Names from Hong Kong slowly started to turn up in conversations in America as imported movies started becoming popular. Director Tsui Hark, John Woo, and Ringo Lam exploded onto the scene with vivid gunplay and martial arts sequences so intense it was dizzying. These films were made with shallow pockets compared to those of Hollywood (2-3 million as compared to 30 million dollars [1980s]) so they focused on the action scenes, leaving the plot to suffer. Also, they could not afford stunt doubles. Most of the Hong Kong films made in the 1980s have the main actor doing all kinds of dangerous stunts. These stunts would range from the wirework to jumping through glass windows (using real glass in some cases), and running through building on fire. The actors and actresses worked through all the hard times and for a few, it paid off. Names like Chow-Yun Fat, Michelle Yeow, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan starting showing up in American movies. Director John Woo, in the early 1990’s, would move to America and bring his action style of directing to the West. His movies had to be a bit watered down due to the Americans more conservative attitudes to violence in films.

The mid 1990s would see an end to the “New Wave” films in Hong Kong, but they still make films using a lot of the same themes. As they are starting to catch up with technology that American film has perfected, they have started incorporating elements of American films into their own. In Jackie Chan’s
Armour of God (1986), the opening scene plays out very much like Raiders of the Lost Ark but the tone is less assured and more comedic. Also, in Tsui Hark’s Time and Tide (1999), the special effects at times are very similar to The Matrix(1999).

Hollywood and Hong Kong have gone through some pretty big changes from how they were before the late 1970s and early 1980s. They paralleled each other only in the aspect of getting movie audiences back into the theaters. Hollywood made it clear that it was willing to spend whatever it took to get audiences interested and Hong Kong had to be more innovative and cunning with less resources to draw on. It also seemed like whenever Hong Kong got an advantage with a certain director that looked like he would be the next Stephen Spielberg, Hollywood would step in an lure that director away with its mighty wallet. Hong Kong and Hollywood have both made significant strides in the film industry but Hong Kong will more than likely stay the underdog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

8:48 AM

Crash and Burn

Blogging at work as my home computer crashed and burned Sunday night.

Sunday Night

I was loading the full version of Easy CD Creator from Roxio and didn't get the patch 5.02 loaded correctly and it blew up my computer. I go to bed with my computer silent for the first time since I have owned it. Something about 5.0 version of Easy CD and Windows 2000 that is not compatible without the patch. (Windows 2000 users note: If you install Easy CD 5.0 -- DO NOT RESTART YOUR COMPUTER UNTIL YOU INSTALL 5.02 PATCH! THEN RESTART). I had thoughts of my hard drive being corrupt (because of the error message I was getting at start up (It said, Inaccessable Boot Device). I was a little panicky Sunday night.

Let's Back Up 6 Months

When I put on Windows 2000, 6 months ago, I was replacing Window Millenium (which sucks big time) which had screwed up. I couldn't access any of my files so I decided to put 2000 on as a secondary Windows (which meant I had to choose which version of Windows to boot up at every restart). I did this because of my files on my computer had school stuff and other misc movies and clips that I didn't want to lose. I really hated having two verstions of Windows on my computer but I did it out of necessity.

Monday Night

I bribed by ex-roomate, Hippy, to come over and see what he could do. I offered to cook Pork Chops and give him beer. He tried a few things but nothing worked. So I did lose my hard drive, I just didn't have to buy one. We had to re-install Windows 2000. I could have installed 2000 again like I did before but that would have meant having 3 versions of Windows on my computer and well - screw that. So my hard drive is now clean and like new. I lost all the stuff I had - but I believe most can be replaced. My personal stuff is gone too, but luckily most of the stuff was not important and I am sure I will be collecting stuff to store away soon. What is left to do is to get my router and cable modem set back up and reload my aresenal of programs. Happy Happy Joy Joy.

What if you hard drive was wiped tomorrow - do you have everything you need backed up?

Friday, May 16, 2003

9:33 PM

Blogger (Blogspot) having troubles today?

Well - it looks Llike blogger or blogspot has had trouble this week as earlier today I could not access the blogs - now my blog is messed up (the right side seems to be justified wrong) - Over at Team Rock all seems to be good. I will give it a little more time before I dive deep in to blogger code. Looks like this Friday will be spent at home. I had a nice dinner with Rock and Blondie at the Olive Garden (Chicken Caesar Salad for me thank you) and I will post a report about the Jimmy Thackery concert at the Down Home a little later as I just don't feel like typing anymore right now.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

1:06 PM

Well That was Fun

I just spent quite an enjoyable lunch and didn't even eat. I was doing an update to my page and upon refreshing the page to see if the update went through I noticed a new comment (well 6 new comments but it was the same one as the comments section has been cranky lately). I clicked on it to find that my buddy Toys had just left a comment. Then I thought, hmmm...I wonder if she is reading more things? So I refreshed the page again...and sure enough a little farther down the page was her comment on another entry. As the lunch time went by, I watched her read my blog and then shot an instant replies back. Hope you didn't mind having lunch with me Toys and me looking over your shoulder. I had lots of fun. :)

11:36 AM

News Link Added to Site

Shots Across the Bow out of Knoxville. And I agree with your comments to my Angel entry Rich, about loss of Conner can only be a gain for Angel - I just hope they don't find him again. Looking forward to next season's Angel. But first we have to get past next weeks series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it looks to end its seven year run on the ol' boob toob (after my Uncle Tal :) ).

11:32 AM

You'all Could Have Told Me

I just realized that in the introductory section of my blog I have had Chronicle misspelled for damn near a year now. Man o man, how many times have I looked at this site. LOL

11:00 AM

Matrix Reloaded

Went as watched the early showing of the new Matrix last night. That movie is on so many different levels it is mind blowing. But in a good way. I won't say much, as I am still digesting the movie and I don't want to ruin it for anybody. Just see it. At one point I was shaking my head as it was almost an overload to the senses. Kind of like getting on a roller coaster - nonstop until the end....

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

11:15 PM

Travolta to play 'Punisher' Villain in New Movie

Just saw this at coming soon.net

I just hope this Punisher movie is better than the previous attempt.

John Travolta is The Punisher Villain!
Tuesday, May 13, 2003 9:33 CDTM

Variety says that Artisan Pictures and Marvel Studios have cast John Travolta to play the lead villain opposite Thomas Jane in The Punisher, with Jonathan Hensleigh directing his own script.

The comic book adaptation is the tale of an FBI undercover agent who, just as he's completed his last mission that will lead to a cushy desk job, sees his family slaughtered. He becomes single-mindedly determined to exact revenge. Travolta plays Howard Saint, a former underworld figure who goes straight but returns to old habits after his son is slain. The two men square off against one another.

In related news, Superhero Hype! has scored a first look at the new teaser poster for the film which is hitting theaters this week. You can check that out here! Also, the site has learned that filming will begin in Tampa Bay, Florida this July for a summer 2004 release date. Details on where they might be shooting there are here.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

11:27 AM

New Blog

I have gone into a joint venture with my buddy Rock to co-host a new blog. This blog will chronicle our various 'excursions into madness' as we travel across the region to see concerts and get autographs. There are a bunch of really good links to keep one informed of the local and regional concert scene + links to highlight various bands and a few NASCAR links as well.

Team Rock

Check it out - leave comments - make it your home page - whatever tickles your fancy.

I will continue to run this blog as well - so don't forget about this one! As I am sure this one will supplement that one.


Thursday, May 08, 2003

10:27 PM

Changing to Netscape

Well I have finally done it. I downloaded and installed Netscape 7.02. I have been a big hold out concerning Netscape.

I am not sure why.

I suppose it is because I know IE and how to work it. I had to use a pop-up blocker (program seperate from IE) and it was working alright, but I always had a bunch of error messages generated by IE.

Today I find out that Netscape has a pop-up blocker (pop-ups are the scourge of hell) and I said, "Screw it, I am going to download that tonight."

So far it is pretty damn good. I like the format of the browser and everything seems to be working ok. As I wander through new waters I will be probably bitching or praising here about my Netscape experience.

Oh, today, after I downloaded Netscape, I find out that one of the updates of IE has a scourge of hell blocker to add to IE. Well, screw it (again) - I am going to stick with Netscape and see how this goes. Ok so far...........

5:41 PM

...And they are back up

oooook, I drive home (Johnson City to downtown Elizabethton) and they are mysteriously back up....


4:45 PM

Errors on Comments Section

What have I done? Dunno. Guess I will work on it tonight.



Tuesday, May 06, 2003

7:59 AM

Angel the Early Years

Last night I was watching Angel season one DVD. From 7:30pm to 1:30am, I did an eight hour marathon (the first 2 discs) [also if you consider that 8 episodes without commercials is really about 5 3/4 hours the time works out]. The last time I watched these was when they orginally aired during season 1. While watching these I noticed how much I really liked this season. This was when the show was trying to establish its own flavor as a detective show. In this case, a detective who was a vampire (Angel), a good demon who has visions of people in trouble courtesy of the powers that be (Doyle), and a snot nosed, self-absorbed, above everybody else, and former resident of Sunnydale, California - Ms. Cordelia Chase.

Each episode would be a stand alone episode that had small ties (to make it a continuity). There were no long, multi-episode story arcs. Fresh ideas, fresh scripts. It established bad guys (Wolfman and Hart, Attorneys at Law) that would be a returning threat of some compacity. They made no bones about it (or ash for that matter) that they were connected strongly with Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is where the show spun off from and where Angel and Cordy spent the previous 4 years fighting the Hellmouth. Even into the 3rd episode of the series, you had Spike (at the the time a major nemesis for Buffy) and Oz (at the time Willow's boyfriend and resident werewolf of Sunnydale) come to town. What Whendon did was no less than brilliant. Instead of trying to get as far away from the parent show as possible, he incorporated the show into this one. What he didn't do was copy the format - Buffy was show about high school from a vampire slayer's perspective. Angel was about a 200+ year old vampire who had a soul (see Buffy season 2) and trying to help people with the aid of Doyle and Cordelia.

As the show has progressed over the seasons, the Angel universe has grown closer and closer to the parent show that it could almost be called "Angel the Vampire, Vampire Slayer," instead of the show that started as one askew to Buffy but not the same. Before long Gunn (a vigilante of the streets) joined up with Angel (after Doyle died) to provide muscle and Wesley (former watcher to rogue slayer Faith) migrated over as well. Soon the show was not a detective agency (like it started) anymore and was just a group fighting the paranormal (which is what Buffy turned into after high school and a failed college storyline). And yes, bringing Wesley over to the show futher shows the strong tie to the Buffy universe, but the changing the format of the show from the detective angle to another group that stops Apocalypses was too similar to the overall storyline from Buffy.

Then there is this season - and while I am critizing this season, let me first say that there have been a number of really well written episodes that were a tremendous watch. What I am tired of is the super long story arcs that this season was full of. The last aired episode (last week - a week before finale tomorrow night) they had to show so much catch up material before the episode aired that if you haven't been following the long story arc you would have more questions than understandment.

I hope that with the new direction Angel is heading with tomorrow night's season finale that they get back to the stand alone episodes. The kind from season one where everthing is related, but you don't have to follow a six week storyline. Angel is a tremendously good show with wonderful characters that are both funny and chilling at the same time (well, not Conner - Angel's implausable sorry and implausable excuse for a son). If Angel is not picked up for another season (which I think it will be on somewhere, but in case not), it has been real fun ride and hopefully we will see the gang in the movies sometime - but let's talk about that if and when it is not picked up by someone.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

9:34 AM

Violence a Trademark in Hong Kong Film

Thought I would post a few things from film classes.......

Violence is a trademark in Hong Kong action films. The violence is partially responsible for the popularity of the genre. Starting with Hong Kong audiences, the audience could escape into a world of violent gun battles and unbelievable fight scenes. When Hong Kong audiences finally reached the United States, the violence again was a big draw for the films as American audiences had only small samples of violence on such a large scale.

In John Woo’s
A Better Tomorrow, there is combined machine-gun violence mixed with religious themes of redemption and morality which are truly compelling when choreographed on such a violent level. But instead of celebrating the violence, Woo uses it to represent nostalgia for a code of honor that has been lost but now found and a chivalry necessary for human survival.

These moments of excessive violence are represented as beautifully choreographed and made almost desirable. The technique of soft focus, slow motion, and subtle colors almost make it look romantic, as the heroes seem to somewhat dance through the violent shootouts. It is not the violence itself, but the way the violence is portrayed. In
A Bullet in the Head, Woo shows violence for what it really was (brutal and ugly) and audiences reacted by making it one of their least favorite films.

A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled make it clear that the boundary between justice and crime us such a blurred one that it is hard to know the enemy’s true face. It would be safe to say that Woo’s use of violence is his release of his feeling toward Mainland China.

Since Woo's transition to Hollywood, he seems to lose a bit of himself as he is conformed to Hollywood style. It took seven times for his first U.S. release,
Hard Target, to pass the ratings boards, as the violence has to be continually toned down. Clearly the acceptance of his earlier films show the audience is ready for his style but it seems that Hollywood is not ready to accept the responsibility. Chow-Yun Fat has found success in Hollywood to the tune of toned down violence as well. The only justification of violence on such a high level in film in America may be on import status only

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