[sumo][non-sumo][OT] The proven antidote for inter-basho doldrums,
flame wars, scandals....
cfinberg862 at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 7 13:53:52 EDT 2008
One traditionally successful way in which both flame wars and interbasho
doldrums have been dispelled on the Sumo ML has been to rejoice in our
shared admiration of Nicolas Cage.
It is truly serendepitious, therefore, to discover in this week's New
Yorker***, the review of a new Nicolas Cage movie -- a Hollywood remake of
"Bangkok Dangerous," in which the reviewer writes, "the more ridiculous his
films become, the more seriously he takes them," and "the Cage of 'Bangkok
Dangerous' intones a line like "There's a beer in the refrigerator" as if he
were reading from the Book of Micah."
Yes, foreign rikishi are being hounded from ozumo for having smoked
marijuana. And, yes, both in the sumo mailing list (which as a mailing list
fails to assume a forum-like structure) -- and in the sumo forum (which as a
forum fails to fulfill our yearnings for communal welcome) we are
occasionally confronted by male pattern rudeness.
But, Cage teaches us that there is always cause for renewed optimism! You
never have to wait too long for another even drearier movie!
*** Temporary link to full article, and Cage portion, below:
Movies are a brotherhood. Wherever you look, there are siblings fighting for
space behind the camera. The heyday of the Taviani brothers may, I fear, be
over, but we still have the Coens, who are on a roll. In the agonized
corner, we have the Dardenne boys of Belgium, and, facing them, those
naughty Wachowski kids from Matrixland. Soon, you won't be able to approach
a studio without a blood relation in tow; look out for the long-lost
Peregrine Eastwood and a delicate new project from Ang and Chuck Lee. In the
meantime, here come the Pangs. Danny Pang and the rousingly named Oxide Pang
are twins from Hong Kong, best known for their 1999 hit "Bangkok Dangerous."
This they have now remade for the English-speaking market, titling it, after
a lengthy period of reflection, "Bangkok Dangerous." The city is described
in voice-over as "corrupt, dirty, and dense," in contrast to the characters,
who are uniformly fair-minded, well scrubbed, and partial to quantum
Nicolas Cage plays Joe London, which I strongly suspect of being an alias.
He has a sheaf of passports at his disposal, together with explosive
devices, a high-powered rifle, and other appurtenances of the discerning
man-about-town. Joe is an assassin by trade, but then, these days, who
isn't? Assassins are to the movies what plumbers are to ordinary life:
they're trained, they're overpriced, they never call back, but sometimes
they're just what you need. "Holiday," Joe says, when asked by Thai customs
what he is doing in Bangkok, and his vacation plans include the murder of
four men. To match that, he has four instructions for any aspiring killer:
don't ask questions, don't take an interest in people outside the job, erase
every trace of your presence, and get out when you can.
I can think of American Presidents who have followed these rules to the
letter, whereas Joe proceeds to break them all. The last twenty minutes of
the film, for instance, are taken up with an entirely superfluous diversion
to a factory yard, where he takes the opportunity, rather than leaving the
country, to waste as many of its citizens as he reasonably can. Earlier, he
makes nice to the assistant in a local pharmacy and, in an unprecedented
breach of homicidal protocol, invites her out to dinner. This is intended to
demonstrate his softer side, just when we were getting used to the idea that
he doesn't have one, yet his choice of date is a giveaway: she can't speak.
Much the same goes for Aom (Panward Hemmanee), the dancer who acts as a link
to Joe's employer, and who communicates mostly through her hips. In short,
we are back in the territory of "The Departed." Martin Scorsese's Oscar
winner, adapted from a Hong Kong original, was far superior to "Bangkok
Dangerous," but it, too, tamped down the presence of women, as if they were
a threat to its manly postures. In both cases, we are left with the
unpalatable sense of females being welcome to join in, so long as they don't
open their mouths.
There was a time when Nicolas Cage, with his hangdog barks of irony, could
have shouldered some of the women's work, mocking his own penchant for
excess. Now, however, the more ridiculous his films become, the more
seriously he takes them—and the more, presumably, he is paid to do so. The
Cage of "Wild at Heart" and "Leaving Las Vegas" found life to be
engrossingly weird, and treated it accordingly, whereas the Cage of "Bangkok
Dangerous" intones a line like "There's a beer in the refrigerator" as if he
were reading from the Book of Micah. He appears sunken throughout,
understandably depressed by his long, ropy mane of black hair; from a
certain angle he's a ringer for Chrissie Hynde, of the Pretenders. Only once
does the Cage of yore flicker into view. It happens when Joe enlists the
services of a resourceful thief, who introduces himself as Kong (Shahkrit
Yamnarm). "Kong?" Joe repeats, with a smile and a drawl, as though wondering
when the guy is going to stop fingering wallets and start climbing the
It would be heartening to report that the Pangs inject new blood into the
action movie, a noble genre now verging on the anemic. But Hollywood and the
television industry have long since sucked what they require from the tropes
and rhythms of Asian films, and parts of "Bangkok Dangerous," far from
seeming unfamiliar or freshly stylized, offer nothing that you couldn't
catch in an episode of "CSI." Traffic lights aside, the color scheme ranges
all the way from dirty white to steely gray-blue, reinforcing the solemnity
of the tale. Gunplay is intercut with closeups of bangled feet and floating
lotus blooms, subtly indicating that it takes all sorts. And so the movie
grinds on, diligently skirting every chance to surprise. As the brothers
Pang export their brand of busy gloom around the world, following "Bangkok
Dangerous" with "Moscow Expensive" and "Geneva Pleasantly Safe," is this
what we can expect from the globalization of cinema? Will movies, wherever
they hail from, end up looking the same?
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