io9’s Best/Worst Sci-Fi movies

I love io9, but I cannot say that I agree with much of their Best And Worst Science Fiction Movies Of 2008 list.

Here are my reactions:
Best

  1. Wall-E — I didn’t like this movie because I felt it was too heterocentric (Wall-E as man, Eve as woman), the ending was too happy (I wished that the Earth was totally dead or the humans got into a big war or something — i.e. something more realistic), and I forgot why else. You’d think I’d love a movie about robots, but Wall-E definitely didn’t do it for me…
  2. The Dark Knight — It should be #1 AND #2. I loved this movie too much.
  3. Synecdoche, NY — I didn’t see it yet so no comment…
  4. City of Ember — Despite my new interest in steampunk and my desire to see this movie, somehow I missed it in theaters… I’ll hopefully like it, though.
  5. Iron Man — This movie is lucky it came out before The Dark Knight. I re-watched both movies within the last week and The Dark Knight is so much better. I loved Iron Man when it first came out, though, so I suppose #5 is an OK place for it.
  6. Sleep Dealer — I saw this movie during the Seattle International Film Festival and really liked it. I’m very interested in the idea of virutal work in place of real work and this movie touched on it a bit.
  7. Cloverfield — I thought this was a fun movie and would probably put it a little higher?
  8. Speed Racer — Had I managed to catch this at IMAX I probably would’ve liked it more… but seeing it on my “smaller” big screen TV probably didn’t do the movie justice. That said, the story was pretty lame considering the Matrix guys did it.
  9. Teeth — I didn’t see.
  10. Let The Right One In — I do not get the appeal of this movie. I actually pretty much hated it. Not only was it slow (which is OK sometimes), but it just felt dusty (which might be OK sometimes?). Plus I didn’t think the story was anything great. If I were to rank the year’s #1 vampire-related events, I’d say #1 is True Blood, #2 is Chromeo’s remix of Vampire Weekend’s song “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance”, #3 is Twilight (at least it was sort of fun), and #4 is Let The Right One In. Sorry Sweden; I usually love you, but…

Worst:

  1. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull — I actually liked the movie! I’ve been a long-time Indiana Jones fan. But my favorite is Temple of Doom which I know isn’t a “fan favorite” either. While this is probably the worst of the Indiana Jones movies, it’s certainly not horrible or the worst sci-fi movie of the year. Also: I liked the alien thing at the end!
  2. Hancock — Again, I know I’m in the minority here, but I loved Hancock! I saw it twice in the theatre, even. What most people complain about (the fact it was a superhero movie sometimes and a comedy other times, etc.) is what I loved the best. The genre-hopping made it interesting. Plus, the camera work, like all Peter Berg movies, was really frantic and realistic. This movie would definitely make it in my top 10 best list.
  3. Doomsday — No idea, I didn’t see this…
  4. X-Files: I Want To Believe — Yea, this movie was a bit too religious for me. I missed the aliens and whatnot. That said, it wasn’t as bad as I thought and wouldn’t be on my worst list.
  5. Jumper — Finally a movie I agree with! This movie was pretty bad. It could’ve been so much better/darker/more interesting, but it just didn’t go there. I was really looking foward to this movie then terribly disappinted when I finally saw it.
  6. The Day The Earth Stood Still — I haven’t seen it (yet)
  7. The Happening — I heard it was religious so forget about it. Plus, like most people, I’ve been disappointed with every M. Night Shyamalan movie since The Sixth Sense.
  8. Meet Dave — I haven’t even heard of thsi one…
  9. Space Chimps — Yea right…
  10. The Spirit — I haven’t seen it, but I can tell from the trailer that it’d be a bad movie.

Maybe during the next week I’ll try to come up with my own list, but seeing the io9 one, I just had to respond somehow.

Southland Tales

Justin Timberlake singing "All These Things That Ive Done" during Southland Tales
Southland Tales is one of those movies that I don’t even know where to start “reviewing.” So I’m not going to even try. I’ll just say this: The movie was awesome and quite possibly made just for me.

Other details worth noting in case you are curious about the movie:

  • It stars “The Rock,” “Buffy,” and JT.
  • Not a small number of supporting roles are played by former Saturday Night Live cast members: Cheri Oteri, Nora Dunn, Jon Lovitz, and Amy Poehler.
  • Other actors worth noting: Bai Ling, John Larroquette, Mandy Moore, Holmes Osborne, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sasso, and Seann William Scott.
  • There were for sure cameos by Janeane Garofalo (!!!) and Kevin Smith and I THINK Eli Roth.
  • The soundtrack included Moby, The Killers, Radiohead, Blur, and the Pixies.
  • There are two “musical” numbers: Sarah Michelle Gellar singing “Teen Horniness Is Not a Crime” and Justin Timberlake “singing” (lip-synching) the Killers’ song “All These Things That I’ve Done.”
  • Prior to Southland Tales, the writer/director Richard Kelly created Donnie Darko.
  • The movie seemed like a combination of the films: Magnolia + Mulholland Drive + Nowhere + End of Days.
  • The movie’s story seemed like it was co-written by Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut.
  • In fact, Rebekah Del Rio, who sings “Llorando” (“Crying” by Roy Orbison) in Mulholland Drive, sings “The Star Spangled Banner” in Southland Tales. (And if this isn’t an explicit direct homage to David Lynch than I’m not sure what would be…)
  • The film is over 2 1/2 hours long.
  • Southland Tales premiered at Cannes in 2006 and had a horrible reception… Despite this Sony Pictures bought it and Kelly re-edited it. (I’m already getting excited about a DVD/Blu-Ray release with a director’s cut and/or deleted scenes!!)

In leiu of a fleshed-out plot review, here is a run-on sentence explanation: After nuclear attacks in the southwest US WWIII starts (against Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Syria) and the PATRIOT Act becomes even more intense and I think all media is replaced by USIDENT (including USIDENTelevision) and there is a repubican senator from California running for president and his daughter is dating a movie star who is abducted and brainwashed and co-writes a movie screenplay with a porn star and becomes involved with a leftist neo-Marxist movement that is secretly funded by a German scientist who figures out a way to create an unlimited supply of energy that incidentally causes a rift in the forth dimension that ends up creating a present and future version of a soldier who fought in the Iraq war and was injured in Fallujah in a “friendly fire” incident involving Justin Timberlake who ends up becoming something of a drug lord. Oh and in the end the world ends with a bang, not a whimper because a messiah brings on the apocalypse.

I loved the film but I’m not sure I would recommend it until you enjoy dystopic schizophrenic film experiences (I, for the record, do).

UPDATE:
Here is Justin Timberlake “doing” the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”:

Across the Universe

Across the Universe
The film Across the Universe accomplished something that I’ve been playing around with in my head for a long time: Create dialogue that constantly references pop music lyrics. While Across the Universe took the idea a step further and turned that dialogue into a musical format, I still love the idea and was impressed with the execution.

That said, I’m not sure that the reason for doing it in Across the Universe stems from my inspiration. Across the Universe is a complete homage to the Beatles — from the psychedelic song numbers to the ’60s themes of peace, love, and war. Even the characters names (Max[well], Jude, Lucy, Sadie, JoJo, Prudence, etc.) and events (“she climbed in through the bathroom window”) come from Beatles songs.

I am more interested in the way that popular culture (such as pop music lyrics) permeates into language and somewhat dis/replace everyday language.

I remember reading something in one of my classes that asked whether saying the phrase, “I love you truly and dearly” (or something like that) has lost its value since the phrase had been so overused and cheapened by cheesy romance novels. And further, whether when someone says that, they are saying it because that is the most accurate language to describe or whether they are saying it because they have heard it said so many times in movies/read it in books that the phrase is just expected.

So basically what I am trying to get at has to do with whether the commercialization and constant repetition present in pop culture can void language of its original meaning and/or make it seem too cheesy and disingenuous that even something that is intended to sound sincere cannot anymore.

For some story I was writing at some point (I don’t recall what year I wrote it…) I used Pixies lyrics in place of actual dialogue:

“Hold my head,” he said to her. “We’ll trampoline.” Personally, I don’t think that hold his head would help much, nor did I understand the trampoline thing – that’s how they acted like all the time though, very random.
“No, my child. That is not my desire.” And then she said, “I’m digging for fire.”

and Coldplay:

I spilled my guts for hours. “I came here with a load,” I explained. “I could never go on without you,” I stuttered. “You’re the one that I wanted to find,” I claimed.

But back to the movie — which was awesome. Great songs, great singing, amazing special effects (and done tastefully), compelling/emotional story, etc. etc. etc.

The only thing I didn’t like about it was the feeling I get whenever I watch movies about the ’60s: I get this sense of nostalgia (for a time during which I wasn’t even alive) and disappointment at the same time: “we” were so close really revolutionizing thought and culture but it didn’t quite work. In the end of Across the Universe love wins, blah blah blah but that’s about it… society didn’t change. Just like at the end of Velvet Goldmine: “We set out to change the world, but in the end we only changed ourselves.”

The Boring Dahlia

Lee, Kate, and Bucky at the movies
I’m sad to report that I was pretty disappointed with Brian de Palma‘s The Black Dahlia. He’s one of my favorite directors (Femme Fatale is one of my all-time favorite movies and I also love Snake Eyes, Body Double [though I’m not sure it warrants a special edition], Scarface [which has an awesome special edition], and Sisters). People (including myself) say that he’s a Hitchcock rip-off, but that’s not always bad… I also decided to read the James Ellroy novel on which the film version of The Black Dahlia is based. The novel was so-so, but I really expected the movie to be better.

For starters, the color palette for the movie seemed “off” to me. I really expected dark, bold, strong, sexy colors like those from Femme Fatale or David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Or even something more stylized and shadowy? Instead, the film felt very brown and drab.

I was also disappointed that de Palma downplayed the psychosexual aspect of the film. Granted, Ellroy’s novel didn’t really tease out the strange threesome-relationship between the three main characters (Josh Hartnett as Bucky, Aaron Eckhart as Lee, and Scarlett Johansson as Kay), but I expected that the film, under the right director, might. The threesome relationship as well as the darker aspects of Bucky’s relationship with Madeline (Hilary Swank), the somewhat doppelganger of Elizabeth Short a.k.a. The Black Dahlia (Mia Kirshner). For some reason I’ve always considered de Palma to be somewhat of a dark and erotic director, but The Black Dahlia reminded me that I apparently confuse him with David Lynch or Adrian Lyne or Paul Verhoeven or something. De Palma is more like a creepy voyeur.

Granted, there were some cool tracking shots (such as right after a woman finds the body of The Black Dahlia) and split-diopter (two objects in focus at the same time) shots, but the film just didn’t feel as viscerally rewarding as some of his other work.

The sad thing is, The Black Dahlia is perfect source material for de Palma. It’s got blonde (Kay) vs. brunette (Elizabeth, Madeline) women, potential doppelgangers (Elizabeth/Madeline, Bucky/Lee), suspense (“Who killed the Black Dahlia??”), allusions to film (The Man Who Laughs and the Hollywood setting), etc.

I’m not sure whether de Palma really has become “a director for hire” or what. I hope that Femme Fatale wasn’t his apogee and now he’s all downhill.

The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm
I just finished watching Ang Lee‘s The Ice Storm and it reminded me of a lot of other family-oriented dramas — and it especially reminded me of plays from the 1950s.

I know it’s hardly profound, but I really like it in movies/plays/etc. traverse into the negative zone (as the movie calls it, borrowing from The Fantastic Four), where everything is sort of different and after the characters enter, everything changes. In The Ice Storm, about half-way through the movie there is (surprise, surprise) an ice storm during which pretty big events happen.

The setup is pretty common among literature. Like I said, it reminded me of 1950s plays such as “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” When I studied “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in college (I wrote a paper titled “Searching for Reality: How Drugs, Self-Deception, and the Influence of Family Help Mary Tyrone Find Her ‘Self’ In ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night'”), I remember my professor commenting on the fact that a major theme of 1950s American drama was family and drinking.

Ever since then, I’ve noticed that lots of literature includes a structure where somewhere around the middle (or Act II), there is either some sort of natural disaster and/or the characters become very intoxicated, and the truth comes out. More recent examples of this setup include Magnolia (raining frogs), Anniversary Party (ecstasy and a lost dog), and Judy Berlin (eclipse), and Short Cuts (earthquake). Likewise, I’ve noticed the theme in older works of literature. Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” comes immediately to mind — once the characters enter the woods, everything changes.

Despite the fact it’s a frequently used trope, I think it works. I think all of us can relate to those strange times or places in life when events compound on top of each other, and then some surreal bigger-than-life phenomenon takes place (or appears to), and for whatever reason, we gain some new insight into life and grow as a person.

You Were The Last High

Dandy Warhols, BJM, and 9 Songs
I remember when The Dandy Warhols‘ song “Not If You Were the Last Junkie On Earth” came out. I was in high school. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is a good song.” But then I saw the video and the song became (relatively) big and I basically wrote-off the band as sell-outs and copycats and the like. I also remember people (who these “people” were I cannot remember — DJs, journalists, whatever?) suggesting that the song was inspired by Kurt Cobain’s drug use. (Does anyone else remember when every alt. rock song was inspired by Cobain’s suicide? I’m thinking of “Mighty K.C.” by the For Squirrels and one or more songs by Imperial Teen.)

After watching Dig! — easily the best music-oriented documentary I’ve ever watched — I am certain that the song was not written about Kurt Cobain, but that it is most likely about Anton Newcombe and/or his band The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

For some stupid reason I opted not to see this movie at SIFF last spring (mostly because I thought I still hated the Dandy Warhols), but now that I’ve seen it on DVD, as I said above, it is an amazing music documentary. I’m not sure how they did it, but the creators of the film basically followed both the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) from their inception to present day. (Although I guess the film only followed BJM through 1997.) In the beginning, the bands were great friends and inspired each other, but then once the Dandy Warhols sold-out by signing to Capitol Records, BJM decided that the two bands should feud a la the feud between Blur and Oasis. So once the bands break ties with each other, the film follows the divergent paths of the two bands.

The film raises a lot of interesting questions about what it means to be an artist/musician, whether “selling out” is really selling out, how the record industry markets bands, etc. The documentary makes it pretty clear that, for the most part, Anton and BJM are the music geniuses and that the Dandy Warhols, while talented, are basically just another rock band that makes good music and tries to be successful doing so. Toward the end, when I felt like the filmmakers were endorsing that decision, Anton gets another chance to speak and it totally shifts the message.

One of the things that the Dandy Warhols said a few times that really bothered me was that they were a “functional” band and that all of the band members’ parents were still married and that, by 2004 or whenever the film was made, all of the members were married and that the BJM were a bunch of dysfunctional “fourteen year-olds” from broken families living in the ghetto. The whole statement seemed rather arrogant and privileged, but in a way where that privilege wasn’t acknowledged, really, or that the privilege was being taken advantage of by the members of the Dandy Warhols.

Enough about Dig!, though, because I also want to mention two other things:

First, the reason I watched Dig! was because I recently realized that I might actually like the Dandy Warhols. I first downloaded the song “Bohemian Like You” a few months ago when my friend Troy heard it on the Six Feet Under soundtrack and asked me to find out what the song was and download it. I must admit, the song was catchy and I didn’t delete it after I played it for him. Apparently the song was really famous from some television commercial, but I wasn’t aware of that. Then, after watching 9 Songs last weekend and downloading the Dandy Warhols’ song from there, “You Were the Last High,” I figured the band might be cool. I read about Dig! and decided I had to watch it.

Second, 9 Songs was an interesting movie. The reviewers who have called it soft-core porn are not wrong. Although the title is 9 Songs, the songs play a relatively minor part in the film. 9 Songs is about a couple exploring their sexuality and having fun (lots of fun) doing it. Interspersed with the sex are live music performances by groups I love such as Franz Ferdinand and Primal Scream (and, apparently, the Dandy Warhols). I tried to find thematic connections between the music and the sex/state of the couple’s relationship, but the only song that seemed to struck a chord in me was the Dandy Warhols’ “You Were the Last High.” The song is quite melancholy and, as I recall, played during one of the more tender sex moments or during/before/after a fight.

In addition to “You Were the Last High,” I also loved the live performance of “Slow Life” by the Super Furry Animals. As for the non-life music, when the couple plays Franz Ferdinand’s “Michael” in the car it’s totally awesome, and Goldfrapp’s “Horse Tears” comes at a particularly touching moment, as well.

In comparison with other sex-based movies I’ve watched, this is one of the better ones. I think the live music performances really help, as they give the characters another interest besides sex. A common theme seems to be self-destruction/lack of care for the outside world/retreating into a two-person life of sex, and 9 Songs breaks that mold, a little. In the end, however, as can probably be predicted, things don’t work out. But unlike other movies, I really don’t think the sex is what destroys the couple. Nor do I think “destroy” is the right word, in the first place. The romance fizzles out, which, I think, is much more accurate than the dramatic and traumatic endings most erotic movies fall prey to.

Where does this leave us? I think both Dig! and 9 Songs attempt to break the mold of very formulaic film genres. Most band documentaries either follow bands to success or destruction. Dig! shows us both and challenges the typical definitions of “success” and “destruction” when it comes to art. Likewise, 9 Songs takes the typical sex-based erotic “artcore” movie, adds some music, and makes the characters less self-absorbed. In 9 Songs, sex is fun — it’s not some artistic expression or brutal exploration of the soul or something.

Doesn’t She Look a Lot Like…

Julia Roberts in Ocean's 12
I won’t say much about Ocean’s 12, mostly because there isn’t much to say. The film is fun and has a bunch of twists at the end that make you go, “Oooohhh,” but for the most part the film is just a basic action/suspense movie. (Though, to be fair, Steven Soderbergh is a genius filmmaker and the movie has a lot of interesting intertextual moments that make it more intriguing then your basic mainstream blockbuster.)

My favorite part of the movie, and the only part that necessitates a post from me, is the scene where Julia Roberts, playing the character Tess, “plays” Julia Roberts in order to get into an art museum. She runs into Bruce Willis, “playing” Bruce Willis, and ultimately her cover is blown.

I just have to say that the idea of an actor playing a character playing that actor is totally awesome. It’s a perfect example of redoubling and, if you want to get really deep, brings the question of identity into the light. Are we really ourselves or are we ourselves playing an idea of ourselves? It’s a total circular question, and no, Ocean’s 12 doesn’t really address this as much as I suggest, but nonetheless, it’s fun to see Julia Roberts doing something sorta unconventional/artsy.

Gothic Machinist

Christian Bale in The Machinist
(I had started writing this post literally months ago but sorta gave up so this is a super simplified version…)

Ever since taking a “Gothic American Literature” course in college, the idea of the uncanny has been one of my favorite literary themes. The idea comes from Sigmund Freud’s essay “The Uncanny.” The best way I can summarize the idea of the uncanny is: the familiar becomes unfamiliar. For example, you look into a mirror and you don’t immediately recognize it as yourself.

Another one of my favorite literary themes is the physical manifestation of psychological phenomenon. This is nothing unique or special, I realize, but I love it nonetheless for two reasons: I tend to think that a lot of illness is somewhat psychosomatic, or, at the very least, affected by your mental/emotional state (i.e. if you are feeling sad about something, you may be more susceptible to a cold or something like that); and since I view truth as a subjective matter, of course I would believe that a person’s psychological state could somehow manifest itself in their notion of reality.

All that said, I loved that The Machinist combined these two elements.

Without giving too much of the movie away, I’ll just say that understanding the idea of uncanniness and physical manifestations are key to this film. Or, rather, they make it much more rewarding. Christian Bale’s character has a mysterious past which is manifested in paranoia and insomnia (which indirectly results in the extreme thinness that, more than anything, got lots of publicity for the movie).

I liked The Machinist as a psychological study. The twist at the end isn’t much of a twist (or wasn’t for me, at least), but this is one of those movies where the ending matters less than everything that comes before it.

Journeys With George

Alexandra Pelosi and George W. Bush
… Maybe he’s not so bad as we think? … Maybe he really is a nice guy? … I don’t know. All I know is that I’m feeling very confused right now.

I’m not sure exactly how to put this, but after watching the self-reflexively sympathetic Journeys With George, I have been brainwashed/fooled/deceived/whatever into think that President George W. Bush may not be quite as evil as I originally thought he was.

This movie is quite a doozy, if I can say so myself. The creator is Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She is, quite obviously, a hardcore democrat liberal. She is also a news producer with NBC news and, for whatever reason (I mean, really, why would they assign the daughter of a democratic representative to cover the a republican presidential hopeful??) they put her on the George W. Bush beat and had her cover his presidential run, starting with the announcement that he was running for president.

Over the course of the year or so that they spent together, Alexandra and Bush actually became pretty close. The thing is, based on the footage she shot (for her own documentary — not for NBC news), he is a genuinely nice guy. He joked with her a lot, and when the other journalists turned on her (when an informal poll she did of who other journalists covering Bush wanted to win was leaked to the tabloids, thus making them all look foolish and fearful of Bush’s reaction), Bush was the one who was nice and said something about how the other journalists weren’t her real friends anyway.

Throughout the movie, Alexandra and Bush have a really good relationship. He really was a nice, fun guy with her. The cynic in me wants to be like, “Well, he was just trying to be all schmoozey so she would report on him better” or something like that, but, honestly, it really did not appear that way. And trust me — when it comes to Bush, I’m as cynical as they get.

The documentary, however, did have more substance than just Alexandra showing us that Bush is a nice guy:

At one point she is talking to another journalists (one of her friends during the trip — a guy who worked for The Financial Times of London) and he notes how the journalists traveling with Al Gore didn’t like him much and that he wasn’t very friendly (or, at least, nothing compared to Bush), and that those attitudes undoubtedly showed up in their journalism. With Bush, on the other hand, the journalists treated it like a party, and Bush was throwing it. So they only reported on little, superficial things and “weren’t really doing [their] job.”

Alexandra makes other pithy remarks about the whole surrealness of it (my favorite: from a distance, clouds look majestic and strong, but up close they look like whipped cream — a not-so-vague metaphor for Bush himself?), and that is probably what saved me from going insane at the end. She really makes the whole thing self-reflexive and somewhat tongue-in-cheek — like she is also saying to herself, “What the fuck is going on here. I am friends with George W. Bush???”

I recommend the movie with the caveat that if you turn into a Bush-supporter at the end, I hold no responsibility. Serious — you have to be in an open state of mind when you watch this movie and realize that it will leave you confused and feeling betrayed and embarrassed. Good luck!

Just Killed Me

Ichi getting ready to fight Kakihara
Now that I’ve seen Ichi the Killer, I can say that it is my favorite Takashi Miike film. Like my other Miike film reviews (Dead or Alive and Izo, I won’t say too much — mostly because there are so many things happening in the movies that it’s hard to keep track.

For the most part, Ichi is a revenge movie. But more in the vein of Oldboy in that it complicates the “simple” revenge movies we’re used to (plus, like Oldboy there is an element of brainwashing involved). Ichi is conditioned by this guy Jijii to kill people in a pretty gruesome way. In the beginning of the movie he kills the crime boss Anjo, which brings Kakihara into the movie. Although the title of the movie is Ichi the Killer, Kakihara is really the main character.

Kakihara is into torture — seriously into torture. I mean torture like hanging people from hooks and pouring hot cooking oil on them, sticking needles into people’s faces, gnawing the skin off of people’s hands, etc. His methods are so extreme, in fact, that he’s kicked out of the yakuza, which means he has more time to track down his former boss’ killer.

Most of the movie is about Kakihara trying to find out who Ichi is and where to find him. Jijii makes sure that Kakihara is fed lots of false information, so between the two of them, Ichi and Kakihara kill/torture-then-kill a good number of the yakuza gang members (which, I imagine, is Jijii’s ultimate goal — it seems as a kid he witnessed a rape and was unable to save the girl so ever since then he’s had a thing against bullies… also, he plants this memory of the rape into Ichi’s head, so ultimately the rape is also Ichi’s reason for killing bullies — that is, Jijii lives vicariously through Ichi).

There is also the slightly tangential story of one of Kakihara’s thugs, Kaneko, and his son Takeshi. Takeshi is often the victim of bullying, and in the end he sorta becomes the next Ichi. So all around Kaneko’s character there are a bunch of parallels — not just between Takeshi and Ichi, but also between Kaneko and Ichi, Kaneko and a yakuza gang leader, and so on. I actually though that Kaneko’s character was the most interesting and probably the key to the movie.

In the end, there is a climactic-anti-climactic face-off between the two that isn’t as violent as one would expect.

My favorite aspect of the movie was the not-so-subtle sado/masochism theme. Both Ichi and Kakihara were sadists, but in different ways.

Kakihara was a greedy sadist, which made him a bit of a masochist, too — the feelings he got from the S&M behavior were all centered in him. He loved Anjo because Anjo would torture him and make him feel something. Before confronting Ichi, he remarked that he had never felt so anxious but was worried that, ultimately, Ichi would let him down by not causing him enough pain.

Ichi, on the other hand, was a sadist who enjoyed causing pain because he believed that pain made the other person feel good. Right before Ichi kills Karen, she says, “No.” To Ichi, this meant, “You said you don’t want it because you do want it.” It’s the old S&M paradox — to really inflict pain on a masochist, do you withhold pain from them? Or give them what they want? Does “No” mean “no” or “yes”?

I think, like I feel every time I watch a Miike movie, that there is some pretty deep philosophical stuff going on. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to watch any of his films more than once, so I’ve never given myself a chance to wade through it. (The first time I watch, especially since it’s a foreign movie, it’s hard enough following the characters and plot.) Ichi the Killer is definitely worth another viewing.