Amoeblog

Cinema Exotica: Green Mansions (1959)

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, May 18, 2012 12:23am | Post a Comment

From here we embark upon a new adventure in film.

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I've spent countless, happy hours fantasizing the paradisiacal ideal while imbibing perilous quantities of rum disguised as exotic cocktails courtesy of my favorite local tiki temple --- an activity that always serves to spur my desire to explore the visions of other folks who, like me, possess a natural inclination for romanticizing the genre Exotica in all it's mythic and delightfully bogus configurations. Specifically, a designated fantasy realm as glamorized almost as much as it is spoofed by the so-called civilized world, or tropical ersatz: the non-native, pseudo experience of Oceania and other enticing ports of call.

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Until now I've kept these mental meanderings mostly to myself, only occasionally sharing my ruminations with whomever occupies a bar stool nearby and all the while becalmed beneath the warming fog of grog. From this day forward, however, I seek to nourish my untiring preoccupation with genre by delving into a more conceptual, considerate means of satisfying these vivid tropical itches I keep having. The time has come to put some sober thought into this journey beyond the music in favor of a more lively, animated intoxication I like to call Cinema Exotica (not to be confused with that mid-nineties Canadian film about a Toronto strip club).

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But where do we begin? Perhaps with a question: if Exotica, the musical genre, provides the adventure-seeking listener an array of quasi-tropical aural impressions with which to induce a mini mental holiday, then how would these cerebral spells manifest if they could be fully realized? That is to say scripted, financed, and committed to film for the ages. Mulling this query has inspired a sort of personal silver-screen safari: my quest to find films that I feel qualify for classification into a logical Cinema Exotica film genre -- a genre that doesn't really exist as far as I can surmise. I mean, research suggests that the words have more to do with adult entertainment than anything else (google it any way you can and see what I mean).

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Imbibing "Rummy 4" (In Which the Spiritus of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is Deemed Grog-Worthy)!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, May 25, 2011 04:10pm | Post a Comment
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Like any cinematic guilty pleasure worth weathering, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is more than just an overblown, summer  swashbuckler expressed by as yet untapped, stay-puft and plunging poet-shirted, scally-wag stereotypes. Nay, this flick be an opportune seaworthy vessel for a cine-booze cruise. Having veraciously enjoyed the film myself, I offer here some possible guidelines for dissolving that fourth wall of Disney imagineering with the real spirit of the eighteenth century --- RUM! --- an endeavor that'll surely have you listing near to scuppers or otherwise passed out in the bilge by journey's end: be ye warned!

First off, the obvious: 1 drink whenever anyone drinks, cheers matey. This is a pirate movie after all, savvy? (Make that a sip for every "savvy" uttered as well.)
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1 drink for every instance of weird religious undertones. Hear me now believe me later, there is enough missionary madness and religious righteousness invoked here to warrant suspicions as to the possible narrative of Rummy 5.

1 drink when Richard Griffiths flashes his nasty, royal grill!

1 drink for every "Aye!" Geoffrey Rush's pirate turned privateer, Captain Hector Barbossa, delivers.

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Back in Bag End Again: Keeping Up with the Hobbit

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, April 15, 2011 01:05pm | Post a Comment
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Production has begun on Peter Jackson's two film epic adaptation of The Hobbit and what better way to keep geeks (like me) in the know than to keep a Hobbit blog replete with photos and boss video updates:



I love how down to earth (Middle Earth!) Sir Peter is and this first look into what promises to be an unprecedented documentation of modern movie making (3D, yo!) and down-home togetherness (the Maori blessing of the set and hongi greetings portrayed in this, the first, ten minute video blog are heart-warming) the likes of which Ringers the world 'round will lap up with fervor. Keep 'em coming, Kiwis!

All That Biodigital Jazz, Man

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 30, 2010 10:55am | Post a Comment
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I remember the first time I caught sight of the glowing, blacklit neon appeal of TRON. The boxy upright console outshone the others in my hometown Putt-Putt arcade and I couldn't help desiring to bask in its purple hazed portal though I'd always considered Centipede to be my one and only love. Let's be honest, playing TRON was about as exciting as the saccharin in a can of Tab, no matter how romanced I was by that Starlight Express meets Pinball Wizard of a design story. It's a silly game popularized a silly movie and it seems the good folks down at Disney completely understand that. TRON may never be taken seriously for its dramatic narrative and that's exactly right-on, but it is bursting with cinematic content. For me, re-viewing the 1982 classic TRON flick and the recently reimagineered TRON: Legacy was pure pop Sci-Fi pleasure the likes of which anyone this side of the Logan's Run Carousel knows better than to over-analyze.

Anyway, what better way to punctuate sweet freedom of another semester completed and celebrate the spirit of the season than seeing TRON: Legacy in IMAX 3D over Christmas vacation? Disney's new take on the ambitious yet sketchy Rotoscoped, post modern, science-fantasy arcade-gaming jam delivers a not very smart but sometimes clever cross-section of tired sci-fi/fantasy genre clichés, slickly redesigned to diamond-cut, mind-blowing visual perfection, ever flying the promotional gaming flag and still driven (literally!) by a pre-Lebowski albeit CG'd Jeff Bridges (which raises questions about the ethical treatment of dead actors' imminent bodies of possible future work) as well as the more popular (and less obviously plasti-complexioned) post "Dude" Jeff Bridges. Aesthetically, TRON went from this: 
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to this:
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...clunky helmet no longer required. I really love the visual shift in the application of a primary color scheme from TRON's UV tinged, patent eighties neons to the updated laser red, tungsten yellow and halogen blue as they appear both on and off their respective renderings of "the grid," not to mention the thrilling, hi-tech hard edge TRON: Legacy has over the crappy vectorgraphic "effects" dealt by its predecessor. However, TRON: Legacy does manage to shovel its fair share of shit: what's with that queeny Castor character and his, or should I say HER, swishy hardly-head-of-security counterpart? Accommodating the Brits-as-villains Star Wars stereotype much? Castor's little ditty and dance act should be cast out. And how about all that easy, cheesy dialogue? I swear some of those lines were straight up lifted from the Matrix --- is that why this film wasn't made ten years ago? And while I'm not buying so much the Neo/Jesus/Skywalker/Solo vibe of Kevin Flynn's son (played by Garrett Hedlund), Sam, I am totally vibing on Jeff Bridges' Obi Wan/God/Gandalf "zen thing" update of his completely timelapsed character, under the influence of a heavy dose of his Dudeness (Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing). I mean, really, if Bridges hadn't had his prior engagement with the brothers Coen, TRON: Legacy would probably only have its visual wizardry going for it and zero characters for folks like me to latch on to. Besides, I was more than ready to settle in and enjoy the ride after that opening sequence: Bridges' voice, speaking over Daft Punk's excellent score of electronic minimalism meets classical orchestration --- incorporating Wendy Carlos' original TRON soundtrack in a fitting homage --- urging us to think of a time when computers seemed more magical than mechanical and menacing, the inevitability of A.I. more a willing dream than nightmarish catastrophe. "The Grid," he recalls: "A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they move through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day, I got in."

The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, April 8, 2010 09:51am | Post a Comment
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For many citizens of the Western hemisphere Japan remains a strange place chock full of exotic and inscrutable cultural asymmetries. It is a place where paying to "fall in love" with a stranger you cannot meet outside of a designated place, you cannot call upon as need dictates and, in many cases, you cannot touch under any circumstances whatsoever is sometimes preferred to falling in love the complicated way, the old fashioned way, for mutual appreciation's sake. But then perhaps that is what makes so many Japanese justify the risk of succumbing to economic ruin to patronize hostess and host bars, financially worshiping their quarries, spending as much as $10,000 a night to ultimately "fall in love" with their fantasies. Seeing this kind of scenario playing out over and over again like a demented, downward spiraling carousel in The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, a documentary feature that vignettes the life and times of Rakkyo Cafe (a popular Osaka host bar) with special focus fixed on their top selling host, Issei (22), and the staff of twenty young male escorts who all benefit from Issei's tutelage, is a compelling voyeuristic experience so emotionally harrowing that it almost made me wish my heart were a stomach so that it could barf.
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I remember my first exposure to the world of hosts and host bars in the form of a brochure put into the basket of my bicycle as I passed through a busy intersection in Osaka. I had no idea what manner of publication it was; upon first glance I assumed that it was some kind of fashion magazine judging by the pretty girls on the cover, but perusing it later I realized that the the girls were actually boys and the fashion magazine was more like a catalog of host bar "menus" displaying glossy over-lit portraits of the boys whose companionship you would purchase for a spell buffered by ads calling for young women who fancied designer goods and other expensive sundries to consider employment of a certain kind to support their extravagant tastes. The general obscenity of these ads, however, took a backseat to my immediate fascination with the appearance of the hosts, whose hair-stories and accessorized flair shared a similarity of outlandishness that baffled my mind delightfully. It was like flipping through a guide for a zoo that specialized in Japanese peacocks who all toiled to attain a similar high-style reminiscent of any tough British rock star who sold out in the eighties. I have to admit I was taken with the absurd cocksure posturing, but do these men really possess a vision of what women want by Japanese standards? Definitely one of those things that make you go hmmm...
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While watching The Great Happiness Space wasn't a total downer, it packed none of the laughs I expected to glean from my limited exposure to what I considered to be the most ridiculous existence of hosts and the host bar phenomenon. Though I think this film would make for great conversation concerning gender issues, I also didn't get the impression that the lady patrons of Rakkyo Cafe's hosts were winning anything back for the oppressed women of Japan like I had expected. Indeed, their role in the host/client relationship signifies a double-victimization for women in that the men exercise absolute control of their many paid relationships plus the fact that the majority of Rakkyo Cafe's regulars interviewed for the film held jobs in the mizu shobai, Japan's nightlife working sector, whether they be employed at cabarets, hostess bars, touch bars, "soap lands," or engage in outright prostitution in order to capably afford satisfying their need to feel needed by their host of choice and, at Rakkyo Cafe, Issei-san is most definitely in high demand.
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But what makes Issei so popular? According to his co-workers he's a master of his trade, saying and doing anything women want of him, all the while reading any situation he finds himself in and playing the role that best suits his clients' needs and his desire to ultimately maintain command of the money flow. This has also put him in a position of getting as much ass as he gets cash, "I was having nonstop sex," he says of his ascension to the top-selling host in his district and his willingness to let women have their way with him -- "sex with 365 girls a year." So many of Issei's regular girls openly claim an addiction to his person, one completely whacked chick claiming that her "life without Issei is unimaginable right now," that watching his interactions with them casts a shadow over his character, a demonizing that Issei himself recognizes as one of the many hazards of the job. He also is forced by trade to consume more alcohol in an evening than most folks do in a month, as much as ten bottles of champagne per night, drinking, throwing up and drinking as many times as necessary just to keep it up. "I think my liver is fucked," he says. Of course, the hosts at Rakkyo Cafe are available by the hour for their company but they also depend on generating revenue by pushing pricey drinks on their patronesses. Bottles of champagne, consumed by the disco-lit pitcher-full, range from $250 to $600 for average priced fare and up to $5,000 for the high rollers. There is also at least one exclusive seat in the house: if Issei is entertaining ladies in the main part of the bar a client can pay a premium for a private audience with Issei in a special seat secluded from the crowd for an additional charge of $50 per hour, which, now keep in mind that average hosts earn a monthly paycheck of $10,000, for Issei-san a good month usually nets $50,000 --- cha-ching!
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However, the scene fades to its bleakest when the hosts, after hours, talk each other out of feeling any moral conflict for leading their clients forever onwards, breaking hearts, emptying wallets and enabling young women to sell flesh for the purpose of supporting such an costly addiction as pleasurable soul-searching with the boys of Rakkyo Cafe. This film draws the viewer into the never-neverland that is the Osaka host bar scene, portrays the twisted interrelationships inherent to the varied and never-short-on-creativity nightlife industries in Japan without taking sides, and forces viewers to explore their own conclusions in the end. Thanks to this excellent documentary I am pleased to know more about this subject than I'd have ever learned flipping through my slick souvenir host catalog I received once upon a time in Osaka and I find that I am plagued with a host, pun intended, of real questions concerning the host bar phenomenon that weren't answered or even addressed by this film. Here's hoping there are others like The Great Happiness Space director Jake Clennell who seek to shed more light on the intricacies that lie down the darkened corridors of Japan's modern "Floating World."