• Detective Dee: A Masterpiece from a Hong Kong Cinema Swami

    The cloud wisps that materialize into the written introduction of Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame inform us in stately language that the film is set in the year 689 A.D., when the Chinese regent Wu Zetian was about to become history’s first female emperor. Rival warlords aligned to block Wu’s ascendancy and, the narration adds in a switch to pulp-magazine idiom, “All hell was about to break loose.” Hellfire, to be exact: as they oversee the construction of a giant Buddha to honor the Empress’s coronation, several high officials literally burst into flame, their bodies quickly reduced to a sulfurous, satanic char. The Devil was rarely such a showman.

    Tsui Hark, though, has been raising cinematic hell for more than three decades. The Hong Kong movie mogul — who was born in Saigon, studied film at the University of Texas and worked at one of Manhattan’s first cable TV stations — went on to direct about half of the best pictures from Hong Kong’s golden age (Peking Opera Blues, Once Upon a Time in China, Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain) and to produce most of the other half (John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, Ching Siu-tung’s A Chinese Ghost Story, Yuen Wo-ping’s Iron Monkey). From a tiny colony of 6 million souls came a stream of vital, eviscerating melodramas that taught Hollywood how to infuse action films with a whirling visual poetry. Behind the camera or as a prodding overseer, Tsui Hark was the central creative figure of a truly popular national cinema.

    Like other Hong Kong directors, he did a stretch in L.A., helming a couple of Jean Claude Van Damme movies, and returning home when the international taste for the S.A.R.’s low-budget thrillers had atrophied. The worldwide market was interested only in traditional martial-arts fantasies — and, really, only two of those: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero. Tsui Hark’s gorgeous new adventure, which had its world premiere at last year’s Venice Film Festival and is now opening in the U.S., meets those two winners on their own level and often soars deliriously above.

    In the teeming, scheming cast of characters summoned by screenwriter Zhang Jialu, five stand out. Pride of place goes to the Empress, a believer in the maxim that “When one aims to achieve greatness, everyone is expendable.” Played with a sultry intelligence by Carina Lau, who sports a soul queen’s exotic headdresses and charcoal eyebrows like Ash Wednesday soot, Wu radiates the haughtiness of one who was not born to power but achieved it through ruthless majesty; she can seduce or threaten with equal authority and ease. Her one trusted aide is Shangguan Jing’er (Li Bingbing), a porcelain beauty who looks delicate and maidenly with her long hair pinned back, an earth goddess when she lets it down; Jing’er is also pretty handy with a whip. Far down the chain of command from Wu’s right-hand woman is a man who lost his right hand when Wu condemned him to prison in an earlier revolt. Shatuo Zhong (longtime Hong Kong slickie Tony Leung Ka-fei) was a construction foreman at the time of the first flame-outs. Could he bear the Empress the slightest grudge?

    The central quintet is completed by two men assigned to investigate the officials’ fiery deaths. Deng Chao (Pei Donglai), an officer of the Supreme Court, is righteous, imaginative, quirky and literally colorless — sort of an Asian albino Christopher Walken. He is joined by the gifted sleuth Di Renjie — Detective Dee (Andy Lau) — who was captured in the same insurrection that brought down Shatuo and has been imprisoned for eight years, wearing the shaggy hair and beard of a hermit saint. When Wu frees Dee and makes him Imperial Commissioner in charge of the Phantom Flame mystery, he applies all his skills of deduction and flying footwork. This kick-ass CSI needs to be as wary as he is resourceful, because the other four, plus various warlords, monks and mythological creatures, have their own mortal agendas. And nobody wants Dee to survive his greatest case.

    Tsui Hark has always been a swami of cinematic geometry: he can pack reams of exposition and sensation into a dozen pristinely composed shots that take only a few seconds of screen time. If you see the movie on DVD you’ll often want to scan backward to study certain scenes for the subtle pulses of their elegance and fury. The director’s trickster genius is shared by the main characters; each is supremely adept and understandably suspicious of the others, any one of whom could be the evil mastermind. Most of them are surely capable of stunts in the great Hong Kong tradition: tree-hopping, a fierce battle on two galloping horses and plenty of dexterous swordplay, all choreographed by veteran Hong Kong star Sammo Hung.

    The mix of actors from the mainland (Li and Deng Chao) and Hong Kong in its glory days (Leung and the Laus) also proves a tasty concoction. The three Hong Kongers were all cuties in the ’80s; Andy Lau in particular enjoyed a prolonged movie adolescence as a Canto-pop pretty boy. But in the last decade, often working with crime-drama maven Johnnie To — and playing the Matt Damon role in the local hit Infernal Affairs, which Martin Scorsese remade as The Departed — Lau has matured into a steely gravity. His Dee, who trades in his hermit guise for the equally startling mustache and goatee worthy of a mincing courtier, is the one person here who may earn the designation of hero.

    Packed with a magic talking deer, a red-robed river king and characters transformable by acupoints (including the worm-devourer Dr Donkey Wang, who before our eyes morphs from one Hong Kong comedy stalwart, Richard Ng, to another, Teddy Robin), Detective Dee fulfills Pei’s description of China’s Phantom Bazaar as “a spooky pandemonium.” But the movie is not just spectacle; it’s got a tender, ultimately tragic love story and enough deadly political scheming to fill a Gaddafi playbook. Indeed, in its narrative cunning, luscious production design and martial-arts balletics, Detective Dee is up there with the first great kung-fu art film, King Hu’s 1969 A Touch of Zen. We’d call it Crouching Tiger, Freakin’ Masterpiece.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2091302,00.html#ixzz1Wlvp2v3k

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  •  

    Pottermore, the new, officially J.K. Rowling–sanctioned Harry Potter website, is now conducting what’s known as a “closed beta.” That means that it’s not open to the public, but a bunch of lucky fans, about a million of them, have been invited in to explore it early.

    I’m one of them. My daughter, whom we’ll call Plum, is another. Plum is 7, but she’s a voracious reader and no mean Potter scholar. She’s about to finish the series for the second time. She is, needless to say, crazed with excitement. She also has a very short attention span.

    Plum and I settled in for our first session with Pottermore the other day. I sat at the keyboard, since Plum doesn’t use a computer yet, and she looked over my shoulder. We logged in, using the username and password Pottermore had given us. The Pottermore interface is elegant — a thing of twisted branches and silver filigree. There’s an owl perched at the top of the screen.

     

    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2089575,00.html

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  • ffmpeg version 0.6, enter the following command in the console you can see detailed ffmpeg compile options. [Root @ localhost ffmpeg] #. / Configure – help Usage: configure [options] Options: [defaults in brackets after descriptions] Standard options: – help print this message – logfile = FILE log tests and output to FILE [config . log] – disable-logging do not log configure debug information ———————————— —————————————— these parameters important to determine ffmpeg compiled files on the system somewhere. – Prefix = PREFIX install in PREFIX [] – bindir = DIR install binaries in DIR [PREFIX / bin] – datadir = DIR install data files in DIR [PREFIX / share / ffmpeg] – libdir = DIR install libs in DIR [PREFIX / lib] – shlibdir = DIR install shared libs in DIR [PREFIX / lib] – incdir = DIR install includes in DIR [PREFIX / include] – mandir = DIR install man page in DIR [PREFIX / share / man ] ————————————————- —————————– Configuration options: – disable-static do not build static libraries [no] – enable-shared build shared libraries [no] – enable-gpl allow use of GPL code, the resulting libs and binaries will be under GPL [no] – enable-version3 upgrade (L) GPL to version 3 [no] – enable-nonfree allow use of nonfree code, the resulting libs and binaries will be unredistributable [no] ——————————— ——————————————— The Man ffmpeg directory file – disable-doc do not build documentation – disable-ffmpeg disable ffmpeg build – disable-ffplay disable ffplay build – disable-ffprobe disable ffprobe build – disable-ffserver disable ffserver build – disable-avdevice disable libavdevice build – disable-avcodec disable libavcodec build – disable-avcore disable libavcore build – disable-avformat disable libavformat build – disable-swscale disable libswscale build – enable-postproc enable GPLed postprocessing support [no] – disable-avfilter disable video filter support [no] ——————————————- ———————————— – disable-pthreads disable pthreads [auto] – enable- w32threads use Win32 threads [no] – enable-x11grab enable X11 grabbing [no] – disable-network disable network support [no] – disable-mpegaudio-hp faster (but less accurate) MPEG audio decoding [no] – enable-gray enable full grayscale support (slower color) – disable-swscale-alpha disable alpha channel support in swscale – disable-fastdiv disable table-based division – enable-small optimize for size instead of speed – disable-aandct disable AAN DCT code – disable-dct disable DCT code – disable-fft disable FFT code – disable-golomb disable Golomb code – disable-huffman disable Huffman code – disable-lpc disable LPC code – disable-mdct disable MDCT code – disable-rdft disable RDFT code – disable-vaapi disable VAAPI code – disable-vdpau disable VDPAU code – disable-dxva2 disable DXVA2 code – enable-runtime-cpudetect detect cpu capabilities at runtime (bigger binary) – enable-hardcoded-tables use hardcoded tables instead of runtime generation – enable-memalign-hack emulate memalign, interferes with memory debuggers this option bovine B ah! – Disable-everything disable all components listed below – disable-encoder = NAME disable encoder NAME – enable-encoder = NAME enable encoder NAME – disable-encoders disable all encoders – disable-decoder = NAME disable decoder NAME – enable-decoder = NAME enable decoder NAME – disable-decoders disable all decoders – disable-hwaccel = NAME disable
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  •  

    Taylor Swift is well-known for favoring floaty, feminine frocks (phew, how’s that for alliteration?). Her signature style backfired on her unexpectedly, however, during her tour stop in St. Louis on Sunday.

    Swift took the stage that evening to perform her hit “You Belong With Me,” dressed in one of her trademark gowns. A wind machine on stage must have been ill-placed, because the singer stepped in front of it–and it blew her dress’s swishy skirt right up, fully exposing her rear end!

    Luckily, Swift was prepared for such a “wardrobe malfunction”–she was wearing nude-colored briefs, which offered complete coverage and kept the mishap decidedly G-rated.

    Most admirably, Swift kept her cool during the little blowup. Most girls would have reflexively grabbed at the skirt–but, ever the professional, Swift merely scuttled a bit and continued on with her performance. In fact, fans watching her from the front probably had no idea any funny business had gone on. Watch for yourselves:

    Love her or hate her–you must admit, the gal’s a true pro!

    Swift is currently in the North American leg of her largely sold-out Speak Now world tour.  She’s also just released a new video from Speak Now, “Sparks Fly,” which features scenes from the tour (including a big selection of floaty dresses–although they all stay down in this case).

     

    http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/ourcountry/94419/taylor-swift-suffers-wardrobe-malfunction-on-tour-stop/

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  • In the winter and spring, the Meadowlands Izod Center, just across the river from New York City, houses the hapless New Jersey Nets; but for two days in June it served as the shrine for Glee. Thousands of the faithful have made their Mecca trek for an in-person peek at the stars of the hit Fox series. “Oh, Artie!”, they apostrophize about the kid in the wheelchair. They kneel before the niche of Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris), she of the airhead aphorisms, and they curtsey to Kurt (Chris Colfer), the de-closeted gay teen with the angelic countertenor. As for Rachel (Lea Michele), all right, she’s kind of a pain — but God, what glorious Broadway pipes! (PHOTOS: Glee‘s Broadway roots)

    Glee began, in September 2009, as a TV show about the glee club kids at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio. Then, as this comedy-drama-musical bucked prime-time trends, became a solid hit and turned its misfit teens into role models, executive producer Ryan Murphy and his team also took on a mission: propagandizing for Otherness, for kids who are gay, fat, disabled, troubled, mentally impaired or just plain lonely. The message surely gives hope to outcast kids, and functions as a sharp skin-bracer to complacent adult; but the series, once an enclave for show tunes and classic pop, now takes itself so seriously that it could be called The Church of Latter-Day Songs.

    On its pretty-young-thing face, Glee 3D is your basic concert film for teens, following the improvised marketing devices for Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber. Director Kevin Tancharoen — who did Fame‘s big-screen remake and such classic TV doc-schlock as Britney Spears: Live from Miami and The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll — parades the cast through a score of numbers previously seen on the show and intersperses the numbers with backstage footage and fan effusions. But the film also serves as the clearest statement of Glee‘s sacred mission. Through it, we can see how the entire multimedia phenomenon — the show, the albums, the iTunes hits, the recent concert tour and now this movie — has accrued the odor, say the incense, of a secular religion. Count the similarities:

    1. The Gods. They’re You, the series tells its teen fans, but sexier, more articulate and iconic. (Also older: Colfer is the only actor of the core dozen “high-schoolers” who’s not at least 25 this year; the guys who play Finn, Puck and Mike are pushing 30.) Glee being an ensemble show, it gives the audience all manner of eccentric, often warring gods to choose from. The religion is pantheistic, with more deities than Buddhism. (READ: “Sayonara, Singers: ‘Glee’ Cast Will Actually Graduate”)

    2. The Faithful. True, every concert film is a gathering of the faithful, filled with reaction shots of smiling or weeping audience members, those faces gazing up at the celebrant in beatific awe. But Gleeks radiate a fervor of born-again intensity. Outside the Izod before the shows, the acolytes wear votive costumes, transfigure themselves with Glee spray-on facial tattoos — Ash Wednesday soot in DayGlo colors — and speak in hushed rapture of their particular living-room gods.

    3. The Gospel. In the Church of Glee, services are held not on Sunday or Saturday or Friday, but Tuesday nights at 8. And whereas the Catholic Mass synopsizes the same story each week — of Jesus’ power to transform himself into an incredible, edible God — Glee has an ever-expanding scripture, providing 24 new parables a year.

    4. The Hymns. The Catholics’ traditional High Mass was a musical in Latin. Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer was a cantor gone secular. Half of all R&B divas and many a rockabilly rebel first wailed in a church choir. But the songs of the established churches are often centuries old; the Church of Glee turns Broadway melodies and new hits into instant hymns. The Jay Z-Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” get Glee‘s liturgical makeover, as does Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” Rachel and Kurt channel those gods of gaydom, Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland, in a medley of “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Get Happy”; Kurt transforms the peppy innocence of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” into a tender ballad of one boy wanting to touch another. And when Blaine (Darren Kriss) and the Warblers perform Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” a cappella, they could be the Boys’ Choir of Lima. (VIDEO: Chris Colfer talks Glee, Bullying and Being Yourself)

    5. The Miracles. Not Smokey Robinson’s backup group: we mean actual, inexplicable, borderline-divine, life-changing events. To qualify an applicant for sainthood, the Catholic Church requires three demonstrable miracles — exactly the number provided by the testimonials of Glee fans (in doc footage shot by Jennifer Arnold) and sprinkled throughout the film. Josie Pickering, diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, credits Glee for helping her to forget her troubles and discover friends. Trenton Thompson, a gay teen rudely outed in eighth grade when the boy he secretly loved was passed Trenton’s diary, finds strength in Kurt’s pain and pride. And though the Glee connection is more tenuous in the story of Janae Meraz, a cheerleader and a dwarf, it’s nice to learn she was crowned princess of her high school prom.

    One peculiarity of the movie is that, in the backstage scenes, the cast stays in character. Santana (the great and underused Maya Rivera) plays bitch goddess to her girl rivals, while Brittany is pleased that the concert film will be in 3-D, so she can show off her boobs — as she does, in a slinky outfit dancing to the real Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” which should warm up the three heterosexual males who may see the movie. Also, and bizarrely, the dressing rooms are apparently off-limits to adults, including glee-club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison). Maybe they don’t need Will to give them a preconcert pep talk, since their favorite substitute teacher Holly Holliday (Academy Award® winner Gwyneth Paltrow) has dropped by to perform “Forget You,” the PG version of last year’s Cee Lo Green hit. (READ: “How Does Glee Choose Its Songs?”)

    Fans might prefer it if the real stars answered real questions. Chord Overstreet, you’ve been dropped from the show. Your thoughts? Or: Lea, you’ve been channeling Barbra Streisand since you were a tot — your first word was probably a warbled “People” — and in the film, just before you sing “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” somebody tells that B.S. herself is in the audience. Now you’ve just learned that the Streisand role in a big L.A. revival of Funny Girl has gone to Lauren Ambrose. How’s your day? But to allow any reality, even reality TV, into the votive world of Glee 3D might break the spell.

    The movie even provides an onstage miracle. Saying he has always dreamed of walking, Artie (Kevin McHale), the crippled kid, rises from his wheelchair to perform Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance” and executing some pretty slick snake moves. A pity that Rachel can’t dream herself tall, or Lauren (Ashley Fink) suddenly change from fat and surly to thin and gracious. But Artie’s dream dance reminds us that the whole movie is the group fantasy of the McKinley High glee club: that they are magically onstage, belting out the numbers they performed after school, and adored by thousands of teens just like themselves. In Glee 3D the audience gets to share that dream, the answer to its collective prayer, the final musical miracle.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2088355,00.html#ixzz1UrqpxFhY

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