The Big Short
If you’re able to get the holy quadrumvirate of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling to be on one set, your film better be good — especially when it’s produced by Pitt’s Plan-B Entertainment, which has churned out a few notables such as 12 Years a Slave and Moneyball. Director and writer Adam McKay is a long-time Will Ferrell collaborator with the not-really-funny Anchorman, its terrible sequel and the and sort-of-funny Step Brothers, but this time he may have struck gold as The Big Short has made its way to four Golden Globe nominations, five BAFTA nominations and is mentioned among Oscar hopefuls. Anyway, like many movies today, it’s based on a non-fiction book — this one about the build up of the credit and housing bubble and its collapse during the financial crisis of 2007-08. How can such a subject be funny? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
You know you’re getting old when you see Bruce Willis taking second billing to some dude named Kellan Lutz — in an action movie, for crying out loud. But when you find out that Lutz is one of the main actors in Twilight, you’re kind of glad you’re too old to know who he is. This film is all about Lutz — he’s the CIA badass with mad skills who launches a personal mission to, well, extract his father (Willis) who has been kidnapped by terrorists. Very inventive stuff here — too bad it’s only 83 minutes long. It’s directed by Steve Miller, known for his low-budget horror films, so it will most likely be b-movie-ish — which doesn’t mean it’s bound to bad, as campy could be ridiculously entertaining if done right. The only question is why the hell did they convince Willis to be in such a film, especially one where he isn’t the hero.
No, there are no mobsters shooting people in this quiet period piece about Irish immigrants in America, which is based on the award-winning 2009 novel by Irish writer Colm Tolbin about a young Irish woman (Saorise Ronan) who, unable to find work in her home country, emigrates to New York in the 1950s for a better life. By this time, the formerly ostracized Irish-Americans had mostly outgrown their lower-class status, so the film seems to be less about the typical immigrant struggle and more about finding love, identity and belonging as the protagonist becomes torn between her old and new homes. The film has earned very positive reviews since it premiered at Sundance last year, and Ronan has already been nominated for several best actress awards. In addition, director John Crowley has done good work in Intermission while screenwriter Nick Hornby is originally a novelist whose books High Fidelity and About a Boy have been made into films.
The lead couple of Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling took home Silver Bears for best actor and actress at the Berlin Film Festival (and numerous other accolades and counting) in this film that is, well, again, based on literature, this time the short story Another Country by George Constantine. Andrew Haigh of Weekend fame directs this drama piece about a childless, retired couple preparing to celebrate their 45th anniversary (their 40th anniversary plans were derailed) when authorities inform them that they’ve found the frozen and perfectly preserved body of the husband’s ex-girlfriend who plummeted to her death in the Swiss Alps shortly before their marriage. Things subtly start changing, and a quiet marital crisis develops.
Twilight showed up again when looking up the movie’s title on Google, but fortunately this film has nothing to do with the upcoming vampire tragedies of the same name. Forget about Kellan Lutz, this is Patrick Schwarzenegger’s (Arnold’s non-bodybuilder son) first major role, where he romances Bella Thorne and funnyman Rob Riggle tackles his first drama role ever as Thorne’s father. The movie is based on the Japanese film of the same name (is anything original anymore?), which is about a teenage girl who has xeroderma pigmentosum, meaning she cannot be exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Unable to go out during the day, she spends her night busking in front of a train station, until, of course, she runs into some kind of love interest and her life starts to change. Pretty typical Japanese warm-hearted, tear-jerking, seize the fire of youth stuff. Let’s see how it translates in a Western context.
One often hears that the people of Taiwan are 98 percent Han, a complicated cultural term that is often used to imply a certain genetic relationship as well. Yet among the pre-1949 population of Taiwan, roughly 45 percent are descended from immigrants from Quanzhou (泉州) in China. Who might these people be? In medieval times Quanzhou was one of the world’s greatest ports, a melting pot of peoples from India and northeast, southeast and central Asia, along with Han and other peoples we now identify as “Chinese.” Merchants from Quanzhou competed in the southeast Asian textile trade, shipping cottons from India
COVID-19 has been racking the world, and there’s hardly a person alive who doesn’t want to see 2020 in the rear view mirror. Taiwan of course has proven to be an island of safety during this epidemic. In appreciation of that as well as giving 2020 an early send off, Brandon Thompson, Adoga, and Taipei Next have prepared a fitting music fest, “Forget 2020” or in the vernacular, “F#ck 2020.” It’s a late-night-early-morning festival where you’ll hear some 30 vocalists and musicians performing many of your favorite songs from the past two decades. Expect hits from the rise of Bruno, Slim,
NOV. 23 to NOV. 29 Japanese researchers initially thought that the Saisiyat Aborigines’ Pasta’ay festival was a New Year celebration. A drawing of a Saisiyat man dancing with a kirakil, a ceremonial headdress used during the Pasta’ay, appeared in a 1906 issue of Record of Taiwan’s Customs, where the author noted that it “represented reverence to their ancestral spirits.” Ten years would pass before the Temporary Taiwan Old Customs Investigation Committee published the earliest description of the ceremony. “The Pasta’ay is held to worship the Ta’ay people, who were a diminutive race living in the caves of the Maiparai Mountains,” the
“Easy-peasy,” you’re probably saying, “I should have done this years ago.” Such are the joys of riding with a strong wind at your back, which, at this time of year, should be pushing you southwestwards for a second successive day, like a 19th-century clipper racing to deliver Queen Victoria’s favorite Oriental Beauty tea (東方美人) from New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) to London. Enjoy it while it lasts. The Tourism Bureau’s handbook Cycling Around Taiwan sends you off down Provincial Highway 61, which is about as exciting as it sounds. In any case, you’ll have plenty of time in days to