Friday, November 23, 2007

OMG! Bruce Willis Was A Ghost?! (Review of Oldboy)

What does it say about my sick mind and how it got twisted and perverted by a year of research on the federal regulation of the sexual exploitation of minors (happily abandoned, by the way), that I intuitively guessed both of the plot twists of the Korean movie Old Boy wayyy early?

Seriously! I'm not lying! I should have said my [SPOILER ALERT, skip to next paragraph] "hmm, I think that's her brother" and "hmm, I think that's his daughter, and man, that's twisted" hunches out loud as I was watching the movie. TD will never believe me. I really liked the movie, as it is so weird and Tarantino-esque, but without the annoying detraction of actually being made by Tarantino himself (the man greatly annoys me and weirds me out, although I enjoy a few of his films).

Basic plot summary: Oh Dae Su is released from 15 years of bizarre imprisonment, during which time he was accused of murdering his wife. He has five days to figure out why he was imprisoned and seek vengeance on his captor, which brings further punishment (the ultimate punishment, actually) on himself. Awesome, incredibly violent, WEIRD stuff ensues, and there are two very sick elements to the story, which is ultimately redemptive and humanity affirming (because so much of the movie was about dehumanizing, this is nice and not too Lifetime Original). It is a completely awesome movie, has great fight scenes, very gross violence, and is seriousy twisted, with the aforementioned two key plot revelations. It was not my choice for a Sunday night movie, and indeed I had a scary dream about scissors that night, but it is really worth seeing. I just would not see it alone, but that's me and my fear of knives (makes cooking thrilling!) and sharp implements. Gun violence I can handle, just not torture and sharp stabbings. I think I missed 1/4 of the movie because I kept turning away, much to the probable annoyance of TD. However, this was the pick after I told him "anything but a movie with knives, stabbings, gouging, etc," so I don't feel too bad. Plus, did I mention my nightmare?!

For those of you have seen this movie, maybe you will think "Whatev, I totally called that movie." To you, I also say "whatever" right back, and because I am from Orange County, California, I can say that with authority. Because I learned English too formally to adopt any local inflections (in fact, in my head, the English occasionally comes by way of Dickens and Hardy), I can't say "whatever" with the proper intonation (not that I really think Valley girls exist, they are like unicorns, no?), but I can do the "W" sign with my fingers.

But seriously though, my ability to grasp those two plot twists is by my standards, extraordinary. When I watched The Sixth Sense in 1999, I was actually totally blown away by the revelation at the end that Bruce Willis was a ghost. Yes, I graduated from college, and even went onto good law schools. So stop calling me a dumb fuck already.

I wish I could have blamed it on being only 19 and innocent in the ways of the world, but apparently, even children get the plot twist of that movie. Maybe it's just the way I get drawn into narrative, until I am as impelled forward by the plot as much as any of the characters, until I am totally absorbed. It has always been this way, even with novels, in which stories unfold so slowly and carefully that surprises are rare. Maybe that's the mark of a good mystery story or plot twist in a novel: that you can surprise a reader is an awesome feat.

I don't want to anticipate the writer. I don't want to be merely self-congratulatory for my own cleverness and ruin the story for myself. I like to enjoy the process of raeding as much as its plot payoff. Maybe it's because I once had wild, crazy, I-am-such-a-bad-immigrant's-daughter fantasies of being a writer myself. I like stories, and I've always had problems finishing the ones I come up with myself . I worry incessantly that any story I could tell isn't a story worth telling. I may do okay stylistically, but what happens in my stories of any consequence? Will the reader become absorbed in the characters and events enough to feel, as I do in a good story, compelled and impelled forward? And no, I do not believe you, Philosophical Werewolf, that you "totally" thought the ending of Atonement was "predictable." I would call it, as TC, does, a "suckerpunch" ending.

With movies, it's different. I don't really have that excuse. I respect the craft of film making, but I don't have that self-control desire to check my anticipation of the narrative. So I could, in theory, shout directives at the screen and smugly call out plot twists. But I don't. Because I never get them. I am frequently the one who says "wow, I didn't see that coming," like when the pretty girl goes into the dark room and then some seriously bad shit happens to her, or when the moderately attractive guy gets drunk and goes home with that too-hot-for-him girl and seriously bad shit happens to him.

What then, accounts for my sudden prescient perspicacity? Is it that movies are becoming more predictable and formulaic (very possible, but this one was a GOOD movie), or is my mind just becoming more sick and twisted and thus able to anticipate sick twists?


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