Thursday, May 31, 2012

Documentary Focus: Resurrect Dead

Sorry guys, it's not about zombies.

I've heard of the Toynbee Tiles for quite a while now, as one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. Seen as far back as the early 1980's all over the East Coast and all the way to South America, these tiles all share the same text, seen above, with small variations in additional text. The thing is, no one knows why they were made or who made them.

The documentary Resurrect Dead: Mystery of The Toynbee Tiles tries to figure out the answer to this lingering mystery. Led by artist Justin Duerr, the film talks about his years-long search for the elusive tiler. Thanks to collaboration from multiple people, also interested in the tiles, he has three leads: a reclusive resident of Philadelphia, a former railroad worker whose trail corresponds with the placement of the tiles, and a play whose content eerily resembles the content of the tiles.

The film is compelling and grabs you from start to end. Eventually, after multiple dead ends, Duerr seemingly hits paydirt and presents evidence pointing towards one of his earlier leads. The evidence is quite convincing and fits the details of the mystery quite well.

Interspersed within the narrative are some segments that show a glimpse of Duerr's own life, somehow giving a reason for his obsession: he is a loner, yet a consummate artist, rejected by the mainstream in his youth, unable or unwilling to conform to society's pressures. In many ways I think he sees himself in the person who makes these tiles. These segments transform the narrative into a mirror comparing the tiler and Duerr himself rather than sticking to a straightforward story.

This is a very intriguing documentary and I recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery. Whether you agree with the evidence presented, the journey you take to get there is good enough for the price of admission.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Randomness, part 3890f3@# (see I told you it was random)

So I was watching this on youtube today.

If you watched Kill Bill (and you probably have, this is the sequence where Uma Thurman has Sonny Chiba make a sword for him. You might remember the bald shaved guy who serves as his assistant and does... assistant stuff. Look closer dudes.

That's freaking Kenji Ohba, man. a.k.a. Uchuu Keiji Gavan/Sky Ranger. a.k.a. Battle Kenya, a.k.a. Denji Blue, a.k.a. Mr. Super Sentai, who basically taught Captain Marvelous on how to be awesome. He was often his own suit actor. In Kill Bill, he reportedly also fought Uma Thurman as one of the Crazy 88. I honestly don't know if Tarantino knew this (he watched Hattori Hanzo, so I wouldn't be surprised if he did)

Mind = Blown.

Anyway, in retrospect, it kinda makes a lot of sense. Sonny Chiba founded the Japan Action Club. Basically it's a troupe of stunt performers and martial artists and what have you that perform in various plays, dramas, etc etc. Most of the tokusatsu productions from the early eighties got their casts from the JAC. I think most of the Bioman cast were from there, for example. Many alumni from the JAC formed their own stunt troupes. Even now, those suit actors in tokusatsu probably got their start training under there somehow.

Other people Sonny Chiba helped train includes Hiroyuki "Duke" Sanada, who we remember as that badass dude from The Last Samurai, and from a little horror movie I'd like to call Ring. Also, one notable alumna from the JAC includes Yukari Oshima, better known by her stage name, Cynthia Luster:

Japanese martial arts films may not have been as 'in the spotlight' as Hong Kong films were, back in the day, but if you watched any of the shows I mentioned earlier, these guys were basically part of your childhood. So that Kill Bill scene has a new emotional meaning for me: I guess it is kinda fitting that Sonny Chiba would have one of his best guys playing his right hand man in the film.

That's basically it. Just a random thing to spice up your day. Move along now...