Friday, December 31, 2010


Didn't catch a ton of films this year - mostly here and there at festivals, some in Taiwanese theatres, and a few back in the States. Here were my favorite ones.

In no particular order:

Last Train Home
Lixin Fan's documentary about a migrant worker family in China is not just visually amazing, but heartbreaking. I could watch his shots of people looking out of train windows all day...

Margot at the Wedding made me feel miserable. Greenberg also made me feel miserable, but by the end somehow I was feeling warm and fuzzy. Greta Gerwig is awesome. I had to wikipedia mumblecore to find out what it was.

Toy Story 3
Pure storytelling. I love the Totoro.

True Grit
For the opening shot alone.

Bi, Don't Be Afraid
A Vietnamese film I saw in Toronto - I will never think of ice the same way again.

Social Network
Way more entertaining than it has a right to be. Can you believe this was shot on a Red camera?

Winter's Bone
Such a great sense of place and an amazing accomplishment acheived with so little. Debra Granik is a badass.

The Fourth Portrait
The best Taiwanese film this year. The cinematography (shot by the director!) is ridiculous.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The under-appreciated "So I Married an Axe Murderer" was playing on HBO Taiwan the other night...I watched about half of it and actually quite enjoyed how they shot San Francisco, especially the sections in North Beach. Got me thinking of some good Bay Area films:

"Zodiac/The Game"
David Fincher is a Bay-Area native so his take on the city is always very authentic, but what's really cool is that in the Game, he avoids San Francisco landmarks altogether and shoots the city mostly at a claustrophobic street level - the Financial Center at night is especially eerie. Michael Douglas jumps off the roof of the Palace Hotel. Sean Penn goes nuts somewhere near Nob Hill.

Alfred Hitchcock does it very picturesque. Nice views of the bay looking out from California.

"So I Married an Axe Murderer"
I liked the North Beach stuff (with all the beat poet stuff). The trip to Alcatraz is kind of lame.

"The Rock"
Sean Connery escapes from the Fairmont (or was it the Four Seasons). He tries to reconcile with his daughter inside the Palace of Fine Arts. VX nerve gas rockets aimed at San Francisco!

"The Conversation"
One of my favorite Coppola movies. The opening scene in Union Square is awesome - voyeuristic zooms with those creepy 70s sound effects. Also love the scene at Embarcadero Center with a young and dapper Harrison Ford.

Robert Redford gets thrown in the trunk of a car and has to rely on the repetitous sound of the bridge segments to retrace his steps (was it the Dumbarton Bridge? Who actually takes the Dumbarton Bridge?) I remember there also being a sweet shot of the Bay Bridge from around the Embarcadero and Market.

"The Presidio"
I don't remember anything about the Presidio.

"A View to a Kill"
Roger Moore fighting atop the Golden Gate Bridge!

"The Graduate"
Dustin Hoffman driving the wrong way on the Bay Bridge. That one frathouse on the corner of College and Durant in Berkeley...

Dennis Quaid tearing through the city in his sports car. I think the bad guys all lived in Silicon Valley.

"Harold and Maude"
Almost in my backyard...I think it was shot mostly in Hillsborough and San Mateo Park.

The Castro mostly - also cool shots inside City Hall...


I was at the Golden Horse Film and Television Project Market last month looking for financiers/sales agents/production partners for "Nanjing East Road" (what I hope is our next film project).

Here's a simple postcard thing we put together (all the photos are from old business magazines from 1982. The font is signage from from the 80's).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010


I was in Honolulu this week for the Hawaiian International Film Festival. I went and found the Royal Hawaiian Hotel to take this photo.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Was at the Pusan International Film Festival last week for a screening of Au Revoir. I haven't been back there since 2007 for the PPP (Pusan Promotion Plan) - which is the first time we officially pitched the film, and probably the first time I got to really see how the film business actually works.

It was kind of strange to be back there again, three years later - doesn't feel like that long ago, but making Au Revoir felt like it took forever. I guess it was some form of closure, but there was definitely something sad about finally screening the completed film for Pusan audiences.

On the plus side, there were a lot of cute Korean girls armed with phone cameras that rushed us after the screening.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


A recent interview with Woody Allen from the LA Times.

Since he's one of my favorite filmmakers, it's always kind of disheartening to read these interviews with him where he sounds like he's not really putting in a whole lot of time or effort these days and just cranking them out. Maybe he's just being self-deprecating, but from the same guy that made "Manhattan", this comes off as pretty uninspiring...

On his one-movie-per-year output:

"You know, a year is a long time," he said. "It takes a few months to write a script, if that, and I don't have big budgets so I film in eight or nine weeks. When you edit on an Avid it goes quickly. I have plenty of time to write and play with my jazz band and go to sporting events and go to movies and play with my kids. It's not a taxing thing."

When asked if his movies might be better if he spent more time on each one:

"They wouldn't be better," Allen said matter-of-factly. "I have thought about that, yes, but they wouldn't be. When I've had time to do something, it doesn't come out better. There's no correlation between the time spent and how it comes out."

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I read this over on John August's screenwriting site - a sweet and simple description:

The protagonist is the character that suffers the most.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


My favorite movie this year. I got to hang out a bit with director Lixin Fan a few months ago in LA when our movies were screening together, and we had a nice chat about the blurring between documentary and fiction.

"Last Train Home" is strictly a documentary, but when you're watching it, there's such an elegance, restraint, and formal beauty about it that you forget what it is (my favorite sequences of the film are just shots of migrant workers staring out the windows of their train compartments). When you're finally reminded - in one of the movie's most painful scenes - that this is definitely a documentary, and that these are very real people whose lives we're intruding on, the effect is pretty devastating.

"Last Train Home" is kicking ass on its limited release in the USA so far. It truly deserves all the recognition and praise it's getting.

*Here's a nice article about Lixin from Brian and Chi over at Asia Pacific Arts.


I try to read the book before I see the movie if I can because when I see the movie first, I can't ever imagine the characters or settings looking like anything other than what the movie has already ingrained in my head.

So last week I read "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro, knowing that I would probably go see the movie (directed by Mark Romanek) very soon. The book, according to TIME magazine, is one of the best novels of the decade. I don't know...I didn't really get it. I thought it was a pretty contrived sci-fi concept mixed-up with some very straightforward prep-school melodrama.

I'm not sure I'll go see the movie anymore, but this poster is FANTASTIC.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm sure just about everyone does this - when I'm in the middle of writing a script, I get obsessive about finding music that sets the tone or gives me an idea for what the final score may be like, and I make playlists in itunes that I listen to over and over again (which is a nice distraction from actually having to write).

For "Au Revoir Taipei", it was a lot of those Edith Piaf-style Parisian love ballads from the 1930's, gypsy jazz like Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli, and some American swing jazz from Eddie Lang/Joe Venutti.

For some reason, while writing "Nanjing East Road", the two songs that I've been listening to over and over again are Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and Gershwin's "Concerto in F". Hmmm.


I was in Beijing this past weekend, and couldn't help roaming the streets of Sanlitun in search of pirated "Au Revoir Taipei" DVDs. To my surprise, not only did every hole-in-the-wall DVD store carry them, but I found FOUR different versions - some of which actually had...pretty nice packaging and artwork. What the fuck.

My only consolation I suppose is that they're actually selling pretty well. I also found this back-cover synopsis quite entertaining:

In noodle shop hiring out for the working young boy small triumphant, wants to leave Taibei, goes to Paris to track down the new life, his girlfriend some time ago only then went to Paris, leaves behind him to loaf sadly in the lonely Taibei street corner. Night, he always alone lingers in the bookstore, is turning the French conversation teaching material, wants to go to Paris's him wholeheartedly, has to seek help from oneself noodle shop patron leopard elder brother...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Strangely enough, seeing my first movie playing in an actual theater with an actual ticket-buying audience was not the moment where I thought, "Cool, I made a movie".

That actual moment came while flying from Taipei to Hong Kong last month (ironically, to do publicity for the film's Hong Kong theatrical release), when I discovered that I could select "Au Revoir Taipei" from the interactive movie menu on Eva Air. It was pretty surreal...being able to watch the movie on a crappy little screen one foot from my face (it was not edited for content, and not formatted to fit the screen, which is kind of cool).

I didn't watch the entire thing on the off-chance that someone might recognize me and think "wow, that asshole is watching his own movie on the airplane".

Monday, September 13, 2010


I was on a Eva Airlines flight this weekend to Shanghai, and one of the movies you could watch (kind of random actually) was Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset". I saw it a few years ago and remembered the ending being really good, but watching it again, even on a 6" screen - it's pretty fantastic. As "Just in Time" plays in the background, Julie Delpy does her Nina Simone impression, and Ethan Hawke sits their on that couch...heartbreaking.

So for fun here's a quick list of some of my favorite movie endings. Perhaps not so coincidentally, many of them also fall into the heartbreaking category:

"Big Night"
Brothers Stanley Tucci and Tony Shahloub in the kitchen in the early morning. Stanley Tucci cooks up an omelette and serves it. All in one long take.

"Before Sunset"
Ethan Hawke sitting on a couch, debating whether or not he should get on a plane and leave the woman he's been obsessing over for the last 9 years. "Baby, you are gonna miss that plane". "I know."

Woody Allen runs to Mariel Hemingway's apartment, only to find that she's leaving for London. He tries to convince her to stay, but it's too late. Despite being only seventeen, she's the one that has to console him. "You have to have a little faith in people." Cut to a shot of the sun rising over the Manhattan skyline.

"Hannah and her Sisters"
Woody Allen's character, obsessed throughout the film with his own mortality (perhaps because he's sterile), finally finds true love with his ex-wife's sister. Embracing and looking into the mirror together, she tells him "I'm pregnant".

Melora Walters suddenly looks up, right at camera and smiles...just as Aimee Mann's "Save You" kicks in.

"Empire of the Sun"
Christian Bale finally closes his eyes and falls asleep on his mother's shoulder. One of my first images ever that I can remember from a movie.

The entire movie up to the ending was all about precision (perfect compositions, camera moves, editing and pacing). In the very last shot (a bookend to the opening shot), Bong Joon-Ho goes fucking nuts. Out of nowhere - shaky handheld with the sun literally smashing into the lens. And a bus-full of dancing Ajimas.

Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) reading a tender letter to his grandmother at her funeral...truly heart-wrenching.

"Eat Drink Man Woman"
The daughter we least expected would end up back at home, cooks up a meal for her father who can no longer taste anything...until now. He looks up and says "Daughter".

"The Apartment"
Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine sit together on the couch. He tries to confess his feelings for her. She hands him a deck of cards. "Shut up and deal". Lovely.

"Be Kind Rewind"
Their little neighborhood video store is about to be shut down, but not before they get to screen one last homemade movie ("Fats Waller Lived Here"). In the last shot of the film, we see that the entire neighborhood has come out to watch it...

"Paris, Texas"
Harry Dean Stanton standing alone in a parking lot, looking up at the high-rise building where his son and Natasha Kinksi are finally reunited...

"City Lights"
Probably one of the most famous movie endings of all time. Once-blind Virgina Cherill realizes when she touches the Tramp's hands that he was the Millionaire all along. "I can see now"...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I went to a screening the other night of a new Taiwanese film, "Fantome, Ou-Es Tu?" - what was pretty cool was that the screening itself was organized by kind of a Taiwanese director's guild, and several Taiwanese directors (young and old) were there to support the film.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I'm currently writing and rewriting what will (hopefully) be my next film project, "Nanjing East Road" - which takes place during the Asian Economic Boom of the 1980's and centers on the world of Taiwanese trading companies.

One thing that's really tough to nail in movies (which I'm struggling with now) is "business" - how do you make something which is inherently a bit dry, detailed, and quite complex into something dramatic on-screen?

Here's a list from Forbes of what they consider the top 10 greatest business movies:

1. Citizen Kane
2. The Godfather Part II
3. It's a Wonderful Life
4. The Godfather Part I
5. Network
6. The Insider
7. Glengarry Glen Ross
8. Wall Street
9. Tin Men
10. Modern Times

(note: "Trading Places" is unfortunately not included on the list)

Sunday, September 5, 2010


In one of the harsher reviews of "Au Revoir Taipei" one critic compared our film unfavorably to "Sparrow", Johnnie To's 2008 homage to French Cinema and classic American Musicals - a breezy caper film about a gang of Hong Kong pickpockets falling for the same mysterious girl.

Though I'm a pretty big fan of To's films, I had actually not seen "Sparrow" until just recently, and I think the critic was right on. "Sparrow" has an amazingly light-touch, assured but playful, and it's super-elegant. The treatment of the bumbling but endearing gang of pick-pockets, and most notably, Hong Kong as a magical little city rather than an oppressive Asian metropolitan, is something which we were definitely going for in "Au Revoir" (though admittedly to less success).

The last major sequence in the film is a slow motion, rain-soaked, musical-inspired, pick-pocket showdown in the middle of Central...pure cinema magic.


Our good friend and director of photography Michael Fimognari shot a new film called "Beautiful Boy", which will have its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next week...


These are some of the films that "influenced" Au Revoir Taipei:

Chungking Express (WK Wai)
Bottle Rocket (W Anderson)
Funny Face (S Donen)
Shoot the Pianist (F Truffaut)
Band of Outsiders (JL Godard)
Breathless (JL Godard)
Manhattan (W Allen)
Punch-Drunk Love (PT Anderson)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (J Demy)

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Taiwan's Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) just released a newly-remastered DVD of Edward Yang's "The Terrorizers". I re-watched it last night and was once again blown away. Experiencing Taipei (circa 1986) filtered through Edward's modern, neo-realist perspective...the cool fragmented urbanism, detached but beautiful compositions, and (seemingly) disparate storylines coming together suddenly, violently...inspires me to want to shoot Taipei all over again...


Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho ("Memories of Murder", "The Host", "Mother") is probably one of the best directors in the world right now. I saw "Mother" in Seoul last summer, and afterward there were a few hours where I felt like giving up on filmmaking cause...what's the point when there's a Bong Joon-Ho out there?

He's especially awesome at deconstructing/manipulating/combining/reinventing genres, but this short from "Tokyo!" proves that he's also quite a romantic. The last moment from this poetic little film is like the best on-screen Murakami moment not actually based on a Murakami novel.

Speaking of Murakami, Tran Ahn Hung's highly-anticipated adaption of "Norwegian Wood" premiered in Venice this week. It was shot by Taiwan's master director of photography Mark Lee-Pin Bing, and scored by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. Woah.


A movie about why we love movies. Anyone that wants to be reminded why making movies is so special should watch this. I think it's the closest thing to a Michel Gondry autobiography.

Monday, March 15, 2010


The three different posters for "Au Revoir Taipei":

Taiwanese Poster:

Limited Edition Taiwanese Poster:

International Festivals Poster: