A Spooky Pandemonium
Watched a movie called Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame yesterday. Wuxia movies do a lot of crazy stuff Hollywood would never think of in a million years, but even by those standards Detective Dee is a pretty weird movie.
Detective Dee himself is apparently based on a real person, as is the Empress Wu, Chinese history's only official female ruler. She lets Dee out of jail to send him to investigate a series of mysterious murders that might threaten her coronation. So far so good. But the murder weapon is that all the victims somehow spontaneously burst into flame when exposed to sunlight. OK, it's a kind of alchemy, I can suspend my disbelief on that for the sake of a good story. It's CSI: Tang Dynasty, with kung fu battles, I dig it. But then suddenly everybody starts taking orders from a talking deer who they call "The Chaplain", and at that point I'm like whaaaaaaaaat theeeee... what am I watching? When did this turn into a Narnia movie?
There's a bit where the detectives are going to look for a dude named "Donkey Wang" in a black market called the Phantom Bazaar which is built around an underground river beneath the city. One of the detectives, an axe-wielding albino martial-arts master named Donglai, warns them to be on their guard, and we get my new favorite piece of questionable translation as the English subtitles say:
"Watch out. The Phantom Bazaar is a spooky pandemonium".
A spooky pandemonium! I love it!
Anyway, if you like weird movies, it's quite entertaining. Check it out sometime.
Tai Chi Zero (Me and Sushu made a podcast)
After Taiko practice every Saturday, we usually hang out with our friend Chris in Oakland for a few hours, watching anime and kung fu movies, role-playing, or playing board games.
After that there's an hour drive back from Oakland to Palo Alto. There's not much else to do besides talk about what we just watched or played. That leads into talking about two of my favorite topics - game design and storytelling! We've had a lot of interesting conversations on this weekly ride home.
Last week, as an experiment, I decided to record us and call it a "podcast". 99% of podcasts on the internet are just an hour some friends giggling about their inside jokes anyway (people seriously need to learn to edit that stuff out). Surely we can do better than that!
This week we mostly talked about a kung-fu movie called Tai Chi Zero. It's notable for incorporating steampunk elements and comic-book-style visual effects into the story of a very dumb guy with a "berserk button" literally growing out of his forehead.
If there's enough interest in it for us to keep doing them, I'll make a proper page with an RSS feed and stuff. For now here's just a link to the raw mp3 file. Total length is about 40 minutes.
Contents with timestamps below the fold:
0:00 - What's this podcast.
1:12 - Tai Chi Zero and its incorporation of other media
- Comic-style visuals
- Connection to martial arts novels
- How ridiculous this movie is / 4th wall and trope awareness
- Literary chinese/cultural background
- Skipping through time and space, split-screen, saving time
10:50 - Comparison to Sherlock Holmes
- We don't like sherlock-vision and shakycam
- Showing the audience what's going to happen before it happens
- Time confusion
- The unspoken plan guarantee
- Jono is slow on the uptake
18:45 - Why are all the women in this movie needlessly in love with boring tophat guy?
- The mistake of making a character's backstory more interesting than the real story
- Crossdressing is "fucking hot"!
20:35 - A tangent about playing loner characters in RPGs
- You can't non-consensually involve Cyclops in your kink!
27:30 - Back to Tai Chi Zero and Top Hat Guy.
- Everybody in the village has the same name?
- Top hat guy introduced too late
- Too much brooding before we know the reason why
- What a slap in the face!
34:55 - What happened to that rebellion, anyway?
- Jono was confused by the change of plot direction.
- Jianghu prologue scenes
- In western fiction that the story is about whatever is the biggest threat introduced up to then
- Internal kung fu: a typical Wuxia McGuffin