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Tyler

Okja (Bong Joon-Ho)

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Tyler   

Filming is starting.

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Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho is reuniting with Tilda Swinton for Netflix’s upcoming Okja, which begins filming Friday. Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano are also set to star in the film, a thriller about a young girl who tries to save her best friend — who happens to be a huge animal — from a powerful company.

“With Okja I want to show the beauty that can exist between man and animal, and also the horror between them,” Bong said in a statement. 

The film also stars Devon Bostick (The 100), Lily Collins (To the Bone), Byun Heebong (The Host), Shirley Henderson (Anna Karenina), Daniel Henshall (The Babadook), Je Moon (Mother), Choi Wooshik (Set Me Free), and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead).

 

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WALKING DEAD SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

Spoiler

Stephen Yeun, you say.  This may be an indicator that The Walking Dead is going to play out its season 6 cliffhanger the way the comics play it out.

 

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M. Leary   

Really struggled with this one, and am looking forward to more comments on it here. A few sequences are just gorgeous - live-action Miyazaki. I found the pacing in the script very wonky, with the various monologues scattered throughout feeling like a justification for the A-level talent. But the coda was a lovely way to wind everything down.

Some of the little flourishes of whimsical set design or wardrobe detail felt out of place - specifically the ones garnering Wes Anderson comparisons. A good example: There is quite a bit of camera attention on the fact that her dress is designed and signed by Lucy, though there is never any real payoff on this point. I wonder what the film would have felt like if layered with a more 80s eco-action film earnestness rather than an early 2000s twee indie vibe.

The biggest problem I had was with depicting the ALF as a kindly, pacifist bunch. I am willing to accept there are more nonviolent cells out there. But I do have very personal experience of far less pacifist and threatening ALF work. I am not sure why the director needed to tie the film to an actual movement, rather than picking something more generic.

Bong says here:

“There’s definitely a level of contradiction within the ALF group. In the film, the ALF claim that they hate violence, but you can see throughout that they constantly inflict it too. They have a very noble cause, and you can understand that cause, but the movie also portrays them as at times looking foolish, and making very human mistakes. Simply put, they’re people just like us.”

Well - kind of. ALF does a lot of things I can't chalk up to "human mistakes," which are very violent and threatening. This misalignment between the film and reality is jarring at best, but propaganda at worst.

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It's sad how it seems like we have taken to much stronger feelings about what constitutes valid resistance and what doesn't.

It wasn't that long ago we had films like John Q and episodes of Deep Space Nine showing what resistance could be (without having to resort to lethal violence), but now we consider things like broken windows, burnt cars and buildings and punched Nazi's a step too far.

But I guess that's a debate for its own thread, and one I probably wouldn't want to get into anyways. I'm against lethal violence. I consider all other resistance on the table even if I probably wouldn't do some of it my own self.

But back to the movie, i loved it. I do agree ALF could have been presented as more flawed. Really the only one who even makes a wrong choice is Steven Yeun's character. Films like The East do a better job at portraying the good and bad of such organizations.

I do think it compares favorably to My Neighbor Totoro, as well as representing what Pete's Dragon remake could have been (which I still really liked anyways).

 

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Justin Hanvey wrote:
: . . . but now we consider things like broken windows, burnt cars and buildings and punched Nazi's a step too far.

I don't know when "we" ever considered these things appropriate, but violence is violence. And yes, even punching Nazis is wrong if you're the one throwing the first punch.

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I had really mixed feelings with this. Ironically, I might have enjoyed it more and felt more involved had I seen this in a theater and not streaming it in my living room. For a film with a very heavy message about animal rights and business ethics, it's something of a mixed message when the primary animal(s) are entirely CGI, and, IMO, not all that convincing. The horrors and joys were kept at a distance for me due to the artificiality of it all. I understand the Miyazaki comparisons, but this never captured the whimsy and wonder of Miyazaki's films for me--where Miyazaki soars, Bong is straining for the moment of awe, as well as "awwww...." The pacing of the script is so uneven and jumpy that the opening sequences in Korea and the final act in NYC were, tonally and formally, very different films. Perhaps this is all intentional, and Bong & CO. wanted to create such uneven pacing, wanted to use a CGI animal for an animal rights movie, and wanted to critique Western consumerism via the Netflix platform so I could watch it all comfortably on my couch.

On 6/29/2017 at 6:26 AM, M. Leary said:

I wonder what the film would have felt like if layered with a more 80s eco-action film earnestness rather than an early 2000s twee indie vibe.

I honestly was surprised by how little action there was overall. Beyond the chase sequence--which really is quite well done--and a brief cliffhanger scene early on, the latter half is mostly speeches or edits moving from location to location. Having seen The Host and Snowpiercer, this felt quite restrained in comparison, apart from Tilda ad Gyllenhaal's batshit crazy performances (and even then, Swinton's character is nuttier in Snowpiercer).

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: For a film with a very heavy message about animal rights and business ethics, it's something of a mixed message when the primary animal(s) are entirely CGI, and, IMO, not all that convincing.

I haven't seen this particular film yet, but a lot of people have been saying for years that there's no reason to use real animals on films any more because the CGI has gotten so good that you can fake the animals convincingly enough. In other words, it is *because* you don't want to abuse animals that you use the CGI version nowadays. Darren Aronofsky has talked about his experience watching monkeys being abused on the set of The Fountain, and how he decided -- after seeing the CGI apes in Rise of the Planet of the Apes -- that his Noah movie would be all-CGI where the animals were concerned, for just this reason.

There's also the fact that CGI animals are a lot easier to "direct", and working with them cuts down on shooting time etc.

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Ah, I'm not making an argument for utilizing live animals in films, especially in the way they're portrayed in Okja. But for my viewing experience, the super pigs didn't elicit the emotional response within me I imagine Bong was striving for, and I imagine a significant part of that was the artificiality of the entire construct, the CGI super pigs being only one element within the film that didn't really feel all that real to me. Maybe that's the character design of the pigs, maybe that's a flaw within the narrative itself, or maybe I'm just not as emotionally moved by animal stories as I could/should be. I understand the pragmatics, as well as the ethics, behind using real live animals for such a film, but that also means using CGI animals allows for bigger, bolder risks and narrative choices. For all its wackiness at moments, the final half of this film felt comparatively slight after Bong's previous films.

Also, a better comparison than E.T. or Free Willy might be the recent version of Pete's Dragon.

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On 7/6/2017 at 0:07 AM, Joel Mayward said:

Ironically, I might have enjoyed it more and felt more involved had I seen this in a theater and not streaming it in my living room.

I'm going to see this tonight at the Beverly Cinema (apparently the only theatre that will have access to Bong's personal 35mm copy of the film). I'll let you know how an audience/theatre setting works for the presentation.

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