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Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s early short gangster film ‘A Little Chaos’
07.10.2014
06:15 am

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01rednibssafwr.jpg
 
Rainer Werner Fassbinder gave a passing nod to Jean-Luc Godard and Bertolt Brecht with his second short film Das kleine Chaos (A Little Chaos). The story concerns three young wannabe criminals, who take their lead from the b&w gangster films of 1940’s and ‘50’s Hollywood. Made in 1966, it’s an assured and highly stylish nine minutes of celluloid that proves Fassbinder’s ability to adapt his influences, better them and make them his own.

A Little Chaos stars Fassbinder himself, Christoph Roser, Marite Greiselis and Greta Rehfeld.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins’
07.08.2014
10:06 am

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Music

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Les Blanc
Lightnin’ Hopkins


 
Les Blank was one of the most talented and prolific documentarians of all time—many know him for his wildly variant choice of subjects. He did a doc on women with diastemata, one on the sustainability of the Chinese tea market, and my favorite, the 20-minute-long anti-capitalist classic, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, in which Werner Herzog (you guessed it) eats his shoe (He lost a bet). Blank’s wheelhouse however was always regional American music and The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins—a gorgeous little film—radiates with his reverence for the Texas legend.

The short avoids explicit biography, choosing instead to record intimate musical moments and the ambient humanity of Hopkins’ world—it even credits “the people of Texas, 1967” among its “cast.” There are amazing performances of course, but they’re set against the lush community of Centerville, Texas, Hopkins’ boyhood town. His hypnotic performances emanate from living rooms, dirt roads, a barbeque and even a black rodeo—it’s an ethnographic pictorial as much as anything.

Hopkins was a bit of an anomaly as far as bluesmen went, though much of his early story is reminiscent of his peers. He actually met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas when he was 8, eventually becoming his protégé. He tried to break into music early on, spent some time in a labor prison in his twenties, and eventually returned to Centerville to work as a farm hand. Hopkins only managed to avoid blues “has-been” and “never-was” cliches with a bit of luck and a tenacious recording schedule.

By the 1950’s he had gained a following, and he just never stopped working. Hopkins not only rode the folk revival, he adapted to the changing scene, even recording an album with Texas psychsters the 13th Floor Elevators. He toured constantly and was the poet-in-residence of Houston, Texas for 35 years. He remains the most prolific blues recording artist.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Massacre at Central High’: ‘Lord of the Flies’ 70s style
07.08.2014
09:50 am

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Rene Daalder
Massacre at Central High

Poster art of Massacre at Central High.
 
There is the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Cliched? Absolutely. Trite? Perhaps. Accurate? Sadly yes and nowhere is it more apparent than in Rene Daalder’s brilliant and bleak 1976 film, Massacre at Central High. It is considered to be a huge influence on Michael Lehmann’s Heathers, but while the darkness of that film is cushioned by some exquisitely played gallows humor, Massacre at Central High is truly the unrelenting real deal.

The film begins with a young nerdish hippie type, Spoony (Robert Carradine), who is painting a swastika on the locker of one of his bullies. In fact, the bullies of Central High, Bruce (Ray Underwood), Craig (Steve Bond) and Paul (Damon Douglas), referred to by one character as “the little league Gestapo,” are more than just your garden variety jocks and mean kids. They rule the roost, complete with exclusive use of the student lounge and the more cherry part of the parking lot. The adults are neutered and the kids are all too scared and beaten down to challenge them. (Sound familiar?)
 
A young Robert Carradine being bullied.
 
Their harassment of Spoony is interrupted by David (Derrel Maury), the new kid at school, who is trying to find the student lounge. (Not knowing yet that it is alpha-douchebag territory.) The guys tell him to all but get lost and other students ignore his query until the sweet-faced, flaxen-haired Theresa (Kimberley Beck) offers to walk him there. He is then greeted by his old friend, Mark (Andrew Stevens), who is telling him how “he’ll never have any trouble again.” As if on cue, the asshole trio saunter in and let Mark know that they all have already met. They soon leave and sensing the already growing tension, Mark warns David “to drop the loner shit” and that this could be like their own country club.

Turns out that David once did Mark a favor at their old school. The exact specs are never quite told, but enough is said to infer that basically, David protected Mark from the same exact kind of cretin that he is now hanging out with. Except that David didn’t even know him at the time. Speaking of cretins, the five of them hang out after school and go out for a joyride until they spot poor Rodney (Rex Steven Sikes),driving along in his sputtering, barely running vehicle. Considering his car’s existence within their vicinity a personal affront, they end up stopping and all pile into his vehicle, where they proceed to wreck it until it is as dead as Rodney’s sense of self-esteem. David’s quiet but Mark senses that he is not pleased about this incident.

This feeling builds, as David witnesses the trio kicking and brutally tormenting chubby Oscar (Jeffrey Winner), during gym class. Mark tries to excuse it, saying that they are ultimately helping him. David starts asking the same question a lot of viewers may be thinking, which is why isn’t anyone stopping these guys? The have-nots far out number them, but yet much of the student body walk around like whooped animals, lest they be the next targets for abuse. To hear Jane (Lani O’Grady) and Mary (Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith) tell it “they get to everyone sooner or later.”
 
The bullies hassle the student librarian.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
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‘Nothing Lasts Forever’: Bill Murray in ‘lost’ sci-fi comedy set in a totalitarian New York City
07.07.2014
12:48 pm

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Bill Murray
Dan Aykroyd
Tom Schiller


 
Readers “of a certain age” will fondly recall the “Schiller’s Reel” segments that aired during the early years of SNL right up until 1990. Both Gary Weis and Albert Brooks had previously directed short films (shot on film) for SNL, but when Tom Schiller, one of the show’s original writers, came into the picture the “film” segment was dubbed “Schiller’s Reel” and later “SchillerVision.”

Some of the most iconic moments of the show’s entire tenure were from “Schiller’s Reel” such as his pitch-perfect Fellini parody, “La Dolce Gilda” (with Gilda Radner as a neurotic European actress in exquisite existential agony), “The Acid Generation Where Are They Now?” “Java Junkie” (with Teri Garr and Peter Ackroyd as the caffeine fiend) and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (an elderly John Belushi who has outlived all of his SNL costars makes a trip to the “Not Ready for Primetime Cemetery” and dances on their graves.) In his SNL segments, the director proved himself to be a master of many cinematic genres, a mimic, if you will, of movie styles throughout the decades. Unfortunately, not a lot of them have been posted online.
 

“Java Junkie”

Thankfully there is a good quality copy of Tom Schiller’s wonderful short film “Love is a Dream,” made for SNL with Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks and producer/cinematographer Neal Marshad (followed by more SchillerVision goodness):
 

 
In 1984, Tom Schiller made his feature film debut with a terrifically ambitious and idiosyncratic little movie titled Nothing Lasts Forever, the tale of a young man (Zach Galligan from Gremlins) who aspires to become “an artist” but whose lofty ambitions are foiled by the Port Authority of New York who run Manhattan like a totalitarian state. He fails the test for a “creativity license” and they assign him to direct traffic at the Holland Tunnel. The film is shot mostly in black and white, with limited but effective use of color and deftly used cut-ins from from vintage movies, giving it a uniquely timeless feel (especially for a film made in the 1980s).

Nothing Lasts Forever is similar in some respects to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, with its depiction of a bureaucracy run amok, but with a hefty dollop of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 thrown in for good measure: While the Port Authority may run New York City like a police state, it’s really a fraternal order of benevolent Illuminati tramps who are calling all the shots. There’s also a bus trip to the moon and true love. Along the way are vivid cameo appearances from Bill Murray as a suspicious bus conductor, Eddie Fisher playing himself as a broke lounge act, Dan Aykroyd as Zach’s uptight manager, Mort Sahl, Lawrence Tierney, Imogene Coca and Larry “Bud” Melman. Lauren Tom (later of Friends) plays the intergalactic love interest. John Belushi was to have played a small role in the film, but died six weeks before photography began.
 

 
Nothing Lasts Forever is as difficult to see as Tom Schiller’s SNL shorts. In fact, the film was never given a proper theatrical release to begin with. It was screened once—once—for a test audience in Seattle who gave it the thumbs down and then shelved. For reasons perhaps having to do with clearing the vintage footage Nothing Lasts Forever has never been released on VHS or on DVD, either, although it’s been screened on the German TCM channel in a dubbed version titled “Alles ist vergänglich” (a version has made the rounds on Demonoid that used that retracked with a visually inferior English language VHS bootleg’s soundtrack). From time to time Tom Schiller, who has gone on to direct over 500 television commercials (I’d love to know which ones) will appear at a screening of the film or Bill Murray will request that it be screened at a retrospective honoring him. Barring one of those rare screenings, you can watch Nothing Lasts Forever, where else, on YouTube:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Hardware Wars,’ the ‘Star Wars’ parody that became a blockbuster
07.07.2014
09:27 am

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Star Wars
Hardware Wars

Hardware Wars
 
Hardware Wars is a thirteen-minute video parody of Star Wars that was released the same year as the original, 1977. Directed by Ernie Fosselius (the intro splash touts “20th Century FOSS”), the spoof, which is structured as a coming-soon preview, is essentially a MAD Magazine takedown come to life—albeit not quite as funny. The central joke is that all of the expensive sci-fi effects are replaced with cheapo footage of flying toasters, irons, and so forth. Made for a mere $8,000, it grossed, at a conservative estimate, $500,000, making it more profitable, on a percentage basis, than Star Wars itself.

George Lucas himself, who has not often expressed enthusiasm for satires of his saga, is fond of the parody, calling it “a cute little film.” According to Salon, it is “the only non-Lucasfilm product to be sold in Star Wars Insider magazine.” 
 
Hardware Wars
 
The names of the characters are in the purest eye-roll spirit of MAD: “Fluke Starbucker,” “Ham Salad,” “Augie ‘Ben’ Doggie,” “Darph Nader,” “Princess Anne-Droid”—are these even jokes? No matter. The movie derives from an earlier, cruder form of parody than we’re used to today, in which invoking an entity with any kind of offbeat spin serves as the joke, regardless of whether or not it makes any sense. The conceit of Hardware Wars is to twit the big-budget techno-wizardry of Star Wars by replacing the weaponry, robots, and spacecraft with flashlights, toasters, vacuum cleaners, and the like. Big metal flashlights stand in for light sabers. Leia’s spiral braids are represented as cinnamon rolls. “Chewchilla” is portrayed by a Cookie Monster puppet painted brown.

Fascinatingly, “Fluke Starbucker” was portrayed by Scott Mathews, who later compiled an incredibly impressive resume in the music industry. He’s won several Grammies…. Wikipedia is usefully concise here:
 

[Mathews] has produced Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Garcia, Huey Lewis, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Dick Dale, Sammy Hagar, Van Dyke Parks and many others. He has written songs and/or recorded with ... Barbra Streisand to John Lee Hooker, including Keith Richards, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, David Bowie, Steve Perry, Johnny Cash, Todd Rundgren, Robert Cray, Ry Cooder, The Tubes, Sammy Hagar, Jefferson Starship and Raphael Saadiq. He has performed on various musical instruments with Neil Young, John Fogerty, Kid Rock, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, Boz Scaggs, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Brown, Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Tom Waits, Chris Isaak and Joe Satriani

 
Of Hardware Wars, Mathews, who was all of 22 when the movie was made, avers, “I think a lot of the charm of that movie is the fact that we didn’t really know what we were doing. ... It was cinéma vérité at its finest. I’m sitting there spaced out and cracking up in some of those scenes.”

In 1997 Lucas began releasing the “altered” versions of the original trilogy, and Michael Wiese, who had produced Hardware Wars, decided that it was time to produce an updated version of his low-budget classic. The intense reaction of the movie’s fans, at least at the San Diego Comic-Con screening attended by Freeling, revealed levels of obsessiveness reminiscent of the fans of Star Wars.

Says Cindy Freeling, who played “Princess Anne-Droid”:

“It was unbelievable. The room was jampacked. There were people flowing out into the hall. The audience knew every single little detail of the movie. I’ve certainly seen Hardware Wars, but I don’t have every frame memorized. Whenever a ‘special defect’ would come up, the whole audience would start cheering and clapping. They knew right when it was happening.”

 
Hardware Wars
 
However, just as with Lucas’ masterpiece, the decision to clean up some of the technical shortcomings of the original was not universally well received by the diehard—in the case of Hardware Wars the decision is more ironic, given that the cheesy low-budget tactics were the central point of the movie.

Scott Mathews:

“When Ernie was transferring all the old footage from the original print, they had all this amazing gear where they could embellish it. They told Ernie that they could erase the strings! They weren’t checking with him: They were telling him they would be doing that in their transfer. Ernie tried to explain it. He said: ‘No, wait. We put extra strings on there so you could see them! There’s more light shining on the strings than there is on the flying iron!’ He got a kick out of it. These were the guys that he was collaborating with to make the next phase happen. And they don’t even get the premise of the original.”

Herewith, the original cut of Hardware Wars:
 

 
via Lawyer, Guns & Money; most of the information in this post comes from this 2002 Salon article by Bob Calhoun

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Behind-the-scenes of ‘Harold and Maude’
07.07.2014
09:06 am

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Harold and Maude
Hal Ashby
Ruth Gordon
Bud Cort


 
Here are some delightful behind-the-scenes photographs from one of my all time favorite movies Harold and Maude. I wish I could have found more, but sadly it looks like this is most of ‘em. If you know of any other BTS photographs that exist, please feel free to post them in the comments.


Director Hal Ashby prepares one of actor Bud Cort’s fake suicides
 

Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon
 

Bud Cort and Hal Ashby
 

Suzanne Somers was originally to appear in a cemetery scene but the sequence was cut
 

Ruth Gordon and Hal Ashby
 

Bud Cort and Hal Ashby
 

Hal Ashby, Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon
 

Ruth Gordon, Hal Ashby and Bud Cort
 

Hal Ashby and the DP of ‘Harold and Maude’ John A. Alonzo
 

Hal Ashby serves up a model of Bud Cort’s head for one of Harold’s fake suicide attempts
 

Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon
 

Harold and Maude reunion: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon and friend, 1981
 
Below, a short video with a few more behind-the-scenes photos:

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Chantal Akerman’s 1968 short, ‘Saute ma Ville’ (‘Blow up My Town’) starring herself, age 18
07.07.2014
07:21 am

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Director Chantal Akerman is most famous for her feminist masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, wherein the seemingly unremarkable protagonist sells sex to provide for her son and herself. The prostitution is portrayed as just another part of her banal daily routine (the 201 minute long film really emphasizes routine), until an anomaly disrupts her life’s pattern, and her entire world is thrown into chaos.

Akerman was only 24 at the time of the film’s release, but her short, Saute ma Ville, or Blow up My Town, is in many ways the prelude to Jeanne Dielman, and she made that at the age of 18. Akerman actually dropped out of film school before completing a single term to work on it, selling stocks and working in an office to fund the twelve and a half minutes that eventually paved the way for her three hour plus opus.

As with Jeanne Dielman, intense, oppressive boredom and domestic isolation are the context for our heroine. Akerman herself stars as the principle, frenetically humming her way through a kind of manic episode. What starts as a routine evening at home descends into a frenzy; she tapes up the door to her cramped apartment, she smears and flings cleaning products with wild abandon, and she goes from shining her shoes to scrubbing her actual leg with the stiff-bristled brush.

Akerman credits her artistic awakening to a viewing of Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou at the age of 15, and the French New Wave influence is obvious—themes of torturous, lonely bourgeois life told with intimacy and informality. Akerman however, adds a horrifying dimension of psychosis that both discomfits and fascinates.
 

 
Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Happy Birthday Ken Russell
07.03.2014
07:57 am

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Television

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Happy Birthday to Ken Russell, born July 3rd in 1927. Once the so-called enfant terrible of British cinema, Russell produced a dazzling array of powerful, vibrant and intelligent movies during his lifetime, which placed him among the greatest film and television directors of the second half of the twentieth century.

His love of cinema started early in childhood when he escaped to the local picture house to watch innumerable flickering matinees with his mother. The films fired his imagination, in particular Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen and the early monster movie The Secret of the Loch, both of which would be filtered into his later work (Dance of the Seven Veils, Altered States and Lair of the White Worm). At first Russell had ambitions to be a ballet dancer, but this was superseded by a passion for photography, which he studied at Walthamstow Technical College in London. After service in the Royal Navy, where he once presented a musical number of fishermen darning their nets with sailors in drag sewing their silk stockings, he began taking photographs of teenagers—most famously his series on “Teddy Girls,” which were published in Picture Post. Looking at these early photographs, you can see hints of Russell’s distinctive cinematic framing and compositional style

It was a small leap from stills to motion pictures and Russell started directing small films for very little money, notably Amelia and the Angel and a documentary on Lourdes. These helped Russell secure work as a documentary director with BBC’s prestigious Monitor arts series. Here, under the guidance of editor Huw Wheldon, Russell developed the form of the drama-documentary and made a series of radical films on artists and composers such as Elgar, Dante’s Inferno, The Debussy Film, Song of Summer and the banned Dance of the Seven Veils.
 

 
The flamboyance of his talent could not be contained by television and by the late sixties Russell felt he was repeating himself and therefore made the move to cinema. Over the next five decades Ken Russell made a series of consistently brilliant movies from The Billion Dollar Brain, the Oscar-winning Women in Love, the controversial The Devils, Savage Messiah, Mahler, a version of The Who’s rock opera Tommy, Altered States and The Rainbow.

Russell’s approach to film and television has influenced generations of directors, including such luminaries as Stanley Kubrick, Lindsay Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, Derek Jarman and Baz Luhrmann.

Though influential and greatly loved, Russell did have to deal with several overbearing and self-important journalists, who made small careers out of attacking his work. Russell famously attacked one such critic on live TV with a rolled-up copy of his newspaper review. “Unkle Ken” was well aware that had he been Italian and called “Russellini” such critics would have sung his praises. No matter—Ken Russell’s films will long outlive such superfluous individuals.
 

 
To celebrate Unkle Ken’s birthday, here is one of his early, pioneering television documentaries Dante’s Inferno from 1967, which examines the relationship between the 19th-century artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his model, Elizabeth Siddal. It stars a young Oliver Reed, Judith Paris and poet Christopher Logue, and is filled with Russell’s arresting and powerful vision.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Oh look, another terrifying short film from an adolescent Lars von Trier
07.02.2014
07:23 am

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Lars Von Trier


 
At the tender age of 11, Lars (not-yet-“von”) Trier filmed a surprisingly sophisticated stop-motion animated short called Trip to Squash Land… A Super Sausage Film. There’s cheerful music, bright colors, and dancing bunnies rescued from the clutches of villainous frog-like creatures. Initially, I found the “cuteness” of Trier’s debut kind of ominous—it felt too twee not to belie some kind of dark evil—but I assumed it was just me projecting. Even the guy who created The Kingdom had to be am innocuous child at some point, right?

Wrong! Apparently Lars von Trier has never been anything short of truly disturbed mind! If you don’t believe me, take a look at this short he made at 14, with the sociopathic title of, Why Try to Escape from Which You Know You Can’t Escape from? Because You Are a Coward!

The plot is simple, but intense. A kid on a bicycle is hit by a truck. Another kid inspects the injured party, only to flee in terror—it’s not clear why he runs, but I think the implication is that kid #2 was the truck driver. The injured kid is suddenly animated through some kind of paranormal force (the candles are a dead giveaway), and he begins to pursue kid #2, now with sinister bandages over his face. There’s a great psychological thriller-style chase scene, but I won’t ruin the ending. The sound is pretty low, but if you crank up the volume you can hear pulsating acid rock, heavenly choirs, and some deep-voiced narration of what the Internet informs me are biblical references, but what I suspect are actually Satanic incantations in an unholy tongue (or Danish!). Oh and there’s some terrifying laughter, because why not?

Once again, creepy-kid Lars created a really sophisticated little film, with a precocious talent for editing, detail and really unnerving his audience.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Dude, get over it: Businessman buys, distributes hundreds of movie tickets to impress ex-girlfriend
07.01.2014
07:22 am

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Movies
Sex

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movies
Mark Wahlberg
breakups

movies
 
It takes a truly unusual event for Dangerous Minds to take notice of a movie like Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, but a certain Chinese businessman named Wang has supplied a worthy pretext. 

It seems that seven years ago, this Wang guy was dumped by his girlfriend, and ever since, he’s been consumed by the desire to make her understand, in no uncertain terms, that she made a mistake. At the time they were both living in Nanjing, and he was so broke he couldn’t afford to take her to the movies. In the meantime he has become a successful businessman in Beijing (news reports don’t indicate in what capacity), and thought of the idea of buying out all the tickets at several IMAX cinemas for June 23, the first day Transformers: Age of Extinction was available to be seen in the city. Since his former girlfriend had moved to Beijing after their breakup, Wang was fairly certain she was in the city even though they were not in touch.
 
movie tickets
One of several receipts Wang posted on Weibo
 
Wang took to the Chinese version of Twitter, known as Weibo, to offer a free ticket to a screening to users as long as they shared his post about it, which was directed at his ex. In the post, Wang wrote, “I just want to say that you may have been wrong to make that decision.”

Soon Wang’s post had been shared 110,000 times and had garnered more than 35,000 comments. And approximately 1,590 people had scored a free ticket to see Bay’s stupid mega-blockbuster. The escapade cost Wang the equivalent of $40,000 (he supplied receipts on Weibo to prove that he had actually bought up all the tickets), which represents about half of his monthly income.

Understandably, Wang’s resentment-fueled project has sparked tons of commentary. RocketNews24 explains, “Understandably, plenty of people were angered that the businessmen had snatched up so many tickets for himself, and commented that thanks to his antics they were unable to see the film as they have planned. But equally many others have commended him on the move and are sure that his ex girlfriend is now kicking herself.”

I think most of us can relate to those feelings of wanting to show a former ex what a blunder breaking up turned out to be. I feel like any decent therapist would be likely to advise Wang that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, the only way you can make contact is by signaling that you are still obsessed with her; Weibo isn’t some loophole you can use to get around that.

Personally, I think she made the right call.

Here’s some random footage of the stars of the movie (Mark Wahlberg et al.) visiting Beijing in case that shit interests you:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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