Welcome to The Illuminated Lantern
A little something by way of introduction from the editor to you, the reader, about this spiffy new version of The Illuminated Lantern, how to use it, and the simple rules for sharing your own comments on the site.
It was 1999 when I first introduced The Illuminated Lantern to an unsuspecting public. I published it to fill what I perceived to be a gap in the coverage of Asian Cinema online and in print. Simply put, no one was really giving much thought to how the movies intersect with Asian culture, history, and society.
Movies reflect culture. Ideas, norms, moral values, fantasies, and the imagined self of a culture group is often laid bare in mass produced entertainment media. And movies can create culture. A song, a hairstyle, a mood, might become near universal in appeal after its depiction in popular film. And diaspora viewers -- asians who have settled in another part of the world, away from the country they may still consider a homeland, even after several generations -- receive the culture as transmitted in film as their only visual tie to their native country. Non-native viewers, meanwhile, often end up receiving nothing more than complete bafflement.
And so The Illuminated Lantern was meant to provide a "readers guide" to various cultural reflections and creations that appear in the movies. You might call it a cross disciplinary approach to the movies. The first issue explored Taoism, and looked at the provincial Taoist folklore of the hopping vampire film boom of the eighties and early nineties. Subsequent issues looked at gambling, the Chinese Opera, triads, and so on. (All these articles are still on the site, so I won't ramble on about them here).
The possibilities for this format seemed endless, at least to me, but the limitations, too, became apparent. Suffice to say, if one really wants to learn a lot, in depth, about a subject such as Taoism, a movie site is not exactly the best place to learn it. Here, I just provide introductions to my subjects, skimming off the top what would be most relevant to interested moviegoers. Likewise, someone interested in serious film critique -- that is, examining and discussing film itself: technique, mis-en-scene, and so on -- will likely leave disappointed, as my special interest in the film is not how it is made so much as what it is saying. So it could be said the site does not offer in depth expertise in either subject. "Jack of all trades, master of none" might be one way to describe it.
Yet, the strategy is not without its pleasures, and certainly it has allowed me to explore subjects that I enjoy while still being productive and presenting preliminary findings to the community at large. But the bimonthly publishing schedule, while slow as molasses in today's world, was still too fast to allow time for anything else, and other jobs, hobbies, and the needs of family proved to be too much for me to continue publication of the website in that format. And anyway, the need for this type of material has diminished over the years. We understand asian cinema better now. Laughing "at" movies has declined in popularity, with the discovery of Stephen Chow, laughing "with" these movies is easier than ever.
For the past few years, then, unable to find the time to write feature length articles, I have scribbled opinions about recent Hong Kong movies. To get a comprehensive look at the films, I've watched not just the popular ones, but all of them, from 2001 on. Reviews for every single Hong Kong movie released from 2001 on should eventually find their way onto this site. 2001 and 2002 are done, 2003 is on its way to completion after a hard drive failure forced me to start over half way through. Along with these capsule reviews are top 10s and overviews of the year in HK Cinema.
I've redesigned the site to make it easier to post small articles and short reviews, where before only extensive features were published. I've also cut down drastically on screen-shots of the movies, they can be found on other sites and I've no desire to spend the money required to maintain the bandwidth necessary to host such images.
New Publishing Schedule
With that in mind, look forward to seeing a new article posted every week or so, and new capsule reviews posted five days a week. Beginning in January 2005, I'll be looking to set a standard publishing schedule, perhaps a new article every Monday. We shall see...
The scope of the site will expand and/or contract depending on my interests and research. Expect the Unexpected.
I've added the ability for readers to add comments to any of the articles and reviews on the site. I'd already like to thank sellers of Propecia, Cialis, & etc. for taking advantage of this feature. Should any actual human beings decide to post comments, they are most welcome. Think of the comments as a "Letters to the Editor" page. You can write a letter, it will be published, but probably not responded to. Use the comments to post corrections to the articles and reviews. Use the comments to post your own review of a movie, if it differs from mine. Try to point out why you disagree. Explain your point of view. All points of view are welcome, though offensive comments will be deleted, so disagree politely, if you can. I wouldn't use the comments field to ask questions, the feature is not meant to create active discussions. Use one of the many online asian cinema forums for this, instead.
To make it easier to find reviews on the site, there is now a built-in search feature. Instead of listing a hundred movies on one page, as I did in the past, each review is on its own page. I'll be looking to add more robust search features in the future, but right now, this will do.
I've set up affiliate accounts with four online shops. For each of these shops, if you click on one of the links on this site to go to the shop, then buy something while you are there, I receive a small percentage of the sale. Yesasia.com is my favorite affiliate, their prices and customer service are both quite good. They are a great source of Chinese, Hong Kong, and Korean DVDs. They have Japanese DVDs as well, but the price of these is usually out of my league. I've recently added indiaplaza.com as an affiliate for Indian DVDs, and ethaicd.com for Thai DVDs. I use both of these sites and am satisfied with their service. Finally, there is the old standby amazon.com for your books and the occasional Columbia/Tristar or Sony Pictures release of an asian movie. If you decide to buy some movies based on what you've read here, it would be helpful to me if you use a product link through this site. But don't worry, the reviews aren't skewed to encourage purchasing. There is that saying that "90% of everything is sh*t" and it is no less true in the world of asian cinema as anywhere else. Four star movies are few and far between, one star movies a dime a dozen.
So, er, that's it, then. Welcome Back!