The English majors at the Jilin Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering don’t get to pick what classes they want to take. A major is essentially a complete curriculum. When the kids choose their major, they are placed in a class with around twenty other students. For the next four years, these are their classmates and they take every single class together in the same room unless they need to make use of one of the school’s few garbage resources. One of the classes they are required to take is called English Film and Television and I am apparently the resident expert because every Monday I have to watch the same movie three times in a room with garbage resources.

The last movie I watched three times in one day

My first day teaching was a Monday, so I had my film classes. I took the opportunity to assess what kinds of movies the students have seen and what I should show them. Across the board, they’re used to a maturity level of roughly PG. Popular actors include Will Smith, Angelina Jolie and Tom Hanks. I didn’t have to ask them to know that social and political issues should probably be avoided.  They’re all squeamish when it comes to gore and violence and haven’t seen many horror movies. This makes me really sad. I think every child should have at least one early traumatic mature movie experience. Some of my experiences of this nature included watching The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Last Action Hero.

With that information I began looking around. I knew that once I got the internet connection I was promised, I could get ahold of movies more easily but until then I’d have to buy DVDs. Nothing I brought with me would be suitable.
I like the way you lickin’ that fetus, girl
I’ve yet to find any DVDs here that aren’t bootlegs. A lot of them are collections of 15 or 16 movies on two discs. These movies will often have something in common with one another, like the starring actor.
It’s not really blu-ray

When I found this in Ou Ya I was surprised to find that they sell collections like this for about 8 yuan (roughly a dollar and change). It’s got some good stuff like Road to Perdition, which I probably won’t be able to show them and Big, which I probably will. This is the most normal DVD I’ve found since I’ve been here.

A man sells DVDs from the back of a pickup truck across the street from me. I paid him a visit and saw a Will Smith collection similar to the Tom Hanks one I already owned. I thought it was interesting that I so easily found collections of movies with two actors that the students unanimously requested. I didn’t buy the Will Smith one yet but I intend to. In addition to many Will Smith movies, the collection also has Beverly Hills Cop 1, 2 and 3, none of which feature Will Smith.
Like I said earlier, the last movie I watched three times in one day was Home Alone. After an initial failed attempt to stream it on Youku, the Chinese equivalent of Youtube that ignores all copyright laws, I decided to show them The Wanderers off of my USB stick instead. As soon as I plugged in my flash drive it got a virus, which was fun. With the exception of four or five kids in each class, everyone fell asleep. Probably because the audio quality was bad, the characters all talk over each other and there weren’t any subtitles. I don’t consider this class to be one of my most successful ones. I decided to look for Home Alone on DVD.
Do you recognize that kid? It’s the kid from Home Alone 3. What about those people behind him? Let’s take a closer look.
Still can’t place them? The’re the cast of National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze and Dorm Daze 2, which everyone in America has both heard of and enjoyed. I mentioned before that the movies on these DVDs have something in common. See if you can guess what the common ground between Home Alone 3 and Dorm Daze is.
Other “Super Little Rascal Managing a Household” movies in the set are Casper, Surviving Christmas, Little Miss Sunshine, Jingle All the Way and Me, Myself & Irene among others. I found out that there are four films in the Home Alone series and French Stewart plays Marv, Joe Pesci’s character, in the fourth one. That’s kind of upsetting. In any case, I found Home Alone and I entered my classroom the following Monday confident that nothing could go wrong. As a bonus, the DVD had Chinese subtitles, which the students love and I’d rather have them understand the movie than struggle to follow along and lose interest. Much to my chagrin, the A/V system in the classroom decided to give me a big fuck you and stopped functioning ten minutes into the class. It worked out alright though because I got to hold my classes in the marginally superior A/V room next door where the movie played without a problem.
Pictured above: Kumar, of “Harold & Kumar” fame, with the Klumps, of “The Nutty Professor” fame
There are bootlegs in Ou Ya, there are bootlegs in the back of people’s pickup trucks and there are bootlegs in a marketplace on a downtown street called Hongqi Jie. The market is a large, underground area with rows upon rows of DVDs, CDs, weapons and plastic goofy shit. This is the place to come when you want to buy a movie for yourself. The selection is enormous. I came here with Nick about a week ago to see what it was like.
If you’re a foreigner, people shout “DVD!” and “CD! Music!” as you walk by. It doesn’t matter whose shelf you choose to look at because they’re going to sit you down on a stool and keep you there until you’ve seen every single product that they offer. If you’re a foreigner trying to buy anything that doesn’t have a price tag, you probably shouldn’t pay more than 30% of what they ask. Chinese salespersons are the best actors in the world. While we were sitting there, the lady who was helping us was nothing but pleasant. She kept complimenting me on my fledgling Chinese. I picked out 6 movies and figured I wouldn’t take anything higher than 30 yuan for all of them, 5 a piece. Nick picked out a few and then asked, “How much?” All of a sudden the woman wasn’t smiling and pulled out a calculator to display the price because my Chinese was so good and all. She showed him something like 45 for three movies and a TV show, which was way too high. I asked how much for all of mine and she showed the same.
Haggling is a process but I enjoy it. After I said “too expensive” she got really angry and started cursing us out. I said 30 a few times but she was pretending not to listen. Nick put the TV show back and I put 3 of my movies back. We asked how much for 6 between the two of us. Still 45, so we walked. Nick mentioned that he feels bad walking since they spend a lot of time taking everything out of boxes to show us. As far as I’m concerned, fuck anyone who’s knowingly trying to rip me off. Or unknowingly, incompetence is no excuse.  Sure enough, in about 20 seconds the other woman from that row came running after us and asked us to come back. We got it for 30 and that woman who was first so pleasant, then serious, then angry wore this shit-eating grin like we were still getting ripped off. A few days ago I asked a Chinese friend if 5 was a good price and he said he wouldn’t take more than 3 a movie. I hope that bitch spends the rest of eternity in Hades, removing stacks of movies from a box that never depletes. That’s a little rough, I’m sure she’s a wonderful person in other settings. In any case, this is what I spent my time fighting for.
The aliens use bows and arrows, it’s on the back of the box
Based on the popular Nintendo series, Roll is played by a man in drag and the only Asians in the movie are robots

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