Spotlight on Japan: Laputa – Castle in the Sky

Imagine for a moment that everything you ever dreamed of – or the thing you have dreamed the most of – is called Laputa. Your father saw it, but no one believed him. Laputa is always in the distance, waiting for you. Now, what if in all of a sudden you would meet a mysterious girl by chance. This girl would float down directly to your arms and you would discover that she holds the secret of how to get to Laputa. On top of that, she’s a wonderful person too. The catch is that she is being chased by goofy pirates, but once you get rid of them the national army interferes along with a few well-dressed yet cold men. All of them want Laputa as well. What is the true nature of the these mysterious men and the army? And what about the pirates? Or the girl? All of them yearn for Laputa, but for different reasons – both good and evil. Read more of this post

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Toy Story 3

Has it really been 15 years since the first Toy Story? It seems like just yesterday I was a wide-eyed 10-year-old sitting in a theater watching the very first all-computer animated film; what a magical experience that was! It was more than just the thrill of seeing something completely new on screen, it was the wonderful humor combined with a deep humanistic poignancy and pristine classical craftsmanship that marked the best of classic Hollywood. Of course, I really come to realize these latter two points much later in life as I revisited the film repeatedly. Even after what must be 10 viewings by now the movie never ceases to conjure that magic of childhood; not just the magic of me watching the film as a child, but the magic of how childhood really is, with all its boundless imagination and the unbreakable bonds of friendship. Read more of this post

From the Dustbins: The Wild Ride

1960; 58 minutes; Drama; United States; Directed by Harvey Berman; produced by Harvey Berman; executive producer: Kinta Zertuche; The Filmgroup Inc.

There are some films that have a certain draw to them despite they’re utter lack of any likable characters and any sense of script writing. In The Wild Ride, most of this draw comes from the unintentional comedy that can be found in a teenage Jack Nicholson looking like he’s either about to fall asleep or look extremely slick as he skirts around the cops by telling them they can sit on it. Dig it, man?

Actually, Jack was 23 when he starred in this 1960 film. And we’re not entirely sure of the age of the character he portrays, car racer Johnny Varron, who is also one of the more unlikable characters in the slew of movies made by The Filmgroup Inc. back in the 1960s. He’s not the only one either, as much of the cast in this movie is wildly unpleasant to watch. Read more of this post

The Films of Stan Brakhage: Volume II

In my review for The Third Man I noted that one fascinating aspect about film, as a medium, is that there is no discrete separation between high and low art, between supreme masterpieces and B-films. More than any other medium, the masterpieces of film have been selected by mass audiences rather than elitists. Maybe there’s more of a split now between academics, critics, and the movie-going public, but it’s hard to deny that so many of the best films are (or, at least, were) extremely popular. This is a blessing and a curse, and the curse side of it seems to manifest in a certain limited approach to what film is, what it should and can do, and what it should and can be. This leaves artists like Stan Brakhage struggling to find an audience because, unlike his abstract expressionist “brothers in spirit,” there really is no significant audience for Brakhage within the community of his own medium.  This is a shame because it could be said that no director was ever more concerned with film’s ability to replicate true vision, a vision unsullied by symbolic, tangible representation, be it in the form of narrative or in the looser form of metaphor (like his avant-garde, experimentalist predecessors). Read more of this post

BBC Complete Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

It maybe up in the air as to what play is Shakespeare’s best, but when it comes to his most universally beloved I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more popular choice than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What’s not to love? You’d really have to have something against fantasy or comedy to dislike it. I think its popularity stems from its seamless integration of so many disparate elements. Comedy, fantasy, magic, romance, dreams, and waking life coalesce into a perfect oneness. Of course, there’s also the metafictional level that serves as the needle and thread to sew it all together. AMND is simply a perfect play that slips in and out of its multiple facets with a brilliance that only the Bard could manage while appealing to aesthetes, intellectuals, and the everyman in nearly equal proportions. Read more of this post

Chuck & Buck

We take it for granted that we ever actually “grow up”. We age, certainly, and we get taller and fatter, but mental growth seems optional, at least past a certain point. Given the complexity of our psyches, it’s not incomprehensible that we retain so many of our child-like (and childish) mentalities long after we’ve become “adults.” But perhaps some of the most fascinating individuals are those that hit a wall in that development from child to adolescent to adult. Of course, we aren’t really lacking for any depictions of such man-children on film, but they’ve almost typically been rendered in a wholly comedic way, rather than in one that seeks a more genuine depiction of the “condition” that explores it on a more psychological level. Read more of this post

The Ghost Ship

 

Of the 11 remarkable low-budget horror films that Val Lewton produced for RKO in the 40s, an astonishing total of 4 come from 1943. This incorporates his final two with the most celebrated director to come out of the collaboration, Jacques Tourneur (I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man), and two with Mark Robson, including The Seventh Victim and this film, Ghost Ship. Despite the temporal closeness of their releases and what were surely short or parallel shooting schedules, The Ghost Ship feels like a transitional film. It still has plenty of Lewton’s distinctive touches, especially his incomparable ability for creating psychologically complex and morally ambiguous characters in a genre where either features are practically unheard of, but Robson’s direction seems lesser of a fit to Lewton’s brand of horror and terror than Tourneur’s. Read more of this post