Japan; Science Fiction; 125 minutes; Produced by Ryōhei Suzuki, Shunzō Katō; Based on the graphic Novel by Katsuhiro Otomo; Written and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

The year was 2007, I was close to ending my first year in film school, and I hated anime. I didn’t just dislike anime, or was merely uninterested in anime, I had a burning hatred toward any Japanese animated product I had ever seen. Sure, I was into the Digimon merchandise back as a kid, but never saw any of the shows. And after seeing other stupid Japanese shows like Yu-Gi-Oh and Dinosaur King, I never wanted to. To my naïve brain, this is all Japanese animation was about: 30 minute time slots for poorly written merchandise commercials.

That is until I met this guy while volunteering for various stage drama activities. He seemed rather knowledgeable about film, so we got along very well. Then I found out he liked anime. I was dumbfounded. How can someone so smart enjoy watching such crap? Upon my inquiry he merely responded, “Oh, you just need to see good filmmaking.” I never told him but I spend the next couple days muttering the likes of “What does he know? I’m in film school. I know more about good filmmaking than he’d ever wish to know.”

He had mentioned several anime features, but the name that mysteriously stuck in my head was AKIRA. So when I saw the film on DVD at the school library I decided I’d watch it and tell off this otaku about the difference between good filmmaking and Japanese cartoons. I also picked up Koyaanisqatsi and Russian Ark that day just so I could build up a good arsenal of examples of what good filmmaking actually is. Read more of this post

Full Metal Jacket

In the 1990s, Robert Mapplethorpe became the most infamous photographer in the world after an exhibition of his homoerotic and BDSM work titled “The Perfect Moment” debuted, containing some of the most explicit photography ever to be shown in an art museum. After that, when looking at his 80s flower still lifes, critics found a veritable smorgasbord of Freudian metaphors; some artists can’t help but be provocative. In the world of film, no director ever split opinions as consistently and ferociously as Stanley Kubrick. It’s a testament to his  timelessness that the 2001: A Space Odyssey IMDb message board is still flooded with new viewers who proclaim the film either a singular masterpiece and work of genius, or a boring piece of crap that’s just “art for art’s sake” and a case of Emperor’s New Clothes. Full Metal Jacket is an interesting entry into Kubrick’s oeuvre if only because it’s one of his most consistently praised films (probably only behind Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and Spartacus in how universally well-liked it is), but least talked about. Read more of this post

From the Dust-Bins: Turkish Star Wars

It's actually much worse than this, but the numbers only go so low.

1982, Turkey; 91 Minutes; Directed by: Çetin Inanç; Produced by: Mehmet Karahafiz. No studio listed for apparent reasons: no company wants to fess up to this abomination.

YouTube seems to be the leading site in plagiarized video materials in our modern age. There are many arguments for and against the use of copyright materials for educational or entertainment purposes, but I’m not going to debate that in this article. I’m merely bringing this up to compare it to the similar breaches of copyright committed by the Turkish back in the 1980s. Particularly, the use within 1982 film Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam, translated into English as The Man Who Saves The World.

Star Wars has had many rip-offs since it’s release in 1977. My film instructor personally knew a man who was cast to play a gold-plated version of Darth Vader in a space odyssey film that was supposed to be better than anything Star Wars had to offer. Odd that I can’t remember the film’s title, huh?

But none of the rip offs made by the States can top the stupidity of downright plagiarism portrayed in The Man Who Save The World. This film has been the black sheep of any film group since the day of it’s birth, and it’s popularity as laughter fodder has only been growing in light of its availability on the internet. In fact, you can find the Turkish film right here. And seeing that it actually uses the special effect shots from the original Star Wars movie, it has been called by many “The Turkish Star Wars”. Read more of this post

Midnight Run

Watching this film it’s hard not to lament the contrast between the personification of cool that Robert DeNiro once was and the shadow of that self that he is now. If nothing else, Midnight Run proves that DeNiro could do comedy and be as riveting and accomplished as when he was doing drama at the hands of greats like Coppola and Scorsese. But this is a DeNiro with all the charm, power, and pathos that so few actors could muster even at their best. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s situated in a film with a rock solid supporting cast, an exciting (if flawed) script, a stylish score, and light-footed direction that’s able to bring out more facets of the action/comedy genre film than tradition would suggest was possible. Read more of this post

Distant Voices, Still Lives

If you combined the personalized art therapy of Ingmar Bergman with the formal ellipticism and familial focus of Hou Hsiao-hsien and the theme of an elusive, fractured, and free-association memory of Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo you’d have a perfect, if difficult, description of Terence Davies’ aesthetic. Davies had begun his career with his Trilogy, three short, black & white films made between ’76 and ’84. Poetically fractal and challenging in their own right, The Trilogy chronicled Davies maturation as a filmmaker, beginning with the rawness of Children, to the more studied and transitional Madonna and Child, and concluding with the masterful Death and Transfiguration. But if The Trilogy was the herald, then Distant Voices, Still Lives (DVSL) is the Second Coming—the ultimate testament of the greatest of post-war British filmmakers. This film retains all of the emotional and aesthetic power of its predecessors, while offering a sophisticatedly refined form and style to match. Read more of this post

36 Fillette

Catherine Breillat has, somewhat unfairly, gotten labeled over the years as the “female French director who deals in salacious female sexuality, especially of an adolescent nature”. Well, perhaps everything in that criticism is accurate except the “salacious” part. “Provocative” would be a much better word. But, as I’ve written about before (see my reviews for Diary of a Nymphomaniac or Y tu mamá también), there may be nothing more difficult in dramatic art than integrating sexuality in a way that’s intellectually substantial and dramatically coherent while still keeping it sexy. Breillat has often been content with ignoring the “keeping it sexy” part, preferring to craft portraits of female sexuality with all the provocations and intellectualism (or, at least, suggestions of intellectualism) without ever even creeping close to pornography. In the three films I saw prior to 36 Fillette, Breillat’s biggest problem is that she hasn’t been able to find characters or a plot strong enough to carry the dramatic weight. That problem is one she’s finally solved here.
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