Ajami

It was probably inevitable that a film like Ajami would come along—an Israeli/Palestinian collaboration, directed by a Christian Israeli Arab (Scandar Copti) and a Jewish Israeli (Yaron Shani) about a group of Christians and Muslims in a small Arab neighborhood, the titular Ajami, in one of the oldest port cities in the world, Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Everything in the film itself, from the setting and characters to the plot, to all of the meta-aspects including the directors and production, feels like the cinematic culmination of the conflict that’s been raging in that part of the world for so long. It produces a melting pot of socio-cultural conflict that, in true artistic fashion, manages to boil everything down to the all-too-human people caught up in it all. Read more of this post

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Alternate Perspective: Summer Wars by JH

“Anime? You mean the Japanese cartoons like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!” or “Anime? You mean the Japanese cartoons full of sex and violence?” are probably the two most common responses by “normal” people when they find out that someone watches anime; I can’t help but find the polar opposite associations rather hilarious. Nobody would ever say “oh, you read poetry, you mean that stuff about flowers?” or “oh, you read poetry, you mean that stuff about wars?” The Association stem from the confusion that anime is a genre rather than simply animation from Japan; it’s no more a genre than French films are a genre. Once I’ve explained that to people unfamiliar with anime the next question is inevitably “why do you watch cartoons?”.  Indeed, the stigma against animation has something only suited for kids or outrageous satirical comedy is pervasive in most of the West. The simple answer behind why I watch it is that the creative freedom inherent in animation, and frequently expressed through animation, far outweighs that in the vast majority of live-action films, and Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars is a prime example of that imaginative explosion. Read more of this post

Stefan’s R&A: Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

Also known as "Evangelion, New Theatrical Edition: Break"

[Due to the pre-existing nature of the film’s source material, this article has been split into two separate groups. The first half of the article is a traditionally written movie review for Evangelion 2.22 free of important spoilers that might ruin the experience for first-time viewers. The second half of the article is a in-depth comparative analysis between Evangelion 2.22 and the television show it was based upon: Neon Genesis Evangelion, and even a look as to how art can sometimes imitate life, and is targeted for those who have watched both the film and the original television show.] Read more of this post

La Refuge

I try not to be harsh on films that leave me with unanswered questions. It makes me feel like a hypocrite for all the times I’ve admonished people for finishing, for example, 2001: A Space Odyssey and saying “I don’t get it, and it sucks.” Surely the relationship between artist and audience is a give-and-take, and artists certainly shouldn’t feel compelled to spell everything out, as art is largely about the power of suggestion to begin with. Artists also have a right to demand a certain level of intellectual and emotional engagement from their audience. But at what point do we accuse the artists of demanding more than they deliver? At what point do we say that they’ve given us too little substance to chew on in order to understand the characters and themes? Read more of this post

Moon

Compare Duncan Jones’ Moon to Christopher Nolan’s Inception and one gets a crystal clear idea of both the divergent types of science-fiction (hard and soft), as well as the disparity in popularity between the two styles. Hard science fiction has been on the decline for (roughly) the last 30 years, and it seemingly reached its peak in the wake of 2001: A Space Odyssey and all of the films that followed. That said, even the films that followed and were influenced by it—Alien, Blade Runner, Outland, Silent Running—were certainly moving closer to the realm of sci-fi fantasy. To define the difference it would be hard to find a better quote than Rod Serling who said: “fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.” Inception is clearly the impossible made probable by its vague technology, while Moon presents an improbable world made very possible. To probe the further differences one can look at the budgets and box office. Inception was a massive blockbuster, costing $160 million and eventually grossing close to $300 million. Moon was only allowed a $5 million budget, which isn’t surprising given that it was Duncan Jones’ first film, and it disappointingly grossed just a shade over that budget. Audience demand seems to ring out loud and clear: hard science fiction is out, and science fiction fantasy is in.
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Avatar

(artist's rendering)

You probably saw this in theatres last year, but I didn’t.  Whenever something gets that much hype, the thing in question usually turns out pretty crappy.  And even though this wasn’t quite the case with Avatar, I can say now that I don’t think it would have been worth the ever-growing expense of the ticket price just to get nauseated when the goddamn 3D glasses didn’t work. 

But that’s OK.  I saw it when it hit HBO, since I don’t even have Netflix and haven’t been to a blockbuster in some ten years.  Needless to say, this probably won’t be useful to anyone since I’m the last guy on the bus that watched this shit.  But I just don’t care anymore.  I’m so lazy and ambivalent that I’m not even including pictures in this review. Read more of this post

R&A by JL: Summer Wars

Mamoru Hosoda is one of the directors expected to become the next Hayao Miyazaki. With only a few films under his belt such high praise might seem weird, but believe me. His direction is really that good. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time made him instantly one of the best directors in the anime industry. How can one follow a major success like that? It must be hard to even create something equally pleasing. In Hosoda’s case, he even improved a little with his next film, Summer Wars. Without giving too much away, the film tells about Kenji, a boy who ends up being forced to pretend to be his dream girl’s, Natsuki’s, boyfriend in front of her large family. Meanwhile the fate of the entire world is at stake when Oz (a more developed and involving version of Facebook) is taken over by a terrorist.

Whereas The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was Hosoda’s intimate drama with small scope, Summer Wars is the opposite: a grand tale boasting more than 20 unforgettable characters. Read more of this post