Stalag 17

When Gil Stratton’s character “Cookie” announces in the voiceover that opens Stalag 17 that “it always make me sore when I see those war pictures — all about flying leather-necks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerillas in the Philippines… what gets me is that there never was a movie about P.O.W.s” he wouldn’t have been accurate, even in 1944 when the film was set; Renoir’s The Grand Illusion was released in 1938, but it’s French. What’s really happening there is Billy Wilder is already winking at the audience to think about what POW films have been made, and I’m guessing he was betting that his audience hadn’t seen The Grand Illusion, or British productions like 1947s The Captive Heart or 1950s The Wooden Horse. Read more of this post

Advertisements

Black Swan

Before Black Swan was released, but when the hype machine was already in overdrive, I stated on one film message board: “Aronofsky has earned my willingness to see any film he makes. Even his failures are interesting.” Indeed, Aronofsky may be the most interesting young American director working today, if only because with every film he genuinely seems to be shooting for the moon in an age where most directors are much more modest in their ambitions. But he also makes the kinds of films that are as fraught with faults as they are strengths. In many respects, I’ll take interesting failures over uninteresting successes any day, because it’s often just a matter of time before those faults are transformed into strengths upon reconsideration. Read more of this post

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Plus Some

If there is anything that can be said succinctly about Puella Magi Madoka Magica, it is this: don’t buy into the hype.  Maybe that includes a corollary “don’t buy into anything you read about it, either,” which would even include this very review.  That’s up to you.  While I wouldn’t call it a polarizing series in the slightest, it’s certainly something that seems like it would leave an impression on most people.  A lot of director Akiyuki Shinbo’s output with Studio Shaft is like this.  Some love it, some hate it, and others—particularly in the case of Madoka—find it entertaining but not worth the unreasonable amount of praise it seems to garner. Read more of this post

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

Just One Look

Wong Yau Nam, a child, and Shawn Yue work the fishball stand in 1970's Cheng Chau.

Riley Yip’s Just One Look is a pleasant surprise of a film. Given the pop star pedigree of the cast, which includes young idols Shawn Yue, Wong Yau Nam, and both Twins (Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung), it’s not hard to come in expecting a lightweight commercialized youth romance. While romance is indeed involved, the film is also about of bitter grudges, martial arts, the transformation into adulthood, and of course, the love of cinema.

The films starts out with Fan, played by Li Ting-Fung as a child and Shawn Yue as an adult, witnessing an argument between his father (Sam Lee), a decorated policeman, and Crazy (Anthony Wong), a local triad who Fan’s father is in debt to. The two see a movie shortly afterward, and partway through, the father gets up to leave, taking one last look at his son before entering the bathroom, where gunshots are soon heard from. While the death is largely assumed to be a suicide, Fan swears for many years that Crazy was responsible. Read more of this post

AKIRA

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