Tuesday, July 14, 2020

I Stand Alone (1998)

A number of 1990s independent films were criticized as being “too indie” or “too foreign”. Most of these criticisms came from the US and UK, where experimental style wasn’t a big thing yet. Nowadays, anything goes. Back in the ’90s, the slightest bit of style made a film “weird”.

Enter the mind of Gaspar Noé in 1991. He had just finished his short cinematic masterpiece Carne (loosely translated: “horse meat”). It was awesome. Seven years later, the film was reborn in feature form as I Stand Alone.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Hack though he is, Joel Schumacher can occasionally turn out an okay film. The Phantom of the Opera is less of a Batman-level war crime and more of a border skirmish, with an old boring book that nobody read on one side, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famed rock opera on the other.

Schumacher’s interpretation is mostly faithful to the Broadway show. The characters sing, the costumes are extravagant, and the physical acting is as operatic as you could ask for. In a word, the film is epic. Epic characters, epic drama, epic emotions.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Sugata Sanshiro (1943)

Action movies are in a bit of a recession these days. It might have something to do with Steven Seagal, or superheroes, or critics not paying proper respect to the biceps that built this world. Maybe the decline of action represents weakness in society. Enter Sugata Sanshiro-sama: the figurehead of humanity and the prototypical man, 1943 edition. He kicks, throws, and makes faces as he simultaneously sets the stage for Bruce Lee and all of entertainment wrestling.

Like Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Matrix (1999), this is a seminal film, the likes of which happen only once in a generation. (Until the sequels.) It is also a Kurosawa film, his first feature. Even if you don’t like martial arts movies, that is reason enough to watch it.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Her (2013)

Boy meets girl, girl leaves boy. Boy meets AI, AI outgrows humanity. (And physical matter, adopting a nonphysical processing platform. Whatever that means. “Matter” includes mass and energy, so I don’t see how such a platform could exist in this universe. It’s magic suspension of disbelief.)

Her stars Joaquin Phoenix in perhaps his most unrecognizable role. He could be anybody, going through the motions of the character’s life, feeling things, and whining. The character whines quite a bit, and the performance is so perfect that it is no different from watching a real-life sad sack cry about problems that are not your problems.

In terms of science, the film is lacking. In terms of watchability, it’s pretty good.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Evangelion 3.0: あすかばあちゃん かわいいです~~~ (2012)

Is Evangelion 3.0 the new Citizen Kane (1941)? Perhaps. While I won’t go into the details of Kane’s connection with Japanese leather philosophy, it is clear that badass robot pilot Shinji Ikari, who has to be 60+ years old in this installment but looks 14 thanks to magic pink slime, is the embodiment of post-apocalyptic robot power fantasy.

I am a big believer in blind devotion to popular anime brands. This isn’t a bad movie, because it’s a Neon Genesis Evangelion movie. Don’t stop the series now! Give me more!

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