Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Anime Preview

I've told myself to make it a point to post a blog entry every time I go online in order to wane off my writer's block (although I'm not even remotely good to qualify as one), to practice concentration, and to exercise the use of English jargon from time to time - so I won't be stupid enough when I have to write paper works and letters and such.

Most of the anime's from last year's Autumn-Winter season just wrapped up. There are so many new titles - it's hard to keep up what to follow. I've narrowed down my list based on the anime's I'll be watching for the Spring season. This time around I have decided to completely avoid harem rom-coms after a disappointing turn of Oreshura. I never really intended to watch that anime in the first place but I just took a gander on it for fun. True to its form,all the female leads crowded one confused MC; all the shenanigans was fun but the indecisive ending ruined the series.  So my mind's made up though, no more harem genre for me. Phew!

Red Data Girl - the anime on the top of this list, will no longer be included for this blog post since I have already made a "First Impression" review of the series last week.

Without further ado, here are my Spring 2013 to-watch list. To watch the preview click the play button.

xoxo, Chin

Studio: ZEXCS

Studio: Bridge

Studio: White Fox

Studio: Manglobe

Studio: J.C. Staff

Studio: Sunrise

Studio: Wit Studio, Production I.G.

Studio: Production I.G.

Studio: JM Animation,Satelight

Studio: JM Animation,Satelight

Studio: Studio Gokumi

Studio: Madhouse
*Watch the PV on the official website

Monday, March 25, 2013

Final Notes: Psycho-Pass

Year: October 11, 2012 - March 22, 2013 | Directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani | Episodes: 22 (2 cour)
Written by Gen Urobuchi | Studio: Production I.G. 
Roundup Rating: A-

If I have to compare notes with other reviewers and anime viewers we would probably clash with our opinions with regards to Psycho-Pass. I obviously do not share their same love-hate relationship, loathsome struggles and constant bickering - in terms of the show's delivery, just because right from the start I know what I want from the series and I do not have very high expectations when it comes to the story either. What I am after for is the sheer entertainment and the intellectual stimulation I get from the show each week.

I love to read. I do it every chance I get especially when I'm not feeling lazy, but I don't consider myself very well read since I have ADD. I am familiar with the philosophers and writers whose names was referred to by Gen Urobuchi in Psycho-Pass, but I have to confess that I have no idea about the contents of their works, with the exception of Philip K. Dick. In a way, I am thankful that Urobuchi have thrown several book titles, put footnotes and quotes from those people because every episodes encouraged me to do my own research and those informations added up to my richly growing vault of knowledge.

We all know that Psycho-Pass shared a lot of striking resemblance from the Sci-fi works of Philip K. Dick, especially to Minority Report and Blade Runner. But I have already pointed this out in my blog and made an assumption that Urobuchi wrote and added their ideas with the intention of having Psycho-Pass as an ode to his favorite writers, and not as an act to copy them for the sake of making something up.

The constant philosophizing also became a problem to several viewers, not everyone of course, but to some it was a rather mediocre attempt to intellectualize the show. However, when you have a villain that prefers to read books printed on paper while everything else is made digital it is plain as day that he doesn't share the same enthusiasm over the modernized world.

Makishima is a nonconformist who takes his philosophy to heart. You can call him a romantic, an anarchist or a crazed murderer, in fact, he can be all of the above, after all he is the guy that made the series completely interesting. But I always thought that the strength of a show relies on its antagonist never from its heroines. The lead characters have a tendency to follow their predictable archetypes, they are the good guys and the one's with the preternatural ability to solve the problems. Villains, on the other hand are not fashioned to be good people, they lie without remorse, they can kill without guilt, they think out of the box and they never fail to surprise you just when you thought that you have them figured out. They are more or less the salt and pepper of the show. Makishima reminds me of John Doe (from Se7en), Joker (the Heath Ledger version from The Dark Knight), Hannibal Lecter and Red John (from the Mentalist), all with smarts and are brilliant strategists, their only disadvantage is their being crazy. They think before they act so even when their protagonist counterpart captures them it's because they willed it to not because the good guy already did something spectacular. I would not classify Kougami as the latter since in the episodes nearing the conclusion he became an outlaw - ready to take the justice with his own hands.

It's like in order to become a good detective you need to have a touch of evil, which reminds me of Orson Welles' film of the same name. Hank, the corpulent detective (played by Welles) somehow indicated that in order to catch your criminal you have to think like them; he's been doing it for far too long only to find himself as corrupt, sick and deranged like them. Kougami has a touch of evil; he is the only character who is at par with Makishima, he can predict his actions, and he can imagine what he would do at certain situations. So whether he may or may not go towards anarchy is a little vague in my opinion, but since Akane saved his life from the hands of Sibyl there is a possible redemption that he would prefer to live a quiet life than involve himself with anything Sibyl related.

Akane, the believer of everything good and that "people protects the law" is your typical protagonist. Most of the time I hated her, especially when she let her friend die than shoot Makishima with a shotgun. That was a very Se7en moment and obviously "Pride" was her deadly sin. She had a choice (although she always believe otherwise), but she chose to stand stiff and let her friend's neck get sliced by an asymptomatic rather than be sent away by Sibyl if only for the sake of helping her. Although Akane has shown improvement after that episode her blind optimism for a system that only renders unfair discrimination is frankly stupid. Instead of blasting the room and those brains in order to stop Sibyl she made a decision to wait until someone more capable could do it for her. Just imagine those people who lose their lives for a system who opresses rather than protects its citizens. Akane has the opportunity to change the world and yet she let it all go to waste. What a coward!

My favorite subplot of the series is between the strained father-son relationship of Masaoka and Ginoza. Their scenes together is probably the only side of the show that supplied us some real human emotions. Although there is an obvious death flag raised in either the two of them a resolution in their relationship is still one of the few things that viewers really look forward to. And I am glad they made it happened on the last episode.

Until this day I am baffled by Kagari's death. It doesn't seem right to me. The lack of closure is an injustice to him and his character. Sibyl explained that they killed him to protect the secret of the system, but Akane should have at least requested the retrieval of his body from those icky brains.

There is a question in every one's mind if Psycho-Pass is going to have a second season considering that the conclusion seems open-ended. But in my opinion that's it for the series. I have always expected it to end that way. I mean with Akane being Akane they won't be able to eradicate Sibyl overnight. At least Kougami shot Makishima in the head preventing Sibyl from scooping his brain's to be part of the system. Psycho-Pass managed to end in a realistic fashion - where everything ended the way it began. The loop continues: Kougami killed Makishima only to take his place, Akane is now seen as the earlier Ginoza, (only less brutal with the newbie), Ginoza became an enforcer like his father, and of course there's a new inspector. Nothing changed much only the names of the people in the cycle. So yes, Sibyl continues.

Friday, March 22, 2013

First Look: Red Data Girl

Year: 2013 | Directed by Toshiya Shinohara | Written by Michiko Yokote |
| Based on the novel by Noriko Ogiwara |
Studio: P.A. Works

For starters, I think Red Data Girl is well drawn - the overall animation is impeccable that I can't even stop singing its praises for its animators. In my opinion, the story is interesting and mysterious based solely on the premiere episode. However, I cannot go beyond that yet because everything is still pretty much premature to cast any concrete judgments. The conclusion of the first episode has already caught my attention - I want to see what's next and I want to know all the characters, especially our female lead, Izumiko Suzuhara. From what I know so far she is a shrine maiden of a rare kind - born to be protected and sheltered. But by whom and why? There are also hints that she possesses some supernatural powers being the Red Data Girl and all.

Most of the works produced by PA Works have shown incredible animation quality, however, their stories are most often ineffective. Since Red Data Girl is based on a series of fantasy novels I would expect that it could get more meaty stories compared to their previous endeavors. I just hope it could live up to its reputation and that it would stay as a strong series that could become a contender for 2013's year end's best. Kudos by the way for the feel good music featured on the OP and ED - the spring vibe is written all over it, and the melody is quite addictive. 

Red Data Girl - Preview

Final Notes: Mondai-Ji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?

Year: January 11, 2013 - March 15, 2013 | Directed by Yasutaka Yamamoto | Episodes: 10
Written by Noboru Kimura | Based on the Light Novel by Tarou Tatsunoko, Illustrated by Yuo Amano |
Roundup Rating: A-

Among the many series that premiered in the winter season the mouthful titled "Mondai-Ji-tachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?" is one of the most overlooked anime adaptation, but probably the one that is packed with all of the good stuffs in terms of action and fun. What I like about "Mondaiji" is the fact that it does not take itself too seriously. Just like what Izayoi wants in his life the show's parallel goal is to absorbed all the fun and to squeeze out all the bore. "Mondaiji" interjects many story lines from the Greek and Vampire Mythology and Fairy Tales, which is a concept that is nothing new in the anime world, but somehow it is surprisingly refreshing for this series.

Not Your Ordinary Guy
The anime universe has produced male leads that is usually depicted as dense, pathetic, and is mostly humiliated by their female counterparts. For quite some time there are no interesting male character that could stand up and wave the men's flag proudly until Izayoi (and Kai, Mahiro and Yoshino). He is a bad ass. A doer kind of guy - who prefers action over silly futile conversations. But most importantly, he is confident. Never in the entire ten episodes that he even doubted himself or his ability. Though it may come off as arrogant, but in my opinion if you have it then flaunt it - that's what Izayoi does. What I also like about him is his outspokenness about appreciating a girl's body, especially that of Kurousagi. He flirts with her openly and does not feel any sort of remorse for doing it so. We are tired of guy's being dense all the time, we need to see some action, and Izayoi is surely taking that initiative.

Love Boat
Although there are no real "love thing" that happened during the first season (and hopefully, there will be a second season, I am crossing my fingers) between Izayoi and Kurousagi. It did not stop all the shippers from online forums to read between the lines and just ship the two as a possible couple. Come on, we see all the innuendoes and the flirting, we want some more. There are so many female characters in "Mondaiji" but none of them can carry the same spark that Kurousagi brings when paired with Izayoi. She is the only one in Little Garden that can match up to his powers (watch episode 6) even the Gods are too weak for him. He said it himself, he will never get tired messing up with Kurousagi.

Kick Ass Villains
Since "Mondaiji" is infused with stories and characters from fairy tales and Greek mythology most of the Gods that Izayoi and company try to beat are prominent figures already in the literature world. There is the likes of Perseus and the Pied Piper as an example. To see their stories and powers turn into a different angle, and the hillarity that they can be defeated - like it was a game of pie by these problem children is totally amusing. I am sold.

The Other Problem Children and Wanting More
Asuka and You are the female problem children gifted with powers. Of course they do not have the same abilities as Izayoi, but their roles in protecting the "No-Names" are equally vital. Because the series is too short their characters were not given much emphasis. We see a lot of gift games occur but less character explorations. I want to know more about their backgrounds prior to their life in the Little Garden, I want to know why Kurousagi has strong powers but cannot compete, there are so many questions in my mind that could only be answered if the series is granted with a second season. Mondaiji is based on a currently running series of Light Novels which means there are plenty of rooms for an anime adaptation in the future. The only problem is the interest of the studio depending on the outcome of the BD/DVD and LN sales.

Summer Wars

Year: 2009 | Directed by Mamoru Hosoda | Roundup Rating: A

I fell in love with this movie the first time I have seen it. What's not to like anyway? Every characters are so endearing, even with their peculiarities and hullabaloos, you still love them anyway - just like with your own family. In spite of all the craziness, arguments and differences our family remain as that one place that we call home. Summer Wars perfectly captures that spirit and Mamoru Hosoda did an excellent job without being too fuzzy and melodramatic.

The Future

OZ is more or less a future depiction of our technology - or social networking in particular, its importance in our everyday life, may it be in business operations and in simple daily tasks. In the movie, if this system suffers from malfunction it can potentially send the world into the brink of chaos. And since it makes everything comfortable we are under the impression that we would be completely lost without it. Watching this movie four years after it has been made there is a surprisingly prophetic truth with how the world at the present time is being run by the internet. Hosoda acknowledges and embraces this truth, he points the positive as a unifying factor for people to communicate and stay connected, and shows us the downside of depending greatly everything into it. Probably my favorite use of OZ is the bonding between grandpa Mansuke and his grandson Kazuma. They got together in OZ so he can teach his grandson about Shorinji Kempo in order to defend himself from bullies.

Mother and Family

The two teenagers may be the lead characters of this movie but it is the great-grandmother that serves as the driving force of the story. Looking at her govern her family - all four generations of them, gave me a renewed admiration for women, mothers and homemaker's in general, particularly the latter. I adore how the grandmother portrayed such a strong matriachal figure who was able to keep her family in line as a unit - especially in times of distress. They trusted her wisdom - that very one thing you get through years of age and experience. Even when she passed away she never faltered to remind them that they can overcome everything if they are united together as a family.

Most of the scenes in "Summer Wars" is dominated about computers and the cyberspace, but let's not forget that the core value of this movie is about "family". I love how the grandmother emphasized to her descendants "to never turn your back on family even when they hurt you, and to remember to find time to eat together as a family even when times are rough."  There are a lot of people out there who hate their families because of their unfamiliar differences, especially when they are under the influences of their friends and lovers. Family relationship is like a complicated and unsolvable mathematical problem simply because you cannot make your own choice what family to belong to. God grants us one, although it is beyond our comprehension whether we would like them or not. This may sound like a cliche but the only thing you can do with the situation is to accept and love one another flaws and all. 

As Kenji gets along with the Jinnouchis, enjoys their company and falls in love with the whole clan, we feel exactly the same way for them, because just like him we are the outside spectator, and we see the family right through his eyes. I have probably seen this film more than five times and I love it in each viewing because of the characters that are so human despite the fact that we are talking about an animation film here. I like how the story has its usual stereotypes on family, for example, the noisy little children, the spinster aunts, the prodigal son, the cousin who hates your boyfriend, the inquisitive uncle, the cousin who isolates himself, the uber supportive mother and of course, the family's loud and boisterous camaraderie.

About Your Lover...Old People Still Knows Best
In our family we are reminded to trust our parents, especially our grandparents, because of their natural wisdom gained from life. It sounds scary and unbelievable but I find it true for older people to to have an automatic instinct on knowing the person who would be best for you. Right off the bat grandma Sakae is aware that Natsuki is lying to her. She knows that Kenji is a poser boyfriend with a fake background. She may have played along with her great-granddaughter's tomfoolery but she is not swayed by it, because she saw right there and then the kind of sincerity from him that is both genuine and real. 


The story between Kenji and Natsuki is probably not the focal point of the movie, but it is still there. Natsuki is the most popular girl in school, she came from an old Japanese clan with a very tight knit family and she is a year older than him. Kenji is clumsy, he is a genius in math but nothing else (thus, he reminds me of Chiaki from TGWLTT), his parents are rank & file employees and they are mostly away because of their work, and he is a year younger than Natsuki. Maybe it's just me, but in my opinion their relationship is a representation of the younger generation today. Look, most of my friends and some of my family relatives are dating or married to younger men. The way I see it that's the trend nowadays (although I'm not really one to agree because I'm always against the idea). There is something sweet and innocent about them, although Kenji is a wee bit awkward in most instances I can't help but root for him to get the girl, and while Natsuki maybe lying about introducing him as her boyfriend still, I can't help but wish that she likes him, too. Regardless of his status as a poser boyfriend Kenji never pretended anything about himself. What the family sees is the real him, and there is nothing fake about his treatment towards them as well. They disliked him when they learned that Natsuki just invented his identity, but he won them over during a very crucial moment in their lives, not because he wanted to please them but because he did what he believes that a man needs to do: to protect the family. No matter what, he already had a special place in the heart's of the Jinnouchi clan.

It took me two long weeks to write this review for the reason that I find myself ill-equipped to have any say on the matter. Summer Wars is an amazing film, period. It would be highly doubtful if someone declares that they do not like it since it can cater to both the young and the old. In my opinion, Hosoda is not the "new Miyazaki". I am a fan of the latter and also a fan of the former. They are different when it comes to their style of storytelling. Miyazaki is more on the magical and whimsical, while Hosoda vents on between the realistic and fantastical with a flair for drama. I am absolutely looking forward to watching his upcoming films (I have seen Wolf Children prior to this) with my childlike-colored glasses waiting to be surprised, overwhelmed and inspired.

Playlist: I Can't Make You Love Me / Everblue

There are so many songs I have been listening to for the past few months, I feel sorry for not being able to put them on a playlist the way I used to like last year. Most of the song I've been listening to are in Japanese by the way since I've been enjoying a lot of Nippon Rock, mostly from artists such as Suneohair, Nothing's Carved in Stone, nano.Ripe, Tommy Heavenly6, 99RadioService, and etc, the list would go on and on. There are two songs that has been reverberating on my player since last week - they've been helping me keep in line with my hopeless emotions. Both songs are melodically emotive and the lyrics are just meaty, it's no wonder it's easy to find some solace in them.

For your listening pleasure, please press the button to play.

I Can't Make You Love Me
Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt - Luck of the Draw
After episode 21 of Robotics;Notes I started listening to this song non-stop. I'm always the emotional type so I easily get affected from stories of unrequited love. The lead characters in that anime confessed their love for each other and kissed, but I wonder, how about Frau Kojiro? It's always the same story, weird girl's never gets the cool guy, but weird guy's gets the hot girl's. Maybe it's just my own experience being reflected here blatantly. But no matter, this so is very therapeutic. I could listen to versions by Bon Iver, Adele and piano instrumentals from YouTube and yet, the same feeling remains. 

Mandy Moore
Mandy Moore - Amanda Leigh
In my iPad I have Everblue played before '"I Can't Make You Love Me" and it gives me continuity on a story that I've been struggling to write. This is probably my third favorite song from her album 'Amanda Leigh' but I think it all changed after I learned what the song was about and for whom she had written it to. In my opinion, it's about a person who is contented being miserable in his/her own little world. Every time happiness comes along he/she views that feeling as a burden rather than an opportunity to be loved or to be cared for. This song tells that person that there is nothing wrong about that and he/she should accept that love being given to him/her. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Top 10 Films For 2012

After much deliberation, my year-end list (of favorite films) is now up and running. Although not every titles I have chosen here are necessarily considered by critics and moviegoers as part of their top rankings, nevertheless, I've enjoyed watching them. Somehow they were able to surpassed my expectations and had surprised me in the most uncanny manner so I went ahead and go with my feelings and this is how it played out - as you can see it is entirely subjective. It took me a long while before I was able to come up with my top 10 - except for Amour who is my number one on the get-go - there are titles that I haven't seen such as Carax' Holy Motors that I probably should have before I wrote this one, but anyway I am satisfied with the outcome. The list is long overdue so let's get it started now.

Honorable Mentions
Django Unchained - As expected from Tarantino, his script is always exceedingly well-written and ingenious. Although I am a self-confessed fan of his overall ouvre, unfortunately, I have no love for Spaghetti Westerns. 

Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson has proven once more that he is a one unique egg. The whole concept of this movie is interesting - the children acting like adults and the adults acting like children is fascinating, and the idea that there is someone out there compatible with your 'weirdness' is really romantic. However, it just so happens that there are other films I prefer over this. Tough luck!

Beasts of the Southern Wild - I have to play guilty on this - I am not a fan of "poverty porn or poor-nography" simply because it makes me sad. I live in a third world country and I see poverty on a daily basis so I don't need to be reminded of that - especially on cinema. However, the endearing story and its marvelous acting is something I cannot take away from this movie. 

Films that I still haven't seen that could have made this list:
Rust & Bone, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Pieta, The Sessions, Seven Psychopaths 


My whole life I never got drunk - in a true sense of the word. The closest thing I ever get from being intoxicated to alcohol is during our little Christmas soiree with a glass of dry Spanish red wine mixed with iced tea. My best friend concocted them together so it would be manageable to sip. But other than that, nada for me. I can only handle sweet red wine and white wine, but beer and any hard liquor is a major no-no for me. It may sound bull but these are my following reasons why I chose to stay clean from alcohol:

1. No to puke and vomit.
I only vomited once or twice in my life and I hate the process of having the food I already swallowed from my mouth - stored in my stomach to be under premature evacuation other than my ass. The taste of vomit is gross and once it got out it smells yucky and it would stink all over you.

2. No to Hangover
Probably I do not know what it feels like to have a hangover since I never got drunk but I know the feeling of suffering from migraines and headaches. They are literally a burden especially during mornings. When I lack sleep from spending too much time on the internet my body reacts painfully, what more if you stay up late intoxicated. Well at least with internet surfing I have done something productive.

3. Control
I am near borderline obsessive, though not entirely, I hate not being in control. When you are drunk you have all these urges to do stupid things that you don't normally say or do under your sober self. Even with close friends and family I have no plans of showing them Ms. Hyde. Nowadays, they can capture your most embarrassing moments with their cellphone camera and post them on YouTube or Facebook and I'll regret that forever. 

4. Non conformity
I do not view drinking as an act of rebellion but rather as an act of conformity. Everyone does it now, so what makes it so special? You drink socially in order to fit in with everyone. While some conforms because of peer pressure for fear that they would look uncool and boring to their friends. Honestly, if they do not like that part of you then they were never your true friends to begin with. And I don't like doing something just because everyone is doing it. 

5. No to Liver Cancer
In the movie the Sound of My Voice Brit Marling said that each death is suicide inflicted. Cancer is a prolong version of suicide since a person knows that if you keep on drinking or smoking your body would deteriorate eventually and you will die. Alcohol drinking causes liver cancer as we all know. If you are already afflicted with one you'll be in and out of the hospital because of complications, you wound spend your hard earned money over medications until you ran out of cash, and you would be a burden to your family. 

6.  Tropics
I live in Southeast Asia, in the Philippines, and our weather is famous for its tropical summer all year (except during rainy season) - it never gets cold since we have no winter and the temperature never reaches to zero. What's the point of getting drunk if your body is already warm because of the weather itself. Only countries with harsh winters should be allowed to use drinking as an excuse to get warm. 

7. The Taste
I never like the taste of beer. I did took a sip once as a child. No offense to the Germans and Belgians but I find it rather unfitting for human consumption, especially the hard liquor types such as whiskey and gin. 

8. No to Alcoholism
I already have my own form of addiction. I have no plans adding alcoholism to that list. Too much hard work before you can emancipate yourself from alcohol dependence. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Master

Year: 2012 | Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson | Roundup Rating: B+ 

Some viewers who waited patiently and expected too much from Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film "The Master" have their polarizing take on the movie, which ranges from amazement to utter confusion. Most of them pretended to understand because they are film critics - too afraid to concede on their lack of insight, while some abrasive admissions came from reviewers for their inability to figure out what the film was about. But since I am no film critic nor an spectator, in my own way I understand what PT Anderson was trying to say, maybe subjectively as always. After all, artworks are meant to be understood not by universal thinking but through inner reflections. It runs for more than two hours and I am not an authority on summaries so I'll just write what I know.

Freddie Quell (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a war veteran during the World War 2 who became a portrait photographer later on in a department store. In order to cope with life after the war he became an alcoholic, he wandered in different places until he meets Lancaster Dodd(Philip Seymour Hoffman) a self-proclaimed renaissance man who, along with his wife, has created an organization known as 'The Cause'. Let's just say because of Freddie's flaws he became their guinea pig. They want to transform him or to change him into a better person, but Freddie is a force of nature, he cannot be tamed. Prior to the war he was in love with a young woman named Doris, more or less his problems came from the fact that he loved her, but instances prevented them from being together. Most likely he blame himself so he drinks his troubles away in order to be numbed from the pain. This movie may be about those people suffering from certain addictions and those organizations who heedlessly exploit their situation to their advantage. In order to acquire a non-cult status they needed people like Freddie who could give them a lift as a recognized group, that way they could further their ambitions. In my opinion, the word 'master' does not necessarily refer to Dodd but to some thing else may it be religion, person or substance. 

According to write-ups this is partially based on the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. I have no idea about the man, but Scientology has become famous for its celebrity members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and that is the extent of my knowledge about it. Some call it a religion and some say it's a cult. Either way I don't give a damn. There is a quote from the movie that says "Man is not an animal." However, in a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde context a man relishes his inner animal when he is under the influence of drugs. Under that circumstance he acts foolishly like an animal because he is not his normal self. Scientology is known for preventing their members from using any form of medications even in the critical condition of life and death. 

In the movie Dodd created several unproven interventions that could cure Freddie, but the latter is more impermeable than he thought. Maybe it's because in his heart Freddie does not believe in 'the cause' , he just goes with the flow to please them, just like most addicts do. They would always go back and forth doing the same old dangerous self- inflicting shit because number one, they are unhappy, and number two, they are sad. They have some deep unresolved issues and problems that they are too coward to face. Addicts are good with playing along because they are not afraid to disappoint you since they've been disappointed most of their lives. Freddie has no lord and no master, he only have the taste of liquor, the scent of a woman and his failed bitter self to hold him tight.

My three favorite sequences from this film are:
  1. When a random man questions Dodd about the methods and the effectvity of "The Cause" to cure leukemia. Dodd goes on a dialogue rampage, this one is a nail biting experience.
  2. When Freddie visited Doris's old house only to discover from her mother that she is already married to a man whose surname is Day.
  3. Conversation between Freddie and Dodd in London. That was a priceless moment. Especially when the latter said something about finding a "master". 
Acting kudos goes to Joaquin Phoenix, who played the role perfectly as the tormented spirit Freddie, considering that in real life he is one of the most complicated personalities in Hollywood. Is this art imitates life or life imitates art? Who knows. Amy Adams is a revelation, she stretches out her acting palette once more as a creepy and manipulative wife. It looks like she holds the upper hand when it comes to Dodd and how 'The Cause' is being run. As they say, behind every successful man is a strong woman.

Overall, I love this movie not for its attempt to sound like a smarty pants but because of the message it tries to impart on its viewers. I recommend multiple viewing (as always) in order to appreciate its contents.

xoxo, Chin

Year 2012: Amour

For three consecutive years my favorite films share the same ethos, that there is freedom in death and that true love begins with death. Amour, a film by Austrian auteur Michael Haneke is about an octogenarian couple faced with a grave circumstance after Anne, the wife, was stricken with stroke. Although it downplayed the subject of euthanasia, we are instead challenged here how deep and far true love can go. Can you give unselfish service to your loved one's by granting them merciful death if they were to suffer from an intolerable illness? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to secure that love through sickness and in health till death do you part even if you have to disregard your own spiritual credo and morality? If same sex marriage is getting a fair treatment from several countries, euthanasia is still a sensitive issue all over the world that is pretty much an elephant in the room - a taboo - ignored and avoided by everyone, by the church and the government. In my opinion, as long as the act itself is considered a crime it would never get acknowledge as legal, but at least with this film we see a point of view that mirrors centrally on human emotions rather on the politics and debates that the subject usually stirs upon. Amour, just like most of Hanake's films does not offer clear cut explanations and stretched out dialogues, the logic behind the characters actions depends largely on the viewers perception and the open-ended conclusion for their own discretion. 

Year 2011: Melancholia

Every one would agree with me that this is the most "easy on the eyes" film by Lars Von Trier. Those who can not handle his weirdness would find this one rather manageable. Prior to this I have seen Antichrist, Dancer in the Dark and Europa, but all of them gave me a feeble feeling of stoicism and disconnection. "Melancholia" just got it right for me. The same feeling I have for Black Swan. Both movies ends with death - viewing it as a true means of a happy ending for their lead characters, instead of treating the subject as dismal and a hopeless choice. After all, Von Trier who suffered from depression consider this as his gift for the depressives. I find myself watching this movie every now and then especially when I am down in the dumps. Kirsten Dunst's miserable but sharp-tongued attack on her lines and Charlotte Gainsbourg's calm and fragile voice were two polar opposites - trading places from being strong and weak. This movie is a rare spellbinding masterpiece as it offer's us a chance to wonder what is truly essential in a world full of people that gravitates to hate, gives in to blatant materialism, nurtures apathy and modifies discrimination leading us down spiraling towards melancholy. It is only when we are face to face with our own demise - may it be psychologically and physically - that happiness can be possible for everyone. (Because everything means nothing except for the love that we give and take with us).

Year 2010: Black Swan

It is an open-book information that Black Swan is one of my favorite movies of all time. I have seen this film at least around fifty times and I still get the same feeling from the first time I have watched it. Except science fiction, all the elements I look for in a motion picture was present in this film. It is psychologically puzzling, dramatic, artistic and suspenseful. I love movies with so many different layers that it forces us not to settle on what we see but to read between the lines those every little details in each scenes. Natalie Portman is flawless. In real life we have a constant image of her pretty face as being sweet and innocent, but once she transformed into the titular character we were in trance with her fierceness and her believable plunged into darkness - it is both sexy, soulful and commanding. And those memorable lines, the first one by Vincent Cassel and the other by Nina (Portman) after she plummeted into her death. Right there and then I felt what it means to be perfect.  

Year 2009: In the Loop

In my opinion, 2009 has produced several lackluster motion pictures, although there are enjoyable one's to single out - it still lacks a certain "joie de vivre". And we are talking about the same year a woman has been awarded a best director Academy award and a 3D film known as Avatar surpassed Titanic as the highest grossing film of all time. I still feel this year came short compared to what 2008 has brought to the table. Luckily, an Independent British film saved the day with Armando Ianucci's political satire "In the Loop". This is one of the most intellectually engaging comedies I have seen in years. How they get away with using the F word amazes me. Even with so much dialogues being passed around like football there are no sleep inducing moments here because everything they say is so intriguing - what they have are highly caffeinated conversations you are so pumped up for it. The absurdities of politics were exposed, the pettiness (and air headed tendencies) of its bureaucrats are shortened into a gimmicky farce, but without contempt they were all made in the name of an honest to goodness fun loving fiction. I can only offer up words of exultation, even with its imperfection this movie is straight-on excellent. 

Year 2008: Synecdoche, New York

Epic is a routine word used and reused nowadays by netizens to express their bewilderment over a work that may or may not possess an epic quality. Sometimes I wonder if the true meaning of the word has been obliterated by the cliché that surrounds it. But if epic still stands for a work of unparalleled nature then, Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut "Synecdoche, New York" serves it right. This movie reminds me that our life is just a big stage or a film set of sorts with roles distributed unevenly, and the story is a reflection of life either made of tragedy or comedy. As usual, Kaufman throws us psychological concepts and bittersweet interplays between life and death that would made us rethink of our own personal relationships, may it be good or dysfunctional, with ourselves and of the people around us. The strength of the story and the script alone without doubt is just one of the many reasons that this motion picture would be studied and pondered, and would stand the test of time. 

Year 2007: Into the Wild

There was an "Into the Wild" phase in 2007 (at least for me) that made me ecstatic through and through. I bought the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder and read stuffs about Christopher McCandless on the internet and look forward with such obsession to watching the film by Sean Penn - who created a masterpiece out of the book by John Krakauer. The film featured beautiful landscapes of the American wilderness as Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch to the T) renounces material possessions and detached himself from civilization and of human connection. Whether his act can be viewed as heroism by those advocates of simplicity or perhaps, as an act of foolishness by the materialist and the pragmatist, nevertheless, this film focuses on McCandless's humanity, including his own faults, his desire to make peace within and around himself, and to know what it takes to love - may it be in the cradle of mother nature. Into the Wild's true beauty lies in its quiet moments and solitude where our heart's can comprehend beyond what our doubtful eyes cannot.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Year 2006: Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola's minimalist approach on 'Lost in Translation' is a 180 degrees shift to the boisterous and candy colored grandiosity of her next motion picture: Marie Antoinette. What makes this film one of my favorites (and actually my favorite Sofia Coppola film) is that it makes no restriction incorporating elements that may or may not work per se, such as the cool and hip background music. After all, along with her husband Louis XVI, the heir of the French throne happens to be a bunch of clueless teenagers who were treated as a rock and roll superstar of their time and was easily maneuvered by their own court. Coppola highlighted Marie Antoinette's luxurious lifestyle and her reckless spending but also, played fair with the story treatment by showing us her other side - pretty, thoughtful to a fault and a victim of her age, ignorance, wealth and position.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Anime Quote: Toradora

Year 2005: Pride & Prejudice

In my opinion, one of the best film adaptations based on a classic novel. The cinematography, set production and costumes gave me a convincing impression that I am actually transported into a whole other era, with Dario Marianelli's magical music playing like a soft breeze of sunrise in the morning sky. And the actors, they all synched together, as if they were the actual people from the book. Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen's performances breathes an ethereal quality to the characters of this beloved Jane Austen's novel. They did it naturally without trying all mushy and physical - that you would end up wishing romance like this could happen at the present time. Overall, where credits are due, Joe Wright, the man behind the camera made every single element of this film work in perfect unison. 

Year 2004: Million Dollar Baby

Hillary Swank's transformation as a struggling up-and-coming boxer in Clint Eastwood's serene but beautifully devastating motion picture would certainly knock you off of your feet. At first look, this film might be just about hard work and overcoming odds to achieve one's dreams. And yet, inside the psyche of each character is their undying flame of passion - a search for their own purpose to survive, and a desire to connect and to belong. Eastwood's take on human frailty versus vigor may not have its silver lining to appease a fairy-tale-ending savvy viewers, but I'll take cinema's tragedy every time because the way I see it - there is no security good enough to assuage our fears, we live according to the risks we take and the sacrifices we burn in order to make worthwhile the one life that we live.

Year 2003: LOTR - The Return of the King

Out of all the trilogies ever written or produced the final installment of LOTR is the one that really worked and gave its readers and viewers the ultimate reward: an epic conclusion to an epic saga. All the story arcs were resolved and the characters - even the minor ones - got the happy endings that they deserved. We see them through right till the very end. Although there are number of scenes edited out for the cinema, you could always buy the DVD director's cut version and watch the entire film that runs for more than four hours.

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