Friday, December 26, 2014

The End of Mushishi

It's been a great year for #Mushishi. The series recently wrapped up last December 21st - with an announcement of a full length film adaptation next year for the final chapter "Drop of Bells" - this epic has been a surreal experience, breathtaking, and mystifying all at once. With the combination of Yuki Urushibara's storytelling, Hiroshi Nagahama's gift of deft, Toshio Masuda's musical clarity and the full team of Artland studio's for their effort in bringing this masterpiece to life after eight years of hiatus, there is so much to say but the beauty of Mushishi has rendered me speechless. I'm in complete awe. Dōmo arigatō gozaimashita! #MushishiZokuShō

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Impression: Tracks

I've been too excited to watch this movie since last year. I'm a fangirl of Mia Wasikowska so that's where it all started. Tracks reminded me a lot of Sean Penn's adaptation of "Into the Wild", which is also a favorite of mine. Just like that film I love it when movies has something to do with travel because it allows me to discover new places. This time around it's the Australian outback, the hidden gem of the country, that takes a backseat to their famous barrier reefs and Koalas. Everything is picturesque even without the camera enhancement. Beautifully shot by Mandy Walker, she pulls us from our seats and let us absorb the experience of Davidson's journey by simply capturing the best angles and showing us the true colors of the desert. The makeup artistry on Wasikowska is superb as it takes the movie into another level. Her dried hair, parched lips and sunburn skin gave us that realistic but painful feeling of "being there" on the desert. One of the things I also love about this movie is how John Curran made it very simple, starkly moving and honest compared to all the other biopics out there. Exaggerated scenes causes the real dilemma in non-fictional movies because it makes you think twice if things like that did occur in real life, but there were no moments that overly dramatizes the plot or the character's experiences. Viewers are not forced to see a psychoanalization of Davidson's persona. We accept and like her for what she is - her steadfast courage, adaptable nature, including her weaknesses - without further inquistion. This is Wasikowska's best performance to date - regardless of her resemblance to Davidson. Wasikowska is no longer the tight-lipped shy girl trying to come-of age in a fantasy drama, in here she brings a bravado and grit to the character as she peels out the layers of monotony that Davidson strives to break away from. 

P.S. After watching this movie I now love black labrador's. We have lots of dogs but I want to have a trained one where I can embraced him, like a stuff toy, while I'm sleeping on my bed. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Anime 2014: Second Quarter Season Roundup

Best Animation - Spring 2014
Soft and easy on the eyes. Pastel like pallette. An animation that looks like it was drawn with colored pencils. Characters are cute and adorable but not overboard on the moe. The character design and background translates that relaxing and youthful feeling carried by the story.

Runner-ups: Mushishi Zoku Shou, Captain Earth 

Best Opening Song/Sequence - Winter 2014

I was having a hard time about whether or not I'll be giving this to Mushishi Zoku Shou. First off, Shiver by Lucy Rose was released prior to the animation, which wouldn't be fair to the other anime's with original materials. However, I'm so in love with this song and the sequence created by Artland - that although it's grounded on simplicity (a close-up shot of misty tree branches, the earth etc.,) I would have to say it's my favorite for the season. The song has now become synonymous with the series rather than the other way around. It's a close fight between Tada Hitori but I have to stick to my guns and follow my heart with this one.

Runner-ups: Tada Hitori by Bakudan Johnny (Ping Pong: The Animation); Imagination by Spyair (Haikyuu!!); Knights of Sidonia by Angela (Sidonia no Kishi) 


Bokura ni Tsuite by Merengue (Ping Pong the Animation)

Favorite MC (Male Character) - Spring 2014
Nomadic Shounen characters in anime is nothing new, but what makes Ginko special is the way each episodes focuses on the guest characters while he acts mainly as the viewers proxy, seeing things on our behalf. In spite of his expertise as a mushishi and his knowledge about those living organisms - it is the unpredictable nature of human beings that provides a real challenge to his ability every time. Mushi's follow certain sets of behavior, which can be anticipated before worst comes to worst. Humans on the other hand, act based on their emotions, sometimes he can help them but there are instances that everything is beyond his control, especially when they have to make their own decision. Ginko learns about the mushi's of the world, their importance to co-exist, but it's our free-will that teaches Ginko the essential things in this life and how it moves everything.

Runner-up: Juugo Yama (Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin) 

Best Girl - Winter 2014
She's bloody brilliant and can never be outsmarted by anybody. Who wouldn't love her? She can be a cutesy tsundere at times but in my opinion that's just a first impression stereotype because her character is all about brain power and being in control. The extraordinary things that she does, that girl power "you can't fool me" attitude she exudes in every episodes has made her a standout among the rest and that's why she deserves to be this season's best girl. 

Runner-up: Kazumi Schlierenzauer (Gokukoku no Bryndhildr) 

Best Supporting Character - Spring 2014
The best wingman of Spring season. Yuki is a lucky guy because he has Shogo - as a best friend - to rely on. Shogo appears to be typical, he looks cold and distant to others, but apparently he is actually very attentive, mindful, straightforward, reliable and anything but oblivious, which is quite surprising given that's what you can assume about him on the onset. He gives good advice to his best friend, acts as his sounding board and is always there for him when he needed him the most (although he pretends to be irritated at times). 

Runner-up: Neil (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushi) 

Favorite Recurring Character - Spring 2014
Netero is a cool old guy, someone the younger generations can chill out with because you know...he is cool. The matter of fact is, he is a badass, a twisted guy when he was at his prime. He's like your grandfather, you can play with him and he is nice to you, but he wasn't always like that. The Chimera Ant Arc gave us a glimpse of the real Netero, back in the day when he was still mastering his craft as a Hunter. And I mean he was one scary guy to deal with, like Gokou in Super Saiyan mode. I like how this arc showed us the old man's skill, his resolved, his composure even when he's under pressure and all of the wisdom he learned through his age and experience. So respect for the master. After all, he earned it more than anybody else. 

Runner-up: You Shunshin (Diamond no Ace) 

Best Villain - Spring 2014
This is hands down going to this guy. Nobody else could hold the candle for best villain other than Kyoto Fushimi's very own, Midosouji-kun. I hate him to the bones. He has no concept of teamwork, doesn't even consider the feelings of his teammates, does cycling only for the sake of winning, and bullies other teams by pushing their buttons just because he thinks it's the best way to gain the lead. He is the complete opposite of all the characters in YowaPeda, and I'm including the Hakone side as well. He gets on my nerves in the worst possible way, that alone means he played effectively as a villain. I rest my case. I don't even want to put a picture of him here but I have to for blogging purposes. 

Exceeded Expectations - Spring 2014

Exceeded Expectations/ Most Under-Appreciated - Spring 2014
When the story is written very well it can always trumped the animation, no matter how ugly it look like. That's the case for Ping Pong. It is easy to stay away from it if you have seen the trailer but if you gave it a chance the story will hook and reel you right in. It's a classic shounen sport series, however, there is no clear protagonist or antagonist here, everybody has their own thing. Rather than focus on the plot it's all about the characters and their point of view, what drives them to play and be good at their sport. It's one of those series that's so enjoyable because their experiences are very realistic and relatable. By the time it ended the only thing on my mind is I wished it had 10 more episodes. I see it as an under-appreciated series because a lot of people dropped this show immediately because of the animation quality. I know it's their lost but it's regretful for it to be overlooked and not get the recognition it deserves. I mean if they can watch crap, why not look for something good, you know what I'm saying. 

Disappointment - Spring 2014
I realized one thing after completing this series: harem never works for me. I've seen a lot of them before and I've made up my mind that I would never watch any series with women pining for one male character or whatever. If I have an idea or two about its harem nature I could have dropped this show right away. Then I saw the trailer for Brynhildr and it looks interesting, completely different from the show that it had became today. Girls with supernatural abilities made their appearances one episode after the next and the main guy just keep on protecting them for some humanitarian reason or because one of them looks like his childhood friend. I ignored the harem-side, even the absurdities thinking that it's nonsense shit will make this series good in the long run. Then the final episode came, all the explanation I was waiting for regarding the villain and the laboratory that experimented on the girls was abandoned completely. Characters died, the lead girl got back her powers but lost her memories again, and for some weird reason those who perished during the battle is back to live for another day again without even providing a coherent explanation. That's it. So in the end, it sucked. I wasn't expecting too much from it, but at least the delivery could have been better by not swamping all the necessary plots in one episode. I understand that it's at its best when being crazy but the last episode is the reason for my disappointment, so I hope that the OVA could rectify that. 

Best Anime - Spring 2014
I am thankful for all the effort that Artland studios did to make the second season of Mushishi possible in spite of the financial demands that it requires in order for them to pull it through. It is best anime for the spring season not only for its attempt to be brilliant regardless of their budget but considering the many wonderful achievements they were able to accomplish within their ten episode run. Mushishi Zoku Shou is a testament to the playful imagination of mangaka, Yuki Urushibara and the creative geniuses behind Artland. 9 years is a long time for a sequel and yet, aside from the changes and improvements in doing animation, we were able to get the same series, like the first one just happened yesterday. The episodic treatment doesn't prevent us from seeing through the nature of the main character's personal destination; each journey means something to him and it leads to a new discovery. The further he goes, the darker it gets. And I can't wait to explore the next chapters of this hauntingly strange but beautiful Japan with Ginko when a new chapter is confirmed to be in the works. Hopefully there will be one, and I'm already crossing my fingers to that. 

Runner-ups: No. 2 - Ping Pong: The Animation, No. 3 - Sidonia no Kishi, No. 4 - Haikyuu 2, No. 5 - Yowamushi Pedal

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ida (Impression)

A road trip movie. A coming-of-age story of a young novitiate discovering her real identity: her actual name and parental background before she can take her vows as a nun. As she embarks on this journey she experiences things she has not known before. Confused with this unfamiliar and tempting territory she tread on water to solve her confusion, only to realize in the end what her true calling in life is. This black and white tinted motion picture is Pawlikoski's best yet. The gorgeous cinematography by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski captures the haunting mood of post-war Poland akin to the melancholic meanderings of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries and the eeriness of Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. An artful piece of European cinema that has all the makings of a true classic. This will go down as one of my favorites of the year. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Miracle in Cell No. 7 (Impression)

I Am Sam meets The Green Mile meets The Shawshank Redemption, and what else. The plot of the movie has "Hollywood" written all over its forehead so it's not surprising if audiences find this movie lovable, for some touchy-feely reasons. This is a movie that you can sit down together with your entire family. Even some people I know of has admitted to shedding bucketful of tears for this film, especially during the last sequences - but I would refrain myself from giving away any spoilers. I find it enjoyable, heartwarming and funny, but there are no Kleenex moments here on my part (I'm sorry). I was waiting for those "it" or "oomph" scenes - that they were talking about - but I guess I've seen so many melodramatic Korean movies in this lifetime, who successfully made me bawl and drool (no questions asked it is "Secret Sunshine" and "Maundy Thursday"), that it will take a heavy hitter before I cry again on a Korean movie, so there. Filipinos, especially those who gravitates towards watching ABS-CBN shows, loves their cheesy lines and waterworks, something that we have in common with Koreans, except that they make better movies than us and they are not "baduy". The only thing that frustrated me about "Miracle in Cell No. 7" is how the writers got away with putting Lee Yong-gu behind bars. Because you cannot incarcerate a mentally challenged individual or an insane person no matter what. Duh? Where's WHO or Amnesty International in Korea? It's like the strongest fighting chance of Lee Yong-gu, even if he's up against a commissioner. Just saying. Know your facts before you accept what you see. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sensory Overload: Anime Spring 2014

For some unexplainable, lazy ass reasons, my list got delayed after 5 or 6 episodes. Although my original watch list comprises of 14 titles, I've decided to post only the top 10 series I'm watching this season, since the remaining 4 are more like filler shows to me - something to take my mind off of things. Although spring got better compared to winter (but only for a few notches), I think with the shows produced this spring - they are pretty much on the same level. The exceptional are outnumbered and the crap rules the boob tube, as usual. But as viewers, it's our job to discern the good ones from the bad ones, right? Surprisingly, there are more titles here made by lesser known studios, which gives a change of pace and variety for anime this season. 

1. Mushishi Zoku Shou (Artland, Inc.)
It's been many moons ago since one of the best made anime's graced our screens. Who knew it would made a comeback after a decade or so. After a special episode was aired early this year the report of its long overdue second season was announced afterwards, finally hitting our tube officially this spring.  Ginko at his best peripatetic self never ceases to amazed me. Each episodic stories are rich with mysteries, culture, folklore and myth, everything that is so mystifying about Japan and what we love about this series is still there. But it's the complex characters of Zoku Shou that makes this second season a journey of human study, our natural darkness that emanates from our desire towards the path of light.   

2. Isshuukan Friends (Brain's Base)
Heartwarming and cute are just the two words that comes to mind in describing Isshuukan Friends. I know it's going to be really, really dramatic along the way, based on my research about the manga. But there is something about this series that works for me and I can't put my finger on it. I guess it's human nature to want to make friends and this series shows us the joys, travails and innocence of friendship. 

3. Ping Pong: The Animation (Tatsunoko Production)
If I could sing a song for Peco I'll choose Ain't it Fun by Paramore because that's how he is as a character. Ping Pong got everything that a staple Masaaki Yuasa anime should be: unique style, superb storytelling, ugly animation. If the revolting animation turns you off and made you dropped this show in a jiffy I want you to reconsider because there is so much about Ping Pong than meets the eye and I mean that literally. 

4. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (Studio Pierrot)
It's a rare feat nowadays to find a really, really good Shoujo series, and I don't even like stories where the girl is older than the guy (believe me) but this one just makes my heart all giddy. 

5. Sidonia no Kishi (Polygon Pictures)
I detest CGI use for character's, it makes them look stiff and robotic for some reason. Just like Ping Pong, Sidonia no Kishi's minor flaw is its poor choice of animation, but I find the story (although it has striking similarities with Shingeki no Kyojin) especially the attempt on the concept as enjoyable and brave. What I love about science fiction are the futuristic theme of the stories, everything is beyond the realm of the impossible, laws are being shattered and taboos are broken. Although everything looks and sounds outrageous I definitely appreciate the attempt. 

6. Haikyuu!! (Production I.G.)
So far, there is no trace of the uber ridiculousness of KuroBas here, which is a good thing. The story is not really new as a sports genre, but the characters are lovable and I can't stop rooting for them. I have my favorites. Who are yours? 

7. Gokukoku no Bryndhildr (Arms Corporation)
There are shows that makes you want to vomit for their far-fetched ideas but Bryndhildr's over the top storyline doesn't take me there. I'm glued and I'm not taking things too seriously, which is exactly the point. 

8. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (A-1 Pictures)
Treasure hunting with a little bit of detective story, the rapport and chemistry between Jugo and Tensai is just one of the reasons I'm staying and loving this show. Let the shipping begins!

9. Baby Steps (Studio Pierrot)
Now I get the picture why this show is called Baby Steps. Ei-chan's slowly but surely aim on becoming a tennis player is so endearing. One moment he's like a deer in the headlights, the next second he's jotting down ideas on his notebook, learning things and surprising us peeps with how well he has improved. 

10. Captain Earth (Bones)
This is like a staple Bones mecha series if you ask me. There are elements of Eureka Seven (more AO than the original) and Star Driver here and there that it's not surprising if you can find references from those past series, may it be old characters, design and concept, like someone hit the refresh button or cut and paste it as a new show. Its weak first episode doesn't do this series any favor but as the story progresses we're getting all the fine meat that makes Bones one of the best working studios. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Destination: Empanada Nation

After a major job hunting letdown, and since I was in Makati for the day, I've decided to look for a new restaurant to fill my famished stomach and I've found to my surprise, Empanada Nation, a haven for empanada and Ilocos food freaks. Located at Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, just a walking distance from Aegis People Support. 

Ilocano empanada is different from your regular-everyday empanada. Rolled with meat, veggies and egg, deep fried and should be eaten right away with spicy Ilocos vinegar. Yummers! 

Financially robbed to do local travels? For the meantime, get your dosed of these affordable Ilocano inspired menus by Empanada Nation. 

Late lunch Ilocos style. Nice talaga akong buena mano sunod-sunod ang customer na pumasok...hahaha. Highly recommendable for foodies and foreigners craving for authentic Pinoy dish. The manager is uber nice, too. He approached me and asked me questions/suggestions about their food and services. He even took this photograph of moi. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The English Patient (Impression)

No matter how well written the story of this film was - I could never warm up to the idea about two people cheating behind their partner's back. Especially if the husband is not a douche bag. Adultery is adultery, even if you dressed it up as something romantic. Relationship aside, the scenery photography captures the idyll beauty of the African desert, combined it with the nostalgic aviation's of WW2 has made this movie a picturesque visual experience, like those ancient hand drawn cardboard paintings (featured throughout this film ). 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seeing Double — Enemy (Impression)

Enemy brews a strange atmosphere akin to the motion pictures of David Lynch and David Cronenberg's; at least a cross or a hybrid of the two. I think Villeneuve omitted some scenes/and the real ending from the Saramago novel. The details I was looking forward to (based on the book) wasn't there. Melanie Laurent was underused; should have had more scenes besides from being sexy and doing Jake G. I felt the ending was rushed and I just didn't get the meaning of its "eerie" finale. However, Villeneuve's fine eye and directorial skills manages to veer it off from becoming a disaster and has steered it to an enjoyable movie in spite of its minor shortcomings. This film right on the get go lives up to its bizarre reputation - with all the questions leaving you hanging and wanting for more. Multiple viewing is recommended.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Cinephile Lenten Season 2014

Doing movie marathons every Holy Week is a must for me. It takes careful planning and meditation on my part just to compile a list of movies to see for that particular week. Number one consideration there is the copy availability. Picking up the theme is easy but if I lack the resources to make it happen I have to make do with what I have and find creative ways to think of another subject to watch. On my younger years, my movie list were mostly on the traditional side. You know, the bible based stories, family dramas, whatever is wholesome and considered morally educational for everybody to sit down together. But I guess I'm way past that now.

My last year's list consists of story lines concerning survival, loneliness, life and death, movies that are hard to chewed on because they can be quite the bitter pill. This 2014, I'll be watching movies that are: 
  • A. set in the middle east/in Arabic or Hebrew/related to the Arab diaspora, 
  • B. set during war time (but not necessarily in the battlefield) 

The former is a rarity for me, but of the late - I have collected enough titles to do a movie marathon of them, and since it's the Holy Week and there is too much sun I think the theme would blend perfectly with the overall mood of the occasion. For the wartime movies, I have an unspoken love, fondness and obsession for them. As I've said earlier, they don't have to take place in the actual battle grounds, but it's more of the atmosphere and the drama of the times. I collect whatever language they spoke of, after all, in my opinion, movies are meant to break barriers - it is universal. The "whatever works" are movies that do not fit into any of the first two categories but they would be played likewise.
Just to give you a peek (or an idea) here are some of the films that I'll be screening for that week. Hopefully, they could land into your own movie marathon in case you are left to wonder where to begin and what to watch. 

Directed by Marc Forster (2007)
Such a beautiful movie but so difficult to watch all over again due to its horrifying content. In fact, with its very painful subject I never did a multiple viewing of this movie after my initial screening. It felt so real to me to the point that if given a chance to enter the screen, equipped with superpowers and all, I'll choose this one just so I could save a character and prevent horrible things from happening to them. I think it's a natural reaction since we know that things like these are still prevalent in some countries, especially in the Middle East, and no matter how interested we are in putting a stop to such heinous deeds we are completely powerless (and faulty as humans) to prevent such situations. Something to ponder about. 

Directed by Ben Affleck (2012)
Who would have thought that Ben Affleck could churned a cinematic masterpiece? Yes, the same Ben Affleck, the actor, that appeared in movies such as Gigli and Bounce. Although we saw a part of that genius from his screenwriting dues with best buddy, Matt Damon, in Gus Van Sant's Good Will Hunting, I never did took him seriously after that. But I guess there's always more to Affleck than meets the eye and maybe that side is tucked away - only visible at best when his interest involves behind the camera. It's easy to love Argo, after all, it's a movie tailor made for each and everyone. If you love mainstream, art house, thriller, drama, nonsensical or cerebral, especially if you claim to be a lover of cinema then you have to take a gander on it. I've been picky about the mainstream Hollywood movies I see as of the late but Argo is a movie that I love for two things: it doesn't take itself too seriously (to gain intellectual appeal) and it doesn't dumb itself (for audiences that hates thinking movies), it works both ways; and you have to love a movie that entertains without sacrificing its quality over quantity. 

Directed by Asghar Farhada (2011)
If you haven't had the chance to see any Arabic movies before, or if you did and felt agitated afterwards, then this Academy Award winning film by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi is your best starting point. This wasn't the first Arabic movie I've seen but it's probably one of my favorites. I guess it's because Farhadi has chosen to take on a general "everyday" matter rather than confront the same issues dealt with by his compatriots. Just because it's not about the subject of war, its devastating outcomes and the likes it doesn't make it any less serious or the least bit important. The story is about an Iranian couple's impending marriage dissolution, the struggles and effects that comes along with their "trial separation", and the aftermath of their bad decisions that could be credited to their feelings of pride, fear and anger that has engulfed the both of them due to this separation. 

Directed by Denis Villeneuve (2010)
Just like The Kite Runner, it's a bit surprising that this movie is actually made by a non-Arabic filmmaker, but a Canadian one at that. This has become one of my favorite movies of 2010, with its nuanced storytelling, complex characters and mind-blowing plot twists and ending. It would do you - and the movie - a disservice if I give away spoilers, so go ahead and watch this movie for yourself. 

Directed by Siddiq Barmak (2003)
The first Arabic movie I've seen in my lifetime - way back 2003. If you live in our house or just visiting by, then you know that one of the things I do is make people watch movies that I love, which I mostly do for a cousin or a close friend. Forget borrowing them because I never lend my copies to any one (even if you think we're close or what), although it depends greatly on the title of the movies you're borrowing to begin with. Moving on with the subject, if you're a family or a cousin, then you have probably watched this movie together with me, as I have screened it heavily during 2003 on my miniature cinema. The first time I've seen it I felt I found a treasure's trove and had this aching urge to share it with everybody who's interested. Osama is a movie that would make you feel grateful and thankful about your life, especially if you were born in a country where women are not oppressed and are enjoying equal opportunities privileges, rights and liberties as men. 

Directed by Ziad Doueiri (2012)
The Attack is mostly about the reality that marriage, even familial bonds, doesn't guarantee a person the right to someone's secrets, the way they think, and who they really are. It can take for forever, but surprises can still creep in behind your door, and you'll be surprised that that person is a stranger all along. 

Directed by Steven Spielberg (2005)
For the record, this is the only film by Spielberg that I haven't seen yet, and frankly, I'm as dumbfounded as anyone for not knowing why. It's utterly disgraceful for a cinephile lest for a Steven Spielberg fan. I guess it missed my radar or I was busy minding other things. Whatever it was that will be the end of it. 

These three remains to be seen, so I haven't much to say about them here. They will be screen for my movie marathon week so if I get around to blogging them I'll probably write something.

Dir. Jacques Audiard  (2009)

Dir. Hany Abu-Assad (2013)

Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan (2011)

Directed by Louis Malle (1987)
An autobiographical film by French New Wave director Louis Malle - set in the backdrop of a Catholic boarding school during the Holocaust - is a coming-of-age story of a boy as he witnesses first hand the harsh realities brought by war and antisemitism. Nevertheless, he also sees that in spite the cruelty of the times there are still self-sacrificing people willing to offer kindness in order to bridge the differences between race and religion. 

Directed by Steven Spielberg (1987)
Both Au revoir les enfants and this movie were released on the same year and discusses a common theme of war and coming-of-age. The then 13 year Christian Bale played as the precocious British expatriate Jamie Graham while he became separated from his parents during the turmoil between Japan and China. During his adventures he learns to use his street smart cleverness for the sake of his survival. Witnesses death happened before his eyes. Discovers true friendship and discerns the fake ones along the way.  

Directed by Steven Spielberg (1993)
A harrowing cinematic account of violence during the WW2 based on the novel by Thomas Keneally. Intensely felt by the used of monochromatic black and white cinematography by Janusz Kamiński. Watching this movie is like getting stuck inside the screen, playing a deadly game of cat and mouse in every nook and cranny, except everywhere you go it's either a gun shot or a gas chamber awaiting at the front door. 

Directed by Steven Spielberg (1998)
In my opinion, this movie contains the best sequence of World War 2 combat - fictionalized and captured for the silver screen - and probably my favorite performance from Tom Hanks, although a bit underrated. The grittiness and intense look of this motion picture is all thanks to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. If I have to make a top 10 list of Spielberg's films Saving Private Ryan would be my shoo-in number one favorite of all time. So many reasons, but what stands definitively are the memories of myself watching this movie with my family. We sat down (in front of the miniature cinema) a bunch of times, for the entire run of the movie, and never got bored, like it was always the first time for us. And you gotta love a movie that brings people closer together. 

Directed by Roman Polanski (2002)
My late friend and I love this movie - and we always find ourselves discussing the details, especially Adrien Brody's performance. The Pianist is a film about survival. There are so many of them now (Gravity, Life of Pi, etc.) but this one is more realistic than all the rest because it was based on the life of a real person and survivor of the WW2. I love how music - his passion and his bread and butter before the war - turns to be his way to withstand his circumstance, how it lead him to the people that would help him live through the horrors of the time, and fundamentally, becoming his saving grace during and after the war. 

Directed by Clint Eastwood (2006)
The first part (out of the two war films) based on the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima. It represents the American viewpoint of the battle, but mostly on the lives of the soldiers involved during the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima and the events after the war. Why soldiers did what they do? Why they stayed in spite the certainty of death. So many war films that came before this but Flags of Our Fathers got all the heart (and not just the action). 

Directed by Clint Eastwood (2006)
The companion piece to the latter entry. Letters From Iwo Jima stands on the viewpoint of the Japanese soldiers. An equalizer to comprehend the humanity of those on the other side of the fence. Rather than demoralize or give contempt for their actions, Eastwood portrayed the Japanese soldiers based on different situations, their conscription may be forced, done due to pressure or out of obligation to their nation. Where Flags of our Fathers got the heart, this film contains compassion. What we get at the end is not only a surprisingly beautiful cinematic work from a formidable Hollywood icon but a better and deeper understanding of the men that died and defended their countries during one of the darkest period of our history. Lesson learned: war only has its losers and no winners.

Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (2007)
If you're not a fan of any subtitled-foreign-language-films, especially a European one at that, I doubt you have come across this movie. The Counterfeiters is a story about the Jewish prisoners that were forced to work for the Nazi German plan: Operation Bernhard, to avoid the extermination camps. Although this film is just a fictionalized version of the events based on the memoir of the Holocaust survivor and typographer, Adolf Burger, the intensity of its delivery and the desperation of each characters makes it convincingly moving and thrilling. We've been there and done that with war movies, but it seems there's always something new with stories that shows us the lengths of human desperation - here, nothing is off the limits, even working with the people that harmed you is taken for granted all for the sake of survival.

Friday, April 11, 2014

First Look — Baby Steps, Haikyuu!!, Ping Pong

It's a new golden age for sports anime...and rightfully so.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of sports generated anime series. We have Kuroko no Basket, Free, Diamond no Ace and Yowamushi Pedal that jump-started this new wave for the genre. While I find KuroBas to be quite jarring for its unrealistic take on Basketball, Free with its Fujoshi vibes, it is Diamond no Ace - the slow burner among the four - that truly gives justice and a feel of realism to its own sport. 

This spring, we have not one but four sports series (though I'll only be posting three for my First Look): Baby Steps, Haikyuu!!, and Ping Pong...and I was blown away by every single one of them. 

Tennis is my favorite sport. Aside from Football (not the NFL, okay) this is the only game that my wimpy, un-athletic self, is completely familiar with - like the back of my hand. Although I'm guilty as charged for not having seen The Prince of Tennis...but so what. Baby Steps is going to be a good anime, and I'm not saying this out of my self-confessed love for the sport, but because the story looks promising as a whole. Our main guy, Eiichirō, is this very technical and ritual driven kind of character. His smart's doesn't come from an innate genius but through his adherence to rigorous studying habits, learning things in all angles, making notes of them until everything is practically stamped to his brain. Which makes tennis a perfect sport for this High School nerd. I enjoyed the first episode - too close to love actually - with the exception of Natsu, the main female protagonist of the series. I have problems with her character and she has managed to annoy me in so many ways. It's early to say but we'll see how things will turn out for the future episodes. 

Don't get me wrong here, but I only like volleyball when it's played by women. In my opinion, it's our sport, and I'm not really a fan of the men's division of this game (just like with women's basketball). But Haikyuu is a whole different thing and it's surprisingly good for a men's volleyball anime. We have a little red head guy for a protagonist, who dreams of becoming the best player for the sport, only to fail miserably from the tournament in the first episode. Well that sucks for him, but a good start for us. He then became obsessed with training right after in preparation for moving in to high school, only to be surprised that he will be teammates with his former opponent...tsuzuku! Since this is made by Production I.G. I'm hoping they won't turn this one into a fest of absurdity and impossibility just like KuroBas. If they keep it up with the same path as Diamond no Ace then we'll be in it for a real treat because the characters are poised to be interesting. 

After watching its first episode, Ping Pong became my favorite out of the three sports series this season. I hated it the whole time based on the preview because of its animation. But alas, it's marvelous. I was comparing its creative values to The Tatami Galaxy, thinking maybe they have the same team working behind the screen, and I was right - they have the same director: Masaaki Yuasa. It takes a while to get used to his unique style, and I believe it's an acquired taste, especially if your idea of anime is all shiny and moe. But in my opinion, the story is what truly counts here and not the gloss. I'm glad they have a Chinese voice actor playing the Chinese guy because it gives the series some sense of credibility. And they have the best OP and ED songs. I'm positive about Ping Pong. Just don't mind the animation, okay.

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