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.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

First Look — Mushishi Zoku-shō

If there is a series this season that I've been mostly excited about then this would be it. 

Mushishi is not your typical anime. It is not suffused with outrageous cliche's of the now nor built in with the usual stereotypes that makes an Otaku such a revile creature of the real world. We don't have the Moe, panty-shots, brocons, siscons and lollicons here and possibly all the jaded tropes that we have seen and heard before. Mushishi is in a league of its own just like the folks from Studio Ghibli. I know I'll be singing its praises here like a lark although not everybody shares my opinion about it. Fundamentally, the absence of or the lack thereof of the aforementioned tropes could be the cause of alienation for the uninitiated viewers. They feel that its quietness is "deafening" and its calmness as "boring". Which is a loss for them if you ask me. 

I'm glad there are still people out there who cares for good materials. Who do this medium for the sake of art and not just for the purpose of selling out; and are brave enough to give us fans a second season in spite the pressures of the economics. So although we're just on episode one I'm already thankful for ArtLand for Mushishi Zoku-shō. As we all know, it's nearly a decade since the first series, who would have thought a second season would be possible. 

Mushishi Zoku-shō has still the same gusto as the first season. Classic and subtle. Hauntingly receptive. Laid back and introspective. I like how the premiere episode was built. First, it gave full spotlight on its guest character, his background story -- before leading up to the full anticipation of us meeting Ginko once again. Mushishi is and has always been a character driven story. Every single one of them plays an important part to Ginko's travels and they are not just some device to past the time. One thing I also love about this series are the characters, they were written with such truthful humanity about them. There's a certain sort of kindness, sadness, cynicism and flawed aspect to their makeup; like the kind of people you'll chance to meet in every walks of life. 

The Mushishi's of anime is a gem and a rarity. We don't get to experience them much often and if we do they are always under-appreciated and completely underrated. So better keep your eyes open and stay alert because this could be over before you know it. 

First Look — Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, Isshukan Friends

It is "spring" time for Brains Base, and I mean that literally. They got two series that looks like it's going to be for keeps: Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou and Isshukan Friends. 

With Bokura's case it didn't made the cut for my original lineup but I went along with it for the last minute before the premiere. In the end I'm glad I watched the first episode. The animation is superb; all the shades, lighting and coloring is very reminiscent of the recent works of Makoto Shinkai, although the character design (especially with the big breasted girl) is a little too average, in my opinion. The story is not the most genuine but I think we're going to be in it for a lot of fun. If they could avoid those wear out, tried and tested cliche's in exchange for something refreshing then I bet this series would fare well from what is least expected.

Isshukan Friends, my number two must-see anime for spring, gave me exactly what I wished for. Brains Base has been standing on a minefield lately, with their recent string of shows that are mostly either a hit or a miss, especially their Otome adaptations (Amnesia, Brother's Conflict) and their winter 2014 offering D-Frag! I have to remind myself from time to time that this is the same studio that produced Natsume Yuujinchou, Durarara and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, just in case I'm on the verge of giving up on them. Isshukan Friends came in at the right time, and in my opinion,  it is the perfect show that can be at par with the likes of Natsume Yuujinchou in terms of poignancy and unabashed sentimentality that Brain's Base is quite known for. The breezy art design looks very much like it came out of Hourou Musuko, and I was surprised (and glad at the same time) that they got the same person to work for Isshukan Friends because it carries the same vibe and overall mood of the show. Where all the credit's due, besides the studio, it is the source material that will be the strength and backbone of this series and I firmly believe so always. I think great anime's are great because they were written well in the first place. Bad writing only constitutes bad adaptations. But we'll see how Brains Base handles this young blood manga. So here's hoping for all the good things (to come). 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Anime 2014: First Quarter Season Roundup

The Winter season in the world of Anime land has finally come into a close, bringing in a new list of series to devour in the coming months. But before we get into that horizon here is my roundup for the season; personal favorites -- of my own choosing -- based on the series I have maintain to follow through from the beginning right to the end. Winter has been a disappointment, shows on my lineup, including the carryovers, have dropped like flies  because of my sheer discontent with them. I have no regrets with the minimum number of series I've decided to keep, as it gave me time to watch older shows from way back when. So before I continue myself from spouting nonsense here is my roundup for the Winter 2014 season. 

Best Animation - Winter 2014

P.A. Works excels at what they do best: excellent animation, character designs that are cute but not excessively Moe, and dreamy scenery porn that transports you into a magical place. Since Nagi no Asukara's first cour their campaign for this category goes strength to strength from each frame and in every episodes. As a whole the series never faltered and maintained its astonishing quality. 

Runner-ups: Noragami; Space Dandy

Best Opening Song/Sequence - Winter 2014

There are so many contenders for the top spot but I'll have to give it to Ray and Nagi no Asukara (although Viva Namida comes in on a close second). This is the one song of the season that truly stamped on my memory; beginning with its first chord - the piano embodying the transition of the story, even the change in the weather - it signals perfectly that we're in it for the heartbreak, drama and a possible happy end. 

Runner-ups: Viva Namida by Yasuyuki Okamura; Life by Fujifabric;  Goya no Machiawase by Hello Sleepwalkers

Best Ending Song/Sequence - Winter 2014

Gin no Saji 2's closing sequence is the clear frontrunner for this category. Goose House did a great job and they captured the overall mood and theme of the series. I love the joyful exuberance of the music, its pop-folksy flavor, as it contradicts the drama of this masterpiece and relishes on the fun of life. 

Runner-ups: Kaze ga Shitteru by Akai Kouen, X Jigen E Youkoso by Etsuko Yakushimaru, Saved by Maaya Sakamoto

Best Soundtrack - Winter 2014
What makes Noragami thick as an intensely felt action packed fantasy series is the music playing on the background provided by Iwasaku Taku. The curious combination of pop and some little bit of trip hop and hip hop and world music gives Noragami its unique flavor as a story that is both wordly and unwordly, cool and trendy, its lightness and darkness. A really close fight between Space Dandy and Hoozuki no Reitetsu, but Noragami holds the upper hand and I love everything they served me on the sound platter. 

Runner-up: Space Dandy, Hoozuki no Reitetsu

Favorite MC (Male Character) - Winter 2014
Tie: Yato (Noragami) & Hoozuki (Hoozuki no Reitetsu)

From the early episodes Yato is my clear shoo-in winner for Favorite MC, but you can't ignore Hoozuki - he is the ultimate Alpha male and he doesn't even need any pecs and abs to get his job done. Yato is a mischievous God and has always been up to no good, yet a charming one with his outlandish comedic humor, and he is voiced by my favorite seiyuu, Hiroshi Kamiya. On the other hand, Hoozuki is Lord Enma's right hand man in the Jigoku world, a calm and sadistic, high-maintenance demon with a penchant for gold fish; even the highest rank demon lord can't get their way around him. I like the polarity of these two characters, both of them are funny, although Yato is more flamboyant and Hoozuki's wit is more dry and dark. At the end of the day both of them are my winners and I'm looking forward to seeing them again for a second season. 

Runner-ups: Dandy (Space Dandy), Hachiken Yuugo (Gin no Saji 2)

Best Girl - Winter 2014

I always have some trouble choosing my Best Girl. Because in the anime world some of them are not fully developed as a character, either they are built on stereotypes or there are moments I find them utterly annoying in one or two episodes. If Scarlett has more screen time in Space Dandy she would have been my best girl, but alas, that's not the case. Nibutani Shinka is one of my contenders for Best Supporting Character, her overall effort for the second season of Chuunibyou has endeared her more to me than anybody else. So let's make her my Best Girl! She is supportive of her Chuunibyou infested friends, loves them for what they are and loves their delusions on the equal ground. She encourages them to be honest about what they feel and would even go the distance to help someone in need. In my opinion, she is one of the best character's KyoAni has produced in their recently dismal year's in spite of their several mainstream hits. I'll take Nibutani Shinka as a role model to empower all the little girls out there; she has her flaws, but she's on her way to becoming the best. 

Runner-ups: Sayu Hisanuma (Nagi no Asukara), Minami Katayama (Wake Up, Girls!), Scarlett (Space Dandy)

Best Supporting Character - Winter 2014

Cuteness overload...and we need a dose of them every now and then to make anime a much nicer place to visit. These three are the epitome of a good supporting character because they bring out the best in our main guy. After all, Hoozuki looks so snobbish it's easy to presume he is not capable of doing nice things to others or we can overlook the possibility of an interesting persona behind his calm and sadistic demeanor. But we have Karauri, Nasubi and Shiro to thank for, and frankly, they are my reason for checking out the first two episodes of this series. I'm glad they showed me the way because Hoozuki no Reitetsu rocks!

Runner-ups: Kumin Tsuyuri (Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren), Touka Fushimi (Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha)

Favorite Recurring Character - Winter 2014

I love this girl. She is so different from Rikka, less annoying, independent, and not very one dimensional. I probably got stuck with the second season because of Shichimiya, and I wouldn't mind (in fact, I seriously want) a Clannad-like spinoff where she, and not that eye-patched boring girl, is Togashi's contractor. That would be interesting. 

Best Villain - Winter 2014

How do I describe this hairball? Well he isn't really the most evil of all because so far, we have no idea WTF is Gogol's intention with Dandy. Dr. Gel actually dies every episode so I feel sorry for him. But if I have to pick the best villain for Winter 2014 I'll hand it to this guy. He makes the art of the chase really special every time. 

Runner-up: Nora (Noragami)

Exceeded Expectations - Winter 2014

This is by Production I.G. (penned here as Wit Studio) and that says a lot already. So much expectation. I went ahead having no idea what this series is about. It's difficult to understand the story if you have no background on Japanese culture, but thats' where the hurdle ends because the director and the writer made it so effortless for the taking a walk in the park. The humor is not so hard to catch on; there's always something for everybody, and it's cerebral without bordering into elitism. Such a joy to watch and definitely worth your time. 

Guilty Pleasure - Winter 2014

There are times when you need to stop over-analyzing, relax your brains and just cool off. That's where the guilty pleasure comes in. I'm not really into anything Idol, may it be anime or music. As much as possible I steer clear from them. Wake Up, Girls! fortunately, is surprisingly good. I tried the first episode and the movie and I got hooked, but I guess it has to do with the premise because it's more into the slice-of-life genre. The characters are fleshed out really well, and I like the inclusion of "realistic" bad instances happening their way in each episodes. 

Best Story - Winter 2014

One word to sum up this series: genius! Not every one is a fan of episodic anime, but for Space Dandy it works because it refreshes the story and broadens the opportunity to tell more story. The team pays tribute, or you can say "homage", to several cultural pieces of cinema and television. Slapstick humor or whatever they throw in the mix their formula is just spot on amazing. The journey continues comes summer 2014. 

Runner-ups: Gin no Saji 2, Hoozuki no Reitetsu, Noragami

Most Under-Appreciated - Winter 2014

In spite of its popularity, the anime adaptation of Gin no Saji is unfortunately not as well received in terms of its DVD/BD sales in Japan in comparison to its manga. That's quite a sad feat because its fate for a possible third season depends entirely on the market. Arakawa-sensei and the rest of A-1 pictures team did a solid job every single time without failing to deliver the goods. Gin no Saji has made the world of anime a better place for sure and I hope it would continue to do so if given another chance. 

Disappointment - Winter 2014

Good premise right there gone to waste. The limited number of episodes has done more damage than good for this series. Everything was rushed; the characters were underdeveloped and the ending was combined all together without doing justice to the entire story. In the process, it lose all sense whatsoever of its plot points. Such a shame for a well done animation. 

Runner-up: Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta

Best Anime - Winter 2014

This is my favorite series for Winter 2014. I haven't read the manga and I'm glad I went in without any idea or high expectations for the show. Noragami made me pumped up every week. I just loved everything they did: the fantasy aspect, the action sequences, our beloved characters, the comedy and its darkness, I could go on and on why I love this series (and probably some of you would find their way to contradict me). Regardless of its flaws, those imperfections only made Noragami even more beautiful. 

Runner-ups:  No. 2 - Hoozuki no Reitetsu, No. 3 - Space Dandy, No. 4 - Gin no Saji 2, No. 5 Nagi no Asukara

Best Studio - Winter 2014

Top 10 Films For 2013

(First published on 05 March 2014)

As usual, this post is long overdue. It took me long enough to accomplish this, so blame it on the screening availability -- and I think I'm still undone the way I see it, considering that my hunt for Miyazaki's final film, Kaze Tachinu, is yet to be satiated. 2013 has been such a good year for cinema; so many movies to see and yet so little time. There are so many absolutely excellent films to enjoy, to the extent that I have to do a tie just so I could squeeze all of them in the top 10, because not doing so would be an injustice to these movies. In spite of the predictable disappointments and failures on the side coming from the mainstream section and posers of indie films, I think the bulk of good movies were able to counter that distasteful minor detail. 

Another year has surely gone by, but 2014 looks like it's going to present something new, brave and unexpected, especially from some of the major film festivals rounding up in the few coming months. Evidently, Berlinale just did gave us a taste of a shocker, with Von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac', which is already a part of my must-see, but that's a whole new other post to do. Meanwhile, here are my top 10 movies for 2013 -- as subjective as it comes, these are personal picks, so no harm, no foul if your favorite happens to rank lower or appears to be nowhere on this list. 

Until then!

Here is my top 10 movies for 2012, just in case you have missed it. Thanks! 

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