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Entries in Asian cinema (66)

Wednesday
Oct152014

Link Link Link Went the Bloggie

A veritable cavalcade? avalanche? orgy? of links this morning from news stories we haven't covered through interesting film tidbits and showbiz articles we wanted to point out for various reasons.

bigscreen
Vanity Fair looks back at the making of now 20 year old Pulp Fiction
Fox Searchlight Birdman gets an incredible series of city-specific movie posters. Hopefully various movie theaters around the country will latch on to this. Such a fun idea.
The Spy in the Sandwich looks at Oscar's resistance to Asian cinema in the Foreign Language Film category and The Phillipines in particular
Variety Jason Reitman doing another "Live Read" of American Beauty on Thursday in LA, this time with his Men Women and Children cast 


The Wire on where Jason Reitman (Labor Day, Men Women and Children) went wrong
Awards Daily Meryl Streep on the set of Ricky and the Flash
NonFics 10 essential documentaries on sex and sexuality. I've only seen one of these, the experimental and memorable Zoo (2007) but it's not for the sensitive but it's brilliant
In Contention can Paramount toss a lifeboat to Noah for awards traction?
MNPP manages the internet's only 100% appropriate response to news that Javier Bardem might do the next Pirates of the Caribbean movies with Johnny Depp
Boy Culture 'Nick the Gardener' is going to be in Magic Mike XXL
The Wrap Benedict Cumberbatch gets political on tour for The Imitation Game. He's had it with religious fundamentalism. (Haven't we all?)
Variety looks at the new efficient micro-targeting for ethnic audiences from this past weekend's Addicted through last year's Hispanic hit Instructions Not Included

Why am I not linking to any Marvel Universe news that has been dominating the web for the past 48 hours (yet more Doctor Strange and Avengers rumors)? It's like this: Avengers: The Age of Ultron isn't out for another seven months and we haven't even seen a trailer and people are already speculating endlessly about the sequel after its next sequel. This madness has to stop. The balance is way way off and I wish other far more powerful movie sites would realize this. It's fun to speculate and look ahead, sure. But Jesus. Can we stick to the next year's worth of stuff? Rather than the stuff the unseen still unknown content of that stuff might lead to?

smallscreen & other randomness
Salon smart fascinating piece on Twin Peaks' influence over the television landscape spurred on by the announcement that the show will return. I'm confused why I didn't post about that as it's easily among my four immortal TV loves (if you must know the others are: Buffy, Mad Men, and My So Called Life)
AV Club Agents of SHIELD finally gets a near-great episode with double the Ming-Na Wen. She's so good on this show and it's just now realizing it in the second season.
THR Awesome director Steve McQueen is ALSO going to TV (argh) with a series about a gifted young African American testing the limits of social mobility for HBO called Codes of Conduct
Popwatch a beautiful piece on the mother/daughter relationship at the heart of Gilmore Girls and how revolutionary it was for television. A truth: I had never seen this show before, apart from I think one random episode, so I've been watching it on Netflix and it is adorable and everyone was right about it all along and why didn't I watch at the time?
Dangerous Minds just how beautiful was Karen Carpenter's voice?  
Empire First reveals of Netflix Daredevil series poster and stills 
Sound on Sight Closure is important on television
The Daily Beast the great animated series Archer drops the name of their spy org "ISIS" - now what to do with all that merchandise from a name that was once funny and is no longer 

It's All GONE GIRL All The Time round the web
On the post-production...

New Yorker "What Gone Girl is really about"
New Yorker "Marriage is an abduction"
iTunes you can now buy the "Amazing Amy" books as featured in the film/book 
Antagony & Ecstasy Tim Brayton's review...  

And for all that it's perfect, I find that Gone Girl suffers from that most amorphous and indescribable and subjective of artistic flaws: I just didn't like it. 

 

The Sweeney SistersBELATED RIP 
I am terribly sorry that I forgot to acknowledge the passing of Jan Hooks, who died way too young at 57, this past Thursday. But please know that she was easily among my favorite SNL players of all time - definite top 10 material of their 141ish cast members to date were I ever to make a list. I adored the Sweeney Sisters (her lounge lizard duets with Nora Dunn) and of course her off-SNL stint as a tour guide at the Alamo in Pee Wee's Big Adventure is immortal. It may well be the single movie scene I've seen more than any other as people I hung out with in high school and then a different set of friends I lived with during college all loved that movie and had that scene memorized and somehow it was frequently thrown in the VHS or DVD players for insta-laughs. What's your favorite Jan Hooks contribution to TV or film? Saturday Night Live honored her with a clip reel tribute.

Friday
Oct102014

Tim's Toons: the Best of Isao Takahata

Tim here. The Tale of Princess Kaguya , which could well compete for the animated Oscar this year, opens next week. But at that point I will be deep down in the pits of film festival madness (the Chicago International Film Festival starts today). So I want to talk about this now, lest I forget.

And that is the last thing I’d ever want to do, since Kaguya’s director, Isao Takahata, is (was?), along with Hayao Miyazaki, one of the twin gods of Studio Ghibli, though a director whose work was never as widely-known in the English-speaking world as his colleague’s. They're smaller in scale and less fantastic; one of his absolute best Ghibli-era works has never been released in the States, because the rights lie with Disney and one scene involves a discussion of menstruation, and we can’t have filthiness like that in our animation here, now can we!

He is, regardless of the difficulty in seeing his films, an unequivocal genius who deserves more attention for the wide range of styles he's explored in his films, and the graceful humanity of the stories he's told within those styles. Thus I have put together this little primer to celebrate the 78-year-old's newest film, and the career that led up to it.

[His three best films after the jump]

 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct032014

NYFF: A Tiger and a Princess (or Two) Walk Into a Cafe...

NYFF continues. Here's Nathaniel with brief takes on three films...

Allow me to break a rule of film criticism. Rather than wag fingers at directors/films and call them "pretentious!" (a common and near-useless criticism for films with ambitions) or "opaque" (a beautiful adjective, less judgmental but still descriptive of the "ummm..." effect), I shall simply admit that sometimes I don't get it. I think we all have these cases, whether it be films/genres or even entire filmographies that are headscratchers to us whilst others drool. Most people are loathe to admit it lest they seem dumb but I don't have time to worry about that. Way too busy for that particular insecurity. Especially with all the room in my schedule I make for the other ones.

I'm pairing these three films (Ming of Harlem, The Princess of France, and Hill of Freedom) for that reason and also because they all have "of" in the title. Deep reasons. Here we go...

MING OF HARLEM 
Ming is a tiger. Harlem is Harlem.

This documentary is about a 400 lb tiger that was once living in a Harlem skyrise not too far from where I live. My cat lives with me in a Harlem skyrise, too, but he's only 11 lbs. The film is part of the "Projection" series at NYFF. That's a potentially less offputting title for a swath of moviegoers than "Views from the Avant Garde" which is what it used to be called. Having seen the picture, I'm not sure I understand what's avante garde about it?

Perhaps it's the lack of talking heads projecting emotions on to animals OR explaining the psychology of the man who housed them until he was sent to prison for doing just that. Perhaps it's the very sparse insertion of local and national news footage from the time of the scandal, of which there is surely a lot more. The movie is, in part, more of a meditative look at two animals; the tiger shared his apartment with a full grown alligator albeit not in the same room...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct012014

The Golden Era at the Golden Horse Awards

You may recall that last year the Golden Horse celebrated its 50th year so it was a big big deal. All the stars of Chinese language cinema were out with all the living winners of the lead acting prizes prominently displayed on stage. Zhang Ziyi finally took home Best Actress for The Grand Master, a prize that had continually eluded her. This year, the 51st, is bound to be a let down in comparison but it's still worth noting since we like to see how the Oscar submissions from various Asian countries fare. So let's just hit that straightaway...

Tang Wei stars in The Golden Era, a 30s era biopic of an important Chinese writer

THE GOLDEN ERA (Ann Hui) - Hong Kong's Oscar submission
This historical bio of a famous female writer finds Lust Caution's then-novice star Tang Wei headlining another acclaimed 3 hour period epic. It's nominated for 5 awards and they're all major ones: Feature, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay. No tech nominations though, which seems strange for a period epic. I'm still kicking myself for missing this one at TIFF but it's hard to fit the super-sized movies into those jampacked schedules.

ICE POISON (Midi Z) - Taiwan's Oscar submission
Our own Oscars don't ever have the "lone wolf" director anymore with the expanded Best Picture lineup and an increasing willingness to embrace chillier critical darlings anyway, but the Golden Horse got one this year. This Taiwanese drama about a poor young farmer and a woman escaping an arranged marriage who both  get mixed up in selling crystal meth is only nominated for Best Director.

MY BELOVED DEAREST (Sanif Olek) - Singapore's Oscar submission
Last year, Singapore was the surprise winner of the Best Feature Golden Horse (which tilts heavily China and Hong Kong) for their Oscar submission Ilo Ilo but this year their representing film either wasn't eligible or was not well loved by the Golden Horse jury. Zero nominations.

Black Coal Thin Ice led the nominations

We don't yet know what the mainland has chosen as their Oscar submission but the other films that were embraced by the Golden Horse Jury were: Black Coal, Thin Ice from China and winner of the Golden Bear early this year (Glenn reviewed) which led nominations with 8 including all the biggies - Feature, Director, Actress and Actor; Blind Massage from China, exactly what it's title implies, was not far behind with 7 nominations including Feature and Director; Kano from Taiwan, a true story baseball movie set in the 1930s won 6 nominations including Feature and Makeup & Costumes; Coming Home, the new Gong Li drama about a man returning from prison to his estranged wife, missed the key nod for Best Feature but won 5 other nominations including two for acting: Gong Li and a Newcomer nod for Zhang Huiwen who plays her daughter; Paradise in Service was also big in acting categories with three supporting nods but it missed Best Feature, too; A Fool about parents desperate to save their son convicted of a crime won five nominations including Feature.

Young Detective Dea: Rise of the Sea Dragon is available on Netflix Instant Watch!

And finally, just because it's fun to know these films -- and because yours truly kind of misses the days a decade ago when everyone was excited about wuxia movies - other films that did well, particularly in the tech awards included Brotherhood of Blades set in the Ming dynasty, The White Storm a drug underworld action film, No Man's Land about a lawyer's adventures in the Gobi desert and the biggie, a wuxia prequel with five tech nominations: Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon which is available on Netflix Instant Watch.

You can see a complete list of nominations here.

Extensive charts of this year's foreign language Oscar submissions (71 announced to date) are fully updated  here.

 

Friday
Sep192014

Foreign Film Oscar Watch: 43 Submissions and Counting!

With the expected announcements today from Belgium (Two Days One Night) and Canada (Mommy), forty-three countries have already announced their Oscar submissions which means we have 2/3rds of the list already (It's usually around 65-70 films). Okay, technically we have 42 at this writing but Canada will have announced by the time you read this (I'm offline for a few hours travelling hence publishing without that news) which we hope is the incredible Mommy. Every submission chart has been updated to reflect all the recent announcements.

I'm illustrating this news update with the striking poster from Colombia's entry Mateo which is about a teenager who is asked by his crime boss Uncle to infiltrate a local theater group and tell him everything about their political activities...

I haven't seen the film but from the looks of the poster he's enjoying his time with theater friends and might not want to betray them. Thus, DRAMA to come.

Of the 43 official submissions I have seen only five and I'd rank them in this order (links go to reviews or capsules if they exist here already):

  1. Force Majeure (Sweden)
  2. Mommy (Canada)
  3. Ida (Poland)
    the top three are basically tied. the number will change depending on my mood - they're all deeply impressive
  4. Beloved Sisters (Germany) - review next week
  5. 1001 Grams (Norway) 

But I've seen another handful of assumed submissions or viable threats for submission that we're still waiting on official word about... 

And now an amusing coincidence!
Both Germany's submission (Beloved Sisters) and Greece's submission (Little England) which appear side by side on the alphabetical chart are dramas about two sisters in love with the same man! I haven't seen the Greek film but in the German entry the sisters are totally okay with sharing. Or at least they plan to be in this feverish plunge into three hours of hopeless romanticism. It opens in the US on December 24th.

a very memorable scene from Germany's "Beloved Sisters"

Here are the charts. Explore and share with friend!

Pt. 1 Afghanistan through Ethiopia - 14 official submissions thus far
Pt. 2 Finland through Panama - 18 official submissions thus far including the first ever submission from Panama called Invasión
Pt. 3 Peru through Vietnam  -11 submissions thus far

Saturday
Sep062014

TIFF: Hayao Miyazaki's Swan Song

Nathaniel's adventures at TIFF. Day 1

Are documentaries about filmmakers that are at least in part documentaries about the making of particular films, just giant infomercials? Can they ever not be even when they're good? The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Studio Ghibli in Japan made me desperate to see Miyazaki's final picture The Wind Rises. And I've already seen it

Kingdom purports to be about Studio Ghibli but is actually much closer to a profile of Hayao Miyazaki and his regimented and consistent working methods: he works from 11 AM to 9 PM exactly Mondays through Saturdayshe storyboards all of his movies in chronological order while they're in production (no actual screenplays) so no one, including him, knows how they'll develop and end; his daily routine includes a walk in which he waves to the children of the animators in the in-house nursery and a trip to the roof near sunset with his animators in tow; and so on. This routine has remained the same for decades as has, one could argue, the quality of his work.

Several darker implications or offhand remarks that Miyazaki is a pessimistic unhappy soul, that Studio Ghibli is on its last legs, or that Miyazaki is incredibly demanding and tough on his animators, particularly the best ones, are never fully explored by the smitten filmmakers but they do serve to contour the portrait a bit and prevent a hagiography. We don't hear much about other filmmakers and projects beyond two interesting business meetings about things like Spirited Away merchandise and what to do with Miyazaki's son who is also a filmmaker albeit a reluctant one. The most lively thread is arguably the ocassionally bitchy and exasperated references to Miyazaki's mentor, former partner, and creative rival Isao Takahata and his interminably slow production of The Tale of Princess Kaguya (which was meant to premiere alongside The Wind Rises but has only recently been completed and is also playing here at TIFF!).

Despite its limitations this documentary is never dull and is often extremely charming. Particularly wonderful are the many shots of a black and white short tailed cat that wanders freely around Studio Ghibli demanding doors be open for it. This cat, who almost seems like an animated character, strangely never ventures into Miyazaki's workspace as if blocked, staring, by some invisible wall. Still, Miya-san likes him. They share a brief funny moment at a picnic table outside late in the film, the cat sleeping, the filmmaker looking on with envy; Miyazaki has since retired. But this documentary practically insists (or pleads?) that the great filmmaker's new nap time can't possibly stick. B

Friday
Aug292014

Tim's Toons: In praise of the long-dead Osamu Tezuka

Tim here. Bear with me for a moment: we’re just about done with our month-long look at 1989 in cinema, about which I already had my say. But one of the other things that happened in animation that year was that the great Japanese animator and illustrator Osamu Tezuka passed away in February of that year, at age 60. Which is absolutely no legitimate pretext for anything, but Tezuka is an artist I’ve wanted to talk about in this space for ages, and there’s never been anything remotely resembling a good excuse to do so. So this shall have to do. It’s no fun having a bully pulpit if you can’t spread the Good News with it.

And oh, what very Good News the career of Tezuka is. You might not have ever heard his name, but you know his work: he’s largely regarded as the godfather of both manga and anime, two media with a shared stylistic backbone that’s still mostly intact a full 62 years after Tezuka began drawing the original comic book version of Astro Boy.

Which is all very important and impressive, of course – that one man’s innovations could trickle down in a readily-detected lineage to things as diverse as the nuanced fantasy epic/family drama Spirited Away to the internet’s favorite whipping post, tentacle porn...

Click to read more ...