Author Topic: Antares' Short Summations  (Read 144828 times)

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #345 on: February 26, 2014, 02:21:43 AM »
The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1959) 84/100 - At the time this film was made, only 14 years had elapsed since the end of WWII. This second film in the series, and most definitely the final film must have opened a lot of old wounds and pissed off a lot of the old guard, samurai warrior class in Japan. Kobayashi trashes every facet of the militaristic and bushido doctrine, painting the military hierarchy as lecherous, thieving, maniacal marionettes. In some ways, I thought of this second film as Kobayashi's Full Metal Jacket. The first half is spent in basic training, while the second half is spent in the front lines in Manchuria. But, where I liked only the first half of the Kubrick film, the whole of this film enthralled me, because it showed what it was like to be a front line soldier in the Japanese army. And it's pretty clear that Kobayashi places all of the blame for Japan's loss in the war, to the tunnel vision mentality of the Samurai warrior descendents who made up the officer corp, looking for a bit of the glory to honor their ancestry.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #346 on: February 26, 2014, 03:15:14 AM »
The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961) 88/100 - My favorite film of the trilogy. War and his treatment by his fellow soldiers has nearly broken Kaji. But the thought of returning to Michiko fuels his desire to survive and he'll stop at nothing to make it reality. This is definitely Nakadai's best performance of the three films. Gone is the doe-eyed zombie of the first film, replaced with a realistically tormented shell of a human being. Kobayashi, throughout the film, emphasizes the luck of having a roof over your head, the first time being when one of the prostitutes mentions it when they come to what appears to be an abandoned farm. Tange says it at one point and Kaji declares it at the refugee camp. But it's when Kaji is trudging through the frozen Manchurian landscape, after escaping captivity, and in his delusional mind, he hears Michiko say it as they entered their house back at the mining camp, that Kobayashi throws an ambiguous twist at Kaji. By now, Kaji knows he's finished and most likely is going to die and he's re-living the happy moments from the past with Michiko, in his mind. He remembers little bits of happy conversation between the two, but we only hear Michiko's lines of dialog. And then, just as Kaji is about to fall forward into the snow, you hear Michiko laughing. Is Kaji remembering one last moment of her exuberance before he dies or is Kobayashi, having the last thing Kaji hear, is Michiko laughing at him, for being so obstinate in his beliefs back at the mining camp and losing his military deferment? And now, instead of being back in Japan, at home with the woman he loves, he's dying, unsheltered on the frozen steppe of Manchuria...alone, a victim of his ideals.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #347 on: February 28, 2014, 02:02:51 AM »
The Life of Oharu (1952) 89/100 - There's a moment in Kurosawa's Shichinin no samurai, when a coolie who's sharing the barn with the farmers proclaims..."I'd rather be dead than live a farmer's life". Well, after watching The Life of Oharu, I can say that I'd rather be dead than live the life of a woman in feudal Japan. Objectified, subservient and without any rights of property, a woman's life in medieval Japan was no better than a dog's. Kinuyo Tanaka gives a memorable performance, but probably should have shared the leading role with a younger, teenage actress for the early scenes in Kyoto and Edo. As great an actress as she was, she really can't pull off 15 - 18 years old, when she herself, just passed 40 years of age. As with other Mizoguchi films, the cinematography is gorgeous and his use of a 'floating camera' style, gives the film a haunting sadness and beauty at the same time. I would have loved to give it a higher rating, but the transitions between certain parts in Oharu's life are not smooth, making the film seem a bit episodic. I was also a bit unmoved by the ending of the film. Through the breadth of this film, Oharu goes from lady-in-waiting, to courtesan, to concubine, to prostitute and finally beggar nun. In a society where disgrace and losing face are treated just as horrifically as murder or treason, Oharu accepts these injustices as fate. I would have loved to have seen her race past her son's retainers and proclaim to him that she was the woman who gave him life, and in keeping with the film's theme, having him disavow himself of her. Thus, finally broken by this last indignity, she takes her life in the garden of her son's palace. The last thought in her mind being that she is now free to join Katsunosuke in eternal love in the afterlife.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #348 on: March 04, 2014, 09:58:56 PM »
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) 58/100 -
Quote
Moonrise Kingdom is one of those movies where I can be sure that I wouldn't enjoy the company of anyone who didn't connect to the film.

The above quote is taken from a post on the Wes Anderson thread over at the Criterion forum, and it encompasses everything that I find dis-interesting in Wes Anderson films and everything I find disdainful in his fanboys. The ever so present and defensively, in your face... "If you don't like his films, you just don't get it." kind of crap that has been associated with Anderson from day one. This film had so much potential, but is mired in Anderson's self indulgent universe of droll dialog, quirky characters and whimsy. But where this approach was fresh back in the days of The Royal Tenenbaums, it now comes across as stale and laborious. It's sad because this film has some beautiful cinematography, with some amazing color contrasts and a jaunty, whimsical music score that is let down by a lazy storyline. Yes, it's a coming of age story, and I did like the opening 20 minutes or so. But then it starts to become bogged down by the weight of its hipster characterizations and dialog. Bill Murray is as interesting as a plank of wood in his performance as the confused and distant father, character traits which seems to encompass every role he plays for Anderson. Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel are just filling out frames of the film, leaving only Ed Norton as the solitary adult character with any depth, believability or sincerity. As I was watching, I started to get a sense that Anderson was trying to recreate his own version of a Charles Schultz Peanuts special from the sixties, where the kids are profound beyond their years and the adults are only heard as indecipherable noise.

All in all, the only real enjoyment I came away from this film with was that they shot some of the scenes only a few miles from my home, and noticing many places where I hike on a regular basis was kind of fun. But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that if I never saw another Wes Anderson film in my life, I would not feel cheated as a cineaste.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #349 on: March 05, 2014, 02:31:36 AM »
Still Walking (2008) 85/100 - This was such a simple little film, but so hauntingly touching that although I'm filled with varying emotions, I'm kind of at a loss for how to describe just how this story moved me. It reminded me of Ozu's Tokyo Story, but with elements of Redford's Ordinary People mixed in to give the characters a bit more depth. At first, I felt as distant as Ryo did towards his father, as I had a similar relationship with my father. His mother comes across as a caring and doting mother, once again, just like mine. But then Kore-eda threw a curve at me, by having the mother's pain at the loss of her eldest son, take on the form of a cruel yearly ritual of guilt against the boy whose life the son saved. I didn't expect this and it changed my whole outlook on her. So much, that by the end of the film, I felt sorry for the father and only derision for the mother. It must be terribly gut-wrenching to lose a child you gave birth to, but to annually torment an innocent person because they survived and your good Samaritan child is gone, is evil. In the end, I could understand why Ryo only wanted to visit them just once a year.

This was my first film by Hirozaku Kore-eda and I now can't wait to dive into the rest of his oeuvre. If they are half as good as this film was, it will be a happy viewing experience.

What the color coding means...

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

Offline Antares

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #350 on: March 07, 2014, 02:51:18 AM »
Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963) 70/100 - By this fourth installment in the series, Shintarô Katsu is well immersed in what would be the essential Ichi character for the remainder of the series. This film starts to include a bit of humor, while developing the plot which will have Ichi eventually annihilating scores of yakuza thugs. There's a few brief moments when the film lags a bit, but that is more than made up for in the final battle scene. For the first time, Ichi is blinded (no pun intended) by vengeance, when Tane, his love interest from the first film, is killed by a samurai who will fight Ichi in the final battle scene. For me, this is when the series starts to gravitate more towards an action film, leaving behind with the first three films, the moralizing jidai-geki philosophizing. It's still present in this film, but you can tell that Daiei knows that any profitability from future films is dependent on ratcheting up the samurai swordplay.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #351 on: March 07, 2014, 02:55:11 AM »
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) 78/100 - An interesting, yet nori wrap thin documentary of a man on a mission... to create the world's most perfect sushi. His whole life is dedicated to this pursuit, and being from a culinary background, I can appreciate his zeal and tenacity. But the documentary doesn't really delve into why customers regard this shop as the best sushi in Tokyo. It just fawns over Jiro like he's some mystical, beguiling force of culinary nature. When the film was finished, I found myself respecting his sons more than him. One opened his own restaurant, while the eldest son trudges on in the shadow of his now famous father. I started to wonder if his father's eventual death would be devastating or maybe a lifting of a great weight from his shoulders.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #352 on: March 08, 2014, 03:38:59 AM »
Departures (2008) 84/100 - An emotionally exhilarating film which showcases the ancient Japanese ritual of nōkan (encoffining), where a mortician prepares the body of a deceased relative, through a series of choreographed techniques in front of the family. This ceremony allows family members and friends to view the deceased one last time and to say their goodbyes. It is the nōkansha's duty to try and recreate, through cleansing and make up, what that person looked like in life, giving the family one last glimpse of the person that they shared their lives with. When the film is focused on these ceremonies, it is a moving and thought provoking process on death and how different families deal with the loss. But it also tends to dwell on scenes which don't really add much to the story and it has a few too many predictable twists in the storyline. But it's all worth viewing because of some of the strong, emotional scenes that take place in the homes of clients of NK Agency. In one scene, they arrive five minutes late for the beginning of the ceremony and the husband of the woman who has died, is visibly upset. But as Sasaki is preparing the body, which you can tell must have suffered through some sort of prolonged illness, for the make up adding part of the ceremony, he looks behind him at the picture of the smiling woman, radiantly alive before her illness, and he goes to work. The camera pans back and forth from the deceased, to Sasaki working, to the family members watching on. Slowly, methodically and with a tenderness which years of experience have mastered, Sasaki recreates her cold, lifeless face into a perfect replication of the picture behind him. The pain of loss flows from the family alongside a gratitude towards Sasaki for giving them one last moment with the woman, adorned in all her glory. One of the most beautiful moments I've ever experienced in a film. Had the rest of this film stayed on this path, I probably would have deemed it a masterpiece, but there's a useless montage of Daigo playing his cello in various outdoor locations, which kind of disturbs the rhythm of the film and to a degree, feels manipulative and cheesy.

Teal = Masterpiece
Dark Green = Classic or someday will be
Lime Green = A good, entertaining film
Orange = Average
Red = Cinemuck
Brown = The color of crap, which this film is

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #353 on: March 11, 2014, 10:37:56 PM »
The Proposition (2005) 4/5 - After reading Smirnoff's dire review of this film over at Filmspotters, I had second thoughts about watching it, but I'm glad I did. 'Noff was right, it is an ugly film about ugly characters, but to me, it was rich in the scope by which it told the story. The latter part of the nineteenth century was a very hostile time all over the world, especially in frontier lands on the outskirts of civilization. This film reminded me very much of a Leone western, with even more bleakness than you expect from a spaghetti western. The one question I would like to ask Smirnoff is this...did you like Sexy Beast? At times I felt the same disdain for the characters that I felt for that film, which coincidentally, also starred Ray Winstone.

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #354 on: March 11, 2014, 10:39:17 PM »
The King's Speech (2010) 4/5 - A very good film with two very outstanding performances by Colin Firth & Geoffrey Rush. The more I see of Rush's work the more appreciation I have for his skills. He's starting to remind me of Claude Rains, one of the greatest character actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and who would always be the scene stealer when he was onscreen. Putting the great performances aside, when the film was finished, I felt that maybe while it was a good film, I didn't feel it was worthy of the Oscar for Best Picture.

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #355 on: March 11, 2014, 10:41:24 PM »
Youth of the Beast (1963) 3/5 - I'll have to admit, for the duration of this film, I kept waiting for one character to ask another character the whereabouts of the famous egg salad recipe. This is my first Seijun Suzuki film, and while it kept me entertained, it failed to wow me. I think part of the problem lies with the lead actor, Jô Shishido. Was this the best actor Nikkatsu studios had to offer at the time of this films production? He reminded me of a moody, badly postured version of Shintarô Katsu from the Zatoichi films, but without the charisma of that fine Japanese actor. It's too bad, because the base storyline of this film was interesting. A disgraced cop who plays a Sanjuro type character, hell bent on exacting revenge for the murder of a former cop, who happened to be his mentor. I guess I'll try Branded to Kill next and see if this was just a weak effort on Suzuki's part.

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #356 on: March 11, 2014, 10:43:52 PM »
Hot Fuzz (2007) 3.5/5 - For the last few years I've read such glowing praise of this British comedy, and finally after reading a friends review on another forum, I decided the time had come to watch it. Well, after the first hour or so, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Sure, it had me chuckling every so often, but to be honest, I was expecting side-spliiting belly laughter. But it seems, I only had to wait until the climax of the film. When the town rises up against the new police officer, I was keeling over. Every action film cliché is skewered with the precision of a surgeon, not to mention the countless quotable lines that come fast and quick. I'm now looking forward to Shaun of the Dead.

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #357 on: March 11, 2014, 10:45:48 PM »
Glory (1989) 4/5 - I hadn't seen this film for close to fifteen years, but I remember being surprised at how good a war drama it was. I've never been much of an Edward Zwick fan, but this time, he got it pretty much right. The battle scenes have a realism that shocks the viewer and which is pretty much transparent in other Civil War films such as Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. The gore and horror which is so invisible in those two films hurts the credibilty of the narrative. Not so with Glory. From the moment we witness the horrors of the cornfield at Antietam, a true sense of believabilty is created. As a way to placate the Northern abolitionists, the 54th Massachusetts regiment was comprised of ex-slaves and free blacks and led by white abolitionist officers. But the northern politicians never conceived of letting them go into battle, as they were afraid of alienating the white soldiers of their own ranks, who weren't fighting for emancipation. But after the costly battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and coinciding with the New York draft riots of July 1863, the 54th fought their baptism of fire at Fort Wagner, just outside of Charleston harbor. In their desperate attack and repulsion from the breastworks of the fortress, the seeds of a new fighting force would be sown in the sandy soil of South Carolina. With the influx of new recruits from this untapped segment of the population, it was a foregone conclusion that the war would soon swing in favor of the Union.

If I could change one thing in this film, it would be to have Denzel Washington and Andre Braugher switch roles. I'm used to seeing Washington play these angry young black man roles, it would have been interesting to see what Braugher would have done with the role. As good as Washington was in this film, I always felt that Braugher's performance was better.

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #358 on: March 11, 2014, 10:47:29 PM »
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) 3.5/5 - I was going to start out this review by telling verbALs to stop scratching his head, because I finally watched the film, but I think that after he reads the score I rated this film, he may just keep on scratching away. I liked the film, but when Raymond Massey's character comes forward, I thought it threw a money wrench into the flow of the screenplay. Bringing an anti-British rant from an American just seemed to me, a little disengenous. This was only one year removed from the end of the Second World War and it just came across as a rather condescending way to take a swipe at the Americans who were still over in England awaiting their return to the States. I saw it as a brave move by Pressburger to do it, but also it appeared as he was left-handedly saying... These Americans, what petulant little children. I could be reading it wrong, but that's how it came across to me.

It reminded me of something I read in a New York Times archived newspaper one day when I was perusing the microfilm collection at a library. I had been reading war reports from France from the D-Day invasion until the Battle of the Bulge. I was surprised to read a small piece about French citizens complaining about the American soldiers in the aftermath of the liberation of Paris. They were actually complaining about the soldiers who had just liberated them from over 4 years of Nazi occupational tyranny.

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Re: Antares' Short Summations
« Reply #359 on: March 11, 2014, 10:58:59 PM »
Green for Danger (1946) 4/5 - This turned out to be a glorious delight. I had never heard of it, but I've been on an Alastair Sim kick as of late, and seeing as how Criterion felt it was worthy of a spine #, decided to check it out. I love a good murder mystery and this film delivers in spades. The screenplay has just the right amount of twists and turns to divert you from guessing the murderer, mixed in with with ample amounts of great British dry humor. At times, the acting of the principle cast came across as a little wooden and stagey, but Alastair Sim more than made up for it with his wry delivery of lines and his propensity for scene stealing. If you haven't seen this yet, seek it out, it's a good film for a lazy weekend afternoon when the weather is uncooperative.