75 Films From Asia: SHOPLIFTERS (2018)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) is a perfectly crafted film that plays a tune with your heartstrings that you never want to end.

CREDIT: GAGA Pictures

So if you were betting that I wouldn’t give out a five star in the first five movies I review for this challenge, then sadly today you lost, my friends. I don’t think I could even prepare myself for this movie. I wanted to watch this one not just because it won the Palme d’Or, but I’ve been recommended to watch Kore-eda’s work multiple times. I have to say that this did not disappoint in the slightest.

Shoplifters (2018) features a group of outsiders all banded together by their misfit qualities take into their home a little girl, which sets off a wide array of events and secrets surrounding the “family.” The film has its various twists and turns, which makes you learn to love this obscure family. You spend so much time with each character that makes it hard to say goodbye to some of them. Kor-eda does such a great job of making you care for these characters that when you find out the reason why they are together, it is hard to hold onto your prior feelings about them.

Kor-eda also includes necessary conversations in social class structures and classism. Why is it that the family has to shoplift to survive? Why do some of the family members have to resort to sex work as a means of making money? Overall, do any of these things make these strangers any less of a family than those of us bound by blood? The analysis included in this film is powerful and one that I will keep in mind when discussing some of the best movies from this challenge.

Shoplifters (2018) is available to watch on Hulu. Catch up on the rest of this challenge by visiting my Letterboxd or the google doc that includes all the films that I am covering. I implore every single person reading this review to watch this film, you will absolutely not regret it.

75 Films From Asia: OLDBOY (2003)

Bloody, suspenseful, and filled with twists and turns, Park Chan-wook creates a masterclass in storytelling.

CREDIT: Show East

This is not my first rodeo with South Korean cinema and by now you can tell I am not watching one whole country of films which sounds like a better idea right now but I am in too deep. I loved the Academy Award-winning film Parasite (2019) along with what I consider the best zombie film, Train to Busan (2016), and of course, I was amazed by Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (2016). I still felt that my knowledge of South Korean cinema was vastly minimal, and because of that, I decided to begin with this gem.

Oldboy (2003) directed by legendary Korean filmmaker, Park Chan-wook, looks at Dae-Su (Cbol Min-sik) as he tries to find the man that mysteriously imprisoned him and the events that would unravel with this journey. This is the second film in a trilogy of three different films that do not follow an overarching story called, Vengeance Trilogy. The film is an absolute masterpiece but I seem to be saying twice now with this being the second film from Chan-wook I have seen. Everything from the amazing musical score to the incredible choreography of the corridor fight scene makes this one of the best movies I have ever seen. This beautifully stylized picture never lets you go from the beginning to the end. It is filled with twists and turns as normal for a Park Chan-wook film. As I progress on with this challenge I am without a doubt this makes it into my top 5 for sure.

Remember you can follow along with this challenge by following my Letterboxd list, or the google doc list of films that are left to watch.

75 Films From Asia: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000)

Wong Kar-wai crafts an incredibly intimate film that depicts accurately what loneliness and heartbreak feels like.

CREDIT: Block 2 Pictures

We have reached Hong Kong, and when I began drafting the films for this challenge I was excited to watch some work from a specific director from Hong Kong. I was told this director was incredibly important in not just Hong Kong Cinema but cinema in general. I knew I had to watch something from the legendary Wong Kar-wai soon. Now, I will not lie and say this was my first film from Kar-wai, because I watched Chungking Express (1994) for a class project beforehand. Even though I had watched one piece from his work before absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the glorious film that is In The Mood For Love (2000).

Filled with rich stylized sets and profound dialogue, In The Mood For Love (2000) is a carefully sensual forbidden love story that refuses to let go until the credits roll. The story follows two people who develop feelings for each other after they discover that their spouses are having a love affair. What comes after in this masterpiece is beautiful, saddening, but so exquisite to consume. Loneliness and heartbreak are depicted carefully inside of a world that cannot allow these two to properly fall in love with each other. Wong Kar-wai is a director who approaches his work with such tender care but is still able to bring in his style to the forefront. Every single minute of this movie was eye-opening and I never wanted to stop watching it. I am so excited to watch more of his work throughout this challenge and fall in love with it as I fell in love with this picture.

As always feel free to follow along with the challenge on my Letterboxd list for mini-reviews, this column for more in-depth reviews, or find the rest of the films that I am going to watch on this google doc.

75 Films From Asia: MIRAI (2018)

Miirai (2018) is Mamoru Hosoda’s masterpiece as it encompasses incredible storytelling with beautiful animation and themes of childhood, innocence, and parenthood.

CREDIT: Studio Chizu

Continuing on with my 75 Films From Asia challenge I have once again stopped at the country of Japan to watch and review Mamoru Hosoda’s Academy Award-nominated masterpiece film, Mirai (2018). The film follows a child navigating the arrival of his baby sister as he grows jealous of her. He takes a journey through the various important people in his family tree as he tries to understand his unjust feelings toward his sister, Mirai. On the other hand, the film does not only focus on Kun and Mirai’s relationship but also his Father as he tries to be a stay at home dad.

The film is monumentally stylized by Hosoda’s exquisite animation style along with an incredible musical score. The story is well written and finds itself creeping into your heart with every person Kun meets from his family. Also, the father’s journey to further understand how to be a better father and partner is so well represented. Of course, there is humor in the journey but it all is wrapped up in the heart of the film. I truly believe that this is Mamoru Hosoda’s masterpiece and it will be further appreciated in the “future.”

As always you can keep up with my journey through this movie challenge by reading my reviews, but you can also take a look at the list of films by checking out this google doc or following along on my Letterboxd.

75 Films From Asia: SUMMER WARS (2009)

Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars (2009) is a fantastic effort by the incredible Japanese director that is delightful from start to finish.

CREDIT: Madhouse

Welcome to my 75 Films From Asia column where you will find all the reviews for my 2020 movie challenge where I watch 75 movies from the grand continent of Asia! All films have been pre-selected and you can find them on this google doc or follow along on my Letterboxd! I have always been interested in Asian Cinema and now I have the chance to broaden my film horizons by exploring more of this continent’s cinematic history. So from now on to the end of the year, I hope you enjoy reading my journey through these 75 films.

The story is a pretty simple young boy is taken to the girl of his dreams’ great-grandmother’s 90th birthday to act as her boyfriend, but there is a huge twist to all that is going on. Cyber hijackers use a virtual video game to control nukes that could destroy not just the family’s home but the whole city. What seems like such a simple plot is a very well thought out story about family and gender norms.

The film is highly stylized and is as anime as it gets, but it is unique in its sense that it does not look like a Studio Ghibli, Shonen, or a film by Satoshi Kon but it is in the style of Mamoru Hosoda. That along with the voice acting, score, heart, and humor that revolves around the film makes it so special. What I appreciate the most about the picture is its commentary on gender norms on not just women in a family, but those that force men into a single definition of masculinity. Summer Wars (2009) is a magical film to start this challenge with and one that warmed my heart from beginning to end.