Luis and Raul are all wrapped up with their coverage of Nashville Film Festival. They get together to discuss what they watched and how it went at their first film festival. What was their top 5 they watched? What could have been improved? How tired are they? Find out on this episode!
Studio Ghibli: Anime for BEGINNERS
If you ever wanted to get your foot into the anime world while also watching beautiful animation, mixed with incredible music then you should check out Studio Ghibli’s work.
Studio Ghibli is a small japanese animation company in Koganei, Tokyo, with a number of 150 employees that create these incredible works. Founded in 1985 by Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata and Yasuyoshi Tokuma, they brought mastered skills to the table and brought years to come of potential, which all paid off in 2003 when they won an Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film for Spirited Away, which we are commentating on as we speak for our patreon supporters. They have 22 films out since their first establishment and in this review I want to cover the most recent ones I’ve currently watched and liked, yet I imagine my pick is also the fan favorites.
With the first time ever, an american platform has 21 of the studio’s works online right now (August 2021) that platform being HBO Max, a greatly expanding service that’s gotten a slew of viewers since the 2020 pandemic started. You can go see all of them and let me know if you agree but these films have such a touch to them that brings a sense of warmth from a hand that is not there, honestly a feeling that touches your heart while going through a tough time. The animation is also accompanied by the incredible work of Joe Hisaishi, a conductor for the films and he does an incredible work at portraying these emotions with sound which is more than likely where this feeling that someone is touching my heart comes from. So far I’ve personally seen Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Ocean Waves, Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, and I am currently going to do a watch along with friends to see The Wind Rises. Honestly I feel speechless while writing this so at the very least I’ll link a video of the studios work below, if you’d at least like watch these as a “trailer” of sorts.
Now I’m definitely going to be light on the writing as I want to encourage people to read this article without looking at it like they’re reading a book, like I’ve written other articles in the past. But at the very least I want to touch on 3 of the films from the studio including the award winning Spirited Away near the very end.
As I noticed, a good hand full of Studio Ghibli’s work has strong women led protagonists with its share of secondary male protagonists. Princess Mononoke is no exemption with San as a young girl raised by wolves or as the movie portrays them as wolf gods and spirits of the forest. Although Ashitaka, a man from a village cursed after a hatred filled spirit attacks his village and now must go on to find a cure, is the one the story focuses on San is definitely the key and understanding to the story. Not to mention that a lot of the studio’s movies include some sort of topic that may not be talked about enough, in the case of this film deforestation, and human greed as its clear covered topic.
The way the studio portrays the animals as forest spirit guardians is not an unknown take but the way they aren’t just regular wolves, bores, gorillas, etc is mesmerizing. Not to mention the cute little spirit totems that just walk around looking like little creepy dolls but are actually harmless cinnamon rolls in the film are a great addition.
The way the plot and story mix with the incredible work of Joe Hisaishi create a palate so delectable that you’ll want to help the forest and the animals of the world, which we should be doing none the less with our current situation. San is a tough character that grew up watching humans, her own kind, destroy it for their unnecessary items and disassociated from them as never even being human. Which is good on her with all honesty, because we are a species that sometimes act more like animals than animals themselves.
Princess Mononoke is definitely in my number 1 spot from the 22 films released from the studio.
HOwl’s Moving Castle
Now I move on to my second pick and actually my second favorite film from the select 22 films, Howl’s Moving Castle.
In this film magic also runs rampant yet as the last one had human greed this one has war and a theme for pacifism, the stupidity of war and how growing old changes a person for the better with the female characters and protagonist having to deal with sudden gained age. This film has incredible imagery but by far I think it’s one of the films that uses Hisaishi’s talent to its fullest creating a beautiful piece of score.
The music creates a beautiful and elegant tone to what the themes and motives of the film are and I thinks its my personal favorite and reason to place this in the second spot. The story may be a classic trope of a man gaining confidence when the woman he meets becomes his growing romantic interest and the woman lead ends up saving him but it’s not a cliche that takes too much out of the film.
With that being said I must mention when I speak of the greatness this film’s soundtrack has, I’m not the only one who thought that Mr. Hisaishi did an outstanding job but the Tokyo Anime Awards and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Music Prize thought so too as he won awards for the music made for this film. It’s just too good to not go on about and if you haven’t watched the film at least check out the soundtrack and score available in many places including Spotify.
Now to the award winning Spirited Away, this film is probably what I first watched when getting into the Ghibli and anime world. It is a piece that takes up the interesting super-naturalistic views. I personally saw in this film the topic of human trafficking and the use of manual labor and contracts to hold them down. A story that follows Chihiro, a little girl that went to explore with her parents a tunnel that blocked their path to their new home. Her and her parents actually end up in the spirit world and her parents turn into pigs leaving Chihiro to find a way to save them ending up selling herself into labor work in a hot spring spa. Ultimately, it’s a journey filled with new courage, friends and just seeing an honest human being trying their best to save themselves and her loved ones while trying not to cause any problems for anyone else.
Aside from the great story and music this film includes incredible scenes some even looking hand painted with watercolor and other mediums. It’s not surprising to find out this film won an award of such caliber. I know Studio Ghibli and its works has gained awards throughout its lifespan but to obtain an Academy Award is outstanding and a thrill.
I won’t hide the idea and plausible fact that these American award ceremonies don’t always appreciate media made by the minority, but seeing films like this winning these awards brings hope to my directing career.
Spirited Away holds so much for its 2 hour runtime and feels like a play having different acts play out throughout its runtime. Not to forget the unforgettable creatures such as No Face, which is always a big thing for me with Ghibli’s films, they always have to have memorable characters that don’t necessarily bring a lot to the larger plots of the films.
I also want to add another movie Ponyo simply for the fact that the main characters are just so well created having this cuddly and younger sibling energy.
All in all Studio Ghibli has a large selection of films that really meet anyone’s needs, and I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like or I’ll eat my words. But you don’t have to take my word for it, honestly, just go check it out and let me know what you think, until next time peace.
Psychokinesis (2018) is a noble and entertaining directorial effort with its various ups and downs.
All the superhero films I am used to watching are from the United States, which are controlled by the two giant brands, Marvel and DC. These films can get a bit stale over time with not much to say beyond the surface of the film. Now, this is not the first film Yeon Sang-ho having watched, Train To Busan (2016). I am even looking forward to his next directorial effort, Peninsula (2020). As you can tell, I went into Psychokinesis (2018) with some form of expectations seeing what this director can do with all his skills in his arsenal.
The film revolves around a bank security guard who gains telekinetic powers by drinking out of a water fountain that was struck by a meteor. He uses his powers to make money at first but then tries to help his estranged daughter when a company wants to take their family business down. Psychokinesis (2018) is a good movie with an interesting plot involving superpowers and class warfare. The film is not perfect by any means but it has a lot of heart in it. The film’s second act lacks structured pacing to it, and some of the characters feel as if they are just there with no motives. Although it is not great there are a lot of characteristics that make it worth finishing like its wonderful cinematography and fight choreography. Once again, the film shows that Yeon Sang-ho understands completely how to handle the camera and set up the atmosphere of the film. The problem of this film mostly lies within the writing of the film but overall it is not the worst or best movie-watching experience I have had.
Watch Psychokinesis (2018) on Netflix. We also reviewed this film on The Nerd Corps so go and check out what we had to say about it! Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.
Edward Yang’s 1986 film is an intricate piece of art that’s nuances and beauties might not be apparent at first but stick with you long after you’ve seen the film.
I have always heard of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema and probably the most notable director in the movement, Edward Yang, but I never decided to actually venture into him or this genre of film. Of course, there is a lot of movies and director in this challenge that I have never watched, but there was something about Edward Yang that was pulling me to him. This film has three groups of people that interact with each other as they maneuver a changing Taiwan not just politically but economically. The world is becoming more and more difficult for the youth to maneuver with globalization and money at its forefront.
To be quite frank, most of the time a movie like this would seem a bit too convoluted to me but that was not the case for The Terrorizers (1986). The message is so clearly there and filled with various nuances. I am sure the more films I watch from Yang, the more I will learn to appreciate this one a bit more. It is beautifully shot and directed with interesting characters who truly feel like a page out of Taiwan at the time with its changing landscape. The film poses this odd feeling of a documentary, as if it is a slice of life film but then returns to its odd story structure. I am hesitant to call this a masterpiece, but I am sure with time there will be more to dissect and analyze. Along with its brilliant writing, directing, and cinematography the film also features fantastic performances that truly give life to these characters Yang writes. My favorite being the novelist wife of the doctor who feels as she is caged by her own life and wants more out of it.
I am sure as time goes by I will learn to appreciate my introduction of Taiwanese New Wave cinema more and even the work of Edward Yang. This is a film that deserves more time to consume and a lot more time to think about. I will say this though, Edward Yang has a way of turning such a small scale story and making it grand. There was never a moment in this film that I did not feel that it did not feel as important as it is, and that is a testament to the filmmaker that is Edward Yang.
Park Chan-wook conclude his Vengeance Trilogy with one of the most underrated pieces of cinema ever created.
The final film in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is another fantastic inclusion in the masterclass of work that he has created. Lady Vengeance (2005) follows a similar pattern to Oldboy (2003) as it follows a woman released from prison for a murder she did not commit. Lee Geum-ja played by Lee Young-ae seeks revenge from the real murderer and this gets bloody fast. Now, even if the story sounds similar to Oldboy (2003), Chan-wook turns the table on you and creates another riveting and nuanced installment in his trilogy. The film not only follows by the beat of its drum but it also manages to include some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve seen yet.
Park Chan-wook is a director of many skills and this movie shows how rough his work can be but also including such tender nuances like the importance of a Mother being there for her daughter, sharing trauma to move past it together, and truly not being able to move on from trauma even if it is “fixed.” The world of this film is grim with a prison system that is so corrupt and unorganized that it allows for sexual assault and power structures to emerge inside. There’s a scene that truly empowers the idea of “teamwork makes the dream work.” I am so happy that I watched these three incredible films, and cannot wait to finish the rest of his filmography. One thing is certain, Park Chan-wook is my favorite Korean director and I am one hundred percent confident of that.