75 Films From Asia: PERFECT BLUE (1997)

Satoshi Kon crafts a masterpiece of a film that will not just be remembered in anime but as a piece of cinematic art.

CREDIT: Rex Entertainment

Way back when before the pandemic hit on The Nerd Corps, we covered Millennium Actress (2001) from writer/director, Satoshi Kon. If you listened to the episode you know that I did not find that film anywhere close to being great. I thought it was convoluted and very disorganized in its story structure. Since then I had not watched another film from Kon and I was scared to possibly write this man off after just watching this one film (which you should never do).

Well, Perfect Blue (1997) is incredible from start to finish and never stops gripping at you. The film is constructed through the eyes of our protagonist, Mima Kirigoe, as she retires from her Japanese idol group and pursues her career in acting. We see the good and bad sides of this career as she encounters people obsessed with her and willing to cause her harm. Some of those causing her harm are those exact people within the film industry who are supposed to help her. The nuances of the film are so carefully crafted to create a picture that is so within the style of Kon’s framework.

The film deals with various themes such as obsession, voyeurism, and the harassment of young women within a male-dominated industry. Satoshi Kon perfects the blend of fantasy and reality within the film. Along with excellent writing and direction, the film features an incredible score, exquisite sound design, and profoundly beautiful animation that brings these characters to life. I am sure that this will end up in my top ten at the end of this challenge and in my top five anime films of all time.

Perfect Blue is available to stream on Hoopla through your public library or can be rented on all major movie watching platforms. Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.

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: 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.