By Satoshi Kon, Tokyo Godfathers shows three homeless misfits–a gambler, who’s lost his family, a transvestite and a runaway teen–who discover an abandoned baby. These outsiders, though flawed and somewhat to blame for their situation, come to get the audience’s sympathy and respect. They bicker as they seek the baby’s parents, which is a wild odyssey full of surprises against a gritty backdrop I rarely see in Japanese films.
The misfits have interesting backstories and as the story progresses they are forced to come to terms with their mistakes and history. They lead us through Japan’s shadier sides and the artwork is realistic.
Unlike the other Kon films I’ve seen this one sticks to the story with no departures into the character’s subconsciouses. Tokyo Godfathers/em> is a film I’d watch again and again.
Disney’s Zootopia is a fun kids’ movie that adults can enjoy. Zootopia’s plucky heroine is a new police officer, who though highly qualified gets put on meter maid duty because of stereotypes and discrimination against rabbits. She must team up with a fox who’s a con artist to catch the mastermind behind a slew of kidnappings. If she can solve this case, she can prove her worth. As you’d expect in this “buddy” film the fox is her polar opposite in terms of ethos and personality.
The film is fast paced and clever, but like many Disney films lacks unique perspective. It feels like it was made by a committee rather than an individual artist. Not a bad film. It’s an entertaining film, but I do wish an American studio could produce some films that are not so packaged, so pat.
A mix of animation and live action, Jellyfish Eyes amazed me. It’s the story of Masashi, a Japanese boy whose father died in the tsunami. He moves with his mother to a new town where he befriends an otherworldly creature and soon learns that all the other children have similar strange friends that they control with remote controls and have fight each other whenever their teacher turns her back.
Mashasi’s uncle works at a mysterious lab, which turns out to be run by a nefarious group of evil scientists trying to harness negative energy through children since children’s energy is purest. His uncle opposes the mad scientists, but they ignore his warnings and pleas.
As the movie progresses,a girl befriends Masashi saving him from bullies. The girl’s mother in reaction to the tsunami and following nuclear disaster, has joined a religious cult. Thus the girl, like Masashi must parent herself. The film is unique in that shows children coping with trauma and loss. It has a powerful message of self-sacrifice and pulling together rationally in times of crisis. At the end I was stunned. As the film’s directed towards children it ends happily, but that was uncertain till the last minutes. I thought it was brave and smart to give children a chance to see such a wise, exciting and delightful film.
It offers adults the message of how technocrats and scientists gamble with our safety when they get caught up with an idea or “solution.” It’s such a different film and one old and young (as young as say 10) could enjoy and ponder.
Paprika is another fabulous Satoshi Kon creation. It left me stunned by its mastery and left me wanting to figure out what exactly had I experienced.
I’m not a big anime fan so I don’t know much about the history or depth or breath of the art, but wow, Paprika took an art form to its limits. I never knew what to expect and while the basic story’s easy to follow, it’s till perplexing.
The story revolves around a group of psychologists who’ve developed a device called the DC mini that allows people to view another person’t dreams if they are also wearing a DC mini. Boy, I had no idea how bizarre some dreams might be. The technology gets out of the hands of its creators, who then go on a quest to protect this amazing invention, which has a purpose they realize isn’t only good.
From start to finish the film moves in and out of dream worlds that are colorful, boisterous, scary, and bizarre. Dr. Chiba, the lead female character is a very serious, very beautiful psychologist who’s often bickering with her obese, irresponsible colleague as they try to track down his assistant who’s taken the DC mini. Paprika is Chiba’s alter ego who mainly inhabits the world of dream. She’s a sexy, super girl, who rescues a cop who’s having a little existential crisis.
Yet Paprika is not a film about plot. It plays with plot and constantly twists and turns defying any expectations. It’s ultra cool and something any adventurous filmgoer should see. Once I get my VPN to work, I’ll find the trailer on YouTube and post it here.
I learned about this amazing animated film from Every Frame a Picture (below). Created by Satoshi Kon, Millennium Actress is a unique, dreamy film that tells the story of Chiyoko, an old woman who looks back on her life when a documentary filmmaker, Tachibara, finally convinces her to agree to being interviewed. Tachibara, who was always sweet on Chiyoko, presents Chiyoko with a long lost key, which like Marcel in In Search of Lost Time opens up a storehouse of memories. Then the story goes back in time in an incredibly imaginative way mixing flashbacks, dreams and daydreams to show why Chiyoko went against her mother to become an actress during WWII.
The story skips back in time to various times in Chiyoko’s life and further goes back to various periods in history which her films were set in. There are a few political messages, which like Kurosawa’s No Regrets for our Youth, criticise how Japan imprisoned those who disagreed with the war. Because Kon’s techniques are so innovative in how they harken back to the shape-shifting that’s a frequent feature of Japanese folktales (but you don’t need to know that to enjoy the film), the film constantly surprised and delighted me. Throughout the film, the current day filmmakers were present in the past and that technique was particularly intriguing and innovative — at least to me, a novice in the anime world.
This video by Tony Zhou is incredible and made me want to see Millennium Actress.
If I hadn’t flown United, I wouldn’t have sought out Inside Outside a cute animated film about Riley, a happy middle school student, whose emotions go into a tailspin when she moves to San Francisco thus losing her friends, her big backyard and her upbeat attitude. What sets this film apart is that most of the action takes place inside Riley’s head, in an emotional control center. Amy Poehler is the emotion Joy and she’s the captain of this ship and feels compelled to only send happy thoughts to long term memory. Lewis Black plays a red hot Anger and other “shipmates” represent Disgust and Sadness. Joy doesn’t understand the value of sadness and is always trying to distract Sadness, who does have some wisdom to offer.
Joy and the other emotions fall out of their command center and must journey through Riley’s imagination, subconscious, etc. They go to a land of abstraction and become Picasso-ized. It’s all quite clever, but probably over the heads of most kids. Perhaps they’d go along for the ride anyway.
I was surprised that the film had Riley run away from home. She walks through the shady part of town where their new home is to the bus station. She gets a ticket and boards a bus. That was a bold move for a modern film to make.
When I was growing up I loved watching Mr. Peabody & Sherman’s cartoons as they traveled to various historical events. Now all the kids who have no idea who this famed pair is can see Mr. Peabody, the genius dog, and his boy Sherman right wrongs throughout time and space. The film, which I saw on a plane, captures the heart and soul of the original. Bravo!
The film moves quickly and is witty enough for adults and offers history with a spoonful of sugar for the young. I’m telling everyone I see that they should check this out whether they have kids or not. It’s just a fun film.