Amoeblog

No "best of" 2012, just "films I saw in 2012" and "films that looked good in 2012"

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 28, 2012 03:42pm | Post a Comment
Best of 2012

Around this time of year (i.e. the end of it), film fans usually trot out their "Best of" Lists. As much as I'd like to do the same, I don't even think that I saw ten films this year. Of those I really enjoyed only a few which is why I don't ever make these lists but I'm always looking for more films to love.

10,000 films


Part of the problem is that I rarely see what end up being my favorites in the year that they're released -- does anyone? About 10,000 films were released on the planet so how do people find their favorites before the planet goes full circle around the sun... and how are those films supposed to find their fans that fast?


Of the films that I saw, I quite liked The master although though, as with most PT Anderson films, felt like it gave me more to hold onto than truly admire. Skyfall was mostly satisfying although the pacing allowed my mind to repeatedly dwell on Bond's waxed cotton jacket more than the story. I thought The Dark Knight rises, though deeply silly and self-serious, was really exhilarating. Flight, on the other hand, was deeply silly and self-serious yet not exhilarating at all after the opening scene -- for some reason I've seen nearly every Robert Zemeckis film despite having not honestly liked any since 1985's Back to the future. As someone who can't get enough Middle Earth I thought The Hobbit: an unexpected journey was flawed but enjoyable ...and frequently just... too much. I remember The campaign and Wanderlust both being pleasantly diverting when I saw them but now they've almost entirely extricated themselves from my memory. Tim and Eric's billion dollar movie was bizarre and should've been annoying but was mildly amusing. Casa de mi padre was bizarre and should've been amusing but was mildly annoying. 

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Samurai Valentines: falling in love with Kudo Kankuro's Yaji & Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, February 14, 2009 01:39pm | Post a Comment
Yaji & Kita The Midnight Pilgrims DVD Kudo Kankuro
Perhaps the only thing better than seeing a highly anticipated movie you suspect you'll love is seeing a random, unexpected movie you never knew you needed until after you've seen it. A few days ago some friends and I sat down to watch a movie, like you do, without any prior knowledge of the film, only to find ourselves physically exhausted by the time the film had ended. No joke, we had to pause the movie several times to take breaks for the fits of laughter we were driven to. I cannot ever remember any film causing such violent cries of laughter to escape from my face the way viewing Kudo Kankuro's Yaji & Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims did. I'm fighting back the giggles even now.

This film leaps into oblivion from the very beginning when Kita admits to Yaji, his lover, "I can't make heads or tails of reality." The film could easily be summed up with this single line alone, but it falls short of capturing some of the, let's say, more memorable moments in the film (hello! the bath scene!). A short synopsis of the film might go a little something like this: A gay samurai couple, Yaji and Kita, leave Edo (old Tokyo) on a quest to rid Kita of his heroin addiction. A song that could be called "Born to be Gay" gets the whole town singing and dancing in synch as they send our boys off on their merry way. A motorcycle appears and they hit the road. Hilarity ensues at every stop along the way and there are many, many points of departure and arrival in every sense (making no sense at all in most cases). The couple cuts a 7" single love song; like it or not, it is as popular as the Bearded Courtesan's single. The audience is treated to an impromptu karaoke sing-along featuring the Bearded Courtesan herself. King Arthur's sword is drawn from the stone and the two are separated by the river Styx and everyone looks like the same guy in the after life.... the bearded courtesan, hige no oiran, from Yajo & Kita the Midnight PilgrimsWell, I don't want to spoil it for you.
 
By comparison one could say this movie is an orgy involving the sucker-punch gauntlet of a plot Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and to a lesser extent Spike Jones's Being John Malkovich -- especially in the "afterlife" sequences), the modern meets Japonisme of Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation, or, better yet, the colorful, comedic retelling of Takeshi Kitano's Yojimbo. Add to that the Broadway medley insanity of Takashi Miike's Happiness of the Katakuris, the psudo-lezzie, unconditional BFF love found in Tetsuya Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls and, just for good measure, the drug-induced porno-bowling musical montage from the Cohen Brother's The Big Lebowski. The list could go on and on, but that's the best I can do at the moment to try and capture just how lethally laughable and uniquely enjoyable this carnival on acid of a love-buddies-on-the-road flick this is. I've tried a few times to find the right words, heck, barely adequate words to give this movie life in the mind of those who haven't seen it; I know it's cliche to say "seeing is believing" when attempting to summarize the glory and afterglow of Yaji & Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims. By my standards I declare it to be one of the great new additions in contemporary Japanese cinema with a cast comprised of many of Japan's finest and famous comedy stalwarts and standard bearers to prove it. Nope, this one's not to be missed, but like Levar Burton says, "don't take my word for it, find out for yourself."

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marking the beginning of a new venture -- or, my first post

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 26, 2007 11:49am | Post a Comment
I finally got around to watching the most recent 北野 武 Takeshi Kitano dvd the other night-- 2005's  Takeshis' ...

It concerns an established actor, Beat Takeshi, and his crossing paths with a struggling actor, Takeshi Kitano. A significant number of the cast play dual roles, which I was embarrassingly slow to comprehend, given the fairly confusing abstractions within film. As Beat Takeshi, Kitano plays himself as boorish and self-important and satirizes his own artistic conventions to comic effect. In his film-within-a-film, he plays a bandaged yakuza character. Annoyed by cicadas at his Okinawan hideaway, his character "unexpectedly" shoots his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself.

The second half of the film grows even less conventional. Sometimes it just seemed strange for the sake of being strange. It moved toward abstraction like David Lynch's last few films have, as if to bait the deluded fans into comparing their own narrative reconstructions. I started to lose a bit of interest at that point since that kind of "artistic innovation" became pretty cliché long before my parents even met.
One ingredient I quickly realized was possibly detracting from my enjoyment was the absence of longtime musical collaborator Joe Hishaishi (or, Hisaishi Joe, Mamoru Fujisawa's Nipponized version of "Quincy Jones"), whose moody, jazz and Japanese-influenced scores have always contributed to the tone of Kitano's previous films so complimentarily. I guess Takeshi Kitano and Joe Hisaishi got into it on the set of the amazing Dolls a few years back and lamentably ended their artistic arrangement. Apparently, Kitano saw Hisaishi walking in the rain with Hayao Miyazaki.