CATCHING UP WITH FILM - THE QUEST FOR A PERSONAL CANON

 

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Theme Awards - The Sakuras

To wrap up January’s theme of Japanese female directors, I wanted to give out awards from a totally subjective jury of one (me). I am calling them the Sakuras (Japanese for cherry blossom) since at least three out of the five movies I watched this month featured cherry blossoms quite prominently. Best Lead Performance Anna Tsuchiya as Kiyoha in Sakuran She saved the film from being pure spectacle, and she went against the stereotype of Japanese and Asian women being submissive. Best Supporting Performance Toma Ikuta as Rinko in Close-Knit Ikuta manages to give a sensitive, nuanced performance as a transgender woman without making it seem like a parody. Most Beautiful Screen Moment A Silent V

Theme Tuesday - Sakuran

For January, I will be exploring the works of Japanese female directors as part of my 2018 resolution to watch more films by female directors (more than fifty percent of films watched to be precise). If any film were begging to be an anime, it would have to be Sakuran. In fact, this movie was based on a manga by Moyoco Anno (another female writer). I feel it was live-action probably because the producers wanted to make a more widely accessible film, because even in Japan, adult-oriented anime is a niche item. Sakuran follows Kiyoha (Anna Tsuchiya) who is sold as a child to a house in the red-light district of Yoshiwara. She is a fierce, stubborn child, which leads to many beatings from the d

Canon Entry - Let the Right One In (2008)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Time has not been kind to Tomas Alfredson. Or at least 2017 wasn’t. His big Hollywood detective/serial killer film The Snowman aspired to be something like Gone Girl, a trashy genre pic that was elevated by excellent cinematography, flawless direction and editing, and compelling performances. Instead, it was derided as possibly the worst movie of the year. I have not had the dubious pleasure of watching The Snowman, but what I gleaned from reviews, formal and informal, was that Alfredson wasn’t necessarily at fault. Still, the

List Sunday - Favorite movies from a genre you hate

There are just some genres that individual cinephiles do not naturally gravitate to. I tend not to watch many horror movies or romantic comedies, but I still have examples from those genres that I love. My most despised genre has to be the biopic. I find these movies so boring and predictable that on the rare occasion I see one, I instantly forget it. Here are some of the exceptions to the rule, however. Raging Bull (1980) My favorite movie for the longest time. I kind of forget that this is a biopic because Robert DeNiro dominates the screen like a force of nature. This movie is so good that I still have no desire to know who the real Jake LaMotta is. I, Tonya (2017) I appreciate the risks

January 2018 Catching Up with Catching Up

January was a strong start for the Catching Up With Film blog. It has been challenging but exciting to write every day, with most of my Canon reviews reaching a 1000 words or more. I don’t know if I can keep up the pace, but I will be writing as much as I can. I am hoping eventually to have a 1000 Canon entries (more than a millions words written!). Best of the blog I am quite proud of my review of Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden, especially since I spent nearly a month just wrestling with what I wanted to write about for that film. Canon reviews in general are the most time-consuming to write, but I am always glad I write them since it deepens my appreciation for films I already love even m

Canon Entry - Mother (2009)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Do-joon (Won Bin) and his mother (Kim Hye-ja) live in their own separate world. They stick out like sore thumbs wherever they go - Do-joon because of his mental disability and Mother (she’s never named in this film) because of her unshakable conviction in the goodness of her son. Characters are perturbed by both of them because their behavior is so strange and specific. Though many mother-son relationships, especially among Korean people, seem similar to this one in dynamic, it is taken to its darkest, most twisted extreme in M

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. The author of A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels Singer of “When I Get You Alone” Movie musical based on Elvis' drafting into the army. Starring Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh and Ann-Margret. Clint Barton of the Avengers or Alan Alda’s nickname on MASH When you are humiliated by som

Short Film Wednesday - Joy Joy Nails

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day. As an Asian-American, I have heard the immigrant experience told way too many times. In many ways, I have lived it, even though I was born here, and my parents and their families were the true immigrants. The immigrant narrative is not unimportant; it’s just that the way that is told is often so conventional and predictable. So when I read the synopsis for Joy Joy Nails, I was not expecting much, or at the very least, I was expecting a very familiar story. From the first lines of Korean dialogue, I felt a familiarity, but not in a bad, tri

Theme Tuesday - Close-Knit

For January, I will be exploring the works of Japanese female directors as part of my 2018 resolution to watch more films by female directors (more than fifty percent of films watched to be precise). Close-Knit is in the tradition of gentle Japanese cinema, which finds its roots in Ozu and finds its modern master in Hirokazu Koreeda. A young girl, Tomo, finds herself abandoned yet again by her irresponsible mother and has to go live with her uncle. To her surprise, he is now in a relationship with a transgender woman named Rinko. The film moves along at a leisurely pace. This seems intentional on director Naoko Ogigami’s part (who also wrote the screenplay) since this piece could have easily

Canon Entry - Certified Copy (2010)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. A cast-iron rule in filmmaking is to match the eyelines of characters. When a character is looking at something offscreen, the next shot should match perfectly with that character’s line of sight. It’s such a basic technique that we rarely notice it, although filmmakers work hard to pull off this illusion. And it is an illusion. Even if the object that the character is looking at is actually on the set, we are basically getting a simulation of that character’s point of view. In Certified Copy, Juliette Binoche’s character (neve

List Sunday - Cultural Vegetables

I read an interesting article in the New York Times called “Eating Your Cultural Vegetables.” Basically the author had a problem with people who would dismiss films because they were not immediately accessible or would take too much effort to appreciate their complexities. While many cinephiles are fine staying in the easily accessible area, I think there comes a time when you will come across films that may be opaque but are still compelling enough to challenge you to wrestle with it and really get to a better understanding. Below are some films that I consider cultural vegetables, which ultimately helped me appreciate film better and inspired me to think critically about cinema. Certified

Canon Entry - On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. When I first heard about this film, I did not want to see it. Hong Sang-Soo and Kim Min-hee had started an affair on the set of one of Hong’s films Right Now, Wrong Then. It was ugly. He broke off his marriage with his wife with whom he had a college-aged daughter and refused to support his family. On top of all this, there was an age difference of over twenty years between the two. It’s always questionable when a man in power is in a relationship with a younger woman who worked under him. I even had heard offhand that there wa

Canon Entry - The Tree of Life (2011)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. My first time watching Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life was not an ideal experience. I arrived 20 minutes late to the theater, so I didn’t know until much later that the film had started out in the real world where most of the film is set. Also, I saw no fewer than six people walk out of the theater during the creation sequence when the film was at its most abstract and (seemingly) inaccessible. Yet what I saw of the film has stuck with me more than half a decade later when I am revisiting this film for the first time. When t

Trivia Thursday

I’ve always been a sucker for pub trivia, and I almost like creating trivia quizzes more than competing in them. The answers to the first nine questions are all connected by a theme, and the tenth is the theme. All quizzes are movie related. Feel free to share this quiz, and no Googling when you’re trying it! (What’s the fun in that?) Answers will be posted next week with the newest quiz. This comes before thunder. The abbreviation for a device that increases the volume of your voice. He was the captain of the fictional submarine Nautilus; his name literally means “no one” in Latin. First name of the British comedian who was very briefly married to Katy Perry. He was the second man to walk o

Short Film Wednesday - Next Floor

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day. I am not completely on the Denis Villeneuve train yet. While he is certainly an accomplished filmmaker and has a knack for choosing material that best illustrates his gifts, I detect a self-seriousness in his work. While his films do naturally spark great discussion and exploration of deep themes, Villeneuve seems to want to do that with all his work, even his earlier films such as Prisoners and Sicario. He reminds me of Christopher Nolan (another filmmaker I am not completely on board with) in that I think he believes he is saying a lot m

Theme Tuesday - Sweet Bean

For January, I will be exploring the works of Japanese female directors as part of my 2018 resolution to watch more films by female directors (more than fifty percent of films watched to be precise). Naomi Kawase may be the most famous Japanese female director that I have encountered so far. Her works regularly screen at Cannes, much to the dismay of some people like Adam Cook at IndieWire. Against my better judgment, I read his review before watching the film (the power of clickbait titles!), and I went in expecting the worse. Sweet Bean follows Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) , a weary-looking man who halfheartedly runs a shop that specializes in dorayaki (a pastry that is basically a small pan

Canon Entry - The Act of Killing (2012)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. Privilege is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, especially when people talk about the existence of inequality. It’s hard for a lot of people to determine whether or not they have privilege because you only really know you have it once it is taken away from you. And certain types of privilege you will never really be stripped of, such as your race. The Act of Killing demonstrates what happens when someone has so much privilege that they could literally get away with murder. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and an anonym

List Sunday - Best Underseen Works from Famous Directors

As a cinephile, I find that most people talk about the same couple hundred titles over and over again. While I love most, if not all, the movies that make up some sort of “canon,” it can get boring talking about the merits of Raiders of the Lost Ark vs. Empire Strikes Back or how Pulp Fiction is a post-postmodern masterpiece. So here’s a shout out to my favorite lesser known works of renowned directors. 1. After Hours Dir. Martin Scorsese One of the most intense yet relatable movies I have ever seen, of an interminable night when absolutely nothing can go wrong. I could almost imagine a bright, young indie director using this as a calling card, but this was yet another film from Scorsese. Th

Hong Sang Soo - An Appreciation

I have recently been going through all of Hong Sang-Soo’s work. I will also be doing a Frame by Frame soon of Oki’s Movie, so now seemed a good time to write about my thoughts on his work. If you have ever heard of Hong Sang Soo, you may know him vaguely as a Korean auteur who is not quite as famous as other, more internationally recognized directors: Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), Bong Joon ho (The Host) or even Kim Ki-Duk (3-Iron). Actually, Hong Sang Soo is not widely seen even in his own country, and he is probably most notorious for leaving his wife for actress Kim Min Hee (The Handmaiden), which is ironic since Hong is such an unassuming man in person. If you have ever watched one of his fil

Canon Entry - Under the Skin (2013)

Inspired by the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorite films and other lists, I am striving to come up with my own personal canon of films. An adaptation of Michel Faber’s literary science fiction novel, Under the Skin focuses on an extraterrestrial who lures men into her creepy white van (though when is a white van not creepy?). In the film, it is not entirely clear what happens to these men, but suffice it to say that most of them do not come to a good end. The filming of this movie is quite famous in that it was shot candid camera style. Many of the scenes contain actual people who have no idea that they are being recorded. Johansson would be driving around in a

 
 
 

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