Quantcast
FLIXIST - Where movie lovers blog.
DestructoidJapanatorTomopopFlixist
  Upgrade your membership





wut?
Subscribe via RSS



2:00 PM on 08.01.2012

NYAFF and Japan Cuts 2012 Flixist Awards and roundup

[For the month of July, we covered the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our specifically N...

Alec Kubas-Meyer


Advertisement:

Xbox Live Gold 55% Off at Paypal's Spring Gaming Sale

The 5th week of PayPal's Spring Gaming Sale is here! :

Get a 55% discount on a 12-month Xbox Live subscription, 85% discount on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and 75% off on Worms Ultimate Mayhem! Cyberpunk lovers can buy Deus Ex: Human Revolution for €1.99, fans of long range combat can try their skill in Sniper: Ghost Warrior for €1.99. Gamers can also kindly support Save the Children charity event and get Rogue Legacy for donations over $3.5.
Shop Now






Japan Cuts Review: Rent-a-Cat photo
Japan Cuts Review: Rent-a-Cat
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

To know whether or not you're going to like Rent-a-Cat, you need only ask yourself one question: do you like cats? If you do, you will find the film to be charming and wonderful and like a (sort of) narrative version of every Youtube video you've ever seen.

If you don't, there is something horribly, terribly wrong with you, and maybe Rent-a-Cat will revive your cold, dead heart. Or maybe give you a heart where before there was only blackness.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Ushijima the Loan Shark photo
Japan Cuts Review: Ushijima the Loan Shark
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Of the nearly 80 films that were shown between NYAFF and Japan Cuts, the vast majority were some kind of premiere, either International, North American, US, or New York. Of them, only one was a world premiere: Ushijima the Loan Shark. Like so many of the other films at Japan Cuts, Ushijima is based on a manga, and like Love Strikes!, is the followup to a Japanese TV series. Going into it, I knew nothing about its comic source or the show that preceded it. But now I'm curious and am going to look into them.

I want to see more of Ushijima, because he's awesome.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Tormented photo
Japan Cuts Review: Tormented
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The Japanese name for Tormented is Rabito Hora. If your Engrish skills are lacking, that means "Rabbit Horror." It's a pretty dumb name (especially since "3D" is often thrown at the end), and it brings to mind something like the 1972 film Night of the Lepus. It's silly. Tormented, on the other hand, is much more serious (although tacking "3D" on the end of it would do a lot to mitigate that). If I were to look at the Japanese name, I would go in expecting something silly and crazy, but looking at the American name makes me think it's serious and scary.

Well... it's silly all right, despite its attempts at serious horror, but not for the reasons you might think.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Tokyo Playboy Club photo
Japan Cuts Review: Tokyo Playboy Club
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Before many of the screenings at the Japan Society, they showed a trailer for the festival. I'm not a huge fan of the trailer (mostly because it spoils the best parts of Monsters Club, even if you don't realize that at the time), but there is a short series of shots where a young man looks through a peephole and sees a woman dressed like a Playboy bunny. It was bright, colorful, and disorienting. I logically assumed that these would be from Tokyo Playboy Club, and I was totally ready for that. Well... those shots weren't from Tokyo Playboy Club. I have no idea what movie they were from, and I still want to see that movie.

Nonetheless, I'm still quite happy with what I actually saw.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Lonely Swallows photo
Japan Cuts Review: Lonely Swallows
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

In the two other documentaries I reviewed for the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts (Golden Slumbers and No Man's Zone, respectively), the intellectual interests of the filmmakers seemed to overshadow the subject matter. Lonely Swallows, on the other hand, is all about its subjects: the children of the Brazilian migrant population in Hamamatsu, Japan. At its height, roughly 300,000 Brazilians were living in Japan, attracted to the jobs in the auto manufacturing industry.

Directors Kimihiro Tsumura and Mayu Nakamura are almost invisible, allowing their young subjects to describe their situations. There's no pondering or pontificating, and the questions the filmmakers ask are practical rather than rhetorical.

This emphasis on just the kids is a refreshing change of pace from the previous docs I've been seeing, and it even informs the focus of film as a whole. Rather than taking a broad (and perhaps sociological/sociopolitical) perspective on this population, we listen to them express their emotions, which are earnest and genuine.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: No Man's Zone photo
Japan Cuts Review: No Man's Zone
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Sometimes while watching a documentary, I think about where the filmmaker is situated with regard to the subject matter. There are documentarians who let their presence be known on camera or in the filmmaking process. They're almost like tour guides of the topic. And there are documentarians who are less visible -- they shape what we're seeing without trying to be seen. Those are just extreme ends of presentation, and both can work depending on how the filmmaker is able to serve the subject matter.

Two weeks ago I wrote that Davy Chou, the director of Golden Slumbers, let his own intellectual interests guide that film, and it wound up obscuring it's subject matter (the lost cinema of Cambodia). Something similar occurs in No Man's Zone, a movie full of silence and stillness, and even a little unnecessary antagonism of the audience.

Director Toshifumi Fujiwara prefaced No Man's Zone by noting that it doesn't offer any new information about the tragedy in Japan and should just be enjoyed as a film. I agree with him on the first point.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Toad's Oil photo
Japan Cuts Review: Toad's Oil
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Over the weekend I ran into DBBorroughs from Unseen Films. We talked about the movies we'd seen over the last month through the New York Asian Film Festival and Japan Cuts, and we both felt that movies that distinguished themselves through strangeness had a certain pull to them. Maybe it's because there's something undeniably pleasing about seeing images you've never seen before, or considering the world from a unique (and sometimes oddball) point of view. That's one of the ways that art can move us -- giving us something different.

I bring this up because in Toad's Oil, a strange and heartwarming comedy directed by the actor Koji Yakusho, a man kicks a bear in the gonads. That's like a bowling ball-sized cherry atop the film's other (comparatively less kooky) eccentricities.

All movies can be improved by just such a moment.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: 9 Souls photo
Japan Cuts Review: 9 Souls
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

It's always interesting to watch two or three movies by a filmmaker whose work you've never seen. You begin to understand the creator's aesthetic, his or her concerns, and how these concerns manifest themselves in the work. You also begin to develop a newfound enjoyment of the previous work in light of more recent work and vice versa -- it's like tuning into someone's wavelength, and this goes for all mediums. You learn how to read the work by that person.

In this case, I'm talking about Toshiaki Toyoda. I previously reviewed his film Monsters Club and found it good but maybe lacking something extra. After 9 Souls, I realize that the thing I wanted from Monsters Club could be found in the refinement of Toyoda's style and his method rather than any greater leap in the ideas expressed. So in that way, 9 Souls made me like Monsters Club more.

But as for 9 Souls on its own, I'd say it's a much better starting point for newcomers to Toyoda.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Hard Romanticker photo
Japan Cuts Review: Hard Romanticker
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Before the screening of Hard Romanticker, one of the programmers talked about how the film is a throwback to a style of Japanese cinema that I know almost nothing about. It's an old-fashioned crime drama, and it's got violence and sex and all of those other things that you want from your crazy Japanese entertainment. I haven't seen any of the movies that Hard Romanticker is harkening back to, though, and the closest point of comparison I have is a film from 1960 called The Cruel Story of Youth. Hard Romanticker reminded me a lot of The Cruel Story of Youth.

I hated The Cruel Story of Youth.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Chronicle of My Mother photo
Japan Cuts Review: Chronicle of My Mother
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

One of the most interesting things about Chronicle of My Mother is that it's an adaptation of an autobiographical novel by Yasushi Inoue and also a tribute to the films of Yasujiro Ozu. Since I'm not familiar with Inoue's writing, I don't know if channeling Ozu is a good fit for the source material. Perhaps there's something in the voice of the book that suggest the visual style of Ozu. Maybe it's just a choice by director Masato Harada since Chronicle of My Mother (as a film) is a tale about Japanese families and characters of different generations; Ozu makes sense in that regard. Tokyo Story is even namechecked as two characters talk on the phone.

By mimicking some of Ozu's style, Chronicle of My Mother fills itself with lush visuals. There's this play of color and shadow and activity within the frame that's remarkable to watch, and there's a complex series of relationships there as well. It's not a movie full of deep psychological profiles, but I don't think that detracts from its charm.

view full story + comments








Japan Cuts Review: Zombie Ass photo
Japan Cuts Review: Zombie Ass
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The gorehound in me never really died, though it's not what it used to be. Picture an aged bloodhound that just wants to curl up on the porch looking at the middle distance. But when I see a disgusting, gory, or depraved bit of work, that gorehound comes a-wagging and a-barking, and I burst out laughing like I'm 13 or 14 years old again. Just like the good old days.

Not going to lie: I laughed a lot watching Zombie Ass.

Also: holy s**t, I can't believe I watched Zombie Ass.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: The Big Gun/Metamorphosis (Henge) photo
Japan Cuts Review: The Big Gun/Metamorphosis (Henge)
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The Big Gun and Metamorphosis (henceforth referred to as Henge) were shown at NYAFF/Japan Cuts (it was a co-presentation) as the final two segments of The Atrocity Exhibition, having been preceded by Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. That one was the odd film out, having been made by a different director and being of dramatically lesser quality. For those reasons, it got its own review. But because The Big Gun and Henge were made by the same director are both short (31 and 54 minutes respectively), I felt it was appropriate to lump them together into a review the way they were lumped together at the screening.

It sure was an interesting screening.

view full story + comments




Review: Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club photo
Review: Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Before the Japan Cuts screening of The Atrocity Exhibition, of which Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club was a part, a festival programmer came out and made a point of telling the audience that it was not named that because the films were atrocious, but because the themes within the segments were. Which makes sense, given that Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club can only really be about an atrocity.

Unfortunately, the name of the film is the most interesting part of Let's Make the Teacher Have a Miscarriage Club. The programmer was wrong, this film is atrocious. The other two segments of The Atrocity Exhibition (The Big Gun and Henge) will be getting their own review later on, because I didn't feel right tainting their image with 

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Smuggler photo
Japan Cuts Review: Smuggler
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

The late George Carlin once gave a very concise explanation of the difference between a "maniac" and a "crazy person." He said, "A maniac will beat nine people to death with a steel dildo. A crazy person will beat nine people to death with a steel dildo, but he'll be wearing a bunny suit at the time." Like so many of his jokes, that particular line has always stuck with me. Very rarely does it apply to movies though. Generally speaking, even the most disturbed and violent antagonists are maniacs. I've seen (and sometimes enjoyed) all kinds of disgusting movies, but even though I must have seen at least one or two crazy people, none really come to mind.

Smuggler's got a crazy person, though, and he's really, really crazy. 

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Gyo photo
Japan Cuts Review: Gyo
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

I don't know if anything I write can accurately describe the experience of Gyo. After the screening over the weekend, I was confused and yet laughing. It's such an audaciously strange anime full of farts and fury, teeming with mutant fish bent on world domination. Gyo goes into such unpredictable places. It's baffling, but bafflement can be fun, and this is a fever dream of a movie full of many delightfully repulsive bafflements.

The old "Citizen Kane of _____" cliche gets used pretty often, and usually it's facetious. I keep applying it to singular instances in a niche genre or sub-genre. But Gyo really is the Citizen Kane of apocalyptic flatulent fish movies. This is the kind off story that H.P. Lovecraft might have written if he was afraid of bad gas as well as seafood.

view full story + comments




NYAFF Review: Potechi (Chips) photo
NYAFF Review: Potechi (Chips)
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Chips is the final film playing as part of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. It's definitely a noteworthy position, placing the film in a spotlight with Vulgaria, Guns N' Roses, and Doomsday Book. Although none of those films are my favorites of the festival, I loved all of them for what they were, and they are all absolutely worth watching. So even though I have never seen any of Yoshihiro Nakamura's movies (shame on me, I know), had no idea what the movie was about, and found the 68 minute runtime somewhat off-putting, I went into the film with high expectations. Spotlight films had come from Hong Kong, China, and Korea. I wanted to see what Japan would have to show for itself.

And you know what it had? It had something pretty damn great.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Ace Attorney photo
Japan Cuts Review: Ace Attorney
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

I really like the Ace Attorney game series. I played and really enjoyed all three main Ace Attorney games as well as Apollo Justice. I skipped the game centered around prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, but I am more than familiar with the characters and conceits of the series. With my love of the series intact, I went into Ace Attorney with a fair bit of hesitation. The gamplay-light/narrative-heavy style made a quality adaptation seem more reasonable, and putting Takashi Miike at the helm was definitely a bold move, but nonetheless it's hard to have high hopes for a videogame movie.

So when I say that Ace Attorney is, without a doubt, the best videogame movie ever made, it may not mean much. But I want to make this very clear: Ace Attorney has single-handedly justified the existence of videogame adaptations, and proved that they can be amazing films in their own right.

view full story + comments




NYAFF Review: Monsters Club photo
NYAFF Review: Monsters Club
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

I don't know what it is, but over the last year or so I've wanted to try living off the grid. Nothing too extreme, but maybe I'd just hole up in a cabin in Maine somewhere so I can read, write, and get away from the frustrations and grind of daily life. There might be a comfort in that sort of isolation, but I imagine there would eventually be a kind of madness that takes hold as well.

In Monsters Club, there's a bit of that, but the self-imposed exile from modern society has a different flavor. It's partly a Unabomber tale (let me be clear: I wouldn't live off the grid to be a terrorist), but it's also a story about alienation, loneliness, and absolute solitude. The main character doesn't just feel dehumanized because of the bustle of daily life, he feels detached from what it is to be a person.

Oh, and there are ghosts.

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Love Strikes! photo
Japan Cuts Review: Love Strikes!
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

I am mad at director Hitoshi One. Really, really mad. I was really tired when I started watching Love Strikes!. I wanted to watch it, but I didn't really want to watch it when I needed to. I needed something funny and lighthearted to watch. Something that would serve as an antithesis to the bleakness of films like Asura. Something like a crazy Japanese pseudo-musical romantic comedy. Love Strikes! probably isn't the only movie to fit that bill, given how ridiculous Japanese films can be, but it's the only one I'm currently aware of. So I watched it, and I was in absolute, blissful love. The music-video inspired scenes (complete with karaoke lyrics at the bottom of the screen). It pumped me up, and I was happy that I had just up and done it.

And then things changed, and it was a dramatic turn for the worse. Even moreso than with My Way, I was horrified how far off the rails Love Strikes! went. It's so sad, and it makes me oh so mad.

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

view full story + comments




Japan Cuts Review: Asura photo
Japan Cuts Review: Asura
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

When I first saw Asura's main character (fittingly named Asura), my thoughts immediately turned to the so-called "Forbidden Experiment." For those of you who don't know, the forbidden experiment involves depriving children of... well, pretty much everything. The children don't learn language or how to interact properly with others. They basically become animals. Generally speaking, though, feral children aren't bred in labs. They are simply neglected by their parents.

Asura falls beyond the latter end of the spectrum. Rather than being simply neglected by his mother, she attempted to kill him. Everything that happened to him from that point made him into an animal. An animal that is very good at wielding an axe.

view full story + comments




NYAFF Review: Scabbard Samurai photo
NYAFF Review: Scabbard Samurai
by Hubert Vigilla

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

Both Big Man Japan and Symbol have been on my to-watch list for a while now. They're both by comedian-turned-director Hitoshi Matsumoto. Scabbard Samurai is his latest film, so I'm starting backwards. In a way I'm glad this was the first of his films I've seen -- I had no expectations or preconceptions; I could take this slapstick "samurai" film as is.

I put samurai in quotation marks because the title character of the film doesn't wield a sword or slash away at anything. He carries an empty scabbard like a clown. With his mangy facial hair and Coke-bottle glasses, he looks less like Toshiro Mifune and more like Toshiro Mifune's accountant.

His task still has high and heroic stakes: make 'em laugh, or die trying.

view full story + comments