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Your Name Punched Me in the Face and I liked it

Annedey

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So, I thought my last piece was going to be it for my Japanese animation phase here. But I saw Your Name 3 weeks ago and I really want to talk about it.

Your Name is the new movie by Makoto Shinkai (actually it’s also based on his book, and he wrote the screen play). It is the first animated movie that wasn’t produced by Studio Ghibli to win back 10 billion yens in the first 28 days in Japan only. It is the highest-grossing movie of 2016 in Japan, and the 4th movie in the history of the country in term of entries and it won 16 awards between 2016 and 2017. It is an undeniable box-office and critical success, both in Japan and in the world. Yet this is what the director/writer has to say about it:

“There are things we could not do, Masashi Ando [Director of animation] wanted to keep working [on] but had to stop us for lack of money … For me it’s incomplete, unbalanced. The plot is fine but the film is not at all perfect. Two years was not enough.”

Don’t try. You can’t be more Japanese than him, because Your Name is great, really really great.

What is it about?

Well…here’s the IMDB synopsis:

“Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart?”

Deal with it children, I guess.

The story centers around Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu, two 17-years-old teenagers. Taki is living in Tokyo with his father and Mitsuha is living in the Countryside™ with her grandmother and sister. Mitsuha’s family is the traditional keeper of the shintoist shrine of her city, which carries on the Musubi (thread weaving) tradition. She sometimes takes the role of Miko. One day they wake-up in each other’s body. The body-switch continues to happen with what seems to be a random frequency, but they start getting used to it. They learn about each other and bring positive changes to their lives, until the day where the switching stops and Taki doesn’t manage to reach Mitsuha anymore…

Why is it so good?

Story and Japanese tradition:

This type of story isn’t unknown to Japanese culture aficionados, but Your Name brings it to an all new level. It isn’t only a romantic story, but also a coming of age which occurs by the characters both learning to standing up for themselves (especially for Mitsuha), and finding true friends.

There is also the confrontation with the adult world with the ending (Taki you are going to find a job…we have all been here), as well as with the relationships that the heroes have with their parents. Taki father’s seems absent (sorry if it’s not entirely the case; I missed the first 10 minutes of the movie thanks to rain). Mitsuha’s father is a strait-up corrupt politician who has abandoned his two daughters. Speaking of which, it is great to see a mainstream Japanese film which is not a yakuza movie tackling the subject of corruption in Japan. Especially in the countryside.

Finally, one of the last things that make the story so good is the fact that the narrative relies a lot on Japanese tradition/legend. The movie makes us question ourselves on why things happen in life and on destiny. So it’s no surprise to see the red string of fate being such a important theme in the movie. It’s not the only one featured, either. The afterlife/underworld, kuchikamizake, and what is the soul made of, are present too. And none of these are hammered in. Everything feels quite natural to the story.

Not linked to their little finger but who cares?

Characters and relationships:

The characters are really endearing too. The voice actors of Mitsuha and Taki did an incredible job. Even if you are barely capable of understanding Japanese, you really can hear the differences between their performances.

Mitsuha, while being unsure of herself and prone to melancholia, is also very energetic. Taki is maybe a bit less engaging, but still he is determined while being full of doubt. I really connected with the young man trying to find his way in life at the end.

The secondary characters are also multidimensional, and, at least for the other teenagers, really funny too. They are supporters or inhibitors of the heroes’s quest but you can see that there is more to them that their role for the heroes.

You go Sayaka, you are the best.

The friendship in this movie is very well done. We see teenagers truly caring for, and taking care of, each other. Extra points for the relationship between real Taki and Miki; having any relationship between a man and a woman that begins with infatuation, yet finishes in deep meaningful platonic friendship is great and refreshing. It deserves even more props when Mitsuha is actually way better at flirting with Miki that Taki is (I like to head-canon Miki as a bisexual or a repressed lesbian).

My beautiful girl-loving daughter.

Emotional Impact:

This movie will make you feel, for real. It is not going to toy with you—you are going to be straight up emotionally engaged. I have never said “Holy Fuck!” more genuinely while watching a movie before. When I said that this movie punched me in the face, I was as honest as you can be with figurative speech.

You will laugh because there are genuinely funny moments. You will worry about our heroes’ fate. Will they manage to do it? Will everything be for nothing? I was on the edge of my seat until the very last scene, completely unsure about the outcome.

And you will probably cry. I know that more than once I was really close to it, and I don’t cry easily. Speaking of crying, for those who have already seen the movie, let me just put this here to make you feel again:

Ugly french sobbing.

Your Name is beautiful:

I kept this for the end because..Oh boy! Go watch this movie in the theater. It is worth it.

The animation is objectively very good, but it is more than that. It is beautiful and artistically ingenious. I caught myself on multiple time saying to myself, “yes, this is what animation is made for.” The movie gives you poetic scenes, and then gives you shots bigger than life. Shots that can only be done with animation.

I absolutely adore the scenes after Taki has been to the god’s heart. It is ingenious, beautiful, powerful and emotional. At the end of this moment, I wanted to cry, and I still don’t know if it’s because of the story it told or because of the beauty of how it was done.

Look at this, isn’t it just superb?

The treatment of light is probably one of my favorite in recent years. And all of this was done through animation. I say yes, more of this please. More animation movies that tap into its incredibly potential rather than give a predictable product.

(This movie will also make you really hungry… Damn animated food, why must you look so good?!)

Conclusion

Your Name is one of the most beautiful, emotional roller-coasters of 2016. It is unpredictable and touching. The music might not be your jam, in fairness—I was a bit bothered by it at times. But it is definitively worth the money of a cinema ticket. Hopefully we will have more of this kind of animated movie in the years to come.


All Images Courtesy Of CoMix Wave Films.

 

Annedey is a (French) writer and college student in social sciences and chemistry who has a high predisposition to do something else than her actual college work. Theater/movie/book/Tv-show-enthusiast, she can sometimes become over-attached to cultural productions leading to the unfortunate creation of bitterness that mixes quite badly with a clear tendency to swear.

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The Official Trailer for ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Is Here

Kori

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And my inner fourth-grader cannot stop crying. Based on the eponymous 1963 classic by Madeleine L’Engle, Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time gives us a sneak peak on what to expect from her visionary imagining of the tale.

I’m probably not unique in my reaction. My aunt gave me this book as a Christmas gift when I was nine. She’d read it when she was a little girl and really enjoyed it, and she wanted to pass it on to me, because “you remind me a lot of Meg.” I fell in love with the book and over the next few years voraciously read L’Engle’s other works in the Murry (Kairos) series and in the Austin (Chronos) series.

Duvernay’s trailer does not disappoint. Stunning visuals and character insights await as we see Meg (Storm Reid), her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and friend Calvin (Levi Miller) journey across the universe with Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey).

For those of you who haven’t read the novel, Meg’s father (Chris Pine) disappears when testing out his theory of bending the fabric of space, leaving Meg, her siblings, and her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) behind. Meg struggles in his absence and then meets the three Mrs. They reveal that Meg’s father is being held prisoner by a growing darkness, and they need Meg to help save not only him but the universe as well. This is a bold step from the House of Mouse, who have recently seemed content to rely on reboots of existing classics and established franchises for new film content.

A Wrinkle in Time is set to premiere on March 9th, 2018 and also stars Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, and Rowen Blanchard. 


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

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‘Justice League’ Is Flat Out Magical

Jeremiah

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Justice League is bad like Road House is bad and great like The Highlander is great. In other words, it’s really not that good, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a great time. A fact Justice League seems more than okay with.

There is a debate about how much of the success, or failure, should go to Joss Whedon and how much should go to Zack Snyder. For simplicity’s sake, we will go with the name on the title card. Regardless of the obvious Whedon touches here and there, in an odd way this feels like vintage Snyder.

But the fact there were two different directors at the helm, both with vastly different styles and personalities, lends Justice League a distinctive flavor all it’s own. Justice League hums with a wonderful if bizarre, idiosyncratic manic energy. Yet, there’s a tonal consistency throughout the whole thing that makes it all feel part of one whole.

The opening scene is one of the more unusual moviegoing experiences this year. Superman (Henry Cavill) is being filmed and questioned by two excited kids. The scene itself is fine; the problem is Cavill’s mouth. After production wrapped, Cavill began filming another movie and grew a mustache. When Cavill was called back for re-shoots, the other studio wouldn’t let him shave the mustache off. The result is our being denied a beautiful mustachioed Superman and being gifted one of the most terrifying uncanny valley effects of an upper lip I hope to never top.

The phantom lip aside the opening credits are vintage Snyder. I would venture to say the opening credits are some of the best visual and narrative storytelling Snyder has done in a good long while. It sets the mood and gives us a feel for how the world is post-Superman.

The movie has the look and feel of a comic book movie. As Justice League steamed ahead, I found myself wondering why I felt so anxious. It was then I realized I was having good old fashioned fun. The type of fun that has the Batman (Ben Affleck) beat up a low-level thug just to use him for bait to attract a flying man-bug only to leave the thug on the rooftop after he kills the creature.

Justice League hits the ground running. It’s origin story devoid of laborious exposition. We start off with flying humanoid insectoids (parademons), move on to Mother Boxes, and then it’s on to Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). Steppenwolf is what is known as a MacGuffin; he’s necessary but only to propel the plot forever onward.

As onward as a script with essentially three stories mashed together can go. Disjointed as the stories may be it’s never dull and often times kind of charming. I loved how Justice League opens up by showing us the arrival of yet another harbinger of the apocalypse only to abruptly switch to a story about a group of emo loners finding each other and start a band. It’s even better when that story stops cold and turns into a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys adventure as the gang robs graves and breaks into Lexcorp labs to enact a Frankenstein-esque ascension.

I wouldn’t say Justice League forgets about Steppenwolf, but I would say it’s clear it’s only using Steppenwolf. But this is all fine considering Steppenwolf is hardly that interesting or fun of a character. How much time do you really want to spend with a villain who can easily find Mother Boxes in Themyscira and Atlantis but is so stumped by the location of the third in Metropolis that he takes hostages to suss out its whereabouts?

Thankfully we have Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Justice League outright makes the argument that Diana is actually the Superman we deserve. Even as Batman, of all people, talks about how much Superman was a beacon of hope, a shining light on a hill, he points to Diana and says “But you’re a leader.” So for much of the Justice League, we have essentially Bruce Wayne giving Diana Prince pep talks about essentially running for student council president. It’s amazing because fuck yeah Diana Prince is amazing and people should be telling her that every damn second of every day.

So when they finally do bring Superman back from the dead he’s basically utilized for his abilities, the leading is done in a wonderful sort of co-captain way by Diana and Bruce. Gadot is forced to play a different Diana, but it’s not markedly different. Because the story seems to be worked on by men at almost every stage of the process her arc has more to do with getting over the loss of Steve Trevor; literally a hundred years ago.

The fingerprints of men are all over this film. From the hilarious costume changes for the Themysciran Amazons to the numerous low angle butt shots. Some of this seems accidental. The Themysciran armor seems designed to show off the muscular abs and biceps of the warriors. It’s an attempt to show literal strong women. I’m not excusing it so much as trying to figure out why the hell they went in such a bizarre situation.

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is reduced to the grieving girlfriend who doubles as a third act signifier. Martha Kent (Diane Lane) is made to utter some preposterous overly countrified things. Mera (Amber Heard) does, I don’t know what she does actually. But she’s onscreen for a couple of minutes, and she guilts Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) into doing the right thing.

All this only heightens the fact that men were clearly the head of every decision making process. Despite all of this Gadot proves herself, once again, a movie star. She walks through every scene of this movie with confidence, poise, and a fierce badassery. Not even the male gaze can diminish her presence and ability. No matter the outfit Gadot emerges unscathed as we are left desperately pining for Wonder Woman 2.

Everyone from Affleck to Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg gives an enjoyable performance. Fisher is given little to do aside from trying to out-brood the Dark Knight.  But he manages to find moments in the rubble. “Why have you not told them I’m alive?” He asks his father, Silas (Joe Morton). “Are you afraid they would see a monster?”  Silas assures Victor that he’s not a monster.  “It’s odd that you thought I was talking about me.”

There are great bits of dialogue strewn throughout as well as some howlers. Such as when Ma Kent utters “You know bankers. They pounce like cougars on a dime.” But even when the dialogue ventures into the outright corny the characters are recognizable. For the first time in three movies, Superman feels like Superman. There’s such a joy when Kal-El shows up to the final battle I felt like a child again. The phantom lip comes and goes. It’s never as bad as the opening scene, but you’ll be on the edge of your seat as it reappears, like a jump scare.

There’s a lunacy to the whole Justice League affair, but it wears its lunacy on its sleeve with unabashed pride. It all works. The stuff that doesn’t work, the bad special effects, corny dialogue, hilariously misplaced music homages, it all comes together for a singular joyous, raucous good time.

Justice League feels as if people who love comic books got together and made a comic book movie that’s not ashamed it’s a comic book movie. There’s an undercurrent of despair undercutting most of the first half of Justice League. A feeling that the world is not as it should be and that basic justice and decency have fled for warmer climates. To Joss Whedon, Chris Terrio, and Zack Snyder’s credit Justice League never gives in to these feelings.

Instead, they have the audacity to be funny, sad, dorky, cheesy, and sincere. The heroes are actually heroic even if like Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) they need to be mentored along the way. Justice League is demonstrably hopeful as opposed to theoretically hopeful. The characters and story aren’t bogged down by ponderous, boring pseudo-intellectualized ideas about heroism.

The movie is a mixed bag to be sure. Sometimes what’s so great about it feeds into what also makes it so bad; like a Klein bottle. It’s a wonderfully nutty alchemy in which it’s hard to parse one from the other. Justice League is not the Citizen Kane of superhero movies, but then again it’s not trying to be. It is what it is, and what it is is something all it’s own.


Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Finally, the Incredibles 2 Has A Trailer

CJ

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Disney is about to give me a heart attack with this teaser for The Incredibles 2.

Featuring Jack-Jack and Mr. Incredible in this long (LONG) awaited snippet, the rumors are finally real: The Incredibles are making their return to the screens and super-crashing right into our hearts again. This has been the longest gap in Pixar sequels to date—a whopping 14 years. Honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever see it, and we still have some time to go.

As someone who watched the first Incredibles film way too many times, I am now absolutely giddy with excitement. From the looks of things and what has been confirmed, we’ll be picking up right where we left off. Although it is fresh off the presses, this trailer highlights what we already knew: Jack-Jack has powers, and destructive ones indeed. Now I’m sure the bulk of the film will feature how the Incredibles family will have to deal with him and controlling them, hopefully with the backdrop of a big bad that our leading little man can use for target practice.

My only true, real request is that the ensemble cast is just as good as its predecessor. The original film’s charm came from the ensemble. While I loved the family dynamic, Edna, Syndrome, and Frozone all made it memorable and gave Pixar fans a collective vendetta for a reprise.

The Incredibles 2 bursts into theaters next summer on June 15, 2018.


Images and Video Courtesy of Disney and Pixar

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