Three Colors: Blue (1993)

Three Colors: Blue Movie Review

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Three Colors: Blue Movie Review

Three Colors: Blue is a 1993 Polish-French drama film directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and starring Juliette Binoche. It is a solid, but boring film.

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Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing.

I don’t want any belongings, any memories.

No friends, no love. Those are all traps

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Three Colors: Blue Movie Review

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It is about a woman who loses her husband and child in a car accident and tries to live a normal life afterwards. She tries to get rid of all their things and forget but the past still haunts her and her husband’s past ties catch up with her and she has to deal with them.

The plot itself is quite good and the film is thematically very solid. It deals with grief in a very solid and realistic manner and it portrays a broken woman in a very honest way. However, it isn’t as deep as it thinks it is and it doesn’t have anything deeper and new to say about grief and loss and it just sort of presents its story without diving deeper into it.

I found Juliette Binoche’s performance to be superb here and it truly is one of her career best works. She had to play a devastated woman and she did bring it emotionally. She gave a magnetic performance in her movie as this entire story relies basically only on her as we got to see a couple of more minor characters and that’s it.

Three Colors: Blue definitely is a slow movie. But it is not a slow-burn in a positive sense. It is mostly a very boring, tedious experience that is slowly paced for the sake of it and mostly pretentious and not truly artistic.

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Three Colors: Blue Movie Review

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I found the direction solid and the cinematography is excellent. Some choices are great such as the use of the color blue (liberty) as well as that interesting editing technique with interesting cuts that – when over – bring you to the exact same scene. The film is definitely very well crafted overall technically and it is powerful in its emotion at times, but it is too depressing, too slow and ultimately an overrated movie that gets too much credit. I do hope that the rest of the trilogy is more interesting.

Three Colors: Blue is a very boring and depressing movie that is solid but far from great. The film is technically accomplished with excellent cinematography, editing and direction and the performance from Juliette Binoche is terrific. It also has its emotional scenes. But it is way too slow and tedious and it doesn’t delve deep enough into its themes.

My Rating – 3.5

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Of Mice and Men (1992)

Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

Of Mice and Men is a 1992 drama film directed by and starring Gary Sinise with John Malkovich being the other actor. It is such a stupendous adaptation.

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A guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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I am a big fan of the Steinbeck novella and I have to say that I wasn’t too thrilled with the 1939 movie adaptation which was good, but flawed. This one, however, is the definite cinematic version of the novella, at least of what we got so far and I did not expect that as this movie isn’t particularly well known which is a shame.

Let’s talk about the plot. It is very faithful to the source material and it actually doesn’t take any chances with it meaning that it is pretty traditional and old-fashioned in its approach which I naturally loved. I loved that the beginning was more extended and that we actually got to see how they ended up in that forest and I actually preferred the ending here than in the book because it is much more natural and realistic, at least in terms of George’s character. And it is very moving. All of the other plot points are basically the same as they were in the novella.

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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The characters are excellent. I loved George and Lennie here and they were so well portrayed and their friendship was definitely felt. Highly moving stuff and thus the ending was all the more powerful and just beyond heartbreaking. I really liked Slim as the only good man out of the ranch guys and Candy and Curly were both very well realized. The same can be said for Carlson and Crooks, but Curly’s wife is as weak of a female character as in the source material.

The acting is powerful in this Of Mice and Men. I have to say that I am not a fan of John Malkovich at all, but he was definitely good here and most of his choices paid off as this is how you basically portray a special needs person. All of the other actors also did a very good job, but in my opinion the highlight is Gary Sinise who is absolutely terrific as George, highly believable and he conveyed emotion beautifully.

My major problem with this movie is that somehow it did not feel cinematic enough, at least it did not feel that way for me personally. Certainly better done, much better, than in the previous version, but still I would have liked a more epic, sprawling approach.

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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

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But otherwise this is technically such a polished feature and we got here superb cinematography. Some of the imagery such as the forest and the fields was fantastic and the film really transports you to the 1930s time period thanks to terrific attention to detail and some gorgeous shots. I liked the dialogue and although the film was never as clever as the source material, at least these actors talked like real people from the thirties which I appreciated strongly. The score wasn’t that great and some choices were odd, but I loved how the film looked and how it stayed away from any modern or more violent approach. Gary Sinise did an amazing job in the directorial chair and as an actor and he propelled the film to great heights for sure.

The 1992 cinematic adaptation of Of Mice and Men is much better than the 1939 version thanks to a more faithful approach, excellent cinematography and such a great, different ending which I actually preferred over the novella one. Certainly it isn’t too sophisticated or cinematic, but Gary Sinise propelled this film to great heights as his performance in both acting and directorial chair is respectable and the film is pleasantly traditional in its approach.

My Rating – 4.5

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My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)

My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

My Neighbors the Yamadas is a 1999 anime comedy film directed by Isao Takahata. It is Studio Ghibli’s most underappreciated film.

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My father and mother and grandma and brother all got lost

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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This film is for better and for worse a series of vignettes. That means that it has no story, but just various unconnected segments that tell the tales of the Yamada family through hardships and foolishness. It may seem at first that it is too disconnected, but I honestly found it thematically connected as the film shows the power of family and that the family union can help you stay afloat in this dark and cold world.

Let’s first talk about the characters and then I will touch upon its segments. There are basically only five characters in this movie and those are all the Yamada family members. I love movies with less characters so naturally I really enjoyed this one as well.

Nonoko is their five-year old daughter and although she was less prominent in the second half of the movie, she was wonderful in the first half and so incredibly funny at times. I really liked her and she is such a wonderful kid. Noboru isn’t as likable and is more typical, but still really well developed and his romantic as well as school problems were really well portrayed.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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Takashi works too much to support his family whereas Matsuko is very much just a housewife so in that regard the film is overly archaic in gender roles and family structure. However, they are still both amazing characters. He is relatable for all great workers whereas she is pretty funny as this clumsy and forgetful housewife. The relationship between the two is great as it is such a realistic marriage filled with love and respect but also childish arguing and bickering.

Of course Shige is the highlight. She is the grandmother in the family and, ironically for the oldest member of the family, she is the most energetic and the most lively of the bunch. And needless to say, the funniest. She made me laugh the most with her many funny lines and actions. And the fact that she is the most adult and responsible and that she basically brings the whole family together was a strong statement on how important the elderly can be. Loved it.

As for its segments, the beginning was too silly and not my favorite. The family losing Nonoko in the shopping mall is easily one of the strongest segments here as it shows how irresponsible parents can be but in a very lightweight manner. Their scenes in the car are great, but Nonoko’s scene with that little, also lost, boy takes the cake as the funniest and most wonderful for sure. She thinks the family is lost and not her and thus they so amusingly and realistically show us the childlike innocence and cluelessness.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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The next scene shows how the entire family is unorganized and how everybody wants to do their own thing and nobody wants to do the cleaning. Again another truthful segment. The next segment is all about the Yamada marriage and how chaotic it is. The standout scene is the remote sequence as it was hilarious seeing the two fight over TV. A typically silly anime humor is used here to elevate the material superbly.

The male bonding is also pretty solid as a story about the age gap and the distant relationship between fathers and sons. The next two segments focus on Takashi being a great father model but nobody notices that. The next two segments (umbrella and sushi) aren’t as essential but the breakfast scene is hilarious as always having the same meal is unfortunately very relatable to me personally.

Ginger Morning is so funny! It basically showcases the forgetful nature of all five of the Yamadas to a hilarious effect. A great use of situational comedy. The next two segments are about Noboru (school and romance) and although quite well executed, they are not my favorites as he is my least favorite character in the film.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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The next couple of vignettes center around wonderful Shige and the highlight is the scene in which she takes back the ball that went over the fence to some kids and rewards them with another ball but the two boys eventually come asking for that ball. I laughed out loud here. Such a funny scene. And of course the grandma taking the action against bikers into her own hand was a great subversive scene where the woman takes action instead of the father figure.

The business speech of Takashi’s was very good and of course the ending is so great as it utilizes the power of Que Sera, Sera. I love how Ghibli once again used one of my favorite songs in their movie after Take Me Home, Country Roads in ‘Whisper of the Heart’.

My Neighbors the Yamadas features a very different animation from the regular highly stylized anime style of their other efforts and thus this makes it unique and singular. It employs computer animation in the creation of watercolor, comic-strip style in its animation and the results are wonderful despite the excessive use of the color white. I loved its fluid and simplistic look and the character design is excellent.

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My Neighbors the Yamadas Movie Review

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So My Neighbors the Yamadas is a very uneven film with uneven pacing and quality of the segments which is to be expected from its vignette format. But it is still such a good film that is probably the studio’s most underrated and it was much better to me upon second viewing. It employs a very good score and superb dialogue with many memorable lines. It has no story, but it is observational in message and themes and everyday life thanks to its wonderful slice-of-life storytelling. And the humor is just magnificent and I laughed more than a couple of times. It is another strong work from great Isao Takahata.

My Neighbors the Yamadas is probably the most underappreciated of all Studio Ghibli’s films. Its approach as a series of vignettes instead of a full story definitely led to its uneven quality and pacing, but the film features such a unique watercolor, comic-strip style to it and a superb dialogue and excellent humor with many hilarious lines and situations. The Yamadas are such a wonderful, relatable and endearing family and I’ve spent such a wonderful 100 minutes with them.

My Rating – 4

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The Piano (1993)

The Piano Movie Review

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The Piano Movie Review

The Piano is a 1993 New Zealand historical romance film directed by Jane Campion and starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin. It is an extremely overrated movie.

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Undo your dress. I want to see your arms. Play. Two keys

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The Piano Movie Review

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It is about a mute piano player who tries to regain her piano after it is sold. She is in a loveless arranged marriage, but meets another man and the two start a passionate romance. I honestly found the story not all that interesting to begin with and, needless to say, not particularly authentic. Its mid-19th century period and the setting of New Zealand make the difference, but other than that, it is a regular story.

My main problem with The Piano is that it is not romantic. At least it wasn’t for me. It relies too much on erotic scenes and those scenes weren’t as erotic or as romantic as the movie thinks they are. Everyone talks about how incredibly romantic and sweet the film is, but I never felt anything whatsoever and to me it the atmosphere was too cold to make me feel anything.

There are some good scenes such as the ending and some of the piano scenes were quite wonderful, but most of it was honestly not great. The cutting of the finger plot point was unnecessary and too gruesome and the film was obvious in its storyline and character relationships from beginning to end and highly predictable.

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The Piano Movie Review

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This may be the most controversial thing about my review, but I have to be honest and I have to say that even the acting is overrated. I don’t mean to say that these actors were bad, they were definitely quite good, but to me not as great as the showering praise they received would make you think.

Holly Hunter gave the best performance, but her character is too underdeveloped to lead to an amazing performance. So it wasn’t her fault, but the character’s fault. And that is why I don’t blame the actors as the character development here is quite weak. Harvey Keitel is fine in a different role for him, but not great. Sam Neill is typical and Anna Paquin did a good, but not great job and I just really disliked her character. She betrayed her mother and that was just glossed over which was to me highly problematic.

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The Piano Movie Review

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The Piano is definitely well shot, but mostly too dark and its atmosphere is too depressing. The film is well edited and paced, but it was still boring to me in its first half and I found some of the scenes in the second half rushed. It is well scored, but the direction from Campion is quite weak. It got eight Oscar nominations and three wins. The actresses deserved the nominations, but not the wins. And all of the other non-technical nominations were not deserved at all. It is one of the most overrated films from this period.

The Piano is the definition of an overrated movie which is okay, but far from great and I just don’t get the praise that it gets. Almost everything here is just okay and even the acting is not great and Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin did not deserve their Oscars. All of the performances are fine, but not great as the character development is so weak and most of the characters are unlikable. It is a well shot and scored film, but I just never felt anything as it was too cold for me so it utterly fails as a romance. It is a quasi-romantic, quasi-artistic film.

My Rating – 3

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Lepa sela lepo gore (1996)

Lepa sela lepo gore Movie Review

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Lepa sela lepo gore Movie Review

Lepa sela lepo gore (Pretty Village, Pretty Flame) is a 1996 Serbian war film directed by Srdjan Dragojevic and starring Dragan Bjelogrlic and Nikola Kojo among others. It is a Serbian classic.

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Pretty villages burn pretty and

ugly villages remain ugly even when they burn

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Lepa sela lepo gore Movie Review

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The film is set during the Bosnian War and it tells of the story of a group of Serb soldiers trapped in a tunnel by a Bosnian force. But it also employs a flashback structure to it as it showcases the past of these soldiers, especially focusing on the friendship between Milan and Halil. Now these flashbacks sometimes were too convenient and rushed (the schoolteacher flashback should have arrived much sooner), but they were mostly really well incorporated into a coherent whole.

The script is excellent here, really well crafted. The film has a strong anti-war statement and it doesn’t take sides which is very commendable. It is moving in emotion, epic in execution and it tells its story so well and is incredibly involving throughout its whole runtime. The ending is good but not my favorite and I liked the flashbacks quite a bit and some were great, but the standout is definitely the tunnel storyline and thankfully it took the majority of running time. The highlights were their humorous conversations as well as that scene with the woman which felt really suspenseful and was stupendously well shot and executed.

Let’s talk about the characters. I have to say that the character development is terrific here, stupendously so as I felt as if I met these people. They felt so real owing to their realistic portrayal and superb performances from a very talented cast. I admit that I wasn’t a fan of Milan and Halil as they were incredibly underutilized as adults and I preferred their flashbacks as children much more. But others are mostly much more memorable.

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Lepa sela lepo gore Movie Review

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Velja is one of the highlights. Overly crass, but highly realistic and he had some fantastic scenes. Brzi and Profesor are somewhat less memorable, but Marko has his moments and Viljuska has some highly amusing lines of dialogue and is entertaining as this over-the-top but highly likable character. Gvozden as this huge Tito fanatic is also very well developed and he definitely left a big impression.

The acting is phenomenal in this film. It is the kind of strong, subtle and realistic acting that I favor over the more theatrical and unrealistic acting that unfortunately plagues Serbian cinema and TV these days. Milorad Mandic is funny and great, Bata Zivojinovic is reliably competent and Nikola Kojo is the standout here as his performance is so great and subtle and real plus he carried a lot of the movie taking the significant amount of screentime. Everyone did a great job here honestly and they brought a lot to these characters becoming so realistic and like everyday Serbs.

The dialogue in Lepa sela lepo gore is also fantastic and again so naturalistic in its quality. The humor is phenomenal as the film is surprisingly funny and sometimes even hilarious with its very dark, but highly amusing black humor. Most of the scenes with that American female reporter were hilarious and the piss scene was an example of black humor done so well.

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Lepa sela lepo gore Movie Review

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I am generally not a fan of war movies, but this one honestly surprised me how strong it is and it surely is a modern classic from this region. The direction from Srdjan Dragojevic is highly competent and fantastic, the editing and pacing are both superb and the film is also very well shot and also scored. It succeeds as a strong war drama across the board.

With highly realistic and such well developed characters, superb dialogue, fantastic black humor with many funny lines, competent direction from Srdjan Dragojevic and naturalistic, superb performances from its great cast with Nikola Kojo, Milorad Mandic and Bata Zivojinovic being the highlights, Lepa sela lepo gore (Pretty Village, Pretty Flame) is a strong war drama across the board. It is so well shot, moving in its emotion and epic in scope that it easily ranks as one of the greatest classics of Serbian cinema.

My Rating – 4.5

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Princess Mononoke (1997)

Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

Princess Mononoke is a 1997 historical fantasy anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of Studio Ghibli’s weakest offerings.

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You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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I never really cared for this movie and now upon second viewing, I can confirm that it truly is the most overrated Studio Ghibli film ever and also one of their weakest. That puts me in the vast minority, but I have to be honest and say that this is one of a handful of highly respected animated films which I deem very overrated.

That does not mean that Princess Mononoke is a bad movie. It is a solid film which has its strengths. Technically, the film is very strong and more on that later. In terms of story, it is ambitious and its attention to detail is remarkable. It has a strong environmental message and its characters are not painted black-and-white but are rather complex and realistic.

However, I still disliked those characters personally. That is because I could just never connect with any of them. Neither of them was remotely relatable or likable to me and that was a huge hurdle for the movie which never managed to overcome it. And it has too many characters and most are highly forgettable.

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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Ashitaka himself is very boring. I do not know why Miyazaki stated that he is an atypical protagonist when he couldn’t be more standard as heroes go. He’s bland and uninteresting. San is underdeveloped as is their relationship. Lady Eboshi is the only very good character in the movie as her motifs, her background and her goals are well realized and she is a complex person in the grey area of morality. But even she was not great.

As I said above, the only truly excellent thing in Princess Mononoke is its animation which is expected from such an art-driven studio. I really enjoyed the forests here and the animals are so realistically designed. The film features very polished, but still old-fashioned type of hand-drawn cell animation. The mix of traditional animation and the computer animation (present in demon flesh) is really well executed.

The film is very well animated, but even its animation is nowhere near the quality of Ghibli’s best films such as ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ for instance. The film succeeds as a historical piece as it has a great eye for detail and it recreated this period in Japan’s history so well.

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Princess Mononoke Movie Review

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But even though the dialogue is strong and the script is quite good, the execution is far from great. The film is just overlong, clocking in at over two hours. I was honestly bored. It is ambitious and epic for the sake of being ambitious and epic. I am not a fan of epic fantasy and thus this did not suit my tastes.

The film also features overwhelming action. Certainly some of it was great and so well executed with the fight between San and Lady Eboshi being the highlight, but still the film favored action and spectacle over substance. The gore is also overwhelming and not really needed so every bloody scene felt like a big distraction for me. All in all, even the environmental message is done better and more subtly in some of the studio’s previous classics so this surely is one of their weakest offerings.

Princess Mononoke is one of the most overrated animated films. Certainly the animation is excellent and frequently even stunning, the script is good and the characters are realistic and quite complex, but none of them was remotely likable or relatable to me and the film bored me with its prolonged runtime, excessive gore and overwhelming action and spectacle. And even its environmental message is done better in some of the studio’s previous classic films. It truly is Studio Ghibli’s most overrated film and one of their weakest offerings.

My Rating – 3

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The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

The Scent of Green Papaya Movie Review

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The Scent of Green Papaya Movie Review

The Scent of Green Papaya is a 1993 Vietnamese drama film directed by Tran Ahn Hung and starring Tran Nu Yen-Khe. It is a very moody film.

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You need a bit of fat to make the vegetables shiny

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The Scent of Green Papaya Movie Review

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This is the movie that proved me one thing – sometimes your mood can really impact a viewing experience. Maybe any other day, I would have disliked this, but I saw it at just the right time, when I was in the mood for something slower and more artistic and thus it ended up being a very enjoyable experience to me.

There is little plot here which was done for better and for worse. Certainly that led to such a sensual, wonderfully atmospheric and moody film, but the one which still felt too simplistic and it should have been deeper. Of the plot there is, I have to say that I preferred the first two acts to the third one because whereas the film was previously one thing (sensual and slow), in the third act it became a whole other thing with her blossoming into a beautiful young woman and starting a relationship with her master. It was a fine development, but not the best possible one for this story I felt.

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The Scent of Green Papaya Movie Review

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I really liked Mui. She wasn’t as interesting as an adult, but as a kid she was wonderful and the film made such a wise decision to make her a gateway to this word/house and I loved seeing it through her eyes. All of the other characters are not as memorable and that terrible kid never got punished which frustrated me, but Mui remains the heart and soul of this entire film.

The Scent of Green Papaya is an incredible visual experience. Everything here is gorgeous to look at and yes, the fact that it was filmed entirely on sets is unbelievable to me as this house looks so real and authentic. Tran Ahn Hung is the one responsible for this movie’s high quality as his direction is top-notch and his vision was authentic and admirable.

The film has such an immense, almost overwhelming attention to detail that it really needs to be watched closely or otherwise you can miss some interesting details. Yes, it is slow moving, but it is still very absorbing and powerful somehow. It sucked me in and it held my interest completely which I did not expect. And its almost silent approach with minimalist dialogue worked wonders for its mood.

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The Scent of Green Papaya Movie Review

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So let’s talk about that house. It was wonderful to behold. I loved how the film is a period piece but despite those curfews, it did not include any history or politics in it which was a great, refreshing choice. The house was so well explored as we got to see so many of its corners and I loved the details in it, especially those vases with lizards sleeping in them. And seeing papayas and how they are cooked was very interesting and informative to me.

As an animal lover, this was beautiful to me. You have frogs here and I loved their scenes, but the insects play the biggest part in Mui’s childhood as she kept them as pets in such an incredible, small, really well designed cage that was the cutest thing I’ve seen recently. It is those cute and heartwarming details that make this movie such a rewarding experience and it is easy to see why it got so much acclaim at various festivals.

The Scent of Green Papaya is an almost plotless movie for better and for worse and I preferred the first two acts over the last one, but its almost silent approach with minimalist dialogue ultimately worked in its favor as the film is such a sensual, lovely experience that needs to be seen when in mood for slower, more artistic cinema. It also needs to be watched closely as its attention to detail is astonishing (the wonderful house, the vases with lizards, the frogs, the insect cage, the papayas) and that approach led to it being such an engrossing cinematic experience.

My Rating – 4

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Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 romantic drama anime film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. It is one of the best films that Studio Ghibli has to offer and one of my personal favorites.

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It’s not easy to live your own way. You can’t blame anyone but yourself

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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Let’s first talk about the story. The movie is interesting for being one of the rare Ghibli films with no fantasy elements whatsoever. The Baron fantasy sequences were actually figments of imagination of the main character. They are fantastical, but not real. Still, those were wonderful and they complimented the storyline really well. They are a textbook example of how animation can sometimes suit the genre of drama much better than its live-action counterpart.

This is a wonderful movie which is exceedingly romantic and sweet. I just adored it and watching it was such a beautiful experience for me. The romance between the two is exceptional and it develops at the perfect pace. The entire story with how they meet and how they were reading the same books was just so romantic and wonderful that I ate it up.

But whereas Whisper of the Heart succeeds incredibly as a teen romance, it succeeds even more as a pure drama. And what drama this is! Honestly, this was the deepest and most thought-provoking film I’ve seen in quite a while. I saw this movie around five years ago, but I am more mature now, so I respect it much more upon second viewing.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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I am currently at the most unpredictable and dangerous moment in my life. I am trying to find a job online, but it is moving at a slow progression and I am very anxious about finishing faculty so this movie was just perfect for me. I watched it at the most perfect time possible and thus I connected with its characters enormously.

It is a very smart, incredibly sophisticated story about two teenagers who chase their dreams but are yet not ready for a job. The line from Shizuko’s father about high school was pitch-perfect in its honesty and truthfulness – you can follow a different path than the default one given to you by your country and the entire world, but that path is going to be incredibly difficult and it is in the end not worth it. It is a sad, terrible truth that the movie made clear and with that I am struggling in my life right now.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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And another great line is how wanting to do something is not the same as preparing constantly and bettering yourself so that you can manage to get that job and secure your future. Life is difficult and getting a job and growing up is so hard and Whisper of the Heart gets that and is probably the most honest teen movie out of all of them as it teaches us those great messages in a very urgent manner.

Let’s finally talk about these characters, these great characters. Surely the parents are sweet and respectful and Yuko is a great friend to our main heroine, but honestly this movie is mostly just about Shizuko and Seiji and that was great. It’s a phenomenal chamber drama in a way. He is at first a bit too unlikable in a forced way, but he became much more likable and sweet later on and of course their relationship is very strong and heartwarming.

But Shizuko is amazing and I loved her. She is one of Ghibli’s finest heroines as she is so well developed and although a good girl, she isn’t overly kind and she seemed very realistic to me. Her troubles are so well established and her interactions with everyone were top-notch, but it is her love for books that was awesome to witness, her wild imagination was beautiful and her constant struggle with herself and her own dreams led to such a terrific character development and complex dilemmas.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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Whisper of the Heart is gorgeously animated! The character animation and designs are nothing spectacular, but the landscapes are excellent and for once we got a Ghibli movie set in a city. That was refreshing to see and Tokyo is perfectly animated. I loved that final scene which was gorgeous and of course the antique toy shop is the visual highlight as it is superbly detailed and immensely charming. The movie is not fantastical, but it compensates that with an astonishing attention to detail to everyday objects and the city itself.

The movie is superbly voice cast and the acting was excellent. Yoko Honna was just marvelous in a great role. As I said before, the dialogue is phenomenal and the script itself is absolutely spectacular. It favors drama and emotion over spectacle and fun and that was very refreshing. It is in line with ‘Only Yesterday’ as these two are two realistic, contemporary dramas rarely seen in animation and both are some of my favorites from the studio, both honestly quite underrated.

I do realize that the final scene was a bit too sentimental and it surely was overly emotional, but I still liked it, especially for its gorgeous setting and animation. The score is fantastic and Take Me Home, Country Roads is one my favorite songs of all time and seeing how it was a perfect theme for the movie only further strengthened my love for it.

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Whisper of the Heart Movie Review

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The fantastical sequences should have been shorter and sometimes the movie struggled with its pacing, but it was mostly top-notch in terms of both technical aspects and story/characters/emotion. I loved the shop and the cat, the grandpa was wonderful and my favorite scenes were the ones in the antique shop and the library. A very charming, atmospheric movie this is.

With superb character development and one of the studio’s finest heroines, wonderful animation fueled by a meticulous attention to detail, a perfect use of one of my favorite songs and a top-notch script, Whisper of the Heart truly is one of the best Ghibli movies and one of my personal favorites as I connected with it on so many levels. Thematically rich and incredibly smart and truthful in dialogue and its statements, the movie speaks to me on a personal level. Gorgeous in its romance and deep in its drama, you just can’t get a better animated teen drama than this one.

My Rating – 4.5

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Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Raise the Red Lantern Movie Review

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Raise the Red Lantern Movie Review

Raise the Red Lantern is a 1991 Chinese period piece starring Gong Li and directed by Zhang Yimou. It is a pretty strong, accomplished picture.

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Good or bad, it’s all playacting.

If you act well, you can fool other people;

if you do it badly, you can only fool yourself,

and when you can’t even fool yourself, you just can fool the ghosts

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Raise the Red Lantern Movie Review

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It is about a young woman who becomes one of the concubines to a wealthy “master” during the Warlord Era. This film is actually very clever and thought-provoking in its storyline and rich in themes. Some such as Roger Ebert may say that it is about sexual enslavement, but I disagree. The film is great as it thankfully stays away from any sexual approach and thus becomes much more than a mere movie that shows how awful Chinese women were treated around hundred years ago.

It is actually about a change in one’s nature as the protagonist is such a fantastic, complex character who changes throughout the movie’s runtime. At first, she is just the latest concubine, but eventually she incorporates herself into this whole lifestyle and routine and instead of fighting it, she fully embraces it. Instead of fighting the man, the master in this instance, she starts fighting the other concubines. The film cleverly shows how a system can ruin one’s nature and cement the terrible fate of the oppressed even faster.

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Raise the Red Lantern Movie Review

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So Raise the Red Lantern actually gives us the answer to why and how the oppressed never rise against the system by showing us how the system is so powerful that it can literally destroy your soul. The “master” is actually shown here a couple of times. I myself saw him once quite clearly. But most think that he is not shown in the movie which just goes to show how powerful the film is and how it was so well approached with making him portrayed just as this oppressive figure and never becoming a proper character in his own right.

I liked all of the concubines and how memorable they were. The movie is very flawed for at times verging into soap opera territory. I do realize that it was important to show the main character fighting with other concubines, but at times the movie was too focused on intrigue and affairs and that was the only major problem here. Otherwise, the movie is excellent.

Zhang Yimou’s direction is absolutely superb and his every choice was excellent here. Gong Li is particularly absorbing as the Fourth Concubine. She shines in this movie as she is not only incredibly beautiful which she was supposed to be, but she was wonderfully cast as she also can act as evidenced by a powerhouse, incredibly strong and layered performance.

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Raise the Red Lantern Movie Review

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Raise the Red Lantern sounds good, but it had too much annoying singing in it. The cinematography is naturally its selling point as it utilizes on the color of red stupendously. Those red lanterns looked amazing and the interior design here is simply splendid and quite breathtaking. The film really knows how to capture the period and especially the place. We never really left this palace and I did not mind as every  one of its corridors and especially the rooftops were gorgeously shot and so well incorporated into the imagery. Some of the shots reminded me of silent films with those long and artistic takes and that was a particularly potent filmmaking choice.

Raise the Red Lantern did at times verge into becoming a soap opera. However, this is still an excellent Chinese period piece with a very artistic and potent approach to the cinematography and a layered, magnetic performance from beautiful Gong Li. Zhang Yimou’s direction is also phenomenal and the film is very absorbing owing to its thematically rich and complex narrative.

My Rating – 4.5

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Pom Poko (1994)

Pom Poko Movie Review

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Pom Poko Movie Review

Pom Poko is a 1994 fantasy drama anime film from Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. It is one of the weaker, but still underrated Ghibli films.

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They used their balls as weapons in a brave kamikaze attack

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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So this is basically another nature tale where environmentalism is the prevailing message. This time around we follow raccoon dogs who have the power to transform into anything and are forced to transform into humans and live in their society as their forests are getting destroyed. So they do try to hammer this message a bit too much and for some that would be a deal-breaker, but I didn’t mind it too much as it is a very important message and people and children should be aware of this problem.

This is a very interesting film in that it very much seemed like a live-action film. Let me explain. Its running time is two hours and the film is sprawling, ambitious and rich in themes and characters which are all rarely seen in animation. That was a two-edged sword however. It was admirable in ambition, but it was also probably too long and some scenes in its middle section felt either repetitive or even unnecessary. There were too many details and plot points in my opinion.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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But the story in Pom Poko still worked and these raccoon dogs were very interesting as they have the power to transform and all those transformations were beautiful and interesting to watch. I loved how the humans were realistically portrayed in all their actions and yes – the ending killed me. It  affected me emotionally as it truly is a beautiful, poignant scene. Watching them live as humans and miss their forest home was devastating, but still that final scene where Shoukichi gathers with his companions was so touching and the fourth wall breaking finale was also devastating.

So Shoukichi is a memorable, likable protagonist, Oroku is a lot of fun and old Seizaemon is great. Now most of these characters are underutilized as you got too many of them, but still they all felt like a big family thanks to a lot of emotional connection, excellent interactions between them and fun humor. I loved their relationship with humans too. The voice acting is also pretty good per usual.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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So let’s talk about the animation. Firstly, the character design. Let’s first address the elephant in the room – those giant balls. Yes, these animals have giant balls that in the movie they use to fight the humans in the end even. So yes, it felt weird, but if you are used to anime, you would not mind it like I did not. In fact, it was quite funny to me and it is the most memorable thing about the movie for better and for worse. Love it or hate it, it is bold and the overall character design is actually excellent as they have three forms and they shift from realistic to anthropomorphic to transformed so smoothly and all the forms are beautiful.

The overall animation is very competent and actually great. I loved the natural landscapes, but the city imagery was also very memorable. That scene where you witness the destruction of the hill for the placement of the city was truly heartbreaking. The animation here is so polished and so beautiful as a whole that it honestly doesn’t stay too much behind their more well known, earlier efforts. The parade sequence is particularly dazzling to witness.

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Pom Poko Movie Review

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Pom Poko also has a very strong score which accompanies those emotional scenes so well and I really liked it personally. The pacing is problematic, but the direction from Isao Takahata is very strong per usual as he is one of my favorite anime directors for sure. But I have to say that I really did not like the narration here.

The dialogue overall is excellent here and the movie is smart, but that narration kidified the movie a bit too much and it was just so unnecessary and extremely overwhelming as it took up a lot of the movie. But the humor is honestly quite solid and the film is charming and poignant enough that it overcame those many flaws and it is in my opinion quite underrated and possibly better than overrated ‘Porco Rosso’.

Pom Poko is a flawed, but solid and ultimately even underrated Ghibli film. Its narration truly is overwhelming, the film may be too weird for some in regards to the character design and it was too long and the middle section dragged a bit, but still this is a very moving, rich tale with a strong environmental message, likable characters, accomplished animation and such a poignant, truly touching third act.

My Rating – 3.5

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