Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Written by Leonard & Paul Schraeder
Directed by Paul Schraeder
I don’t know much about Yukio Mishima, and after watching Paul Schrader’s film, I still can’t say I developed a vast knowledge of his history. My comments in this review on Mishima come from additional research I did to try and give myself a context for what happened in the film. This adaptation of the Japanese author’s work and life is aesthetically brilliant. I particularly love Paul Schraeder’s choice of colors and cinematography to differentiate the past, present, and the dramatization of Mishima’s novels. However, he doesn’t provide the needed history and context for a Westerner to fully understand what is happening. I don’t like overly expository films, but I think just a bit might have been needed here.
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Written & Directed by Juzo Itami
Food has been the subject of many films over the century. Sometimes, it is a central part of the story, like in Babbette’s Feast or Ratatouille, or just part of memorable scenes like Matilda or Hook. When a filmmaker gets food right in their work, they can activate your senses, taking images on a screen and turning them into a hunger for the dishes on display. Tampopo does this while remaining a nearly uncategorizable film. It’s a comedy and a drama and a strange series of vignettes about people’s love of food stuffed in around the edges.
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Written by Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
This is a classic, and Akira Kurosawa is a legend. But you might be wondering how this film qualified as a Hope in the Midst of Darkness entry. It’s a pretty bleak movie that relies on the unreliable narrator trope. This leads to a relatively dark interpretation of humanity by the characters in the framing device. I am here to argue that Rashomon is an intensely optimistic movie that is attempting to overcome the audience’s assumed pessimism. It’s also a film masterpiece and a piece of cinema whose influence continues to ripple out into movies today, across the planet.
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Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese
Directed by Martin Scorsese
There has been more than one Martin Scorsese. He’s become most famous for pictures like The Wofl fo Wall Street, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. These are movies about intense, volatile figures that eventually explode. There is also the Scorsese of muted and contemplative films like Kundun and The Age of Innocence. Much like the man himself, his filmography is slightly manic, overflowing with ideas, and able to appreciate art across the spectrum of tone and theme. Silence is one of the quieter films, but it addresses monumentally enormous concepts and touching on a message that resonates across the ages. Few films deal so maturely with matters of faith, genuinely questioning and looking at belief from all angles.
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PTSD Radio Volumes 1-6 (2018)
Written & Illustrated by Masaaki Nakayama
Urban landscapes are profoundly haunted. Cities are built on the ruins of villages and small towns, turning those who lived there previously into ghosts that linger in the corners. PTSD Radio begins as a series of disconnected horror stories, an anthology centered around tormented spirits, but then patterns start to emerge. The presence of hair and dark figures tugging at the scalps of sleeping victims are recurring motifs. Slowly but surely we uncover a story about a rural village where cultural changes led to the destruction of a primitive idol. This, in turn, unleashes a quiet evil that permeates the lives of the people who grew up in this village, following them into adulthood.
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Written & Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Osamu is the patriarch of a makeshift family living in the shadow of poverty in Tokyo. His partner Nobuyo is the mother with adopted son Shota, half-sister Aki, and grandmother Hatsue. Osamu and Shota routinely shoplift food from neighborhood grocery stores, having developed a system of signals and distractions. On their way home after a recent venture, they find Yuri, a little girl they have talked to before alone on her parent’s apartment balcony. Feeling sorry for her level of neglect they bring her home for dinner. Nobuyo helps Osamu bring her back after and they overhear Yuri’s parents fighting, her father hitting her mother, and the admission that they never wanted the child in the first place. Nobuyo decides to make Yuri a part of the family and from their life goes on as it always has. Until one day a news report announces that Yuri’s parents have filed a missing person report.
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Death Note (2017)
Written by Charley Parlapanides & Vlas Parlapanides, Jeremy Slater
Directed Adam Wingard
Angsty Seattle teen Light Turner has a potent weapon literally drop out of the sky, the Death Note. Light finds this leather bound journal is a device that can kill anyone who the bearer knows the face and name of. The target’s name is recorded on a page of the book and Ryuk, the death god who accompanies the book does the rest. It should seem pretty obvious that Light ends up way over his head very quickly. He ends up sharing his secret with Mia, a cheerleader at his school and she takes to the book with a disturbing glee. Soon the series of strange deaths, all befalling known criminals, draws the attention of authorities and an unusual detective known only as L.
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