Ponyo (2008)

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki
(Number 448)

A very Japanese retelling of the Little Mermaid, with environmental concerns and a gentle message to be kind to others rolled in. I watched the English version because I enjoy the translation (except for the bit where in the Japanese Risa messages ‘Baka baka baka’ to her husband, in English it’s ‘bug off’ which isn’t as funny to me.) Plus the English version has Tina Fey as the mother and I adore her.

Sosuke is a sailor’s son who rescues a magical goldfish whose mother is a goddess and father is a wizard. When he accidentally allows her to taste his blood he triggers something – possibly her access to her father’s magic? Unlike the Disney Little Mermaid, Ponyo seizes her own destiny and forces her body into the shape of a human’s, opening defying her father and pursuing what she wants instead. It’s hard to tell if this is truly empowering though, since she is purely doing it to be with Sosuke, but it’s also hard to care too much. The movie is pure delight.

Ponyo’s actions – again unlike Ariel in the Little Mermaid – her actions have massive repercussions. Her joyous rush towards the land with her sisters creates a tsunami that floods the island Sosuke lives on and upsets the balance of the universe bringing satellites and stars down from the sky.

The movie is beautiful, displaying Miyazaki’s love for the ocean, everything on it and everything underneath it. My favourite sequence is when she makes Sosuke’s boat bigger and they float over the flood waters which have been filled with prehistoric fish. It’s gorgeous, lovely colours and strange creatures. I love dinosaurs XD

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes, almost instantly with every character.

Bechdel test: Yes, the old ladies talk to each other about how great it is to be able to use their legs and run again. Ponyo talks to Lisa as well, and the goddess talks to various people including women.

Best line: Ponyo wants ham!
(I can relate to that sentiment, also this one:)

Lisa: I say we start with dessert and go backwards. It’s been a backwards kind of day!

State of Mind: Serene. It’s such a visually beautiful movie that it calms me.

Watched movie count

Akira (1988)

Directed and written by Katsuhiro Ohtomo based on his graphic novel. Also written by Izô Hashimoto
(number 440)

I remember first seeing this with my first boyfriend Scott, who adored this movie and opened my eyes to what anime really was. A few years ago me and Sally went to see a show in the festival of the arts about Osamu Tezuka which pointed out something really obvious to me – a huge percentage of Japanese movies are in some way about the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Akira starts with a huge atomic explosion in the middle of Tokyo. It’s followed up immediately by the character introductions – which are peppered with ultra violence and quickly demonstrate the dystopian post apocalyptic world that this movie is so famous for.

It’s a pretty 80s style future as well, lots of bright strange patterns and bright neon everything –

The plot is pretty simple – a bike gang of thuggish teens gets accidentally involved in a secret government project involving human enhancement and psychic powers. Then destruction happens. The lead Keneda is your classic too cool for school leading dude, who gets entranced with a girl. His bright red high tech bike is almost as much a character as he is.

The music is essential to the movie and the plot, being totally matched to the images as well as the plot points that it matches to. It’s an excellent example of how a soundtrack can enhance the movie experience. It’s all pretty experimental music as well, rather than lyrical.

The kids of the Akira project are deeply creepy. Simultaneously small children and withered old men and woman.. the sequence where they visit Tetsuo in his bed as toys… it’s all nightmare fuel. Then later on we get Tetsuo’s body horror and it becomes high octane nightmare fuel. Of course by the time he backs down enough to ask for help it’s far too late. He’s been caught up in his own ego and desire to prove himself to Keneda. It’s the atomic bomb meltdown of the human body, with all the disgusting biology implied by that image. Tetsuo’s ego and need to prove himself triggers a huge, destructive meltdown where he is reborn in the flash of ultimate destruction.

It’s deep, yo!

As with many films, the ultimate message is one of sacrifice for the greatest good. Ultimately the espers (weird psychic little kids) choose to go into the ball of light Akira made to save Keneda – only this sacrifice doesn’t stop the white light from exploding and destroying much of neo Tokyo – the implication is that this is a good thing. This piece of mass destruction is cleansing and allows the sun to come through the clouds, something we haven’t really seen in the movie before. Akira and Tetsuo have achieved transcendence, they no longer need a physical body, and Kei has developed psychic powers seemingly without being operated on, and it’s her voice which gives Keneda direction.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah. Although it’s difficult to immediately connect with characters with no respect for the law or society, somehow you do empathise and love them anyway.

Bechdel test: Hrm. It’s tricky. Kyoko and Kei interact when Kyoko possesses Kai and speaks through her, but I don’t think you can count that as a conversation that they have. I don’t believe it passes, but it sort of feels like it’s off to the side of almost passing.

Best line:

Tetsuo: Why do you always have to come and save me?

Kaneda: Now you’re king of the mountain, but it’s all garbage!

State of Mind: Impressed and disturbed. I want to go back to Japan!

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

On Saturday 6 of us gathered with drinks and snacks and a drinking game and we watched all 3 hours 35 minutes of the Eurovision finals. It was amazing! I adore Conchita Wurst who won, but my personal favourite is Denmark’s answer to Bruno Mars, Basim:

Iceland and yeah, I loved Hungary’s one too …

High Tea at Martha’s
As a late Mother’s Day celebration me and my sister took my mum to Martha’s for high tea. It was exceptionally delicious, a pretty sunny day and a fantastic chat with lots of laughs. Good times! I love cupcakes 🙂

Honourable Mentions: Cat’s 80s toys collection on pinterest is giving me all sorts of memory feels, catching up with Regan before she flew away to the UK, looking forward to seeing my girl TOMORROW!!! Skype, new music, decluttering annnnd progress on important life things.

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

[Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)]”

Your hipster music spot this week goes to Biblical by Biffy Clyro

Things I Love Thursday

It’s coooold. Which means the litany of things which keep me warm is going to be added to the Things I Love Thursday list. Here goes: Electric blankets, heaters, flannelette PJs, snuggly soft slippers, warm blankets and dreaming about snuggles with Anna.

Change… okay so it’s not easy, and it can be painful and weird – but it’s also very essential. Imagine what we’d be like if we never changed? So, I’m in a bit of a state of change at the moment but I’m choosing to embrace and celebrate it. Just in a very low key way, heh.

I had a very lovely weekend with my parents and catching up with Luke and Sam – out for dinner with my folks and then a drink and the Grand Budapest Hotel with Sam. It was excellent and I wish to do it again. Also sardines on toast on Mother’s Day morning = yummo.

Looking forward to two new games, which is quite exciting – Roleplaying! I’ve been feeling like I don’t have enough going on atm so this will be a nice change.

Honourable Mentions: Lovely real estate agents, Lego, reality shows about singing, ice cream, good films, tacos, chocolate bars, pinterest, doing epic amounts of craft win and pretty pretty fabric.

I started watching Look Around You and it’s great. But it reminded me of one of my all time favourite 48 hour films… How to Deal with the Situation:

Tori music lifts my spirit. Father Lucifer ~

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty
Directed by Katheryn Bigelow
Written by Mark Boal
(number 403)

Oh hey! A woman director! Amazing! I think this is my second female director so far? And this is about my 48th movie watched + blogged.

Straight off this movie was intense. The voice over is a real call from one of the towers in the World Trade Center after the planes had crashed, which is amazing for diving you straight into why this movie exists. But then it turns out this recording was used without the permission of the survivor’s family, which is less than ideal.

Then it cuts straight to Guantanamo Bay which… well it put me in mind of an amazing comic called Aaron and Ahmed about a man who goes to be a guard at Guantanamo Bay for revenge. It’s a horrifying thing and almost impossible to watch. I teared up almost instantly from the recording and then my stomach wanted to turn from watching a man be tortured.

How can I say this isn’t an easy movie more times? Huh well. I guess it’s tough because it’s based on things that happened, but one may never forget that this is an American movie and the veracity of the realism and the slant is pretty uncertain.

They show the Arabs preparing for attacks, but they don’t do much to humanise the race. The portrayal is very predictably ‘foreign’, greedy, destructive and willing to kill themselves for the cause.

Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke are amazing leads. Jessica plays Maya, whose career trajectory we pretty much follow for the plot of the film – from a cold, uncertain woman who is discomforted by scenes of torture to a driven, obsessed professional who claims to want to kill Bin Laden herself. Jason plays Dan who is a kind of mentor to her at the start and becomes her equal, her ally. He’s more weathered, more hands on and less intelligent (I think). It’s such a relief to have such a complex and interesting woman in a lead role, and in many ways outshining her male counterpart.

There’s a wonderful conversation where she laughs at the idea of sleeping with Dan. I like that they avoided some kind of cutesy romance plot line in.

Despite all the grey areas and the discomfort it is a compelling film, almost despite myself I got wrapped up in the suspense of it. It’s very well made to a degree it feels like a documentary, except a documentary would never get this kind of access.

WTF John Barrowman what are you doing here? You and your beautiful face.

Anyway, this film is brutal and unrelenting.

Does it make me love the people?

It’s hard to love any of these characters in a pure way, because their actions are repellent. But I do find that I care about them and I love them as human characters. I was sad when Jessica bought it part way through as well.

(also Jessica Collins is a cutie.)

You are rooting for Maya and I think the director is careful to show her doing lots of normal things so that you can relate to her as well. I was grateful for the gravitas Jessica Chastain brought to her final scenes, opening the body bag to look into Usama’s face and then carefully, reverently closing it again and the shell shocked way she conducted herself in the final scene – climbing alone into an airforce plane because she must be important. The emotional side of things is not undercut or oversold, and that’s rare.

Bechdel test: Yes, Maya and Jessica talk a few times about various things. Also the opening audio is two women talking but they’re not named. Anyway, it’s amazing that Maya and Jessica talk.

Best line:

(how certain are you Bin Laden is in there?)
Maya: 100%… Okay, fine, 95 percent ’cause I know certainty freaks you guys out, but it’s a hundred.

State of Mind: sort of shell shocked and bleak.

Watched movie count

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Michael Kerr and Gutav Hasford based on his novel.
(number 455)

This movie starts out as the mother of all army training montages. Given it’s made in 1987 it doesn’t seem like it’s the origin of all those montages of men getting screamed at by their commander, climbing ropes, climbing over wooden structures and marching in formation and sounding off. “I don’t know but I’ve been told…” I recognise these scenes primarily from The Simpsons and from Space: Above and Beyond.

Also probably the origin of ‘Me love you long time’ and ‘what is your major malfunction?’ ‘thousand yard stare’ …well, it’ hard for me to tell for sure anyway. I was surprised at how familiar the prostitute’s talk was – South Park anyone?

Just about the whole first hour is men yelling at each other. It’s pretty intense. Then the second half of the film follows Joker as a military journalist travelling around Vietnam. Which is intense in a different way. The first half is personal horror – being put into a hard situation with regular bullying and constant scrutiny. The second half i the impersonal horror of being in an unwinnable war in a country that hates you.

Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio and Adam Baldwin all a little babies with their lives ahead of them. I really love Matthew Modine. He didn’t do that much really, but he’s always good in what he does. Here he plays ‘Joker’, the POV character and by necessity the sympathetic one who take the slow, scared Pyles under his wing. The scenes of how that relationship plays out intense and suspenseful.

Once the movie switches to out on the field, things get more relaxed and more real. The soundtrack picks up classic seventies songs where we’d had very little music previously (jut Kubrickian incidental instrumentals), the marines are all relaxed and jokey, and the landscapes are all gorgeous wrecked apocalyptic horror. I just want to keep on saying ‘intense’ basically.

I don’t have a way of knowing if this is an accurate representation of how things really were, but I can say that it’s not inaccurate. It’s definitely not sugar coating anything or making it look romantic or heroic over there.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah it’s hard not to love Joker when he stands up to bullies, is sensitive and intelligent. He’s a bit on the cold, logical side I guess. I love Animal Mother, because Adam Baldwin! It’s Jayne! The hero of Canton!! And I love Raptor Man for being Joker’s right hand.

Bechdel test: Noooooooo…. there’s a Da Nang street hooker who speaks but she’s never named. then another hooker later on speaks a little. This movie is definitely not about women. Well, apart from the very important female sniper right at the end which demonstrates Joker’s final step into the darkness of the war.

Best line:

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: I bet you’re the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you.

Animal Mother: You’d better flush out your head, new guy. This isn’t about freedom; this is a slaughter. If I’m gonna get my balls blown off for a word, my word is “poontang”.

State of Mind: Not as depressing and horrifying as I’d feared, but definitely not a fun ride at the carnival either. Maybe because everything in there was so very familiar from other movies and things riffing off it.

Watched movie count

Sunday Crafting

I had planned to make my friend Amy from work a baby quilt, and I talked to the other testers about donating (cash, fabric or cross stitched pieces to incorporate). All was going well, a bit on the slow side but there was no rush right? Not until Amy brought her moving date forward, anyway….

I got the last cross stitch pieces on Friday. Sarah came over to make more blocks (she’d already made 3) and help with the assembling of the quilt on Saturday. We got it into sandwich form by about 1.30 and I said to her “It won’t be done in time.” (Amy’s last day being Monday)

I bundled up the quilt sandwich and drove out to visit my folks, and my mum very kindly helped me hand quilt for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon… and again on Sunday morning. I drove home and sat down in front of the TV and finished most of the hand quilting before a break to catch up with friends and see Only Lovers Left Alive, then came home finished the hand quilting and the binding in front of Back to the Future 2 and 3 !

jennitalula quilt

I’m very impressed with myself. I can’t remember ever finishing a baby quilt so fast. Plus it looks awesome!

Here’s Amy with it, bump and all…

jennitalula quilt

Things I love Thursday

Feeling like I’m making headway on my 500 movie project, I’m coming up to my 50th movie watched + blogged, which is a very early milestone to be sure, but a milestone all the same.

Craft! I can’t be too open about what I’m doing because secrets, but crafting is fun and I like doing it!

I got sick and that sucks but it gave me extra appreciation for the following things: electric blankets, hot ribena, sleeping, getting that perfect comfy position in bed, clean PJs and flatmates who offer to bring you things.

Roleplaying, went to Day of Games on the weekend and I ran my new game which I then published the next game Four Things. And I played an excellent game of Monsterhearts and invented a wonderful new character I’m excited about.

Honourable Mentions: watching Father Ted episodes, pinterest, warm jerseys, cuddling my soft toy kaiju, my new Striker Eureka and Trespasser action figures, reading Princess Diaries books, mango sorbet and cookies.

I like me

Playing Dance Central got me into this song.. Bulletproof ~ La Roux

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Written by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg based off the novel by Stieg Larsson
(number 437)

I was a bit concerned about watching this movie, as I knew there was a rape scene and I don’t like watching those… however, I’ve heard a lot of good things about the movie, and home sick with a cold which is giving me a mild euphoria (fever does that to me sometimes) so I figured today was as good a day as any to give it a watch.

I was intrigued almost straight away – the set up of the characters: disgraced journalist, violent hacker, was eloquent and managed to get me on side with both of them immediately. Mikael by showing that he had a small group of loyal supporters vs the big money of his enemy and Lisbeth by showing her being attacked senselessly in the train station and holding her own, then chasing off the gang of guys.

The story is convoluted, like all good mysteries, and the movie takes its time – it’s not that it’s slow paced, I never felt like it was dragging at all, but it’s a long movie and it doesn’t at any time feel like it’s rushing. I was drawn into these character’s lives and I was intrigued to see when they’d meet up finally. The two of them working together is one of the best partnerships I’ve seen to be honest. Respectful, trusting, complementary and razor sharp smart.

The rape scene … well, there were two really. One sort of a build up to the next, but it was brutal and unrelenting. It could have been cut a lot earlier but it instead focussed on the horror and pain of the moment, almost instantly repetition with the video Lisbeth took of it being played back. Then of course there was the third, revenge rape scene… which was almost as unpleasant, except that it’s a lot harder to feel sympathy for the victim.

Thankfully once this part of the story is played out the movie is a lot easier to watch – and Lisbeth’s reactions and manner after that are entirely believable. Noomi Rapace is epic in this, seeming to totally inhabit the character in such a way that I can’t quite feel like saying she’s acting. Michael Nyqvist is also amazing although I think he is deliberately understating things to further emphasise Lisbeth’s ‘otherness’.

In addition to an awesome story and excellent script this film is shot beautifully and the soundtrack is subtle and atomospheric. I really liked it! This is a good movie! And right there in the title it’s about a woman! Well.. it’s just nice to have a female lead okay? This list is short on them.

Does it make me love the people? Mikael is awesome, brave and unrelenting. He’s not particularly a physical man, but he puts himself into danger regardless and is dogged in solving the crime. He is respectful of Lisbeth which is something she doesn’t seem to have ever had from older males in her life. And Lisbeth? She’s so bad ass, I love her. I have a new style icon, and I want to watch the sequels pretty much only for her. Also the dragon tattoo is totally awesome.

Also Lisbeth is bi! Yay!

Bechdel test: Yes, there’s a scene where Lisbeth talks to Marten’s assistant Lindgren and a longer scene at the end where she speaks to her mother Agneta. Also Lisbeth totally saves Mikael at the climax. She saves him! Yay for trope switching!

Best line:
Lisbeth Salander: Blomkvist got the name Kalle Blomkvist when he solved a bank robbery in the 80s. He’s a very public person with no major secrets. Read the newspaper articles.
Dirch Frode: But does he have any secrets?
Lisbeth Salander: Everyone has secrets.

State of Mind: A bit traumatic to be sure, but wow. WOW. How do I always forget I like mysteries? Oh right because its tempered by my being absolutely done with stories about men killing women. Is the US version worth giving a go? Or should I just watch the sequels?

Watched movie count

The Jungle Book (1967)

The Jungle Book
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson and Vance Gerry, based on the Mowgli stories by Rudyard Kipling
(number 410)

I think I mostly saw this as a teenager when they re-released it and my sister bought it. We watched it a lot. I still think there’s a bit where Baloo says ‘shit’ but it’s possibly ‘kid’. Hard to say… I like the book, which I read a couple of years ago after the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This is a kinder adaptation with some very catchy songs, and I think it does a good job of glossing over the more disturbing bits of the book.

My favourite moment of the rewatch was the intro to the vultures, and I yelled ‘It’s the Beatles!’ and Blair kind of chuckled uncomfortably, but once they started talking he was flabbergasted. Yeah, I really don’t know why the Beatles are in this movie as a barbershop quartet of vultures, but they really are, liverpool accents, haircuts and all. It’s pretty amusing, and they’re useful to the story too, giving Mowgli backup during the climactic fight with Shere Khan.

I’m a little disturbed that the voice of Kaa the snake is the same voice as Winnie the Pooh, but he does get a good creepy song.

Does it make me love the people? I… really like Bagheera and Shere Khan … and the latter is the villain. But he’s so damn cool! Bagheera’s long suffering caretaker role is easy to sympathise with as an adult, but I’m sure as a kid you’re meant to roll your eyes at him the way Mowgli does.

It’s a sweet story. I was always vaguely bothered by Mowgli’s red nappies, but it’s hard to dislike him. He’s doing what we all wished we could do as kids (well, me anyway), living in the jungle with talking animals and doing whatever I wanted. Having a bear to cuddle up to. It’s a pretty good life.

Bechdel test: One named female elephant (Winifred) and one unnamed girl.. so… no. All the animals of the jungle are male. The human girl at the end is shown to be mysterious and intriguing, rendering Mowgli entranced with her song about how someday she’ll be married and cooking while her husband is out hunting. There’s something almost sexual in the close ups of her gaze and the way she plays with her hair, which is a bit uncomfortable to me.

Best line:

“And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you”

State of Mind: Like most Disney films, it’s reliably enjoyable to watch many times. There’s a lot to like in this movie, and the catchy songs are right up there.

sing it with me!