Team America: World Police (2004) – Well. Although Trey Parker and Matt Stone have historically proven themselves a safe enough bet for producers, I still have to once again admire the people who greenlighted this project. There now exists a movie made with marionettes (and two live cats). Well done, universe, thanks for making this possible.
Heavy Metal (1981) – Well, that sure happened. I have to admire the nerve of many filmmakers who are willing to take risks. Whether it works or not, someone was bold enough to make this movie, and it will forever be a movie that exists.
The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ, 2013) – It’s hard to tell if it’s as a Westerner or just as a moviegoer that I rarely see movies about World War 2 from the other side. Although, in that respect, it’s hard to say this is a movie about the war and not just a movie about a man and his airplanes, featuring the military. Then again, every character is Japanese, German, or Italian, and not one of them is really shown as anything like a traditional villain–a rare thing in Western movies set in the ’30s and ’40s.
More time is spent showing the devastation of an earthquake than on the horrors of war. Passing reference is made to the various countries the planes will bomb, and the planes, it is said, “didn’t come back.” In one scene, Jiro expresses some fleeting consternation that he’s being paid well to design war machines while the rest of Japan starves, but he seems to get over that and gets back to designing planes.
But this isn’t a movie about the war. It’s a movie about a man and his airplanes, and also the military is there, and some people die.
Secret Agent (1936) – Well, that sure was Peter Lorre playing a Mexican. Otherwise, this is just some pretty standard, middle-of-the-road, pre-Hollywood Hitchcock. I’m not sure what else there is to say about this except that Hitchcock’s pacing, wit, and not-casting-Peter-Lorre-as-a-Mexican got a lot better when he started working in Hollywood.
So begins Lent, 2014.
- That Wasn’t Me (Aquel no era yo, 2012) – New title: The Third World Sucks, but Sometimes White People Make it a Little Better. This title will be used a lot in Oscar-Nominated shorts. Most years, there is one.
- Just Before Losing Everything (Avant que de tout perdre, 2013) – My definite favorite. This was the only one of the five shorts that made me feel afraid for someone. A scene of a woman walking calmly through a department store has never been so intense.
- Helium (2014) – New Title: Cancer Ward. We’ve all seen Cancer Ward before. Filmmakers: you can stop making Cancer Ward.
- Do I have to Take Care of Everything (Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa?, 2012) – Next to two hack jobs trying to make me feel sad or angry and another piece that actually succeeds in making me feel fear, it’s nice to have a light bit of fluff.
- The Voorman Problem (2012) – Amusing, contains Martin Freeman.
- Feral (2012) – There are definitely points given for being pretty. After all, this is the entertainment industry. Beyond the pretty, however, there’s not a lot to get from this one. At least it’s a story we don’t see every day.
- Get a Horse! (2013) – Being a short from Disney about Disney and the magic of movies, I can definitely see the Academy patting themselves on the back with this one. Not my pick, though. While there’s plenty of clever meta-humor to it, there are other, more deserving pieces.
- Mr. Hublot (2013) – Please tell my boss I won’t be in today. I have died of boredom.
- Possessions (Tsukumo, 2012) – As with so many Japanese films, I’m still trying to see if I fully get it, or if there’s even anything to get. I’m fairly certain this is just a very pretty short film about taking care of your things, but who can say for certain?
- Room on the Broom (2012) – Easily the most broadly appealing of the shorts, this is the one you should take your kids to see. Unless you don’t like your children, then I guess you should go with Mr. Hublot or Feral.
Other shorts shown, not nominated:
- À la française (2012) – Good for a light chuckle. Chickens being fancy.
- The Missing Scarf (2013) – That this was not nominated is one of the greatest shames of Academy history. Maybe it didn’t do whatever shorts need to do to qualify. If that’s the case, I expect to see this nominated next year. The Missing Scarf provides the only sincere, full-on laughter I had during the entire program of animated shorts.
- The Blue Umbrella (2013) – Pixar phoned it in this year.
Today is the Epiphany. Time to put away your Christmas decorations (if you haven’t already) and take your Lenten vestments out of storage to air out a bit. Nobody likes Lenten vestments that smell of mothballs.
Ash Wednesday this year will be on March 5.
Easter will be April 20.
For the next two months, I will have these dates in the back of my mind (which is, physically, toward the front of the brain. Is that irony? I can never tell), planning movies to watch for my ninth year of undermining the letter and spirit of a sacred time of year. Suggestions are, as always, welcome.
Finally, this year (and all years), the Epiphany coincides with my father’s birthday. Happy birthday, Dad.
Once you get past the fact that this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the novel it was based on, World War Z stands on its own as an idiotic waste of time and money.
Ernest & Celestine (Ernest et Célestine, 2012) – Goddamn, France. You sure can make an adorable movie.
Key of Life (鍵泥棒のメソッド, 2012) – This year, I have developed a new love for Japanese film, and I’m pleased to see they do comedy just as well as the heavy dramas we import from them.