Films Retrospect 2005

Total tally for films watched in 2005 stands at 28 in theatres and 150 on dvds, making that 178 in all ( Click here to see the entire list ), averaging out to about 1 film every 2 days for the entire year. Here are my top 10 favourite films viewed in 2005, in no particular merit.

1)The Machinist (Brad Anderson)
2)Not One Less (Zhang Yimou)
3)Tony Takitani (Ichikawa Jun)
4)Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan)
5)Cha No Aji (Ishii Katsuhito)
6)Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass)
7)Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood)
8)Life Of Mammals (Documentary, David Attenborough)
9)Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders)
X)Majo No Takkyubin (Miyazaki Hayao)

Certainly it was tough trying to sift just 10 films out of 178, there were many other entertaining capers like Constantine and Starwars EP3, as well as films that had very outstanding visuals ie Lemony Snicket’s, also others worth mentioning like Hotel Rwanda and Daremoshiranai. Due to the exorbitant price of tickets here in Tokyo, exacerbated by its cretaceous release dates the abililty to view the latest films plunged dramatically, but the silver lining was that rental stores here stock many old titles that I was able to catch up on.

With that, here’s to another bountiful year ahead for movie viewing ! :]

Jan 3rd 2006
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Having tried out the great Meiji Jingu Jam ( Check out this entry; )in Harajuku during last year’s New Year’s Eve I figured I’ll go see something else this year; the great Ameyoko Jam, a very popular shopping street in Ueno, think a Japanese version of Chinatown on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Mingling into the crowd I was literally carried around involuntarily by the human traffic and I soon decided to just go with the flow, snapping whatever interesting that came into view. After that it was a laidback, quiet New Year’s dinner with some friends ( most others had gone back to their hometowns to celebrate New Year ); and yes, still secretly yearning for that intoxicated, sloshed out PVD party.

Jan 1st 2006
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Today, the 29th of December, 2005 will go down in my personal history as the day where I, an infinitesimal and paltry existence on this planet, meets Miyazaki Hayao, world renowned animator and master of the Ghibli Universe. No, I didn’t see him at a premiere for a new animation film; nor was it at a press conference or anything of this loud, official nature; I met him while he was on his way to work ( at Ghibli Studios in Musashi Koganei, not far from where I live ), driving pass my bicycle as I stopped at a junction, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a cigarette, the smoke trailing from his vintage car as he drove away. I stood flabbergasted for a long time, anticipating Totoros to trod along too, but they did, in a way I guess, in the spirit of their brilliant creator.

Dec 29th 2005

Tokyo’s metropolitan landscape stretches as far as the eye can see from Ebisu’s Garden Place, as breathtaking as it is dizzying. Taking the elevator up to the top viewing levels I almost felt like a character playing in Otomo Katsuhiro’s Akira as I gazed upon this colossal, hulking entity, the hectic home to 12 million denizens.

Dec 25th 2005
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Winter holidays are here and I’ve taken this opportune moment while taking a short breather from school to indulge in a little creative pleasure; taking s**tloads of photographs with my newly acquired, long overdue and hitherto much desire(d) Nikon digital SLR D70s. I’m loving every second of it; the handling and feel of the camera, the expanded creative options I have ( check it : ISOs from 200 to 1500 at the flick of a switch ), and I’ve barely even started. Now before any film purist lambast me as been unfaithful to the medium, no, I’m not a digital convert; I still love my good old Nikon FE10 and the romantic look of film; but the wise auteur utilizes all tools available to him so as to advance his level of work; not that I’m claiming to be one.

Here’s to many more happy and rewarding shooting days. :]


Dusk near home in Tanashi, West Tokyo.

Dec 22nd 2005
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Its a memorable day at this year’s Toho Video Festival (TVF), a film festival with works from all the different faculties of my film school. Chosen from a hundred pieces of film submission by a panel of judges, notably Yukisada Isao ( director of Shouting Out Love, ), my short film Robot Dreams ( a renaissance piece built from a culmination of unfinished work including Memento Mori, Do Robots Dream and recently shot video footage. ) managed to enter the grand finals, one of the top 10 films screened today at the festival vying for the grand prize of a Apple G5 FCP editing suite worth about 5K. Regrettably, I eventually lost out to my classmate from Shanghai ( we were the only two year one students in the top ten; the rest were graduation students ), whose impressive CG piece created to the likeness of Chinese watercolour paintings awed the judges, and deservedly won the best film award. Well, better luck next year with my graduation work ! :]

Dec 8th 2005
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The initial impression upon watching Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millenium Mambo, ( especially the first scene where we have Hsu Chi strolling down this bridge as the camera follows behind her, shot perhaps on a 48 or 60 framer ), was how much it reminded me of the splendid Korean film Take Care of My Cat. 2 things : 1) The dreamy and carefree, immediately memorable music ( I liken it to the pleasurable feeling of intoxication, without any of the nasty side effects )that give both films their characteristic mood, and 2) each fall into that risky category of cinema where there is no clearly established plotline; nothing important seem to be happening most of the time onscreen; there is no apparent premise or conclusion, and in the case of Mambo the potential bore factor skyrockets because the photographer is Lee Pingbin, who loves to lock down his camera and shoot empty compositions where the actors are completely out of frame. 3 other directors who have an affinity for this form of narrative comes to mind : Hu Jinho, Tsai Mingliang, and Robert Altman.

I cannot better explain their style of storytelling by this saying : The journey is the destination. Next stop, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s latest film Zhu Hao De Shi Guang ( Three Times ).

Dec 4th 2005
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Fright nights twice in a row with viewings of Gibson’s Passion of the Christ and then Scott’s Hannibal, I think I’ve been served enough cinematic blood and gore for a long time to come. Meanwhile, Yukisada Isao ( director of Shouting Out Love, ) makes a surprise visit to school, popping into our art direction class today to give us a few words on filmmaking. I just had to disagree with his views on the deficits of recent Korea cinema; evidently, if you have been catching up on the cream of the crop, it has never been stronger.

Nov 25th 2005
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Despite having watched a total of over 140 films ( and still counting ) on a mixture of dvd and cinema screenings so far this year ( this is excluding film appreciation seatings in school now ), the unthinkable, unprecedented has still happened : I have not yet seen even one of the 31 new films reviewed in this December’s issue of Sight and Sound, which by far is still the most insightful and well written film magazine ( except of course the peerless Singaporean FIRST, with reviews so intellectually potent I’ve uncontrollably vomited blood per read. ) I’ve ever read, thus making its recommendations so incredibly important.

This alarming event can be ascribed to 1) The exorbitant pricing of cinema tickets in Tokyo, charging rates fitting for seatings perhaps 20 years in the future, 2) The ironically Precambrian rate by which new films hit Tokyo shores, where by the time they actually start screening them the dvd copy of the same film would have long since been colonized by dust mites in Amazon’s warehouses, and 3) My sadly tondemonai level of japanese which largely prevents me from renting most foreign films ( read films from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Korea, etc ) that carries no english subtitles. I fear if a remedy is not formulated soon enough, I’ll be missing treasure troves of films by near future Godards, Truffauts and Renoirs.

Nov 17th 2005
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Suffering, revenge, and finally salvation, the 3 recurring themes in Park Chan Wook’s “Revenge” trilogy comes full circle as the series ends with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Oldboy ( as compared to other excellent korean films per se ) and I’ve yet to see Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first in the series ( though reliable sources from my personal Korean film guide and classmate Mr Kim has it that it ranks the highest of the three films on the gore-ometer, which may influence viewing decisions a wee bit ), but nontheless Lady Vengeance proved interesting enough ( even with me half struggling with the Japanese subtitles, you lucky bastards back home. ) Some memorable cameos come and go, rounding up main characters from the 2 former films. Gotta catch this one again.

Nov 16th 2005
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Recently just as I was starting to get jaded with the largely nondescript, unsatisfying Japanese films that I have had access to here in Tokyo, comes a mind blowing piece of work that utterly sweeps me off my feet, myself smiling and swearing unwittingly throughout the film’s viewing, marvelling at its sheer brilliance and beauty. Based on a short story of the same name by renowned writer Murakami Haruki, Tony Takitani ( directed by Ichikawa Jun, whose previous film Byoin De Shinu To Iu Koto ironically inflicted me with severe soporificism ) explores the issues of isolation, solitude and loss. This film is in a word, beautiful; the quiet photography, subdued palette of colours that lend to the film’s intended feeling of emptiness, the music, poised piano arrangements mirroring the visual’s quiescent mood, the treatment and art direction, each scene decorated with the aloofness of an Edward Hopper painting, the screenplay, conversations and exchanges like soothing poetry but with non of the rigidity, more like the words of a child, honest, direct, austere. My highest recommendations.

You can get the Japanese 2 disc special edition of the dvd here.

Nov 10th 2005
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Despite playing like an Apple endorsed film at times and my at best lukewarm interest in political satire films, Wim Wenders Land of Plenty nontheless held my attention with a narrative ( Winders writing up a treatment in just 3 days ) that was languid in the beginning but built up momentum as the film progressed, and one is certainly reminded of a similar plot setup in Wender’s much older work, the excellent Paris, Texas. While the director’s decision to shoot the film in video escapes me for moment it is however interesting to note that the utilized camera, Panasonic’s AGDVX100A, held up rather impressive considerably such a big blow up to theatre resolution working with just DV source, and I cannot wait to see what its latest incarnation the HD AG-HVX200 can do for independent filmmakers, not to mention those poor, starving film students.

Oct 29th 2005
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