A Love Letter to The Wire

Image result for The Wire

As someone who has watched movies and television for a long time, I should be inclined to tell you that I probably am an expert at understanding the art and brilliance of film and to a certain extent, television as well. But, to be honest, that’s all horseshit. Because, I haven’t seen even the greatest of the greats yet. As someone who just recently watched “The Wire”, I can safely say that I have watched what is in my opinion, the single greatest television show I have seen yet.

Watching “The Wire” as a 19 year old adult, I understood a lot of things that I didn’t the first time around (I tried to watch it when I was younger but couldn’t get around to it). But beyond that, the show also taught me a lot of things about the true nature of real life problems and where they stem from. As someone who is a simple minded fellow, there are things this show exposed me to that I needed to know about, such as the nature and workings of public affairs, police work, drugs, school systems and a lot more. Now, I don’t mean to say that what the show did was explain to me how it works, rather it showed me what the truth is and that not everything can be taken at face value. It showed me that the problem doesn’t have a single root, it has multiple roots. For a change to be made, you don’t just take out one guy, you have to change the system around it. All of this was done by telling the story through the eyes of the people of Baltimore and boy, what a journey it was.

If I had to put it in a word, I don’t think any other can justify it as well as “genius”. The Wire, simply put, was genius. Looking back on my other reviews, I don’t think I have used that word often (well, I have used ingenious, but that’s beside the point) and I believe that was for a reason. With these many characters, subplots and messages I have no earthly idea how it all came together, that too with such effortless grace.

Like, seriously, how did this happen?

Okay, Okay, I’ll move on with the review.

Image result for The Wire

The Wire was a television show that aired from 2002 to 2008. It takes place in the city of Baltimore and primarily deals with the inner workings of the police department and the drug cartels. As each season progresses, more of the systems’ inner workings are expanded upon (such as school, media, politics etc.), thus dealing with more issues regarding the city of Baltimore. As the creator David Simon put it, The Wire is “really about the American city, and about how we live together”.

So what are the many great things I love about this show? Well, let’s start from the basics. The writing and acting are two major standouts. When you talk about shows that have about 15-20 major characters and just as many recurring throughout each season, the writing needs to be comprehensible. It needs to move from one character to another purposefully and each scene needs to further the plot or develop a character. This is where the writing of the show really stands out. Never once did I feel that I was lost. Sure, at the beginning of each season, it takes a little time getting used to newer characters, but you completely used to soon enough. Even in great shows like ‘Game Of Thrones’, where characters are located in many different locations around the globe, each arc felt like another short story rather than one big story. When a scene shifted from one location to another, I knew that particular story had nothing to do with the scene before it, and that always took me out of it. With ‘The Wire’ though, I always knew the shift was part of the grand story of Baltimore.

Image result for The Wire

When acting is brought up in a lot of shows, there is always a standout performance or performances. There is always a Walter White, a Tyrion Lannister, a Tony Soprano. The great thing about the wire is, there are so many good performances from all of its actors that it never felt like there was anyone who was trying to upstage the other. I guess the fact that a lot of relatively unknown actors that were cast did help in the matter, but that’s beside the point. Not only that, every performance is subtle, genuine and realistic. Not one actor tries to oversell their performance. In a show that is this ambitious in storytelling, I have to commend the cast members for a job well done. It’s a shame that none of them were nominated for major awards like Emmys or Golden Globes, but then again that also is a good reminder that awards mean shit to me. Just to make a few shout outs, some of my favourites were Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Micheal K. Williams, Dominic West, Andre Royo, Clarke Peters and of course, Idris Elba. Also, can we just appreciate that we have a great show with a diverse cast and characters that have nothing to do with racism or slavery and are just good fictional characters. Like, I know that’s not a thing on TV, but I notice it so much in movies and sometimes TV, I just have to bring it up.

Now on to the more subtle nuances. One thing The Wire does that I haven’t seen many other shows do, is the absence of a score. Music is only played in a scene only when it takes place in an area where it can be played. For example, in a car or a bar. Even during any major dramatic moment, no background music or song of any kind is played at all, and for some reason, it works due to the standards of realism that the show has set. The only time it ever really plays music in the background is during the montages that appear at the end of each season (which are brilliant by the way due to the phenomenal song choices).  Also, the show rarely ends on any cliffhanger and ends like it’s the end of a chapter. When people say that The Wire is a visual novel, I totally get what they mean and in every sense of the word, it is.

Image result for the wire fan art

The way it treated the sexuality of the characters is worth talking about as well. In a show about cops and drug dealers, we have two well rounded lesbian/gay characters that treat their sexual orientation like it’s a normal thing. For a show to not make that its selling point was something that I really admired. In so many shows and movies now a days, we get this dumb, stupid way to attract audiences by saying, “Oh, hey we have a bland stereotypical gay character, he/she’s in it for 2 scenes, we’re progressive!!!”. Like, here we actually have well rounded characters, and their sexual preference is just another thing. It’s not like the show just brings it up once and never touches on it again, it’s a part of their character and sometimes it brings out great character moments from them because of it. Thank You.The last thing I would like to bring up is the way the show used symbolism. I really liked how they used it without ever sacrificing the story for it. If you don’t get the symbolism don’t worry, it isn’t shoved down your throat like a Zack Snyder movie. It’s done in a subtle and ingenious way, it’s almost like an Easter egg. It makes for great rewatchability and further analysis in a show that already does more than enough.

If I had to bring up any flaws, the only ones that I can think of have nothing to do with the show itself. It has more to do with the demands it asks from the viewers. From the start, the show lets you know that this isn’t a regular drama where eventful things happen every episode. You have to be patient and observant. More than that, this isn’t an instant hooker, in fact it took me 6-7 episodes to understand why this show was so great. Another thing that might be a turn off is the dialect that the characters speak in, it’s faithful to that of the people of Baltimore, so it can be a little hard to get what is being conveyed. All of these things aren’t flaws, they are more of “reasons” why people may not find The Wire engaging enough to warrant a complete viewing, and that sucks because I want more people to watch this show even though it has gained a considerable audience since its conclusion.

Sure, it takes some time getting accustomed to, but once you get past that, what you have here is true gem and a masterpiece of storytelling. This is entertainment at its highest possible form. I honestly don’t think I will ever see a show that is this good, and maybe that’s a special thing. It’s what makes shows like The Wire unique and I love it for exactly that. Guys, there is a lot I can say about The Wire. I can talk about my favourite moments, my favourite characters, how powerful it was from start to finish. But saying more would do nothing more than spoil it and I don’t want to do that, because I know there are people out there that still haven’t experienced this show. Hell, I only got around to it in 2016 and I should have seen it long ago. So if you’re someone who is still unsure about watching The Wire, go see it.

NOW

Rating: 10/10 (it’s fucking obvious at this point)

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A Look Back at Classics: Rear Window (1954)

What’s a better way to celebrate movies than to look back at some of our most beloved classics from some of our most beloved directors. In all the time that I have been a movie fan, nothing is better than taking a look at the evolution of what came to be the thing that you loved. In this case, its the movies for me. So, today let us take a look at one of the most influential thrillers of all time, Rear Window.

Okay then....let us start spying

Alfred Hitchcock was a director that I have heard so much about, but it pains me to tell you that I have not seen a single movie from this guy. I just never had the time to view them. So, one fateful day I decided to check out one of his most adored masterpieces, Psycho……uh, sorry….Rear Window. What are we waiting for? Let us move on with the review.

Let us look into it....literally

The film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes. It is based on the short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich and was released in the year 1954. The film follows the story of L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies (played by James Stewart), a photographer who is confined in his apartment due to an accident on one of his working days, which forces him to be on a wheelchair. During his stay, he likes to notice people outside his apartment window. Soon, he begins suspecting one of the neighbors to be a murderer after viewing certain strange events.

What follows is a movie that just builds suspense and tension. One meticulously well done shot after another. The signature Alfred Hitchcockian thriller, as some of the fans would put it. So, where to begin?

Don't worry.....I do

The setting is the perfect place to start. What Rear Window does so well is that it is confined to one setting. It does a magnificent job of making the audience view the situation from the viewpoint of our main character. In fact, the camera never leaves the apartment. Many of the far point shots are viewed through a camera lens at best, but that’s it. Also, the fact that Hitchcock was able to make a thrilling movie that is filled with shots that build tension is just mind blowing.

They make a good couple..

The characters themselves are very interesting as well. James Stewart is great, he does a pretty solid job at selling you the fact that he is a professional at what he does. Wendell Corey (who plays NYPD Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle and Jeff’s best friend) was also pretty good, I particularly liked how his character isn’t really written as the super nice guy (he is even hinted at being involved in adultery). Despite this, his character is certainly is not the most memorable part of the movie. He does come off as a bit cliched with his whole “That’s absurd” or “You’re just making stories up” routine. But the show stealer for me was Grace Kelly (who plays Lisa Carol Fremont, Jeff’s girlfriend). She gives such an amazing performance as a woman who clearly cares for Jeff and is willing to do anything for him. She never comes across as creepy or possessive or even as a damsel in distress. She comes across to me as a smart, beautiful and intelligent woman who knows what she is doing. For a film in the 50’s to write a character like that, was and is phenomenal.

Surprisingly.......She was my favorite character

The cinematography is just brilliant, to say the least. Looking at each shot in the movie, you can tell that a lot of effort has been put into everything. You can tell that everything was planned out and shot with the utmost precision. From a guy like Hitchcock, that is something that I would expect. Even better, is how he barely uses music in many of his scenes. He uses silence in the films most tension filled sequences. I can totally see now how that plays into many of the decent thrillers these days.

Wow...just Wow

One of the other things that I liked was how the story involved many subplots for different neighbors just by showing their reactions and feelings. None of these scenes have dialogue at all. They follow a “Less talk more show” approach, and I really admire that.

Having said that, I do have a few problems with this film. Earlier, I mentioned how every scene felt meticulously shot and acted. I take this as one of the films weaknesses as well. You see, when you have a film that is filled with characters talking to each other in a confined place, the dialogue needs to feel natural. Due to the directors nature (Hitchcock hated improvisations), many of the scenes despite being well acted, often felt staged and not real. It felt more like I was watching a play rather than a movie. That’s not to say that ruined the movie even by a stretch, but I generally felt that throughout the entire film. The next paragraph includes major spoilers (so please beware).

Another issue I had was with the film’s climax. As well shot and tension-filled as it is. It comes to a rather rushed conclusion. The final scene where Jeff and the villain come face to face, results in the murderer being arrested and revealing all the information about how he murdered his wife in an instant. I wish it had a bit more to it. Also, some shots like the scene where Jeff falls from the apartment floor looked incredibly fake. I know this was the 50’s and all, but they could have done the same shot by cutting to him falling on the ground. But, even I would agree I am nitpicking at this point.

Yeah...It doesn't look very good

With all that said. Rear Window is a film that really holds up. Despite the fact that I have issues with how well-staged it is or even the fact that some shots look a bit too fake or dated. I just can’t put it in words what a well-crafted film this is. It is the first Hitchcock film I have ever seen and I just cannot wait to see more of his work. I love this movie. It is one of the best thrillers ever made. It is no wonder that it is considered to be one of the best films of all time.

I give Rear Window a solid 8.8/10

Inside Out (2015) review

Well, sorry for the delay guys, I got caught up in all my university admissions, so I might not be able to put up stuff as soon as I want to, but don’t worry I don’t intend on stopping this by any means. So with all that said, let us move on with the review. Inside Out has been getting a ton of attention lately, it’s earned praises from many everywhere, and since I am a fan of Pete Docter and the fact that this film has been under my radar way before the film even got a title (I read stuff on Wikipedia, okay), it was natural that I would be excited to watch this movie, and boy did it deliver.

This is without a doubt one of Pixar’s best, well rounded works I have seen from them since Up and Ratatouille. It’s imaginative, it’s new, it’s creative and it’s engaging in the best possible way. Inside Out just gets it right. The story following that of an 11 year old girl named Riley who has moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, and the emotions inside her head, Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness. The movie follows her emotions trying to help her while she deals with moving away from her home and what follows is something I personally decided not to spoil, even though this film already came out in the U.S, I just stuck with not spoiling it, it is just too good not to.

What makes Inside Out work for me is how smart and inventive it is. It is the first Pixar film not to have a villian, it is something that I only realized after I finished watching it. The inventiveness comes from the world that Pete Docter creates and uses to its full potential, I mean never once in the plot did I find anything to be conveniently placed, never once did I feel it pulled off a Deus Ex Machina, because everything is so well placed and so well thought out it is just genius, and you know that a film is genius when it can do things like that, what surprised me about this film is that it was able to sell me on the fact that a world within our mind exists, it explains so many things like why forget stuff, why we become sad and down on our luck all of a sudden sometimes or how we just have upbeat moments, it is just classic Pixar in terms of great world building and storytelling.

Now, the voice acting is just spot on, in all honesty I cannot imagine anyone else doing the voices of these characters, I mean Amy Poehler as Joy (who was my favorite emotion), Lewis Black as Anger (who was my second favorite), Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Bill Hader as Fear, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, were perfect and not just them, even Katilyn Dias was an overlooked aspect of this film, who voices Riley, who just nails the spirit of being a 11 year old perfectly and she knocks it out of the park when it came to the emotional sequences that just made her my favorite part of the film. It all comes down to the great casting, and each character is so distinct in design, color and personality that you just recognize them instantly.

The animation, needless to say is astounding to look at, there are so many worlds, lands that just burst out with imagination, and you can’t expect to comprehend such things without great animation and design, and Pixar just nail it, it’s fluid, colorful and basically it’s Pixar at its best. The score by Michael Giacchino is one of the best parts about this movie, the music for every scene just works, the joyful scenes, the emotional ones, it is to the point and in many ways it just defines the scene so well that the moment is perfect and all of it just play so well together, they make up for one of my favorite scores of all time.

I loved Joy (and Anger)

Lewis Black was awesome.

So with all that said, my only issue was that at times the film felt a bit too drawn out with the adventure of Joy and Sadness, it was well done and well executed but I think it could have been cut a bit short, but really apart from that, I hardly had any issues to begin with. Inside Out is Pete Docter’s masterpiece, it has terrific writing, probably one of the best I have come across ever, and it has great animation, phenomenal voice acting, a to-the-point score, great world building and above all a great concept that is executed magnificently. It provides a great message when it concludes, one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It is one of the best Pixar works and if you are wondering where it stands on my list, it probably would make number 3, and if you really want to know, yes I cried while watching this movie. It is the best film of the year so far and without a doubt gets an ‘A+’.

Thank you, I hope it is the rating I am good at

Final Rating: A+

So there is my long awaited review, sorry for the heavy delay guys, I am just caught up in all these college admissions, so I am really busy, I will release my countdown list as promised by tomorrow, I will try my best, if not definitely by day after, but it will come, after that, there might be a longer hiatus as I am not really watching any movie soon, but don’t worry I will try to come up with something, but until then guys,

Cheers…and take care

Pixar Movies (Ranked Worst to Best)

Pixar films ranked worst to best

Well, guys I am fresh off of doing reviews for Satoshi Kon’s films and doing reviews for anime. It’s been a while since I have done reviews for other stuff, even from my blog. So I wanted to do some Pixar stuff, since I haven’t really done that many, so I decided to finally rank all of Pixar’s films from worst to best. Pixar studios is a powerhouse, and it’s a studio I have always looked up to for great films, yes I am a fan of anime and films and T.V, but Pixar has been around since my childhood. I have watched and admired all (okay, most) of their films, and in many ways they are my Disney, my Star Wars, my Star Trek, I am 18 now and I will never let their films leave me have it be in spirit or from my hard drive, Pixar continues to rule and will for at least a while longer. Yes, they have stumbled along the way, but they never fail to impress in some shape or form.

So here I am trying to rank their works in the best way I can. So note, these are only their feature length films that are being ranked, not their shorts, which are impressive nonetheless. I have put a LOT of thought into this list, and it is MY opinion only, and I am not giving away any plot descriptions and I will be jumping straight into my opinion and my justifications for the spot it has been given, so don’t expect to know what the film is about and I am writing this with the knowledge that you know these films or at least know the basic plot, don’t worry, I haven’t added any spoilers whatsoever, Also I have NOT INCLUDED Inside Out, because it has not released in my country yet (it’s coming out on the 26th), so if that bothers you, I suggest you leave. Now, with all that nonsense out of the way, let’s move on to the list.

# 13 – Cars 2 (2011)

It’s not as good as it looks

Okay, so this is the obvious one, everyone hated this movie. Here is an interesting thing, I actually didn’t understand why a ton of people hated it when I first saw it (I was 14, okay), and I thought people were just mumbling about how it wasn’t as good as Toy Story 3, but I will be honest, as I grew up, and on second viewing I can totally see why it’s not good. It doesn’t have any of the powerful storytelling Pixar is known for, the plot is seriously all over the place, and the idea to make Mater the main character still baffles me, although I didn’t hate him as much as the others did. Regardless, I don’t think the movie is awful by any means, but it isn’t any good either, it’s dumb fun at best and a poorly written Pixar effort at worst. The characters are not very interesting; the focus of the story is not either. The animation is great (as all Pixar films are), I will give it that, but it is definitely Pixar’s worst film yet.

#12 – A Bug’s Life (1998)

Now this may be a surprise to some and a shock to others. I personally feel that while I did enjoy myself while I saw this movie when I was 10 or 11, it’s probably Pixar’s most forgettable work. In fact, whenever I talk to any of my friends about Pixar, I always noticed that A Bug’s Life is never ever mentioned, and I think that comes down to the problem that it is way too formulaic, the main character is bland, the story, while kept in a different setting, is still incredibly generic and has been told way too many times, even prior to this film’s release, the main guy wants to prove his worth, not that it hasn’t been told well before or since, it’s just that it hasn’t been told well here, at the very least not as well as it could have. This may be due to the fact that they had to follow up from Toy Story, so yeah I can see how hard it is on the creator’s shoulders. But still, it’s watchable but unfortunately it’s forgettable due to its clichés and generic characters and story. So it secures its place on number 13.

#11 – Cars (2006)

Cars is one of those movies that I really can’t tell whether I liked or disliked. On one hand the animation and the race sequences are incredible fun to watch and while the idea of talking cars is stupid to some, I rather liked it, but on the other hand the characters are such archetypes, you have the guy who wants to win the race and then realizes there is more to it than that, you have the guy who wants to beat the protagonist, you have the goofball, you have that woman who hates the protagonist first and then likes him. It’s just so, so overdone and filled with formulas on how to pass time. I still can’t tell how or why this film was chosen to be made so cliched that too by the creator of Pixar himself John Lasetter, who even directed the sequel. Still the animation in particular I was impressed with and by the time of its release I can tell you, this movie had the best animation Pixar had to offer. It’s okay, I guess but I really can’t say whether it’s a good film or a bad one, but of all films Pixar has done, it’s definitely not anywhere near the best of what they had to offer.

#10 – Brave (2012)

Now this may surprise you, but I liked Brave, but only liked just above the line of dislike. Brave is the kind of movie that is entertaining and that’s it, yes there is a message that the movie provides, but it’s not conveyed particularly well, at least not in Pixar standards, and I will agree, this was Pixar trying to do Dreamworks, it’s not necessarily a failure, it’s definitely far from a success. I will agree the trailer was a marketing ploy, the whole princess regime was just Disney all over again, and I can totally see someone hating this movie, but I will admit, it was funny when it needed to be, I thought the kids were hilarious, the setting and animation were great and the relationship between the mother and the daughter was very well handled, all that and the Scottish accents are always a charm. It’s just that it could have been more, but for what we got, it’s okay, and I liked it, but I will agree, it’s definitely another not-so-good addition to the Pixar library.

#9 – The Incredibles (2004)

Oh dear, I have just pissed off a large group of you folks out there, but this is my list and my opinion only, so that’s that. The Incredibles is an enjoyable film and I really liked it, the characters are great, the animation is SPECTACULAR, seeing as this is the first film by Pixar to have an entire cast of human characters, this was a solid movie, and I had a ton of fun, but here is my issue, the first half of this movie is boring, the characters are great, but the film made it’s big mistake by making Bob Parr the lead character, rather than making the entire family the central core of the story, at least for the first half. I always found The Incredibles most interesting when they were working together like a family. The whole story of Bob wanting to be a superhero again just wasn’t my cup of tea; I would have liked it if the entire movie was like the last 30 minutes, where we see the family working off each other, but I guess that really can come down to my thinking. Regardless, this was a good movie with great characters, hilarious moments, and some true emotions.

#8 – Wall-E (2009)

Why the hell is Wall-E so low on the list? Well, because Pixar is awesome and they have made way too many good movies and I just found others that were better. Okay, I will give a better reason, but before that, I also really liked Wall-E, its good sci-fi done in the best way Pixar even could do. The character of Wall-E was very interesting and I am really glad that they went with the decision for him to not speak much, because that just makes him way more interesting, and to this day, he remains one of my favorite protagonists ever. But, my problem with this movie is the exact opposite of The Incredibles, while the first half is a masterpiece that has no dialogue, I found that when they introduced the humans near the second half, the story just lost its momentum, I guess that’s because they just weren’t as interesting as the robots, or it could be the fact that I preferred the first half way more, the animation while stunning still didn’t surprise me or impress me when we get to the ship, the designs were just lazy at times, what you can only wear red or blue clothes, everyone is fat and riding on sofas, it’s just that they could have done way more with that, this is Pixar after all, but I guess I am really nitpicking and I really do like this film, and the reason I place this above The Incredibles was that despite the fact that Incredibles had the better second half, Wall-E was more experimental and more daring, not to say that the Incredibles wasn’t, but Wall-E just did it a bit better.

#7 – Toy Story (1995)

This is where it all began, this is where Toy Story began, and I really, really liked it. Toy Story is one of those experimental films that just work. It’s great as in it has great and likeable characters, really funny moments, great writing and good execution. So why isn’t this movie any higher, well, at this point in the list, it really is just my preference right now, but let me try to explain. The story of Toy Story, while great, is very…personal and small scale than most Pixar films, this isn’t as big and more emotional than any of the other movies, and the fact that I saw this after I had seen films like Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 (yeah I did), I kind of look back on this movie and think it just doesn’t hold up to other works, even animation wise (but that is nitpicking, this movie came out in 1995). Yes it has some terrific writing and the fact that it could make me care about toys is an achievement in and of itself, it’s just the fact that it is smaller and more laid back than most Pixar films, just makes it land on the number 7 spot.

#6 – Monster’s University (2013)

DID YOU JUST PLACE THIS MOVIE ABOVE THE INCREDBLES AND WALL-E AND TOY STORY YOU DIPSHIT? Well, yes, yes I did. I know I have already pissed you guys, so let me try explaining, I saw Monsters University right after my graduation from 10th grade (in India, the process is different), so when I went to see this movie, I didn’t know what to expect. Pixar wasn’t exactly at the best place in their works (Cars 2 and Brave). So I went in with admittedly very low expectations, and what I got was a film I related to the most from any of Pixar’s works. I am not the biggest fan of prequels, but here is the thing I am a fan of good movies, and I do acknowledge the movie’s flaws, the side characters are just stupid archetypes, the whole principal’s story with the students was dumb, the comedy is forced at times and hell, the university is right out of a 90’s hip comedy movie, but the reason I placed it above those films is the last 30 minutes. If you have seen the movie, you would know why, it’s a message told in a way that only Pixar films can and it executed it in such a way that only a studio giant like Pixar could. The moral being that we can’t get what we want all the time even if we work hard and sit and do everything, we are just not cut out to do some things, I honestly just related to it as I was a student just going to 11th grade for a whole new life and I just connected to that very well, few movies can hold the grace that this one did and convey such a message without it ever becoming way too in your face. In fact it doesn’t even end very happily, which is what adds to just how good the movie really is. Is that the only reason I love this film? No, watching Mike and Sully again was just a treat, and the voice acting is great, the story about how they become friends is a delight and while it does follow the whole hate each other first then like each other later has been done, but again the execution, the chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman just works for me, so yeah I love this movie and if you don’t it’s totally understandable, this was Pixar’s return to form for me, and it tied in very well with Monster’s Inc and it may not be as good as MI, but it’s a good movie nonetheless, and I believe it holds its spot at number 6.

#5 – Toy Story 2 (1999)

Honestly, do I have to say anything for this one, this movie just stands as one of the best sequels ever made, it ups the ante, it has more characters, more subplots, better writing, better villains and overall, it’s just the Toy Story I wanted, it goes all out, it is hilarious, toys travel to airports, shopping malls, through vents, just so much happens in this movie and it is just adventurous and more heartfelt. Hell, I don’t cry at all, and I didn’t cry at the Jessie scene but it got me, I will admit, the feels were hard on this one, and that’s what makes Pixar so great, it knows how to make family movies, it knows how to do them right, and Toy Story 2 is no exception. Why at number 6, really it’s just that Pixar has made better films that’s all, at this point I can’t really tell, it’s just a matter of preference.

#4 – Monster’s Inc (2001)

Do I need to explain myself? Yes, this film was directed by Pete Docter, who, in my opinion, along with Andrew Stanton are the best directors and creators Pixar has yet. Pete Docter is a god when it comes to computer animation, he is imaginative and creative and never holds back, yes he has only directed 3 films, but still, I think he has not failed yet. The animation is just beautiful and Monster’s Inc. is too. The film never holds any bar on imagination and the doorway scene is just astounding to look at, and it holds up even to this day, the voice talents are brilliant, Billy Crystal and John Goodman in particular, the characters are very likeable and like all Pixar films, it is innocent and heartfelt, so it earns its spot on number 4.

#3 – Toy Story 3 (2010)

Well, I have pissed you off again, but I really can’t do anything. Why isn’t this number 1, well I just found their other films to be better, but anyways, I love this film and it concludes the Toy Story trilogy in such a way that the this trilogy is my favorite trilogy ever made (yes, it is tied with LOTR). Do I really have to say why it’s good? The characters are great, the fact that the story takes place when Andy is 17 years old is genius, and the fact that they didn’t screw it up and managed to tell the best story of them all, with a great villain and magnificent animation is masterful. What Toy Story 3 does so well, is that unlike the other two, is the friendship, you see, while I thought the friendship was well handled in the first two, it is in this film where it is tested, they have hardships to go through and that is the reason the scene near the end (the trash scene, as I put it) really had got to me, because I bought the fact that they were close friends, it’s smart, the writing is genius and the fact that Lee Unkrich directed it and not John Lasseter (who did an amazing job with the first two) and made this the best of the three was award worthy, it is no wonder that I am placing this at number 3.

#2 – Ratatouille (2007)

Okay, now this was really hard to put, but ultimately, I put this movie at number 2. Ratatoullie is Brad Bird’s masterpiece, and to this day it still remains the best film that he has ever done. It has great characters, great story, great animation (Paris looks awesome), great score, great direction, great villain, great voice acting, just all around perfect, and to top it all off, it has one of the best endings in movies, EVER. So yeah, that’s about it, and that’s all I can say, check it out if you haven’t already.

#1 – Finding Nemo (2003) & Up (2009)

Yes it is a tie, when it comes down to it, it really is hard to choose from the set of Pixar films that are there, but I always found it hard to choose one of these two, these are the masterpieces by both Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter respectively, and on my blog I have mentioned Finding Nemo in the list of my favorite films of all time, you can consider this a revision. Both these films encapsulate what Pixar does best, telling great and original stories that can make you laugh, cry or just be engaged by where the story goes, both these movies have tear jerking moments and while many people always site Up to be the one that makes you cry, Finding Nemo does that too, just remember the opening for example or the scene inside the whale, but, Up has some of them too, and while many people bring up the first 10 minutes, I can bring up another, the scene where Carl and Russell sit down and Russell is just telling stories about him and his dad and Carl is visibly bored, when Russell notices this, he says the one line that made me cry completely, “it might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most”…Yeah…I lost it. It’s a scene filled with innocence and silence but it speaks the loudest of all the moments. But regardless, both these films have very well written characters, well told stories, great music, phenomenal voice acting, are very engaging from start to finish and they both have taught me very important lessons in my life. So, yeah, It really is hard for me to pick one of these.

That was really, really, really, really, really, really long. Sorry, but I guess I just needed it to be more detailed rather than half-assed and I hope this was an interesting list at the very least, I will review Inside Out on Saturday or Friday, I am not sure but that is the next thing I will do, thanks for reading this if you have. So until then guys,

Cheers and take care

Millennium Actress (2001) review

Millennium Actress (2001) review

Well, guys this is probably it, the final review of Satoshi Kon’s films, so here I am honoring this man’s work in the only way I can and what he gave to the film industry as a whole. Again, I would like to remind you that I am reviewing his films in the order that I have seen them in. Okay, now that is out of the way. Millennium Actress was the second feature film directed and co-written by Satoshi Kon that was released in the year 2001. It was animated by Studio Madhouse and also co-written by Sadayuki Murai, who also worked with Kon on his first feature Perfect Blue and is partially based on the life of real life actresses Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine. The film follows a documentary filmmaker who investigates the life of an aging and retired actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara. What follows is a Citizen Kane like storyline where we get to know more about her life through her films and events that took place in her real life, that’s so well blended together; you never know what’s reality and what’s fiction.

The many roles of Chiyoko Fujiwara
The many roles of Chiyoko Fujiwara

Millennium Actress is easily Kon’s most overlooked film, because that year the release of Spirited Away pretty much crushed the chances of this film getting much recognition, and to this day, not many people really talk about it. So here I am telling you, this is my favorite film by Satoshi Kon. This film was just a masterstroke in storytelling. The cinematography is the best of what Satoshi Kon has to offer. The characters, especially our main character was amazing and so interesting to see the decisions she makes in her life how that plays into the rest of her works and ultimately the bigger picture. here is a pretty good example of the cinematography that I am babbling about.

The story is great, but the master stroke really lies in the execution of the story, much like Citizen Kane, you find out more about this anonymous character that no one really knows about to a point where he or she becomes a character that everyone knows about, and just like Citizen Kane, the cinematography that adds to it is just brilliance, really I know how much I have praised Kon’s cinematography in the previous reviews, but not like how he has done it here, every shot adds to the story, there isn’t one shot in this film that I can actually consider unnecessary, the recurring motif of ‘the key’ in this movie is very similar to that of the motif of ‘Rosebud’ in Citizen Kane. As much as I am making it sound like a Citizen Kane rip-off, it’s not and ultimately they are two completely different films that follow a very similar kind of storytelling, so in the end they are similar but not the same.

Ring any bells???
Ring any bells???

The characters are also very well realized, the main character Chiyoko and her storyline is just fascinating to watch, particularly the overarching story of her trying to find the man she loves, a recurring storyline that is featured in many of her films and all of it culminates in one of the best endings any film has to offer (more on that later), the documentary filmmaker Genya Tachibana, was a fascinating character as well, because he is a fan of this actress and it clearly shows how much he deeply cares for her and how he factors into her story later in the film was just perfect. He is not the usual bumbling fat guy to make jokes and add comedic relief; he is a character, a guy who is a bonified fan boy of this actress and not some weird awkward dude.

Yep, they are going into battle all rightThe animation is good, but not great, seeing as Spirited Away came out the exact same year, but again I am comparing this film to a Miyazaki movie where animation is their selling point. What I am trying to say is, this isn’t the best Studio Madhouse has to offer. The backgrounds however look brilliant and beautiful, but where the weak points come is in the slightly dated look on the characters, but aside from that the animation is pretty solid and it’s beautiful to look at.

So, with all that said, and very, very little to spoil, I have to say the film is quite frankly my favorite film from Kon’s work, it is intricately crafted, it is well thought out, and never ever fails to grab your attention, it is perfectly paced and has one of the best endings ever in films that I will dare not give away and trust me, I have seen plenty of movies in my admittedly limited experience as a reviewer. It combines all the elements that Satoshi Kon is great at, that includes his cinematography, the well written characters, the story and above all, great execution. It pays wonderful homages to some of Tokyo’s older films and while animation is certainly the film’s weakest point for me, it still is a beauty to look at. So with so much to write but very little to spoil, I give Millennium Actress an ‘A+’ and highly recommend this to anybody who hasn’t seen it yet.

Final Rating: A+

So that concludes my reviews of Satoshi Kon, a great and masterful filmmaker, and I am glad that the last film of his that I saw was my favorite of his works and yes I know that he had directed a T.V series Paranoia Agent, so I will review that whenever I can because it is unfortunately really hard for me to get. So I just want to thank you guys for sticking around and reading my admittedly long reviews of this man’s work, and if you have read them all, I really appreciate it and I thank you very very much for taking the time to do so. I will do more stuff, and tomorrow or the day after, I will rank the Pixar films from best to worst in light of the release of Inside Out (which is coming out really late on 26th in my country btw), so I will see you guys next time. Also I would like to thank the MP community for listing my Tokyo Godfathers review on the Top 10 posts by creators this week, I really appreciate it and you can check it out on the website, here is the link

Top 10 posts by creators on moviepilot.com

So, Until next time, cheers and take care..

Perfect Blue (1997) Review

Perfect Blue (1997) Review

Hello there, I am back again to review Satoshi Kon’s films as I promised I would by the end of this week. Also, I would like to remind you again, that I am reviewing these films in the order that I have seen them, so even though this was Satoshi Kon’s first film, it was the third film of his that I had seen, so with that out of the way. Let’s talk about Perfect Blue.

Perfect Blue was the feature length directorial debut of Satoshi Kon that was released in the year 1997 that was animated by Studio Madhouse and written by Sadayuki Murai and is based on the novel of the same name by Yoshikazu Takeuchi. The film follows the character of Mima Kirigoe, a J-pop singer for a group called “CHAM!” (Weird name, I know), who decides to leave the pop idol group in order to pursue an acting career for herself, this choice comes to the dismay of some of her fans, particularly one stalker of hers, Me-Mania, as she receives death threats, phone messages and weird calls, she loses her grasp on what’s real and what’s not.

Somebody's got problems
Somebody’s got problems

So let me get this out of the way first, Perfect Blue is my least favorite film by Satoshi Kon, this may come as a shock to many, because a lot of people consider this to be his masterpiece, and while I do agree that this is a solid debut, it still doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the works. Now don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE this film and of all of Kon’s work, this by far has the most complex storytelling to offer (okay second most). But with that out of the way, let me explain myself a little better as we move on.

The story and tone the film has set is brilliant to say the least, it’s easy to see how influential this film is on the anime community as well as Darren Aronofsky’s work (Requim for a dream and Black Swan), with its Hitchcockian-esque style of filmmaking and Satoshi Kon’s talent for cinematography, both of which are spell-bounding to look at. The cinematography in particular, seeing as this was his debut feature, just shows how far he had come as a director with his later films. The final 30 minutes in particular, where all the mind-fuckery comes in, is where Kon just unleashes (unapologetically, I might add) his talent to mess with your mind with his editing style and camera angles, but still never fails to keep your attention to the screen.

This isn't the last time Satoshi Kon uses this technique.

The characters, well here is the problem for me, our main character Mima Kirigoe, was not particularly interesting, here’s the thing, I always found what was happening to her to be very interesting, but that aspect only really kicks in the last 30 minutes of the movie, until then she really is not that great a character, she is just a cutie who is very kind, very determined and very helpful to others. You see, this was my issue with the movie that I wanted to bring up, of all the characters Satoshi Kon has written or directed in his films, I always found that he added a lot of layers to the characters, hell even Paprika did this without ever actually exploring them, but Mima doesn’t really have those layers, at least not until we reach the third act. The stalker is one of the best villains I have come across in film, his face is so well designed, it just shouts the word ‘scary’ and the fact that he never talks, just adds to how creepy the dude is, with that said, he was criminally underused in the final act. As for the sub vs. dub argument, you can chose to view either, although I saw this dubbed (because I prefer to, generally), the subbed would probably be a little better suited for this movie, but you can choose as they are both fine.

Geez...you've got issues man

The animation is certainly not the best of what Studio Madhouse has to offer, even if I look at this film form the view point of 1997, in 1997 we got shows like Cowboy Bebop and movies like Princess Mononoke and prior to that year, films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell with far superior animation came along, the movie is filled with still images with moving mouths that just comes across as lazy sometimes, I guess that has to do with the limited budget this movie was provided with, in comparison to the other films made by Kon. But the animation is to the point and is certainly not awful to look at even though it may not have aged quite as well as it could have, it is certainly by all means watchable, as the selling points of the movie are really the cinematography and the film making style.

So, onto my final verdict, as much as I may have criticized some of the weaker aspects of this film, I love this movie, it does have its flaws in terms of a weak main character and a slightly underused villain, where the film succeeds is in telling a story of the cause and effects of fame and what that can bring to someone, it is a theme that is touched upon and explored deeply and intricately, the final 30 minutes, despite the under usage of the villain, still make up for any problems that I had as it goes completely into the psyche of our main character and her traumas, it is in this third act where you see what the film has to offer and it is a decent payoff. The cinematography is fantastic, the story and setting is great and above all, it’s a film that easily remains Kon’s most influential film to this day, and I am glad that there is an audience and following for this movie, although I believe there should be one for every Kon film out there. It may be over stylized and drawn out at times and does have a slightly rushed ending (anime always does this), but it never fails to interest you with what is going to happen next, something that most psychological horror films can’t do these days.

So with all that in mind, I am giving Perfect Blue an ‘A-‘

Yes, yes you can
Yes, yes you can

Final Rating: A-

Paprika (2006) Review

Paprika (2006) review

Well, I am back to review the next film from Satoshi Kon’s filmography as I promised I would till the end of this week, also I would like to remind you that I am reviewing these films in the order of which I have seen them, so even though this was Satoshi Kon’s last film, it was the second film of his that I had seen. So, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the review.

needed to put this….(sorry for poor quality)

   

Paprika is an animated film released in the year 2006 directed and co-written by Satoshi Kon, it was animated by Studio Madhouse and co-written by Seishi Minakami, and was based on the 1993 novel of the same name that was written by Yasutaka Tsutsui. The story of Paprika is set in a world where dream sharing is a form of psychotherapy, as in people share dreams with the help of a newly designed machine called the DC Mini and send in psychotherapists to help such people, due to it being a new development, only one person is allowed to do such things, Paprika, from there on the so much happens, there is industrial espionage, dreams turning into reality, I wouldn’t dare to spoil it.
   

After viewing the film there was only one word to describe it, inventive. While the idea of dreams and dream sharing isn’t original to say the least (The Matrix and Twilight Zone to give a few examples), the fact of the matter is that it uses these ideas of imagination that one should when you are in a dream, teleporting through T.V’s, flying on clouds, being a fairy, riding on horses by jumping into a poster, stopping everything just by clicking your fingers. Satoshi Kon never holds back when it comes to the world he creates in the dream sequences, it’s so inventive, I am jealous of how well executed it was. The fact that he was still able to make a coherent story out of this is still beyond me.

   

This movie unleashes the talent Satoshi Kon has to offer in terms of cinematography. I loved it, the camera movements are perfect and the editing that goes along with it is just superb. There is a scene where two doctors are discussing while driving in the rain, the idea of two dream worlds merging together, and the camera pans to the windshield of the car during the conversation that shows two water droplets merging together to form a single drop flowing down, now that’s the genius of Satoshi Kon right there, where he makes the entire conversation meaningful by showing something so simple and easy to comprehend. The animation like I mentioned in my previous review was excellent for this film, and is easily the best film by Satoshi Kon in terms of animation without a doubt, there are so many dream sequences that involve long lasting parades, flying clouds, fairies, so it is obvious that good animation needs to come with it and Studio Madhouse was up for the challenge

   

The music and the original score by Susumu Hiraswa is quite frankly the best thing about this movie. The use of such variety in a film like this is just perfect, as is with the opening of this film. The greatness lies within the whole idea of dream-like music and the music has this way of drawing you in and making it feel like a dream just feels right in tone with what the film offers.
   

The characters are something that I do not wish to talk about in complete detail, but for the sake of the review I have to talk about two characters I particular who were also my favorite, that being the title character Paprika and Detective Konakawa, the dynamic between them is solid and their conversations are fun to watch. As such, the characters are very interesting and watching the interactions between them are brilliant, however due to so much going on in the film, they aren’t explored as well as they could have been, but what we got was fine enough. Another weak point for the film is the main antagonist, the dude’s just evil and that’s all there is to it, but because the villain hardly has a role up until the end, it didn’t really bother me that much as he doesn’t factor into the large majority of the story.

   

So, to sum things up, Paprika is a visually inventive film that never holds back in terms of how imaginative it can be, it is flawed in that it has a weak villain and unexplored characters, while the plot is interesting, it can be a little hard to follow, but not to a point where it becomes a mind fuck, it has an idea of the story it wants to tell and by the end, you will be able to understand it, in fact I would say that if you understood Inception, there is no doubt that you can definitely understand this film. While many have compared it to Inception, Nolan has never come out and said that Paprika inspired him, but after watching this film, it’s hard for someone like me to think that, due to the striking similarities, at least I will bet that Nolan saw this movie before he went on to work on Inception. With that stuff out of the way, the fact that this was Kon’s last film only tells me that there was so much more he had to offer as a filmmaker, with this being his most ambitious film he had ever done, at least in my opinion, makes me feel as though had he been around, he surely would have reached a whole new level.

   

Yeah I guess it is

While Paprika may not be Kon’s best film, it definitely is a visual masterpiece that showcases his talent for cinematography and his out of the box ideas, and Studio Madhouse, for their animation, and to this date it remains his most imaginary and ambitious film, and for that reason alone I recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of great works.

I am going to Paprika and ‘A-‘

   

Thanks buddy!!!

Final Rating: ‘A-‘