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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Now or Never

Hullo.

The closer we get to the end of 2013, the less I care about actually celebrating the end of the year. I don't really have a strong urge to celebrate New Year's Eve, maybe cause I don't really have anything worth celebrating for 2014? I do have plans kinda but they're not concrete so for the time being, I'm really not doing anything to celebrate the new year right now.

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I did, however, celebrate Christmas this year and a little earlier than normal too. One of my best friends and I caught up over a movie and dinner. Pretty rad day, I thought, especially since I also won money from the casino too (that never happens!). This is what I got from her:

  • The shirt is from Last Exit to No Where, a UK line of movie-inspired t-shirts. Each of their shirts references a particular company or business within the film. The one I received was a shirt that references Blade Runner
  • Django Unchained is one of my favourite films from 2013 and, in my opinion, is Tarantino's best film to date (apologies to Pulp Fiction). 
  • Spring Breakers is at the top for me as far as best films from 2013. There aren't a lot of people who like this film and that's fine. 
  • I loved Natsuo Kirino's book, Real World, which I picked up on a whim a few years ago. Since then, I've been meaning to read her other books including Grotesque (it's really messed up if you just read the blurb, heh). 
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING  

Mostly looking at all the films I saw at the 17th Japanese Film Festival today as well as the films I've seen in the cinema since my last post. But before I do, I wanted to talk a bit about Orange is the New Black, an original series produced by American online streaming service, Netflix.


Deftly blending drama and comedy, OITNB follows Piper Chapman, a woman who voluntarily admits herself into prison for a crime she committed ten years prior. From there, the show explores her life and the lives of others in a female prison.

It's so damn great and it had me hooked from episode one - it's all I've been talking about it lately. These are some of the best written cast of characters on television at the moment - each of whom have a unique personality that never really falls into stereotype. It's so refreshing to see such a broad mix of women being represented as well. I can't really speak on how the show projects the female experience across the board though I'd like to think that it captures it well to a certain degree.

It's a shame Taylor Schilling (she plays Piper) got passed over at the Emmys but at least is being recognised by the Golden Globes as she certainly is fantastic as the complex Piper. Ugh, just a really good show. Watch it!

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THE GREAT PASSAGE: Crowd-pleasing and serviceable film about one man's intent to see through the competition of a brand-new dictionary. Not exactly fantastic subject matter but The Great Passage has enough genuine moments of warmth and laughter that make it a great opening film for a festival. Full thoughts on The Great Passage over at Japan Cinema.

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DRAGON BALL Z: BATTLE OF GODS: It's not the DBZ flick that you wanted but in my opinion, it's great regardless of its lack of action and tension. Ultimately a fanservice film, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, hashes up a thin story to bring humour the likes of which haven't really been seen since the original Dragon Ball series. It's fun and, for fans of the series, it's essentially a loving tribute to the series' enduring fanbase. Look out for my full review of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods over at The Australia Times.

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SUMMER'S END:  In spite of its shortcomings, I enjoyed Summer's End for the most part. Love Exposure's Hikari Mitsushima is in top form here as a lonesome and loveless woman caught between two somewhat lacking relationships. Full review available through Japan Cinema. 

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REAL:  The less said about this film the better (though where's the fun in that?). A godawful film, Real is just an insulting, careless and completely awful film. One of the worst films this year and perhaps even one of the worst films I've ever seen. Full review over at Japan Cinema.

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THE DEVIL'S PATH:  One of the more interesting films at the festival, The Devil's Path has been a critical darling over in Japan though my reason for loving it perhaps goes beyond what's on the surface of the film. If you wanna know what I really thought about the film, head on over to my review for it over at Japan Cinema.

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ELEGANT BEAST:  Elegant Beast is an interesting film though truthfully I feel as though a lot of its meaning was lost on me. That said, the film feels a lot like a theatre production and has impeccable use of mise-en-scene, cinematography and, more importantly, shines as a masterclass in acting. I might not have "gotten it" but I can't say I was bored.

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ORPHEUS' LYRE: Personally speaking, I found Orpheus' Lyre far too easy to compare to Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine despite the fact that both film's are about completely different means of grief and suffering. Orpheus' Lyre doesn't hit the emotional heights I would have liked which is disappointing considering its very strong beginning. Great camera work though - Terrence Malick would be happy.

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THE SPECTACULAR NOW: Super effective romantic teen drama with superb leads aided by a solid supporting cast of older talents. With considered direction grounding The Spectacular Now, one could say that levels of realism for teenage movies are rarely seen in this day and age. One scene in particular plays out a lot like Richard Linklater's Before series. Though I still have my reservations about the final sections of the film, it doesn't wash away the sentiments I had for the rest of the film prior to it.

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AMERICAN HUSTLE: Despite awards season buzz, American Hustle's strongest ticket to the big awards lies within its outstanding acting ensemble, all of whom will unquestionably go forth to receive nominations across the major acting categories. It's not O'Russell's best film and at times feels more like an homage to Goodfellas than it's own film. Somewhat bloated in story and scale, American Hustle falls short of being a truly great film. The Fighter is still O'Russell's best film, in my opinion.

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KILL YOUR DARLINGS: Actually thought this was pretty darn good and really shows off Daniel Radcliffe's acting prowess outside of Harry Potter. He and on-the-rise star Dane DeHaan are fantastic as the instigators of the Beat generation and one-time lovers. Really dug the anachronistic soundtrack too which fit perfectly within the film as well as the tonal shift from playful and jokey to dark and abrasive.

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THE HUNGER GAMES - CATCHING FIRE: Actually a better film than the first, thankfully. Takes the series into an admittedly interesting direction which actually made me give a damn about the story this time around. Funnily enough, where I hated the first movie for its boring exposition and characters, here Katniss and Peeta have obviously matured as a result of their survival in their first game (Katniss moreso than Peeta cause he's, once again, terribly underwritten). Katniss is meant to be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder too which was brushed off super quickly in the film (nope!). The actual game this time is pretty unexciting as well.
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Cool, you're still sticking around. Good on you! Here, have a song. This blog post's title is thanks to Kendrick Lamar. His track, Now or Never, is a collab between himself and R&B/soul singer, Mary J. Blige, and is off his critically acclaimed album, good kid, m.A.A.d city.


End post.

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