And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Drive My Car

Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murikami, one of my favorite authors, Drive My Car is a haunting drama about love and grief and reckoning. It centers on two main characters. Actor turned theater director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is two years removed from his wife’s sudden death and still grappling with the meaning of their relationship when he comes to Hiroshima to direct Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” for a theater festival. The organizers insist for legal reasons that he use their driver for the duration of his stay. She’s a taciturn young woman named Misaki (Toko Miura) who ended up in Hiroshima after her own personal tragedy. And as she shuttles him back and forth to the theater in his beautiful red Saab 900, they slowly bond over the unresolved sadness in their lives. And I say slowly because the movie clocks in at just about three hours, though it doesn’t feel long at all.

Review: Wife of a Spy

This stylish thriller from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is set in Japan in 1940 shortly before they entered World War II. It opens with beautiful young couple making an amateur movie about betrayal. The husband Yusaku (Issey Takahashi, Kill Bill) though is in the import-export business and movie-making, just a hobby. He and his wife Satoko (Aoi Yû ) are a thoroughly cosmopolitan couple, but the prevailing winds in the country are turning anti-Western and nationalistic. Then on a business trip to Manchuria, Yusaku witnesses horrifying atrocities being committed by the Imperial Japanese Army and returns with documentary proof that he plans to share with the world. But once Satoko discovers her husband’s plan, the question becomes whether she will be loyal to him or her country.

Review: Yakuza Princess

Set in São Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, Yakuza Princess is an action packed martial arts thriller and story of self-discovery. A young Japanese woman with a mysterious past, an ancient and powerful Muramasa katana (sword), and an amnesiac stranger come together to right a wrong and find redemption.  Adapted from a graphic novel, the movie begins in Osaka with the massacre of an entire family, except for a little girl. Fast forward 20 years and Akemi (Japanese pop musician MASUMI) is now a grown woman, working on her martial arts skills in Brazil, unaware of her true origins. But when a disfigured stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, “The Tudors”, Match Point) appears in her apartment just in time to save her from would-be assassins, their fates are set. What follows is a couple of hours of violence as they draw closer and closer to their truths. 

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 13

This week’s picks are heavy on big name directors: Louis Malle, Akira Kurasawa, Volker Schlöndorff, Ingmar Bergman, Billie August, Hal Ashby, and John Huston. Many of these are their first films and one is the director’s final film. And only one is a comedy. They hail from France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Hollywood. Most of them were Oscar nominees, and many of them winners.

Except for one they’re from the 70s and 80s.

The films are: Lacombe Lucien, Dersu Uzala, The Tin Drum, Fanny and Alexander, Pelle the Conqueror, Harold and Maude, and The Maltese Falcon. 

 

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 12

This week I chose a comedy thriller, a political thriller, a classic screwball comedy, a wartime romance, a storybook romance, a Japanese existential drama, and a loving ode to an Italian childhood.

All of them received Oscar nominations and several of them were big winners. Three of them were up for the Best Foreign Film award.

 

This week’s picks are: Sleuth, My Man Godfrey, Casablanca , The Princess BrideWoman in the Dunes, Z , and Amarcord .

 

 

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 1

What are you streaming this week? When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I started a list on my Facebook page, posting a film I love every day. That list has grown, and is still growing, edging up past 150 films. It is getting a little harder to choose a new film. But I’ve remembered a lot of great movies that I’ve watched over the years and they span all genres and eras. And sometimes one film will remind me of another or an actor that I’d forgotten. I’ve stayed away from the last decade because there are a million “best of” lists that included them. These are films that have stayed with me. Some are obscure, and some no doubt skew to my more “arty” taste. But I am sure you’ll find something to watch that will fill that pandemic hole.  I’ll be posting them in batches of 7 each week, until I have nothing more to say. That could take a while.

 

Review: Weathering with You

I’m not a big animation watcher, at least not of the big Disney/Pixar variety. But anime is a different story. Films like Spirited Away or Akira feel every bit as “real” as any live action film. The stories are complex and the visuals stunning. I haven’t watched many lately though. But I was happy to return to the genre with Weathering With You. It’s the story of a climate disaster and a teenage girl who has a mysterious power to fix it, alongside a love story set in Tokyo with a runaway boy. It’s a narrative that will probably resonate most with adolescents, but adults will certainly appreciate it for it’s jaw-dropping animation.

Quickie Review: Ramen Shop (Ramen Teh)

Following in the tradition of a spate of recent foodie flicks, Ramen Shop wraps a slight story in a culinary journey and has you drooling and wishing the film would be over quickly so you can get out to the nearest ramen shop yourself. This time around the story centers on a young Japanese chef Masato (Takumi Saitoh) whose father dies at the start of the film, sending him on a quest to find his culinary roots in Singapore. Dad met Mom there and there are a lot of unanswered questions about her and her family. She died when he was a boy, and his discovery of her diary among his father’s possessions, sends him in search of his uncle and the story of his mother’s estrangement from his grandmother. But all along the way there is a lot of cooking and eating mouth-watering food.

Review: Shoplifters

This film from Japanese director Hiorkazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows) is a beautiful drama about what family means. I saw it at Middleburg, and it’s stayed with me. The story is about a group of people living together on the edges of society, with pretty fluid ethics but enormous hearts, and it’s both uplifting and heartbreaking.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.