Thursday, April 26, 2018

Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka, Isao Takahata, 1988)

Child's play

Some years back for history class I showed my students Isao Takahata's Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies, 1988), about a brother and his younger sister--Seita and little Setsuko--struggling to survive in wartime Japan (warning: film's story discussed in close detail).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pom Poko (The Racoon War, Isao Takahata, 1994)

Tribute to Isao Takahata (1935 - 2018)

Guerrilla warfare

Isao Takahata's Pom Poko (The Raccoon War, 1994) begins with a little song where children call on the tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) to come play and the tanuki reply that they can't--they're too busy eating pickled plums. The film goes on to outline the dogs' plight: land developers want to convert the forest of Tama Hills into suburbs--the same forest the tanukis have lived in for countless generations.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Angela Robinson)


Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman makes no reference at all to the subject--partly I suspect because the multi-million dollar production is meant to earn that crucial PG-13 rating pulling in as many kids as permissible and still have Warner Brothers' DC Comics-style dark edgy feel. Which means no mention of the 'B' word (rhymes with 'suffrage') or the 'L' word (rhymes with 'primrose'--if you like 'thespian'), definitely no scenes with Gal Gadot uttering the superheroine's most infamous exclamation: "Suffering Sappho!" 

Enter Angela Robinson with golden lasso in one hand and Amazonian sword in the other slashing through the bull: Wonder Woman was the product of William Moulton Marston, drawing inspiration from his wife Elizabeth and student Olive Byrne (daughter of Ethel Byrne a famous feminist). He wasn't shy about his intentions in creating the character either: "Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world."

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg)


Adapted from Ernest Cline's bestseller, Ready Player One is Steven Spielberg's return to form as entertainer, in my book his finest incarnation. Which when you think about it isn't saying a lot, but is saying something. 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Insiang (Lino Brocka, 1976)

: one unhappy family

(WARNING: Plot twists and story discussed in explicit detail)

Lino Brocka opens Insiang (1976) with the closeup of a pig stabbed in the throat, blood pouring as if out of a spigot. We see row upon row of headless carcasses, bellies split open from neck to crotch, pink skin not unlike a human corpse. The film's cinematographer, the great Conrado Baltazar, captures the haze heat stink and noise of a busy slaughterhouse like no one else before or since.

An amazing beginning, with image foreshadowing the slaughter to come. The image is also an assertion: "Violence on flesh is nothing compared to the violence that can be inflicted on heart and mind." The slaughterhouse scene strikes a particular note, its message loud and clear: "the worst is yet to come."