Friday, December 16, 2005

Sach’s Top 15 Films of 2005 – Part 3

05. 2046 by Wong Kar-Wai

It’s inevitable that the long awaited epic by my favorite filmmaker was going to make this list, but it wasn’t inevitable that it was going to be as excellent as it turned out to be. Torturously made over several years, shoots and ideas, 2046 arrived stateside as a sequel to Wong’s last film, In the Mood for Love. While I wasn’t as big a fan of that film as some critics as I prefer the wild Wong of Fallen Angels to that more mature one of the latter years, 2046 finds a perfect middle ground maintaining the classy nostalgia of it’s 60’s era while being a little looser than it’s predecessor. Of course, it’s impossible to not fall in love with the women in this film as Chris Doyle shoots them with the kind of devotion and heart that only the best can and William Chang completes the artistic team by tying it all together with incredible set design, editing and anything else that needs to be done. Sure, the sci-fi scenes from the aborted version of this film could definitely have been trimmed for pacing (though we want to see them in a full length!) but that’s hardly enough to prevent me from putting this in my top 5. Now hopefully Wong’s next film won’t take 5 years as this is dynamite stuff. That and Nicole Kidman (!?!) only promised him 2 of her time.

My full original review

04. Survive Style 5+ by Gen Sekiguchi

This film left a sold out auditorium at Fantasia with a big dumb grin on their faces for good reason: it’s just the coolest weirdest movie that came out this year. To call it psychedelic is a disservice to drugs: drugs won’t have you seeing shit this crazy or funny or colorful. Director Gen Sekiguchi’s advertising background shows as everything is parsed into short, gonzo vignettes but then he ties everything together as a life affirming tale that puts all the psychotic behavior in perspective. I know I haven’t actually mentioned any of the story here but that’s moot: I won’t spoil a thing (unless you read my full review), just believe me when I say that this is an example of the best kind of artistic excess as boundaries are shattered and minds blown throughout the film. The casting is of course perfect as Asano delivers one of his best roles ever and Vinnie Jones (!?!) steals the show as a foreign hitman. Oh and there’s bird dad. And psycho girl. And advertising girl. And the gay thief. Don’t ask, just go buy a DVD and thank me later.

My Full original review

03. Broken Flowers by Jim Jarmusch

Like 2046, there was no way this wouldn’t make my top 10 list but I have zero guilt including it because it’s so damned good. A total return to classic form for Jim Jarmusch after years of messing around with genres and ideas on the side, Broken Flowers seems to pick up where his 80’s movies left off except his once 28 year old hipsters are now in their 50’s and facing up to a lifetime of disconnect. A Beautiful film about the meaning of one’s loves through life without being corny in the slightest, Broken Flowers is a testament to the artistic talent of Jarmusch as well as his star Bill Murray. While Sophia Coppola and Wes Anderson have given Murray excellent roles in the past few years, it’s Jarmusch that has given the man the perfect vehicle for his dead pan, latter day humor and the boy does he take advantage of it. A supremely under the radar film (I demand award nominations!), Broken Flowers is America’s best. Also worth noting: Sharon Stone as a milf.

My Full original review

02. Oldboy by Park Chan-Wook

Yes I know. This movie came out in Korea in 2003 AND the bootleg was on this side of the Atlantic in 2004. Sue me, I waited to see it in theaters and it was worth it. Probably the best suspense/thriller since the glory days of Fincher and Pitt, Oldboy feels like the kind of film Alfred Hitchcock would have made had he been a modern day Korean man and told to do something really nasty. Of course, it’s a little early for full on Hitchcock comparisons for Park Chan-Wook but there’s no doubting that the man made an honest to god masterpiece with this film: every shot is simultaneously cool and resonant with meaning, every character is perfect and the story is told in such a way as to leave you absolutely flabbergasted by the end. Even the score manages to do more with classical style music than any film in recent memory as the flute, piano and violin themes will stay stuck in your head for hours later without ever becoming annoying. I haven’t even gotten to the superb acting by Choi Min-Sik and already the film seems like something otherworldly, a strange and frightening piece of art that dares you to see it…but what will happen when you do? An excellent Christmas gift for the non-squeamish.

And finally…my number one movie is…

01. Mindgame by Yuasa Masaaki

What the hell, let’s just re-run my original review for kicks. There’s not much more I can say about it.

It’s with a certain amount of awe that I say that Mindgame is one of the best feature length non-episodic works of animated art that I've seen in my life. One that reaches back to Avery, Jones (Chuck, not Mike) and Bakshi while also looking towards eastern European animation, the best headfucks of anime and psychedelic creations like the Savage Planet and (specially) Yellow Submarine. Of course, this is what's going through the viewers mind as he attempts to pick his jaw off the floor. In reality the director Mr. Masaaki Yuasa, while perhaps influenced by all the above stated that he simply adapted a manga he liked. In the words of a bad actor: Whoa.

The aforementioned Yellow Submarine is a good starting point for the "feel" of the movie (part of it anyways), only instead of a nice little storybook world, the LSD in this film is constantly shifting and moving at hyper speed. In a unique break from the tedious assembly line design style of recent Japanese animation, the film layers visual style over visual style like samples in a Beastie Boys record, shifting from scene to scene and even from shot to shot. When I say this pushes the possibilities of animation, I'm referring to the fact that each shot uses an appropriate visual style disregarding the previous. Where a scene may be mostly "cartoony", a shot with a lot of detailed emotion would be rotoscopped. It works tremendously well and I hope it'll inspire animators in Japan to go the extra mile (I doubt it) because if a 4-5 person team can accomplish this than Oshi and Myasaki should be making god knows what with that man labor.

In addition to Yellow Submarine, another Beatles reference is appropriate: Sgt. Pepper. With each scene completely shifting in style yet maintaining the fun, positive style; the different sequences almost feel like songs on a well made concept album: interconnected yet individual in cord structure and melody. I would give a plot summary but even the Fantasia Guide says too much: suffice to say its simultaneously action packed and thought provoking. That's high praise.

In conclusion, if you liked Katamari Damacy for the Ps2, Earthbound on the old SNES, records by Dela Soul, The Beastie Boys or the Beatles or are simply a fan of animation I urge you to see this film anyway you can. It's that damn good. An hour earlier I'd just seen the incredibly trite melodrama Place Promised In Our Early Days which lead me to state that "Anime jumped the shark...there hasn’t been anything groundbreaking since Eva."

I think my first words after Mindgame sum my thoughts on that issue nicely:

I take it all back.

And that is why this is the best film of 2005.

Happy New Years Film Geeks.

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