Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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Continuing with lists about what I liked this year. My plan is to write a paragraph on the things I enjoyed in the year, even if they weren't made this year. The reason for this is simple: I don't buy, watch, digest, or hang with things that were always made this year. Besides which, when I looked back, I realised that most of the enjoyment I took from things were not thrust into the public this year. Some were, naturally, but my far and large, most weren't.

Anyhow, the previous entry listed four books I dug a heap, and this entry is about movies. Possibly four.


Seven Samurai.

I could fill the entries of favourite movies out with Kurosawa films alone, this year. Yojimbo, Sanjuro... well, okay, not Hidden Fortress, which had central characters that annoyed me, but still. At any rate, my favourite of these was Seven Samurai, which I saw after years of hearing people talk about it. I was motivated, partly, because I was a fan of The Magnificent Seven, and while that films remains nicely quotable, I've got to say that when placed against Seven Samurai, it's kinda shit. There's no Toshiro Mifune, and his character is thrown into the young gunfighters character, and none of the American actors hold up to the Japanese cast, with the possible exception of Yul Brunner. Outside this, however, Seven Samurai is an epic film. It's long, but never too long, and it's filled with interesting explorations about morality while allowing the characters to retain fascinating at all times, with each following their own personal story arcs against the background of protecting the village. Simply put: the film is just utterly fantastic.


Continuing with Asian films, my favourite film released this year was, without a doubt, Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi, staring a blond haired Beat Takeshi as the blind, sword wielding masseur of the same name. Originally, I thought that the portrayal of Zatoichi without a back story made him unsympathetic and, within the film, was a misstep. But in the months after seeing the film, I have to admit that I've found myself thinking about the character, and wanting to know more, wanting to have a second film. I've no idea if one will be made (from what I understand, it was originally a series of films staring Toshiro Mifune, so maybe) but the point is, I've slowly come around to the other side on my original opinion. At any rate, I loved the film when I first saw it, and that still remains. I loved the way that Kitano linked the narratives together in a deceptively effortless, dreamlike fashion, and how he used back flash to flesh characters out. I loved Takeshi's portrayal of Zatoichi. I loved how the film didn't make heavy handed moralistic judgments on the actions of the characters, from the two geishas, to the bodyguard and his wife, and the gambling son. I even enjoyed the tap dancing. Bet you'd never see me typing that line, hey?


Lost in Translation. Is this a surprise? A film that is the story of two rich Americans stuck in a Japanese hotel and interacting with a foreign culture that could be, I believe, read as nothing more than the xenophobic world-view of its American creator, and which leaves itself open as a critique of American culture and the way that it views the rest of the world. Try saying the a couple of times in one breath. At any rate, I don't think that Sofia Coppola made the film to reflect this, but I do think that it's there, lurking beneath, mingled with Bill Murray's finest performance in years, and the presence of Scarlett Johanson, who I could have just watched for hours in that film. It might sound like I don't like this film, and be to truthful, I'm not sure myself. That there's an underlying, unintentional thread of racism in the film is undeniable to me, but others do not see it. Indeed, people living in Japan telling me that it's quite an accurate portrayal. And it's that, the mix of opinions and the way those questions linger in my mind and inspire conversations, are why it's listed here.

And that's it.

There will be no forth movie. No fifth. I have a few in my mind. I loved Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, but I waver in the choice of if it is my favourite Leone film. Today, I think it isn't. Today I'm leaning to the Eastwood films--and indeed, to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Tomorrow will be different. I thought about Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, but truthfully, the film hasn't lingered in me. I feel a whole heap of nothing when I think of the film now. There were a few others, too, films and dvds and documentaries I saw that I liked, but they're all much like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, in that none of them have remained within my head.

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