Something new for the new year. On my site I made a bunch of resolutions, but the important one, with regard to this, has to do with me watching a film every day, though I’m amending that to be just five films a week. Rather than just keep all these wondrous films and what I think of them to myself, I’ve decided to share them. And what better place than Entropy?
Most of the films I’ll be covering will be available on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon, which are the main sites I use for watching anything. There will be times, probably, over the course of the year that I’ll be watching films not available online, so you’ll just have to find those on your own.
Let’s take a quick look at what I’ve watched since the beginning of 2015:
- The Triplets of Belleville by Sylvain Chomet
- A Cat in Paris by Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol
- Hawking by Stephen Finnigan
- The Institute by Spencer McCall
- The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness by Mami Sunada
So let’s begin at the beginning, yeah?
This film honestly surprised the hell out of me, mostly because I didn’t realise it was essentially a voiceless film. That’s okay, though. In fact, that sort of makes it way better. This is a film I’ve been hearing about for about a decade and I’ve somehow never managed to watch it. My love of animation has probably been well established around these parts, and so I was instantly loving this. It has a peculiar style that feels sort of dirty at first. Dirty like it was drawn in the dirt or drawn a long time ago and was found recently under a stack of dirty dishes in your dead relative’s basement. It works very well here and it feels right. This isn’t the ritzy kind of France that most films show you. This is impoverished and filthy, with humans piling on top of one another in rundown buildings. This is a rapidly expanding France that turns a house off away from the city into a house with all kinds of traffic, with trains raging just out the window.
It’s an interesting aesthetic right from the start but the story feels simple and pedestrian. A chubby young boy is sad. A dog is bought but still he mopes. A bicycle is bought and his life is changed. He spends his life training for the Tour de France, and even competes! His attempt is pretty poor, sadly, and he doesn’t manage to finish the race.
This isn’t a Disney film about underdogs rising over adversity and then soaring. This is the kind of film where normal people remain normal, where famous people lose their beauty and become a different kind of attraction to the ne’er-do-wells of this animated world.
But this is where the film really begins, and where it becomes interesting. The hero isn’t the boy with the bicycle who becomes a man with an impossible goal. No, the heroes are the old woman, the man’s grandmother, and the obese dog he’s had since boyhood who go on a wild transatlantic adventure to save his life, while he rides on, his focus so narrow and absurd.
And despite all the grime and muck, this is a beautiful film. Despite the lack of dialogue, it’s pretty hilarious. Because, really, words aren’t as funny as bodies in motion, and this film captures the language of cinema perfectly, and highlights all the things one can do by having people move together, slosh around in the world.
But, yes, it’s a great film that’s so profoundly absurd it’s a must see for everyone. Touches of surrealism, lots of humor, and lots of heart: this is one of the best things on Netflix right now.
This is cute film, and though it’s meant for children, it’s really one of those great children’s stories that’s actually for every human. Also, this is the best animated version of a cat I’ve ever seen. They get everything perfect about what it’s like to own a cat, to be friends with a cat, and to love a cat, to have a cat love you. My fiancée was playing The Sims 4 while I watched this but she couldn’t help herself from watching the cat over her computer screen.
And it’s a delightful film. Lots of heart, some thrills, plenty of laughs, and then there’s justice and happiness at the end. But there’s a fluid kind of morality happening, where thieves can be heroes and the people you trust most can be the worst people in your life. It’s a film where cops can be wrong, where vengeance clouds better sense, where a cat can be a hero and a villain.
It’s also about a traumatised girl literally finding her voice, which is a bigger statement than most films are ready to make.
Also, this film shows what everyone who has a pet knows: trust your pet if they don’t like someone.
It’s just over an hour, so there’s really no reason for you to not watch this tonight. It’s a great little story and one you can keep coming back to. If you have kids, they’ll probably want to come back to it.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this documentary of one of the greatest minds to ever live. Stephen Hawking’s life in his own words and supplemented by the words of some of his closest friends, loves, colleagues, and students. It covers his life from childhood to present day, openly discussing the many challenges facing him every moment of every day. Doctors told him he’d die over fifty years ago, and his enthusiasm and love of life is astounding and so great to see. There’s something about his smile. It’s a smile like no one else really has, and not just because it’s been twisted by his disease, but because it’s so genuine, so spontaneous, so big and bright.
This is the kind of film that probably won’t interest most, but it really is one of those great documentaries that gives you a real thirst for life and a desire to make your life the best life it can be. I’m thinking of documentaries like Hubert Selby Jr: It’ll Be Better Tomorrow. That film just makes you want to live! It makes me want to run down the street screaming my life out of my lungs, jsut ecstatic to be alive, to have a life, and to know that it matters, even if only to myself.
I find Stephen Hawking to be one of the most inspiring people to ever live, and so I’m pretty much down for whatever he’s doing, but even if you have no interest in physics or science or scientists, this documentary will make you smile.
You won’t be able to help it. Especially when you see Stephen Hawking in zero gravity.
That’s a profoundly beautiful moment of life being lived so well.
This is, perhaps, the strangest documentary I’ve ever seen. It’s also completely awesome and fascinating. I’ve never really heard of Alternate Reality Games (ARG), but this definitely has my brain reeling with ideas. I sort of want to make this happen.
But, anyway, the film is about The Jejune Institute, which was a fake thing in a real place in 2008. Basically, they just cast out thousands of nets to attract people. It was sort of a self selection process, in that the people who ultimately went to The Jejune Institute were the kind of people who would be interested in something both absurd and profound and sort of perplexing, something that’s obviously fake, but also carries enough reality to feel like a real thing.
What I find most interesting about this story is how profoundly personal it becomes to the people involved. And, more than that, discovering the deeply personal roots of the entire enterprise.
You get to be on both sides of the camera, in a sense. You get to hear the people who create the game explain the game while also hearing about the players’ experiences. Perhaps most interesting is how fluid the roles become, how players define the game and the designers become players.
Endlessly fascinating and why I think this is probably the greatest artistic piece ever performed.
I have a long obsession for interactive art, and this is about as interactive as it gets. It’s not accidental that it’s called an Alternate Reality Game.
I know it’s early in the year, but this may already be my favorite film that I’ll see this year. This documentary is about Hayao Miyazaki’s work on his latest film, The Wind Rises. The film covers a lot of territory, and, on the surface, it’s about the history of Studio Ghibli, the current sociopolitical climate in Japan, Miyazaki and Isao Takahata’s 50 year relationship and his long relationship with Toshio Suzuki, and his unique process in filmmaking.
But more importantly than any of that, this is a close look at the man, Hayao Miyazaki. His perfectionism, his process, his outlook on life, his uneasiness with the future, his attitude towards the current state of the world, of animation, of filmmaking.
In many ways, this reminded me of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and not just because they’re both Japanese, but because they’re incredible workhorses and perfectionists. Their work is more than just their life’s work: it seems fundamental to their lives. I think that’s what keeps them so youthful in their old age.
It’s remarkable watching Miyazaki and knowing he’s in his seventies because he has so much energy and he looks in top shape for his age.
Miyazaki has always been a very interesting artist to me, especially when you contrast his films with what he says to the public. To me, he’s a colossal misanthrope who also happens to be an idealist. He’s sort of disgusted by humanity but he loves children and hopes for their future. When he talks about humanity or people in general, he’s very dismissive. But when you see him interact with the people around him, he’s so full of energy and he’s almost always smiling or joking around.
For such a seemingly grim man who says grim things, this documentary is pretty hilarious. I laughed aloud several times, sitting here and watching it alone.
Every moment with Hideaki Anno on screen with Miyazaki is so great. You may not know Hideaki Anno, but he’s the genius behind Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is maybe the most important anime series ever made.
Actually, his interactions with everyone are pretty amusing. We only see one moment between him and Takahata, but Takahata is sort of like a spectre throughout the film. He’s talked about over and over, but only appears onscreen for about two minutes. He’s often scoffed at, but also considered an important person, not only to the studio and Miyazaki, but also anime in general. Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps the best war film ever made, animated or not, and his influence on the studio and Miyazaki feels huge, if only because of how often Miyazaki talks about him in the film. They’re rivals, former partners, friends, but also can’t seem to stand the idea of one another.
But, yes, this is a brilliant film. If you love animation, anime, filmmaking, creativity, or just want to watch a genius in his element, you need to check this out. Unfortunately, it’s not on Netflix, so head to the theatres or watch it on Amazon.