Weekly Update: More of my movie viewing choices from the last week!
Curious what else I’ve seen this year? -Click here to read the full list of movies viewed year to date-
203. Das Boot (1981)
The harrowing journey of one U-Boat during WWII from beginning to end of their voyage. The film humanizes the daily struggles of those whose only goal was survival in circumstances beyond their control. There are many submarine films out there, but Das Boot is arguably the one that best captures the desperate, cramped conditions of daily life for those on board. This is a fantastic film recommended for genre fans and art film fans alike.
204. King Rat (1965)
This dark and brooding war film tells the story of an enterprising internee of a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp during WWII. Whereas numerous officers and enlisted men at Changi Camp in Singapore are under a constant daily struggle for survival, Corporal King has found a niche in working the angles, bribing guards and selling items on the black market. As a result he and those close to him live somewhat comfortably, much to the chagrin of the rest of the prison population. The film is a notch darker than many prisoner of war films of the period, more cynical and unforgiving. Definitely worth a look for those wanting to explore a dimmer view of human nature.
205. The Raid (2011)
“Action-packed” is a pull-quote you see on just about every poster, and just as the poster above indicates, this film is fucking full of excitement. But no amount of bluster is going to give away just how balls to the wall grungy and violent this wonderful genre gold is. The story is bloody simple; a SWAT team is moving in on a fortified apartment complex run by a notorious gangster and his private army. Things go horribly wrong and the surviving SWAT members are in for a battle of their lives.
206. Dersu Uzala (1975)
It is the early 1900s in far Eastern Russia, and a Captain of the Army is leading a mapping expedition. Deep in the wilderness and winter fast approaching, the expedition runs into Dersu Uzala, a hunter native of the area who joins as a guide and becomes invaluable. A strong friendship forms between the Captain and Dersu. The film is a beautiful story of friendship, and a parable for the encroachment of civilization in the wilderness. Boasting gorgeous cinematography that gives David Lean a run for his money, Dersu Uzala was directed by Japanese master Akira Kurosawa, and this might one of his biggest visual accomplishments, particularly in dealing with natural scenery. As a fascinating aside, the film was made in the Soviet Union with mostly Soviet funds, as at the time Kurosawa was having trouble getting money in his home country. The film’s international acclaim resurrected his reputation after a series of setbacks and won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, making it one of three the Soviet Union won.
207. Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
This debut film of Akira Kurosawa, Sanshiro Sugata is a solid debut for the filmmaker, representing many of the visual experiments that would make the director synonymous with the art of cinema. The story is quite simple, about an aspiring Judo student who contends more with himself than with any opponent on his way to becoming a master. It’s not quite as poetic or as measured in its pacing as later Kurosawa films, but is an extraordinary effort for a first time filmmaker destined to do great works.
208. Piranha (1978)
Director Joe Dante and Screenwriter John Sayles crafted the ultimate Jaws parody with this clever and gory horror flick about a Texas riverside community turned upside down by the release of mutated Piranhas into the waterway. The filmmakers knew their audience and worked perfectly within the Roger Corman school of schlock, delivering the three B’s of B filmmaking (Boobs, Blood, and Beasts). Give it a watch.
209. Stray Dog (1949)
When a rookie detective’s pistol is pick-pocketed on the train one day, the cop is humiliated, forced to confess the crime to his boss and face up to the shame. Determined to find the gun, he teams up with a veteran cop to investigate. Then people start turning up shot with bullets matching his pistol, making the situation even more desperate. Toshiro Mifune is excellent as the shamed cop who blames himself for every act performed by the criminal who took his gun. You feel his existential torment and self-doubt at every turn. As the veteran cop Takashi Shimura is a fantastic foil, taking on the role of the mentor/father figure for Mifune. One of Kurosawa’s early classics, this is essential viewing for Noir/Detective fans.
210. Drunken Angel (1948)
When Yakuza gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) visits Dr. Sanada (Takashi Shimura) to treat a gunshot wound, the Doctor also diagnoses him with TB. Initially violent and incredulous, Matsunaga begins seeing Dr. Sanada regularly. Dr. Sanada doesn’t have the best bedside manner and the two spar verbally (and physically) with each other, but gradually a relationship develops. This film is widely considered director Akira Kurosawa’s first major artistic statement, and watching it all these years after its 1948 debut, I agree wholeheartedly. It explores the deplorable living conditions of postwar Japanese slum life and the challenges endured by those who live there. As a character study, it contrasts two irascible characters who share much in common, but choose to live differing lives from each other.
211. 55 Days at Peking (1963)
This film tells the story of a 55 day siege that occurred during the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 20th century. A group of 11 nations had embassies in Peking held under constant attack by a severely anti-colonialist movement. While the movie has excellent production values and a solid cast, the film plods along with a weak screenplay that never really feels compelling. Making matters worse, the film has aged terribly due to the filmmakers’ unfortunate decision to cast most Chinese speaking roles with White actors in makeup. The result is a deeply flawed movie that is notable only for its production values, and is deeply offensive on many levels, which means it’s about as watchable as a Michael Bay movie.
212. Only Yesterday (1991)
Director Isao Takahata’s sensitive character drama tells the story of a 20 something woman who heads to the country for a vacation, with flashbacks of her 5th -grade self. As the film continues, it becomes clear she isn’t totally satisfied with all of her decisions she made as a youth, and wants to try a new direction, but isn’t sure how to start. This is a very adult movie, not in terms of containing violence or sexual content, but rather dealing with subject matter that requires an adult perspective to fully understand.