Posts Tagged ‘corey birkhofer’

Funimation To Submit Summer Wars For Oscar Nomination

Posted 03 Nov 2010 — by contributor
Category Animation, Anime, Film Industry News, Film Reviews

By Corey Birkhofer

Summer Wars, Japan, 2009

Directed by Mamoru Hosada

summer wars movie poster movies ididnt getWith the rampant popularity and ubiquitous prevalence of social networking phenomenon including FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace and so many other copycats, Summer Wars could not have hit the screens at a more timely point in the evolution of mankind’s obsession with recreating reality in a virtually controlled world. Other films, stories, animations, comics and forms of media distribution have all hinted at our dangerous courtship in relying too heavily upon technology to make our lives easier and more connected, but Summer Wars, which is being submitted for an Oscar nomination by Funimation, has its finger on the pulse of the inner fear we all share – the “Terminator”-phobia, if you will – that our heavily depended upon technology will turn on us.

“A spokesperson for Funimation Entertainment told TheWrap this week that it is currently filling out Academy paperwork for the Japanese anime release Summer Wars, directed by Mamoru Hosada, and will complete a qualifying run in Los Angeles before the end of the year. Barring any disqualifications for the kind of eligibility issues that can always arise with the Academy, or any unexpected decisions not to submit, Summer Wars will bring the field only two shy of the needed total.”

–TheWrap.com’s Steve Pond

Read More

Ikiru – To Live Under The Psychoanalytic Lens

Posted 26 Oct 2010 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

Ikiru, Japan, 1952

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Spoiler AlertKanji Watanabe in to live movies i didnt getWhat does one do upon learning they have just a few months left to live? Akira Kurosawa gives an answer to this question in his film Ikiru. Telling the simple story of a Japanese city official, Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura), and his efforts to see that a park is built in a waste-ridden empty lot, we the viewer are given an insight into the final task of a man living with terminal gastric cancer. Setting the pace of the film to slowly recount the struggles of seeing this final task through, Kurosawa ultimately conveys through Kanji the beauty of life, as well as the urgency that inevitable death instills in us all. It is because of this limited amount of time that terminal cancer allows one to live that a psychoanalytic focus on Ikiru seems almost natural to me. With an analysis looking toward death and the psychological ramifications it imposes on not only Kanji, but the rest of the characters as well, the question of why he is so driven to build the park before his death becomes that much more profound. When analyzing Ikiru under a psychoanalytic lens, the most logical aspect to focus on is not only death, but the influence it has on a person throughout their entire life. In the case of Kanji Watanabe, a man who is so engrossed in his work that he has lost touch with reality as a result, death and its inevitable influence are nothing more than some mythical, far-off event that he doesn’t have to worry about. Read More

Y Tu Mama Tambien – Woman As Maker Of Meaning

Posted 18 Oct 2010 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

Y Tu Mama Tambien, Mexico, 2001

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Spoiler AlertY tu mamá tambiénAnalyzing a film such as Y Tu Mama Tambien under the influence of Laura Mulvey’s 1975 article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is as complex as it is enlightening.  Regardless of the fact that Mulvey has since moved away from her original argument, “Visual Pleasure” continues to provide a pool of theory from which to pull in reading contemporary film. In the case of Y Tu Mama Tambien, Mulvey’s article employs several key concepts that can be used quite effectively in a reading of this film. More specifically, the general concepts of spectatorship, subjectivity, verisimilitude, Jacques Lacan’s mirror phase and symbolic order, as well as Sigmund Freud’s scopophilia and primal scene, will all have relevance throughout. The purpose of this explication is to use these aforementioned concepts in order to expose Y Tu as a film that fully employs typical representations of woman as described by Mulvey in her article. Through this exposure, it will be revealed that the employment of these conventions of representation are in place only to create a basis of contradiction that can ultimately be subverted to transform Y Tu Mama Tambien into a dialectical text.

However, before an engaged reading can be conducted, it is of paramount importance to keep in mind that first and foremost, Y Tu is an independent film. Therefore, certain independent conventions must be kept in mind alongside these key concepts in taking any theoretical stance on the film. Bearing in mind these independent conventions, the following analysis of several key sequences is crucial to exposing the relationship Y Tu shares with the concepts of spectatorship and subjectivity. In the following explication, one particular focus of analysis will be a specific shot that is considered by many as the “pay-off” shot of the entire film. This is the shot in which the main female character, Luisa Cortes (Maribel Verdu), looks directly into the camera for an extended period of time. In doing this, the female representation transfers her role as castrated spectacle to that of the spectator/subject. Thus, Y Tu Mama Tambien becomes dialectic, as its representation of woman ascends into the realm of the symbolic order. Read More

Resident Evil: Afterlife – The Joys Of 3-D

Posted 10 Oct 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

Resident Evil: Afterlife, Germany / France / UK, 2010

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

milla jovovichWith ticket prices in Japan being double that of the states, I have to choose the films I see very carefully. I am not at all ashamed to admit my love for zombie flicks, and the Resident Evil (or Biohazard, as it’s referred to in Japan) series is one that has proven to be especially successful. I would even venture to say that it is even more popular in Japan than it is back home. Despite my love of all things zombie, it’s never been so extreme that I couldn’t just wait until whichever film I wanted to see came out on DVD. So why, now that the Resident Evil series has reached its fourth chapter, did I decide to shell out $30 so my wife and I could see it in the theater? The answer is simple: because it’s in 3-D.

Though it’s easy for film snobs to laugh off 3-D as just another Hollywood gimmick to lure people away from their TiVos and Netflix accounts, I think 3-D deserves a bit more credit than just calling it a phase or “gimmick.” On the contrary, in this review of Resident Evil: Afterlife I will explore why I think 3-D is more than just a new weapon to lure people off their couches and back into the theater, but rather a possible new form of storytelling to bring cinema to a new stage in its development. Read More

All About Lily Chou-Chou – An Analysis Of Excess In Form

Posted 04 Oct 2010 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Most Confusing Films of All time, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

All About Lily Chou-Chou, Japan, 2001

Written and Directed by Shunji Iwai

Hayato Ichihara listening to lily“Excessive elements do not form relationships, beyond those of coexistence.”

“Presumably, the only way excess can fail to affect meaning is if the viewer does not notice it.”

– Kristin Thompson

In her article, “The Concept of Cinematic Excess,” Kristin Thompson forms a compelling argument towards an analysis of film that looks beyond arbitrary narrative devices. As the title of her article implies, Thompson employs the work of two separate theorists (Stephen Heath and Roland Barthes, respectively) to form her argument around a concept known as excess. In analyzing a film like All About Lily Chou-Chou, a concept such as excess bears much weight in bringing to attention the formative elements that make a film such as this oppositional. Furthermore, in analyzing a film like Lily Chou-Chou, to avoid analysis of its formative structures (particularly its use of color) and focus full attention on its narrative devices is to miss the very aspect of why this film is oppositional.

Thus, the following explication seeks to coincide with Thompson’s line of thought that “once the narrative is recognized as arbitrary rather than logical, the viewer is free to ask why individual events within its structures are the way they are.” In short, in order to analyze Lily Chou-Chou and discover why it is oppositional, the analysis of narrative devices must be placed behind formative elements. Therefore, the following analysis will argue that through excess rising from its form (specifically the use of color), All About Lily Chou-Chou draws attention to the very fact that it is a film, that it is a structure of cause and effect that we as spectators either give ourselves up to willingly, or strive to attentively recognize its formative structure(s). However, before analysis can be achieved, it is important to explicate exactly why narrative analysis is arbitrary. Furthermore, it is important to establish a strong definition of excess. In juxtaposing explanation and definition of these previous aspects alongside specific sequences from the film, the following analysis can successfully make its argument that All About Lily Chou-Chou is indeed an oppositional film, with a knowledge-effect that emerges from its formal structure. Read More

Battle Royale – An Unconventional Action Film

Posted 19 Sep 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

Battle Royale, Japan, 2000

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

battle royaleFrom a spectators stance, I would classify Battle Royale as an action film. But the way director Kinji Fukasaku breaks the conventions of the action genre leads me to define it as mixed-genre. By obeying certain conventions but totally disregarding others, Fukasaku presents an action movie, a tragic drama, and a pseudo-post-apocalyptic film. To start off, the film earns its setting in an alternate future Japan where unemployment, student dropout rate and crime are all at an unprecedented high. To remedy this economic nightmare, Japan’s government instates what is called the Battle Royale Reform Act. Fully backed by the government, the reform act seeks to filter out Japan’s younger, unruly generation by forcing random classes of ninth-graders to take part in an annual competition. For our main character we have not one person, but rather fifty ninth-grade Japanese students randomly picked that year to take part in the Battle Royale competition. Under the impression that they are on a simple field trip, the students are gassed to sleep while on their bus and flown to a deserted tropical island, waking to realize they will be forced to take part in the annual game.

In the game students have one goal: to win and be re-granted Japanese citizenship. To create some sense of order and keep students from refusing to participate, there looms a military presence, but most importantly, instead of banding together to protest the students have no choice but to follow the last rule of the game. And the main rule of winning Battle Royale is you must be the last student living on the island. Upon watching an informational tape hosted by an anime-esque broadcast girl, students learn they each get a survival pack and random weapon. Some students get fully automatic machine guns while others get GPS locators or kitchen utensils. Regardless what each student gets, all are equal in the fact that every one of them has a collar around their neck. This collar, if tampered with, will explode if they try to swim from the island, or if they are in certain places at certain times announced by an island-wide intercom system. Which leads me to yet another essential component of Battle Royale, as it broadcasts every few hours the current updates on which students have been killed. Read More

Casino Royale – Takes The Fun Out Of The Bond Franchise

Posted 27 Aug 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get
When I sit down to watch a Bond movie, my suspension of disbelief is expecting several constants:
1) Over the top stunts in which somehow Bond finds a way through unscathed
2) A cheesy arch-villian who has maniacal plans to take over the world
3) A beautiful woman who Bond is able to bed in record time without missing a beat
These are just expected elements of the Bond franchise. Now if any of you are Bond fans out there, you’ll all pick who your favorite Bond was (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan) so let’s take a moment to see how the newest Bond, Daniel Craig does in inheriting the torch in “007: Casino Royale.”
As quoted by Wikipedia: “The film is a reboot, establishing a new timeline and narrative framework not meant to precede or succeed any previous Bond film. This allowed the film to show a less experienced and more vulnerable Bond. Casting the film involved a widespread search for a new actor to portray James Bond, and significant controversy around Craig when he was selected to succeed Pierce Brosnan in October 2005.”
Personally, if I’m going to take the time to watch a Bond, I tend to prefer the Connery/Moore era to the more current ventures. So I kind of surprised myself when I decided to rent “007: Casino Royale.” Expecting an over-the-top CG nightmare, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the franchise had maintained its standard of real explosions, cars flying and over-the-top real stunts. In the opening scene of the film alone they waste little time kicking ass with an incredible on-foot chase scene through a third-world country construction site. This opening scene sets the tone for the film but does also raise the bar for what’s to be expected.
So what happens for the next 2 and a half hours in the film?
NOTHING!
Okay, maybe I’m being unfair, but to be honest, when I watch an action film I expect the stakes in each action scene to be a little bit more intense and interesting than the previous. So after getting pumped by a great opening scene with the stakes being raised to unbelievable heights, the film sorts of sets itself up to be unable to meet the intensity and thrills of the opening scene. It does try to keep the audience’s attention with Bond preventing a terrorist attack at Miami airport, but then where does the next stage of action take place?
A poker table.
Yes, a poker table. But oh, let me apologize, a very high stakes poker table. Ohh hold me back! In all fairness, the stakes of the game are pretty high with Bond aiming to win so the organizer of the game cannot use the winnings for evil purposes, but it just sort of feels too novel-like instead of the stuff of cinema. Narratively speaking, with the sequel “Quantum Solace” set to follow “Casino Royale,” there is of course a larger arc at play that is being set up in the first of these two films. However, in watching “Royale” as a standalone Bond film, you’d hope for at least some sort of closure at the end.
Perhaps I need to watch “Quantum Solace” next and judge the films as one collective piece, but if you want my two cents on “Casino Royale,” it’s definitely one of the more skippable entries into the Bond archive.
To wrap this up and review, if you’re going to raise the stakes ever higher in an action film, you better not blow your proverbial load in the first 10 minutes if you’ll never be able to go higher later on in the story. Maybe the creators wanted to open with a bang to make the audience like and accept Daniel Craig as the newest Bond, but to me they used up their whole deck and just set the film up to be a boring series of lesser interesting action scenes and a boring denouement.

By Corey Birkhofer

Casino Royale, UK / Czech Republic / USA / Germany / Bahamas, 2006

Directed by Martin Campbell

daniel criag as 007Spoiler Alert

When I sit down to watch a James Bond movie, my suspension of disbelief is expecting several constants:

1) Over the top stunts, each progressively more complicated than the previous, in which Bond somehow finds a way through unscathed;

2) A cheesy arch-villain who has maniacal plans to take over the world and doesn’t stop until the very end;

3) A beautiful woman who Bond is able to bed in record time without missing a beat.

These are just expected elements of the Bond franchise for me. Now, if any of you are Bond fans out there, you’ll all pick who your favorite Bond was (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan), so let’s take a moment to see how the newest Bond, Daniel Craig, does inheriting the torch in Casino Royale.

As quoted in Wikipedia: “The film is a reboot, establishing a new timeline and narrative framework not meant to precede or succeed any previous Bond film. This allowed the film to show a less experienced and more vulnerable Bond. Casting the film involved a widespread search for a new actor to portray James Bond, and significant controversy around Craig when he was selected to succeed Pierce Brosnan in October 2005.” Read More