December 31, 2023

Happy New Year! Or… almost New Year, I guess. We still have two days to go, after all. 2023 was a wonderful time for every medium from film to games to music. This week, Michael Mann's latest work came out and two major seasonal anime ended.

Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004 Movie)

Image credit to MUBI

What better place to start with Lav Diaz than his infamous ten-and-a-half hour long behemoth? Evolution of a Filipino Family took over a decade to film, and it’s incredibly easy to get attached to the growing cast as a result. There’s a very tangible sense of fear that can be felt throughout the piece as the world slowly turns towards a single inevitable point. It’s a showcase of despair in all its various forms; it’s a movie designed to be as exhausting as possible, hence the runtime and grueling pace. Oddly enough, there’s something so refreshing to me about works like this. Perhaps it’s because I grew up only knowing the rapid-fire taste of bourgeois cinema, but I’ve been finding a sense of refuge in movies that take their sweet time along every step of the way. No better way to spend Christmas Day than alone on the computer watching one of the saddest and longest narrative films ever made!

Ferrari (2023 Movie)

Image credit to The Drive

It’s rare to see a biopic that covers such a short portion of someone’s life, Ferrari in particular spanning only three months. However, it’s that limited coverage that lets it shine as much as it does. The film moves at a wonderful speed and manages to naturally integrate everything you have to know about Enzo’s background into character interactions. Mann’s style being so up-close, intimate, and frantic emphasizes this focus in chronology. Adam Driver’s Italian accent does start to crack during some of the more dramatic scenes, so that was pretty funny to watch.

Love & Peace (2015 Movie)

Image credit to Projected Figures

I needed something to make me smile after the pure misery of Evolution of a Filipino Family, and it just so happens that I’ve been making Sion Sono’s Love & Peace something of a Christmas tradition. What begins as a narcissist’s Kafkaesque nightmare ultimately grows into a miracle of music, but it’s one that must turn into a miracle of love. It’s rare to see a movie that has anything even close to the shining golden heart of this picture. Fantastic set design, puppetry, and miniatures as well. Sometimes, all you really need is a girl and a turtle.

BURN THE WITCH #0.8 (2023 Short Film)

Image credit to anitrendz

I’m confused why they didn’t just adapt BURN THE WITCH as a single ninety-minute movie instead of releasing the prequel as a short three years later, but I’ll take it. Tatsurou Kawano’s team at Studio Colorido did great. Wonder if there’s more of this to come, but that’s up to Tite Kubo now.

3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (1976 TV Series)

Image credit to TMDB

How do you adapt a forty-page short story into a fifty-two episode television series? 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (also known as Marco) is the definitive answer. A sprawling adventure from the Apennines to the Andes, the young Marco Rossi embarks on a quest from Italy during the depression of the 1880s to a far more prosperous Argentina, constantly encountering new obstacles and friends. The show doesn’t shy away from even the harshest of struggles one can face when committing to such a journey, and it’s all the better for it.

Hemmed by the genius Isao Takahata, Marco is an absolute joy to look at throughout. It beats even his previous show Heidi in that regard. Every character is animated beautifully and each background contains gorgeous scenery as well as detailed architecture. For an adventure where it often feels like the weather will decide our protagonist’s fate, having a strong naturalistic edge is a necessity. I can’t wait to get around to Takahata’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.

Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 (2023 TV Series)

Image credit to CNET

Jujutsu Kaisen’s second season has proven to be a lot more enjoyable for me than the first season or the movie prequel. Not particularly for its narrative decisions (although I’d argue the “Hidden Inventory” arc is far better than anything else I’ve seen from the franchise thus far), but because of its presentation. Shouta Goshozono has proven himself a wonderful director through his work on the best episode of Chainsaw Man and he only proves his talent further here. There’s a vibrancy and energy to this second season that all battle shounen could use. I still hope the MAPPA bubble bursts sooner rather than later.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (2023 TV Series)

Image credit to Google Play

An exhausted, abused salaryman finding solace in a zombie apocalypse makes for a great premise. Unfortunately, despite its vibrant presentation and the occasional goofy segment, Zom 100 takes itself far too seriously. The last thing I need is heavy-handed character drama tied to my funny action horror schlock. I absolutely loved the scene with the zombie shark running rampant throughout the aquarium, why the hell weren’t there more of those??? Doesn’t help that the production was absolutely disastrous and the animation took a pretty nasty hit in later episodes as a result. I guess it still did its job overall.

R.O.D – Read or Die (2001-2002 OVA Series)

Image credit to Anime Epicuriosity

A steampunk-infused action mystery that’s just as fun and silly as can be. Substitute teacher and secret agent Yomiko Readman (that is her actual name) embarks on an adventure to restore peace to the world from an evil group of reincarnated historical figures with her versatile paper-manipulating abilities. R.O.D looks and sounds great throughout all three episodes while carrying an awfully exciting storyline, making it one of the best LN adaptations I’ve seen thus far. I’ll get around to the TV series sometime.

The Box Man (1973 Novel)

Image credit to Goodreads

Read this in anticipation for next year’s film adaptation by Gakuryuu Ishii! Written by Koubou Abe of Woman in the Dunes fame, The Box Man is an incredibly bizarre & postmodern treat. It revolves around the protagonist hiding himself in a box while he imagines the world as it could be happening—and it sure is a lot wilder than reality could ever be. I have absolutely no clue how anyone can adapt something like this into another medium, but if anyone can do it it’s probably Ishii.

Thanks for sticking with my mediocre blogging efforts! I wish you all a prosperous 2024!

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