Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa

It takes a big man to admit the fact that he hasn’t seen one single movie from a director as famous as Akira Kurosawa. It’s especially embarrassing if you’re a mildly successful movie blogger such as myself. But it was true. Was being the operative word, as I’ve chosen to dedicate this week’s For Science to the start of my Kurosawa journey. It begins with four films, from a range of time periods, all of which center on one particular historical period: feudal Japan.

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The Fantastic Four 1994

The best writing from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Rashomon

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they take 4 different views on Akira Kurosawa‘s Rashomon because they think they’re clever. In the #24 (tied) movie on the list, a bandit, a samurai, his wife, and a woodcutter each tell their version of a violent encounter on a forest road. With each new entry, conflicts and distortions arise, ultimately bending and challenging what we think of as the truth in storytelling and in life.

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Seven Samurai

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they celebrate the magical ability of Akira Kurosawa‘s Seven Samurai to thrive despite giving birth to a plot cliche that refuses to die.  In the #17 (tied) movie on the list, poor townsfolk turn to a band of samurai to help protect them from brutal bandits. But why is it one of the best movies ever?

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Space Jam

In the game of bad movie coverage, we are poised on the same lofty levels of excellence as either the 1975 Washington Capitals or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back when they had those supposedly heterosexual tangerine uniforms with the smiling pirate on the helmets. Every week, Junkfood Cinema brings you the best of the worst of the best movies ever made; exposing their faults and cackling like insane toddlers at their dense layers of absurdity. We really do love these films, and that fact of remains despite the mockery, and despite our therapist taking the controversial tact of encouraging us to repress our feelings. To reward you, the unsuspecting reader, for eye-prancing all the way to the end of the article, we will top things off with a sinfully tasty snack themed to the movie. All that being said, today’s piece is different. It will not focus on a bad movie, but instead defend one improperly relegated as such. This article is fraught with anger, fraught I tell you! Today’s film is one most maligned by foolish plebes; those too bereft of wisdom to recognize its brilliance. This is a film that transcends the dubious confines of its genre and operates on a more didactic level vis-a-vis the human condition and societal mores. A film whose roots are embedded in the history of film itself and one that harkens back to some of cinema’s greatest achievements. I’m speaking of course of Space Jam.

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Akira Kurosawa

The Movie King. The Emperor. Even at their height, words fail to capture the towering legacy of a master like Akira Kurosawa. Growing up with a movie fanatic father, the writer/director was educated with thousands of silent films, and he would go on to make perhaps more masterpieces than any other singular filmmaking force. With Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Ran, Rashomon and many more, he became immortal. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who had the heart of a child and the mind of a genius.

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Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.

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In 1950, Akira Kurosawa released a film based on two stories, told from four perspectives. Rashomon is a gorgeous exercise in minimalism with courageous acting from Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo and Takashi Shimura. This iconic movie tells the tale of the rape of a woman and the murder of a man, but the details and actions change depending on who’s telling the story. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s high time they did. For those that have, they know how infinitely rewatchable it is. It is, without hyperbole, one of the best movies ever made, which is why we’re honored to be hosting a very special online screening of this masterpiece on Wednesday, March 28th at 7pm Central. It’s our first, powered by our new partnership with Constellation, and the perks are undeniable: The site works like a box office, but the movie comes to you. Which means you don’t have to leave the house or put on pants to enjoy the movie. There’s an interactive chat room during the screening where we’ll be tossing out trivia and conducting viewer polls… …but you can turn it off if you just want to see the movie purely. Plus, we’ll be hosting a Q and A after the movie with Kurosawa fan/expert Landon Palmer. Tickets to the event are as low as $3.99 and you can get discounts for sharing the event on Facebook and inviting friends. Plus, we have 10 free tickets to give away, so if you […]

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People say there’s nothing new under the sun. While I don’t completely buy into that (mainly because I don’t like the idea that original thought has been totally extinguished) there are thousands of years of recorded history from before I was even born, and the idea that someone else might have thought of something before my lifetime isn’t too far-fetched. Either way, it’s just plain fact that our creative output comes complete with telling signs that we were influenced by the creative output of others that came before us. While we all might not end up as blatant as de Palma “borrowing” (quite liberally) from Hitchcock, our work still serves as a showcase for the works we idolize. It’s widely acknowledged that George Lucas found inspiration for parts of Star Wars in Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, but it’s perhaps gone unnoticed that a line can easily be drawn from Kurasawa and Star Wars straight through to Michael Roskam‘s Oscar nominated film, Bullhead.

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The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: Ikiru (1952) The Plot: Upon inferring the news of his close, impending death within a matter of months due to cancer, long-time city bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe (played by Takashi Shimura) struggles through his final days fending off his illness as well as deep depression. As he reflects upon the trajectory of his life he looks back and realizes the damaged relationship with his son and comes to understand the relative insignificance of his job duties over the past decades of city service. After a few weeks of shuffling through different attempts to find some temporary form of happiness he gets invigorated one day at work when he stumbles upon the request of some lower-end neighborhood tenants seeking city approval to fix up their community playground. With only a few months left to live Watanabe fights both time and seemingly endless layers of bureaucracy to see one positive accomplishment come to fruition before he passes.

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Culture Warrior

Masculinity has always been the major topic of concern in the work of Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn. Just look at the series he made his name with, the Pusher trilogy, which in three installments provide three very different but equally compelling stories of occasionally brazen, often buffoonish masculinity within various facets of the Copenhagen illegal drug trade. So it is no surprise that the directors latest work (his ‘breakthrough’ years, if you will) are continuously concerned with the turbulent lives of men, culminating this weekend with his most ‘mainstream’ entry, Drive (in purely box-office terms, as Drive in its opening weekend made more than 84x what his previous two films made together, yet the film is still ripe with Refn’s eccentric signature). Refn’s thematic and narrative preoccupation with masculinity has produced three fascinating portraits in as many years. The temporal and social contexts of Bronson, Valhalla Rising, and Drive couldn’t be more disparate, but between them he’s produced an unofficial trilogy of sorts connected not only through his deliberate pacing and striking, almost invasive visual style, but more importantly through their shared concerns as portrayals of three aggressive men who wander their respective environments in solitude.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Sometimes it likes to think that it is a carefully constructed Rube Goldberg machine constructed by a popular rock band that quickly became on online sensation. It also sometimes thinks that it’s a world famous traveling circus of puppets. Sadly, it’s just a nightly column of movie news and interesting links. Sorry. Have any of you seen a recent picture of actor Jonah Hill? He looks odd, to say the least, having lost a great deal of weight. Is it me, or does he look like a nerdy white version of President Obama? Slightly unrelated is his being cast in Neighborhood Watch alongside Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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The decision-making process of The Weinstein Company within the past year has been exciting enough to watch with an oversize popcorn tub (with free refills!). After announcing they’d be cannibalizing their own library for remakes and sequels, they’re now announcing a new version of Akira Kurosawa’s iconic Seven Samurai. Sacrilege? Not exactly. The Magnificent Seven was a hell of a movie, and A Bug’s Life was probably the best possible way to adapt the story for children of all ages, so remaking a high concept tale of honor and protection isn’t all that terrifying even if touching the legacy of Kurosawa might seem that way. According to Cinema Blend, Scott Mann will be directing the movie. Here’s where the speculation comes in. Mann is a strong short film maker who has the awards to prove it, and his first feature film The Tournament is all action, all the time (with some Scott Adkins thrown in for good measure), so it’s unclear whether they’ll even attempt to bring nuance and calm character development to the story. Perhaps, the modernization of the setting will lend itself to non-stop beat downs. That would really be a shame. It would mean an In Name Only remake. This news isn’t really all that moving one way or another. Maybe that’s the cynicism of the movie world we live in now (especially the world of Weinstein) or maybe it’s the optimism that we might get a great movie out of it (or still have the original […]

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Here’s a minimalist trailer that’s content to shove the names of Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Akira Kurosawa all together next to the phrase “Academy Award Winners” in order to make the sale. Of course, you don’t need much of a voice over when you have Kurosawa’s startling, beautiful imagery. But tossing in a mention of that Palme d’Or win can’t hurt either. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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Criterion Files

In 1950 Akira Kurosawa released what many consider to be his first true masterpiece, which started two decades full of multiple masterpieces, in the pioneering and uniquely structured Rashomon. That film told the story of an unsolved murder in feudal Japan causing a series of conflicting stories and falsely witnessed accounts as told by the survivors (and even the murdered himself from beyond the grave) of the incident. Each participant had their own side of the story to tell and each had their own personal motivations for blatantly lying about what really happened.

That film paints a very pessimistic picture on the psychological side of the human condition. We will lie and we will do it, generally, for reasons as superficial as maintaining a perceived public image. We will do this willingly and with conviction to the point that the human word becomes about as reliable as a thumbtack holding up a mirror. We must either hope the mirror is small and unimportant, or get ourselves a lot of thumbtacks to support the one.

Two years following this first masterpiece (already eleven pictures into his career) Kurosawa would create a film that not only portrays us at our worst – in almost the exact same way as Rashomon no less, accompanied by other character flaws – he would also offer us the antithesis and he would do it using some of the same individuals he characterized earlier in the film as weak and/or fake.

Ikiru, while not cut of the same piece of wood as the samurai epics Kurosawa would later become most known for, may be his most dense picture and truly indicative of what it is to be human.

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Upon discussion and deliberation between Landon Palmer and Adam Charles (the two primary authors of the Criterion Files column) it was decided that due to the column’s state of near infancy and a small number of articles to choose from they would not reflect upon each other’s incisive works throughout the year of what was considered, or what they felt to be, the articles each were either most impressed by from the other, or considered the most indicative of what the column represents – and instead opted to choose 10 releases of the Criterion company in 2010 they felt most noteworthy of attention.

Delving into each other’s works even if the output was extended to 26 articles each over the course of a full year to choose the favorites from would actually prove to be a much simpler task than what was done for this year’s Year in Review. Trying to narrow down a list of the most significant Criterion Collection releases of any given year to a list of 10 is like…well, trying to list the 10 best of anything of which everything deserves attention. So, take these not as a slight against any of the other releases by any means (please, see every film they include in the library because they’ve selected it for a reason), these just happen to be a consolidation of releases Landon and Adam considered either significant for the availability on home video, marked a trend of the company’s direction of material to include in the library, personal affections, or were simply just incredible works in presentation of the picture previously not able to be experienced from prior releases.

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Criterion Files

As discussed in last week’s entry in the cannon of the Criterion Files with Carol Reed’s The Third Man for our themed month dubbed “Noirvember”, the delineation of what is considered film noir is as gray as the pictures that encompass the genre (if genre is what it’s believed to be). It’s many things yet nothing distinctive.

In many cases, the aesthetics of low-angles and dark photography dominating the image mark a common visual signature that’s distinguishable, but not always definitively ‘noir’ and not always present in film-noir. Yet, somehow, we kind of know it when we see it.

In other instances, visual style takes the backseat of the police car in a picture with literary elements of crime, corruption, betrayal and other sinful activity found quite often in the films considered undoubtedly ‘noir,’ yet their presence does not define their categorical placement amongst films like The Third Man. Yet, somehow, we sort of just know it when we feel it.

Taken in its literal context the word ‘noir’ simply means dark. Dark what? Dark anything, really; and that’s part of what makes the genre so non-distinct and occasionally contradictory. A dark film is not necessarily noir, but noir films are in one way or another dark; and some in ways that non-noir films can be.

Therefore, the only definitive fact about film-noir is that it’s an abstract concept thanks to films like Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low (1963), loosely adapted from Ed McBain’s crime novel “King’s Ransom”, and is in many ways the antithesis to what would be considered dark for nearly eighty-percent of its running time. Yet, when you see it, you feel it, and its inclusion in consideration for what is noir further expands what the genre can be, or doesn’t have to be.

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Every Sunday, Film School Rejects presents a movie that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies presents a story of a General, a secret Princess, a farmer’s daughter and two peasants who are traveling through dangerous territory with enough gold to rebuild an empire. This is a simple tale, but it also gave birth to one of the largest pop cultural phenomenon’s in film history. This is Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.

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Our Culture Warrior Landon Palmer digs into next month’s Cannes line up so you won’t have to. Learn what to look out for when they hit the states and feign sounding cultured at parties!

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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