Toshiro Mifune

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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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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Anyone who follows the Criterion Collection will note that just about every month of releases is exciting for collectors of classic and important cinema. But some months are just a little bit more special than others. This coming June is going to be even more special. With titles from Alfred Hitchcock, Toshiro Mifune, Charlie Chaplin, Steven Soderbergh (on Spalding Gray) and Danny Boyle, Criterion may have on their hands one of the most exciting months of releases in years. You might as well start saving now. Seriously, just check out the line-up after the jump.

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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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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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Happy Birthday Kurosawa! Happy Birthday Toshiro Mifune! Their birthdays are a week apart, so we’ve decided to celebrate by remembering the time that Kurosawa shot real arrows at his favorite lead actor. Oh, those lovable scamps!

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This week, Old Ass Movies examines the subjectivity of truth and human nature in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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