In keeping with my 50 Movies in 2016 challenge, I made an effort to watch more movies than usual this month. I usually have a habit of bingeing on tv shows (and I definitely did that too), but for some reason when I sit down to watch a movie I just get so easily distracted, no matter how good it is. Sometimes I’ll have to pause it and come back to it after surfing the internet or getting something to eat. What can I say? I’m a product of the digital age– I like constant, ever-changing stimuli.
Even so, I managed to watch 5 movies this month, and all of them new-to-me! A pretty good start to the challenge, I must say.
The Propaganda Game (2015) – Documentary. Longer review posted. Really enjoyed this, though I don’t think it added too much to a genre I already am pretty well versed in (North Korean ‘what it’s really like’ documentaries).
The Ghost Army (2013) – Documentary. I’d heard about the book with the same title, and checked this out because of some good reviews, and it was wonderful. It’s about the, well, “Ghost Army,” if you hadn’t guessed, the troop of military personnel used in World War I that served in a non-combat division of the US army that specialized in diversion and deception. Artists, sound engineers, and other special forces were banded together to impersonate army battalions using fake weapons, tanks, track marks, sound effects, radio chatter, and all sorts of other tactics. Really, really interesting– more interesting than the actual war, to be honest. Definitely watch it.
“American Experience” The Poisoner’s Handbook (2014) – Documentary. This is a PBS documentary on the invention and rise of forensic science in Jazz Age New York. I love a good poison study, and it featured some really excellent reenactments (which is cool, because many reenactments are just garbage.) I’d say, watch it if the subject’s in your wheelhouse, or if you were planning to time travel back to the early 20th century to murder someone. Otherwise, skip it.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013) – Documentary. Behind-the-scenes for one year as Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli work on The Wind Rises, and discuss animation, storytelling, and how Miyazaki’s political views and personal history affect his storytelling. It was, at times, incredibly slow, but it was supposed to be. Much of the film focuses on Miyazaki’s creative genius, and how he takes the time to think, and breathe, and enjoy nature, and take care of himself, amidst all of the hard work he does. He came off as a somewhat grumpy old man, a little sad about the world, nostalgic, and ultimately hopeful. It was a really peaceful film, and it gave me an interesting insight into Japanese creative life (at least, one Japanese creative life), that I will keep in mind on my visit. You should watch it, but only after you’ve seen at least two or three Ghibli films, as otherwise it’ll be a bit dull (though still really interesting/calming.)
Howl’s Moving Castle (2014) I’m still catching up on all of the Ghibli, and this is one that I hadn’t watched, for fear of it not being my thing. How. Wrong. Was. I. This movie couldn’t be more my thing. I LOVED IT. I loved it. It was, of course, absurdly beautiful, visually. The colors, the landscapes, the character designs, all stunning. Howl was strangely leaning towards anime, which at first kind of threw me off but I ended up liking. The plot, though. God. As I write this it’s currently 4:59am, and I stayed up after finishing this movie at 4:00am, just to make sure I included this movie in my post. I don’t know why I always doubt the magic of the Ghibli I haven’t seen yet, especially when they always end up leaving me speechless. I love Howl, I love Sophie, I love love LOVE Markl, and Calcifer, and the little dog Heen reminds me of Ned so much I can barely stand it. I’m glad I watched this one after seeing Miyazaki work in The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, it really made me pay attention to the details of the animation and dialogue and themes more than I may otherwise (Miyazaki= very anti-war. I think he and I would be friends). I’m hoping to catch up on a few more Ghibli movies before my trip to Japan!!!
Not a bad start to my movie watching for the year! At the time of writing I’m also halfway through Casablanca, but I paused it in favor of Howl’s, and now, well. Of all the gin joints in all the world… this one’s not open at 5am.
Here’s looking at you, February.