My Favorite Films of the 2010s (and Yours?)

The decade is almost over and there is so much to look back on. One of them of course are movies. 2010s can be seen as the decade of the superheroes but really, it was another good decade for cinema. Looking at the last ten years, I still haven’t seen so many I still want to. And I’ve seen very little from this year so my list was actually made from the last 9 years.

If you want to share your list, please go by the release dates in your region. Foreign movies tend to take some time to come to the States and they usually spill over to the year after initial release. If you’re living in Europe or anywhere outside of the US, there is a chance many 2009 American movies qualify for you just as many 2009 International movies qualify for us here in the U.S. of A.

Here are my 10 favorite films of the decade. I try to think of the ones that not only stuck with me but ones I carry with me almost day to day. I did put them in order but just for fun really. I’m sure I could play with this list ‘til the end of time but anyways, this is a snapshot of how I see it today.

10. The Act of Killing (2012) by Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous

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This is the only “important” movie that’s on the list and my god, it is a stunner. The movie’s about some of the individual members of the death-squad that executed mass-killings in Indonesia in the 60’s. What separates it from other heavy documentaries is the gimmick of the film, which gets these ppl to reenact some of their stories in cinematic fashion. There is just nothing like seeing mass-murders dressed up like characters from some of their favorite movies and genres while proudly recalling the horrible things they did.

09. The Rider (2017) by Chloe Zhao

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A movie directed by an Asian woman that takes place in the MidWest of America about a young man who has to let go of his dreams and learn to live and find meaning in life passed it. The story is heavily based on the main actors that played the roles which makes the narrative often feel like it’s bleeding into reality. It’s not a documentary but it gets really hard to tell what’s real and what’s made up. In the end, it doesn’t really matter ‘cause it feels warm, kind, and truthful. Zhao reminds of early Terrence Malick. The more grounded good Malick who made beautiful movies people could make sense of. The Malick we hope to see again but assume is long gone. At least we got Chloe to hopefully fill some of that void.

Zhao is coming up in the world. Some powerful people took notice of her talent and now she’s directing The Eternals.

08. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015) by Hong Sang-soo

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If you’re not into “boring” movies but open minded enough to try, please check out this movie and tell me boring movies are boring. :D To be honest, I only got into Hong Sang-soo’s work in the last several years but ever since, I’ve seen a bunch of his films. If I could achieve my potential or actually, surpass it, I think he’d be the director I’d become. Not saying I’m anywhere near as talented or smart. It’s just, the rhythm and tone of his movies and the words that come out the characters mouths fit my sensibilities so perfectly.

The movie is sort of a diptych, telling the same story twice with new wrinkles the 2nd time out, playing with our expectations and spontaneity of the first half. It’s a very clever movie that seems so disarmingly simple yet impossible not to marvel at the genius of it.

07. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) by Roy Andersson

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This one absolutely floored me when I saw it. I love long takes, especially long takes that’s on sticks and Roy Andersson is an absolute master at it. Literally every shot looked good enough to be framed and put on a wall. Every scene so precisely choreographed and performed. Every moment so bizarrely funny and warm.

With how long movies have been around and how many are out there, I tthink I have yet to see tons of movies that’ll become some of my favorites but I still came out of this one kinda embarrassed I didn’t know about Andersson or his work. Maybe I wouldn’t be so quick to put this one in this list if I had. As of this writing, I still haven’t seen any of his other stuff and I have no idea why. I think part of the reason is because this is the type of movie that simultaneously makes you want to make movies and at the same time, makes you feel like you have no right to.

06. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) by Abdellatif Kechiche

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Before Lea Seydoux played Fragile in Death Stranding, before she became a Bond girl, she gave of the most powerful performances I’ve seen in Blue is the Warmest Color alongside Adele Exarchopoulos. Maybe I haven’t seen enough romantic dramas, maybe I’m just a softie, or maybe this movie is just that good. This movie hit me so hard, my heart ached for literally weeks after seeing it. It’s the only gay drama where I totally forgot about that aspect of it. The only knock against it is that there is a ridiculously pornographic 5 mins long sex scene that just doesn’t belong in this particular movie.

05. Dogtooth (2009, US 2010) by Yorgos Lanthimos

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The Lobster and The Favourite are both great but Dogtooth is probably still the one to top for me. I usually describe it to people as The Village if The Village was good. A family decides to blockade themselves from society and in typical Yorgos fashion, it gets weird.

It’s the movie that turned me on to Lanthimos and if you’re into him, then you’ve probably seen it already but if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. Do it!

04. Inception (2010) by Christopher Nolan

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One of my favorites of the decade is, imo, the only good movie Nolan’s made this decade. Damn Chris, I like all your movies from the 2000s, what the hell happened? Regardless, there is just nothing like it when Hollywood blockbuster budgets meets arthouse sensibilities and everything fell into the right places with Inception. Everyone knows it, most ppl love it, so there is not much I have to or need to say.

03. Holy Motors (2012) by Leos Carax

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This movie has it all. One actor playing all kinds of characters, genre blending, philosophy, Kylie Minogue. If you’re not satisfied with this, you’re not satisfied with movies, I can’t help you! I don’t know what to say about this movie. It’s just one of those movies, no I don’t understand it all or most likely, any. I think it has something to do with being actors in life, how we’re all playing roles, and how we can play different people depending on the time, situation, or moment. Anyways, it’s such a beautiful thing, ppl should see it for themselves. Idk if you’ll like it but I promise you, you won’t regret it.

02. The Florida Project (2017) by Sean Baker

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This one probably spoke to me more than any movie this decade, perhaps ever. It’s the ultimate latchkey kid movie and as a former latchkey kid, I connected with every second of it. When kids give good performances, it's really hard to compete and Brooklynn Prince tore. it. down.

I also really love seeing Willem DaFoe play a normal guy and I wish he got to more.

01. The Master (2012) by Paul Thomas Anderson

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I’m a total PTA fanboy so it was just a matter of which of his movies I was gonna put at the top. The Master is the easy pick ‘cuz it looks so gorgeous having been shot in 70mm and it has 2 of the greatest actors of our time going head to head in one of the most powerful friendships captured, certainly this decade.

I basically love everything about this movie and the subject matter is just perfect.

Actually, Philip Seymour Hoffman was from very close to where I grew up and it was heartbreaking when he passed away. He was the type of talent that made people proud to be where you’re from, so I’m happy to recognize his work whenever appropriate.

Top 10 Movies of the Decade (B-Side):

Here are some movies I really wanted to put in the actual list I just didn’t for one reason or another. These are all amazing movies and I truly dig them but as I said at the top, I wanted to pick the ones that I carry with me most on a daily basis. Even this list I had to make cuts… Anyways, this one isn’t ordered but it’s 10 other movies that totally could/should be in a movies of the decade list!

1. Blue Valentine (2010) by Derek Cianfrance - Definitely one of the best romantic dramas I’ve seen. Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling, can’t go wrong. A heartbreaker.

2. Under the Skin (2013) by Johnathan Glazer - I wish Scarlett Johansson focused on doing interest projects with all the money she probably has.

3. Wild Tales (2014) by Damian Szifron - 6 short films all about vengeance. This dark comedy is a real treat and you’ll never get bored.

4. Drive (2011) by Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive is a great movie but maybe it’s like a great song that becomes popular. People get sick of it and they forget that it’s good.

5. Love Exposure (2008, US 2011) by Sion Sono - Sono’s 4 hour epic about family, religion, and upskirt photo gang is one of his ultimate films. If you liked his Why Don’t You Play in Hell? which to be honest is one of his mid-tier movies, maybe see the true depth of the fella with this one.

6. Shame (2011) by Steve McQueen - This was just pure and raw.

7. The Hunt (2012) by Thomas Vinterberg - Just like I like normal Willem, I also like normal Mads. This is like a perfect movie. I can’t find a flaw in it.

8. Leviathan (2014) by Andrey Zvyagintsev - I guess beached whales are popular these days. This one has them plus seriously powerful family drama and surprising humor.

9. Fish Tank (2009, US 2010) by Andrea Arnold - It’s just one of those indie dramas that has heart for days.

10. Side Effects (2013) - Steven Soderbergh - Seems like it’s impossible for Soderbergh to do bad work but this is my favorite of his this decade. It’s like a BOGO of a movie. I fancy the direction very much. This one definitely needs more love.

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14 Weeks into the Year, Here Are the 14 Films I Think People Should Check Out

Note: I have some limited releases from late last year that went wide(r) this year.

14. Loveless

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Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest about divorced parents trying to find their missing son isn’t as good as his previous work, Leviathan. It’s oppressive and singular unlike Leviathan, which was heavy but had lighter and funnier moments that made it surprising, dynamic, and profound.

What Loveless is is a really well made movie by a great director. There really isn’t much wrong with it and every component parts are well done, some of it even exceptional. However, it’s one of those movies while I was watching, I spent more time admiring than being absorbed. So, though it does have some memorable scenes and powerful moments, I rank this a lot lower than I thought I would before I saw it. Still, It’s certainly worth a watch because it is a quality piece of work.

13. Oh Lucy!

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Oh Lucy! a is rom-com by a first time feature director, Atsuko Hirayanagi, about a relationship between a middle-aged Japanese women and her English teacher. It’s not all that unique and maybe you’ve seen a movie like it more than once but I couldn’t help but be charmed by it.

It’s always kinda neat to see the US and Americans from a foreign perspective and this one does it in a pretty even keeled way. There is also enough self reflection of one’s own culture as a Japanese filmmaker.

Also, there is a super random cameo by Megan Mullally which is, again, super random but I was really into.

12. Flower

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Full disclosure, a friend of mine has a decent size role in this one. I’m not recommending it because of that and I don’t think it had that much to do with my enjoyment of the film, though it certainly added to it.

Flower is a fun movie about a group of teens trying to catch an accused pediphile with his pants down, quite literally. The film begins with a scene that may make the movie seem like a shallow raunchy comedy but it turns out to be a fairly multi-demensional character study about a girl (played by Zoey Deutch) who comes off pretty shitty for most of the movie.

I didn’t know about Zoey Deutch before Flower but she really carries this movie on her young back. She’s definitely someone people should keep an eye out for, I know I am from now on.

The movie really runs off course in the last act, which is unfortunate ‘cause most of it super solid. It’s still really entertaining for the most part though and I think worth a look.

11. Thoroughbreds

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Like Zoey Deutch from Flower, Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are both pretty talented young actors and the reason to watch Thoroughbreds. Another reason to watch this film is because it’s Anton Yelchin’s last.

The movie itself is a love it or hate it affair. It has all the earmarks of a modern indie by a young filmmaker. Thoroughbreds is stylish and delivered cold, perhaps fitting for a film about revenge and murder. It’s the kind of movie I would’ve probably loved 5-10 years ago but now, makes me a bit uncomfortable and not sure how to feel about. Is it amoral or immoral?

I’m not sure I like it but it’s just the type of movie I want people to see and tell me what they think about it.

10. A Quiet Place

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A Quiet Place is one of those critical darlings I’m not sure it’ll fair as well with audiences. It’s clear why it reviewed so well but to me, it felt like a studio cut of a potentially better movie. The film sometimes takes too many shortcuts. It’s a lean cut of meat without the gristle and fat, which sounds good ‘til you taste it. Most movies could and should be trimmed here and there but A Quiet Place feels like it’s missing a few scenes to fully come together.

I’m being harsh because most of it is pretty freaking great and it’s so close to being amazing based on what’s on display. Still, it’s the type of film we should be encouraging studios to back so people should give it a shot.

09. Outside in

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Outside In is a romantic drama about a guy who just got out of prison after serving 20 years (played by Jay Duplass) and his teacher (Edie Falco) who helped him get released. It’s a touching look at a guy who lost the best years of his life and the reality of being out in the real world after being on the inside for two decades.

It won’t win any awards for originality but it hits all the right notes and makes all the right moves to really delivery a beautiful grounded narrative that depicts people in a truthful way.

08. Unsane

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If you’ve seen Steven Soderbergh’s 2013 movie Side Effects, his newest, Unsane, is like a trashier take on mental illness and that’s saying something cause Side Effects was, inself, kinda trashy. Still, I enjoy both of these movies quite a bit for different reasons.

If you saw the movie Tangerine, which was shot on an iPhone like this movie, don’t go in expecting the same type of results. Unsane doesn’t look great or good or at times, even acceptable. However, it does sorta add to the trashiness of it.

I know this sounds like a backhanded praise of the film but go into this one ready to enjoy a politically incorrect, messy, fun picture.

07. Annihilation

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Alex Garland’s 2nd directorial effort failed to catch on like Ex Machina but it is worth seeing. Its mix of sci-fi and horror offers some of the most tense and memorable moments in film this year thus far. More than anything though, Annihilation is a visual treat and bigger the screen and louder the sound system you have, the better you’ll enjoy it.

06. Isle of Dogs

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I always feel I need to preface any comments about a Wes Anderson movie by saying I’m not a Wes Anderson hater but people always seem to enjoy his movies more than I do. I like most of his films, as I did Isle of Dogs, but I can’t seem to get excited about them as much as I wish I could.

Anyway, Isle of Dogs is as charming as you’d expect and it stands out from his other work because it’s basically a foreign film. There is so much Japanese in it that I almost hesitate to recommend it to folks who aren’t into international movies.

That said, it’s Wes Anderson. You kinda know what you’re getting with this one.

05. A Fantastic Woman

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A Fantastic Woman is about a trans woman who gets accused of murdering her boyfriend. I haven’t seen many movies that seriously deals with trans characters so my perspective is fairly limited to say the least. However, I think A Fantastic Woman is a very good film that doesn’t at all feel self-congratulatory.

It might be the type of movie that age really badly depending on how far we get socially but for now, it’s seems quite relevant and dear I say, important.

04. Goldstone

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I didn’t know about this one until I saw it and boy, was I pleasantly surprised. For Aussies, this is an old one that came out in 2016 but it only quietly came to the States last month. It’s a modern Western that sometimes comes across like a poor man’s Cohen brothers flick but it’s big heart makes up for the noticeably flimsy budget.

I love stories about seedy small towns in the middle of nowhere and I’ve never seen Australia the way Goldstone depicts it. Really cool, though I doubt it’d make the same kind of impression to an Aussie.

03. Phantom Thread

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I’ve been a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson for a long time so it’s no surprise that Phantom Thread makes the list. If you’ve seen There Will Be Blood or The Master, you might go into this movie with the wrong attitude. I saw Phantom Thread twice and here is a tip: take it as a comedy. Most of this movie is meant to be funny but it sells itself as a dead serious character study like the two aforementioned dramas.

02. The Death of Stalin

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The Death of Stalin is pretty dense I need to see it at least one more time. Every scene seems to be packed with historical details fused with comedy and it’s impossible to absorb the whole thing fully in a single view. If you like VEEP or Armando Iannucci’s other work, it should be right up your alley, even better if you enjoy some Russian history.

Just go see it, it’s probably the most recommendable movie on the list. I don’t think you can really go wrong with this one.

01. Call Me by Your Name

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I Am Love is a film I greatly admired but couldn’t really connect with so I figured Call Me By Your Name would be the same. To my surprise, I think I “got” the movie and now need to rewatch I Am Love. What I liked most about CMBYN is really the texture of the film and its world. The people in this movie seem real, like they exist and I believed it. There is also a beautiful elegance to the cut and dissolves that I rarely see any movie.

Other movies to consider:

  • Hostiles (Scott Cooper)
  • Lover for a Day (Philippe Garrel)
  • Game Night (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein)
  • Blockers (Kay Cannon)
  • Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin)

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My 2017 Film of the Year list (and Yours?)

As with every year, there are too many films to see and too many films I’ve missed. I haven’t had to chance to see many foreign films, arthouse films and there are a few domestic films coming limited around Christmas I doubt I’ll get to see until next year. I’m a big Paul Thomas Anderson fan so I imagine The Phantom Thread would be somewhere in this list if I had seen it. Critical darlings like Call Me by Your Name I’ll have to see what the fuss is about later and the list goes on and on.

Anyway, here are 25 from 2017 I liked to highlight (U.S. releases). The order is just for fun.

#25. Personal Shopper

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Personal Shopper is a hard movie to pin down. It’s part ghost story, part mystery, and part drama about a personal shopper (Kristen Stewart), a girl who’s near fame and fortune by proximity through her work as a glorified deliverer. There is something about Kristen Stewart that makes me think she’ll turn in an undeniable performance down the line but for now, she’s interesting to watch but too cool for her own good as an actor. The movie itself, while decent to look at, is ugly in structure. It’s the type of movie that seems to be searching for its path like the protagonist, which gives it, on the one hand, an organic feel but on the other, a sense of aimlessly. It starts and stops, never finding a rhythm nor is it even interested in such things. So why is it in here? The simple answer: it has stuck with it. I don’t want to chalk it up to the novelty of a genre bender but the different elements do allow for things to happen in a single film you might otherwise see in 2-3 films, which at the very least paints an interesting and memorable world I want to be in longer and know more about.

#24. Coco

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I didn’t know anything about Coco when I saw the movie. I haven’t been that hot on CG animation movies for a couple years and kinda let most of it pass me by so I went in to the latest Pixar flick blind and came out pleasantly surprised. it’s a timely film with Trump’s relationship with Mexicans . Not only is a political statement but a beautiful movie about traditions as immigrants in this country. All around it’s a feel good movie with a ton of catchy songs and a tearjerker of an ending that’ll keep you entertained and leave you with a slightly wet face.

#23. Raw (WARNING: MAJOR BODY HORROR)

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This is the only movie on the list I feel obligated to warn people up front because of one of its themes and the depiction of it. If you can’t handle graphic images of body horror, stay away ‘cause this movie is gross. If you’re okay or even into that sort of stuff, you’ll not only get plenty of that but also discover just underneath all that flesh and blood, a sometimes funny, and surprisingly touching relationship story between siblings.

#22. City of Ghosts

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I know there have been a number of documentaries on Syria recently, I haven't seen them except for this one. I do want to eventually watch more of them but for now, this is the honorary doc about Syria that'll represent of all them and highlight the situation over there. It's a revealing look at a place in the world, the lives and conditions of people there, and the extremists that took over a city. Some of the footage is as a graphic as Raw, if not more but absolutely appropriate and perhaps needed to give voice to ones who have little.

#21. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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I love Dogtooth and really like The Lobster so I was actually vaguely disappointed when I saw Yorgos Lanthimos's latest. The same stilted performances don't work as well here and doesn't provide the same kind of dark humor to The Killing of a Sacred Deer as it did the director's previous work. The premise is a lot harder to swallow this time and it feels like Yorgos is kinda on autopilot, doing his shtick. I know none of what I said is positive but at the end of the day, what a shtick it is. The movie is filled with situations and moments as a fan, I wanted, so in many ways, it delivers to expectation. It's just when it's all said it done, you wonder, to what end.

#20. Last Flag Flying

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Richard Linklater is pretty much the opposite of Yorgos Lanthimos and so are their individual films this year. Where Sacred Deer provides so many powerful scenes seemingly without purpose, Last Flag Flying is all about the grounded small moments of real life that gives it meaning. Where the directors and their films align is in my expectation as a viewer. If you've watched Linklater's work, you know what you're going to get here, which is not at all a bad thing.

#19. The Salesman

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Asghar Farhadi delivers another super solid film. What's great about it is that nothing feels played up, in fact, we're so trained as film goers that, some of it actually seems played down. It's a human story full of compassion and nuance that comes out of a country so often demonized in the Western world. Also, it's just nice to see a film from Iran sometimes 'cause I just have so little knowledge about the country and the culture there. I'm constantly surprised by how modern everything is which goes to show my general ignorance. lol

#18. Lady Macbeth

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I didn't know Florence Pugh but I do now. Lady Macbeth is one of those movies that showcases an actor's talent and (hopefully) allows her opportunities she clearly deserves. The movie is pretty singular in its vision and by no means perfect but Pugh's performance is magnetic and hard to resist.

#17. I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

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The biggest surprise of the year for me is this little movie about vigilantes and odd friendships. I didn't know anything about it and the long title kinda turned me off of it but I decided to check it out and I'm glad I did. I Don't Feel at Home is fun, funny, often touching, and good spirited but it's also surprising in other ways, ways that might be familiar if you know what other films the director helped produce. It's just an all around fun time that I wouldn't be shocked if it picks up more and more fans as people discover it.

#16. Logan Lucky

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Speaking of fun time, here is another fun movie, this time from Steven Soderbergh. You've seen a lot serious movies on this list already and you're going to see a lot more but sometimes I wonder why I watch stuff that are so heavy. Logan Lucky is just good entertainment with a great cast and all kinds of great dialogue. That's not to say it doesn't have weight, it's just easy to recommend to most people. Daniel Craig especially, seems to be enjoying himself so much out of the tux, no wonder it was so hard to convince him to get back in the Aston Martin.

#15. The Big Sick

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As an immigrant, The Big Sick is a big deal. Aziz kinda did it for TV with Master of None but they say movies live forever and Kumail Nanjiani is representing minorities hard by telling a story based on his own story with all the baggage of living in a world as a foreigner. Even without all that political and social mumble jumble, The Big Sick is a strong movie that nails the dramedy genre that rarely feels forced emotionally and masterfully delivers laughs and tears through honest moments.

#14. Get Out

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As someone not black or white, Get Out as a social commentary doesn’t work for me. Nevertheless, the movie does work me as just a genre film for the most part and it’s generally a entertaining ride. I’m impressed Jordan Peele not only stepped out of comedy but transitioned from TV to film so successfully. The picture is of full of memorable scenes and stunning performances by black actors. There are genuine moments of brilliance, new and inspired. I didn’t connect with Get Out like some people did but it can’t be denied its day in the sun.

#13. Lady Bird

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Greta Gerwig did a great job in her “directorial debut”. On the surface, there is nothing new about Lady Bird’s story but Gerwig reexamines and reimagines the coming of age tale and the result are scenes and relationships more real and realistic. At the center is Saoirse Ronan, who seems to always turn in a good performance but especially as the titular role of Lady Bird. She also has a great dancing partner in Laurie Metcalf and actually, many other actors who have smaller roles all do a fine job.

#12. Blade Runner 2049

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There is a lot that I couldn’t connect with when it comes to Blade Runner 2049’s plot. I question the decision to set up a sequel(s) in a risky big budget sequel to a movie that didn’t need a sequel. K’s story of self discovery is good but other elements bogged it down in this ambitious film. Characters like Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and Liutenant Joshl (Robin Wright) felt cookie cutter and seems like squandered potential. When I think about 2049 however, I’m reminded of the things that really worked for me. It’s a stunning film to look at and hear. It has moments like the Baseline Test, the sex scene, the club shootout, and Sylvia Hoeks, my god Luv, what a performance. Despite not connecting with the way I wanted to, the images, sounds, and specific moments have remained in my mind.

#11. The Shape of Water

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I had one of the worst movie-going experiences of my life when I saw The Shape of Water. In an empty theater, people sat right in front and behind me. The people in the front talked loud and used their cell phones throughout the entire film and one of the person behind me puts their feet up next to my face. It was a fucking nightmare considering I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a better part of a year. I was constantly distracted and taken out of del Toro’s latest because of a shitty circumstance. Anyway, I want to see it again hopefully with a better audience or no audience ‘cause the movie is really beautiful in so many aspects. Not quite Pan’s Labyrinth level but perhaps the movie he was always working toward.

#10. Faces Places

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A movie I didn’t know much about but went to see on a whine and had one of the happiest times in the theater. The dynamic of the two directors, JR and Agnes Varda, as artists, as filmmakers, as people of different age and era provides so much humor, warmth, and sometime tension. Their travels together across rural France is a constant source of discovery and joy, of new stories from strangers. The way their art instantly allows them to bond with others feels magical.

#09. Jane

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Another movie I didn’t know about before seeing it. I enjoyed the director's previous doc about Kurt Cobain but this is on a whole different level. I’m not much of an animal lover, not that I hate them, so these sorts of subjects don’t interest me nor did I know much about Jane Goodall. That said, Jane, the movie, is so easy to get into. The primatologist is so likable in her demeanor and admirable in her dedication. Seeing her at work in so many amazing footage is, 1, unbelievable how much they had to work with, 2, gorgeous, 3, kind of surreal.

#08. The Meyerowitz Stories

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It’s unfortunate that the conversation around Noah Baumbach’s latest will be mostly overshadowed by Dustin Hoffman’s sexual harassment allegations. While The Meyerowitz Stories is a Baumbach ass Baumbach film, dealing with intellectuals of the upper middle class. their family lives and artistics pursuits, it is one my favorites I’ve seen of his. The dialogue flows as you’d expect but It’s also filled with likable characters and they struggle with universal problems, something Baumbach’s films might lack sometimes. A highlight is Adam Sandler who gives a really nice performance in a good movie, something we wouldn’t mind seeing more often.

#07. Good Time

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Good Time isn’t a movie for everyone. The protagonist is dumb in a way that might push people away completely, as his stupidity takes the film is unexpected directions constantly. To enjoy it, you have to accept to take the ride. If you do, what you’ll be in for is something unlike anything this year. My favorite thing about Good Time was the heart pounding soundtrack, unreal.

#06. A Ghost Story

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Speaking of movies that’s not for everyone, here is another one. A Ghost Story starts off like a by-the-number indie romantic drama but with a little patience, it reveals itself to be a really ballsy ghost tale that’s pretty original and quite moving as well. I really liked Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and this one made me a fan. If you enjoy films like Spirited Away, this film takes heavy inspirations from that movie in particular.

#05. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Martin McDonagh does what he does, taking an otherwise heavy drama and consistently finds a lighter, funnier, truer tone. You have to give it up to the three central performers, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson who all play rather flawed character in a way that always elicits sympathy.

#04. The Square

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I didn’t know what to expect from Cannes big winner. I knew it was from the director of Force Majeure but other than that, i went in blind. I was surprised by how ambitious it was and unlike Force Majeure, which felt pretty tight and singular, this felt more like a stream of consciousness. It has a lot to say, a lot to show you and as long as you don’t go in expecting some how for it to all come together, as long as you’re just there to experience it, it’s a beautiful thing.

#03. A Silent Voice

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Didn’t know about this gem but caught a one-time screening of it and I’m so glad I did. It’s a much slower movie than one might expect from an anime feature which is great ‘cause it’s more about the characters than the plot. It also does what a good anime should do in walking the tightrope of comedy and drama through essential “genre” themes like friendship. The audience I saw it with was also one of best I’ve come across, very respectful and clearly there to enjoy the show. That doesn’t calculate into my feelings about A Silent Voice but it did often reveal what was working with the film. It’s not overstuffed with gag bits, it seems to provide them when you most need it, and the movie knows exactly when you do. What’s most powerful however, are the characters, particularly the two main protagonists and their development throughout the journey.

#02. After the Storm

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I’m still chasing the joy I felt from Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Still Walking and After the Storm hits some of the same notes and provides some of what I’ve been yearning for. From the young to the old, the regular people in the movie resonate with me like none of the others on the list. It’s a narrative film that feels like a documentary, so accurately portraying and reflecting back reality, at least for me and how I grew up.

#01. The Florida Project

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It doesn’t matter how high a movie ends up in a year end list, most of them won’t stick with me 5-10 years from now, most of them will turn into dust in my memory. Very few movies have the power to stay with you throughout your life. You might remember if you liked it or not and some bits and pieces but rarely will you carry them with you on a day to day. If i had to bet which film this year has the biggest chance to do that, I’d put all my chips down on The Florida Project. Don’t look it up, just go see it. Go go go go.

Let me know which movies you liked this year!

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I just replayed Max Payne 2 and liked it much better.

Talk 'bout styyyle.
Talk 'bout styyyle.

As some who loved the first Max Payne, when I played Max Payne 2 12-13 years ago, I came away disappointed. It's not that I hated it or even disliked it, MP2 just didn't click with me. However, going through it this weekend, I totally "got it" this time. I replayed MP1 in the beginning of the year and though I realized I had forgotten a good bit of that game, I still came away satisfied. Playing its sequel with the OG so fresh on my mind gave me great perspective on both games but especially the game I wasn't so crazy about.

Things I Really Liked This Time

It's fun to reload in bullet-time.
It's fun to reload in bullet-time.

Gameplay: I remember this being my 1st complaint looking back. It doesn't play like MP1 and it doesn't quite feel like it either. I just wanted the gameplay I loved and it wasn't scratching the same place. However, this time, having replayed MP1 so recently, that particular opinion was completely reversed. Why should MP2 play like MP1? Shouldn't it be a bit different, a bit evolved? The change in gameplay, the change in tactics was totally what I wanted. I didn't want something I just got out of a game I played again, I wanted something a little different and this game absolutely provides that. Having the shoot dodge now as a free maneuver is awesome and going into a room blind with the bullet time already triggered, running around shooting up everyone in sight is so badass. And that spin reload, so cool!

Story: I played these games when I was in middle school and early high school and the first game was easy to grasp, easy to care about, at the very least on the surface. Max's wife and baby were murdered and he will stop at nothing to avenge them. HELL YEAH. But MP2? He's into this Mona Sax lady and he's chasing her and chasing her. I couldn't care less back then. This time though, I found it way more appealing. Max thought Mona was dead and he lived with that guilt as he lived with the guilt of the death of his family. Finding out she was alive and getting a 2nd chance to protect someone he cared about causes him to chase after a ghost. Also, the structure is quite nice. Starting off and seeing most of the events as flashback gives it an additional layer. And I totally forgot you play as Mona, and see events unfold through her perspective at points.

Feel: MP1 felt alright when I replayed it in January. It took a bit for me to get totally comfortable and the shooting was a bit finicky but it was still totally enjoyable. MP2 however, still feels awesome. Movement feels grounded, aiming feels perfect, and the shooting feels damn satisfying. It feels like a modern game without cover which actually makes it quite unique in 2017 and I highly recommend people play it if you're in the mood.

Pacing: This is one of the most tightly paced retail titles I've ever played. MP1 wasn't a long game but a lot of the levels could've been trimmed here and there. MP2 doesn't have this issue. It's a bit shorter but the result is a hard-to-put-down thrill ride that makes you think about going back for seconds as you play it.

Presentation: Ok, the sound mixing is still a bit spotty and most of the visuals, except for a handful of the environments and fog effects, don't hold up to the current standards but the camera work is very inspired and still gives the game an engaging presentation.

Last Thoughts

Now that I've come around on MP2 fully, I see the Max Payne series as being one of a few franchises with a kickass trilogy, a rare distinction indeed. The only "problem" I have, intended or not, is that I never quite believe that the Max Payne from 2 is the Max Payne from 1 or that the Max Payne from 3 is the Max Payne from 2. I don't know if this is a trope within the genres they are working with but they seem like 3 different people playing the same character in different stories in completely different timelines. If this is the case, I'm actually into it but considering how well 1 and 2 both end and makes you think the book is closed, seeing him again doesn't feel quite right.

But Remedy so deftly does it again in their sophomore effort that not seeing a sequel to a game that actually needs a follow up, both narratively and mechanically like Alan Wake, is sad.

Remember this shit?
Remember this shit?

This is not part of the trilogy.
This is not part of the trilogy.

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My Ten Favorite Films of 2015 & the #11s

As with every year, I wasn’t able to see every movie I wanted to see. Some I missed the chance, some I wasn’t in the right place at the right time to see the limited run, and others I didn’t know about at all. I wish I could’ve seen The Hateful Eight, The Assassin, Anomalisa, Carol, Room, and Brooklyn this year but it just wasn’t meant to be. I’ve also been hearing about a VOD movie with a decent amount of buzz called Bone Tomahawk that I’ll try to eventually get to. In 2016, I’m gonna really try to stay away from movies I already kinda know in my heart of hearts will be boring and shitty like Avengers: Age of Ultron. But then again, how would I really know if something is really crappy or not if I don’t give it an actual chance? SIGH...I guess I will be seeing bad and dumb movies again in the new year along with good ones like every year. God PLEASE at least spare me from paying to see Deadpool (that thing really reeks of desperation. Poor Ryan Reynolds).

Anyway, here is my favorite films of the year 2015 starting with five picks for the #11 spot in no particular order.

Ex Machina

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I love sci-fi. I love small, intimate character dramas. Ex Machina is both. The first feature by screenwriter Alex Garland excels not on originality but execution. Sci-Fi movies tend to run on big ideas and big scale where Ex Machina works with 3 characters in confined spaces. This is an impressive and satisfying debut not because the ideas are new or the twists are shocking but the moment to moment delivery is given care. It’s good because the director understands, regardless of genre, a movie works when the fundamentals work. Oscar Issac and Domhnall Gleeson play their parts well and their chemistry is great but the ballet dancer-turned-actor, Alicia Vikander sells the show with her subtle performance as Ava, the android with AI. No wonder she was in no less that five films this year (though she wasn’t good in the other one I saw her in, which was The Man from UNCLE).

Sicario

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Oh Benicioooo!!! Man I love Benicio Del Toro and man is he good in this joint. Future Blade Runner 2 director, Denis Villeneuve takes us into the world of the Mexican Cartel vs the US of A with his usual confidence and the result speaks for itself. The film is light on its feet, going from tension to humor and back again to tension as quick and swiftly as the violence pop off. Did I mention the ever popular Emily Blunt and Josh “Motto Panakeiku (more pancake)” Brolin is also in the film? They are both good too but yo, Benicio Del Toro. It also happens to be a really pretty looking piece of picture too. Good thing they gave an up-n-coming cinematographer named Roger Deakins a chance. I think that boy’s going places.

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10,000 KM

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This is one of those movies I’d never heard of before seeing it. I just went to see it ‘cause I was able to go to the screening and came out not only surprised by the quality of it but quite impressed. The film is about a long distance relationship and I just saw so much in some people I know. A lot of it takes place in a skype chat which was neat ‘cause they make good use of it. I know that might sound like amateur hour but it really works in this context plus the director proves he ain’t no chump by starting the movie off with an exquisite 30 minute long take that not only looks gorgeous but beautifully acted too by the leads. Apparently this movie only made a little over $12,000 in its domestic run. That’s thousand, not million. That is sad. Go see it and support good independent filmmakers.

The Wolfpack

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The Wolfpack is actually kinda amateurish. The lighting is bad most of the time and the film feels completely unfinished. It’s frustrating because you see how much potential Crystal Moselle, the director squandered. There is so much story right in her reach just waiting to be flucked but for whatever reason she doesn’t bite. Maybe she’s not cunning enough. Maybe it’s just inexperience. Maybe she’s too scared too. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve said a nice thing yet but that’s only due to the fact of what’s on display. What’s here is terrific and fascinating in every which way, so give this picture a chance (it’s on Netflix).

It Follows

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I really remember seeing this ‘cause I had the flu and felt like death. That didn’t stop me from completely enjoying the shit out of this film. Yeah, the metaphor is heavy handed. Yeah, that pool business at the end was stupid. Whatever. What about the rest of it? What about the soundtrack? What about the atmosphere? What about Maika Monroe? They were all fucking pitch perfect. It’s like Undertale. Don’t hate on it ‘cause people like it. Don’t hate on it ‘cause it’s flawed. You know what’s good about it. Now I’m not saying you have to like it but the hype doesn’t make the thing bad or worse. That’s the Internet’s doing. Separate the Internet from the thing. The thing has nothing to do with that.

Okay. On to my 10 favorite films of the year 2015 in no particular order:

Victoria

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You may or may not have heard about this one take gimmick but this 2 hours and 18 minute German film was shot entirely in a single take. The gimmick alone, while unbelievably impressive, wouldn’t make the movie worth placing it onto this list. Very few pictures this year had my hands clenched and Victoria had me doing it for the whole second half of it. A night out in Berlin for Victoria turns into a hang out with strangers turns into something I will not ruin but what if we stay with the characters during the whole movie, no cuts, completely in the moment like in real life? It takes it’s time but it’ll suck you in like very few movies, maybe ever.

When Marnie Was There

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We now watch, Studio Ghibli movies post Miyazaki, post flying inventions, post spirit creatures. What does it mean and do we still care? Yes of course because Studio Ghibli is more than Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli is Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli is Hiromasa Yonebayashi. After a decent debut with The Secret World of Arrietty, Yonebayashi brings us his second feature, When Marnie Was There. I felt strange watching it the entire time. Though the director didn’t intend to, the relationship displayed, coming from a children oriented Asian production house felt infinitely progressive. It’s a small film with a big heart as you’d expect, just don’t expect the flare that comes along with a Miyazaki film or the fluid precision of a Takahata film.

Creed

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A series from the 70’s on it’s 7th main line entry telling pretty much the same story as the original with an aging star that you might think is just cashing it in and I’m not talking about Star Wars? Whaaaaat?! Creed is fucking shocking man. It’s that good. Who would’ve fucking thought? I’ve almost never seen a movie have an entire audience by the balls like Creed. Yes it’s formulaic but no one expects originality from Hollywood. What people want from Hollywood and this movie delivers ten folds is execution. And Sly, he was amazing. Watch him win an Oscar.

The Big Short

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Hollywood, what’s gotten into you? You’ve really changed. This isn’t like you. Are you feeling ok? I’m practically speechless and I fucking can’t believe this thing came from Hollywood. Technically speaking, it feels so fresh, so innovative. That mockumentary style shows like The Office popularize is seamlessly fused with the classical Hollywood style by modern editing. Characters break the fourth wall constantly and the film breaks down the 2008 financial collapse in a way that a dimwit like me can understand. The movie is also entertaining as much it is devastating. It is also quite funny too but watching it hurts so bad that everyone in attendance literally forgot to laugh. Did I mention it also juggles a massive ensemble cast like a clown? Damn you’re a show off.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

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Out of all the movies listed in this blog, I would recommend this one the least. Not because it’s bad, I thinking it’s f-ing magical, but because this is exactly the type of work casual film-goers find boring. If you consider yourself really in to the motion pictures and haven’t seen this work by veteran Swedish director Roy Andersson, please check it out, it’s on Netflix atm. Actually this is the first film by him I’ve seen but I am definitely a fan now. A Pigeon likes to have it’s camera on sticks, locked in beautifully composite wide frames and it’s funny and dark. That’s all I can really explain and that’s all that really needs to be said. This is the first movie I seen where the background is as interesting to watch as the foreground. It’s such a great piece of work. He’s a genius!

The Look of Silence

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The Look of Silence is the younger, clamer, shorter, and more traditional brother of The Act of Killing. Joshua Oppenheimer proved his filmmaking prowess in his last outing with the brilliantly experimental haunting documentary about the Indonesian massacres of 1965. This time around he doesn’t have to prove anything but shows us there is nothing inherently wrong with talking faces. In fact, what makes most documentaries boring as fuck, this movie makes it look simple and precise. We follow Adi, an optometrist, test the visions of his brother’s killers while also interviewing them about what they remember of the past. It’s that simple but watching this movie felt like getting put into a duffle bag and being stabbed and shot three dozen times and left to bleed out in a ditch, emotional speaking of course.

Tokyo Tribe

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This movie is a Japanese hip-hop musical about the different gangs in Tokyo. I know, I know. I’ve probably already sold you. I don’t listen to Japanese rap that much but whenever I do, I always enjoy it. For the same reason I think, I adored this picture. (Korean rap on the other hand? sucks) For the most part, I’ve enjoyed director Sion Sono’s work. I love Noriko’s Dinner Table. I love Strange Circus. I love Love Exposure. I’ve seen a couple others but I won’t mention them ‘cause I didn’t like them that much (Suicide Club is ok). If you know the work of Sion Sono then you kinda know what to expect. His movies are part social commentary, part exploitation but Tokyo Tribe is mostly just fun.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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I think people call it twee? It’s another quirky indie film about young love. You’ve probably decided already whether you’re in or out. Look, I’m not always into this kind of movie but this one is just great. I will not apologize. If it’s too much for you I understand but can we still be friends? The person I saw this movie with literally couldn’t stop crying. This person wanted to cry louder but was holding back from doing that ‘cause we were at a theater. I’ve never seen a person cry because of a movie like that and I’m saying it’s a really fucking touching and moving film.

The Revenant

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The Revenant sticks with you. It’s a simple revenge tale shot beautifully. Maybe because the film only allowed for nature light with heavy use of steadicam but Emmanuel Lubezki’s work here is highly reminiscent of his work with Terrence Malick. Anyway, there are some unforgettable scenes worth the admission alone. My guess is that even people that hate Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will come out positive on this one.

Wild Tales

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This is probably the best time I had at the movies all year. It’s an anthology film about revenge and karma consisting of six shorts. All of them are fucking great. It’s so funny, so dark, and so moving. Everyone should enjoy some of the shorts if not all. I think it has something for everyone.

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My Summer Break Day 1

I'm playing Boku no Natsuyasumi 3 (My Summer Break 3) and writing about it.

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My name is Sou and I’m in 4th grade. The year is 1975 and right now, I am on my summer break. My family is expecting a child so my dad decided it was best for me to spend the break at my grandpa’s in Hokkaido for the month of August. The train ride was scenic because the land here is very rural and beautiful, full of hills, trees, and mountain. On top of that, the air here is so fresh! At the train station, my uncle (Takeru) and cousin (Midori) were there to pick us up. Midori commented she’s taller than me.

When we arrived at the house, my aunt (Kaede) was waiting for us outside with her newborn. She greeted us and told me the baby’s name was Hinata. Uncle drove dad back to the station. Dad told me to behave before he left. I went inside with my aunt and we had a little chit-chat about the treats I brought. I watched her preparing a meal in the kitchen and she said I must be hungry and told me dinner is always at six.

I look around the house for a short period. It’s a typical wooden Japanese house with matted floors and sliding doors. I picked up couple bottle caps laying around; I wondering what these are for? Soon enough aunt announced it was dinner time and the sun set. Around the floor table was everyone including grandpa (Shosuke). Five people in this house makes it cozy and I felt bad about adding a sixth. Dinner was delicious and we sat around to talk for a bit. I mentioned that I wanted to see snow sense I’m in Hokkaido but uncle said snow doesn’t come ‘til October. To get my hopes up, aunt said there still might be some snow at the top of Mt. Utei.

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Before bed, I wondered around for awhile. Uncle and grandpa were sitting at the corner of the house, the sliding doors open, their feet hanging out of the house. They made small talk about how wonderful and fresh it is in Hokkaido this time of the year and that they couldn’t live in inland where it is so hot and humid. I turned on the TV but nothing interesting was on so I quickly turned it off. I heard the radio in the other room and curious, I went to see who it was. Midori was there doing homework at a desk. I saw another desk next to her’s and I asked if it was alright if I used it. She told me yes because it couldn’t be helped. She is a bit cold to me.

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Finally, I went outside where I looked at cows in the field. I saw a barn so I went in where there were more cows. That’s when I got tired so I went back in where aunt had made a futon next to Midori’s. She didn’t know we would be sleeping in the same room and she complained. I drew a picture of the day in my journal and called it a day.

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A Top 10 Movie List (2014)

Top 10 Movies Released (2014)

10. Guardians of the Galaxy

Best superhero movie since X-Men: First Class and easily
one of the best production from Marvel. James Gunn brings
the funny in the well worn and tired genre and kept me awake.

9. Boyhood

A warm movie with an amazing concept. A one of a kind film
12 years in the making. Lots of brilliant moments in this drama
about family, growing up,and the passage of time. Ethan Hawke
and Patricia Arquette are great but Ellar Coltrane's heart is just
not in it.

8. The Babadook

Really entertaining flick. Didn’t like it as much as last year’s
Conjuring but a great feature directorial debut. A horror picture
worth the mention and your time.

7. Under the Skin

The audio/visual experience of the year, wish I saw it in theaters.
Whatever you think it is about, the movie works on all those levels.
Go in without preconceived notions of cinema and have an
experience.

6. Moebius

Love or hate him, Kim Ki-duk will always get a reaction out of you.
This one was fucking profound. Made me sick watching it but if
you got the stomach, I challenge you to take a look.

5. Foxcatcher

A quiet and tense film with a triplet of powerful performances.
The atmosphere and pacing in it fits my taste and an engrossing
look at the world of wrestling/old money.

4. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Isao Takahata might have put Ghibli under with this one but it’s
a stunningly beautiful and somber animation. If you like
Japanese cultureor folklore, this is a mature one, not kiddy stuff.

3. Ida

I would almost recommend watching this movie muted. God I love
the images in this Polish movie. This is the way I wanted to shoot
a film and now its been done... It's beautifully understated and
powerfully executed.

2. Her

A lot of people will say this is last year’s movie but it went wide this
year so I’m cheating a bit with this one. I think every aspect of this
movie is well done. And the video game in the movie? So awesome.

1. Birdman

This was a jaw-dropping piece of work for me. Filmmaking by a
filmmaker at the top of his game. I could barely concentrate watching
it ‘cause I couldn’t stop being impress with it.

Top Ten I Saw In 2014

10. Nymphomaniac (Vol 1 & 2)

Didn’t like his last two (Melancholia and Anti-Christ) but this one is
expansive and put me through the full range of emotions. Chalk full
of great performances, dialogue, and scenes.

9. Little Moth

So real and disturbing. Seems like a very little known movie but
available on netflix and really recommend it. If you're feeling sorry
for yourself, take a look at this girl's reality and shut the fuck up and
get on with it.

8. Wolf Children

Cute and moving. Great to see an anime movie not from Ghibli so
well done. I saw some other good ones this year but this one tops it.
It's just moving as hell and really funny too. Can't recommend it
enough, if you're not allergic to anime.

7. Before trilogy

Late to the party on this one but damn it’s good. Became a Linklater
fan this year and way better than Boyhood in my view. If you like
movies talkative movies with great conversations, this is it.

6. Barton Fink

One of my favorite Coen brothers film now. Just awesome. The
movie just moves and holds you like very few do. It's masterful.

5. Naked

Holy shit. Mind-blowing stuff. Mike Leigh is a goddamn master.
Really want to see Mr. Turner. If you loved True Detective's
Rust Cohle, this movie is right up your alley. Johnny in this movie
is fucking radical.

4. The Thin Red Line

Might be my favorite Terrence Malick piece. The beauty of it is
second to none. Meditative and spiritual like all his movies but
all in the right way. Just gotta be experience.

3. Holy Motors

I think when I look back in 10 years, I might say this is one of
my favorite movies of all time. I love this kind of stuff.

2. 3 Women

What a seedy movie. Inspired by my #1 in this list with a
tablespoon of Lynch, this Robert Altman film just got inside
mentally and stayed.

1. Persona

Really embarrassing I hadn’t seen it but I guess there is a
reason its stood the test of time. Just a wonderfully scripted
and shot film and psychologicaly fulfilling like very few.

Last Year's List

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Video Games Aren't Just Games

Playing Thomas Was Alone instantly expressed why video games aren't just games. They aren't just for kids, they are a meaningful form of expression, of art. As computer tech got better and better, developers and players alike chased the endless thrill of graphically superior games. Yet, the more the hardware improved, the clearer it became how far we are from the ceiling. It also became quite apparent the man power needed to produce art assets needed to create stunning worlds in high definition, which in turn ate away at the budget as well as the investment going into other departments crucial to games.

The better games started to look, the shallower games seem to become. Of course there are some outliers but games like Final Fantasy XIII, the Assassin's Creed series, or the flood of shooters in the pass generation proved where the focus was in game development. Still, stunning big budget games, no matter their graphical prowess, didn't elevate the emotion impact players had. No one really questioned why because it was plainly obvious. It didn't matter how good these characters looked, they were still the skin deep 2 dimensional characters gamers were use to seeing in a prettier, less interactive world, stuck in the tired old stories about saving the planet or universe.

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Started & Finished 2013 (Part 1)

These are the games I started and finished this year (2013) in order of most to least enjoyed.

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The Last of Us

Every aspect of The Last of Us clicked with me and this game became an instant classic. The story, the gameplay, the audio/visual all went hand in hand to provide an immersive experience I haven't had in a long time. Accomplishing that with (despite) zombies is even more impressive to me. I think I was lucky enough to be at the right place and the right time playing this game because I was simply blown away. 2 negative things, while I loved the combat, I don't like how most of the time you couldn't progress through the game without killing everyone. Secondly, I ran into couple bugs playing through.

Portal 2

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I have little problem calling this a masterpiece and I'm ashamed I hadn't played it sooner. This is a product of a genius studio and right up there at the upper echelon of the generation. The way this game surprises you with the narrative, the characters, and the gameplay is just delightful. Very few games are this funny and very few games are this well designed. I'd bet this is a good game to study if you want to be a game maker. 2 negative things, too much Glados and not enough Wheatly.

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Bioshock Infinite

I honestly don't know where all the hate for this game is coming from. When it was released, Bioshock Infinite was showered with praise and before I knew it, people did a complete 180. I guess that's just classic internet...For me, the first hour or so seem really pretentious (with all the religious bs) but I came around on this game quickly. Elizabeth is just a great character and the time I spent with her is something I do not regret or soon forget. I was even surprised by how much I enjoyed the combat. I wasn't too crazy with all the vigor but the skyline made the game an exhilarating fun.

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Final Fantasy XIII-2

Even as someone who adores the Final Fantasy series, FF13 was underwhelming in many ways. So when FF13-2 came out, it was easy for me to avoid it. Still, when a friend gave me a sealed copy of it, I wasn't crazy enough to reject it. While I don't think it tops what 13 did well, 13-2 addresses criticisms of its predecessor so comprehensively, it gave me hope for Square-Enix and the Final Fantasy franchise yet again and at the same time, made me look forward to Lightning Returns. Also, that ending...I did not expect that. What a cliffhanger, so dark, so unFinal Fantasy! Although Serah isn't that great and really the whole cast of characters are just okay and the game is surprisingly unpolished for a FF game, it's quite fun to play and I put in 50hours.

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Valkyria Chronicles 2

My love for the original (as good as it is) is irrational so I was so glad to get this game for $10 on the PSN. Being in New York, this game was perfect for train rides and gave me a good reason to get some mileage out of that underused PSP. So this game is hands down inferior to the first one in almost every possible way. They've changed their anime style and unlike the first one, which was so elegant and classy, 2's more generic. Story is pretty bad and all the characters are stereotypical. Still, pretty much every playable characters have bits of story and plenty of them are likable. They've also done a great job adapting the series on to a handheld. Missions are bite sized and the game is filled to the brim with content. They've made the game more balanced and pretty much tripled the classes which is a welcome addition. The only thing that really sucks is all the grind that is required to experience all the classes. I don't remember the original being this grindy and it holds the game back because it has enough experience to not result to that. Oh well...it's VC2 and I liked playing it enough to spend 50 hours on this one as well...

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Hotline Miami

Finally got to experience what everyone was talking about and it did not disappoint. This is a brilliant game. The way the sights and sounds and the gameplay fuse together to create an atmosphere that is quite frankly, pitch perfect. Man...the joy of playing this dark and sinister game feels wrong in all the right reasons. Fucking awesome though I hated the few boss fights it has...

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The Unfinished Swan

Man I love this game. This small, personal, touching indie art house piece of interactive entertainment was overlooked by too many people because everyone had their minds made up when Journey came out earlier that year. This game even acknowledges that game's greatness in a little easter egg but goddamn, people need to play this game!! It's just a great package and every moment I spent in was a joy.

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Saints Row: The Third

I liked this game well enough but unfortunately, the Bombcrew sorta spoiled this game for me. I wanted to love this game as much as they did but I found a lot of the humor to be nonimpactful. They weren’t laugh out loud funny and they weren’t cringe worthy bad, they just didn’t do much of anything for me. That’s not to say they weren’t moments. The game has plent of good moments and all the characters are light hearted and likable too. It was awesome when Shaundi went through that plane and my favorite moment is probably the Sublime “What I Got” gag (‘cause I use to be obessed with the band). However, what I really dug about The Third is playing it. The game is just a blast. I think it’s the best playing open world game and the chaos it encourages reminded me of why I fell in love with sandbox games in the first place in the days of GTA3 all those years ago.

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Flower

This game is just stunning. The beauty of its visuals and the breathtaking and simply gameplay is like nothing else. I don’t like rollercasters but picking up mad speed and going down a valley in the middle of the night in this game felt like I was on a rollercaster I actually liked. it’s an exhilarating feeling I’ve never really felt while playing a video game. Just a special game in so many ways.

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DmC: Devil May Cry

The original Devil May Cry was one of those rare games that absolutely blew my mind when I played it. I avoided DMC2 because of that reason based on the reviews and really enjoyed 3 and liked 4 too so I was one of those people that were super skeptical of this reboot of a game that birthed a genre. Still, I was gonna play it regardless and I think the result is a solid western adapation of a classic Japanese franchise. DmC has a lot going for it. I do still think and prefer the original Dante more as he is way more cocky, cheesy, funny, and just way more likable. Also, as much as there to like about the aesthetics of this game, namely the level design, there were equally, if not more time when it felt like the developers were trying way too hard to be edgy. Dante and Devil May Cry doesn’t try, it just is and that aspect made me me cringe a bunch. Still, the slower and dumb down gameplay is plent of flashy and fun to play.

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My Favorite Movies of the Year

Here are some movies I really liked this year. I’m in film production so you can say I’m into “films” more than “movies” but I would still encourage people to check them out because you’d be surprised how rewarding and refreshing they can be from the typical Hollywood affair. Plus, I enjoy movies from the big blockbusters to the smallest independent films across all genres so it’s a good varied list. Let me know your list if you got one!

Note: Movie releases are all over the place so this is U.S. releases limited and/or wide. I haven’t seen 3 movies I’d really like to: Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska.

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10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

It seems like whenever Ben Stiller directors (i.g. Tropic Thunder & Zoolander), he puts extra care into whatever he’s doing. This film seems like he’s trying to reinvent himself a bit and not only is it a step in the right direction, it’s a resounding success. It’s a small, quiet, and sweet love story with big budget jokes and the result feels so unique and fitting to the daydreamer Walter Mitty. Visually and aesthetically beautiful and cohesive, and musically interesting, it’s a very nice audio/visual experience. This is a wonderfully put together commercial film, just don’t expect to laugh out loud.

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9. Like Someone in Love

A Japanese movie from an Iranian director, it’s surprising how well it captures the feel of the culture. The story and the characters are not that original but it’s in the execution that the movie really shines. Nicely understated, expertly paced, and technically restrained. The script is layered, the dialogue is interesting, and well acted too, The dynamics of the relationships are complex and it’s worldview, unlike most films now a days, aren't cynical. It’s a believable movie that’s smart and trusts the viewers are as well.

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8. Pacific Rim

A dream came true for anime fans across the world: a mega-budget live action anime movie was made. If you’re into anime and haven't’ seen this, what are you waiting for? For everyone else, just move along, there is nothing to see here except if you’re into Godzilla movies or something.

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7. The Conjuring

It’s really quite astounding how good this movie is or maybe that says a lot about the horror genre in general. It’s technically masterful and absolutely refuses to be dragged down by it’s contemporaries. I’m not a horror guy but I've seen my fair share and this is easily one of my favorites. I’m so happy to say this is a great movie without any qualifiers whatsoever.

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6.Stoker

Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) comes to America and if anyone was worried (I was), you can rest easy. Beautiful, quirky, disturbing, creepy, unique, fascinating, awkward, and fairly uncompromising, all done with style, substance, and class. Maybe I’m just a sucker for everything Mr. Park...

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5. The Act of Killing

How can anyone go on making documentaries after this film? It’s experimental but legitimate on every level. It redefines a genre and at the same time tells a story like never before. Shows us humanity and tragedy, the birth of a nation and it’s cultural identity, and the heroes/villains that were responsible for it. This story is by far the most serious on the list but the film is probably the funniest too. If we were talking about “most important of the year” or “the one people will remember decades from now of the year” this one would top the list no doubt.

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4. The Hunt

This is one of those flawless movies. Believe me, I've tried to poke holes into it since I saw it but there is always some reasonable explanation to every little nitpick I throw at it. Damn you Thomas Vinterberg!!

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3. The Wind Rises

Miyazaki’s last movie. It’s also his most sentimental and mature work. Some people were crying like babies in the theatre and I almost did too. It stands tall amongst his filmography and a fitting end to an amazing career. Your retirement is well earned. Thank you and goodbye.

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2. Gravity

If you missed this 3d movie in theatres, well, I’m sorry. I’m really really sorry. There is nothing like when strong narrative and technology intersect. That’s why we all love The Last of Us right? I don’t know how they did it. It’s one of those rare breeds that has incredible commercial appeal as well as tremendous artistic integrity. This is why I watch giant summer tent poles every year, praying that someday they might get it right and oh boy, did they get it right. I also can’t praise Sandra Bullock enough. To deliver acting that good in a box somewhere in a studio is fucking mind-blowing. This movie is out of this world! :D

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1. Blue is the Warmest Color

This movie was a punch in the gut and my heart ached for several days after I saw it. It’s just a love story about a lesbian couple but I can’t believe how moved I was. It’s the only gay movie where I completely forgot about that aspect of it. The only reason I wouldn't recommend this movie to everyone is the fact that there is a 8 minute sex scene that’s downright pornographic which doesn't really have a place in such a beautiful movie.

Honorable Mentions: The Grandmaster, Blue Jasmine, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Upstream Color, American Hustle, Spring Breakers

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