Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Monthly Round Up: The Best Films I Saw in April

This month I started to see my traffic get back to where it was before my url change. It is still significantly below that level - but considering 90% of my hits now come from posts in Feb, March and April, I am doing okay. The Avengers is already one of my most read reviews, and it hasn't even come out in the U.S yet. In between new releases, I have been attending Korean films at 'Cinema on the Park' and have recently joined the KOFFIA blogging team at Hungry for Drama. I reviewed Paju and will soon post my review of A Good Lawyer's Wife. Throughout May, I will be lucky enough to check out J.S.A: Joint Security Area and The Host for the first time. 

The focus for April was Studio Ghibli. As I had only seen three of Hayao Miyazaki's films prior to starting this marathon - and I was inspired by a friend of mine to take on this challenge - I thought I would catch up with some more. I ended up watching seven films from Studio Ghibli, and posted a guest review of Ponyowhich I didn't watch personally, including five I had never seen before. Links to the reviews can be found below.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and though I grew up on Disney animations, and now attribute the pinnacle of animation to Pixar Studios, Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki have been creating beautiful films for a close to three decades now. Ranking Ghibli films is so difficult - and I have enjoyed each and every one of them on some level. There are some that I have missed, and would love to catch up with eventually - Nausicaa: The Valley of the Wind, Only Yesterday, Whisper of the Heart, Ponyo and The Secret World of Arietty, but in order, I would rank them:

1. Spirited Away
2. Princess Mononoke
3. My Neighbor Totoro
4. Castle in the Sky
5. Kiki's Delivery Service
6. Grave of the Fireflies
7. Porco Rosso
8. Howl's Moving Castle

For May, I have decided to focus on female directors. When I posted my Top 40 directors a few months back, it was recognised that there were no female directors listed. The reason: I had not seen enough films (usually just the one) by some of the prominent female directors currently working to consider them amongst my favourites. So, to amend these gaps, I will be working through the resumes of some, and hopefully finding time discuss their films. Depending on what I am able to access I will be looking to watch films directed by Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), Kelly Reichhardt (Wendy and Lucy), Jane Campion (Bright Star), Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher and Morvern Caller), Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Point Break and Strange Days) and Claire Denis (Beau Travail and 35 Shots of Rum). I have seen at least one film from all of these filmmakers...for Sofia Coppola, I have seen two...and each has impressed me. I am also open to recommendations. If there are any filmmakers you suggest I seek out, please let me know.

I watched a total of 30 films in April...so I hit the desired one film per day mark. (After the jump)

New-to-Me: Cinema/DVD (In Order of Preference)

Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)

My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012)

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, 2008)

Kiki's Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989)

Paju (Park Chan-Ok, 2009)

Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988)

This Must Be the Place (Paolo Sorrentino, 2012)

Cafe De Flore (Jean-Marc Valle, 2011)

Wish You Were Here (Kieran Darcy-Smith, 2012)

_________END ESSENTIAL VIEWING_________

Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)

The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)

Footnote (Joseph Cedar, 2012)

King of Devil's Island (Marius Holst, 2011)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Lasse Hallstrom, 2012)

A Good Lawyer's Wife (Im Sang-soo, 2003)

The Power of Kangwon Province (Sang-soo Hong, 1998)

Battleship (Peter Berg, 2012)

Halloween (Rob Zombie, 2007)

The Lady (Luc Besson, 2012)

Iron Sky (Timo Vuorensola, 2012)

The Lucky One (Scott Hicks, 2012)

American Pie: Reunion (John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, 2012)

Re-watches: DVD (In Order of Preference)

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)

Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)

Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)

Moneyball (Bennet Miller, 2011)

The Ides of March (George Clooney, 2011)

Current 2012 Tally: 92 + 30 = 122 Viewed. 19 Reviews in April.


  1. That's a good month! Whisper of the Heart and Nausicaa are absolutely wonderful, I hope you get a chance to watch them soon! I finally saw Totoro last weekend and adored it :)
    Just bought a copy of the Virgin Suicides on DVD coincidentally and hope to watch it soon. I'm thinking maybe next month of focusing on a single director. Hitchcock perhaps, because I haven't seen a lot of his work.

    1. There is still a lot of Hitchcock I have to see. That's a great idea. I will borrow The Virgin Suicides from Sam, and have to track down the rest. Really looking forward to Lynne Ramsay's films, and Point Break is one to own, isn't it? I'll see the others eventually, but I think I did a good job fitting in what I did. I also enjoyed your coverage, and glad you adored Totoro...one of my favourites.

  2. Well, since I am an expert in all things Sofia. I would pretty much recommend The Virgin Suicides since I think it's her most accessible film so far. You've already seen LIT and Somewhere, definitely seek out Marie Antoinette which I think is a very misunderstood film because it doesn't play by the bio-pic rules.

    I would definitely recommend the films of Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, Jane Campion's Bright Star, and the films of Kelly Reichardt like Wendy & Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, and Old Joy.

    The one director that I'm pretty interested in although I've only seen one film of hers is Chantal Akerman. Watch Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. It's a long, minimalist film that isn't easy to watch but truly amazing for the way it tells three days in the life of a woman told in a meticulous manner.

    1. Hmm, perhaps I should check out Marie Antoinette also. Chantel Akerman. I'll keep her in mind. I didn't know Fish Tank was directed by Andrea Arnold. I still haven't seen that either. Thanks for the recommendations.

  3. I'm shocked Battleship didn't make essential viewing.

    Mark this as the first month in ages that I actually saw more movies than you.

    By the way, added your link on the blogathon post.

    1. You killed it this month, I saw. Look at what Battleship beat - that's how bad they are. Cheers dude.

  4. Please check out Whisper of the Heart when you get a chance, one of Ghibli's best films.

    Also, Claire Denis' finest film, IMHO, is Friday Night (Vendredi soir), so I recommend that one if you like the two you watch for Denis this month.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, James. I have seen Beau Travail before, but it was at university when I was still unfamiliar with a lot of film. I might buy Whisper of the Heart - I trust your judgement on this so much. I keep seeing it in stores, but I know absolutely nothing about it.

  5. How about Isabel Coixet? Each film I saw of her was amazing. I hope you'll like Strange Days, it's really a great film.

    1. I haven't heard of her, actually. Thanks Sati.

  6. Three of my favourite films I've seen in recent months have been from women directors so just in case you haven't seen them, I highly recommend; Tomboy, We Need to Talk About Kevin and In a Better World.

    1. Tomboy I have been trying to watch for some time - at SFF and MIFF - but when it got a release it only opened in Melbourne. I loved We Need to Talk About Kevin (so unsettling) and I was very impressed by In A Better World (would have been my choice to win Best Foreign Language Film if Incendies didn't exist). I considered Suzanne Bier - I still should see some of her other films. If I have time.

  7. Any month with that much Studio Ghibli is a good one. Whisper of the Heart is a cute movie. It's not a must see, but it is enjoyable. There is also a sort-of sequel to it titled The Cat Returns. It is interesting to see only if you've seen the first one. It is actually more a movie as if the lead character from the first one had written a fantastical story based on her experiences.

    Nausicaa is early Miyazaki and while it has its interesting points, it's lower on his list of films for me.

    1. It was a good month, but my favourite month so far this year was definitely February. I had so much fun watching the Argento films. They aren't as good as Miyazaki, but some of the most memorable film experiences of the year, certainly. Thanks for your responses to all of my reviews. Hope you enjoy the films I cover this month too.

  8. If you're looking to go back a bit, Agnes Varda has done some of the best films I've ever seen, especially Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond. Nouvelle Vague sensibilities, but with a woman's perspective.

    1. I will take that recommendation on board. Thank you Jandy. I have heard of Agnes Varda, of course, but have never seen any of her films.