This weekend marked the closing of this year’s DIFF, and while I wasn’t able to fit in all the movies on my wish list, every film I did manage to see was incredible in its own special ways. Voila, my rundown on the last few movies I checked out Saturday and Sunday.Read the rest
Voice talent: Amon Kabe, Yukito Nishii, Takao Osawa, Haru Kuroki, Momoka Oono, Aoi Miyazaki
Director: Mamoru Hosada
Next screening: Today (Saturday) at noon at the Magnolia Theatre
Synopsis (paraphrased from DIFF’s site and movie info pack): Hana falls in love with a wolf man and gives birth to two half-human, half-wolf children. As they grow older, the children will have to deal with their differences and decide which path to take.
My thoughts: Wolf Children is the first anime film I’ve ever taken in at DIFF, and now I think the fest should screen more! If you’re unfamills with the Japanese animated medium, it’s not just for kids, and, in fact, most everyone I know who adores it and follows the industry is an adult. It’s quite brilliant, if you think about it — directors tackle all sorts of grown-up themes and topics but get more of a creative canvas in the animated world. For its part, “Wolf Children” used a great deal of the canvas; it didn’t tread any new territory, but I certainly loved how it incorporated real-life, filmed backgrounds in a lot of scenes. It very much drew you into the story and surrounded you with it.
In “Wolf,” young Hana meets and falls for a mysterious gent at school and ends up having two children with him. After a tragedy, she must negotiate the world alone with young’uns who turn from wolf back to human with a shake of their head. She decides to leave the curious eyes of others in Tokyo for the solitude of the country. My favorite scenes involved watching this spirited city gal turn her dilapidated house into a home and trying to make a go of farming in the mountains. Hana learns a wealth about herself and her skeptical neighbors in attempting to sprout food from the ground. And when her harvest is somehow untouched by roving bands of wild boars, she’s able to share her take with those neighbors and gain acceptance. She also tries her best to raise her kids Yuki and Ame to accept both their human and wolf sides, even as she doesn’t fully understand them.
As they get older, each child sets on markedly different paths, fueling tense moments for themselves and their mother. This is where ish got real — poor Hana wants to rein in her kids somewhat, but she knows inside she has to let them be who they’re meant to be. Ahhh, the eternal parental struggle … with some inter-species tension thrown in.
Aside from the sparkling, enveloping visuals, the vocal stars of “Wolf” lent plucky strength and vivid color to their roles, from headstrong, whip-smart Yuki to contemplative and aching Hana. A huge standout was film’s music, by Masakatsu Takagi. Soaring and dramatic, the score added intensity to every scene, almost as if it was another character. If there’s a soundtrack to this movie, I want to find it! Overall, “Wolf Children” was a pleasure to behold.Read the rest
With April, we see the trees and flowers back in bloom, this Diva’s allergies trying to flare up (get a Zyrtec drip, stat!) and the Dallas International Film Festival (henceforth called DIFF) returning with today’s kickoff. And action!
As always, DIFF brings a bevy of buzzy movies fresh from film fest rounds, including Sundance and South by Southwest, as well as a ton of regional premieres every cinephile can appreciate. But what’s on my list of must-see flicks? Why, I’m glad you asked …Read the rest
Last night, in the second-to-last show of all of DIFF, I got the chance to view Richard Linklater’s latest movie, “Bernie,” starring Jack Black in the title role. It was a packed house, as Linklater’s filmic love letters to Texas draw fans of local cinema out of the woodwork. Was it worth the fanfare?
The black Black comedy concerns the true story of one Bernie Tiede, a funeral home director who takes a shine to grieving widows and is generally considered a saint to everyone who knows him in Carthage, Texas. Tongues start wagging when Bernie becomes besties with wealthy Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), who is generally considered Satan on earth to everyone who knows her in Carthage, Texas. Within a few years, the two become inseparable, dining and even traveling together, with Marjorie eventually giving Bernie unfettered access to her riches. Such perks come at a cost, however, and pretty soon Marjorie demands all of Bernie’s time and attention, which takes its toll on him. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say when old Marjorie goes missing, Bernie becomes suspect No. 1, to the shock and dismay of the townsfolk who adore him (read a fantastically written piece by Marjorie’s nephew in the New York Times here).
In one aspect, the movie was a hoot to watch, as a Texan, because all the state-specific quirks and inside jokes resonated, perhaps moreso than they might with a non-Texan. Linklater used a number of real Carthage residents as cast members to share their reflections of the Bernie-Marjorie affair, which added a robust touch of hometown authenticity — even the best screenwriter couldn’t come up with some of the Southern-isms these people rattled off! But what about the leads?
I had the same feeling watching Black play this dramatic role as I did watching Mike Myers in “Inglorious Basterds”: I wondered if he was playing straight and failing because we’re so used to laughing at him, or if he was purposely injecting humor into even the most serious scenes. For example, when Bernie is cornered by police, he breaks down and weeps, but the audience couldn’t help but break down and laugh. I know there’s no “wrong” reaction to have, per se, but I’d have liked to have his emotions ring true toward comedy or drama in certain scenes.
MacLaine didn’t have enough to do besides chew scenery, which she excels at. Still — even though we may never know why — I would’ve liked some attempt at insight into why Marjorie was so frakkin’ mean. But perhaps that might’ve taken the edge off the documentary feel of the flick.
Documentary or acted? Comedy or drama? No, we don’t have to strictly classify and label this or any movie, but at times it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. But even that’s a minor quibble, as overall, I enjoyed the movie. It opens this Friday, and if you check it out, make sure to stick around for the entertaining tidbits scattered through the credits!
After the credits rolled, as I left the Angelika, I sooo wanted to hit the Festival Lounge and raise a glass to the last night of DIFF, but, alas, I thought it better to get on home and call it a night. This year’s fest was phenomenal, though, so I raise a virtual toast to the Dallas Film Society and all the venues, sponsors and volunteers who made the 2012 event run beautifully!Read the rest