Like it’s 1977

Well, following my 1985, 1967, and 1986 movie marathons, I’m now done with my journey back to 1977. Just like for 1967, I kept it to down to 10 films, and it was pretty easy for me to come up with the list of films to watch — I immediately came up with all 10 (which you’ll find listed below, in alphabetical order), a mix of classics, stuff that I loved as a kid, and stuff I’d never seen but always meant to watch. Yet again, as much as I enjoy watching these old films, I also enjoy taking the time trip back to that particular year — the intensity of watching a bunch of films from one year tells you a lot about that year, as much from what is on screen, to the way the films are put together and acted. What’s next? 1987 of course, and from the list I’ve already started putting together, I think I may hit 50-60 films.

  1. Annie Hall
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  3. Exorcist II: The Heretic
  4. Pumping Iron
  5. Saturday Night Fever
  6. Slap Shot
  7. Smokey and the Bandit
  8. Star Wars
  9. Suspiria
  10. The Kentucky Fried Movie

Toco Toco Summer Special

The summer may be pretty much at its end, but we at least got two new episodes of Toco Toco TV this week, part of its promised “Summer Special” block, as we await the start of the next season. They both focus on filmmakers, Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura, working in the indie horror genre, and are both fascinating in how frank each creator is about the difficulties of making indie films in Japan these days, with budgets for non-mainstream fare hard to come by and a fraction of what they used to be. It was also quite nostalgic for me to see Iguchi walking around Ikebukuro, the part of Tokyo where I lived for over 13 years.

Like it’s 1986

40 movies in, I’m finally putting an end to my 1986 run of movies. Following the 1985 run of 30 movies I watched at the start of the year, I took my time on this one by not forcing myself to watch them in a marathon manner like I did for 1985. I had a really great time watching all of these, and although there are still a few more movies I could have included, I thought 40 was a good number to end on. Yes, I’m already thinking of exploring 1987 later this year, but I’ll take a break for now — my next film exploration run will be 1977, which I’ll cap at 10, just like I did for 1967.

Below are all 40 films from 1986 that I watched (in alphabetical order), with links to my thoughts on each — or you can just click on my “1986” tag.

  1. Aliens
  2. Big Trouble in Little China
  3. Black Moon Rising
  4. Blue Velvet
  5. Cobra
  6. Crocodile Dundee
  7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  8. Firewalker
  9. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
  10. Heartbreak Ridge
  11. Highlander
  12. Labyrinth
  13. Little Shop of Horrors
  14. Manhunter
  15. Maximum Overdrive
  16. Peggy Sue Got Married
  17. Platoon
  18. Police Academy 3: Back in Training
  19. Pretty in Pink
  20. Psycho III
  21. Rad
  22. River’s Edge
  23. Running Scared
  24. Short Circuit
  25. Something Wild
  26. Stand by Me
  27. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  28. The Big Easy
  29. The Color of Money
  30. The Delta Force
  31. The Fly
  32. The Golden Child
  33. The Karate Kid Part II
  34. The Mission
  35. The Money Pit
  36. The Name of the Rose
  37. The Transformers: The Movie
  38. The Wraith
  39. Three Amigos
  40. Top Gun

Blame

I was quite looking forward to watching this film. I’ve never read the manga series it’s based on, but I quite like the stuff that Polygon Pictures has worked on of late (Knights of Sidonia, Ajin), and I really dig the cel-shaded CG they produce. I did quite like the visuals, but I somehow never managed to really get into it, and it took me a few viewing sessions to get through it — I was just kinda… bored. The setting is pretty bleak and lacks visual diversity, and there’s just not much that happens in terms of interesting storytelling. The action sequences are well done though.

20 Years Ago

My friend Kyle tweeted out that today marks 20 years since the release of the film The End of Evangelion (July 19, 1997). I actually got to see it in theaters in Tokyo that summer, as part of my first visit to Japan, and this made me think back at how much my life changed that year.

It was at the start of May 1997 that I went to the city of Tianjin, China as part of a 10-week program to study Chinese at Nankai University — along with a group of students from McGill University and the Université de Montréal (where I was studying in their East Asian Studies program). The first day I was in China, I would meet the Japanese woman who is now my wife (it took a few weeks before we actually got together though). At the end of the 10 weeks, the entire group returned to Montreal, but I decided to stay — yeah, because of the girl — and so enrolled at the university there to continue my Chinese studies.

During that summer, my wife had returned to Japan (it was the university’s summer break) and I decided to go visit her for two weeks. That would be my first visit to Japan, a place I would later call home for over 15 years.

My wife is originally from Kobe, and so that’s where I went. By boat. It was a two-day journey from the port of Tianjin to the port of Kobe, and it was an amazing way to slowly take in Japan, small island by small island, until we reached the port. I still have vivid memories of listening to Fugazi’s Repeater on my walkman, while taking in the sight of Kobe as we approached.

I stayed a couple of days in Kobe, but for the majority of the trip we were in Tokyo, staying at one of my wife’s friends. It’s during that trip that I got to go see The End of Evangelion, which was my introduction to the series — I knew zero Japanese, and considering how, ahem, narratively adventurous that movie is (especially the ending), you can imagine what a trip it was to take in. That July also marked the release of Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, which I also went to see at the theater (and as I mentioned recently, it may have been my first taste of Ghibli).

I still have quite a few vivid memories from that trip — like the first time I watched Mecha Mecha Iketeru, a comedy series on TV starring the comedy duo of 99, who I’ve continued to love for 20 years. I also bought a PlayStation while I was there to bring back with me to China, and the first words of Japanese I really learned where while playing Tomb Raider and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in Japanese.

After the trip, we both returned together to Tianjin by boat (this time taking 4 days because of a tsunami), and would end up staying in China until the end of that year — at which point we went to Montreal for one semester so I could get the missing credits I needed for the program I was doing, before moving to Tokyo at the start of May 1998.

I’m certainly thankful for the interesting journey my life has taken, as well as for all of the unexpected swerves I’ve decided to take a chance on and follow.

Lupin the Third: Goemon Ishikawa’s Spray of Blood

I watched this fantastic Lupin the Third film over the weekend, Goemon Ishikawa’s Spray of Blood (Chikemuri no Ishikawa Goemon) that tells the tale of how Lupin and his crew met up with Goemon. It’s a more adult take on the series, and features much tenser action than I’m used to seeing in Lupin stuff — think more along the lines of the animated sequence in Kill Bill — and I absolutely loved it. Great action, great character moments, and what made me even happier is that I later realized that it follows a Jigen movie from a few years ago, which itself is a follow-up to The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna) series that I remember hearing about when it came out, but never saw — I watched the first episode and it was killer.