Chico And Rita – A Spanish Animation Film Of Love And Music

A Spanish animation film

The 8th Spanish Film Festival in Singapore is ending soon.  See if you can catch Chico & Rita (2010) at The Arts House today.  Admission is free on a first come basis.

Chico & Rita is a Spanish animated feature-length film.  The first that was nominated for the Oscar.  The artwork is beautiful.  Each frame could well be made into a wall painting.  The soundtrack throughout the film is equally beautiful, especially for the jazz music lover.  Set in Cuba, a pianist called Chico meets a singer called Rita.  And they have fallen in love.  However, circumstances seem to often get into their way.  Chico & Rita is a journey of love and music from Cuba’s Havana to New York and Las Vegas in a span of five decades.  Due to the rich history behind Chico & Rita and the fact that many of Havana’s pre-revolutionary buildings had decayed, the filmmakers have looked into the photograph archive in order to recreate the era and the mood.

This story is rather dark.  So is the mood.  Perhaps it is the pain the gives forth such beautiful music and inspires such exquisite artwork.

The drawing of Chico & Rita is exquisite.

One Piece Film: Z

A film originated from manga.

I have not heard of the manga One Piece until I watched a movie adaptation of the manga.  Naturally, I love anything that is Japanese.  When I first saw the gigantic promotional poster displayed at one of our beloved cinemas, I said to our buddy TK, “Let’s watch this!”  To that he replied, “On!”

Apparently, One Piece is a very popular manga series in Japan, for a very long time.  In this particular movie One Piece Film: Z, there are pirates the supposedly protagonists (I think).  There are the marines who hunt down the pirates.  And there is Commander Z who was a marine, went rogue, and now rages war against the pirates as well as the marines that get into his way.  Each pirate, meanwhile, seems to possess at least one unique power (think X-Men).  As you can imagine, there are tons of combat scenes between the characters.  More or less like a video game.

Unlike other more artistic Japanese animations Cynthia and I have seen, One Piece Film: Z does not require too much thinking.  Just sit back and enjoy the humor and the action.  I am not entirely convinced that the English subtitles convey the original essence well.  I wish there were Chinese subtitles as well.  Usually, for Japanese animation, Chinese subtitles work better than the English ones.

One Piece Film: Z is not a story exploring the abstractness of nature or the emotional vulnerability of character.  It is a film with a decent amount of humor and action that entertains.

Wreck-It Ralph: It Touches Gamers’ Hearts For Sure

What a heartwarming movie!

I had no idea what this film was.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that Wreck-It Ralph is about video game characters.  A villain who gets tired of being the bad guy, for a decade, inside an arcade machine.  He too wants to win a medal and be a good guy for once.  That sets him into a journey into a first person shooter machine and later on, an arcade racing machine.

As a passionate gamer, I love how this film portraits different aspects and eras of video gaming.  Plenty of game references.  As for the story, Wreck-It Ralph seems a bit slow in the beginning.  I wish the Hero’s Duty segment was a lot longer.  Fortunately, the pace does pick up once we get to the arcade racing game Sugar Rush, when the villain Ralph meets the adorable Vanellope.  There is even a moment when my heart weeps a little.

Puss In Boots – Too Cute To Even Think

Life can be like scenes from your favorite movies.  Take today as an example.  I felt like being Rachel McAdams in “Morning Glory“.  I was excited to face the day, with added responsibility as one of our colleagues was on compassionate leave.  No problem.  In our team, we watch over each other’s back.  We are there for each other.  I entered into a multiparty conference call, with close to zero knowledge of the specific work this colleague of mine is doing.  After some harmless introduction, we entered into a moment of silence.  Then all of a sudden, questions were shooting from everywhere, and onto me.  That scene, reminded me of Rachel McAdams’s first day of work in that movie.  Coupled with the meetings that were within my domain of work, I had half a day worth of non-stop meeting.  On the last meeting, my reaction time was so slow that I had to apologized.  My brain was fried.  Fortunately, I have so many nice people around me at work.  They understood.

After watching “Puss In Boots”, Cynthia asked if I know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.  I said no.  What about Princes and the Pea?  I said no.  Rapunzel?  I asked, “How do you spell that?”.  Red Riding Hound?  I said, “Like the movie by Amanda Seyfried?”  Cynthia gave up.  Well, in Hong Kong, we studied legends of the Oriental.  The culture is different there.

Back to “Puss In Boots”, it is loosely based on some well known fairly tales that of course, I am not familiar with.  That does not bother me.  This movie is hilarious.  Puss is mightily cute.  Cynthia observed that “Puss In Boots” has a strong reference to Banderas’s Zorro.  I do not disagree.  It is one of those movies that by the time a week passes by, you would not remember much about the movie.  Is there a moral to the story?  I really can’t think of any.

Tatsumi Directed By Eric Khoo

For some strange reasons, my public life as you can see here is so full of movies these days.  I can assure you that my passion lies in a sea of ocean, including tracking that lost penguin on a daily basis.  Poor Happy Feet.  We have not heard from him since September 8.  Fairy tales exist only in the realms of Disney, Dreamwork, and etc.  I am not that optimistic to be honest.

Yesterday, Cynthia and I attended the gala premiere of “Tatsumi” in Singapore at GV Grand sponsored by HP.  It is a big deal because Eric Khoo is a Singapore film director.  We do not have that many films gracing especially the Cannes Film Festival.  At the event, the Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi was present.  So was the voice actor who acted in six different characters (no, I don’t think I can tell which are the six) and some of the crew members.  The Japanese crews reassured us that “Tatsumi” although directed by a Singaporean, produced at Batam, and powered by HP machines is as Japanese as we can get.

“Tatsumi” is dark.  I am unsure of its classification.  But I am sure it will not be PG rated.  It is in essence a biography of the manga artist Tatsumi interlaced with five standalone stories written by him.  It is hard to describe the artwork.  It looks raw.  It is as though the essence of the comic is preserved and presented on a big screen.  It watched like an animated comic book.  What is amazing about the end result is that through some minor tweaking of simple object shapes and lines, the underlying emotion is revealed.  Yes, I can feel the emotion.

In “Tatsumi”, the narrator Tatsumi himself takes us back in time.  A time when Japan was still at war.  A time when Tatsumi has started drawing manga.  It is 70% story writing and the rest, drawing.  Perhaps that is why the simple 2D animation does not bother me.  It works because the focus is on the story.  All five short stories (I think there are five, if not five and a little bit more) are memorable, constantly shifting us to see a story from a totally new perspective.

You may need an open mind to fully enjoy this movie.  One thing for sure, there ain’t many animation films like “Tatsumi”.