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”.

How To Train Your Dragon (3D) – So Darn Cute!

And so my obsession with the dragons continues.

Knowing that we are having a road trip heading north the next day and when we are back, we will probably pick that Titan show to watch, we have got to catch this animation ths week.  So we did.  Again, in 3D.  Seems like a trend these days.  Honestly speaking, I have no clue which version is better: 3D or non-3D.  But I enjoy “How To Train Your Dragon” in 3D a lot.  Perhaps because it is a full animation, unlike Avatar and Alice In Wonderland.  Very likely I would invest the Blu-Ray format of this movie for the keeping.

Just about 100 minutes, “Dragon” grips me from the beginning till the end.  Gosh, I want more!  Cynthia and I are both big fans of “Lilo & Stitch”.  That dragon in the poster reminds us of Stitch.  Little did we know that Dreamwork has hired the directors of “Lilo & Stitch” for this children book adaption.  No wonder, eh?

I once met someone in the military service who likes to derive “morale of the story” for all the well-known animations.  I wonder what he would say about “Dragon”.  If I may, I would say that endless violence can be evaded by seeing the same you in another person’s eyes.  And together, we may eliminate the root of violence that is not us or them but something else.  Something we have not thought of.

9, Is No Corpse Bride For Sure

9

I had high expectation for the animation film “9” that bears the logo of Tim Burton.  Later on, I read that Tim Burton only produces the film while the director and writer is Shane Acker.  “9” is a decent animation.  Just that I love “Corpse Bride” so much better.  The quality of the image animation is top notch, no doubt.  I gasped at the details and the motions of those dolls bouncing and walking.   As far as the story goes, 9 dolls are brought to life, caught in the war between mankind and the machine, and incredible as it may sound, even as the entire human race was brought to extinction by those machines, the dolls seem to have a decent chance against the aggressors.  Unlike “Corpse Bride”, which idea is built upon well known yet abstract concept of the ghosts and the living beings, underworld and the living world, “9” merges science and fantasy that leaves me more questions than answers.  I mean, what is the purpose of these dolls’ existence?  What is the purpose of the entire story?

Tim Burton was impressed by Shane Acker’s student project titled “9” created in 2005.  You could easily find it in YouTube.  I must say, it looks very impressive as a student project.  What a dream comes true for Shane Acker to adapt this short clip into a full movie shown on big screen.  A promising artist for sure and I look forward to watching his next production.

PS. For those who have watched “9”, I swear I have spotted a key hanging on the neck of “6” and thought that key has a connection to the lock box that “9” has found.  Apparently, there isn’t such a connection.  And I wonder what is that key for besides being a piece of decoration.

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea – That Can’t Be A Gold Fish, Can That Be?

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Japanese imagination knows no bound, I must say.  A gold fish that looks like a baby girl to me except the missing limbs and the ability to live both in and out of water.  Am I the only one who wonder if I was reading the subtitles correctly?  It is beyond the visual art on the big screen.  It is about changing of perceptions from within your head.

Here is a brief summary of the story (skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read this mild spoiler).  A gold fish (more like a little girl) fathered by a sorcerer and has a Goddess as her mother escaped her fish tank within the ocean one day for what?  I don’t know.  But she found a 5 years old little boy who falls in love with her.  Thereafter, this gold fish is recaptured by her father but defies the law of the Universe, tries to become a human being, and in the mist of all these magical intervention, Ponyo (the name of the gold fish given by the young boy) brings along with her Tsunami onto the city of the young boy whom she must meet again.

It is almost a flawless outstanding piece of story crafting.  That is to compare with Hayao Miyazaki’s previous work “Spirit Away (2001)” that is quite possibly my favorite of his films that I have watched so far.  From the color and grandeur and style point of view, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” has Miyazaki’s trademarks everywhere – just like “Spirited Away (2001)” and “Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)”, both I enjoyed watching a lot.  From the animation perspective, the character’s movement looks convincingly natural.  From the artwork perspective, I love the clever use of the illusion of light and dark.  Looking at that two hot bowls of instant noodle, Cynthia and I looked at each other, swallowed hard feeling very hungry at that very moment.  That is realism on 2D.

What “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” lacks is perhaps a true villain.  I almost say that the ending is kind of weak.  But then again, it is so darn cute and memorable.  It is a strong recommendation to those who have watched 68 years old Hayao Miyazaki’s previous works.  On average, it takes him 3 to 4 years to create a new animation.  I can wait.  I think his next project will be on global warming.

WALL·E – Quite Possibly A Must Watch Movie of 2008

I have high expectation on WALL·E.  Somewhat close to the level of anticipation I had with “Lilo & Stitch”.  And the movie delivers.  What a magical experience.  Don’t compromise.  Watch WALL·E in a digital format.

I walked into the theater with little knowledge of what the story is about beyond what I saw in the trailer.  What a lovely journey of discovery.  And I won’t spoil it for you here.  All I can say is that WALL·E is a timely movie talking about our environment and going green.

The jaw dropping budget of $180 million (equals to the budget of “The Dark Knight” and “The Golden Compass”) has the jaw dropping computer animation to match.  The beautiful scene of the galaxy, dust and explosion that appears so real, there are so much details that I wish I could slow down the frame rate and admire.  Beyond the eye candies is the characters’ ability to communicate feeling and emotion without words.  The filmmakers are able to mimic the essence of human body language and make the animated robotic characters alive.

I love sci-fi stories so naturally I love to watch this movie.  There are three nods from three of us in the Movie Review Squad.  So what are you waiting for?  And if you have time, check out the official site listed below.  It is quite possibly one of the most elaborated film website I have seen.  I can’t help but to marvel at the art of the animation.

Related Website: Disney Pixar WALL·E Office Site