You Have to See This! Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no haka) (1988)

Opens Friday January 4th for a New York Premiere 30th Anniversary Theatrical engagement!

The idea of the cost of war has never been more thoughtfully and emotionally conveyed than in Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” The 1988 animated film is still one of the most emotional and powerful films I’ve ever seen, it’s a film that completely transcends all ideas of storytelling, and destroys any stigma that animation is a child’s medium that is limited in scope and substances, especially when telling human stories.

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Laplace’s Witch (Rapurasu no majo) (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

Following a mysterious death, a scientist is brought in to hopefully rule it as an accident. As he does his research, a police detective desperately wants to rule it as a homicide. Mixed up in the middle of it all is a teenager with what looks to be psychic powers and her friend who has disappeared. What will they all find once all is said and done?

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Microhabitat (So-gong-nyeo) (2017) [Fantasia 2018]

A young woman living paycheck to paycheck on a very tight budget finds herself in a hard place when she has to decide what to cut from her budget when her rent goes up by quite a bit. As she tries to find a way, she decides to abandon the tiny apartment and go couch surfing for a while. As things advance, her situation becomes more and more precarious.

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Female Filmmaker Friday: Tremble All You Want (Katte ni furuetero) (2017) [Fantasia 2018]

A young woman who has never dated lives in her imagination and in memories of the one boy who made her teenage heart flutter. As she tries to reconnect with him, another option opens right in front of her. What will she go for and how will it affect her life?

Directed by Akiko Ohku who also wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Risa Wataya, Tremble All You Want is a sweet story about holding onto the past, looking for what one wants, having standards, and learning to let go. The way to film is built and written is sweet but not overly so, the lead of Yoshika has an active imagination and it adds a big chunk of whimsy to the story and makes it about more than just a girl chasing a boy who may or may not give her a second thought. Some of the scenes have a bit of a feel similar to that of Amelie while not having a similar color palette and shooting style, something that is definitely good in establishing mood but also in establishing the director as doing her own thing here.

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Aragne: Sign of Vermillion (2018) [Fantasia 2018]

Saku Sakomoto’s “Aragne” is a real stab at anime horror that embraces its nonsensical story, and never actually delivers a narrative at any point during its run time. “Aragne” is thankfully a merciful hour long film, but one that’s a disorienting, and incoherent experience. And not in the artistic way. More in the realm that Sakomoto seems to have half assed a lot of the film and kind of took it in to the realm where he makes it looks intentional the whole way through.

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Dynamite Graffiti (Suteki na dainamaito sukyandaru) (2018) [New York Asian Film Festival 2018]

In this biographical film, the viewer follows the rise and fall of porn magazine creator and runner Akira Suei.

Written and directed by Masanori Tominaga and based on the autobiography by Akira Suei, the film starts in the 1980s and goes back and forth in time, showing important moments in his life, from his childhood, including his mother blowing herself up, to his meeting his wife to his life painting cabaret billboards and then building his pornographic magazine empire. The film shows this in a light that lets the viewer makes up their own mind about Suei and his work and in a way that does not condone or condemn any of it. It shows things as they were and raises a few questions about censorship and morality policing.

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