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The Preacher's Wife (1996)
It's a Wonderful Bishop's Life
I saw this when it was in the theaters. I basically loved it mainly for its music and Jennifer Lewis' (Julia's mother) performance, but also I loved the opening and closing (climax) scenes. I'm basically a sucker for that kind of thing, and I understand how other people wouldn't find it interesting. I just saw the movie (The Bishop's Wife) which it was based on and finally feel qualified to comment. TPW was not just a remake of TBW, but more of a combination of TBW and "It's a Wonderful Life." Henry in TPW was the character of Jimmy Stewart in IWL, always caring for the underdog (altho very cynical to the angel's angelhood); Joe Hamilton in TPW was "Mr Potter" of the same, with his schemes to redevelop and control the town. I actually found it charming the way elements of TBW found themselves woven into TPW: the ice skating scene, the typewriter-turned-PC, the final sermon, to name a few. But I did realize that the message had been diluted into a feel-good comedy. There are no moments where one feels deeply moved merely by dialogue, such as TBW's Dudley's story of David and the Lion, which captivates the Bishop's entire household, down to the all-business secretary (not to mention the audience!). In TPW, we are made to be moved by the beautiful music; and as such, I guess we might as well just buy the soundtrack. TBW reminded me that special effects are only as good as the movie itself.
Sayonara itsuka (2010)
Korean love fantasy with Japanese actors
As my title implies, this is a kind of a complicated movie with an extremely simple plot. A man marries one woman but loves another. I suppose it's how it happens that makes or breaks the movie. Korean director Lee became known in Japan for his Korean-made film hit, "The Eraser in my Head," a story of a young woman with a case of early-age Altzheimer's and her lover-then-husband who is always there for her. In both movies, one is strongly encouraged to not think about the details, but rather the dynamics between the characters involved. In "Sayonara," most of which takes place in Bangkok in 1975 among a small Japanese community and their Thai friends, one gets the impression that we are not supposed to think about the why or how, but the what. Who is Touko, the mysterious older woman who seems to have an unlimited amount of money at her disposal? Why does Yutaka, working as an expat for an airline, live in a apartment seemingly for lower income Thai folks when he should be rich by local standards? How old is he, for cryin' out loud? He is obviously over 30, but just got engaged and is a freshman employee. Why does he have a body like Bruce Lee?? Why does Touko fly back to New York merely at Mitsuko's (Yutaka's fiancée) bequest? And what business does she have in New York? Why should Yutaka's son become a rock star?? None of the above is ever explained, but it all makes for a sumptuous and sexy movie, obviously Lee's intent. It starts out rather slowly, but the superb acting of the well- known actors draws the viewer in rather craftily. Surprisingly we are taken 25 years into the future to be shown that Touko and Yutaka haven't forgotten each other, but the movie would just have well ended in 1975. But with Nishijima as Yutaka and Nakayama as Touko, nobody's complaining.
Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941)
Wow. I saw this movie and "Up" on the same day within an hour of each other at different theaters. I saw "Mr Bug" first, and was then totally disappointed in "Up"'s follow-up. What a beautiful and touching film! Movies of the 1930s and 40s to us nowadays can be irking with their melodramatic acting and dialog, but as animation the same melodrama and groaning humor can be wonderful. And the soft "organic" lines of 30s drawing AND the music just puts you in a nice comfortable mood and you can enjoy the show with all its little characters: ladybugs, grasshoppers, bees, snails, stinkbugs, flies, mosquitoes, beetles, crickets, and more each with all their own cute little (but not overbearing) idiosyncrasies. The interaction with the human world, from nemesis (cigar smokers, high-heel wearers, innocent kick-the-can playing kids) to the kind-hearted, and to the unknown destroyers, is realistic and fascinating. You care for the bugs, AND Dick and Mary. The protagonist Hoppity is not some perfect superman who comes to "set things right" but a starry-eyed optimist who leads everyone down the garden path (literally!), and every time you think it's going to end happily in 1930s style, along comes another roadblock...! I was on the edge of my seat much more than with "Up." I walked out of the movie theater grinning and chuckling: something that hasn't happened in a long long long long time!
I think the main problem with this film, which I found just OK, was that it was made in these times of ours. Probably what made me think so was seeing it on the same day I saw the digitalized version of the 1941 movie "Mr. Bug Goes to Town." While I enjoyed Carl's character, it was diluted by the hyperactivity going on around him, and I ended up caring much more about the insect village in New York 1941 than what happened to Carl's house, which he talked to as if it were his wife. The insect village was beautifully colored and animated, had interesting characters and dialog, and a decent plot (not to mention great music). "Up" (which is called Old Carl's Flying House here in Japan) did not have the beautiful color of "Mr. Bug," the human characters were so much like ordinary people we all know (yawn), and it overall tested the suspension of belief I hold for all animated films... the superpowers of 78-yr old cane-wielding Carl and his nemesis 98-yr old Muntz, people and animals apparently being magnetically attached to a wildly careening blimp, to name a couple. Most of all, I missed the crispness of color and line I have come to expect from Pixar. A huge drop from WALL-E. Despite all this, I became misty-eyed at the right moments: which is why movies like this kind of scare me. The intended messages were missed, but at least I cried.