[2017] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: Night is Short, Walk On Girl

Listen, I’m not about to attempt to explain this movie to you because you won’t believe me even if I did. I’ll just say that Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a bonkers film, probably Masaaki Yuasa’s best work yet, and absolutely one of the most visually excellent films of the 2010s. Cinematic maximalism.

Also, can we just stop and reflect on just how prolific Masaaki Yuasa has been in the past ten years? He started off with a bang with The Tatami Galaxy in 2010, then two more series, Ping Pong in 2014 and Devilman Crybaby in 2018, plus the brand-new Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! that started just this January. Then he has released THREE theatrical films–Night is Short plus Lu Over the Wall and Ride Your Wave (which premieres in the U.S. next month in a one-night event; go see it!). Add in all the other weird stuff he’s been going and you have one of the most productive men in the realm of animation. And all of it is great, somehow. Let’s hope he keeps this up in the 20s!

[2013-2018] The Auralnauts Jedi Party Saga

2013 was the beginning of a renaissance for the Star Wars fandom. With the waning days of the post-Episode III Expanded Universe and the recent sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, things were about to change dramatically for the franchise and its massive fanbase. But in 2013, things were still simmering.

And with that simmering came the Auralnauts Jedi Party Saga…

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[2018] The Academy Tried To Be More Popular

The Academy faces the same problem every single year–it relies on big TV audiences to pay for its extravagant awards ceremonies, but thanks to declining TV viewership and unexciting awards ceremonies, ratings keep sinking and money keeps dropping. But everything it does fails.

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[2017] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Luke Skywalker vs. Ben Solo lightsaber duel. You know the one. We all know the one. Gosh, we all know the one.

A cowboy duel (or more accurately, a samurai duel), where a single blow ends the match, where all the emotions are thrown into getting that single winning shot. Decades of history between two characters swirled up into one moment.

And the best part isn’t the fact that it’s gorgeous; it’s that the entire duel is a subversion of our fanboy desire to see Luke Skywalker, ultimate badass, instead giving us Luke Skywalker, ultimate pacifist, a savior who will throw his own life away to save the family he loves, including his own nephew.

It’s an anti-fight scene that packs more of an emotional punch than almost any duel in the Star Wars Saga.

[2014] The Sony Hack

I think America is really messed up in a lot of ways, but one way is in our collective short-term memory being a single news cycle long, and that’s on a good day.

Remember when, five years ago today, North Korea launched a state-sponsored terror attack against Sony Pictures, leaking thousands of e-mails, scripts, and other sensitive files, then threatening a repeat of 9/11 if The Interview was shown in theaters?

This actually friggin’ happened, and yet it’s barely a footnote in the 2010s somehow. What is wrong with us?

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[2014] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: Noah

Darren Aronofksy’s Noah was a really good movie. Nobody really talks about it anymore, though. It made bank at the box office, got great reviews, and generated tons and tons of controversy for presenting a decidedly non-Evangelical interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Even so, it faded from the limelight quite a lot.

But what I want to talk about with Noah is its Creation Scene, one of the most visually stunning sequences in any film in the 2010s. If you liked Aronofsky’s other heavily symbolic and religious The Fountain, this scene will be perfect for you. It works amazingly in-context as part of the moral drama of Noah and his family, but it also works completely separately as a standalone scene:

Amazing stuff, ain’t it?

The scene really speaks for itself. It tells the story of the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis, using trippy timelapse visuals to show the progress of the world and the descent of man into the sinful world that has become life for Noah and his family.

The movie takes Noah’s allegorical tale and meshes it with both recorded human history and other Biblical stories and it’s so cool. (Also, definitely part of the controversy behind this film for Evangelical groups.) But it most certainly represents director Aronofsky’s beliefs about Creation, shown off in the grandest way possible.

Check out another 2014 movie that did wonders with visual storytelling: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

[2017] Fantastic Visual Storytelling: Valerian

I’ll defend Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to the end of my days, which isn’t hard because nobody actually saw the movie to be able to criticize it.

The movie has some of the most inventive and visually interesting action sequences this side of Mad Max Fury Road, and the art direction is something else. Also, while everyone thinks Dane Dehaan was a poor choice for a leading man, that’s just because they wanted Valerian to be some generic Han Solo ripoff instead of accepting him for the skeevy scummy horndog he was meant to be. The second half is a lot quieter and maybe less interesting than the first half, but it’s got a fantastic not-actually-action-packed climax and a resolution that’s shockingly heartfelt as much as its political undertones are bitingly cynical.

Y’all say they don’t have chemistry, but y’all weren’t watching the same movie I was

But I’m not here to talk about the movie as a whole, except that oops I already did. I’m here to talk about the opening.

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[2016-2017] The Nice Guys: My Quest to Redeem Myself

The Nice Guys is one of my all-time favorite movies. As of this writing, I’ve seen the movie ten times, and it’s #9 in my Favorite Movies ranking. Shane Black’s absolutely superb screenplay that matches a convoluted detective conspiracy with meditations on masculinity and loneliness is a thing of wonders, inspiring me enough with my web novel ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture that I just had to insert a couple of sly homages here and there.

But my secret dishonor in all of this is that I did not see the movie in theaters in its original release.

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[2013] Pacific Rim: “My” Star Wars

Today is my birthday, so I wanted to reflect on a movie that is so dear to me that I watch it almost every year on my birthday to celebrate.

My seventh-favorite movie, as of this writing, is none other than 2013’s Pacific Rim. I first learned about it when making this article for my high school blog, only knowing that it was some strange new movie by the director of Pan’s Labyrinth about mechas fighting kaijus. I was instantly sold by that alone, and set my calendar to watch.

Then, seven months later I saw it in IMAX and it became an instant classic. Save for the fact that I have loved Star Wars since before I could form complete sentences, Pacific Rim in every way is “my” Star Wars, the movie that captured my heart and imagination in a way almost no movie before or sense has managed to do. I saw this four times in theaters, which is more than any other recent movie in an age where ticket prices are so high.

It’s a pretty lofty claim to say that any movie is so good that it’s on the same inspiration level as Star Wars. Why the heck did this move me so much?

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