40th Japan Academy Awards (2017) winners

On March 3rd, in a televised ceremony held at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo, the Nippon Academy-Sho Association awarded the 40th Annual Japan Academy Prizes (第40回日本アカデミー賞) for the best Japanese movies of 2016. In This Corner of the World won in the best animation category (but Makoto Shinkai’s Your name still got best screenplay and best music) and Shin Godzilla was a big winner with seven awards (including best picture, best director and best cinematography)!

Discover all the winners (highlighted in yellow) after the jump:

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40th Japan Academy Awards (2017) nominees

The nominees for the 40th Annual Japan Academy Prizes (第40回日本アカデミー賞) were announced on January 15th. The winners in each category will be revealed by the Japan Academy Prize Associations at a ceremony held at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo on March 3, 2017.

Here is the list of all the nominees (after the jump):

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Capsule reviews

The Giver

In a post-cataclysmic world, humanity survives in a small utopian society which is peaceful and content, but colourless and deprived of emotions. With his coming of age, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned a role as Receiver of Memory and instructed by the Giver (Jeff Bridges), who telepathically shares with him all the memories from the ancient time in order to give him the wisdom necessary to advise the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) in her decisions. With this knowledge comes the realization that this seemingly perfect society is in no way morally better than the previous one: citizens are drugged into conformity and when they become less useful or rebellious they are “released to the Elsewhere”, i.e. murdered by lethal injection! To justify their authoritarian ways, the Chief Elder says “When people have the freedom to chose, they chose wrong every single time” — true, but at least they have the freedom to be wrong! By reaching the distant borders of the community, the hero wants to reset the society in hope for a better future (and to save the woman he loves, Fiona (Odeya Rush)). Based on Lois Lowry‘s young adult novel, this science-fiction movie succeeds, with a relatively small budget ($25 millions), to create an entertaining and thought-provoking story, making us ponder the moral values of our society. Even if it’s a little reminscient of Logan’s Run, this is an excellent movie well worth watching.

[ AmazonBiblioIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

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Victoria

This British drama TV series depicts the reign of Queen Victoria from her accession (after the death of her uncle William IV) to her mariage with Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and the birth of her first child (also named Victoria). It was produced by ITV in the UK and will premiere on PBS’s Masterpiece next week. In a way, it is very similar to the series The Crown that depicts the early reign of Queen Elisabeth II. It is quite interesting to see all the politics and trials that play out around the English monarchy at such an important time in history (the Victorian era was particularly characterized by the industrial revolution and the development of railways). It’s also funny that there is so much German blood (from the House of Hanover and the House of Saxe-Coburg) in the British monarchy, and it created quite a stir at the time. But I must admit that what first caught my attention is the fact that the title role is played by Jenna Coleman (who has also interpreted Clara Oswald, one of the best companions in the new Doctor Who TV series, but also acted in Julian FellowesTitanic and in Dancing on the Edge). Also starring is Rufus Sewell, who plays Victoria’s counsel and Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. I also liked the haunting music theme. I really cannot resist a British historical drama, even less a very good one. Don’t miss it!

[ AmazonIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

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Dark Angel

This is a two-part mini-series (although it feels more like a TV movie cut in two) produced by ITV in the UK and starring Joanne Froggatt (Anna in Downton Abbey). It will be shown on PBS’s Masterpiece later this year. Inspired by David Wilson’s book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer, it tells the sordid story of Mary Ann Cotton, a black widow who poisoned three of her four husbands as well as eleven of her thirteen children in order to collect insurance money and survive the harsh conditions women had to endure in nineteenth century England. You can’t help but feel some sympathy for her. A good period drama as it is often the case with Brit TV. Recommended.

[ AmazonIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

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Eye in the Sky

An interesting movie showing, from the British point of view, all the procedures and decisions behind a drone strike in Somalia, as well as the moral questions it raises. If you could eliminate three top wanted terrorists as well as two suicide bombers preparing for an eminent attack that could kill up to eighty civilians, would you do it even if it meant probably killing one innocent girl? The collateral damage question is always a difficult choice between two evils. In a way, nothing much happens in this movie as the story is told almost in real time. Everything is in the debate, which makes it clearly a political movie. But is it an apology of war or a critic of the politicians inaptitude? Maybe both? Interesting indeed!

[ AmazonBiblioIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

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A Ghost of a Chance

Emi (Eri Fukatsu) is a lawyer whose client is accused of murdering his wife. But he couldn’t have done it since the night of the murder he was pined down in his hotel room by a ghost! What sort of defence can you build when your only witness is the ghost of a samurai? You manage to make him testify, of course! A funny japanese movie just as I like them, with a great line-up of actors (Toshiyuki Nishida, Hiroshi Abe, Kiichi Nakai, Koichi Sato, Takayuki Kinoshita, Yūko Takeuchi, Tadanobu Asano, etc.)!

I stumbled on this movie while watching TV Japan — a New-York based Japanese language channel operated by NHK Cosmomedia America and broadcasting a compilation of the best programming from the top Japanese networks and studios, including news and entertainment programs such as movies, dramas, variety shows, anime, sporting events, etc. (and available in Canada thanks to Bell Fibe TV!). I am glad that they show movies subtitled in english once in while.

[ AmazonAsianWikiIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

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Suffragette

Maud (Carey Mulligan) works in an industrial laundry house and gets involved by chance in the suffragette movement. Participating in illegal protests causes her to be outcast by her husband, which in turn drives her even further into political activism. Protests become more and more violent with property damages and bombings, hunger strikes when they were jailed, but it fails to really attract attention since the government controls the press… Until one woman, Emily Davison, is killed on a race track in front of the king. In 1928, women’s rights were finally recognized in Britain. But it took fifteen years to get there and the movie doesn’t show how Maud managed to survive during that time (if she could). Meryl Streep has a brief cameo as one of the movement’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst. It’s unbelievable to see how bad were women’s living and working conditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For that, it’s an interesting movie but I found it was lacking passion.

[ AmazonBiblioIMdBOfficial sitesWikipediaYoutube ]

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Movie capsule-reviews

Pompeii

Another totally unrealistic catastrophe movie. Kiefer Sutherland with a ridiculous brit accent and “John Snow” [Kit Harington] as a slave hero pointlessly saving the damsel in distress. Entertaining but not historic.

[ BibliothèqueIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

 

Big Eyes

A Tim Burton movie about the life of American painter Margaret Keane, famous for her children with big eyes art, who had to fight her husband Walter Keane up to court as he took credit for her very successful work. He was a genius of marketing but, as a frustrated wanna-be painter, couldn’t resist to flatter his ego and take credit for “their” success until she got tired of the fraud (and found religion with the Jehovah’s witnesses). Interesting subject, but a quite ordinary delivery.

[ BibliothèqueIMdBOfficial siteWikipediaYoutube ]

Les Visiteurs: La Révolution

En 1123, le chevalier Godefroy de Montmirail, dit « le Hardi » (et son écuyer, Jacquouille la Fripouille) voyagent dans le temps grâce à la potion d’un mage. Mais rien ne va comme prévu et, dans ce troisième opus, le duo (Jean Reno et Christian Clavier) se retrouve en 1793, soit en pleine Terreur révolutionnaire! Amusant mais la formule commence à se faire vieille.

[ BibliothèqueIMdBWikipediaYoutube ]

Race

An interesting film about the struggle of a black athlete to get into the 1936 summer Olympics and to show that black lives matter — while teaching a good lesson to Nazi Germany. More interestingly, it’s what the movie fails to show that is the most important: despite his four olympic medals, Jesse Owens will be totally ignored after his return to the U.S.A.. After all, the blacks in America were not that much better off than the jews in Germany. He died of cancer at 66 years old, poor, after holding small jobs and making a few business ventures. He was recognized only posthumously with a Congressional Gold Medal awarded by George W Bush in 1990! Not totally accurate, but a moment in history worth remembering.

[ BibliothèqueIMdBOfficial siteWikipediaYoutube ]

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Discovery: five new anime to watch

In This Corner of the World

While watching the news on NHK World earlier today, I saw a report on a new anime movie that sounds quite interesting. Based on a manga by Fumiyo Kōno, this historical animated drama tells the daily life of young newly wed Suzu in the Japanese countryside of Kure during the years leading to WWII.

In This Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に / Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni): Japan, 2016, 130 min.; Dir./Scr.: Sunao Katabuchi; Anim. Dir.: Hidenori Matsubara; Char. Des.: Hidenori Matsubara; Mus.: Kotringo; Prod.: Masao Maruyama (MAPPA), Taro Maki (GENCO); Voice cast: Rena Nōnen (Suzu), Yoshimasa Hosoya (Shūsaku), Natsuki Inaba (Harumi), Minori Omi (Keiko), Daisuke Ono (Tetsu), Megumi Han (Sumi), Shigeru Ushiyama (Entaro), Mayumi Shintani (San), Nanase Iwai (Rin).

ANN / IMdB / Japan Times / Official website / Wikipedia / Youtube

Four more anime titles have caught our attention in the last few months:
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Opening of the 33rd JFFM

As I mentioned before, the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal was held at the Cinémathèque Québécoise on October 27th and 29th. This free annual event is co-organized by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan in Montreal.

Before the screening of the first movie, A Tale of Samurai Cooking, the attendees were treated with a few canapé and a degustation of sake. There was a presentation by the a staff member of the Japanese consulate in Montreal, followed by allocutions of the Cinémathèque general director, Marcel Jean, and the Consul General in Montreal, Hideaki KURAMITSU.

Here’s a video of the opening allocutions (available on Vimeo):


You can also check our comments on two of the three movies presented at the festival: A Tale of Samurai Cooking and Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship.


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A Tale of Samurai Cooking

“Haru has an excellent sense of taste and unsurpassed skill in the kitchen, but her impetuous character leads to her husband asking for a divorce after only a year of marriage. One day, she is approached by Dennai Funaki, a samurai chef from Kaga, to marry his son and heir, Yasunobu.”

“Serving the Lord of Kaga not with the sword, but with the kitchen knife, the Funaki family has been known as “Kitchen Samurai” for generations. However, Yasunobu’s lack of culinary skills has placed the Funaki name in peril. To save her new family and its status as “Kitchen Samurai”, Haru decides to teach her new husband the refined art of Kaga cuisine from her point of view. Inspired by a true story.”

(Text from the Cinémathèque website)

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