The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.
Tokyo Story [1953, Yasujirō Ozu]
Starring Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama and Sô Yamamura.
My first Ozu film is a sad one. This highly-regarded classic follows the lives of a Japanese family in the country’s post-war recovery period. An elderly couple take the all-day train trip to Tokyo to visit their children and spend some time with them. The children, however, are all busy and have little time to be with their parents. Their eldest son, Koichi (Yamamura), is a doctor who is always on the go, and their eldest daughter, Shige (Haruko Sugimara) is a busy hair salon owner. That leaves the couple’s widowed daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuko Hara) as the only person who is able (or willing) to sacrifice work to be with them. Everyone means well, they just can’t help always being occupied.
The movie takes a depressing turn in the second half, as the mother grows ill on the return trip home. The children make immediate trips to be with her, but nothing changes. They spend little time with their parents and ultimately leave earlier than expected. In this regard, the film is bleak and depressing, yet it is also realistic. Everyone has their own lives, and sometimes it is hard to break away from them even to spend time with their loved ones. Ozu paints this in a very straightforward manner, and we are merely seeing what is a common occurrence. The movie is remarkably well-made, but it crawls along at such a slow pace that extreme patience is needed for most of it. Tokyo Story demands attention, and while I appreciate its value, I found it to be one of the more challenging films in my project. 7.5/10
Army of Darkness [1992, Sam Raimi]
Starring Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz and Marcus Gilbert.
To prepare myself for Army of Darkness, I re-watched The Evil Dead (it had been several years) and also checked out Evil Dead II for the first time. Both were a lot of fun, though I think I prefer the original due to its stronger horror emphasis. Evil Dead II sent things in a more comedic direction, and Army of Darkness took this idea and ran with it. With only a slight reliance on horror, the trilogy’s conclusion opts for a greater slapstick influence. While I was entertained for the most part, I can’t say I was a big fan of some of the humor presented. There were a handful of scenes that annoyed me more than anything, such as when Ash (Campbell) is fighting several miniature versions of himself.
Still, I loved the movie’s cheesy one-liners, several of which were later unashamedly ripped off by Duke Nukem. The epic battle between the medievil soldiers and the army of dead was great fun, and the special effects were aesthetically pleasing. I can see why this has a cult following, and I enjoyed the movie for the most part, but I would rather watch the first two in the trilogy if given the choice. 7/10