ANIME TO HOLLYWOOD

Elma Cremin

Co-Founder at Followthethread
A long-time fixture of New York’s glittering social scene, Miami’s jai lai courts, and the interstate highway system’s “big rigs,” Elma Cremin has spent her life absorbing all things pop culture.Movies, cult tv shows, documentaries, art, fashion—you cut her and she’ll bleed out in the colors of an Andy Warhol Brillo Pad box. Finally, after years of working inside the system with such networks as Sundance, Trio, Fuse TV and Ovation, she went “ghost protocol” and co-founded FollowTheThread in order to work outside the petty restraints of the industry and share her remarkable knowledge.

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Anime is an art form that is relatively new, with only about half a century behind it. In that half century, Japanese animation has produced so many spectacular films that the genre developed it’s own legion of super fans.

In the 90s we had an impressive collection of VHS Anime films that we unloaded in an ill-advised purge after a move to a new Manhattan apartment. 

Ghost in the Shell is a particular favorite — for its dark and moody depiction of the future and its kickass female half human/half cyborg Major.

With the Hollywood live action remake being released this weekend, we are highlighting some of our favorite anime films.

ghostGHOST IN THE SHELL (2017) 

Rupert Saunders (Snow White and the Huntsman) directs this remake of the cult classic, starring Scarlett Johansson as Major. The casting of Scarlett created quite a whitewashing sensation which I don’t agree with.

The film is set in the year 2029 and follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a special ops human-cyborg hybrid who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.

The original film is prized as much for its story as it is for its breathtaking visuals and from what we have seen of the new film it looks set to deliver.

iTunes

ghost1GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995)

Directed by Mamoru Oshii and based on the manga by Masamune Shirow. Oshii gave us the archetype of the emotionally detached female cyborg. Many have tried but no one has been able to make a story as compelling as Major Motoko Kusanagi’s journey through cyber-hell.

It’s set in 2029, where a vast electronic network permeates every aspect of life. That network becomes a battlefield for Tokyo’s Section Nine security force, which has been charged with apprehending the master hacker known only as the Puppet Master.

Motoko is the cyborg officer whose task is to apprehend Puppet Master. The film is about corruption – but at its core it is a story about a soldier who loses her identity and becomes a machine. Motoko begins to ponder the very nature of her existence: is she purely an artificial construct, or is there more?

This classic is one of our all time favorite anime films.

iTunes    Netflix DVD    Amazon

akiraAKIRA (1988)

Directed by Katsuhiro Ohtomo based on the manga by Katsuhiro Ohtomo, this cyberpunk classic follows the heroic story of biker rebels Shotaro Kaneda and Tetsuo Shima who contemplate the meaning of their existence as they fight governmental oppression.

Set in a dystopian Tokyo in 2019. Tetsuo Shima possesses psychic powers and his friend Kaneda is a bike gang leader. At the core of their motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as…Akira.

This beauty from the genius of Katsuhiro Otomo was released in 1988 and is still revered for its incredibly lush and attractive visuals. With its sci-fi brilliance, Akira impresses a great deal and so do its cyberpunk tones.

iTunes    Amazon

bluePERFECT BLUE (1998)

This culty anime psychological thriller was directed by Satoshi Kon whose kindred spirits are directors like David Lynch, Dario Argento, Alfred Hitchcock and Darren Aronofsky. PERFECT BLUE is both a psychological thriller and a scathing look at fame and its perils.

The film follows Mima Kirigoe, a successful pop singer who leaves her band to become an actress–a career move that angers her fans. When people around her start to get murdered, a weirdly accurate Mima diary/blog appears online (which Mima isn’t writing). The combined stresses of her new career and multiple stalkers push her to the brink of a breakdown until a string of murderous revelations shock her back to reality.

Amazon   Netflix DVD

appleseed APPLESEED (2004) 

Directed by Shinji Aramaki and based on the manga by Masamune Shirow.

Appleseed is a combination of mecha anime (robot anime) and the cyborg-centric style from Ghost in the Shell. It is set in the year 2131, a year of turmoil between humans and the biodoids. The key character, Officer Deunan Knute, slowly gets pulled into the crossfire of warring factions in the false Utopia her father helped create. It is a fight to save the future of humanity.

With stunning CG animation and an entire franchise resulting from its success, this is a modern film that should not be missed.

iTunes    Amazon    hulu

patlabor2PATLABOR 2 (1993)

Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru already had a long and successful career before he directed his seminal film. Patlabor 2 is one of the best anime films made to deal with the subtle politics of a nation grappling with the concept of war.

This animated feature is the sequel to Oshii Mamoru’s dark and thoughtful Patlabor film, based on video and television series of the same name. Captain Goto finds himself and his colleagues in the Mobile Police Patlabor division, caught in a web of political intrigue as a disgruntled veteran of the Japanese Self-Defense Force leads a militant terrorist group into a violent assault against Tokyo

This is an excellent political thriller, one that now holds a degree of relevance to the current state of the world.

Amazon    Netflix DVD

ARISTOTLE ON MARS

Watch it!

Kris

Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
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THAT FEELS BETTER

 When Aristotle talked about catharsis (the purging of fear and pity through drama) he MAY have been thinking more about killing your father and sleeping with your mother than invasive alien life forms.   

But in times like these we here at The Thread will take catharsis wherever we find it. So last week we finally watched Clint Eastwood’s Scully, and when the ferry crew started pulling the 155 passengers off the plane wing our eyes got all moist right on cue. 

 By the end of the movie an evil NTSB panel is forced to admit that sometimes heroes actually are heroes.  And we were forced to admit that every once in a while things actually do turn out well.  Aristotelian or not, it did perk us up.

But Scully isn’t exactly representative.  Far more common in films are films where small human errors add up to disaster.  Like  the Oscars — or the latest Alien knock-off that opens this week. 

 iTunes iTUNES USER ALERT!
Just want to make sure you know you don’t have to pay $14.99 at iTunes for a movie you’re only going to watch once.
Every other service will let you rent most titles for $10 less than iTunes.
Amazing, right?  Even if you love Apple, don’t let them scam you.

 

  LIFE-JGyllenhaal
LIFE (2017)

 At the outer limits of human endeavor, the margin for error becomes increasingly slim.  So when an alien life form pops up in a movie — and it doesn’t have Star Wars in the title — we know there’s a good shot that before long something unanticipated is going to pop up.

Except that by now, the unanticipated is exactly what we anticipate, like:  Really?  You’re gonna stick your finger in there?

In Scully, the pilot’s experience and human ability to judge a complex situation more rapidly than any computer saves the day.  The lesson here is a flip of that — as the crew   members struggle to contain a ruthlessly aggressive Martian life form, their humanity keeps getting in the way.

The early reviews are decent, even though everybody agrees that it falls apart in the last act.  Reportedly whole multicultural crew are provided with  back stories  – not just Jake Gyllenhal and Ryan Reynolds.

Genre purists should be saving themselves for Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise.  It opens in May, with a fun and even more multicultural cast.  But in all likelihood, they’ll come out anyway, just to jeer at not-so-cheap knockoff.

YouTube

 

Deepwater Horizon 2
DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016)

 Like Scully, we pretty much knew exactly what this movie was going to be before we watched it.  And we watched it anyway – though we did save it for a weekend when we were home alone, so we could pump up the 5.1 sound to an eyeball-jiggling volume.

You know from the start that Marky Mark is going to survive to get back to Kate Hudson.  And you figure he’s probably going to save the cute Hispanic woman (Gina Rodriguez — she could save him, but that would be a big genre stretch for this movie).  And it doesn’t take advanced calculus to figure out pretty quick that John Malkovich, sporting a honey-dripping drawl, is the villain.

It’s a real Dad flick – more technical jargon than cleavage.  And a nicely aging Kurt Russell in the solid-as-a-rock captain role.

Oh yeah, and (spoiler alert) there are explosions.  Biiig explosions.  Lots of explosions.  That damn oil rig blows up again and again and again; and again.  Here at The Thread, we don’t track every single superhero movie closely; but to our untrained eye there were more, bigger, better explosions than we’ve seen anywhere else recently.

There are human errors, falling in the subcategories of corporate greed and tempting fate.  But the movie accurately depicts the biggest error, which was made by the highly competent and super-experienced crew – not realizing what was happening and taking action quickly enough, as this geekoid article points out.

Vudu iTunes YouTube Amazon Google Play

 

 

the-lone-survivor1
LONE SURVIVOR (2013)

 Deepwater Horizon is the second of three collaborations (Patriot Day is #3) between star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  They’ve honed in on a sort of disaster sub-genre: hyper-competent teams (overwhelmingly male) and how they deal with extreme situations when all the layers of failsafe fail.

Lone Survivor is based on non-fiction book by former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.  A four-man Navy Seal reconnaissance team is inserted into the Hindu Kush, with the mission of scouting the location of a Taliban leader.  In the hilly terrain, they lose radio contact with their base.  They then stumble onto an elderly shepherd accompanied by two teens.

Luttrell (Wahlberg) convinces his comrades not to kill the three, but one of the teens gallops off, and before they can re-establish communications Taliban fighters come streaming in.

From the start of the film we’ve seen the cardinal rule that these guys live by – never yield; never give up.  In the ensuing firefights and chases, the four Seals take monstrous amounts of bullets and physical abuse but keep on going.  Eventually they make contact and two Huey helicopters swoop in – only to have one of them shot down in flames and the other retreat.

Only Luttrell survives – and only because he is saved by a Pashtun villager who risks himself and his whole family because of his Islamic moral code which obliges him to shelter the stranger.

Google Play YouTube Amazon iTunes Vudu

 

 

Apollo 13
APOLLO 13 (1995)

Lately we’ve been searching for classics to watch with our tweens (nota beneCity Slickers is much more of a raunchfest than you may remember).  Classics, in this context, being anything pre-2010.  Which is why we’ve ended up re-watching a lot of Tom Hanks movies lately.

Apollo 13 is probably the highest profile they-all-came-back-alive situation in modern history.  You do very much know how it turns out, so this kind of thing is a real test of a filmmaker’s craft, which is why Clint Eastwood or, in this case, Ron Howard gets the job.

You’ll be waiting for the biggest meme from this movie: “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”  We’ve got to admit that Hanks is really good at humanizing these super buttoned-up, understated types.  In the photo above, he’s next to another all-purpose nice guy.  No, not Kevin Bacon — the recently departed Bill Paxton.

YouTube Vudu iTunes Amazon Google Play

 

 

The-Martian
THE MARTIAN (2015)

When it comes to writerly eloquence, the self-published Kindle novel The Martian was horribly written – kind of high school junior level.  And just like Fifty Shades of Gray, there are lots of pages you can just scroll right through.  But if you’ve got a certain sensibility (the kind that would lead you to read a novel about an astronaut stuck on Mars), don’t start it late at night, or you’ll still be up when the birds start chirping.

Author Andy Weir is one of those overnight success stories – although he was still a computer programmer when he published The Martian as a serial on his website, he’d been writing for years.  Some followers asked him to self-publish it on Kindle.  Four years later the feature film was released, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott.

When an epic sand storm forces a Mars mission to abort and take off early, a crew member is hit by debris and blown away.  Telemetry shows he is dead, the craft is teetering in the wind;  so to save the rest of the crew, the commander (Jessica Chastain) blasts off.

Of course, Watley isn’t dead, just skewered like a bug by a spear-like antenna.  He manages to make it inside and remove the antenna.  With all communication cut off, he faces a long slow death from starvation.

Except, of course he doesn’t.  Through tenacious will and a lot of mental meat, he figures out how to restore the radio, and then how to grow enough potatoes to survive until his crewmates can improvise an emergency return mission to pick him up.  More shit happens, but he perseveres.

For a lot of the novel, Watley is sitting alone and thinking about potatoes, so it wasn’t an easy story to dramatize.  The adroit touch with which Scott accomplished reminds us that we should go out to a theater to watch his Alien reboot.

Amazon Vudu Google Play iTunes YouTube

 

 

Jack and Rose
Titanic (1997)

And the music swells.  Dare we use the words “Celine Dion” and “catharsis” in a single sentence?

Wanted our 5th pick to be Shackleton, the miniseries in which a stalwart Kevin Branagh (even more thin-lipped than usual) endures more wind-whipped ice and penguin meat than any man should have to; and miraculously brings them all back alive, minus a few random fingers and toes.  But we realized that it’s not available for streaming.  If you have Netflix DVD or a good library nearby, check it out.

So.  We recently re-watched Titanic at home, and the boys were transfixed, despite the love story pasted onto the epic deflation of human hubris.  Even viewed from the couch, it’s a grand, imagination-stirring film, with mind-boggling effects and a life-was-simple-then moral compass.

This movie cemented our love affair with Kate Winslet, which had begun with Heavenly Creatures.  And, we’ve gotta say, we like Leonardo better now than we did at the time.

Those last scenes must have been good training for The Revenant.  Although we must add this unfortunate Weir-esque fact – there was actually room for both of them on that door.  Don’t believe it?  Well, Mythbusters re-enacted it and proved that he didn’t have to die.

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