Genkina hito’s Top 25 Films of the Decade

My WordPress blog birthday was December 20th and it has been a decade since I first started writing reviews and news articles here about what interests me.

Cure Yakusho Stares at City

It started with book reviews like World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse and big screen Hollywood fare such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. It shifted to American indies like Stake Land and 2 Days in New York with some European and central/South American films like Submarine, Certified Copy, I Am Love and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo before I transitioned quickly into Asian cinema, long a passion of mine from childhood, and I took to covering the latest UK releases and festival news for Asian movies and writing about my favourite filmmakers like Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shinya Tsukamoto. My taste has changed from horror and action to more contemplative and experimental works but my passion for cinema burns bright and for good reason.

Through ten years of writing on this blog I have made friends and watched lots of great films. Indeed, I’ve covered a quite a range of titles and, as the years progressed, actually got involved with film culture through writing for magazines and other websites, doing festival press work at the likes of the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival and the Osaka Asian Film Festival as well as doing plenty of writing like interviews at UK festivals like Raindance, Terracotta and the London Film Festival. It has almost always been fun and I’ve even had the chance to live and travel in Japan. I can honestly say this blog has been amazing for me by helping me make friends and find my voice in this world.

So, thanks to film and writing about it, I’ve had a fun time. Indeed, sometimes the process of writing about films has been just as much fun as the viewing experience and now I want to highlight my fifteen favourite films to watch and also write about.

Strap yourself in and turn on some music for the ramblings of a film fan:

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Genkina hito’s Top Twelve Films of 2014

Better late than never! And why twelve? Because it’s hard to decide! This is my list of top twelve films I saw in 2014 so it covers movie releases both new and old. I watched a lot of films in 2014. I was going to the cinema nearly two or three times a month and renting/buying a lot of films so I have built up an impressive list that spans genres and eras ‘60s (Kuroneko, Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41) and ‘80s (Blade Runner, Ghostbusters) and 2014s…

The World of Kanako TsumabukiMy cinematic year began not with a Japanese film but American Hustle, a nice distraction before I headed down to London for the 2014 edition of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme. I came away from that film festival profoundly moved by the humanism and simple beauty of everyday life I saw in Kimi no Tomodachi, the perfect drama with a plucky protagonist in Shindo and the very dark existential drama Parade. I followed that with a trip to the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Film Festival where I cried buckets over Colorful and saw the future of anime in Patema Inverted. Despite loving these films so much it has taken me nearly a year to write/publish reviews of them because I was constantly going to the Belle (Mbatha-Raw) and Elizabeth (Gadon) in Bellecinema to see the likes of Blue Ruin, The Wind Rises, Deliver Us From Evil, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Belle. Kotatsu was followed by the 2014 Terracotta Far East Film Festival in May which is where I met Akira Nagai, director of Judge!, the actors of Be My Baby, and I enjoyed watching The Snow White Murder Case. In September/October/November I was in London for the Raindance Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival where I met and interviewed/talked to even more directors. Out of all the films I watched between the two festivals it was Fuku-chan of Fukufuku Flats and The World of Kanako which impressed me the most.

Overall, 2014 was a good year for my Japanese film viewing but my final list contains a lot of western films. Here are my top films from 2014.

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12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave  12 Years a Slave Film Poster

Running Time: 106 mins.

Release Date: February o8th, 2014

Director: Steve McQueen

Writer: John Ridley (Screenplay), Solomon Northup (Original Book)

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, one of many free blacks kidnapped and forced into slavery and one of the few to escape back to freedom. He soon turned his exploits into a book and stage play which abolitionists in the north of America used to help bolster their cause against slavery. Solomon’s story fell into obscurity after the American civil war but was discovered by Bianca Stigter, the wife of British Turner Prize winning artist of Steve McQueen who was seeking to make a film about slavery but struggling to find a narrative. McQueen is a man who has successfully made the leap from art to film with his first two features Hunger (2008) and Shame (2012) and now the critically acclaimed 12 Years a Slave which is an incredible adaptation of an incredible story.

12 Years a Slave Solomon Freeman in New York

Saratoga Springs, New York, 1841. Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) is a free black man. He earns a living as a skilled carpenter and violinist and resides in a comfortable house with his wife and two children. In New York he is relatively safe from slavery which is the biggest and most commerically important industry in the world and is generally respected by his neighbours. Two musicians invite Solomon on a two-week tour as a musician but behind the smiles are ruthless kidnappers who drug Solomon and sell him into slavery. He is beaten repeatedly and given the name Platt before being resold to a plantation owner named Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). Solomon earns the respect of Ford but the ire of the overseer Tibeats (Dano) who threatens his life. Ford decides to resell Solomon to a slave-breaker named Edwin Epps (Fassbender) to avoid any bloodshed but Solomon is far from safe from this vicious drunk who exercises his reign of terror on his slaves and Solomon’s years of captivity become even more brutal and dangerous.

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