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© Yoshitoki Ōima, KODANSHA/A SILENT VOICE The Movie Production Committee silentvoice-016.jpg

'A Silent Voice': Children Of Lesser Gods

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A gorgeous adaptation of the acclaimed manga, and a story with a hard moral question: Who gets to be redeemed?

© 1957 Nikkatsu Corp. Ltd. s1.jpg

'Bakumatsu Taiyōden'/'Sun In The Last Days Of The Shogunate': Grifter's Paradise

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All but unseen by Western audiences, this breezy, bracing 1957 comedy cross-sections Japanese society at a turning point, for both fast laughs and wise insights

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'Like The Clouds, Like The Wind': From Country Girl To First Concubine

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A real treat: a made-for-TV historical fantasy, by way of some Studio Ghibli regulars, that starts lighthearted and in time becomes genuinely ambitious

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© 1979 Toho / Film Link International B0002L4CNI-000.jpg

'The Man Who Stole The Sun': I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Now What?

Almost forty years later, this jet-black comedy about a one-man nuclear terrorist ring remains an absurdist masterwork

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This essay originally appeared in a slightly different form at Genji Press.

When Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb appeared in theaters, there were more than a few critics who hated the movie on principle; after all, nuclear war was nothing any sane person could laugh at. Except, of course, that black humor and comedy are precisely how people have always dealt with the cruelest and most horrible of subjects. Today, complaining about Dr. Strangelove seems almost quaint—perhaps not so much a sign that we are desensitized to the whole apocalypse thing (when does the end of the world ever really stop being scary?) as that we have stopped wasting time with silly grousing about art being in bad taste.

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'Mishima': The Art Of His Life

Maybe it could only take someone from outside Japan, like director Paul Schrader, to make an insightful movie about one of Japan's most divisive and fascinating figures

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Here is a work of art, a great one even, about a man who tried to make himself into a work of art — but perhaps not a great one, and at the cost of no small part of his humanity. Yukio Mishima was not content merely to be a post-WWII literary figure of Norman Mailer-esque proportions: novelist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, cultural gadfly, social butterfly. He wanted to carve himself into the cultural consciousness of the world or die trying. He achieved both.

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© 1985 The M Film Company mishima-101.jpg
© 2017 M.F.P. mary-ponoc-00.jpg

'Mary And The Witch's Flower': From Neo-Ghibli, A Quasi-Kiki

The freshman effort from ex-Ghibli creators Studio Ponoc at first seems like a riff on 'Kiki's Delivery Service' or 'Harry Potter' territory, but has morality rather than magic on its mind

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It helps to talk about Mary And The Witch's Flower, from an ex-Studio Ghibli outfit named Studio Ponoc, by way of its two most likely potential audiences: kids and parents generally, and people specifically looking for a Studio Ghibli-related product. The first group will be quite happy; this is a sprightly, diverting, lavish-looking movie with an intriguing moral undertone. Group #2 will be counting off on their fingers the number of outward references, aesthetic and explicit, to both other Ghibli productions and other anime. But while this movie doesn't break ground aesthetically, it breaks rank with other stories in its vein aimed at young viewers, and reminds us that the best magic of all is the most commonplace kind that exists between friends and beloveds.

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