It was only during the brief period of respite between these two posts that I suddenly felt the weight of having a top ten list of “best x of all time.” After posting yesterday’s entries, I felt some hesitation, and perhaps some regret, that, having locked these titles into their places, I wouldn’t be able to change my mind afterwards. I had set my opinions in stone, and that those selections would be my true feelings at the time.
And then I realized the meaning behind the clause of “at the time.” I could always make another list at a later date. I could make a hundred lists in the next hundred days, and each individual moment that I felt particular ways about particular things would have just as much weight as the next. It took my writing of part II of this post that I came to terms about not only the flexibility of having such a list, but how the evolution of that list over time reflects my own changes as a fan of both film and anime.
Without the pressure to live up to my own expectations of producing a list that I can take pride in, I believe that I can express my feelings about these movies without any sort of restraint, letting my emotions and experiences regarding these movies come out and explain why these particular films belong in the recesses of my heart.
After all, it’s entertainment. It’s a wonderful thing, ain’t it?
5. Summer Wars
Please tell me you didn’t break the Internet.
When talking about Miyazaki’s works during Spirited Away’s entry on this list, I spoke about how his storytelling, messages and meanings don’t mesh well with my own. He speaks with a philosophy and air that is far different from the way I conduct myself in everyday life, and somehow, it makes me feel that I am unable to understand and fully appreciate his films as a result.
Fortunately, the same cannot be said about Summer Wars.
This movie represents everything relevant about me. It reaches to me in so many different ways, and re-affirms everything that I hold dear to my heart in life.
It teaches that the love you get from family is the ultimate nourishment in life, no matter how big or how small that family may be. It teaches the wonders of the Internet and how it brings everyone together, and even makes people bigger and better than they normally would in real life. It teaches that when you have a gift, you have to do what you can with it in order to help others in their time of need, even if they wouldn’t appreciate it. It teaches that if there’s someone you like, you have to follow your heart and do what you can to get her.
I’ve only seen this movie once, and yet in my first and only viewing, the film spoke out to me, revealing everything that I had already known. And it did so with a very well-structured plot and fantastic writing, despite not providing anything particularly original. It’s a fine example of using tropes as tools, and weaving everything together to make a fantastic package of entertainment. You wouldn’t even know that it’s essentially the same plot as a Digimon movie.
For being the cinematic representation of everything I am as a person and writer, Summer Wars is number five on my list of favourite films of all time.
It seems you have quite a fondness for movies.
I would have used a different quote for this entry at number three, but the one I had in mind was already used as the post’s title. The first line spoken in Paprika, in all of its glorious engrish, sets the tone for what I believe to truly be an experience set apart from any of its predecessors. It may very well be Satoshi Kon’s last work, should the The Dream Machine remain in development hell. Regardless, I maintain the notion that Paprika is Satoshi Kon’s best work, though it isn’t necessarily my favourite (by process of elimination, my favourite Kon film is Millennium Actress, though its ranking remains to be seen!).
That said, there are so many different layers of storytelling and cinematography at work. Kon’s blending of illusion and reality is applied to dreams, and through various references to film and film genres in general, breaks the walls down between the maker and audience. It is truly a movie made for people who love movies, and yet it’s not even the main concept of the movie itself.
At the end of the day, the movie is primarily involved with dreams, and as a result, I can’t help but compare it to another movie that I absolutely love, Inception. There are so many ways to compare the two that I would very much rather put it in a post all by itself. To summarize my thoughts on it, the two are very different in their own ways, but through the directors’ individual styles, they perfectly capture the essence of dreaming, and make the most out of their respective mediums to maximize the audience’s immersion.
Inception ranks very highly on my list of favourite live-action cinemas, and in an unsurprising parallel, Paprika does the same thing. I’ve watched this movie many times, and each experience is always a bit different. Rest in peace, Mr. Kon. The anime industry will never be the same without you.
An invention with no philosophy behind it is a curse.
Sometimes, you have to look beyond the merits of what makes a movie well-done with regards to subjective criterion like writing, acting, music, and so forth, and simply judge it based on how you feel as a fan of a particular work or genre. At number three, Steamboy leaves behind all of its shortcomings, which include a rather dragged out and poorly structured story, and takes to the sky with its utterly amazing steampunk visuals and a wonderful (albeit very preachy) message about the value of science in society.
As a writer, I am obliged to acknowledge the ways that Steamboy falls slightly short of being a truly great film in its own right, regardless of genre. As a fan of steampunk, I am simply at a loss of words of how beautiful everything is. When I watch something like Steamboy, I am fully lost in the experience and feelings of the moment, and simply let go of everything I know about what makes good writing, and have fun.
Steamboy is nothing but fun. It plays to my tastes, and sets the tone like that of an amusement park of marvellous mechanical mayhem. It’s the ultimate escape, yet it keeps me grounded in the “reality” of the genre, that all the fanciest gadgets in the world come at the price of progress. The dynamics between the Steam family is intriguing, and the philosophies of science and steampunk are wonderfully explored. It certainly helps that the Patrick Stewart speech is given by a character dubbed in English by none other than Patrick Stewart himself.
From an outside perspective, Steamboy can be improved in so many ways from a writing and storytelling perspective, and yet I am more than happy to keep it that way. It provides a goal for me as a writer that I must reach for. With Steamboy, we are only brushing the surface of a very young genre, that there is somewhere that we can go as appreciators of the genre, and that the potential for greatness is as great as the minds of the inventors that we write.
For pushing me as far as I can with my imagination and enjoyment of the steampunk genre, Steamboy is my third favourite anime film of all time.
2. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Yuki N.> Ready?
It’s amazing how quickly time flies, and how much things change within that perceivably short duration. You wake up one day, and you’re watching a hilariously bad student-made movie called The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina, and wonder to yourself that this is the episode that started everything, the episode that kicked off the series that would change the landscape of anime for years to come.
And barely two weeks later, after watching the entirety of that series in its television format, you are treated to its crowning movie of awesome. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya greatly benefitted from being the exclamation point in the utterly chaotic and unforgettable experience that was Endless Summer, but combined with the fact that the movie by itself was nearly flawless, I have no qualms against listing Disappearance as number two.
There really isn’t anything that needs to be said about Disappearance. Its near universal acclaim speaks for itself. However, I really do must speak about my experience with Endless Summer. It was, without no need for embellishment, my absolute favourite anime watching experience ever.
A marathon of sorts, watching my daily Haruhi episodes for two weeks straight to finish off the summer was both gruesome in its scheduling demands as well as rewarding. I never missed a day, even when things were absolutely busy. Throughout those two weeks, things got in the way, including birthday parties, overtime at work, and dinners with friends. I went so far as to download episodes onto my netbook using my smartphone as a wi-fi hotspot, and watching the show on skype with the other viewers, while riding in the back seat of an SUV, barreling down the highway at 130 kilometres an hour.
All of that just to watch the same episode of Endless Eight. Twice.
There is no pain without reward, and the hoops that I had to jump through only added to the experience of it all. To conclude this entire experience with watching the movie, a wonderful, wonderful movie, it’s something that seems to only happen once in a lifetime. It’s now part of an annual event.
For being the best thing to ever happen to the Standing Committee for the Coordination of Simultaneous Anime Viewing, and for possibly being the most prominent movie in anime culture today, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya proudly stands as number two on my list of favourite movies of all time.
1. Millennium Actress
I’ll show you that starry, starry sky, like I promised I would.
Let me tell you a story of love.
In my second year of university, I sat beside a girl in my chemistry class, the first class of the week. It turned out that this particular girl was in a lot of the same courses as I was, even though we were in slightly different majors. We sat beside each other a lot, and became what one would call close classmates. We’d study together, share notes, ask each other questions, and whatnot. The relationship was very academic.
By the time the snow had fallen down on my city for the first time that year, she started to have difficulty coping with winters in Canada, as she was an exchange student from China (communication was no issue, she spoke fluent and elegant english). Living in a dormitory and having to bus around for basic necessities like groceries were a pain. She asked me for help, and I started driving her around and shopping around with her, and we’d spend time with each other outside of our studies.
One weekend, during one of her planned grocery store trips, I suggested that we make dinner afterwards and watch a movie. Had I known the apple curry recipe that I know now, I probably would have done that, but I ended up making filipino cuisine. We cooked it together, having numerous exchanges such as a hilariously cute argument involving the overusage of onions. That girl, she just wouldn’t listen. I told her not to put all of it in! It still slightly annoys me a bit thinking about it now!
Anyways, dinner was made. It was eaten together in her dorm’s common room. We talked a bit more, and moved on to watching a movie. In exchange for teaching her the recipe to my meal, I was given the opportunity to choose any movie for the two of us to watch. I chose Millennium Actress.
It was a fantastic movie. It had a girl in it named Chiyoko, and she spent her entire life chasing after the man she loved. It was heartfelt. It was bittersweet. It was a masterpiece in cinematography and genre-busting storytelling.
It was the movie that brought the two of us together into a relationship that would last until the day she had to go back home to China. When she left, she cut off all ties with me. She changed e-mail addresses. She deleted her facebook. Perhaps it was because trying to stay in touch would be too much for either of us to bear, so she completely disappeared from my life, just like the faceless man from the movie.
I don’t know where she is now, or what she is doing. Sometimes I wonder if I should be like Chiyoko and chase after her, fly to China, and hope I run into her. Maybe it was the movie that told me not to. Regardless of what happened to either of us afterwards, there’s no doubt in my mind that the movie forever changed my life, quite easily for the better. It is a masterpiece in its own right, and it’s a masterpiece in my heart.
Millennium Actress is my favourite anime movie of all time.