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235. Seppuku (Harakiri) (#32)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Chris Lavery and Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This week, Masaki Kobayashi’s Seppuku.

It is a peaceful time in Japan. The samurai class have largely been rendered obsolete, with many veterans struggling to feed themselves or their families. A former samurai arrives at the estate of the powerful Iyi Clan, requesting to commit ritual suicide before them. He is the second such wanderer in so many days. However, nobody can expect what will follow.

At time of recording, it was ranked 32nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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235. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) – Ani-May 2021 (#28)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Deirdre Molumby, Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of the last two anime movies on the list, Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime and Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.

This week, the second part of the double bill, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, perhaps Miyazaki’s breakthrough to western audiences.

Chihiro is moving to a new town and a new school. Her parents take a detour down a dirt road and stumble across a mysterious abandoned theme park. Chihiro quickly finds herself trapped in a weird world of spirits, witches and dragons. She needs to learn to navigate this mysterious setting and maybe find a way home.

At time of recording, it was ranked 28th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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234. Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) – Ani-May 2021 (#69)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Deirdre Molumby, Graham Day and Bríd Martin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of the last two anime movies on the list, Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime and Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.

This week, the first part of the double bill, Mononoke-hime, the last film before Miyazaki’s first announced retirement.

A freak demon attack disturbs the peace of a remote village, and places a curse on a young prince. The hero must venture into the larger world in search of a cure, and quickly finds himself embroiled in a struggle between industrialisation and nature, between city and forest, between man and god.

At time of recording, it was ranked 69th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! On “Die Hard” as a Christmas Movie…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

It’s not the 8th of January yet, so it still seems like an appropriate time for Christmas movie discussion. As such, I took a look at one of the great film debates of our time: whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

New Escapist Column! Twenty Years Later, “Battle Royale” Still Stands Apart…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. Because Battle Royale is twenty years old this month, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at the iconic Japanese film.

In the years since the release of Battle Royale, there has been an explosion of dystopian young adult fiction based around similar premises: the idea of children forced to kill other children to survive. There are plenty of examples of this subgenre, most notably The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. However, Battle Royale has aged better than these other films for two core reasons. First of all, it acknowledges the horror of its premise, rather than sanitising it. Second of all, it understands that this social decay is perhaps more mundane than sensationalist.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

185. Kumonosu-jō (Throne of Blood) – This Just In/World Tour 2020 (#245)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Chris Lavery, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Akira Kurosawa’s Kumonosu-jō.

War rages across feudal Japan. Tsuzuki has finally managed to subdue the latest insurrection against his rule. Journeying through Cobweb Forest, victorious generals Washizu and Miki stumble across a strange woman, who offers a prophecy that augers great and terrible things for the two men. Promised the throne, can Washizu resist the lure and temptation of power? More to the point, what terrible things will he do to procure such power?

At time of recording, it was ranked 245th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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183. Koe no katachi (A Silent Voice) – This Just In/Ani-May 2020 (—)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guest Graham Day, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime May, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of Hayao Miyazaki’s Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta and Hauru no ugoku shiro. We’ll also be covering a bonus on a recent entry on the list next week, Naoko Yamada’s Koe no katachi.

This week, the third and final installment of this year’s Ani-May, Koe no katachi.

Teenager Shoya Ishida finds himself haunted by guilt over his merciless bullying of his deaf classmate Shoko Nishimiya six years earlier. Coming back from a suicide attempt, Shoyo makes an awkward attempt to reconnect and reconcile with Shoko, but are either of them prepared for the strong emotions that this reunion will provoke and the consequences that it will have for their friends and their families?

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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140. Sanjuro – This Just In (#–)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guest Chris Lavery, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Akira Kurusawa’s Sanjuro.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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127. Akira – Anime April 2019 (#249)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and with special guests Graham Day and Marianne Cassidy, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This year, we are proud to continue the tradition of Anime April, a fortnight looking at two of the animated Japanese films on the list. This year, we watched a double feature of Hayao Miyazaki’s Kaze no tani no Naushika and Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s Akira.

This week, the first part of the double bill, Akira, set in the then-distant future of 2019.

In the streets of Neo-Tokyo, an entire generation is left to fend for itself. Against a backdrop of reckless violence and urban chaos, as the city seems ready to burn to the ground around them, teenagers Tetsuo and Kaneda have forged a friendship rooted in desperation and necessity. However, everything changes when Tetsuo has a fleeting encounter with a strange child, and opens doors to possibilities that were previously unimaginable.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 216th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Not So Super, Hero: What Modern Superhero Blockbusters Could Learn From “Akira”…

This Saturday, as part of the annual “Anime April”, I’ll be discussing Akira on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first. You can listen to last week’s episode on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind here. You can listen to our episode on Akira here.

Akira is a startlingly influential film.

Even if a person hasn’t seen Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated masterpiece, they have undoubtedly felt its influence rippling through popular culture in various media. In music, Kanye West cites it as his “biggest creative inspiration”, to the point that his video for Stronger is almost a shot-for-shot remake. Rian Johnson has cited Akira as a major influence on his own Looper. Josh Trank and Max Landis’ Chronicle has a number of obvious similarities to Akira. Even outside of these direct references, individual elements of the film continue to have an outsized influence on American popular culture. The iconic red bike pops up in Ready Player One. Even individual shots have been mimicked and imitated, such as the fantastic “Akira bike slide” from early in the film.

Inevitably, there has been much talk of a potential Americanised remake of Akira. After all, there have been other big-budget live action adaptations of cult Japanese projects like Ghost in the Shell or Alita: Battle Angel, and so it is surprising it has taken so long. There were rumours of an adaptation by Albert Hughes that might star Morgan Freeman. (James Franco might have headlined.) More recently, Jordan Peele declined the invitation to direct the adaptation, despite his affection for the source material. The most recent rumours suggested that Leonardo DiCaprio might be producing a version directed by Taika Waititi, which would shift the action from Neo-Tokyo to Neo-Manhattan. There were other significant changes made to the source story.

There are a variety of reasons why Akira has been so difficult to adapt. Most optimistically, it may simply be a case that so much of what made the original film iconic has already been filtered through to audiences in the movies indebted to it, like Looper or Chronicle; this is the challenge adapting John Carter of Mars following the success of films like Star Wars or Flash Gordon. More pragmatically, Akira is a story rooted in a very specific cultural context. It is not an American story, it is a story anchored very specifically in eighties Japan. Of course, this is not necessarily a problem; samurai films like Shichinin no Samurai or Yojimbo could be reworked for American audiences as cowboy films, their cultural context shifted in the journey across the Pacific. Still, it is a challenge.

However, this challenge of cultural translation suggests one of the fundamental issues with adapting Akira for American audiences. It is hard to define Akira in terms of a single genre; it is a coming of age science-fiction deconstruction of masculinity infused with a psychedelic sensibility. However, in terms of visual style and narrative flow, the movie’s closest relatives in contemporary American cinema are superhero films. Superheroes are, after all, the dominant American cinematic mode of the twenty-first-century to date. Indeed, a modern audience approaching Akira might be tempted to read it in the context of that genre. If Chronicle is to be considered “the American Akira”, it is notable that it uses the language of the superhero genre to translate the story.

However, there is something fundamentally different about the way in which Akira approaches the idea of the superhero figure as compared to mainstream superhero films, and this difference might demonstrate why an adaptation of Akira for American cinema might pose such a challenge.

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