For the last week I've been watching episodes of Sports Night
and I finally finished watching today. Sports Night is by far the smartest half-hour series I've seen on network television. The cinematography is great, I love the characters, and the situations are pretty original. The dialogue gets a bit predictable, but to me that kind of bantering style is my dream world. So go check it out!
Watching Sports Night got me to think about all the other moving picture shows that I like. I realized that many of my choices aren't really mainstream, and might be worth a shout out for. So I'll go list off some of my favorite movies, and television shows of all time.Apollo 13
is the first movie that comes to mind. Definitely the most commercial/Hollywood of all my selections. But my fascination with the pre-shuttle space program is immense, this, combined with my appreciation of Tom Hanks keeps this movie close to my heart.
For the same reasons the HBO mini series From the Earth to the Moon
is also a personal favorite. From the Earth to the Moon is illuminates many points about the Apollo program that are often unknown to the general public. While some episodes aren't as good (the last one in particular) the series is still solid. Unfortunately it seems I left one of the discs in my PS2 back in Montreal.
The next set of movies near and dear to my heart are two Studio Ghibli films directed by Isao Takahata (高畑勲). Grave of the Fireflies
(蛍の墓) is perhaps the most touching film I've ever seen, and the only film that still makes me cry to this day. Grave of the Fireflies illustrates the horrors of war in a way that just isn't possible in live action. When people dismiss (Japanese) animation as a superficial medium for kiddie stories, I simply point to this film.
The other Takahata film I've seen, Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko
(平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ), is also a favorite for a whole different reason. Pompoko deals with a band of tanuki (an animal close to a raccoon) trying their best to oppose the urbanization of their forest during the great expansion of Tokyo. While using the mythical/ancient powers of the tanuki, Pompoko also explores many issues facing modern Japan. Although very humorous, the issues are dealt with very well and makes the film that much more weighty. Too bad Disney, who hold the North American rights, will never release it here. The film contains too many culture specific jokes to be viable on this side of the pond.
My favorite animated television show of all time has to be Patlabor
(機動警察パトレイバー) is a often overlooked anime series, as it fails to fit into any of the typical anime genres. While ostensibly a robot anime, it's actually more of an office drama dealing with people who work with robots. The focus is on the humans not the robots. Unlike many robot shows Patlabor's alternate reality is very similar to our, making many of the situations very relatable. The episodes range from over the top comedy to very serious drama. The only reason I ever bought this series is because I remember watching it in Japan in 1989. The only thing I remembered was the end credits, but it made enough of an impact. I would recommend all of the Patlabor spinoffs except the last movie (Minipato not included).
The newest work to make my favorites list is Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation
. While many people call Lost in Translation overrated, I would say that they don't get the point. Lost in Translation isn't really about telling a story, it's about conveying a state of mind. Foreigner (myself included) who's ever found themselves in Tokyo immediately understand what Bob experiencing. The emotions are genuine, and are conveyed without too much dialogue. The soundtrack of the film is also quite nice. It's too bad movies have gotten to the point that many people don't 'get' this film.
Another TV show that probably never got enough attention was Newsradio
. Newsradio was a great character driven comedy with smart writing and chemistry. Each character was very distinct (unlike say Friends) and played off each other very well (also unlike Friends). While Dave Foley (one of my favorite actors) is often considered the main character, the show never focuses undue attention on him. Due to the death of Phil Hartman, the last season isn't as strong, but overall Newsradio kicked ass. While it may not be as smart as Sports Night, the humor employed in Newsradio was very unique and hilarious.The Kids in the Hall
is the bastard child of sketch comedy shows. I still can't believe that the CBC aired this stuff. I remember sneaking out of my room late at night and watching the show. At the time (mid-90's) I probably only got a fraction of the humor, but it made a impression. While some of the sketches are plain random and defy explanation, looking back you realize that the Kids deal with some hefty issues. Some of the topic covered include family, relationships, sex, the business world, media, homosexuality, death and so much more. Definitely better than SNL.
I'm sure I'll think of other things as soon as I post this list, but I think the last film I'll mention is Mumford
. Mumford is definitely a movie with some glaring holes, but it's quirky film that does a lot of things most films won't do. While the trailers make the film seem cute and innocent, Mumford is actually a lot darker and deeper. It's film worth catching, even if it has flaws it isn't cookie cutter. What can I say? I'm just a sucker for quirky cute original stuff.
I definitely missed a lot of works that have a special place in my heart, and maybe I'll write another list another day.