3 Best Movies to Watch by Mari Natsuki

Staff & contributors

Frequently considered one of the greatest animated movies of all times, and certainly the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, Spirited Away is Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at their very best. It was also the first non-English animation movie to win an Oscar. On the surface, it's a film about a Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned theme park with her parents. In a creepy spiritual world full of Shinto folklore spirits, she sees all kinds of magic and fantastic creatures, while having to find a way to save her parents and escape. In addition to the adventure, the coming-of-age theme, and the motifs of ancient Japanese lore, the film can also be understood as a critique of the Western influence on Japanese culture and the struggle for identity in the wake of the 1990s economic crisis. A deep, fast-paced, and hypnotizing journey.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Akiko Tomihira, Akio Nakamura, Bob Bergen, Bunta Sugawara, Daveigh Chase, David Ogden Stiers, Hayashikoba, Hiromi Takeuchi, Ikuko Yamamoto, Jack Angel, Jason Marsden, Jim Ward, John Ratzenberger, Kaori Yamagata, Katsutomo Shîbara, Kazutaka Hayashida, Keiko Tsukamoto, Ken Yasuda, Koba Hayashi, Lauren Holly, Mari Natsuki, Masayuki Kizu, Mayumi Saco, Michael Chiklis, Michiko Yamamoto, Mina Meguro, Minako Masuda, Miyu Irino, Naoto Kaji, Noriko Kitou, Orika Ono, Paul Eiding, Rina Yamada, Rodger Bumpass, Rumi Hiiragi, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shigeru Wakita, Shigeyuki Totsugi, Shinobu Katabuchi, Shiro Saito, Shirou Saitou, Sonoko Soeda, Susan Egan, Suzanne Pleshette, Takashi Naito, Takehiko Ono, Tara Strong, Tatsuya Gashuin, Tetsurô Ishibashi, Tsunehiko Kamijo, Tsuzuki Kayako, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yayoi Kazuki, Yo Oizumi, Yoko Ono, Yoshitaka Sukegawa, Yumi Tamai, 沢口靖子

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: PG

Isle of Dogs has all the hallmarks of a Wes Anderson picture—it's stylish, otherworldly, and deadpan hilarious. But the film is also uniquely its own thing, a stop-motion animation deeply and gorgeously immersed in Japanese history and lore. Instead of merely relegating culture in the background for mere aesthetic purposes (as Anderson has done in the past with The Darjeeling Limited), culture here plays a vital role in the adventure and overall plot of the film. It's up to the viewer to decide whether Isle of Dogs is a case of appropriation or appreciation, but what can't be denied is that this is a movie with a strong and unforgettable bite to it. 

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akira Takayama, Alex Orman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Chris Benz, Courtney B. Vance, Edward Norton, Elaiza Ikeda, Erica Dorn, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens, Frances McDormand, Frank Wood, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, Kara Hayward, Ken Watanabe, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Liev Schreiber, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Roman Coppola, Ryuhei Matsuda, Scarlett Johansson, Shota Matsuda, Taichi Kodama, Takayuki Yamada, Tilda Swinton, Yojiro Noda, Yoko Ono

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: PG-13

With a premise that just seems inherently emotionally manipulative, it should take an especially sensitive touch to make a story like this work on screen. Unfortunately, See Hear Love—itself based on a South Korean webcomic—is both overdramatic and not nearly stylized enough in any meaningful way to help its subject matter evolve beyond melodrama. It remains a well-shot and decently acted film that, at the very least, treats its characters as adults and not as caricatures with disabilities. But the movie makes little effort to place these characters in believable situations that should shed a light on what it's like to live with blindness or as a Deaf person. See Hear Love takes the easiest (and slowest) way out, bringing its two lovers together under somewhat creepy circumstances, and having them endure cartoonishly exploitative "antagonists"—all for the sake of portraying the romance as grand and artificially tragic.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Dai Watanabe, Daikichi Sugawara, Mahiro Takasugi, Maika Yamamoto, Mari Natsuki, Masaya Kato, Motoki Fukami, Sayaka Yamaguchi, Tomohisa Yamashita, Tomoki Kimura, Yuko Araki

Director: John H. Lee