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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Blue Light Yokohama

Howdy.

I dunno what happened in the last nine or so hours but it did not feel like I slept at all last night. I blame it on work - I came home from work at 1.30AM with a pounding headache. Worst. Oh and last night I DREAMT I WAS STILL AT WORK, so that really didn't help my case either.

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I didn't really get up to much this week other the usual - consumption of games, films, television shows etc. The only mildly fun thing that happened was going to my friend's apartment on Wednesday to have a home-cooked dinner with some friends. After dinner, one of my mates and I ended up playing Super Smash Bros on the Nintendo 64 for the longest time. If anything, it makes me want to get a GameCube and/or Wii so that I can play Smash at home along with a bunch of other fantastic Nintendo titles. Actually, I just really want to own Nintendo products now... Shopping spree, here I come!

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Madman announced that they'll be running the Reel Anime again this year! The last time they ran the film festival was in 2010 where they had showings of "Evangelion 2.0" and "Summer Wars", two of my favourite films of that year. This year, they'll be screening four excellent films, two of which I have been super excited for. The films that will be screening include, "From Up On Poppy Hill" directed by Goro Miyazaki, "The Wolf Children" directed by Mamoru Hosoda, "Children Who Chase Lost Voices" directed by Makoto Shinkai and "Beserk: The Egg of the King". If you're in Melbourne, Reel Anime 2012 will be screening sometime in September (date yet to be confirmed) and they'll most likely hold it at the Cinema Nova in Carlton. 


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Speaking of anime, I started watching "Welcome to the NHK". Really, really bizarre anime about a guy who has shut himself away in his apartment for four years, believing that a conspiracy has been made against him to become a hikikomori until one day he encounters a girl who says she can help him overcome his hikikomori status. I'm ten episodes in and everything that has happened is so strange yet so interesting. In some ways, this show compliments "Eden of the East" albiet with a lot more humour and less action. It's an outrageous anime but I'm really digging it right now. 


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Oh and I finished "Chrono Trigger" this week and am now playing the spirital sequel, "Chrono Cross". Really enjoyed "Chrono Trigger" even if it did fee a bit too easy for a JRPG. Still, its a hugely enjoyable game and I'd be really keen to try it out again to get a different ending. "Chrono Cross" is a bit more difficult in that there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the battle system. It seems really deep and intricate which I would presume makes strategy and gameplay all the more engrossing but right now I'm only two hours into it and haven't truly exploited the gameplay mechanics just yet. Also, despite only being two hours in, I'm already in love with the soundtrack. I'd download it but those soundtracks usually have some spoiler-y titles for each track so I'll hold off on that until I manage to finish the game itself. 


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Also, does anyone actually like my new banner? I'm pretty happy with it, I mean its something different (the Game of Thrones one I had for almost a year or so, I think). Anyways yeah, lemme know what you think. 
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

This week, I managed to finish my Takeshi Kitano boxset that I bought a while back and managed to pretty much be up to date with all of Hirokazu Kore-eda's feature films, with the exception of "I Wish" which I have planned to watch at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival instead of seeing it at home (which would make it my first Kore-eda film on the big screen!). That said, this week I watched, "Hana", "Boiling Point", "Still Walking" and "Sonatine".


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Of all of Hirokazu Kore-eda's films, "Hana" is probably the most unfamiliar and unlike the rest of his films. Consequently, this also makes "Hana" the filmmaker's least accessible films which inevitably renders it into a state of mediocrity. Unlike his other films where there seems to be a clear focus and even if the story does veer off into other areas (such as in "Air Doll"), "Hana" doesn't have that much going for it. It's a simple samurai picture done in the minimalistic, low-key style of Yoji Yamada's much more powerful and poignant "The Twilight Samurai" but Kore-eda trades in "The Twilight Samurai's" bravura and drama for a more family-oriented and humourful film. Gone are Kore-eda's fascination with loss, grief and death. Kore-eda instead focuses on period-specific nuances such as duty, familial pride and honour. There's a fun side story involving a group of men who hide out in the rundown town that the characters of "Hana" reside in who turn out to be part of the historic "47 Ronin". I guess I was bound to encounter a bad Kore-eda film at some point but I wasn't expecting "Hana" to be as disappointing considering his almost perfect track record. 




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When "Violent Cop" was made, a lot of the Japanese public couldn't shake the concept of funnyman Takeshi Kitano out of their heads and every time he appeared on screen, people laughed not because of what his character was doing but just cause it was him and they couldn't take him seriously. It upset Kitano so much that he reacted by creating, "Boiling Point". It should be noted that "Boiling Point" is the first film that Kitano wrote and directed (he only re-wrote "Violent Cop" from an already existing script) so its the first film to really have his authorship over it and for that its something to really appreciate. The shots that Kitano experimented with (framing his characters off centre as talking heads with plenty of negative space around them) Having said that though, "Boiling Point" is probably one of his most bizarre and alienating films (at least of the ones that I've seen). The film isn't all that great from my point of view - the story's a complete mess and the characters are all generally uninteresting. It also doesn't help that much of the acting is largely poor, save for Kitano who just so happens to play one of the most despicable and unlikable characters he's ever played - a gangster who sodomises and rapes women at his own pleasure. It's a hard film to sit through and I'm not sure I could ever come back to it again.


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"Still Walking" is the film that Westerner's speak a lot of when it comes to Hirokazu Kore-eda. To date, it is the only film of his that has actually been picked up by the prestigious Criterion Collection and while there are DVDs of his earlier films, including "After Life" and "Maboroshi no hikari" that have floated around in the Western world, they have largely gone unnoticed by a lot of film goers which is disappointing as Kore-eda has established himself as a talented director whose observations on life and death are exemplified with touching sincerity. Roger Ebert himself has dubbed Kore-eda the natural heir to Yasujiro Ozu, a Japanese director in the 1950s and 1960s who established himself as one of Japan's elite directors for his "home dramas". "Still Walking" is a fantastic film about a family who have come together to honour the memory of a loved one who passed away fifteen years prior. The film shares many similarities to "Distance" but the subject matter here is more concentrated and the situation more isolated than in "Distance". And while there are many times where the film could have fallen into the potential traps that family dramas such as this fall into (usually climaxing with a massive argument between the family), Kore-eda instead breaks down the escalating drama into bit increments throughout the film giving it constant life throughout. Kore-eda presents his subjects as they are and shows his characters' best and worst traits. No one in the world is perfect, not even the most amiable of us and the death of a loved one can change our perspective on a lot of things and how we treat others. "Still Walking" is a master work of filmmaking and ranks as one of the director's best films, if not the best. A subtle mediation of the Japanese family, loss and grief - a powerful film in the most minimal way possible. Richly rewarding.


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"Sonatine" is the film that really got international audiences turning their eyes on him. The film is about a gangster who is asked to head down to Okinawa to settle a gang war but ends up laying low at a beach house until talks between both gangs settle down. Tired with his gangster lifestyle, he ends up enjoying what ever time he has left. "Sonatine" takes a step back, looks at the yakuza/gangster film from afar and the meaning of it. You can have all the "Crows Zero" films in the world but for all of violence and action in those films they'll never amount to the level of depth and nuance to which "Sonatine" attains. Death is constantly following Murakawa, the gangster that Kitano plays but he has learned to not be afraid of it and he embraces death as a welcome way to end his tired life as a gangster. All the flash and spectacle of being a gangster is disillusioned by the way in which the violence itself is displayed with Kitano's signature style - sudden, random and all over in a matter of seconds. In some ways, you could interpret this as being a metaphor for Kitano being tired with having to prove himself as a serious filmmaker/actor and trying to overcome his comedic roots. That said though, I was hoping to come away with an amazing film in "Sonatine" and while I most definitely enjoyed it and saw the intelligence behind it, I felt it was underwhelming even when compared to "Violent Cop", despite all of that film's flaws. The last three Kitano films I've seen have been rather underwhelming which is disappointing. Here's hoping when I finally do get around to watching "Hana-bi" that it all changes. "Dolls" is still my favourite Kitano film though simply cause it's un-Kitano like.

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS

Just trailers for this post so pick and choose which ones you'd wanna check out. Trailers included here are for "Taken 2", "Dredd" and "Monsters University". Now... go!



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And that ends this post. Today's title is brought to you by Ayumi Ishida, a song from the late 60s (?) that was included in the film, "Still Walking". I liked it. I dunno. Anyways go watch "Still Walking". For real.


End post.

7 comments:

  1. You ever seen Redline? It was at the last Reel Anime. Every facet of it is hyperactive, mental, in-your-face, and completely over-the-top. I absolutely love it! A film to be experienced, rather than examined.

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    1. I never saw Redline at Reel Anime 2010, the only films I saw there were Evangelion 2.0 and Summer Wars! I've heard good things about it though and I love the fact that WE were the first place to screen the film (or was that King of Thorns?)

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    2. I was watching some of the special features on Blu-ray and I'm pretty sure they premièred Redline in Japan. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the film, turning the sound on your TV right up (the soundtrack is EXCELLENT!) and just letting go. This film is the very definition of style over substance.

      Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2H_FsmxWzc

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    3. So yeah, must have been King of Thorns, the only film from that year I haven't seen yet.

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    4. Hi Hieu,

      Been looking for an email address to contact you, but doesn't seem to be one.

      I've been reading through your blog and just wanted to say that I was enjoying it. I noticed that you post a bit about films we've released or are releasing.

      If you're interested, we can add you to our media list for preview/review samples, media screenings, etc. We could start off with Redline!

      If this sounds good, feel free to drop me a line at info@madman.com.au with a subject line "Att: Ben Pollock".

      Regards,
      Ben Pollock
      Publicity Manager
      Madman Entertainment

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  2. ^sounds like an awesome perk. are you gonna take it up hieu? be crazy not to :]

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    1. I have! I contacted him and am waiting for a reply. Thanks for your concern, Anon.

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