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Monday, 31 March 2014

Crouka

Harrrrlooo.

Probably the biggest thing to have happened to me in the last couple of weeks since my last blog post was this little interview I did with one of the coolest people in the world, Japan's reigning princess of pop, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu!



I got the confirmation that Kyary would be accepting interview questions from media a week before her live show in Sydney so with the help of Tumblr's Kyary fanbase, I worked up a few quick and easy questions to ask her (I had already lost any hope of interviewing with her since I never got a reply so I really had to rush getting my questions in). I think the interview turned out quite well so do be nice and have a good read of it over at Meld Magazine, yeah?

(Shit, if I can score an interview with Kyary, my dream of interviewing Shiina Ringo isn't too far off, right? RIGHT?!)

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Speaking of the queen of Japan and queen of my heart, I recently acquired Shiina Ringo's latest live show which commemorates the Japanese singer's 15-year career. I really enjoyed the set she performed as everything was stripped down and had a more jazzy yet mellow vibe throughout (which is a welcome change considering the bombast of Tokyo Jihen's shows!). It reminded me a lot of her solo stuff after her Electric Mole live show, actually! Also yes, I made those GIFs above as part of a photoset on my Tumblr (follow me if you haven't nerds).

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Other than that though, I don't recall anything else of particular significance to have happened in the last several weeks. Most of my time has been spent playing games though (this includes my recent acquisition of the insanely addictive shooter, Titanfall) so a lot of last week was dedicated to catching up on movies as you'll soon see.

I finished Mass Effect 2 and am now starting the third and final entry into the series. It's been a pretty great ride so far (how did I not bother to start this earlier?!) and I feel a little reluctant to finish it. After this I'll be heading towards Ni no Kuni and will also start playing The Last Remnant which I had no idea was available on Steam until this past week when it was on sale.
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


NEBRASKA: While I certainly I enjoyed Alexander Payne's latest, Nebraska, I really didn't think that this simple and understated comedy/drama was big enough to contend as nominee in the Oscars race a while ago. It's a really lovely film, don't get me wrong, but I just think it's not that good to be in contention (Philomena, on the other hand, felt more deserving as the obligatory small-time crowd-pleaser). Great black and white photography and a nice little soundtrack all headed by a great cast of comedy veterans. Nebraska reminded me a fair bit of Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise actually.

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BAD NEIGHBOURS: Was fortunate enough to catch an advance screening of this and really enjoyed it. Seth Rogen and Zac Efron are great as the leads in the film but it's Rose Byrne, the queen of Australia and queen of my heart, who steals the show. Typically speaking, the wife in these types of films is normally given the sensible, smart and reasonable role of trophy housewife but Byrne's character in the film is as dumb and fool-hardy as Rogen's (example: suggesting that they roll a joint as a peace offering to the fraternity next door). There's also an unexpected deeper quality to the film that resonates too with Efron's character growing fearful of the future and the couple scared of becoming boring adults. Just good fun overall, go see it!

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THE RAID 2: Despite being a more violent film than the first, The Raid 2 isn't nearly as great as its predecessor. Sure, it's still a lot of fun and insanely violent but the original set the bar so high that it's almost hard to jump over. People watching it will definitely have "Remember that part when..." moments after the film but I felt that structurally it wasn't as tight as it could have been. The undercover plot, which seemed to be borrowed entirely from Infernal Affairs, doesn't even appear to be that much of a focal point in the film considering how much it tries to place emphasis on the warring gangs of Indonesia. Weak narrative aside, everything else the sequel accomplishes is balls-out crazy, with The Raid 2 featuring one of the most insane car chase scenes ever filmed (seriously the camera work they adopt in that scene blew my mind!). Now I'm gonna pretend like I know pencak silat.

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GODZILLA: In preparation for the upcoming remake/reboot/sequel of the same name coming out later this year, I watched this Japanese classic and was amazed to discover how terrifying the film actually is. Mind you, the effects have aged terribly - though it still does possess a quaint charm about it - but the message and metaphor remains strong (that mankind is its own most dangerous enemy due to its capacity for destruction). Given that this was one of the first monster movies of its kind (if you count King Kong), I was a little underwhelmed by its structure and positioning of the actual monster though this is perhaps due to how formulaic/predictable monster movies have become now.

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WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL?: You know when you have those moments in a film where you're certain that this will be a film you'll be talking about to everyone everywhere? This is one of those films. In fact, Sion Sono has done this to me on several occassions now for better (Love Exposure) or for worse (Himizu) but his latest is an energetically riproaring work that trumps the likes of Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino in every which way. I'd really wish I'd seen this in a proper cinema but Why Don't You Play In Hell's effect was not lost on me even when I was seeing it at home. I haven't been floored by a Japanese film in a while and this was the perfect pick-me-up after a series of "mature" Japanese works. I loved this movie to bits and implore everyone to see this insane work of sheer brilliance.

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THE 47 RONIN: Oh boy, this was not what I expected. After being impressed by the Lone Wolf and Cub series a while ago, I thought The 47 Ronin, another Japanese classic, would follow suit but nope; it ended up being a pretty dreadful film altogether. It might be a legend in Japan but this particular telling of the story felt so long-winded and overarching that I couldn't care how the eventual revenge attack would look. Seven Samurai was also 3 hours long and did a far better job of telling a fantastic story with memorable characters and it was made years before this was released. Watch Seven Samurai or Takashi Miike's stellar, 13 Assassins instead.

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FISH STORY: Picked this film up as a blind buy mostly though truth be told I've been kinda wanting to see it for a while (the film store I tend to visit always has it on the shelf and no one ever bought it but I was lucky enough to find that it was on sale the other day and decided then and there to pick it up without looking too much into it). While I did enjoy parts of Fish Story, especially with how its narrative unfolded, I think a lot of its supposed charm was lost on me. I can't really explain why yet and maybe I'll have to see it again but I remember being a little apathetic towards it. Tough call. Weirdly reminded me of All About Lily Chou-Chou at certain points actually.

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PORCO ROSSO: A more mature work than some of Miyazaki's other films, Porco Rosso retains some of the whimsy found in Miyazaki's films though adds a flavour of realism that brings it closer to his latest/final film, The Wind Rises. Underrated for some, I thought Porco Rosso was an interesting feature though it didn't really hit it off with me until the film's hero opened up about himself to his mechanic partner, the feisty Fio. A lot of what makes Porco Rosso such a cool film though is its awareness of the 1920s which essentially turns this little film into something of a noir (Porco is projected as a Humphrey Bogart-type throughout!). Like the majority of Miyazaki's films though, not a strong enough conclusion to tie everything together here.

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TO THE WONDER: I really wish that the Blu-ray I bought was of better quality (and you would think that a Blu-ray transfer already means good quality, right?!). For a HD film, it wasn't nearly as sharp as you might think and really did feel like a DVD transfer at times (shocking considering it's a Terrence Malick film which means you want it to be as beautiful as you can!). Anyways, I felt like I enjoyed this a little more than The Tree of Life solely because Malick condenses his subject down to love which is less of a mind-screw than trying to find the meaning of life (or whatever it was that Malick toyed with in his previous film).

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A BAND CALLED DEATH: A film I really wanted to catch at MIFF last year! A Band Called Death tells the story of three black bothers who formed what the documentary considers to be the first punk band ever (predating The Sex Pistols or The Ramones!). The doco mostly focuses on the deceased member of the band, the spiritually inclined David, as he was the one who had the vision for their band, Death. It's a great story, very reminiscent of 2012 doco, Searching for Sugar Man though I felt this particularly documentary just looked too ordinary and never really felt all too special (at least not in the way that Searching for Sugar Man did).

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PUSSY RIOT - A PUNK PRAYER: I really enjoyed this film and was actually really surprised as to how much footage the filmmakers were able to acquire to build a really great narrative. For those who may not know, Pussy Riot, is a Rusian anti-establishment group who use punk rock music to vocally denounce the Russian government (you may have heard of them after their stunt at the recent Sochi Winter Olympics). They made headlines a few years back when they performed an impromptu, guerilla performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior where three of its members were arrested and detained by Russian authorities (the arrest and following trial serve as the backdrop of the film). The film provides great insight into the unfairly detained Pussy Riot members as well as the state of Russia under Vladimir Putin's regime and was a great watch for me.
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And that's all for today! Anyone here read my recent review for Petal Dance over at Japan Cinema? If you have then you'll know that I really enjoyed the movie and how much of a therapeutic movie it felt to me. Much of this had to do with Yoko Kanno's splendid music in the film so for your enjoyment, today's post title/song is from the Petal Dance soundtrack. Listen and love, ya'll. 


End post.

Monday, 10 March 2014

I Never Learn

Alright, alright, alright.

And here we are now in Autumn! JUST THREE MORE MONTHS UNTIL THE BEST SEASON OF THEM ALL: WINTER! 

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I got a new job recently working with ACMI (yes, the very place that I volunteered at for a long time!) and although it's a temporary role that'll only last six months (basically the duration of the new exhibition coming up), I'm pretty damn happy about it! Haven't started yet though. Now that I've got two casual gigs, I'm gonna have to learn how to juggle between the two.

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Got called in to donate blood the other day and instead of feeling woozy after donating, I instead decided to splurge. I rarely go out of my way to spend money (even though I'm not really saving towards anything) so I'm gonna chalk this up to poor decision making from blood loss. I needed new clothes anyway. The Blu-rays on the other hand? Not so much. I don't even know if To The Wonder was a good choice to have made but ah well. 

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Saw Dave Chappelle perform live at the Palais Theatre in St KIlda! What a great show that was, I couldn't stop laughing from all his jokes. I'd really love to see him again whenever he decides to come to Australia again (OR MAYBE I CAN COME TO HIM). Ugh, he's a genius of a comedian but he also smokes way too much (he finished a deck halfway into the show!).

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I've also caved in and joined the cult of Instagram! Don't expect too much from me there though. If anyone wishes to follow me, you can find me as @electrichieu. Do it! 

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Haven't spent too much time watching films (just television shows currently airing at the moment + WRASSLIN') lately as I've put my energy into finally playing the Mass Effect series of games. Finished the first game the other night and found myself quite enjoying it despite its shortcomings. Currently playing the second one and am enjoying it much more than the first game though I do miss the heavy RPG elements of the first. Solid stuff though. 

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Okay, I'll try to keep my post-Oscars thoughts short here. I thought Ellen Degeneres hosting a second time was decent but also painful at times cause she couldn't even get through the teleprompter a lot. She did bring a bit of fun though if only for that Twitter-breaking 'selfie' (which just had to crash Twitter as Lupita Nyong'o was giving her glorious speech). 


Speaking of Lupita, how amazing was she that evening? Her dress, her speech, HER EVERYTHING (talk about an actual Disney princess, wow). One of the most deserved wins of the evening. Matthew McConaughey winning was a bit of a shock to me only cause I felt so sure it would either be Chiwetel Ejiofor or Leonardo DiCaprio. I liked McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club but think the latter two were much more powerful/memorable, especially Ejiofor. At least 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture and not a film that didn't deserve to - easily the best American film of 2013. 
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


TORSO + PETAL DANCE: Before you mosey on down to my thoughts on some of the films I caught at the cinemas, head on over to Japan Cinema to read my reviews for Yutaka Yamazaki's film, Torso, and Hiroshi Ishikawa's latest film, Petal Dance. Yamazaki is the long-time cinematographer of my favourite director working today, Hirokazu Koreeda, while Ishikawa has made films primarily putting women as the focus of his films. Both have interesting visions and while I did have a few problems with both directors' films (moreso with Yamazaki than Ishikawa) I still think they're fairly worthwhile viewings. 

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A TOUCH OF SIN: Was meant to have seen A Touch of Sin last year at MIFF but got the chance to see it during its season at ACMI. Wasn't really a huge fan of the film, I thought that whille some segments worked, others were lacking. It's also excruciatingly slow and quite an exhausting film to get through with one particular segment that could have been cut out altogether and the film's message (if there was even one to take away from it?) would have remained intact. For all its hype, A Touch of Sin, feels like blatantly cheap attempt of making a Kim Ki-duk film. Avoid. 

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BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR: It's been the subject of scrutiny ever since it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes but is Blue is the Warmest Colour a good film? I enjoyed it but perhaps not nearly as much as everyone else it seems. I really enjoyed Adele Exarchoupolos and Lea Seydoux's performances as the two dynamite actresses radiate with their furors of love. Despite being three hours, I really could have stayed for more cause Exarchoupolos just carried that movie like a troop. My problems stem with the nature of the relationship between their characters as it seems that their bond is built not out of love but out of sex which is really what dictates their relationship (and that seems to be what director Abdellatif Kechiche infers). Happy Together was a better movie.

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THE WIND RISES: You know how most of the world loves Hayao Miyazaki and believe he can do no wrong? Well he can and it comes in the form of his latest, The Wind Rises. While I went into the film not expecting the whimsy of his previous films (this is, after all a movie based on a real person) I didn't expect it to be awfully dry. In fact, it's so reminiscent to many other painfully average Japanese biopics that there really isn't much to separate Miyazaki's own from the many mediocre Japanese biopics out there. Oddly enough, the first half of the film is its most interesting. The second half? Not so much (forced romances almost never work in movies man, come on!). Disappointed. 
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This week's blog post title is courtesy of Lykke Li and her brand new album, "I Never Learn", which comes out in May! I'm fairly sure the song I've embedded is the title track off the album but if not then no matter. Judging from this as well as the first single from the new album, "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone", I expect to hear a really moodily rich album that SPEAKS TO MY SOUL. So, so good. Have both songs today! 



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