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I am stressing out over RL stuff so I watched episode 1 of Zenkai Girl (全开ガール). Yeah, I tend to watch bad jdrama when I'm stressed. It's nice watching Yui Aragaki breaking out her usual role in this one, maybe. What I like the best is the OP credit of the first episode. The song is by Every Little Thing (ELT) and it's pretty catchy. I find myself listening to it on repeat, again and again. The OP credit sequence has Aragaki's character having a chance meeting (一期一会) with Nishikido's character on the metro. Aragaki was hurrying to her destination upon getting off the metro. Nishikido's character, struck by her beauty, cannot stop looking at  her back while she was running in her red kimono. The scene consists of a series of slow motion stills, but still pics do not do this scene justice. Even though I have a feeling this jdrama is gonna suck, it's such a beautiful scene that I have to blog about it.

muimui: (sakura trees)
Haruki Murakami's first novel is made of many things: writing, music, women, booze, smoking, death, existential angst...all the things I saw at the beginning of A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険). Well, maybe not the writing part. Some of his critics accused the novel for being too "light" and I agree with them. There seems to be not much substance on the whole, because the novel itself is essentially a collection of semi-continuous short stories (some are more like essays). Murakami wrote this novel segment by segment during the little spare time he had while he was running a Jazz bar/coffee shop, so the novel very much reflects his writing process. Not that I mind though.

Towards the end of the novel, I said to myself, "This must be another nostalgic account of one's youth" despite the apathetic tone of the novel. Youth is a timeless topic in both literature and film. 

In a way, I read the novel to learn more about the author than about its characters, as it may offer more insight about why Murakami write the way he does. In the beginning: 'There is no such a thing as a perfect composition. It's like there's no such a thing as total despair'. Is Murakami a perfectionist? Do perfectionists often fall into despair?

'Writing is not a way to heal oneself; it's merely an attempt to heal oneself.' Do I read novels to heal myself? Why am I reading Murakami's work when I'm in a rut? Come to think of it, his work does have a soothing effect, perfect for one to read before bed.

In the novel, Murakami created a fictional American writer named Derek Heartfield, who served as something of a role model for the nameless protagonist in writing. The protagonist described Derek Heartfield's work as 'difficult to follow, confusing plot, and themes largely undeveloped', yet Heartfield 'wields his pen as his weapon'. Murakami's own work is heavily influenced by American writer Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan instead of Japanese writers. At a casual glance, his work is also 'difficult to follow, confusing plot, and themes largely undeveloped'. Perhaps he's wielding his pen as his weapon as well.

My favorite part has to the the one about the radio DJ, how he switched from ON (as the smooth-sounding DJ) to OFF (exasperated with hiccups) and then back to ON. Great sense of rhythm there.

And the "well" on Mars? This must be where The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル) is "borrowing" from. I find it amusing that he described it as a "well" and not a "tunnel" (it would make more sense to describe it as a tunnel though). "Sheep" (more precisely 'goat' I read in the translation) is first mentioned in this novel. Perhaps that's why reading Haruki Murakami feels like reading one big novel to me: his main characters don't differ by that much, and his symbols and themes appear again and again.
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I sort of understand why this film won the Academy Awards. Thematically speaking, it's hard to articulate what this film is about: Love? Acceptance? Family? Coping with Death? Finding One's Place in Life? I find the film rather wanting in the above areas, but it is that encoffinment ceremony that acts like a motif throughout the film and touches the heart of every audience and the AA judges. Watching it is akin to watching a tea ceremony. It calms the heart and quiets the mind. Every movement is ever so tender and elegant, and every detail articulates the nokanshi's respect for the deceased and the family of the deceased. It embodies the soul and spirit of the film. It articulates the true meaning of the film without any dialogue and words.

I also like that the protagonist finds time to play his cello between assignments. Even though he's no longer in an orchestra, he isn't giving up his dream (to me at least). He just doesn't need to be in an orchestra to play beautiful music. 
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Episode 34 of Atsuhime was gleeee :) Miyazaki Aoi totally held her own in this role, switching from stern to soft-spoken in one speech. OMG. Need to hunt for Atsuhime icons.

I finally finished all 50 episodes of Atsuhime. I have many, many good things to say about this series, and this series made me tear up many times, especially in the beginning. Although it went downhill towards the end in terms of plot, I still think it's a solid series overall, probably one of the best taiga drama in years. Speaking of taiga drama, I haven't watched that many, but this series in particular really made me feel like I was watching history. People in the series act like how they would act during that period and there are things are that are unique to that period only. And the overall atmosphere in certain episodes made me feel like I was flipping through an aged history book. I personally find this lacking in Asian period dramas in general, but I have it in taiga drama.
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OL Nippon has my unreserved recommendation, as a Jdrama. It has that special magic some Jdrama tend to possess despite the cliched storylines, and the ending kind of reminded me of Cat Street - people grow apart, "grow up", and maybe meet again. I especially like how Kanzaki-san made the decision for herself and kept true to herself towards the end. And even the smallest or most unlikable characters are given a chance to shine. Perhaps this can only happen in a Jdrama/animu/manga, because I haven't seen this anywhere else (on television, anyways).
muimui: (Girl with a Pearl Earring griet)
I don't think I'd ever watch his films the same way again. I still have yet to finish Paranoia Agent, but I doubt I would feel the same way as before when I pick it up. There will be no more expectations or wish-fulfillment of meeting him one day. Instead, there would always be the sad regret of his passing.

Kon, you're a true legend. You will be sorely missed.

K. Not only do I have to finish Paranoia Agent, I have to check out this 100 movies list he and his team compiled as well.
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I was told the Guangdong-born Taiwanese director Hou Hsian-hsien was influenced by the great Ozu Yasujiro, so I went and checked out some of his films. I am afraid I did not choose well, as the only two films I've seen thus far bored me to death. The first one I watched was "The Flight of the Red Balloon", a French film, inspired by the French classic "The Red Balloon". It was kind of interesting but a bit boring for me. The second film I checked out turned out to be even more boring than the first one. I am not gonna rant about how boring this is, so below are just some of the things I like:

 - This has to be the first "Mandarin" film (as it was labeled on the DVD) that I have to rely on English subtitles (they didn't have Chinese subtitles. blah) in order to understand it. It's not in Mandarin, buddy. It's in Shanghainese to reflect the period more accurately (late 19th century Qing dynasty). All the characters speak Shanghainesen throughout the film, except for the private moments between Hada Michiko's character and Tony Leung's character in which they speak Cantonese. I like how they speak Cantonese in private, which signifies the closeness of their relationship, but they switch to Shanghainese when talking to other people, as this is most likely the case in RL as well. Kudos to the actors who didn't know Shanghainese (Tony Leung is from HK) for making the effort. So unlike Chinese/HK films nowadays (*cough*2046*cough*) where they have one character speak Cantonese and one speak Mandarin (and other dialects as well), but they act as if they understand each other perfectly. Of course we acquire the ability to understand other dialects over time, but for strangers to act this way it is very strange indeed.

- This has to put the people who dissed Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh for playing Japanese characters in Memoir of a Geisha to shame. Hada Michiko, a Japanese actress, played a Chinese call girl in this film and she pulled off this character well, although her Chinese lines are dubbed. I wish more people could obsesses less about actors' and actresses' nationalities when it comes to films unless the choice does not make sense for the film. I hold the same opinion when people bitch about why Americans are chosen to play British/other Europeans unless the accent is very grating.

- The film is produced by Shochiku, the same company that produced most of Ozu's films.

- The film never leaves the brothel house, and seems to be shot almost entirely under candle light or with oil lamp. It is mesmerizing to look at, but also sleep-inducing. I guess Hou Hsiao-hsien wanted his audience to feel as numb as his characters, who were constantly smoking opium throughout the film. The only non-soporific parts for me were Michelle Reis' bitching and Tony Leung's fit. It is an above-average art-house film, but I wouldn't recommend this unless you are Hou Hsiao-hsien's die-hard fan.
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K. I watched it for Spitz, otherwise I don't think I'd sit through 70 minutes of boredom. Kinda reminded me of a slower Japanese version of Lost in Translation + Before Sunrise. Probably even less than that, as there was nothing going on. More like a series of music videos than anything else (and mismatched music and video at that). Anyways, the last ten minutes are really the essence of the movie and I was particularly moved by the walkman "Robinson" scene (it may have to do with Spitz, oh well). I also like the beginning when Miyazaki Aoi's character said what she feels for Nishijima Hidetoshi's character isn't romantic love, but a different kind that's more profound than romantic love. I suppose a part of me longs for (is envious?) this kind of relationship (?). Nishijima Hidetoshi is the type of guy who looks handsome in a dorky/lazy kind of way. I remember him from episode 1 of Aoi Yuu x 4tsu no Uso Camouflage, and in both roles he played the average man, sorta loser, old but goofy. Kinda reminded me of My Boss (except My Boss is the narcissistic extroverted, happy-go-lucky type of guy).

And listening to Spitz reminded me of Hachikuro all over again....
muimui: (Beijing Olympics Watercube)
Just a short post because I haven't read enough info about him. At age 27, he is the most talked-about author of the times, apparently. I have seen his name popping up several times in the Chinese blogosphere but didn't bother to check him out. Just reading his bio on Wiki is enough to get me interested in reading his novels and essays. A high school dropout turned famous writer and professional rally racer. It's not a story you hear frequently in PRC these days. Quite a contrast from No Country for Young Man, as Han Han is also part of the post-80's generation (the first generation that China's One Child Policy took effect).

[edit] I went ahead and read some of his blog posts. This guy has such biting wit. I like him. And his attitude towards the Chinese education system in general, is pretty similar to what was said in NCFYM. A post-80's generation indeed.
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I'm not too impressed with the first two episodes of Ryoma-den, but the second episode is an improvement, if only for that father-son compromise/reconciliation moment at the end. Which reminds me, one should do what one is good at. I am not good at anything, does that mean that I am screwed? But that mindset won't get me anywhere....

Matsu Takako has official become one of my favorite Japanese actress. She first caught my eye in Yamada Yoji's The Hidden Blade as the understated Kie. I last saw her in Iwai Shunji's April Story, which is a wonderful coming-of-age (?) story (?) that is only 67 minutes long. She is also active in theatre and music and has apparently appeared in some very popular Jdramas  opposite KimuTaku which I do not plan to watch. I can't quite say why I like her. Perhaps one of the reason is that I don't find her beautiful at first sight, but find her more beautiful the more l look at her. In other words, she's very 耐看 (I feel that Aoi Yuu also has this quality).

Because Liar Game 2 turned me into Matsuda Shota fangirl mode, I've been watching some of his works here and there. He's mostly eye-candy until I saw him in A Long Walk. He's only in it for about 30 minutes, but his performance in those 30 minutes is better than anything I've seen by him. Ok, I haven't watched Ikigami, for which he won an award or something. Maybe it has to do with his character in A Long Walk, that it's not some ido-centric character but a Passenger A.