In this post:
1. Been busy, busy, busy as usual…
2. And part two of my now super late NYAFF 2010 report.
So apologizes are in order for dropping the ball in a most epic fashion, as it pertains to my shitacular New York Asian Film Fest reporting this year. I’ve been pretty bad about keeping this blog up to date for some time now, but this is easily the biggest screw-up yet. Though the ones I actually owe it to are the folks behind the festival itself, because they were kind enough this time around to bestow upon me the opportunity to check out movies before things had officially kicked off. With the point being, obviously, that I could recommend flicks before they played, to help spread the word and get asses in seats. The show wrapped up days ago and I haven’t even hit the halfway point. Oy vey. If they decide not to extend the same courtesy next year, I couldn’t blame them.
I’m a broken record at this point: basically been overwhelmed by so much going on. Not helping has been the recent heat wave in NYC, which has put me in slow-mo. Otherwise, don’t have much of an excuse as to why I’m so behind. There’s the usual half a dozen projects that I can’t talk about, though to be honest, haven’t even touched most of them, let alone the stuff everyone knows I’m involved in. When was the last time I updated Life Meter or posted at Mecha Damashii? Dave, Zack, and Ollie know that I’m a busy guy, but I still feel like a real jerk. Don’t even ask about the curry blog. I almost made the stupidest move possible by offering Ryan assistance, to help out on the Same Hat Tumblr. Like I have the time. As silly as it sounds, I could really use an intern! There was a girl who offered such services, though I bet she’s out of college by now.
The fact that I’m still a government employee has a bit do with things. What was supposed to be a part gig has essentially become a full-time thing, especially now that I’ve been selected to be part of “phase two”. It’s actually getting in the way of my usual writing duties, but hey, the money is more than decent and the stories that also come about are a bonus. Stories that folks keep insisting that I share here, but again, that would be breaking the law. Though expect tales with names withheld and few minor details obscured to protect the innocent in a future installment of UNLUCKY! Anyhow, here’ a brief rundown of some of the other stuff that’s been going on…
- When I signed off last time, made mention of seeing Faith No More live, which I saw. Much like Killing Joke not too long ago, was a thrill to see another band from my youth, in the flesh at long last. Yes, there was no Jim Martin, and FNM doesn’t have as much cool, indie cred like Mr. Bungle. Whatever. Got so sick and tired of the haters asking why I was bothering leading up to it. Well, the show was simply incredible, well worth the price of admission and then some. Despite the fact that my fave songs, Small Victory and Jizzlobber wasn’t even tough, even though they played like three hours and had three encores! Crowd was awesome too, just an army of diehard fans. There was one annoying hipster, who had with him a vuvuzela, which was almost shoved up his ass, and that was pretty funny.
- Last weekend was also the 4th of July, and it was pretty fab as usual. This time Katie and I brought Colleen and Travis along for the fine eats and poolside chatter. Despite not being able to see Human Centipede with Hilary beforehand as originally planned, to have something to counteract/compliment all the Last Airbender discussion, was still talked about quite a bit (same with Jeremiah and his gf the night before as well). Also spoke about how the moon landing was faked in many people’s minds (or at least parts of it, according to Travis). Got home in time to catch the fireworks on TV, but it totally passed in favor of figuring out what the hell happened at Coney Island, where my man Takeru Kobayashi got himself arrested for crashing the hot dog eating contest.
- Remember how I was trying to sell my modded PS1 and PS2? Well the latter finally has a new home, in Queens. There was this woman who needed a system that could play Singstar Bollywood, cuz her husband loves that stuff. Problem was, since I have an old fashioned SD set, which can’t display PAL signals, had to head over to her place and test the game out on her HD set. But was paid extra for my time and trouble, plus I got the chance to play the game, which was lots of fun, despite the fact that I can’t sing for shit normally, never mind your average Bollywood standard.
- And the money earned from said sale was used towards this…
… It makes playing Nintendo’s 16-bit offerings on the Wii feel so much more real. Though I don’t recall the original SNES controller’s shoulder buttons being so much mushy. And using it to play Genesis games is just flat out weird! Moving on…
… Been on a real old school Game Boy kick. Plus, I needed something to replace Ducktales for the NES, both of which were also sold via eBay not too long ago. Unfortunately, its version of the iconic Moon stage track is not as tight as the NES’s, but it’s something at least. And speaking of music; finally picked up a copy of…
… Might do a review for the latter, since the only one that’s available is from Original Sound Version, which is okay, but doesn’t properly convey why the music is so magical in the first place (imho).
- Also recently picked up Death Smiles, which finally came out in America! I’ll pass on elaborating on the bullshit that went down when it came to acquiring it, other than to state that I absolutely loathe dealing with GameStop. Instead, here’s Katie’s idea for new threads for Wonder Woman, as a gothic lolita…
… Not only posting here cuz it’s super kawaii, but also cuz it was created shortly after she watched my play a game filled with gothic lolis, so I’d like to think I had a little to do with it’s creation! Okay, not really. But basically Jim Lee < <<<<<<<< my girlfriend.
- So another reason why I haven't been able to get my shit together is due to the fact that, unfortunately, my skin is still an issue. I'm not suffering from a staph infection anymore (thank God), but my skin is simply super irritable, albeit not nearly as severe as before. Now it's just flat out annoying. Again, pretty sure the heat is the main issue.
But my biggest problem, to the point that it's practically debilitating, is how that nipple of mine that once gotten bitten off, is acting up again. Every once in a while it'll act up, but never to this effect. I'm talking about it oozing a teeny-tiny bit of puss, the skin getting very dried out, and worst of all, it's constantly hard and erect. Too much information for some, I know.
Perhaps it's a poor comparison, but if a man's penis is erect for too long, it's cause for serious concern, or at the very least, will hurt like hell. Well it's not quite as important as genitalia, but still somewhat as sensitive a region, and for far longer than just four hours. That's been my life for the past couple of weeks. Yay!
- Been trying to play games whenever I have the chance (mostly to help get the mind off of the aforementioned constantly rock hard nip). Though stuff sent by publishers have, for obvious reasons, taken priority. Let's see... Naughty Bear is one of those titles in which, if they only had a bigger budget, and maybe more time, would be like the greatest thing ever, or at the very least, everyone's new guilty pleasure. As is, not sure what's worse; all the rough edges or all the glaringly missed opportunities.
Next you have Nighty Nine Nights 2; I recall that wacky producer guy at E3 stating that it has a million new features, and I'd pay good money to see this so called list. Then there's Puzzle Quest 2, which has the same awesome jewel swapping gameplay as before, surrounded by the lamest of RPG dressings imaginable once again (though it's not quite as bad as Galactrix, but close).
- Also been working on setting up my next art contest, mostly working on acquiring prizes, which I guarantee will blow people's socks off. Details coming very soon. Plus there's the aforementioned Tumblr that I also can't wait to finally unveil, along with Katie, who might actually be more excited for it than myself!
- Finally been attending to some much-needed Attract Mode business on my end. For those who have been wondering why in the hell the third zine is not available at the store yet... well... it will be, very soon, I swear to God!
- This past Thursday night I took part of a virtual press conference, in the world of Halo 3, for This Spartan Life. I play a brief role in the latest episode, which might already be up over at Halo Waypoint! Warning: I try to be funny and fail EPICALLY.
- Submitted my panel suggestions off to the New York Comic Con/Anime Fest, right before the deadline. Despite having quite the strong response at last year's anime show, I'm expecting competition for programming space to be extra tough, since it's being combined with the comic show. Hopefully I won't get bumped in favor of a roundtable of game journalists who are only doing it for the chance for the general public to kiss their asses.
- Did the same for SXSW as well. Am hoping that I'll be able to share my ex-girlfriend stories at the conference this time around, and might once again be calling upon all of you for your help! Though this time it's a bit different; this'll be a solo presentation, with an emphasis on humor, instead of stats and hardcore analysis. Which probably means it'll get rejected right out of the gate!
- Witnessed my creepy upstairs neighbor have either a heat induced seizure or yet another psychotic episode yesterday. Since I've never really spoke about the guy, I debated on even mentioning this, but hey, it's not everyday that such an occurrence happens, literally right in front of you, right?
- Sorry, but I need show this to everyone: so Game Play recently kicked off, which merges video games and performance art. Well Babycastles to taking part, by hosting a indie cosplay and machininma dance party, plus video shoot. And to get folks inspired, Kunal decided to dress up as Jizzmoppa!
BTW, for more info on both Game Play and the Babycastles event, you can find links at the very end of this post (things get messed up when I try imbedding them and I can’t figure out why).
- Hilary and I finally saw Human Centipede at long last, and even managed to drag Katie along! The verdict? Just as retarded as everyone said it was. As Hilary’s coworker had warned beforehand, didn?t have nearly as much poo eating, and things were not taken as far as they could have been. In the end, it was just one huge cock tease, despite the fact that everyone gets connected earlier then expected (and not at the very end as one might expect). Supposedly the sequel will fix all that, due to a larger budget, but still. My biggest issue is how everyone’s mouths were not nearly close enough to the other person’s butthole. Considering how gratuitous everything else was, I’m fairly certain the actresses could have gone the extra step. At least I can tell my kids that I saw it on the big screen!
… But I’m not here to talk about non-Asian cinema; I’m here to continue my NYAFF report, now wrap-up! So with no further adieu…
The NYAFF’s description of Chaw, which is “what if Jaws was made in South Korea, with Steven Spielberg bowing out at the halfway point, and Joe Dante taking over” is fairly apt. Instead of a quaint, coastal community that depends on tourist dollars to survive, one that’s run by inept and greedy local officials, you have a sleepy mountain town with the same kind of naive dumb-asses running the show (replace the water and sand with the chance for dopey city folks to pick their own fruit; “they’ll pay twice as much if you claim it’s organic!”). And swap out a killer great white with a mountain boar for your basic setting and primary conflict.
The center of the story is Kim, a hotheaded cop from Seoul that needs a break from big city criminals, but immediately regrets writing down “anywhere” on his transfer paper. Because it leads him, his pregnant wife, and kooky mom are off to the aforementioned sleepy little town, which prides itself for having zero crime. Hence the mayor is nonplussed when random body parts popping up all over the place, with fears of how it’ll scare off visitors. Eventually Kim finds himself a part of the investigation/clean-up crew, which eventually includes a calm, quiet, and somewhat weirdo detective from HQ, a retried hunter whose daughter was a victim and offers the most sensible advice against the adversary, a celebrity big game hunter that’s the former student of the aforementioned grizzled vet, and who provide the obligatory internal conflict, plus a biologist that wants to study the wild beast, and whose also the token chick. As for the killer pig itself, it’s a CGI effect, but a not so bad one, supposedly created by the folks behind some aliens in Star Wars Episode One.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: it’s most definitely not The Host, nor does it try to be. It’s another Korean hybrid of horror flick and black comedy, though the primary focus here is delivering yucks, but warmhearted chuckles instead of gross out gags or groans like most western combinations, hence why Chaw actually works. I for one was actually pleasantly surprised when all these seemingly opposing forces got together, and thoroughly enjoyed the ensemble acting that ensued. The script itself, especially the dialogue, is quite tight; there’s shades of Lost In Translation as been noted in other reviews, but I mostly get a ‘Burbs vibe, hence the Joe Dante connection, primarily when it comes to Kim dealing with his wacky new neighbors. As odd as it might be to say, the killer pig movie from Korea is actually kinda cute? At the very least, it’s a fine midnight movie with some beers, though I also enjoyed it plenty in the early afternoon and while sober.
I first heard of Death Kappa during the Q&A for Gehara and Moster X Strikes Back, the new flick from the “Rick Baker of Japan”, Tomoo Haraguchi. The behind the scenes mini documentary that was shown featured an intimate look at the lovingly crafted buildings and fake vehicles that would all be crushed underfoot by a guy in a big rubber suit. It pretty much popped a boner in the pants of any kaiju diehard that afternoon, and while I’m not quite that hardcore, my appetite was wetted. So the verdict?
The earnestness of such a love letter to the genre is without question. And it certainly features all the key ingredients; along with the goofy, old school effects, is the goofy low rent plot: a failed pop idol returns to her hometown, to enjoy the simpler life once again, as well her beloved grandmother. But less than an hour of touching home and the singer’s world is rocked when she witnesses a bunch of teen punks running over grandma. Whose dying wish is for her granddaughter to take over guardianship of the Kappa, the mischievous little spirit that guards the town. Aside from loving cucumbers, the cute little thing (well, as cute as it can be, considering it’s a turtle with a bald spot) also digs his new guardian’s failed hits, so they become fast friends. But that friendship doesn’t last for long when killer mermen enter the picture, products of an old WW2 era project to create the perfect soldier, by combining men with amphibious DNA. Which leads to an atomic explosion, and which causes the little kappa to become huge…. VERY huge.
I really wanted to like Death Kappa, since I’m all about homages, especially if its centered on the stuff I love, and when it’s sincere. Plus any movie that has a cameo appearance from Subway Cinema’s very own Marc Walkow can’t be that bad! Unfortunately, I was left a big deflated; it hit every item on the big to do checklist when it comes to making a kaiju movie, but fails to bring anything new to the table. Perhaps its only meant to be fan service to the diehards, but I have a hard time imagining that they won’t find themselves going “serious, this is it?” at the very end.
Live Tape was one of the movies that had the most buzz going into the fest, and holy shit, did it ever deliver. At the very least, the notion of a 74 minute long, single take walk around the streets of Tokyo featuring Kenta Maeno, known as the Bob Dylan of Japan, as he sings his songs and plays his songs via acoustic guitar for anyone that cares to listen, sounds “cute” on paper. But it absolutely needs to be seen to be believed.
For starters, the technical aspects cannot be ignored. I read somewhere the total budget for the film was only $20, just the price of the DV tape and, I dunno, cab fare? The film starts with him outside of a shrine (it’s New Year’s Day, which in Japan is day where everyone goes to pay respects to old friends and relative, as well as hope for a good 12 months ahead), and follows him as he casually strolls and performs while walking through a shopping complex and on streets filled with folks enjoying their holiday. Along the way he’ll conveniently run into fellow band mates who will play along with certain songs, provided if it needs additional instrumental accompaniment. Not to ruin things, but in the end, Maeno ends up at a park where the rest of his band, the David Bowies, are waiting, for the final number. And that’s pretty much it.
Obvious the real star is Maeno and what keeps it all together is his music, which is the perfect combination of goofy, sweet, and soulful. Though what really helps is being able to follow along to what is being said, since all the lyrics are subtitled. I risk making myself look like a cultural buffoon by stating the following, but here goes: immediately after the screening was a Q&A with the director Tetsuaki Matsue, and afterwards was a live performance by Maeno himself. And during the movie I found myself captivated by the music, but during the live set… not so much. Note: I do enjoy music from Japan, but of the Boredoms/Word’s End Girlfriend/Genki Rockets variety, and in my defense, lyrics will make or break any folk song, so not know what is being said is obviously gonna hurt. Anyhow, what makes the songs work so well in the context of the movie… with topics including the time he jerked off to porn as a teenager, how he’s getting older and softer, how he wants to be more than just a friend with a girl, and how everyday life is as plan and boring as tofu… is his surroundings. The basic sentiment, of that he’s a stranger in a strange land, is echoed by the fact that most around his are totally oblivious to him and his messages (especially when it’s at the mall).
I can already imagine haters rolling their eyes, stating that the ones going ga-ga for this flick are nothing more than weeabos that jerk of to anything that’s so Japanese. And while that part is true, at its core is a great slice of life from Tokyo and one man in the middle of it all. Highly recommended.
Another flick that had a ton of hype surrounding it, and was one of the two must see on my list was Hitoshi Matsumoto’s latest. The excitement is mostly due to his last effort, the absolutely brilliant Big Man Japan, as well as the mind-altering trailer. Well does it deliver? Eh… not really.
I risk giving away the goods regarding Symbol, so I’ll try to make this as vague as possible: the takes place in two settings, with the first centering on a masked Mexican wrestler named Escargot Man, whose the champion of all good children everywhere, but otherwise kinda sucks. But it mostly follows the trials and tribulations of Matsumoto as he plays, like the trailer shows, a guy who wakes up in a large white room, covered in little penises. What we discover is how touching a penis will produce an item. Each is different, and there’s zero consistency; one produces manga, the other sushi, and another drumsticks. Eventually Matsumoto discovers a way out and has to use his ingenuity, along with the items available, to get out, in semi-Macgyver fashion.
The problem is… and again, not to spoil anything… is how it just gets all deep and metaphysical near the conclusion, plus it also just sorta ends, which is a common trait of Japanese flicks I realize. What’s funny is how Twitch felt the total opposite: they loved the ending and was bored to tears by the build-up, which in my opinion was the very best part, and could have gone on forever imho. At the very least, I do appreciate the fact that you have one of the Japan’s most high profile comics, hot off a very commercially successful flick, trying to do something totally different and under the radar. But then again, that’s what all funny men try to do? Haven’t seen Jim Carrey’s 23, but I’ll bet you anything Symbol is a billion times better. It’s not that I didn’t like the movie, it just didn’t meet expectations and got… believe it or not… predictable at the end. Still worth checking out though. And I’m still interested in the tee shirt.
Aside from Symbol, the one movie I HAD to see at this year’s NYAFF was the latest from Go Shibata. His Late Bloomer is still one of the all-time stand outs from festivals past (which I’ll be forever grateful for introducing me to the splendor that is World’s End Girlfriend), and again, the trailer simply blew my socks off (the teaser is also required viewing). In my mind, Doman Seman would be this year’s House for me, so were expectation met? Oh hells yes.
Often I like to make comparisons between Japanese directors to American ones, to help paint a picture and maybe entice folks to hopefully check it out. And the best I could initially come up with was “what if David Lynch and Spike Jonze decided to spend two weeks in Japan with a book about the occult, some hallucinatory drugs, and a camera”. But that honestly would be selling the movie short, though a perhaps a more apt description would be it’s the Japanese equivalent of Canzo Empyrean, a movie that I’ve been desperate to see for some time now.
Again, Subway Cinema’s own description totally hits it on the nail: “Imagine A Hard Day’s Night if it was about Aleister Crowley instead of the Beatles.” Before detailing the plot, one needs to know the setting: imagine an alternate reality version of Kyoto, Japan in which everyone is in debt and therefore money lenders run the show… which doesn’t sound too far from reality I know… but where the occult is also a part of everyday existence. The main bad person is Kato the Catwalk Doman Seman (a raggedy old lady performed by Kyoto street performer Monchi, a dude in a goofy rubber mask) who maintains the Human Enslavement Project, which means controlling the airwaves and promoting all sorts of foul ideals. Including capitalism! As well as encouraging young men, known as Hot Boys, to go around and beat the shit out of homeless people. Against her is an army of psychic children who create anti-negative mojo charms out of discarded soda bottles, which Kato the Catwalk Doman Seman’s primary on-the-scene reporter absolutely abhors. Anyhow, leading the resistance is Mr. Abe (who is a yakuza magician, one that is based upon a sorcerer from ancient Kyoto lore) that enlists two hapless saps to help counteract the Doman Seman’s evil energies: Tsutomu, a tramp who gives motivational talks in the park, advocating the splendors of the homeless lifestyle, and goes on trips via mushrooms, plus Shinsuke, a hopeless slacker that mooches off his sex-starved and totally nuts girlfriend, who works for the Doman Seman, and either has a twin sister who does as well, or it’s simply another personality.
After being forced to hunt down Tsutomu to work off the $1,000.01 Abe lent him to repay the gf, who eventually kicks him and his PS3 out, Shinsuke and the tramp are chosen to monitor Terada via a website, whose claim to fame was how he killed the entire staff of a personal loan company when he was a teenager. Now as an adult, he’s a total loser, and after losing his job at a print copy shot, he’s forced to get a job as a loan shark goon, i.e. become the one thing he despises the most. Not helping is how he’s constantly being hounded by curiosity seekers, with folks always trying to snap a cell phone pic of the poor sap. Also in the mix is the man that’s been his rehabilitation counselor, played by the same actor who was the lead in Late Bloomer, meaning he has cerebral palsy, yet is still also able to draw a manga that either features Terada or was what inspired his actions so many years ago. Did I also mention that when Shinsuke and Tsutomu get wild and crazy, they run around ripping the scalps of evil doers, with ejaculate pouring out of their skulls? Or the farting shaman the main kid conjures from the sky? If none of what I just said makes a bit of sense, no worries. Believe it or not, it kinda does, but only after repeated viewings.
The whole thing is just like one crazy trip, fast paced, killer on the senses, primarily on the ears (the soundtrack, comprised of local Kyoto bands is AMAZING). It’s easily the most genuinely offbeat and truly experimental slice of filmmaking to hail from Japan since… I dunno… House? The thing, it’s definitely not accessible; despite the high that one gets from seeing what is easily film of the year, I was hesitant when it came to asking friends if they wanted to join me for the second screening cuz it’s so legit batshit insane. Still, I’m more than a little pissed by Twitch’s beyond ignorant review, especially the “diluted Godard meets diluted Miike” line (used to be SUCH a fan of the site, but I find myself pretty much disagreeing with them at every turn these days). Though they are correct: there’s flashes of brilliance in nearly every minute, nay every second of Doman Seman!
Like I said, attended both screenings, hence why this recap is so long. Which also meant I saw Monchi’s in person contact juggling two times, as well witnessed Go Shibata trying to answer confused viewers’ questions twice. Highlights include…
- The story behind the film? After moving from Tokyo to Kyoto, Shibata, who likes to walk around any city drunk, was fascinated by all the shrines that are located in his new digs, especially the one with the name that he couldn’t pronounce, and simply had to make a movie about the place.
- The original version was screened only once before, at its officially debut in November. The version we saw was the re-cut, definite version in the director’s mind. When I inquired about the key differences, the answer was: “It was more chaotic.” Stuff made even less sense (hard to believe), plus the music was more tightly incorporated into the action.
- When asked if it’s easier to make a film in Kyoto, as opposed to Tokyo, Shibata explained that it was far easier, mostly since Kyoto is such a movie town. Many flicks have been shot over the years, plus Toho is headquartered there as well. Yet that being said, one must pay the yakuza when it comes to location scouting, a tradition that has gone for many years. Also, when it came to locales that they couldn’t get permits for, they went in and out, in guerilla filmmaking fashion. Though it came to restaurants in such instances, everyone was very nice, and they even got free food! Monchi also noted that, when it comes to movie making, as well as life in general: “Tokyo is like New York; there is no freedom.”
- A woman wisely asked Shibata if he was familiar with the work of Crispin Glover, since his movies also feature an actor with CP. She also noted that What Is It? & It Is Fine, EVERYTHING IS FINE came out around the same time as The Late Bloomer and Doman Seman (not really, but close enough). Neither Shibata nor Monchi had heard of them, but noted that it was perhaps a case of synchronicity.
- Monchi also made mention of how Doman Seman is, more or less, a film version of a typical song by their favorite band, the Boredoms. Couldn’t agree more with such an analogy! He also asked the audience who the main character was, and after entertaining numerous possibilities… Shinsuke, Doman Seman, Abe, the little girl… he pointed out, and broken English: “It is you! The audience! It is in your mind!” With the funniest part being Shibata’s exaggerated my-mind-is-BLOWN reaction.
… Was going to also detail Golden Slumber, but since I went a bit overboard with Doman Seman, I’ll just have to save that for my final, way belated, installment!
EDIT: Fot some stupid reason, either WordPress is fucking up on me, or I simply don’t know my HTML, but when I try to imbed the following links, the entire post gets screwed up. So here they are, separate from everything else:
- For more info on that mix of video games and performance art I spoke about, hit this link.
- And to RSVP for the Babycastles indie cosplay thing, here ya go!
- The link to This Sparan Life won’t work either, so here it is, though the episode I “appear” in will debut on Halo Waypoint first.