Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hotaru no Haka: New Live Action Version in July!?

Hi Blog,

Thanks to the logging boy for pointing this out to me almost two weeks ago (delay was unavoidable...).

Anyway, the cycle in Japan of remakes (or what I can kindly call the cannibalism of older films) is speeding up. No longer content with remakes of 'old' films by Kurosawa Akira and the like there is now a new version of GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (火垂るの墓 aka. Hotaru no Haka) that is set for a July 5th, 2008 release.

Question: So is this a remake of the classic Takahata Isao anime from 1988? Or is it a remake of the 2005 live action TV movie made for NTV? Or, wait, am I totally wrong here and this is a page zero reinterpretation of Nosaka Akiyuki's semi-autobiographical 1967 novel?

I am a little bit more than intrigued by this version for the simple reason that while critically praised, HOTARU NO HAKA is not a big money maker because it is incredibly depressing. So the burning question is why are they making this now? Box office be damned?

For those who don't know the story I'll quote the blurb from the old Central Park Media webpage for the 1988 anime:
In the final days of World War II, a devastating firebomb attack on their city of Kobe leaves 14-year-old Seita and his 4-year-old sister Setsuko homeless orphans. The two seek refuge with a distant aunt, but after several disagreements with her, they insist on fending for themselves. But in all the chaos and destruction, can they survive outside the system? (link.)
Short answer no. While this blurb is misleading because it pitches the film as a drama with the hook being whether these children can beat the odds and survive (framed this way, it seems like a heart warming story of triumph and survival) the film is actually an unflinching portrayal of the cost of war via its toll on the innocent. (Incidentally, the fact its anime has no bearing on the power of the story its telling.)

The trailer on the website for the new live action film doesn't tell you much so it's hard to guess what kind of movie this will be. But suffice to say, no matter how they execute this story it's going to be a tear jerker. But rather than sell it as such, the splash page for the new film says: "That immortal work has become a live action film!"

Ah yes, happy stuff indeed. Bring some packets of tissues with you folks.

Link to the site.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Japan Film Festival: Talk and Symposium

Hi Blog,

Sorry for the radio silence-- or is that blog silence?Anyway, there's a new member of the family now-- and my time has been very happily taken up by her.

Next month, here in LA, there will be a Japanese film festival called appropriately: The Japan Film Festival. I have been asked to participate in the symposium on April 5th entitled: "Japanese Films in the US: Past, Present and Future."

As part of this, I will be giving a 15-20 minute talk about Japanese films in the US (the exact topic of which I am working out at the moment) and then will be participating in a moderated conversation.

From the JFF site:
UCLA Symposium (presented by JFFLA and UCLA-JABA)

Date & Time: April 5th (Sat) Entrance opens at 3pm
Start at 3:15pm
Close about 7pm

Venue:  UCLA Anderson School of Management Korn Hall, 110 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095

Theme: Japanese Films in the US: Past, Present, and Future

The actual Japan Film Festival will run from the 11th to the 17th of April at the newly built Imaginasian Theater here in downtown LA. I wrote about its opening here.

The fest will then continue on from the 18th through the 20th, at the Starplex Cinemas in Irvine. All of this info, along with the list of films playing can be found on their site.

I will add that one of the most exciting films that they're showing, which I plan to catch is Nakajima Ryo's PIA Film Fest award winning feature THIS WORLD OF OURS. Jason Gray was the first person I know of to raise world awareness to this film and considering his high praise, I'm very excited to see it. (Jason Gray's post.)

More info to come...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New Nakashima Tetsuya! Pako and the Magic Picture Book - Home Page On-Line

Hi Blog,

Some time last year, there was a bit of news about director Nakashima Tetsuya's (KAMIKAZE GIRLS & MEMORIES OF MATSUKO) new flick: PAKO AND THE MAGIC PICTURE BOOK (aka. Pako to Mahou no Ehon パコと魔法の絵本) when the cast was announced (see link here for details). After that the info trail went dry and that was that.

Well, after finally getting around to watching one of the last Nakashima films that I had missed, BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY (aka. ビューティフルサンデー) (capsule review forthcoming perhaps?) I went on-line to check up on PAKO. And guess what? Toho now has a homepage up for it.

Set to come out this fall (2008), there isn't a trailer up on the site yet, but there is a brief story description which makes the film sound alternately wacky and kind of depressing. It goes something like this**:
There's this hospital where lots of strange folks hang around. A young girl named Pako (Ayaka Wilson) becomes a patient there after she and her parents are in a traffic accident and they're killed. Hospitalized with some kind of brain damage (ala Memento?) she's only able to remember things for a day.

As a result (or is it because of this?) she becomes obsessed with a picture book that she likes to look at while sitting on a bench... and some sort of insanity ensues. (I think involving some of the wacky patients at the hospital.)

Because I'm a big fan of Nakashima, I'm looking forward to seeing this. But I'm starting to wonder what is up with all of these cute girls getting beaten up in his movies.
  • HAPPY GO LUCKY - (1997) - A junior high school girl gets bullied.
  • BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY - (1998) - A little girl gets bullied.
  • KAMIKAZE GIRLS - (2004) - Girls getting beat up.
  • MEMORIES OF MATSUKO - (2006) - Largely about a woman who gets beat up.
I'm half-joking here, because I do think that there is more going on under the hood of these films-- dealing with issues of isolation, emotional scars and the ramifications of sticking with certain decisions-- but there's no denying that there's a trend. (But is it a fetish for him? Inquiring minds want to know!)

Link to the Japanese website.

(**This is a distillation from the Japanese not a direct translation or press release. Any screw ups are mine only. Duh.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Update to Karaoke Terror DVD Info

Hi Blog,

Some activity on my Karaoke Terror post from back in December so I'm putting a link on the front page here for easy access.

Here's a link to the Synapse Films blog posting about the upcoming DVD (release: April 29, 2008).

Friday, March 7, 2008

Kurosawa Akira 100th Anniversary Exhibition in Los Angeles in 2009 or 2010?

Hi Blog,

Jason Gray wrote last week on his blog about how timed with Kurosawa Akira's 100th anniversary of his birth (1910~2010) the Kurosawa Production Company will be hosting (with other sponsors) film screenings, exhibitions and festivals dedicated to the deceased master director.

Knowing that I live in Los Angeles, Jason Gray forwarded an announcement posted on the Cinema Topics Online that makes mention of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ® helping host an exhibit on Kurosawa here in Los Angeles. It's not clear when it is set to happen, but considering that the anniversary celebrations are set to run from November 2008 through June 2010, I think we can safely guess that it will occur during this time period.

I also suspect that whatever exhibit is created will probably travel-- but don't quote me on that.

Thanks Jason for the link!

Here's a link to Kurosawa shilling for a whiskey company!

And here's a link to Kurosawa shooting the breeze with a young Beat Takeshi!

Hey New Yorkers! Must see concert tonight!

Hi Blog,

My pal Charles' totally groovy band end is playing a show tonight at Galapagos in Brooklyn part of an AERO! CCCP label/Wrecking Ball event. He's playing with the brilliant Russian maniacs Messer Chups along with NY breakcore weirdo DenimVenom.

Quite frankly, if you're in NYC you'd be stupid not to go. It's times like this that I wish I was back in NYC. (Wait! That's the second time I've written that this week. First Boris than this. What can I say?)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Uruma Delvi Exhibit Going on at PARCO in Shibuya

Hi Blog,

Uruma Delvi (alternately written Uruma Derubi and うるまでるび) have an exhibit going on right now at Parco in Shibuya (6th Floor) until March 14th.

I like these guys a lot. They make stupid cartoons about turds, people making turds, or bugs that bite butts (that conceivably would be ejecting turds if not for the bug). I've written a bunch about these guys before on this site, so you can read more about them here.

Anyhoo, as just mentioned, it seems that inspired by their Butt Biting Bug (おしりかじる虫)hit song and cartoon (done for NHK, see below), there is a two-week exhibition of some Uruma Delvi work at Parco. Curiously, the bane of the Japanese PTA and my favorite, Burutabu-Chan (the poop genie), is missing from this exhibition. What a shame. What a crying shame.

You can watch more here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

HOLY SHIT! New BORIS Single for Upcoming Album: "SMILE"

Hi Blog,

One of my favorite bands in the world (at the moment), BORIS, is playing live in NYC this evening at the Knitting Factory. Too bad I no longer live there....

But as a consolation prize, I just stumbled upon their new video for the new single for the new upcoming album (April!), SMILE.

(If only I had checked the Southern Lord blog earlier...)

I love it.

Quick Update: Sound samples are up on DIWPHALANX Records site! (In Japanese.)