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Archive for July, 2008

A Lot Like Love (2005)

When I wrote about What Happens in Vegas I may have said some negative things about that film, but Patrick of K.O.G Media pointed out that Ashton Kutcher has been in some pretty decent chick flicks, and cited A Lot Like Love as an example – and by gum he was right.

 This movie is the story of two people who meet accidentally… several times. But are there any real accidents? Emily and Oliver meet when they take the same flight from L.A. to New York. They go their separate ways shortly afterwards and the rest of the film shows their intermittant meetings, exchanges and departures over the following years. It’s a lot like Serendipity without the frustration.

As romantic comedies go, this one is pretty good. With less jokes and more amusing situations, it seems to tell a very possible story. I also found the periodic leaps forward in time a lot less annoying than you’d think. I even started to look forward to them in a “what’s going to happen next?” kind of way. I think this technique also made the story more believable as it gave a sense of significant time passing in their lives and allowed the characters to really change and develop in a short amount of screen-time.

The two leads were cool. Their easy relationship gives the film a really feel-good quality. Ashton did a great job… yup. So did Amanda. Ashton’s just so tall. It’s nice. And Amanda has pretty eyes. Uh huh… she seemed to have a bra problem throughout the film, though. Or a lack-of bra problem. I wonder if there’s a reason? I mean, does a director say “oh, and for this scene Emily’s not wearing a bra.” And as an actress you go “okay.” Or maybe it’s in the script “Emily – a vibrant, outspoken women in her mid-twenties whose bold exterior hides her inner lonliness. She likes rock music and junk food but hates cats, organised religion and bras.” Random. 

Oh, there were a couple of cool supporting roles in this film too. Again we have the compulsory best friend, this time played by the lovely Kathryn Hahn (who you may remember from another “bff” role in How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days), and Oliver’s (deaf) brother Graham, played by the v. cute Tyrone Giordano. These characters’ lives also develop alongside Emily and Oliver’s, and actually their lives seem to kind of mirror eachother’s. Weird.

 

Couple of “lol” moments – silent meal in the Chinese restaurant, Graham going to Emily’s door in Oliver’s place… him, there were more… but I forgot. There are also some slightly quirky warm fuzzy moments and some half decent quotes

Honestly, if you’re not willing to sound stupid you don’t deserve to be in love.

I would recommend A Lot Like Love as a date movie, or an “I’ve had a long week and feel like an easy movie that won’t make me feel worse” movie. Interested? I wouldn’t watch the trailer first if you havn’t seen it, I think it gives too much of the film away. And this is one chick flick that’s good enough to watch properly. Huzzah!

 

Director: Nigel Cole
Starring:Amanda Peet, Ashton Kutcher, Kathryn Hahn

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Last week I got out Japanese movie Death Note on DVD. Actually, my bf got it out, and since the label said “genre: foreign/horror” I was ready to run at the first sight of blood, gore, and/or undead children. However I was pleasantly surprised and fascinated by what is actually a really smart film with a pretty face, disguised as a horror flick.

The movie is based on a manga of the same name and is about Yagami Raito, 夜神 月, (“Raito” sounds like the English word “Light”, and his name is Yagami Light in the English subtitles), a straight-As law student in Tokyo. One day by chance he finds a black notebook lying in the street. On the front cover is the title “Death Note”. The notebook pages are blank but inside the front cover is a “How to use it” list

The human whose name is written in this note shall die

After picking up the notebook Light sees a terrifying monster hovering near – a shinigami (死神?), a god of death. The purpose of a shinigami is to take human life, each shinigami has a notebook and the name of any human who is written in the notebook will die – that person’s unlived years will then be added to the life of the shinigami. The shinigami whose notebook Light finds is called Ryuk (リューク) – and he is one freaky lookin’ dude. Although his appearance is creepy, in the film he is cgi and pretty fake looking, as if he’s a computer game character. He is probably the character who looks the most similar to his manga counterpart. Only the person who has touched his notebook can see Ryuk, and while he often chats with Light (see this screencap at popcultureshock) he rarely gives him advice, he is mostly content to sit back and watch what happens after his notebook has been found. Like a big crazy ghost that loves apples Ryuk follows Light around wherever he goes. (I kinda think he looks like a cross between a clown, a shark and the bride of Frankenstein).

Click to englarge!

At first Light doesn’t believe that the Death Note is real (would you?), and while watching a live news broadcast one day decides to test it by writing the name of a criminal who has taken a group of people hostage. When the crim’s death by heart attack is reported a minute later, Light realises the power he holds. Disillusioned with the inadequate justice offered by the law, Light decides that he will go on a crusade, killing the evil and bringing about a safe new world. Criminals everywhere begin dying mysterious deaths as Light fills the notebook with their names. This strange and frightening phenomenon is widely reported, and the unknown assassin is dubbed “キラ”, “Kira” (Kira is derived from the English word “killer”) by the media.

As more and more criminals die of sudden heart attacks, the public is split over whether Kira is a saviour or a serial murderer. A mysterious, faceless detective known only as “L” is brought in by the International Police Organisation to find and catch the unknown Kira. The rest of the film shows the complex mind games the two play as each tries to outwit the other and discover their secret identity.

I think it’s important to know that this is not a scary film! I know it seems really dark and twisted, largely because I couldn’t find any decent screencaps of the human characters, but in reality it’s more… a “the danger within” kinda scary. It’s really interesting watching the way society reacts to Kira. He becomes an instant pop figure and hundreds of websites dedicated to him spring up on the internet. He makes people feel like someone is looking out for them and delivering justice. On the other hand in a society ruled by fear there is little freedom and while teenagers are going crazy for Kira the police regard him as a pychopathic mass murderer and are doing their best to find him. Trust me, I don’t doreally scary films. I know it’s scary at first like “oh my gosh everyone’s dying!!!11!!!2”, but that’s over pretty quickly and you move on to different, deeper questions like “what is justice?”, “who deserves to die?”, “why don’t more guys wear eyeliner?”

When the faceless L’s identity is finally revealed, he’s not really what you’d expect (unless you’ve read/watched Death Note before), but at the same time fits the part perfectly. The character of L has developed a loyal following of Death Note fans.

The transformation of Light himself is also very interesting, he quickly goes from having a pretty normal reaction to the Death Note to thinking of himself as “a god of the new world.” I guess the complexity of the storyline, coupled with the desensitisation which quickly happens with so many people dying all over the place, does make this film feel less… raw? No, it was never raw. …soft, I guess. I mean, it’s not incredibly edgy, but it was interesting subject matter presented in a whole new way. Erin F. of popcultureshock.com wonders if this movie can be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with Death Note(manga, anime series, etc.). I would say the answer is “yes”. Not everyone, maybe – it’s not a loud, mature, urgent, affronting film – but some people, yes – I didn’t know anything about Death Note other than what I read on the back of the DVD case. Erin also says

If anything, Death Note feels like a date movie.

Fair enough. I watched this movie with bf, and there were some gasping “what’s going to happen?”, hide-behind-his-shoulder moments, but I think it would probably appeal more to (fan)girls than boys… I could be wrong.

 Another thing – if you’re hiring this film from a DVD store or whatever – get this one and the sequel at the same time. If you think it’s gunna be your thing, then you’ll want to see the next one. All the more so because the ending for the first one is as the end of a TV episode – pretty maddening. I believe this film and the sequel, Death Note: The Last Name, were released just a couple of months apart in cinemas, and you can definately see why – they’d probably have had riots on their hands otherwise.

 Here’s the trailer! It has English and Chinese subtitles. It looks all dark and scary with that creepy music at the beginning right? But the themesong for this film is Dani California by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Yeah. Scary.

Kira vs. L, round 1! Ding! Ding!

Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Starring: Fujiwara Tatsuya, Matsuyama Ken’ichi, Kaga Takeshi

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Red’s the new red

Oh man, I just got done watching Elmo on Rove – holy cow I love that lil’ monster! I mean, I know Elmo’s gotten all commercial and “tickle-me”, but at the end of the day he’s still that furry red critter you adored as a kid. ELMO FREAKIN’ ROCKS!!!!!

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Ok, so I’m trying to kill time at uni and I’m all tired from my <<secret project>> so I’ve come to a computer room to just sort of relax and stuff, and then a brilliant idea occured to me: lolcats! Obviously really, but anyhoo I visited the website and was stoked to see how many new pics have been posted since I was last there. I was on about page 6 of these when I noticed that the girl on a computer in front of me was turning around and giving me dirty looks. I guess this room is pretty quiet and maybe my muffled giggles and snerts were disturbing her. Fair enough. But the problem is, ice-cold glares do nothing to the power of the lolcats! In fact in a cruel way it kinda increases their funniness. So while this chick (with a big fat open textbook and a blank screen) turns to glare right at me like I should be disgraced, I see the kittehs! Teh cute, cute kittehs!

About a minute later she packed up and left. So how bad should I feel? I mean on one hand, I hate it when people come to places of study and disturb me in my work, but on the other hand it’s not like I was listening to pussycat dollz music vids or anything. I didn’t even know I was doing anything until the prolonged glaring, and she didn’t look like she was doing much when I arrived anyway. Hm, I shall have to be careful when accessing lolcats in future. Their mirth-inducing cuteness might get me into trouble someday.

 

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So the cold, cold weight of winter study is weighing upon me… I decided to make a mixtape to remind me of blue skies and warm days!

Of course I couldn’t figure out how to get it embedded into frickin’ wordpress.

>> so you have to click this link. <<

海阔天空 无拘无束 新世界

I wish I could speak Chinese… *sigh*

 
Frickin’ wordpress.

 

(You can make your own mix tape for free at Mixwit.)

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*undisappears*

Sorry there haven’t been any posts for a couple of weeks – I disappeared! Well, my moniter did, anyway. But now I’ve borrowed Mel’s sexy one! Yay new sexy moniter! I only have it for another day or so, so I’m makin’ the most of it! Today I had a Chinese test which went better than I thought – but that isn’t saying much. Am gunna have to start working on that. Also, I have started a new secret project! More on that later. Tomorrow I have a meeting with my English supervisor… I still can’t believe I even have a supervisor! What was I thinking??

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Song: Harajuku Girls
Artist/Group: Gwen Stefani

    

This song came on at work the last couple of weeks, and it was just so nice to get a change from the usual stuff we have to listen to!

I got this album a few years ago and was really pleasantly surprised to find a song with Japanese in it – huzzah! (In the lyrics used in this post the lyrics in brackets and italics are sung by the Japanese girls, the rest is sung by Gwen or them and Gwen.)

For those who don’t know, Harajuku is an area of Tokyo, known for the style and fashion of the young people there. This includes cosplayers as well as those dressing in other styles like punk, kawaii, and my person fav – gothic lolita, rawr. While young people gather on weekends to show off their awesome looks, Harajuku is famous for more than just cosplay, it also has many fashionable clothes shops for young people and the emphasis is on unique and funky fashions.

Harajuku Girls, I’m looking at you girls
You mix and match it girls
You dress so fly and just parade around (ありがと)

Described as an “ode to couture” the song itself talks about the fashions of the girls in Harajuku, and name-drops brands and designers like Vivienne Westwood, A Bathing Ape, Comme des Garçons and John Galliano. This sort of materialistic focus on fashion and wealth as status symbols is pretty in keeping with the rest of the album, but what appealed to me was that here is an American artist at least asknowledging the awesome fashion of somewhere outside America and Europe.

Your underground culture, visual grammar
The language of your clothing is something to encounter

Something I found really interesting was the number of critics/reviewers/whatever who, when talking about this album, describe the lyrics of this song as very homoerotic. Stephen Thomas Erlewine in his review at allmusic.com described Gwen’s “weirdly homoerotic tribute to ‘Harajuku Girls'” as “fascinatingly odd” and Jason Damas of popmatters.com describes Harajuku Girls

The lyrics are a bizarrely homoerotic tribute to Japanese pop culture, in particular fetishizing Japanese fashion 

“Fetishizing”, ay? Hm. It’s funny, because I can see how people might get that impression, and a lot of the more outrageous Japanese fashions could seem like festishes. However I can sort of relate to this song ‘cos it’s like that whole interracial relationships thing from last week – if you know about the whole Japanese fashion scene and you’re really into it, it’s hard to understand why no one else knows about it/seems interested in it. When you hear this song it’s like “omg, I know exactly what she means, those girls are so cool.” I don’t really see why singing about the fashion from this particular area is so strange, particularly in a song by such a “material girl” kind of artist.

One thing that I think is a bit strange, however, is the dance group slash entourage of four Japanese girls Gwen acquired for this album. These girls are known as the “Harajuku Girls” (though from what I can tell none of them is from Harajuku) and have each been renamed by Gwen as Love, Angel, Music and Baby – together forming the name of Gwen’s album and clothing line, L.A.M.B. They dance around in outfits with their names on, appear in her video clips (helping her break out from her golden cell in Great Escape) and pose for pictures. Winnie MCCroy of The Villager writes that

The Japanese girl back-up singers add some international flavor to an already stellar track.

I really agree with this, the way that both the Japanese language and the English spoken by the Japanese girls in the song reminds me of katakana – I know that sounds really weird – but just the way it kinda bridges both cultures. To me it fits in really well with the song and makes it fun! However while the Japanese language may add “international flavour” to this song, I’m not sure that extends to the rest of their appearances. In fact the girls’ image seems to be pretty Americanised, with touches of stereotypical Japanese elements like geisha makeup or really ultra-kawaii moves like in the Great Escape video. (Meanwhile “Angel” is a fourth generation American). So I feel like the whole Harajuku Girls things ends up like a big gimic, but at least talented Asian performers are starting to be recognised in Western pop culture, and these sort of stereotypes will be challenged more and more in the future. (Image on the right is from the CD sleeve).

I think identifying herself with Harajuku culture probably makes Gwen feel pretty good, and of course, the biggest shout-out must go to Gwen’s own fashion line – L.A.M.B

A Ping-Pong match between Eastern and Western
Did you see your inspiration in my latest collection?
Just wait ’til you get your little hands on L.A.M.B.,
‘Cause it’s (スパ可愛い), that means (“super cute” in Japanese!)

You can see interviews with each of the four Harajuku Girls, along with some individual dancing from each, on Youtube – Love, Angel, Music and Baby. They even have an online store – Harajuku Lovers, selling clothes accessories etc. with pics of the wee cartoon Harajuku Girls on them. I find it kinda weird in the interviews how they all introduce themselves by their stage names (except “Love”, who does give her real name: Maia ^^), and call each other by them too.

In the end though: I like the song. Yes, it’s materialistic and whatnot, but it also acknowledges one really cool aspect of Japanese popular culture, it has a fun beat, and singing along is really fun too! The blend of singing and talking, Japanese and English is really neat – plus it gets stuck in your head like crazy, lol.

Here’s a YouTube vid with the Harajuku Girls track and pics of cosplayers in Harajuku. If you would like the lyrics to sing along with, they can be found here.  

 

 

 

 

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