Archive for cinema

Make it a Movie Weekend: Children of Invention opens tomorrow

Filmmaker and fellow Bostonian Tze Chun’s movie Children of Invention will kick off it’s release tomorrow (Friday) in NYC and LA.  It’s a limited, one-week engagement at BIG Cinemas in NYC, and at the Downtown Independent in LA.  CoI swept at all sorts of film festivals, winner of Grand Jury prizes at Newport, Boston, and a shitload others.

I kinda think of it as a localized version of Kore-eda’s Nobody Knows set in Boston except in Children of Invention, instead of abandoning her children, the mother is arrested in an attempt to make a better life for them.  So, it’s pretty much got nothing to do with Kore-eda or Nobody Knows except that, in both movies, the children are left alone to fend for themselves.

Nobody Knows is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’m anticipating that Children of Invention is going to break my heart in a similar manner.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m excited to see Boston as the backdrop to the film, or because my friend, Ed Lin’s wife is in it.  I’m saying it because I believe the hype that’s stirred around this movie that’s won 15 awards during it’s festival tour, and I believe it’s that good.


I’m going to go and see this movie, and have my heart ripped out of me.  And I think you should go, too.

It’s only once or twice in a lifetime that you get to experience this type of heartbreak.  Limited engagement, one week only.  You won’t regret it.

More on CoI and Director Tze Chun:

Boston Globe interviews Tze Chun.

Manohla Dargis reviews Children of Invention for The New York Times.


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Let’s make 2010 a better place – with FREE KOREAN MOVIES!!

This post is long overdue – two and a half months overdue, in fact, but I’m making it up to you all by posting it now.

The nitty-gritty:

Yang Ik-June’s movie, BREATHLESS, screens TONIGHT, 7pm at Tribeca Cinemas FOR FREE.


Note: This evenings screening will be subtitled – I just couldn’t find a good clip with subtitles on Youtube.  But from what you can see, the protagonist is a violent thug with a broken heart.  For more, go see the movie tonight.  Or wait for my review.  But it’s probably a better idea to go see the movie for yourself.  The review may take me a while.

The skinny:

Director, producer, writer, and star, Yang Ik-June will be on hand tonight at the screening.

Even skinnier:

Yes, this is the BREATHLESS movie that Yang mortgaged his house to make.

The anorexic:

The Korean Cultural Service is determined to make the world a better place this year by screening free Korean movies every other Tuesday this year, from January  12, 2010, to December 14, 2010.

All screenings will be free and all screenings will take place at the Tribeca Cinemas down on Canal and Varick (54 Varick, to be precise)

Already we’ve missed the dry and wry humor of DAYTIME DRINKING

And the raw, emotional, family trauma, MEMBERS OF THE FUNERAL

But we will not miss the fists+fury of BREATHLESS!

There will be more movies and more (in depth) updates on what’s to come, but for now, bring your own soju and leave your heartache at the door.  If BREATHLESS doesn’t leave you feeling raw and emotionally scarred, I don’t know what will.

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Miyazaki Heavy Industries

I’ve been meaning to blog about Hayao Miyazaki’s visit to the U.S. last month, but the words kind of escape me.  Except this: Hayao Miyazaki is a genius.


(photo courtesy of UC Berekeley Center for Japanese Studies/Alfred Laij)

My article on Miyazaki’s visit ran in last week’s PW Comics Week. quotes directly from Miyazaki’s actual appearances at San Diego Comicon and the Los Angeles Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

Cinema Blend has footage of Miyazaki at San Diego Comicon.  Ghibli World has all the news of Miyazaki’s visit and a load of information about Ponyo.

Susan King at the Los Angeles Times looks into the financials of Miyazaki’s past films in the U.S. and Disney’s push to make Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli household names.  Will Ponyo be the huge success Disney wants it to be?  That’s a discussion for a separate blog post.

The Los Angeles Times has another, lengthier article on Miyazaki-sensei.  It’s long and a bit directionless which is sort of a testament to my argument that writing about this man ain’t easy.

But I love a challenge.  So I’ll be writing a review/profile of Miyazaki for Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper.  And it will be awesome.

In the meantime, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea will be opening at select theatres starting this Friday (August 14).

Watch for the scene where Ponyo is running on the water.  Allegedly, Miyazaki-sensei himself did the bulk of the drawing for that scene.  This is not a man who’s afraid of hard work.  In fact, he’s said himself that when he goes, it’ll likely be at his drawing board, pen in hand.

“It’s not a very cool way to go.” He said during his onstage interview at the Zellerbach Hall at U.C. Berkeley.

You don’t need “cool” when you’re a genius.

It’s intimidating to write about this man – to try and touch on all the facets of his personality and his work.  There’s the “I hate America” Hayao Miyazaki, the chain-smoking, think and think and think Miyazaki, the Miyazaki who will draw til the day he dies, the Miyazaki whose body memory remembers the Japan of 50 years ago, the Miyazaki who is waiting impatiently for the world to rebel against humanity and wash away the cities and swallow-up the people, the cellphones, the shipping containers of laptops, the Facebooks, the PSP’s, the heavy industry.  And then, vomit up forests filled with tiny sprites, or lush green fields of sunbathing dragons, or intertwining streams of dancing frogs.

Duncan Williams, the Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies at Berkeley, said in addressing the audience of thousands waiting for Miyazaki at Zellerbach Hall:

“The worlds Miyazaki presents to us are wildly fantastic – robots live in abandoned castles, grinning cat busses glide over fields of grass, rivers and mountains embodied as fish and frogs perform stately dances in a magical bath house – but they are, at the same time, incredibly familiar; they are familiar because they are rooted in worlds we already inhabit.  We believe the drama of a dragon being fed a pill because we’ve seen that same sideways look and bulging gums in a dog taking medicine.  We’ve seen the wind rushing through that field of rice and can guess the spirit or force that was responsible for it.  It is realism in service of the imagination AND imagination in service of our lived realities.”

This week, we have Friday – and Ponyo! – to look forward to.

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Hayao Miyazaki tix go on sale tomorrow, noon (PAC)

Stay tuned to for tix, and to for more info.

Full deets/programming below:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hayao Miyazaki in Conversation

6:00 PM to 7:45 PM

Zellerbach Auditorium

For this extremely rare, U.S. appearance, Hayao Miyazaki will be interviewed on stage, followed by a question and answer period with the audience. Join us for an opportunity to engage Miyazaki in a conversation about more than just anime— the social issues and ideas that his films champion, including the future of Japan and the role of the artist in a rapidly evolving world.

For tickets to this limited-seating engagement, please visit

Hayao Miyazaki at Berkeley

The Center for Japanese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley is proud to award internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki with the 2009 Berkeley Japan Prize, which honors individuals from all disciplines and professions who have, over a lifetime influenced the world’s understanding of Japan. In conjunction with his in-person acceptance of the award, Hayao Miyazaki will be honored with a series of events held on the UC Berkeley campus, celebrating his timeless body of film work.

Hayao Miyazaki is the second recipient of the recently inaugurated Berkeley Japan Prize; the 2008 winner was novelist Haruki Murakami.


For nearly fifty years, Hayao Miyazaki has been enchanting the world with fantastic, meticulously composed and emotionally soaring films, making him one of the world’s most respected and revered animators and directors. Among the dozens of films he has written, directed and animated, his best-known and beloved include: My Neighbor Totoro (1988); Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989); Princess Mononoke (1997); Spirited Away (2001); and Howl’s Moving Castle(2004). What makes Miyazaki’s work especially unique is, in a genre overpopulated with technology and robots, his films have a deeply nostalgic, ecological soul that conveys the critical message of caring for our planet and a global need for spiritual nourishment.

Miyazaki founded his now legendary animation studio, Studio Ghibli, in 1985, shortly after the release of his second major film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. After Studio Ghibli became a household name in Japan, it sought to bring their films overseas and built a partnership with the Walt Disney Company. In 2002, Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animated feature film— the first Japanese animated film ever to win the award. Audience reaction to Spirited Away was unprecedented. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times heralded Spirited Away as: “..enchanting and delightful in its own way, and has a good heart. It is the best animated film of recent years… the Japanese master who is a god to the Disney animators.”

July 12, 14, 19, and 21, 2009

A Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki

Pacific Film Archive

In anticipation of director Hayao Miyazaki’s in-person appearance at Berkeley, the Pacific Film Archive will host a retrospective, which will showcase four special screenings of his films. Even if you already treasure Miyazaki’s films on DVD, you won’t want to miss this chance to appreciate their beauty as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen. All films will be shown in the original Japanese 35mm prints with English subtitles.

Sunday, July 12, 4:00 p.m.   My Neighbor Totoro / Tonari no Totoro

Tuesday, July 14, 7:00 p.m.   Porco Rosso / Kurenai no buta

Sunday, July 19, 2:30 p.m.   Castle in the Sky / Tenku no shiro Laputa

Tuesday, July 21, 7:00 p.m.   Princess Mononoke / Mononoke Hime

For a complete listing of times and to purchase tickets, please visit

Friday, July 24, 2009

San Francisco Bay Area Premiere of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo

Wheeler Hall

6:00 PM-8:00 PM

The Center for Japanese Studies, in conjunction with the Pacific Film

Archive, is pleased to present the Northern California premiere of Hayao

Miyazaki’s latest film, Ponyo, to be screened at Wheeler Hall on Friday,

July 24, 2009. Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo) follows the adventures of an

intrepid goldfish and a young boy named Sosuke, who rescues her from a

bottle among debris that human beings have inflicted upon the ocean. In

this playful story of Ponyo’s rebellious desire to become human and of the relationships between children and parents, the great director again proves his peerless ability to connect with the keen perception and heart of a young child, while creating a world that speaks truths to adults as well. Among the many brilliant passages achieved through Miyazaki’s hand drawn animation are the artist’s irresistible depiction of a paradisal undersea realm and a wild tempest caused by Ponyo’s willfulness. The English-language version, produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall of Disney Studios and Steve Alpert of Studio Ghibli, features the voices of Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus (Ponyo), Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas (Sosuke), Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, and Betty White.

Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) was Japan’s biggest box office hit in 2008. Ponyo also won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Animation of the year and, by special invitation, was screened at the 2008 Venice Film Festival.

For tickets to this limited-seating engagement, please visit

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Hayao Miyazaki Symposium

Institute of East Asian Studies

10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Free and open to the public

Leading scholars of Japanese popular culture, literature, and film will discuss Hayao Miyazaki’s work and his international influence in a roundtable panel discussion.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hayao Miyazaki in Conversation

6:00 PM to 7:45 PM

Zellerbach Auditorium

For this extremely rare, U.S. appearance, Hayao Miyazaki will be interviewed on stage, followed by a question and answer period with the audience. Join us for an opportunity to engage Miyazaki in a conversation about more than just anime— the social issues and ideas that his films champion, including the future of Japan and the role of the artist in a rapidly evolving world.

For tickets to this limited-seating engagement, please visit

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Hayao Miyazaki is coming!!

Remember this?

I blogged about Hayao Miyazaki’s new movie, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, last summer when it was released in Japan.  This summer we’ll see it’s U.S. release – and if you’re in LA (or Berkeley) and if you’re damn lucky, you’ll get to see Miyazaki-sensei himself.

Miyazaki-sensei will be visiting the U.S. this July for the very last time a) to pick up the Berkeley Japan award, b) because he’s contractually obligated to Disney to make a U.S. appearance, before returning to Japan to crank out the two last movies he’s got in him.  The award event is taking place at U.C. Berkeley on July 25th where he’ll also be in conversation with scholar, professor, and Japanamerica author, Roland Kelts.

More details to come.  This is a rare opportunity to see Miyazaki-sama outside of Japan (he didn’t even come to the U.S. for the Academy Awards the year Spirited Away swept) so if you can make it, go.

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Hara Kazuo lives in Brooklyn

Well, this weekend he does.

Light Industry in BKLYN is screening Hara’s Extreme Private Eros:  Love Song 1974 followed by a Q&A with Mr. Hara himself.  (scroll down for more info)

Hara Kazuo also produced (and just about everything else) the movie, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On .

KAYA Press is releasing Camera Obtrusa: Hara Kazuo’s Action Documentaries this month – I think there may be copies of the book at the screening tomorrow.

Saturday, May 9, 2009 at 7:30pm

An Evening with Hara Kazuo
Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974
Hara Kazuo, 16mm, 1974, 98 mins

“I want to drag my audience into my life, aggressively, and I want to create a mood of confusion. I am very frightened by this, and by the things I film, but it’s because I am frightened that I feel I must do these films.” — Hara Kazuo

One of Japan’s most provocative and controversial filmmakers, documentarian Hara Kazuo is best known for The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), in which he follows a lunatic political protester’s violent quest to literally beat the truth out of elderly war veterans. His harrowing journey through the lives of the handicapped, Goodbye CP (1972), had shocked audiences years earlier with its stark and unblinking portrayal of a subject still taboo to mainstream Japanese society.

For this rare in-person appearance, Hara will introduce and discuss his autobiographical film Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, an ultra-personal diary centering on his ex-girlfriend, radical feminist Takeda Miyuki. Not long after their breakup, Hara decides to follow her around with his 16mm camera as an unlikely way to continue their relationship. At first portending a sadistic macho trip, Extreme Private Eros proves to be an unexpectedly moving and even humanist film as it chronicles Takeda’s later relationships with other women and Black American GIs in the low-rent, gutter-tough world of Okinawa go-go bars. Hara himself never appears in frame, but remains present as a self-deprecating, masochistic voyeur to his former lover’s ongoing life.

Followed by a conversation with Hara.

Hara’s event takes place in conjunction with the release of his first English-language book Camera Obtrusa: Hara Kazuo’s Action Documentaries, published by Kaya Press.

Tickets – $7, available at door.

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Sneak Peek! The New York Asian Film Festival

Man, I hate this frickin’ recession, but I love me dem Asian films!

Grady Hendrix and his gang of movie connoisseurs sent out word of their selections for this year’s New York Asian Film Fest (June 19-July 5), and like every year, it’s a  goldmine.

Feng Xiaogang’s If You Are the One will be screening.  Feng directed last year’s THE ASSEMBLY, a Hollywood-esque rendition of the Chinese civil war that was compared to Saving Private Ryan.  In If You Are the One, Feng has his Korean fight choreographers take a break, and instead, builds a romantic comedy around none other than B-movie starlet, Shu Qi (China’s own Angelina Joeli, full lips and all).  Apparently, Qi – who the American audience will remember from the very first Transporter movie – has been hiding her talent behind that pretty face.  As a rabid fan of THE ASSEMBLY, and the cinematography and blockbuster elements behind A World Without Thieves, I’m gonna put my chips down on If You Are the One.  I love Feng Xiaogang, and I’ve been waiting to see Shu Qi in a good movie.

And since Grady and his team are dedicated and consistent professionals, they’ve included the live-action feature length movie adaptation of Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, parts 1 and 2.  This came out in Japan just last summer, with part 3 of the movie trilogy is coming out in Japan in August.  Grady’s doing his best to put together a special screening of 20th Century Boys after it’s released in Japan – how spoiled are we!  The 20th Century Boys manga by Naoki Urasawa was released by Viz  in February this year.

On a more somber note, the Japanese movie shot in Thailand, Children of the Dark, will also be screening for those of you with a strong stomach for the real-life sick and grotesque exploitation of Thai children, both for the sex industry and for black market organ sales.   I already know that I won’t be able to stomach this although I’m tempted to try – and terrified that I’ll force myself to sit through it.  Grady’s encouragement when I shared this sentiment with him was this:

“Don’t let Children of the Dark scare you. It’s a VERY intense movie, but it’s so committed to its POV and so adamant about its points that it never comes across as hollow or exploitative. Unlike a lot of movies, the horror has a point. For once.”

For those of you who’d rather be entertained by brutal, fictitious fist fights, the Korean movie Rough Cut has your name(s) on it.

Rough Cut is set on a movie set where a primadonna pretty-boy actor plays a gangster across from his co-star – who really is a gangster. Somehow, in the process of shooting the movie, the diva becomes a gangster and the gangster becomes…a diva.  It sounds like it should be a comedy, but it’s not.
And if you’re ready to cycle back to something more romantic, Kim Ki Duk’s Dream starring Odagiri Jo will also be playing.  Kim Ki Duk directed 2003’s Spring Summer Fall Winter…and Spring among other art-house flicks.  Dream is about dreams, it’s a sad romance, but most importantly it’s starring Odagiri Jo.  I’m only interested in this movie and blogging about it because it stars Odagiri Jo.

There are a good dozen or more movies that will be featured during the festival, and in fact, Team Grady still have 10 to choose to add to the line-up.  You can find out more at his blog, or at the website,

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