Search This Blog

Loading...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Final Fantasy 6 FANDUB!!!

final fantasy 6


My love affair with Final Fantasy games started 14 years ago, the first game that got me into it was Final Fantasy VI (known to me as Final Fantasy 3 then). I first borrowed the Japanese version of the game from a schoolmate, loved it, and then I received the English version from dad as my birthday gift, I was totally giddy with joy. Before the days of Playstation, where pirated games can be bought for 5 ringgit each, each game then was precious to me. I ended up only having around 10 games for my Super Nintendo because each game was so insanely expensive, and most of these 10 games I had were the classics: Mario Kart, Secret of Mana, Super Metroid, Twinbee, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 6 etc.

Tina or Terra BranfordYet Final Fantasy 6 was special to me. I lived and breathed it. Its soundtrack (still the best, in my opinion) was constantly playing on my CD player. I named characters after people I know to immerse myself even more into the world. It's the only Final Fantasy game to date (yes, I've played and completed all FF games that came out since then except the MMORPG FF11) that I play through more than once.

So when I stumbled upon this gem on Youtube late last night, I could barely contain my giggly giddying glee. Immediately, I sent the link to Justin, asking him to watch it. On my MSN list, aside from my little sister, he was the only one who had played the game, the only one who, like me, grew up with FF6.

Apparently, this guy, fleetingsight, had started a fandub project for the game recently. So we now get to watch the entire game, but with voice-acting! It's pretty amusing to hear voice-acting in such an old-school RPG, and nostalgic too. (Final Fantasy games didn't have voice-acting until they came to PS2, beginning with FF10) Before that, it was all about myself imagining what kind of voices these characters have. Fleetingsight had been churning out each episode of the series rather swiftly (9 so far in the past month) Each episode clocks around 9 minutes and is heavily edited, so you don't have to worry about sitting through the entire game, including the random battle and (most of the) dungeon crawling parts

Most of the voice-acting's pretty good, especially Kefka and Edgar's (I lost my shit when I first heard his Brit accent, I never thought that Edgar would have a British accent). I want to see more international flavour among the Final Fantasy 6 characters, Setzer should have a French accent (or Italian?), Strago and Relm should sound Spanish, Emperor Gestahl should sound Japanese etc. etc.

Would be cool too if sounds of grunting, shouting and cursing ("HAIYAH!" "FIREEEE!" "OW!!") were added during the battle scenes in future episodes.

Obviously, this is best watched by people who have played FF6 before.

Here are the first four parts of Episode 1.











Check out the rest of the series here. It get progressively better.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Photos of Ginza, Yurakucho and Otemachi

3 years ago, I participated in the Nanowrimo, and attempted to write a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I succeeded in hitting 50 000 words then, but never really finished the story. And once my childhood dreams of filmmaking became a reality, my focus turned elsewhere. Nonetheless, I've been a little more than bothered that I left the novel unfinished, and being a non-fan of loose ends, I decided to attempt the impossible and actually pick up where I left of in 2005.

So I've actually been spending the last few days writing. I doubt the novel will ever get published (I said THAT novel will never get published, I didn't say that I would never try to get a novel published in the future), but I needed closure.

But staying in my room all the time isn't exactly that healthy, so as usual, I needed a walk. When my friend Jason asked whether I wanted to go to Ginza with him (he had some business to attend to), I immediately said yes. I haven't been to Ginza since I came to Tokyo in April.

However, the hotel I stayed in during my earliest visits in Tokyo (1991, 1992) was in Ginza, and it was during my later visits that my parents switched to Shinjuku. I'm definitely more familiar with Shinjuku, but coming to Ginza, I felt as if I were in a different place. If Shinjuku were Bukit Bintang, then Ginza is Starhill, just like how Jason, who came from Hong Kong, described that Ginza is the Causeway Bay to Shinjuku's Mongkok.

Shinjuku is more chaotic, with more people, more shops and the like. While Ginza's a classier affair. I saw more old-fashioned cafes than fastfood restaurants, plenty of boutiques and shops selling traditional Japanese items (paper fans, yukata, kimono, decorations etc.) than electronic shops. But I was a little surprised to see a huge poster of Maggie Cheung on one of the buildings.

Maggie Cheung poster at Ginza


After going to the bookshops, I hung out at Starbucks for a while, reading my Steven Erikson's The Bonehunters. And then we continued walking down the streets of Ginza.

Street of Ginza


We intended to take the train at Otemachi station instead of the Ginza station. So that it wouldn't take so long, and we wouldn't have to transfer at all.

The view was nice, especially when we went past Yurakucho station.

Near Yurakucho station

Yurakucho station

Outside Yurakucho station


Somehow, I felt that there was something very stylish about this area of Tokyo. Perhaps it was the architecture, or perhaps it was the more expensive looking shops.

I particularly liked the Tokyo International Forum. Its interior looked like something from a science fiction novel. The inside of a space ship, or an alien colony.

Interior of Tokyo International Forum

Interior of Tokyo International Forum 2

Interior of Tokyo International Forum 3


"That's style!" I murmured.

The sun was already setting, and the lights of the buildings were turned on. It's the golden hour , unfortunately, again, my camera's not good enough to do everything justice.

Buildings at Otemachi


And that's the oldest train station in Tokyo. Which is attached to a few other underground stations, like the Otemachi station we were going to.

The oldest train station in Tokyo

On the way to Otemachi station

Magic hour at Otemachi


The last photo would've been insanely beautiful if I had a better camera. Hm.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks Festival

I just came back from the Sumida River Fireworks Festival. This is the biggest and most spectacular fireworks display in Tokyo. Happens annually, with nearly 900,000 spectators (it definitely felt like that when I went there just now). 20 000 rockets were fired from two bases along the Sumida River in a visual feast that lasted over an hour.

Apparently, the display includes a competition between rival firework companies. I think it's definitely the most awesome fireworks display I've ever seen in my life, unfortunately, I have a crappy camera, so I cannot really do justice to what I saw, but I'll upload the video I shot there sometime soon.

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 1

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 2

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 3

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 4

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 5

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 6

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 7

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 8

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 9

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 10

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 11

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 12

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 13

The 31st Sumida River Fireworks! 14



When it ended, I saw the a train passing by in the distance. I tried taking a photo, but everything ended up blurry. Well, at least it looks like some impressionistic piece of art.

Blurry picture of train passing by



... guess not.

Anyway, here's a photo of the famous Senso-ji. Most of my fondest childhood memories of Japan had been of this temple. I remember how shocked I was during my first visit here when I saw the many tiny shops in the temple grounds, some selling even anime and video games.

Unfortunately, it was already ten when we walked past the temple, so most shops were already closed.

Sensō-ji

Friday, July 25, 2008

[30th PIA Film Festival] SEISMIC GIRL & GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI

[UPDATED: 26TH OF JULY, 2008] Jason Gray has posted about the PIA Film Festival 2008 Winners.

I just came back from the PIA Film Fest in Shibuya again (read about my thoughts on SEMIGAO and TENGU LEAF, two films I saw at the fest on Saturday). I couldn't catch the rest of the films in competition, but managed to see SEISMIC GIRL by Tatenai Kenta and GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI by Kodama Kazuto, the two films from the NEW DIRECTIONS IN JAPANESE CINEMA project. They are films produced under the Agency for Cultural Affairs' 35mm short film production support projects. Basically, the project is to allow filmmakers (previous finalists of the film fest) to experience true 35mm filmmaking (all films in competition at the festival, being self-produced, are of course shot digitally).

Both short films (SEISMIC GIRL's running time is 30 minutes, GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI is 27) are, in my opinion, pretty good. They both veer towards the quirkier, deadpan comedic side, and share some similar themes (both are essentially love-hate buddy films). Although one of my recent complaints about Japanese contemporary cinema had been the filmmakers' lack of awareness in mise-en-scene, the way a scene is staged, the way a shot is composed, tend to betray their influences from doramas instead of genuinely feeling totally cinematic. I'm impressed to see the filmmakers of both films tend to let the scenes play out slowly (as in going for longer takes, not to be mistaken for making their films slow-paced) at times, it maximizes the humour more.



Seismic Girl


SEISMIC GIRL takes place in a rural town in the Tohoku district of Japan, where earthquakes rarely occur. Satoshi (Yamanaka So), a researcher at the earthquake laboratory located in the area, has decided to move to the United States to do some constructive research when his ex-girlfriend, the loud and flamboyant Yuri (Eguchi Noriko), told him that she has a friend working there. His current girlfriend, the quiet and nerdy Mitsuko (Kawai Aoba), isn't too happy about it. Knowing that this is another one of Yuri's dastardly plans to get together with Satoshi again.

Mitsuko learns about the legend of the 'catfish rock' that is supposed to contain the earthquakes in the region, and begins to unearth it so that Satoshi won't leave her. Things eventually escalate into more insanity when Mitsuko and Yuri get into an all-out catfight towards the end for the man they love. It's pretty absurdist and wacky towards the end, but it's a feel-good film that left me smiling a little.



GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI


In GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI, Haruo (Emoto Tasuku, pretty good here) meets an old elementary school friend, Sadayuki (Onoue Hiroyuki) in a bus by chance. As a child, Sadayuki had always been crazy about UFO and playing pranks, but one day when Haruo and Sadayuki (accompanied by Sadayuki's mother) went to the mountains to find UFO, they fell into a trap in the ground that killed Sadayuki's mother. Since then, Sadayuki believed feverishly that his mother was abducted by aliens and he had a microchip embedded in his head. Haruo didn't dare to tell him about the truth, and they both drifted apart since then.

However, while in the bus, Sadayuki asks Haruo to accompany him in his quest to find Nagasawa, a UFO researcher, so that he can get the chip removed from his head. Haruo reluctantly accompanies his rather mentally imbalanced friend on his mission. It's a little like Terry Gilliam's THE FISHER KING, with Haruo being Jeff Bridges' character and Sadayuki being Robin Williams'. Although Haruo seems like the normal one of the two at first, the quest gradually allows him, who has been leading an idle life doing nothing in particular, to learn more about himself as well.

(In case you were wondering who George Adamski was, you can read about his wiki entry here. Anyway, Adamski was known among ufologists for his outlandish claims about photographing alien ships, meeting 'Space Brothers' and flying around with them etc.)

It's hard for me to compare both films. Initially, I thought I preferred the latter. But thinking carefully again, I find myself at a loss. SEISMIC GIRL is a little more restrained with its wry comedy, GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI goes through a wider spectrum of emotions, which, thankfully, the filmmaker was able to handle well. (otherwise the film could've suffered from schizophrenia too) Narratively, SEISMIC GIRL is more original and unpredictable. GOODBYE, GEORGE ADAMSKI is more about the journey than the destination (but the ending is really evocative though... maybe because it's the kind of thing I myself like to do).

Once again, I'll be interested to see other people's opinions about the films.

After each film, there's a lengthy Q & A session (lengthier than the ones with the directors in competition anyway) between the film director and festival director Araki Keiko. I'm sure if I have understood their conversation more, I could've written more in this entry. I'm still a little miffed that I couldn't see the rest of the competition flicks. Seeing the four films so far in the festival is making me feel more and more desperate about doing a new film. My YUKI project is still left hanging. I hope to hear some good news from Maiko the producer once she finishes her exams. :(

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gone for 3 nights and the world had changed... Tony Leung and Carina Lau got married??

I finally got back from Nasu after being gone for three nights. I can't believe that while I was hiking at Nasu, teaching (or rather, TRYING TO TEACH) 13-year-old Japanese kids English (pics and posts about that later), the whole world had changed.

My mom greeted me on MSN immediately after she saw me online and gave me a video link (it's in Chinese).



I opened and was shocked to find out that Tony Leung and Carina Lau finally got married! After 20 years of relationship, 20 years of hearing about them together, then breaking up, then together again, then rumours of him with going out with some female co-stars, then some rumours of her going out with some male co-stars (I only read the gossip section in Chinese newspapers)... they've finally tied the knot.

And to have the wedding in an exotic place like Bhutan, I can imagine how, all of a sudden, interest level for the country has increased tenfold in the past 3 days. Mine had definitely increased, and I've looked for photos of it in Flickr. It's beautiful.

Bhutan


Bhutan 2
Top two photos by blogmulo

Bhutan 3
Photo by bluepeak


It's amazing that they even had Wong Kar Wai as the wedding planner (or wedding visual coordinator or whatever), along with William Chang too (WKW's frequent collaborator, he's a famous art director/production designer and editor). I was startled when the video above showed a brief pic of Wong Kar Wai without his trademark sunglasses. (Me: "Wong Kar Wai has... EYES!")

If I ever get married, I would love to do it at some exotic country no one had ever heard of (though my previous list was rather cliched, Paris, Venice and oh, yeah, Las Vegas, I want to get married by a guy dressed in Elvis costume, so that I can honour my father's love for Elvis Presley, I'm a good son). Despite being a filmmaker myself, I'll definitely have someone else direct my wedding, preferably a world-famous director too. Someone like Michael Bay, so I can have exploding cars (not mine), and a bride who needs to find the wedding ring by leaning over a car engine in a tight top that showed off her midriff. Or Uwe Boll, adapting the ceremony from another video game.

I would also like to have awesome photos like the two below:

Tony Leung and Carina Lau wedding photo with Bhutan monks

Tony Leung and Carina Lau wedding photo with Bhutan monks 2


(Check out more of their wedding photos)

I wonder how much is a 12-carat Cartier wedding ring that Tony got for Carina.

...

... I'm horrified that I'm actually fantasizing about my own wedding. Maybe seeing so many high school classmates and schoolmates announcing their marriage via Facebook is starting to get to me. Man, even some uni mates who went to Murdoch University with me then had gotten pregnant/ given birth too. And she's only a year older than I am!

Have I gotten old enough to enter the stage where everyone around me is getting married? Or are they just getting married young? I'm confounded.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

[30th PIA Film Festival] SEMIGAO and TENGU LEAF

I first heard about the PIA Film Festival (English site here) from my friend Maiko (who is supposed to produce my next Japanese-language short film). It's an important film festival that launched many careers of young Japanese filmmakers, normally when winning an award at the Tokyo PFF, their films end up touring around the nation, and some, of course, get invited to important foreign film fests. There were some winners at the Berlin Film Festival too. Naomi Kawase was a Pia winner, I heard Kiyoshi Kurosawa was one too.

Today was the opening of the 30th Pia Film Festival, so I decided to go there and check out two of the films in competition. It's only 1200 yen (300 yen cheaper than a normal film), and I get to watch 2 films, so it's a good deal.

The festival is held in a cinema at Shibuya Crosstower, the place was filled with young people, probably university students too. Unsurprising, since the filmmakers are those around my age as well. The cinema was packed, and I started wondering if a similar event was held in Malaysia, whether it would be just as successful. It's not a bad start though. A film festival for student films held in a cinema, of course, the tickets have to be cheaper as well.

In the little-seen (and UNDERRATED) Antonio Banderas film, THE 13TH WARRIOR, his character managed to learn Norse miraculously in a night by sitting with the crowd of vikings he was traveling with, and listening closely to their conversations. Sometimes, I feel as if I'm doing the same when i go to the cinema to watch a Japanese film without subtitles. Often I don't understand most of the dialogue, but I find myself 'understanding' the plot.

Both films I saw, SEMIGAO and TENGU LEAF seem to revolve around the same themes. The disaffected young people in contemporary Japan, whose relationships with their family members are friendly but somewhat distant, and they are those who are left behind by the rapidly moving society. However, both use vastly different methods to tell their stories.

Semigao
Semigao


The first film, SEMIGAO, feels somewhat schizophrenic, with its hodgepodge of flashy stylistic devices, it seems to be different in tone and style in each scene. But I'm not surprised, considering that the film's by a directing duo, Noda Kenichi and Tsunoda Hiroaki, one's my age, the other is two years older. They dared to experiment a lot with the film. The protagonist is an unattractive manga artist who suddenly became homeless, and I think he's probably trying to find his place in society, finish up his manga, and also win the heart of this cute florist he's too shy and antisocial to speak to.

So there are lots of fantasy sequences, and some quick animated shots to illustrate the protag's mental world. So there are scenes where as he draws, the characters in the manga panels begin to speak, and he also has some sort of a double/split personality/ conscience/ imaginary friend or something who is dressed in drag and talks to him (a device I recently saw in Coppola's YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH few weeks ago), and even stop-motion animation is used at certain sequences. It's uniquely Japanese with its quirky and off-beat humour, and there are parts of the film that worked. And it managed to draw numerous laughter from the audiences (and myself) too.

Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of the film's off-kilter shot compositions. Somehow, in an attempt to make the film seem more eccentric, the film ends up feeling somewhat amateurish. It's quite jarring for me. And I can't really say that all the visual gimmicks employed within the film have worked either. It's like going for something too advanced before perfecting the basics. I end up feeling tempted to say "so what? I want to be drawn closer to the character, without having the barrage of film making tricks to distract me". The film SEMIGAO is most similar to might be FUNUKE SHOW SOME LOVE YOU LOSERS (my review here) But the latter was able to make a good balance between its visual gimmicks and keeping the film grounded. A The pathos intended for the ending is undercut because the film doesn't feel genuine anymore. But perhaps that it intended by the filmmakers to soften their blows as a social satire.

Surprisingly, I managed to catch a glimpse of two actresses from the film during the brief break between films. I saw the actress playing the love interest (she's cute) standing outside when I walked out of the toilet, being congratulated by many for her acting. Then, I saw the actress playing the protag's younger sister (she's pretty, looks like a young Namori Izumi) walking past my seat to the cinema exit, guess she wasn't going to stay around for the next film.

Tengu Leaf
Tengu Leaf


The next film, TENGU LEAF, by Saito Takashi, is the exact opposite of SEMIGAO. It's a languidly-paced film that aims more for realism. It's the same sort of film that I've seen among the Malaysian New Wave filmmakers with its sparse dialogue and background music. It's that sort of formula that Japan Times had once described that's derived from the works of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Bresson, Tarkovsky etc. Yeah, it's arthouse stuff that will cause coma among most viewers who are more used to the conventional Hollywood style (a few audience members in front of me DID fall asleep).

Normally, I thought I would be bored as well, but somehow I didn't feel like that at all. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I was watching Tsai Ming-Liang films in the past few days (saw WHAT TIME IS IT THERE? and GOODBYE DRAGON INN, and the second half of WAYWARD CLOUD in the past week), thus preparing my mood for a film like this. I was enthralled because this film has really good cinematography, atmospheric and moody. It's about the mundane, two 12 year old kids, a boy and a girl, and their daily misadventures. We see them do everyday stuff, like the little girl sitting alone in a bus, going home, or buying food from a convenience store at night, but somehow, images like that stuck with me.

The duo hangs out at an abandoned shophouse, either playing football, or him listening to her essay (I think), and they also try to decorate the place themselves. (A lesser director would've tried to make this young couple too cute, and force it to become more of a 'preteen romance' film. Good thing it never happened.) At home, the girl seems to have a distant relationship with her mom, and we never get to see her other parent. As for the boy, his parents were never seen. It's always as if they were alone at home. And sometimes, when they hang out, it's as if they're the only people in the world. It reminds me a little of Seng Tat's FLOWER IN THE POCKET (my review here), but the adults are even more absent here. Both of the child performers are really good. But ultimately, I think he is aspiring to be more like the Dardenne brothers (as I read in the Pia book after the show ended, but I was speed reading, so I could be wrong)

My initial thoughts then was that the filmmaker Saito Takahashi (a year older than I am) seems to be able to control the mood and pacing of his film very well, and has a very good awareness of mise-en-scene and eye for visuals. While I don't want to openly compare films, I find myself liking TENGU LEAF more even though it's the kind of film I expected least to enjoy. I'm interested to know what others think of his films. An interesting new voice? Or just another transcendentalist deep in the foothills, trying to climb the pinnacle where Ozu and company are at?

But then, due to the fact that TENGU LEAF has much less dialogue than SEMIGAO, I might have missed something vital about the film.

I'm definitely going back to fest next week right after I return from Nasu (more on that later) to catch two other competition films.

Saturday Epic Anime Scene - Final Shootout in Cowboy Bebop (aka Chow Yun Fat was cool!)

It's getting harder to find an epic anime scene on Youtube. It doesn't help that every single search result I get is some rubbish AMV (anime music video) that ALWAYS use Linkin Park's songs. I was once fascinated by AMV years ago, some are bloody awesome, especially those that are capable of splicing characters from different animes into the same video. It was slightly before I started learning my own video editing, and I think in some ways, watching AMV could've been an influence.

I think my relationship with AMV ended during my time in Perth, when hardcore anime fans I know started wailing about how Linkin' Park is the greatest band of all time (I'm sure it's the ONLY 'rock' band they've ever listened to) and how they force me to watch those rubbish AMV in their collection. It was a little like CLOCKWORK ORANGE, I ended up becoming a changed man.

So don't be surprise if I'm ending this supposedly weekly thing soon (after only 3 weeks?). I don't want to go through so many AMV again, it's traumatic.

For this week, I'll go for a slightly newer anime, instead of something from the 80s, I give you something from the late 90s.

Cowboy Bebop.

Like many, this was one of the few series I truly adored during my high school years. I initially wanted to choose the famous GREEN BIRD scene (from the episode Ballad of Fallen Angels). Because I still remember how blew away I was by its visual poetry, but then, I thought that when it came to sheer badassness (this is meant to be for 'epic' scenes, not 'poetic' ones), I definitely have to choose the last episode of COWBOY BEBOP where Spike and Vicious had their final showdown.

I'm surprised to see that the whole sequence from Spike flying off in his plane to Vicious' headquarters, fighting the minions, and then the solo battle against Vicious to the ending clocked only around 5 minutes. That's pretty fast and effective. That's the amount of time Son Goku took to turn into a Super Saiyajin 3.


The final shootout in COWBOY BEBOP


Cowboy Bebop is heavily influenced by John Woo's Hong Kong films in the 80s. And it's really obvious in this sequence. And because the series predated THE MATRIX, everything happened quickly, no flow-mo, no bullet time, nothing. Just (...relatively) realistic badass shootout that's as good as anything you see in a live-action film. If your impression of John Woo comes solely from his shitty Hollywood films (FACE/OFF was his only good one), then you ought to check out the stuff that made him famous, like A BETTER TOMORROW 1 AND 2, THE KILLER and HARD-BOILED.

I have a soft spot for A BETTER TOMORROW 2, which is often the butt of a joke for many because of the way they brought Chow Yun Fat back to the sequel. His character died in part 1, so they have a twin brother returning from US to kick ass this time. It's genius. Only BEERFEST had the audacity to do something like that since then.

A BETTER TOMORROW 2 had some badass shooting scenes which really influenced the COWBOY BEBOP sequence above. Check this out.


The final shootout in A BETTER TOMORROW


By the 7-minute mark, you'll see Chow Yun Fat's one-on-one showdown with that nameless badass killer. The Spike vs Vicious scene is a homage to this.

If you're too lazy for that, you can just watch the showdown on the following video.


Spike vs Vicious is a homage to this scene from A BETTER TOMORROW 2


Since this blog post had turned into an A BETTER TOMORROW 2 tribute, I'll give you all the best scene from the film. It's Chow Yun Fat's 'EAT THE RICE' scene, in which Chow Yun Fat teaches white people not to disrespect rice.


"FOR YOU, RICE IS NOTHING, BUT TO US, RICE JUST LIKE MY FATHER AND MOTHER. DON'T FUCK WITH MY FAMILY!"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Solitary late night walk to FamilyMart

During my Perth days, I always liked the idea of taking a late night walk to, say, a convenience store nearby. Either to buy a drink, or some snacks (often a chocolate bar).

But back then, I was usually going to the petrol station opposite Murdoch University. I remember going there almost every night whenever I had to sleep over at the editing rooms.

I like walking at night when certain places and the route I take are only partially illuminated by the streetlights, or the lights of the school buildings. There's something magical about those once-familiar places at night.

When walking alone, away from the editing rooms, I'm alone with my thoughts, I can take a breather, thinking over on what to do next, mentally reassessing previous scenes to see what I've done wrong, or I can just think nothing, and hear only the sound of my own footsteps, and the distant sound of cars passing by.

Normally I care more about the journey, than the destination. The breather I craved was the walk I took, and not the snacks and drinks I bought at the petrol station.

Of course, returning to Malaysia and staying for a year, I never really had the chance to do that again. In fact, I've forgotten about all these until I started writing this post.

This post was really meant to be about the late night walk I took to the convenience store just an hour ago. I was about to write and post the photos I took until I suddenly remember that I used to do the same when I was in Perth.

A few nights ago, I took my very first walk to the FamilyMart convenience store near Waseda University. So I decided to do the same again just now, but this time bringing a camera with me.

This is my view when I walk out of the back of my dormitory.

Late night solitary walk 1

Late night solitary walk 1


Normally I have to walk down this long flight of stone steps to my uni. I personally believe that it was the main culprit that made me lose that much weight since I came to Tokyo.

Walking up and down the steps is hellish, especially nowadays, under the scorching summer sun..

The imposing flight of stone steps

The imposing flight of stone steps 2


But at night, the trek is much easier. I tried snapping photos of the empty streets near my university, but everything came out blurry. If you look carefully on the right of the photo below, there's a woman walking by herself. I think she might've freaked out if she'd noticed someone taking photos of her from the distance.

Empty streets. Solitary woman.


I reached FamilyMart. Entering the place, i was immediately greeted by loud and cheerful J-pop, there were a few guys at the magazine/comics section, I walked past them to catch a glimpse on what they were reading. It wasn't porn. Just the latest issue of JUMP WEEKLY.

With the loud music, and the blindingly bright lights, and the nearby human presence, convenience stores like FamilyMart feel like an oasis of activity amidst a desert of stillness and darkness.

FamilyMart

Dude reading comics in FamilyMart

Friday, July 18, 2008

[VIDEOS] Trailers for CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY and FLEETING IMAGES

I normally don't cut trailers for short films. I think it's way too hard to do it, and I feel that I'm doing it at the risk of 1) giving away too much of the story or 2) making my films look worse than they really are.

Normally, Hollywood trailers are 2 and a half minutes. 2 and a half minutes for a 90-100 minute long film is reasonable, but if a 10 minute short film has such a long trailer, I'm already showing a quarter of the film. That's as bad as doing a 25-minute long trailer.

However, a certain film festival (name withheld so that I can save myself the embarrassment of not being selected) I've submitted both short films to have stated that trailers for submissions are optional. I felt a little conflicted, then I thought, 'why not?'. Might as well try it out. So I ended up editing a trailer for each of my film, CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY and my latest one, FLEETING IMAGES.

I started working on the trailers last week, both I aimed to be only around a minute long, which was all right (but still that's like doing a 10 minute trailer for a full-length film). The first one I managed to slap together in an hour or so was FLEETING IMAGES', however, it was quite a challenge because my latest short film isn't exactly a traditional narrative film, it's really more like a video essay/ documentary. The images I used were elliptical, and the film, which has no dialogue at all, would've ended up becoming totally incoherent.

So what I did was only to preserve the melancholic and introspective tone of the actual film for the trailer, using some of its voiceover narration, accompany it with some of nicer shots of the film. The shots were pretty fleeting, I hoped it was fitting for the title of the film.

And here's the FLEETING IMAGES trailer.


FLEETING IMAGES trailer


CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY was more complicated. Needed more than a night to finish it off. I had to choose between one particular tone of the film and go with it. In my demo reel, CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY was made to look somewhat melancholic, but I figured it wouldn't be the right feel for its trailer. Better to stick with the comedic tone and build up the intrigue of the plot. And I went for a mockumentary-feel. It was originally longer, with me putting in some quick shots of some additional (and most visually appealing) scenes, but Sebastian pointed out that I've accidentally revealed the main plot twist of the film. I agreed with him after thinking about it for a while and cut the trailer (20 seconds) shorter.

Here's the CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY trailer.


CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY trailer


What do you think of them?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Swifty Reviews 'The Last Love Song on This Little Planet 最終兵器彼女'

Shortly after first watching Shunji Iwai's Love Letter ten years ago, I developed a little teenage crush on Sakai Miki, who played the young Itsuki in the film. It's impossible not to, there was this innocent beauty in her, coupled by the gracefulness of the scenes she was in. Especially the one where she skates by herself in the midst of a pure white snowy plains...

Sakai Miki in Love Letter

... and then finding a frozen dragonfly, understanding her dad's passing, it was a very elegant scene.

Sakai Miki in Love Letter 2
Sakai Miki in LOVE LETTER (1995)


(After typing this, I immediately popped in my LOVE LETTER DVD to watch that scene. and do the above screencaps. Still beautiful.)

On the year I discovered SPEED by accident at Tokyo, I was actually looking for Sakai Miki's album, LIKE A BEST FRIEND (which I did).

But since then, I never knew what happened to her. I thought she may have retired from acting, living the blissful life of a housewife.

So I was surprised when I saw her in a supporting role at THE LAST LOVE SONG ON THIS LITTLE PLANET, which is more popularly known as SAIKANO, or also SHE, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON, which is based on a manga and anime.



Being a 2005 film, ten years had passed since her debut in LOVE LETTER. From playing a high school girl to playing a married woman pining for her often-absent husband, a flirtatious 'senpai' character. How different from her role in LOVE LETTER!

Sakai Miki in Saikano
Sakai Miki in Saikano (not a good pic)


I'm saying all these because this discovery is really one of those rare bright spots of the film (I said 'discovery', not her performance).

(Random: As I type this, the ending of LOVE LETTER is playing, and the face of Sakai Miki is immortalized in a drawing behind a bookmark.)

SAIKANO is a tragic high school romance done during the whole 'JUN-AI' craze. But instead of having a girl suffering from terminal illness, the female protag Chise (Aki Maeda) has been experimented upon, turned into an ultimate weapon of mass destruction due to the cybernetic implants that gradually replace her own organs. She finds her own humanity slipping away from her because she is forced to kill and cause, er, mass destruction. Nothing more than a military pawn in an all-out global war. A global-war that started because of her creation.

It's really quite a bummer.

So this film is really about her relationship with her boyfriend, the emotionally awkward Shuji (Shunsuke Kubozuka), who has to struggle with his own feelings, and the fact that he isn't going to live a normal life. Suffering from low-esteem, Chise, of course, wants to push Shuji away so that he doesn't have to go through all these. (I do wonder why the Japanese military would want to experiment upon some introverted, self-pitying young teenage girl and turn someone like her into their ultimate weapon)

Having (regrettably) not seen the anime nor read the manga despite glowing recommendations, I can't compare the film with its source material (and even if I have, I won't). As a film, I think Saikano is terribly lacking. While Brian the Cinematographer told me via MSN that he couldn't sit through the first 10 minutes of the film, I made myself finish the film, and it was a struggle.

This film suffers from a common problem I notice in a lot of contemporary mainstream Japanese filmmaking. That the filmmaker may have been so influenced by television, especially Japanese dramas, that despite working on a different medium, armed with a bigger budget, he is incapable of making his film 'cinematic'. Watching it, I felt as if I was just watching a J-dorama episode on TV, albeit with bigger budget and more special effects. Don't get me wrong, this film probably has a modest budget, and it shows. But as a filmmaker, I think it is up to his creativity to conceal his limitations and maximize what he has. I don't think that happened.

Thus this film is a stark contrast of the film I previously reviewed, HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Without the visual flair and mise en scene skills necessary to elevate the film, Saikano crumbled upon the weight of its manipulated angst and unremarkable aesthetics.

I mentioned this film when writing my review for CYBORG SHE (MY GIRLFRIEND IS A CYBORG) last month saying that they both have similar premises (though Chise isn't really a cyborg, just a poor tormented chick with cybernetic implants), and while rather different in mood and tone, I can't help but mentally compare both films. And I have to say that CYBORG SHE is a vastly superior film thanks to the director's storytelling, the chemistry between the leads and their performances (... probably bigger budget too). Although recycling his tricks from MY SASSY GIRL was what irked me most about Kwak Jae-Yong's film, but I can't help but feel that if the director had taken more chances, the film would've been better.

This film could've been saved, in spite of its director's stylistic mistakes, if anchored by strong performances. But this leads me to another major problem of the film. I personally think that Aki Maeda delivered the best performance in the film, yet Shunsuke Kubozuka may have been woefully miscast as the protagonist.

Already 24 when the film was being made (Maeda was 20), he already looked too old for his role as a 17 year old high school student. And I also think that he looks too rugged and edgy for the role. I'm not going to make any assumptions about his acting skills, because he might have been really good in other films and I don't know, but as the audience surrogate and emotional anchor of the film, he just doesn't look right as Shuji. And seems as if the dramatic scenes in the later parts of the film were way out of his league. Worst of all, I don't think there's chemistry between the two leads.

They may have needed someone who is younger and more, conventionally good-looking, for the role. And why lose the glasses? It's not as if the live-action films needed Shuji to be an action hero.

And so, a film that drew me in initially because of its intriguing premise became increasingly taxing to watch. Once it started to tug some heartstrings, I merely felt numb, and lament at its missed opportunities. Despite having Sakai Miki in it.


SAIKANO trailer
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Short film and video works