Category Archives: Film

The Right To Be Lazy

I have experienced hell, and it is an oral surgeon hammering your jaw bone in order to “lift” your sinus cavity and make room for a dental implant. I arrived at my surgery appointment expecting a mildly pleasant laughing gas trip (my last laughing gas experience at the dentist was exceptionally awesome!), but instead received a 30-minute torture session that only worsened once the anaesthesia wore off. I ended up flat out for a week, attempting to dull the pain with documentaries, eBay, Dory Previn records, and reading Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing by Andrew Smart. It takes Tom Hodgkinson’s How to Be Idle / How to Be Free series (both eye-opening, life-changing books for me) into a more academic realm, offering scientific proof that doing nothing does wonders for the brain, and thus does wonders for creativity, happiness, and health. I then watched a documentary called Surviving Progress, which details the economic and climate abyss we currently face, and interviews a range of talking heads who offer their unconventional views on what can be done to reverse these ugly trends. The general consensus seems to be that rather than striving for further economic … Read more

Ava Gardner + New Orleans Rap

I blame buyee.jp for my lack of updates over the past couple of weeks. It gives those outside Japan access to Yahoo Auctions, a goldmine for rare Japanese vinyl. When I left Tokyo in 2004, I mourned the end of my love affair with Yahoo Auctions, beloved provider of my most cherished ’60s Japanese girl-pop 45s. It’s been two weeks since discovering buyee.jp and the thrill is not even close to wearing off. I’ve been given the keys back to the kingdom, and I am thankful every single friggin’ day. One of my recent scores will be appearing on the second volume of Nippon Girls, which Ace Records are clearing right this minute! Speaking of Ace, I’ve reviewed a couple of their latest compilations—Dusty Heard Them Here First, featuring the original versions of Dusty’s covers, and the 8th volume of the Where the Girls Are series—which you can read by clicking on the links. January got off to a hot n’ sunny start in Palm Springs, CA, where I hung by the poolside at the Del Marcos Hotel devouring Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations by Peter Evans and Ava Gardner. I … Read more

Japanese Pop Cinema in London

You don’t need subtitles to understand the appeal of Mariko Kaga, often called the Japanese Bardot and star of Monday Girl (Getsuyoubi No Yuka), Ko Nakahira’s French new wave-esque tale of a good-girl-gone-wild from 1964. Petite and pouty, Kaga piles her hair up in a messy black bouffant, and looks ravishing as she prances around in a men’s shirt with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. I picked up the DVD whilst living in Tokyo, and despite the lack of English subtitles and my failed attempts to understand the too-fast-to-catch Japanese, I enjoyed multiple screenings, perfectly satisfied watching the adorable Kaga flit between Yokohama’s nightclubs and bedrooms, in Nakahira’s beautiful monochrome. Monday Girl has rarely been shown outside of Japan, but the BFI in London are soon to host a film festival honoring Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, with screenings of Monday Girl along with girl-gang drama Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, juvenile delinquent flick I Look Up When I Walk (starring “”Sukiyaki” singer Kyu Sakamoto), along with other top picks from the studio’s “golden age” of the ’50s + ’60s.  The Nikkatsu Studio Film Festival runs from June 1 – 30, 2013 at London’s BFI … Read more

Lost Angels

Danny Harris was once an Olympic silver medalist in track and field. Then he began dabbling in drugs. Then his grandmother died. It was the beginning of a downward spiral that cost him his athletic career, sports sponsorships, his home, and all financial stability. He ended up in the 52-block vicinity in downtown Los Angeles known as Skid Row, the subject of documentary Lost Angels, Skid Row is My Home. Actress Catherine Keener narrates in an overly serious and somber tone, perhaps as an attempt to over-emphasize the incomprehensible–Los Angeles’ highest concentration of homeless are living just blocks away from its financial epicenter.  As the system for providing housing and health care to society’s mentally and physically disabled as well as drug addicted continues to erode, the neediest have little choice but to live on the streets. Many of Los Angeles’ 50,000 homeless ironically call Skid Row their home. It’s come to symbolize a community, a place for America’s forgotten. We meet Danny Harris, along with Terri “Detroit” Hughes, Kevin “KK” Cohen, and Albert “Bam Bam” Olson, whose varied yet similarly tragic tales of comfortable-to-destitute highlight just how easy it is to end up in poverty. Those that believe that all individuals should be fully responsible for themselves and “get a job” would do well to watch Linda Harris, whose congenital skin … Read more

More like Mae West, please!

“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”-Mae West It’s hard to watch a Mae West film and not feel short-changed by the lack of ballsy, wise-crackin’, confidence-oozing, sexually fearless females in today’s popular culture. I’m wholly thankful for a very long list of women in the spotlight who dismiss the status quo in their performances, songs, and words, but the likes of Mae West—playwright, director, actor, comedian, singer, skilled seductress, and unabashed pleasure seeker–come around far too seldomly. Lena Dunham has come close–as the writer, director, and star of her own TV show, she dares to show a side of female sexuality that rarely gets exposed in public. But most still operate within the male narrative, where the young, skinny, and not-so-brainy rule. That Mae West managed to make her Hollywood debut at age 38, stand up to the all-powerful studios, battle it out with censors, maintain her curves, and write plays about sexually-aggressive women in the 1920s is testament to her balls, talent, late nights at the typewriter, and sheer force of will to get things done exactly as she … Read more

Century of the Self

I watched Adam Curtis’ 4-part series The Century of the Self (2002) and my brain went into “too much information” mode and left me overwhelmed and mind-blown. It was the moment in the Monkees’ film Head, where the band are sitting for hours in a steam bath with the Maharishi, hoping to gain some insight into the meaning of life. After hours of lecturing, the Maharashi concludes by questioning everything he’s just said. “But why should I speak?,” he asks. “For I know nothing.” The Monkees flip out. “You know nothing?!” they ask. And Davy Jones storms off in a huff. After absorbing 240 minutes worth of footage on propaganda, PR, consumerism, and psychology, I was left with the frustrating yet oddly liberating feeling that I know nothing. When the film reveals that women’s “choice” to take up smoking in the 1920s was not actually a radical expression of equality and feminism, but a carefully constructed PR plan to get the other half of the population to cough up their cash for cigarettes, it leaves you questioning your own forms of personal expression, and begs the questions, Am I in charge of myself … Read more