Savouring the Animations of Shinkai

10/09/2017 at 11:33 AM (animation, Movies, Romance, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

It has been a while since I’ve written about Japanese animations. They came to my attention again when I was searching for a gift for my now ex-boyfriend. I know I’ve praised Miyazaki before but this time my words of adulation will be for the storytelling skills of Makoto Shinkai. His body of work has received comparison to works by the illustrious Studio Ghibli animator but the creator of 5 Centimers Per Second and Children Who Chase Lost Voices is rather self-effacing about his talents.

5 Centimers Per Second

The film consists of a triptych of acts: Cherry BlossomCosmonaut and 5 Centimeters per Second.

In the first act, Takaki Tōno, the main character, becomes friends with Akari Shinohara when she transfers to his elementary school. The classmates foster a deep friendship because they have lots of mutual interests and end up spending recesses together often; even when they talk to each other, they don’t use honorifics, a sign of closeness in Japan. When Akari moves to Tochigi after completing elementary school because of her parents’ jobs, the two friends keep in contact through post but this communication slowly fades as time passes. This part of the story is set sometime before the arrival of cellphones and email. When Takaki hears that his family will be moving to Kagoshima, he decides to visit Akari in person first because they will be living too far apart to regularly see each other. Before he visits, Takaki also composes a letter that expresses his feelings about her. On the way to see her, Takaki loses the letter and a severe snowstorm pushes the train schedule behind several hours. When the two finally meet each other again, it is a temporary, touching and bittersweet reunion during which they talk for hours. They make sentimental promises to each other and after the events of the night spent amongst the snow, Takaki decides the loss of his letter was not important. He never realises there was a letter he never got as his train leaves, because the audience see a letter from Akari addressed to Takaki that never changed hands to the addressee.

In the second act, we see Takaki attending senior high in Tanegashima and he is blind to the love shown by Kanae Sumida, who is not brave enough to admit her feelings. Despite all her efforts at winning him over, Kanae remains in the friend zone. She sees that Takaki always appears to be writing emails or looking off into the beyond. We learn these emails are sent to nobody and he often has recurring dreams that feature Akari. After an attempt to confess her love fails, Kanae decides what she could offer to Takaki will not be enough to satiate what he desires and keeps the truth of her love locked within her heart.

In the third act, Takaki has become a computer programmer in Tokyo while Akari is preparing to get married to another man. His feelings for Akari that he has been unable to shake impact negatively on his life. Eventually a depressed Takaki leaves his job, unable to cope with his unresolved feelings for Akari. Meanwhile Akari goes through her old belongings and discovers the letter addressed to Takaki. The two characters narrate in tandem, both recalling a dream depicting the events of their last meeting in the snow and hoping to watch the cherry blossoms together again.

One day walking down a road, Takaki and Akari appear to recognise each other as they walk past at a train crossing, where they had watched cherry blossoms together thirteen years ago, before Akari’s moving to Tochigi. At the opposite sides of the tracks, they begin to look back but the passing trains cut their view. Takaki waits for the trains to pass and sees Akari is gone. After a moment, he smiles to himself and continues walking.

Makoto’s film gives a realistic view of the struggles many face against: time, space, people, and love. The title 5 Centimeters Per Second comes from the speed at which cherry blossoms petals fall, the petals being a allegorical representation of humans, evoking the slowness of life and how people often start together but drift into separate ways.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices

Asuna is a young girl who has been forced to grow up quickly due to the death of her father, while her mother, a nurse, works long shifts at a hospital. Asuna spends her solitary days listening to the mysterious music emanating from the cat’s-whisker receiver her father gave to her as a memento.

One day, while walking to her clubhouse across a bridge, she is attacked by a fearsome creature and saved by a mysterious boy who calls himself Shun. Asuna treats Shun’s wound from fighting the creature and later they both listen to Asuna’s radio. Shun tells Asuna he is from another country called Agartha and that he came to this place to find something. He then gives Asuna a blessing in the form of a kiss to the forehead. Asuna leaves hurriedly and tells Shun she’ll be back tomorrow. Shun, now alone, looks up at the stars and falls from the ledge to his death.

The next morning, Asuna hears from her mother that a boy was found dead in the river, but refuses to believe it’s Shun. In school, Mr. Morisaki, a substitute teacher, is giving a lecture on a book which grabs Asuna’s attention when he mentions Agartha, the land of the dead. After school, she visits Morisaki and asks him about Agartha. Morisaki explains that long ago when humankind was young, it needed the guidance of Quetzalcoatls (keepers of the dead) until humans matured and no longer needed them, so they went underground along with a few humans who joined them.

Afterwards, Asuna goes to her hideout to find another mysterious boy who looks like Shun standing on the ledge. Just then, a group of armed men who the boy calls the Arch Angels, appear and attack the both of them. The Arch Angels’ commander captures Asuna and uses a crystal called the clavis to open a gateway to Agartha. The commander and Asuna enter the gateway followed by the boy. Once inside the commander reveals himself to be Morisaki and the boy also reveals himself to be Shin, Shun’s younger brother. Morisaki tells him that all he wants is to bring back his late wife from the dead. Shin leaves Asuna and Morisaki.

Morisaki tells Asuna that she can go back but she decides to accompany him. They both go into the realm via an underwater entrance. Once inside they go on a journey to the Gate of Life and Death which can bring the souls of people back from the dead.

Upon arriving in his village, Shin is told that he has failed in his mission to retrieve that clavis, because Asuna has unknowingly returned with a fragment of one. Shin re-embarks to stop Asuna and Morisaki from wreaking havoc in Agartha.

Along the way Asuna is kidnapped by a race of monsters called the Izoku. In their hideout she meets a young girl named Manna and they both try to escape. In their escape attempt, they encounter Shin who helps them but is wounded by an Izoku. Morisaki finds Asuna and Manna down the river as well as Shin. Shin tries to retrieve the clavis crystal that belongs to Asuna. However, he is too weak to put up a fight and Morisaki easily defeats him. Asuna convinces Morisaki to take him with them while Manna leads them to her village.

Once there, the villagers are, at first reluctant to help the “top-dwellers” but the village elder convinces them to let them in. The elder allows them to stay one night at the village. Meanwhile Asuna checks up on Shin but Shin yells at her telling her to leave him alone.

The next morning Asuna and Morisaki depart from Amaurot. Shin wakes up later and after hearing the villagers riding away to kill them, decides to follow in order to protect Asuna. Morisaki and Asuna are walking towards a steep cliff when they are attacked by the villagers but they are saved by Shin. Asuna, being too scared to climb down, stays while Morisaki continues, leaving her.

Meanwhile Shin is fighting the villagers and is about to be killed when the villagers sense that the clavis crystal has reached the Gate of Life and Death and leave Shin to wander aimlessly, having betrayed his country.

Asuna is walking aimlessly and asking herself why she came to Agartha and finally accepts that she came to Agartha because she was feeling lonely. She is then attacked by the Izoku but saved by Shin. Asuna and Shin return to the cliff after seeing the Ark of Life descending. They encounter a Quetzalcoatl who is about to die. Before he dies, Quetzalcoatl offers to take them to the bottom of the cliff.

At the bottom of the cliff, they both find the Gate of Life and Death and enter it. Inside they find Morisaki who tells Asuna she shouldn’t have come and she is soon possessed by Lisa, Morisaki’s late wife. However Shin is able to destroy the crystal Morisaki has used to make his wish. Before she leaves Asuna’s body, Lisa tells Morisaki to find happiness without her. Asuna is now back to her normal self but Morisaki is devastated and asks Shin to kill him but Shin tells him that he must live. Asuna heads back to the surface and saying farewell to Shin and Morisaki, who stay behind. The film ends with Asuna, looking out her window at the cliff side where she had met Shun and Shin. She then says her goodbyes to her mother as she hurries to her graduation ceremony as an older teen.

This film is his longest animation film to date and is described as a “lively” animated film with adventure, action, and romance centered on a cheerful and spirited girl on a journey to say “farewell”.

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The Dressmaker

09/06/2015 at 1:01 AM (Books, Movies) (, , , , , , )

I’ve heard a movie is in the works for this piece of Gothic Australian revenge fiction by Rosalie Ham that I read a while back. Looking back on it, I’m not surprised this has been chosen for a film adaptation. The plot lends itself to the medium well.

Source: Goodreads

Source: Goodreads

Set in 1950s rural Australia in a town called Dungatar, The Dressmaker is about a daughter, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, who was run out of town after being falsely accused of a grave crime when she was just a child and has only returned to take care of her sick and mentally unstable mother. An expert seamstress trained in Paris, the haute couture Myrtle creates soon becomes the talk of the town in spite of her suspicious status to most folk. When the locals begin to flock to her for their fashions to take advantage of her dressmaking abilities, old rivalries begin to resurface and Myrtle is able to take her revenge and leave.

The quirky and hypocritical characters with particular idiosyncrasies populating the town are the highlight of the book but do at times seem a bit eccentric and over-the-top. The driving force in this novel however is definitely the plot. While The Dressmaker is an enjoyable and fast-paced read, it is no literary behemoth.

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Never Let Me Go

09/01/2011 at 4:34 AM (Books, Movies) (, , , , )

Never Let Me Go

Image by Bill McIntyre via Flickr

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is about the intersecting lives of three students from Hailsham who end up reuniting after leaving the school. It is clear as we keep reading, as the narrative is told as a flashback by 31-year-old Kathy, this is a special school and so are the attending students. They are isolated in the school grounds and have no memory of how they entered and instead of teachers, they have Guardians. But they keep up the appearance of being regular, of being normal, of fitting by taking cues from books, other people and television. But they start to realise, at least Kathy and Tommy do, that information is being hidden from them by the Guardians. This is made obvious by bits and pieces the Guardian let slip when they are not careful.

Kathy and Tommy find they are unable to have babies, pursue careers that involve being celebrities or avoid the fate for which they were created. Ruth on the other hand desperately wants to believe her future will be full of promise and speaks if it will be so although the readers would just feel pity for her ignorance. Her fate at the end though triggers some empathy as she shows that she does have some heart. Once the students discover the truth about the mysteries of their past and what actually awaits them in the future, you realise the world created by Ishiguro is seriously dystopian.

In the beginning, I found the start a bit slow and contemplated giving up since it seemed boring. But I’m glad I kept reading because the pace picked up once the descriptions of Hailsham life gained prominence. It is food for thought about the possibilities of our awaiting future, even if the novel is a work of imagination. I have heard it has been adapted into a movie as well although I confess I didn’t hear much about its release. The title of the book, Never Let Me Go, comes from an old 1950s song by Judy Bridgewater. It is based on a poignant scene from the book about a little girl’s personal interpretation of the lyrics while she dances to it. The girl is Kathy.

Sometimes the way Kathy narrates can be distant but I feel this preserves the twist that awaits us which is sinisterly hinted at throughout the book. Like the reader, even Kathy herself is not privy to this secret. I think this works in the book’s favour and therefore inspired me to finish reading.

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Books by the Bronte Sisters

06/12/2011 at 6:39 AM (Books, Classics, Movies, Romance, TV) (, , , , , , , , , )

Once upon a time there were three sisters living in Haworth called Charlotte, Emily and Anne.  These sisters each wrote a masterpiece of literature. By the way, these sisters did have other siblings who made no literary contributions but played a part in inspiring their use of characterisation.

The eldest sister, Charlotte Brontë, wrote Jane Eyre; she used the pseudonym Currer Bell to get a better reception by using a male name. The story of the orphan governess who falls in love with her mysterious employer who has a dark secret with its Gothic overtones is currently hailed as a raging success. I first remember reading Jane Eyre as a nine-year-old, tears streaming from my eyes at the cruelty endured by the poor girl and being furious on learning she could have lived with an uncle who genuinely loved her. Because I still enjoy the story in its adapted forms, I will refer you to this 2006 version of Jane Eyre starring Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester. I like the television adaptations better than the motion pictures, even the one with Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor.

wuthering-heights-by-emily-bronte

 

The middle sister, Emily Brontë, wrote Wuthering Heights; she used the pseudonym Ellis Bell for the same reason as her sisters. The tale of intrigue between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw is now considered a classic tale of English literature but its reception was mixed as some regarded the depiction of their turbulent relationship as being over the top. This was something I borrowed from the public library and I had my ear chewed off as a ten-year-old for reading it during Sunday school. To be honest, this is my least favourite of the masterpieces by the sisters but to each their own. If you are interested in watching Wuthering Heights, I suggest the film in which Ralph Fiennes plays Heathcliff. It actually includes the second part unlike the one Laurence Olivier is in.

The youngest of the writing sisters, Anne Brontë, wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; she used the pseudonym Acton Bell. The sad and controversy arousing tale of the alcoholic Arthur Huntingdon, his son Arthur and pious Helen Graham/Helen Huntingdon was a phenomenal success and even outsold Wuthering Heights. It’s kind of odd it has seemed to fall into neglect now. But then in the Victorian ages, the attitude of Helen was a victory for women because she overturned some rules concerning sexist gender politics by slamming her bedroom door after being abused. This is my second favourite of the sisters’ novels and the one that moved me most emotionally.  To see it play out before your eyes, I suggest you watch the recent BBC mini-series starring Rupert Graves as Huntingdon.

Sadly all the sisters died very young. Charlotte was 38, Emily was 30 and Anne was 29. But it cannot be denied each of them has made a significant contribution to literature and has enriched it before passing on.

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Water For Elephants (Film)

06/05/2011 at 8:31 AM (Action, Historical, Movies, Romance) (, , , , , , , , , )

Water for Elephants – based on the novel by Sara Gruen – is a film typical of old Hollywood and is reminiscent of the film fare from the 1930s. It starts out with an older Jacob Jankoski (Hal Holbrook) who has escaped the confines of his retirement home when his son forgot a due visit. So we see him approach a circus and talk to the ticket seller who first sees him as a nuisance. But when he begins to tell the tale of how he joined the circus as a young boy, the narrative captivates his audience of one.

We learn how Jacob (Robert Pattinson) was left penniless as a young Cornell college student. His aspirations of becoming a vet are cut short until by coincidence he ends up as a stowaway on the train carrying the Benzini circus. Pattinson actually does a good job in this movie by shovelling manure, feeding lions and diagnosing illness in circus animals – you can almost forget he is also the sparkly vampire heart-throb of teenage fans. Jacob is first treated with some respect by the circus master because of his education but after witnessing the cruelty his employer inflicts on a young elephant with a bull hook, the initial bit of camaraderie between them fizzles. His boss, August (Christoph Waltz) is of unpredictable temper, which can sometimes be very violent and tends to make everyone deferential towards him; this includes his young and beautiful wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) of Marilyn Monroe-esque locks whom he regards as his star attraction.

Water for Elephants Movie Poster

So when Jacob falls in love with Marlena, it creates a dangerous situation for both of them. August is a commanding man capable of terrible cruelty to the animals, to his employees and even to his wife. The representation of the Great Depression and the impact that it had on the circus was beautifully conveyed through period costumes, mood lighting and the overall atmosphere of chaos. In my opinion, I felt the husband and wife shared more chemistry than the wife and her lover. Most of Jacob’s chemistry seemed to be directed toward Rosie (Tai), the elephant. Also, while Reese Witherspoon seems to have improved from her role in How Do You Know, Marlena still seemed lacklustre perhaps because they did not give her enough depth as a character ; it was as if she was a pretty face who could do some stunts but is only a possession. So when Jacob has Marlena run away with him, he realises August will not rest until he has his vengeance. Being a little careless about where they stay allows Marlena to be taken away from him after thugs loyal to August give him a hiding. So he carefully plans a way to return and release Marlena from her brute of a husband.

It will suffice to say this strategy of his meets with some complications along the way but Jacob ultimately achieves his goal. Directed by Francis Lawrence whose previous directing credits include I am Legend and Constantine, here you have a film that relies heavily on mood and setting instead of CG rendering and special effects.

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Frocks in Film

05/08/2011 at 1:51 PM (Clothes, Fashion, Movies) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

To tell the truth, I’ve been feeling fairly ill this week so this post is going to be rather short. Instead of regaling you with a word fest, I’ll treat you to one of images. So the royal wedding is finally done. I guess Kate Middleton’s lacy wedding dress looked nice although I think there have been far better designs – my father said it looked like our curtains though. Poor McQueen!

So I’ll introduce you to some of the best dresses in movies. Note of warning though – to pull these off, you actually need the type of figure possessed by the wearer.

5. I know this dress appears as a favourite for many but I don’t like this dress because I feel it is designed more for a manly , stick figure than for  soft, womanly curves. So the green number of Atonement takes last place in this list.

Atonement Dress

 

4. This is a beautiful dress and has been noticed much less. Hollywood unfortunately has a penchant for liking plunging necklines that scream “I am a slut” in a manner lacking class. Contrast that with this sweet number that’s worn by Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer.

3. This dress deserves all its accolades. Sure, it is a bit fussy and ruffly and is rather impractical as regular wear but the design is fantastic. Even if it is old fashioned, this gown worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind should claim its rightful place within the film fashion stakes.

Gone_With_The_Wind___Dress

 

2. This next dress design never really got its due but it is a pretty creation pulled off quite well by film star Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. I admire classy sophistication that still subtly hints at style over being too attention grabbing.

1. Of course, my number one choice is incredibly famous and pulled off by an icon of style. This naturally refers to that little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in her movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

LBD Audrey Hepburn

I do realise fashion is as subjective a topic as music and your ideals of film fashion might be radically different to mine. So feel free to share your views on your favourite frocks!

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Laser Eye Surgery

09/02/2010 at 12:59 PM (Family, Fashion, Movies, Random, Surgery) (, , , , , , )

Glasses became an inevitable part of my life when I turned twelve. The myopic gene was passed on to me as both my mother and father were short-sighted. For a teenager in the formative years of her life, this was a tragedy. Perhaps glasses are in and trendy in the West as nerdiness has reached new heights of cool but in the East where I grew up, big wide, unobstructed eyes were the norm. Rather rebelliously I tried to satisfy myself by indulging in vanity and satisfying my ego despite my poor vision.  This penchant did me no favours as my sight deteriorated.

To make things worse, I’d chosen  gaudy, green plastic frames with round lenses which made my face look like a certain boy wizard who has an uncanny resemblance to my dad .

He has also been said to resemble Shahrukh Khan and Jackie Chan to boot (perhaps he should resign from his rural GP practice and globe-trot to filming destinations as a body double for all these actors he  looks like – apparently).

Harry Potter

My Dad looks a bit like him

I like to be able to distinguish the attractive from the hideous, especially when inebriated with copious amounts of vodka.

Okay that might be shallow – but don’t say you haven’t gone there.

I know.

Anyway my suffering was cut short on the afternoon of my 24th birthday when I scheduled my surgery. I’d become used to contacts by then.

Unfortunately they limited my swimming and other water sport activities.

This was the first time I was given Xanax. Best legal prescription pill ever – saw dancing halos above the operating bed (much better than one half-pill of something illicit I once took  for my first and the last time which only gave me a queasy feeling and had me end up on my knees, puking into a toilet bowl).

Jackie Chan - another resemblance

Him too apparently ....

One hour later, my eyes were bandaged and protective goggles placed over my eyes which were stuck with adhesive tape. Coming out in a post-operative daze , looking like an out of place extra in a horror film, I braved the walk home.

Shahrukh Khan

oh and him too ...

Sleeping soundly from 5 pm until 9 am the next morning, when my protective covering for the eyes were taken off, I could see the St.Kilda trams in Fitzroy St from where I stood in the kitchen. I’d never been able to see them from that distance before .

It was perfect timing as I’d booked in for a photography camp at Port Campbell the next day. Too bad now it’s so cold and windy that I don’t even want to swim on the  rooftop pool…

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