3-D pornography is still pornography

Mar 30, 2016

3-D pornography is still pornography

During the heyday of Japan’s “pink films” (cinematic porn) in the 1960s and ’70s, directors were given free rein over their pictures as long as they included at least one sex scene per reel. For the late Koji Wakamatsu, perhaps the genre’s most famous ...

The Nihilist Spasm Band: 51 years later it's still chaos

Mar 13, 2016

The Nihilist Spasm Band: 51 years later it's still chaos

Japanese TV had never seen anything like it. During the final episode of irreverent variety show “Tamori’s Music is the World” in March 1996, viewers were introduced to a group of silver-haired Canadians billed as “the Rolling Stones of noise music” — a sobriquet ...

The Greek auteur who cooked up 'The Lobster'

Mar 9, 2016

The Greek auteur who cooked up 'The Lobster'

When a gifted director ditches their native tongue and starts working in English, it can be a fraught process. For every Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, there’s a Wong Kar-wai or Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose career still hasn’t recovered since he parlayed the Oscar triumph ...

Odious politicians could learn from 'Escobar: Paradise Lost'

Mar 9, 2016

Odious politicians could learn from 'Escobar: Paradise Lost'

As Donald Trump closes in on the U.S. presidency, it’s worth remembering that the demagogic real-estate mogul is far from the most odious individual to have pursued a career in politics. Take Pablo Escobar, for instance: The notorious drug kingpin briefly served as a ...

Tarantino has a lot to say about nothing in 'The Hateful Eight'

Feb 24, 2016

Tarantino has a lot to say about nothing in 'The Hateful Eight'

Stranded by a blizzard in the wilds of post-Civil War Wyoming, a posse of Quentin Tarantino alumni convenes at a remote cabin for a murderous reunion party. They’re an impressive bunch — weathered, whiskered and heavily armed — but their master’s wit seems to ...

Apple fans get a fairly good origin story

Feb 11, 2016

Apple fans get a fairly good origin story

‘It’s like five minutes before every launch, everyone goes to a bar and gets drunk and tells me what they really think,” laments Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) during the closing stretch of Danny Boyle’s buoyant, breathless biopic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has done an ingenious ...

Japan's unofficial rebuttal to 'The Cove'

Feb 10, 2016

Japan's unofficial rebuttal to 'The Cove'

For the past few weeks I’ve been having flashbacks of a video that a vegan acquaintance posted on Facebook. Shot on a hidden camera, it depicted hundreds of fluffy male chicks getting conveyed into an industrial grinder, their punishment for being deemed surplus to ...

Inspiration that comes in dreams and rice balls

Jan 17, 2016

Inspiration that comes in dreams and rice balls

Ichiko Aoba takes her seat at an old-fashioned coffee house in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, and places a sketchpad and a plump pouch of rolling tobacco on the table. During the hour-long conversation that follows, the tobacco goes untouched, but the sketchpad gets a thorough ...

'It Follows' goes after misogynist slasher film cliches

Jan 6, 2016

'It Follows' goes after misogynist slasher film cliches

In the heyday of slasher films, the fastest way for characters to get themselves killed was by having sex. For a few bloodthirsty years following the release of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” in 1978, audiences delighted in watching homicidal maniacs dispatch casts of copulating teens, ...

'Timbuktu' reflects on Malian lives touched by radical Islam

Dec 30, 2015

'Timbuktu' reflects on Malian lives touched by radical Islam

It’s common for local distributors to resort to some dubious tactics when promoting foreign films in Japan: Worthy arthouse flicks are routinely saddled with tawdry Japanese titles, or slushy trailers more befitting of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Yet there’s something particularly unfortunate about the ...