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Kanji Furutachi: Reacting to Japan's film industry

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Over the years I’ve heard many complaints about the bad acting in Japanese films, from the hammy emoting of over-indulged veterans to the amateurish turns of “idols” cast more for their agency connections than any perceptible talent. I’ve added to this chorus of negativity, but I’ve also noticed that often ...

'Man Down': War injuries go beyond the battlefield

Feb 22, 2017

'Man Down': War injuries go beyond the battlefield

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‘Man Down” is an indictment of war, and its message is one that focuses on its terrible lingering consequences — specifically, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With many ending up homeless, suffering mental difficulties or becoming suicidal, PTSD is a real issue. ...

Asian Film Festival unspools in Osaka

| Feb 22, 2017

Asian Film Festival unspools in Osaka

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Why go to Osaka to see films? I may sound like an insufferable Tokyo snob asking this, but given all the hundreds of movies on offer in the nation’s capital, it’s worth answering to justify the shinkansen ticket. One excellent reason to go is ...

'La La Land': Sometimes we need a trip to la-la land

Feb 22, 2017

'La La Land': Sometimes we need a trip to la-la land

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La-la land: the mental state of someone who is not aware of what is really happening, and a nickname for the American entertainment industry centered on Los Angeles. These two meanings bleed into each other in director Damien Chazelle’s multi-Oscar-nominated musical, “La La Land,” ...

'Close Knit': The pride that breaks the prejudice

Feb 22, 2017

'Close Knit': The pride that breaks the prejudice

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Japan would seem to be a paradise for LGBT people. Transgender “talents” have been appearing regularly on Japanese TV for decades and LGBT folks can walk the streets here with little fear. But dig below Japan’s surface tolerance for sexual minorities, as Naoko Ogigami ...

Historical truths can take decades to unearth

Feb 15, 2017

Historical truths can take decades to unearth

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Journalist Eidai Hayashi is battling cancer. At 83 years old, he can barely keep hold of his fountain pen, since the pain has spread to every part of his body. “I quit chemotherapy, though I know the cancer is just going to spread and ...

'Cell': Sometimes it's better to just hang up

Feb 15, 2017

'Cell': Sometimes it's better to just hang up

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After seeing “Cell” I wanted to call my grandmother who, with the emergence of the world’s first iPhone in June of 2007, predicted the end of civilization as we know it. Five months later she passed away, and some of my cousins whispered that ...

'Weiner': America's walking, talking punch line

Feb 15, 2017

'Weiner': America's walking, talking punch line

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If you feel like your cinematic diet has been a bit lacking in schadenfreude lately, then look no further than “Weiner,” an astounding internet-age documentary of hubris and disgrace, where no stupid behavior, once recorded, ever disappears. Who, you may ask, is Weiner? Well, ...

Punk: How cinema ignored something so loud

Feb 8, 2017

Punk: How cinema ignored something so loud

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Once upon a time, Hollywood was good at co-opting and selling youth culture. When rock ‘n’ roll and biker gangs came along in the 1950s, the studios came up with generational totems like “Blackboard Jungle” and “The Wild Ones.” Beatlemania spawned “A Hard Days ...

'Survival Family': Soft-pedaling through dystopia

Feb 8, 2017

'Survival Family': Soft-pedaling through dystopia

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To Hollywood, “dystopian future” usually means invading aliens, exotic technology and gigantic explosions. Shinobu Yaguchi’s “Survival Family” posits an alternative, more mundane cause of civilizational collapse: Japan’s electric grid suddenly freezes up, like a laptop that’s been doused with hot coffee. Televisions go blank, ...