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 Giovanni Fazio

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Giovanni Fazio
Giovanni Fazio has been The Japan Times' resident film crank since 1993. When not at the movies, he is busy recording and playing live with his band Makyo and running the independent electronica label Dakini Records.
For Giovanni Fazio's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Aug 17, 2016
Prize-winning short 'Oh Lucy' brings humor to the classroom
Given the potential global audience available on digital film platforms, it is surprising how few Japanese filmmakers have invested in foreign-language subtitles to get their films out there. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to find director Atsuko Hirayanagi's short comedy "Oh Lucy" up on Vimeo.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Aug 10, 2016
'Song of Lahore' sings the praises of Pakistan's cultural hub
Fundamentalist terrorism is affecting everywhere these days, but what is often forgotten is how the Islamic world suffers, too. The documentary "Song of Lahore" takes us to Pakistan's cultural hub, a home to the arts since the Mughal empire, yet a city where musicians now live in fear of Taliban violence. (Their intolerant interpretation of the Quran forbids music, and they have assassinated many musicians.)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Aug 3, 2016
'High-Rise': J.C. Ballard adaptation topples on screen
In 1955, the city of St. Louis finished construction on the Pruitt-Igoe housing estate, designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki (who would later build New York City's Twin Towers). A raw-concrete sprawl of 33 tower blocks, it was meant to halt the spread of slums by building up, and to give residents parks, playgrounds, convenient shopping and cleaner air.
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Aug 3, 2016
Where's the money?
Hillary Clinton's long march to the U.S. presidency continues unabated, and many voters are so scared of the idea of President Donald Trump, they'd vote for Clinton even if she sprouted fangs and hissed like a cobra. But anyone who's all comfy with the idea that voting for Clinton as the "lesser of two evils" really needs to watch "Clinton Cash" first.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jul 27, 2016
'Dope': It's hard to kick the stereotyping habit
Growing up black in America inevitably means dealing with the stereotypes that the majority (white) culture places on you, and more than a few films have explored those tensions. With "Dope," Nigerian-American writer-director Rick Famuyiwa takes it a step further and asks: What does it mean to be a minority within a minority, to not fit the stereotypes the 'hood imposes on you?
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jul 20, 2016
There's a starman, waiting on the screen . . .
In 1975, just as David Bowie had achieved breakthrough success, he was simultaneously teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A re-issued single of "Space Oddity" was No. 1 in the U.K., and he scored his first No. 1 single in the States with "Fame," while also cracking the top five with "Young Americans." Yet the pressure of constant touring and recording, along with his failing marriage and a massive cocaine habit all pointed towards the abyss. "I've rocked my roll," he said in an interview with Playboy magazine in April of that year. "There will be no more rock 'n' roll records or tours from me. The last thing I want to be is some useless f——— rock singer."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jul 20, 2016
'Trumbo': Shining over Hollywood's blacklist
American conservatives are forever whinging about "liberal Hollywood," but really they have only themselves to blame.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jul 13, 2016
'Amy': Remembering the star the right way
Back in 1969, John Lennon — then on his media-hounded honeymoon with Yoko Ono — penned "The Ballad of John and Yoko," with the chorus, "The way things are going, they're gonna crucify me." It seems a bit over-the-top, until you recall how his next decade unraveled: Ono was vilified as the "witch" who broke up The Beatles, the president of the United States actively tried to get Lennon deported or arrested, and finally a deranged fan who idolized him shot him for "selling out."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jul 6, 2016
'Brooklyn': Romance is not dead, it's just dull
Given its title, you'd be forgiven for thinking that "Brooklyn" was a movie about lumbersexual hipsters, all named Zach, opening a single-origin, gluten-free artisanal mac-and-cheese shop in Fort Point, and the zany complications that arise when they realize two bathrooms are inadequate to serve the diverse needs of their multi-gender clientele.
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Jun 22, 2016
'Nina' is still worth watching
The "politically correct"(PC) left is often no better than the Christian right when it comes to looking for ways to be offended by movies. The latest victim of PC backlash is "Nina," the film based on legendary jazz and blues singer and civil-rights icon Nina Simone. Nina is played by Zoe Saldana ("Avatar"), an actress "of color," as they say, but who required some skin darkening from the makeup department to portray the ebony Simone. This led to charges of "blackface" racism that sunk the film at the box office, yet it's hardly a caricature. Surely Saldana would also have been damned if she hadn't used make-up, accused of "whitening" a black artist.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jun 15, 2016
'Citizenfour': Big Brother has always been with us
The tele-screen received and transmitted simultaneously. ... There was of course no way of knowing when you were being watched. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual was guesswork. At any rate they could plug in to your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — on the assumption that every sound you made was heard, and ... every movement scrutinized." — George Orwell, "1984"
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jun 8, 2016
The topic of AI always raises HAL and more
An astronaut in deep space finishes up some repairs to the parabolic antenna on his spacecraft's exterior. Through his helmet's microphone, he commands the ship's controlling supercomputer, HAL 9000, "Open the pod bay doors, HAL." A second later he gets a calm, cold response in his helmet: "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jun 8, 2016
'Ex Machina': When the machine has its own ghost
When the histories are written years from now, our era will be defined by information technology in much the same way that the 1960s were defined by rock 'n' roll and social protest, or in the U.S., the '20s by Prohibition. People will look back with bewilderment at images of us — like we do at those strange '50s movie audiences in their 3-D glasses — incessantly stroking our phones in that compulsive and vaguely masturbatory way, head down, eyes glazed over, entirely disconnected from the world around us.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Jun 1, 2016
The EU is on firm ground when it comes to film
The European Union might be teetering on the brink of collapse politically, but culturally it's still presenting a united front. EU Film Days, a showcase of movies from Portugal to Lithuania, Finland to Greece, is entering its sixth year in Japan, with daily screenings throughout the rainy season at the National Film Center in Tokyo and The Museum of Kyoto. The movies date from 2011 through 2016, and with few exceptions have not been released in Japan; many have English as well as Japanese subtitles.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
May 25, 2016
'Where to Invade Next': Moore still preaching to the converted
'War is God's way of teaching Americans geography," as journalist Ambrose Bierce once put it, and it's true that many denizens of the Empire have little curiosity as to what goes on outside its borders unless they have to bomb it. This attitude was best summed up by the Texas Republican former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who sneered "I've been to Europe once. I don't have to go again."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
May 11, 2016
'Cartel Land' uncovers little hope and no glory
The debate over border policy in the United States has reached levels of nonsense worthy of Lewis Carroll. On the right, you have presidential candidate Donald Trump tarring all immigrants from south of the Rio Grande as "rapists and murderers," and pledging to build a "huge" wall to keep them out. On the left, you have Democrats so high on the warm and fuzzy feeling of "embracing diversity" that they imagine an open-border policy of uncontrolled immigration is sustainable. (Hey, EU! How did that work out for you?)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
May 11, 2016
'Hail, Caesar!': The Coen brothers miss a few pins
The Coen Brothers have always been critical darlings, but their 17th film, the 1950s Hollywood-set comedy "Hail, Caesar!" has shown an unusually wide gap between critical raves and tepid audience response. This despite a star-studded cast that includes George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum and Ralph Fiennes.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
May 4, 2016
'Victoria': One girl, one city, one take, one dud
Shortly after finishing a column the other day where I focused on Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and the beauty and power of his long single-take shots, I sat down to watch arty suspense flick "Victoria," which was shot entirely in one take. If films like "Birdman" or "The Revenant" display the immersive magic of the long take, "Victoria" is a painful example of how not to do it.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 20, 2016
Lubezki achieves the extraordinary long shot
At this year's Oscars, while everyone was fuming about the academy's lack of diversity, few bothered to notice an incredible achievement: Mexican cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki, also known by his nickname "Chivo," became the first person ever to win three Oscars in a row for Best Cinematography. (And one of only six people ever to three-peat.)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 20, 2016
'The Revenant': Revenge is less sweet than bloody
With last year's "Birdman," it became clear that director Alejandro G. Inarritu no longer just wanted to make good films, he aimed to make great ones. Every scene, every shot in that film seemed designed to surpass the conventional.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on