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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
Apr 6, 2016
'Room': There is no room for spoilers
Anyone who's ever spent some time hanging around hippies has probably heard the expression "You bought the ticket, you take the ride." Meaning that if you've just gone down the psychedelic rabbit hole, there's no coming back — at least for the next eight hours or so — and you're just going to have to roll with the talking cats and giant insects.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 23, 2016
'Banksy Does New York' and throws shade on the art world in the process
Who is Banksy? The U.K.'s best-known-yet-unknown street artist/conceptual prankster was in the news again this month after researchers at Queen Mary University of London analyzed maps of Banksy's wall works in London and Bristol to pinpoint a possible suspect. Excited headlines shouted as though Batman's alter ego had been revealed, although any suspect remains just an educated guess.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 16, 2016
'The Decline of Western Civilization' is a punk masterpiece
The Sex Pistols played their final gig at San Francisco's Winterland in January 1978. About a year later, Sid Vicious died from an overdose, and so did punk rock — according to the music magazines. The Pistols' chaotic tour of America, however, had dropped like a stone in a still pond, and the ripples were still spreading.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 2, 2016
The true cost of your iPhone is hard to stomach
'Information should be free" was one of the mantras of the IT revolution, promising a new era of civic openness. But though the economy of "Big Tech" is largely based on its ability to harvest and monetize your personal information, corporations display no openness in return: Google forces strict nondisclosure agreements on its business partners, YouTube and Spotify dodge transparency in how they compensate artists, and Apple ... well, that brings us to filmmaker Heather White.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 2, 2016
'The Big Short' explains the 2008 financial meltdown with strippers, guns and shouting
When I was in junior high school, my English teacher walked into the classroom one day, placed a pencil on his desk and pointed at it, saying, "All right, give me at least a page about this before the bell rings — and it had better be interesting." We thought he was nuts, but the lesson was a valuable one: When faced with a mundane, dull topic, use your creativity to find any possible angle to hold your readers' attention.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Feb 17, 2016
'The Wrecking Crew' played the American soundtrack to the 1960s
The 2002 film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" is a documentary about The Funk Brothers, an anonymous band of studio session musicians that defined the sound of classic 1960s soul music. Now we have "The Wrecking Crew," a documentary about the West Coast equivalent, who played on just about every non-Motown track you hear on "oldies" AM radio stations.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Feb 17, 2016
'Unbroken' opens in Tokyo with few complaints
In a small victory for freedom of speech, independent distributor Bitters End opened Angelina Jolie's controversial World War II prison camp movie "Unbroken" at Shibuya's Theatre Image Forum, and in the end there were no fascist sound trucks or other harassment — just a couple of aggro emails. Yet the fact remains that no major distributor was willing to touch the film, due to the fact that it had been smeared as "anti-Japanese" prior to even being released, reflecting the climate of self-censorship in Japan these days.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Feb 3, 2016
An unforgiving look at 'Unbroken' in Japan
Flashback to 1983: Director Nagisa Oshima's "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence," set during World War II in a Japanese-run POW camp in Java, is opening in theaters across Japan. It starred David Bowie with two huge local stars: comedian Beat Takeshi and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. The film confronted the reality of fascist wartime brutality, while also sending a message of reconciliation. It was a huge hit.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jan 27, 2016
Johnny Depp as a sociopathic crime lord in 'Black Mass'
'Black Mass" may sound like a classic horror film featuring Vincent Price or Barbara Steele, but it's actually a modern crime film about a gangster nicknamed "Whitey," played by Johnny Depp. Confusing? Yes, even more so when you examine its promo photos of a dome-headed Depp in aviator shades, which seem to promise "Fear and Loathing: The Sequel."
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Jan 27, 2016
Gangster 'Whitey' Bulger has a lot to say about institutional corruption
"Black Mass" does a decent job of portraying the rise and fall of Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger and how he wound up as an FBI informant, but there's far more to the story. Director Joe Berlinger's 2014 documentary "Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger" — available online at Amazon and Netflix — raises a troubling and unresolved question: What if Bulger wasn't an informant? As one attorney suggests, "our federal government is more corrupt than anyone ever imagined."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jan 20, 2016
'American Ultra' is a half-baked stoner comedy, possibly written by robots
One of the most underrated films of the past decade has got to be "Adventureland," the 2009 coming-of-age comedy by Greg Mottola ("Superbad"). It mined its setting — a rundown 1980s amusement park — for plenty of jokes, but it had a fantastic bittersweet feel to it as well, capturing that moment of drifting aimlessly between college and "real life" well.
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Jan 20, 2016
Two greats have passed away, so who's left to carry the burden of cinematography?
A golden age of Hollywood cinematography is slowly drawing to a close. Haskell Wexler, the director of photography who worked with everyone that mattered in the 1970s — Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, Terence Malick, Milos Forman, Mike Nichols — passed away on Dec. 27. Vilmos Zsigmond, an equally important cinematographer who shot "The Deer Hunter," "Deliverance," "The Long Goodbye" and a bunch of Woody Allen's films shuttered his lens a few days later on Jan. 1. Vittorio Storaro ("Apocalypse Now," "The Last Emperor") is arguably the last man standing from that generation of giants. Their legacy lay in the notion that the cameraman was an artist, not just a craftsman — an idea that sometimes even got them fired.
CULTURE / Music / David Bowie in Japan
Jan 15, 2016
The man who sold the world on music
The Starman has departed for his home planet. I can't imagine a world without David Bowie, but the strange thing is, he never was in my world, at least physically. So why do I feel the loss as dearly as I would my closest friend?
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jan 13, 2016
The darker side of young adulthood
The opening shot of "Little Birds" tells us all we need to know about its heroine Lily, a 15-year-old stuck in a deader-than-dead-end town. As she lies in the bath, the camera pans across the pale white skin of her legs until it lands on some deep scars high on her thighs, the marks of a cutter. This girl, however jacked on teen hormones and desirous of life, is damaged, and we sense it's only a matter of time before her self-destruct switch gets flipped.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Jan 6, 2016
How 'Yo-Kai Watch' beat 'Star Wars' at the box office in Japan
As 2015 came to a close, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was the movie on everyone's lips, with fans dressed up in costumes and camping out to buy tickets, and a social media presence bigger than the Jabba the Hutt. Yet, despite breaking all box-office records on its opening weekend in the United States, the new "Star Wars" ranked only No. 2 in Japan (with more than 800,000 viewers), beaten to the top spot by "Yo-Kai Watch the Movie 2: King Enma and the 5 Stories, Nyan!," which had almost 1 million viewers. A week later, this cheap and chirpy big-screen version of a Japanese kids cartoon derived from a Nintendo game kicked Jedi butt again.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Dec 23, 2015
Top 10 films of 2015: Like finding a needle in a haystack
Finding alternatives in 2015 to big-budget blockbusters and beard-stroking festival films wasn't easyIt has been a lean year. All too often, it felt like you had seen the movies of 2015 before — each new release seemed to be the shadow of a shadow of an original idea. You could see it popcorn flicks such as "Fifty Shades of Gray" or "Ant-Man" as well as Oscar-bait biopics such as "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything," never mind glacial "slow cinema" such as "Winter Sleep." Cinema is not dead, but it has lost its mojo, split between the extremes of gazillion-dollar superhero fireball porn or beard-stroking festival films while ceding the cultural middle-ground to television and online video.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Dec 16, 2015
'Heaven Knows What' paints a grim picture of drug addiction
"You just gotta see that junk is just another nine-to-five gig in the end," wrote Jim Carroll in "The Basketball Diaries" way back in 1978. Perhaps no film about heroin has captured that grinding routine of score-shoot-nod-hustle-score as well as "Heaven Knows What" — and it's easy to see why. The film's lead actress, Arielle Holmes, was herself a 19-year-old junkie living rough on the streets of New York City.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Dec 16, 2015
Moviegoers suffering from motion sickness not enamored with CGI effects
Once upon a time, cinemas screening "The Exorcist" handed out barf bags to their patrons as a cheap gimmick. (The movie was so "sick" it would make you sick.)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Dec 9, 2015
'Straight Outta Compton' is a sanitized biopic of N.W.A's story
In the summer of 1989, wherever you went — every house party, every car stereo, every street corner boom-box — you'd hear the same two tracks shredding the speakers: Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" and N.W.A's "F—- tha Police." It was the summer where rap was shifting gears and breaking wide, and these two groups were leading the way.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Nov 25, 2015
'Restrepo' and 'Korengal' capture emotions of war
Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger were embedded with U.S. soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade in a firebase in Afghanistan's remote Korengal Valley throughout 2007 and 2008. Their resulting documentary, "Restrepo," was released in 2010; only now is it screening in Japan, and the irony is that almost nothing has changed in the interim.

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