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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
Nov 18, 2015
'Moonwalkers': one very small step for comedy in film
One of the king-daddy conspiracy theories of all time — right up there with the "grassy knoll" and Area 51 — is the notion that the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969 did not actually happen and that it was created on a movie studio set as government propaganda. This theory grew to the point that fevered minds were pointing the finger at Stanley Kubrick, the director of sci-fi epic "2001: A Space Odyssey," as the man who faked the footage. Some even claim that he was leaking clues to that effect in his films. (See the documentary "Room 237" if you want to head down that rabbit hole.)
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Nov 18, 2015
The nostalgic legacy of Cannon Films
Cannon Films was an era-defining studio in the 1980s run by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who were like a monstrous cross-breed of Roger Corman and the Weinstein brothers. After succeeding in Israel in the '60s, the pair moved to LA, with Yoram rounding up the money and Menahem picking the scripts. Together they produced a torrent of low-budget B-movies featuring the likes of Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and, er, Michael Dudikoff.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Nov 4, 2015
Jill Soloway's bittersweet 'Afternoon Delight'
'Afternoon Delight" is one of those ex post facto releases in Japan that arrives riding the wake of another hit. It won a best director award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, but is only now getting released because writer-director Jill Soloway and actress Kathryn Hahn are in the spotlight for "Transparent," their hit series on Amazon.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Oct 28, 2015
'Clouds of Sils Maria' tests the limits of female intimacy
OK, pop quiz. Guess who recently said the following: "The reasons why people make films here in France are very different from the reasons why people make movies in America, and I prefer it here a little bit."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Oct 7, 2015
Tokyo's best art-house cinema reopens with Robert Altman documentary
When Yebisu Garden Place opened for business in Tokyo in 1994 you could walk through its marionette clock square, pass under a glass arch and find the best art-house theater in Tokyo — Ebisu Garden Cinema — tucked away beside a faux chateau. The debut film it screened was Robert Altman's masterpiece "Short Cuts," the first of many great films to be shown there.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Sep 30, 2015
'A Most Violent Year' conjures up the moral ambiguity of '70s cinema
Early on in my career in the music business, an older, wiser artist gave me some advice that has always stuck with me: A contract is only as good as your lawyer. In other words, when it comes to anything short of a fingerprint on a murder weapon, it doesn't matter what the law says, only having the money to enforce it.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Sep 23, 2015
The ballad of Sam Peckinpah is written in blood
Over the years, the idea of so-called auteur filmmaking has become identified with a certain breed of art-house cinema. A short list of American auteurs would probably include directors such as Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson — but not someone like Sam Peckinpah, who made ultra-violent movies about cowboys and truckers, as well as "Straw Dogs," the anti-intellectual film par excellence.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Sep 23, 2015
A mopey, dopey 'Twilight' for hipsters
Part of the reason for the great financial crash of 2007 was bad lending practices. Basically, anything that walked through the door on two legs and not drooling would be given a home mortgage, regardless of the risk. It seems like such irrational behavior has also infected movie producers: Since the success of the "Twilight" series, any chancer waving a script that contains the word "vampire" seems to be getting greenlighted.
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Sep 23, 2015
The verdict on Netflix Japan: far from extensive, but great for docs
Netflix has finally launched in Japan site after months of hype. But is it worth shelling out for?
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Sep 16, 2015
Mumblecore arrives in Japan, a decade late
The closest thing American cinema has had to a movement in recent years has been the self-deprecatingly titled genre, mumblecore, made up of lo-fi independent films that incestuously share cast, crew and concerns. Take the insecurity and self-obsession of Woody Allen's "Manhattan" mixed with the chatty characters from a Richard Linklater film, then throw in a lot of umms and you'll get the picture.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Sep 9, 2015
'Ant-Man' puts Marvel one film closer to world domination
Once upon a time, I was a normal guy, just like the rest of you. I'd get up, go to work and ride the trains with the other half-dead souls in this cold city.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Aug 26, 2015
'St. Vincent' gets old, Bill Murray lives forever
At this point in his career, Bill Murray has become such a master of translating his own bemusement into the amusement of his audience that you could probably put him in a 30-minute infomercial about crop futures and still get a few laughs.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Aug 19, 2015
Animated antidotes to Pixar-Disney eye candy
Children's animated films, like just about everything else these days, are mostly created by a couple of mega-corporations. Some days it seems like the only animations out there are digitally rendered, hyperactive "Pix-ney" flicks filled with pop-culture wisecracks and supported by a $100 million budget. There are plenty of fun films that fall within that category, but parents who think their kids deserve variety in their cinematic diet will be pleased to find there are other options this summer.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jun 25, 2015
Julianne Moore shines as Alzheimer's patient in 'Still Alice'
Flashback to 1995 when a new actress named Julianne Moore was beginning to get noticed for her work in the Todd Haynes film "Safe," where she played an affluent Southern California suburbanite who becomes afflicted with a mysterious environmental illness. Some 20 years and four Oscar nominations later, Moore finally picked up the best actress award this year for her work in a very similar role in the film "Still Alice."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Jun 3, 2015
The Godfather of Funk lays down on Freud's couch in 'Get on Up'
It's the late 1960s, and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, is taking questions from the press. A dowdy white journalist stands up and in all seriousness asks him, "What exactly is 'the groove'?"
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
May 27, 2015
Why does the surrealism in Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' fail?
'They flooded a bunch of towns when they dammed the river. That's why they call this Lost River," says Rat (Saoirse Ronan), a character in actor Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, "Lost River."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
May 13, 2015
Terry Gilliam back on form with 'The Zero Theorem'
Terry Gilliam's "The Zero Theorem," like most of his films, focuses on the all-too-thin line between sanity and insanity, reality and delusion. Its steampunk-meets-cyberpunk visual style is a wonderful jumble that's reminiscent of his much loved "Brazil," with touches like a computer mainframe that looks like a blast furnace, or personally targeted advertising blasting commercials for The Church of Batman the Redeemer.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 29, 2015
The horrible prescience of 1974 war documentary 'Hearts and Minds'
The stereotype of "liberal Hollywood" was etched into stone when director Peter Davis and producer Bert Schneider took the stage at the Oscars on April 8, 1975. Receiving the best documentary award for their incendiary Vietnam War film "Hearts and Minds," Schneider read out a telegram expressing greetings from the Vietnamese people and the Provisional Revolutionary Government, to both applause and hissing.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 22, 2015
Violence speaks louder than words in Ukrainian film 'The Tribe'
Obscurantism; noun: The practice of being deliberately obscure or vague. If that represents a new genre in art cinema, then Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy may be its leading proponent. His film "The Tribe," which garnered some attention at Cannes last year, features deaf actors communicating in sign language — but without any subtitles to let the viewer in on their dialogue.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Apr 22, 2015
The Zushi Beach Film Festival resists the ban on loud music and tattoos
Zushi Beach — a popular getaway for people seeking to escape Tokyo's stifling summer heat — may have banned "loud" music, tattoos and barbecues, but hey, at least it still has a film festival.

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