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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 15, 2015
Thomas Pynchon meets The Dude in 'Inherent Vice'
"Inherent vice," a term used in marine insurance law, means anything you can't avoid: chocolate will melt, glass will shatter and fruit will spoil. For "Inherent Vice" the movie, the thing that can't be avoided is a comparison to "The Big Lebowski."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 8, 2015
'Jimi: All is by My Side' takes liberties with the ghost of Hendrix
Even now, some four decades after his death, the name Jimi Hendrix still carries mystique.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 8, 2015
The murder ballads of Mexico's brutal drug war
A group of Mexican folk musicians take the stage, guitars in hand and tuba at the back. Based on the gaudy outfits they're dressed in — a mix of mariachi style with Vegas-era Elvis — you might think you know how they're going to sound. Then you notice one of the musicians is holding a bazooka, and you tune into the lyrics to the chirpy, polka-like ditty they're singing: "Cross my path and I'll cut your head off. We are bloodthirsty, crazy and we like to kill!"
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 1, 2015
Exporting ‘Wild Style’: Fab 5 Freddy remembers when Bronx hip-hop invaded Tokyo
Flashback to the Japan of 1983: Childish idol Seiko Matsuda was topping the charts, Japanese guys were trying to dress like Boy George and kids in discos vainly watched themselves dance in floor-to-ceiling mirrors as Frankie told them to "Relax." Believe it or not, this is the exact moment hip-hop hit Japan like a bolt from the blue (or the South Bronx, to be precise).
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Apr 1, 2015
Robert Altman has his fingerprints all over 'Birdman'
In 1992 Robert Altman made "The Player," a scathing satire on how shallow Hollywood filmmaking had become, and it came damn close to winning him an Oscar for best director. The next year, he made "Short Cuts," based on the stories of Raymond Carver, and again came up short at the Oscars.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film / Wide Angle
Apr 1, 2015
Better call Saul to come fix Japan's streaming services
After "Breaking Bad" finished its five-year run in 2013, fans mourned the loss of one of the most gripping, innovative TV series they'd ever seen. When the head writer and executive producer of "Breaking Bad," Vince Gilligan, announced that there would be a spinoff series, people had their doubts, but "Better Call Saul" has arrived, and it's just as good. It's actually a prequel, focusing on shifty motormouth attorney Saul Goodman (played by comedian Bob Odenkirk) before he became the criminally connected shyster we came to know and love in "Breaking Bad."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 25, 2015
'Jupiter Ascending' is kitsch rubbish featuring a wolf-eared alien on rocket-powered Rollerblades
There's a scene in "Jupiter Ascending" where 14,000-year-old intergalactic noblewoman (or something like that) Kalique Abrasax passes on to earthling Jupiter Jones an important piece of wisdom: "Time," she says, looking straight at the camera, "is the most precious commodity you have."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 25, 2015
An unrelenting depiction of Polish-Romany poet Bronislawa Wajs' merciless world
"Papusza" is a fascinating if bleak portrait of Polish-Romany poet Bronislawa Wajs, better known by her Roma — or Gypsy — name Papusza ("doll"). It's a decidedly unromantic look at Roma life, covering the 1940s and '50s, which saw two-thirds of Poland's Roma community massacred by the Nazis and the rest banned from living the caravan lifestyle after the war.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 25, 2015
12 Monkeys
Language: English
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 18, 2015
Wild Style: 'the birth of hip-hop culture, set in a lost age of New York City'
In his book of essays on pop nostalgia, "Retromania," music critic Simon Reynolds writes of how we "privilege the emergent phase of a genre . . . rather than those who come later and carried on their work; the latter are settlers, not pioneers . . . but I really think you can hear the difference. In some near mystical way, the spirit of the age permeates the music."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 18, 2015
Young Ones: 'a portentous film set in a future dustbowl America'
It is just impossible in this day and age to make a sincere John Ford-style Western with plain-spoken folk holding guns while talking solemnly about "land" and "family" — unless, maybe, you're making a TV ad for Sarah Palin. It's even harder to do this straight-faced when your film involves robots, but that's exactly what director Jake Paltrow attempts to do.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 11, 2015
The Theory of Everything: 'communicating emotion with the faintest of smiles or movement of the eyes'
Eddie Redmayne's win of this year's best-actor Oscar for his portrayal of wheelchair-bound physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" confirms what we already know: The Academy likes nothing so much as an actor portraying physical or mental disability, from "Rain Man" and "My Left Foot" right on down. Yet while it's easy to be cynical about their preference for performances where the effort is all on the surface, we need to judge Redmayne's work on its own merits — and they are considerable.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 11, 2015
The Imitation Game: 'a bog-standard biopic, riddled with historical inaccuracies'
Great minds think alike. Focus Features' Oscar-bait drama for 2014 — about a prickly genius Cambridge grad who struggled through a traumatic personal life ("The Theory of Everything") — was rather similar to The Weinstein Company's contender, "The Imitation Game."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 11, 2015
Cam Girlz
Director: Sean Dunne Language: English
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 4, 2015
Song One: 'anyone not in a coma can see where this is going'
Years of working as a film critic have given me some sort of special mutant superpower to see deep into the cinematic future. That little cough in the first act will surely be a terminal illness in the last, and that seemingly casual close-up of the keys on the counter will be the crucial prop when the killer shows up 40 minutes later.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 4, 2015
Into the Woods: 'mashed up Brothers Grimm and hammy performances'
The fairy-tale reboot trend continues with "Into the Woods," Disney's big-screen version of the Stephen Sondheim musical that debuted on Broadway in 1987. Set in and around a creepy forest that looks like a leftover "Harry Potter" stage, "Into the Woods" mashes up a bunch of well-known Brothers Grimm tales with some hammy A-list performances by the likes of Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Mar 4, 2015
Frank
Director: Leonard Abrahamson Language: English
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Feb 25, 2015
Toumast: 'riding camels or machine-gun mounted pickup trucks'
In the Sahara — spread across the countries of Mali, Niger, and Algeria — live a traditionally nomadic tribe known as the Tuareg. Maybe the easiest way to describe them is as desert Gypsies, because like Gypsies (also known as Roma), the Tuareg make fantastic music and suffer incredible discrimination.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Feb 25, 2015
Good People: 'really bad money and a really lame script'
James Franco and Kate Hudson star as Tom and Anna Wright, an American couple trying to start their lives over in London by renovating an old house they inherited. Funds are short, and when their dodgy basement-dwelling tenant dies of an overdose and they find a huge sack of money hidden away, Tom is reluctant to tell the police about it, seeing this as the end to his debt problems. Anna, however, frets: "We don't know where this money comes from. This could be really, really bad money."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Film
Feb 25, 2015
Path of Blood
Director: Eric Power Language: Japanese (subtitles in English)

Longform

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin,” once the victim of high waves that dragged it into the sea, sits at the end of a pier on the south side of Naoshima.
Why is the most exciting art in Japan so hard to get to?