Me and my buddy, the Godzilla statue in the Tokyo theater district!
Hello, dear friends! I'm so happy to be talking with you after so long! I wanted to drop in and let you know that I should be able to return to writing in some form or other in June. Exactly what form is something I haven't decided yet but I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments.
You see, what happened was this:
a) I got a new job very suddenly and the work is much, much more demanding, leaving me much less time and energy for hobbies.
b) My local Indian cinema has closed down, leaving me without an easy source for first run movies.
c) I went to Japan, which was both expensive and time consuming. And a dream many years in the making. (I saw an A.B.C-Z stage production and the band GOLDEN BOMBER in person!!!!!)
As well as d) I'm just growing increasingly uninterested in the corporately-funded, navel-gazing, Hollywood-influenced films coming out of Bombay.
When I started blogging back in dickity-six, there really wasn't much out there in terms of information or reviews, other than what you could find in the Bollywhat forums. And now, well, there is a massive amount of information and reviews and I'm not sure how much I'm contributing to the conversation, if at all. Is it necessary for me to continue to pick over the film "news" (such as it is)? How useful are my overly serious reviews of mass films? I just get the feeling that fewer and fewer people share my point of view. That the old films aren't just to be laughed at but have something important to offer. That filmi emotions other than romance exist. That mass films can address important topics. That the Hollywood "tropes" aren't the only way or, indeed, the BEST way, to tell a story.
On the flight to Japan, there were three Hindi films available and I decided to watch R…Rathore again. (Strangely enough, it had been "edited for content" to the point where if I hadn't seen it before, I wouldn't have known why certain plot points happened, but that's beside the point.) The film reminds me quite a bit of something like Rishi Kapoor's Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, a really uninspired plot and underwhelming acting from most of the cast, fondly remembered for the amazing song picturizations. But even though R…Rathore is not a good movie by any standard--including the "I have a 13 hour flight and the pickings are slim" standard--there are at least some echoes of the Hindi film style I fell in love with. An appreciation and dedication to the "show" of show business, chief among them. When Sasha is working so hard to entertain me, who am I to deny myself the pleasure of being entertained?
So, as you can see, I am rather conflicted here. I'm almost tempted to switch entirely to South films, if I had a reliable and inexpensive source of new releases. With the theater closing, though… and watching in my living room is so unsatisfying. But in my film viewing of the last couple of years, it's been the Tamil films that have stuck with me. Bala's Paradesi, Kamal Hassan's Vishwaroopam, mass entertainers from Vijay and Jiiva, experimental films like Pizza… the theaters of Chennai are full of surprises and delights.
Anyways, I wanted to update you on my status and my thoughts for the future. Please feel free to weigh in, although if you are one of my hate-readers (and I know there are a few), please feel free to keep your comments to yourself!
And now, the dessert of this post… have some travel pictures from my trip to Japan! I went hunting for records, attended a crazy number of concerts and productions, and found one of Vijay's filming sights from Jilla! I can also proudly say that after five years of studying the language that I can speak enough Japanese to get by. There was no prouder moment on my trip than when I was able to make small talk with a shop clerk in Harajuku.
The VERY first day I was in Tokyo, I went to the Nissay Theater see my fave idol group A.B.C-Z perform in 『ABC座ジャニーズ伝説』, a delightful musical (based on a true story!) about a Japanese idol group from the 1960s that goes to America to record "Never My Love" but must tragically leave before it can be released and then the Association does it first.
FOILED BY THE ASSOCIATION!
The musical is ridiculously entertaining and features "cameos" from bands like The Monkees and The Spiders! (So, basically, written specifically for me.)
Watch A.B.C-Z in action over here if you're curious!
All the magazines and TV stations and other groups send flowers for artists doing stage plays and concerts! I saw this over and over again! It was a really nice touch! Very Japanese...
Doing the A.B.C-Z "Five Stars" pose outside the theater after the show. I was basically walking on clouds.
The next day, I visited TV Asahi where they film Music Station!
Ate my first real meal… curry! There is a whole bunch of Indian restaurants in the area around Tokyo Tower.
TV Tokyo where A.B.C-Z film ABChanZoo! They use the whole area around outside to shoot song performances! I was a little too excited to see this. LOL!
A pretty little pond in Koenji (高円寺) which is a Brooklyn-esque area of Tokyo. I wandered around and found a great record store http://libraryrecords.jp and a copy of Rock Steady with Flo & Eddie filed casually in with the reggae records.
But my real goal was the UFO Club!! A place I highly recommend if you are going to be in Tokyo and love punk music. I saw four bands play and they were all FANTASTIC!
(The drummer cracked my big toenail in half. Don't ask.)
VIVIAN BOYS, who did the best cover of "Heatwave" that I've ever heard
(I bought a T-shirt.)
Zepp Tokyo! The next day I went to Odaiba to see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu at Zepp Tokyo! This was the third time I've seen her perform and it was definitely a different experience in Japan than in the USA. I'll say that much. If you don't know Kyary--although you should because she's awesome--you can check out my favorite song of hers over here.
I saw a lot of elderly people painting.
A grumpy cat!!!!
The day after Kyary's concert I went to Kyoto! The view from the train...
One of the many little shrines dotting Kyoto. This one was next to my hotel and gave the kami a little prayer every time I walked past, so I would have a successful trip.
*clap clap bow*
An ad at the Kyoto theater for a Tsuka Kouhei play starring one of my favorite actors, Totsuka Shota! I scoured almost every book store I could find for Tsuka Kouhei scripts but play scripts seem to be as difficult to locate in Japan as they are here in the US! I may end up having to order something from amazon.co.jp.
Some lovely ladies in rental kimonos. There were quite a few Japanese and Chinese tourists all decked up in pretty summer rental kimonos! Although I overheard Western tourists mistaking them for geisha. I could not face palm hard enough nor move quickly enough away from those dum-dums.
Green tea ice cream high above the city!
The view from Kiyomisu Dera!
From Kyoto, I took the train to the country town of Maizuru to see one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE BANDS… GOLDEN BOMBER!
Believe you me, I was quite the exotic specimen in Maizuru. So, I have to give a huge shootout to the mama and daughter who took me under their wing and made me feel so welcome. I was really overwhelmed with their hospitality and friendliness. Thank you so much, Minae and Minae's Mama!! I will never forget your kindness!!
My concert swag.
A fox statue at Fushimi Inari! Vijay and Kajal filmed some of the beautiful song Kandaangi Kandaangi here!
I made a little offering to the Tamahime Okami here. For reasons.
Classy shrine selfie!
My feet! I climbed to the very tip top of the shrine in my sturdy flats!
A covered market area in Kyoto. I got lost in here a million times! But I found a FABULOUS record store called Happy Jack that I highly recommend. I bought out the Group Sounds section.
One of my Happy Jack finds… MATCHY!
The national library. Obviously.
Oh, ho ho! Guess who went to see the play again!
Stealth selfie inside Nissay Theater! You don't know how bizarre it was to actually BE THERE after seeing it in DVDs for years.
A banana parfait at Autumn Leaf, which is Golden Bomber bassist Utahiroba Jun's "handsome guy" fruits bar. And OMG did it deliver on all counts. The waiters were drool worthy and so was the food! Definitely check it out if you're in Tokyo!!
Autumn Leaf is in Akihabara! I also visited the official AKB48 store but the line was way too long to get into the cafe. Maybe next time! I bought a picture of my fave AKB girl, Takamina!
Tower Records in Shibuya. I dropped some SERIOUS coin here. I bought two Sawada Kenji albums, the first 頭脳警察 album, and some other things one cannot find in the United States… although, to be fair, one can no longer find RECORD STORES in the United States. It was like heaven being able to browse and listen to all the CDs on the listening stations. I spent a long time in Tower Records.
I actually really like KEYTALK!
Pizza lunch! Yes, I ate it ALL!! YUM!!!
Outside NHK Studios!
NHK Hall!! I wanted to go inside but I couldn't since they were doing a special ticket sale for The Alfee and there was a massive crowd of people queued up along the side of the building. I really like The Alfee. I could have easily joined in.
Packing to go home… my suitcase was WAY overweight.
Lovely homemade chocolates from a dear friend.
My last meal in Japan...
What I spent Tuesday and Wednesday doing...