samedi 19 mai 2007

The things films can teach you

After reading Aaron's entry, I will listen to McPhee again, especially Ordinary World and catch all the intervals dutifully. But I like the 'boys in the club' bit, very personal *sniff*.

Recently, I watched two fantastic films, for all you doggie fans out there.

いぬのえいが プレミアム・エディション
いぬのえいが プレミアム・エディション中村獅童 伊東美咲 宮崎あおい


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I usually am a cynical person (anyone who watches overloaded British political comedy dramas would) but in all cynical people, there is always a soft spot that time and again, takes over our senses and makes us all human. Justifying my existence, I gave this film a try. It's rather cute, called Inu no eiga (inu is dog, and eiga is film in Japanese). It stars one of my favourite Kabuki actors, Shido Nakamura, amidst his string of horrible love affairs...and a virgo too sigh...but that is just one of the many gems in the film. Good acting aside, the dogs are so cute!!! the opening is a musical bit and stars most of Japanese top actors.

My favourite scene is the last one, where a dog and a girl share their memories together. I just watched and tears kept rolling down. Language barriers can always be broken when common themes of love and simple gestures of showing love to animals are appreciated and celebrated. I remembered when I was in Tokyo, I saw my favourite English sheepdog and my Japanese friend gamely asked the lady if we could hug and take photos with the dog. She said yes (I can't imagine a local person doing that) and we had fun. I felt as though because of a living being that couldn't talk Japanese or English, the barrier was broken in the common love for the animal.

This film just reminded me that human beings may have to be taught how to really live and love life as dogs seem to be having a better perspective of life than us.

The next film was one which I got on my way back from town:

The History Boys [2006] (REGION 1) (NTSC)
The History Boys [2006] (REGION 1) (NTSC)Andrew Dunn George Fenton John Wilson

20th Century Fox 2007-04-17
Sales Rank : 30124

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This film tells the story of British schoolboys, smart, talented, lively and full of cheek, destined to go to Cambridge and Oxford. Driven by an ambitious History teacher who hails from Oxford, an inspiring but eccentric retiring teacher, a witty female History teacher (my favourite chr!) who claims history is about men and their failures and a lecherous principal, the boys question the meaning of life, learning and whether aiming for the top will bring them happiness.

Many aim for Cambridge and Oxford every year as it is prestigious. Some come out pompous but I have a friend who is still as zany about Stephen Hawking and humble as pie. So it depends. But the film delivers the misconception too that Oxford and Cambridge have everything. Londoners would attest against it.

That aside, the film was witty and if you happen to like English literature, the film is beautifully littered with poems and references to Hardy, Larkin, english history...the type of film that I like, the type of scenery that was nostalgic for me, but the elitism bit reminded me of an article I read today (check Insight pg 10, ST)
about elitism.

Back then, we had no idea how schools were elite, and elite was only known as a modelling agency. Somehow elite popped up since PM mentioned about J Lopez in his elite speech..? What is an elite? So what makes a non-elite?

Poor girl in elite school? If you make the best out of life no matter where you are, it wouldn't make a difference.

It's amazing what films can make you think of.

Music that people have no idea I listen to

Recently in class, there was this particular incident which revealed that people think I only listen to classical music. To which I replied, 'Believe it or not, I don't have anything classical in my ipod. None at all.' So I'm here to share with you two CDs which i play frequently while on the move or when trying to make some sense of numbers. Though they will, in no way, help us in pulling up our mep grades, (unless you're an alien like chunbok who picks out anything in a pop song that repeats thrice and yells, TIHAI! or who embellishes simple harmless melodies with VISTARS, much to the alarm of startled innocent passerbys) I personally think that they make life so much easier to endure, at times.

Promiscuous clothing and suggestive posing aside, this runner-up of American Idol Season 5 has much to offer. Blessed with a versatile voice, she is able to pull off several different styles convincingly; from pop, dance, R&B and especially her signature ballads which even swayed notorious judge Simon Cowell.

If there's one thing that I dislike in this album, it would be the blatantly feministic and sometimes cringe-worthy lyrics: In 'Dangerous', for instance, it reads, 'Dangerous. He’ll steal your heart away, then run and play. He’s dangerous. Protect your heart, he’ll tear it apart.' As admirable as her quest is to warn all females of the dangers of men, perhaps a little subtlety would do some good? Very very frighteningly, one track in the album sounds as if Britney Spears burst into Katharine's recording studio demanding to record a song to save her rapidly fading career. (The song in question is 'Do what you do', so be warned. Here's some evidence in case you're in the mood for GP: cause all the boys in the club wantin me/and all the girls in there tryin be like me) But thankfully, she redeems herself in several other stellar tracks including 'Over it', a solid pop number, 'Home' and 'Ordinary World', both of which are powerful ballads which showcase her voice very effectively. (the latter was destroyed by the above mentioned alien who decided it suited its voice effectively too)

Natasha Bedingfield's latest offering is no doubt an interesting mix, with well crafted lyrics which sometimes requires reading between the lines. Unlike Katharine McPhee, whose voice is rather conventional but beautiful all the same, Natasha Bedingfield's pipes are subjective. To quote one classmate of mine, whom i was trying to get to widen his musical horizon beyond Jay Chou, 'She sounds pissed off.' To me, it's one of the things which sets her apart from the myriad of new female vocalists springing up on the music scene.

The tracks in the album are very cleverly linked with a common thread running through them, the theme of relationships. It begins with a rousing number titled, 'How do you do?' in which she boldly declares, 'If it's weird for girls to give guys flowers/ Then maybe that's a reason to/ You're not climbing up my ivory tower/ So I'm comin' down for you' (this is the said song in which the alien picked out tihais) Following this is the highly amusing single, 'I wanna have your babies' which caused my sister to rant about the inaccurate portrayal of females as desperate beings. There is also very interesting imagery in 'Pirate Bones': 'It's not worth having/ If it's too much to hold/ You can dig so deep/ That's you're left with a hole/ Thirsty in the desert with a bag full of gold/ Don't wanna end up like pirate bones' and one track titled 'Still here' which rips your heart right out and at the same time, displays her competent vocal technique. Interestingly, we can draw comparisons with British pop (Natasha Bedingfield) and American pop (Katharine McPhee).

So there, all you people out there who harbour the misconception that MEP students are all about classical music!

samedi 5 mai 2007

A friend recently lent his Lisa Ono CD to me, Jambalaya - Bossa Americana. Listened to it while doing Math and i realised it is pretty good music for concentration.

Lisa Ono is Japan's most acclaimed Bossa Nova artist. To confess, i'm still not a fan of her voice. I find it a little too husky for my liking. Something clearer would perhaps be nice. My favourite song out of the cd is My Boy cause the lyrics are meaningful and the tune's simple and catchy. Most of the time, i actually prefer the instrumentation over her voice. Still trying to listen more to Jazz and other stuff like that.

Stay All Night's a funky number and i really loved the arrangement. I didnt think her voice was upbeat enough for the tune. The saxophone part is really great though.

Dont think i'll be a convert anytime soon. Came across Yamagata's Be Be my love the other day when i was youtubing around and i fell in love with it. Go hear!


It's a Saturday as I prepare for my class later.

So, has anyone listened to good music lately?

Recently, this song has caught my ears and thanks to Chun Bok, I managed to get a hang of the tune. An old song for most of our readers, I'm sure :)

PromiscuousNelly Furtado

Universal 2006-09-05
Sales Rank : 82209

Average Review star
starExperience Lounge Party Styles!

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It's interesting how Nelly this time is teaming up with the greats of Timberlake. The song's lyrics are really quite interesting and how it has been crafted. Ingenious. How one can work on a theme of promiscuity and showcasing it so glamourously is something I have to take my hat off to hiphop genres. Still, it got the dancing crowd in a feverish sweat as everybody sang to the words and gyrated furiously.

I was a fan of hers since I got this album a few years ago in London:

Whoa, Nelly!Whoa, Nelly!
Nelly Furtado

Dreamworks 2000-10-24
Sales Rank : 2179
Average Review

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Think the single that got me hooked was "I'm like a bird", and this ranks as her debut album I think. Remembered playing it in springtime, opening up apartment windows and blasting the entire album to a Sunday morning sleeping Maida Vale community. Yes, that crazy Asian.. haha! Well. :)

I would recommend this, if you are curious of her initial breakthrough.


While the entire world is off to watch spiderman (except me *sniff*), currently I'm reeling from one of my favourite films that I caught two weeks ago:

武士の一分木村拓哉 藤沢周平 山田洋次

松竹 2007-06-01
売り上げランキング : 108

おすすめ平均 star

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The writer is called Shuuhei Fujisawa, famous for writing on the everyday life of a typical samurai. The samurai character has been romanticised endlessly and dramatised in Western eyes like The Last Samurai, but much of it has been inaccurate and void of true emotion.

Though am not a Japanese, there is alot about the culture's delicacy that requires a deeper understanding and I only understood this in my final two years in UK, studying at SOAS. Whilst everybody around me in the Western Music world were giving me dubious looks of whether world music was worth the study, I tredged on and tried to fumble with my Japanese, sleeping in libraries reading old kabuki texts and listening to really old music. It also marked a period for me to start reading modern and old Japanese literature, from English and now, fumbling in the vernacular. Fujisawa's novels are difficult for me because of the samurai language (which is like Shakespeare), but to me, beautiful because of the way it was written.

The writer's feel of typical samurais, or in modern day context, civil servants, is something that I can identify with. Obeying your lord, going home at 5pm at dusk, spending time with your family, and yet defending your honour and name when you are called to battle...this is something I feel is necessary as a man, as a person.

Bushi no ichibun or translated roughly as "Part of being a samurai" or internationally known as "love and honour", is the final in a 3-part trilogy of Youji Yamada's film adaptation of F's stories. Yamada is also famous for his period dramas. The first film, Twilight Samurai, won accolades in international film festivals and tells the simple story of a samurai who lost his wife and had to fend for his children and mother. He meets his old friend who seeks to take care of him, the beautiful Rie Miyazawa, only to defend hers and his honour in a final duel.

真田広之 藤沢周平 山田洋次

松竹 2006-11-22
売り上げランキング : 14415

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The fighting scenes are natural and very beautifully shot. Very few people would know of this good film as it came out same time as Last Samurai I think, but vs Last Samurai, its recognition around the world showed how people recognised what was real art and truth, vs what Hollywood has been mindlessly dishing out. It is also very touching and made me realise how human the much-feared samurais are (you would if you met a guy who carried two swords at the waist). Not so much sword fighting as realistic sword fighting. If you're into real devel. of characters rather than action, this could be your film.

隠し剣 鬼の爪
隠し剣 鬼の爪永瀬正敏 藤沢周平 山田洋次


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The second film, The Hidden Blade, stars a favourite actress of mine, Takako Matsu. It is about a samurai living during the period when Japan was investing in Western warfare and ironically embracing it whilst slowly discarding its traditional Samurai fighting swordsmanship. It also showcased Matsu as the samurai's servant girl sent off in an unhappy marriage to a horrible family who abused her as a maid. The samurai defends her honour by bringing her home to nurse her to health but mibun, or social caste, prevents them from being together (samurais do not mingle with farmers, merchants and least of all, the servant class). Love story aside, the main plot is of how the samurai is sent out to assassinate his good friend arrested for treason and to take revenge on his friend's lord, who took advantage of the wife but tricked her and didn't spare her husband's life. The hidden blade focuses on what was the real true fighting skill that was utilised in the film and the final assissination scene is a classic. A must watch!

This film has the best Japanese film music I have heard so far and its huge waves of orchestral music aptly depicts the rolling mountains seen in the backdrop of the film. Again, Yamada shot it lovingly with abundant countryside scenery of Japan. One of my favourite and most moving of films.

Love and Honour stars the big star, Takuya Kimura, happily married and working as a food taster (for poison) in the shogun courts. An unfortunate poisoning incident has left him blind and his beautiful wife, young and at her wits' end, tries to seek for help from relatives. She meets a lord who remembers her as being beautiful and seeks to help her. All is not what it seems. Again, the idea of the corrupted and rich abusing power is shown when his wife is suspected of having an affair with this powerful lord. The truth as revealed was, being young and powerless, the girl was taken advantage of in return for saving her husband. The lord, instead of helping her husband, does nothing. Kimura as the blind samurai, is also skilled, and challenges the lord to a battle after knowing this. "Do not underestimate a blind man" he says. The ending is very touching when he forgives his wife for everything, knowing that true love's price is actually sacrificing oneself. This being the final of three films, showcases a rather light take on love. However, beneath this, the story is a glorious tale of the underdog seeking revenge against the corrupted. (for more reading on synopsis, check out the above link to Tokyo International Film Feste)

Although such dramatic takes of corruption seem to be few in today's society, there are many cases of these seen in modern day Japan. Feudal law, once a thing of the past, cannot be undersestimated as entirely erased. Such can also be seen in struggling third world countries or even totalitarian or communist states where horror stories of abuse and corruption go on in dare audacity each day.

All these thoughts racing through my mind as I watched this touching film. :)

if you like subtle, slightly sarcastic and yet beautifully humane films, try this. :) Unusual period dramas like this are a gem.

Well, am now a Kimura fan too after watching this fantastic drama called 華麗なる一族, tracing the rise and fall of Kobe's top bank in the 60s. Improved my vocab for Economics Hmm.

華麗なる一族 DVD-BOX
華麗なる一族 DVD-BOX木村拓哉 山崎豊子 鈴木京香

ビクターエンタテインメント 2007-07-06
売り上げランキング : 268

おすすめ平均 star

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How was your weekend entertainment? :)

jeudi 3 mai 2007

martha argerich

To kickstart things off in an informal way, I'll share with you a CD I have.

I used to listen to this:

Live from the Concertgebouw, 1978 & 1979
Live from the Concertgebouw, 1978 & 1979Johann Sebastian Bach Bela Bartok Frédéric Chopin Alberto Ginastera Sergey Prokofiev Domenico Scarlatti Martha Argerich

EMI Classics 2000-05-09
Sales Rank : 80773

Average Review star
starIf you only get one Martha Argerich disc...
starArgerich's strengths and weaknesses

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It was actually recorded when I was born (-_-)..

I won't say that I've listened to many in my lifetime but the one thing I like about Argerich's playing is this strength in her playing. One of my weaknesses was not developing the right muscles at a younger age (see? teachers are important) and her CD was very inspiring for me partly due to the clear technical way of playing as well as the tone. Something about it spelt a strong depth of masculinity and yet feminine sensuality.

Can imagine how much I tried to 'pump' up after that (-_0)

My favs are her interpretation of Bach which sounds more touching actually, in character, compared to Glenn Gould's (hm, then again, posture matters!) as well as the Ginastera Danzes. I've heard this piece 5 times in my lifetime and nobody plays it close to hers. Heard it bashed over, crashing, eloquently played, but it didn't have that steel.

Then again, they were both Argentinian I think..

if you like your pianists strong, female, liberated and sensual with tons of class, you might want to try this out :)