On Hideko Takamine (1924-2010)

This month has unintentionally been alloted to re-discovering classic Japanese cinema. I forget clearly now how I was introduced to it, though. Might be through the broadcasts of the  defunct UHF channel 31 of Kurosawa (and Fellini) movies, or having seen the birth (or early years) of the Eiga Sai Japanese Film Festival back in the mid-90s.

By coincidence, I started it by viewing Mikio Naruse‘s When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) starring Hideko Takamine:

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs might be Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse’s finest hour–a delicate, devastating study of a woman, Keiko (played heartbreakingly by Hideko Takamine), who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo’s very modern postwar Ginza district, entertaining businessmen after work. Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to establish her independence in a male-dominated society. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs shows the largely unsung yet widely beloved master Naruse at his most socially exacting and profoundly emotional. (Synopsis from Criterion Collection.)

Shortly after seeing that, I found out that Takamine died late last year.

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REVIEW: Rosario (Updated)

Let’s start with the glaring, fundamental mistakes: jumpy editing, scenes out-of-focus or badly framed, puffed up with standard soap opera devices. Then, let’s be specific: ridiculous styling for Ara Mina, Rita Avila, and the impossibly-moustached Philip Salvador, and a too-wobbly record on a grammophone that cannot, and could not possibly make pleasing, audible music.

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My Own Anime Filmfest (Part 1): On Makoto Shinkai

For someone who prefers reading and writing short stories, I prefer movies to consume-in-bursts TV series. I could come up with several reasons as to this choice, but movies just tend to be a less compromised creative output, if you ask me.

That, I believe, is another thing that differentiates me from the typical otaku, but I’m referring to the stereotype though: he, or she, who follows the popular, and the latest and greatest in, say, anime. On my end, I put on my wannabe-critic cap, and do some online research first, consult with Noel Vera if he has written about it already, and screen movies based on directors. Anime or NOT anime, that’s usually how I am before deciding to watch a film.

5 Centimeters Per Second

Makoto Shinkai has been touted as the next Miyazaki, and the movies I’ve seen so far does prove that Shinkai’s output is more than impressive to the eye, his storyline a few notches up versus the typical mecha-context love story, but this is not in the vein of Miyazaki’s timeless works. The imagination seems to be limited to the what-if’s of middle-school friendships and crushes, and growing up and being involved in modern Japan’s space alien battles (Voices of a Distant Star), and post cold-war scenarios (The Place Promised in Our Early Days). I’m not dismissing what he’s done so far, but I find the Miyazaki comparison a long shot.

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Remedios Circle Kids
From the photo archives: Remedios Circle Kids

Spending the first restday after a month and a half of not being at work, which means I went to work for two days, to download all my emails, and reset my computer to a new image sanctioned for the new network. Catch-up re work matters would be next. I am back, not much has changed, but there are apparent new and unfamiliar things.


The building in front of mine is now completely demolished. There’re new places to eat: a pizza place for those with a bigger lunch budget, and a carinderia-style eatery housed inside a lesser mall. I haven’t ventured further off, since the realization that sometimes its better to not discover things alone comes to mind more often that I want it to.

And on that sully note, let me share an image that proves how geek-materialism does somehow an otherwise empty and unwanted soul here.

Continue reading Landed

REVIEW: Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler

Keep this in mind first: the former passion of movie-watching, and giving out an opinion about each experience, comes rarely to me now. The UP Film Center was my second home back in college (it also happens to be just across the street from my dorm), I surprised my film professor that I wasn’t a film major after taking two subjects already from him, and the first topics I blogged about early 2000 were movie reviews.

Having stumbled upon the new Darren Aronofsky release, The Wrestler, a few weeks back, I knew, instantly, this will be a treat. I’ve seen all this director’s previous films: Pi (its now a blur to me now, though), the frantic and just-alright Requiem for a Dream, and a critically-panned flop, The Fountain, which I actually liked.

Let it be said that there is nothing new, plot-wise, with The Wrestler. In sum, we really just see an aging professional wrestler struggling with real world facts: that he’s old and damaged, that he’s past his career prime, that his neglected daughter hates him, and that the stripper he gets lap-dances from is ultimately hesitant in starting a relationship with him. He wants to correct each mistake, make everything as happy and content, like his beloved hair-metal songs, the soundtrack of his life, his once-celebrated career.

A look of wonder will creep into your face when you see a tanned, bodybuilder-heavy Mickey Rourke in tights, with his behind to the audience, in what looks like a nursery school room. We only get to see his face minutes after, in the wrestling ring. A few minutes more, after a coordinated victory, we see what its like behind the show, the faces behind the characters of any larger-than-life persona you can think of: mayhem, hate, and of course, the contrasting all-American hero. Mickey Rourke plays Ram Robinson, and yes, he is that hero.

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