Double Feature: Gwen (2018) & The Garden of Words (2013)

As we get back to more frequent double features, we head into the next letter in our alphabet run as we get to G. G selections on Shudder are rather slim pickings so I went ahead and started up 2018’s slow-burn film Gwen and then paired with also a shorter title with Japanese animated film by the same director as Your Name, The Garden of Words. Let’s check it out!

Gwen (2018)

Gwen

Director (and writer): William McGregor

Cast: Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Maxine Peake, Richard Harrington, Mark Lewis Jones, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Richard Elfyn

A folk tale set in the hills of Wales during the industrial revolution. – IMDB

Gwen is a slow pace Welsh horror drama set during the Industrial Revolution, mostly set in the isolated hills where this family of a mother and two daughters live on their farm. Unfortunate situations keep happening as the older daughter Gwen holds up the family and strives to survive while dealing with the farm animals dying mysteriously and her mother being overcome with a mysterious illness. Its a dark story and well-portrayed in its landscape and setting under its dim lighting and gloomy shots.

If we look at the characters, Gwen is played by Eleanor Worthington-Cox who does a really great job in this character. Its a quiet movie so dialogue is much less and there’s more of an observation of the situation and she does that very well. At the same time, her mother is played by Maxine Peake who also captures her role fairly well. There’s some rather “creepy” moments for lack of a better word. The movie itself isn’t exactly scary per se but it is a little unsettling at parts.

Gwen is for the patient audience that doesn’t mind a slow paced horror drama. Its not scary in the jump scare sense but more of a slow unwinding unsettling feeling that goes with where its set and the gloomy darker environment that surrounds this tale.

The Garden of Words (2013)

The Garden of Words

Director (and writer): Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Miyu Irino, Kana Hanazawa, Takeshi Maeda,

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. – IMDB

The Garden of Words is a 45 minute Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, the person behind Your Name. Its interesting to see that this story also features two strangers Takao and Yukari who the latter is the mysterious woman who we actually don’t know the name until much later when her identity is revealed. The Garden of Words is something of a coming of age as the two characters have their own personal struggles of being a bit of a loner or misunderstood and finding it hard to know how to move forward. It uses the 15 year old boy, Takao’s passion for being a shoemaker and shoes in general as a metaphor for life.

Because of that focus, there’s a lot of scenes that capture the feet with how they sit and position their feet or walking through the streets, etc. Makoto Shinkai is a nice storyteller. His stories, at least the two to date that I’ve watched, has been rather meaningful. Its always about some element of life and adds a hint of romance in it that helps the characters grow. While this story isn’t quite as complex, it does take a level of careful execution to allow the story to work in the realm of keeping one of the character’s a mystery until giving her identity reveal. At the same time, Shinkai always gives these rich in color and beautiful animated scenery. In this case, its capturing the realistic rain fall set in the beautiful garden and capturing the light beams  and such.

The Garden of Words is a mere 45 minutes and because it doesn’t have a overly complex story but still with a little mystery, it adds enough to move the story in a quick paced. Its well-animated and has a rather careful metaphor. The story focuses on two characters with an age gap and while there are some elements of it that feels a little odd at first, its a rather interesting friendship that happens between them. Its a bit unlikely but then its not the friendship itself but rather how it develops emotionally perhaps. The Garden of Words is a quick viewing that’s definitely worth your time if you liked Your Name. Its not the same sort of story but its still a pretty good watch.

That’s it for this G double feature!
Have you seen these two movies? Thoughts?

TV Binge: Queer Eye: We’re in Japan (Season 1, 2019)

Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! (Season 1, 2019)

queer eye we're in japan

Hosts: Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Kiko Mizuhara

Guest: Naomi Watanabe

In this short and sweet 4 episodes Queer Eye season, something of a spin-off, the Fab 5 head out to Japan to makeover four heroes as we’ve come to call the people nominated. Heading to Japan is a big deal as they tackle cultural differences but also share the niche slices of Japan from lesbian and gay bars to manga-themed restaurants and the general cultural family dynamic and the whole closed communication structure in relationships both families and romantic ones plus the general perception of how the community values become one’s own identity and how to break from it. Heading to Japan is a huge deal because it shows the reach that Fab 5 can give to those who need it and truly emphasize on how differences in gender, ethnicity are not so much hurdles as we all just need to find our self-confidence and learn to love ourselves and communicate.

qe1

Each episode in this season shows a very different story. The first is one about a woman who gave up her own personal space and life for the community as well as a hospice so others get the best care in their final days. Being in the older demographic and having the “hero” element with her selflessness, its a hurdle about the importance for loving herself and the perfect step to understand the Japanese values. The second story dives into the LGBTQ views in Japan and self-identity in a place that limits someone from being themselves completely. The third story also turns it around and looks at the family dynamic, parent and child communication, the tough love element in a household and especially the ideal woman of how a girl sees herself. The final story goes into the whole communication in marriage and it takes a rather emotional turn as they look at the “sexless” marriage which goes unspoken as well as opening communication to better relationships and facing the issues rather than ignoring them.

Queer Eye I'm in Japan

Looking at each of these stories, Queer Eye We’re in Japan emphasizes something they talked about in the first episode of the first season (at least I think it was there). While each story touches on a different element of Japanese values, views and culture which may be different to the Fab 5, they also tread carefully around it, each of these stories and how a person’s view changes and all these other elements to a certain extent are similar to everyone else. In reality, Queer Eye and the Fab 5 is about embracing our similarities rather than our differences because our stories are more similar than different when you take away the prejudices and stereotypes of gender or ethnicity, etc.

queer eye I'm in Japan

Its 4 episodes and I’ve gone on for far too long talking about not a lot in the review department. These 4 episodes are touching and well-executed. It has a lot of fun moments as well as expected with the Fab 5. Its nicely balanced and well worth a watch. Plus, they have some hosts that are big in Japan like their tour guide Kiko Mizuhara as well as a guest host from Naomi Watanabe, who are both unique icons. Just make sure to keep a Kleenex box nearby (just in case). I’m definitely hoping that they continue to do more episodes in Japan (or other places with different cultures).

Fantasia Festival 2019: The Fable (2019)

The Fable (2019)

The Fable

Director: Kan Eguchi

Cast: Junichi Okada, Fumino Kimura, Mizuki Yamamota, Koichi Sato, Yuya Yagira

The Fable is a 2019 action comedy about a genius assassin forced to live a year of normal life but gets dragged into a whirlwind of chaos involving the Osaka underworld.

The Fable is the nickname of the genius assassin that this movie revolves around. After a massive killing job, he is forced to take a year off to live as a normal person, something that he has never done before. All he has ever known is to be trained as an assassin and be an assassin throughout life. Paired up in disguise with his partner as his sister, he is ordered to live a year without killing. Things go well as he awkwardly tries to adapts, find a job and meets a girl, Misaki that he is interested in until the Osaka criminal world gets him dragged in when Misaki gets caught as the underworld clashes in a fight for power. Making things harder is the fact that his reputation has put two young assassins on a hunting trail to find him and take his title of The Fable.

The Fable, named Sato for the year leave, is a peculiar character played by Junichi Okada. Wrapped up in his lifestyle as an assassin, he has weird habits like sleeping naked in the bathtub and disguising his bed, for example. In fact, he is naked doing a lot of things. What might seem general knowledge to everyone else is something that he needs to observe and try to learn in the process of being normal. It doesn’t help that he has odd tastes in what is funny and he is so calm and collected that everything is in his control as he faces the normal world around him. There is no doubt that the fighting scenes that he does is very fun, both in creativity and simple execution and style, however, the heart of the film is in how it pairs the fish out of water story and where a lot of the comedy lies. Most of the dark humor and slapstick comedy does land pretty well.

The fighting scenes are both close hand to hand combat and gun fights. The first scene and the last big fight is both larger scale and the more impressive part of the action element. In the opening scene, its already obvious that style is going to be apparent as the bullets hitting its targets are all probability and arrows as it hits set up in a hand- drawn trajectory zooming in and out. In the big final third act, its a spectacle on a massive scale through a disposal facility.

Taking home the Fantasia Best Action film this year, The Fable is a ton of fun to watch. Junichi Okada delivers an outstanding character as Sato. Not only the main character but also the two assassins who want to take him place has a lot of moments between fanboy-ing and trying to take him down. Its this sudden change in character that makes them hilarious. Its a side plot but these little elements puts more stakes on the line and keeps the action going. However, some of the little flaws here goes to some truly over the top characters that are a touch generic and annoying. The story has a lot of characters in and out that don’t always get enough presence, making it a little hard to place as a result. All this is easy to look past because The Fable is well-paced, has great comedic timing and some odd but charming characters paired with nicely choreographed action sequences.

TIFF 2013: The Wind Rises (2013)

After being able to get my tickets for Hayao Miyazaki‘s newest animation The Wind Rises, the news that it was his last movie came out that evening (at least when I knew about it). It made the whole wait so much more worthwhile and the excitement to see this tripled (if not more).  The showing I saw was the last showing on the last day of TIFF at 9am in the morning.  Right before I had to head back home.

the wind rises poster1

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Hideaki Anno, Mirai Shida, Jun Kunimura, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura

Based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi who was the chief engineer of Japanese fighter plane designs, the story is about his life as a young boy who dreamed to be a pilot but due to his nearsightedness, he learned that he could be a aeronautical engineer.  He followed his passions and graduated which lead him to work in Mitsubishi Combustion Engine Company Ltd.  From there, we look at his life and his genius talents of creating the jets that would eventually fight in World War II and his path to the success to his first creation.

Le vent se leve. Il faut tenter de vivre – Paul Valery

That quote on the top is the essence of the movie based on a quote by Paul Valery translated: The wind rises, we must try to live.

To be clear, I’m not a very knowledgeable person of Japan’s historical figures especially not during World War II.   Therefore, how accurate this story is of Jiro Horikoshi is unknown to me but doing a bit of research before writing this up, its apparently very much fictionalized.  Probably because of the romance thats inserted in it and well certain events, such as the roots of his imagination and creation that inspires and motivates him throughout the movie.

the wind rises 2

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Miyazaki.  Above everything, this movie was a feast for your eyes.  The animation is absolutely stunning.  I’ll try to show a few of the screenshots that don’t reveal too much as to not ruin the experience if and when you end up seeing it.  As we move through Jiro’s life, we see the background color match the tone that the movie wants to take.  Every scenery, catastrophe, backdrop, etc, every single detail is done really well. Its enchanting at times and dramatic at others.

the wind rises 3

One of the first things that captured me was the passion. You can feel the love of airplanes in Jiro.  His love for everything related to it and the aspiration to be the first to make Japan stand out instead of being called copycats of European technology.  The conversations between the characters left with a bit of irony at times but also a lot of encouraging messages to follow your dream especially because time is limited (to sum it up).  Its interesting to see the portrayal of the main character be absorbed in the way that not only in real life, he revolves around figuring out how to make great fighter planes but also he would dream and visualize his plans as he draws them.  I’m not an engineer so I wonder if thats how the thought process works.

the wind rises 1

The supporting characters themselves, aside from Jiro are charismatic and give us a lot to love.  They bring in an array of emotions that really touch the audiences heart whether through laughter, smiles or even sorrow.  I actually enjoyed the introduction of how he meets his love interest and the things that they did.  The concept of living despite the hindrances in life that do occur.  Being able to balance between passion and love and understanding how to do things with no regret.

the wind rises 4

If I were to criticize one thing for The Wind Rises, I’d have to say that the story falls short a little.  I found the story still very well done but its not as clean cut and easy to understand as other Miyazaki movies.  In this one, the years jump forward unannounced throughout the movie and we have to assume the time frame that everything happens and for a bit in the middle, it somewhat drags a little.  Maybe it was because I was tired but I’ve never felt that way for any Miyazaki movies before.  Although, having an overemotional couple sitting next to me sniffling even in the not yet dramatic part all the way till the end did affect my overall movie experience.  However, only for that little while of about a 15 minute frame, it felt a bit longer but before and after that part, the story is engaging to watch.

the wind rises 5

I can’t help to think that this also includes a farewell to the audience especially when the dialogue of artist saying something about an artist’s creativity peaks for 10 years or something along those lines.  Plus, he places an artist in the movie as well. Maybe there’s more to it.  I probably will have to get it when it eventually comes out and watch it again to grasp the meaning a bit more.

The Wind Rises may have a bit of a little not as fluent storytelling, however the way its told is compelling and engaging.  Witnessing the events that affected Japan as they slipped downwards and the sudden preparation for WWII in the background of giving the biopic of Jiro Horikoshi. Even though it may be fictional, Jiro’s portrayal was done well and also supported by a great set of characters. I recommend this movie because of the passionate “follow your dream” messages as well as the visually stunning animations that almost bring every devastation to success to life whether it be humans, animals, planes, nature and other landscapes.

**On the side note, this being Miyazaki’s last film affects me quite a bit.  Its also contributes to bit of bittersweet feeling as the movie was ending.  As much as I’d love for him to continue making movies, he is getting older and after listening to a bit of his press conference, I somewhat understand that its probably what he feels he needs.  This project really reflects him and his passion for airplanes, especially his respect and praise for Jiro Horikoshi. I’m really grateful that I managed to see this on the big screen.  If you happen to get a chance to see it, I urge you to try and get tickets!**

Matsuri Japan Festival & Brossard Cultural Fest 2013

Saturday was a crazy day! My friend and I had planned to go to 2 festivals in one day. Its both in the Montreal and surround areas so it wasn’t completely not doable.  His advice to me was to eat a light breakfast and get ready to eat lots of food for the rest of the day! I’ve never been to either of the festivals so lets check it out!

First stop was the further one and it also started earlier and it was Matsuri Japan Festival!  There was A LOT of people! I’m not even kidding…this is what it looked like when I got there.

Matsuri Japon 2013

Crowds at Matsuri!

Consider me traumatized, ok? This whole hermit thing was working so well…Anyways, the first place I was even too scared to order.  By the way, all the food bought was split between my friend and I to maximize the variety of food we could eat! First up, we went to get some Udon (aka Japanese Noodles)!

Matsuri Japon 2013

Udon

Then we headed off to our friend’s stand for Takoyaki! I’ve never tried it before actually so its my first time.  Look at the man power there!

Matsuri Japon 2013

My friend’s Takoyaki stand

Then the final product!

Matsuri Japon 2013

Takoyaki

It was so delicious! I’ve definitely been missing out with all the crazy busy schedule at work 🙂 Love takoyaki!

Next we went to get some J-Dogs because I love hot dogs so why not try them Japanese style, right? Who knew we had to line up to wait for our order. Look at this…*gasp*

Ordered and had to lineup to get our order of J-Dog

Ordered and had to lineup to get our order of J-Dog

In the meantime, my friend ran off to get us some Imadake!

Matsuri Japon 2013

Imadake

This is all new food to me.  My extent of Japanese is Soba, Sushi, Handrolls, Sashimi and Udon.  This was really good.  Just the portion was way huge.  I almost couldn’t eat my half of the J-Dog afterwards.  Oh wait, here is the long anticipated J-Dog.

Matsuri Japon 2013

J-Dog

They also had the choice of Wasabi-Mayo flavor but I don’t do spicy stuff so I took this 🙂

Right after that, we were just in time to see the Taiko performance.  First was with the singles, then doubles then we get the big drums

Matsuri Japon 2013

Taiko performance starts

Matsuri Japon 2013

Matsuri Japon 2013

Two people to a drum

Matsuri Japon 2013

Giant drums

They had some crafts area and kids area.  There I found origami of the Chinese Zodiac and the best was this origami of a dragon!

Matsuri Japon 2013

Dragon origami

By that time, we had already been there for about 2 hours and we were ready to head back to our area to check out the Brossard Cultural Festival! This year, they have a bank as a sponsor so they made it huge.  We just never anticipated how huge it was.  My friend said that the crowd had at least doubled from last year.  It was crazy lineups for some places and by the time we got there, some stalls had already sold out. Mostly eating here so we started with a Jamaican restaurant’s Poulet Jerk which is Jerk Chicken/Chicken Jerky? I don’t know what you call it, but it looks like this!

Poulet Jerk

Poulet Jerk

Then we went to the quick and fast one to get ourselves some Quebec delicacy of Turkey drumsticks.  Sharing this one was way hard!

Turkey drumsticks

Turkey drumsticks

We were also lining up at the Venezuelan restaurant and by the time we reached the stall, they had only two things left.  My friend took the Poutine Latino.  For those who don’t know what poutine is, it is a french fries, gravy and cheese Quebec meal just this time it was make Latino way.

Poutine Latino

Poutine Latino

My friend said it was really good.  I don’t eat poutine anymore but it does look quite good. As for me, I took the other dish they had, Rice with shredded beef. That was really good  🙂

Rice with shredded beef

Rice with shredded beef

That I ate by myself. After that, my friend’s had met some of his friends there and we went to watch the kids play on the little games there.

What do you call those games? I only know it in french.

What do you call those games? I only know it in french.

They also have fireworks later on at night but I was totally exhausted.  It was super fun though.  I ate lots of good food, saw some friends and watched nice performances.  It was definitely an amazing day! 🙂

How was your weekend? Do you like to try new foods and explore other cultures?

The Revolution That Never Left Me

Around 15 years ago, in 1998 Japan came out with a revolution that took over the gaming world (at least I think it did).  For a while, it stayed around and everyone was into it.  People lined up at arcades and crowded around the machines and some practiced and challenged others to improve their dancing skills. Do you know what I’m talking about? Dance Dance Revolution my friends!

When it first came out, I didn’t own a console but I remember my cousin owning it.  I was horrible at it, no coordination whatsoever. All I remember from a childhood experience was loathing the embarrassment of it all.  The arms flailing about trying to keep balance, the feet trying to catch up the arrows and when slow, I looked like a robot and when fast, it was just a mess of stomping in uncontrollable disorder.  Eventually I gave up and decided that these sort of games were not made me for.  However, I did enjoy watching them.  Why, I did not grasp back then. Maybe even back then, I enjoyed other people embarrassing themselves or unafraid or overconfident to not really care about it all.

 

For a while, this seemed to have died down in my world as my cousins grew older and these games were no longer everyone’s go-to game, especially girls using it to lose weight or stay fit.    It then came one day at a friend’s birthday party. There it was when we walked into the entertainment room…those dreaded colourful mats with arrows marked on it, the dance music blazing in the background, and then the birthday girl says that everyone has to do it.  Can you see me face palming? Because thats what I did and in my mind, I went in a dramatic scream, “NOOOOOOO!!”  Whats awesome though is I do have an amazing best friend and she was there.  As much her doing DDR makes everyone else look horrible, she’s also hilarious.  I survived that day with my legs untangled and no pulled muscles in my arms.  It turned out to be fun to just sit around and watch everyone trying to not make a fool of themselves. Little did I know that at the end of 2007, this party would lead to follow a revolution that never did leave in my mind…

ddr xIn 2008, I started going out with my current boyfriend, and you might or might not have read about it, but he ended up giving me his Playstation 2! YES! And coincidentally, it was also the 10th anniversary of Dance Dance Revolution and they came out with DDR X.  As much as DDR X had some pretty bad songs and not like the originals.  I was obsessed with getting better, with playing it amazingly.  Days and days of practice, my daily exercise, stress reliever all went into the form of perfecting my dancing skills.  On top of that, I went searching for older versions of this fabulous game and came in possession with Supernova 2 and Extreme 2.  Eventually in 2011 they came out with a reboot, in the form of DDR X2.

Up till this past week, I had taken months off of DDR and had other obsessions that took its place but the one that always stayed was this dancing game.  I jump back in and the ambitious me pops out.  I need to win, I need to beat my records, I need to reach high levels.  I learned this week that its just who I am.  I’m really bad at gaming in general for somehow, DDR is my game.  I’m not as good as those people in competitions of course.  But, I improve everyday, it makes me happy and I can listen to hours on hours on hours of dance music a la Dance Dance Revolution style.  I can play and get angry at the stupid guy in the background making comments especially when he’s mocking me when I hit the danger zone and my legs are scorching with pain.  I can try to imitate the characters dancing during the song before and after the arrows start flowing up and after its done.

ddr matt

This Revolution is one that will never leave me. My matt may show signs of dying and the arrows don’t work as well and its probably time to upgrade it to the newer consoles and newer franchises like Everybody Dance for PS3 or Zumba for Xbox360 (but that would mean getting a new console), but Dance Dance Revolution will always be the one that I love even if I have to move on.  Its the one that started it all. I think they still make it on some consoles..I’ll have to research that 🙂

However, on a side note, one thing I will never do as much as I love it is to bring those moves into anywhere public 😉  If you’ve played it or seen it, you know what I mean. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to NOT scare everyone with my laughable dance moves….haha~If you want it though, I could film one tonight…just comment 😉 For you, anything! I mean I did it at the arcades once with my limited dance moves!

Dance off time! YEAH! Party anyone?

Anyone get dragged into this revolution? Or maybe you’re more the Guitar Hero phase (I am too ;))? Or maybe Duck Hunt? Maybe some other dance game on another console?