I may have gotten a little obsessed with Rob Cantor’s live version of “Shia LeBeouf”, a story about the actual cannibal Shia LeBeouf. I have definitely sent it around to people in my office who I think will enjoy it and the responses have basically been as positive as mine was when I first saw it. I had heard the song on my travels through tumblr, but thought nothing of it until I saw the video linked above. I feel like the performance really adds an added level of awesomeness to the song.
This made me look into some of Rob Cantor’s other songs, and he’s pretty dang talented!
Far East Mention Mannequins (who shall be referred to as FEMM from now on because that is a ridiculous name) are a Japanese duo I have been listening to a lot lately, and it has gotten to the point that I put a song on repeat for a few hours before changing to another one. I am even listening to them while writing this post. It seems appropriate. Now you may think they’re just another weird Japanese electropop band, but they are so much weirder than that.
The premise behind FEMM is that two mannequins, RiRi and LuLa, were saved and got a device implanted into them to make them, uh, alive. So now they are using music to try and create mannequin awareness so that mannequins are treated better. Because RiRi and LuLa can’t talk (even though they can sing?) any interviews are done by their ‘Agents’, Honey-B and W-Trouble. These two ladies are rappers who have been featured in one of FEMM’s songs, and Honey-B seems to do all the social media stuff, going off the facebook and youtube comments.
I found out about them through tumblr, when someone I followed posted one of their videos. Apparently FEMM has gotten some attention recently with their song ‘Fxxk Boys Get Money’, where they are dressed in latex maid outfits and twerking. It’s not really my jam, the vocals are a bit too grating and the twerking kinda puts me off. The point of the song is pretty great though, which is pretty much “yeah boys are ok but I would prefer money to buy stuff”. They seem pretty big on ‘girl power’ type themes in their songs, which I definitely appreciate.
‘Dead Wrong’ is definitely my favourite of their songs so far (I haven’t listened to all the songs they’ve released, because Dead Wrong is so catchy in it’s autotuned glory) but coming 2nd is ‘Wannabe’, which is how I found about FEMM in the first place. The whole thing is a bit bizarre, with two ladies dressed in latex Japanese schoolgirl outfits, singing with deadpan expressions on their faces.But I think that’s part of why I like it.
Ben and I were talking about this and talking about how the mannequins can be seen as a reference to how pop stars put forward a persona, and how RiRi and LuLa are essentially singing dolls while Honey-B and W-Trouble are the ones talking for them, like Agencies do for musicians these days (especially in countries like Japan and Korea where pop music is such a big industry). The more I think about it the more layers I can find, like having FEMM wear the latex outfits could be referring to the fetishism of public figures like pop stars. Obviously we won’t know if this is all intentional and it’s a very complex message, or if we are reading too far into this. We’re not the people behind FEMM, I also haven’t looked that deeply into them as there’s probably a bunch of stuff in Japanese that I can’t read that may or may not even clear things up.
Either way they’re super catchy, have pretty positive messages in their songs, and I may have been obsessing about their songs for a while. I have been listening to them pretty constantly, and I think the main reason I like them so much is that the music sounds like the soundtrack to some sort of Magical Girl Anime fight scene. Check them out, maybe you’ll like them, maybe you won’t! Either way it’s fun to try out new things!
Sometimes songs just worm their way into your brain and torment you until it seem that the song is all you can thing about. Earworms are a nuisance and so far there is no known cure. It’s a terrible affliction and all I can do when affected by one is to listen to the song on repeat until my brain is so oversaturated with the song that it grabs onto any other song just to hear something different. It’s not the most eloquent of actions, but it is kinda the only one I’ve got at the moment.
Lately a song has wormed in and been bugging me,so I figured maybe writing about it would help get it out of my system. I guess you can stop reading now if you don’t like KPop, because the song is G Dragon’s latest song (single? release? it just had a music video, but I have no idea how the Korean music industry works), ‘Who You’.
Now, G Dragon is the ‘Leader’ of Big Bang, but they’ve all been doing individual side projects lately so there has been a bunch of things coming out of YG from the Big Bang side of things. The music video for ‘Who You’ that I linked above came out earlier in the week and that was the first time I listened to the song and I was caught by it straight away. G Dragon’s stuff can be a bit hit or miss for me, and some of his other recent songs have not been my cup of tea at all, so this was a nice surprise.
The song starts off with some nice strong chords on the piano to break up the lines of the lyrics and these chords continue through the song to tie it all in together, so the little rappy bits aren’t as jarring as some of his other songs. The only time piano isn’t there is in the refrain, and that makes it stand out compared to the rest of the song.
His voice is clear and simple, and the lines in the lyrics are clearly defined by the rhythm of the song. There is more singing than rapping, which makes it easier to, uh, understand the words. Korean raps can kinda end up as a mess up sounds and it’s hard to distinguish the words in there, even if I can’t actually understand what the words are.
Looking at the English translation of the lyrics ‘Who You’ is actually a sad break up song about how he misses his ex-girlfriend and how upset and frustrated he’s gotten about the situation. It’s kinda obvious that is what it’s about from the English in the song, but the Korean parts go into it in more detail, and it’s a strange juxtaposition between the sweeter, happier sound of the song and the more serious lyrics. I guess I’m used to more dramatic sounding love songs from KPop artists, rather than the opposite. I feel a bit bad that this song makes me want to dance along to the du-du-du-du-du-du chorus when it’s actually a sad song.
I know last week didn’t happen, but I felt a bit burnt out after Miyazaki Week and watched trash to compensate for it. This week I was back in business, though, and promised to watch at least one of the five suggestions. This week’s theme was “All Critics Are Wankers”
I ended up watching Ratatouille. A rat that loves to cook teams up with a guy who works in a kitchen who is a terrible cook, and together they make wonderful food and in turn help restore the reputation of the restaurant they work at.
This felt a bit too cutesy for me when it first came out, but I have heard a lot of positive things about it over the years so I figured I would give it a chance. It was pretty standard, story-wise; Remy the rat doesn’t fit in with his family, but can’t do what he wants to do (cook) without being persecuted. Linguine also doesn’t really fit in with his ‘family’ at the restaurant, but when the two of them work together they make something amazing. Or something like that. It wasn’t the most exciting or touching story that Pixar have done, but it did look pretty. The lights and atmosphere of Paris were gorgeous, and the food in the kitchens looked amazing. They obviously put a lot of effort into the details of the food, which makes sense seeing it’s a major aspect of the story, and it definitely makes a difference.
The main issue I had about this movie was the accents. For a film based in France, specifically in Paris, it really annoyed me that so many of the main characters were voiced by Americans. All the rats, Linguine, and most of the kitchen staff had American accents. Gusteau, Mustafa (the head waiter) and Colette were all voiced by Americans bunging on a clichéd French Accent. There were a few British voices in there, but that is still pretty pathetic for a film set in France. Why didn’t they get more French actors in to work on it? It’s not like there are no actors in France. It just felt really lazy and distracting, and while it didn’t ruin the film it did frustrate me a lot and if they had put a bit more effort into it I probably would have enjoyed it more.
After that I tried to watch All About Eve. A young lady meets her idol, an actress in the theatre. She works for the actress, studies everything about her, then becomes an actress herself and ends up overshining the original actress.
I wanted to enjoy this, I really did. The story sounded interesting, the actors were well known enough, it should have been easy enough to watch. I just really don’t like old films. This is from the 50’s and I got so sick of the breathy voice all the ladies had and while the story had potential it just felt Super Boring. I got about 50 minutes into it before deciding to give up. I feel a bit bad saying this, but if anyone decides to do a modern remake of it I would probably really enjoy it. I just couldn’t get interested in this version of it.
Also having never seen Bette Davis before, I was basing my opinion of her off half listened lyrics of Bette Davis Eyes. Now I’m not sure if having Bette Davis eyes is supposed to be a compliment like I thought it was, she has pretty sad looking eyes. Maybe I should actually listen to the song properly for once.
The other suggestions this week were Almost Famous, Inglourious Basterds (I’d already seen both of these), and Hamlet 2. Hamlet 2 sounds ridiculous, so I think it’s going on the list of movies to watch under my own steam at some point in the future. So this week wasn’t the most successful of weeks, but I’m happy enough that I watched something. Next Week is all about Wes Anderson, so that might be interesting!
I was pretty excited about this weekend. I went through a phase of being a little obsessed with mainstream Japanese culture (funnily enough around the time I decided to learn Japanese at school), and this was a nice way to relive that. Plus I have a cold so I felt this was a good way to justify spending the weekend watching cartoons in my jammies. Apologies in advance, this post is probably going to be a long one.
This week’s theme was “Inside The Magical World Of Hayao Miyazaki”. That’s right, it was Ghibli week this week. I had seen two of the suggestions before, but all five films were ones I had been meaning to (re)watch for a while and hadn’t gotten around to it, so I figured this was as good a chance as any. I managed to watch all five films this week, but I started a day early in order to fit them all in. The book talked about the English dubbed versions, but I went all authentic with Japanese and subtitles.
I started on Thursday with Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s the often-told story of a girl who gets on the bad side of a huge fat blob of a witch and gets turned into an old lady. She then meets a wizard, Howl, and they both help each other out and fall in love or whatever.
This certainly was a Miyazaki film. There is a cutesy, wandering feel to the whole thing that is reminiscent of all the Ghibli films I’ve watched so far. There is the obvious distinction between good and bad visually; Howl (good guy) is tall and attractive and all the ladies love him, while the Witch of the Wastes (bad guy) is a huge, monstrous lady who gets stripped of her powers and if a fat ugly old lady. Fairly straight forward who you should be cheering for. Also being old doesn’t necessary equate to being bad; the King’s advisor is an old witch, but because she did ‘good’ things she wasn’t fat and ugly. If you are good you are pretty, and if you’re bad you’re ugly. It’s pretty simple stuff, which makes sense seeing as it’s essentially a kid’s movie.
There are some aspects I would have liked to have seen explored a bit more. Howl is shown as vain and shallow because he feels life isn’t worth living if you’re not attractive, but then miraculously gets over that and moves on. Then there’s the Lady Suliman, who was Howl’s mentor, what is up with all that? Also, why does Sophie keep changing back and forth between the old lady self and the original self? I would have liked a bit more explanation in those kinda of aspects. That being said, the film is very pretty. Very Pretty. This is something that Miyazaki seems to do quite well, that complex, detailed world that also looks really beautiful. It was nice enough, but didn’t really seem to grab me that much. It felt a little too young for me.
Next up was Spirited Away. A girl (Chihiro) is moving to a new town with her parents. They stop at a village and her parents get turned into pigs. She gets a job at the bath house in the village, specially for spirits, and tries to work out a way to get her parents back the way they were with the help of a boy (Haku) who also works there.
Now, cards on the table, I was pretty drugged up on cold and flu medication when I watched this. I had already seen it, years ago, so I knew the gist of what was going on, but I may have been paying less attention than usual seeing as I could barely keep my eyes open. That being said, I think I can safely say that I enjoyed it more than Howl’s Moving Castle. While the storyline was a bit more wandering than Howl, the world Spirited Away was setting was much more magical. The various spirit characters were really detailed and interesting, and all the colours and layers and music just made it feel like a really full movie. The story also was nice in that it showed Chihiro’s growth as a character, from the scared, whiny child to someone with confidence and willingness to stand up for what she believes in. It’s a clichéd story, but it was done in a nice way that I didn’t roll my eyes at it. It feels like Miyazaki learned over the years what he did well and improved as a result. I can see why this one won an Oscar when it came out. I really liked it.
Again, I wish there was more backstory. These characters are so complex that the glimpse you get in the films isn’t really enough to satisfy me and just left me with a lot of questions. What is a NoFace? Why was Haku working for Yubaba? Why was Yubaba’s sister really mean when you first meet her and then super nice when Chihiro goes out to see her? Why does she live so far away from her sister, anyway? What caused whatever falling out they had? What’s with the giant baby? It’s frustrating, y’know?
Next up was Laputa: Castle in the Sky. A girl with a magical pendant falls from an airship and meets a boy from a mining town. They decide to go on an adventure which takes them to a magical floating castle, Laputa, where they, uh, live happily ever after? I dunno, I didn’t get that far.
Not really that much of a fan of this one. It felt kinda clunky and overly cartoony, like the afternoon kids shows I used to watch when I was younger. Plus the art style wasn’t something I liked, even though it was pretty similar to other Miyazaki things I’ve watched, it was a little different and just looked like an older style and it was distracting. I got bored pretty quickly and stopped watching it before they even made it to Laputa. Sorry Miyazaki, but I just didn’t care enough to continue..
Then came My Neighbour Totoro. A family move into an old (slightly abandoned) house, and get settled while the Mother is in hospital. the two girls, Sachiko and Mei find a spirit-y being that they believe is Totoro, a troll, and they have magical adventures with him.
(sorry about the pathetic trailer; it was literally the best I could find that was able to be embedded in here.)
I have been meaning to see this for a while, seeing as sometimes I feel like the only person I know who hasn’t watched this already. It was a bit slow to start, but I was happy to watch it because I wanted to see Totoro. The voices of the children were kind of annoying, but I have watched anime with more irritating voices so it wasn’t too bad.
It was a pretty strange movie, though. Cute, for sure, but still really strange. I probably won’t watch it again, because I didn’t really find it that interesting. I don’t completely understand why people get so obsessed about it. Sure, Totoro and Catbus were cute, but not really enough to want to wear clothes with them on it and squee over Totoro merchandise in store. To each their own, I guess.
And finally I watched Princess Mononoke. A young man from a forest tribe is poisoned when a Boar God becomes a demon and goes on a rampage. The man, Ashitaka, leaves the village in search of a cure and an explanation for what happened to the Boar God. He encounters a town built around producing iron, and the head of that town who is set on destroying the nearby forest and killing all the creatures in it. Ashitaka runs to the forest and tries to get people and animals to live in peace, teaming up with the Wolf God and falling in love with her human daughter, San. There’s also the Spirit of the Forest, whose head is supposed to grant immortality or something. It gets a bit confusing after a while.
This was the first subtitled anime I remember watching. My brother borrowed it from a friend (on VHS, how old school!) who was into anime and wanted Rowan to be too. I remember the strangeness of the subtitles, and the being confused by the story because I would only pay attention to it in burst and essentially had no idea what was going on most of the time. This is the only one I watched this time around in English; I remember reading about how the American producers worked closely with Miyazaki to make sure the English translation was a close as possible, so I figured it would be ok. But the way Americans pronounce Japanese works grates on me so much that I think it possibly ruined the film for me. I had other things that needed doing so I couldn’t change it to Japanese and sit and watch it straight, which meant I just struggled through to mangled pronunciation of names.
Also it seemed to drag on a bit too long. By the time we got to the big climax of the film I felt like it should have come half an hour earlier. There was a lot of build up and I had burnt out a little by the end of it. Plus it got a preachy. Ok, I get it, humans should try and get along with nature, not destroy it. You don’t need to hammer it home quite that much, alright? This grumpiness about the film is probably because I was movied out by this point. Five films in a weekend is definitely too much for me to handle, even though I didn’t watch much of Laputa. I’ll probably give Mononoke another go at some point, in Japanese, but at the moment I don’t want to watch anything for a while.
So, in summary, this weekend was a bit of a slog. I did like the majority of the films that were suggested, I will admit that freely. I was also just really glad that fuckin’ Ponyo wasn’t on the list, because that is a really weird, vaguely irritating film that I never want to watch ever again. Ben bought it for me as a joke for Christmas one year, and I forced him to sit down and watch it with me. We both decided at the end of it to put it away and leave it on the shelf as a reminder of Bad Decisions. it was definitely a lesson learned and hopefully never repeated. Next week is about living in the suburbs, we’ll se how I go with those ones, eh?