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Thursday, July 29, 2010

SDCC 2010: Friday Comes In Like a Lion and Goes Out Like a Munko

Bill Poon

San Diego, July 23 – The morning started with a surprise visit from Bill Poon who is the All-Star slugger from the Giant Robot softball team. He briefly chatted with Eric Nakamura (Publisher, Giant Robot) and others.

Second David Choe Signing

Dave Choe

Just before noon, fans of David Choe began forming a line around the booth. Choe, a Los Angeles pop artist, arrived to sign merchandise including his new art book and Munko vinyl figures. His devoted fans were pretty excited to meeting him. One of them even showed me her Munko tattoo on her wrist. It was pretty awesome.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SDCC 2010: Crossroads and Connections

Plushy Stand at the Giant Robot booth

San Diego, July 22 – The San Diego Convention Center opened its doors for the first full day of Comic-con International. Standing behind the plushy Totoro (トトロ) dolls at the Giant Robot booth, I was prepared for the onslaught of attendees.

First David Choe Signing

Our first major event was a signing by David Choe. Choe has been a major artist and painter in the Los Angeles art scene for the last several years. His pop sensibilities and graffiti style artwork has garnered a huge following among both art collectors and street artists. It’s a balancing act that keeps Choe's work on the cutting edge of the avant-garde.

Line for Dave Choe signing

Even before Choe’s arrival, his fans were lining up for the event. They were eager to chat with the artist and get their stuff signed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SDCC 2010: Prelude to the Madness

Left to Right: Donut Man and Chi (his niece)

Los Angeles, July 20 – Since my last trip to California, I’ve been fiending for some sugary Donut Man confections. The tasty glazed and cream filled pastries have been haunting my foodie dreams, and I definitely needed to visit the Donut Man.

Martin Wong (Editor of Giant Robot Magazine) and I trekked out to a humble little shack in Glendora which is the home of the Donut Man. Hoping to see sweet Boston Creams and glazed Tiger Tails, we accidentally stumbled onto a greater sighting. We met the DONUT MAN! The elusive and talented genius behind the Donut Man confections came out from behind the shack and greeted us with a smile. We talked, and he introduced us to his niece Chi. She was very cool.

After we pumped pure sugar into our veins, we went to pick up some new vinyl toys from a warehouse. We quickly packed the van with boxes of Dave Choe’s new Munko vinyl figures and the Giant Robot action figures. Destined for our booth at the San Diego Comic-Con, we load the van and filled every inch of space. I was surprised at the number of boxes that we could shove into our van.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NYAFF 2010: Calloused Fists of the Beast

Right to Left: Bruce Leung and MC Jin

NEW YORK, July 8 -- On the closing day of the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), they featured a retro-kung-fu flick named Gallants. It was a return to the original Hong Kong Kung-fu feature with tonue-in-cheek references to the old school classics.

Executive produced by Andy Lau (劉德華), the film features several old school kung-fu stars such as Bruce Leung Siu-Lung (梁小龍) and Chen Kuan-tai (陳觀泰). They are joined by some younger cast members such as Wong Yue-nam(黄又南) and MC Jin (歐陽靖).

NYAFF 2010: The Festival Spawned a Monster

Right to Left: Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura

NEW YORK, July 3 – The Japan Society hosted a special international premiere of Mutant Girls Squad in conjunction with the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and the Sushi Typhoon label. It’s one of the first films produced under the new movie label.

Directed by three insanely talented Japanese filmmakers, the movie is an extremely violent picture with gallons of fake bloody. Essentially parodying American superhero comic book movies, a team of teenage mutant gravure idols takes over a local street mall. They proceed to kill everything that moves. I mean everything. It’s mostly a non-stop action gore fest with several outrageously funny moments.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NYAFF 2010: The Saitama Rap Game

Yu Irie (center)

NEW YORK, June 29 – At the Walter Reade Theater, the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) screened a Japanese indie hit film called 8,000 Miles (Saitama no Rappa). The movie was shown twice drawing huge crowds.

8,000 miles is a musical comedy about a group of unknown rappers in the Saitama prefecture (a suburb of Tokyo). It tackles serious social issues in Japan including the Asian economic crisis, NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training), parasite singles, and unemployment. It might seem like a very didactic film, but it’s not. The narrative maintains a funny and light-hearted tone by couching the issues in several hilarious scenarios. The director does a wonderful job at balancing the social message with a great deal of humor.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NYAFF 2010: Marooned in Seoul

Lee Hey-Jun (left)

NEW YORK, July 7 – I attended the second screening of “Castaway on the Moon” at the Walter Reade Theater. It was a part of the Korean portion of the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF).

The film is about Mr. Kim who is an unemployed office worker with a mountain of debt. He leaps off a bridge in an attempt to commit suicide. Instead of dying, he survives and is stranded on a deserted island located near Seoul. Despite being able to see the skyscrapers, he is completely cut-off from the rest of the world. Then Mr. Kim decides to go into survival mode and attempts to rebuild his life on the island. Ms. Kim, an agoraphobic blogger, spots the stranded office worker from her high-rise apartment, and she tries to communicate with him. It’s a hilarious romantic comedy about loneliness and modern love.

In the Q&A, filmmaker Lee Hey-Jun’s (이해준) discusses the movie’s themes such as urban alienation, technology, and the effects of the global recession in South Korea.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NYAFF 2010: Pink Double Feature with Asami

Schoolgirl Asami Q&A

NEW YORK, July 2 – The New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and Pink Eiga hosted a pink film (ピンク映画) double feature at the IFC Center. It was a midnight screening that attracted a colorful crowd. This year’s pink film screening featured Groper Train: School Uniform Hunter and Japanese Wife Next Door Part 2.

It’s difficult to describe Japanese pink films because it has no analogous genre in western culture. It’s roughly a cross between exploitation films and soft core porn. Moreover, the genre was mainly developed as a response to strict censorship laws in Japan. All of the sex is simulated, and no genitalia are shown on screen. Most of the simulated sex scenes are awkwardly shot and hilariously bad.

Introduction to Groper Train: School Uniform Hunter

I get the feeling that the ridiculous sex scenes are purposefully crafted for comedic effect. It’s kinda hard to be serious when the audio cuts to cheesy music and the sound effects are canned.

Between the two feature films, Asami Sugiura (杉浦 亜紗美) (aka “Asami”) participated in a short Q&A with the folks at the NYAFF. Asami, who plays the female lead in Groper Train: School Uniform Hunter, discussed her career and the differences between pink films and Japanese Adult Video (AV).

Asami Q&A

Friday, July 2, 2010

USA Today: Japanese Monster Flicks Make Life Better

NEW YORK, July 2 – USA Today published my on-line article about daikaiju (big monster) movies. It's a guest writing piece for the Pop Candy column. Check it out!

USA Today: Japanese Monster Flicks Make Life Better

Special thanks to Whitney Matheson (the regular columnist) for letting me guest write for her. If you are a pop culture fiend, her daily Pop Candy column is a must read.

Enjoy your vacation, Whit!

NYAFF 2010: A Love Letter to Yumika

NEW YORK, June 30 – Yumika Hayashi (林由美香) was a prolific Japanese actress in the genre of pink films (ピンク映画) and pornographic videos. She has appeared in nearly 400 adult oriented movies and is probably best known for her work in the critically-acclaimed pink film called Lunchbox (熟女・発情 タマしゃぶり).

As a young filmmaker, Tetsuaki Matsue had a very memorable meeting with Yumika. During the encounter, she critiqued his work and said, “You have a long way to go.” Her words stayed with him, and the two became good friends.

When Yumika died suddenly at the age of 35, it was a complete shock to her friends and fans. Matsue was filled with grief and had difficulty talking about it. He decided to channel his feelings into a documentary film titled Annyong Yumika (あんにょん由美香).

Director Tetsuaki Matsue

The documentary begins with the discovery of an obscure Korean pornographic video starring Yumika called Junko: Story of a Tokyo Housewife. It was an unusually joint Korean and Japanese production filled with bad dialogue and awkward sex scenes. Using the video as a guide, Matsue retraces Yumika’s steps trying to understand her enigmatic life. (Note: He uses many excerpts from the video in his documentary. If you’re offended by pornography, you might not want to watch it.)

Through candid interviews with Yumika’s lovers, the director attempts to piece together her strange and colorful life. They passionately describe their experiences with the porn actress, and some admit to still harboring strong feelings for her. In many respects, the movie is less of a documentary and more of a love letter to Yumika.

When one of Yumika's directors tried to convince her to leave the adult film industry, she declined. He argued that she will have a better life doing a more respectable job. She replied, “I will cease to be me.”

Annyong Yumika, Q&A with Tetsuaki Matsue

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