Movie melodies

Melodies add a

lot to a film, helping

it tell its story.


I’ve been thinking about soundtracks lately, putting together playlists on my tablet or rather transferring them from my laptop and adding more as I went along.  I love music and rarely let a day go by without listening to something.  I’ve various playlists but my soundtrack playlist is probably one of the longer ones.

I’ve been meaning to add something to this blog about the music in Japanese or Japanese-related films I’ve seen so now I have.  I’ve added a page Movie Melodies just under Films worth a look (while Dramas and Documentaries is now a heading of its own as you can see).

Regarding Cafe Lumière, I think the actress who sings the closing credits is the actress who plays the girlfriend of Yoko’s chef friend  and not the lead actress, Yoko, though she is or was a singer herself.  Nice song.   I’ve just now remembered another film whose main theme I have to add.    Funny how one song can lead to you thinking of another even though the two films are very different.   I’ve heard that Hiroyuki Sanada has a very fine singing voice and whether he sang or not the theme tune or a version of it to Twilight Samurai, that’s what made me think of it – lead actors or actresses singing in films or on the film score.

It’s funny but usually, with Hollywood films at least, I tend to roll my eyes when I hear that the actors contributed to the soundtracks.   I tend to think ‘Aren’t they indulged enough already without people telling them they can sing!’   Maybe this sounds mean I don’t know and I don’t care.  They’re strangers, not people I know.  Plus they could be depriving some little known singer of potential fame gained by appearing on the soundtrack.  However, there is one exception I can think of.  Tim Blake Nelson is said to have sang ALL his parts both in the film scenes and on the soundtrack of Oh Brother Where Art Thou – a fantastic film and film score – while his co-stars only lip-synced or mimed the words.  I’d believe it too.  I guess some actors and actresses can actually sing.   Another exception is Holly Hunter who actually learned the piano for the film The Piano and that too is an excellent film and score (though I only listen to The Heart seeks Pleasure First, to be honest).

Anyway, back to Japanese films which is what I talk about here.   I hope you enjoy these scores and if you’ve any suggestions I’d be glad to hear them.






Certain Halloween 

tv fare no doubt won’t be

right for all of us


Well, I did watch Yakuza Apocalypse after all.    All of it.  It’s truly bizarre and actually kind of funny at times in the way they take the piss out of the yakuza in the dialogue. To a taunt that yakuza are all stupid (or the yakuza guy being taunted is stupid) the taunted yakuza guy goes, ‘yakuza minus stupid doesn’t leave much’, while another guy goes ‘my skin is too sensitive for a tattoo’.   I said to myself ‘ok I’ll see how it goes’ but then I just got into it.  It’s no more violent than any other zombie film or your usual yakuza fare from directors like Beat Takashi or, as is the case here,Takashi Miike, director of 13 Assassins, a film I really like, who has also directed more infamously violent films such as Ichi the Killer (very hard to find for obvious reasons but the trailer is off-putting enough – even Tadanobu Asano being in it wouldn’t make me watch it and he’s brilliant in my opinion) and Imprint (haven’t seen that either).    There is a warning in the film description that there is sexual violence and it’s only fair to warn people, especially women and any young adults or children, who may be reading this, of what to expect.  It is not something you want, as a woman especially, to see in a film whether it’s graphically portrayed or hinted at by the context of the scene.

So that was my Halloween film, a night before official Halloween night.  Speaking of Halloween, it does well in Japan apparently, based on the 2016 report of the Japan Anniversary Association totalling the amount spent in the 2016 market on everything from shopping to Halloween-themed dining at ¥135 billion, surpassing the ¥134 billion spent on Valentine’s Day, making it the second-biggest event in Japan after Christmas last year. Crikey.  Pokémon and Super Mario were popular last year due to, respectively, the Pokémon go phenomenon (I just don’t get the appeal of that) and Shinzo Abe’s appearance at the Olympics closing ceremony last year as Super Mario (what a good sport he was but I’m still not a fan).  The JAA is a new association to me  – only hearing of it in some random news report I came across online yesterday – which registers and tracks commemoration days in Japan (their strangest one must be lactobacillus day. Bizarre)

Well who’s surprised really that Halloween does so well in Japan.  Not only from the modern point of view of Japan outdoing America in virtually everything it adopts from there, but because Japan has always done ghost stories really well, not to mention horror, though Korea is probably better these days at horror.

As for other TV entertainment, well, Japanese Style Originator, listed in my drama/documentary list, is as entertaining as watching paint dry.  I knew it was too early to list it!!  It’s more of a panel show with a documentary feel.  I watched the first episode of the series available on that streaming service we all know and love, and barely made it through to the end.  However, I decided to watch a bit of the next one and only lasted about 10 minutes.   A lot of the episodes are missing but it made no difference to me as I couldn’t go further than the second one they have up.   Between the rather silly panel of personalities and guests, and the syncing of adult voices to the kids’ dialogue which is slightly over-acted by one of them – sorry but it’s true though not nice to say about kids – it just wasn’t my cup of tea, however interesting the cultural aspects and great the potential for expanding my range of cultural vocabulary.   I might recommend it for university students whose teacher wants to kill some time, or a whole class worth of it, but otherwise I’d recommend people watch something else.  Like a good drama or documentary.  I never find the syncing of adults voices to dialogue spoken by children cute or endearing.  It’s just a bit wierd in my opinion.  Just as wierd is seeing adults in something with kids’ voices synced to their dialogue.   There’s an ad on tv a lot which is for a certain brand of sweets and these adults on a train platform are saying which ones they like the most out of a selection (another one is set on a football field) and the adults have kids’ voices and it’s just freaky.  It’s some bit funny though whereas the other way around is just not.

Anyway, Happy Halloween – hope your outfits are fun and some bit original.  Pennywise the clown from Stephen King’s IT, made into a film this year, is a pretty popular one.  I read that book years ago and it was really creepy.    I still remember how freaked out I was by it.


Poetry Day

Happy national

poetry day to all my

fellow haiku scribes!


Well, for the day that’s in it – National Poetry Day – I thought I should come back and write a post.  I haven’t been around in a while despite all that’s been going on over in Japan’s part of the world:

North Korea is

posing a bigger threat but

Aso still an ass.


Yes, North Korea is one thing but having a minister like Aso on your team who says things like ‘H~~~ had the right idea in the 1930s’ (won’t type out his name for obvious reasons) is no help to politics in Japan or Japan’s reputation abroad.  You’re on the brink of being wiped out by a bullying nutcase neighbour and you hero worship another genocidal nutcase from the past?   What an ass (to put it mildly).   Shinzo Abe with his raised right arm tendencies doesn’t help either!!    I’m glad he’s getting a scare from the current governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, who has formed a new party which is already threatening his poll ratings, already low.  She says she won’t run against him in the next elections to be PM because she wants to focus on Tokyo 2020.    She was his defence minister at one point and is a conservative populist (don’t like that word too much) but apparently she wants to challenge the political old guard. Becoming the first female governor of Tokyo has given her a good start there!   The Party of Hope is the name of her party. Let’s hope it lasts a while and doesn’t turn bad.  She certainly is scaring him in the polls.  We can’t let long-time leaders like right-arm raising Abe get too comfortable can we.     Things are certainly looking very dark over there right now, even with the Party of Hope hoping to bring some light in.  I’m almost glad I’m not in Japan these days.

Speaking of darkness of another kind, and onto one of my favourite topics of conversation, film, A third murder, Hirokazu Koreeda’s most recent film (for the first time in a while, or ever, not really about family issues which is his speciality), which premiered at the Venice International Film Festival this year, explores the dark side of being a lawyer defending a client who admits to a crime even if the lawyer doubts his guilt.  Is he covering up for someone? Well, who cares!!  I’d like to see this at some point.


Kore-eda strikes

again to give us a slice

of life in Japan.


I have another film to see before that, which is also about a pretty dark area of society – American society.   It’s called Wind River, set on a reservation (the actual Wind River reservation where it was filmed) in Wyoming where an experienced park ranger helps an inexperienced FBI agent to investigate the death of a young Native American woman, found lying dead in the snow.   Missing or murdered Native American women (and First Nation women in Canada) is an ongoing problem, mostly neglected if not ignored by authorities (in Canada at least, I’m not as sure about the US) and reservations in America have other problems too.    Some very good actors in this and it’s directed by the man who screen-wrote Hell or High Water last year (also a very good film where Jeff Bridges, a very good actor most will agree, as the Texas Ranger chasing sibling bank robbers – robbing branches of the bank which has taken back their ill mother’s farm/house – has his scenes stolen (geddit?) by the actor playing his Native American (Comanche)-Mexican partner, who plays the grieving father of the murdered young woman in Wind River – a brilliant character actor).  I’ve read some very interesting books lately exploring the history of Native Americans and the American West.  I  admire to some extent the chiefs and rebels from various tribes who resisted and only gave in for the good, or so they were led to think, of their people.  They were robbed in every way and yes the murder of settlers by some Indians was definitely not right either but ‘there were good and bad Indians and good and bad whites but the whites only saw the bad in the Indian’, to paraphrase a quote from one leader.  Incidentally, one of the books covers the Texas Rangers who were originally created as a form of militia back in the 19th century in order to hunt down Indians.  There were some white figures in US history who come out looking relatively good but not enough of them. I’ve watched and am watching some dramas and documentaries on the subject as well (which also cover earlier periods, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the early pilgrims arrived in the East of the States) but the books are brilliant.   I got both out of the library – and am waiting for another one, long live libraries – but am planning to buy one of them now so I can have it in my collection to refer to in the future.   Definitely not a book that will be left in 積読/tsundoku state (the Japanese term for books bought and then left piled up and unread) – not that many books I buy are.

Back to Japan, well I don’t think there is that much else happening there at the moment (though on the positive side, in terms of film, it’s nice to see good films continuously coming out, especially by Hirokazu Kore-eda).  They have their hands full I imagine with North Korea, and certain idiotic politicians.

So that’s it for today.  I hope no-one minded me going off-track there to talk about a non-Japanese issue.   Actually, apart from the fact the film mentioned is a worthy one (and starting a film blog is something I’m not ready to do yet), there are some parallels in the story of native Americans with Japanese history, as back in the 19th century if not earlier, the Japanese government also mistreated and wiped out most of the Ainu, the aboriginals of Japan.  They also humiliated other Japanese who weren’t seen as equal to them.   They could do what they wanted and got away with it.


The world is small with

governments showing

evil in common


More in another while.