Thank you, Sir…

When the news of Isao Takahata (高畑 勲) passing on 5 April came via an app notification, I paused from reading a book. For a moment, my chest tightened with a familiar pain. And the memories of watching Grave of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓, Hotaru no Haka) decades ago and the grief and devastation that had followed for weeks afterwards came flooding back.

His other films I’ve seen, ‘Only Yesterday’ and ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’, are equally moving but ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ still haunts me. Once seen, it stays with you forever. Just a mention of the film brings heartaches. I can’t think of any other films, animation or live-action, that come close to reducing me to a blubbering mess for days like ‘Grave of the Fireflies’. The fact that, to this day, it still triggers such visceral response is a testament to its profoundly moving story and storytelling.

And to hear and read that atrocities and sufferings depicted in this film are still happening today… I can’t hold back tears… Insensitive news coverage and click-baiting clips may have numbed us on war and tragedy that I agree with the cries, in the wake of the director’s death, that it should be mandatory for everyone, especially those running for positions of power, to watch ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ at least once.

 

Thank you, Sir, for the masterpiece…

 

Of The Other Master of Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata (1935-2018).

Are You Game?

One, currently reading Mr Brown’s book “The Playstation Dreamworld”, comes across his essay:

Games are ideological constructions which push a set of values on the user. Like television and film, they often support the ideologies of their context: in the Bush years, American games endorsed aggressive foreign policy; since Brexit, British games advocate isolationism or nostalgia for empire – and the prominence of anti-Islam games in the 2000s tells it all. Alfie Brown, “How video games are fuelling the rise of the far right”

This brings back memories of many grim post-apocalyptic video games one had played once upon a time. How one has been influenced by those games, one still needs to reflect. One thing one noted is that one had come out of those games feeling relieved that “it’s just a game!” But now, watching the real world plays out, those scenarios aren’t so far-fetched after all…

2017, In A Playlist: On the Piano

It’s almost the end of December and retrospective posts are swarming one’s feed. Let’s hit back.


On the piano, “2017 has been an interesting year,” one’d say. Some personal favourites released new albums this year. ‘Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau’ came out in January. Omar Sosa’s ‘Transparent Water’, in collaboration with Seckou Keita, was released in February. The legendary Ahmad Jamal returned in May with ‘Marsaille’. The mercurial Hiromi Uehara, performing with harpist Edward Castenada, released their ‘Live in Montreal’ gig last October.

These are just to name a few that one has been playing constantly these past months.

The year’s bookmarked-under-‘piano’ list includes a video from Jazz Night in America. Instead of having a Disklavier playing a prerecorded piece, Dan Tepfer gave it a set of rules on how to play and played along in a feedback loop, in real time. It’s an interesting take on composing on digital piano. Eerie but exciting. Definitely fascinating…

 

Afterthoughts on Forest of Secrets, and Its Biggest Mystery…

This is courtesy of dearest pal Al whose claim that Forest of Secrets (비밀의 숲/Secret Forest, or Stranger on Netflix) is on par or even better than Signal nudged one to succumb to temptation. Now that one has finished it (twice!), one should get these thoughts out of one’s system before one starts swinging axe to kill bug #29. Coherence be d@#n3d!

There is a scene in episode 14 that reminds one of a shot in Pacific Rim’s closing credits sequence. In a rather wierd way, it makes a handy shorthand for a summary of one’s impression of this drama. Forest of Secrets among kdramas is like Mr Del Torro’s Pacific Rim among Mr Bay’s Transformers films. And one agrees with the following sentiments: (0). Well-written and well-executed story; (1). Jo Seung-Woo and Bae Doo-Na take it to another level; (2). Those smiles! (3). More adventures of Hwang Shi-Mok and Han Yeo-Jin, please —they definitely can pilot a Jaeger together. Because this is one of those rare cases in which one actually digs the (non existent) romance in a non-romantic crime mystery thriller drama, indicated by the lack of need for palate cleanser afterwards (it’s Mitchellian rants and outbursts these days). In short, Forest of Secrets is a Kdrama done right.

Continue reading “Afterthoughts on Forest of Secrets, and Its Biggest Mystery…”