Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids: Three short horror movie reviews

A little of everything here.Left Bank: Artsy Belgian psychological suspense flick about an injured elite-class runner who starts to doubt her boyfriend's motives. Slowly shifts into a very different horror genre. I often dislike those genre switches--in theory I approve of them but I often end up wishing I could just see the movie I thought this would be--but here I loved it. Spooky and weird, and it commits to its bizarre worldview. Strong sense of place; hints of misogyny-as-horror (aka … [Read more...]

“Inside Japan’s Booming Rent-a-Friend Industry”: The Week

isn't the "ohh those kooky Japanese!" story I feared. All the many reasons you might hire a friend: There's a word in Japanese, gaman, that translates roughly as "stoic forbearance in the face of the unbearable." It's a deep-seated Japanese value, this idea that you suck it up no matter what. A lot has been happening lately. Anxiety and depression spiked after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The country itself is shrinking, its population plummeting and aging rapidly. And there's the apparently … [Read more...]

Laughing for No Reason: Some short movie notes

Under the Shadow: Iranian horror set during the Iran-Iraq War. The movie opens with Shideh (Narges Rashidi) being told, by a man sitting under a portrait of the Ayatollah Khomeini, that she won't be able to continue her medical studies because of her political activities. She goes home to an apartment building where the windows are crisscrossed with masking tape in case bombing raids shatter the glass. She fights with her husband about whether she's unsupportive, taking the disappointment too … [Read more...]

“Geishas by Gaslight”: I review a show at the Freer

for AmCon: The Freer Gallery named their show of wood-block prints by fin de siecle Japanese artist Kobayashi Kiyochika “Master of the Night” (on display through July 27th), but night is ancient and Kiyochika’s work is distinctly modern. His prints show a world in transition. Some of the street scenes might almost be Victorian London; even the rickshaw used to pull a geisha through the night turns out to be a recent import, an innovation. Many of the scenes show people in traditional kimono mixi … [Read more...]

My Summer Reading 2014 (And Also Other People’s)

at the University Bookman--although actually I just started Gilgi, by the same woman who wrote The Artificial Silk Girl: From medieval sagas to anti-Communist Japanese surrealist novels, the Civil War campaigns to contemporary fiction, our contributors and friends again provide their summer reading lists. Every year this is one of our most popular features, as the suggestions from our trusted contributors are learned, wide-ranging, and deeply engaged with the questions that face our modern … [Read more...]

Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

Some luminous photos. Via Ratty. … [Read more...]

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad”: I review new film about fatherhood

for AmSpec: Hirokazu Koreeda's new film, Like Father, Like Son, pretends that it will be up front about the source of its heartbreak. Koreeda is the tragedian behind 2004's Nobody Knows, based on the real-life horror of several small children abandoned in their Tokyo apartment after their mother disappeared. This time he takes a parental perspective: Like Fatheropens with a couple learning that their only child was switched at birth, and is not biologically related to them.There's a … [Read more...]