Monty’s Christmas (brought to you by John Lewis)

Every year I look forward to the unveiling of the John Lewis Christmas advert, which has become a cultural institution of sorts. I haven’t been terribly impressed with the adverts from the past two years but John Lewis have redeemed themselves. And little Sam (a wee bit older, but still adorbs) is back from The Long Wait!

Perhaps this is why John Lewis is so clever, but the thing I do like about all of the adverts made after 2010 is the lack of ‘product placement’. Their campaigns focus more on love and the sentiment around Christmas, rather than things. What’s your favourite John Lewis advert? This year’s Monty the Penguin, The Bear and the Hare (2013), The Journey (2012), or The Long Wait (2011)?

Tokyo Family x Tokyo Story

Ozu Yasujiro (小津 安二郎) is one of the greatest Japanese film directors of all time. It saddens me that many of my Japanese friends have not seen his films, not even the internationally acclaimed Tokyo Story, 1953 ( 東京物語).  I spent hundreds of hours watching and analysing his films at Uni, so when I saw that Yamada Yoji (山田 洋次) had done a modern take on Tokyo Story, I was naturally very curious. To be honest, I had no idea Tokyo Family 2013 (東京家族), was a remake before I watched the film and I am glad I waited until afterward to see what others had said about it.

It would seem that many reviewers thought Tokyo Family was a flop. I never think it’s a good idea to compare originals to remakes, as it doesn’t allow the new film to be judged on its own merits.  That said, I’m torn as to how I feel about the film, regardless of it being an homage to Ozu or not.  Yamada adds Ozu-esque touches, such as long takes, where the camera rarely moves; using head-and-shoulder shots of characters looking and speaking directly at the camera; or low-angle shots of two characters sitting side by side, but something seems mismatched or not entirely fluid. The shots of the elderly couple and the shots of their youngest son and his girlfriend — Japan’s past and Japan’s future — don’t seem to flow very well together. It almost feels like the various scenes are from two different films slapped together.

The story varies slightly to reflect the uncertainties of Japan, post 3/11.  But the mentions of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami are so fleeting and serve only to superficially bring us into the present that it comes across as an afterthought and therefore, rather insincere. The taxi scene where the driver navigates the elderly couple through the suburbs of Tokyo via GPS works well but the rest doesn’t seem to work for me. Perhaps Yamada does this intentionally, as his focus is on conveying that despite changing times, some things still remain the same. Children will always be too busy for their elderly parents until it’s too late.

So where do I stand with Tokyo Family? Despite my criticisms, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the film. I blubbered away despite knowing how the film would end — it’s sad to lose a loved one, especially a mum so sweet, no matter what times we live in. All in all, I would recommend the film, if not only so that you will want to learn more about Ozu and because I absolutely adore Tsumabuki Satoshi (妻夫木聡). And being that I seem to be drawn to period dramas these days (still struggling to cope with having to wait an eternity for the return of Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge) I am also keen to see Yamada Yoji’s newest film, The Little House 2014 (小さいおうち) in the hopes that we’ll get to see some of Yamada’s own unique style, and because I’m a huge fan of Matsu Takako (松たか子).

Rating: 3.8/5

Colours: Eloise Laurence vs. Blur

I’m currently very much in awe of Eloise Laurence, who starred alongside Tim Roth in the brilliant film Broken (2012), an adaptation of Daniel Clay’s novel, Broken. If you haven’t yet seen this dark but uplifting coming of age film, do! I’ve only just started reading the book, but I assure you both are good.

Rarely does a film do a book justice, but director Rufus Norris is spot on, and Damon Albarn does a fantastic job with the music for the film (which is the reason for this post). My favourite being a rendition of  Blur’s fan club single ‘Colours’, which is far better than the original. Well done Eloise for the magnificent performance and what a lovely voice!

London In Colour

I rarely divulge much about my personal life here, but thought I’d write a wee post to let you all know that I’m alive and trying to get through the month of May without having a nervous breakdown.  Work has taken up the majority of my time, including having to work on weekends for the past 6 weeks since April.  I’m trying not to moan too much about it as I know there are worse things in life than having to work…but you know, one can only pretend to be calm for so long! More importantly, I wanted to share some stunning colour footage from 1927 London that a friend shared with me today. Enjoy!

Men Having Babies?

Before I begin, I must say that I have absolute respect for mums that go through the birth of one child and are still willing to have another, and another, and then perhaps another. After seeing this Dutch television show where two men put on electro stimulation devices that simulate childbirth contractions and film the results, I must admit I’m not exactly embracing the idea with excitement.  I know it’s a beautiful thing to have children but to be able to face the pain and accept that the only way to feel better again is to go through an excruciating amount of pain has got me really nervous.

As much as I laughed (more out of discomfort than entertainment) when I saw this, I commend these two young men for going through with the simulation.  I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad as an actual birth (there are no fluids gushing out of their bodies and no flesh is being torn open) but it all does look quite painful. Perhaps all hubbies should be required to experience this before their wives give birth to fully appreciate what a woman must endure to bring a child into the world.  The video below is in Dutch with English subtitles.

What’s Your Power Pose?

Have you ever doubted yourself or felt like you didn’t belong? I have…many times. No matter how hard I pretend to feel confident in a situation I often end up an observer, rather than an active participant.  But then I came across this inspirational talk Amy Cuddy gave in Edinburgh via TED (amazing organisation devoted to “ideas worth spreading”). In her talk, Cuddy discusses how body language affects how others see us and how it may also change how we see ourselves.

Although the transformation may not happen overnight, I reckon it’s worth giving her ideas a shot. In the words of Amy Cuddy, “Don’t fake it until you make it. Fake it until you become it.” I encourage you to take a moment to listen to this brief talk — perhaps it will inspire you, too.

Dumb Ways to Die

Let’s face it. When you die, you die. But just as there are noble and heroic deaths there are also some pretty dumb ways to die. Here is an adorable animation published by Australian train company, Metro Trains Melbourne–a safety message warning people against behaving recklessly around trains. Click here to learn more about Dumb Ways To Die. The characters are super cute and the tune is catchy and would make a great learning tool– there is even a karaoke version! While listening to the song, I realised that I often do some of the things they warn against, such as get my toast out with a fork and eat medicine that’s out of date. Oops! What other dumb ways are there to die? I’m sure there are lots!

The Journey – A Not So Perfect Christmas Advert

Remember last year’s John Lewis Christmas advert? You know, the one which featured a little boy who could not wait to give his parents the perfect gift on Christmas morning? I loved it to bits. It was simply the perfect ad and I wasn’t sure if anything could top the multi-award winning campaign. Sadly, I was right.

The idea behind the new John Lewis Christmas advert is sweet but I’m not sure Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of  Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love’ was the best song choice. Don’t get be wrong, Gabrielle’s version is beautiful but just not for a Christmas ad. It’s almost haunting and made me feel a bit sad. I was certain something bad was going to happen to Mr. Snowman (luckily, he made it back ‘alive’), but it certainly didn’t inspire me to rush out to John Lewis to ‘give a little more this Christmas’ (the 2011 ad did a much better job of that). What do you think? Which advert do you prefer?

*Update* Apparently, I’m not the only one who wasn’t keen on this year’s advert. Here is Charlie Brooker’s response: 2012’s Christmas adverts: horrible singers, horny snowmen and horrendous slave labour.


A Very Moomin Halloween

Absolutely love this Moomin postcard from Japan — perfect for Halloween!

It’s finally the last day of October! Not only does this mean it’s Halloween, it also means that my Moomin Non-Purchasing Agreement has come to an end and now I can prepare for a guilt-free Moomin Christmas!

I love all the Moomin comics but I never realised how scary some of the Moomin animation could be. Perhaps that’s also because I haven’t actually seen much of it and this is a sign that it’s time to fill the void in my Moomin DVD collection. Here is a fabulously spooky Halloween compilation of the scariest characters from Moominvalley. I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween!

Dikta Discovered

I can’t believe I just found out about Dikta! Some of you may know I’m a huge fan of Of Monsters and Men and Hafdís Huld and now I’m delighted to add another Icelandic band to my list of favourite bands. Dikta is an indie rock band made up of four members, Haukur Heiðar Hauksson on guitar, piano and vocals, Jón Bjarni Pétursson on guitar, Jón Þór Sigurðsson on drums and Skúli Gestsson on backing vocals and bass. They already have four albums out–Andartak (Mistak Records, 2002), Hunting for Happiness (Smekkleysa, 2005), Get It Together (2009), and Trust Me (Kölski, 2011).

I don’t know much about Dikta other than what I gathered from a quick Wikipedia search. But I do know that I love their music–‘Losing Every Day’, ‘In Spite of Me’, to name a few and especially the song ‘Goodbye’ from the album Get it Together, even though it kind of pulls me down. The first few times I heard it I sat bawling my eyes out. I wondered what had prompted all those tears and then I realised it was because the song hit a bit too close to home…