13th Cinema One Originals Film Festival: My World Cinema Picks

Before We Vanish: Seeing Ryuhei Matsuda on the big screen twice this year 

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Narumi Kase (Masami Nagasawa) is on bad terms with her husband Shinji Kase (Ryuhei Matsuda) until Shinji goes missing and comes back as a different person.  Meanwhile, a family is brutally murdered and an unexplained phenomenon takes place.

When Cinema Bravo unveiled the full line-up and schedules for the 13th Cinema One Originals Film Festival this past Wednesday, I immediately scrolled down to check the world cinema section, and I couldn’t help myself and jump with joy when I saw Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Before We Vanish,” an official selection at the Un Certain Regard section at the recent Festival de Cannes.

The film’s been on my lookout since I came to know about it late last year, all because it stars a big bias actor of mine, Ryuhei Matsuda. Since I’m keeping tabs of his films, I’m quite in the know whenever he has upcoming or new ones out in Japan.

Before We Vanish international teaser trailer

In fact, Before We Vanish was only released September 9 in Japan so that’s like just over two months of gap before it screens for the Cinema One Originals line-up. I’m totally amazed at how the Cinema One Originals committee are so quick to be able to bring these films so fast for the film fest after their run in international film festivals.

I’m totally exuberant because this will be the second time I’ll be getting to watch Ryuhei on the big screen, first at the  Eiga Sai Film Festival this past July with the film “The Mohican Comes Home” (2016).

Ever since I first got to see him on the big screen in “Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto” (2014), courtesy again of the Japan Foundation’s Eiga Sai Film Fest, his films have been  common fixtures in the line-up every year. It was just unfortunate though when I missed my favorite “The Great Passage” (2013) at last year’s Eiga Sai because of my birthday trip overseas but I’ve seen the movie before this on television via Red by HBO.

So I’m just totally in a euphoric state that I will get to see his latest film, Before We Vanish on the big screen. It’s all thanks to Cinema One Originals for bringing the film for the festival.

As for his director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this will be the first time I’ll be seeing a film from the Japanese horror master as he is known in the industry. Just like Hirokazu Koreeda, he’s venturing into new territories with Before We Vanish, which is science fiction, a genre that isn’t very common in the Japanese movie industry. However, it seems Kurosawa has more diverse genres in his films than Koreeda.

His thriller film “Creepy” (2016) was among the line-up at this year’s Eiga Sai but I didn’t get to watch it but I’ve heard of him first from the film “Journey to the Shore” (2015), I think last year as it was part of Cinema One Originals but just the same I haven’t seen it and also “Bright Future” (2003).

The Third Murder: Hirokazu Koreeda’s change of pace

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Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) is an elite lawyer who takes the case of Mikuma (Koji Yakusho), a self-confessed murderer to a crime that happened 30 years ago. Facing the death sentence, Shigemori begins to doubt if Mikuma is the real murderer.

For this film, “The Third Murder,” the reason why this is part of my shortlist is not because of the actor/s but more on the director, Hirokazu Koreeda, as I have seen quite a number of his films before that I really like or love.

IndieWire calls Hirokazu Koreeda as Japan’s “greatest living humanist filmmaker” and I really think this is one of the best ways to describe him. However, their review says about his latest film, The Third Murder, a rare misfire and an unwelcome change of pace.

The Third Murder English Subtitled Trailer

Toronto International Film Festival and The Guardian (The Third Murder review – death-sentence drama leaves you hanging) both have positive reviews.

I myself is actually a little surprised when this came to my awareness few months ago because it’s nothing like any of his works that center on family life and its complexities. And it seems like this is the first time he’s venturing outside the style that he is known for. 

Among my favorites from him are definitely “Like Father, Like Son” (which I saw from the 2015 Eiga Sai Film Fest) and “Our Little Sister” (which I missed from the 2016 Eiga Sai because of a trip but was able to watch at home). I also like “I Wish” (the one with Joe Odagiri and Bae Doo-na) and “After Life”. I have yet to watch last year’s “After the Storm” that stars Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki and Kiki Kirin.

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A lot of familiar names are here who starred in his previous films — Masaharu Fukuyama (Like Father, Like Son), Lily Franky (Like Father, Like Son), Suzu Hirose (Our Little Sister). Koji Yakusho also stars but I’m not sure if he’s starred in any of Koreeda’s films before, he’s in a number of Takashi Miike movies than Koreeda.

Despite the sudden change of direction, I’m gonna give this a shot, just because I’m aware of the quality of Hirokazu Koreeda’s films and that he always or most often than not delivers.

Call Me By Your Name: This year’s best of summer love

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Italy, summer of 1983, precocious 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the summer at his parents’ villa in Lombardy when he meets Oliver (Armie Hammer ), a doctoral student and intern of his father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

Out of my three shortlisted films, only one isn’t Japanese nor Asian, and that is  Luca Guadagnino’s film adaptation of the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman, “Call Me By Your Name,” starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, that had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and is now garnering a place as one of the favorites to win best picture Oscar in February. 

In this case, neither the director nor the actors is my reason for choosing it. I saw the trailer to this few months back but I don’t remember how I came to find it on YouTube, but I was enamored by how beautiful it is from the trailer alone. The only cast that I know of is Armie Hammer but the rest of the cast and the director are fairly new to me.

Call Me By Your Name Trailer

I also can’t help but take notice of the song playing in the latter half of the trailer, and how it makes me wanna watch the film even more with it. I went looking for the song and it’s called “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens, who also composed the song specifically for the film, as well as two more songs included in the original motion picture soundtrack. Now I’m thinking of getting the OST.

From the looks of it, it won’t be hard for me to fall in love with this film when I see it in full.

The 13th Cinema One Originals Film Festival runs on November 13-21 at Trinoma, Glorietta, Gateway, UP Cine Adarna, Cinema 76 and Cinematheque, and extended run from November 22-28 at the PowerPlant Mall.

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Haruki Murakami and the Nobel Prize in Literature

Nobel prize: Chronicle of wound-up ‘Harukists’ as Murakami fails to win

This piece is in reaction to the article above from BBC and regarding the recent announcement of the awardee for Nobel Prize in Literature.

So, Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, also hasn’t been awarded or recognized by the Nobel Prize (in Literature)), same as Haruki Murakami.

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Photo by The New Yorker

I don’t know much about Margaret Atwood nor about the new Nobel Prize in Literature awardee, Kazuo Ishiguro, because I’ve never read any of their works, which goes to say that I can never really assess anything. I do know Ishiguro by his name, specifically from his novel, “Never Let Me Go.”  I’m sure they’re both deserving in their own particular ways, especially in reference to Ishiguro, who’s the latest to win the Prize.

When I read the other day that Ishiguro’s been awarded the Prize; definitely, I thought of Haruki Murakami and how there’s bound to be news all over the internet again about how the coveted prize has eluded him for the nth time and how Harukists all over the world are disappointed yet again.

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Photo from RAPTIS RARE BOOKS

As for me, being a proud and dedicated Haruki Murakami fan, of course, it’s inevitable that I’m saddened too because he’s very much deserving of this Prize as well, just as much as Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and Cormac McCarthy; names as mentioned by Ishiguro himself.

“Part of me feels like an imposter and part of me feels bad that I’ve got this before other living writers. “Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, all of them immediately came into my head and I just thought wow, this is a bit of a cheek for me to have been given this before them,” says Ishiguro.

I may be accused of being bias by other people who may not have read Murakami but I don’t go this way. I don’t make assessments on whether I love or strongly dislike certain things – novels that I read, movies that I watch, and music that I listen to; by basing on just a single reason of being a fan. I have instances that even though I really love this actor, I have this sense that I don’t really like this film of his because there’s something lacking that I’m looking for.

Then again, Mr. Haruki Murakami himself doesn’t seem to care much about winning or winning it at all. He’s just not the kind of individual that’s motivated or driven by awards and such. He’s not doing what he’s doing just because he wants these recognitions. I think it’s the fans who are more driven and want the Prize for him (of course, I want the Prize for him) more than Mr. Murakami himself.

The Nobel Prize and the Oscars

However, I also feel that the Nobel Prize is just like the Oscars in some ways. The Oscars go a lot with hype more than the quality, strength, and the lasting impact of the performance and the role.

I heard that the Academy Awards’ panel of judges don’t even watch all of the films nominated, so they base more on the buzz that’s going around these films, which is why production studios are giving it a lot when it comes to marketing and publicity. And there are those that are intentionally out to win awards more than anything, even more than box office returns.

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Ryan Gosling as jazz musician, Sebastian in La La Land

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Emma Stone as aspiring actress Mia in La La Land

This is the reason why I’m not happy with Emma Stone winning over other stronger performances. As much as I love La La Land, I just feel that either Isabelle Huppert or Ruth Negga should have won. Same with Ryan, his role Sebastian is a lot more complex than Emma’s emotional cry baby Mia but the judges just love emotional acting and characters like that which are kinda typical already for me.

I strongly feel this is the same case with the Nobel Prize in Literature (since I don’t really know much with the other categories and their controversies). I guess they have this preference over English-language authors than authors writing in their native language like Japanese that must be translated first before it gets published internationally.

Foreign languages have their exquisitely-innate hidden beauty, that when they’re translated, they have more depth and meaning and evoke more emotions and intensity in readers than the original English written ones. It’s just like how there’s such a different feeling to listening to non-English songs.

The preference on social realism 

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I discussed with my older brother, who has read Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and he thinks that the Nobel committee prefers authors who write about social realism, just as also the case with Gael Garcia Marquez’ novel, “100 Years of Solitude”, who has already been awarded by the Nobel Prize.

Social realism or in simpler definition, is something that can easily relate to the real world and real life; and these are the kinds that win the Literature Prize.

And that while Never Let Me Go’s story is science fiction, it uses that scenario to get its message across, which is about clones that are made only to be organ donors to the original.

With Haruki Murakami, his style is made of weird, surreal, out of this world themes, which probably come across as escapism to the committee. I do agree with my brother on this, and these are also the reasons why I read his novels, why I’m such a fan.

And when he said social realism, I said Murakami has that too, although not very often in most of his novels. I gave “Norwegian Wood” (1997 / 2000), “South of the Border (1992 / 2006), and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” (2013 / 2014) as examples. I further said that to me, character-wise and story-wise, Norwegian Wood and Colorless Tsukuru are somewhat close to each other.

However, for him, there’s still something weird and unusual about Tsukuru, and he thinks that Norwegian Wood is the only novel that’s different from the rest of Murakami’s novels. Well, I kinda agree again, when comparing Toru and Tsukuru, Toru does come out more of a real-life person than Tsukuru, but I think this is also the reason why Tsukuru Tazaki is able to supplant Toru Watanabe as my favorite Murakami character and my no. 1 favorite Murakami novel now. I relate to both of them highly but I think I have more affinity with Tsukuru.

Then he pointed out Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960) as an example of novels that also win the Nobel Literature Prize.

With this aspect, then my theory about the similarity of The Academy Awards and The Nobel Prize is further confirmed — “Moonlight” that’s about racism, coming-of-age, LGBT, and bullying, winning best picture over “La La Land” or Casey Affleck’s dramatic grief-stricken man who suddenly becomes the guardian of his nephew in “Manchester by the Sea” over Ryan Gosling’s inspiring and logical jazz musician who learned how to compromise for both his dream and love in “La La Land.”

 

When something can never be rom-com

What ‘Last Night’ gets wrong about suicide

I saw the trailer to this and I find it bleh. I didn’t get anything out of the trailer of what it’s exactly about, at least, and I see Piolo and Toni looking at each other at a balcony of a nice-looking building or a hotel, all cutesy and lovey dovey. So this alone reduced the possibility of me ever watching it to total zero. However, I’d like to point it’s easy on the eyes, it’s nice to look at but that’s all there is to me.

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And then I read this review from CNN Phils (link above), which is a very well-written review, such an in-depth take, and so I find out that it’s about suicide — only this movie makes suicide such a trivial matter; that it’s a fun game while the “one-dimensional characters” are trying to think of horrendous ways of killing themselves and laughing it off every time they fail; that suicide can be a platform for tender moments, romance and falling in love; that one can be driven to suicide all because of a single event in the form of a break-up; that the decision to commit suicide is instantaneous; that this feeling of positivism and wanting to live again is also instantaneous for suicidal people (as if you just bumped your head lightly); and that after a failed attempt, one recovers so easily (with no serious after-thought or trauma of what was done).

It’s the kind of the film that I don’t even have to watch to know how it goes and how it ends. Besides, the review is highly detailed already. I can easily picture the scenes in my head while reading the review. I can’t blame the review for being spoiler-filled because she has to clearly point out the examples. It’s needed. After all, with or without spoilers, it’s the kind of film that’s ultimately predictable.

From the review alone, it already makes me think that it gives off the wrong message about suicide. Instead of making audiences have deeper understanding of suicidal people and mental issues, it encourages the idea that it’s fun to think of ways to kill yourself and that you can think of many creative ideas to do it, and that maybe in the process of trying to commit suicide, suddenly there’s a Romeo that’s out to save you and then, what else, of course they fall in love.

A college friend of mine (who watched the film) commented that it’s Carmina (Toni Gonzaga) who ended up saving Mark (Piolo), convincing him that life is worth living, but this doesn’t erase the fact that Mark still saved Carmina from that failed suicide attempt by the bridge (an example of a Romeo out to save a girl in the process of a suicide attempt).

My friend adds that “it doesn’t really encourage suicide but the message is that life is worth living.” Let’s say that’s the aim of the movie but by approaching the sensitive subject of suicide lightly and making it an avenue of fun, cutesy, and flirty interactions between the characters absolutely supplants that very message.

And then there’s this line. Mark tells Carmina, “Ayaw mo talagang magpakamatay. Nagpapapansin ka lang.”

If you’re an individual, whether or not you know someone who once tried to commit suicide or encountered it yourself, at least one should have an understanding that this very dialogue is so wrong. It’s because suicide should be taken seriously and not like a joke, like someone’s just acting all “papansin” (attention-seeking) and that he/she is not really going to do it even when they already showed signs and openly talked about suicidal thoughts.

Depression and suicide and others in anime and manga

The review cites “The Hours” and “Little Miss Sunshine” as good examples of films with the context of suicide and depression. As for me, I think of Ichigo Takano’s manga/anime series, “Orange” and Reiko Yoshida’s manga/anime film, “A Silent Voice” (Koe no Katachi), both of which are highly-acclaimed hits for their wonderfully-deep and well thought-out telling of depression, suicide, guilt, regrets, forgiveness, of past and present, bullying, redemption, friendship, second chances, and disability.

All these have become my anime favorites because they make me realize about so many things that matter. With Orange, I empathize so much to the main character, Kakeru and his strong sense of guilt for what happened to his mother and for Koe no Katachi, to Shouko, who is deaf and gets ostracized for being different and Shouya, for realizing the deep consequences of what he’s done to Shouko when they were kids.

Orange has love story in it but it isn’t the main focus, it’s a subplot; same goes with Koe no Katachi, the romance here doesn’t even come to light directly and is only implied.

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Another great example is also Makoto Shinkai’s definitive work, “5 Centimeters per Second” (2007) that astoundingly exemplifies the complexities and frailties of human connections and how these affect and change someone drastically, to the point of not seeing any sense in life anymore.

The same themes in literary fiction

In literary fiction, I can think of my top two favorite Haruki Murakami novels: “Norwegian Wood” (1987) and “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” (2014) as the books that gave me insight into depression and suicide and the tremendous trauma that affects the people who are left behind.

There are some subjects that you cannot make out to be humorous, fun, or romantic, and this is one example of that subject. It makes me wonder why do they always try to inject romance in everything. Makes me wonder if they’re trying to mimic the hype of “13 Reasons Why”, the novel-turned-Netflix series (which I will never see or read), only difference is this is rom-com. Makes me wonder why it always has to be cutesy.

* My own perspective is mine alone. It doesn’t apply to everyone.*

38th MIBF: My Japanese book haul

20170918_031742My MIBF2017 book haul. Who wouldn’t be happy; five books, each for 20% less.

If only I can get paid reading books, then I’ll have all the joy in the world.

I don’t really buy this much. I only buy one or two the most but a good-natured person 🤗☺️loaned me some money so I got to buy this much so I’m not buying any until I get to pay these five books.

 More of my fascination on Japanese literature 

Discovering and exploring other Japanese authors — Yoko Ogawa and Hiromi Kawakami. These authors I think aren’t even available at National.

“Subtle, graceful, wise and threaded on a quirky humor, this exploration of the connections and disconnections between people kept me smiling long after the last page.” – Julia Rochester’s review of Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop.

However, I think the plot summary ultimately got me. It says “Among the jumble of paperweights, plates, typewiters, and general bric-a-brac in Mr. Nakano’s thrift store, there are treasures to be found.”

Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop is somewhat familiar as I’ve seen it on Kinokuniya SG Webstore but I didn’t click on it, so I still don’t know up until today what it is about. I also haven’t read any of her works before so entirely, she’s new to me.

“Gorgeous, cinematic… This novel has all the charm and restraint of any by Ishiguro or Kenzaburo Oe, and the whimsy of Murakami.” – Los Angeles Times review of Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor.

After reading this review and the plot summary saying “An enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family” at the back of the cover, I knew it’s a shoo-in for me. I love the cover too.

Yoko Ogawa is also entirely new to me and I totally discovered her and this book at the Fully Booked booth, which means I haven’t seen this even at Kinokuniya Webstore before.

Despite being new, Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women is also 20% off and I’ve been meaning to get it since it was released back on May 9th. And of course, After Dark — it’s been on my must-read Murakami books ever since, because of its story and the title itself speaks so much of the world where I exist.

And last but not the least, My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel. It’s released in 2012 for the 20th anniversary of the film.

I’m just so happy to be finding it at Fully Booked. It’s been on my Kinokuniya wishlist for quite some time now but haven’t really decided when I’ll buy it because I’m thinking of getting the others first, so it’s really nice I was able to buy it at a lower price than Kinokuniya’s.

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My heart was so happy when I found this – My Neighbor Totoro: The Novel. Released in 2012 in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary.

 

Film Festival Circuit II: Eiga Sai 2015 and the introduction to Ryuhei Matsuda

Watching Eiga Sai has been an addictive habit and if I could turn back, I would have wanted to have attended the very first edition of Eiga Sai. But I think when it started I was still in college, so it would have been a little difficult to spend almost the whole day to queue just to ensure a seat. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that it’s my third year attending it and I have my former then current work to thank for it because it opened more doors for me to discover my Japanese addiction.

The recent Eiga Sai was also attended by director Yuya Ishii and producer Takuro Nagai of the opening feature “Our Family” (2014) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kyozo Nagatsuka and Mieko Harada about a family in the midst of breaking apart but a sudden news of their mother being diagnosed with cancer brings them back together.

It is based on Kazumasa Hayami’s same-titled novel and Ishii’s follow-up project to the commercial and critical success “The Great Passage” (2013) starring Ryuhei Matsuda. Ishii shared that he made the film because he understands some issues and situations the Wakana family is going through and can be likened to his own family.

This year’s line-up also includes contemporary films “Parasyte,” “Wood Job,” “Thermae Romae II” and “Princess Jellyfish.” And under the savory Japan category are “It’s A Beautiful Life – Irodori,” “A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story,” “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” and two documentaries “The God of Ramen” and “Wa-shoku – Beyond Sushi.”

The Road to Ryuhei Matsuda

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It seriously makes me happy everytime I get to see one of my favorite actors at the big screen, even more so when it’s free, which is why I always make an effort to watch their film when it’s included in either the Eiga Sai or Korean Film Festival.

Just like 2013’s Eiga Sai where I first watched Kenichi Matsuyama at the big screen, who of course happens to be one of my favorite actors, this time, I was able to watch an actor who’s also very talented and popular for the first time who just became one of my favorites after seeing him in “Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko” (Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto).

The Great Passage opens the door 

Co-starring Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri

Unlike Kenichi Matsuyama, who I started following since I watched the first Death Note film back in 2006 or 2007, I have only seen or heard about Ryuhei Matsuda on Screen Red some weeks before the Eiga Sai started in Edsa Shangri-La Mall. I happened to chance upon his award-winning film “Fune Wo Amu” (The Great Passage) and Japan’s representative at the 2014 Academy Awards best foreign language film. But I wasn’t able to start the film so I ended up not watching it the first time. I saw it again few days after on TV, but again it already started.

And when the line-up for this year’s Eiga Sai came out, I saw his name in one of the films, and just like I always do I read each and every film’s synopsis and check out their trailers to make a shortlist. Fortunately, I ended up having the film on my shortlist because I like the trailer and the plot. So that’s the story of how Ryuhei Matsuda became one of my most favorite actors, next to Kang Dong-won who’s always been my top bias for the longest time, which means he already has pushed down some of my other favorite actors on the list who I have known longer than him. That’s how strong his effect on me.

Shota Matsuda in Hana Yori Dango 

Shota is the one in blue coat, first from right

But there is something else that totally sent me off the roof. That’s when I found out Shota Matsuda is his little brother. I’ve known Shota since the first Hana Yori Dango in 2005 but I think I saw the drama a year later, as I was motivated to watch the Japanese version of Meteor Garden that I so love. It just so happens that my favorite character is Hua Ze Lei in the Taiwanese version, who is Rui Hanazawa in the Japanese one that was portrayed by Shun Oguri. But in all honesty, I think Shota is the best looking among the four and and he’s perfect for Soujiro Nishikado’s playboy demeanor. Well that’s when until recently, I came to know about his beloved onii-chan.

I did kinda notice the similar surname but I didn’t pay much attention, and initially thought they just have the same surname but no relation. Finding out the real connection between them was a huge surprise, not that they don’t resemble each other, they do when you look closely, but more on the idea that they’re both very handsome and the fact that they’re even brothers – they share the same parents, same blood, growing up together makes it something close to a miracle. It’s not everyday, even in celebrity siblings that you get two brothers or two sisters who are both equally handsome and very talented. It was like my mind wasn’t very ready to take the awesome fact, totally blew my mind.

But then things took a different turn and I came to adore Ryuhei more than Shota. The very first thing I noticed about him is his tender cat eyes, they just look so mysterious and somewhat sad. His eyes speak volumes of things and stories in the most mysterious ways. And I love it when he smiles because I get to see his dimples and his silly laugh in the Mahoro series all got me. I find his features different from Shota despite having a resemblance to each other, because Shota is more of the conventional kind of a good looking guy and Ryuhei is not, which is why my vote goes to Ryuhei.

Mahoro Films and Series 

Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken, the first film

I started with Ryuhei at the recent Eiga Sai through the second film titled Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto and third installment of the Mahoro series, one of the most popular and most successful series of film and TV adaptations from the the Naoki Prize-winning series of novels by Shion Miura.

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi – the series

In this second film, Gyoten (Ryuhei) has been staying with Tada (Eita) in running his benri-ya (handyman business) in Mahoro, a fictional laidback place in Japan for two or three years since the events from the first film (2011) and the series (2013). They accept almost all kinds of odd jobs, from cleaning, organizing, walking pets, driving and more. And most of the time, the two get involved with their clients more than they should. Tada and Gyoten are both divorcees, with past stories they want to forget and run away from.

Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko – the second film

This time, the two buddies are tasked by the local gang leader Hoshi (Kengo Kora) to investigate a mysterious cult group that produces and sells organic vegetables. Things get more messy when Nagiko, Gyoten’s former wife with whom he has a young daughter named Haruka is placed in the care of Tada while she’s away overseas. Tada is scared of what Gyoten might do, especially since he knows Gyoten doesn’t like kids and even more so when he finds out the little girl is his daughter.

Scenes from the series

What I love about the duo of Ryuhei and Eita is that they really complement each other, this one of a kind chemistry I haven’t seen in male actors before. And because of their amazing combination, I feel as an audience that Tada and Gyoten would be at lost without the other.

At the time Gyoten met Tada again in years at the bus station from the first film, it was the right moment for the both of them. Tada, then still couldn’t moved on from the passing of his son that led to his divorce, while Gyoten was on his way to kill his parents because they keep asking Nagiko to see Haruka. I know these all now because I’ve already finished the first film and the series after seeing the second film of course.

It’s also a unique story of two former classmates who find themselves face to face with each other again and becoming best buddies in the process, helping each other out when one needs the other. I have never seen such a story in any of the dramas I’ve seen before.

It’s also very unpredictable and highly enjoyable, I could never guess what adventure would the two be involved with in the next episode. Well-acted, mainly from Ryuhei and Eita who carry the direction of the film and series, picturesque cinematography and fun-loaded, naturally funny story and episodes.

And because of everything, Gyoten Haruhiko has become one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.

I’m also very delighted to know that The Great Passage, in which he won a number of best actor awards will be out in English edition next fall by Amazon Crossing as I was told by a caring staff from Kobunsha, its original publisher when I asked a sample English translation of the novel.

Dia Internacional del Libro: Commemorates Don Quijote’s 400th year publication

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I haven’t had any special reason to visit Instituto Cervantes before, until I found out about the 10th edition of Dia Internacional del Libro (International Book Day). I specially got interested to attend because of the special activities laid out for attendees, in accordance to the commemoration of the 400th year of publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ second volume of “Don Quijote de La Mancha” (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote of La Mancha).

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Instituto Cervantes, Spain’s cultural center in the country has made the 10th edition of Dia Internacional more exciting this time and totally a different kind of book fair with La Noche de los Libros (The Night of Books), which was a whole evening of free entertainment that includes Spanish food games, jazz concert, poetry recitals, free Spanish classes, book market, and photo contest.

The Tradition of Books and Roses

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Internacional del Libro also happened to be on the 23rd of April, which is famous as St. George’s Day in Spain. During this day, people go to festive markets at the town center, particularly in Barcelona to purchase books and roses and give these to their loved ones. It also coincides with other cultural and literary activities, such as book signings and readings of Spanish literature.

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In tradition, men offer roses to important women in their lives, while women give books in return. And in honor of this tradition, the first 100 visitors that day received roses upon entrance at the center. Every purchase of books at the book market also came with a free rose and a free book of their choice, as well as participants of the night’s different activities.

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Re-Writing of Don Quijote

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the first 100 visitors but then again I was lucky to be part of the Escribo el Quijote (Re-Writing of Don Quijote), wherein 500 book-lover volunteers took part in what they call the “Quixotic” endeavour – that is to hand-write Cervantes’ immortal novel, Don Quijote de La Mancha that is considered to be one of the world’s greatest novels ever written. Each volunteer had two minutes to copy few sentences of the novel that started from 4PM to 11PM. The final hand-written book was deposited at the Library Miguel Hernandez at Instituto Cervantes.

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This is where I got two roses, two roses because my turn was supposed to be at 8PM but it was already 9PM when I got to it. A senior official was kind enough to give me two in exchange of my patience and dedication to wait for my turn, though it was past the time it should have been.

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In part of the celebration for Don Quijote de La Mancha’s 400th year publication, a special set menu, the La Cocina del Quijote was prepared by Chef Juan Carlos de Terry that is based on some of the dishes and wines mentioned in the novel on April 17th at Terry’s Pasong Tamo, Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati.

I took home two books as well from Anvil Publishing (Confessions of a Volcano by Eric Gamalinda and Reading Korea: 12 Contemporary Stories), which entitled me to another rose. I have yet to start reading them though, as I’m still occupied with another book.

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That day’s buddy was my cultural events buddy Myleen. I initially planned to go by myself but I invited her to come along and good thing she was free. We didn’t get the chance to check out the library though, which is something I should come back to.

We both had fun being part of the Don Quijote re-writing activity while listening to jazz music in the background, discovering new books to journey in, watching groups of people and friends chatting, and just simply wandering around the place.

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I forgot to mention it was held outdoors, and they have this garden with a well at the center surrounded with trees, and it was simply picturesque at night. We even found a tree with flowers that’s like cherry blossoms, though we aren’t sure if it is a Sakura tree.

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Instituto Cervantes also held a film series on migration last month featuring films such as “Edna” (2014) starring Irma Adlawan, directed by Ronnie Lazaro about real and imagined fears of overseas Filipino workers; “El tren de la memoria” (2005) by Marta Arribas y Ana Pérez about migrant Spaniards leaving the country to different destinations; “Extranjeras” (Foreign Women) (2003) by Helena Taberna about migrant women in Madrid; “Flores de otro mundo” (Flowers From Another World) (1999) by Iciar Bolain about a group of women in search of stability and companionship and men in search of wives in a small town in central Spain.

It was followed by the film cycle, Great Books on Screen in all Saturdays of June. It included films adapted from novels: “La Colmena” (The Beehive/1982) about stories of people in Madrid 1942, post-Spanish civil war; “La Lengua De Las Mariposas” (Butterfly Tongues/1999) about an extraordinary relationship of a shy boy to his compassionate teacher; “Obaba” (2005) about a woman and her journey to Obaba, a small town in the Basque Country; and “Soldados De Salamina” (Soldiers of Salamina/2003) about a young novelist who has lost inspiration and became a journalist to investigate a true story that took place at the end of the Civil War and involving an infamous writer and an anonymous young soldier.

To know more about Instituto Cervantes, check out their website at manila.cervantes.es, facebook.com/InstitutoCervantesManila and @ICervantesMnila.

The Gift of Books, Itachi and Sasuke Goodies

I’m writing this post at 11:15pm, Dec. 31st just before everything starts over again.

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I’m thankful for these great gifts of experience, adventure and knowing great people who are like real friends to me; although they’re fictional people. Most of the time, these people are the kind of people I’d really like to meet and be friends with. They’re the kind who are not so easy to find in the human world, so I’m really grateful for these wonderful stories of life, of love, of friendship, and everything else in between.

The most memorable character for me this year is Tsukuru Tazaki. He’s so close to who I am and I feel so connected with his story, despite not exactly having the same dilemma and ordeal he had to go through.

At present, I’m reading my first non-fiction book and travel related  one but still so Japanese. I’m enjoying it a lot, having to know more about the country I hold so dearly – my favorite country Japan.

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I also thank my Uncle Luvin from the States, who paved the way for me to be able to get Haruki Murakami’s latest release – The Strange Library; as well as this very beautiful (Naruto) Itachi messenger bag and this bad-ass looking Sasuke’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan necklace. But of course, before Uncle Luvin; it is God I have to thank for all these.

This year might not have been the best with an unfortunate event, but I’m looking forward to starting over again. I do not want to promise, instead I will keep on trying and learning from mistakes everyday; and hoping my Christmas wish that I always prayed for during the nine-day Misa de Gallo mass will be awarded to me by God this new year.

Happy New Year everyone and God bless!

Updating this post with some photos earlier during the New Year’s Eve dinner or media noche. Well, I don’t usually post photos of myself but it won’t hurt to do once in a while. I had to take the photos myself and I’m not so good with taking selcas; as I’m not with any family member, but it’s still good. And since I’m not photogenic, I had to take a couple of shots to finally capture some decent ones.

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I suddenly noticed earlier that my glasses and my shirt are the same color. That was not intentional.

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The only ones I personally prepared are the macaroni salad and the ham. The apple crumble, chicken and pancit malabon were take-out orders.

The candles, they’re called prosperity candles. I’m not sure if this tradition is done elsewhere too, but the practice is you light all (7) candles: red (health), blue (peace), yellow (intelligence), violet (spiritual growth), pink (love), green (money), and orange (career) at 11:30pm and put them out at 12 midnight. The smallest candle or the one that melted the quickest symbolizes the good fortune that the new year will bring you first, followed by the rest.

It’s really hard though to decipher which one is the smallest since the candles got a little mixed up when they melted. But I think orange is the smallest, then pink, blue, green, red, violet and yellow.

Orange is for career, hurray! I think this one got me a little excited, crossing my fingers and praying it will be. Pink for love, but not so much a priority. Blue for peace, oh yes peace of mind. Green for money, so I could travel more and buy more books; and Naruto manga and some goodies, and save more. Red for health, good health is always a blessings. Violet for spiritual growth, guidance from God. And last but not the least, yellow for intelligence; to learn new things and new experiences for the mind, body and soul intellect.