People Still Call It Love: #JFTFP19 (part 2 of 2)

I find these days that the anime Salaryman Kintaro really *speaks* to me.At some point, we'll need seriously to address something that regular readers will have noticed by now. Back in 2006, I had a major personal overhaul in two departments: I changed my job to one that was more part-time in nature, and I changed this site to a blog format that allowed for more frequent posting. It never really occurred to me how closely the two were interrelated, or how much work I was doing on the site in the downtime between assignments - until late 2018 when I moved back into full-time employment, and suddenly discovered that I didn't have the free time to write four or so posts a month any more.

In the old days, I'd have seen as many Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme movies as possible during their London run in the first full week of February, and within a couple of days I'd have reviews up on the site, so that people in non-London cities would be able to read them as the programme toured the country. As it stands, I've just managed to write them up by the end of February, which counts as a bit late in my book. Apologies if you've been waiting for them.

Anyway, enough of my work-life balance issues (which, to be honest, are just me learning to cope again with the amount of work that most regular people do for a living). I've already covered half a dozen of the seventeen films in the 2019 Japan Foundation programme, People Still Call It Love, in Part One: here come another half dozen in Part Two. You'll have to fend for yourselves with the rest, I'm afraid.

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People Still Call It Love: #JFTFP19 (part 1 of 2)

This year's JFTFP poster image amuses me, for reasons I'm not going to explain here.The Japan Foundation has been taking its Touring Film Programme of newish and classic Japanese cinema around the UK since 2004 - and I've been writing about it every year since 2008 (apart from 2009, for some reason), either in these pages or over on MostlyFilm. Back in 2008, it was a six film programme, and now it's grown to seventeen plus a bonus ball. I'll tell you upfront that I won't be reviewing all of them this year. Partly it's down to pressure of work: partly it's down to not getting all the freebie preview discs that I used to back in the MostlyFilm days. But it has to be said that quite a bit of it's down to the ICA, still the home of this tour in London. In the past year, they've dropped most of the discounts you used to get for being a basic level member, and made it even harder to book multiple tickets than usual thanks to their shittily redesigned website.

Still, none of that is the Japan Foundation's fault, so let's not take it out on them. But this is why, out of the seventeen films in what they've chosen to call People Still Call It Love: Passion, Affection and Destruction in Japanese Cinema (or #JFTFP19 for short), we only got to see a mere twelve of them during their now-finished London run. Six on one weekend, then six the next. Here's what the first weekend looked like.

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Monoglot Movie Club: Gogol. Bored? Hello!

Just try looking at that statue without making a loud 'whoosh' noise with your mouth. I dare you.Now, you see, at the start of this year it didn't seem like such a big deal. "Fancy working for a week in Moscow?" they asked me in January. "It won't be for a couple of months yet, we'll need to sort out visas and everything." It'd be my first time visiting Russia, so how could I possibly turn down that opportunity?

It took nearly three months to complete all the paperwork, by which time we'd had that whole awkward business where the Russians allegedly tried to whack a couple of their own people in the Salisbury branch of Zizzi. Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia were at a post-Cold War low. Arsenal had just beaten CSKA Moscow 4-1 in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final. And I was going to be in Moscow the same week that the city was hosting the second leg.

Spoiler alert: I got out alive. Arsenal, meanwhile, won 6-3 on aggregate, only to bottle it in the semis.

So, while we're on the subject of football... If any of you are going to be in Russia for the World Cup over the next month - hey, look, an actual excuse for publishing this two months after the fact - here are some travel tips for you, along with two of my inevitable reviews of unsubtitled local films I didn't have a hope in hell of understanding.

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Monoglot Movie Club: I Was Misinformed

You can't see it here, but just off the right edge of the photo is a woman staring at the guy with a look of disgust. And she's carrying a placard reading 'TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC ATTITUDES TO PROMISCUITY'.Renault: And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.

There's a certain inevitability to this. Last month, you'll remember, I editorially steered the good ship MostlyFilm into its final port of call. As part of its climactic week-and-a-bit of wonders, I contributed the last episode in the long-running feature Monoglot Movie Club, while suggesting that it could possibly return in some form or other on this site.

In the six weeks that followed the publication of that article, I would end up visiting seven different countries (okay, one of them was Scotland, but still). Three of them would be countries I'd never been to before, and I would see a film at the cinema in all three. So, yeah, Monoglot Movie Club is definitely returning here, to the extent that it's now got its own category in the right-hand sidebar. (The category includes earlier travel posts that contain movie reviews, as well as the Red Button Bonus Material pieces for the MostlyFilm series.)

First stop on this mini-world tour: as they used to say, We're Off On The Road To Morocco.

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MOSTLYFILM: Shortly Oscars 2018

*screams in frustration as deadline approaches*Still hammering though the final days of MostlyFilm - we've published four more pieces since the one I was plugging two days ago - and this one, it has to be said, was the most stressful to get though the editorial process.

It shouldn't have been, really. We always knew that the big climax of the week was going to be the Oscars. Just before the weekend of the award ceremony - that is, today, Friday March 2nd - I wanted Indy Datta and myself to do what we've done in previous years, and publish reviews of the nominees for Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short. Luckily, as in previous years, Shorts HD were releasing them as downloadable videos across all the major digital platforms - iTunes, Amazon and Google to name the main ones in the UK. "The films will be available on February 27th," it said on the Shorts HD site, which gave us three days to watch them and write the reviews. On February 27th, that was changed to "The films are coming soon." Apparently, co-ordinating the release of the shorts packages across all platforms had proved more troublesome than they thought. That wasn't good.

The site still says 'coming soon' at the time of writing, but in fact the shorts crawled out without fanfare on Thursday morning, two days late. Lucky for them: at one point, when it looked like we wouldn't be able to see them in time, I was planning for us to watch all their trailers on YouTube, and make snap judgments on the films based on those. You may think it's massively unfair on the filmmakers: we thought it was exactly the sort of professional discourtesy that a movie review site should try to pull off in the final week of its existence. What were they going to do, throw us out of future advance screenings? Exactly.

But we didn't need to do that, so you can read proper informed reviews now on Shortly Oscars 2018. And if you fancy seeing those trailers for yourself, they're right here.

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MOSTLYFILM: Epitaph 2

Shouting Larga Larga Larga LargaWell, that's that. As MostlyFilm continues to ride slowly into the sunset, we've just published what will be my final solo contribution to the site (though I'll pop up in two more collaborative pieces before the week's out). Monoglot Movie Club: Epitaph 1, contrary to what you may have read at the start of my Polish Netflix article, is a real finale to seven years of the feature. It's my one and only chance to run with an idea that I've been toying with since 2013 or thereabouts: take a few films that I've reviewed without subtitles for MMC, watch them again with subtitles, and see if it changes my opinion of them. I've picked seven films from more or less the entire run of the feature - for four of them I've been able to draw on second reviews written for these pages, while the other three have been rewatched specially for this piece. You'll have to read Epitaph 1 to see how all that turned out.

The final episode of MMC is, as ever, accompanied by Red Button Bonus Material on this site. I've always enjoyed the challenge of coming up with some sort of cross-promotional piece that'll back up the main article, whether it's just a simple collection of video trailers or a more detailed bit of text background. This one, however, is a little out of the ordinary.

At the top of the MostlyFilm piece is a map showing the 28 cities where I watched films for the series. What if I told you that really, it should have been 29 cities? And that there was a lost MMC film review that never made it to publication? And that you're going to get to see that previously unpublished review right now? Would that impress you? Would it?

Oh. Well, here it is anyway.

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(Un)true Colours part 2: Lies

Before we start, a quick word from our sponsors - or, more accurately, from one of the main sponsors of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018, (Un)true Colours: Secrets And Lies In Japanese Cinema. Each screening at the ICA in London was prefaced with an advert for Japan Airlines - Precision - that announced itself as being the first in a series called Art Of J. For those of us who were watching sixteen films in the space of ten days, after a while we found ourselves wishing that they'd show a couple of different ads in the series once in a while. Well, it turns out there are three in total, and you can see them all in that playlist over there. They're rather nicely done.

The ICA's London run of the JFTFP18 films has now ended, but the season continues across the country until the end of March. I reviewed eight of the films in Part 1, and now you get to hear what I thought of the other eight. (The 'Secrets' and 'Lies' division between the two post titles is completely arbitrary, by the way: I'm just reviewing them in the order I watched them.)

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(Un)true Colours part 1: Secrets

Thanks to The Belated Birthday Girl, I can no longer read the subtitle of this season without hearing Timothy Spall saying it in a bad Mike Leigh voice. 'Secrets! Lies!'I'll be brutally honest with you: the things I'll miss most when MostlyFilm finally closes down are the freebies. We didn't get many of them, but they were highly appreciated: a press preview with drinks and nibbles here, an advance screener DVD there. For me, for the years 2012 to 2017, January was basically my Christmas: because the Japan Foundation had their annual Touring Film Programme to promote, and happily sent me ridiculous numbers of watermarked Japanese DVDs to watch and report on in a series of preview articles.

But now it's 2018, and MostlyFilm is on the verge of shutting up shop. (More on that in a couple of weeks.) We couldn't really justify trying to squeeze one last set of screeners out of the Japan Foundation. Nevertheless, even before 2012 I was regularly attending the programme under my own steam. That was never going to stop.

What I'm saying is, the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2018 - titled (Un)true Colours: Secrets And Lies In Japanese Cinema - is touring the UK throughout February and March, starting off with a ten-day run in London. And I'm seeing all sixteen films during that run. I can't give you previews, but I can offer you reviews: eight now, and another eight in a week or so. That okay for you?

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MOSTLYFILM: #NotAllBatmen

As eminent Batmanologist Chris Sims has pointed out this week, there is a fundamental flaw in this greetings card cartoon. Can *you* spot it?True story. About twenty-odd years ago, my young nephew had three favourite action figures. The first was Batman: with his lumpy grey suit and navy blue cowl, he was obviously based on the 1966 TV version, and presumably some sort of family heirloom. The second was Batman: all in black, a sculpted torso replacing the middle-aged spread, looking more like Michael Keaton did in the 1989 film. The third was, well, Batman: the square jaw and cartoonish features marked him out as being the one from The Animated Series, the version my nephew was most familiar with at the time. And I'd watch in fascination as he'd wrangle all three of them into play scenarios that would frequently end with them having a big fight.

In a way, that's kind of what we're doing on MostlyFilm today, as we continue the site's farewell run of posts. #NotAllBatmen features five of us each picking one depiction of the Caped Crusader - the three discussed above in action figure form, plus the one currently on telly in Gotham, and me looking at one of his DTV animated incarnations - and comparing them against each other. No big fight at the end of this one, unfortunately: the best I can do in this Red Button Bonus Content page is show you a bunch of trailers featuring each of our Batmen.

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MOSTLYFILM: The Good Place/Harry Dean Stanton

If you're like me and only ever think of Harry Dean Stanton as an old guy, here's what he looked like in 1959, in an episode of the Chuck Connors TV show The Rifleman. (He called himself Dean Stanton back then.)It's been a busy old week on MostlyFilm. You may have noticed that the site's not updated as frequently as it used to be, but we're still putting out hot content whenever circumstances demand it: and this particular week, circumstances have demanded it twice. I'm involved in both of the posts that resulted, which is why I'm telling you about them here.

Firstly, there's the TV show The Good Place, for which I've written a preview. I actually watched most of the first season earlier this year, on a Cathay Pacific flight during our holiday in Hong Kong and Japan, and yes I will get around to writing about that soon I promise. Anyway, it's a similar story to the time last year when I discovered Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on a plane: like that show, The Good Place has now been picked up by Netflix in the UK, allowing you to catch up on old episodes as well as watch new ones the day after their transmission in the US. I think you should do just that, and the article explains why.

Secondly, there's the small matter of Harry Dean Stanton, who died last weekend at the perfectly respectable age of 91. It was felt that MostlyFilm should mark his passing in some way or other, so three of us - CaulorLime, theTramp, and yours truly - have each picked one of Harry Dean's performances and written a bit about why they were so good.

It would be monstrously glib to try and link these two pieces by expressing the hope that Harry Dean Stanton is now himself in The Good Place. So I won't. Instead, I'll give you a few bits of video as your Red Button Bonus Content.

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