Saturday, March 19, 2011

Donations Update and Contest Winners

My newest vlog, where I discuss how the donations are going (they're going great!) and I give away a few Japanese toys to some viewers who left a comment on a recent video.

Thanks for watching!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Trying to do my small part to aid in the relief and recovery effort in Japan. Go to YouTube to leave a comment and thus donate .50cents to the cause.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

the furture of education online

In the back of my mind, this is where all my seminar lectures and teaching experience and YouTube videos would lead - some kind of online forum with information that could help a broad spectrum of people that I will most likely never meet.

A very good vid and very inspirational for me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Fantastic PSA by Dame Judi Dench and James Bond (Daniel Craig), who appears in drag in the end.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Let's get social: Networking frames - scanners

Let's get social: Networking frames - scanners

So often people don't quite understand when I'll go on and on about a particular film I like.

Sometimes it can be something intangible - some connection to the film I have on a personal level that others may not share.

Other times, my appreciation is born out of a deliberate attempt by a gifted filmmaker (in this case, the ridiculously talented David Fincher) to infuse his/her film with subtle elements that add to the narrative and give the film a depth that resonates long after you finish watching it.

My favorite film of the past 6 months has been "The Social Netowrk," a film that could be easily dismissed by some as too "talky" or a movie where "not much happens."

But the film is alive with interesting characters and whip-smart dialog, courtesy of the brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin, who also created TV's The West Wing.

And two other more subtle elements are the soundtrack/score, which very deservedly won an Academy Award, and the editing, which did not.

The above article also highlights the framing and camera angle and set up choices that make the film more than just two people talking in a room.
Give it a read if you want to more fully appreciate a stellar film.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

The BRIT Awards 2011 - Adele sings Someone Like You

Adele is my favorite recent singer. I got her debut album, titled "19" since she was 19-years-old when she recorded it, and fell in love with her voice, especially on the Bob Dylan cover song "Make you feel my love."

This is the lead off single from her new album, performed live at the Brit Awards in February.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Tron Uprising Animated Series Trailer

Sweet! This is a word now used commonly in English to talk about something we like or something that is cool - "This show looks sweet."

And this show does look very sweet indeed.
I'm a huge TRON fan, and I really hope I have a chance here in Japan
to see this show as it comes out.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

All of Japan Song -- 都道府県の歌

Fun song, done in the style of the Animaniacs song where Wacko names all the countries in the world, about all the prefectures in Japan.

Think I should learn this and do it as part of my jikoshokai in April to my new college students? :)


Snoopy store in Osaka Japan

Filmed with my new keitai (cell phone) in Osaka the day before Christmas in 2010.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

3 films in 3 days and then... The Oscars

One good thing about coming back to San Diego this spring is that I got to watch the Academy Awards live yesterday with my family - both my mom and my sister like movies, and were happy to spend the 3+ hours watching what turned out to be a rather boring and predictable awards show.

In preparation for the Oscar telecast on Sunday evening, I decided I would go see three of the films with multiple nominations, including Best Picture: True Grit, Black Swan, and the eventual winner, The King's Speech.

Luckily, my folks live within 10 minutes of two decent mega cinemas here in the San Marcos area, so all three films were still playing with multiple screening times to choose from.

I flew in to LAX on Thursday, and spent most of Thursday night and Friday getting over jet lag, but was awake enough on Friday night to see True Grit at 10pm.

True Grit is a somewhat laconic and stilted Western made by the ever-intriguing Coen Brothers; a remake of a John Wayne movie from 1969 (the year I was born) with Jeff Bridges in the Wayne role of Rooster Cogburn, a US Marshall/bounty hunter with questionable tactics and morals.
What made the movie sing for me was the performance of 14-year-old Haille Steinfeld as the young Mattie Ross, a girl in the post Civil War south who learns her father was murdered in cold blood and yet no one seems to be doing anything about it. The dialogue the Coens give Mattie and the way Steinfeld delivers this dialog is superb and earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She lost to Melissa Leo for The Fighter (a film I have yet to see), and the film True Grit lost in all the other 9 categories it was nominated for.
If you like the Coen Bros style (The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Raising Arizona) then I think you'll appreciate their take on the Western genre, and I enjoyed the film despite the rampant nihilism on display.

I followed True Grit with The King's Speech on Saturday at 10pm. I had a free ticket for this one, so didn't have to shell out the $11.25 for a ticket I did the night before. Having had a big lunch and almost no dinner on Saturday, I thought I would treat myself to a medium popcorn and medium cola at the concession stand. When the clerk informed me that the combo would be $12.25, I chuckled to myself and instead settled for a small Mr. Pibb (ahh, Mr, Pibb, how I've missed you) for $4.75, which was still in a bigger cup than a "large" size cola in Japan.

The King's Speech is a well-made, well-acted and ultimately uplifting story centering around the Duke of York, who would eventually become King George the VI of England and reign during the dark days of World War II.
For all that the movie is, it is not, in my opinion, a "Best Picture of the Year" type film. Like I said, it's well-made and I enjoyed it, but I doubt I would buy it on DVD or tell friends, "You MUST see this movie." It was a safe choice for the Academy in a year when they could have made a much bolder and interesting choice for Best Picture.
I won't argue with Colin Firth getting the Oscar for Best Actor for this portrayal of The Duke or York, who was Queen Elizabeth II's father. He is magnificent in the role, and makes the cantankerous King, who suffers from a stuttering speech impediment, into a very sympathetic character. The film is really a duet between Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who plays his speech therapist. Rush got justly rewarded with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Christian Bale for The Fighter. It's the first time two British actors have won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor since the 1950s. The King's Speech won 4 Oscars in total, but the film feels like "The Queen" did a few years ago. That movie too had a fantastic performance at its core (Helen Mirren's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, for which she also won an Oscar), but it didn't win Best Picture. Both movies are well-made and interesting to watch, but both feel like Masterpiece Theater movies writ large with better sets and direction than a TV budget would allow.

The King's Speech has natural appeal to the largely older Oscar voting branch of the Academy, and I can see why it won, but in my opinion, The Social Network or Inception are better choices for Best Picture of 2010.
Those movies mesmerized audiences with their stunning visuals or razor-sharp dialog and both films took complex subjects and made entertaining movies out of the concepts by the sheer artistry of the their directors. Both The Social Network and Inception will reward repeat viewings, while the King's Speech will become just another Oscar footnote.

I was very happy that The Social Network won for Best Screenplay (adapted) for Aaron Sorkin, the man who created two of my favorite TV shows - The West Wing and Sports Night, and for Best Original Score, since I thought the music in the film set the perfect tone and was such a big part of why the Social Network is such a stunning film.
Inception had to settle for mostly technical awards (it won 3 and the award for Best Cinematography), but the true travesty was that truly unique director Christopher Nolan was not even nominated for Best Director and the film also failed to win a nomination for Best Editing, even tho it is a master class in editing.
I would have been consoled had David Fincher, another amazing director responsible for films such as Fight Club, Seven, and Panic Room, had won for Best Director for his inspired direction of The Social Network, but instead the Academy went with Tom Hooper, a TV director making the transition to feature films with The King's Speech.

The last film I saw in my 3-day marathon was Black Swan, a psychological thriller set in the world of a professional ballet company.
I went to an 11am showing on Sunday, and this was the most well-attended of the 3 screenings I went to, with about 30 other people joining me at this last attempt to see the film before the Oscars that evening.
Natalie Portman, an actress I've been watching and enjoying since she debuted at the age of 11 in Luc Besson's Leon - The Professional in 1994, won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Nina, the troubled ballerina who wants to be perfect but doesn't have the soul to infuse her performances with greatness.
She is fantastic in this role, which required her to train for a year to become a good enough ballet dancer for the demanding performance scenes, and she also had to embody the split personality the character becomes.
Black Swan is directed by the visionary Darren Aronofsky, who made the truly incredible film Requiem for a Dream and 2008's The Wrestler. He does some spooky and twisted things in this movie and I was hooked in from the very beginning all the way to the tragic end.

So it was a good 3 days spent at my house of worship - the local movie theater. None of these films has even opened in Japan yet, and I currently live at least a 2 hour drive from a decent movie theater, so I plan to see even more movies while I'm home in March.

Coming up I want to see:
The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon (March 4th)
Battle: Los Angeles with Aaron Eckhart (March 11th)
Limitless and Paul (March 18th)
Sucker Punch (from the director of Watchmen and 300) which I'll only have a few days to see since it opens on March 25th and I fly back to Japan on the 27th.