Tag Archives: Christmas

Conflicted About “47 Ronin”

Related Post: Attack on Titan: Analogy to World War II.

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From Left to Right: Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, and Kou Shibasaki.
Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

I am very conflicted about going to see 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves in theaters December 25th.

On one hand, the film seems to have little to do with Chūshingura (忠臣蔵), the original kabuki (歌舞伎) play I read in the “Traditional Japanese Literature” class I took at Sophia University (上智大学) in Tokyo. Moreover, the film has reportedly not done well with Japanese audiences.

BUT, on the other hand, I really want to support the amazing selection of Japanese actors cast in the film. And, for that reason, I’ve devised the following list…

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Hiroyuki Sanada (真田広之)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Dogen on Lost (Season 6).
  • Notable Accolades: He performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and received an honorary MBE award.
  • Why is he awesome?: While filming The Last Samurai (2003), he almost cut off Tom Cruise’s head (“Cruise has brush with death”).
  • Film Recommendations: Sanada-san stars in my favorite samurai film The Twilight Samurai (2002). This film has only two fight scenes (one short and one long), but they are both jaw-dropping in their seemingly effortless choreography and will have you on the edge of your seat!

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Kou Shibasaki (柴咲コウ)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Mitsuko Souma in Battle Royale (2000); she was slated to play Gogo Yubari’s twin sister Yuki in Kill Bill, but dropped out due to other commitments.
  • Notable Accolades: She won a Japanese Academy Award for her performance in Go (2001).
  • Why is she awesome?: She starred in the first Japanese television drama I ever watched called Orange Days (2004) in which she played a deaf character, performing all her lines in Japanese sign language.  Plus, she’s an adorable pop singer (“KISS Shite” by KOH+).
  • Film Recommendations: Shibasaki-san stars alongside Joe Odagiri in one of my favorite Japanese films called La Maison de Himiko (2005) about a young woman who is asked by her dying father’s young male lover to work in her father’s nursing home for gay men.

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Rinko Kikuchi (菊地凛子)

  • Best known for in the U.S.: Mako Mori in Pacific Rim (2013).
  • Notable Accolades: She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Babel (2006).
  • Wh is she awesome?: She’s the first Japanese actress in 50 years to be nominated for an Oscar! Plus, she’s appeared in a number of films with Tadanobu Asano (see below) including his directorial debut Tori (2003).
  • Film Recommendations: I absolutely adore The Brothers Bloom (2009), starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and (of course) Rinko Kikuchi!! :) Kikuchi-san silently pantomimes throughout this film and is an absolute delight to watch.

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Disclaimer: I do not own this image!!

Tadanobu Asano (浅野忠信)

ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE ACTORS!

Some of these film recommendations might be hard to find outside of Japan. If you’re having trouble finding a title and really want to watch it, message me at gegallas@hotmail.com and I’ll see if I can help! :)

Also, for those of you who go see 47 Ronin, leave a comment here and let me know what you think!

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Package from Elena

I met my Barcelonian friend Elena in Tokyo of all places. We were both studying at Sophia University for a year.

We met through a mutual acquaintance and the three of us ended up on a three day trip to Okinawa. Both Elena and I share an enthusiasm for Okinawan culture and were so excited to go. We managed to see everything on our checklist and had an overall wonderful time there.

As it turned out, a few weeks later, Elena ended up moving into the same dorm as me. We ended up spending memorable times together, staying up to the wee hours of the morning chatting and eating candy.

Now, having only recently moved to San Francisco, we live on practically opposite sides of the globe. But we still Facebook and tweet at each other. And, most excitingly, we send packages through snail mail to each other, back and forth from Spain to the States.

While we were friends in Tokyo, Elena had no idea I drew at all. This was during my college phase of not having time to draw. Boy, was she surprised when she learned I was working on my graphic novel The Poet and the Flea. And, quickly, she became my #1 fan!

Elena became smitten by the rose from page 27 of The Flea (as seen on Part 4 of Behind the Scenes). So, for the winter holiday, I sent her the following ink and watercolor rose.

December 2012 - 2

In return, at the end of January, I received a wonderful little New Year’s present from Elena (see photos below)! She sent me a delightfully long handwritten letter, a bag of candy, and a flyer of a favorite Japanese band called exist†trace (which I believe Elena was handed by the lead singer named Jyou after a The GazettE concert).

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I would love for Elena to come visit San Francisco one day, or for me to visit her in Barcelona (when I’m not an unpaid intern making absolutely no money). Elena is really the only person I keep in touch with from my year abroad and I’m proud to have such an awesome friend! Maybe someday we’ll even return to Japan and even Okinawa together.

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Copyright 2013 by G. E. Gallas


Note on “The Nutcracker”

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following images or video!!

One of my favorite operas is Jacques Offenbach‘s The Tales of Hoffmann (Les contes d’Hoffmann). This opera is a fantastical retelling of the life of the German Romantic author E. T. A. Hoffmann,  casting Hoffmann as the protagonist of his own stories.

Placido Domingo performing the “Chanson de Kleinzach” aria.

Désirée Rancatore performing “Les oiseaux dans la charmille.”

Through The Tales of Hoffmann, I developed an interest in Hoffmann and his stories, quickly leading me to Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny. In Freud’s essay, he uses many of the same Hoffmann stories as Offenbach, but in this case to prove a psychological point (not that Offenbach’s opera isn’t deeply psychological). If I remember correctly, Freud even mentions Offenbach’s opera.

Portrait of E. T. A. Hoffmann

I’m sure you are all wondering, “What does all this have to do with The Nutcracker?” Well, little do most people know, E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote in 1816 one of the earliest versions of The Nutcracker story, entitled The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Nussknacker und Mausekönig).

Alexandre Dumas was also a fan of Hoffmann, employing allusions to Hoffmann’s stories in The Count of Monte Cristo. Dumas even went as far as creating a revision to Hoffmann’s Nutcracker in 1844 called History of The Nutcracker (Histoire d’un casse-noisette), or The Tale of the Nutcracker.

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Towards the end of the 19th Century, Hoffmann’s Nutcracker was adapted to ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, perhaps the most famous incarnation of the tale. I write this post because my dad purchased tickets to the San Francisco Ballet to see The Nutcracker at the end of the month. Perhaps later I’ll add my thoughts on the production to this post.

Tchaikovsky’s music is always wonderful, if not a little too overplayed for the holidays. A lot of people tend to associate The March from The Nutcracker or The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy not with Tchaikovsky, but with the thousands of Christmas commercials that use these pieces. This also happens with The Chinese Tea Dance from The Nutcracker with Disney’s Fantasia and The Sleeping Beauty Waltz with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

I believe the most creative and exciting production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut. The Hard Nut is set in 1950s America with a very retro feel inspired by the comic artist Charles Burns — a strange but brilliant compliment to the classical music. I hope to one day be able to attend a live performance.

Advertisement for The Hard Nut.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


A Bit More About Me

I thought that perhaps readers might want to learn a bit more about me. So I took the time to write this!

P.S. I took these questions from an internet meme… I’m not sure where they originate from, but I give full credit to whoever created them (although I edited them a little bit). Thanks!

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If you could build a second house anywhere, where would it be?

I really wouldn’t want to own or build a second house — one house is more than enough for me. But, if I could, I would love to live for a period somewhere Scandinavian. Copenhagen? Stockholm? Or maybe even in Belgium, like Antwerp. I also really need to visit England to do some William Blake research for my graphic novel The Poet and the Flea. I’ve already lived in Manhattan and Tokyo, and I hope I can return there in the future. Also, I really must visit Barcelona to see my beloved friend Elena!!

What are your favorite articles of clothing?

Umm, this is a tough question. I admire fashion as an art form, but I have a hard time finding clothes for myself. I guess a more-or-less constant staple of my wardrobe are Vans shoes. Usually quirky ones with multi-colored checkers. Right now, I have a pair with cherries, another silvery pair, and another with blue and pink hearts from St. Valentine’s Day. Also, I’ve been wearing my Vivienne Westwood orb locket for about five years now.

The Last CDs You Bought?

“The Black Belles” by The Black Belles and all of Heavenstamp‘s EPs.

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?

I practically lived off toast my final semester of college. And I’m loving all the sourdough bread in San Francisco. So I’m going to go with “toaster.”

If you could play an instrument, what would it be?

I actually used to play cello — started when I was four years old and stopped after about twelve years. I never really enjoyed playing, but the experience definitely taught me to appreciate music of all kinds. Playing the whimsical Bohemian pieces of David Popper always brought me the most joy. If I had the patience for another instrument, I might learn the piano just so that I could play Igor Stravinsky and Franz Liszt. Or, if I had been born a man, I’d like to be a bass opera singer like Samuel Ramey.

Favorite color?

Since childhood, I’ve always favored blue. But nowadays everyone would accuse me of being passionate about the color black.

Which vehicle do you prefer, sports car, motorcycle, or SUV?

Vespa. Absolutely.

Do you believe in the afterlife?

You do realize you’re asking a Jewish Atheist?

Favorite children’s book?

Not exactly children’s books per se, but I always read the works of Edward Gorey as a child. I remember being upset when he died back in 2000 (I must have been about 11 years old). Once The Poet and the Flea is up online, anyone familiar with Gorey’s work will probably be able to tell how much he has influenced my own style.

What is your favorite season?

Fall, especially October. My birthday is October 19. And there are lot’s of other awesome birthdays (Oct. 1st, Laurence Harvey’s; Oct 2nd, my mom’s; Oct 3rd, Tetsuya’s [L'Arc~en~ciel]; Oct. 4th, Jeremy Blake’s, etcetera.). Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Halloween. The only downside is what follows: winter. I love the cold, but I can’t stand the holiday season. As Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, 1962) says: “Twelve days of Christmas? One day of Christmas is loathsome enough!”

If you have a tattoo, what is it?

Not only would I be disowned if I got a tattoo, but more significantly I am 100% certain I would be allergic to not only the ink but also the needle used in tattooing (I have extremely sensitive skin and a serious metal allergy… not long ago, I tried on a metal bracelet and felt it immediately burning my skin!). But I have a lot of interest and respect for tattoos in various cultures (Maori, etc.). I mean, Eastern Promises (2007) is up there on my favorite movie list!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To learn every nuance of every language, and keep them all in my head.

Can you juggle?

I used to have one of those Klutz juggling books… but no.

What is under your bed?

Currently, a gigantic blue portfolio box full of valuable fine art collected by my Opah (grandfather) when he was alive. I’m talking about Reginald Marsh, Philippe Halsman, and the likes.

Which do you prefer, sushi or hamburger?

You do realize you’re asking someone who lived in Tokyo for a year? Sushi, clearly. Especially the kaiten (conveyor belt) variety.

What is your dream job?

From a very young age, my dream has always been to become a comic book artist. For the past few years, I’ve dreamed of becoming a screenwriter. Now, I’m trying to make both come true.

What age do you plan to retire?

Never.

Something you would like to do that you have never done before?

Attend a film festival… especially one screening a film I wrote. I think this will happen sooner than I expect.

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Desert Island Movies (à la Stage32.com)

“What if you could only watch the same 10 films… forever?”

  1. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  2. In Bruges (2008)
  3. Gemini/Souseiji (1999)
  4. The Constant Gardener (2005)
  5. The Brothers Bloom (2008)
  6. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
  7. Mystery Men (1999)
  8. The Fall (2006)
  9. Adam’s Apples/Adams æbler (2005)
  10. Topsy-Turvey (1999)

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For more updates, don’t forget to follow me on tumblr and/or twitter.

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Copyright 2012 by G. E. Gallas


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