Adrian Tomine’s covers for In the City

In the City is a literary magazine published by Japanese fashion brand Beams. Comic book artist and illustrator Adrian Tomine has been hired to do all of the covers, which are–like the rest of his work–quite striking. Issues can be purchased from Beams directly here (though I suspect that Ebay may offer a few as well). Enjoy.

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Why Japanese Games Are Breaking Up With the West

I don’t get a chance to play as many video games as I used to, but when I do, they tend to be reissues of old Super NES RPGs like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy or visual novels like Jake Hunter or Hotel Dusk. While I cannot deny the obvious advancements in graphics and AI in contemporary console games, I would also argue that many of the newer games do nothing for me (with the exception of the Fable franchise–those games are a blast).

In “Why Japanese Games are Breaking Up with the West“, a 2011 essay published at 1UP, Ryan Winterhalter argues that Japan has also stubbornly clung to the older 2D style of games, showing little interest in today’s epic shooters and virtual worlds. Japanese game designers, who for years maintained the hallmark for quality console games, have apparently lost the zeitgeist while continuing to pursue  their own, arguably more interesting, path. Winterhalter’s essay makes for some fascinating reading.

It’s not that Japanese games are bad and western games are good or vice versa, the problem facing fans of Japanese games outside of the country is that the tastes of Japanese gamers are diverging from the rest of the world, thus limiting the commercial appeal of even the biggest titles in Japan. The specialized habits of Japanese adult gamers have left the console space in the country to otaku and their moe. Meanwhile, the Japanese consumers are perfectly content with this state of affairs, because as far as many are concerned they’re not missing out on anything. The gamers have changed more than the games, and while that leaves a lot of old-school fans in Europe and the Americas out in cold the vast majority of consumers around the world seem to feel just fine about the current state of affairs.

Vanishing Point (1971)

Director Richard C. Sarafian (from an interview posted at Some Came Running):

And so that was taken, again, from a concept that’s maybe a little bit too esoteric, in terms of a German mathematician by the name of Möbius who wrote about time as a strip; he took a ribbon and twisted it and then tied the ends together; what you get is an elliptical band.  So that the end of it, that there is no end to the road, that we go on, and to another dimension maybe.  So it’s very hopeful, maybe, very spiritual kind of–as far as that.  [Then studio head] Richard Zanuck said to me, “Richard, does he die in the end?”  I told him, I said, “Mr. Zanuck, it depends on your…your view.”  There was a second ending that was never added, which he wouldn’t accept.  And that ending was that when Kowalski heads for the crack between the two bulldozers…it was soundless.  And visually it’s the same, but Super Soul goes, “Yeah,” and celebrates the moment.  So when he screened the picture, he said “Oh, Richard, he’s got to die.”  I said, “Well, OK, Mr. Zanuck.” And I think the spirit, at least in terms of what I wanted to say was, you know, as Kim Carnes sings in the end credits, “Nobody knows, nobody sees, till the light of life is ended and another soul goes free.”  Now, if I tried to explain that to the head of a studio, they’d throw a net over you. So for me it was like sneaking under the tent while the devil had his back turned. What I think is that maybe I’ve allowed the audience to see it through their own prism in terms of what it’s about, you know.

Screenwriter, novelist and Cuban exile Gabriel Cabrera Infante (from an interview with the Paris Review):

What the spectator sees on the screen is the mirror image of my screenplay. Vanishing Point is my script as seen on the white mirror of the screen, in De Luxe color, at an aspect ratio of 1:85, running at twenty-four frames per second, in stereo sound—much more than I ever wrote or could write. That’s a movie. I just wrote the screenplay. Thanks to John Alonzo, a cinematographer of genius, my screenplay is now a piece of Americana, a cult film, and a very successful movie. I wrote a motion picture about a man with a problem in a car. My director made a movie about a man in a car with problems. Cars in the film are actors and the movie may be taken as a paean to cars or to death by car. By the way, I don’t drive.

Classic Motels

There are few things as entrancing as the American road-side motel. The flash of Googie-styled neon signs. The promise of affordability. The triple spell of air-conditioning, cable television and a swimming pool. Motels are among everything that is right with the US.

The following photographs all come from the “Life and Times of the American Motel series” posted on If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger. You can access the rest of the series here.

As part of his www-ode to all things MCM / post-war America, James Lileks has a sub-site dedicated to chronicling the Great American Motel that is also worth checking out.

Norwegian Wood

I’m not entirely convinced that Tran Anh Hung’s 2010 adaption of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood is successful. By trying to include nearly every event and character from Murakami’s much-loved bildungsroman, the film loses its breath and comes across as rushed and airless. However, the costume selection, soundtrack (who doesn’t love Can?) and cinematography are spot-on. Kiko Mizuhara is a particularly inspired casting choice. Following are some great screen caps culled from Google.

Night of the Comet

(poster by Daniel Bresette and can be viewed here)

For its final night, the Toronto Underground Cinema ran the inspired double-bill of Night of the Comet and the Last Waltz. Having not seen Night of the Comet before, I was pleasantly surprised. A playful 80s zombie / post-apocalyptic one-off, it combines the MTV sensibility of Valley Girl and Fast Times at Ridgemont High with the ominous dread of Dawn of the Dead. With its tongue firmly planted in cheek, the film (to its credit) does not take itself too seriously. As a result, it has dated extremely well.

Actors Robert Beltran and Catherine Mary Stewart give fun but not hammy performances that are a joy to watch. The 80s soundtrack delivers an expected jolt of energy that helps sustain the film’s pace. This is the type of fun, late-night fare that CityTV used to specialize in. While it appears that the DVD is out of print, those who are interested shouldn’t find it too hard to track down a copy. For more info, check out this informative site.

Also, it is worth commending the guys at the Underground for the theatre’s great run during its 2.5 years of operation. Nigel Agnew, Alex Woodside and Charlie Lawton ran programming that was personal and spoke to their interests. Frequently brave, they took risks on screenings that they were passionate about. Who else would screen stoner classic Heavy Metal on a weeknight? Toronto is definitely worse off without them. I remain hopeful that even if the Underground does not re-open,  Agnew, Woodside and Lawton will go on to do other interesting things and continue to play a role in the Toronto film scene. Am I the only one who is going to miss seeing the Golden Harvest logo (which should be famous to any seasoned kung fu nuts) on the wall by the stair case?

And on that note, the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” scene from Night of the Comet.

UPDATE: The Toronto Underground updated its Facebook page with the following goodbye message. For the purpose of posterity, I’m posting it here as well:

That’s all folks!

Thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this thing over the last few years. It has changed the 3 of us more then we can say. We are sad to see it go, but welcome a new chapter of life.

To everyone who came last night to watch the films and party with us; thanks for making the bitter sweet, totally sweet! It was a fucking blast, and now we are all hung over!

See ya’round Toronto!