Monday, January 15, 2018

BTS in AMERICAN HUSTLE LIFE and why you should watch it.

“If it looks good--
If it smells good--
If it tastes good--
Then it
is good.
Coolio, to BTS, on the link between performing and cooking.

(Mr. Worldwide Handsome on what he wants to do in America.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A few more hundred words on idols, American delusions, and my newfound love of BTS.

One of the topics I’ve written the most about is on the complicated morality of being an American and appreciating pop culture from other cultures and countries. Even though I’ve written hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of words on the topic, I feel the need to dip back into the well after my binge of BTS and Korean pop-related #content this week. Almost ten years ago now I wrote this in a blog post (linked here):

As a white person, I need to be aware of how I am consuming popular cultures from other parts of the world. Exoticism and cultural appropriation--such as Gwen Stefani's "Harajuku Girls"--are traps too easy to fall into. But there is a big difference between hitting up the local Indian theatre to go to a film and wearing a sari to a formal event; a difference between getting your hands henna'ed at a street fair and Natalie Portman as a "Bollywood princess" in a music video. As the Internet flattens out the plane of popular culture, I don't think there is anything wrong with non-desi people watching Bollywood films just as people around the world watch Hollywood. America and the west don't have a monopoly on the global popular culture. People should be free to like Tom Cruise, Shahrukh Khan, Bae Yong Joon, or Kimura Takuya no matter WHERE they are from.

And, not to brag, but I think most of what I wrote holds up today when it comes to American appreciating Korean pop cultural exports. As people may or may not be aware, BTS spent the last couple of months on an American press blitz. Reading through the articles from mainstream American publications on BTS, watching their talk show appearances, as well as listening to podcasts and reading articles and comments from American K-pop fans, what comes through loud and clear to me are two things. 1) The story of BTS in the American press is not the group itself or their music or even K-Pop but in gawking at the hysterical fans. 2) A large number of international K-Pop fans are consuming the cultural products being exported with little or no context for what it is exactly that they’re consuming.

Let me tackle the first one first. I freely admit to being outside the American pop culture bubble. I don’t find much of what we produce here (nor how we talk about it) spiritually or artistically satisfying.

(Look at the conversation around mediocre films like the new Star Wars movie. It’s all about rushing to identify tropes, overly cleverpants discussion of Star Wars as a piece of corporate property, incredibly obnoxious Neil Degrasse Tyson-style “well actually” about plotholes, dullards crafting elaborate metaphors about contemporary politics, and so on. Very little about how it made people feel or the artistry (and lack thereof) in the film itself, which is what I care about.)

So, long story short, BTS came to my attention as something other than a group with some catchy tunes when I watched them on the 2017 Music Station Super Live a few weeks ago.

(I absolutely just bought a knock-off version of J-Hope's (far right) Gucci sweater. Do not underestimate my fangirl skills.)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A few thoughts on idols, SHINee's Kim Jong-Hyun, A.B.C-Z, and BTS

It’s been just over two weeks since SHINee’s Kim Jong-Hyun (Jonghyun) passed away. He was only 27 years old. According to news reports, he appears to have committed suicide by carbon dioxide poisoning. Police found burned charcoal briquettes in his room. SHINee may not be worldwide household names but news sites know Korean pop generates clicks and Jonghyun’s death was grist for every #content mill for a few days as all the usual suspects--BBC, CNN, New York Times, Yahoo! News, etc.--had explainers on Korean pop or pieces on Korea’s high suicide rate and crazy fans and then the news cycle moved on.

But I didn’t move on.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

NTV ベスト・アーティスト 2017: A Review [Part 1 of 2]

As a way of getting back into the habit of writing--and testing how much interest there would be in a Japanese music podcast--I thought I would try to write up the big end of the year music shows. One of the things I really enjoy about following the Japanese music world is that they still have things like giant end of the year special music shows and enough mainstream acts to fill them all.

I’ve been watching these kinds of shows for about six or seven years now and my impressions have changed as I learned more about the industry in general. When I first began paying attention I only knew one or two groups and found the amount of unknown music somewhat overwhelming but as the years have gone on, a steady diet of the weekly live music show Music Station (or Mステ for short) has helped given me a pretty good understanding of who everybody is and where they fit into the music scene. This kind of context is necessary since a not insignificant part of these shows assumes that the audience knows exactly who such-and-such singer having their 35th anniversary is or how idol group A relates to idol group B and so on.

But what I enjoy the most about these end of the year specials is both the sense of celebration and the sense of closure. Nothing puts a bow on a one hit wonder than dragging him or her out for one last rousing performance of the song that had us all hitting repeat in like March.

The first special to air every year is NTV’s Best Artist (ベストアーティスト). Hosted by Arashi’s Sakurai Sho (who is also a regular contributor to NTV’s news program News Zero), as well as familiar tv presenters Hatori Shinichi and Miura Asami,  Best Artist tends to be the most relaxed and unpredictable of the specials. Not only is there a enthusiastic audience brought in but the hosts stand at the far end of a long wing off to one side of the main stage and they remain there during the performances. The camera will sometimes cut to the hosts so the viewers at home can see them dancing along. It helps add a relaxed feeling to the show. It’s an NTV party and we’re all invited!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

『ALL FOR ONE』~ダルタニアンと太陽王~ and a Trip to the Takarazuka Grand Theater and What I Learned There

This past summer, for the third year in a row, I found myself in the tiny city of Takarazuka, walking down the Hana-michi--the “Flower Road”--on the bank of the Muku River. Bordered by lovely leafy trees, the pathway remains a pleasant place to stroll, despite the bright sunlight and already oppressive heat of the August morning.

I’d been in Tokyo that morning and rushed out of my friend’s apartment at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. in order to catch the first train south into Hyogo Prefecture, where Takarazuka is situated. Having gotten only about 3 hours of sleep thanks to an impromptu izakaya drinking party, I was running on adrenaline and numerous cans of the black, bitter, sugarless vending machine coffee that Japan does so well.

The play that day was All For One. I knew nothing about it except it was loosely based on Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and it would be my first time seeing Tamaki Ryou as the new Top Star of Moon Troupe. Would I like it? Would I like her? I’d grown quite attached to Ryuu Masaki and her Moon Troupe over the last two years--what if I didn’t like Tamaki Ryou’s Moon Troupe?! Of the actresses I’d fell in love with during 1789, Nagina Ruumi and Seijou Kaito had already left the troupe. Saou Kurama and Miya Rurika would be in the production but would it be enough for me?

(Spoiler alert: Yes, and so much more.)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

マサラ・ミュージカル『オーム・シャンティ・オーム -恋する輪廻』・Masala Musical Om Shanti Om: Reincarnated For Love

(Poster from TakaWiki)

Despite not having written about “Bollywood” in some time, I still occasionally find myself thinking about the films. From time to time I may even pull out a DVD or watch a handful of clips on youtube. My tastes have not changed. I still love melodrama, ambitiously outrageous storytelling, character actors stealing scenes, slapstick comedy, strong moral values, and, above all, good music and dancing.

I still think there is no better dancer than Helen.

But Bollywood doesn’t really make those kinds of films anymore. The more Hollywood-ish films it does make aren’t really to my taste and so I drifted away.

Still, my tastes haven’t changed.

So, imagine my shock when I found out there is a theater company in Japan that takes all of the above, adds even more feathers and sparkles, and specializes in stories to make ladies swoon...

宝塚へようこそ!Welcome to Takarazuka.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

[D.C. Untied] What to expect at Audi Field

First of all, I want to thank everybody for the incredible response to my post on the Audi Field sales brochure! The feedback I received was amazing (and mostly positive). People are extremely worried about the future of this team and of the D.C. United fan community going into 2018 in Audi Field.

The negative feedback I received was people telling me to chill and calling me a whiner. And you know what? Both very fair points. I fully recognize that my post was over-the-top but here is what I’ll say in my defense: by raising a ruckus now, we still time to get some fan friendly policies in place at Audi Field before it’s too late and bad precedents are set.

Okay, so moving on.

There is another question about Audi Field that I think needs to be discussed in more detail: Who the fuck is this stadium for?

As I laid out in my previous post, D.C. United has made the mind bogglingly stupid decision to not build Audi Field to the current MLS standard and instead seems to be building a stadium in the mold of Nationals Park, which is essentially right next door, but smaller.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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