This week nothing good happened. So watch a video about the demographic collapse of Japan, because…I dunno. Welcome to the NHK, or something.
“My favorite scene is the one when the bald guy gets killed.” – Dave Smith What a miserable, boring slog this film is. What a senseless, inert and strange experience. […]
This review could be subtitled “Welcome to Dramatic Tension.” Since it crossed the haflway point through its 24 episode run, Welcome to the NHK seems to have discovered that, hey, […]
Movies used to be better. That does not mean old movies are uniformly perfect. It does not mean movies can be made the same way they used to be. You […]
Most episodes of Welcome to the NHK are muted in their sense of humor. It’s as if the anime creators decided they had 12 good jokes, so decided that one […]
Without any documentation to back me up, I imagine the impetus for Chris Eckman recording this first solo album had nothing to do with breaking free from a paradigm, or […]
Sato and Yamazaki work on the game. Hitomo (old high school flame) has a mild fight with her boyfriend. She takes a shower, takes a pill, goes on an Internet […]
Makoto Shinkai’s first short is a brief, elegiac piece about the way a happy young cat views his apparently troubled master. There are three versions of the short – one […]
Stoker is an extended, misguided homage to one of Hitchcock’s, or anyone’s, finest films, Shadow of a Doubt. Both films are about how the approach of a distant Uncle Charlie […]
NHK‘s slice of lack of life approach makes it a little difficult to analyze, because not only does very little happen in each episode, but each small action is analyzed […]
Dirtmusic’s principals come from bands largely known for rootsy, Americana-infused music: Chris Eckman from the Walkabouts, Hugo Race who did a stint with the Bad Seeds, and Chris Brokaw from…I’m […]
Carrie is a funny and frightening film. Brian De Palma, the director, turns Stephen King’s novel, itself a female-dominated Rage (King, 1974), into a semi-satiric teen opera without any of […]
Notable characters Tom Welles (P.I., nominal hero): is an edgy average man; usually speaks in a somnambulant monotone when not overly and self-righteously indignant; smokes behind his wife’s back; went […]
What a miserable, boring slog this film is. What a senseless, inert and strange experience. What a waste of beautiful craftsmanship. Alien3 begins, like Aliens itself, where the previous movie ended. Ripley is drifting through space, frozen, along with Newt and Hicks, hopefully heading back home after blowing up their enemies. But of course, there is an alien egg on the ship, and it makes things go very wrong. The cryogenic pod ejects, Ripley crashes into the ocean, and she is pulled out by the prisoners/custodians/weird demi-Christians of a former prison/mining planet owned by Weyland-Yutani, who seem to own everything in the universe.
There are mistakes aplenty in this film: the scripting, the special effects, the tone. The movie was made with barely a script, and scenes and entire plotlines seem to be grafted from entirely different stories. From what is here, it seems like the film is about punishment. Ripley’s hope, the semi-family she had with her, all perish in the crash, and the monster that has chased her from planet to planet is still there – but, in one of the few memorable scenes, it will not attack her. The prisoners who inhabit the planet were to be evacuated at some point, but decided to stay. When Ripley eventually asks to be killed (what a cheery scene), Charles S. Dutton’s evil convict guy/priest refuses to do it, and not out of any love for her. It is all about punishment, and misery. To what end? That’s anyone’s guess. A lot of it looks great. David Fincher’s aesthetic, his unblinking gaze on violence, is fully formed here on his first feature. But it is at the service of no story. And the special effects let him down. The alien (called the Runner, I think) looks pretty neat, but in all the scenes when it’s off a-running, the animation is fine, but the lighting doesn’t fit. It looks strange and out of place in every single scene it is in.
Unpleasant, muddled, hardly any story, character arcs that break halfway through, a complete waste of Charles Dance: It is not (in this, the theatrical cut) an unappreciated classic. It is a mess.
This review could be subtitled “Welcome to Dramatic Tension.” Since it crossed the haflway point through its 24 episode run, Welcome to the NHK seems to have discovered that, hey, it might be a good idea to hint to have things with potential consequences happen. Twice, in two episodes, there were events (or cliffhangers) where the outcome wasn’t completely obvious from the onset of the situation. The second one if a cliff hanger are the end of “Welcome to Reality” – what’s happened to Sato’s family?
The first case of dramatic tension revolves around the possibility of suicide. While Hitomi’s boyfriend, with Yamazaki and Sato in toe are trying to wend their way toward the Island where the suicide group is shuffling off, the Off members start up Sato’s bonfire using the remaining fuel in the boat. They’re not making a return trip, after all.
Sato is genuinely funny in this episode. As in most of his interactions with other human beings, when he isn’t completely societally walled off, he finds himself fulfilling whatever role they have assigned to him – a patient when Misaki wants to play therapist, a writer when Yamazaki needs a game design, an ersatz boyfriend for Hitomi. For the Off crowd, he’ll be a jovial suicidee, even when he knows this isn’t what he wants in the least.
Once in position to kill themselves, of course one of the members chickens out, then shouts down the rest of the suiciders. And it turns out everyone has a pretty slim reasoning for suicide, except for maybe Sato and Hitomi. Hitomi is clearly clinically depressed, and she thinks that Sato is right in line with her dark intentions. In actuality, Sato’s resolve to live is only tested when, in the first real dramatic twist (maybe in the series) Misaki, shouting into a PA system on a boat just below the appointed place of suicide, lets him know why she picked him for her project. In essence, she says it is because he is the only person she has ever seen who is worse than she is. After that little revelation, he’s ready to take a trip down the cliff, into the rocks.
What stops him is one of the first self-aware things Yamazaki ever says in the series: “A dramatic death isn’t fitting to us.” We’re too pathetic to have some grand, romantic end to our dull, flat lives. This notion, that for some reason Sato, whose condition is largely self-inflicted and probably born in a desire for an easy life, not from deep psychological scarring, is enough to talk him down.
It is not enough, though, to get him to forgive Misaki. There’s a disturbing scene early in “Welcome to Reality” when Sato is within inches from hitting her. In response, she curls up and shivers, holding her arms in front of her face like she was used to being hit, and knew what she needed to protect.
The second episode deals almost entirely with the aftermath from the suicide meeting, and it is a rush of happy endings for almost everyone. The medical student apologizes to his parents, the kid who stole money gets back with his own family. The broken up businessman, the old man of the group, sees his son again for the first time in years. Hitomi is getting married to her boyfriend.
For these people, this was the final trauma. They had a problem that could be fixed, and not by death.
For poor Sato, death wouldn’t scratch the surface of mending his wounds… but there’s also the upsetting implication that even if he did die, nobody would have been back on shore to be upset about it. Word of the suicide attempt got back to everyone else’s family. You get the feeling that if Sato disappeared it would be months before anyone but Yamazaki and Misaki noticed.
In terms of tone and action, these two episodes feel very much life a shift that the series has needed for some time. Sato is no longer so passive, and even if his actions are stupid (the sincere suicide attempt) or distasteful (the full on threatening of Misaki, whom he does NOT like much anymore) they are actions, not just reactions. He is making some sort of character stand, and is no longer so inert.
Which means the series feels like it might be moving off of the self-piteous plight of the Hikikimori and onto the maybe more interesting (and certainly cuter) deeply damaged little girl.
Because eventually, Sato does go back to their meeting place in the park, where Misaki is waiting with her symbolic cat rubbing her legs. She never looks at Sato, but tries to play therapist again, holding up the contract between them and saying, essentially, she’ll do him a favor by not fining him for missing his therapy. Sato reacts vigorously to this, but Misaki’s cringing, the tears that pour out (which we see landing on her skirt – is that some form of psycho-sexual symbolism? Probably not) break Sato’s resolve. They’re all three of them stray cats, wounded from kicks and scared of everything.
Over these last three (really four episodes) the suicide group plot put me in mind of a similar suicide group story in Paranoia Agent, one of the best of the standalone episodes in that series. There, some suicides are actually accomplished, there is much more ambiguity about the motivations for the suicides (which is welcome, since the reasons for death revealed in NHK were all kind of pathetic, and dumb) and that series, though also often quite funny, was completely willing to stare into the darkness as deep as it had to go. Welcome to the NHK is willing to hint at darkness (as the shivering body of a 17-year-old girl speaks to some form of terrible abuse) but it will not leap in, headlong, to that abyss. It pulls its punches.
Often between scenes in an Ozu movie, there are environmental shots, which do not necessarily establish anything. They help develop the film’s mood. They’re called pillow shots. I have nothing for today, so here are some Pillow(s) videos.
Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t seen the original short that Nick Park directed, which not only spawned a couple of TV series, but also was his calling card (an Oscar winning calling card) to the greater world, and led to his non-pareil Wallace and Gromit films.
So, here it is: