World Cinema: Japanese movies - Little Forest: Summer/Autumn & Little Forest: Winter/Spring

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


A few years ago, the extent of my Japanese movie knowledge was that "Japanese version is always better than the Hollywood version" when it came to horror movies. And that was that. I never ventured much into Japanese horror, because for someone who watches horror movies through my fingers over my eyes, I knew it would be a futile exercise attempting to also read the subtitles through my fingers. But, I do watch a lot of Japanese non-horror movies. And I wanted to write about these two movies that I watched last week. These are two separate movies, but it can be considered as two parts and can be watched together, sort of a binge watch. 

The story follows Ichiko, who returns to her hometown Komori, a rural village, after not being able to find her place or "make it" in the city, to lead a farming life and live off the land as her town people have done, for generations. And the movies takes place over the course of one year, covering all four seasons. 

The movies are divided into four seasons and the plot revolves around Ichiko farming and making meals out of her own produce. So, it also includes recipes, that you could recreate, which in turn makes it immersive?  I might just try doing that, how's that for a new series on this blog, huh? Each season has at least seven recipes. And to break her single, solitary life, you also see her interacting with her childhood friends and neighbors who drop by. Ichiko also narrates the story, at certain points. The pace of the movie is slow and combined with her voice over and her peaceful life in her village, this movie  is so soothing and reassuring, especially in these times. I also loved how food was used to transport us back to memories. There is a scene when she is making silverberry jam, and that takes her back to her life in the city when she was making that for her then boyfriend. And another scene where she can't seem to get a recipe right, just like the way her mom makes it, so she keeps going back to her childhood memory, to figure out what her mother (who has abandoned her and moved on) added. It is fascinating to see how our food habits are formed because of the weather, culture, childhood etc. This movie hits all the right notes of nostalgia, simplicity of rural life, the generous giving nature of the land, and rediscovering your roots. 

The direction is beautiful, and the director Jun'ichi Mori has done justice to the beautiful landscape of Tohoku region and the way food is captured. Is it even a good food-based movie, if you can't hear the crunchy sound of fresh homemade bread when someone bites into it? I may have done a little rewind to hear that sound of perfection. All in all, something I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone interested in food and human emotions. 

PS: It is based on a slice of life manga series illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi. Who knew manga is not just all about dark, action-y themes? Well, I didn't, until I started watch midnight diner.  I might just explore manga, and take it up as a hobby. Anything is possible in 2020, right? 



The more you know..the less you tweet?

Monday, August 17, 2020

 I joined Twitter in November 2010. I wish I could give you the exact date and time, like someone in a movie would, when they are asked the exact moment they fell in love. Twitter had been around since 2006, and even though, I was a good 4 years late to the game, the world was different and products or news did not go stale as hastily as they do now. What I am trying to say is that Twitter was still cool. Those were the golden days.

For someone as opinionated as me, Twitter seemed to be the perfect outlet. As Julie from Julie & Julia says about her new blog " It just feels like it goes out into this giant void". It was liberating to send out random things that nobody really cared about, out into the void. And it was amazing to have an outlet that was purely dedicated to being witty. Yes kids, that was what Twitter used to be. 

Twitter and I were comfortably growing old together, and then all hell broke loose. I don't really know when it happened, but Twitter certainly turned into this angry, grumpy old man, who is always busy yelling at his neighbors' kids. The opinions were no longer witty, but angry. And who needs anger, if it is not witty, right? And while Twitter was turning into an angry old man, I was turning into this tweet-but-save-everything-in-drafts person. Where once Twitter was a place where I was able to make fun of chocolate hummus (I know, what abomination!), it has now become a place where chocolate hummus-ers would come at me with burning torches to explain why chocolate hummus is fantastic and how I am wrong in thinking hummus should never be combined with cocoa. I don't know if it is me getting older and wiser or me just having a lower bandwidth to pick and choose where I would like to use my energy, I have been tweeting lesser and lesser.  

And as a wise man (Aristotle is what the internet says, who knows, it could be Tom Cruise too) once said, the more we know, the less we know. As I have been reading more on hot topic issues, the more I feel like I don't know anything at all and it's best to let Twitter do the twittering. And if anyone really needs my opinion on chocolate hummus or the next hot button issue, we can hangout in a coffee shop and discuss these oh-so-important issues.


World Cinema: Nadine Labaki's three movies I liked

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


I don't know what it is about 2020, but I have been watching a lot of non-english, non-Indian movies. Oh wait, I know exactly what it is the whole stuck-at-home vibes of 2020. It has made me want to read and consume more content that is based outside of where I live (US) and where I grew up (India). I believe that world cinema has the same power as a good book, wherein you experience the lives of people who are separated by geography but the more you watch them, the more you relate to them on a human level. That was my ted talk for the day. You are welcome.

Now let’s get back to the topic. I discovered this Lebanese director, Nadine Labaki by chance. How, you ask? It was during one of those random weeknights, the one where you have nothing to watch and you are just clicking through movie options, and you find something and you end up loving it so much, that you absolutely MUST find who the director is and watch ALL of their creations. Yup, that is how I discovered her and her movies. She has only done about five movies and I am here to tell you about the three movies I watched and enjoyed.

  •  Capernaum (2018) - This is the first one I saw of hers and everything about the movie was so raw and the cast was fabulous. It is a story of a 12 year old Lebanese boy, who lives in poverty in a tiny house with his parents and his siblings. The movie opens with a court scene, where this little boy is brought in from prison, and we find out that he wants to sue his parents for bringing him into the world. This little kid will break your heart. I will not give away much about this kid who plays the main lead, but please wikipedia it AFTER watching the movie.

  • Caramel (2007) -  This was Nadine Labaki's directorial debut and what a fun watch this was. I didn't know how much I missed watching a good chick flick, till I saw this movie. It is set in Beirut, Lebanon and it takes us through the everyday struggles and joys of these four women, who are connected by a hair salon. This was delightful and I absolutely enjoyed it. 

  • Where Do We Go Now? (2011) - This movie is set in a small, rural town in Lebanon, where Muslims and Christians have lived together peacefully since forever. The story is about what happens in that little village, when clashes begin to occur in the bigger cities between muslims and Christians. I liked what she tried doing with this movie, although, I would have liked it a lot more if she had not tried to completely switch from one genre to another, so quickly. But, watch it for the camaraderie, powerful acting and for a look into another country and its culture. 

Even as I am typing this, there is a lot that's happening in Lebanon, and I hope that peace returns soon. I have grown attached to the country and I have already added Lebanon to my travel list.