“Killers” invade: Indonesian-Japanese co-produced film added to Japan CUTS 2014 lineup

Already diverse and eclectic, the 2014 Japan CUTS film festival in New York City (which begins July 10th through the 20th) has recently added the psychological-thriller Killers to its lineup.

Co-produced by Japanese film studio Nikkatsu and the Indonesian Guerilla Merah-Films, Killers follows the exploits of a Japanese serial killer named Nomura (played by Kazuki Kitamura) who uploads footage of his tortures and murders onto the internet. Nomura’s snuff films fascinate an Indonesian journalist named Bayu (played by Oka Antara), who in turn begins to kill and upload his murderous acts onto the internet as well. Nomura soon becomes aware of Bayu’s work, leading to a dark and twisted confrontation between both men.

The addition of Killers to Japan CUTS 2014 is certainly an exciting one. Produced by the makers of The Raid and Sion Sono’s Cold Fish, The Mo Brothers’ directed Killers (Rumah Dara) will perhaps have the distinction of being the most violent and depraved film to be showcased at this year’s festival.

It’s worth noting Killers will be one of three films starring Kazuki Kitamura that will be screened during the festival’s Saturday, July 19th billing. The other two Kitamura films are Neko Samurai and Man From Reno.

For those Lost in the Miso fans who are interested in knowing more about Killers, check out the film’s trailer below:

“Obvious Child” Review: Raunch meets romance in this progressive abortion comedy

Rating: R

Length: 84minutes

Director: Gillian Robespierre

Stars:

Donna – Jenny Slate

Jake Lacy – Max

Gabby Hoffman -Nellie

 

For a movie that is so clearly progressive in its premise, “Obvious Child” is also earnestly nostalgic for the good old days when love at first sight was something to be cherished and believed in. “Obvious Child” is a film that adeptly maneuvers itself through the controversial issue of abortion. It does so while existing within the stifling confines of a tired genre that is rife with cliches – the dreaded Rom-Com.

Undoubtedly, many Americans may find the premise to “Obvious Child” audacious and hard to swallow, as it is a comedy centered around a twenty-something female standup comic named Donna Stern (former Saturday Night Live member Jenny Slate) who discovers she is pregnant after a drunken, one night only sexual tryst with a young man named Max (Jack Lacy). Upon discovering her pregnancy, Donna, without any reservations, plans to terminate her pregnancy with an abortion.

While the more liberal and progressive viewers of “Obvious Child” will have zero qualms with the film’s treatment of abortion as a viable solution to an unwanted pregnancy, I can only imagine the reactions those who are hunkered down in the conservative trenches will likely have in seeing this film. I’d imagine they’d use the words “rank,” “odious” and “repugnant” to describe this particular cinematic experience.

I myself, a very liberal and progressive young man from the Northeastern United States, even experienced some trepidation before seeing the film as I sat down in a modestly attended screening at the always wonderful Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.

I envisioned cliched scenes involving Slate’s character having to push her way through the jeering crowd of pro-life picketers who booed and hissed at her as she made her way towards the abortion clinic, or her giving an impassioned “It’s my body” speech to her parents who demanded she keep her child. Thankfully, these scenes did not occur.

Instead, I was treated to a brief look into the life of a humorous yet scared standup comic who, despite facing mounting uncertainties in her life (she discovers her boyfriend and best friend have been cheating on her, the bookstore she works at is going out of business and she drinks quite a bit), is absolutely certain she doesn’t want a child.

Jenny Slate is a revelation in the film as a comic who is brutally honest about her personal life when she is onstage telling jokes. The film begins with a long opening credit scene where Slate’s character delivers grotesque yet humorous observations concerning urination, defecation and, yes, the condition women’s underwear are in after a long day of having been worn.

The sophomoric and scatological humor that runs throughout “Obvious Child” may prove to be the biggest hurdle for filmgoers to get over, perhaps even more than the abortion premise (by the 11th piss and poo joke I watched two elderly couples angrily exit the theater). But both the childish humor of Slate’s character and the abortion issue work hand-in-hand, as by the time we discover she’s become pregnant, we the audience and Slate’s character are in complete agreement – she’s an “obvious child” and not yet ready to be a mother.

For those worried “Obvious Child” will be heavy-handed in it’s pro-life leanings, fear not. Yes, the film does feature a scene where Stern’s friend delivers a passionate speech about how Stern needn’t inform Max (who has been attempting to woo Stern for a second date after their one night stand) about the pregnancy and subsequent abortion as it isn’t his body and therefore is not his problem and, while true, it was refreshing to see Slate’s character respond with laughter and admit that her friend’s fiery diatribe against men was more than a little frightening.

Though I only laughed out loud a handful of times while viewing the film, I was consistently amused by “Obvious Child.” Slate is wonderful as Donna Stern and Jack Lacy conveys such a warmth and innocence as Max that one never doubts that he is indeed in love with a woman he just met. Surprisingly, “Obvious Child” feels most like a Rom-Com during a scene where Max and Stern are in the clinic, waiting for the procedure to begin.

By the end of the film, one cannot help but smile as these two young people fall in love with each other, despite having barely known each other and having to face an unexpected pregnancy and abortion.

For such a small, modest movie, “Obvious Child” is certainly groundbreaking on many levels, and though its premise alone may keep many moviegoers away, this is a film that people should be encouraged to see and talk about as it is, ironically, a very life-affirming film.

Japan CUTS 2014 unsheathes a lineup of cutting edge films

 

Photo courtesy of 2013 “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” film partners

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? – Photo courtesy of 2013 “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” film partners

Fans of Japanese film, clear your schedules for July 10-20 as you’ll undoubtedly want to attend the 8th annual Japan CUTS film festival held at the Japan Society in New York City.

For 10 days, the Japan Society will become a mecca for Japanese cinephiles as the Japan CUTS 2014 festival will screen 27 films from the Land of the Rising Sun – including works by such Japanese directors as Sion Sono, Takashi Miike, Katsuhito Ishii and Hideo Nakata.

Though often difficult to assemble, Programmer for Japan CUTS 2014 Joel Neville Anderson stressed the importance of having a diverse collection of films presented at the festival.

“Curating festivals of a national cinema is necessarily problematic, swinging between exhaustive cultural surveys or limited selections of titles with international arthouse appeal, between a lineup that is representative and one that is exceptional,” Anderson said in a press release issued by Japan Society.

Anderson said the “tactic” at Japan CUTS has always been to place a heavy emphasis on “diversity” in the films they curate.

“This is especially so this year,” he said.

Anderson, who is also filmmaker and scholar, said he believes the film lineup for this year’s Japan CUTS festival “demonstrates Japan’s film cultures navigating issues such as discrimination, aging, regional transformation, and widespread social precarity, envincing a nationalist groundswell attempting to revise history, as well as positive political awakenings following the natural and human-made disasters of 3/11.” [Editor’s note: Mr. Anderson is referring to the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, 2011 and the ongoing issues concerning the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant]

Indeed, one needs to take only a cursory glance at this year’s Japan CUTS lineup to see how diverse and eclectic these films are.

Photo courtesy of www.twitchfilm.com

The Devil’s Path – Photo courtesy of http://www.twitchfilm.com

The always popular Yakuza genre of Japanese film will be represented by Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Jigoku de Naze Warui), Kazua Shiraishi’s The Devil’s Path (Kyoaku) and Takashi Miike’s The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (Mogura no Uta Sennyu Sousakan Reiji). The latter will serve as the festival’s opening film.

 

 

The Horses of Fukushima

The Horses of Fukushima

Documentary film is represented by Yoju Matsubayashi’s The Horses of Fukushima (Matsuri no Uma) which chronicles how a rancher in post 3/11 Fukushima defied government orders when he refused to kill his irradiated horses.

 

 

Samurai movies have long been a Japanese film tradition and will continue to be so at Japan CUTS 2014 when the quirky yet lovable film Neko Samurai, which stars Kazuki Kitamura, screens.

The film follows samurai Kyutaro Madarame (Kitamura) who has been hired by a gang to assassinate the pet cat of a rival factions’s leader. However, Madarame becomes attached to his target and must battle both gangs to protect himself and his newly found feline friend.

Unforgiven - Photo courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk

Unforgiven – Photo courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

The Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 classic Unforgiven, Yurusarezaru Mono stars Ken Watanabe and sees the Western genre receive some love at Japan CUTS 2014.

 

 

 

Monsterz - Photo courtesy of www.joblo.com

Monsterz – Photo courtesy of http://www.joblo.com

What Japanese film festival would be complete without at least one Japanese horror film? Master Japanese horror director Hideo Nakatak (Ringu, Dark Water) will have his remake of the 2010 South Korean film Haunters screened at Japan CUTS 2014. A paranormal thriller, Nakata’s Monsterz (Monsutazu) will surely scratch the itch of those looking for a good scare.

Looking for something to take your child to see? How about bringing them to see Katsuhito Ishii’s latest film Hello! Junichi! It’ll be interesting to see how Ishii (who directed the wonderfully bizarre films The Taste of Tea and Funky Forest: The First Contact) fares in the children’s film genre.

According to the press release, the Japan CUTS film festival is “North America’s largest showcase of Japanese film” and “encompasses a thrilling cross section of cinephilic genre oddities.” Japan CUTS 2014 will be home to “1 World Premiere, 3 International Premieres, 7 North American Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres, 5 East Coast Premieres, and 4 New York Premieres.”

For those interested in the full lineup up of films or wish to attend the Japan CUTS 2014 film festival , go ahead and visit Japan Society to get ticket information and showtimes.

Film lineup for 16th annual Boston Underground Film Festival has been announced

The fine folks at the Boston Underground Film Festival have announced the lineup for their 16th annual event (BUFF16) and fans of Asian underground cinema are in for several treats.

Japanese director Sion Sono, a Lost in the Miso favorite, will be having his 2013 film Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Click the link to see the trailer!) screened at the event. Word has it that the film is less like his recent, more serious work (Himizu and The Land of Hope) and more akin to his audaciously over-the-top four hour epic Love Exposure. BUFF16 offers this synopsis of Why Don’t You Play in Hell?:

“A renegade film crew becomes embroiled with a yakuza clan feud in this bloody ode to 35mm cinema, the thirty-first feature film from Japan’s prolific provocateur auteur Sion Sono.”

Japanese cinema will also be represented at BUFF16 with the 1974 cult classic and Japanese exploitation film School of the Holy Beast. BUFF16 says of the film:

“A young nun seeks to uncover the dark secrets of the Sacred Heart Convent in this nunsploitation classic. School of the Holy Beast is as blasphemous and shocking as it is artistically stunning.” 

The writer of the violently schlocky Tokyo Gore Police, Maki Mizui, will have his directorial debut Kept screened at BUFF16.

The Japanese short film The Tale of Love Suicide, directed by Ken Hirata, will also be showing.

The Philippines also gets some BUFF16 love with EDSA XXX -the latest film by highly-respected Filipino director Khavn. BUFF16 describes the film as:

“Nothing ever changes in the ever-changing Republic of Ek-Ek-Ek. The year is 2030. The place is a Filipino bizarro-future akin to Biff Tannen’s 1985 (but with more palm trees).”

These five films are clearly enough reason for any Boston-area fan of Asian cinema to attend this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival. I’ve personally attended the festival in the past and I can highly encourage anyone in the greater Boston area to support the great work being done by the people at BUFF.
BUFF16 starts Wednesday, March 26 and ends Sunday, March 30, and films are shown at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA.
I hope to see you there!

 

“The Wind Rises” Review: Miyazaki’s last film before retirement mostly soars

Rating: PG-13

Length: 126 minutes

Director: Hayao Miyazaki 

Stars: 

 Jiro Horikoshi – Joseph Gordon-Levitt (voice)

Honjo – John Krasinki (voice)

Naoko Satomi – Emily Blunt (voice)

The animated film The Wind Rises is a monumental moment in world cinema, as it is not only legendary Japanese animated filmmaker Hayao Miyzaki at the top of his game, but also it being his last film before retirement. Interestingly, The Wind Rises is also his most provocative.

The film has caused a bit of controversy in Miyazaki’s native land as it is a fictionalized WWII-era biography of Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the aeronautical engineer who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane – an aircraft that would be used by the Japanese Imperial Navy to attack Pearl Harbor.

The Wind Rises, which harkens back to the sweeping Hollywood epics of yore, tells the tale of the starry-eyed Horikoshi, whose dreams of one day building elegant and beautiful airplanes come true – a reality that will inflict heartache upon not only himself but the whole world.

The story is composed of two realities – the everyday world where Horikoshi and his friend and fellow aeronautical engineer Honjo (voiced by John Krasinski) design dependable and state-of-the-art aircrafts, and a fanciful realm where Horikoshi dreams he meets Italian aircraft designer Gianni Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci). Caproni encourages the film’s protagonist to pursue his aeronautical ambitions. In a commendable display of artistry, the 73-year old Miyazaki expertly weaves together these two tonally disparate threads. It’s jaw-dropping sequences like this film’s seamless transitions between realities that has one wishing Miyazaki will knock it off with this retirement nonsense.

While sublimely crafted, The Wind Rises does, at times, become tedious to watch. Miyazaki’s storytelling flourishes best and most brilliantly when the story is centered in the ambitious dream world of Horikoshi – not surprising when you consider the vast majority of his work have been fantasy films, such as  Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle.

The dream world scenes with Caproni are delightful, but become few and far between as the plot becomes more centered around Horikoshi’s romantic relationship with Naoko (voiced by Emily Blunt). While ultimately touching, for most of the film the pair’s blossoming romance feels schmaltzy and, at times, verges on almost seeming nonessential to the film’s overall plot. Fortunately, Miyazaki corrects this mistake right before the film’s conclusion.

In many ways, outside of the film’s incredible visual flare, The Wind Rises is most interesting when one begins to think about the underlying message of the film – war fosters innovation in science and engineering, and that innovation will bring about misery long before it brings about good. The airplanes of grace and beauty that fill Horikoshi’s dreams must first become flying instruments of death, as he is being funded by the Japanese military/industrial complex. There are just a couple of scenes where either Horikoshi or another character show reservations about their work. However, they are fleeting as the characters are determined to bring their dreams to life.

One cannot watch The Wind Rises and walk away without feeling a bit unnerved. You’ll share in Horikoshi’s excitement as his plane pass its test flight in the film’s climatic moment. But after you’ve finished rooting him on, you’ll feel a sense of dread. Perhaps Miyazaki’s most important message with The Wind Rises is that an artist is a slave to his creative ambitions – no matter the final cost.

Apocalypse Now: The back-story to “Snowpiercer” has been revealed in an animated short

Just how did the passengers of the Snowpiercer – a colossal train that never stops running – wind-up aboard their new home? Well, according to the animated prequel to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer that has recently surfaced online, they fought tooth and nail to procure their seats.

With a visual storytelling style similar to that of a motion comic, the 4-minute animated prequel does a serviceable job in succinctly telling the back-story to the upcoming Sci-Fi film (it opens in South Korea on August 1), and will give those who view it a better understanding of the film’s world.

That being said, this clip does not seem as if it’s required viewing for those who wish to see and enjoy the film. Undoubtedly, much of Snowpiercer’s back-story will be touched upon in the film itself. However, this animated prequel provides viewers with a brief yet entertaining world building story that will surely whet the appetites of fans who are eagerly awaiting the film.

Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer is based on Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette’s French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho, John Hurt and Ed Harris.

Takashi Miike + Tom Hardy = “The Outsider”

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images

Oh wow…

Oh wow, indeed.

The magnificent English actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Bronson, Inception, The Warrior and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike (the director of such great Japanese films such as : Audition, The Bird People of China, Ichi the Killer, The Great Yokai War and 13 Assassins) are rumored to be teaming up for the film The Outsider. 

Taking place in the aftermath of WWII, The Outsider tells the story of an American G.I. who, after becoming an American prisoner of war, later works his way up into the ranks of the Yakuza (the Japanese version of organized crime).

How can the prospect of such a film not send shivers up the spines of film enthusiasts?

Hardy, when need be, can easily play the role of a lovable and menacing brute, (Bane from The Dark Knight Rises) is in talks to be directed by one of the best cinematic agitators of all time, Takashi Miike.

Based on an original story idea by John Linson (Executive Producer of Sons of Anarchy), The Outsider was scripted by Andrew Baldwin.

Please leave your comments below as I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this film!

News: The Independent Film Festival Boston winners have been announced

Photo courtesy of iffboston.com

Photo courtesy of iffboston.com

 

 

 

 

 

The winners of the 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston have been announced in an official press release given by the festival:

The 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston) came to a close on Tuesday night, April 30th, with a screening of the film IN A WORLD…with writer/director/star Lake Bell in attendance. Roughly 100 guest filmmakers, celebrities, and special guests were in attendance at the festival including new festival Creative Advisor Casey Affleck, actor Fran Kranz, director Bobcat Goldthwait, director James Ponsoldt, Writer/Actor/Director Lake Bell, Governor Deval Patrick, First Lady Diane Patrick and numerous others. Films were shown in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville over a total of 9 screens. This was the festival’s 11th year.

The jury and audience award prizes have been announced and are as follows:

Narrative Feature:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: THIS IS MARTIN BONNER directed by Chad Hartigan
Special Jury Prize Winner: HOUSTON directed by Bastian Gunther
Audience Award Winner: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Joss Whedon

Documentary Feature:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: DIRTY WARS directed by Richard Rowley
Special Jury Prize Winner: REMOTE AREA MEDICAL directed by Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman
Audience Award Winner: BEST KEPT SECRET directed by Samantha Buck
Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing: Francisco Bello for OUR NIXON

Short Film:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: THE LAST ICE MERCHANT directed by Sandy Patch
Special Jury Prize Winner: SLOMO directed by Joshua Izenberg
Audience Award Winner: WORLD FAIR directed by Amanda Murray

The Narrative Feature Jury was comprised of. Writer/director/actor Jonathan Lisecki, actress Kate Lynn Sheil, and propmaster David Gulick. The Documentary Feature Jury was comprised of Ben Fowlie (Camden International Film Festival/ The DocYard), Rebecca Richman Cohen (War Don Don, Code of the West), and Tim Cawley (From Nothing, Something). The Short Film Jury was comprised of filmmaker Kris Avedisian (Donald Cried), professor Zak Lee (Fitchburg State University), and writer/director Jody Lambert (Of All The Things, People Like Us).

Prizes included a a $500 cash prize from the Karen Schmeer Editing Fellowship (goes to Francisco Bello, OUR NIXON) and a choice of two of the following: HDCam, Blu-Ray for Projection, or DCP from Modulus Studios (goes to Sandy Patch, THE LAST ICE MERCHANT).

More information on the festival will be available shortly on the festival website at http://www.iffboston.org.

Why We Watch (Part 4) Conclusion – Let’s wrap up on what we learned with a little podcast

Above I’ve embedded a podcast where I discuss what I’ve learned by asking my fellow film bloggers why we do what we do. I want to thank the blogs http://www.genkinahito.wordpress.com and http://www.scumcinema.com for discussing their passion in global cinema with me and for telling me “Why we watch.”

Why We Watch: A Lost in the Miso Exclusive (Part 3) – Chatting with S.C.U.M. Cinema’s Monkey Fist, Topo Sanchez and Mountain Monkey

The Why We Watch interviews conclude with a chat with Monkey Fist, Topo Sanchez and Mountain Monkey – the creators of the blog and film society S.C.U.M. Cinema.

Editor’s Note: I conducted my interview with these three men via email. Some questions were answered individually and some answered as a whole. “S.C.U.M. (all)” denotes that the answer was given by all three interviewees.

First conceived in 2007 by Monkey Fist as simply S.C.U.M., S.C.U.M.’s main objective was to hold “regular public screenings of non-mainstream films for like-minded folks in Singapore.” Due to issues with “obtaining screening rights from copyright holders,” S.C.U.M. would collapse but would eventually resurface as S.C.U.M. Cinema and this time, Monkey Fist had his friends Mountain Monkey and Topo Sanchez by his side. Together, these three men have created a blog where they review cult films from around the world, new and old, and continue to work towards their ultimate goal of holding film screenings in Singapore.

I talked to them about why we watch films that are, as they say, “weird and the bizarre.” The answers they gave are interesting and quite humorous. They are undoubtedly extremely knowledgeable in cult film and I walked away from the interview with at least ten movies I’ve never heard of before that  I need to get copies of and watch!

Lost in the Miso: When was S.C.U.M. Cinema created? Could you give a brief history of your film society?

S.C.U.M (all): S.C.U.M was first conceived by Monkey Fist in 2007.

Monkey Fist’s main objective at the time was holding regular public screenings of non-mainstream films for like-minded folks in Singapore. The intent was not about making a profit but rather sharing a passion for cult films with fellow movie buffs. Monkey Fist faced challenges in obtaining screening rights from copyright holders – as most distributors did not respond to Monkey Fist’s requests, the initiative died a natural death after several screenings.

Though S.C.U.M. became dormant in 2008, Monkey Fist’s passion never waned. He was good buddies with Mountain Monkey and Topo Sanchez and they’d been holding film screenings at each other’s homes for years. Early in 2013, Topo Sanchez threw up the idea of reviving S.C.U.M. and ‘re-branding’ it as ‘S.C.U.M Cinema‘, and that’s how we have the current incarnation.

In its current form, we’ve decided to expand the scope of S.C.U.M. and include a blog to review new ‘cult’ films as well as older ones we’ve watched over the decades – we of course want to maintain the key mission of S.C.U.M., which is to hold film screenings in Singapore, and we’re working hard towards this objective.

LITM: You’re a film society focusing on “the bizarre and weird” in film. Why is there such an attraction to these types of films? I as well love these types of films and was wondering if you could give your thoughts onto why they are so appealing to people like us? Most people are turned off by “the bizarre and weird” and yet, here we are, blogging about those very things with a certain fanaticism.

Monkey Fist: I believe a lot of it has to do with my upbringing in Singapore. As for myself, I grew up in an environment where movies were very much a part of my life. It helped that my brother and mother enjoyed a broad spectrum of genres (mainly from the US and Hong Kong) — from horror to drama to kung-fu. Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a deep fascination for monsters and it was only natural that I started delving into the horror genre since I was about five. With time, this expanded to cover other genres such as science fiction, tokusatsu and anime. And of course, having a rental video store around the corner helped the cause!

Topo Sanchez: These alternative films are interesting to us, because they seem to explore the ‘forgotten’ areas of the human nature/psyche. Like mirrors to our imagination, we daydream and ask curious “what if?” questions in our heads, these films simply translate our questions onto celluloid. So the itch that you can’t seem to scratch, is now given a form and put in your hands. I guess people who love these bizarre movies are usually the curious ones who love to stretch their mental and visual vocabulary. Or maybe we are just sick hahahaha…

LITM: It’s probably a little bit of both haha.

For you, personally, what movies did you see growing up that exposed you to “the bizarre and weird”? Can you look back and say, “Yeah, that movie is why I got so deep into this stuff later on. It opened the floodgates?”

Monkey Fist: Yes, definitely. An American Werewolf In London, Lifeforce, Without Warning, Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger, Critters, City of The Living Dead. These a just some of the flicks that have spurred me deeper into film.

Mountain Monkey: I grew up in the UK and Singapore during the ’70s and ’80s, so I was exposed to a mix of Western and Asian films: Alien, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Thunderbirds and the UFO TV series, Shogun Assasin, ‘Wuxia’ pictures like Drunken Master and Shaolin Temple, as well as quirky Hong Kong movies from the 80s, including Aces Go Places and Mr Vampire.

Topo Sanchez: Being the youngest of three sick brothers, I had the luxury of being exposed to all sorts of film and music genres at a tender age of eight. I couldnt understand porn, but I had a good laugh watching Toxic Avenger. At that time, it was the era of VHS tapes, and the holy grail were Akira and Clockwork Orange. I think I was exposed to Clockwork Orange at the age of 10 or 12. From then on, it was movies like Tetsuo: Iron Man, Nekromantik, Fist of the North Star that satisfied my curiosity. But I must say, El Topo had a profound effect on me. I remember having my lunch when I was watching that, and the movie shocked/confused me so much that I couldnt decide to breathe or to eat.

LITM: How do you usually view the films you review or watch for pleasure? One of the problems I’ve encountered in trying to review off-beat films, foreign films in particular, is that, at times, it’s very hard to even obtain a copy of the film I want to watch. Do you attend film festivals, purchase films on Amazon or Netflix, or have you found a good underground community that shares films back and forth with each other?

S.C.U.M. (all): We’ve obtained these films through online retailers like Poker Industries and HK Flix. Unfortunately, they have since closed and we get our stuff mainly from Amazon. During the early days, we collected these films via different formats (e.g. VHS, laser-disc and VCD). Staying in Singapore does help in terms of our proximity to other Asian countries like Hong Kong. The video shops back in the ’70s and ’80s carried a lot of films from Hong Kong.

We do also attend film festivals. The most common one all of us attended regularly was the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF), which started back in the 1980s. The SIFF used to screen an excellent selection of classic and contemporary cinema from all over the world, but unfortunately became more commercial through the years, and went into hiatus last year. It remains to be seen what will happen to the SIFF. In the meantime, there are mini-film festivals (for example, the French and Japanese Film Festival), which are held in conjunction with the embassies interested in showcasing movies from their countries.

LITM: What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to see a movie you just had to see? I spoke to one blogger and they rode a train for several hours to get to a film festival. I have paid over a hundred dollars to get a hotel room in Boston a couple of times so I could see midnight showings of films that I could have seen alone, but I wanted to see them with fellow fans. For example, I had seen Oldboy many times but really wanted to experience the film with a crowd.

Monkey Fist: I guess the dynamics differ from country-to-country. Over in the US, I believe the market is a lot bigger and therefore there can be more film festivals that cater to different niche markets. It is different in Singapore. Cinema operators tend to stick to films that can sell versus putting something totally off-beat out there but bombs at the box-office. Therefore, the festivals held here do have that run-of-the-mill feel to it and seriously, nothing really to die for.

This is one of the main reasons why S.C.U.M Cinema has been revived. To basically showcase weird and off-beat gems from past till present!

LITM: Final question: What have you found works best for your site? Is it news items, features or reviews? What generates the most viewership for your site? What is personally the most fulfilling (reviews or news)?

S.C.U.M. (all): Well, the website was launched on March 25, 2013, and we’ve been tweaking it a little here and there, so it’s still early days yet. At this juncture, it seems that movie reviews tend to have higher viewership. The site was set up with two clear objectives in mind: To review films that we’ve seen and to showcase some of these gems via screenings in Singapore. We’re also looking into expanding the site to include features such as interviews with local directors, and also soundtracks, which will come mainly from Mountain Monkey, who is an avid soundtrack collector.

Since all of us at S.C.U.M. have day jobs and families to take care of, maintaining the site and getting the screenings underway will be a challenge, but we’re all determined to make this latest incarnation of S.C.U.M. last.
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I want to thank Monkey Fist, Topo Sanchez and Mountain Monkey from S.C.U.M. Cinema once again for taking the time to coordinate this interview. Much appreciated and I, Michael from Lost in the Miso, wish these three the best in one day of holding their very own film festival in Singapore!

Tune in for Part 4 (the conclusion) of the Lost in the Miso exclusive: Why We Watch. I’ll be posting a podcast where I’ll answer the very questions I’ve asked other film bloggers!