This week sees the animated Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return on the big screen, with quite an impressive collection of actors doing the voice work. The book it is based on was not written by L. Frank Baum, but rather his great-grandson, Roger S. Baum, who also writes books about Oz. Roger’s grandfather, Frank Joslyn Baum, didn’t write any books, but he did broker the deal with Samuel Goldwyn in 1934 that gave MGM the film rights to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Frank J. had the contacts to make that deal because he was in the business, having adopted two other Oz books into screenplays that became an animation in 1933 and a live action feature film in 1925.
They call themselves the Wagakki Band, which means Traditional Japanese Instrument Band, and while the name is not imaginative, the music they create certainly is. It is a mix of traditional, pop, rock, and a bit of metal, played on a combination of traditional and modern instruments. The musicians are masters of their instruments, and Yuko Suzuhana does an amazing job on the vocals. The first track is called Roku Chounen to Ichiya Monogatari, The second is a live version of their song Ephemera Days, and the 3rd is Senbonzakura. Since I still only have a vocabulary of around 100 words of Nihongo yet (meaning I understand the language as well as a smarter than average dog), I am depending on Google Translate for those titles. The final track is the band version of Tsuki Kage Mai Ka (The Shadow of the Moon, perhaps?) which they posted online back in November of 2012. Bottom line, I am very impressed with this group, and would love to see them come to North America on a tour, preferably as the warm up band for The Yoshida Brothers their first time. Even though they have been around for years, their first full album is being released on April 23rd, at least in Japan. With luck it will be available here through iTunes.
The definite winner this week is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I am more than ready for the next chapter in this franchise. There are a double handful of lesser works also available this time around, including The Pirate Fairy from Disney, Jinn from Exxodus Pictures, and Under the Skin, the other film that Scarlett Johansson stars in this week, noticeably more mature than the first. For the serious Trekkie you also want to be aware that Starship Farragut: Conspiracy of Innocence also should become available this week, the next in the series of Fan-built Federation movies. I have not been able to confirm that last, but I am hopeful.
One of the movies hitting the big screen this week is a remake of the classic 47 Ronin. While I am not sure how Keanu Reeves ended up starring in a Japanese Historical Epic Chushingura, it looks like a good addition to a true story that has been done as kabuki, bunraku, stage plays, films, novels, and television shows, not once, but many times each. The historical incident at the core of this tale took place in 1700’s Japan, and it is probably the single best known and most often retold story in Nihongo (that’s Japanese to you and me). The other choice this week is also a remake of an old film (get some new ideas, Hollywood!), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which looks like they may have done justice to the James Thurber story. Even though there isn’t anything original out this week, it looks like they have done a world class job on each of them, so I will have to be in the theater for both.
Classic Rockabilly with a modern Japanese band, or maybe that is Punk, or perhaps Ska. Or something else; it gets hard to tell after a certain point, but they certainly play with enthusiasm. Myself, I suspect they might be channeling The Ramon’s and the Fine Young Cannibals by way of Chuck Berry and The Beatles. Whatever they are doing, I like it, and hope they do a lot more of it.
I continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and wanted to create my own images to use as wallpaper, icons, buttons, and other applications. For this set, my inspiration was an art form developed somewhere between 1880 and WWII, where they only had the chemical set to capture black and white photographs. They would print them out at the highest resolution they could manage, which usually made the grain of the film stock on the negatives obvious (kind of the 1930s version of pixelation), and then hand paint the prints to create their own version of classic portrait paintings. The results were often quite attractive, in a paint-outside-the-lines kind of way, and it was interesting to see which areas they decided to color and what they left black and white, showing what they thought was important within the image. So here are a few pictures I created in that style celebrating the first Doctor, and I will probably share a few more over the next week or two that celebrate other Doctors.