Happy Birthday, Lisa Lu: The Veteran Actress Turns 95!

19 Jan

Actress Lisa Lu turns 95 today, January 19, 2022. I’ve written about her four previous times, the last one being a celebration on her 90th birthday five years ago. It’s great to celebrate someone’s career while they’re happily still with us. Since that last post, she had a major supporting role in CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018), marking her 60th year in the film/TV industry. In the film she played the mother of Michelle Yeoh’s character and the grandmother of the male lead played by Henry Golding, who struggles to get their approval of his marriage to a Chinese-American woman (Constance Wu) who is considered by his wealthy family to be beneath their station. Here’s what I wrote about her and Yeoh after I’d seen the film: “It’s great to see Michelle Yeoh and Lisa Lu onscreen together, but they’re so antagonistic to the poor heroine that I found it jarring. I’ve never seen them in roles like that before.”

Lisa Lu, Henry Golding in CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018)

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Silent Naruse: STREET WITHOUT END (1934)

17 Jan

Last year I saw eleven films directed by Mikio Naruse, raising to 24 the number of films I’ve seen by him. So far this year I’ve seen two more, making it 26 total. Before 2017 I’d only seen three of his films. I’ve rapidly come to the conclusion that he is one of the four greatest Japanese filmmakers, on a par with Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi and I may even have seen more of his films that I’ve seen by the latter two. (And not just the greatest Japanese filmmakers either, but four of the greatest filmmakers in the history of world cinema.)

My most recent Naruse viewing is STREET WITHOUT END (1934), Naruse’s final silent film and part of Criterion’s Silent Naruse box set. (The newly-composed accompanying score on the disc, by Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz, consisting of piano and violin, is excellent.)

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Anime Movie Highlights 2021: Pokémon, Doraemon and Pretty Cure

29 Dec

The best new anime features I saw in 2021 were the newest movie spin-offs of three long-running TV anime franchises, Pokémon, Doraemon, and Pretty Cure (aka Precure). I saw two of them in Japanese without subtitles and one with subtitles. Two were released in theaters in 2020 in Japan and one in 2021, but I didn’t get to see them until my local Japanese video store got them this past summer. One was eventually released in the U.S., but only on Netflix.

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Animated Literary Adaptations: From Robin Hood to the Moon

9 Dec

I have a box set of “Classic Adventures,” consisting of ten 48-minute animated adaptations of classic literary adventures, nine based on novels and one based on a true-life account. Eight of the ten were produced in the 1970s by an Australian company called Air Programs International (aka API Television Production) and share key creative personnel and voice actors, accounting for stylistic similarities among the eight.

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Deanna Durbin Centennial

4 Dec

December 4, 2021: Deanna Durbin would have turned 100 today. Here’s a link to a post I did earlier this year on her connection to Japan: Deanna Durbin and Her Japanese Fans. And the following is a post I did in 2013 on the occasion of her death at the age of 91.

Brian Camp's Film and Anime Blog

First Annette and now Deanna Durbin, who was, in a way, the Annette Funicello of the 1930s (but way more popular). According to the New York Times obituary of May 1, 2013, Ms. Durbin died “a few days ago.” (As of this writing, IMDB still doesn’t list a death date, presumably because it still doesn’t have one!) Legend has it that Deanna’s film musicals, filled with youthful exuberance and musical cheer, starting with THREE SMART GIRLS (1936) and 100 MEN AND A GIRL (1937), were so popular they saved Universal Pictures from bankruptcy and kept the studio solvent until Abbott and Costello came along in the 1940s. (Deanna and Annette connection: both co-starred in movies with Robert Cummings.)

Deanna Durbin (born Dec. 4, 1921) was one of the few major Hollywood stars to turn her back on the industry and walk away from it and live happily ever after. She moved…

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Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021)

24 Nov

“Dean Martin: King of Cool” is a new documentary about the celebrated actor, comedian, singer, movie/TV/recording star and member of the legendary Rat Pack. Directed by Tom Donahue, it offers a sympathetic and compelling 107-minute portrait of the entertainer that tries to find out what made the man tick and what he was guarding from the outside world. A “Rosebud” angle, drawing on CITIZEN KANE’s use of its subject’s deathbed utterance, is inserted tentatively at different points to try and find out what Dean’s “Rosebud” was and a plausible answer is provided late in the film by one of its main interviewees. The general consensus of the dozens of interviewees, some of whom knew and worked with him and many of whom didn’t, is that the façade he maintained was generally impenetrable. He did not want people to know him.

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Charles Bronson Centennial

3 Nov

He was an iconic action star who was one of The Magnificent Seven, one of The Dirty Dozen and one of three who made good The Great Escape. He was Charles Bronson and November 3, 2021 marks his centennial. (He died in 2003 at the age of 81 after a 48-year acting career.)

I first saw Bronson on the big screen in John Sturges’ THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), where he was among the 76 POWs in a German prison camp during World War II who made a dramatic prison break in 1943. He played Danny, the “tunnel king,” whose background in coal mining propelled him to take a major role in digging the escape tunnels. Bronson himself had worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania before military service in WWII. In the movie his character was one of the three who successfully reaches neutral territory without being recaptured. The other two were played by James Coburn and John Leyton.

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Japanese Comics: Discovering Manga in the 1990s

28 Oct

American comic book publishers started releasing Japanese manga titles in English on a regular basis sometime in the late 1980s. Some of the earliest to appear were the following:

I first started reading manga in 1992, right after I’d acquired some anime VHS tapes in Japanese without subtitles. My earliest manga purchases were chosen so I could follow the anime adaptations without translation. In the process, I learned to appreciate manga for its own qualities.

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“Storm Riders” – From Comic Book to Live-Action to Animation

13 Oct

“Storm Riders” tells a long and intricate tale of the intertwining destinies of two young martial artists, Wind and Cloud, in the rarefied, mythical universe of competing martial arts clans in a fanciful version of Ming Dynasty China, the kind of setting popularized in the serial narratives of Hong Kong-based authors like Louis Cha (“Legend of the Condor Heroes”). It began its existence in 1989 as a Hong Kong comic book (aka “Fung Wan,” translated as Wind and Cloud) written and drawn by Wing Shing Ma, a recognized genius at home but little-known in the U.S. The comic was adapted into a live-action Hong Kong movie, THE STORM RIDERS, in 1998 starring Ekin Cheng, Aaron Kwok, Sonny Chiba, Kristy Yang and Shu Qi. This was followed by an animated sequel in 2008, STORM RIDER: CLASH OF EVILS, that was produced in China with significant Hong Kong personnel attached. Finally, there was a live-action sequel from Hong Kong in 2009 called THE STORM WARRIORS (or STORM WARRIORS II, as sometimes listed), with Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok the only cast members from the 1998 film returning in their roles.

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Bruce Lee Comics (1994)

22 Sep

In looking through boxes of comic books I purchased in the 1990s, I found five issues of “Bruce Lee,” a comic series from 1994, published by Malibu Comics. I have issues #1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. I’m not sure how long the series lasted, but it’s about a character named Bruce Lee, whose similarities to the actual Lee involve getting jobs in the film industry and setting up a school to train students in jeet kune do, a martial arts philosophy Lee devised from his own synthesis of varied fighting styles and methods. The similarity pretty much ends there.

The story is set in southern California at the time it was published, 1994, and not the 1960s when the real Lee was a young aspiring actor and martial arts champion who trained select students, first in Seattle and then in Los Angeles, and took various film and TV acting and fight direction jobs before achieving a short-lived burst of international stardom in the early 1970s, ended tragically by his untimely death from cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 32 in 1973.

I wrote about Lee here in 2013 on the 40th anniversary of his death: https://briandanacamp.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/bruce-lee-40-years-ago-today/#more-1328

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