Happy New Year my faithful readers. As I suggested a couple of weeks back, my annual Top Ten Asian film list is going to be a little delayed as I am waiting on a parcel from the good folks at YesAsia.com to deliver me a parcel containing a couple of films that I am fairly sure are going to make the grade, plus I’ve not used my holiday period too wisely in terms of knocking off the watch pile. Hopefully by the end of the month though
But there is more to Gweiloramblings and more specifically Stephen than just movies. So I thought I would give a little rundown on some of the other things that make this blog tick, even if sometimes you guys don’t know what is happening the other side of the internet!
The Real World.
As those that really know me are aware, I had to make some major changes to my personal circumstances in 2013, and i spent exactly a year in a frustrating and tiring limbo. Luckily much of this got sorted out during 2014, and I am finally in a better place physically and mentally. I exchanged a 4 hour round trip to work for my own place, closer to both work and my kids. Living on my own is still a bit of a challenge sometimes, but more often than not I do feel much happier. Yeah, there are dark times, and there have been some things that really haven’t gone as well I would have hoped (one in particular has been an utter disaster), but on balance, things are basically on the up.
Ah. There was a huge change I made in a fit of anger and pique at the beginning of the year. That was killing off ThingsFallApart on blogger and moving to WordPress. On the whole I am finding it a much better platform, and my reasons for making the jump still feel valid. I’ve lost a big part of my readership (fairly certain I am not getting as many google hits for example), but no real regrets.
I’ll try and do more on it this year. I really want to do more of the video reviews. They just are so time-consuming, and my skills on iMovie are simply not very good. I still wish to do more articles. We shall see I guess. Obviously there will be more joint reviews with Miyuki, maybe even this time we will both adore a movie. I’m open for more contributions from others. Oh, I’ve also branched out into Tumblr, so we will see how that pans out too.
Easternkicks.com goes from strength to strength. The number of contributors seems to be increasing every week, and the guys have done sterling work in getting the site really embedded in the world of Social Media. I am looking forward to another year of helping out over there. Also, it gave me the chance to meet and interview Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, who not only is a really interesting voice in Thai cinema, but a genuinely nice guy to boot. And I am quite proud that my review of “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy” was the second most viewed review at the site this year – helped by the director pushing the site himself.
Last years solo trip to Hong Kong worked wonders for me emotionally, so this year I was determined to do something similar. Work did its best to stop me being able to get away until much later in the year than I would have hoped. And then there was the struggle to decide actually where to bloody go. Japan was the original plan, but I still feel a bit as if it will be too foreign and too different for me to handle on my own at present. South Korea is still calling out to me also. Maybe this year? But eventually I decided to make a short stop in Hong Kong (and do a couple of this I simply didn’t have time to do last year) including a day trip to Macau. Hong Kong was great. The moment I got there it just felt safe and comfortable. I’ve travelled all over the world in the last 20 years, but it really is one of the few places I have been that I could one day consider living in. Plus I found out I actually liked Durian fruit! So thanks to Rowenz and Lorraine for indulging me there. Macau was less successful, probably the first place in Asia I’ve not adored, though possibly it deserves more than a flying visit.
I went straight onto Taiwan, and I won’t lie, the first couple of days were a real struggle. Partly down to my lack of planning, and partly because of the ease of Hong Kong, I really felt I had made a terrible mistake. I hadn’t prepared myself for how “Chinese” it was. But the place really grew on me as my time progressed, to the point I was very sad to leave. Thanks to Eina and May for some lovely experiences in Taipai. Best of all was my day trip to HsinChu, where Carol and her friends gave me such a wonderful day. It always surprises me how giving strangers can be of their time, especially to a strange foreigner. I’ll be back, there’s no doubt.
God knows how much I have spent on iTunes this year, but there have been a few albums that have been very supportive to me in the last 12 months, a mix of Western and Asian, so I thought I would share a little with you all, and it gives me a chance to insert a few YouTube links.
1. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Weezer have been a favorite of mine since like FOREVER. And even if they have failed to deliver a super strong album since Pinkerton, there’s always something to enjoy. I’m not utterly convinced by a fair few of the tracks on this one, but there’s still a handful of songs that sit up there with their best. Lead single ‘Back to the Shack’ might be a bit too meta, but as a thumping good tune, it is certainly my cup of tea.
2. OK Go – Hungry Ghosts
Another band I have adored like since their beginnings, and maybe a little like Weezer they have been dependent on cool videos than totally convincing Albums. But “Hungry Ghosts” is for me their most solid complete work so far. Having a couple of really smart videos, well that doesn’t hurt either.
3. Eels – The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett.
Ah. Mark Everett (a.k.a E) delivers yet another album that just talks to me on every level. There aren’t any standout singles here, and actually all the deluxe edition add ons somewhat ruin the flow of the album, but it is as dark and reflective and brutally honest as every other LP he has put out. However, Mark.. maybe it’s time to start looking forward and stop worrying about the past?
4. 2NE1 – Crush.
I’m not actually that huge on K-Pop, but there is something about 2NE1 and the fact I can tell them all apart and that they have distinct personalities (unlike just about every other girl group from Korea) has always appealed. ‘Crush’ is their first proper full length album, and once I got over the disappointment of the fabulous singles from the previous 12 or so months not being included, and despaired at the inclusion of ‘Scream’ (yeah I know it was a Japanese version before, but still), they produced a solid and highly enjoyable 35 minutes of fun. Highlight though is this CL solo number, MTDB (Mental Breakdown), which clearly influenced by label stablemates, still grows on me each time I listen to it.
5. The Happiness of the Macross Singer – Queen Suitcase
And now to the Taiwanese segment of this blog! Queen Suitcase deliver a fantastic album full of Western 60’s pop influences, and in lead singer Carla have a vintage fashion icon for the ages. A mix of Mandarin and English is always welcome to my ears, there might not be anything stunningly original about this album, but boy is it fun.
6. Murmurshow – Murmurshow
Where the hell did this come from. From crappy pop songs to indie genius. Freda has the most outstanding voice, but placed within this indie duo she suddenly became really really cool. The album I have listened too the most this year. Easily
7. 21 Grams – Chen Hui-Ting
The Lead singer of Taiwanese indie legends Tizzy Bac release a solo album this year, and boy did I love it. I have found the sheer amount of the Tizzy Bac back catalog just too intimidating to explore properly, and her MV personality seems a little bit scary! But this album is wonderful – all kinds of styles of music, displaying a depth and openness I really wasn’t expecting.
8. Raindrop – Shim Eun-kyung
Not an album, but a track from the soundtrack of a film I loved from this year, the Korean time/body swap comedy “Miss Granny”. This one actually isn’t on the OST, but as a separate single, but it’s just beautiful.
Game of the Year.
Well I only really play games on my iPhone and iPad now. The Playstation and other various consoles only really get dusted off to play FIFA. I don’t really play games that are too deep or time involving either. I’ve bought a ton of beautiful and well crafted games I simply can’t be bothered to invest the time in! However, in the realm of games I might pick up and play for an hour, and then keep it on my phone well past the 69p/£1.49 price might expect, there has been three games that really impressed.
1. Mikey Boots.
Just like the other two Mickey games, this one became a sort of obsession. You complete it. Then you want to find all the hidden stuff. Then you want to beat your best time. Seriously, it might look retro (which of course it is meant to), but it’s more addictive and fun than 95% of things out there that are much more expensive!
2. 99 Bricks Wizard Academy.
Cross Tetris with Jenga and add a little bit of Magical Wizard time, and you get the game I think I have had the single most time with this year. It’s my go to bathroom break game. You can work out what that means 😉
3. Thomas Was Alone.
Yeah I know this one is a port from elsewhere, but the utter simplicity, along with an actual storyline, with puzzles that are beatable yet challenging? It’s rare I’ll bother even trying. It just beats out “Monument Valley” as my puzzler of the year.
Western Movie of the Year
I went to the cinema a lot this year. And frankly, I saw a lot of movies that were little more than OK. Even my superhero films were seemingly succumbing to fatigue (Amazing Spider-man 2 being one of the biggest disappointments). Luckily, there were two films that saved the day. The Days of Future Past X-men movie really sounded like all kinds of bad ideas. But bloody hell, they pulled it off. Franchise revitalised!
But even that film couldn’t beat a film I had written off from the moment it was announced. A film about characters that were from a backwater in the comic world. Heck, they were not even the original characters to have that name. A director that previously had worked in the d-list. How could an audience be expected to take a homicidal talking Racoon and a walking tree that could say one word seriously? And the lead? A guy from a cult TV show.
Yep, “Guardians of the Galaxy” should have been awful. Even when I first saw it, I wondered if the non-comic book audience would be able to get what the heck was going on. How wrong I was. It was funny and smart and had a brilliant soundtrack. Sure it had a classic Marvel final act that was more than predictable. But it was the only film I went to the cinema to see twice this year. And still I can watch the Blu-ray and still enjoy it just as much as the first time!