Il Fornello in Nakano is an impressive restaurant. The lunch set gives you four options for the main course along with an appetizer, bread, and drink for a great value at ¥1100. I went with the lasagna and it was excellent.
It would be difficult for me to not like Richard Linklater's third installment of the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Deply), Before Midnight (2013). I feel almost as if I have grown up with Linklater, Hawke, and Deply. I have seen and enjoyed all three films and have been a fan of Linklater since his first film, Slackers. Thus, I am invested in the plight of the fictional Jesse and Celeste and their age mirrors my own. They are collaborators and their stories reflect what many couples go through, however, they always seem to end on the side of romance or compromise, which isn't such a bad conceit. It also helps that the dialogue heavy film is framed by majestic Greece this time around.
Smokehouse is the latest American style BBQ joint in Tokyo from the group behind TY Harbor Brewery. I stopped by to sample the pork sandwich with a side of potato salad. I enjoyed both, but truth be told I prefer the Nakameguro Hatos' pulled pork sandwich and potato salad. I like the fact that they have four sauces to sample:“Porter Pepper” sauce made with beer and
molasses, a tangy “Carolina Vinegar” version with chili and honey, the “House Pit” sauce is tomato based and sweetened with brown sugar, and the “Voodoo Hot” is blend of fresh ginger and habanero peppers. They have TY Harbor craft beers for ¥800 a pint as well as some other domestic craft brews for ¥1300-¥1500. There's an extensive bourbon selection as well. I'll be back to sample other menu items since it's a short walk from Shibuya.
Just Kids (2010) by Patti Smith has gotten raves reviews and won the National Book Award for Non Fiction for that year. In addition I am a big fan of her music and the New York scene that spawned her. So those aspects of the book were the most intriguing for me. It was fascinating to read about their life in the Chelsea Hotel and her brief romance with Sam Sheppard and nights spent at Max's Kansas City as well as performing at CBGB's. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Robert Mapplethorpe's work and the book focuses mostly on their relationship and left me wanting to hear more about her initial collaborations with Lenny Kaye and subsequent recording career. That being said, Smith has an engaging poetic narrative style. It is her love letter to a dear friend. It's an amazing story about a couple of kids who went to the big city without anything and who went on to become cultural giants through determination and belief that that is what they were fated to be.
Flight Of The Red Ballon (2007) is another mesmerizing film from Taiwanese director Hou Hisiao-hsien. In fact this is his most recent film and it has the usual stunning cinematography with usual cinematographer Ping Bin Lee and paris at his disposal. It is another commissioned film (like the Japan backed collaboration Cafe Lumiere) and French collaboration. This is also a homage to the Oscar winning short film The Red Ballon (1956), which I haven't seen yet--now I feel the need to find the source of inspiration. This is the story of a modern fragmented family. The always effective Juliette Binoche plays a brassy mother who is a professional puppeteer voice reader and artist raising a young son in the aftermath of a divorce, thus she employs a French speaking Chinese graduate film student as a nanny for her son Simon. She is making a film about Simon and the red balloon and incorporates scenes from the family's messy life and Simon's childish escapist fantasies. There is not much of a plot and it has deliberate pacing, but it is worth the patience as it charms the viewer with the images and music throughout.
I had Richard Price's Lush Life (2009) since I enjoyed Clockers it was another recommendation from Nick Hornby, but it moved up my list when it was referenced as a quintessential contemporary New York novel on Slate'S Cultural Gabfest podcast. There's no doubt that Price can write some great dialogue, but what I liked best was how he captured Bloomberg New York in the midst of gentrification: Arabs running convenience stores, strolling Orthodox Jewish rabbis rubbing shoulders with second generation Chinese watching white yuppies buy up real estate and bemoaning the lingering projects on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Price tells three concurrent stories: that of a failed artist bar manager, Eric Cash and initial suspect and witness to a murder-robbery, the divorced middle aged homicide Detective Matty Rich, and the robber-murderer, child abuse victim and teenager from the projects, Tristan. That being said I felt some of the characters felt contrived to me like the drunk/actor witness Steve and the victim's father Billy. I felt like indulging in a New York-themed novel and this novel provided that window into the daily life of the Big Apple.
This interesting project, Cafe Lumiere (2003) was financed by a Japanese film company in honor of the great Japanese film maker Ysujiro Ozu with a Taiwanese director, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, at the helm. It was filmed in Tokyo with a Japanese crew and cast, save for the lead played by singer Yo Hitoto, who is half Taiwanese. There is an excessive focus on trains, which often appear in Ozu films. Hou has some great sequences in places like Ochanomizu and on the Arakawa tram car that do capture the essdence of trains and their importance to a place like Tokyo. His focus here is also the family where Yoko (Hitoto) has learned that she is pregnant from her Taiwanese boyfriend but doesn't plan tot get married and her parents worry about her future. She is toiling away on a book about a Taiwanese composer who lived in Tokyo in the 1930s and hanging out with a male friend (Tadanobu Asano), who is a densha otaku (train freak) and owns a book store. It is definitely an art film with little action, but several artistic set pieces throughout. The cinematic beauty must have something to do with frequent Hou collaborator Ping Bin Lee who has been behind the camera for several films that I find visually stunning like In The Mood For Love, Millenium Mambo, and Springtime In A Small Town.The special features include interviews with Hou, Hitoto, and Asano as well as a Metro Lumiere Documentary.