3.30.2017

at the movies


I suppose that watching professional wrestling has overtaken watching movies as my primary hobby. I don't quite know why.

The 2000s were an exciting time to be a film fanatic in Minneapolis. Aside from being exposed to new recommendations in digital filmmaking school, there were a plethora of obscure videos to rent at Nicollet Village Video and a plethora of obscure films to see at the local Landmark Theaters, Oak Street Cinema (and later the Trylon Microcinema), the Heights Theatre, and the Walker Art Center.

But everything changed. I changed, for one, no longer content with watching many movies in my living room like I used to. Once upon a time, I would stay up until sunrise watching rented videos. But then streaming services happened, and my attention span crumbled. I now much prefer the cinema experience.

But there was more. Nicollet Village Video and the Oak Street closed their doors. Programmers at the Walker, Trylon, and Landmark cinemas changed - no longer were the most obscure of foreign films deemed financially sound. Audiences became less tolerable - mannerless elderly patrons took over Landmark and the Heights, while mannerless young patrons took over the Trylon. And foreign/indie cinema itself changed - once exciting breaths of fresh air, they now seemed largely stagnant.

Japanese cinema in particular - so thrilling from the late 1980s through the early 2000s - was taken over by TV studios and their risk-less endeavors as the direct-to-video market dried up. To examine the filmmakers that most hooked me when first being introduced to Japan, and their films that I last found wondrous:
Shinji Aoyama = Eli Eli Lema Sabachtani? (2005)
Ryuichi Hiroki = Vibrator (2003)
Shunji Iwai = All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)
Takeshi Kitano = Dolls (2002)
Hirokazu Koreeda = Distance (2001)
Kiyoshi Kurosawa = Doppelganger (2003)
Takashi Miike = 13 Assassins (2010)
Mamoru Oshii = Sky Crawlers (2008)
Toshiaki Toyoda = 9 Souls (2003)
Shinya Tsukamoto = Nightmare Detective 2 (2008)
It is only Katsuhito Ishii that remains consistently delightful in my eyes, his last film being 2014's Hello! Junichi.

So I watch more Hollywood blockbusters now. This is where my excitement has been transplanted - the curiosity to see if big budget studio films can pull off something unique and creative. I have seen what foreign and indie cinema can do, and they keep doing it. So I looked elsewhere.

It is hard to tell if these feelings are all my own fault. Much like with anime, I feel that I changed right alongside the industry at large, and it's now all sad and confusing.

3.27.2017

wrestling: the best



It's my estimation that Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa in All-Japan Pro Wrestling on June 8, 1990 is the greatest professional wrestling match. That sort of regard requires a perfect merging of storytelling, in-ring performance, historical impact, and crowd reaction, and this one has it all.

Misawa had been the popular Tiger Mask II until only one month earlier, when he commanded his tag-team partner Toshiaki Kawada to unmask him so he could kick more ass. The crowd went bonkers, and Misawa quickly challenged All-Japan's 1980's cornerstone Tsuruta. The story is that Tsuruta was slated to win until All-Japan promoter Giant Baba heard the crowd chanting Misawa's name and rabidly buying his merchandise, so everything changed at the last second.

This match gave rise to the new generation of Japanese wrestling - Misawa is even flanked by fellow future stars Kawada and Kenta Kobashi during his entrance - that would showcase the very best of this sport entertainment and evolve its style the whole world over.

This is not to say it's my favorite match.

FAVORITE WRESTLING MATCHES (chronological)
Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (Great American Bash 1989)
Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake vs. Randy Savage & Zeus (WWF No Holds Barred)
Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (Summerslam 1991)
Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair (Wrestlemania VIII)
Royal Rumble match (Royal Rumble 1993)
Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano (Monday Night RAW 4.03.95)
Antonio Inoki vs. Vader (NJPW Wrestling World 1996)
The Great Muta vs. Jinsei Shinzaki (NJPW Battle Formation 1996)
The Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring 1998)
Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho vs. Steve Austin & HHH (Monday Night RAW 5.21.01)
Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuhara Misawa (Pro Wrestling NOAH 3.01.03)
Team CHIKARA vs. The BDK (CHIKARA Dark Cibernetico 2010)
Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (NXT 08.23.13)
Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo (Lucha Underground 6.17.15)
Kenny Omega vs. Tetsuya Naito (G1 Climax 26 Day 18)

(Savage vs. Flair is my #1)

FAVORITE WRESTLERS (alphabetical)
Aja Kong
Cesaro
Chris Benoit
Chris Jericho
Demolition
Kota Ibushi
Max Moon
Mr. Perfect
Randy Savage
Tetsuya Naito

FAVORITE PPV EVENT
NJPW G1 Climax 25 & the first half of Wrestlemania VIII

FAVORITE WRESTLING MOMENTS
Over HERE.

3.25.2017

fazolis


The most strenuous job I ever worked was my first, at a Fazolis restaurant in Rib Mountain, Wisconsin. The work was constant, and I stayed or only four months before quitting. I had requested off during homecoming weekend in order to play in my high school's pep band, but was schedule for those exact times. The one thing the manager said to me, when I stopped in with a bag of employee shirts to break the news, was, "so you're telling me I'm screwed for the weekend?"

From there, it becomes a list of nothing but those that could be considered slacker jobs. My second place of employment was a not-particularly-busy Country Kitchen were I bussed tables and wrapped silverware on weekends. I stayed a new months longer, but in one of my more cringe-worthy moments, quit in the middle of my shift to focus on becoming a screenwriter (I did not become a screenwriter).

I then settled in to a KB Toy Outlet in Mosinee, Wisconsin's Cedar Creek Mall. The store already only sold merchandise that went unwanted at regular KB toy stores, but its placement at the far end of the mall caused it to be particularly desolate. I worked my way up to assistant manager during my two-year tenure, only to quit when I thought I was moving to Green Bay, Wisconsin (I did not move to Green Bay, Wisconsin).

In desperation, with only $25 in my bank account, I got a job working third shift at a gas station connected to my previous Country Kitchen home. Naturally, there was not a lot to do here either, and this wasn't helped by me never being properly trained to do much of anything. A lot of money was saved at this time (I was living on a couch) but was quickly blown (I was buying lots of movies). I got another job at a Big Lots, as their company was technically connected to KB Toys, but quit after two weeks. The place was a disaster, and I was working on my birthday, so I just walked out. Within a month, I was back at KB for another year.

I finally left KB - and Wisconsin - to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota. My first job was at the Uptown Theatre, where I remained for 13 years. It's a one-screen movie theater with little to do, largely playing foreign and independent films with little attendance. I nabbed a few other 'second' jobs during this time - re-ordering books and magazines for stores at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where I got paid thirty hours a week for around seven hours worth of work, and a fancy candy store called Alix in Candyland that required little but provided the benefit of free expired chocolate.

I don't think this is to say that I am an unmotivated individual - I did manage full-time work and full-time graduate school at the same time, and am now in the realm of libraries and archives. The thought of doing research and discovering and providing access for 'lost' material seems like a fit - it's what motivates me in daily life regardless of employment - but this can also lead to being hired mainly to maintain positive donor relations for a project that higher-ups care little about and have no plan in place for.

So I think of other careers sometimes, and wonder if they would have made me a better person.

3.19.2017

alundra blayze


The first female G.I. Joe action figure was Scarlett, included in the initial 1982 line-up. Until 1987, one female appeared in every line each year - Cover Girl, the Baroness, Lady Jaye, and Zarana. However, there would then not be a single female for the next five years. The next - and last - female of this era would be a new Scarlett in the 1993 Ninja Force line. This was the only female G.I. Joe I ever owned, with the others either being before my time or difficult to locate.

1993 was also the year that Alundra Blayze debuted in the World Wrestling Federation. There had been a handful of female performers throughout the 80s - Wendi Richter, Rockin' Robin, Sherri Martel, the Fabulous Moolah, Velvet McIntyre, the Glamour Girls, and the Jumping Bomb Angels - but they disappeared in wrestling matches once the Women's Championship was deactivated in 1990 and the Women's Tag Team Championship deactivated in 1989. Because of this, I was largely unaware of female performers as a child.

Blayze - known as Madusa in other federations - was brought in to reignite the women's division. I had mostly stopped watching wrestling during this period - the last event I recall watching was Lex Luger turning face and bodyslamming Yokozuna aboard the USS Intrepid on July 4, 1993. I still do remember key matches through the next year or so - Royal Rumble's Undertaker vs. Yokozuna, Summerslam's Undertaker vs. Fake Undertaker, & Survivor Series' Bob Backlund vs. Bret Hart - so I can only assume I was still reading WWF Magazine. It was in these pages that I also recall a profile of Blayze, who in my rather uneducated eyes was the first-ever female professional wrestler.

I have just finally gone back to her matches and found them to be rather incredible - 1994-95 is a vastly underrated era of WWF women's wrestling, seeing a wealth of Japanese talent brought in to do battle with Blayze. Unfortunately, Blayze felt unappreciated and, after a great elimination match at Survivor Series 1995, turned up in the rival promotion WCW where she threw the WWF Women's Championship in the trash. It was the first real moment of the famed 'Monday Night Wars' between WWF and WCW, though a bit depressing in retrospect - she had come to WCW for 'real' competition, but quickly battled the same Japanese talent before being relegated to a manager for male wrestlers. WWF would again retire their division until 1998.

My favorite Blayze match - and female wrestling match in general - was one of many with Japanese wrestling legend Bull Nakano, taking place the night after the sub-par Wrestlemania XI. Why it didn't make that event card is a mystery.