May 12

Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) is a staff writer for The Daily Yomiuri. He usually writes for DYWeekend, the paper’s arts and leisure section. You can follow Tom’s blog at

He recently interviewed Shane Acker, director of the animated film “9” and Richard Kelly, who most recently directed “The Box,” a thriller starring Cameron Diaz. He also reviewed the manga “Hot Gimmick.” Here are some excerpts:

Shane Acker

[The characters in the movie are all animated dolls with numbers instead of names.] A different personality aspect is dominant in each one. Rigid orthodoxy is represented by leader 1 (voiced by Christopher Plummer), creativity by inventor 2 (Martin Landau), bravery by warrior 7 (Jennifer Connelly) and so on. Elijah Wood does the voice of 9, the truth-seeker of the group, and John C. Reilly voices his timid friend, 5…

The most amusing character is 8 (Fred Tatasciore), who embodies sheer physicality. In one scene, he achieves a moment of strange bliss by stroking his head with a large magnet, an activity that Acker called “degaussing himself.”

“In film school, especially in the days of video, if you had a videotape and you wanted to just wipe it clean, there’s a degaussing machine, which is basically like a supermagnet, and you would wave the videotape over the degausser and it would just take off all the footage that’s on there,” Acker explained. “So that’s the kind of idea, he’s sort of wiping his memory banks. You realize why he’s so dumb.”

Read the full article here.

Richard Kelly

Imagine that a mysterious stranger has just handed you a wooden box with a red button on top. He explains, rather convincingly, that if you push the button two things will happen: Someone whom you don’t know will die, and you will receive a payment of 1 million dollars…

In writer-director Richard Kelly’s movie The Box, based on a short story by Richard Matheson, the stranger’s name is Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), and he is conducting a high-stakes social experiment by visiting the homes of middle-class American couples and offering them the choice of pushing the button or not.

“Tonally this movie crosses a lot of genres,” Kelly, who previously wrote and directed Donnie Darko (2001) and Southland Tales (2006), told The Daily Yomiuri in a recent phone interview. “It’s a science fiction film, it’s a domestic melodrama, it’s a suspense film, there’s elements of horror in it, and there’s also some black comedy inherent…The conceit of pushing this button on this contraption and someone you don’t know dying is very mischievous. Anyone who would build this contraption and make this offer is smirking when they do it. And Matheson was smirking, I’m sure, when he wrote this short story.”

…[The story is set in the 1970s because] the mysterious stranger is a character type whose day has passed, according to Kelly. “When I set out to write this screenplay, I initially was trying to figure out how to make it work present-day, but when you introduce modern technology and the Internet, social networking sites, Google maps, satellite maps, reality TV, just our media-saturated world that we live in…there is no such thing as a real stranger anymore. Everyone can be found on the Internet. You can find anyone’s house, you can go onto a satellite map with a 360-degree view.”

Read the full article here.

“Hot Gimmick”

[In this manga, a high school girl’s seriously unhealthy relationships with her would-be boyfriends is presented as perfectly normal.]

For example, the day after one of her suitors is unable to reach her by phone (for reasons that are no one’s fault), he slaps her across the face so hard that bystanders rush to offer first aid. But Hatsumi chases after him to make the following speech, which he receives in stony silence: “I’m sorry. For being so clueless. For…never being able to get your calls…I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry. For not understanding how you feel about me. I’m sorry.”

Later, when one of the boys proposes to her, she thinks, “Maybe if we got married, he’d finally be nice to me.”

She seems unaware of some basic principles of healthy human interaction, such as this simple standard: If a friend arranges for you to be gang-raped, that person is not really your friend.

Read the full review here.

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