starlady: the cover from Shaun Tan's The Arrival, showing an aquanaut in suburbia (i'm a stranger here myself)
I'm a big fan of Rinko Kikuchi, and I'd been obsessively reloading this movie's IMDB page every so often since I'd first heard about it, hoping it would come out in Japan soon. It turns out, it was playing in California when I got here, which was damn convenient.

The movie is based on the urban legend surrounding the suicide of Konishi Takako in Minnesota in 2001. The film plays the legend straight and follows Kumiko from a strange beach somewhere in Japan to Tokyo to the depths of Minnesota in pursuit of the treasure from the movie Fargo, which she mistakes for a true story. Kumiko is a deeply weird person, and unquestionably someone who simply doesn't fit in in Japanese society. The film, however, rather than going for a more stereotypical "the nail that sticks out gets pounded down" story, is unequivocally on Kumiko's side, and there's a weird humor to her continuing failure to do her job as an office lady or even to care very much about that failure. She has bigger plans, plans so big she leaves her beloved pet rabbit Bunzo on the Tokyo Metro and heads to Minnesota, trying to get to Fargo and the treasure.

The film has the most uplifting take possible on the tragic story of someone who's pretty deluded, and it keeps the audience on the knife edge of sympathy--we want Kumiko's impossible quest to come true at the same time as we want someone to help her snap out of it. Largely this is through Kikuchi, who has a remarkable gift for conveying Kumiko's inner life through the movements of her eyes and her facial expressions. The ending is inevitable, but weirdly inspirational. The Octopus Project's soundtrack is definitely part of the movie's success, and I'm going to check out the rest of their stuff for sure.

A central plot point of the movie is the statement about the "true events" that the Coen Bros. appended to the beginning of Fargo which was, of course, totally fictitious, and I have to say that as someone who lived in Minnesota for four years, the same applies to the Zellner Bros.' statement that the film was shot entirely on location in and around Minneapolis and Tokyo. It may well be various parts of Minnesota, but no one in the film has a Minnesota accent, or even tries very hard. (Also: the piano in the baggage claim in MSP is open for anyone to use, and you do occasionally see people sitting down to play it. I once missed Vienna Teng doing a two-hour practice set there by about 24 hours.) The nice old lady who tries to help Kumiko also says "tuna casserole" instead of "tuna hot dish," which just proves that no one from Minnesota had any input on the script. Even so, there were enough location shots to make me happy. Home sweet frozen home.
starlady: (we're all mad here)
for [personal profile] wintercreek 

Well geez Em, that's kind of a tough question doncha know.

I moved to Minnesota three months after my 18th birthday and spent 75% of the next four years there, and in some ways I've never really left--I go back one or more times a year, and the majority of my college friends are in the Cities (with a minority having moved to D.C.), and a good chunk of my manga studies friends are centered there, and I'd move back in a heartbeat. For those of you who know me, yes, this is highly ironic and also pretty hilarious, because in many ways I am the least Minnesota person I can think of. On the other hand, I always say that Minnesota civilized me, and I'm not really joking.

What's the most Minnesota thing I can think of? A minimum speed limit of 40mph on the highway in Minneapolis and people going perilously close to under it. Shredded coconut in the ostensibly carrot muffins. Tater tot hot dish. Norwegian food, which for me, with the exception of lefse and that cream/fruit/sugar soup they serve at Christmas, is pretty revolting--the only flavor in it is bitter. (I once had an argument with a girl on a train from Russia to Finland about Norwegian food. I can only speak to the Norwegian food that I personally have had.) Cream cheese wontons--I guess they have those in other parts of the country, but I've never seen them, though they're not bad, for an abomination. Whip cream and a maraschino cherry on a mango lassi. Frosting--actual buttercream frosting--on Christmas cookies. Norwegian sweaters. Four languages (English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali) on transit. NOT Garrison Keillor and his stupid fucking show. THE CURRENT.

Music is really important, actually--my college is known for its music program, and The Current (89.3; the only radio station I listen to no matter where I am in the world; the best radio station in the United States) got some of its bandwidth from the sale of my college's radio station, and one of my college friends now runs an indie label in the Cities, Afternoon Records. I've still never actually been to a show at First Ave, which is kind of ironic, but music is totally a big part of Minnesota for me. The Hold Steady and Low are the two bands I most associate with Minnesota; The Hold Steady are 200% Minneapolis even though they got big in Brooklyn, while Low hold down the rest of the state for me, particularly northern Minnesota. (Actually they're from Duluth. Duluth is a cool city.) I listen to a lot of Minnesota acts--Dessa and Lizzo, for example--but they don't define the state in the same way. YMMV.

I don't know. People who are from the state will quarrel with this list, and in truth there's no real way for me to sum up Minnesota. I love it and it's not where I'm from but it's home. Every time I fly into MSP I have a big smile on my face when the plane touches down. Have some Ole & Lena jokes. Um ya ya. Uff da.
starlady: Remy from the movie Ratatouille sniffing herbs for a stew (cooking)
Damn it, I missed posting this on the actual 27th!

[personal profile] inkstone asked for my top three favorite restaurants.

One of my favorite restaurants in the world is Kyoto Gogyô, the ramen restaurant in Kyoto I have raved about before. It's not especially fancy, and the food is delicious. If you go, make sure to get the tempura that's on special, and the shio ramen. It's just--really nice.

A bit closer to home, another of my favorite restaurants is the Longfellow Grill in Minneapolis, which is also the Highland Grill in St. Paul. I've been going to these restaurants (there's a third one somewhere out in the suburbs) since my freshman year of college, when my roommate and her family introduced me--they're New American, I guess, but New American diner/bar food, but really, really good. At this point I've eaten a significant chunk of the menu. The beer-battered green beans with plum sauce are amazing, and I think my favorite entree is the Peter's Burger with sweet potato fries, but the tuna melt is also really good, and they have great local beer. It's all just really good.

Believe it or not, it's actually hard to pick a number three. I could say it's the tonkatsu place in Kyoto--it's a chain of several restaurants, one in Kyoto station and two downtown--where you grind your own sesame for the tonkatsu sauce and they give you endless refills on cabbage and it's all amazingly delicious. That place is really good. I could say it's Revival in Berkeley, which has some of the best food and drinks I've had for the price anywhere; when I went to Chez Panisse on Halloween I found myself thinking that it wasn't shockingly better than Revival, which it wasn't. In New York I wind up at the Hampton Chutney Company quite a lot; they have really good dosas. There are a number of places in Philly that I like, but in the past few years I've been away so much that I'm reluctant to name any one. I have to put in a plug for Capogiro gelato in Philly--best gelato on this continent--and I do like Raw, the sushi place in the gayborhood, as it's called. (I also really like Steven Starr's Mexican place there, El Vez; not so much the one out on Chestnut.)

Anyway. I really like food.
starlady: (a sad tale's best)
It has to be one of the top three radio stations in the country. It is awesome.

But there are times when it makes me want to move back to Minneapolis so much I can't quite handle it.

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