Musical Mistakes #01 – Football Anthems

As we fast approach the big England v Wales game in the UK, I have a confession to make. I am now the proud owner of a copy of the latest Manic Street Preachers single, “Together Stronger (C’Mon Wales)”, which is the Welsh national team’s anthem for the Euro 2016 football tournament currently making headlines for all the wrong reasons across Europe. For those outside Europe, it might not be obvious how wrong this is for a Englishman, especially when England have been drawn in the same group as Wales. Big rivals, never played each other in a major tournament before, must win match for both.

Hear me out, I have mitigating circumstances. Firstly, there was a signed copy available on the Manics’ website. Secondly, there’s an exclusive remix of “A Design For Life” as the b-side. Thirdly, it’s actually a very good song, especially for a football anthem. That said, there is something distinctly uncool about owning a football anthem, especially one for a rival team, but it’s something I’ll have to learn to live with.

This doesn’t quite compare to something similar that happened to me in 1996. As a newly-discovered supporter of Manchester United, I distinctly remember being stood in the big Woolworths in Burnley, pocket money in hand, staring at two potential musical purchases. It was always a tough decision – I got £2 a week and so I usually only had the ability to buy one single a week at the most. I had to get the decision right to ensure I had something enriching to listen to for the next week or so.

The first option was the official FA Cup Final single released by the Manchester United squad. Its name? “Move Move Move (The Red Tribe)”. It was utter tripe, but had the sole benefit of being the song from the team I supported.

Sat right next to this abomination was the FA Cup Final single released by the Liverpool squad. In hindsight, this was also utter tripe, though marginally less tripy than United’s effort. It was titled “Pass and Move (It’s The Liverpool Groove)”. Bracketed song titles were very popular back in the mid-90s, as were rapping footballers

I faced a tough decision, but it was one I found a way out of. I couldn’t afford both on CD single so I bought Liverpool on CD single and United on cassette. The utter shame. Two terrible songs entering my music collection, plus a betrayal of my team to go with it.

So maybe this Wales incident won’t be looked back on with such embarrassment. I guess much of that will depend on the result on Thursday afternoon.

Visit to Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, 23th March 2016

Today we visited the Studio Ghibli Museum, located within Mitaka Inokashira Park in Tokyo.

It was an excellent day and one of the highlights of the trip so far. It’s quite easy to find tickets and locate, with the right advice.

How do I buy tickets?

For residents of the U.K., buying tickets might seem tricky but is fairly straightforward. There’s only one place to buy them from, a company called The Japan Specialist.

To order them, you do need to be vigilant on the release dates and not forget to logon as soon as possible on the sale date.

The general rule is that tickets go on sale on the 1st of the month for dates three months in advance. So, if you want to buy tickets for any date in September 2016, you need to login on 1st June 2016. At any one time tickets are available for four consecutive months, though they are usually completely sold out about six weeks in advance.

The tickets will be sent out to your home address immediately and you will need to make sure you remember to take your tickets on the day as no re-issues are available.

How much is it?

£12 per person.

How do I get there?

The best way to get to Mitaka is by train. There are no parking facilities there.

The best train to get is the JR Chuo Line, which is covered by your Japan Rail Pass (if you have one) and is relatively cheap without one at less than £2 each way.

Then, once you get there, take the south exit from the station and walk about 1.5km. It’s a nice stroll and is well sign-posted so is difficult to miss.

What makes it so special?

The Ghibli Museum was designed and curated by legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki and his magic is felt throughout. There’s a replica of the Catbus for children to play in, a wonderful rooftop terrace garden to relax in, a permanent exhibition of the science of animation and a yearly temporary exhibition.

Another draw for Ghibli is fans is the opportunity to watch an exclusive Ghibli-produced short film in The Saturn Theatre. There are nine on offer and they are shown at random. You only get to see one film per ticket, making it difficult to see every single film unless you visit at least nine times.

The film we saw on our day is Yadosagashi (Looking For A Home), which I reviewed here.

  

Permanent Exhibition

The permanent exhibitions at the museum are absolutely stunning and well worth the trip out for fans of Studio Ghibli. The ground floor features several contraptions that provide an insight into the science and technology behind animation.

The most impressive item in the exhibition was a three-dimensional zoetrope called ‘Bouncing Totoro’, which is essentially a large rotating circular platform with around 200 small models that when viewed gives the impression of a short animated scene of characters from My Neighbour Totoro skipping and a running Catbus. Truly inspiring.

On the first floor there is a replica of an artists’ studio featuring 100s of sketches by Hayao Miyazaki and takes you through a journey from initial concepts to final production.  

Special Exhibition – The Haunted Tower: Perfect Popular Culture

The current exhibition is called The Haunted Tower and has been curated by Hayao Miyazaki.

It is a small exhibition based on Rampo Edogawa’s 1937 novel ‘The Haunted Tower’, a book that Hayao Miyazaki used as inspiration for his directorial debut ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’. It is laid out like a comic strip with the panels hand drawn by Miyazaki himself. There’s also a central labyrinth for children to get lost in.

One of the best features was a large diorama based on ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’, which was an impressive piece of art.

Does not speaking English hinder the experience?

Without a doubt there are things at the museum that can only be enjoyed fully with a complete grasp of the Japanese language. The temporary exhibition was almost impossible to understand, but it didn’t mean that it wasn’t highly enjoyable. 

If you are going to the Ghibli Museum then chances are you are a huge fan of the Studio Ghibli films, or at least animation in general. Like the films they have produced, the experience is very visual. Any fan would love this experience no matter what language they speak.

Ruggles of Red Gap (Leo McCarey, 1935)

Having recently watched McCarey’s excellent Make Way For Tomorrow, I thought I’d dig below the surface and watch some of his other films. I came into Ruggles of Red Gap nothing about Charles Laughton and the other members of the cast, and very little about McCarey. I have to say that on first impression, I am very disappointed.

Laughton portrays Ruggles, an English valet who is working in Paris but is transferred to America to work for a brash American (confusingly portrayed by Charlie Ruggles). Once in Washington, our valet develops as a character and grows in confidence, going from obedient servant to full independence, eventually deciding to open his own Anglo-American restaurant.

Laughton biographer Simon Callow, in a key bonus feature on the UK Masters of Cinema release, discusses in great detail his opinion on the performance and his disappointment having watched it. In context, he was comparing him to his great performances as the Hunchback of Notre Damme and as Henry VIII, to name a couple. I have not seen these, but I wholeheartedly agree with everything he says. I’d got further – as an Englishman, the whole thing is utterly insulting.

The Ruggles that is portrayed is a bumbling Brit that would leave any aristocratic servant-employer worried for their own safety. Indeed, I’d probably ask for a different waiter if I was served by Ruggles in a restaurant. The portrayal leaves the viewer with an air of discomfort. There’s something going on between his flickering eyes and his awkward body language that made me want to look away. In hindsight, I think it was Laughton’s attempt at comedy. Perhaps it was “of the time”, but it really hasn’t aged well.

That he can’t find any route out of servitude until he goes to America, which is patriotically portrayed here – unashamedly – as the land of the free, is undermining of Britain. With very little knowledge of Laughton as a person, I’m willing to guess that he must have been very anti-British to accept such a role.

The film was hugely popular amongst American viewers and very much not popular in Britain, and for the reasons just mentioned I can understand why. Having listened to Callow speak so fondly of Laughton and McCarey, I’m really keen to seek out something that justifies their enduring popularity. I’ll gladly welcome any suggestions!

Ruggles of Red Cap is available now in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD.