Thursday, August 31, 2006

V for ventricular thrombosis

Subject: Cinema
As I mentioned before, "V for Vendetta" was one of my rentals this holiday weekend. And as much as I want to make fun of it, I actually couldn't find much wrong with it.

I've never read the graphic novel, but I can see a lot of it's influence, go figure. And overall, it's a warning about the signs of something so simply scary as real facism that could easily take over our way of life. Unfortunately, the entire word "facism" gets completely usurped by those who'd rather paint it as a generic "evil" rather than allow the association to it's true roots of corporatized control and rhetorically-correct fearmongering, replete with muscle and power to subdue those not on-board into compliance.

And the spiffy uniforms. Can't forget the uniforms.

It's fascinating that there's almost a tradition of British fascism-laden-distopian-future films out there. My favorite is the recent retelling of Shakespear's "Richard III", with Sir Richard McKellan as the power-hungry crackpot himself, crying out "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" during the final battle when his escaping jeep breaks down on the battlefied. There was quite a fascism-inspired fantasy going on in that retelling, to make it seem that Britain wasn't all that far from falling in that direction back in the 30's themselves.

And from what I read about history, that wasn't far from the truth. Heck, look at what Orwell was coming from. That stuff didn't just appear out of nowhere.

But did "V" actually really rate a deep discussion on the warning signs of fascism and whatnot that I'm drunkenly spinning off into? Naw, not really. It's a bit ham-fisted there. And a bit rushed; probably a longer miniseries would be able to explore some of the nuances. Hmm, I've been saying that a lot...

Oh, and the only other thing I can comment about: Natalie Portman is very, very tiny. I mean, really. She's like a minature figurine in all of this. But I dug the bald & angry look... *ahem*

(edited to remove some truly bizarre drunken nonsense... which had to be really, really seriously nonesense if even *I* didn't want to publish it...)


Subject: Cinema
I'm taking a long weekend this Labor Day holiday, so I went and rented "Syriana" at the local Blockbuster.

Not bad. A bit dense in spots, with a number of different story threads all winding around each other, but none of them were particularly hard to follow. The characters were all very simply defined, and in a way just a bit predictable, if not a completely stereotypical, and they were all set in motion to collide with each other like all those little spinning tops in that cheesy plastic kid's game from the 70's (as seen on TV!).

Overall, it's a very cynical (and probably more than a little accurate) portrayal of the various bits and pieces that make up the oil-soaked, money-driven insanity of the middle-east. It digs a layer beneath the usual impression you would get from the evening news, and puts faces and motives on the various "powers" that be. Humanizes it a little.

However, even though the movie clocks in at just over 2 hours, it feels like it rushed to get you to the conclusion. You're left wishing you had more time to become attached to the characters and explore what they're up to at a deeper level. There are hints and details enough to let you fill in those blanks for yourself if you really want, but it would have been nice to explore it further in some sort of mini-series format, like HBO does so well.

Otherwise, it was worth the rental, though I didn't get attached enough to want to add it to my collection.

Tonight, the other disc from my Blockbuster trip, "V for Vendetta"...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Anime bits, weekend Bee Train edition

Subject: Noir
Precious little animation has been crossing my path lately, though this week a couple o' Bee Train releases managed to cross my path...

"Tsubasa Chronicle" season 2 ep 13 -- continued where ep 12 left off, of course. And though at the time I thought that maybe, just maybe, we'd get a bit of decent action, it was rather abbreviated and dissappointing overall. And then... More sitting around. On the bus. With that sappy vocal number. *Yawn*

The whole thing also had that "cheap" feel of the first couple of episodes of the season. I'm not sure if it's YGO's poor encoding or what, but a lot of the animation was really really lacking. Even the first season was practically Disney-level compared to this. *Sigh* Oh well, I'll still stick with it just-in-case.

"Spider Riders" dubbed episode 10: "The Mask of Aqune" -- Oddly enough, the animation for "Spider Riders" is amazingly better done than "Tsubasa", even though it's just another kid's show. And this is the episode I wanted to see translated because it's our first real look at brooding purple-gal Aqune. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, that dub is soooo haltingly awful, that I really had to suffer through it. And got precious little as a reward, I'm afraid, because it didn't really tell me anything that I wanted to know. Oh well.

Oh, and the way the entire soundtrack has pretty much been changed to a typical cheesy cartoon score is rather grating too. Once again, *sigh*.

Another episode (21) of "Popolocrois Story" just showed up on the tracker, but I haven't had a chance to watch it. Probably next weekend during Sunday breakfast would be best. :)

Finally, I've caught up with ep 20 of ".hack//Roots" -- and maybe, just maybe, we're finally starting to get some clues as to what's going on. There seems to be some sort of "factor" that gets "awakened", and Haseo's got it big time thanks to that Harold-the-Programmer guy. But he's being a jerk about it, go figure.

After a few episodes of screwing around with introducing new (and/or ressurected) characters and almost totally ignoring everything that happened with our original cast (who still dominate the OP last I checked), I can't say I'm entirely satisfied with the resumption of focus. Something's missing. And this whirl of side-plots just don't seem to make much impact, though I think I could see how they're related, if I squint really hard. And in the preview for the next ep, there's yet another character we haven't met yet.

I dunno, not even "//SIGN" was this screwy, was it? Of course, by this point in "//SIGN", there were interminably long static shots with minutes of dialogue pasted over them to save money. So I guess I should be glad that there's still at least an action scene or two here.

...and one more time... wait for it...


(Season finale of "Deadwood" in a half an hour; something to look forward to!)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Formal plus serene

Subject: Cinema
A couple of more films surfaced from deep within my GreenCine queue this time around...

"Floating Weeds" joined my list when I was in my "Critereon-is-releasing-it-should-I-buy-it?" phase. An interesting film by Yasujiro Ozu, in fact, a remake of an earlier pre-war version he had done. A kabuki theatre troupe comes to a remote village, only to find there's not enough of an audience for their show to sustain themselves. The reason they're there at all is the lead has an illegitamate son there. That's the human angle of the story, and it's okay enough, but this is also the 50's, so it's kind of stiff.

Of course, it's kind of meant to be stiff, I think. By this point, Kurosawa is breaking into the "modern", western style, and the old-skool, like kabuki, is being left behind. That's the rather obvious sub-text to what turns out to be a normal, reasonable story. The shots and the sequences have a rather stoic formality to them. Very well composed, but stiff, abrupt, and straight at the camera. The performances start of as very formal and distant, much like a formal stagecraft like the kabuki they show on-screen. It drills down to a more and more personal level as it digs deeper into the story. Being the '50's and all, it doesn't go as far as we might be used to now-a-days, but the beginning of the film is definitely different than the end as far as the performance goes.

Essentially, it's a film about that sort of transistion, so it's no surprise that you can watch that unfold. Beyond that, I'm glad I rented it, and it may make a worthy Critereon purchase, but it doesn't quite make it all the way for me. No biggie.

Second for the evening was the much more recent Korean release of "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring". It's a very comtemplative, meditative, and very, very Buddhist bit of a fable. A young boy grows up on a floating temple in the middle of a serene lake in an isolated valley. And everything comes full circle. Go figure, it's Buddhist after all...

Still, it's very lush, very simple, and very, very lacking in dialog. There's some, but overall, it's a visual parable, and it's quite engrossing. And very Buddhist. Maybe a rather bit predictably so. But that doesn't really detract from it; the atmosphere makes it.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Subject: Noir
It's a lot of fun to get hammered and watch "Noir" all night, but I really, really have to stop posting about it on the internet afterwards.


Besides being borderline incomprehensible, I'm just repeating myself over and over again. Over two years of the same kind of PWI pontificating is kind of tiresome to wake up to in the morning.

Oh, whatever. Guess who needs coffee this morning?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"That is why we seek the light"

Subject: Noir
I don't care that I've seen this show a million times or more. "Noir" will always end on a note that makes all other shows a weak imitation; I'm so in love with this show, it's just not very easy anymore.

Phase 2

Subject: Noir
Since I'm taking a long weekend, I'm going to attempt to finish off discs 4-7 this evening. I should take the time to savour every shot (visual and gun) and not rush, so we'll see just how far I actually do get...

...and we're totally at the End Of It All, and it totally pwnes me like no other show. Dark Kirika, and the awful moments that created her; those still get me like no other seqenece. Mirielle, walking across the intersection only to have the lights change because she's too slow... I know that heavy burden all too well... "Daisuki Mireille" indeed.

And now the end, the last three episodes. I've missed this to no small extent. There's something here that most anime can't claim, and I'm priveledged to make it my own, even after all these years...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

It has begun

Subject: Noir
Okay, why not, I'm doing it.

The whole concept of "Noiraversary" is now defunct and forever will be, sadly enough. But I really can't let myself forget that "Noir" is such an important and delightful show for me. It's been 8 months and 19 days since I've watched it, and I've experienced a whole range of anxiety surrounding the possibility of rewatching it. Anything from "I'm probably jaded by now" to "I don't want to keep the neighbors up with all the gunshots and subwoofer fun".

Up until the moment I actually put disc 1 into the DVD, I've been waffling on the possibility.

And I've done it. 2 episodes down, and I'm in love all over again. That's not to say that I'll actually do one of my patented drunken all-nighter marathons again (if I do, it will likely go until 6 in the morning), but I finally let myself enjoy one of the things that I know I'll enjoy a lot.

Maybe I'll do the whole thing. Maybe I'll just do a couple of discs now, and a couple of discs over the next few weeks. Whatever the outcome, I'm back.

UPDATE: 2 discs down; I can at least do 1 more, if not 2. Now it's time to welcome Chloe to the mix -- Hello Chloe! *waves*

UPDATE #2L: Okay, 3 discs are enough. I don't think I'll get any further tonight. *sigh*

Friday, August 18, 2006

Alexandre Dumbass

Subject: Noir
Okay, okay, disc 5 of "Gankutsuou" wasn't that bad. In fact, there was a lot to like in it.

It took me a little while to try and recall what happened in disc 4, as it's been quite a while. Even the recap wasn't 100% helpful. But I managed.

And then I cringed once the giant robots showed up.

Okay, okay, it wasn't that bad. And I guess I can't say that I was surprised by that. And, even though it pains me to admit it, the CGI work for their sequences was relatively reasonable.

There was a good moment or two in 4 episodes that I think worked very well, and they were all related to Albert's rescue of Eugenie. Albert being a snivelling crybaby screamer definitely wasn't a part of that.

Otherwise, there seemed to be an improvment in some of the animated sequences, and the texture effect finally seems to have found a balance between the self-aware novelty of it, and the ability to actually distinguish foreground from background. So I would say that they definitely were learning their lessons and growing their experience as the production of this series went on.

Still, the various bits and pieces of story seem to be geared mainly for shock or emotional manipulation (if you're a teenager) and lacking in any real humanity or authentic experience. A lot of symbolic interaction, but very little real connection. With a total lack of decent programming of late, I still found it far more enjoyable than absolutely nothing, though. I hope I can get through the last two discs soon, though, so I can be done with it...

In other news, it's supposed to be a rainy weekend, and I accidently listened to a lot of the "Noir" OSTs whilst cruising in the Mustang today... Hmmm...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dumber and dumberer

Subject: Cinema
Well, even a weekend with my mom staying over couldn't go completely devoid of having a couple of DVDs make there way on the screen. Though it pretty much has to be more mainstream, "safe" fare.

I did show her the dub of "Porco Rosso", but she slept through a bit of it, and was a bit peeved at the "open-ending" aspect. Though as Japanese endings go, it's not really all that "open", but still...

We also rented a couple from Blockbuster. First up was Disney's "8 Below", the story of a team of sled dogs who were left behind at an Antartic research station after a sudden storm and crisis forced an evacuation. The parallel story of the dog's attempts to survive and their "master" trying to cope with leaving them just limps along, neither being particularly satisfying. It's filled with all the usual cliche, predictable touches you'd expect from a Disneyesque morality tale involving trained animals. And add the final "everything's going to be just fine" happy ending, and well there you have it. Blandness on a little silver platter.

But, my brother has a pair of Siberian huskies, and she's been taking care of one of them, so she wanted to see it. And it was definitely "safe".

Also "mostly safe", but very, very awful -- so awful that it makes "8 Below" seem like a quaint art film -- was the recent Steve Martin remake of "The Pink Panther".

Now, I knew this one would probably stink, but I thought it would be acceptable enough as something to pass the time with Mom. But it was so bad that even she thought it was really bad.

It's kind of like someone once watched the later Peter Sellers' "Pink Panther" sequels, wrote down that there was a character called "Inspector Clouseau" and a character called "Cheif Inspector Dreyfuss", and that one was dumb and one was crazy, and both used fake French accents. And then put a committee together to write a movie based on just that as a premise, totally without understanding even the slightest little bit of the genius that Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers bestowed on the originals.

The gags were lame, the slapstick was devoid of timing, and Martin couldn't even muster a pale shadow of an imitation of the kind of presence and suspension of disbelief that Sellers delivered with his quintissential Clouseau. Kevin Kline wasn't much use as Dreyfuss, either. Jean Reno did a reasonable job as Martin's straightman/sidekick, but it probably wasn't hard to do better than everyone else.

Oh well. At least I've confirmed that my snobby attitude towards film hasn't made me miss much of anything. And it makes me look forward to finally getting a chance to watch something good again. Whatever that might be...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tumbleweeds blowin' through

Subject: Musings
Strangely enough, this has been a "week without anime". I haven't watched much of anything since my last post. I've just been too busy with work and chores.

I won't be watching anything this weekend either, as my mom is coming up to visit for a few days. I probably won't be doing much posting, or surfing for that matter.

The sun is setting earlier and earlier, though, so soon the time may come where I get back into the swing of things in the big-screen escapism department. Not that I'm in a rush...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The mild return of Anime Roundup

Subject: Noir
Not a lot of anime has trickled past me of late. I think ".hack//Roots" is taking a week off -- which does not remotely hold the same sort of suspense for me as that "MADLAX" 2-week cliffhanger almost exactly 2 years ago. No sign of "Spider Riders" raws for a while, either. And I still can't bring myself to continue with the North American version. *sigh*

There was another episode of "Mushishi", which continues it's fabulous storytelling and atmospherics. There's only a couple of more episodes left until it's over. Well, actually, it's been over in Japan for quite a while, but the fansub group still has a way to go.

Disc 2 of "Blue Submarine #6" arrived, with episodes 3 & 4. The animation seemed a little more natural this time, and those half-naked mutant sea-women (aka: fan-bait) were still entertaining. A bit ponderous, but blessedly short. One more disc to go, I believe...

A new world starts in "Tsubasa Chronicle", and it's mostly a lot of sitting around on a bus. No, really. It promises to start out as a "Mad Max" kind of road-war arc, and maybe there's a chance that it will get a better taste of that now that the "bad guys" have shown up. But damn, all that sitting around! There really has been a budget crunch in this show, hasn't there? Or is the manga this lifeless too? Oh, I dunno.

Finally, the last episode of "Noein" got released, and I just finished that up. Happy ending, go figure. Much of the same as far as the spasticness of the animation and art quality, though sustaining a certain psychedelic psychosis to it's crescendo. A largely entertaining, rough-around-the-edges experiment that tries to be a little deeper than it can actually manage.

"Express" written permission

Subject: Cinema
Well, after that rambling bit of PWI from Friday night, I think I can only improve from there, eh? Sheesh. Actually, this one's just going to be a quickie...

"Chunking Express" is Kar Wai Wong's 1994 breakthrough into the international scene. It's a delightful little 2-parter, that really does a fine job establishing his style of making a very "personal" film. That is to say, maybe not so much something personally from himself, but more personal in the way his characters are portrayed, and experienced by the audience. You really can't help but get drawn into their worlds. And like with "In the Mood for Love", the little details and sense of place that surrounds them is very intimate, very close-quartered.

There's a bit of dorkiness to it though, and that might come from the feeling that in each vingette, at least one of the characters is, well, a bit of a dork. It makes it all the more charming, though.

My only real problem with it otherwise is that I didn't actually know that it was a 2-parter, and I got a bit confused by the transistion. Yes, even though the lead performers changed, even when the cop was now Tony Leung Chiu Wai, who I recognize from "In the Mood for Love" and countless John Woo films. I couldn't quite make the leap for a little while, and wondered what the connection was.

Other than that, it was filled with neat little moments, and a lot of simple amusement. Definitely worth a rental.

Friday, August 04, 2006

"8 1/2"

Subject: Cinema
It's been a surprisingly long time since I've watched the one film I've always touted as "my favorite". The film who's title I've used as the inspiration for my nom de plume for quite a few years now, the film that is supposed to be the basis for my own little homage that I've never been able to get around to making.

And lately, some of my younger readers have been watching it, and I've found I didn't really have anything I could say about it in response, because it's been so long. So here I go...

Federico Fellini is one of those madman geniouses who get how filmmaking works. He's an inspiration to me, even if I don't entirely understand or relate to him. But this one film in particular speaks to me, so simply, so honestly, that I can't help but connect.

This time, for the first time, I watched the Criterion "Introduction by Terry Gilliam" as well. Another filmmaker who's vision and approach clicks with me, and here he is practically saying everything about Fellini and this film that I would want to say; that is, if I had ever managed to get off my butt and actually get into the business myself.

There are commentary tracks and other bonus material I haven't watched yet, but that one little introduction reinforced for me why I'm so taken with it, even though I've been avoiding it for all this time.

Fellini lays it all on the table for this one, so to speak. It's a film about not knowing about how to make a film; a film about being so unable to figure out how to express the things that are locked up deep inside you, but feeling like the only way you can actually proceed is to figure out how to express it anyhow -- within the strictures of what is "acceptable" and "accessable" by audiences and society. He's got his issues, his fears, his guilt, his angst. Mainly about women. Like Gilliam says, everything Fellini does is about his issues with women.

He feels he doesn't know how to love, ultimately. I can relate to that. I don't have the marital issues, the infidelity, the background that he portrays -- not in the slightest. I have a hard time empathizing with how he could possibly have a problem. Yet I still can be caught up in the honesty of his expression. Not to mention how much I enjoy all the little ironic and symbollic touches he scatters throughout. Even when he has the writer character clearly and plainly deride the obviousness of those symbols in the supposed "notes" about the story.

But I can still relate. I've put many a woman on a pedastal in my day, and it took me years to learn that women are kind of put off by that sort of mealy subservience. Maybe a little too late. Fellini takes all of that to a mysoginistic crescendo, though; making everyone a part of his fantasy harem, expressing that he wishes that everything could work according to his whims and desire -- another aspect that I have a hard time admitting to. Treating women as objects. Yet it's the only explaination when it comes down to it, and that honesty about how you feel and how you react and why you do is crucial to coming to terms with how you relate to others. The crux of the entire film.

At the end, he pleads... well, preaches... that it's actually just quite as simple as accepting it, working at it, and just plain doing it. Make that damn film. Relate and work it out with the woman in your life. Dance in the great circle of life with everyone you know and have known. Stop getting so hung up over the consequences.

Of course, he does that after the lead character is so stressed and under pressure that he shoots himself.

A number of years ago I had a run-in with serious, bona-fide clinical depression, bordering on suicidal. "Stop the world, I want to get off". An affliction I wouldn't wish on anyone, but I have to echo what Fellini says in this case -- stop it! It's actually quite simple. You're complicating it for yourself. It will be crazy, it will be imperfect, but you'll do it.

Well, that's only a couple of the myriad of things I'm able to project on it, at least. There's dozens of oppurtunities to latch on to something in this film and make it yours. Ultimately it all comes down to the them of "being honest with yourself". He put his struggles with it on film. I really want to follow his example.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

That's hawt.

Subject: Musings
Only 9:00 AM, and it's already 86F. On the lakeshore.


UPDATE: 3:55PM, 101F.