Saturday, May 28, 2005

Tim put a lot of anime onto disk for me and I'm slowly watching it all. It's all fan-subbed, which I often prefer to the "official" subtitled release as the fans are generally more hip to which Japanese words are well known to English speaking viewers and don't need translating. And some words are, instead of translated, given brief definitions. Which is nice. Many Japanese words lose some of their nuance when the translator makes a judgement call to use what he or she feels is the most relevant substitute English word for the context.

First I watched the first episode of Negima: Magister Negi Magi. How was it? Think of softcore porn. Imagine something softer. Now imagine something softer than that. Keep going. Keep going . . . and . . . there. Now you've got it. Now insert a main character who's a copy of Asuka from Evangelion named Asuna and another who may be a copy of Harry Potter.

The story takes place at a girls' high school. We follow a single class taught by a ten year old boy and filled with an array of distinctive, beautiful, homogenous girls. Dull hijinks ensue, and Asuna overreacts.

I next watched the first episode of Elfen Lied, a somewhat more daring programme featuring lots of blood, decapitations, and nudity--although Japanese censorship, in its wisdom, does not allow the existence of female genitalia to be publicly acknowledged, so the ladies get a depressing blank space of flesh between their legs.

The episode opening credit sequence is a series of reproduced Gustav Klimt paintings with Elfen Lied's main character, Nyuu, inserted as the subject. After the credits, we're in a normal anime underground military facility where we see the pretty naked red head escape from confinement, albeit with a restrictive metal helmet obscuring her features.

Which made me laugh out loud because this is one of those anime series where all the main characters look exactly alike, but for their hair. When the helmet does finally come off, the "big reveal" felt more like a "big joke."

Aside from that, the show is also a clone of Chobits. Nyuu's hair ornaments are almost identical to Chi's and Nyuu gets her nickname in exactly the same way--when she's brought home by the young man who found her, naked and derelict, all she could say was "Nyuu." Of course, in Chobits, Chi is a persocom, a common robot servant the boy found in a dumpster. In Elfen Lied, the boy assumes Nyuu's human, and there's no explanation as to why he and his female cousin casually take the stray naked girl home like she's a new pet.

Finally, though, I came across an actually good series on the disk; Gunbuster 2: Aim For the Top.

The original Gunbuster was one of Gainax's first series' and was directed by Evangelion's Hideaki Anno in the late 1980s. I've never seen it, although Tim is a big fan, despite apparently never having been able to find a decent copy. Gunbuster 2, however, seems to be a very different series.

This one was from the creative team of FLCL and is more of a comedy than the original. It follows a clumsy young woman and her enthusiastic attempts to become some sort of space pilot and/or warrior.

Sounds simple enough but, oh, what a breath of fresh air after Negima and Elfen Lied! Gunbuster 2 has dynamically stylistic animation, wonderful character designs (people who'd look different even if their heads were shaved!), and atmosphere that's absorbing and amusing. Now, of course, I really wanna see the original series . . .

What else . . . ? Oh, I've been hopelessly addicted to Maison Ikkoku manga lately, but that's just sad, and the less said about it, the better.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I've seen Revenge of the Sith twice now. I suppose it's time I said something about it.

Star Wars has been much on my mind for several months now, and I've accumulated a great deal of secret opinions and theories that I feel now I ought to share. But, before that, to save some of you skimming, I will say that yes, I liked Revenge of the Sith a lot. It's a good movie. Thumbs up.

It's better than Return of the Jedi. But I haven't been liking Return of the Jedi very much lately.

A few months ago, I watched Empire and Jedi over two nights. As I watched Empire, I couldn't help but compare it to Episodes I and II, and try to determine precisely what it is that makes Empire Strikes Back a far superior film. The answer, in part, is subtle characterisation. For everything a main character says in Empire Strikes Back, there are a thousand things he or she expresses without saying. These quieter things are expressed in ways somewhat analogous to the way we intuit things about the people we meet in life.

Think about the exchange between Han and Leia at the beginning. Han tells the general he's leaving, Leia looks on with a somewhat ambiguous interest. Han confronts her, and we can't gauge much from either but a stiff formality. Then Han becomes annoyed and says, "Don't get all mushy on me. So long, Princess."

Leia had not sounded remotely close to mushy, and we had no reason to expect her to. Han's being sarcastic, but not necessarily, as he insists, because of her hidden feelings for him, but more likely because of his clumsy feelings for her. She seems remote to him--throughout the movie, he constantly refers to her as "Princess" and "Your Highness" as though these are insults, and it seems clear he regards her as a being that's too frustratingly far from him. But apart from Han's words, we don't actually receive the impression that Leia is particularly arrogant and frigid, as demonstrated by her defiant kiss with Luke in the medbay or her earnest words in the briefing with the Rebel soldiers. What Leia is is inexperienced and sheltered--as demonstrated by her inept insults hurled at Han, the innocence of which amuse him ("Who's scruffy lookin'?").

Han doesn't understand his feelings for Leia and neither does she. And she seems little able to comprehend her own eventual affection for him, just sort of helplessly going along with it after some initial resistance to the unfamiliar emotion. And we might wonder how much her affection for him might be based entirely on the situation they're in.

So then. What do these two people look like? They look like kids. Adolescents, clumsily working their way through strange emotional territory. This makes them seem vulnerable, and this adds to the suspense of their flight from the Empire.

Because we don't sense any confusion in Vader. He's tall, dark, mechanical, and adult. His overwhelming Star Destroyers loom over the human interactions, threatening to crush the helpless little organic tendrils with a solid metal boot. One might infer that the "quick and easy" path of the Dark Side is Vader having sidestepped the uncertainties of youthful human emotion to embrace the decisiveness and efficiency of machines and tyrannical rule.

The other main storyline of Empire Strikes Back, Luke's, is also very good. Not a love story, but a more personal story of self-confrontation, culminating with the clear symbolism of the Degobah cave. Where, as Yoda notes, Luke fails. In fact, Luke starts the movie as a self-confident young man who knows what Dak means when he says he feels like he can take on the Empire by himself. After all, Luke's done just that, having destroyed the Death Star in the previous film. You know how the teenage ego can be. How can it be knocked down from that peg? And in fact, despite being mauled by a beast on Hoth and chastised and somewhat humiliated by Yoda, Luke doesn't loose his childish front until he's at Vader's mercy. Not until his brashness looks like it shall certainly lead to his doom.

We sense all this, without it ever being spelled out for us. It's made plain by Vader's costume, his ships, Harrsion Ford and Carrie Fisher's performances, and the dialogue. Even Mark Hammill, who'd been somewhat gratingly inept in the previous film, delivers an effective performance here.

But it's all over with the closing credits because Return of the Jedi is a different animal, somewhat more akin to a monster truck show. The virtues of Jedi are its special effects and action sequences, so it's little wonder that children tend to prefer it over Empire.

The tender, inexperienced Leia is gone, replaced by an action figure lady. She's light-years more mature than the girl in Empire Strikes Back and we're never told why. She returns Han's "I know" to his "I love you" like it's the punchline to a joke, for any emotional resonance their relationship has is residue from Empire. Han is himself reduced to a creature of broad, quickly appreciable lines, and the only time we sense vulnerability in him is when he's got hibernation sickness. When Leia deigns to mention to him that Luke's her brother, he looks like he's won a prize at the fair, after he'd very maturely told her he'd get out of the way if she wanted to be with Luke. Actually, Harrison Ford's really good here, and I can sort of believe Han from Empire might behave this way, if it weren't for the fact that I feel he'd be creeped out by Leia's lobotomy.

Speaking of lobotomies, perhaps Jedi's biggest flaw is the walking corpse passing for Luke Skywalker. Utterly gone is the kid from Empire and suddenly we have the cool, almost ghandi-like man, again with no explanation, no discernable character arch. Sure, maybe the big blow at the end of Empire led him on the path to nirvana, but that's taking an awful lot of development as read, particularly considering the "pay-off" is a guy Spock would probably describe as stuffy.

We don't sense any flaws in this guy. So what kind of tactic is team Palpatine/Vader supposed to use to bring him to the Dark Side? Why, endlessly repeating "Dark side", until maybe Luke goes, "Hmm. Dark side. That sounds kinda cool."

In Empire, Vader appeals to the desire for peace. He expresses the idea that, with the great power of the Dark Side, he and Luke can end "this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy." To Lucas's credit, he picks up on this idea in the prequal trilogy and makes it one of Anakin's central character traits.

But it's nowhere to be found in Jedi. In the corridor after Luke's been captured, what's Vader's big argument? "You do not know the power of the Dark Side!" And what's Luke's? "I will not turn and you'll be forced to kill me."

And no, we don't for a moment really feel Luke will turn. When he angrily attacks Vader after Vader's threatened to corrupt Leia, I guess we're meant to believe that Luke's afraid of losing her. But how exactly is he supposed to go from that to being a servant of the Dark Side? In order to save Leia from the Dark Side, he's gonna go to the Dark Side? Huh? Hey, in order to save you from your sandwich, I'm gonna eat it for you and love it. You're welcome.

And Vader's soul is apparently saved by Luke as Luke almost sacrifices himself to Palpatine. So Vader realises he doesn't want the people he loves to be hurt. Okay . . . that still doesn't provide a counterargument for his tyrannical bent. After all, he wanted the Empire to bring order to the galaxy, right? So looks like Vader's got some more development to go but--oops, he's dead because the movie's almost over and that would be too much to deal with. So hurrah, dancing Ewoks, the end!

Now that brings us to the prequel trilogy, and a whole different set of strengths and weaknesses.

The Phantom Menace was the best movie for Padme Amidala. Some people say Natalie Portman's a bad actress, but I think it's merely that she's kind of a reserved person. I've known people like this. And there're other actors like that; Clint Eastwood and Kim Novak are two examples. Not as much emotion tends to leak out of Portman--not as much as Carrie Fisher. But this makes Portman perfect as the doll-like queen. Imagine Carrie Fisher in the makeup and headdress and you'd see an entirely less ethereal effect. Portman's big virtue is her statuesque beauty, and I wonder if perhaps her casting provides some insight into George Lucas's view of women and if it is perhaps similar to J.R.R. Tolkien's.

It's much remarked upon how all the female characters in the Lord of the Rings books are very remote, very awesomely beautiful figures. As with Tolkien, all of the most powerful emotional tales in the Lucas-written Star Wars movies (which include episodes I through IV) tend to be about the men, and only occasionally about their feelings for women.

So perhaps this is why, when the attempt is made to bring Queen Amidala down to earth for a love story in the second movie, it really doesn't come off. It feels more like the broad outline of a love story than an actual love story as Lucas too hurriedly dashes from one point to the next, their declarations of love feel like Lucas prematurely ejaculating.

People can point to the flaws in the second movie as being its poor editing, its lack of a clear villain, and convoluted plot. But to my mind, the only truly relevant flaw is the failure of the love story--all the other things would have been at least good enough if the love angle had worked. All the prequels have beautiful sets, costumes, and action sequences, which make them acceptable as eye-candy.

But what finally works on an emotional level is Revenge of the Sith. And what works about it has little to do with the love story, and just about everything to do with the relationship between Anakin and Obi-wan.

Every time Anakin and Padme use the word "love" in conversation, it feels wrong. What we're seeing isn't a human relationship, but a very lofty, porcelain sculpture of royalty that doesn't fit in with the rest of the movie. When Obi-wan says "love" near the end of the movie, we really feel it. Because we have been enjoying the relationship of these two men as brothers, and Anakin's betrayal is heart wrenching.

There is one level on which Anakin's relationship with Padme does work, and that's her as a factor in his decision to turn to the Dark Side. This is epitomised in a wonderfully, eerily quiet scene on Coruscant where Anakin stands in the Jedi Council Chambers and Padme stands in her room, looking out at the city.

But for the most part, poor Natalie Portman has the unenviable task of saying things that are almost alien to the narrative. In Revenge of the Sith, it's Anakin we're riding along with for the most part and since his love for Padme seems insubstantial, her pleas based on it feel hollow.

But I think Hayden Christensen did a good job. Some might say he seemed too stiff but, remember, Vader was pretty stiff. I had the impression that Christensen was making a concerted effort to have his voice match in cadence and rhythm with James Earl Jones. Which isn't an easy task without sounding silly or at least implausible. But I think he pulls it off. What you get is a sort of deadening after he turns to the Dark Side. After he's first bowed before Palpatine, and he's given his new name, he rises slowly, tiredly, similarly to how Vader would rise in the original trilogy. As though the conflict in him is an almost palpable weight.

Now, I want to move on to two aspects of the Stars Wars films that seem to make people very angry these days and I'm not entirely sure why. These two aspects being the politics and the Force.

First of all, I love the politics. I don't know why. Maybe it's because it's stuff I've wondered about since I was a kid. How did it get to be an Empire? Were all the people involved really evil inside? It's like Dante and Randall's conversation about the people on the Death Star. I have to admit I find it difficult to sympathise with those who call the politics dull and distracting. I find it fascinating--it's called Star Wars, after all, and if you're going to talk about war, it's good when there's more to it than running around and fighting. I wanna know how the fight got started, and I like that it's for complicated and sinister reasons.

And the Force--anyone who's figured out what the Star Wars reference was in the latest Boschen and Nesuko chapter also knows that I don't agree with everything Yoda says. But that doesn't mean I don't think it's a valid point of view.

We're strongly compelled to hate religion these days, and I'm not fond of religion myself. But maybe there is something noble about leading a life of self-sacrifice, even of chastity. We're only told the horror stories that result, but perhaps it's not wrong to say that there is a psychological advantage to be gained this way--by becoming removed from human passions. I don't think so, but I wouldn't insist that I'm right, and I certainly think it's a worthy topic to explore. Empire and Sith make some points, although the clumsiness of Jedi provides some counterarguments.

And that's something that Sith really has over Jedi--idealistic cohesiveness. Lucas's writing may not be perfect, but at least he holds true to his motives in this one.

I'd like to close by pointing out something about Star Wars that I don't see mentioned very often but I think is the strongest quality of both Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. And that's the Flash Gordon factor.

Some of the dialogue people complain about is the way it is for a very specific reason--when Obi-wan says, "You won't get away this time, Dooku!" we're perhaps reminded of the thousands of times we've heard these words used in parodies of old superhero movies and television shows. So many times that many of us can only appreciate this sort of dialogue on ironic terms. And we are a more cynical people than we were in the 1930s and 1940s.

The really great thing Lucas does is take the child-like, earnest attitude of wonder and treat it absolutely seriously. As if this always truly was the way we would confront space and alien worlds and fantastic action sequences. I like it. For all the convolution, it feels remarkably bullshit-free.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The weirdness continues.

While watching 12 Monkeys last night, an actor playing Madeleine Stowe's superior at the mental institution looked familiar to me. I looked him up on IMDb and saw that he was Frank Gorshin who, among other things, played The Riddler on the Adam West Batman television series. Going through his filmography, I noticed he's the only credited crewmember for a 1997 film called Threshold, which I twigged on as it's also the name of one of Caitlin's books.

Anyway, to-day I read that Frank Gorshin died yesterday.

Will it end there?
To-day I bought the new special edition of 12 Monkeys. Here's a movie I haven't watched in . . . I'd say it's been at least seven years. That seems strange to me because I was absolutely gaga about it when it first came out. Actually, it's an important movie for me for a number of reasons; it's the first Terry Gilliam movie I ever saw. Its soundtrack was the first source from which I heard Tom Waits, and I replayed "Earth Died Screaming" constantly, years before I ever bought my first Tom Waits album.

More importantly, the movie opened up for me a new facet of fiction. I loved Star Trek and Star Wars and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 12 Monkeys was the first time I understood why sorrow could be a part of great art.

The whole time paradox thing was something I was familiar enough with from Star Trek--12 Monkeys was for me like the same song played at a different tempo, with different aspects emphasised. I knew and understood the lyrics, considered them part of my identity as an observer, so I was pulled like thread by a needle through fabric into a new understanding.

So, yeah, it was a very important movie for me and I haven't watched it in forever. And now I have a different perspective on it. Which is more interesting because the movie contains a scene of the main character, Cole, watching Vertigo, remarking how he'd seen Vertigo as a kid, but that he had a different perspective on it now because he was a different person.

And so, since I've since seen Vertigo, I can spot the references to Vertigo in 12 Monkeys--notably the scene in the theatre lobby where music from Vertigo is playing while Cole first sees Kathryn Raily in her blond wig and grey coat. He's reminded of his dream, and I'm reminded of the scene in Vertigo when Kim Novak's re-made over in blond with grey coat, and she's revealed bathed in neon light, in much the way Madeleine Stowe is. In fact, on IMDb trivia, it's pointed out that in Vertigo, it's an actor named James with a character named Madeleine, while in 12 Monkeys, it's a character named James with an actress named Madeleine.

The whole thing gives me a touch of, well, vertigo. Especially as in recent times, Vertigo as been as important a movie for me as 12 Monkeys was for me as a child. I could go on to make something of the fact that 12 Monkeys is a much newer film, though it impacted me first, in much the way time's twisted for Cole as he sees the end of the movie when he's a child . . .

Oh, but I am too sleepy for this stuff.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Only managed about three hours of sleep for Tuesday night before I was awakened early Wednesday morning by a loud radio somewhere and my stomach reminding me that I hadn't eaten dinner. Before going to sleep, I'd had the thought that I might go to Einstein Bagels for breakfast. Since in the morning my mind hadn't yet reacquired the ability to create new thoughts, I immediately went ahead with that plan.

I decided after my humus and feta on ciabatta that I would go downtown by trolley and then walk up to Hillcrest in order to see Palindromes at the Landmark, the only theatre in San Diego county where that movie was playing.

Before getting on the trolley, I thought it best to use the bathroom, so I stopped in at Target. In the Target men's room, there was a man and a woman, both between fifty and fifty five years old. The man was saying something about his ex-wife and the woman had her pants around her ankles while trying to pee standing up. The first thing I saw when I walked in was her square shaped ass. So I turned around and left.

I was entertained on the trolley ride downtown by a gumball left on the window sill beside me by a mentally impaired gentleman. It stuck at first, but then began to roll from one side of the sill--away from me--to the other--towards me. This gave me something to look at since the games on my phone have stopped working--well, in Spacedudes, I'm still able to move my ship, by the aliens don't move and neither do my missiles. And in Brick Attack, there's simply no ball with which my paddle might attack said bricks. What if Mario woke up to find every koopa, every goomba, every piranha plant, had simply disappeared in the night? It must be a lonely thing.

But the gumball was veiled from me eventually by a young man who wanted to recline and watch me from under his hood after I'd taken a moment to show my ticket to a police officer. I thought about telling the young man about the gumball he was leaning on, but I was too amused by the idea of Little Mister Badass walking around with a shiny pink gumball stuck to his shoulder.

I got to Hillcrest with about an hour to spare, so I went in a bookstore looking for an Ann Sexton book. Sexton's been spoken well of by a variety of people in my world lately and I've never read her--so I thought some poems would be good to read while waiting for a movie to start. But of the three bookstores on that street, not one had an Ann Sexton book of any sort. At the last one, a place called Bluestocking Books and Bindings, there were several feminist posters up so I sort of had high hopes. But the poetry section was very sparse.

As I left, I asked the skinny blond woman behind the counter if Ann Sexton was indeed filed under poetry.

"Yes!" She sounded very pleased, "That's a good question, I'm glad you asked . . . We don't have any."

The place also had an adorable poster of Han Solo in carbonite, decorated with a glittering purple boa. There was something strangely Amazonian about it.

So, Palindromes was a decent movie. The only Todd Solondz movie I'd previously seen was Storytelling, which had a little bit of a clearer agenda.

Palindromes tells the story of a 13 year old girl named Aviva who wants lots of babies more than anything else in the world. She's played throughout the movie by a variety of different actresses of different ages, sizes, and colours--but all are meant to represent 13 year old Aviva. This is perhaps the most overt statement in the movie about Solodz's essentially anti-existential idea; no matter what we look like or where we are, we're always the same, and we'll always do the same things. We're cursed to live without free will.

Or maybe the most overt statement of that idea is when Matthew Faber's character, who somewhat resembles Solodz, comes right out and says it. The above is almost a paraphrase.

Anyway, Aviva's strategy to get pregnant results in one of the movie's funniest sequences. She hangs out in the bedroom of a family friend's son, who is about her age. The walls are covered with cheesy photos of naked women, the boy is wearing a shirt bearing a cartoon man with an erection, and he seems to think nothing of sitting down with Aviva to watch a pornographic movie. Aviva takes it much better and a lot more innocently (probably because she's only 13) than Cybil Shepherd did in Taxi Driver, and she manages, despite the boy's somewhat poor sexual performance, to get herself pregnant.

Aviva's mother, played by Ellen Barkin, is understandably upset, but here Solodz does an interesting thing. Aviva's mother tries in a variety of ways to explain to Aviva why she needs to get an abortion but Aviva stubbornly refuses. Aviva's innocent, childish desire to have a baby to hold and love is somewhat endearing making Barkin's pleas, however rational they might be, begin to sound selfish and ogre-ish. So this film is not a black and white pro-choice, pro-life, but instead uses abortion as a plot device, and not a plot point. Which is really, in my opinion, the best thing to do with it in fiction. The only people who respond well to preaching are people who agree with the preacher. Everyone else is merely annoyed.

So Aviva is guilt-tripped into an abortion, after which she runs away, hitch-hiking, and adventures happen, and things really do feel like a fable, which is how Solodz describes the movie.

One segment of the film, called "Huckleberry" (the film's divided into titled segments), features Aviva sleeping in a little boat floating downriver. While the title would seem to refer to Huckleberry Fin, the scene seemed to me more like a reference to Night of the Hunter, which featured little children on the run sleeping in a similar boat on a similar river. There's even a shot of the floating boat with a lamb in the foreground on the shore, mirroring the various animal-in-the-foreground-kids'-boat-in-background shots in Night of the Hunter.

The kids in Night of the Hunter ended their boat journey by reaching a house where a variety of orphaned children are cared for by the movie's heroine, a religious woman played by Lillian Gish. Aviva ends her boat journey at a house where a number of adopted children with disabilities are cared for by a religious woman named Mamma Sunshine. But the zealous Mamma Sunshine bears more resemblance to the blindly faithful Shelley Winters character. Her husband and his cohorts have a number of things in common with Robert Mitchum's Harry Powell.

Anyway, Palindromes was an interesting movie.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Last week, a fellow named Charles Barker e-mailed me requesting that I make a Mitsumi Nevijen wallpaper. So I did--it's up on the Desktop Wallpaper page. It's Mitsumi enjoying a good book.

I've just finished drinking a Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. I actually quite like it. Well, I barely paid attention to it. I was concentrating on the ramen. I was hungrier than I was thirsty . . .

Yup, it checks out. I really don't have anything interesting I want to talk about. I do want to sleep, though . . .

Monday, May 09, 2005

Well--I've filled out the papers and I'm gonna buy cheques to-morrow. I just might make use of my automobile again soon.

I've gotten so accustomed to walking. I think nothing of walking across half of Santee to get to or from Tim's. It's probably a healthy way of living. Gas prices are unbelievably high. Everything I need, and most of what I want, is within walking distance. So why am I starting to get a slight itch for the motorcar?

Well, although there are three Starbucks within walking distance . . . I'm starting to miss the one by the Vons in La Mesa. There, that's it. And why not? Are there better motives in life? Are you sure?

It's a nice big Starbucks, you see. And there's always a seat there.

Hmm. There seems to be a good amount of old, cold coffee in my mug from this morning. What's it say that I enjoy a sip of it? I'll tell you--it says I have character and dignity. Maybe not the nationally recognised variants of character and dignity, but the ancient brands of character and dignity buried in the secret holy soil of the human frontal lobe.

I've just watched Monsieur Verdoux, a movie I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting to. A lot of reviews and documentaries on Chaplin, I think, lowered my expectations a bit. There seemed to be an almost universal consensus that Monsieur Verdoux was a great miscalculation of Chaplin's and I think I was a bit influenced.

Based on an idea given to him by Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux: A Comedy of Murders is the story of an unemployed French banker who supports his wife and child during the Depression by seducing wealthy women, murdering them, and taking their money.

Although the plot has a credible logic, it's not a very realistic movie, and seems to be, in part, a slapstick comedy starring a serial killer. Which is just cool. It's also a lot of fascinating, thoughtful dialogue--this movie's a lot more dialogue than any of Chaplin's previous films.

Some of the quotes on IMDb; "Henri Verdoux: Despair is a narcotic. It lulls the mind into indifference.","Henri Verdoux: Wars, conflict--it's all business. One murder makes a villain; millions, a hero. Numbers sanctify!"

The movie is kind of an impish meditation on humanity's truly terrible nature. It was the melding of two seemingly incompatible artistic modes, giving both a fresh effectiveness. It's a good movie.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The new Boschen and Nesuko is up.

I really oughta make a regular entry here, huh? Hmm . . . maybe later . . .

Sunday, May 01, 2005

I noticed the other day that there's a link to Zai'Pi Super Snail on the 24 Hour Comics Day blog. There're a lot fewer online 24 comics listed than I would've thought. I've read through a couple and they're pretty fun reads. There seem to be several, I've noticed, including my own, begining with a character wondering where he or she is.

I've noticed the Desktop Wallpapers section on my site has actually been getting a number of hits so, for those people, I've put up a new wallpaper of Nesuko looking rather feminine here.
To begin with, happy birthday to Owl. I hope you have a good time.

Let's see . . . I've been watching a lot of movies starring Joel McCrea lately. Last night I watched the wonderful Dead End. Made in 1937, it was filmed entirely on an enormous, rather marvellous set representing a street in New York that had rich apartments and homes on one side, and the terrifically poor buildings on the other. McCrea plays a fellow who's worked his way through college to be an architect, yet still has to scrape out a living doing odd jobs in the neighbourhood.

Humphrey Bogart's also in the movie, as Baby Face Martin, formerly one of the little hooligans on the street, now a big time gangster. Bogart's really good in this movie, and it was a delight seeing him teach the street kids how to fight a rival gang--Nuts to the agreed on rules; throw electric light bulbs and bring knives.

My favourite performance in the film, though, was Sylvia Sidney's. I recently got in a ridiculous argument with an LJ user who insisted that "Old American movies are so dumb, the female characters are always psychotic and then the men hit them and it's a love story."

Anyone with a fourth of a brain knows this isn't true, but one of the nice things about this movie was that it so casually provided evidence to the contrary. Sylvia works, Sylvia pickets, Sylvia gets hit by cops and fights back. And she's adorable the whole time. Imagine my surprise when I later discovered that she grew up to be Juno the Caseworker in Beetlejuice. Wow, did her voice ever change! And little wonder, since her imdb profile says she died in 1999 from throat cancer.

And in Beetlejuice she plays a chain-smoking ghost with a smouldering hole in her throat. Eerie, ain't it?

Now, on to something decidedly unpleasant--the episode of South Park I watched last night.

I've written before about South Park irritating me when Matt and Trey decide they've got special knowledge and are gonna teach America a little lesson about themselves and morality or some shit. Last night was, by far, the most foolish and mean-spirited example of that aspect of South Park's decay from clever fun to idiotic wallowing.

I knew things were bad when I saw the commercials for the episode; Mr Garrison gets a sex change and we see him making a scene in a supermarket as he tries to buy tampons.

Sometimes trailers can be misleading, which was why I watched the episode, so I could give a fair trial. It did not redeem itself.

Stupid characters in television shows are often given specific kinds of stupidity in order to suit specific episodes. In this case, Mr. Garrison was made the kind of stupid where he thought getting a sex change would let him have periods and babies and, in a few cringe worthy scenes, appear on Girls Gone Wild. And what was the point of that, Matt and Trey? That all people born female are considered worthy fodder for Girls Gone Wild?

Yeah, the humour is supposed to be dryly stated arguments for their apparent belief that getting a sex change is invariably foolish. The beginning of the episode features live action footage of a vaginoplasty being performed, while the South Park doctor remarks on how natural it is. The juxtaposition of his statement and the footage is, apparently, to make us say, "Wait! Why, you scamps, surgery isn't natural at all!" So, score one for the Amish, I guess. I hope neither Matt nor Trey finds himself with a tumour any time soon.

The episode dissolves into various stories of people getting surgery to alter themselves--Kyle becomes black, and his father tries to become a dolphin. The idea being that wanting to look different from how you are badly enough to get surgery is always wrong. Never mind that in real life, Kyle's dad would probably be informed before surgery that he's never gonna be made much like a dolphin, and that Kyle's interest in being black in order to join the basketball team won't actually make him play better, and that he can listen to rap music and still be white. So what would Matt and Trey say to someone who's deformed or with severe burn scars? That they ought to be able to deal? Or is surgery acceptable when we are socially unacceptable?

The end of the episode had Garrison making a quick statement about learning to accept life as woman, albeit one who can't have babies. Maybe at this point Matt and Trey were making themselves sick and they wanted to go back. Well, guys, you can't go back if you refuse to dwell anywhere but within the stink of your own ignorant opinions.