Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heads up, folks--Lost Highway's gonna be on IFC at 10pm PT to-night.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I got nothing to say at this 6am. But here's one of my favourite movies. It's the movie that made me appreciate the word "sucker".

Friday, February 23, 2007

I dreamt I was Christmas shopping just after nightfall, and I was coming out of a redbrick Target when I saw a homeless cat with whom I'd gone to school. I asked the cat how he was doing, and he said he was fine--I was careful to keep a distance, though, because although I was on friendly terms with the cat, he was feral and had a tendency to lash out for no apparent reason.

I then noticed an enormous spider web across the sidewalk, which I'd seen the last time I'd spoken to the cat outside this Target a few years earlier. "I can't believe this spider web's still here!" I said.

"What spider web?" said the cat.

"How couldn't you have noticed this--it's enormous!" The cat looked to where I was pointing and was duly impressed.

"I wonder what the spider looked like," I said. "It must be long dead by now."

But it wasn't--I saw it the next instant. It was a dark, Swamp Thing green and about twelve inches long. It looked like a small man with disproportionately long arms which ended in curved claws. He used these to cling to the webbing like a sloth. Somehow I could tell he was blind and very dangerous.

I told the cat not to eat it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I just had myself two--excuse me--damn fine cups of coffee. Specifically, David Lynch coffee. I was so excited when the package showed up that I had to make a pot right away.

It came in a neat black metal cylinder that I'll definitely be saving. The coffee itself tastes a little sweet, which I ought to've expected. Sort of butterscotchy. I had to order it pre-ground, so I have to wonder how much better it'd taste freshly ground.

Progress on my new project has slowed in the past couple days. But Sonya and I have been e-mailing like rabbits--she reviewed what I've been working on and gave me a very encouraging thumbs up, so I'll call that progress.

Not too much else to mention right now, except that I'm very excited Boschen and Nesuko's finally been mentioned in Wikipedia--only as a footnote in the entry for kukri, but still, that's plenty cool. Anytime Boschen and Nesuko's mentioned alongside Dracula, I'm happy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Here's an anime series I've only seen the first episode of--I've had it on the computer for years. I only recently got access to the rest of the series. But it's one of the best first episodes of anything I've ever seen.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Friday, February 16, 2007

From Ran. Gods, I love that movie.

Fucking Thursday. I'm so fucking tired. But you're just a day, a day among seven, and you'll not best me. So here come this post.

Sonya wished me to discuss Shaun of the Dead, so I shall do so. A fan of the movie, and also relatively unfamiliar with zombie movies in general, she said, "I'm sure there were clichés being tweaked I didn't even see." On this subject, I can't be a big help, at least not compared to some people I know (Robyn). I've seen the original Night of the Living Dead, the original Dawn of the Dead, the Evil Dead movies, Peter Jackson's Braindead, I Walked with a Zombie, 28 Days Later, and many zombie movie episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. From this limited experience, the only clichés I can really see being messed with is the general reactions ordinary people have to the slow, lumbering, flesh-eating dead. Shaun of the Dead imagines--rightly, I think--that many people wouldn't be as panicked by the presence of these easily avoidable creatures as many movies have led us to believe.

Going from this premise, the movie is almost a domestic comedy, where the existence of zombies becomes a device for probing Shaun's relationships with his friends, girlfriend, and mother. A well used device--the zombies reveal things about character other threats wouldn't have--it's a crisis, but not like an invading foreign army as it allows more time for discussion. Not like natural disasters, because zombie movements are more predictable and controllable. So we can have a plausible scene of awkward cordiality as Shaun's group runs into another group led by a casual acquaintance of Shaun's. And we can meanwhile have scenes exploring the nature of Shaun's relationship with his step father, as well as scenes exploring the nature of Shaun's symbiotic laziness with his friend Ed. This is creeping, vaguely silly crises--a catastrophe with room for conversations. It's a very fun movie.

St. Sisyphus asked that I also discuss The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. A good movie, I thought, but not nearly as good as Once Upon a Time in the West. Both movies had beautiful visuals, but Once Upon a Time in the West was more about the visuals. Plus, it had a female character. Unless it's an Akira Kurosawa movie, I tend to have a reflexive dislike for movies without at least one prominent female character. My mind starts to wander a little easier.

The absence of a woman is especially felt in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I think. The centrepiece of the film is really the relationship between Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach), which at times reminded me of prison sex between otherwise heterosexual men. I can't be the first person to comment on the sort of homoeroticism of the film. Blondie and Tuco begin the movie as partners in an underhanded scheme, but when one betrays the other, Tuco becomes Blondie's bitter rival, tracking the quiet man down and lovingly smoking the used cigars he finds in his wake;

When Tuco does catch Blondie, he sadistically pushes him hatless through the desert, playing games with guns and water. Eastwood's so pretty in the movie, I kept getting a weird feeling I was seeing a woman being sexually abused.

I must say, young Eastwood's prettiness was one of the film's unexpected virtues. Just look at him;

A scarf? In the desert? This is indeed a doll for Tuco, the titular Ugly.

Anyway, character-wise, Tuco was the only one who had any development. As Roger Ebert notes in his review, Eli Wallach has a lot more lines than anyone else, and one of the film's most interesting scenes is Tuco's confrontation with his estranged, priest brother. Aside from this, the movie has a few great action sequences, a nice greed-adventure story about buried treasure, and extremely boring digression about a bridge blowing up.

But the climactic shoot-out is wonderful, staged in a massive graveyard. This is a movie that must be seen in widescreen. For all those who still don't understand the concept (and believe it or not, I know a few such people), let's compare;


And cropped for approximately average television ratio:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I can't believe it's already 4:30 am. The night's much too short. What's my day--er, night like, you may ask?

Well, Wednesday I woke at 3:30pm or so. I took a shower and then ate breakfast ("Old Fashioned" Quaker oat meal) and started drinking the first pot of coffee of the day while watching Hardball. I finished eating halfway through Olbermann, and went to my room to start drawing.

Yes, days ago I completed a script for the new project and did layouts, and now I've begun actual production. To-day I pencilled two pages and inked one, finishing about fifteen minutes after The Colbert Report, at around 12:15am. I then ate lunch (some excellent spinach quiche my aunt had made), then went to the grocery store to pick up some olive oil and water for my grandmother. I remembered there's now a Wal-Mart open 24 hours at Grossmont Centre, and at 1:30am went there and browsed the movie section, surprised at the lack of good Disney movies, which, after a conversation with Sonya, was what I was in the mood for. Instead, I bought a copy of The Castle of Cagliostro and came back here to watch part of Kagemusha, which I've been nursing for a few nights. I've watched the movie twice since getting the DVD, and now I'm taking it slow, drinking in all the lingering, beautiful shots. It's a movie with far less tension than Ran, and easy to appreciate as a series of paintings.

I stopped watching at around 3:30am and ate dinner (more quiche) before rewatching an episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (episode 11/13)--I'm watching the series in chronological order this time, which is an interesting experience. It's sort of like having two television shows in one. Things fit together differently, and lots of things make more sense, but I'm noticing a few mysteries, such as the unexplained talking cat in episode 01/11.

I've watched quite a few things lately that I haven't gotten around to discussing here. Here's a list--I may talk about some or all of them eventually;

Dirty Pair
Dirty Pair Flash
Excel Saga (rewatching)
Goldfinger (rewatched for the first time in years--mostly disappointing)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor (an old favourite I'm rewatching)
Peter Jackson's King Kong
Last Exile
School Rumble ni gekki
Shaun of the Dead
Tenchi Muyo: Galaxy Police
Veronica Mars; Season One (I believe this is the best show on television right now)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I think I've taken too many beverages . . . I just finished a cup of tea, I had a coke with lunch, and that was just after I'd come from the mall with another cup of tea. Now I'm tired of going to and from the bathroom--speaking of which . . .

And I'm back.

Also from the mall, I brought back with me Tom Waits' collection of b-sides, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards, and the new, 25th anniversary edition of The Last Unicorn, the animated movie from 1983. Yes, there's finally a DVD edition I felt comfortable buying, even though Peter S. Beagle still isn't getting paid (though he will, apparently, if you buy it through that website). And despite the fact that the word "damn" has been edited out of the audio, few and innocuous though the instances were that it was spoken. Apparently this is for all the parents who aren't buying the movie because they remember it from their own childhood, and who are afraid to let their children hear even swearwords that're allowed on network television. And who think the word itself is inherently worse than Mommy Fortuna's death at the talons of the harpy whose three human-like breasts hang naked on her chest. You know, sometimes it's fun trying to picture the bizarre, self-contradictory monster censorship is evidently meant for. A hydra whose heads are forever multiplying as they compulsively decapitate one another.

Anyway, the new DVD is not only widescreen but has also been remastered decently enough. And it's a pleasure to watch--all the animators, all five or six of them, are listed in the credits, so it makes sense that animation is only sporadically fluid. That's really okay, though--often times, the key to good animation is not to emulate real-world motion, but to use artistic judgement to decide when to animate, and when to let the audience drink in the picture. Mostly good judgement is used here, and I'm not surprised Hayao Miyazaki snatched this team up in the late 80s.

There's a limited colour palette, which at times gives the movie an interesting look, a sort of stained glass quality. Other times, as in night scenes where characters are coloured as brightly as in day scenes, it looks like someone got their Colorforms sets mixed up. Of course, this is largely because paint is expensive, and before the whole process was moved to computers, artists would have to work with thousands of individual paint colours to get the right image. And this was a low budget movie. The only other real problem with it is the horrible America songs, which are much like nails on a chalkboard, especially when Mia Farrow and Jeff Bridges start singing.

Those two do a decent job at acting, though. Even better are Alan Arkin, Rene Auberjonois, Angela Lansbury, and most especially Christopher Lee as King Haggard. I got lost in the movie whenever he started talking.

It's well-written, with a screenplay by Beagle. It seems very much focused on themes of immortality, entropy, and death. Mommy Fortuna keeps the harpy captive despite knowing it shall escape and kill her one day because the harpy is immortal and will always remember Fortuna. Molly laments finding a unicorn now that she's no longer a young girl. The unicorn is most distressed upon becoming human by the fact that she can feel her body dying. King Haggard's life grows ever more dreary, and he greedily grasps at every tiny drop of happiness. Even the tree tells Schmendrick that a tree's love is the greatest because it lasts forever.

It's a good movie. I have a feeling the book's even better. I hope Beagle reacquires the rights and manages to make it into a movie franchise, as he apparently is trying to do.

On an unrelated note, here's a bit of fun (NSFW).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I dreamt a couple of nights ago I was in an empty, very modern, sterile white house at night among some small jagged desert hills. There was no furniture, only very stark lines of charcoal shadow and pale blue light on the walls.

I needed to use the bathroom, but opening the door I found a sort of swamp diorama resembling a cross between Skull Island in the original King Kong and Degobah. I could sense various small creatures in there, among them a fat lizard vaguely like Bill from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a long limbed frog I knew to be poisonous, and a band of five tiny humans on an expedition. I knew also that there was a large and terrible creature of indeterminate shape and size in the darkness intent on devouring the creatures. I needed the light to save them, but I could only flip it on at quick intervals because I knew the creature would then see his prey and zero in. I only managed to save the frog and the lizard before I was forced to flee.

To-day's been dry, draining, and frustrating. After only three hours of sleep, I awoke to the sound of a cat crying in terror upstairs because my grandmother had hired a creepy bearded man who listens to Rush Limbaugh to paint my aunt's room. Lucky the cat slunk quickly into my room and under my bed, and Victoria followed soon after. She didn't seem to know where to go, so I put her in my closet. Unfortunately, I had to leave for the Thursday maid thing, and when I returned I found Victoria gone.

Fortunately, when my aunt came home, we found Victoria crying, trapped in a room upstairs.

And I stink. I hate going out during the day--it's amazing what a little sunlight does. I did get a chance to visit Marty, though. We discussed the modern Spanish speaking director triumvirate of Guillermo del Toro, Pedro Almodovar, and Alfonso Cuaron, but he couldn't help me in my quest to find The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which I've been trying to track down for two days so I can read Sonya's post about the film. I had it in my hand not a week ago, but foolishly rationalised that I might buy two DVDs for the same price as an invariably expensive Criterion DVD. Yesterday, that copy was no longer on the shelf, and I've since been unable to find it at three stores. So I ordered it off Amazon--a used copy ten dollars cheaper than the normal price but now it'll be at least a week . . .

Fuck, I'm tired. And irritable. No reason to be as angry as I am, except all my senses feel muffled. Fuckity fuck.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The connexions no-one makes; the questions no-one asks.

Here's an anime series I haven't watched in years. But the impending devastation of life on Earth has had me thinking about it lately . . .

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Here is a post by someone loosely linking the recent Mooninite scandal to the witch trials. I'm inclined to think he has a point, less, maybe, about Boston than about how people react to the Weird. On the other hand, this whole thing's beginning to border on the Lovecraftian.

I think I'm nearly ready to write a real script for this new project. I hope it's not that I'm just getting impatient. It's true; my brain feels liked winged worms dancing in my skull to-day. I'll see what happens. It's not like I don't have three beginnings of scripts from the last three times I felt like this.

I worked on some concept art to-day. This story's going to take place entirely on one alien world, and I actually felt like designing alien flora and fauna. Then I thought about how folklore would revolve around certain animals and their normal effect on the lives of indigenous peoples. I wanted to make some robust stuff for this, because one of my Big Ideas is to contrast it with the imposition of mythology alien to the world.

To-day I drew a landscape with three characters in the foreground, with some trees, mountains, and a fort in the background. I'm finding a lot of the look for this section of the story is being influenced by Ran and, to a lesser extent, Kagemusha. I've been thinking a lot about the concept paintings Kurosawa did before making both movies, and the ways he would use colour. It's having a big impact on my tree designs especially, though I don't think it'd be clear to anyone who didn't know.

I'm thinking of changing the name of one of the main characters. Part of me is strongly warning me not to, as I know I almost always start to hate my own ideas if I spend too much time with them. Which is another reason I'm chomping at the bit about the script lately.

Darby O'Gill and the Little People has put me in the mood for The Quiet Man to-night . . . Last night I watched two thirds of Sixteen Candles, and I may finish it to-night just because I feel vaguely duty bound, but the movie was sort of bothering me. I kept watching because of Molly Ringwald--watching her is an experience I'm finding to be something like watching a beautiful animal at the zoo. I've been trying to remedy my inexperience with 1980s John Hughes movies, so Sixteen Candles follows last week's viewing of The Breakfast Club, which was a much better, though certainly not perfect movie. It had interesting character stuff, and was only truly bad for Ally Sheedy's stupid makeover.

I'd seen Pretty in Pink a while ago, and I found it and The Breakfast Club intriguing for it's portrayal of pretty kids who don't exactly behave realistically, but behave with a certain imperceptible logic that doesn't seem to exist anywhere else. It's like a lost style, and it's sort of intriguing.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Last night I watched Darby O'Gill and the Little People. It was recommended to me by Sonya, who staked her entire reputation as a poet and her integrity and virtue as a woman on this being the greatest, most perfect artefact of cinema to ever be conceived by human hands and minds. I think she promised to wear Leia's metal bikini for weeks if I thought she was wrong.

Or maybe she didn't. Maybe she recommended it with a few strong caveats, actually. My memory's hazy on the subject. She did recommend it, anyway.

I'd seen the movie when I was a kid, and I barely remembered it, beyond that I was frightened by the banshees. Last night I found it to be a good movie, and I also found that the banshee and death coach sequences are still effectively spooky--as is mentioned in just about every review I've read of the movie.

Although it was made in 1959, Darby O'Gill and the Little People was shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio (most Hollywood movies had been shot in widescreen for about six years at that point). This fact, combined with the fact that it was filmed in colour and set in Ireland, all brought to mind The Quiet Man, made seven years earlier. This was somewhat of an unfortunate juxtaposition, as The Quiet Man was shot largely in Ireland while most of Darby O'Gill's exteriors were clearly California. Not that there were many revealing exteriors, as the director, Robert Stevenson, seemed to favour frequent close-ups and even long shots seemed peculiarly close. There's a positively claustrophobic feeling to establishing shots of the village early in the film.

Albert Sharpe is good as Darby, and Sean Connery and Janet Munro are adequate as the requisite, stock pair of pretty lovers, though Connery's huge facial expressions are somewhat off-putting in the gratuitous close-ups.

But the movie really gets on its feet when Darby falls into an old well hidden among some hilltop ruins and finds himself in the leprechaun kingdom. This movie's special effects are extraordinary, particularly considering it was made in 1959. Most of the shots of Darby with the little leprechauns are utterly seamless. No rear projection or process shots were used--instead the technique of force perspective was used, placing Albert Sharpe close to the camera and the leprechaun actors much further away than they appeared. Exactly the same technique used by Peter Jackson in his Lord of the Rings movies--in fact, I was surprised to find several similarities to the new Lord of the Rings movies. A scene later in the film, of Darby finding his daughter injured on a stormy night among the ruins, is almost precisely like the Weathertop Nazgul confrontation scene in Fellowship of the Ring, with Darby standing between his daughter and a looming, sinister cloaked banshee.

Story wise, the movie was good as far as Darby and the leprechauns were concerned. Darby's contest with the leprechaun king has much the tone of a good folktale, and events of Darby's adventures are completely absorbing and fearlessly fantastic. The love story between Connery and Munro was rote, phoney, and somewhat misogynistic.

The movie also featured Estelle Winwood, whose name I only just learned, but looked very familiar to me. Looking at her IMDb profile, I found I'd seen her in many movies, but I mainly remembered her for her small role in John Huston's The Misfits, where she plays a church lady who takes money from Marilyn Monroe as Monroe numbly but fervently attempts to feed salvation.

But, of course, my earliest memory of Estelle actually comes from this.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Everything will be all right.

This is what happens when you fuck with performance artists;

The face of corporate greed, ladies and gentlemen, is wreathed in dreadlocks.

1. something intended to deceive or defraud: The Piltdown man was a scientific hoax.

So why is the Mooninite marketing incident refered to as hoax all the fuck over the place?

If hoax implies intent . . . just what deception was intended? Just what is implied beyond "rude Mooninite"? The fact that it's coupled with an obvious electronic device? Would it really be more likely for a bomb accompanied by a rude drawing to be obviously electronic than not? Anyone with a brain cell would say "no." So, are we to then expect ambiguous public signage to be accompanied by disclaimers?

Two innocent kids are already in jail for what the quivering jelly Boston apparently has for a mayor referred to as "corporate greed". I've looked at one of the kids' web sites. Yeah, obviously corporate greed. Obviously a big, fucking danger. Or maybe I need to be a rich old jackass to see it that way.

If anyone goes to prison for this, even if it's Ted Turner, I think it may be the most 1984-like incursion on the right to free speech yet.

I'm not encouraged by almost universal news coverage of the event portraying it as a narrowly avoided danger or a malicious stunt. So far, Keith Olbermann's the only newsperson I've seen covering it as the piece of ridiculousness it is.

Odd Lite Brite advertisements don't scare me. Piggish government bureaucrats who arrest people for them do.