Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Unaddressed Strangeness of "Evil"

In 'nam, there was no "winning." Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I'm not sure if it's his recent public blowup that made it difficult for me to believe Charlie Sheen's character in Platoon, or if he's just not a convincing dramatic actor. Recent events have certainly proved he has a sense of comic timing, and maybe this is just a case of a comedic actor not translating to dramatic acting. There is a somehow intrinsically satirical quality to his voice over narration, like when he says, "I'm fighting not just for my life, but my sanity." Maybe the writing's not so great, either.

Well, actually it does have an engaging feeling of authenticity. Released in 1986, the Oliver Stone film came out eighteen years after Stone had served in Vietnam. And the attention to things like the endless problems Sheen's character has with insects biting him and the sheer quantity and variety of troubles piling up on the soldiers contributing to their fear and helplessness are given appropriate attention by Stone. Where he fails is in characterisation. Part of it is that he's trying to set up an allegory about the American consciousness, with Tom Berenger's Sergeant Barnes representing the dark side and Willem Dafoe's Sergeant Elias representing what's good and decent about the American soul.

It's ambitious to do this while simultaneously trying to discuss the psychology of American soldiers in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the movie comes out as saying essentially that every man who willingly participated in the killing of innocent civilians was always evil at heart. Stone sets up two factions within the platoon--guys who drink and listen to country music following Barnes, and a more racially diverse group of guys who smoke pot and listen to rock and roll and motown who follow Elias. So Stone seems to be blatantly tying good and evil to liberal and conservative. Maybe conservative guys were more likely to go psycho in Vietnam, but the characters in the movie feel too two dimensional to really represent them. Stone's view certainly has credence for his first hand experience, but writers who consistently write two dimensional characters all presumably have experience with real, three dimensional people too. It seems to me like Stone is or was the sort of person who digested the actions of those around him by reducing in his mind their personalities to simple types.

The scene that really exemplifies the nature of Platoon as a whole is the platoon's terrorising of a village, a scene clearly meant to address the My Lai Massacre and American mistreatment of the Vietnamese people in general. Stone attempts to set up motivation for the platoon by showing some of their comrades being killed by booby traps and hidden Viet Cong. But there isn't quite enough of this to explain the mentality that compelled men to shoot women and children. It still works out saying half of the men were Bad Guys and the other half, looking on in alarm, were Good Guys. This doesn't address what happened at My Lai, the horror of which greatly exceeded the events shown in the movie. The incident in the movie comes off as relatively quick, while the massacre involved the deaths of at least 347 people, including women and children. And there was rape and mutilation, all of which would have taken too long to continually cut back to Charlie Sheen and Forest Whitaker standing around looking shocked. What happened with Charlie Company must have been more horrible than Stone had the chops to portray. As such, the movie inevitably sidesteps the issue Stone seemed to be trying to address.

Platoon certainly had its good points, but I can see why it was Apocalypse Now that Charlie Sheen was watching over and over at Sober Valley Ranch.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Breaking the Piggy Bank

It wasn't long before I saw Stellan Skarsgard again, this time in Breaking the Waves, which my Interpersonal Communications teacher decided to show the class as an illustration of Interpersonal Communication concepts. We have to write a four page paper on it, which, like most of the class's written assignments, is a far greater length than the prompt actually supports. Though maybe it's just that I'm having a hard time learning to write to fill space rather than to create something interesting.

In any case, it was nice seeing the movie again after what I guess must be at least eight or nine years. I think I've seen it twice, first possibly in my high school film class, and again with Trisa. I remember being very into Lars von Trier, Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, and I even sought out his Kingdom mini-series. For some reason I've stopped following his work since then. I see he, as a matter of fact, has a movie in theatres, right now, Melancholia. I so want to see it, but I guess part of the reason I've gotten so bad at following modern movies is that money's so much tighter for me than it used to be. I have a massive library of older, great films I have yet to watch which makes it hard to justify spending ten dollars to see something in theatres and, in the case of a less mainstream film like a Lars von Trier film, spending the money on gasoline it takes to get across town to a theatre where it's playing.

Breaking the Waves tempts me to try, though, as I'm reminded of von Trier's remarkable, unflinching cinematic voice, going for emotional extremes to argue a moralistic point. Yet he somehow avoids seeming silly, possibly because of the realism of his film style, but maybe more because his characters come off so credibly. He's one of those directors, like Ang Lee, who gets good actors and then gets extraordinary performances out of them.

You know, I think the only movie I've seen in theatre this year is Cowboys and Aliens. I can't let it end that way. I'm so damned tempted to go and see Melancholia after class to-morrow. Can't we just end money? Can I get an Occupy movement on that? Am I asking too much?

Twitter Sonnet #328

Unsynced subtitles grind out film strip meal.
Pirates plead to sailors in the dance hall.
Bad teeth crumble on the communion reel.
Mad cave man animators hit the wall.
Portuguese lists bleed into the English.
Nymphomaniac text files get lost.
Iron is useless refined from spinach.
Our pick axes bear now the fulcrum cost.
New calico cassocks confound the deaf.
Aging skeletons gradually fatten.
Four red diamonds spell Queen Elizabeth.
Tissue habits crinkle against satin.
Delayed questions lead to useless footwear.
Lemon blood soaks in the Pine-Sol nightmare.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just Trying to Help, with Sex

I think the makers of 1973's Anita: Swedish Nymphet at least glanced at a real book about nymphomania. At least, Stellan Skarsgard makes the talk about many nymphomaniacs not being able to have orgasms and pursuing constant sex out of a sense of worthlessness sound legitimate. It's still all kind of a charming pretext for softcore pornography. I mean, it's sort of charming that the makers of this film seemed to think it was necessary.

Christina Lindberg is in every way great as Anita. Despite the thinly veiled true nature of this film, she and Skarsgard both give very sincere performances and they actually make sort of an adorable couple if you can look past the business about him being her sexual saviour. I'd say what the film needed was some rounding out of the characters, but then I think I'd be forgetting the actual point of the movie.

Skarsgard plays Erik, who seems to be in charge of a small troupe of classical musicians who all live together in a two story house. It's here that Erik brings Anita after he comes across her fucking a random old man at a construction site. Anita tells him her life story, particularly concerning her parents who have consistently treated her as worthless throughout her life.

Maybe that's why they don't stop her doing an impromptu strip tease for her father's friends after she and her sister have given a little recital while their mother accompanies them on piano. Why do I keep trying to rationalise? I'm never going to make fit the curiously tender lesbian sex scene with a social worker that abruptly leads to Anita taking a career performing in cabaret.

A nice bit of somewhat eccentric fun, this movie, though I wouldn't recommend watching it without alcohol. It turns out no amount of softcore porn with oddly good performances can make heavy handed psychoanalytic dialogue less boring.

One thing's for sure, I'm never getting that damned theme song out of my head; "A girl like me, a girl like me . . . I show me now for you, I show me now for you . . ." The song has English lyrics but the reason it's stuck in my head is that I had to manually fix the out of sync subtitles for the otherwise Swedish language film and there were a few test runs before I got it right. I spent two hours doing it while eating breakfast and listening to The Howard Stern Show yesterday. I suppose it was worth it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What You Mean

I have four written assignments due to-morrow and all I want to do is play Skyrim. How the hell am I supposed to get my own projects off the ground? "Wait until you're an old man and retired," is the "responsible" answer I used to get. Nevertheless, I have been doing research for a new comic I may launch early next year. I might have time for it since I'm only going to be taking one class--I decided the only way I was going to get through Japanese II was if it was the only class I was taking. It's just as well since that one class, five units, cost a hundred ninety five dollars. That's not counting text books, which fortunately I already have. It's not hard to understand why the Occupy movements have been criticising the cost of education.

Though I guess Frank Miller doesn't get it. Maybe you've read by now his sad, vitriolic blog entry attacking the Occupiers as "a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists." I suppose I can see from the Capitalist perspective how people who want everyone to be provided for regardless of how much profit they accrue would be thieves, but rapists? One can only guess at the spectre crafted by his paranoia that prompted that designation.

I suppose even when he was writing good comics it was the rhetorical excesses that made them so entertaining. It doesn't surprise me the guy's a conservative, and maybe considering the Neo-Con wet dream that was 300 I shouldn't be surprised he's this wacko. Still, it's amazing to me someone can spew crazy of this proportion without being self-conscious about it. But maybe that's just a sign that I don't watch FOX News.

Anyway, one of the assignments I'm working on to-day is the write-up for a "Song Analysis" in my Interpersonal Communications class wherein I was to put together essentially a mix tape with the intention of communicating something to someone I was in a meaningful relationship with. The assignment rubbed me the wrong way for reasons I laid out in my introductory paragraph;

I compiled the songs for my sister, Chelsea. I must confess the idea of directly communicating something meaningful to someone with what is essentially a “mix tape” seemed juvenile and tacky to me. This may relate to my perspective on art and perhaps communication in general. I feel an artist can ultimately communicate only with him or herself and the audience can only respond to artistic stimuli through the prism of their own minds. Art is effective when the artist successfully and consistently speaks with a voice and to themes that resonate personally with a large number of people. He or she accomplishes this by tapping into his or her own fundamental humanity or common psychological traits. Trying to tell someone something about themselves while not accepting it as an aspect of yourself almost inevitably comes off as patronising and is in only rare cases productive if the statement is negative. The statement comes off as trite if it’s positive. In either case, because mix tapes are infallibly more about the creator of the mix than the intended recipient of it, it’s pathetic because the creator seems implicitly unaware of this. I used to love making mix tapes for people when I was younger but it was absolutely never constructive and in fact usually created distance between myself and the recipient. Eventually I realised it was because I was introducing my concept of them, and my concept of myself, which they inevitably found discordant with their own conceptions of themselves or me. It emphasised the futility in effecting those concepts of another person in a proactive way.

But I did enjoy coming up with the list of songs, and I found I came up with a theme and an arc with them. I had to explain these things for the assignment, but in my concluding paragraph, I said;

I’m happy with my sister’s responses to these songs, even though they mentioned none of [my explanations of their meaning]. She enjoyed them and found her own meaning in them. These songs potentially relate as well to my sister as they would to anyone else, and therefore to my mind are more likely to have a positive impact on her. They respect her autonomy and freedom to take what meaning from the songs she would like.

So see what you think, if you like;

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Formidable Simplicity

Brigitte Bardot's ass and Fritz Lang are the two most important things in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film Contempt. They could be seen as opposing forces as Bardot's character, Camille, tells her screenwriter husband Paul at one point a joke about a man who goes to buy a flying carpet. The man complains that the carpet won't get off the ground and the merchant explains of course it won't fly so long as the man is thinking about ass. Since he can't stop thinking about ass, the carpet won't get off the ground.

Paul (Michel Piccoli) has been hired by Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance), a shallow playboy producer, to rewrite a script for a movie Fritz Lang has already started shooting, an adaptation of The Odyssey. Lang, the legendary pioneering Expressionist filmmaker of Metropolis and M, plays himself in Contempt and actually gives a rather good performance, apparently his first acting role in his career.

I don't know if the opinions he expresses are Godard's or his own or both, but what he says about The Odyssey is certainly insightful, saying that the charm of it is the "belief in reality as it is." This insight is shared with Paul as a contrast to Jeremy's desire to change the story so that Penelope has been unfaithful to Odysseus. This conflict between producer and director, in which Paul is caught in the middle, mirrors the marital troubles between Camille and Paul.

After she's been alone with Jeremy for a while, Camille suddenly becomes cold to Paul, precipitating a thirty four minute argument between the two in their apartment which mainly involves Paul asking Camille questions and attempting to read her mind when answers aren't forthcoming or satisfactory. She switches between telling Paul she still loves him and telling him she doesn't love him anymore. She says it's not Jeremy who's changed her attitude, she says she hates him, but she shoots Paul meaningful glares whenever he casually allows her and Jeremy to be alone together, as though she blames him for allowing an impulse to fester within her to go with Jeremy.

Shots centred on Bardot's ass are almost randomly inserted at times. The idea doesn't seem to be to condemn nudity for cheapening art as much as to say it's sadly wasted on the vulgarity of someone like Jeremy or the neuroses of someone like Paul. Lang's point about the simplicity of Odysseus' relationship with his wife and her being faithful after being surrounded for so long by suitors in his absence takes on a prescience.

The clips we see of the fictional Lang take on The Odyssey mostly consist of shots of Greek statues garishly painted, kind of a neat shorthand for a potential film adaptation of the classic story.

After watching a bit he particularly hates, Jeremy picks up a reel of film and throws it like a discus, prompting Lang to dryly observe, "Finally you get the feel of Greek culture."

Jeremy replies, "Whenever I hear the word 'culture' I bring out my checkbook." He then says to his assistant, "C'mere," and begins making out a check to Paul, writing on her back while she's bent over in front of him. And Lang says

Contempt is a movie about how art and love can be destroyed by failure of imagination or failure to observe and respect nature.

Twitter Sonnet #327

Good green snowfields soak up olive oil.
Alvin regrets Dave's playing Truth or Dare.
Tennis rackets aren't Theodore's foil.
Roosevelt lays the black chicken plans bare.
The round needle forgets about purpose.
Moustaches grown too thin for doughnuts flee.
Penitent beards sparkle with white surplus.
Just what doesn't Santa want us to see?
False fat poorly simulates pregnancy.
Photo copies appear throughout the house.
Whisky translated Bill Sikes for Nancy.
Ideas just don't become a ten tonne louse.
Your feathers aren't safe in the tomato.
Wrestlers make Jove laugh like a tornado.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Helpless Babes of Renown

I can't be the first person to think of Oliver Twist as a human MacGuffin. I finished reading Charles Dickens' 1838 novel to-day, a novel I'd found at turns fascinatingly charming and fascinatingly dull. Dull because of how obnoxiously pure and flat all the good characters are, like Oliver and Rose, charming because of how complex and distinctive the wicked characters are. I don't know how much of this was intentional on Dickens' part, but he must have been aware of it on some level because at around the two thirds point, Oliver, who'd been an almost completely passive point of view character throughout the book, disappears from the narrative entirely and focus is placed entirely on the world of thieves and prostitutes that ensnared and tormented Oliver for unlikely reasons.

The other half of the book's plot concerns polite London society and a complicated business about Oliver's parentage. Passages where Dickens has the characters at length discussing these things are usually pretty lame, and serve to reinforce the fact that Oliver's best employed as a motive for the more colourful characters. Dickens establishes these characters partly through their colloquial dialect, and partly through a frequent amusing, understated translation standing in for it, which takes the form of extremely long sentences that read like piles of amendments in a legal document. Dig the doozy at the end of this exchange;

'Then why don't you send this new cove [to the police-office]?' asked Master Bates, laying his hand on Noah's arm. 'Nobody knows him.'

'Why, if he didn't mind—' observed Fagin.

'Mind!' interposed Charley [Bates]. 'What should he have to mind?'

'Really nothing, my dear,' said Fagin, turning to Mr. Bolter [Noah], 'really nothing.'

'Oh, I dare say about that, yer know,' observed Noah, backing towards the door, and shaking his head with a kind of sober alarm. 'No, no—none of that. It's not in my department, that ain't.'

'Wot department has he got, Fagin?' inquired Master Bates, surveying Noah's lank form with much disgust. 'The cutting away when there's anything wrong, and the eating all the wittles when there's everything right; is that his branch?'

'Never mind,' retorted Mr. Bolter; 'and don't yer take liberties with yer superiors, little boy, or yer'll find yerself in the wrong shop.'

Master Bates laughed so vehemently at this magnificent threat, that it was some time before Fagin could interpose, and represent to Mr. Bolter that he incurred no possible danger in visiting the police-office; that, inasmuch as no account of the little affair in which he had engaged, nor any description of his person, had yet been forwarded to the metropolis, it was very probable that he was not even suspected of having resorted to it for shelter; and that, if he were properly disguised, it would be as safe a spot for him to visit as any in London, inasmuch as it would be, of all places, the very last, to which he could be supposed likely to resort of his own free will.

And yes, there's a character called "Master Bates", a young pick pocket, whose appellation I don't think was given in ignorance by Dickens. I thought it sort of funny and telling that what turns Master Bates eventually against a life of crime was that one of his associates murders a woman.

The murder, the circumstances of it, and the flight of the perpetrator, read like literary Hitchcock. Again, a striking contrast to the stuffy scenes in proper society of Rose Maylie turning down the marriage proposal of the man who loves her because she fears disgracing him, and he persists in his love like Lancelot. Somehow in the same book there's Bill Sikes, bludgeoning to death his prostitute girlfriend, graphically described, and his escape from London told from his POV. One of the greatest moments in the book has Sikes in a tavern encountering a peddler, caught up in his sales pitch, offering to remove the bloodstains from Sikes' cap with his product.

The leader of the band of thieves is Fagin, who on the one hand is a disgustingly anti-Semitic caricature, and on the other is one of the most complex characters in the book. The descriptions from his point of view, his paranoia and pride in his lifestyle, are refreshing contrasted with the downright obnoxious portrayal of Oliver, Rose, and their friends settling matters, writhing in mutual adoration, and Rose picturesquely fainting at some shocking good news. I'm tempted to think the whole book was designed to make Dickens' more uptight Victorian readers a bit uncomfortable by showing them, without much fuss, what's actually interesting and human, and what's false in their moral pretensions.

Here are some pictures I've taken this past week;

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Monsters on Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Since I have nothing particular to say about Thanksgiving this year, how's about another Halloween post?

As you can see, I've already become a werewolf in Skyrim. It's a lot easier to attain than in Morrowind--all you have to do is join the Companions faction, which is kind of like the Fighter's Guild from the previous games, and you're given the option to become a werewolf four or five quests in when another member of the guild offers her blood.

At first I was a little disappointed in the changes from Morrowind, particularly in terms of duration. In Morrowind, you took on the beast form every night in the game between 9pm and 6am, during which time you had to find a humanoid to kill and eat, lest you suffer weakness during the day. In Skyrim, you're able to transform any time you want but only once every twenty four hours and it only lasts two and a half minutes unless you feed, in which case you gain an extra 30 seconds for every corpse you eat.

So I actually kind of wrote off my newly acquired lycanthropy until I came across two farmers travelling alone in a remote mountain pass, on their way to join the Imperial faction, I think. Since my character considers herself a loyal daughter of Skyrim who wants the Imperial bastards out, I decided on a whim to switch to beast form and tear apart the hapless travellers. I knew no-one would miss them, but as in Morrowind, no-one connects the beast attacks with you unless someone actually sees you change form and now, in Skyrim, no-one will ever know what you are if you manage to kill all the witnesses before they can tell anyone, as I discovered first hand.

You're faster and stronger as a werewolf and it is intensely satisfying knocking people down, making a mess of them, and devouring them. Your standard attacks are claw swipes, but I've discovered two power attacks from clicking both mouse buttons at once--one attack knocks someone across a room, in another one you hold your target's head with both hands, lift him off the ground, and decapitate him. Yeah, these aren't your friendly furry WoW werewolves.

Unlike Oblivion, which got an M rating only after someone discovered that the game had in its resources, that could only be unlocked with a user made mod, a topless female humanoid model. But Skyrim was made with an M rating in mind, which makes werewolves like me very happy indeed. Unfortunately Bethesda, like many game companies, is still shy of any sexual material. When your character wakes up "naked" after rampaging in beast form, you're wearing some rather anachronistic yellow undies. But the NPCs talk to you like you're naked, which'll be convenient when a decent nudity mod is released.

On another note, I think the Ice Wraiths are my favourite new monsters in the game;

The wind picks up the snow sometimes in undulating strips and the wraiths look very similar to them, giving the impression that you're being attacked by a mirage come to life.

Also last night, I watched Jesus Franco's 1970 adaptation of Dracula which, despite having no relation to the Hammer Dracula films, stars Christopher Lee. And this is a better Dracula movie entirely for the performance Lee gives at the beginning of the film. You can tell he was eager to create a better characterisation than he was given opportunity to in Horror of Dracula. This is the best part of the whole movie;

The rest, I'm afraid, isn't much worth watching. Klaus Kinski is in it as Renfield, but he has absolutely no lines, perhaps because of concerns about his command of English, and he gives kind of an interesting silent performance, but mostly he just seems out of place. The rest of the cast are utterly forgettable and astonishingly boring, though the women playing Mina and Lucy are really gorgeous. It's as though, after the beginning, Franco suddenly decided he didn't feel like making a Dracula movie anymore and decided to rush through it. A lot of compulsory dialogue is thrown in sounding as though the characters have no idea what they're saying. Quincy Morris, who's Lucy's fiancé and an English barrister in this one for some reason, while Arthur Holmwood's totally absent from the film, asks Van Helsing if Dracula could be responsible for the recent death of a child. This is just after Lucy's death, and Van Helsing, Harker, and Morris are heading to Lucy's tomb. Van Helsing replies, "Worse than that. Far worse. The nice and innocent girl you loved."

Morris says, "You're mad! Lucy? A killer of children?"

He just skips over the whole thing about Lucy rising from the grave. I guess it goes without saying the dead do this from time to time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Straw Man Massacre

Does it look to you like Rambo's sucking in his six pack? I'd wonder what's the point of all those sit-ups if I were him. But the most surprising thing about 1982's First Blood for me was how pretty the first half is.

All this beautiful Canadian wilderness, well shot. Shot in Canada, the story takes place near Portland, Oregon and I was reminded of driving through that area. It made me want to be there, finding my own photographs, wandering, probably not setting crude wooden traps for the local law enforcement. But that was a very entertaining part of the movie, reminding me of playing Arkham Asylum, especially in that the cops hunting Rambo seem to have some unreasonably large blind spots.

Someone wrote in the movie's Wikipedia entry, "The film is notable for its psychological portrayal of the after-effects of the Vietnam War, particularly the challenges faced by American veterans attempting to re-integrate into society." Not many people are willing to talk about the sheriff's departments of small towns staging a full on manhunt and calling in the national guard for lone veterans charged with vagrancy, who manage to take out the cops one by one without killing any of them. You'd think people would want to talk about that sort of thing.

The larger than life quality of the film's story and action are what works best about it, and are what make an emotional breakdown by Rambo at the end seem unintentionally silly. Talking about gruesome memories from Vietnam and the lasting effects they had on him, it's a moment that might have been pretty good in another movie. On the other hand, I wondered if there was some part of the action oriented man-psyche that needed an unrealistic story confirming Rambo's manliness and physical dominance before they could allow themselves to cry. For all I know, the movie could have been a watershed for a certain kind of guy I don't tend to talk to very often.

What was satisfyingly realistic were the effects and the lighting. This scene of Rambo giving himself stitches looks so incredibly real, I have no idea how they did it. You can see the blood coming out of him in a sort of rhythm and the blood isn't the bright, tomato red of most fake movie blood of the time. It looks like a real wound.

And the lighting feels so nicely authentic, especially a scene where Rambo gets stuck in a mine and it looks like the match he's holding is the only light source.

At roughly halfway through the film things start to get less interesting. There's a scene where Rambo hijacks a military truck with shots and bits pulled right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I can respect a homage, but this felt more like the filmmakers were just running out of ideas. They were doing so well earlier--there was a nice scene where Rambo's hiding behind a tree from a guy in a helicopter with a rifle whom Rambo defeats by throwing a rock, breaking the windshield, causing the chopper to jerk enough to cause the rifleman to lose balance and fall. That's good stuff.

Twitter Sonnet #326

Filipino dinosaurs need adjust.
The rain dissolves grill glue outside Wal-Mart.
Swiss cheese masks make most robberies a bust.
Ominous ostriches powered a cart.
Enormous skeletons donate their land.
Navies sprawl out across quilts of seaweed.
Ovulating cities expose the sand.
Yellow forests somehow do smell of mead.
Rubber screws distracting spirals would melt.
Plutonium apples set on Sunday.
Action figures can't say what they have felt.
Wind-up karate joints repel the ray.
Folding space is ultimate etiquette.
Fondly recalled hymns hate a tourniquet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Walked with Planes, I Talked with Planes

So much for the predictive powers of Science Fiction. Twenty nine years after The Super Dimension Fortress Macross appeared on Japanese television we still don't have planes with legs. Or robots with Jolly Rogers on their Jolly Rogers. Don't engineers have any sense of romance?

The technology in Macross is charming and well animated, but it's a pleasing attention to characterisation that's making it work for me two episodes in.

The catty, for some reason all female, bridge crew of the Macross, her Captain that looks like he stepped out of a nineteenth century illustration, and the pacifist young ace pilot make the show engaging.

None of them are too stilted or perfect, it's a good counterpoint to the show's lofty setup wherein the human race has converted for its own purposes an alien space craft that crashed on Earth decades earlier, the Macross. My favourite bit was a beautifully, flawlessly animated sequence of the pilot diving to rescue Lynn Minmay, who I guess is to be the female romantic lead.

It's sweet, even after he accidentally crushed her apartment because he doesn't know how to pilot the craft in robot form.

I also read "LATITUDE 41°21'45.89"N, LONGITUTE 71°29'0.62"W" to-day, the new story from last month's Sirenia Digest. Another nicely atmospheric string of information about stone, lighthouses, and sea life to add eerie aesthetic credence to a story about strange metamorphosis. It was good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

That Crazy God

Brigitte Bardot, wow. I just kept thinking versions of that while watching And God Created Woman. She justifies the whole movie, a 1956 film about a nymphomaniac orphan in a small French harbour town, which would otherwise not be much more than a pulpy soap opera. She's so extraordinarily good at sensual business on screen.

And yeah, beautiful. She looks like a live action version of Aurora from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. They could've just had the sets and props and just let her chew scenery for two hours and I'd watch.

But there is a story here about how her character, Juliette, is too much of a tramp to be a good wife to the man who marries her, Michel. He marries her mainly so she doesn't have to go back to the orphanage for her notorious behaviour. She seems to do pretty well until Antoine, Michel's brother, Juliette's former lover, and all around douche bag, comes back to town.

When Michel has to go out of town for one day, Juliette can't keep it together, she has to fuck Antoine, the guy who'd left her waiting by the side of the road when he'd promised to take her away with him. Maybe it's because she feels sex is just sex for Antoine, with no ideas of love or commitment attached.

The fallout then shows the hypocrisy of the conservative little family, when Michel and Antoine's mother want Juliette to get out of town, and absolutely no blame is put on Antoine.

But Michel fights for Juliette anyway, believing in their love. The movie isn't quite saying, "Let's not condemn people for casual sex and embrace sensuality," though that's probably the real underlying impulse of the filmmakers. The literal message ends up being more like, "Forgive women who truly feel guilt for their uncontrollable lusts and beat up guys who don't feel guilty about using such women."

The climax is a pretty silly scene in the basement of a bar where Juliette partakes in that disgraceful exercise, dancing to live music. Jazz, even!

This is almost too much for Michel. The jazz and the dancing and the what not. But we at home can enjoy these sinful antics, safe in our virtue.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Digital Infiltration

I've been attempting another foray into new anime lately, the above image is from the first episode of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. It's not bad, it has some funny moments, and I like the butterfly wings in the girl's hair. I guess you could call it a Haruhi Suzumiya-type anime--it begins similarly with a misfit girl who spontaneously starts a strange club after she meets the male protagonist. There's no apparent Science Fiction aspect to the show, though--the club is formed by the female lead in order to help her make friends. Like many shonen anime, this one presents the unlikely circumstance of several beautiful girls desperately requiring the company of the otherwise social outcast male lead.

Something a bit more interesting to me I just now noticed clicking through Wikipedia links is that the company producing Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, AIC Build, is also funding the development of a computer programme called CACAni which does in-between animations. That is, the animations between key frames in 2D animation, key frames being the beginning and ending frames of movement. An essay I'm working on for my English class is actually about how hand drawn animation remains unrivalled and inimitable and one of the things I used to support my argument was a quote from Mike Judge on The Howard Stern Show talking about how he depends on an animation studio in Korea for in-betweens on his recently re-launched Beavis and Butthead (which is really good, by the way). I pointed out in my essay that even though the Korean animators are still nominally divorced from the creative aspect of the show, the human element they provide still can't be replicated by computers. So much for that argument. Well, then again, CACAni doesn't appear to be in regular use and the few demonstrations I've seen on YouTube aren't very demonstrative. Mind you, the animation at the start of this video doesn't appear to be attributed to CACAni;

On the one hand, I can see this leading to a rash of dull, soulless animation. On the other, I can see this putting a lot of creative power into people who couldn't afford it before. Certainly it's ominous for Korean animation studios. Anyway, I guess my main point still stands, since this thing isn't even attempting to do key frames.

Twitter Sonnet #325

Karl Marx crushed Ayn Rand's DVD case.
Orphan apple seeds strike over the sauce.
Resolve writes gang symbols on Donald's face.
Katherine Helmond was the Zen Buddhist boss.
Rubber alloy veins fill skies with colour.
Softened eyeballs are good stress relievers.
Let's say a hundred eyes make a dollar.
Certainty's the chickens on the levers.
Violet foil sticks to pink tupperware.
Powder blue soft stomach tissue dries out.
Heaven fades at the postman's patient stare.
Smeared stars plop into the long orange juice drought.
Polyester white collar trees recline.
You cannot drop quest item Porto wine.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

With the Magnificent Force of Hollow Plastic

You know, I don't think Thor's such a bad movie, actually. I mean, the costumes are dumb, there's all kinds of cgi where it shouldn't be (I'm pretty sure at least one day for night shot was just out of laziness), director Kenneth Branagh has a weird insistence on tilting the camera all the time, the take on Norse mythology is pretty depressingly unimaginative (Loki's a frost giant?), it doesn't compare well to Der Ring Des Nibelungen, S.H.I.E.L.D. is inexplicably incompetent, and a wacky sidekick for the female romantic lead is thrown in to make up for all the personality Natalie Portman doesn't have. I'm starting to realise she's kind of the female Keanu Reeves, in terms of her acting ability in proportion to the quality of film roles she lands. But otherwise, Thor's really not so bad.

He may be dressed as a Power Rangers villain, but Anthony Hopkins really felt like Odin to me. Pretty much the only character in the movie that reminded me of his mythological counterpart, but I liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston's Loki is, as I've seen a few people say, actually pretty interesting. The actor's quoted in Wikipedia as saying, "Loki's like a comic book version of Edmund in King Lear, but nastier." Which is funny because when the S.H.I.E.L.D. guy asked Thor who he was after Thor was unable to lift his hammer I wanted him to say, "Thor I nothing am." Thor and Loki are brothers in this and they definitely have an Edgar and Edmund vibe. And like my preferred takes on Edmund, you can see Loki's point of view as he's just trying to do what he thinks is right when he's surrounded by all these damn jocks.

Thor actually gets an arc I responded to--he's arrogant and reckless at the beginning, and when he loses his power it humbles him and makes him more considerate. It's a nice little movie. Really it is.

Sometimes Bethesda games can be a little buggy. For instance, I saw this last night in Skyrim;

For some reason this guy had spawned twice and one of him is buried up to the waist. They can both talk and everything. I imagined the unburied one saying, "Hi. This is the me I keep half underground." Oh, it's a deep glitch, man.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Things We Do for Our Goats

I killed a giant for this goat. I hope he or she appreciates it. It was part of an amusing quest chain that involves cleaning up various things my character did but doesn't remember after a massive drinking binge. I "woke up" on the other side of the map in some kind of mountain monastery/mining town where there was a delicate political balance between some kind of demonic miner's union and the bankers. I started investigating a murder, but might have done something wrong because now everyone in the county/shire/hold attacks me on sight. I have an over 1000 gold bounty on my head. I could've loaded an earlier saved game, but I got kind of a kick out of running from the massive mob of guards, miners, merchants and drunken beggars. Since bounties in Skyrim don't necessarily carry over to other parts of the map, I should be okay as long as I don't have to go back to that region any time soon. Maybe by then I'll be a werewolf and the whole place will just be a great big buffet.

Last night I dreamt I'd driven forty or fifty miles away from home and parked at a curb next to a park. I sat in the grass, in the shade of a tree and felt very relaxed. Then I noticed my car had been towed. I looked around, but couldn't find a sign warning people not to park where I did. All I found was a large grey sign that read, in black letters, "Ben to go." My name's not Ben and anyway it doesn't sound like anything in the neighbourhood of "No parking--violators will be towed at owner's expense."

I finished the dream arguing with the two guys who owned the tow truck, who didn't speak English very well.

Here are some real life photos I've taken lately;

Saffy has Galadriel eyes.

I see the trailer for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special is online;

Paying homage to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I see. Well, it couldn't be worse than the live action movie from a few years ago. This trailer comes on the heels of a new Doctor Who movie being announced. It's to be overseen by the Harry Potter movies' David Yates. I haven't seen any of those last Harry Potter movies. According to the article I've linked to, the new movie will ignore television continuity in much the way of the Peter Cushing film.

I do hope it's good, but I don't think I'll be bothered too much if it isn't. If Doctor Who can survive Colin Baker, I figure, it can survive anything.