I started writing a longer post this morning, and I haven’t finished it yet. I figured seeing the extended cut of Metropolis was more important. When I do ultimately finish today’s real post, I’ll retroactively post it. Or something.
Had a dream last night that somehow wrapped itself up. Isn’t it always fun when your dreams do that? It’s almost like they’re planned out.
I dreamt I was hired by some kind of graphic design company. They had a fancy new office and everything. So I get hired, and literally the second I sit down to work I get a call from a bank or something that wants to hire me too (for more money, etc., or something). So I close the one file I opened, some bad looking graphic that needed work, and leave to do this other thing.
Bunch of other stuff happens, but just before I wake up, I’m driving down the road and I see a billboard with that graphic I didn’t have time to work on. And it’s a super ugly billboard. And this woke me up because I thought, ‘I could have made that billboard good, but I quit on them.’
I’m not sure what it all means…
Anyway, talking about Arrietty yesterday, and how I didn’t really read books when I was a kid, brings up something I’d like to discuss.
I follow LeVar Burton on twitter, I’m not 100% sure why. Maybe it’s an effort to follow as many cast members of Star Trek: The Next Generation as I can. But there’s only like 2 left, I even unfollowed Wil Wheaton, ‘cuz that guy got on my nerves. So it’s really down to LeVar and Brent Spinner, or Geordi and Data. However, Geordi is not who I associate LeVar Burton with primarily. For some people, Geordi is first and foremost Kunta Kinte.
But not me. I haven’t even seen Roots. I know him primarily from Reading Rainbow.
As a kid, even though we had illegal cable, I still found myself watching a lot of stuff on PBS. I watched Jack Horkheimer – Stargazer, I watched Bill Nye, I watched Carmen Sandiego, and I watched Mr. Rogers. Interestingly, I didn’t watch Sesame Street, it was just never my show. But I did watch Reading Rainbow.
The Reading Rainbow wiki page says that the show ‘encouraged reading among children.’ It did not have that effect on me. I liked the show for the portions where LeVar would go places and show things. I used to hate it when he would say “but you don’t have to take my word for it” because that means 5 minutes of stupid kids talking about stupid books. They’re always crappy kids books, which might be a redundant phrase. Of course, even if it was interesting, after listening to these kids talk about the books they read, I had no reason to actually read those books myself. So while the show was designed to promote reading and literacy, it had the opposite effect for me.
When I think back on it, though, I can’t remember reading one good book in my whole childhood. Not until like 10th grade did they assign a book that was actually entertaining, and even then half the books were still total shit.
Reading Rainbow likes to make it sound like reading helps the imagination, but for me it always seems to hinder the imagination. I mean, they’re telling you what to imagine, writing it out in detail. A real good imagination flourishes with no guidance. TV isn’t any better, but at least TV has pictures and music and a set length of time.
Been sitting on this one for a little while. Time to reflect on the latest stateside Ghibli release. I hope using these images counts as fair use.
I’m probably going to get some flack from my more well-read friends because I never read books when I was a child, but this latest film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli is based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I would probably not know this book even exists if it weren’t for this film adaptation. I don’t want it to sound like I’m bragging about my ignorance, this is a fault of mine, not something to be proud of. That said, I don’t feel like I’m going to jump in on any ‘children’s novels’ any time soon. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. If you’re out there reading this, and you’re a fan of The Borrowers, maybe you can change my mind. All I can say is, good luck.
So, while I can’t really talk about the source material, and I don’t feel like I can really talk about the film as it was originally intended (more on that in a second), I can talk about the film I saw, The Secret World of Arrietty, released by Disney.
Before I get too far into it, I want to just say that the film is good, and it’s worth seeing on the big screen while you can. Even if you’re like me, and can’t stand dubbed movies, it’s still worth your money. I mean, check this out.
Backgrounds like that are reason enough to see this movie in a proper theater, and the movie is filled with them. Also, even with the dub, the sound design on this film is amazing. I don’t often hear about sound design when it comes to Ghibli films, but it’s every bit as wonderful as those painted backgrounds. Go see, and hear it.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me talk about some specifics.
I noticed this problem of mine as the movie started. I get cynical when I see previews and the pre-show ‘entertainment.’ Especially when it involves child-targeted advertising, and even more especially when I see something with my peers. Part of it is well deserved. I mean, how can you watch this, and not get offended? You’d have to be >5 years old, that’s the only way I can imagine. And when you go to the movies, especially Disney movies, even though the audience for a film made by Ghibli or even Pixar is probably larger than the >5 demographic, you’re just bombarded by ads like that. There’s something about being my age seeing ads like that, that make you just be snarky and cynical. And maybe that’s okay, most of these ads totally deserve it.
But eventually, the movie you came to see will actually start. You have to try to remember to shut that shit off. I don’t always do that. I realized this as the title cards were coming up…but I worry I realized it too late. Even if I did realize it, I’m not sure if it’s something I can just turn off.
In typical Ghibli fashion, this film has a complex tone that shifts dramatically and masterfully. As was pointed out to me a while back, it goes from quiet to frightful to comedic in a 30 second window, and it’s all natural. The maid woman is especially crazy/awesome with her expressions/motivations.
Now, I saw the American English dub, so I can’t really comment on the original Japanese or even the British dub, but the voices in the US version aren’t terrible, but they have some issues. Firstly, the dad, I guess his name is Pod, has this kind of gravely, Batman/Grayson Moorhead Securities/Cornfed Pig voice, which I actually liked a lot. It just felt a little bit odd. Then there’s Amy Poehler, who I didn’t even recognize in the part, doing her best not to sound like Olive Oil. The dub overall had kind of a Popeye sound to it in terms of its pacing. Not a bad thing, I suppose. Carol Burnett helps to make the maid lady that much more crazy.
But then there’s the boy.
I could not care less about this boy. Does he do anything? So he’s dying, who cares? He has all these lines but it all felt unnatural and stupid. I’m not sure where this problem comes from, is it in the original source material? I don’t think you can blame this on the dub, I bet this kid would be equally annoying in any language. Even his mom doesn’t want him around. He’s especially annoying ‘cuz Spiller is there, and let’s just say he’s more Arrietty’s type (HE CAN FLY).
I think Arriety herself, both the character and her voice, manage to convey the spirit of a spunky kid who makes some beginner’s mistakes.
I did see the film digitally. I suppose that’s becoming the norm for all theatrical presentations. For a moment I felt bad that I was seeing something hand drawn but not on film, but then I remembered that film projection sucks. Digital is superior when done right. Film or no film, though, it’s still worth seeing on as large a screen as possible.
Using my iTunes star rating I discussed last time, I have to give this a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s by no means my favorite Ghibli film (pretty low on the list, actually), but it’s still very good. I hope, if you haven’t already, you give the film a shot.
Speaking of giving movies a shot, there is a Ghibli retrospective coming to the Bay Area in July. If I can manage, I want to see every film (except maybe Grave of the Fireflies, which I don’t really need to see ever again), and I want to drag as many people along as I can. It’s a special event to see such wonderful examples of craft on the big screen, and worth every penny to do so. I hope to see you there.
Here’s a radio show just made today, in progress. I gotta record the announces and stuff, but if you don’t need that and don’t want to hear my voice, it’s up there right now! Head on over to http://i.mixcloud.com/CBJeT0 to listen, or just stay here ’cause it’s embedded below.should have a video for you tomorrow. Nothing too special, it’s just been too long since I’ve uploaded a video. Until then!
Writing this one from my phone ‘cuz the god damn Internet had been down for like 3 days here at the Starbucks. Nobody knows how to restart a router? Gotta wait for AT&T to come fix it? You’re losing customers this way, idiots.
Anyway, what shall I talk about.
I kinda blew it yesterday. No Internet here plus no motivation to do anything kinda messed me up. I did do some work on a radio show, so that’s something, but it’s no where near finished. I need to bring up production on those things.
I also get the feeling I should stop watching tv… Now that most of my day is devoted to shit not around a TV, when I get home I just wanna watch TV. But I only have like 2 hours before I just crash, plus I have to share the TV, and the people I share with don’t always want to watch what I watch. Basically that means I end up watching Perry Mason when I get home from work. Don’t get me wrong, I like Perry Mason, but is that what I want to be watching? I’ve got a DVR full of shit I’d rather watch, but I’d have to be antisocial to do it.
If I cut that out, maybe that’d be the way to go. Maybe.
I have enough stuff to watch even without having TV. Speaking of…
I’ve seen 2 movies and I haven’t reviewed either of them. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be! So, briefly, here’s my critique of one of them. I’ll get to the other one another day, hopefully when the Internet is working.
Trash and Progress by Abe Dickman
So, as I said before, I worked on this movie. I actually did the production sound for a very pivotal day’s worth of shooting. And, either they looped it really good, or I was able to record some good sound up there on that hill. Just because I was there, I’m going to assume it was looped really well, but I at least gave them some good guide tracks to go by.
First the good: the movie looked good, sounded good, had good effects, good music, good production design. Considering a student made this on their spare time with their own money, all there is to say is Bravo.
But then come the faults. This movie felt long. Really long. And I don’t think it was very long. The writing was kind of bad, but maybe that’s not fair. Maybe the problem really lay in the acting/pacing. I didn’t care about any of these characters. There’s this girl that was naked on a space ship with some dude, but then the ship crashes and the guy dies, but so what? There’s nothing about this girl that makes me want to hear her story. And then she’s there for the rest of the movie, but she does nothing at all. Is she the main character? Why does it start and end with her? Why was there a shot of her holding her belly? Is she pregnant or something? By the dead husband from the space ship? What does any of that have to do with the rest of the movie?
Speaking of pregnant, in the middle of the movie there’s this scene of this adult kid and his parents, and the mom has like performed a coat hanger abortion on herself, and then the dad has subsequently beat her because of it–all off camera, thankfully–but why was that there? What is he trying to say about society there? Another problem was the dad and the mom looked around the same age as the kid.
Speaking of casting, everyone in this movie was probably too young to bring any weight to this story. It ends up feeling like a high school play.
There was a half good idea at least, band of rebels…should I say spoiler alert? Nobody is going to see this movie unless they make in some festivals. But if you’re a festival goer, maybe skip this paragraph. They rebel against this chancellor or governor or general or something, but at the end it turns out the scary dictator is actually a computer enforcing a subconscious democracy. So they’re all really rebelling against the little bit of themselves in the larger majority. Not a terrible idea for a macguffin. But it comes down to the problem where I just don’t care.
One more thing, there’s some weird choices for effect shots in this movie. For instance, there’s a long shot of a 50s style radio that I’m 99% sure was computer generated. Why? Couldn’t find a radio that was satisfactory? Couldn’t get that camera move on your own? And the big computer at the end looked 2 dimensional.
But still, I can’t really pick on the look of this movie. It’s good.
I hope it leads to other projects for the guy, ’cause there’s clearly some talent there, but I hope he gives up trying to write his own stuff. And he should get a casting director that knows more than 8 people.
If I were like a classical Hollywood executive, and I saw this movie, I’d probably be upset. I’d say probably advise to focus more on the scientist and the lesbian bounty hunter out for revenge. Cut the bit with the abortion, and the whole religious crazy guy. Shift the importance of certain characters. Never mind if the reporter/writer/outworlder is pregnant, because nobody cares what she thinks anyway. If she’s there to tell the story, she needs to be a part of the story.
That’s my 2 cents anyway. If you have the chance to see it, I’d still say see it, ’cause its visually pretty good, and it is kind of inspiring to know that such work is possible from a first-timer. It’s a reminder of what you can do…
So why am I not doing it? This movie kind of shows why. I would not allow myself to make those mistakes, at the expense of not doing anything at all. I wouldn’t get past the writing stage of a movie like this, because I’d ask all these questions before I even put anything on paper. It would fall apart and go nowhere. So I have to applaud Abe for getting past that stage and just diving in to make a feature.