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DVD Update
Thursday, June 30, 2005 - 5:30pm cst:

I've promised to send some movies to friends and family, but it turns out I need to hunt down some dual-sided blank DVD's. I may have to wait until the new checkcard arrives, so I can order some online.

The upside is that Anne of Green Gables can be fit onto four discs, at approximately 12 episodes each. So please be patient.

After Anne is finally finished (I really should be recording some audio commentaries right now), I think I may do a similar DVD set for Miyazaki's Future Boy Conan. There don't appear to be any releases with English subtitles.

 

What's Wrong with Hollywood? - pt 1
Thursday, June 23, 2005 - 11:25pm cst:

I've noticed there have been a number of news reports about the current Hollywood slump. Simply, people aren't going to the movies, at least not as much as the past few years.

Now, if you're a teenage boy, all this talk of falling attendance may seem baffling. American Pop Culture has worshipped at your feet for most of your lives; certainly ever since Jaws and Star Wars began the blockbuster mentality. Everything in America is geared towards 14-year-old boys. Everything.

Now, for the rest of us, American Pop isnt' a lot of fun. It stinks. The music is lip-synched, the TV shows are putrid, and the movies are terrible. Right now, Hollywood movies are just terrible.

Of course, it's always had its slumps, and the summer months are left solely to the dumb blockbusters. But it seems to be getting worse every year. We're getting to the point where the only time we see movies aimed at adults - you know, actual movies - is during the three weeks leading up to the Oscar nominations. The rest of the year, it's back to shaking down Beavis and Butthead.

Why aren't we going to the movies? Because Hollywood isn't making any. Two hours of endless explosions, loud effects, Barbie and Ken doll posing, and product placements do not a movie make. Call them what they are: car commercials, music videos, and videogame demos.

BOOM! BAM! BOOM! BAM-BAM-BAM! Dude, I'm gonna kick yer ass! Yeah!!!

Last week, I went to the new Block E multiplex in downtown Minneapolis to see Batman Begins. When I sit down in my seat and the lights go down, I don't get a movie. What I get are commercials. Twenty minutes of commercials.

Did I mention that movie tickets still cost $8.00 a pop? Did I ask for this? Did anyone? I remember that commercials are the trade-off we make for free broadcast television. And since I'm not paying for that, does this mean movie tickets will be free? Sharply reduced? Fat chance.

So I have to sit here, captive, while loud, stupid advertising blares over the speakers. This is why I don't have a TV, kids.

After that, we have another twenty minutes of previews, which used to be a lot of fun. Used to be. Now, what we get are hyper-condensed, hyper-loud versions of the complete movies. More explosions. More cameras that shake around and cut faster than your mind can process. More of those annoying voice-overs. "IN A WORLD WHERE..." You know the kind.

Hollywood assumes that you are a drooling idiot, so the plot to the entire movie must be spelled out loud. Cut-cut-cut-cut. Boom-boom-boom-boom. Cut to twenty-something making a bad joke. Boom-boom-boom. Coming soon to a theatre near you.

Sigh. I sat through half a dozen previews, and they were all for the same stupid kind of movie, the mutant grandchildren of George Lucas and Star Wars. It's insane how anyone can even comprehend any of this. I suppose it works for children and young adults who honestly don't know any better. Most of them have never seen a really great movie in their lives, and almost never anything before they were born. Certainly not anything in black-in-white, because, uh, you know, black-and-white is, uh, old...and stuff. Huh-huh.

By the time the movie starts, I already have a splitting headache. Apparantly, I can't pay attention to the movie unless the speakers are blaring at 80 decibles. How many of you spend the better part of a movie with your fingers in your ears? It's getting to the point where you need earplugs.

Perhaps that's why I ended up hating Batman Begins. It's hard to compete with throbbing ears and a splitting headache. It certainly doesn't help when the action scenes are impossibly noisy and terribly shot. I've never seen more incompetent camera work; it's nothing more than recklessly shaking the camera in every direction, based again on the notion that the audience cannot sit still for more than a full second.

The Bruce Wayne segments, which delve into the character and psychology of Batman, are actually very good, and in this regard, the movie is the best in the series. But then there's another LOUD action scene with that twirling camera, and a climax that's nothing more than EVEN MORE EXPLOSIONS!!

The problem is that every Hollywood movie is like this. It seems there's a generation of filmmakers who don't even know the basics of the craft. I see this all the time, and there are so many problems than could be easily solved, but I suppose as long as the money's rolling in, then what's on the screen is working. At least, that's the Hollywood mentality.

Well, they better start taking some classes and paying attention, because the last time I checked, people aren't buying tickets like they used to. And we can either blame it all on outside forces - DVD, videogames, the internets, iPod - or we can grow up and start dealing with reality.

 

Truimph at the Michael Jackson Trial
Monday, June 12, 2005 - 11:30am cst:

Another comedy classic from Triumph.

 

Well, Ohayoo Minna!
Sunday, June 12, 2005 - 6:25pm cst:

I just checked the site stats early today.

Holy buckets.

Uh, morning, everybody. Where did you all come from? Thanks for joining the party. Do stick around, won't you?

 

The Best Movie of the Year
Sunday, June 12, 2005 - 6:20pm cst:

Howl's Moving Castle.

While clearly the best movie to be released in American theatres this year, I'm also seriously tempted to declare this Miyazaki's finest film.

This is a much more complex film, one that is less accessable to new viewers than, say, Spirited Away, but it is also one that greatly rewards your dedication. Is Howl's a (very) loose adaptation of a Diane Jones' fantasy novel? Is it an angry, sobering anti-war movie? Is this a personal filmmaker's poem to his marriage, and specifically, his wife? Yes, yes, and yes.

Also, you will need to call upon your knowledge of Miyazaki's work to truly understand all his icons and metaphors. I told you all to watch Porco Rosso and read Nausicaa. Now it's time for the finals.

And the Pixar-led American dub is outstanding, as good as their superb work for Spirited Away, if not better. I should be embarassed for ever doubting them. This bodes well for Pete Docter, who is believed to be directing a Pixar version of Howl's after the Disney divorce is final.

Go. Now. Take your children. Take your spouse. Take your parents.

Update: The weekend numbers are in, courtesy of Box-Office Mojo. Howl's grossed only $401,000, but this is because it only premiered on 36 screens. If we look at the per-screen average, we see that Howl's grossed $11,138 - second only to Mr. and Mrs. Smith (thank you, Hollywood high-school gossip machine), and far above anyone else.

Meanwhile, pedestrian and lifeless "cartoon" Madagascar played on 3,929 screens, averaging $4,352 per screen. I just offer this as an example. Which movie do you think deserves to be shown on 4,000 screens?

Next week, Disney will expand Howl's to over 700. If these theatres continue to draw crowds, then we should expect more theatres to jump on board. There's no reason why this movie couldn't gross $100 million in the US, just as there's no reason complex, personal animation, films that truly appeal to all ages, couldn't be made here. The medium's true potential goes far beyond the safe confines of Disney fairy tales and slapstick comedies.

It's high time we Americans learned from the masters - Miyazaki, Takahata - of this abstract, expressionist breed of storytelling. But to do that, you have to get people's butts into some seats. That's your new homework assignment.

 

Howl's Moving Castle Opens Today
Friday, June 10, 2005 - 10:50am cst:

Miyazaki's latest cinematic gem is being released today in select cities, with a wider release (around 700 screens) next Friday. Needless to say, I don't have to spell out for you the greatness of Studio Ghibli movies. Do whatever you can to see this picture. Drag whatever family members you have available: children, adults, household pets.

I can't say how effectively Disney will market Howl's, but my hope is that it is given the proper attention it deserves. So it's up to us to buy movie tickets and show the suits that Ghibli can prove popular at the multiplex. No doubt the early box office returns will determine how wide the film's release will ultimately be.

So if you're a lover of Miyazaki and Ghibli, then go. If not, then here's an excellent chance to change that. Oh, and let's hope Disney and Pixar's English-language dub doesn't screw things up too badly. I'm still miffed about the roughshod treatment given on the Nausicaa and Porco Rosso DVD's.

 

Let Me Get This Straight
Thursday, June 9, 2005 - 12:00am cst:

Why is it that my daily traffic always goes up every time I take a break? I always get more attention when I'm not updating. What's the deal with that?

Seriously, though, I've been busy with the bank job and the Anne DVD, which is shaping up nicely. Oh, and Minneapolis is one of the cities to receive this Friday's premier of Howl's, so consider me lucky.

 

Anne of Green Gables DVD Coming
Thursday, May 26, 2005 - 11:00pm cst:

Anne of Green Gables (Akage no An) DVD

I just bought a DVD burner this month for my computer, something I've wanted for a long time. Here's my first project with the new toy: a custom-made DVD of Anne of Green Gables. This is the Isao Takahata's 1979 Japanese TV production, beloved in Japan but never seen in America.

Well, count on me to turn everything into a major production. This Anne of Green Gables (Akage no An) DVD set includes pictures and descriptions of all 50 episodes; illustrations and background artwork; a look at World Masterpiece Theatre, a staple of Japanese television for 25 years; a tribute to the late Yoshifumi Kondo, lead animator and character designer; and a look at the careers of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, from their early days in the 1960's to today's Studio Ghibli.

The menu screens will look fantastic (similar to the above picture), and I'm hoping to include audio clips of the classical music from the series. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

And, finally, the best feature of all: audio commentary. This is what I'm most excited about. Just about every subject possible will be covered, from Lucy Maud Montgomery's original Anne books, to the Takahata production, to animation in general. I'm hoping to bring other voices to the table as well, provided they have something valuable to contribute.

So, between this and working 35 hours a week at the bank, you can hopefully understand why I've been so busy.

One final thing. Please understand that this is strictly a do-it-yourself DVD project. The Anne videos were found from "fansubbing" sites across the internet, and all my additions are purely a labor of love. My wish is for these DVD's to be shared and passed around, for everyone's enjoyment. Friends, family, teachers, animators, artists - I'd like all of you to enjoy this definitive version of Anne of Green Gables.

I'll let you know when it's finished, hopefully within two weeks.

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