Thursday, July 22, 2004

Does Anyone Who Isn't Related to Me Read This?

Heh, my new-found passion for manga-drawing has inspired me to actually enjoy -- and keep up with -- "MegaTokyo", the online manga written by Fred Gallagher. The first time I tried to read it, I got bored. No magic, just this shy dude named Piro and a raving alcoholic named Largo who was very l337 (what does that mean? What does it mean to be l33t?). Now, however, I've gone back to reading it (from the beginning! I'm on comic #282 now...) and it's awesome! Who'd'a'thunk? Also, I'm actually taking the time to read Piro's rants, and of course, they reminded me of my own blog, something I haven't been keeping up on too well...
Still working on the concept for my own online comic, manga-style. It'll take place at a University campus, but unlike MacHall, I'll be living with my hilariously exaggerated anime-hating parents! Huzzah! Also...the character based on me will have magic powers and will join a magic police force that patrols the campus looking for baddies (naturally!). I had to add that plot piece in because, although I love anime and I love games and I love movies....I really don't have enough money to keep up with what's what, so my comic has to have something filling in. Maybe my younger sister will help me with the comic...she's very l33t, so long as l33t means "weird, in a very cool and popular way".
I just hope that I can actually get it up...the last time I tried to make a webcomic (titled "AnimeJune", ver predictable) I had the account set up and everything, but then had no idea how to put my comics onto the webpage! Something to do with computer wasn't capable of uploading my comics for some bizarre reason. Since then, I've forgotten what didn't work...So I'll try again!
In other news....because I have such a bad habit of acquiring junk, I used up all the available space in my room, so my parents opted to get me new shelves and move all my furniture around. Sweet! Except for the fact that I had to take every movable object and piece of junk I owned and dump them in my sisters's rooms while I fiddled with the furniture. After it was all done, now I have to move all my shit out of my sisters' rooms and put it all back. But, on the other hand, it's not like I don't have a lot of time on my hands...
My mother and sisters planned a trip to Sparwood, B.C. to see our Aunt Mary Ann and her preternaturally articulate 2-year-old daughter Claire (according to my mother, she can hold conversations at a 5-year-old level). I couldn't come, because I assumed I would have work (at McDonalds! Did you forget?) on those days. Surprise of surprises, I had no shifts until Friday! Which meant I had three days where I would be completely alone in the house until my father got home from work. It wasn't completely horrendous. I got to hang out in my exercise clothes all day, eat pancakes, and read "MegaTokyo" for hours at a time. When my father got home, the fun was magnified, as we both set out to do things that my mother never wanted to do. Yesterday, in fact, Dad and I shared a Delisio Veggie Delux Pizza (mother never got us anything except pepperoni for Delisio, and the rest was the flat Restaurante stuff), a huge bag of Ariba! Jalapeno and Chedder corn chips and a carton of chocolate icecream while watching the freakiest '70s horror/musical of all time, "Phantom of the Paradise". Watch it. It will blow your freakin' mind. Of course ( I can sense my mother will read this entry) that's not ALL I did...hahahaha *nervous laughter*. I perfected my drawing skills...and that's art! That's productive? Right? I worked on my fantasy novel (and by "worked" I it over without really writing anything...*sigh*). And I counted all the money in change drawer! You really needed someone to do that, right Mom?
Gah...*I can already feel the waves of disapproval radiating out from wherever Sparwood is right now...*

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Reunited With a Lost Love...

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's been a while. I'd make up an excuse, but in truth, I'm just too damn lazy. In fact, that's the main reason I haven't been keeping up on my posts. Yup, I just don't have enough free time on my hands, so I frequently do nothing simply to keep up the allotted amount of time spent doing nothing that even slightly resembles work. Plus, my burning passion for anime (Japanese Animation for those of you not in the know) has been viciously rekindled by Animethon 11. Again, for those of you whose minds are going blank, Animethon 11 is the largest anime (do you still remember what that is?) convention in western Canada. Uh huh, I know that tacking "Western Canada" on doesn't always say much, but the convention continues to grow year by year. This time around, instead of nine viewing rooms, there were sixteen, and the dealer's room was located nearly two buildings away (on the Grant McEwan College Campus...did you really think a non-profit event could afford a hotel?) in a gym. On the negative side, that meant more physical activity for those of us who were perfectly willing to sell their souls for the season of "Slayers: Next" on DVD. On the positive side, due to the larger space, it wasn't as crowded and it didn't smell like the weekend of Animethon had coincided with National Not Take A Bath Day.
Me, I got a good haul, and for once, I didn't have to spend all my money! This year, I had made a solemn vow not to buy any manga (*I'll explain this later...), or any DVD of a series I had not seen yet, or any CD that didn't have at least one song I had heard before and enjoyed. The year before, I blew 400$ (All of the salary I'd received so far from my summer job at was my first job, and I was unused to getting that much money in such a short amount of time...predictably, it all went to my head) and wound up with four manga volumes I was willing to throw away two weeks later, a CD of Sailor Moon music all performed on a mouth organ (I'd asked the vendor for "Instrumental" Sailor Moon music, and that's what I got) and two Japanese versions of "Newtype Magazine" that I couldn't read. Sure, I'd also bought the second half of the "Fushigi Yuugi" series, the "Escaflowne" movie, and a "Fushigi Yuugi" OAV, all of which I enjoyed, but if I'd only purchased those, I would have saved a boatload of cash and my parents' respect for my financial judgement.
*Why do I not like manga (Japanese comics)? Enough to completely strike it from my Must Buy list? Simple. Translated manga, even though it is becoming increasingly more common in book stores like Chapters and Indigo, costs anywhere from 15 to 30$, and it takes about twenty minutes to read, tops. Plus, the anime versions are nearly word-for-word identical to the manga that inspired them, so by buying, say, the "Full Metal Panic Vol. 1" DVD for 40$ and the "Full Metal Panic Vol 1" manga for 25$, you're basically throwing 25$ down the drain. I prefer colour and movement, so I stick to anime and leave the manga well enough alone. If I see a title at a library, I will take it out and read it with relish, but if I have to shell out a quarter of a hundred bucks for twenty minutes of pleasure, I'd rather save my moolah for the anime version.
Anyway, back to Animethon. I walked away with the "Strawberry Eggs" series on DVD, the "Escaflowne" series on DVD, "Full Metal Panic: Mission 06" (I only had Missions 01 and 02 at home, but it was the last one in the whole Dealer Room), and the soundtracks for "Full Metal Panic" and "DNAngel". That's it.
My parents (still convinced that anime, simply because it was animated, was a childish pursuit) were extremely disappointed in me nonetheless for spending so much money in one place, regardless of how rarely I did it and how long I had waited for the event. I find it more than a little frustrating, seeing as they blow a ton of cash every year at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival on CDs and gear. I don't agree with it (to me, every Irish jig sounds the same), but I don't lose any respect for them because of it. Folk music is important to them, and it's only once a year, and they've attended Folk Fest with most of their friends for the last fifteen years. If I can tolerate it, why can't they?
Other than my parents' disapproval, I also gained a newfound interest in drawing manga (yes, I can create it, but I don't like reading it! ^_^). I'm pretty good at it, or more accurately, parts of it. I have faces, heads, hair, and storywriting down pat, but there are a few details that have alwasy escaped me and eventually led up to me abandoning my hobby. Primarily, I suck royally at drawing hands, buildings, backgrounds, shading, texturing, and perspective. I always wanted to start a manga of my own, but a little voice in the back of my head would always say, "Wait until you've learned this, so that your comic will look better." But I would never learn it, and my story would go untold. Well, no so anymore. I will start designing a comic! It will probably never get published, but it will hone my skills. And at faces, heads, and hair, I have mad skills indeed.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The "Station Agent" is Funny, Touching, but Sadly Unfocused, so says AnimeJune

AnimeJune’s Review: *** (Out of five)
I’ve always been a person of routines myself. During the school year, I had a specific time for exercising, a specific time for showering and eating, a specific time for packing my lunch, getting ready for school, making myself presentable. The structure of a routine has always provided me with a kind of psychological safety net of sorts, a certain knowledge that if I kept to the program, everything would go the way it was supposed to, and nothing unexpected would happen unless I let it. It gave me a measure of control, while at the same time it restricted me.
In The Station Agent, the deep rut of a well-established routine is what drives dull, dreary Finn McBride, a disillusioned dwarf, to confine his life to the schedule of trains. An avid train-watcher, he shares a train memorabilia shop with a fellow train enthusiast, watches movies of people riding trains, and keeps a “Zephyr” train poster in his bedroom. His quiet schedule is disrupted when his fellow train devotee (and only friend) dies unexpectedly, bequeathing Finn with an abandoned train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey. When Finn travels there to explore his sudden inheritance, he is accosted by an ebullient hot dog vendor named Joe and narrowly escapes being run over (twice!) by lonely artist Olivia, whose grief over the death of her young son has left her a clutzy, frazzled mess.
It is obvious from the start that Finn (Peter Dinklage) and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), are kindred spirits. Wounded by experience, both have isolated themselves from the world in an attempt to shield themselves from further pain, Finn with his rigid day planning, Olivia with her flighty, fragile personality. It is up to Joe (a fantastic Bobby Cannavale) to bring them together with his relentless, charming optimism. He continually wears down their defences. When Finn brushes off Joe’s offers of companionship with the excuse, “I have something else to do,” Joe’s immediate, and impossible to refuse, request is “Can I do that with you?” When Joe can’t go near Olivia without getting the cold shoulder, he drags Finn along with him to communicate. The remarkable way Joe manages to unravel Finn and Olivia’s restricting cocoons is the heart and soul of the film.
While feel-good fuzzies abound in this movie, I felt it could have been presented a little better. The pacing is erratic, jamming scenes of great intensity and movement next to slow, tedious tableaux of character introspection in a jarring contrast. Also, the transition between scenes is sudden, and inconsistent, as the tale jumps from setting to random setting and from time frame to random time frame like a sun-addled butterfly. I found it confusing, and clogged the natural flow of the story. The screenwriting, alas, is startlingly laid-back and unnecessary. The exceptional actors manage to convey so much emotion without saying anything, that certain bits of dialogue have no connection to the process of the story, and sound like they were simply tacked on to fill up empty silences (“I like blimps.” “Yeah, blimps are cool” is one example).
All in all, watching this film was like listening to a familiar, warm, and funny tale told by a rattled, absentminded, and distracted storyteller. In the end, the point is made, and it’s a rather good point, but I couldn’t help but become distracted from the wonderful, just-this-side-of-kooky plot by the fragmented, irrelevant scene direction. Perhaps that in itself is a subtle message, a hidden irony, that a film set around people dedicated to routines and schedules and rules, itself follows no clearly set path or outline.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Jude Law Channels Odysseus is the Suprisingly Mystical "Cold Mountain"

AnimeJune’s Review: **** (out of five)
I never expected to like “Cold Mountain”. I thought it would be a relatively pleasant way to spend 150 minutes, but I wasn’t really looking forward to it with bated breath. I suspected it was going to be a tedious, thick, soul-searching period piece with an oh-so-common once-in-a-lifetime-love plot twist thrown in. Well, dear readers, I stand corrected. There’s just something about this movie that let it stick in my head for longer than I expected, that had me running over it again and again in my mind to find out why, exactly, I enjoyed this film so much.
Quite possibly, it is because this film defied all my expectations. One of the last things I was expecting was a reinterpretation of “The Odyssey”. Jude Law channels Odysseus as Confederate soldier Inman who, after being shot in the neck and receiving a pleading, if belated, letter from his sweetheart Ada, deserts from the front lines to begin a long, arduous trek back to Cold Mountain, North Carolina. Ada (Nicole Kidman), meanwhile, is the embodiment of Penelope as she struggles to hold on to her deceased father’s farm while fending off the advances of her unwanted suitor, the avaricious Teague (Ray Winstone) and his aggressive followers. Her only support is the amicable, if hot-headed, Ruby (Renee Zellweger, in her Oscar-winning role).
There are a great deal of plot holes and elements where belief must be suspended to keep it from being shredded entirely, and the film handles this in two ways. The first method is to acknowledge the unlikely events, and embrace them nonetheless. While the concept that a couple who have known each other for barely a month can be driven to such monumental lengths to reunite is a bit of fairy-tale fluff, the film never hides or avoids the inevitable question of “They barely know each other! How can they do this?” Inman and Ada both berate themselves with this inquiry, but the truth is: they’re alone. They have no one else in the world who cares about them except, maybe, this one person. The hope of having finally found this one person to cling to is what drives these two characters, not necessarily the love they share. The second way the film deals with improbable situations is to give itself an air of mysticism that cleverly disguises plot flaws with mystery. For example, Ada sees a vision of the future when she gazes down her neighbour’s well with a mirror, and Inman is advised upon his course of action by an unusually wise and philosophical blind man. Ironically, this fantastical element lends the story more credibility. True love is more believable in a setting where the unbelievable happens.
Usually, in a production that is based on a novel more than 400 pages long, the movie tends to have a compressed feel as the directors, screenwriters, and actors attempt to cram the living heart of a respected novel into a restricted three-hour time limit. However, the pacing of this film is surprisingly smooth, graceful, and consistent. The only indication that this tale is based on something longer and more extensive is the massive amount of vibrant roles, each pinned underneath a well-known Hollywood face, who are relegated to brilliant cameos as the story is forced to plod on without them. Such short-lived characters are Philip Seymour Hoffman’s lecherous Reverend Veasy, Natalie Portman’s sorrowful widow Sara, and 28 Days Later’s Cillian Murphy’s starved Yankee rebel. The script itself contains pages and pages of lovey-dovey, grandiose speeches of how absence can make the heart grow fonder, but just before Ada and Inman can dig a nice, mushy grave of treacly love cliches together, Ruby’s character storms in and craps all over it with Renee Zellweger’s splendidly deadpan delivery. I’m not entirely certain her performance was worthy of an Oscar, as she’s mainly a comic relief sidekick (and there is no shortage of those in blockbuster films), but it is a refreshing reprieve from the deadly serious adventures of Ada and Inman. In fact, all of the performances are exemplary. Nicole Kidman is either a tad too old for her part, or Jude Law is a smidgen too young for his, but otherwise they pull it off. As I mentioned before, Renee Zellweger’s performance was enjoyable, but not quite exceptional enough to merit an Academy Award, at least in my ignorant opinion.
To quote The Princess Bride, “This is true love. Do you think this happens everyday?” Apparently not, and despite the overexposure to this rare phenomenon in the media, Cold Mountain manages to reintroduce the idea into a modernisation of an ancient story and still let us believe that the concept of love at first sight is delicate, beautiful, unique, and powerful. The few flaws in it are the occasionally touchy-feely scriptwriting and the shaky (acting-wise) introduction. Otherwise, however, Cold Mountain spins a wonderful, fairy-tale quest, out of the fabric of real life.

By the by, I now am, unfortunately, in the grips of a powerful and new Obsession: Jude Law. Because of him, I actually made myself watch "AI: Artificial Intelligence"! Oh, but he IS so good-looking... Now I have to go out and watch "Enemy at the Gates", "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Final Cut"....sigh.....