Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Twilight, dangit.

Twilight. It was a word that used to bring a sense of atmosphere, a witching hour, full of mystery and husky colors. But now, it has another meaning. A series of books written by the Mormon version of Anne Rice have arrested all use of the word and have somehow made teenage girls even more detestable. However, before I launch into yet another tirade, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. It’s time for me to suppress my gag reflex and read the novels for myself.

That’s right, I’m taking one for the home team.

From here on out, I will be critiquing Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire, disturbingly obsessive, love story (I may have to take a few breaks and read the dictionary to stop the screaming in my head).

Let the games begin.

Wow. Okay. Now, I’ll say this: it’s not as bad as I was anticipating. But I have to qualify that by saying, I was expecting a horrid pile of shit. No, specifically, I was expecting the scribblings of a thirteen year old. What I got was the wet dream of a seventeen year old.

Hang on, I need to pause for pie. PUMPKIN PIE.

So, as I was saying, this is essentially a trashy romance novel for teens (despite the thirty to forty year old women I see walking around wearing Twilight t-shirts. UGH.) The writing isn’t terrifically refined, nor particularly inventive. BUT, as holders of the double-X chromosomes, ROMANCE tends to be a bigger magnet than you would think. Boys, being romantic, as only a woman could think up, hits us right in the ovaries, nearly every time. You really have to do some serious uteran crunches to build up a tolerance/immunity to sappy/predictable romance. I’ll admit that I own both Bridgit Jones’ Diary films, and that I have watched 2 Weeks Notice. Don’t judge me. Cary Grant is our kryptonite and Richard Gere makes us tingle in special places. But I’m off-topic; the fact is, romance outsells most other genres, and when you throw vampires in the mix, sexy, sexy vampires, you’ve got a bestseller.

Vampires are the quintessential bad boys; they’re dangerous and brooding, and they feel every emotion to the furthest degree of feeling. They have their own place with French furniture, fast cars or bikes, rock the metrosexual look, and will occasionally flip out and yell, but then feel really bad about it later. But they can’t allow themselves to LOVE because they’re monsters without souls and they’re going to live forever, blah blah blah, and so they’re miserable, but BY GOD, all the ladies are wetting their pants for a crack at one of those fixer-uppers. Because every chick thinks that she will be the one to show the bad boy how to love and turn his life around and be taken along for the sexy vampire ride.

So it just figures that every ten years a series of vampire novels comes around and chicks flip their shit, but this…this is on the far side of ridiculous.

To be fair, let me say this: the movies are not the books. The movies, and please believe me when I say this, really distort and discolor the characters and the tone of the books. Kristen Stewart needs a slap in the mouth and a steak. Robert Pattinson needs a little less product in his hair and needs to remember that his dog didn't just die.

The characters in the film are pretty much awful in comparison to the ones in the book. Bella actually closes her mouth and doesn’t act like a half-dead fish; bland, frigid, and extremely unlikeable. The Bella in the book has a bit of a sense of humor, and can usually dole out as much as she takes, verbally, when she isn’t distracted by how pretty Edward is. She takes care of her dad and is a little more grounded than most teenage girls, though occasionally just as dumb (we can only ask for so much).

I remember watching the movie and being struck by how selfish and unthinking Bella was; she allows her hormones to supersede anything else, and whatever gets in the way of that causes her to go completely mental. The whole time I was thinking, “God I wish her dad would just ship her ass off to an all-girls Catholic school.” But the other Bella is a bit more sympathetic and puts a lot of effort into taking care of Charlie (the dad); she spends the second half of the book frantic about his and her mother’s safety after Bella is targeted as particularly enticing prey by expert hunter and vampire James. And what I appreciated most was that she was entirely aware of how unreasonable and insane the whole mess is. She knows that falling that hard in love with someone, a vampire, no less, this early in life is completely bonkers (which it is). But when you’ve got the romantic equivalent to heroin, what are you going to do?

Edward also has a pretty sharp sense of humor to match his fangs, and can express caring and sympathy, rather than just look like he ate something unpleasant or got kicked in the junk. And guess what? They both SMILE and LAUGH every once in a while, and most of the dramatic stuff they do isn’t nearly as lame and core shuddering as the movie makes it out to be (though the dazzling sparkle-reveal is still a little bit silly).

Meyer hits on a few real, painfully familiar adolescent traits, which I will begrudgingly give her credit for. Bella’s anger and frustration causing her to cry without being able to stop no matter how much she tries to control her emotions is something that I can identify with (I cry during children’s movies, I just can’t help it). Teenagers being petty and jealous and awkward as fuck is pretty par for any high school, and becoming disillusioned with adults and feeling the need to take care of them is part of growing up. And, God help us, we all remember that guy that made us insane with desire, to the point of performing some desperate stalking. And if you don’t, you’re probably suppressing some serious criminal activity.

She also, somehow, don't ask me how, works in some Adam and Eve symbolism. How did she do that? And not poorly? DAMMIT.


Meyer has the terrible habit of recycling her adjectives, repeating the same descriptions in a girly whisper of awe. If you took all the descriptions of Edward’s ice cold beauty and immaculate perfection and put it in one place, it sounds like the ravings of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man . This was something that bothered me a good deal; Edward is so PERFECT OH MY GOD IMPOSSIBLY PERFECT, and personally, I think people that look like “models out of a magazine” or “movie stars” are BLAND. They’re boring. There’s nothing interesting about their looks, a symmetrical blank piece of flesh with nothing to look at except the designated topography. Who the hell wants that? Blah.

She has a better grasp of the dialogue, but there are those moments every now and then that you have to pause and go, “Did I really just read that? Did I REALLY just read that?”

Passages that made me go, “WAT?” (Yes, “what” without the “h,” to really emphasize the “AHHHHHH”):

Edward: "...I'm tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella."

My sense of direction was hopeless; I could get lost in much less helpful surroundings...
I think you mean "more helpful," as getting lost in less helpful surroundings is pretty much expected.
...The trail would deeper and deeper into the forest, mostly east as far as I could tell.
...Did-didn't you just say you don't know directions?

Because when I thought of him, of his voice, his hypnotic eyes, the magnetic force of his personality, I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.
I...uh...isn't this pretty much illustrating you as the easiest prey around?

By dint of much elbow grease…
Though this is grammatically correct, I have NEVER heard anyone use "dint" in this context. I maintain that no one should use it in this context, as it sounds hella weird.

I pulled all my hair over my head, letting it fan out on the quilt above me, and focused again on the heat that touched my eyelids, my cheekbones, my nose, my lips, my forearms, my neck, soaked through my light shirt…
Whoa, Bella, I'm not the one you need to seduce, 'kay?

He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.
That's better.

“I’ll leave some things for cold-cut sandwiches in the fridge…”
Bella, maybe this is a regional thing. But 'round here, no one says "Cold-cut sandwiches" unless they're over sixty.

I parked in the last row and hurried to English, arriving breathless, but subdued, before the final bell.
I get it, but it seems unnecessary.

Important points:
No one with long hair uses rubber bands to tie back their hair unless they’re left with no alternative OR they are weathered old Hells Angels.

The blurb on the back cover misquotes the text.

Bella, no one winks except creepy old men and people with bad tics.

DAZZLE. Use it once, shame on me. Use it four times in a row, shame on you.

And so, one book down, three to go. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hope this hasn't gotten too music heavy, a change in the station is coming soon

Owl City, "Fireflies"

This is a lovely video and he is a lovely boy. And the song is catchy as hell.

Owl City - Fireflies from Carolina Alvim on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Idiot Savant in Desperate Need of a Good Meal

Let me start off by saying, MY GOD, THE EARLY SEVENTIES WERE SOME GOOD YEARS. I have no idea if it's just a coincidence, but there are many "desirable males" that were born in '72, '73, and '74. That's not to say that there aren't a whole host of men that were born before or after who aren't just dandy, or that there weren't a whole host of jerk-offs that were born those same years, but in my own skewed mind, those years keep cropping up as the birth dates for some dudes I have lady boners for. It isn't relevant to anything, but I just thought I'd mention it.

There are only a handful of musical artists who's entire catalogue I can listen to and go, "Oh man, this is pretty much all so good, not even a strategically placed chocolate truffle could distract me from listening to these rockin' beats." One of the precious few happens to be this lovely young man, Andrew Bird. Even his name has a lyrical quality, it rolls off the tongue, and you hear a twittering in the distance when you say it. And yes, he whistles. Much better than you or I.

I've had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Bird twice in concert; take my advice, listen very closely, in fact, push your face right up to your screen and concentrate very hard: THE SOONER YOU ATTEND ONE OF HIS CONCERTS THE MORE COMPLETE YOUR LIFE JOURNEY WILL BE. At the latest show at the Orange Peel he had a pretty nasty cold, but played and sang like he had just awoken from the most restful and peaceful of naps and had sipped the nectar of the local honeysuckle. He plays multiple instruments (violin, guitar, xylophone, piano, etc.) and uses looping technology to turn himself and two or three other musicians into a full-fledged orchestra.

Know what else I love? He bridges the generational gaps brilliantly, marrying classical music with folk with a quirkiness that appeals to the most snooty of hipsters. I went with my mother and a co-worker some years my junior; we were joined by beret-ed fifty-something intellectuals, twenty-something hipsters in striped shirts and Converse hightops, braced and gawky teenagers with black X's on the backs of their hands, and a few gray-haired ladies waaaaaaaay in the back, as far from the speakers as they could get. It was a veritable melting pot, old and young coming together to fawn over the anemic maestro.

If you need a bit more convincing, that's fine. You apparently don't appreciate my expertise, and need a rough shove into the right direction.

One of my favorite records is Thrills, a stylized concept album that throws back all the way to the twenties and thirties, with a touch of ol' country standards, and is an excellent demonstration of Bird's flexibility and range.

Minor Stab


Nuthinduan Waltz

The influence of Thrills is echoed on Oh! The Grandeur, but it swells larger and more grandiose than its predecessor, hence the self-mocking title.

Vidalia, a song about his grandfather

Tea and Thorazine, a song about his autistic brother

The Idiot's Genius

My other two favorite albums are a little more "contemporary," if you could call them that. They also have some of my absolute favorite songs and are a good place to start if the folksy rag-time is going to take you a bit of getting used to.

The Mysterious Production of Eggs


Fake Palindromes

Tables and Chairs

Armchair Apocrypha

Dark Matter

Simple X

The Fiery Crash

You may be thinking, wow, that's a lot of albums for me to take in. Guess what? I've been kind, there are buttload more to listen to. You can go to Mr. Bird's website to take it all in, hop on iTunes and see if there's anything you like. I hope you do like, because he's a musician worth supporting, and my friend Megan will probably cry if you don't, and why would you make such an adorable girl cry, that's like making a kitten cry, you are the goddamn worst.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I hadn't been listening to Elliott Smith all through high school and had future music listening powers...

...this probably would have been the soundtrack to my very sad teenaged existence.

Like other great Icelandic artists before him, Ólafur Arnalds is more talented than you or I could ever be, and certainly more than your mom (unless your mom happens to be Bjork).

The following are songs from his April EP Found Songs: seven songs, one created each day for a week. You know what's awesome? You can download them for free; if you decide you like them, you can purchase the EP in various formats (it is, after all, the technical age.)

If you enjoy bands like Sigur Rós, I'm sure you'll find an appreciation for this young fellow (born in '87, GAH I'M SO OLD), though you may want to be sure there are no straight razors nearby while listening to this hauntingly, achingly beautiful album.

"Day I: Erla's Waltz"

"Day V: Lost Song"

"Day VII: Ljósið"

Ólafur Arnalds - Ljósið (Official Music Video) from Erased Tapes on Vimeo.

(Many thanks to my pal Flash Gordon for pointing this out)

Incidentally, this also caught my eye; who doesn't love wispy fellows on a cold beach dancing around in pea coats? BLACK pea coats? No one, that's who.

Codes In The Clouds - Paper Canyon (video teaser) from Erased Tapes on Vimeo.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brad Neely, you complete me

So I have really fallen down in my duties of informing you of things that are awesome. I'm sorry.

Though many of my readers are close friends and are already aware of the bizarre genius that is Brad Neely, there may be one or two who are sadly groping through the dark, looking for a light switch, but finding only damp, sticky things of varying sizes and shapes.

Well children, let me get that for you.

Brad Neely is a cartoonist/comics artist wrapped in absurdity and mystery. Not much is known about him, and I certainly have no idea how long he's been around, but by God, my life would be much sadder without him. His distinct simplistic, disproportionate, kind of wiggly line style of drawing perfectly compliments his weird sense of humor. His fingers are in all kinds of pies, but here are some of the best ones:

"Wizard People, Dear Reader"
Many years ago, Neely, who had never read the books, nor seen the movies, did a drunken audio narrative of the first Harry Potter film. The first time I watched the film with the narrative track, I nearly peed myself many, many times. I actually had to take a break so that I could relieve myself, just in case that next wave of tear-inducing laughter was the one to break the dam. There are so many quotable lines from this work that for next few weeks you will just be muttering to yourself, "Ta-daa. Ta-daa forever!" or "HP and the Effin' Bear!"

And do you know what's best? The MP3s are free to download (comes in 2 parts)! The joy and laughter are free! How often does that happen? I mean really?

A sample:
the first appearance of "Roast Beefy Weefy"

the heart-stopping "Cribbage Match"

Do everyone a favor and when you've downloaded the tracks, show it to everyone you know. Have a "Wizard People, Dear Reader" party. Just make sure you don't serve soda, as it will, more than once, come shooting out your nose.

ps. This is not for children under the age of 16.

George Washington video
This was the first video of Brad Neely's I was shown, long long ago in the before times, and still remains one of my very favorites. A wonderful fact-filled rap about our founding father, Mr. George Francis Washington.

The Professor Brothers
A series about two professors who share the same office and despite their opposing personalities, learn life lessons and laugh and cry together.

I truly appreciate how Neely's strained, incredulous voice is exactly what I hear in my head every time life doles out another pile of bullhockey, because, despite having lived twenty-five years in this world, I naively still can't believe the things that happen on a daily basis. And videos like this make me smile at the absurdity of it all.

Check out more of Neely's videos chyeah.

Seriously, the talent never stops with this guy. Even his one-panel comics are sincerely delightful (if you enjoy absurd humor like I do).

My favorite is bear balloons:

I love how the image is actually pretty damn precious, but knowing Neely, the imaginary next panel is probably disembowelment and gore. But really, who wouldn't want some big fluffy bears lazily floating overhead? And the two human characters actually look genuinely happy and sweet. Just another lovely afternoon stroll through the sun-dappled fields with your sweetheart and some bear balloons.

So, there's some stuff. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and share it with everyone you know. We'll see what comes down the pike later this month?

"He'll save children, but not the British children..."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Disney, for serious.

An Open Letter to the Heads of Disney:

Dear Disney,
You and me have had some good times. You've made me laugh, you've made me cry, and you've touched me, right here, in my blood pumpy chambers. Quite a bit of my childhood memories are tied to you Disney, to evenings cuddled with me mam, watching the Disney movie of the week, going to the tiny video rental between the hair stylists and Roses to get Sleeping Beauty for the umpteenth time, or watching DTV's Monster Hits every Halloween. I remember when your animation didn't suck, and you weren't whoring out skinny blonde tweens (I maintain Haley Mills wasn't nearly as irritating as the kids they have now, and Annette was a brunette, not to mention that they had more talent in their little pinkies than most of the youngsters today).

But Disney, it's been a long time since you've been great. In fact, as of late, you've pretty much sucked balls, and the only reason you haven't had to declare bankruptcy is that you've been piggy-backing on Pixar's talent. In an age where nostalgia sells for millions every day, why have you shooed Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Chip and Dale into the dark cobwebby closet of the "Disney Vault"? Disney, you have become that crusty old dragon, muttering to itself, hoarding its gold. It's always collecting more, but never using those sparkling gems and shiny ingots for any kind of purpose other than a very uncomfortable bed.

Disney. For serious. Stop it.

I miss who you were, and abhor who you've become. While I'll never forget the good times, I don't think we can see each other anymore. Good luck with your future endeavors; I wish you the best.



In Case You Were Wondering...

Girl Names
  • Madison
  • Cora
  • Coraline
  • Magda
  • Matilda
  • Harriet
  • Zoe
  • Alice
  • Agatha
  • Aurelia
  • Ava
  • Eva
  • Emma
  • Hazel
  • Elinore
  • Isabel
  • Juliet
  • Olivia
  • Margaret
  • Madeline
  • Clementine
  • Marjorie
  • Mavis
  • Phoebe
  • Piper
  • Amelia-Jane

Boy Names
  • Rowan
  • Malcolm
  • Jasper
  • Horace
  • Horatio
  • Holden
  • Harvey
  • Edmund
  • Aric
  • Ezra
  • Felix
  • Forrest
  • Jack
  • Arthur
  • Vincent
  • Aidan
  • Adelai
  • Harlan
  • Bailey
  • Rupert
  • Brock
  • Byron
  • Calvin
  • Clive
  • Clark
  • Curran
  • Dagan
  • Drake
  • Duncan
  • Heath

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm a baby-makin' machine

So I recently turned 25 years old, which officially kicks off my quarter-life crisis. I'm pretty excited about this, y'all.

I have been discussing with my lady friends, and we agree that as we get older, it's not just a cute face that turns our heads, but mmmmm, he has a job that pulls in more than twenty thousand a year? Oooh, he has health insurance, his own car, and isn't paying off a mountain of debt? Uuuuuggghhhnnn, did you say HOMEOWNER, OH MAN, I'M DONE.

I had always thought that we had evolved beyond those base instincts that drive us to find the most virile and suitable mate, but, and don't tell anyone, I think I may have been wrong, just a bit.

I suppose it's the result of living paycheck to paycheck for the last five years, but personally, I'm ready to get a "real" job, one that has a regular weekly schedule, weekends off, benefits, health insurance, and nets me more than the $17,000 a year I make now (which, really, after taxes? Maybe $15,500. That's a depressing thought, innit?). A lot of folk I know who graduated college have tried the real world and gone running back into the warm bosom of school life because it was just too effin' hard trying to make it in this economy. The rest are still grinding out a sad existence working jobs they hate that have nothing to do with what they went to school for. But, before I get off on a tangent about how craptastic the school system is, and how for the thirty thousand bucks you shell out for an education, they fall very short of actually preparing you for the transition to adulthood and marketing yourself to employers, let me get back to the original topic.

You know what else has invited themselves to the crisis party? My biological clock. Oh, hey ovaries, you mean you serve a purpose other than torturing me five days out of the month? You also quietly, but insistently, whisper fantasies and elaborate storylines involving BABIES, ME AND BABIES, ME HAVING BABIES, ME RAISING BABIES, CHRIST HAVE YOU SEEN THOSE BIRTHING VIDEOS, ARE YOU TRYING TO REND ME ASUNDER?

You want to know how bad it is? I've started a list. A list of baby names. For boys and girls. And you know what? I'm not the only one. Your girlfriend? Is she of a certain age? Does she often get a faraway look in her eyes when there are cute babies about? During conversation does she interject with the phrase, "(Blank) would be a great name for a boy/girl, don't you think?" Then guess what. She's got a list. She's got a list, and it won't be long before she's evaluating your ability to PROVIDE and contemplating your FUTURE together, your FUTURE with BABIES.

Do you see all those capital letters? This is serious business. Have you seen Look Who's Talking? Brilliant film. Is still my reference for sperms and eggs gettin' together and baby-makin'. Do you remember that scene where Kirstie Alley has day-mares about her biological clock, the thunderous ticking, and clinging to the clock face hand miles above traffic like she was Harold Lloyd?

Yup. That's about right. I imagine it's going to get worse the closer I get to thirty, not to mention complicating the emotions I have about getting married, pregnant, being a mom, etc. Just typing this now, I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed.

You know what embodies nearly all of this post?

The one thing that comforts me during these times is that I know I'd be a great mom, thanks to my own wonderful mother and having EDUCATION and knowing about OPTIONS. I also have to admit that the years I've been living vicariously through Heather Armstrong's blog as she lives in Salt Lake City raising her daughters and dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety disorders has been a fantastic tutorial. It's a feeling that if she can deal with the amped up insanity of raising a very particular four year old and a newborn along with her own health problems, then I will be totally okay because I've been privy to WOMEN SECRETS that aren't really discussed until you are of a certain age. Now that I'm of that certain age, I find that I've learned a lot, but that there is still a ways to go.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where the Editor totally loses it, and shakes her cane at all them young 'uns who don't know what they're missin'

WARNING: This post will be photo-heavy, probably with a fair amount of cursing, and the soapbox will be at least six feet high.

As a disclaimer, I am by no means an expert. I am merely a self-righteous appreciator of the art of animation who knows better than the people in charge of animation today. And guess what? I'm gonna tell you ALL ABOUT IT.

Mrs. Brisby looks out in caution, due to the impending diatribe.

There's something you need to know about me. I love nostalgia. I am all about it, all up in it, and sink slowly into a big pillow of it when I go to sleep. I'm that chick that has Rainbow Brite on her Amazon wishlist and is serious about it. I'm nostalgic about stuff I wasn't around for. That's how intense I'm talking. So recently, on a trip to the local thrift store I found An American Tail on VHS for a quarter and LET ME TELL YOU I about died and went to heaven. As a kid, I would make my mom check out that VHS and All Dogs Go to Heaven just about all the goddamned time. We owned The Secret of NIMH, which I probably watched enough to destroy the tape (as it is conspicuously absent in the boxes of tapes at home). After watching An American Tail, I was so enthralled by the memories and the new adult perception of the film, that I had to watch Don Bluth's other films. OH MY GOD PEOPLE.

One: if you don't get these movies for your kids, you're a terrible parent, and I'm reporting you to Social Services.
Two: Christ, today's animators should just go ahead and jump off a bridge, crunch a cyanide capsule between their teeth, or lay down on some train tracks, because nearly all of today's animation can't even hold a candle to what Bluth and his colleagues achieved on comparatively shoestring budgets.
Three: If you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, seriously, do yourself a favor and rent, borrow, steal these movies.

The Secret of NIMH
An American Tail
The Land Before Time
All Dogs Go to Heaven
Titan A.E.

It should be noted that Bluth was the directing animator for Disney's The Rescuers, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians (1961 film), and The Fox and the Hound, his influence stamped all over like no one's business.

It was after he left Disney that he created his own studio team, Don Bluth Productions, dedicated to returning to the old animation techniques, as well as using new, more labor intensive techniques to create the amazing artwork in the film. The Secret of NIMH was his first film on his own, and is generally considered his opus. The producing studio, Aurora Studio, bought the rights to the book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and offered Bluth's team a budget of $5.7 million and 30 months to complete the film, a smaller budget and tighter schedule than Disney films at the time. Despite the time crunch and lack of funds, Bluth and his producers mortgaged their houses and put in over 100 hours a week during the final stretch of filming to make their vision come to life. If only we could see that kind of dedication to quality nowadays, I think we'd be a bit better off.

This might be a good time for me to lay something out for you all. Despite it's trailblazing history in animation, and the numerous classic films it produced, and it's towering presence in millions of childhoods, Disney has gone straight down the crapper. Some time in the mid-nineties, they started piggy-backing on the talent and innovation of Pixar, and stopped requiring that there be any actual effort put into their films. Around this time they started putting out those god-awful filmatic abortions, the straight-to-DVD sequels to their classic films. Hardly any were safe, not Cinderella, not Peter Pan, not Lady, nor the Tramp. They also threw Mickey into the murky and squalid basement, only dragging him out to dance a grotesque mockery of his former glory, holding out the little fez for your change as Disney studios cranked the hand organ. Basically, whoever was responsible (and continues to be) for the creative and business decisions of the last fifteen years has been raping Walt's antisemitic corpse and smiling for the cameras while they did it.

What gets me, is that the general public eats this garbage up. They buy their kids the half-assedly animated sequels, the Hannah Montana t-shirts and lip gloss, and blow thousands of dollars at the Magic Kingdom where you spend most of your time waiting in a line. What's worse, Disney gobbles up the rights to our childhood, and then squirrels it away from the public eye until they decide to drag it out in a fancy package (that is actually pretty damn ugly and cheaply done) and "all new features" (hint: there aren't any new features, just some crappy interactive "game") and charge you thirty bucks for it. THEY BOUGHT JIM HENSON'S MUPPETS. DISNEY OWNS THE GODDAMNED MUPPETS. If I ever meet Brian Henson, I'm going to have to kick him as hard as I can, right in the shins.

Whew. I'm sorry, I get really upset when I talk about this stuff. Honestly, if I had one wish, it would probably be to be in charge of Disney and all children's programming, because seriously folks, they're fucking it up SO HARD.

Um, so, if you've made it this far, I did have a point to all this. I re-watched An American Tail for the first time in years, and I didn't make it past the opening credits before I started bawling like a three year old. The composers Bluth used for his films have a knack for finding those specific notes that twang my heartstrings and send the tears shooting forcefully from my ducts. What I couldn't figure out was how this never happened when I was little. These movies are terrifying, tragic, and beautiful, how is it I wasn't constantly walking around with the sniffles and puffy eyes? Being an adult, I recognize and appreciate the depth of the tragedy in these movies, and even the happy endings have a touch of sadness or morbidity. It's something totally lost on a kid, but as an adult, you better be ready.

For example, as a kid, I enjoyed this little ditty, and really only remembered the chorus. But listen a little closer:

Johnny Guarnieri - There Are No Cats In America

Our family was traveling
Through the snow to Minsk
Suddenly Papa
Saw those huge paw prints
When I heard him screaming
I fainted dead away
And I woke up an orphan
Oy vey

But there are no cats in America
And the streets are paved with cheese
Oh there are no cats in America
So set your mind at ease

Ma la cosa terrible
Que esiste in la patria mia
If you think things were bad in Russia
You should see things in my country:

The times were hard in Sicily
We had no provolone
The Don he was a tabby
With a taste for my brother Tony
When Mama went to plead for him
The Don said he would see her
We found her rosary on the ground
Poor Mama mia

But there are no cats in America
And the streets are paved with cheese
Oh there are no cats in America
So set your mind at ease

Sure that’s sad, but sadder still...

When I was but a lad
I lost my true love fair
A calico, he caught us by surprise
In a flash of teeth and fur
Her tail was all he left of her
'Neath the heather
Is where it tirra-lirra lies

But there are no cats in America
(There are no cats in America)
And the streets are paved with cheese
Oh there are no cats in America
(And the streets are paved with cheese)
There are no cats in America
There are no cats in America
There are no cats in America
That is why, we sail, these seas

In this movie, the cats were just munching on whole mouse families, did you see those Cossack Cats in the beginning, and wholly crap Madeleine Kahn's character walks into a wake and exclaims, "There's a dead mouse on the table!" You have to respect Bluth's refusal to ignore death and danger, just because it's a kids' movie.

Mr. Ages is not feeling Mrs. Brisby up, they are having a tender moment, dammit, Nicodemus is dead, what kind of person are you?!?

See that red stuff right there? That's blood kids. You better get used to the sight of it, 'cause you're body is just chock full of the stuff.
It's cool, though, that guy totally had it coming, see the wavey-edged sword?

In fact, nearly all his films feature the not-so-nice and pretty plain death of one or more characters. It's a surprising realization to know that kids' movies have been softened and watered down so much that they're more ridiculous catch phrases and fart jokes than actual story.

If parents were concerned over the dogs in UP, how do you think they would have dealt with the Cossack Cats, Carface, Sharptooth, and Dragon?

If I had been a bird, I would have peed my pants, if I were the kind of bird that wore pants.

At some point American society became so terrified of damaging their precious little one's mind and psyche that everything became safe and mindless and sparkly. Quality went down the tubes, replaced by lights and computer generated special effects, and I'm wondering what the end result is going to be. If the teenagers that flounce into my place of work are any indication, I'm thinking of moving to Nova Scotia.

So most of this post has been very Debbie Downer, or rather, RAGING RACHEL, but really, I want to share my appreciation for what Don Bluth accomplished. I'd really like to find an address and mail him to let him know how much his work meant and means to me and my childhood.

*Quick plot synopsis: Recent widow Mrs. Brisby has to go to the secretive and mysterious rats of NIMH to help move her house before the farmer's plow destroys it and her son who can't be moved because of pneumonia. However, she stumbles right into a battle for power between the rats' patriarch Nicodemus and his loyal followers and clearly a bad dude, Jenner and his lackey.

The Secret of NIMH really is a masterpiece, one that stands up to today's fancy computer technology and shows that hand-drawn animation can be just as, if not more, effective an outlet for storytelling. The amount of work spent on this film is vibrantly apparent in every lovingly crafted cel, and the attention to detail is incredible. They studied animal movement and behavior, and one animator kept crutches by his table to mimic the movement of Mr. Ages. What I find the most impressive is that each voice chosen for the characters completely MATCHES AND EMBODIES that character, so much that you see the character, not the person voicing the character. Elizabeth Hartman's voice quivers and quakes and squeaks as the timid Mrs. Brisby who is forced by circumstances to be much braver than her nature would normally allow.

Glowing eyes and a Fu-Manchu mustache equals WISDOM.

John Carradine's voice booms and echoes as the looming, yet wise Owl, terrifying but also, somehow, reassuring. They are all pitch-perfect casting, mostly of people I've never heard of, but who create the characters so completely, you couldn't imagine anyone else doing it.

I also found the subtle animal rights vs. science to be an interesting conundrum.

Stupid meat sacks and their needles.

As an adult, we know that without animal testing, most of our vaccines and medicines wouldn't be as effective as they are. But from the point of view of the animals, one wonders just how necessary a lot of testing is. Though on the other hand, without the experimentation of the humans, the rats would not be as smart or able to build such a magnificent society. But yet again, the rats seems to hold their intelligence as somewhat of a burden, a secret that can't be revealed to anyone, lest everyone be endangered. It's a big windy road of twine that is making my head hurt in a good way.

And my god. The art is just...astounding.

The booklet sez: This scene required about 96 layers of cels. Dems a lotta layers!

Multiple color palettes were used for characters to fit in different lighting situations, from daylight, to night, to warm environments to underwater. Mrs. Brisby had 46 different lighting situations, so there were 46 different color palettes for her.

Bluth's animation team used multiple passes on the camera to achieve transparent shadows, and backlit animation, where animated mattes are shot with light shining through color gels to create glowing, artificial light and fire.

Remember what I said about glowy eyes and the 'stache? PROOF.

Messiah Mouse!

I seriously choke up during this part, I don't know if it's the fact that her children are suffocating, or the intensity of her desire to save them, or all those solar flares shooting off her body, but it's intense and I'm crying my eyes out.

Fun Fact: Mrs. Brisby was originally Mrs. Frisby, as in the title of the book. The creators of the toy "Frisbee" refused to waive the use of the similar sounding name, so the film team had to go back and change each instance of "Frisby" to "Brisby" by fudging the sound or pulling a "B" sound from somewhere else in the character's dialogue. Though it's a silly situation, I like Brisby better.

So, I hope you don't hate me too much for this. I just really like my classic animation. And Dom DeLuise.

"Courage of the heart is very rare.
The Stone has a power when it's there."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Movies movies movies movies movies....

Hmmm. If anyone is still reading, you're probably used to this by now. But! I have some stuff knockin' around the ol' brain (what little is left of it), so maybe there will be more than one post this month?

Before I regale you with my tirade on animation in movies, I'd like to lead off with my squidgy excitement over the latest Miyazaki film, as well as a host of other movies we should start getting impatient over the release date.

Hayao Miyazaki is the premier anime animator in Japan, and holds the distinction of winning the first Academy Award for an anime and for having two of the three highest grossing films in Japan (the third being Titanic). His movies have strong female leads, usually children, with complex themes about the environment and moral ambiguity. What's best is that his films appeal to all age groups; children will love the fantasy aspect, the creatures, and the funny jokes. Adults will be able to appreciate the beautiful hand-drawn animation and the challenging storylines. If you are unfamiliar with Miyazaki's work, I suggest you get your butt down to the local video rental or put these at the top of you Netflix queue:
- Princess Mononoke
- Spirited Away
- Kiki's Delivery Service
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Howl's Moving Castle

Miyazaki's latest release is Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which looks delightful. My only hesitation about this movie is its connection with the Disney studios. Does anyone else think that the logo looks suspiciously like the Finding Nemo title?

Release date: August 14

In other news, those of you who are fans of Roald Dahl will breathe a sigh of relief that The Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't computer animated, but instead uses stop animation which has its own kind of bizarre fluidity that compliments the story very well.

Oh, and did I mention that it's directed by Wes Anderson? High five to that guy for doing us all a favor and making this movie first, because there are few directors that are suited to making Roald Dahl books come alive. If you're at all familiar with Anderson's movies (The Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, etc.), then you know that visual style and dark humor are his forte (something Dahl dabbles in more than once in a while). So let's all breathe a sigh of relief, and get ready to enjoy a great animated film.

Release date: November 13

Though it still doesn't have a release date, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has a trailer, and I have to say, when I heard that director Terry Gilliam brought in Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrel to play the lead after Heath Ledger died (Still too painful. He ODs on prescription pills, and Paris Hilton still roams the earth? There is no justice.), I thought, "Well, that's going to be a bit weird, innit?" But after watching the trailer, I think it's going to fit into the storyline pretty well. And besides, since when have Terry Gilliam's films ever been normal?

While we have all been worrying about who was going to get to direct The Hobbit, Peter Jackson has made a quiet return behind the camera, and as a master of visuals, I don't think it's going to disappoint. Based on Alice Sebold's best-selling novel (that I never read, sorry), The Lovely Bones looks pretty amazing. Really, the only thing I can pick on based on the trailer is that I have a hard time believing that Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg are old enough to have two teenage daughters. But, I am excited to see Susan Sarandon back on the silver screen. I can see this role having the same kind of depth and impact that Leslie Ann Warren had in Secretary, one of my favorite Warren performances since the eldest daughter in Faerie Tale Theater's "Seven Dancing Princesses".

Release date: December 11

Well, there ya go. It's my day off, and I've got a laundry list of things to do, topped off with Karaoke night, so shove off and I'll get back to ya when I'm done killing my liver.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

YU+Me Dream

Wow guys, I apologize. I am just terrible at doing this on a regular basis; between a full-time job, a significant other, surfing the internet, and all those danged friends demanding time and attention, where am I supposed to squeeze in some blogging? I mean really?

But anyhoo, guess what I've got for you? Some stuff I like! Woo!

The other day I spent the majority of my time free of responsibility sitting on my duff transfixed by this webcomic I came across. Literally, I could not stop reading. It's been ongoing for five years and the author's artistic style has grown in leaps and bounds (warning, you will have to start at the beginning and plunk your ass down for six hours).

The story follows Fiona as she tries to navigate life at her Catholic high school and at home with her mecha-betch stepmother (keep "Cinderella" in mind, folks) and befriends, then falls in love with, her new neighbor, Lia. The author is herself a lesbian, and the issues that surface with coming to terms with being gay are addressed during the story.

Although some aspects of the story during the part one seem fairly overdramatized high-school kitsch, one: there is a very good reason for it, revealed at the end of part one, and two: C'mon, we all know that you still hoard one or two of the more juicy Babysitters Club books and your Dawson's Creek DVDs deep in your closet of shame. However, if you pay attention, you'll find that the author introduces incidents early in the story that come into play much later. I love this kind of storytelling; it means that the author has thought out the plot and put a lot of effort to surpise the reader, but also make it a cohesive unit. If you can make it to part two, the pay-off is great. She also goes in-depth exploring dreams (a primary theme); how they can affect our sense of reality, how they can seem like real life, and how they can become a place to escape to when life becomes too much to handle. This is probably one of the main reasons I identify with the comic; when I was in high school, as a way to cope with depression I would sleep a lot. It was a lot easier to do that than to deal with the fact that every day of the week felt the same and that I was so bored with everything, my brain was obsessing with the most insignificant details of my day. Sleeping and dreaming about those details, however, really didn't help. (Don't worry, I found some self-esteem at college, and things are (more or less) right as rain.)

One of the things I love the best (besides Fi's curly red hair and red hightops), is how the art has matured over the course of the comic. It begins in an amateur anime style...

then add a splash of color...

occasional dabbling into a different style...

It is good times, Charlie Brown. But it's really in Part Two that the author exercises her artistic ability and whips out all different kinds of styles, all of which make me squee.

Picture 'splosion.

It's entirely possible that you could just start at Part Two and read on from there; the author is kind enough to have little footnotes when something in Part One is referenced. But I would really encourage you to start at the beginning so you can appreciate how much the author has grown as a writer and an artist. She's absolutely an artist worth supporting, one of the few making her living doing what she loves, and doing it well. Not to mention that her shop has some goodies that I can already see my next paycheck going towards.

In other news, I went to see the new Harry Potter movie. I know you don't want to hear one more conflicting opinion on the subject, so I'll just say that me, personally, I enjoyed it very much, but was a little disappointed with three or four things. This is the kind of movie that everyone is going to feel differently about, regardless of the level of fan you are of the books or the franchise, so really, instead of listening to what other people think, you should just shell out the ten bucks and go decide for yourself.

And as a special treat:

"Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig"

"I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You"

Until next time!