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Uchouten Kazoku / The Eccentric Family

I didn't have time to watch this brilliant gem of a show when it was airing in Japan last season, but I heard only good things about it. And boy am I glad that I finally got around to watching it now. It's funny, it's sweet, it's moving, it's gorgeously designed, and there are only a few spots where the family melodrama crosses the line into eyeroll-inducing cheesiness. And for a Japanese dramedy that is really saying something, because eyeroll-inducing cheesiness is normally the name of the game in this genre of shows.

The Mindy Project

Oh hey look the second season of this show took everything that I liked about the first season - namely, the fact that Mindy had a lot of female friends and that her supporting cast was really funny - and, well, got rid of it.

Goddammit.

This used to be the show I looked forward to the most every week. Now it's just become a pain to watch. Don't get me wrong, I love all of the humor from Mindy's serial dating escapades, and yes, I WOULD expect a show about a single woman's quest for love to be mostly centered around the heroine interacting with men... but that can't be the ONLY thing going on every. single. episode. What happened to all of Mindy's girlfriends? Why does Mindy have only one female co-worker whom she barely interacts with? (Technically there are three female co-workers in Mindy's office, but Betsy and Beverly have gotten so few lines this entire season that they might as well be non-entities.) And whose idea was it to transform Ed Week's hilarious character from Season 1 into the sad, unfunny schlup that we've got in Season 2?

Hey, you know what makes a sitcom funny? There has to be more than one source of situational humor built into the cast and the setting. The first season of The Mindy Project accomplished this brilliantly by givings its lovelorn heroine MORE than just her lovelorn escapades to get entangled with. Now the show has boiled entirely down to only two jokes: either Mindy conflicts with her male co-workers over some stupid sexist Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus bullcrap, or Mindy dates some dude and it's a hilarious disaster. Again, both of these things ARE funny... But they can also get very tiring when there's nothing else of interest happening in the show.

I still really love Mindy Lahiri as a character, but boy has this season been painful to watch so far.

Frozen

First off, somebody needs to fire Disney's entire marketing team.

Frozen is not the film that it was advertised to be. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Frozen should definitely join the pantheon of other great Disney films that were marketed absolutely horribly (Brother Bear still being the worst victim of Disney's flubbed marketing of all time, with Princess and the Frog and its terrible teaser trailer being a close second) because I am absolutely in awe of the way that they managed to take such an endearing character as Olaf and through the power of terrible trailers alone turned him into such an obnoxious twatcharacter that months before the release of the film he was mocked not just on the internet but on primetime television with a level of vitriol that I haven't really seen leveled at a CGI comic relief sidekick since, well, Jar Jar Binks.

Forget the trailers, though. Here's what you need to know about Frozen:

1. It's a much welcome, long-overdue return to the Disney films of my childhood. Like the best of the Disney Renaissance films, Frozen is scored by Broadway composers (with none other than The Book of Mormon's Robert Lopez writing the song lyrics) and cast almost entirely with powerhouse Broadway singers.

2. By the way, the songs are fantastic. Absofuckinglutely fantastic.

3. It is a beautifully, beautifully, beautifully animated film.

4. The story is all about the bond between two sisters and there is a stunning, brilliant twist at the very end of the film that completely deconstructs everything about the usual Disney Princess narrative and that sends a powerful, positive, and much-needed message to all of the little girls in its target audience.

5. And really, seriously, DO forget everything you saw in the trailers: Olaf is freakin' great. I mean, he's basically Ray 2.0 (sweet, brave, endearing comic relief sidekick who saves Our Heroes from several bad situations and who suffers from a quirky delusional belief that nobody else has the heart to correct him about), but hey, Ray was a great character too, so I'm not complaining. It also helps that Olaf is voiced by The Book of Mormon's Josh Gad, and since it's basically the voice acting alone that makes Olaf so utterly endearing instead of utterly grating, well there you go.

Of course the film is not without its flaws. Like nearly every other reviewer has pointed out: The costume designs are fantastic but the character designs are really blah, the songs are waaaaaay too front-loaded and the very noticeable lack of a finale song is actually kind of jarring, and - most unforgivably in my humble opinion - there's no villain song, despite the fact that the film had a PERFECT moment for there to be a villainous reprise of "For the First Time in Forever." But alas, the moment was wasted.

The most unflattering thing I can say about the film is that it really does feel like a not-quite-finished, workshopped version of a future Broadway musical. Not that Frozen being someday turned into a stage production is a bad thing - and heck, it's practically inevitable at this point - but what I'm trying to say is that it feels like maaaaybe this time Disney had their eyes on the Broadway prize from the beginning, and the animated film was treated like a stepping stone on the pathway to a lucrative Broadway megahit, rather than as an end in itself. That would explain why the score seems unfinished, why the settings and action sequences all seem carefully calculated to be executable onstage, and why it appears as though there was a ton more care and effort put into the costume designs than into the designs of the characters' faces. BUT that might also explain why Disney got Broadway composers to write the score and mostly Broadway singers to act and sing in the film, which were both A++++ MOVES WELL DONE DISNEY WELL DONE, and to be fair the film IS already perfectly situated to be expanded into a brilliant stage musical, so... I dunno.

But anywhoo, I really loved the film and y'all should go see it!!
nenena: (Default)
Television

Parks and Recreation is still easily the best goddamn thing that I watch every week. And it's been holding that position for a solid two years now, so. I don't think I've written about it yet on this blog and frankly I don't have a lot of things to say about it that haven't been said before (and likely better) by others, but: it's brilliant television and if you're not already watching it, you should be. (I'm of the opinion that the first season is totally skippable though.)

It took a few episodes to warm me over, but I am now officially in love with The Mindy Project. I think in many ways it's the spiritual successor to 30 Rock but (and please don't shoot me for saying this because I LOVED 30 Rock) in some ways done better. The lead is still a smart, successful woman who is damn good at her job even though her personal life is in shambles, there's still a wacky cast of co-workers (and a secondary male lead who gets his own secondary character arcs) that are in turn funny and/or poignant, and the style of humor is still that particular blend of surreal absurdist mixed with so-true-to-life-that-it-hurts comedy that seems to characterize all the best of the most recent television sitcoms. Where I think The Mindy Project improves upon 30 Rock's formula, however, is a) the fact that our heroine Mindy has more than one close female friend and that Mindy's interactions with her diverse group of female friends often play an important role in most episodes, and b) there's an awful lot less of the gross femininity-bashing and wink-wink-nudge-nudge-we're-only-doing-this-because-it's-ironic sexism that 30 Rock so often indulged in. Mindy is the character who would have been the butt of the jokes in 30 Rock (see: Jenna), but in The Mindy Project everything that she is and everything that she stands for is unabashedly celebrated without ever denigrating other flavors of femininity as being less desirable, less progressive, less feminist, less whatever.

Film

Recently watched and now firmly in the why-the-hell-did-I-wait-this-long-to-see-these-films-because-they-are-GREAT category: Pitch Perfect, ParaNorman, and Amour. "Great" isn't really an adjective that comes anywhere near close to doing Amour justice but hey, let's just roll with it.

Seen recently in theaters: Admission. Loved it. Tina Fey is always great, of course. But in the theater where I saw the film the audience actually burst into applause the moment that Lily Tomlin's character first appeared onscreen. Because Lily Tomlin is legitimately just that awesome.

On a recommendation from a friend I recently indulged in both of the Lyrical Nanoha movies, which at first I was skeptical about because I was mostly lukewarm on the series, but oh my god, these movies are really fantastic. Taken together they're five solid hours of gorgeously-animated magical girl badassery full of female friendships and family relationships driving the entire plot and just wow. Of course I share the same criticisms of the films that nearly everybody else in the universe has expressed so far: yes, the films are both so much more about Fate than Nanoha that they really should have been named after Fate instead of Nanoha (not that I don't love Fate but come on it's almost disingenuous to name the films after Nanoha when Fate is the real star of both), and yes, the transformation sequences with the detailed nudity on underage female characters (nipples and all JESUS CHRIST) are pretty damn inexcusable. Thankfully, however, the transformation sequences only happen once per each film, so they're easy to fast-forward through. And other than the transformation sequences there's basically zero fanservice on any of the underage characters, which is pretty damn refreshing to see in a magical girl franchise intended for an adult male audience.

Also, I saw this one months ago but have neglected to rec it here: A Letter to Momo. Everybody should see this film. It's weird and beautiful and moving and funny and important in a way that I can't really describe in words. It may be sacrilege to say that this is an improved, better version of My Neighbor Totoro but... it really is. It deals with the same thematic setup (children move to a new rural home, encounter nature spirits, and deal with a crisis when one family member gets sick and another appears to be in immediate danger) yet in a deeper, more mature way that still manages to be appropriate for and accessible to a child audience. But the nature spirits in Momo are an entirely different breed than those from Totoro: much more in keeping with Japanese tradition, Momo's supernatural creatures are alien, dangerous, and frightening, even when they're trying to help out the human characters and/or providing comic relief. These are not the cute, fluffy, cuddly forest gods from Miyazaki's nostalgia-tinted view of Japan in days gone by. They are much stranger and darker but also much more interesting to watch, not unlike the human characters in the film as well. Anywhoo, this film is finally starting to garner some critical attention in the English-speaking world (I think it's playing in the Boston International Childrens' Film Festival this weekend?) so if you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely check it out. It is so, so worth it.

Relatedly: Little Witch Academia is basically perfect. Just perfect.

Comics

Zahra's Paradise is a graphic novel that deserves waaaaay more attention than it's getting. Of course it's a politically important book (Iran! Democracy! Political dissidence! Women fighting against oppression!) but in case you're the type of person intimidated by reading a "political" comic let me assure you: The pseudonymous authors use a brilliant, expressive, cinematic art style that makes the complex narrative accessible to any reader without ever once compromising the story or dumbing down anything for the benefit of knowing-approximately-jack-shit-about-the-Middle-East readers. In other words, even if you know approximately jack shit about the Middle East, you can and you should still read this book. It's a beautiful, painful story that will stick with you for a long time and it will be impossible for you to walk away from the book without a much deeper and better understanding of Iran than you had before opening its pages. Which is really the whole purpose of the book in the first place.

The Flowers of Evil continues to impress me with its so-true-it's-painful dissection of the wannabe-edgy, alienated teenage mind. Whether you think it's a "good" manga or realistic in any sense of the term (and I'm on the fence about both to be honest), it's still totally different from nearly every other shounen manga out there, and a fascinating read for that reason alone.

Hawkeye is still the reason that I give Marvel my hard-earned money every month. Young Avengers... not so much, not anymore.

Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin. Cripes where do I even start with this one. For a long time it's been clear that this isn't really a story about plucky humans fighting evil man-eating giants, the same way that Eureka Seven was never really a story about cool rebels fighting an oppressive government in giant robots (even though it took the main character half the series to reach that realization), and the same way that Evangelion was never really a story about plucky humans fighting giant aliens (even though in its original incarnation the stuff that Hideaki Anno intended for the series to really be about was so poorly-executed that yeah the giant robots and aliens really were the point by the end, hence everybody hating the original ending, okay this is a really bad example I should stop now). So then what the hell IS Attack on Titan really about? Without giving too much away, I'm going to riff on Batezi's brilliant post about the series and say that thematically it cuts straight to the heart of our two deepest fears in the modern age: the power of bass-ackwards organized religion as a force for regressive social stagnation, and the mindset that drives those who have been wronged to justify acts of mass terrorism as a way of striking back against the faceless enemy "other." In exploring these themes, of course, Attack on Titan dives into all sorts of dark territory about how the human mind and the human heart works, in a way so visceral and real that in terms of thematically-similar media I can come up with few truly comparative examples save for perhaps The Snowtown Murders (particularly with Bertolt's story jesus christ dude) and Harvest of Empire ("all of humanity is your enemy" until you get to know them and then they're not faceless others anymore and then uh-oh). But of course on top of all of this there's also badass giant-slaying action and fucking awesome characters all of that great bloody, gory fun every chapter. Attack on Titan is that rare, rare series that manages to do awesome grimdark bloody action horror really well AND blend it successfully with complex psychodrama that ISN'T shallow, pretentious, or poorly-written the way it so often is when clumsy attempts at human psychodrama rear their ugly head in your usual run-of-the-mill survival horror stories. Isayama isn't a clumsy writer, and Attack on Titan continues to be a brilliant series. Go read it now and spoil yourself silly before the anime starts airing this weekend. If you can stomach a story where most of the main cast gets eaten alive by giants, that is.
nenena: (Devi - Is it stupid in here)
I don't want to be one of those people who complains about the Oscars every year. But I've actually NEVER complained about the Oscars on my blog before, so I think it's about time I cashed in some of that restraint and indulged myself in a little Armchair Quarterback Kvetching this year. Because everybody needs to get a little bit of Armchair Quarterback Kvetching out of their system every once in a while.

To wit:

Seth McFarlane was boring at best, unfunny most of the time, misogynist at worst.

The media's treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis was horrid. I expected some level of badness, since she's black, female, and a child nominated in the Best Actress category, but I was totally unprepared for "I'll just call you Annie" and the Onion's twitter actually calling her a c*nt. Holy shit people. Is this really 2013? And this on top of everybody saying that she wasn't "really acting" in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Because children can't act or something. I suspect that at least half the people criticizing her for "not acting" never even saw Beasts of the Southern Wild in the first place.

Argo was the only one of the Best Picture nominees that I felt didn't deserve to be nominated, so of course it won.

And goddamit, I really did enjoy Brave on a lot of levels, but Wreck-It Ralph was a superior film in nearly every way. Including from a feminist perspective. And that is really saying something.

I think I would have liked Brave a heckuva lot more if it hadn't been marketed and praised as some great feminist film or whatever. As a beautiful piece of animation it's great, and as an adventure story it's great, but as a feminist narrative it just falls right the fuck apart if you really start to think about it, and with that on top of all of the sexism that went on behind the scenes it's just ugh. I'm tired of "feminist" stories that denigrate femininity and (intentionally or not) enforce the idea that the only way for women to be strong/free/happy is for them to be more like men because things like bravery and bodily autonomy and wanting to change your fate are somehow inherently masculine. Somehow.

Welp. Glad I got that out of my system.
nenena: (Default)
So we're wrapping up Ancient Greece in my History of Art course, and the kids have just about had their fill of ionic columns and castrated marble sculptures and Homer and pointy-nosed naked dudes painted on vases. Tomorrow the kids are going to start their final project for the unit, which is a storytelling project: they have to research and then regale the class with their retelling of a story from Greek mythology. As a class we've already extensively covered nearly every facet of the Trojan War and the stories about Heracles, since I know that those are the themes and characters that we're going to be revisiting over and over again when we learn about Renaissance art. So for the storytelling project I forced the kids to sign up for stories that are more focused on the main Olympian gods and goddesses (i.e. Hades and Persephone, Apollo and Daphne, How Zeus Forced His Father to Barf and then Became the King of Everything, etc.) since, again, this is stuff that they're going to need to know once we hit up Renaissance art, but the official Core Content textbook barely mentions the Olympian gods and goddesses at all save for "Athena is pretty awesome and that's why the Parthenon was built." Yeah wow thank you textbook you suck.

Anywhoo, since we had extra time last week, a couple of girls in my 3rd period class asked if we could watch the Disney version of Hercules. Which is actually a completely legit request to make in Ms. K's History of Art class, since a) I had already shown them parts of The Princess and the Frog earlier this year because it is an absolutely pitch-perfect multi-plot-thread multi-character-arc example of the exposition-rising action-climax-falling action-resolution structure that I had to teach them, and b) we also watched the entirety of Yugo Sako's animated The Legend of Prince Ram because it's a much, much better way to teach the Ramayana to high school students than making them read any of the abbreviated English language texts currently available on the market.

So yeah, me and cartoon movies. A pretty good combination for these girls to be betting on. But I told them "I'll think about it" before making any promises. And then I went home that night and watched the movie for the first time in fourteen years, just to see if I could justify wringing enough educational value out of it to show it to the kids.

And oh my god you guys.

This movie.

This movie.

There are so many layers of erudite wink-wink-nudge-nudge jokes about Greek art and mythology packed into this film that I just DID NOT GET when I was a high school student and watching it for the first time. I mean, yeah, I got all of the surface-level jokes, I loved all of the Flinstones-like graphing of incongruent modern elements onto the archaic setting, and I could pick out all of the places where the Heracles myth was changed to make the story more Disneyfied: Hera being Herc's mother instead of an antagonist, Hades acting in the role of a villain because the movie needed to follow a certain formula, Philoctetes being rewritten as Herc's trainer also because the movie needed to follow a certain formula, Phil being a satyr because lol satyrs, Pegasus being in the movie at all because winged horses are awesome, Hercules having to fight the Gorgon and the Minotaur because those would be the most recognizable monsters to movie audiences, the whole movie being about Hercules trying to become a "true hero" instead of "oh noes I need to redeem myself through heroic acts because WHOOPS I KILLED MY WIFE AND KIDS," and Megara being given a backstory and her own character arc - something which by the way I still very much appreciate that Disney decided to do, because the movie is so much better for it.

What I didn't understand fourteen years ago, however, was how very deliberately and very cleverly many of the decisions about the Disneyficiation of the story were made. In the Disney film, Nessus the Sexual Harassment Centaur is the very FIRST foe that Hercules fights, and is trying to assault Hercules's first love interest. MAXIMUM IRONY ALERT ON EVERY LEVEL. And Philoctetes lives on a deserted island! I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY THAT WAS FUNNY until I had to brush up on my Sophocles and my Euripedes for the purposes of teaching my art history course. Speaking of Phil: He's a satyr! I used to think that Disney made Philoctetes a satyr for no reason other than LOL SATYRS but it turn out, no, there's a very specific reason why Phil is a satyr and it has to do with how satyrs were used in ancient Greek dramas and oh my god that is such a perfectly meta statement on the entire Hercules film itself that I don't even have words for how awesome that is. Not to mention all of the callouts to famous works of Greek art that are liberally sprinkled throughout the film. I mean, the Venus de Milo bit is obvious, but until recently I had no idea what the Bassae Frieze was or that it appeared for all of three seconds during the "Zero to Hero" musical number. I had never seen the Mycenae Warrior Vase before this year and that's why I could never figure out why all of the Thebians in the movie had those long, pointy noses. During the opening few seconds of the film, during the two-minute sequence in which Hercules and Phil arrive in Thebes, and of course during Megara's musical number in the garden - freeze frame that shit and OH MY GOD it's like every famous sculpture in the goddamn course textbook is making a cameo in this film. And yes, of course, this is on top of the nonstop stream of verbal and visual jokes that the movie is absolutely packed with from start to finish. It's a glorious film. It seems so stupid and so silly on the surface, just so much more "oh look Disney is just stomping all over another famous story and changing it completely to make it fit a Disney formula," but it's so much better than that.

In Mulan and Aladdin and even (ugh) Pocahontas, all of the changes made to the respective films' story, character, and visual design can be chalked up to either a) Disney underestimating the intelligence of its audience and/or b) just plain not bothering to Do the Research. In Hercules, however, changes made to the story, character, and visual design of the film are all deliberate and well-planned. The changes ARE the jokes, most of them deliberately obvious but more than a handful of them very much not so. Hercules never condescends to its audience; even when it's taking up screen time with dumb jokes like SATYRS LIKE BOOBS LOL it's still managing to sneak in a golden deer in the background because goddammit this movie is going to make either a hidden or an overt reference to every single one of the Twelve Labors even if most of its intended kid audience is never going to see or get more subtle of these references. (I am so not kidding about that last example, by the way.)

And it's definitely not an accident that both Zeus's nipples and Hercules's ears are drawn as Minoan Swirls, either.

Every single little detail in this movie - I mean EVERY detail, right down to the fact that the top of Zeus's head is supposed to look like the top of an ionic column - has been carefully thought through to include some clever reference to Greek art and architecture. Disney's Hercules might (as a whole) look and sound absolutely nothing like the ancient stories of Heracles, but at least we know that's NOT because of anybody at Disney failing to do the research. They must have researched the shit out of EVERYTHING about Heracles. And then they just decided to change it all, but they changed it in such a way that even the changes themselves end up as wink-wink-nudge-nudge references to the ancient stories.

Yeah, like the irony of Philoctetes living on a deserted island. And being a satyr because of what "satyr" means in terms of Greek drama. Just now getting those jokes. Fourteen years after the fact.

Damn, Disney. I didn't know you had that level of self-awareness in you.
nenena: (Default)
But first, I need to say something about The Dark Knight. For me, the best scene in the entire movie - the scene that made the entire film work thematically on so many levels - was the scene in which the people of Gotham foiled the Joker's boat plan. That scene, more than anything, carried the entire film for me. The rest of the film was typical Nolan movie stuff: as a suspense thriller it worked beautifully, as a rumination on the nature of superheroes and villains it was full of shallow and at times downright sophomoric fluff, and goddammit Christian Bale what the hell happened to your acting ability. But that boat scene. Oh that beautiful boat scene. If not for that scene, the entire movie would have fallen apart, thematically as well as emotionally.

And I'm sorry, Commissioner Gordon, but I think that scene proved more than anything that Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves. You can't include a climax like that in your film and then end with "we need a savior even if we don't deserve him." But you do. Y'all DO deserve a savior. It was the people of Gotham that ultimately undid the Joker, not Batman punching him in the face. (Well, to be more accurate, it was the people of Gotham surprising the fuck out of the Joker that caused him to lower his guard long enough for Batman to be able to punch him in the face, but you get my drift.)

Now, about The Dark Knight Rises.

1. I liked it. A lot. And even though it lacked the wham!moment in which the city en masse proved the villain's repeatedly-stated view of human nature wrong, that theme was still very much present in the film via the individual character arcs of Selina, Blake, and even Foley. ETA: And I think that what makes the idea that, as Batman says, "anybody can be a hero" particularly powerful in The Dark Knight Rises is that at the end of the day, true heroism is demonstrated by the unlikeliest of individuals: An aging cop past his prime, a man whom the audience was led to believe was a self-interested coward, a naive young detective who should have been helpless in the face of an adversary that outmatched him in every way, and - above all else - a career criminal. That it was this particular handful of characters who rose to acts of selfless heroism - not only saving Gotham City but proving the villain's view of human nature to be fundamentally incorrect - is really a much more powerful statement about the nature of heroism than anything in the film related to Bruce Wayne or Batman. The same was very much true in The Dark Knight, too: in the end, it was the unlikeliest group of individuals - a boat full of ordinary citizens fearing for their lives, and a boat full of convicted criminals - who decided collectively to commit a selfless act of heroism, thereby ultimately foiling the Joker's plan and allowing Batman to defeat him. Like I said before, I really found that moment in the film to be a much more powerful and interesting statement on the nature of heroism vs. evil than any of the tired, clichéd exchanges between Batman and the Joker. And the same is true for The Dark Knight Rises, too. I mean, come on: Weren't you all way more interested in watching how Gordon, Selina, and Blake dealt with Bane, rather than watching Bruce Wayne go through the exact same freakin' character arc that Nolan put him through in the previous two Batman films? I know I was.

2. I think we've reached the point in superhero movies where comic readers are going to be prematurely spoiled for awesome, beautifully set up, carefully crafted, and genuinely shocking plot twists. Because I was able to pick out the spoiler reveal in the third act of the movie the moment that a certain character walked on the screen. :( And that's kind of no fun, because I think that Nolan set up the shock of the reveal really well. Unfortunately it wasn't a shock to me, and I think that it probably wasn't a shock to anybody with even a passing familiarity with Batman comics.

Related to number 2: I can't help but wonder what the hell Marvel is planning to do with the Winter Soldier movie. I mean, it's not like the identity of the Winter Soldier is one of the most infamous (and genuinely shocking) spoilers in the entire Marvel comics canon or anything.

3. I'm sure I wasn't the only person watching this movie who was able to predict the culmination of Blake's character arc fairly early in the film, but the predictability of it in no way detracted from the HELL FUCKING YES!!!-ness of the moment when it finally happened.

4. As usual, Christian Bale was the weakest of the actors in the film. Which is still so weird to me because... He's Christian Bale. In his other films he ranges from decent to actually good acting. But in Nolan's films he just sucks. And it's not just because of the horrible Batman voice, either. His Bruce Wayne is just so flat and lifeless, even during supposedly intense scenes when he's struggling to ~*~overcome his inner turmoil~*~ or deal with a broken spine or whatever the fuck. Blargh.

5. I cried exactly three times during the movie. All of them were during Alfred's speeches.
nenena: (Devi - Flaming Tara)
So I saw Secretariat for the first time last night. It was... Well, it was a Disney movie about a genetically mutated superhorse with John Malkovich in it. That's what it was.

Of course it was impossible for me to watch the film without comparing it to the (far superior IHMO) Seabiscuit. Behind the cut: Horse movies, real-life superhorses, X-men genetics, and horses making funny faces at cameras. )

In closing: Secretariat sucks, watch Seabiscuit instead, horses can be extremely emotionally expressive in real life but you just can't teach the darn things to emote on cue in front of a camera, and oh by the way "the X-gene" is real and it exists in thoroughbred race horses. Not that you would know that from watching the Disney version of Secretariat, however, because the fact that Secretariat carried the X-gene or the fact that he had a mutated heart was never once mentioned in the entire film.

And now, since I'm in a silly mood and I'm talking about horses and genetic mutations and superpowers anyway, here is possibly the stupidest thing I have ever written in my journal: Another cut to spare you from this silliness. )
nenena: (Default)

Sailor Avengers by nna. (Click through for full size!)


Hat-tip to [personal profile] shanejayell for that one. Now we just need somebody to make an Avengers/Pretty Cure mashup and my life will be complete. Er, not like I've actually put any thought or planning or detail into an Avengers/Pretty Cure mashup fic that will never be written or anything.

Other Links of Interest:

David Brothers on why DRM is beneficial to exactly nobody.

Al Jean (producer of The Simpsons) and fifty other animation producers protest Community's eligibility in the Emmy animation categories. I'm sorry, I love Community, I really do, but it does not belong in any of the Emmy animation categories. It just. does. not. And Al Jean is absolutely correct to point out that if Community can be considered in the animated Emmy categories, then why can't shows like The Simpsons, Futurama, South Park, and other animated sitcoms be considered in any of the Emmy comedy categories? Because animation ghetto, that's why.

David Brothers (yes, again!) on why Anno Moyoco's Sakuran reveals how sexism in the past still influences how we regard "willful" women today. (Do not read the comments.) Sexist expectations of how women should behave is a common theme in Anno's work - just look at Sugar Sugar Rune, which used magical girls to deconstruct those sexist tropes in really interesting ways - but Sakuran is a decidedly more adult take on the same themes for a decidedly more adult audience.

Meanwhile, Naruto is coming to an end. I don't think that anybody has yet expressed any reaction to this other than "Finally!" And that includes those of us who are actually fans of the series. It's about time we got a decent climax and conclusion! For the record, I felt the same way when Inu-Yasha finally ended. No matter how much fun your manga is, you just can't keep dragging out the same basic conflict without any meaningful conclusion for years and years and years without people getting tired of it.
nenena: (Soul Eater - Blair kitty)
Some of these links are old, some of them are new. I hope that all of them are interesting for you.

Uktena is a historically accurate (well, with the addition of a few supernatural elements) free PC roleplaying game created by Toye Heape and based on native cultures that lived in Tennessee about six hundred years ago. It needs some funding help to get off the ground. As to why this game is awesome and important, here's what Heape has to say:

When the game is finished I want to make it available as a free digital download. I have plans for future games that I'd like to create and possibly sell, but it's important to me that as many people as possible have access to Uktena. Here's why: When many people hear the words Native American they think of teepees, war bonnets, and other icons associated with the great horse riding, buffalo hunting cultures of the American plains, but you won't be seeing those things in this game. Uktena is about a different Native culture and a different period in American history, neither of which is very well known to most people. I believe Uktena has the potential to help change that by immersing players in that prehistoric world and letting them participate in that civilization while having a fun gaming experience.

[...]In recent years road projects, housing developments, shopping centers, and even libraries and museums, along with illegal looting, have impacted or destroyed major Native American archaeological sites in the Nashville area. It may seem inconceivable that America's heritage could be wiped out like this, but I believe a major reason is because most people aren't aware of it. This was one of my main motivations for creating Uktena. I think a video game can have a powerful impact on the imagination in a way that other media can't, and once the player has "experienced" the history he or she will be more likely to object to what little is left of it being crushed under the treads of a bulldozer. [...] At the same time I want you to know that, like most people, my main objective when playing a game is to have fun, and I'll do my best, with your invaluable assistance, to make Uktena a fun and exciting game.


Recently there's been a lot of discussion on Tumblr and Dreamwidth about fan-funded indie games that are intended to be inclusive of people and cultures not normally represented in your typical mainstream RPGs. Unfortunately a lot of that discussion is fueled by a Certain Project doing nearly everything wrong. Well, here's an example of a game that is really, truly doing it right. And even though the Kickstarter deadline for this project has passed, there are still ways that you might be able to help it get the funding that it needs.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet! A whole lot of dimwitted male movie critics have been trying to gain Feminism Points by critiquing how Black Widow is portrayed in The Avengers. The overwhelming problem with most of these reviews, however, is not that there isn't anything bad to be said about Black Widow's portrayal or Joss Whedon's often strangely limited flavor of feminism - because there most certainly IS an awful lot worthy of critique there - but that movie critics are, for some inexplicable reason, complaining about Black Widow being useless in the film. Uh, what? Fortunately, Ian Grey has an excellent takedown of that argument. Bonus points for actually calling out the offending movie critics by name.

Speaking of Doing It Right: Dan Norton is the amazing character designer for the new Thundercats series and he's posting all of his character and mech design work on Deviantart. Well worth a gander even if you're not into Thundercats. Also, some time ago Norton's gallery hosted a hilarious flamewar during which Norton beautifully smacked down a sexist fanboy who showed up to complain about Pumyra's new design being "too manly" and not having big enough breasts. Sadly, however, those comments seem to have been deleted now.

More potpourri links:

Paul Tobin hilariously describes stupid depictions of gender in fiction.

Swan Tower writes about writing fight scenes.

How to Illustrate Weelchairs. Also useful information for anybody who wants to write about or film characters who use wheelchairs.

Push Girls is a show that documents the lives of four women who use wheelchairs.

This is the best Avengers/Disney mashup. The BEST.

Smash.

May. 27th, 2012 01:21 pm
nenena: (Devi - Flaming Tara)
You know that a show is truly, truly terrible when Liz Lemon makes a completely non-ironic and earnest joke about it being terrible during the season finale of 30 Rock. Ladies and gentlemen, Smash is that show. And yes, it is every bit as terrible as everybody says it is.

But like Liz, I stubbornly stuck with watching the show all the way up to the bitter end, because despite how completely awful it was in so many regards there was also just enough in terms of nuggets of television gold buried beneath all of the poorly-written, melodramatic crap that I couldn't give up on the show completely. I just couldn't.

Of course, it helps that the show is a musical about a musical, which is always a fun concept in and of itself. It also helps that Smash stars some absolutely phenomenonal singers and actors, and that I am willing to sit through forty minutes of insufferable stupidity every week as long as it means that I get to hear Megan Hilty sing, or get to watch Leslie Odom Jr. dance, or get to listen to Jack Davenport sneering through his every line of dialogue, or get to watch Angelica Houston being amazing in her every scene because she's Angelica fucking Houston. Overall the cast of Smash is so talented that it's almost ridiculous. ALL of these actors and actresses deserve a better show than this, and they're all doing an incredible job with the crap dialogue and crap scenarios that they're given to work with. Ultimately it's the acting that saves this show even though the writing is doing its goddamn best to destroy it.

I think this is the first time I can ever honestly say that I enjoyed a show primarily for the actors and not for the characters. But enjoy the show I did, somewhat. Even though MY GOD were parts of it so stupid that I actually felt myself getting angry at the show for being so terrible. So I guess this is the big long post where I try to sort out and write down all of my feelings about Smash, since if I suffered through fifteen episodes of this crap I might was well have some thinky-thoughts about writing and characterization (as in: HOW NOT TO DO) to show for it.

But first, let's start with a few things that Smash did well.

1. Tom and Sam. Christian Borle and Leslie Odom Jr. are absofuckinglutely fantastic actors, they have amazing chemistry together, and their respective story arcs are great. I especially loved the whole drama with Sam's family being disapproving of his career as a dancer rather than disapproving of him being gay - which is realistic, relatable, and definitely stepping outside the usual stereotypes in terms of how Black and/or Christian characters are portrayed with their attitudes toward homosexuality. Smash is also LIGHT YEARS ahead of certain other shows that like to pat themselves on the back for being oh-so-progressive in terms of portraying gay relationships on screen and yet never show the gay couples kissing, touching, or engaging in any sort of sexually-charged banter or flirting whatsoever. Yes, Modern Family and Glee, I am most certainly talking about you two. Smash actually shows its gay couples engaging in physical flirting, sexual banter, kissing, touching, and even in bed together. You know, the same way that it portrays the heterosexual relationships on the show. Smash does much more to normalize the portrayals of gay relationships among its characters in 15 episodes than Modern Family has done in three full seasons. Now, to be fair, neither Tom nor Sam's portrayal is perfect. In fact, Sam spends most of the first half of the season having no characterization whatsoever other than a) liking sports - which he has to mention in his EVERY LINE OF DIALOGUE - and b) being Ivy's gay best friend who exists solely to be Ivy's gay best friend. But once Tom and Sam start dating and Sam starts to, you know, actually be portrayed as a character with complex personality traits, things get a lot better. A LOT better.

2. Eileen. Angelica Houston is an amazing actress, I loved the character's entire story arc, everything about Eileen is awesome, and if I actually can bring myself to watch the next season of Smash it will probably be solely to watch Eileen be fucking awesome in every scene again.

3. Ivy, with an asterisk. We'll get the asterisk behind the cut, but first: Yes, Megan Hilty is every bit as amazing of an actress as she as a singer. Yes, I loved (nearly) everything about Ivy as a character. I ended up rooting for her so much that it was kind of scary. I loved how she was flawed and imperfect, selfish and manipulative yet vulnerable and needy at the same time. I loved how hard she worked and how hard she fought for her dreams. I loved how good the show was at making me feel for Ivy and at making me want Ivy to win, despite the fact that Ivy was much less of a nice person than Karen was. I think that the show truly succeeded in making me feel like Ivy DESERVED that leading role, even if she was a flawed and imperfect person, and for that I can only tip my hat at the writers and say: Well done.

And now let's talk about what the show did horribly, horribly wrong.

Behind this cut are major spoilers for the entire first season. Well, 'spoilers' if you're the type of person who considers 'the Titanic sinks' and 'Romeo and Juliet die' to be spoilers. )
nenena: (Tink - Cheers!)
Whoopi Goldberg announced on The View today that JP is going to propose to Kyle in tomorrow's issue of Astonishing X-Men and that the two will be wed in June's issue.

So Marvel is going to have their first official on-panel gay marriage. :D

HEY MARVEL COMICS YOU KNOW WHAT? Since you're going all-out to ride this wave of gay marriage publicity and you've got this awesome Avengers fanbase just dying to throw money at you right now... You know what you should do?

You should make a Young Avengers cartoon. That's what you should do. And I know that I just said the same thing yesterday, but come on! Young Avengers features one of the best portrayals of gay teen relationship in either Marvel or DC canon. It would be an enormous and important step in the right direction if Wiccan and Hulkling could star in a mainstream cartoon series.

Having a gay marriage in the official Marvel comics canon is an awesome and amazing thing, no doubt about it. Here's hoping that someday (possibly soon?) Marvel is ready to take the next step and include a gay relationship in one of their cartoon shows.

No but seriously you guys Young Avengers is such perfect, perfect material for a cartoon adaptation. Absolutely perfect.
nenena: (Default)
I really wish that Marvel would take advantage of their Avengers-related momentum right now to produce a Young Avengers cartoon.

Think about it: It would be a perfect way to keep milking the franchise while everyone is waiting impatiently for the next film. The most successful superhero cartoon shows are almost always* the ones that focus on a team of teenagers, i.e. X-Men: Evolution, Teen Titans, and Young Justice, to name a few. And the Young Avengers comics have all of the elements that attract the devoted fanbases of those other teen superhero shows have, namely: Misunderstood/ostracized teenagers, lots of action, lots of angst, family drama, romantic drama, team bonding, team rivalries, unlikely friendships, the us-against-the-world-that-fears-and-hates-us formula that makes the X-Men perpetual favorites, and the young-upstarts-proving-themselves-to-older-mentors formula that fandom squees over in Young Justice.

To be fair, I've seen this idea bandied around before, and the most common response is usually along the lines of "but the Young Avengers characters have origins that are too convoluted and too deeply embedded in Marvel canon for a mainstream kids' show!" To which I can only say, really?! The Young Avengers characters have origins more convoluted than most of the cast of Young Justice?! Really?!

And also it's not like any of those convoluted origins can't be easily simplified or changed altogether for the sake of a TV adaptation, anyway. Come on people. IMHO, the only Young Avengers character whose backstory really shouldn't be messed with is Patriot, for what I hope are obvious reasons. I think that Patriot's origin story is incredibly powerful and incredibly important in the Marvel canon. But aside from Patriot, well, I wouldn't really weep if any of the other characters had changed or simplified backstories. Depending on how the origin stories are changed, some of them might even end up better off for it.

But anywhoo I just think it would be really cool if someday we got a Young Avengers cartoon. The characters are already popular with the comic-reading fandom, the recent success of Young Justice has shown that there's a huge fandom out there hungry for teen superhero shows, and with The Avengers kicking ass at the box office right now it just seems like perfect timing.


*Asterisk: The 90's-era Batman and X-Men cartoons are the biggest exceptions to this rule. But even in the case of the X-Men show I'd say it was still mostly about a group of angsty outcasts who certainly acted like teenagers a lot of the time, even if they were supposed to be older.
nenena: (Default)
I know that I'm three weeks behind the times in finally knowing about this, but OH MY GOD: Hasbro actually ran a wedding notice in the New York Times to promote the My Little Pony season finale. Holy shit. That is fucking awesome. It's also awesome to see an Entertainment Weekly reporter write that "the hour-long [series finale] special is ambitious, absorbing, and thoroughly entertaining, even to those who stopped playing with My Little Ponies back in the mid-’80s. (Or, you know, never played with them at all.)" Quoted for GREAT TRUTH.

The subject of last month's Manga Moveable Feast was the Viz Signature line. I'd definitely recommend checking out some of those titles for anybody reading this interested in moving beyond your typical tweenybopper manga fare. (Not that I don't love and eat up typical tweenybopper manga fare with a spoon, but it's good to have some expanded horizons.) Or just scroll to the bottom of this post for a roundup of links to general overviews of the line and introductions to multiple titles and artists at once.

Meanwhile, in case you missed its extremely limited theatrical release outside of China earlier this year, Dante Lam's 逆戰 (a.k.a. The Viral Factor) is going to be released on Region 1 DVD next month. Not that this particularly matters when there's been a region-free official BluRay disc with multiple language tracks and subtitles available on the market for a while already now, but... At least a Region 1 DVD release means accessibility on Netflix and possibily iTunes, so hooray! (Seriously though, the advent of BluRay has so delightfully antiquated this entire concept of region-locked DVDs that a part of me even wonders why distribution companies even bother any more.) Oh, and David Brothers has an excellent review of the film here in which he nails what exactly it is about the movie that makes it so engrossingly watchable despite being objectively kind of terrible on a lot of levels.

Ryan Estrada teaches you how to read Korean writing in 15 minutes. I absolutely adore Hangul - it's one of the most beautiful and perfect writing systems in the world, ranking right up there with Devanagari and Arabic as one of the most ingenious and perfect writing systems ever developed IMHO - and this cute comic is a really great introduction to it. The comments on the post are worth reading, too.

Wooser's Hand-to-Mouth Life is the best thing on the internet. The best thing.

And, for people reading this who are interested in legal ways to access digital manga in Japanese! Kinokuniya has an app for that. Behind the cut: Nitty-gritty details re: how to download and use the app for readers outside of Japan. ) But, there's one more caveat: The selection in the app store is about three to four weeks behind the selection on the BookWebPlus mothership, which means that sometimes new books will be listed on BWP nearly a month before you can hope to buy them through the app. (This is the case for Soul Eater right now: the manga is available on the BWP website but not yet on the app.) However, there are a few exceptions: the newest volumes of Fairy Tail are listed on the app on the very same day that they're published in Japan (!!!!) and quite a few other popular manga titles are getting same-day app releases, too. In terms of selection of manga and light novels, I cannot stress enough how gloriously huge and diversified the app selection already is: Old stuff, new stuff, shounen, shoujo, josei, seinen, megapopular series, indie publishers, IT'S ALL HERE. In terms of digital offerings that I've been hoping and praying for Japanese publishers to SOMEDAY provide for us, this is it: It's finally happening. Kinokuniya, YOU ARE MAKING THIS HAPPEN and it is beautiful.

I still can't believe how far behind Japanese publishers are in terms of digital offerings when compared to North American manga publishers, but that is a rant for another day. Anyway, the Kinokuniya app is a HUGE step in the right direction here.
nenena: (Devi - Flaming Tara)
Thursday evening reading: Doujinshi Nation

In which Heidi MacDonald connects the dots between current legal shakeups in the American comics industry, how this compares to the Japanese publishing model, and what all of this has to do with Ghost Rider/Star Wars crossovers, the Static fan movie, and the Shocking True Story of what happened to that guy who drew the Wolverine ABCs.
nenena: (Devi - Flaming Tara)
Mike Landis (writer of Chronicle) films his celebrity friends re-enacting the death and return of Superman:



Starring Elden Henson, Elijah Wood, Mandy Moore, and Morgan Krantz with cameos by Simon Pegg, Ron Howard, Elmo, and about a dozen other famous people whose names escape me but I know I've seen them before.
nenena: (Default)
The internet presents: Star Wars Uncut: The Director's Cut.

I'm just going to let 4thletter explain what's going on here:

The idea is that several hundred groups had been tasked to recreate Star Wars: A New Hope… 15 seconds each. Each party is assigned a specific 15 seconds and has to remake the scene however they see fit. Then all of it is stitched together to form a completely bizarre and hilarious interpretation of the full movie.

You’ll go from seeing someone’s kids dressed up as Stormtroopers to trippy animation to special effects and acting out of Be Kind Rewind to claymation to silent film to puppets to someone talking upside down with eyes drawn on their chin. There’s plenty of gold in there, such as Lady Gaga Darth Vader, C3PO getting way too sexual, a basket of ferrets reenacting the garbage scene, an Anti-Monitor action figure playing the role of R2D2 and my new favorite impression of Chewbacca. Sometimes the footage will go into completely different universes, like turning into a Disney movie, World War II dogfights, a western, The Seventh Seal, Tron, Yellow Submarine and even at one point The Big Lewbowski.


Yes, at one point, Chewbacca is played by a dog.
nenena: (Default)
1. Free official Adventure Time books available for download or online reading at Scribd! "Wit and Wisdom in the Land of Ooo: Great Quotations from Adventure Time" and this enormous collection of episode storyboard books are free to anybody who wants them.

2. It's award season in Japan! So the nominations for the Japan Academy Prize's "Animated Film of the Year" were officially listed yesterday, and to nobody's surprise both the K-ON! movie and From Up On Poppy Hill made the list. Also nominated were a gorgeous Osamu Tezuka adaptation, this year's Detective Conan film, and a CGI film that is, no joke, actually titled "Tofu Boy." Also, The Manga Taisho Awards have also posted this year's nominations. I Am A Hero got nominated for the second time. Not sure how I feel about that.

3. Kate Fitzsimons is hilarious and her tongue-in-cheek comparisons of recent Sherlock Holmes TV, movie, and comic adaptations is a must-read.