Vicksgotseoul's Weblog

January 30, 2011

Medium…

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicksgotseoul @ 11:08 pm


I love Anthony Bourdain. I don’t know why, but somehow, he’s wormed his squirrelly ass into my heart. It seems that, while watching “No Reservations”, when I’m about to change the channel from either an artsy acid trip or a saccharine exchange, he sucks me back in with some moment of awesome win that makes every other show that comes on at noon in the Houston basic cable market. ^_~

To me, Bourdain is the man. I know it, and he must know it, too, but his sardonic, snobby snark of before is slipping away, to be replaced by, of all reviled things, gratefulness. I know from experience that graciousness is not something that happens inherently with age, but Bourdain has somehow caught it.

In writing, however, I like Bourdain best. And while Medium Raw might not be the epic adventure that was A Cook’s Tour, I still enjoyed it.

One of my favorite chapters featured tiny vignettes of “food porn”, as Bourdain speeds through intense scenes of carnal lust as quickly as a bored teen flips through clips at a free porn site. And similar to the aficionados, producers, and actors in such electronic establishments, Bourdain portrays himself as the amateur: new to the world he is exploring, a novice in the ways and means of the food he describes with such passionate gusto.

The self-awareness that compels Bourdain to humbly kowtow also tangles him with the constant game of keeping his rhetoric aloft. Batting the birdie, Bourdain jumps back and forth from cynical snobbery to self aggrandizing commentary on his  slide to decrepitness. As a reader, and a prescriber to the Bourdain School of Thought, I felt uneasy, pulled out of the narrative, as if a doe-eyed actress, in the aforementioned amateur films, broke the illusion by looking at the director and not the camera or her on screen partner(s).

Like the title “Medium Raw”, he really is vacillating between the mellowing of age and the raunch of his youth. So delicately does he balance this act that at times I don’t know whether to praise him or dismiss him; like when taking a steak order, and someone begins with the word “medium…” and whether or not they finish with “rare” or “well” decides, in my mind, my entire opinion of their existence. In the end, my own fondness for the man colors my opinion of him, and for now, and  maybe even for always, I like Tony Bourdain. We like food, traveling, and the universality of love, friendship, and hospitality. So here’s me being a bit “medium”, a bit of a sentimental fool, but you can suck on it.

August 5, 2010

Chely Wright, “Like Me”

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — vicksgotseoul @ 1:53 am

Chely Wright’s Like Me starts very promisingly, with a bang. Or, rather, the absence of a bang, as she confronts her darkest hour, gun in her mouth, and decides to put it down. From there, an outpouring begins, a flood of self-recriminations, guilty conciouses, hollow joys and a hand extended in solidarity to every person who has ever experienced a life like hers.

A memoir is a touchy thing for me. Normally I think they’re boring and lame. The last two that I enjoyed, The Natural Laws of Good Luck and Fun Home were actually written more about other people in the authors’ life: Graf’s Chinese husband and Bechdel’s closeted father, respectively. Unhitching the pressure of being the subject allows for more honesty, I think, and Bechdel’s graphic novel particularly well represented the memoir as an exploration/love letter of your origins.

I like to journal, and I often fall victim to the “Today I ate eggs for breakfast” subject that’s about as interesting as a blade of grass amongst a yard of them. I respect a good navel-gazing, then, for the sheer effort it takes to not talk about yourself and the boring things. Phoebe Damrosch wrote a blog that eventally became a book, and while talking about food was the high point, she spoke too much about a subject that was boring: her non-drama-filled Life. Actually, considering she was having an illicit affair with a coworker behind another cowoker’s back, you would think there would be some fur flying! Unfortunately, to the detriment of the book, no such drama occurs.

Wright, on the other hand, is quick to point the finger at herself. She has been doing so since she was a little girl, literally praying every night for God to take the gay away. After going through her childhood, which was actually a fairly entertaining and heartwarming romp througb the Heartland, we land in post-puberty-ville and the line of broekn relationships begin. After a while, the book starts to sound like a “My Name is Earl” styled list of wronged men and women. Wright began this book as a catharsis, as an outlet for the guilt and pressure that lead to that one horrible night when she almost ended her life. She could as easily be reading this book to a pastor in a confessional as to a friend, parent, or God himself.

Frankly, I liked this matter-of-fact tone, as if she were really talking to you. Her personable, respectful manner permeates every sentence, making every page seem to have come directly from her mouth to your ears. All in all, it makes her seem pretty down to Earth and normal.

And this ability, this tone, is what makes this book work. She isn’t crazy with mood swings, dripping syrupy lines and unnecessary embellishes all over the place. She’s normal. She isn’t sprinkling lots of gay language and culture references, because she’s “normal”. She doesn’t go tapping her foot in random public restrooms for sex; she meets people normally, falls in love with people she gets to know normally, and has horrible break-ups like any normal person would. And that’s what I love the most about this book. This book is for those kids out there like her, who wish the gay away, because you are just like everybody else in every other way. You can have the talent, and escape your small hometown, and find success and travel the world, but the gay goes with you. But remind yourself, there are people just “Like Me”.

There was one area, though, where I felt that Wright broke the fourth wall a bit more than necessary, and it was in reference to her intimate relations with fellow country star Brad Paisley.  Her comments seemed to have a certain pointedness to them–not directed at him, but at the industry and culture–that kind of drew you away from her journey. Perhaps I only felt this way because he is one of the few named, and known, people in the book.

Overall, it’s a good read. Coupled with the short chapters, it felt a lot like a bedtime snack to relax to before drifting off. You feel as if you know Chely, and you can empathize with her. And if there’s the added bonus of making one parent show their child understanding, it has worked.

On a side note, this is the first book I bought for my Xmas gift  Sony E-book Reader,  and it was a quick read, with the few photos showing up nice enough. I do love having a real book, though, you know? Glossy photo pages, the smell of it, know what I mean? =)

May 6, 2010

Always, by Nicola Griffith

Filed under: Books, Uncategorized — Tags: , — vicksgotseoul @ 8:04 am

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“You’re a sensualist, a hedonist of the first order,” Kick tells Aud, right near the end of the book, and you know then that Kick has Aud’s number. For all of her expediency, efficiency, and near-Terminator ability to assess and nuetralize danger, Aud Torvingen is a creature as much a slave of her body as she is a master of it. Aud has herself convinced that she is fully in control, and a creature of intellect. She relies on and revels in her formidable deductive skills, and is even disappointed when antagonists and circumstances fall short of her expectations. Throughout this trilogy, however, Nicola Griffith has shown Aud to also be a woman who enjoys her body, through martial arts or eating delicous food or taking the body to the bar for a quick dusting off of the ol’ cobwebs.

Always is the third book in a trilogy starring Aud Torvingen, an aloof, physically dangerous woman in Atlanta. What started in The Blue Place as a standard detective noir, complete with trouble spelled with a capital “T” walking into the office, evolved into one of the most sensual reading experiences I ever had, which continued on through the next book, Stay.

In The Blue Place, I became involved with Aud’s mind: neatly detached, but able to conjure up the atmosphere of her surroundings. I never met a travel book as persuasive as Griffith’s novel, almost convincing me to visit Norway despite by abherrence to cold weather.

In Stay, I learned how Aud could use her methodical mind to break herself away from society, and, like a certain protaganist from Hemingway’s “Big Two Hearted River”, use the action of living a simplified, almost rustic life to seperate herself from her pain. Despite her attempts to isolate herself, Aud is drawn back to society, and humanity. It’s not in her nature to disengage, despite her aloof attitude, but to over-engage and think more into a situation than most people.

The double story line in Always serves the purpose of making the ending and beginning believable. The plots mirror each other, while at the same time providing an introduction and closure to each storyline. Despite throwing in this new device that gives us a stronger grasp of how history affects Aud’s decisions, the plot is a little flat, lacking the dynamite of true tension to keep you emotionally engaged.

I feel as if Always is the book that Griffith had been waiting forever to write, and found the opportunity finally in her third book featuring Aud. The novel features quite prominently two subjects near and personal to her heart: multiple sclerosis and self-defense (though not together in a strange meld-y way ^_^). Her personal connection to these two aspects of the two main characters made research no doubt a snap, but it also stunted her plot. Make no mistake: these two subjects were actually the best written areas of the book, from the growing escalation of the self-defense classes to the foregone violent climax to the nearly opposite direction Aud must take to navigate Kick’s situation. The rest of the book, however, to put it in a word, lacked. Perhaps the fact that Aud has money, and in Seattle, could toss it around willy-nilly, made the dramatic tension lessened, as opposed to the wilds of Norway. Real estate scams are kind of inherently boring, despite Aud’s awesome sleuthing. Also, Aud cares about what happens to the movie set because she cares about Kick, but I feel that she, and the reader, are never really invested emotionally in the fate of the studio and the people in it. I might be missing something important, maybe some big moment for Aud where she starts to bury her apathy that borders on misanthropy, but if so, it was a such a subtle moment that most probably wouldn’t get it.

That being said, I still liked the book. Kick was a good addition, a strong enough character to contend with a ghost. It is in Kick that Aud finds her mirror, and her match. A woman who knows her own body, and is at home within it and her surroundings. And like Aud, Kick has some issues that are sensitive enough that, when twinged, she lashes out in pain. And super kudos for using the word “Ware”, as in “beware”, broken down to its component parts. Griffith has a love of the English language that permeates her paragraphs and gives the words taste in my mouth as well as images in my head. I will continue to read anything she writes, and I also follow her blog, Ask Nicola.

On a final note, the cover art is very… interesting. Eschewing traditional ideas about how to fill in the space, the fist is coming at the reader, and it’s pushed to the right of center. The bright purple cover color and bright green/yellow title suggest content more pulp-y than it contains. What I found most interesting is how it compares to the first two novels’ covers. The Blue Place features a woman, presumably Aud, sitting quite comfortably sprawled, looking to the side. The image has the illusion of being much more wide than tall, narrowing our focus as well as suggesting that we are missing something important outside of the scene, especially as the image is cut off at strong angles. Stay has another interrupted image, this time of only the lower half of a woman’s face, gradually disappating as you move to the side. The fist on the cover of Always, however, is coming towards the foreground, as if to engage you. I can almost see a story within the images themselves. Thoughts?
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April 3, 2010

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Filed under: Books — Tags: — vicksgotseoul @ 7:57 am

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I feel like I know Michael Chabon. I’m sure I read something of his in school–perhaps for my Jewish Lit class—but as my books are all packed away at the moment I can’t confirm it. Whatever the case, this strange feeling goes beyond familiarity; it’s as if he were me, if I were to write a novel about a shiftless postgrad, incorporating the experiences of myself and hundreds of thousands of aimless English majors, who somehow managed to get through college on the enjoyment of reading.

Chabon has said that he writes to entertain, because he reads for entertainment. Already this philosophy is evident in the readability of this novel. Instead of going for that tortured, soul-wrenching tone that may be the first instinct of many a MFA thesis-writer, or reaching for that lofty text full of one-liners a la Joss Whedon or Diablo Cody but lacking the experience to give it heart, Chabon writes what he knows: young man in Pittsburgh who doesn’t know what he wants except to be out of this old, familiar place.

That the protagonist, Art, would be so drawn to the people he meets is not at all a surprise. These are people who present such a beautiful image of wealth and youth or vibrant directness that is the complete opposite of what he has with his father’s discreet career looming over him. Befriending them, however, means that he gets to know them and their flaws and families… it’s really quite realistic, and at times, hilarious.

The biggest flaw for me would be Art. As a narrator, he’s perfect because he seems to have little impact on his own life, and is by nature an observer. As a character, he’s boring and a doormat. That being said, there are lots of post grads who are boring and doormats, myself included. Living in our heads, seeing the poetry in everyday objects and people, creating fantasy worlds that must be torn down… I’ve just described Tuesday. The novel reflects Chabon’s attention to detail about my life, and probably some of his own, but these details also reflect our own immaturity.

This reflection isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This was being written as a thesis: in the way of deadline-sensitive material, the ending is a bit rushed. There’s a quality of cuteness to it, and certainly no expectation for it to be the hit that it was. A thesis novel to be presented to professors for appraisal: that is what it was meant to be, and to these qualifications it adhered to and surpassed mightily. As a first novel, it’s also exceptional. But it left room for improvement, which Chabon obviously filled in subsequent years with far better works.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this novel. It rang true in my head, and kept me entertained and reading, which was really what Chabon, and this book, are all about.

March 9, 2010

Ponyo on Blu-Ray

Filed under: Anime, Movies — Tags: , — vicksgotseoul @ 3:22 am

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This picture totally illustrates my anticipation and glee, awaiting the Blu-Ray release of Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki’s latest effort. Yes, it’s a kid’s movie. I saw it in theaters, and I was a bit surprised to discover this. But that hasn’t dampened my desire to own it. First, I wanted to see whether or not animation is enhanced by Blu-Ray. While some movies, like Dark Knight, have lots of barely varying shades of dark and tiny details that would make HD a good investment, traditionally drawn animation may not require it. Secondly, I am a Miyazaki fan and I have no qualms with using my money to back it up. Plus, Ponyo is so cyute I want to hug her and squeeze her! I’ll settle for the DVD case. ^_^

Now, Ponyo on Blu-Ray is AMAZING. There was a preview of a remastered Beauty and the Beast that would come out on Blu-Ray; in the preview, you could see the lines from the artists’ strokes on the cels. Not so in Ponyo: every line is so painstakingly perfected, so seamlessly melded, it makes it seem impossible that it was human hands that drew every bit of it. Miyazaki has used computers in the past, but with this movie he tossed out that section of the production company and declared it a hand drawn haven. Of course, it’s not fair to compare the qualities of Ponyo and Beauty and the Beast; the latter came out almost 20 years ago (can you believe it?!). Even though 3D animation has carved out a huge chunk, maybe even the majority, of the American animation market, technology has still advanced in such a way that Ponyo can be made without the gaffs that occasionally marred even the highest quality movies (such as the characters’ colors and paints being much brighter than the background).

The colors of Ponyo are as relentlessly vivacious as the titular character. Ponyo is red and orange, while Sosuke wears a yellow shirt and lives in a yellow house. After the red and gold color pallette ofSpirited Away and the light blue and straw yellow of Howl’s Moving Castle, these bold colors are both happy and welcome, but also a sort of coded reminder that this is a movie aimed at 5-yr-olds. It’s notShrek or Toy Story, with random adult jokes sprinkled in that the kids don’t understand. Miyazaki firmly believes that even very young children understand things, though they may not be able to articulate them back. An example is when Sosuke’s father is out to sea, and his mother is upset because he had promised to be home that night. Sosuke finds himself trying to mediate–through signal lamp–and when his mother is down in the dumps, tries to cheer her up. I think this sort of exchange also informs his decision-making: he is a very serious sort of child who solemnly makes promises, and actually makes the effort to keep them. It’s very endearing.

I saw the movie first in English at the theaters, so of course I immediately watched it in Japanese. What I didn’t realize was that in the original, Sosuke refers to his mother and father by their first names. Wierd.

Anywho, I won’t go any further into the plot. It’s a kids movie. The characters are cute, and the scenery rich, but in the end it lacks the dramatic tension and characterization that are the hallmarks of Miyazaki’s other works. I was amazed at how Miyazaki, now 69 years old, could still understand and show the world, as seen by a 5 year old, but he managed it brilliantly.

Now, the bonus features. At first I was worried because there were only two things in the bonus menu. Fortunately the second thing was actually a link to another menu that has a nice collection of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, included several with Miyazaki himself. You really understand his thoughts and motivations behind the movie, through interviews with him, producer Toshio Suzuki, and composer Joe Hisaishi. All the interviews are huge love-love (RABU-RABU) fests for Miyazaki, down to the last Disney exec. Miyazaki himself was often interviewed while wearing a plain collared shirt and an apron, ostensibly because he was painting. Crazy.

Several older Studio Ghibli films were highlighted, specifically Kiki’s Delivery ServiceMy Neighbor Totoro, and Laputa: Castle in the Sky. I couldn’t get to some others, which in the Blu-Ray menu were amongst the other titles but not clickable. I’m hoping this means there’s going to be a Blu-Ray release of some of these other titles, such as Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. I will be on those like nobody’s bizness!

Anywho, if you’re looking for a movie that will renew your love for animation, check it out! And leave your grown-up self at the door.

Just imagine: a girl running along the a cliffside road, running on the waves morphed into the shapes of fish, and over the sound of the crashing water and fierce wind is that of her bare feet, pitter-pattering speedily over the water. AWESOME.

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March 3, 2010

Tegan and Sara Concert Review

Filed under: Music — Tags: , — vicksgotseoul @ 8:34 pm

Now, I say “review”, but really, it’s more like a dissertation/gush-fest. Be prepared.

Saturday, I was sporting a black eye, a canker sore that would fell a horse at ten paces, and a nasty cold that had turned my nose into a faucet of bodily fluid. I was minus a partner in crime. But nothing was going to stop me from going to the Tegan and Sara concert. NOTHING.

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First, I bought two tickets because going to a concert by yourself is LAME. I’ll travel to foreign countries with my stuffed duck as my only companion but nothing makes you feel alone like a moshing crowd. Originally Ramxi was going to come with me, but Boss Lady guillotined the idea that two of us could get a Saturday off, thus including all my coworker/friends. I turned to Stephanie, but because of the Cookoff at Reliant, she couldn’t get off of work either. I guilted Cecilia into ditching her boyfriend’s mom, but she was guilted back into it. Finally I called Ollie, and we agreed to meet halfway at the venus, The Warehouse. She was not amused to hear she was so far down the list! I lack tact, as always.

We got there at 5:40, though the doors don’t open ’til 7, since it’s first-come-first-served, standing room only. There was still a decent line there, and a long line grew behind us. They made me to toss my water bottle and Dayquil before I could enter–fortunately there was only like one dose left anyway–and Ollie and I skirted the merch table to hit up the booze. I’ve heard reviews of the place say the alcohol was overpriced, but I don’t think $4.50 is that bad for well. We charge $5 at my restuarant, and have you tried to buy a beer at the Rodeo lately?

Ollie and I got a nice spot, about five people from the front, and a little to the side. I had also heard some people gripe about not being able to hear in the venue, so I was happy to stand by the speakers, just in case. After a rum and diet, we switched to beer, most of which I gave to Ollie. I needed to pee when I got in, but I decided not to break the seal. This felt like a good decision when, 30 minutes before the show started, we couldn’t leave our spot and hope to return.

The first opening band was Steel Train. They were pretty good, with upbeat, fun songs. Each member of their band had a different style, look-wise, so I randomly decided they were a punk-rock-emo boy band. Very fun, though.

Then came Holly Miranda. Her voice was out of this world, but her songs verrrry long, especially as I began to get uncomfortable feelings in my bladder. She had good sounds and the lyrics I could understand were pretty decent, so I think I’ll be checking her out more in the future.

Note: All of these pictures are copyright Tracy May. I found them at Ford Barsi’s concert review for them in Tampa. I, like an idiot, forgot my ancient camera at home.

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Finally, Tegan and Sara arrived. They immediately jumped into “The Ocean”, the 10th track from their new album, and played 5 songs from that album in quick succession, bam bam bam, with cute little “Thank yous” in between. They’ve obviously been at this touring thing for a while now, as a tech would come swooping in with a fresh guitar between every song for Tegan, Sara, and Ted, or taking the guitars away for keyboard songs. It was very smooth and fast production.

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Sara, bathed in light. As she should be!

The lights were done well, and happily, the sound was great. Sara enunciated her words very well so you could understand everything, which I hoped for more for Ollie’s sake than mine, since I know every word to every song like a proper obsessed fan. Since I was so close to them, I had to shift back and forth between the giant heads in my way, or those annoying cameras recording everything, but I still had a great view. I’m so used to seeing Tegan and Sara on YouTube, all I could think about was how good they look in real life HD! =3

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Tegan singing her little Tegan-y heart out.

Now, something that most Tegan and Sara fans know is that the pair have extremely funny banter between songs. Tegan usually instigates, and sisterly ragging ensues as Sara either defends herself or dies of embarrassment. Example:

In that vein, I was a little disappointed. Not that they didn’t speak, but it was a lot less than expected. Maybe the crowd wasn’t giving them enough; I don’t think of Houston as a very interactive or demanding concert scene. But when Sara *requested* we stay for the encore, that just about made it up. They’re so cute!

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The set list from their Twitter

After the initial block of new songs, they went into some old favorites: 5 songs altogether from So Jealous, 5 from The Con, and 2 from If It was You. I was actually surprised they did “Soil, Soil”. That might be Ted’s favorite, but I thought maybe “Burn Your Life Down” would have been a better fit. But then again, I sometimes have a major Sara bias. A note for the list is that there is a prevalence of Tegan songs, which tend to be more upbeat and more fun for the crowd, or at least that’s the acknowledgement that Sara revealed in a recent interview.

Also in a recent interview, the duo taked about how lazy they were getting in terms of playing their songs. Sara specifically mentioned how she was getting so many compliments on her song writing and career and such, but not on musicianship. And while T&S didn’t start wailing on their guitars or bustin’ out keyboard solos, I thought their playing was very professional, very polished-seeming. The reason we see T&S is not for that, so of course they wouldn’t want to overshadow the singing, so I can’t imagine anything more they could improve. But then again, I’m not a music pro.

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Singing “Feel It in My Bones”, with the green like the music vid

During the encore, they sang an acoustic version of “Feel It in My Bones”, a song they did with DJ Tiesto. Here’s the official video:

And here’s a video of an acoustic version they did for Blogotheque:

Tegan & Sara – Feel It In My Bones – A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

It really shows off their harmonies. Siiiiigh.

Anywho, we were all singing along at the top of our lungs for the whole concert. It was as if the mountain had moved to Mohammed and we were blessed to have them come to Houston. Tegan commented during “Where Does the Good Go” that we all sang it like either we were extremely angry or happy; either way, like we wrote it. So we sang a chorus by ourselves. Sounded pretty good!

Right at the end of the encore, I started feeling dizzy. Perhaps it was a religious fervor overtaking me. Maybe I was dizzy from my illness and not eating well. Maybe I was being poisoned by my holding in my pee for 4 hours. Whatever the reason, I had to crouch–a wierd thing to do in a crowd of people–to stave off the darkness edging my vision and consequently missed their exit. Fortunately there were some Youtube enthusiasts for that.

After finally using the facilities–somehow, there was still toilet paper–I decided to forgo the merch table’s excessive lines and spring for the Internet store later. Ollie said she enjoyed the show, but was a tired old woman and needed to go home. Piffle, I thought, it’s only 11! But some old fogies gotta get their sleep. I drove home in a T&S-induced high and went to my Dad’s to eat, then met Stephanie at IHOP to eat some more and show off my hoarse/sexy voice.

That night T&S tweeted, “Houston! Best show of the tour. Not just saying that either. Thank you! Xo t+s ” .

Hmmm, I’m still feeling little streaks of joy. It’s now in the bucket list to meet them. Also: meet them and not act insane. The latter one will be a toughie. =3

February 17, 2010

The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye eps. 17-20

Filed under: Anime — Tags: , , , , — vicksgotseoul @ 9:09 am

Yesssssss. The Third is beginning to ramp up and it’s lookin’ mighty fine.  This set of four episodes introduces us to Rona Fauna, someone who is a Third, but somehow, not, and is holding Joganki hostage. Fila Marique, Joganki’s Number Two, contracts Honoka to rescue him, and of course Paifu and Iks come along as well.

We’ve kicked Millie out of the tank, so we can go from sipping our Contemplative Tea to shooting our Big-Ass Gun Jager Bomb. Each episode built on the last one as our heroes prepare, then embark, then engage in some major ass kicking and taking of names. It all culminates in episode 20, which is titled “Over Enemy Lines”, but is spiritually named “Die Hard”.  The best action was actually not played out by humans or The Third, but between Bogie and an anti-tank helicopter. It’s easy to accept Bogie as such a bad-ass, with that deep, resonant voice, so I wasn’t annoyed at all with his boasting. The CGI for his battle was spectacular, and the directing was also very good. It looked like an actual battle between two highly mobile, torpedo-shooting machines, and for that, it deserves a medal.

I was a little disappointed with Paifu. Not that she wasn’t her bad-ass self: in fact Paifu was the main reason for the Die Hard moniker and showed us why Honoka doesn’t mind having her around, despite her clinging. What made me a little annoyed is the lack of character development. She was in all four episodes, and while she wasn’t integral to movement of the plot, and was literally and figuratively along for the ride, I felt that we don’t learn anything new about her. She’s obviously a bit of a man hater, particularly in regards to Iks, and the joke is played again–I admit it, I laughed when she brushed Iks’ hand off her bleeding wounds–but I wanted to learn a little more about her. For example, is she a Sachiko-of-Marimite style manhater, an actual member of the Lily Tribe, or just uber obsessive/possessive, regardless of gender? While I enjoy her childish pouting, especially compared to Honoka’s ridiculously mature outlook on life, I want to know more! Yes, I’m a Paifu fangirl.

Also, we don’t learn anything new about Fila Marique, even though she also gets a lot of screen time. She presents the facade of emotionlessness very well, but it gets kinda boring after a while. The best expression she ever had was when she asked Honoka about taking along an extra helper: her face was, quite plainly, shrewd, eyeing Honoka for her response to this particular person. I liked it, because it showed that Fila wasn’t nobody’s fool, but then again, considering her rank amongst The Third, I didn’t really think she was to begin with. Another nice part of that scene was the part where you find out that all Thirds have built-in garage door openers as part of their powers. Much of their “connecting”” to electronic networks is done somewhat graphically, like a 3D model, so it was nice to see a real-life, honest-to-goodness, practical use for that big honkin’ red thing on their foreheads.

Iks continues to get “curiouser and curiouser“.  I just wanna know if he owns another pair of clothes. Wherever he came from, they must have charged him too much to check his baggage, so he just left it all. I assume.

Finally, Rona Fauna. The arc isn’t over yet, so I can’t comment on her backstory, but I like the pace they’ve set so far, and the little breadcrumbs of info they’re feeding us. Leon, the last villain, was pretty lame, coming from and returning to the dust. Other than representing the way technology sorta feeds on itself, I felt that he wasn’t very integral to the plot, other than adding some element of danger. Since we were sipping our Contemplative Tea, I felt no suspense, and just assumed everyone would live, hale and whole. BORING. Since that particular arc was very pretty, I’ll blame Leon for any negative feelings I had towards those episodes. So, in short, Rona Fauna good because she’s dangerous, but interesting, and this escapade is bringing all the characters together.

Anywho, only one more disc left. Hopefully Touga–er, I meant Joganki–will get to run in and throw himself in front of Saionji’s sword and confuse Honoka into thinking he’s the Prince she’s been emulating her whole life wait a second what show am I watching again?

Seriously. Joganki is doing a pretty good job of playing Touga of the latter part of the Utena series, plus he added some bondage. Still boring. I’m pulling a Paifu and not caring about him and his boring male ways.

February 3, 2010

The Third: Girl with the Blue Eye eps 14-16

Filed under: Anime — Tags: , , — vicksgotseoul @ 8:01 am

The latest DVD disc, and thus far a gem of anime.

Firstly, I felt that these particular episodes highlight the best of The Third, thus far. There’s the beauty of the desert, which is unforgiving but has moments of delight that can’t be experienced anywhere else, including our pre-apocolyptic world.  Honoka and Millie are still trying to work it out, and suffer through the awkwardness that is stifling their relationship. There’s a seemingly unsurmountable opponent, which Honoka must defeat, in the words of Haruka Armitage, with LOTS OF GUTS.

I was actually surprised at how quickly Leon folded. I was expecting him to be a nemesis who’ll make Honoka suffer until the end, but I guess it’s not meant to be. The only character who got an ounce of development was Millie, though it was a maturation born from acceptance more than actual accumulation of skills/knowledge/pwnage. I was amused at how Millie referred to Iks as “Onii-chan”. I can see either a family of Honoka/Iks with a Millie tag-along kid (BORing) or a Millie/Honoka future–when she comes of age, of course–with Iks as famiry. All those “daisuki” of Millie is affecting my vision! The latter is yuriffic, but not so many things turn out the way my yuri-rose-glasses foretell.

On the much positive side, the episodes were well animated–15 and 16, in particular, were absolutely excellent. Honoka did not have an oversized head, and the short bursts of action were well choreographed and executed. Most importantly, Honoka’s face and eyes were dead on: I feel that in this story, with much of it narrated and lots of it moving in Honoka’s head, a good grip on Honoka’s facial expressions is important.

And of course, through it all, Honoka acts as the anti-moe heroine I’ve for whom I’ve been waiting. “Yasashii”, a word that means both “kind” and “gentle” is used in reference to Honoka, as well as “strong” and “Sword Dancer”. There is a scene where she has her top cut off, and is wearing only a sports bra/training bra thing, and not a word is spoken about it, nor does the camera linger. Iks even puts his hand on her chest–for healing purposes–and nobody makes a fuss. Her chest is part of her body, albeit an important part. How big a difference the narrator makes: we have an omnipotent narrator telling us Honoka’s thoughts, as opposed to a character who’s ogling her breasts. Thus, the camera and the plot waste no time on moe, or naughty skin showing. That is such a breath of fresh air after shows that either have them in abundance or make a point to show them at every opportunity.

The DVD, though, is a little lacking in content. There’s two character bios, and some trailers, but that be all. I guess I was spoiled by the first disc having seiyuu interviews. Also, there’s a new Ending song, and I don’t think I like it as much as the first. I’ll give it another chance; it’s not terrible, by any means. Maybe another listen will change my mind.

So, I’m excited for the next few episodes I’ve popped in! GO!

January 27, 2010

The Lovely Bones Movie

Filed under: Movies — Tags: , , , — vicksgotseoul @ 9:19 am

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I watched The Lovely Bones today. Wow. I’ve read the book and remember most of the details, but I managed to put it aside to enjoy the film on its own. And it may not be cool, but I did like it. Obviously, any time you condense a novel into a movie–though this one was hella long–there’s going to be changes and things left out. I didn’t mind how they pulled everything into about a year and a half timeline: it worked. The motifs they used: the charm, the rose, the safe, the penguin; they literally became a bridge between the two worlds, and were handled well. The scene where the ships crashed against the shore was awe inspiring.

What suffered in the film, however, was the characterization of the family. Susie was well written and played–Saoirse Rohan plays Susie with a beautiful mix of wide-eyed innocence and unflinching realist–and she gets to cavort around this world of her own imagining. And Stanley Tucci as Harvey was very good, and very well directed. Everyone else, however, was relegated to one-note characterizations. Mark Wahlberg sings his one line effectively, and Rachel Weisz somehow manages to input emotion in about two lines worth of pertinent dialogue. I particularly liked Rose McIver, who was jogging for half the dang film, as the other Salmon girl. You see her gawking with her braces on her teeth, and going through a physical transformation to become a very driven, but ultimately happy, person. Susan Sarandon injects some funny as the pill popping, drunk Granny who tries to help out, but most people would find her character grating.

A lot of time is spent in the in-between, where Susie resides but nothing of merit really happens. I can understand Peter Jackson trying to draw parallels between the two worlds, and provide neat little bookends for the cuts between scenes, but there simply isn’t enough material in the other world to use. In fact, much of the book has Susie in anxious stasis, watching her family break but not being able to do anything or even distract herself. Shoot, the scariest part of the book for me was at the very end, when Lindsey is jogging. The simple act of Susie watching makes this scene feel dangerous, and I was thoroughly concerned!

What I did like that the movie does, however, was take out the rape of Susie, and make it simply a murder case. The scene of Harvey bathing was terrifying and creepy enough on its own: a faceless demon, swimming in its filthy glory. Disallowing the rape allowed Susie to harbor her innocent dream of her first kiss, and kept the characters/actors within their young ages. Kept it PG-13, though I honestly think this is an R movie, simply for the content. That’s where Jackson tripped up: to make more money, the film was made to be rated PG-13, aka more family friendly. Thus, the relationship between Susie and her father was hyped up, and the special effects and time spent in the in-between increased. However, I feel that it pushed out some of the more emotionally compelling bits, such as the mother’s affair–there was a huge, slap-me-in-the-face reference to it in the film that’s only explainable if you’ve read the book–and Ruth’s gayness, which makes her experience with Ray even more about Susie.

Finally, the visual effects–namely, what I saw briefly in the previews–were what had me very excited to see the film. And in terms of brightness, they were great. Imagination, somewhat fair. Execution: a little on the poor side. There were some parts, especially at the beginning, where Susie’s hair wasn’t making the transition easily, looking rather Rotoscoped, as if the background were painted in with a fuzzy paintbrush. It bothered me. Also, there wasn’t enough attention paid to where the light would be coming from, causing Susie to not appear to be within the same scene. I’m spoiled by Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, and how beautifull Gollum was rendered, so I was a tad disappointed by a couple of glaring moments that pulled me out of the movie. Although, I am a little bit overcritical, so not everyone would notice or complain.
Ah well, I can talk your ear off about it, but you can just watch it for yourself. I sound like I hated it, but actually, I liked the movie. I had tears in my eyes several times in the movie, so bring tissues! I wanted to hug my sister afterwards. Now that’s power.

January 20, 2010

The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye, Part 1

Filed under: Anime — Tags: , , , — vicksgotseoul @ 1:53 am

I’ve seen the frst 13 episodes, which in 20+ episode series, generally is where the first half of the series, where everyone is introduced, winds down and the characters that will become part fo the final arc are introduced. Good place to do a quick review!

The main character is Honoka, a scrappy 17 year old girl who travels with her sand tank, powered by her AI “friend” Bogie. She does odd jobs, generally involving her having to slice and dice, a reputation that follows her amongst the scant population, left over after a devastating world war that killed off 80% of the people on Earth and much of the wildlife, leaving much of the landscape an unforgiving desert.

The final piece of the background puzzle is that, due to humanity’s self-destructive tendencies, a group of aliens watches over the planet, destroying and punishing anyone who creates or harbors technology beyond a certain level. The head of the group is Joganki, who bears a ridiculous resemblance to Touga from Utena. Having the same voice actor will do that.

The story begins when Honoka meets a random, soft spoken bishounen stranger named Iks in the middle of the a$$-frick desert, and he contracts her to take him to another city. Through his perspective, we begin to learn about the world, and most importantly, Honoka.

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I don’t know how jaded I am, but Honoka’s character design is so innocent it makes me think the show is from the mid-90′s, though it’s actually copyright 2006. Fanservice is at a minimum, and Honoka has like one shower scene and an underdeveloped body. It’s ridiculous! Not a schoolgirl, panty shot, thigh-high stocking, or moe blob in sight! Her Hachimaki bandanna tells us without even hearing her perky voice that she is an energetic, sweet girl who is dedicated to martial arts and eats a lot. Yes, her bandanna told me that. She wears pants and combat boots. Is she the anti-moe heroine?

All of this wondering would mean nothing, of course, unless this show was decent. And thus far, it is. What took the longest time to get accustomed to was the pace. Lots of recent titles are “slice-of-life” comedies that parody everyday happenings, and emphasize each characters innate, and usually, wierd, traits. And the pace of these shows are generally slow, because the point of them is not to go anywhere, but remain in a static environment.

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In contrast, Honoka is a dynamic character. Her growth, however, tends to occur during quiet moments, when she contemplates life while traveling across the vast deserts. A narrator tells us what she’s thinking, which is very novel-like, though how much of that is carrying over from the show’s literary origins is unknown since I am unfamiliar with the source material. Also, in a very literary fashion, Honoka enjoys quoting a poet, Donna Myfree, despite not having ever gone to a proper school. All-in-all, these moments and narrations, while not as thought-provoking as other titles like Kino’s Journey, serve to reveal Honoka as a thinker as much as she is a Sword Dancer.

Of course, despite her well-roundedness, Honoka isn’t perfect. She has no idea how to mend her young friend Millie’s heart, suffering from PTSD, or how to explain Iks at all. In the end, she simply respects them for who they are, and moves on.

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Respectful: now that I mention it, it’s a good word for Honoka. She is always lending a helping hand, and she doesn’t judge people. Her respect for the desert trumps everything, as she knows its hazards and avoids them, and she is opposed to killing the wildlife. I think this respectful attitude is going to get a real test in the second half of the series, when she encounters a few more untenable situations.

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If I have one major complaint about the show, it’s the animation quality. As you can see above, Bogie the sand tank looks great. He’s well CGI’d, almost seamlessly. The problem is that the rest of the show has difficulty keeping up in quality. Generally the aliens look clean, but Honoka and Millie sometimes have heads too big for their bodies. As I mentioned earlier, the characters look a little old fashioned, a little 1990′s, but I will take that over moe any day, so I won’t say more about it. The worst is that a few episodes are so off the map in terms of animation quality that my skin crawls. Episode 13 in particular was terrible: the action was like a Flash animation and all of their faces looked like *I* drew them.

So, a new antagonist/evil person/someone to be “friended Nanoha-style” has been introduced, and I’m excited to see where the story will go next. The second half of the series has to be faster-paced than the first, so hopefully I won’t be disappointed!

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