This post will contain massive spoilers about this movie. Long story short? Extremely disappointing.
I’ve watched the Neon Genesis Evangelion series many times, I own it as a set of individual DVDs before they released a smaller box for all of them together. As such, I was very excited with the ending of the 2nd Rebuild of Evangelion movie, it was throwing us both off-course in what was happening, and when it was happening. I expected we’ll get new content, unlike what we’ve seen in the anime – so after we went through 1.9 movies’ worth of old content we’d finally get new content!
Well, there’s an idiom where I live that says that as big your expectations, the disappointment are just as big, and it couldn’t be more true than what I think of this movie. Again, massive spoilers ahead. This won’t be a review, more my thoughts on the movie and thoughts arising after watching the movie. If you look for an actual review, you should look elsewhere – the goal here is to lead to an interesting conversation.
In the year 1999, a movie is released; it’s called, “The Matrix“. In this film viewers are introduced to a technique called “Bullet-time“. A year or two later, and dozens of movies which do not benefit or have a plausible explanation for the usage of bullet-time are produced. Most of us grow weary, as bullet-time no longer elicits amazement, but is delegated to being a gimmick.
It is now the year 2010, and in 2009 a movie called “Avatar“, directed by James Cameron, is released. This movie comes out in 3D, and although it’s not the first movie to come out this way, it is buoyed by waves of PR and marketing and mass hysteria. This signals the beginning of the high-budget 3D movies’ assault, which had been planned in advance; which is evident in how many of the 3D movies coming out this year had already been in production when Avatar hit the silver screens world-wide.
The 3D is neat, it’s pretty convincing, and in one scene I moved my hand forward to move aside some banners which were hiding Woody. But to be honest, our mind is a great computer, and one that always falls for optical illusions. We’ve been capable of tricking it into seeing 3D for quite some time. Heck, taking the special glasses off I didn’t see non-3D, just a bit blurry as there were double-edges going on.
I’ve watched Kick-Ass in the cinema right after it was released, and I was thoroughly entertained. I nearly titled this post “Nicholas Cage: B (Movie) and Proud of It” because the last movie of Cage’s that I enjoyed was also a self-aware B-movie, Ghost Rider.
Now, there’s a funny thing about descriptors, that is touched in Philosophy of Language; the part where the reason they had received the name no longer applies. For instance, you might have got the term of distance “foot” from a real person’s foot, but if after the measuring was done (12 inches, or 31 centimeters) the measurements had changed, you didn’t then change the “size” it refers to.
Likewise, Kick-Ass enjoys the highest production qualities, and good acting and directing. Yet it’s a B-movie, partly because it makes a conscious choice to be one. Well, I’m unsure that today any movie is a B-movie that is not aware of its status, and it’s always better to embrace it for its full potential than to succumb to it unintentionally.
While watching Angel Beats yesterday I got to think of an anime I love, an anime I think is under-appreciated. Well, it seems appreciated by all those who have watched it, but it definitely seems like not enough people have watched or heard of it. This anime is Shigofumi, Letters from the Departed, Stories of the last Letter, or what have you.
Another anime that I thought of and also came up on Twitter a couple of days ago is Visions of a Distant Star, a thirty minute movie made by one person, who is so heart-rending it is not even funny.
So the point I thought of regarding Angel Beats, well, if you know anything of Shigofumi it might not be too hard to see why I thought of it. In Shigofumi we get to see the last letter someone wrote after having died, and we also see their life just before death, or someone’s life as affected by the story… In Angel Beats, we’ve thus far saw the life stories of I believe four people, and these are small poignant moments, which deeply affect me. They usually do not take more than 4 minutes, yet you find yourself all teary-eyed after having watched them, even if you did not bond with the character depicted in them before. This is also true for Shigofumi, whereas most characters, and certainly those who send or receive the letters do not appear before “their” episode. And yet, after an episode of merely twenty minutes, you feel connected to them, you feel related to them, and their stories have impacted you.
Scott Pilgrim against the world. A comic book released in the form of books, 5 released and 6 total planned, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Well, there’s a movie now so I’m sure more people will hear of it, and hopefully the creator will also earn more money. It’s not like independent comic writers (comic sold through Oni Press, which houses a lot of independent and manga publications) are known for the piles of money they swim in.
Anyway, it may very well be that Scott Pilgrim is a reflection of the generation that I am a member of, the “Y Generation”, or in the case is, which Scott Pilgrim makes quite convincing, the “Yeah! Generation.” You see, Scott Pilgrim feels to me like an invention that hails in spirit from Seattle, though it’s actually Canada, but let us assume that it is Seattle’s spirit for the moment, the city that had brought us Grunge, the city that had brought has Starbucks. In other words, it’s a hipster city. I have hipster friends who live in Seattle or in its environs and whom I can think of as “Seattleans” in my mind – even though I’ve never actually been to Seattle myself.
So Scott Pilgrim against the world. The plot as there may be is that Scott falls in love with this girl called Ramona (note, it’s been two-three years since I’ve read any Scott Pilgrim). But there’s a problem, Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends, all seven of them. What follows is a mocking super-hero-esque series of fights where the hipster, broke, slacker Scott Pilgrim is someone we (IIRC) find out to have never lost a fight, and who is “too cool for school”.
Note: It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read Scott Pilgrim, so on one hand consider it a review of my memory of the comic, and on the other, I use it as a stepping stone to speak of a wider issue. Thank you.
So, my girlfriend lives next to a cinematheque, and watches a lot of films. She does however have some gaps with some more mainstream films, and recently I’ve been trying to close some of those gaps. We’ve watched Gladiator a couple of months back, and Braveheart last weekend. This was also a chance for me to re-watch Braveheart after not watching it for around 7-10 years. Gladiator had been re-watched since the time I’d first watched it, but I also own the DVD.
This is a chance to revisit our memories, when we re-watch an older film, or re-read a favourite book. This is not something we can do with people or occasions, because those interactions have passed, and the memory does change the event, and even changes as time goes on.
Movies, books, and other static media experiences, however, do not change, and remain the same as when we had first watched them. Except that they do not.
The sequence of events is the same, in the film, in the book. But there is no story in a book, there is no story in a film. The story, the relations, the live people, the motives, the emotions; the place where they really live and breathe is within our minds, within our hearts. And as the saying goes, you can’t enter the same river twice (disregarding those who said you have no “unity” so cannot enter it even once ) as such, you don’t really read “the same book”. You have different experiences.
Well, this month had school, school, and some more school. Anime offerings were a bit sparse, but I made up for it elsewhere. I think this month I’ll make a separate post again for the monetary expenditures, heh. I think I’ll give some items here a bit more details.
This is one of the main sections of the Basterds, who are not really the main characters, if you ask me. It also makes you think (if you watch it in an inquisitive mindset), about who’re “The good guys”.
Well, this is the last month of 2009, of the decade, so you’d expect me to close with a bang, right? Well, I didn’t. School is still busy, and my money situation deteriorated somewhat. I now earn half of what I earned before, and well, I didn’t earn much before either
I am accepting donations of money, figures, and other non-food goods, apply at the closest Geek-Donation Association Chambers near you! Heh.
There’s something I dread when I watch comedies, and it’s even more prevalent in certain black comedies where they are played seriously, dead-pan. I like to term it “Sympathetic Viewer Awkwardness”, which happens both when the character feels awkward, but much more commonly, when we feel awkward for the character.
Take for instance the American version of The Office, starring Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the boss at a small office where they sell paper. Michael will not miss an opportunity to be rude, racist, sexist, and offensive. His staff obviously pays him no mind, and don’t take him seriously. I do remember the scene where he asked every person in the office to talk as if they were someone from another “group”, and he drew the “Indian” card (India, not Native American), and then Kelly, the Indian worker, had walked in and had slapped him, since she thought he were mocking her.
The thing is, watching The Office is almost a physically painful experience for me, as I can’t help but go, “Oh gawd, he didn’t just do that, did he? He did!” and of course the show actually plays and gives social commentary, by showing you these ridiculously offensive things, and having a character who truly means well, he just really doesn’t know any better. If you watch the show with people who think Michael’s behaviour is legitimate, BTW, know that you are not in Kansas anymore ;) Read more…
Words like “Atmosphere” are usually reserved more for our other senses: Movies, theatre, music. Yet, look at Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, where if you come reading the book solely for the story, you may very well leave satisfied, but you will also have to come equipped with considerable patience, whereas those who come for the atmosphere will be sated throughout the whole lengthy book (1,024 pages).
Whether the book gives the atmosphere prevalent in the period it occurs (early 19th century) I do not know, but it is saturated with atmosphere. The language and spelling used also calls back to that used in England a couple hundred years ago, as reading Hume‘s “A Treatise of Human Nature” would shew you.
Furthermore, the book makes extensive use of footnotes, by the author of the text (whoever that is), in which we both learn (fictional) historical details, mainly of magic, and old fables from the world Clarke had crafted. These footnotes sometimes go on for several pages, but the content they add is both charming and gives off the sense that this is a semi-academic write-up on the topic, which considering Mr Norrell’s nature, is not entirely misplaced.
I’ve recently re-read the book, which indeed was somewhat of an undertaking, and surprisingly, it wasn’t as slow as I have remembered, but it was still somewhat slow. Considering the length of the book, if you look at a certain percentage of a book as exposition, then this book’s may be longer than most people would accept. You see, while what is happening in the beginning of the book is definitely interesting, it is also quite slow.
The first section begins with a quote from later in the book, regarding Mr Norrell, who is the main character in the first section, which goes, “He hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.” Now, to be frank, Mr Norrell is an unsympathetic little git whom none of you would like. He is tedious and petty, but at least in that section much of the emphasis is placed upon the social circles of London at the time.
Once we reach Jonathan Strange, the story picks up considerably, being more interesting, being more action-packed, with conflicts between people and nations, and magical mischief taking place. Though the book does sag again slightly for a while towards the end, but it contains depths upon which to feast yourself, and the pace may be intentionally slow.
Now, if you read for the story, which you look at as what “happens” in the book, then it may take a while for it to get going, but if you are willing to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, the panorama laid out before you, then you’re in for a treat, at least, if you like that sort of atmosphere. It’s a seven-course meal, and stamina is necessary. The story is not bad, but it’s not the book’s strongest suit, which is the feel it invokes.
Now, for a slight comparison, look at movies, which we often go to not for the message they carry, or the story they tell (which is what I accused Watchmen of lacking), but for the emotional response they raise within us. Sometimes they do it with cheap tricks we can see, and sometimes we are affected nevertheless. Eastwood’s Gran Torino is an example for a movie that I liked, regardless of any message it may tried to pass. It hit you, and that was enough. That it was well crafted was a bonus.
Scores? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell wins 5 barometers, and 3-3.5 on the story front, and Gran Torino lays out 4 punches to the gut.