IT'S ABOUT TIME I MADE A PILGRIMAGE TO A TEMPLE OF CAPITALISM...
You know, since moving to Ottawa six months ago, I haven't been to a big-ass sprawling suburban shopping centre. One of those big indoor malls. (Yeah, the original Dawn of the Dead
rocks.) Not that I haven't been shopping, just I've been to the Rideau Centre, which is the big downtown shopping centre, and a somewhat acceptable substitute for the Centre Eaton in downtown Montreal (though there's no links to other "underground" shopping centres, and the Simpson's building with the Paramount and Metro Video, sniff sniff), and there's the local Merivale Mall, which is a "local" kind of shopping centre with some things the Faubourg de l'Île didn't have, like a rather large, for a suburban mall, Music World and a nice-enough Coles bookstore, though the Faubourg had a Zellers and a Canadian Tire and a full-service supermarket, not just a food store like Farm Boy (which is a nice store, just you can't buy some types of products like Pepsi). The atmosphere in Merivale Mall is very comparable to that of Beaconsfield Shopping Centre before it lost the anchor Canadian Tire store and half the mall went out of business.
But what I haven't been to yet is a giant regional shopping centre like Fairview Pointe Claire
. Lordy, lordy, I miss Fairview (sniff sniff, again). So, since there doesn't seem to be a meeting of the anime club tomorrow (or, technically, today, keeping in mind that I have the Time here set to Greenwich time), I think I'll actually make the trek out to one of these malls. In Ottawa, there are two major shopping centres comparable to Fairview. There's the St. Laurent Centre
, which looks visually quite similar to Fairview from the outside, but it's to the east of downtown and I don't feel like going quite that far, and there's the Bayshore Shopping Centre
, which is where I think I will be heading, just for a look around. Dunno if I want to buy anything, I'm just going for the adventure of seeing what's there.
I'm not even sure if there's a movie cinema nearby... is the Kanata AMC there or at the next exit off the 417? I still haven't gotten Ottawa suburban geography quite down pat there. If there is a cinema I can get to without using an extra pair of tickets, I might just see Mr. and Mrs. Smith
with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, which I wasn't really anticipating, but it's getting better reviews than I expected, so, if it's convenient for me, I might watch it, but I'm not going out of my way to see it. Speaking of them, "Brangelina" does not work as a compound name, and it sounds ridiculous to hear entertainment reporters say it. There's no "D" in "Angelina", so you can't merge the names together like you could for Bill and Hillary Clinton ("Billary") and Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love (the slightly cutesy "Kurtney"). In fact, entertainment news people, just shut the fuck up about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's relationship altogether... it comes across as artificial and contrived.
HOW'LL NATIONAL REVIEW REVIEW HOWL?
I was wondering whether or not National Review Online
, still a kickass site for political information and opinion, would post any reviews of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle
, so I checked the site today, and they didn't have one review of it.
They had two reviews of it!
The first one was from Frederica Mathewes-Green
, a columnist who writes mainly about religious issues and who occasionally is a commentater on National Public Radio's Morning Edition
(ooh, the show for which Sarah Vowell, a.k.a. "Violet" from The Incredibles
, is also a commentator). She's fairly enthusiastic about the film
, and she actually had an interesting point about moral ambiguity in Ghibli films, how characters can be various shades of grey, yet there is still definite "right and wrong" separate from the characters' imperfect personalities:
"Volumes could be written about the challenges a Miyazaki film brings to an American audience, but one that interests me most is this resistance to our default assumptions about good guys and bad guys. Whether it's liberals hating "homophobes" or conservatives hating "pro-aborts" or everybody hating the KKK, we love to find somebody to hate. If we can locate a certifiable bad guy, we feel such relief; our own foibles seem excusable in contrast. There's nothing we love so much as the cowboy in a white hat shooting the cowboy in a black hat, and that template leaks over into our daily lives and interactions. The results are not pretty.
Miyazaki's world is not one of moral ambiguity — far from it — but one in which perfect goodness is clearly located somewhere outside of individual, fallible human beings. There's "absolute morality," all right, but nobody can claim to have it down pat, not in our crooked little hearts. Miyazaki's patience with imperfection teaches us patience as well, and that is a first step toward compassion."
Yeah, actually, that's one problem I've always had with so many reviews of Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke
, particularly on anime review sites, but I haven't been able to articulate properly until now. People will bring up the moral amiguity of the characters as a strength of the film, but I'm always wondering why that should make me like the film more. We're all morally ambiguous to some degree, most people trying to live generally "good" lives according to one set of general principles or another but we frequently fall short, ready to compromise our principles for whatever reason depending on how important or bendable we think specific principles are. I don't think merely acknowledging moral ambiguity makes a film better, and I can think of serious anime with morally ambiguous characters I like way better than Mononoke
, like Gundam 0080: A War in the Pocket
, for example. Too much moral ambuguity can actually be rather nihilistic. But some acknowledgment that there is, sometimes, a "right" and "wrong" outside of ourselves provides the context to make morally ambiguous characters more uplifting, rather than depressing.
Ms. Mathewes-Green also seems generally amused by the way Howl is portrayed as a bishounen
(pretty boy), making him really Hayao Miyazaki's first honest-to-goodness "bishie". "It's a weirdly androgynous effect, recalling the sexy-glam 80s (did you see David Bowie in Labyrinth?)."
The National Review contributor, author of Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture from The Exorcist to Seinfeld
, and associate professor of philosophy at Boston College, Thomas S. Hibbs, gave the film a positive-but-not-overwhelmingly-so review.
He had some interesting thoughts on the characters' morality too, dealing more with temptation.
"This is one of the places in the film where the traditional Western notion of character formation through habit, through the repetitive choosing of certain kinds of acts, surfaces. Miyazaki tends to emphasize less this side of vice, the side that is to varying degrees under the power of an individual’s free will; instead, he highlights the sense of the experience of vice as something that overtakes an individual and possesses the soul, transforming the self into something over which the individual has very little control.
Even in the midst of such horrifying degradation of the human, Miyazaki stresses ordinary virtues, such as patient endurance, kindness, and equanimity. These are not so much versions of Stoic resistance as they are examples of light-heartedness, based on shared recognition that everyone is afflicted with some sort of curse."
He also finds a scene with Sophie riding a cable car to be "exquisite — not precious or effete but rich, inviting, and compelling." (Yes, effete... I honestly knew what that word meant without having to look it up
... truly... not!)
Hibbs feels that this film's greatest shortcoming is that it often spends too much time on scenes with little relevance to the main plot... ouch, I guess the guy probably wouldn't be too much of a fan of the most lovely manga I have ever read, Hitoshi Ashinano's Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
, which is all "small scenes".
"Like his previous films, this film suggests multiple ways in which the magical world exists just beneath or alongside the everyday world. It also follows Miyazaki’s practice of blurring the lines of cause and effect, so that the significance of events, their role in altering the drama and transforming characters is nearly impossible to discern. In this film, however, Miyazaki unduly burdens viewers with long scenes whose connection to the main plot is obscure to the point of fostering indifference. This is a devastating defect for a film whose chief attraction is its ability to enchant.
If Moving Castle has a captivating visual style, intriguing characters, and thoughtful themes, it is, nonetheless, a disappointing film, a film whose pace is at times indulgent, too leisurely. Miyazaki’s great gift is for the lost art of childhood wonder, of disarming enchantment. Measured by these exalted standards, Miyazaki’s own standards, his latest effort comes up short."
Hmm... both of these reviews seem to be written from the perspective of people who preferred Princess Mononoke
and/or Spirited Away
, both of which I feel are overrated. As someone who genuinely prefers Kiki's Delivery Service
and My Neighbor Totoro
to Miyazaki's more recent films, I wonder what other "middle era Miyazaki" fans think of Howl's Moving Castle
One thing I am pleased to see is that two different writers for a generally Bush-friendly political site didn't bring up the issue of the Iraq war in regards to this film. A lot of liberal, or at least non-conservative, reviewers seem to highlight the war subplot which Miyazaki added to the story as though it is some sort of allegorical reference to the Iraq war. I'm still fully in support of the Iraq War, where, despite the unfortunate troop losses brought about by mostly foreign 'splodeydopes
and other assorted Islamofascist terrorist scum, there is plenty of good news
. I don't know what Miyazaki thinks of the Iraq War, and, honestly, I don't care either. I just don't want to be beaten over the head with his opinion on it, but, since neither of these critics, writing on a conservative website, say anything of the sort, the allegedly blatant anti-Iraq War subtext could just be people predisposed to not caring for Bush's policies anyway reading way too much into things, or, possibly, reading something that is there, but reading it much louder than it was intended to be read.
While, as I explained in the previous post, I won't get a chance to make up my own mind about Howl's Moving Castle
until next weekend at the absolute earliest, certainly Frederica Mathewes-Green and Thomas S. Hibbs have given me a lot to ponder, and what they've written could possibly swing my Miyazaki-jaded opinion a little more in the film's favour.
ROGER EBERT SHOCKER!
(Will anime fans be Howl-ing in protest?)
Today's the day when Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, Howl's Moving Castle
, opens in limited release in "select cities" in the United States and Canada, and it will be getting a wider release, though not a wide release, next weekend.
Pretty much everything I had been predicting seems to have come to pass, that Howl's Moving Castle
would get a modestly wider release than Spirited Away
got initially and would get a modestly better advertising campaign. We're still getting the usual whining on movie and anime message boards about Disney not giving this a proper "wide" release, but, while anime is unarguable more popular in North America now than it was a decade ago, anime is still, and will likely always be "niche", and I honestly don't think there is the market for a true wide release of a serious anime film with an expensive saturation-level advertising campaign to be profitable, as anime is not a medium that most North Americans would care to watch. Major studios like Disney, Sony (Columbia/Tristar), and Dreamworks are distributing anime films primarily because there's enough of a profit to be made from the DVD releases to be interesting to them; they aren't expecting to break any records at the box office. Plus, in the specific case of Disney and Ghibli, Disney couldn't market a Ghibli film in the same way that they market one of their own animated films or a Pixar film even if they wanted to, because Disney likes to cross-promote the animated films they release with stuffed toys and games and fast-food promotions (and the toy shelves is where a lot of the additional profits for the studio from the wide release of children's films is made), but, due to quality control issues (and the possibility of reverse importation into Japan of cheaper North American goods), Studio Ghibli prohibits Disney from doing most forms of mass-merchandising of their films, with a handful of exceptions, like some books, calendars, and a handful of t-shirts. If Disney can't advertise the film by putting Sophie and Howl on the side of french fry containers and Coke cups at McDonald's, and stuffed versions of Calcifer at Wal-Mart, it has little incentive to release this kind of movie "wide". And, just to add something new that I haven't said before, let's say I accepted, just for the sake of argument, the idea that we haven't already reached, if not passed, the "high water" mark for the domestic popularity of anime and the market is far from saturated and a lot more North Americans would be anime fans if they were properly exposed to it; so far, anime, excluding a handful of films tied into kiddy mass-merchandising franchise TV cartoons (and, even of those, only the first two Pokémon
films can be considered modestly successful), has only proven itself successful in limited release. Howl's Moving Castle
will be the first real test of a serious anime film in medium-level release ("limited wide" release), and I think anime has to prove to be successful with this intermediate level of release before any major studio would consider giving an non-franchise anime film a wide release. People can, quite correctly, point out that I have no experience in marketing and am somewhat speaking out of my ass on this, but, unlike the message board whiners, who also tend to have no experience running expensive movie marketing campaigns, I'm not the one trying to second-guess the decisions made by the people who are in charge of marketing.
Whew! Anyway, my April Fool's Day joke
aside, I was expecting that Howl's Moving Castle
would only get around 500 to 800 screens at best, and that seems to be panning out.
However, there is one thing I did not expect that has somewhat thrown me for a loop: Chicago Sun-Times Über-critic Roger Ebert, Hayao Miyazaki's most prominent booster in North America, has given Howl's Moving Castle a mediocre review
"I settled back in my seat, confident that Japan's Hayao Miyazaki had once again created his particular kind of animated magic, and that the movie would deserve comparison with "Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke," "My Neighbor Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service" and the other treasures of the most creative animator in the history of the art form.
But it was not to be. While the movie contains delights and inventions without pause and has undeniable charm, while it is always wonderful to watch, while it has the Miyazaki visual wonderment, it's a disappointment, compared to his recent work.
All of this is presented, as only Miyazaki can, in animation of astonishing invention and detail. The Castle itself threatens to upstage everything else that happens in the movie, and notice the way its protuberances move in time with its lumbering progress, not neglecting the sphincteresque gun turret at the rear. Sophie, old or young, never quite seems to understand and inhabit this world; unlike Nikki of the delivery service or Chihiro, the heroine of "Spirited Away," she seems more witness than heroine. A parade of weird characters comes onstage to do their turns, but the underlying plot grows murky and, amazingly for a Miyazaki film, we grow impatient at spectacle without meaning.
I can't recommend the film, and yet I know if you admire Miyazaki as much I do you'll want to see it, anyway."
He gave it **½/****, which, mathmatically, translates to a 62.5% rating, theoretically putting it just barely in "Fresh" territory with the RottenTomatoes.com Tomatometer
, though RottenTomatoes.com gave it a "Rotten" icon, perhaps because Ebert expicitly said that he could not recommend the film. Currently, the total "Tomatometer" for Howl's Moving Castle
is at 86%, with 42 "Fresh" and 7 "Rotten" (including Ebert), and an average rating of 7.7 out of 10. You get some critics still following the Spirited Away
breathless review template (if Hayao Miyazaki took a dump and the shit left a streak on the side of the toilet, the shit streak would be a masterpiece!), but many other critics think it's pretty good, but not great, which is more or less what I expect I think I will think of it, and, now that Ebert's thrown down the gauntlet, I'd imagine, when the film is in wider release next weekend, there won't be the critical herd mentality that there was for Spirited Away
and more critics won't be afraid to give a Miyazaki film a lukewarm or negative review.
More importantly, as far as I'm concerned, this is a major strike against, though not a fatal blow to, Howl's Moving Castle
's chances at earning a second Best Animated Feature Oscar for Hayao Miyazaki, since I honestly believe that, if Roger Ebert hadn't been such a big booster for Spirited Away
during Oscar campaign season, most Academy members would have skipped the film altogether and
the superior and vastly more entertaining Lilo and Stitch
won Best Animated Feature instead. I still have no doubt that Howl's Moving Castle
will be nominated for Best Animated Feature, but it will be up against what I believe the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members will consider to be much tougher competition, Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Wererabbit
, from triple Academy Award winner Nick Park (who already has two Best Animated Short awards for two out of three of the previous installments of Wallace and Gromit
plus another Best Animated Short award for Creature Comforts
), Tim Burton and Michael Johnson's stop-motion-animated feature, The Corpse Bride
, and I also think people may be pleasantly surprised by Chicken Run
. Not saying there's no chance that Miyazaki can repeat what he did three years prior, but the circumstances are different and he won't be riding the same tidal wave of critical acclaim.EDIT:
Huh? I just noticed that Ebert called Kiki, from Kiki's Delivery Service
(which is easily my favourite Ghibli film), "Nikki". I guess even he makes mistakes sometimes.
WHY WILL FANS OF DIRECTOR WES ANDERSON AND ILLUSTRATOR ERIC CHASE ANDERSON WANT TO GO TO THE BATHROOM?
(To look at this mural.)
I've been in a creative mood
lately (and I'm pleased to say that I'm over the mental "hump" where my drawing of Piccadilly Circus now looks more like a picture with a few blank areas rather than a large blank expanse with a few scattered elements drawn in), but it seems like I'm not the only Rotten Tomatoes forum member who has been keeping my hands busy in a non-perverted way.
RottenTomatoes.com forum member Lyra
, whose Geocities account seems to indicate that her name is "Jill Crociata"
, has painted a bathroom wall mural with artwork mainly based on Eric Chase Anderson
's illustrations for the DVD packaging, inserts, and menus for his brother Wes Anderson's films, Rushmore
, The Royal Tenenbaums
, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
, as well as his own book, Chuck Dugan is AWOL: A Novel with Maps
You can see a long (over 12000 pixels tall!) jpeg of various details from the mural in this thread
In her own words:
"Hello, I've been working on a Wes Anderson mural based on Eric Andersons fantastic film and book paintings. My bathroom was just so drab and it was the only room available to paint. I had painted my room red in hopes of painting the dancing zebra some day.
Anyway, the bathroom was painted with a faux bikini and misty blue and the map area an atomic puke. I executed the Rushmore and Royal sections in liquid water colors and gouache. The Chuck Dugan and Life Aquatic sections were done in gouche. I added a few of my own Eric Anderson inspired paintings as well to help fill some of the space. I probably enjoyed creating a oceanic scene based on Chuck Dugan and the Life Aquatic the most. I might paint a few more fish later there are a few bare spots. Chuck Dugan is Awol is a recently released book by Eric Anderson it has already had its film rights snapped up.
I hope you like it"
Most of the drawings are re-drawings of Eric's artwork, but some, particularly for The Life Aquatic
, for which Eric didn't provide quite as much artwork as for the previous films, are original drawings based on Eric's style.
I think she should do a token drawing or two based on Wes Anderson's first film, Bottle Rocket
, the film that featured Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson's acting debut (as well as the eldest Wilson brother, Andrew Wilson), but, to the best of my knowledge, no Eric Chase Anderson artwork has ever been done for that film, since Sony's Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment so far seems to be unwilling to let Criterion do a special edition of Bottle Rocket
the way that Disney/Touchstone let Criterion handle the special editions of his other three films.
So, if you visit her house, wherever it is (no idea), inside her bathroom you can pretend you're a character in a Wes Anderson film.
Just don't pretend you're Richie Tenenbaum with a razor...
NOW, LET'S SEE, WHY DID WE LEAVE QUEBEC AGAIN?
There are some things I miss about the province of Quebec, in many ways the finest province in Canada, but the fascist, anti-English, anti-freedom, language Nazis known as the Office de la Langue Français are not one of them
From CBC News:
OLF has gone too far this time: critic
SHERBROOKE, QUE. – The Townshippers Association says the Charest government must confront Quebec's language police over its application of the language laws.
The Office Québécois de la langue française has ordered the town of Richmond to virtually ban English, the association charges. The Townshippers say the English-speaking minority is being unjustly punished.
Officials from the OLF recently did a routine check at the Richmond municipal offices to see whether the town was applying the language laws.
In a letter, the language police ordered drastic changes, including:
- The town can no longer have a bilingual telephone message.
- All employees must speak French in the workplace.
- English labels on the fax machine and air conditioner will have to be changed to French.
"This is just another example of the pettiness and the punitive action that [the OLF] seems to constantly take against the English community," says John Mulholland, who is on the executive of the Townshippers Association.
Mulholland has lived in Richmond for the past 20 years, and says this time, the OLF has gone too far.
French and English people in Richmond have always lived in harmony, and the OLF's decision is a slap to everyone living in the town, Mulholland charges.
The government has to address the problem, he says.
"At some point, the government has to speak with the Office de la langue française and say, 'Listen, there's a way of doing things, and a way of not doing things,'" Mulholland says.
Mulholland says punishing people for speaking English is not the way to nuture a good relationship between French and English communities.
I respectfully disagree with the Townshippers Association; I don't think Charest should confront the "language police" over the application of language laws, I think Charest should just let sanity and free market principles reign and scrap Quebec's French language charter entirely (and watch investments back into the province skyrocket). Let Quebecers speak French by choice, not by decree, and let French-Canadian children be able to grow up to be fully-functional multilingual world citizens by not putting all sorts of hurdles in order for them to be able to properly learn English, which is poorly taught in the French-language public school system (meaning the children of the French-Canadian elite, who can afford to send their kids to private schools, will typically speak English much better than their public school-educated confrères
). I have far more confidence in the robustness and survivability of the French language in North America than the language protectionists do.
Once again, to paraphrase Magnus Buchan, "Why don't ya piss off, OLF, ya dotty wee skidmarks?" Better yet, fuck off and die ("die" meaning that it should be dissolved, I'm not wishing harm on the misguided individuals within the organization).
DRAWING UPDATE #2
I'm making some headway with my drawing, but the photo I'm basing the drawing on
is pretty freaking complex, and it's taking me far longer to draw properly than I had hoped.Here's a larger section of the Piccadilly Circus drawing than what I showed before.
I have an "A.D.D." sort of drawing style where I don't spend too long on any given element at any one time. I draw something for a while, then decide something else is more important to add (though I come back after). I'm trying to spread out the elements I'm adding across the "canvas" evenly rather than just focusing on one corner at a time, since it's easier for me to see the (literal) "big picture" emerging that way, even if a lot of these elements are floating in an empty white void for the time being, until I add things around them.
Meh, despite all the careful measurements I made, the elements don't quite line up 100% perfectly, like everything's always up to a centimetre to the left or to the right of where it should be and I'm having to "fudge" precision a little more than I would like.
Even for a lot of the elements I've already drawn, I'm still going to add layers of colour, so a lot of those people look unfinished because, well, they're unfinished. Except for the guy in the blue-and-white shirt. That shirt was a bastard to draw, but it's the single element in the picture I'm most satisfied with thus far.
I like the way I drew the London Underground logo, though I wish I could make the letters a bit more distinct. It's just too small for me to do much better than that, though.
One of my biggest annoyments has to do with the colour I'm using for the building looming over the left third of the picture. The real colour is somewhere between cream yellow and light gray, so I'm mainly using a mixture of Cloud Gray and Cream, but it still doesn't look quite right. I have a box of 72 of the "real" Berol Prismacolor coloured pencils (as opposed to the Prismacolor Scholar pencils, that have more or less the same colours but harder leads, for school use), but there's nothing close to the color I want in it. The annoying thing is that, in the box of 72, Prismacolor does include those gimmicky metallic colours that kids like but which are useless for serious drawing, and it's not just the usual Gold, Silver, and Bronze. No, they also felt the need to include Metallic Tile Blue, Metallic Green, and Metallic Violet.
Bottom line, America? Berol should scrap the metallic colours from the box of 72 Prismacolor coloured pencils and instead include colours like yellow gray, so I can colour that one building which is between Glasshouse and Regent Street more accurately.
[/pierre bernard's recliner of rage mode]EDIT
Finished Piccadilly Circus drawing here
WHAT'S THE DEAL...
...with these extended Ronald McDonald "Activation Station" kiddy workout commercials they showed during Venture Bros.
(which is not a kiddy cartoon, by the way) on Teletoon? Ronald McDonald was in full Richard Simmons mode. Then they played one of his disco songs. It was creepier than finding the Burger King in bed with you!
Ronald McDonald, I was never remotely considering accusing you of being gay! Why must you provide me with proof?