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Dance in the Chunky-pire's Chunk...fat...

The 27th Annual Tribute Day is UPON US.  Prepare accordingly.  Ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaa...*cough cough*

Ahhhhhhh, the wonders of growing old.  In about a week I'll be 27.  Another year spent of not knowing where I am.  Lately, I've been feeling sort of...dejected.  I dunno.  It's a strange feeling I get usually around this time.  Another year, another "nothing accomplished" sticker to put on my life's cubby hole -- right next to the pair of Thundercats sneakers I loved. 

One of these days my act will be assembled.  Just you see.  Just you watch.

Anyway, what have I been up to?  Class mostly.  I don't think I mentioned them before, but these are two classes I enjoy: Materials for Young Adults and Adult Reading Interests.  My homework consists chiefly of reading popular books, writing about them, studying genres, and talking about them in class.  As you can imagine, I fucking love it.  This is the only time in the entirety of the MLIS program that I have actually wanted to speak in class.  Normally, I clam up and watch the clock tick away as everyone else bullshits; but this time, I bullshit like a factory produced for bovine fecal evacuations.

What else, what else.  Oh, storms hit us pretty bad last Sunday.  Two trees down, crushed fences, and electricity was down from Saturday night to Tuesday night.  The library was packed those few days.  Which was funny because the server was down for the entire county.  So, nobody was able to check out materials, but it kept us busy, and that's always good -- these things wind up making me look like some library deity in the eyes of old folks: The Smiling God of Monuments el Biblio.

Saw Alice in Wonderland...short review: UNIMPRESSIVE.  Best part: Alan Rickman voicing the fat caterpillar.  Worst part: Christopher Lee getting only two(!!) lines as the Jabberwocky...that was the ENTIRE REASON WHY I WANTED TO SEE THE MOVIE, YOU MARKETING PRICKS.

And I won't be able to make it to PAX East this year, so I bought this:

Everyone knows how much I love Penny Arcade: I think I quote a random comic at least once during any conversation.  This book is truly a swankadelic wonder to behold.  But why did I really buy this?  Well, on March 30th (the day after TRIBUTE DAY), the creators of said webcomic will be at Kinokuniya at 5:30 for a signing.  If anyone wants to meet up with me, that's where I'll be.

Now to shift gears...


This has been a little tradition of mine.  Every year, the night before my birthday, I watch a movie that leads into the midnight on the day of my actual birth  -- so, we're talking about, like a 9:30 - 10 PM start time.  I've been doing this since 1999; I thought 16 was the best age to start a "birthday movie tradition," oh my naivete.

My goal, I suppose, was to link movies with instances in my life  I mean, that was done anyway with every movie I've seen.  Life and art have some strange connections to one another, I know you all feel the same way: everyone has a movie or two that reminds them of something from their life, where they were...what they were. 

Anyway, I thought I'd quickly look back and share some of these moments.  Some of these movies were first exposures, others were re-watches, and one or two were happy accidents:

1999 = Clockwork Orange

I was in 10th grade when I thought I could make a career out of being a film-maker.  I read any biography I could find on great directors and writers and wound up wanting to watch more movies by Stanley Kubrick.  Clockwork Orange seemed to garner my interest -- I think it was the controversy surrounding it, more than anything.  My (utterly fantastic) boss at the time, Mr. Cooke, knew of my interest in movies and located a library copy for me.  My cousin, Saleem, watched it with me.  He fell asleep before the half-way mark.  I was fixated until the wee hours.

2000 = The Road Warrior

This was a re-watch.  However, the first time I saw the movie was on TBS or TNT, so this was my first "official" viewing of the movie.  This was a movie I had to watch in "loud-o-vision."  And for a while, we had a cheap surround-sound system in the basement.  So this was a perfect viewing experience...well, it would have been if I didn't keep waking everyone up.  It has long since become one of my favorite films.

2001 = Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This was pure nostalgia.  College was looming over the horizon and I had no idea what was coming.  I was alone in front of the TV and just wanted to watch something I was familiar with, something I loved when I was younger.  Watching this movie was like meeting up with an old friend you haven't spoken with in lord knows how long.  What's really funny though is that this movie...still manages to be entertaining even to this day.  Huh.  Hell, I can say without irony that this is one of the best comic book to film adaptations ever made.

2002 = Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

I had seen this movie the past fall and I wanted to show it to someone else.  I had come home from college that weekend and my brother wanted to see it.  This was the first birthday movie I watched in DVD form (having bought a DVD player the summer prior to freshman year).  Also, this was the first anime I watched in this long tradition.  The disc was given as a birthday present, and it would find an almost annual rotation.

2003 = True Romance

Funnily enough, this was one of those "happy accidents" I was referring to earlier.  shinibadtzmaru8 and I were looking through the DVD collection of my then room mate at the time, and we pulled this one up -- the selling point was "written by Quentin Tarantino."  Coincidentally, we watched this pretty close to 11 PM, so when the movie was over we had no idea what day it was.  Fun, fun, fun. 

2004 = Dil Chahta Hai

Here's ANOTHER happy accident.  I wanted to watch Conan the Barbarian, but Alex and (surprise) shinibadtzmaru8 had commandeered the television in the suite, and were watching THIS addicting Bollywood movie that my mom had lent us.  Rather than get them to move, I swallowed my pride and watched with them.  I'm so glad I did that.  I'm not a fan of Bollywood movies, but I found this one wacky and wonderful.  Plus, it was surreal seeing characters that somehow reminded me of two of my best friends.

2005 = Goodfellas

This is one of my favorite films of all time.  And this happened to be the first year thetestingtree and I had been going out.  She had never seen the movie.  It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure this choice.

2006 = King Kong

I had just seen the Peter Jackson remake a few months prior, and it gave me a desire a to revisit the original film.  Again, this was a movie I had seen many times before.  However, the last time I had seen it, I was probably ten.  So this time I was able to watch it with the full appreciation of a jaded, film snob.  I still place this movie in my Top 10 favorites.

2007 = One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island

This was a somewhat accident.  I had this movie sitting in my computer's hard drive for almost a year.  I wound up watching it after faffing about and not really planning what I wanted to watch ahead of time.  I ultimately wound up reviewing it for Anime Academy, so there is that.  The movie was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the man who would later give us The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars

2008 = The Dark Crystal

thetestingtree had never seen The Dark Crystal and I chose to rectify that.  I guess I was in a fantasy-type mood, and I really wanted to see some Muppets.  I chose this over Labyrinth only because I had seen that so many more times than The Dark Crystal, and I really felt a desire to revisit it.  It's funny when you think about it: this film was a live-action movie...without a single human performer in it.  Take THAT Avatar.

2009 = Hardboiled

And we're brought to the modern day.  This is one of the few truly excellent action movies.  Why John Woo doesn't make more like these is beyond me -- probably afraid of success. 

So there's my vain little list.  What movie will I watch this year?  Don't know.  I have it pared down to The Wild Bunch, Aliens, or The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Brotherhood was going to be the choice last year, but I figured thetestingtree NEEDED to see Chow Yun Fat kicking copious amounts of ass at least once in her life).  I might just watch Ikiru again.  There's a perfect movie.  Also, it would be poetic, seeing as how it's Kurosawa's 100th birthday.  Suddenly 27 doesn't seem bad.


No Friend of Groundhogs

First off, fuck the Super Bowl.  There, I'm done talking about football for the rest of the year.  Now let's talk about something else that gets my balls in a vice...

Today, the Academy Awards were announced.  And in spite of my severe hatred for Hollywood circle-wanking as a whole, I have found myself enamored by the glitz and grease of Oscar for the 20th - 21st year (I forget) row.  I don't know why I've stuck with the Oscars for this long -- probably holding out for Billy Crystal to reappear as an unfunny robot.

This year, the Academy has decided to play to the Republican demographic and increase the nominees for Best Picture from five to ten.  In the hopes of being able to shoe-horn movies that Joe T. Plumber, and his retarded, Jeff Dunham-watching brothers have actually seen commercials for.  And even then they'll still find something wrong with it.  Ho hoooooo Republicans. (This is as far as I go with political humor, I promise.)

So, despite how much this FURTHER cheapens the movies I have so cherished, let me blow off some steam by ranting and raving like the Pringles-enriched bastard I am.

The nominees for Best Picture are...

Ten fucking nominations.  Christ.  Let's discuss.

A Serious Man is the Coen Brothers' schewing closer to the "dramatic", then other films of theirs like The Big Lebowski or O Brother Where Art Thou?  It's a fairly straightforward drama featuring the subtext, fatalism, and almost bleak view of humanity that the Coen's are somewhat known for.  It might remind some Academy voters of Fargo (a truly great film).  However, the Coen's did, deservedly, win for No Country For Old Men (another truly great film) just two years prior.  Will the Academy be so quick to award these good ol' boys again?  Also, with the nominees ramped up this year, A Serious Man is one of six dramas in this category. 

This is one of the many problems I have with this: the votes will dilute further and further.  Remember when Crash won for Best Picture?  I try not to, but that was primarily through voter dilution.  Everything relies on the vote for Best Picture, and if the voters haven't seen ALL TEN of the films, then they'll just vote for whatever they remember.  Let's get back on track...

Also in dramas, we have An Education.  Granted, I did not see this movie so I can't judge, but I really, really don't want to see another "white kids in love" movie win.  White folks are boring.  I'm sorry, but you have to admit it, you are!  This is why Slumdog Millionaire was an awesome Best Picture winner, and yet another film that earned the Oscar: NO WHITE PEOPLE.

I'm kidding.  I'm kidding.  Anyway, people who have seen this film have said it's pretty damn good.  Hell, it was the Sundance winner last year, that's gotta count for something, right?  I don't think it will count enough to earn the win though.

Next we have Radio...I mean Remember the Titans...I mean The Blind Side.  I haven't seen this either, but Best Picture material?  Come on!  I couldn't even introduce this movie without some other random football shit popping up.  Oh well.  Sandra Bullock's had a good year though.  I thought she died in 1998.  No joke.  She already won a Golden Globe (Ha ha ha!) for this, so that might clinch it for her.  Though I'd rather see Gabourey Sidibe win.  Hey!  Speaking of which...

Precious is the little indie darling that could...for this year at least.  I have been hearing nothing but good things about it, and the goddamn novel it's based on get's checked out of my library faster than I can check it back in.  I can't help but feel that this is only getting nominated because of the word of mouth that was building around it since Sundance and Cannes.  Which is something that's kind of strange to me. 

I mentioned that I prefer following the international film circuits more than the Oscars, because the Oscars make about as much sense as an episode of Lost directed by the main character from Memento.  In recent years, it seems that the Academy Awards have been listening to my dulled, laboriously executed, cries and have started perching around other more reputable awards in the hopes to swoop down and rend promising films through the backwater of "awards season."  Seriously, has anyone here even seen Precious?  How about An Education?  The rest, if they're lucky, might get shoved into the obnoxious "Foreign Film" category.

And coming from the buzz of Cannes we have Inglorious Basterds.  Now I fucking loved this film.  It's Quentin Tarantino doing what I love: making a Frankenstein monster film out of the parts of decomposed cinema from the video graveyards.  I get a lot of giddiness out of watching a Tarantino movie because like a science geek in biology class I can see all the parts that make the frog's guts during dissection...much to the chagrin of my fellow classmates.  But as much as I enjoyed playing "spot the macaroni war movie" I couldn't get over one fact: Inglorious Basterds gets a Best Picture nod, but Kill Bill never did.  Hrm.  Maybe this whole "Let me only make a movie when the public forgets about me"-thing QT has going on is working in his favor.  He's nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Christoph Waltz is nominated for Best Supporting Actor...this is 1994 all over again!

But, I loved that film.  I also loved Up, and is my second favorite film of the year (you'll see Number 1).  But it's Pixar, so that's a given.  I've heard complaints that the movie "moved to slow" or "it lacked emotion," but I am convinced those people saw a different movie.  The pace was well thought out, and moved at just the right point to provide emotional impact without cheapening the experience.  Most American animated movies seem to be about fast-moving images, and blathering idiots (ala Shrek, Ice Age, Monsters vs. Aliens, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, etc.) than real images, identities, and connections (ala Miyazaki).  Yet, this movie's also nominated for Best Animated Picture.  The hell's it doing here?

Which is a question I present to the next movie -- the big, white, 3-D elephant in the room -- Avatar.  Now, let me get this off my chest: Avatar was NOT a bad movie.  In fact, it was a good movie.  It was exciting, fun, and presented a world on-screen which hasn't been seen in cinema halls since Star Wars.  I've heard people complain that "it's not original", but what is?  Even Star Wars wasn't original.  And James Cameron had enough sense to say it for over a year.  That being said, I don't think the film is worth a Best Film nomination. 

As I've told all of you at least once, I read this screenplay back in college when it was available on the web -- this was when the very notion of this movie was considered "one of the great undeveloped movies of all time" --, and I have repeated that the script read like "an intergalactic Pocahontas", I still reserved judgment and went to see the film when it came out.  I did wish that Cameron actually spent that time fixing the bloody script.  At the time of this writing, the two highest grossing movies of all time are both directed by Cameron.  Let's just leave it at that.

On the flip side of the coin, we have another sci-fi movie on this list -- one which I think deserves the nod more than Avatar -- District 9.  I have made my distaste for some of the key moments in District 9 known to almost all my peers, but that doesn't mean I hated the movie.  Quite the contrary, I enjoyed this movie and I left it feeling entertained and appreciating the effort put into it.  Neil Blomkamp managed to make a science fiction film that actually was both inventive AND entertaining, and was able to do it for a fraction of the cost of everything else that boasted big-ass special effects this summer.  And Sharlto Copley played a wonderful character whom you just had to hate-and-root.  If it weren't for the little flaws that keep this movie from greatness, then this would have been my pick for Best Picture.

Instead my pick is....Up in the Air.  Wait a minute.  I didn't actually see Up in the Air.  Hrm.  Some people I know enjoyed it.  Others thought it wasn't anything more than a sleepy little flick.

But my REAL PICK for Best Picture is The Hurt Locker.  This was my favorite film of this past year.  Kathryn Bigelow essentially took the old Hitchcock idiom -- "a bomb goes off, that's action; a bomb doesn't go off, that's suspense" -- and married it to a war movie.  The end result was something more than the sum of it's parts.  It somehow manages to get intimate with it's main character, yet is able to become detached from any politcal agenda.  This is much a story about "a job" as it is about "a war."  Images from this movie haunt me.  This honestly deserves to win Best Picture.   

Well, I'm gonna get going.  I need to eat and probably stop at some other web forums to froth and seethe on.  But then, I'm not in the interest of losing brain cells.  Maybe I'll just catch up on some other movies I missed.

Oh, and don't get me started on Ponyo not getting a nod.  Fucking Academy.


Rock & Roll With Guitar Wolf!: FINAL ROCK

And here we are.  End of the list.  I was predicting that I would have five shows to talk about, but four is good.  It allows me to pad this post out with useless shit. ^_^


And let's give a big hand to Kamen Rider Decade, folks!  For his name shall be what historians call this particular era of our history.  And now here's our finale:

4). Mushishi

26 episodes: 10/22/2005 - 6/18/2006

If you had told me ten years ago that I would like a show about a guy who walks from place to place encountering supernatural creatures, I would have called you a liar right after I punched you in the sternum.  Now, if you told me that I would also consider this show a "masterpiece" then I would have you sectioned.  But, you would have been right in the end, ya mad bastard.  Mushishi is the kind of show that reaches into your mind through your emotions; drawing on the power of human connection through lifeforms we cannot understand.  This is not what good television does, this is what good art is.  It seems like a mystery/supernatural story at first, but is actually more about the lives we live and the world surrounding us that we always seem to take for granted.  I cannot pinpoint a single moment in this anime that I prefer over others; the whole show is haunting and gorgeous.  Studio Artland (an old studio that's only recently coming to attention -- they produced Megazone 23, 20 years before this show, and now they animate Katekyo Hitman Reborn!) does a wonderous job adapting Yuki Urushibara's compelling manga.  Nearly every episode left me with a sense of wonder and contemplation that only Japanese motion pictures seem to do.

3). Planetes

26 episodes: 10/4/2003 - 4/17/2004

Planetes is the kind of science fiction missing from today's stories: human dramas matched with compelling ideas.  Based on Makoto Yukimura's manga, the series presents typical staples of science fiction (space exploration, advance technology, etc.) and incorporates with...um, garbage men.  Unlike the majority of science-fiction that stems from anime (ie, big-honkin-robots), Planetes addresses the little people, the grunts, the men and women who are deemed with thankless jobs while the rest of the human race seems to rocket past them -- almost literally.  There are plenty of themes at work here.  Everything from the political to social nature of humanity; it gets kind of depressing realizing that maybe in the future we will not have learned from our mistakes.  But what really drives this show for me are the characters.  Having worked lowly, thankless jobs for quite a while, I found a strange kinship with these oddballs -- hard not to.  Planetes is science fiction at it's finest, and by series' end I was reminded of something: there comes a point in your life; no matter how much science you put out there; no matter how much you think you know about everything that works around you; no matter how rational or irrational you see the world; you take a moment to just look at the stars.   

2). Monster

74 episodes: 4/6/2004 - 9/27/2005

When people ask me: Ender, you pertinent douchebag, what's the best manga on the market RIGHT NOW?  Well, I first punch them for calling me names, then I say (rather coyly): Whatever Naoki Urasawa is working on at the moment.  Sadly, not a lot of his work has been animated (yet), but Monster was one of those exceptions.  What starts out as a simple story regarding medical procedure, bubbles and erupts into a journey through the heart of human darkness.  The question is simple: is the life of one person worth more than the life of others?  And if so, who decides this?  Is it inherent or is it manufactured?  The story is epic yet intimate in the same brush-stroke; it's Hitchcock by ways of Stephen King.  The characters are almost Dickens-ian in nature: ranging from orphan children, to street artists, to students, all the way up to government officials, and there's even a Nazi thrown in for good measure.  Everyone has their ghosts.  Kenzo Tenma is a suitable everyman wrought with the guilt of doing what he believed was right, and Johann makes for one of the most compelling villains in any medium: it gives a Frankenstein meets The Fugitive feel as both men are being chased by greater forces, but one may be hunting the other.  Studio Madhouse had the unflattering assignment of adapting Urasawa's mammoth tale of revenge, redemption, mystery, and morality.  Throughout it's 74 episode run, Monster somehow avoided common traps in anime; namely repeated frames and shoddy animation.  Everything is taken almost verbatim from Urasawa's source material, and the added touches are nice.  The voicework is dramatic, the music is moody, and the Germany presented here could very well be Hell-on-Earth.  Monster, to me, represents serialized drama/suspense at it's finest: constantly engaging, thought-provoking, and down-right entertaining.  I say to it what I rarely say to something so long: I didn't want it to end.

Okay, so before we go to Number 1, let's do an obnoxious recap for those who missed it:

30). Rintaro and Katsuhiro Otomo give tribute to Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis
29). Gundam 00 is 0029
28). The kid's are all right, and friggin awesome, with Dennou Coil
27). Samurai Champloo boogies into Number 27
26). Flag photofinishes at 26
25). Vampire Huner D has a Bloodlust for Number 25
24). Read 24 right, or Die!
23). The age which most people graduate from Genshiken
22). Heat Guy J busts a cap in 22.
21). The Girl Who Leapt Through Time leaps to 21
20). Seirei no Moribito guards the Number 20 position
19). Is one mixed-up Fruits Basket
18). RahXephon harmonizes Number 18
17). Kerero Gunsou wages a war with Hare + Guu for Number 17
16). Ghost in the Shell, stands alone at 16 (kinda complex)
15). Is the perfect age for love, robots, and Eureka Seven
14). Plays a good Cross Game
13). Is only Revy's recent bodycount with Black Lagoon
12). Sees Kaiji battling for a spot on the chart
11). Is just a little short of a Millenium Actress
10). Is cranked up to Gurren Lagann
9). FLCL rocks Number 9
8). The boys (and the zombies) are back in town with Gungrave
7). Bows to the majesty of The Twelve Kingdoms
6). Is KO'ed by Hajime no Ippo
5). is transmuted to Fullmetal Alchemist
4). Mushishi wanders into Number 4
3). Planetes comfortably revolves at Number 3
2). And Naoki Urasawa creates a Monster

Holy crap, that was labored.  And now, the NUMBER 1 SWANKIEST ANIME OF THE DECADE IS:

1). Azumanga Daioh

26 episodes: 4/8/2002 - 9/30/2002

Like I said, if you know me then this choice is predictable.

One of the happiest accidents that happened in college was the purchasing of this series.  The plan was to buy Kare Kano, but when the box set for the show was sold out, I thought fast and grabbed this, purely because I remembered Keitaro's review.  In my eyes, this series is as perfect as you can get.  It is immediately accessible to anyone who gives it a shot (and if you don't, then I pity your small, shit-covered, black heart).  I loved every minute of this series as much as I have loved any show (anime or non) that I have seen in my life.  This is innocence and crack rolled into one 26-episode package.  The stories eschew closer to everyday observances than actual conflicts and drama.  When was the last time you saw an American high-school drama that wasn't an over-the-top exercise in bad comedy and premature fucking?  And when was the last time you saw a high-school series where one of the issues involves two girls (one a ditz, the other a ten-year old) figuring out how to ride a bike without crashing?  These are analogues of your best friends -- and possibly your teachers if they were insane.  The humor is well-timed, and executed with something you don't see in comedy nowadays.  What's it called?  Oh yes: punchlines.  It's less earnest and more playfully honest in it's portrayal of the whimsy that accompanies youth.  There is always, always, always drama and sadness and all sorts of bullshit we encounter as we grow up; but when it's gone, it's never there again.  We've all been here before, whether we admit it or not.  Watching Azumanga Daioh then filled me with memories, good and bad, of highschool.  Nowadays, I connect it to the joy and wonder I experienced in daily life while in college.  Coming back to this show is like re-uniting with an old friend whom you haven't seen in years.  However, the moment the two of you sit down, the conversation picks up as if it were yesterday.  And it was. 


And there we have it.  So, good?  Bad?  Upset that Eden of the East or Soul Eater didn't make it?  Too many robots?  Wanna kill me?  Got some Top 30 of yer own? 

It took some time to pick out 30 good anime from the past ten years, and I know I missed several.  One of the reasons why I make these lists is so that some of you out there might look at it and say maybe I should check that out or maybe I should give this series another look -- some of these shows, I had to let sink into me before I deemed them good.

I'm not sure what the next 10 years will bring to the medium as a whole, but good or bad, I look forward to it.  As should you, dear reader.


P.S. I honestly did not know I had so many Guitar Wolf songs on my computer.  Hrm.

Rock & Roll With Guitar Wolf!: Part 4

Burgleborg.  I'm beginning to think Livejournal hates me.  This would have been up yesterday but the internet ate it.  Ah well.  Gives me an excuse to find a new Kamen Rider screencap:


In other news, I've finally started watching the new Dr. Who series.  Thanks in part to Windows 7, Netflix, and nerds like you. ^_^  Let's continue with the countdown:

9). FLCL

6 OVA: 4/26/200 - 3/16/2001

If ever there was a perfect distillation of the complex weirdness of male youth in any medium, Furi Kuri would be it.  Had you asked me six years ago what I thought the best anime of the decade was going to be, I would have said this Gainax masterpiece (some of the same crew worked on Gurren Lagann as well, so that should say something).  The presentation is confusing, as well it should be.  Who has ever been able to make sense of their adolescence?  The kids are strange, and the adults are stranger; people jump in and out of life with their own agendas but they somehow give the illusion that maybe it's all about you -- as shown by the maniacal Haruka.  Deranged, beautifully animated, perfectly spaced out, and one of the best soundtracks in the medium.   

8). Gungrave

26 episodes: 10/6/2003 - 3/29/2004

Trigun was one of my favorite anime, so I felt bad when I had to kick it out of my personal favorites for Gungrave.  Luckily, it was done by the same crew (including Yasuhiro Nightow's designwork) so I guess that's kinda relative.  I could say that this show is on the list because it's one of the only anime to be based on a game -- a crappy one, no less -- and actually rocked.  There's a whole lot more though.  The story plays out more like a cross between a mob movie and a horror/science-fiction tale.  This is a story about two men, tight as brothers, who start as punks and wind up in the seat of organized crime, and it all goes downhill from there.  Much like Berserk, it's the idea of men with ambition that makes the story relatable and wholly apocalyptic.  The cadence of violence, morality, and family ring with every gunshot.  This was definitely more than the sum of its parts.

7). The Twelve Kingdoms

45 episodes: 4/9/2002 - 8/30/2003

Confession time: I was never a big fan of C.S. Lewis's Narnia bullshit.  And anime has had it's fair share of "teenager winding up in a fantasy world" tropes: everything from Dunbine to Fushigi Yugi.  So what makes The Twelve Kingdoms so swanky?  Well, how about the characters growing and changing as the series goes on?  Yoko starts off as a whiny teenager (surprised?) but winds up as a major player facing a destiny no one else can make for her.  There is real danger here too, none of it comes easy for her, and I loved it.  Far too many times, heroes become that way purely because the script demands it.  In Twelve Kingdoms Yoko earns it.  What else is there?  The world is imaginative, and the series is epic in scope and stature; characters range from mythical beasts, to kings, to peasants, and there's even a talking mouse thrown in for good measure.  I loved the mix of Chinese mythology thrown around, and the way it played out with this world's being.  I never wanted to leave, and more than disappointed with the ending.  I guess that's what the books are for, right?

6). Hajime no Ippo

First Series = 10/3/2000 - 3/27/2002
2 OVA = 2002 and 2003
1 Made-For-TV Movie, Hajime no Ippo: Champion Road: 6/25/2003
Second Series, Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger26 episodes: 1/6/2009 - 6/30/2009

There were two sports series I tried to watch this past decade with great interest: Prince of Tennis and Hajime no Ippo.  Despite having played tennis for a while, and not having any interest in boxing, I wound up hating Prince of Tennis and loving Hajime no Ippo.  Part of this is because in Prince of Tennis, the (arrogant and overly smug) characters are just passing through a point in their lives that just so happens to include highschool tennis; in Ippo, boxing is their life.  The show displays the strength in sports stories by making it about men who are just looking for that one moment in their otherwise forgettable lives where they can be told that they did a good job.  The only way, however, is through their fists.  Ippo is a shy, milquetoast of a boy at the beginning, but as it goes on, we witness him become a champion.  There's no shortage of raw, exciting boxing sequences to emphasize this point.  And with every punch and counter, you feel the desperate energy and emotion of people with nothing else but that one moment, that one pathetic little moment, when the light is on them; all eyes watching; sweat and blood on the hard canvas; and just you and the other guy aiming for the same thing.  That is Ippo, and that is Ippo. 

5). Fullmetal Alchemist

First Series = 51 episodes: 10/4/2003 - 10/2/2004
1 movie, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conquerer of Shamballa: 7/23/2005
Second Series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood = 38+ episodes: 4/5/2009 - ongoing

Much like J.K. Rowling or Miyazaki, Hiromu Arakawa created a fantasy world based on familiarity and childhood.  Fullmetal Alchemist is a shounen-adventure, not unlike One Piece or Dragon Ball, but it manages to be something more purely by adding more connections between the story and it's audience than the previous shows.  Often called a "dark fantasy," not sure if I would agree with that entirely given the connection to Miyazaki and Rowling.  It definitely contains "dark subject matter", I guess, but how is it different than anything else we experience in our lives?  Take the core of this series: two boys lose their mother, they can't accept it, they make a mistake, they try to rectify it.  Thus the quest of the Elric brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist.  It is that connection that makes this series so great.  Who has not been through a loss?  Who has not been compelled by a mistake?  This is the journey of childhood it's most honest.  Along the way, the brothers meet and makes friends/enemies with others who have gone through tragedy or are the cusp of it.  Along the way, socio-political commentary is peppered about, as is humor.  It's that odd bit of fantasy that reminds us of everything around us while still giving us a sense of adventure.  And what's there not to get excited about?  The comedy is funny, the characters are likable, the animation is always good (in both series'), the plot is constantly engaging, and the story is always moving.  

On a personal note, while the monstrous popularity of this series had yet to burst, I saw myself and my brother as the Elric brothers.  Time has mutated these bonds so that now the two of us are on different roads.  I watch this series and worry about what will happen to Edward and Alphonse on theirs.


Unless if my math is incorrect, we're down to the final four in our next post.  In the mean time, enjoy!


Rock & Roll With Guitar Wolf!: Part 3

Well that was a nice New Year's.  Can't remember the last time I had sparkling peach cider and Hebrew National cocktail weenies.  I guess there was that one time I decided to marathon Farscape, but that included cyanide mixed with...anyway, back to the list!


Where are we?  Ah, I remember now:

14). Cross Game

39+ episodes: 4/5/2009 - Ongoing

Here's another show I obviously could not have seen all of.  For what I have seen though, I love.  Mitsuru Adachi's recent work to be animated does touch (get it?) on some themes in his past manga, but Cross Game somehow adds a little more bitter-sweetness to "young romance".  Things become more and more complex as life goes on and aspects of our past decide to stick with us; we all know this, we've all experienced it.  Often times, bad memories become our reasons for doing the things that we do, and it's no different than what the characters in Cross Game go through.  Surprisingly earnest, and constantly endearing.  I have a feeling that I'm going to be watching this for years to come.

13). Black Lagoon

First Barrage = 12 episodes: 4/8/2006 - 6/24/2006
Second Barrage = 12 episodes: 10/2/2006 - 12/18/2006

This is the kind of action story Hollywood can't seem to make nowadays.  Black Lagoon is a rather ironic name, considering that the setting is a world of gray, and some characters tend to be grayer than others.  Told in episodic format, the show displays some of the cruelest motherfuckers in existence; going for the same prize, and often each others throats.  Everything from gun-wielding Terminator-like maids, neo-nazis, and psychotic Romanian children get thrown into the mix.  But what sets this apart from other violent shows/movies/anime is that there is a strange bit of existentialism to be found here.  One of the main characters is a salary man who quits his job to join the very pirates whom were going to kill him.  His argument is that working a slavish 9-5 job, he may not have been alive to begin with.  The violence is brutal and exhilarating, and reminds me of an old story-telling rule: suspense builds tension, action releases tension, so too much action kills suspense.  In Black Lagoon it does not kill the suspense, it punctuates it.

12). Kaiji

26 episodes: 10/2/2007 - 4/1/2008

HOLY FISH N' CHIPS!  I LOOOOOOOVE KAIJIIIIIIIIII!  Being a young man with nothing to look forward to can suck big time.  You've got nothing in life except the bills you have to pay, and the shit you have to eat.  Kaiji is a perfect example of the disastrous life we can all lead, but gives enough hope that we can battle against it.  It's an utterly bizarre testament to the idea of human resilience under pressure.  There have been countless stories revolving around gambling; often involving ones life on the line.  But few of them are told with such an operatic flourish as Kaiji.  This becomes more than a battle of wits and wills: this is a battle where the characters have nothing to gain, nothing to lose, and nothing to hold onto.  This becomes a reason for men to walk away realizing that they are alive.  And no one can take that away.

11). Millennium Actress

Movie: 9/14/2002

I needed to put a Satoshi Kon anime up here.  And as much as I enjoyed Tokyo Godfathers, Paranoia Agent, and Paprika, but Millenium Actress gets the nod, purely because of it's subject matter: the movies.  I loved how this movie chronicled the sordid life of an aging, forgotten actress through moments in her movies.  And I especially loved how the narration pushed us along through the movies and next to the characters.  I have often attested that, to me, movies signify the greatest of the real world.  Every little thing that we forget or cherish is magnified before us in representations limited only by the imagination of the filmmaker.  Kon proves that life and cinema share common ground with one another, and he takes us through that nexus point.  And the way that it is shown is simply gorgeous.  I saw this as a volunteer at the Big Apple Anime Fest 2002  There were no seats, so I spent the whole movie standing.  I didn't care how badly my legs started to cramp, my mind was too absorbed with what was in front of me.

10). Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

27 episodes: 4/1/2007 - 9/30/2007
(Plus 2 compilation movies)

Did anyone really not see this coming?  There was a point when I was ready to give up anime, and then Gurren Lagann came along.  If there is one thing American television can't do, it cannot produce anything as epic as this show.  Sure there are giant robots kicking the crap out of each other.  Sure there's fucking gorgeous animation and art.  But the best thing about Gurren Lagann is that it is everything we want to be, whether we admit it or not.  Taking giant robot stereotypes (I still attest that a drill is the most impractical weapon for a robot to use), the show turns them to mean something more: the need to surpass our own expectations.  There will always be times when we will be beat down.  There will always be times when we will tell ourselves it's hopeless.  And there will be times when we want to give up.  But with our drills, our inherent willpower, we can pierce the heavens!  Believe in  yourself!  And if you can't believe in you, then believe in ME who believes in YOU!  WHO DO YOU THINK I AM!?!?!

I'm sorry, I got carried away.  This show has that affect.  And that's why it's Number 10.


So Gurren Lagann is not Number 1 -- I know one of you just lost a bet after seeing that. ^_^

Stick around we got more coming up.


Rock & Roll With Guitar Wolf!: Part 2

Okay, so livejournal hated my last entry so much that they auto-edited.  You know who I blame?  The Republicans.  Anyway, if you missed it the first time, I am currently working on...


(I highlighted the anime part so you'll know to avoid this)

Here are some brief rules:

1). List of favorites, but there is a tint of "quality-mongering" on my part.

2). Had to have been made/premiered between 2000-2009.

3). I had to have watched said anime (sorry Baccano! and Reborn! fans).

4). Feel free to disagree.

5). Keep an open mind -- you might find something of interest here.

And because livejournal cluster-fucked my previous entry, I'm just going to quickly reprint my choices for 30-20 before moving on:

30). Metropolis
29). Mobile Suit Gundam 00
28). Dennou Coil
27). Samurai Champloo
26). Flag
25). Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
24). Read or Die OVA
23). Genshiken
22). Heat Guy J
21). The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
20). Seirei no Moribito

And if you want me to talk about any of those, just leave a comment and I'll explain my choices.  Anyway, enough of that!  Let's move on to the next couple of choices.

19). Fruits Basket

26 Episodes: 7/5/2001 - 12/27/2001

I'm a sucker for good romances.  A good romance has to show us why the characters can not be together.  Well, how about turning into a random animal when embraced by a member of the opposite sex?  Works for me.  Though the show has been labeled as "too sweet" by it's detractors, I found Fruits Basket to be compelling in it's bizarre subject matter.  Rarely, has fantasy and romance worked as well as it did here.  It was funny when it had to be, and heart-aching when it could be.  I remember this series and I smile.

18). RahXephon

26 episodes: 1/21/2002 - 9/11/2002
1 movie: 4/19/2003

If there was one unfortunate albatross hung around RahXephon's neck, it was the constant CONSTANT comparisons to Evangelion; mainly from people who never even saw RahXephon.  Well, I have seen both shows, and I like RahXephon more than I liked Evangelion.  This series was hard science fiction that mixed influences from giant robots, to lost continents, to Arthur C. Clarke style time quandries, and all this surrounded a rather bizarre, yet sincere, story of lost love and responsibility.  The characters actually grew through the story, culminating into an apocalyptic crescendo.  Top this with beautiful music accompanied by stencil-sharp animation and imagery.  I will not forget this series.  I simply cannot.

17). TIE Kerero Gunso (aka Sgt. Frog) and Hare + Guu

Kerero = 292 + episodes: 4/3/2004 - ongoing
Guu = 26 episodes: 4/3/2001 - 9/25/2001 (followed by two sequel OVA)

Yes ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie.  I simply could not choose one over the other.  Both are comedies that deal with normal life being disrupted by a bizarre and adorable outsider (the "Kerero" and "Guu", of their respective titles), and the hair-splitting pain that comes about.  Both of these shows were nothing short of hysterical.  There is simply nothing else I can say beyond that.  These are sitcoms done the way only animation can do them.  At the end of the day, I can have all the drama and giant robots in the world on my shelf, in my computer, and spinning in my DVD player...but what I really want is a good deal of laughter.

16). Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex

First Gig = 26 episodes: 10/1/2002 - 3/25/2003
Second Gig = 26 episodes: 1/1/2004 - 1/8/2005
(Plus, 2 compilation movies, and 1 movie sequel)

There has been a lax in good cyberpunk entertainment these past few years.  Luckily, Production I.G. and director, Kenji Kamiyama (who also directed Moribito), decided to attempt another adaptation of Masamune Shirow's seminal "guns+babes+computer" manga (the first yielded the now famous Mamoru Oshii films), and created a futuristic cop drama filled with techno-babble and violence.  The structure of the series lends itself to genre thrillers like 24, yet the hi-tech world and concepts are beyond what you would find on American television.  There was always a good sense of action, drama, and philosophy dancing on-screen, making for one rather unique experience.  Oh, and the soundtrack killed.

15). Eureka Seven

50 episodes: 4/17/2005 - 4/2/2006
1 movie: 4/25/2009

HOLY FISH-N-CHIPS! I LOOOOOOOOOOVE EUREKA SEVENNNNNNNNN!  Studio Bones (creators of RahXephon) really love getting their bildungsroman stuck in their mech-operas -- which actually sounds like the sort of thing you see a doctor about.  The story here is light in nature, but harrowing in execution.  All sorts of science-fiction mumbo-jumbo gets thrown across the screen like marker-sniffing fruitbat, and some of it can be interesting...well, maybe.  It does say something about our society when we can finally have a cartoon where robots fight while sky-surfing.  But it says something more when it can look fucking amazing as it does here.  However, the heart of this show lies in the story of young love between two seemingly opposite/impossible teenagers.  We've all been there before: that moment when you see someone and become smitten...you just don't know what they think about you.  And that's Eureka Seven: a simple love story, told with no restraints.


...as well as big honkin' robots.


Another day, another list.  I'm going to bed.  Maybe I'll watch something when I'm done here.  But I hope some of you are enjoying this, and let's not forget the most important thing: now you know where this damn icon I use comes from.  DE ARIMASU!


Rock & Roll With Guitar Wolf!: Part 1

Seems like I'm saying this -- or at least someone does -- every year, but New Year's already!?

I guess what makes this a little bit strange is that we're moving into double digits again with a new decade looming past our recipe-laden Shop-Rite calenders.  Ho-hum.

Well, in honor of this decade I've decided that, like a laid back caricature of Oskar Schindler, I'm going to make another egocentric list.  This one is going to be a little "decade-centric" and we're going to touch upon something a little close to my heart.  In fact, I'll just make it bigger than my previous list just for the hell of it.

gracefuldawn and shadow_to_light among them) when it had a limited release in NYC.  Rintaro and Katushiro Otomo's tribute to The God of Manga turned out to be a brilliant, and baffling, retro-futuristic experience.  Rarely has a cinematic world crafted with ink and paper looked so vibrant, detailed, and wholly alive as this film did. 

29). Mobile Suit Gundam 00

25 episodes (First Season): 10/6/2007 - 3/29/2008
25 episodes (Second Season): 10/5/2008 - 3/29/2009

The decade saw no shortage of Gundam anime.  Gundam 00 seemed to retread old ground (I will always label this as "Gundam Wing done right"), but it somehow made the series more relevant than it has been in a long while.  The story discarded the old Gundam trope of "total warfare" for the grayish zone of "revolution-cum-terrorism"; seeing it's cadre of villains and heroes rise and fall through the course of years.  No one got out of this series clean.  The battles were exciting, and the animation was constantly fluid -- and I can't remember the last time I said that about a new Gundam show.

28). Den-noh Coil

26 episodes: 5/12/2007 - 12/1/2007

SCIENCE!  I watched this show after kirarakim mentioned it a couple of times.  Any review I write for this show will do it no justice.  So here's Taleweaver's. ^_^

27). Samurai Champloo

26 episodes: 5/20/2004 - 3/19/2005

God help me, there are days when I prefer "Sam-puru" (sample?) over Cowboy Bebop.  Watanabe was definitely treading on his own feet when he made this show -- everyone has compared it to his afore-mentioned masterpiece.  I enjoyed it for completely different reasons.  This was a mix-n-match of everything that made samurai movies so enjoyable in the past, with the cynical, modern sensibilities of the present.  The honor, poetry, and ritualized beheadings are lost to the stylized, arrogant, hip-hop culture.  And in the middle of it, characters who mix and match these worlds are just trying to make it through.  Funny, beautiful, and enough action to make a Zatoichi film blush.  

26). Flag

13 episodes: 6/6/2006 - 3/2/2007

Ryosuke Takahashi was not doing anything new by making another anime featuring soldiers and "realistic" mechs (the one in Flag is more of a tank, anyway).  What he did was present the story as a mock-documentary (told entirely through the lenses of video cameras and still pictures of two journalists), chronicling the long war between two factions in a fictional Central Asian country.  The series did something rare: by showing both the civilians and the soldiers on both sides of the conflict, no one is condemned or condoned.  Equal respect is giving to the men and women in uniform, making the anti-war message poignant and more close-to-home than anything the U.S of A has come up with.

25). Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Movie: 8/25/2000

shadow_to_light once told me that this was one of the few movies he could watch again and again.  I'm in agreement with him.  Ninja Scroll's Yoshiaki Kawajiri directed and wrote this superior blend of science fiction, action, horror, romance, samurai, and western.  The film premiered in English, which actually made sense.  Not the smartest movie in the world, but the story flows like water, and the action pieces are never boring.  The imagery hasn't left me, either -- the werewolf with a set of monstrous jaws on it's stomach, the town full of zombies, and the facial appearance of a parasitic left hand.  For me, any interest I have in vampires begins and ends with the letter "D" (sorry).

24). Read or Die

3 OVA: 5/23/2001

To those of you who enjoy the company of books over people, let it not be said there was never an anime made for you. ^_^  I never saw the TV series in full, but I loved the hell out of this OVA.  Though sparse at times, the characters and the plot were balls-to-the-wall entertaining.  Where else can you see a shy, bookish woman take on the mad clone of thetestingtree and I recently watched this near the end of summer.  Never has there ever been more apt a series to anime fans than Genshiken (okay fine, Otaku no Video, shut the fuck up).  This reminded me way too much of anime club to just let it go into the mire of comedy shows.  The characters are so likable because they are so damn relatable (A girl who joins the anime club because one of the members is a boy she likes?  Hogwash).  The show manages to keep a light mood in it's comedy; never falling into complete parody; sticking close to the line of "fine satire."  When shinibadtzmaru8 and I were wandering the Otakon dealer's room this past year, a man behind the Media Blaster's booth sold this series by saying, "Everyone in this convention needs to watch this show."  I couldn't agree more. 

20). Seirei no Moribito
07 Seirei no Moribito by you.

26 episodes: 4/7/2007 - 9/29/2007

One of my problems with American shows that feature "strong, independent women" (ie anything that Joss Whedon writes), show anything but that.  Instead of "strong, independent women" we get either 1). blood-thirsty bitches, or 2). blood-thirsty ditzes.  Based on a series of award-winning light-novels by Nahoko Uehashi, Moribito manages to surpass that and create a woman (not a "girl") who is completely strong and independent, without falling into the obvious traps.  That isn't the only thing I should mention, the show is a wonderful fantasy told beautifully with compelling characters, good music, and splendid animation.  Don't believe me?  Check out this fight scene.  


That's it for now.  That was actually more taxing than it appears.  Don't know why.  Gonna go take a rest and then I'll put some more up later.  Enjoy while you can.  There's a lot more coming.


Liquor Cabinet in D Minor

Another semester done and out of the way.  Calooh-ca-fucking-llay.  I was going to take a winter class, but common sense (and a well-timed course cancellation) ended that train of thought before it even had a chance to leave the station.

I enjoy this time of year.  It's a good time for good food and good people; and potentially good movie marathons. 

So, I got two TWO meme questions from the swankadellic tag-team of kirarakim and deeplyunhip .  And since it's been a while since they sent them, I believe I will take the time to answer them both at the same time.

And as always, feel free to comment, and I'll be sure to throw some questions your way.

Reply to this entry and I'll ask you five questions. Post your answers in your own journal and keep the meme going!

kirarakim's queries.

1) How did you meet your girlfriend?

Aw geez. ^_^;

To anyone who asks this question, I also recommend you ask thetestingtree as to how we met.  This gives a better perspective, as I am only one perspective.

I met thetestingtree the day after I turned 21 -- March 30, 2004 -- when I walked into my friends' dorm room in Spellman (the freshman hall for those who did not go to Manhattanville).  This was the usual cadre of nerds and social outcasts, so you could imagine my surprise when I saw a g-g-g-girl!! standing there.  She was wearing cute glasses and an adorable smile.  I'd like to say it was love at first sight, but I'm a bit too romantic for my own good.

Our first words went something like this (she spoke first, as I was still trying to get over the fact that a beautiful girl was actually approaching me for a potential conversation):
Liz: Hi!  I'm Liz!
Me: Johnathan Ender.
Liz: Where are you from?

I do not know what I was thinking that lead me to say that, but I can tell you that my common sense, thankfully, mutinied and took back the vessel of thought.  We just started talking normally (I think) after that.  For a while actually.  The entire time I kept thinking: holy crap!  A pretty girl is actually talking to me!  Wonder why.  She probably has like a MILLION better looking guys she could be talking to.  After that, we both went our separate ways.  I went to bed, and instead of sleeping, I just stared up at the ceiling thinking about her the entire night.  I had no idea why.  No other girl has ever done that to me.  I tried to dismiss it.  Thinking that she would never go out with a guy like me, and that I was probably better off (read: destined to be) alone my life.

Then she ran into me the next day...

And that's all I'm going to say for now.  You really oughta ask her. ^_~

2) What are some of your favorite directors besides Kurosawa?

Hrm, the easy answer would be: Hayao Miyazaki (easily my favorite living director), Martin Scorcese, Werner Herzog, and Quentin Tarantino.

The harder answer is that, other than Kurosawa, I don't really have a favorite director.  It took me a while to label a "favorite filmmaker", as.  I love Kurosawa movies because even his weaker films are better than most directors "strong" films (I'd gladly take a weak Kurosawa film over any Kubrickian "masterpiece" pretentious film students masturbate to).  Even the biggest and brightest directors have their stinkers.   Ridley Scott had Blade Runner and Alien but he also had Gladiator and Legend; Terry Gilliam had Brazil but he also had Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; and Spielberg had his Schindler's List, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark but then he had his 1941, Hook, and War of the Worlds.

I've learned to love films purely for themselves, and not for the people behind them.  Sure, it is wonderful to liken artists to the art they create (I love mentioning Jean Pierre Melville's name in casual conversations and seeing people go O_O; ), but it is not necessary in liking the end product.

3) Name some of your favorite books?

You just love opening up worm-cans, don't cha? ^_~ It's worth asking because I don't think anyone knows what my favorite books are..but I think it's because I have too many. ^_^; Anyway, here's a partial list with some commentary...

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and The Road
Edgar Rice Burrough's Princess of Mars
(this is probably my favorite science fiction novel ever written)
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Jimmy Lerner's You Got Nothing Coming: Notes From A Prison Fish
Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography
The Outsiders
Stephen King's The Stand, and It, and what I've read of The Dark Tower...oh, and On Writing
War of the Worlds
The Catcher in the Rye
Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War, Fade, and I Am the Cheese
Stephen Brust's Vlad Taltos novels
Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories
The Color Purple
Harry Potter
As I Lay Dying
The Kite Runner

Richard Adam's Watership Down
Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men
To Kill a Mockingbird
Childhood's End
Red Badge of Courage
Animal Farm
Clockwork Orange

George Carlin's Napalm and Silly Putty
Ender's Game (who didn't see this one coming?)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Portnoy's Complaint
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
(book was great, the movie was a piece of shit)
Lord of the Flies
My Family and Other Animals
The Great Gatsby
Big Trouble
Moby Dick
Treasure Island
Lord Foul's Ban
And Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This past year, I've (finally) read George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, Dan Simmons' Drood, and Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief, and I recommend those to anyone.  I'll probably add those to the list in a year or two (these lists need time to ferment).

4) Talk about a memorable trip you took

Well, one time my friend brought home some really good shrooms.  And I was like...what's 'at?  Not that kinda trip?  Ohhh

Hrm.  The last time I went to India and Pakistan was when I was 13 -- Summer of '96.  Been meaning to go again but...I dunno, something always comes up.  There were a couple of memorable things that happened, let me see:

- I rode on the back of an old Harley Davidson motorcycle with my uncle.  He was showing me the congested, dusty city streets of Aligarh and the surrounding area.
- I remember seeing a giant rock in the middle of a dirt road after it had rained...only to have the rock blink(!) at me.  Turned out to be a toad.  
- I remember trying to get my cousins to get us Tintin and Asterix comics.
- I remember trying to climb this huge, ancient tree.
- I remember seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time in my life.  God, were there so many fucking tourists.  Pictures really can't do justice to how beautiful it looks in real life.
- I remember visiting my (now late) grandmother on my mom's side.  She was terribly old and feeble, even then.

That was some of the stuff from India.  In Pakistan...

- I remember seeing an ancient museum in Lahore that had allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll these statues...of Buddha!  Who'da thunk from a primarily Muslim country.
- I remember seeing the mountains.  It was pretty damn steep.  And we had to drive up them...and there were no goddamn railings!
- I remember trying to have a conversation with my grandmother on my dad's side.  She always had this grin.  Like she knew more than she was letting on, and was more than happy to leave you guessing.  I love her.
- I remember seeing a man with a baby elephant.  It did tricks.  One of them was plucking flowers for customers with it's trunk.  Then, it would put it's trunk up to his forehead as if it was saying salaam.
- I remember getting a haircut from a barber in Karachi.  The place was dank, and seemed kind of dirty.  But the guy gave a great haircut.
- I remember praying at a mosque with my dad, my uncle, and my cousin.  It was an open courtyard, and it was tremendous. 

Lastly, I remember Fanta tasting a lot better there. ^_^

5) If you could change places with anyone for a day who would it be?

I would like to change places with Beat Takeshi.  Just because, I want to see what on Earth he does everyday that makes him so...so...weirdly awesome. @_@


And here's deeplyunhip's devious quandries:

1. When someone asks you about how your time at Manhattanville was, is there any specific memory that comes to your mind to describe it?

I usually lie through my teeth and tell them I had fun. ^_^

I kid, I kid.  I actually did have fun at Manhattanville.  I wish I worked a little harder on certain things, but enough of that.  Some of the memories that pop into my head all seem to revolve one way or another around Anime Club.  Here are a few:
- The first time I met Liz in John and Mark's dorm room.
- When I had my play performed for the Theater Writing class, the cast consisted of my best friends.
-The first (and still the best) chibiCON.
-All of our BESM/D&D/Shadow Run sessions in the cafeteria.
-The numerous trips we took to the city to catch random anime playing in art house theaters (Escaflowne, Metropolis, Tokyo Godfathers, Spirited Away, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, and Steamboy).  Those were fucking adventures.
-The renegade anime meetings we would have on Friday nights by commandeering one of the empty class rooms.
-And of course, the time when a bunch of signed up as volunteers for The Big Apple Anime Fest 2001.

2. What are your three favorite things about Liz (can be three things in general, or at the moment)?

I could be really coy and say "EV.ERY.THING" and would be correct, but for the sake of the questions, let's say:

- Her open-mindedness = I cannot stand people who denounce things before trying them.  I especially can't stand people who claim to be experts on something but refuse to see the most rudimentary things ("durrr!  that movie looks stupid! durr!").  Assholes of the highest order.  Liz has always been open-minded to just about everything I've recommended to her.  And it takes a lot of guts to watch/read/go to the stuff I recommend.  And I always love LOVE to hear what she has to say about them after the fact.  Even if she disagrees with me, she always has something intelligent to say. 

- Her determination = she doesn't like to let things go easily.  Sure, there are times when she beats herself up over little things, but that's only because she wants to prove it to herself that she can do it.  And I have seen her, time and time again, doggedly pursue something -- be it at work, or in class -- that others would give up on.  She always picks herself back up, and throws herself headlong into her goals.

- Her support = there have been several times when I've beaten myself up over completely trivial things, or have lost hope about a lot of things.  I'm not a smart person, nor am I terribly skilled at anything.  I would probably drive most people mad.  They'd give up on me first chance they got.  Not Liz.  For almost six years, she has been there to get my head out of the mud.  No matter how stupid an idea I have, or pathetic self-doubt, Liz has always slapped me back into shape (sometimes literally).  To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, "it's how you tell the difference between the dames and the real ladies."  Liz is no dame.

BONUS: Her smile. <3

3. What's inspiring your current interesting possibly taking martial arts classes? Just curious. :)

Heh heh.  I've always been interested in martial arts (blame it on years of watching Hong Kong movies), I just never really had the time.  And I haven't been to a gym in over a year, and it's actually making me feel...blah with myself.  I realize that I need some kind of discipline, and some kind of workout to boot. 

So, I'm definitely looking into something to take this next semester.  I'm leaning towards kung-fu, possibly karate.  Hell, I'd even be fine with kickboxing.    

And like you said, "Nothing kicks ass like...being able to kick ass." ^_^

4. Name 3-5 things that you really don't like seeing in films (e.g., bad dialogue, super-long opening credits, whatever)

Hoooooooooooooooo boy.  Only 5? ^_^

It's funny, because almost every "bad" thing that can happen in one movie can actually work well in another.  Such as, say the bad dialogue in The Dark Knight, it was not realistic in the slightest and there were moments when I felt that the script was really pushing it's message ("You've got...too many rules"), but it ultimately worked because it was "unrealistic" -- this was a "superhero" movie after all, so there's no reason why the dialogue needed to be real.  Whereas the bad dialogue in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen just came out shallow and unengaging one-liners ("I rise, you fall!"), and seemed more appropriate for action figure boxes. 

It ultimately boils down to the presentation and prowess of the film-maker to make it come together: Christopher Nolan is a much more capable director than Michael Bay.

Right, that being said, here are 5 things I don't like seeing in films:

1). Over-blown 3rd Acts: this has nothing to do with 3rd Acts that are long, per se.  This has more to do with 3rd Acts that decide, right, now is the time to blow everything up.  This was one of my gripes with District 9.  For as interesting a movie as it was, the 3rd Act throws almost all the "ideas" presented in the film for an extended sequence of "good-guy-runs/fights-from/with-the-baddies"; explosions, machine guns, exploding body parts, you name it.  I don't have a problem with "slam-bang" action (have you seen my DVD collection?), but I have a problem with movies thinking that everything MUST culminate into an explosion fest, it just makes the movie run out of steam before it can even cross the finish line.  By the time it's done, we're not entertained, we're relieved.  Which leads right into...

2). Incomprehensible Action Pieces: I don't know when filmmakers decided that the best way to get an audience excited is to throw the camera into a washing machine while filming the leads dueling to the supposed death.  Are there that many strings you want to hide?  Afraid that moving the camera back might distance the audience?  No.  A good filmmaker filming a good action sequence will give everything a proper flow and put the violence into an engaging/entertaining mix.  Ang Lee did this in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; watch that movie and look at how many "closed-in/shakey" shots there are: zilch.  He let the camera regard the action, allowed the audience to see the characters, and set the stakes in every single shot, resulting in gorgeous and exciting fights.  Whereas Marc Forster, with Quantum of Solace, decided to cram the camera right into James Bond's face during his fight scenes, thus making everything confused -- one scene resulted with an attacker winding up with the knife he was going to kill Bond with in his own chest...with all the shaking, maybe he tripped over the film reel.

3). Hyperactive Editing: when I go to see a movie, I want to see the movie.  There is a fragile difference between "kinetic" and "sugar-addled", and movie makers get this confused constantly.  I don't want to see 3-second shots of pretty people faffing about, followed by tracking shots of city streets, followed by the camera spinning on an axis.  And this is increasing at an ever-alarming basis.  What's so bad about having the camera linger for a moment or two?  Why so quick to jump to something else?  If the filmmaker is that bored with the product, then they shouldn't be filming it in the first place!  I blame this on the attention spans of most modern audiences.  I have a feeling that most people would walk out if a movie had a scene last more than four minutes.

4). Jokes With No Punchlines or Constant Referential Humor: see also: Family Guy.  Doing an impersonation of anyone living or dead without some sort of context is pathetic.  It's like the Scary Movies: their jokes rely purely on reminding us that something exists -- Hey look!  It's a guy who looks like Borat!  Hor hor hor!  Referential humor only works if it's some form of satire.  Airplane! is a classic not because it's a parody, but because it was commenting on genre conventions and lampooning them.  That part where Robert Stack pulls off his sunglasses dramatically to reveal another pair of sunglasses?  Sadly, some people nowadays will fail to get the punchline...or the joke.

5). Obnoxious Soundtracks: I want to watch a movie, not a fucking music video.  I hate it when action sequences use the same techno music, over and over again (see: The Matrix).  I hate it when quiet, reflective moments in American movies feature the same fucking pretentious indie music (see: Juno).  And I hate, HATE, how dramatic moments just need to have their music swell up beyond tolerable levels and become manipulative (see: Public Enemies).  Have composers lost their imagination?  Has the music industry reached the point where they don't want to do anything more than re-use John Williams' scores and pop music from FM stations in Georgia? 

5. What would you say is your favorite punctuation mark in the English language and why?(.!>:etc.)

I am partial to ellipses and dashes.  If only because they actually help me picture conversations from written words into voices.


Swanky questions from two very swanky ladies.  Thank you both. ^_^



"Drat, he's a Pterodactyl again..."

Meme from from everyone's favorite paleantologist/rustic-adventure/lion-tamer emmayori ^_^

Reply to this entry and I'll ask you five questions. Post your answers in your own journal and keep the meme going!

1. What's your favorite large predatory animal?

Well, more than two decades ago, I would have "tie-ranama-saw-rus wrecks! Roooaaarrr!!" But many years -- and much cynicism -- later, and I take the boring approach and say wolves. With a big nod to the arctic wolf in particular.

In reality, I admire the notion of dangerous camaraderie amidst these animals: they literally need one another in order to survive efficiently.

And, in my own pathetic fantasy, there is just something about wolves that I connect to. I don't know if it's that doggish need for companionship, or the dangerous/moronic notion of "the lone wolf" that permeates fiction. I say "moronic" because back in high-school, my (at the time) best friend, called me "a true lone wolf." A wolf alone cannot survive very long without a pack, but it's a strange image I've found myself connecting to quite often in my life.

Maybe I enjoyed Call of the Wild too much when I was younger.

2. What is the best word in the English language?

Hrm. Well, I wouldn't know the BEST EVAR word, but my personal favorites include: behoove, melange, quixotic, bivouac, juniper, enigma, gamut, chub, and some others I can't think of at this moment.

3. Where is your favorite place to visit?

The Realm of Imagination.


All right, all right, that answer was a bit of a cop-out. I haven't actually visited a lot of places, like most people (would you believe that I've never been to Disney World/Land?). I would like to change that. Every place I have gone to I've enjoyed in one way or another. But I'm the kind of guy who gets the same amount of excitement going to a convention, Boston, or a halal food stand on 53rd and 6th.

I like visiting (surprise) libraries. It's probably the atmosphere.

I'd like to visit Montana.

4. If you had one extra hour each day that you could use for anything, what would you do with it?

Talking with my friends.

I'm quite sure most of you can attest to this, but gracefuldawn once told me "you have this habit of falling off the face of the Earth." It's completely true, and I have no idea where I go during those times.

I would like to take that time just to see how everyone else in life is doing. Maybe no one in their right mind would like to hear me, but I would like to hear from them.

5. What's your dream cosplay?

Well, for a "dream", as in "can-never-EVER-happen-in-a-gabajillion-years"...do you need to ask? ^_^

But if there is one, ONE, cosplay I would like to do at some point in my life, it's this guy.

Which, in a strange way, brings us back to my first answer...in a very strange way. Anyway, feel free to comment and see what I gives yah.


Two For Me: Part 11 (Finale)

All right, we're here.  The last on the list.  Before we go on, I'm just gonna do a re-cap of the previous 10 selections.  And, just for the hell of it, I've included links to their Amazon pages just in case this list has you re-thinking your DVD collection.

11). The Wicker Man
10). The Evil Dead; Evil Dead 2; Army of Darkness
9). Vampyr
8). Ring
7). Jacob's Ladder
6). Halloween
5). Gojira aka Godzilla: The King of The Monsters
4). The Shining
3). The Fly
2). Dawn of the Dead

And my Number 1, favorite horror film is...

1). Alien

Year: 1979
Director: Ridley Scott
Runtime: 117 min (theatrical), 116 min (director's cut)

You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
- Ash

The crew of the interstellar mining ship, The Nostromo, are heading back to Earth with their improbably large shipment of ore.  The crew of seven (plus a cat) are woken from their cry-sleep when he ship's computer, "Mother," receives a signal from a planet.  The crew decide to investigate -- it seems like a distress signal.  Unfortunately, after landing on said planet, they find out that this was not a distress beacon, but a warning.  And something has come aboard...

1979's Alien must have created some strange feelings in audiences.  I mean, just two years prior, Star Wars popped up and re-invigorated the Hollywood desire for "big-budget b-movies", and along comes Alien which, much like Star Wars, is a send-back to the science-fiction of yesteryear.  Although, it's inspirations are a little different.  Star Wars latched onto the "space opera" subgenre, whereas Alien aimed for the same kind of science-fiction found in magazines/books like Astounding Tales or Analog.  These stories dealt less with intrepid Buck Rogers-type heroes, and more with engineers, scientists, etc., and had a very "nuts and bolts"-type feel to it.

Speaking of Astounding Tales, screenwriter, Dan O'Bannon, laughed in interviews: "I didn't steal Alien from anybody...I stole it from everybody!"  It's worth noting that the story of astronauts finding a lifeform in space which invades their space vessel was also the plot of, you guessed it, a 1951 B-movie titled It! The Terror From Beyond Space!, which was written by Jerome Bixby.  Bixby wrote four Star Trek episodes("Day of the Dove," "By Any Other Name," "Mirror, Mirror," and "Requiem for Methuselah"), as well as one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, "It's A Good Life."  This was the kind of science-fiction that was slowly disappearing around the time of Star Wars' success, and the kind which O'Bannon embraced more than anything.

But there are nods to other movies.  The cryogenic sleep, cold computer, and vast spaceship seem to be refelctive of Kubrick's 2001: A Spacy Odyssey.  The empty corridors of the ship reminded me of Howard Hawk's The Thing From Another World -- ironic, because Hawk's film was turned into a John Carpenter remake (The Thing) thanks to Alien's success.  And the computer being called "Mother" brings up odd memories of Hitchcock's Psycho.

Also, compare the opening shot of Alien to the opening shot of Star Wars: one of the movies features a giant spaceship zooming through the stars, blasting at another ship, but the other features a ship of similar size floating, lonely and silent like a whale through the void.  Sure they're different, but it's hard not to deny that both sequences involve spaceships of the "metallic hulk" variety.

And let's talk about that.  Scott and company, I feel, are enver given enough credit for this.  They somehow managed to create a gigantic environment -- filled with dark, pipe-covered, hallways, computer screens, sliding doors, etc. etc. -- and managed to make the whole thing feel claustrophobic.  It's a common idea to run in both successful science-fiction and fantasy: when you want to make something strange look all that more interesting, inject a little bit of familiarity to it.  And space ship or not, who hasn't been down a dark hallway once in their life?

H.R. Giger get's a lot of credit for his bio-mechanical design work for the creature, and it's good that he does, but Chris Foss and Ron Cobb should get equal credit for their ship and suit designs.  When you couple this with O'Bannon's details of characters who are essentially "truckers in space", there's a certain ground-level approach to it all.  Not unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or North By Northwest: there's a sense of reality...but it's punctuated by lonliness and horror.

Giger's design work is appropriately grotesque, sexual, and demonic.  Which pretty much sums up the titular "Alien", now that I look at it. 

The long, phallic head that begins with a dripping, gnashing vaginal mouth seems like a bisexual nightmare.  Come to think of it, we never know if this creature is male or female.  Hrm.  No matter.  The iconic scene -- in which the alien embryo bursts from the chest of an unfortunate crew mate -- is a strange parody of, well, birth.  Look at the scene: people are gathered around their crew member as he spasms and convulses (contractions?) on a table, like doctors; the room just happens to be brightly lit and white; then this creatures shoots out of his body, screaming and anguished (birth)cry.  It's also worth noting that this was a male crew member.

Scott and crew do a tricky thing by keeping the alien A). off-screen (not unlike the shark from Jaws), and B). constantly changing.  In a perverse way, it's watching the life-cycle of an animal that does not exist -- egg to larva, larva to juvenile, juvenile to fully-grown adult -- it's just unfortunate that the crew happen to be there like a pack of zebra's near a lion.  And that's the horror in Alien: this is not a pyschopath with a knife, this is not a vastly intelligent being, it's just hungry.  How do you deal with that?  Of course, the audience only knows as much as the crew does.

The cast members were an interesting lot to pick up for a horror movie.  Sigourney Weaver and Veronica Cartwright were the youngest at 29 and 30.  The rest of the crew ranged from 39 (John Hurt, who looked so much older than 39) to 53 (Harry Dean Stanton), and were mostly men.  Even in 1979, this was not the usual crew for a horror movie.

Weaver's character of Ellen Ripley is definitely one for the ages.  It's not just that she's a no-nonsense woman who manages to take charge and keep a good head on her shoulders, but because she does this all without setting a label for herself.  Nowdays, there are hundred of wannabe Ellen Ripleys clogging movies and most of the miss-the-point.  Weaver was not picked for the role because of her gender or ability to titilate, but because she knew what she was doing.

A lot of movies would go on to copy Alien for the scares, but they forgot about the brains behind it.  This was probably most true with the Fox executives who transformed this from one intelligent, awesome horror-science fiction piece into yet another franchise.

James Cameron directed the 1986 sequel, Aliens, which was, for all intents-and-purposes, a good movie.  However, anyone who thinks Aliens is better than Alien really hasn't been watching movies for very long.  And I say this as someone who enjoyed Aliens, but James Cameron seemed more interested in technical aspects than actual intelligence.  The first movie was horror-science fiction, but this one was science fiction-action, with a few moments of horror. 

Aside from the multiple lifeforms (annoyingly referred to as "xenomorphs", thanks for taking the mystery out of that Jimmy), and a giant mamma alien, Aliens  was lacking in imagination.  Things become less of a threat when you can just shoot them with big-bad guns.  But is it a bad movie? FUCK. NO.  Like I said, I really liked Aliens, but it is not -- nor will it ever be -- superior to the first movie.

David Fincher directed 1992's Alien 3, and if Aliens was "lacking in imagination", Alien 3 was lacking in imagination, intelligence, and entertainment.  It's a good thing he managed to come back with Seven and Fight Club.  Poor guy.

But worst of all was 1997's Alien Resurrection.  By this point, everything was just being recycled from the first two movies.  To be honest, I don't really remember a lot from this movie except a lot of shooting; Ripley playing basketball; and Ron Perlman being Ron Perlman.  What was odd about this movie was that it was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who had directed two good French movies before this (City of Lost Children and The Delicatessen), thus displaying Hollywood's desire to destroy all good foreign talent, yet again.  Luckily, he countered a few years later with Amelie.

Oh, and Joss Whedon wrote the script.
Yet another reason why I would like to see Joss Whedon choke on my ball hair.

Alien has since gone on to comic books, video games, and all other exercises in "milking-everything-a-story-is-worth-while-missing-the-point-of-the-original-entirely".  Supposedly, there is an Alien Prequel planned, and normally I would have  no interest in this, but Ridley Scott is apparently on tap to direct this.  As with anything in this business, we shall wait and see.

Alien has been released several times over the years on DVD, and I've linked the above title to the "Special Edition" DVD that came out a few years ago.  However, if you feel like owning a franchise, there's also the 4 film/9-disc Alien: Quadrilogy box set.  Much like Warner Bros. Superman and Batman movie collections, you get two awesome movies, and two shitty movies, but a whole crap-load of extras.  I often consider buying it, but I don't have enough glasses to justify the coasters.

For me, Alien represented everything that can frighten and amaze me.  And it's all right there in the title: the unknown.


*Ender's Note: so that's it for the countdown.  Now how about you?  Do you have a Halloween list lined up?  Any favorites?  Any not-so-favorites? 

Have a Swanky Halloween. ^_~

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