Category: film and animation

On the Hobby of Collecting Hobbies

One consistent problem I’ve had throughout most of my life is that my principal hobby is collecting hobbies. Almost everything is interesting to me, and my shelves are stuffed with books of literature, history, philosophy; DVDs and glorious blu-rays of film and animation; plenty of music and comics. If I had the time, I’d get into even more – theatre, fine arts, sports, cuisine, and who knows what else.

So much dabbling does have its advantages. There are few people with whom I can’t find some common interest, provided it’s not too obscure – and even then, there’s a decent chance I’ll at least be aware of what they’re talking about. Having a wide field of reference also helps when dealing with authors or directors who also have a wide field of reference, whether I’m reading through T.S. Eliot’s tangles of allusions or Tanigawa Nagaru’s off-hand references in the Haruhi novels.

It also allows me to be especially selective as far as what I read and watch. The majority of the books I read, the films I watch, the albums I listen to, and so on, are at least memorable. Of course, it’s also possible that I don’t have as much appreciation for the excellent since I don’t have as much mediocre content to compare it to, but for now I’m content with the selective approach to media.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time, so even though I have a working knowledge of so many topics, that knowledge tends to be fairly shallow. So, for example, I watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica as it came out, and though I enjoyed it, much of the discussion of the show centred on how it relates to other magical girl shows. I had nothing to say on that, because I can count the number of magical girl anime and comics I’ve experienced on one hand. I did catch the Faust references, though.

I’ve occasionally considered focusing my attention almost entirely to just one, maybe two fields, but have never seriously attempted this. As much as I respect those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of a particular subject, I find the world too fascinating to devote myself to just one aspect of it. So, I continue to run about in circles, in a mental equivalent of getting a free sample of every item at the supermarket without actually buying enough of any one thing to make a full meal.…

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Short Thoughts on Fritz Lang

There are very few directors (and no actors) whose films I’ll watch simply because of their involvement. Fritz Lang, though, seems to have joined that list.

The first film of his that caught my interest was Metropolis, several years ago and, I’ll admit, primarily due to the anime connection. I enjoyed it and even wrote a paper on it for a film class in my freshman year at university, but for whatever reason didn’t follow-up with any of his other films until recently, when I watched M and then, just yesterday, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.…

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Impressions of Interstella 5555

Me being such a fan of animation as animation, Interstella 5555 is a film I should’ve watched a long time ago. It’s compelling and there’s little else quite like it, and even the background of its production is interesting. As Daft Punk were producing their second album, Discovery, they hit on the idea of setting a story to the album’s music, and wrote up a plot outline. Being fans of Leiji Matsumoto’s anime Albator, they got in touch with him and he agreed to take on the project of creating an animated film set entirely to Discovery‘s music.


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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sword in the Stone

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: 101 Dalmatians

Besides the English setting, Sword in the Stone has another common Disney trope in that it opens with a picture of a book with some narration. This may have had some novelty value the first time they did this, and I understand that they’re trying to create a certain feeling for the story, but setting up the story with straight narration like this is very easy, and having seen it multiple times now it also feels cheap. Was it just obligatory at this point?

At least the opening narration was partly sung and rhymed this time.…

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: 101 Dalmatians

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sleeping Beauty

It’s another dog story set in London. This does allow some cameos from Lady and the Tramp side characters, but between these two films and Peter Pan, part of me wonders whether it’s just a coincidence that Disney chose to adapt three works all set in England so shortly after each other (more than that if one includes Alice in Wonderland and Sword in the Stone). Just a fondness for the setting?

Anyway, I watched 101 Dalmatians many, many times as a child, but one thing I didn’t remember is that the art style here really feels hand-drawn. Obviously every film has been produced prior to CG animation, but look at this frame, for example:


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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sleeping Beauty

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Lady and the Tramp

In some ways, Sleeping Beauty is a revised version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, since both adapt fairly simple fairy tales that don’t seem to lend themselves to a feature-length film. Disney has covered wide variety of subjects in his films so far, so it’s sometimes difficult to compare them, but these two lend themselves to comparison.

Of course, Sleeping Beauty does offer better animation than its predecessor. The backgrounds are gorgeously detailed, and the first part of the film has an unusual, flat look to it from the lack of shading, making it reminiscent of simple storybook illustrations. Snow White is also visually appealing, but the extra two decades of refinement shows in the newer work.

The main difference between them, though, is in how they attempt to fill out an eighty-five minute run time. Snow White did so mostly with music. This kept the film entertaining without trying to pad out a very simple plot, but does have some drawbacks. We know next-to-nothing about the world outside the dwarves’ cottage; all we know about the prince, for example, is that he’s handsome, has a good singing voice, and isn’t afraid to kiss a girl while she’s asleep.…

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Why I Watch Anime: An Internal Dialogue

In short, why do you watch anime?

A few reasons. One is that I enjoy the community. A few problems aside, I like exchanging thoughts with other fans on blogs, forums, and Twitter. Conventions and podcasts can be fun, too, and it also gives me something to share with my little sister.

Of course, there’s also my interest in Japanese culture generally; I’ve studied Japan’s language and history, and seek out Japanese films and literature. Primarily, though, the medium of traditional, 2D animation fascinates me, and Japan is the only nation that produces a lot of it.

What is the appeal of animation, then? If there’s a relative lack of material in that medium such that you have to go halfway around the world to find much of it, why not focus more on, say, its cousin film, which has a greater quantity and quality of work?

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Lady and the Tramp

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Peter Pan

Maybe I should’ve saved that “still better than Cinderella” line for Lady and the Tramp instead of using it with Peter Pan. After all, Peter Pan is a different kind of story; it’s an adventure story, whereas Cinderella and Lady are “watch the characters not do much of anything except [in Lady‘s case] eat spaghetti and chase a rat” stories.

Now, I’ll willingly grant that perhaps I’m not being entirely fair; perhaps it is largely my fault for being bored because there’s not enough action. As I’ve said before, my main interest in animation is animation, and with a few exceptions I don’t have much patience for works that don’t play to the strength of their medium. Besides, I’m outside the target audience for these films, and I did like Lady and the Tramp alright as a child. I certainly can’t fault the quality of the animation, and there’s nothing major wrong with the plot, it’s just not interesting to me as an adult.…

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Peter Pan

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: Alice in Wonderland

Short version: it’s better than Cinderella.

Peter Pan is, simply, far more entertaining. The variety of settings goes a long way by itself, but there’s also a good deal of action, humour, and of course music. Even the plot is, by Disney’s standards, fairly complex, with multiple points of conflict, e.g. Wendy’s opposition to her father’s wish that she grow up, Capt. Hook’s desire for revenge against Peter, Tinkerbell’s jealousy of Wendy, and a couple others. Someone unafraid of a little overanalysis could even write a short paper on how the film’s like a cheerier version of Lord of the Flies, as the Lost Boys are quite the little lot of savages constantly fighting among themselves, and chasing after every novelty that comes their way, whether that’s acting like the Indians, joining a pirate ship, or following Wendy to London (as a side note, I’d watch a movie about the Lost Boys going to London). All Capt. Hook, clearly their leader’s greatest enemy, has to do to convince them to join his crew after capturing them is have his men put together a spiffy song-and-dance routine; it was a nice routine, I’ll admit, but show a little loyalty!…

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Uncle Walt-a-thon: Alice in Wonderland

<– Uncle Walt-a-thon: Cinderella

After the insipid Cinderella, a part of me dreaded what lay in store for the rest of this series; would the rest of the classic Disney films fare as poorly as this? Luckily, these fears turned out to be premature, because Alice in Wonderland is a contender for the best film yet.

The contrast between Alice and Cinderella illustrates Disney’s strengths. No Disney film has a complex plot, so a work like Cinderella which relies entirely on storytelling, though children may enjoy it just fine (which I realise is the primary goal), will almost always bore an adult audience. However, when plot is largely set aside and the animators are free focus entirely on their own craft, as in Fantasia or Dumbo’s “Pink Elephants,” the results are almost always spectacular.…

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