June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment


Twilight: Book to Film

July 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

One week ago, amateur blog writer and hobbyist storyteller Nick Nobel locked himself in a cabin with an iPad containing both Twilight the e-book and the movie, a charger, a digital voice recorder, two boxes of Wheat Thins, a pen and a notepad. A note left on his doorstep indicated that he would spend the week submerged in Stephanie Meyer’s magnum opus and emerge on Friday with a blog post. Yesterday, the cabin landlord busted open the front door, having not received any rent beyond the first day. The only things left in the cabin where Nobel’s tape recorder and a sheet of notepad paper with the words “I AM THE EGGMAN” written all over it. What follows is a transcript of the taped recordings, the only record of Nobel’s week spent reading and watching Twilight.

Jul. 14, 7:45AM

I am about to embark on my journey into the heart of darkness. That means Twilight. I decided to take a break from my busy schedule of reading mindbogglingly awful fan-fiction, writing my way onto the FBI’s child predators database and eating pop-tarts to dive into the world of women’s masturbation material. For maximum irony, I decided to blast Arcade Fire while reading through this shit.

The landlord seemed nice enough, but he seemed to use this really weird deodorant. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of this, but it was…just weird. Like baby blood mixed with vanilla mixed with lemon tea.

Hey, you know, that might not be a bad idea for the post. Just post portions of the transcript of this thing on the internet. Maybe I’ll edit it in a couple of places to make it more interesting. I was thinking of doing a Cracked style list, something like 10 things I learned about the opposite sex by reading and watching Twilight. I guess I’ll wait and see.


I have one: All women are evil wenches that delight in sucking out your blood, soul, money, time and…oh wait, I didn’t learn that from Twilight.

[raucous laughter for the next minute or so]

I’ve – I’ve – I’ve even got an ending all worked out: Thank god most of my readers are male.

[more laughter for the next five minutes or so]


I’ve got another one: All women enjoy holding trivial bullshit over your head in the hopes of making themselves more mysterious and doing some kind of dramatic reveal later on.

I’m like halfway through chapter 1 and my first box of Wheat Thins when I stopped and realized, uh…why the fuck is she moving? Like after that short prologue thing that sets up some weird encounter thing, it goes onto Bitch Swan whining about moving from Phoenix to Forks, Washington.

I guess that leads into another one: All women like to endlessly bitch and whine about everything.

Maybe I can make that joke about not learning that from Twilight again.

[a few chuckles]


[some coughing]

[in an exaggerated cockney accent] Blimey, these are some of the worst chapter headings ever, gov’nah.

[laughter for the next minute]

Oh, man I’m getting better at this.

[no he’s not]

But, in all honesty, what the fuck is up with these chapter titles? It’s as if Stephanie Meyer just picked a word at random from each of her chapters and shoved it under the chapter number.

Man this is one slow read. I’ve been at it for the past day and I’m only on the third chapter. I’m almost through my first box of Wheat Thins. I guess not bringing a cell phone was a really bad idea.


I’m calling it a night. I’m still on Chapter 4, and jack shit happens. I think a car crash and a hospital visit became involved at some point. Bitch Swan went from being somewhat pleasantly bland to being full-on pretentious snob/whining brat McGee within the space of about a chapter.


[a loud clang in the background]

What was that?

[chair rubs against the ground, loud footsteps]


[more footsteps]

I guess that was nothing. Anyways, to be continued, tomorrow.

Jul. 15, 1:05PM

This is going to sound really, really weird, but bear with me. I just woke up and the whole cabin has been covered in drawings of dicks. There’s only one sheet of paper left in my notepad. Strangely enough, it looks like my drawings. You can tell by the stick figures in the background. My right hand is really sore too…

No body is going to believe, man. Damn. I really should have brought my cell phone. It had a camera…

So, anyways, Twilight. I’m on chapter 5 now and shit’s starting to get real!

[laughter for the next ten minutes]

But, really, I kid. The only thing that has happened since is that we get more foreshadowing of [gasp] spoiler: Edward’s a vampire. If only I didn’t know that before reading Twilight. Maybe all this build up would have been [voice cracks] interesting.


A friend of mine told me about Blogging Twilight. I clicked through the first few chapters on Instapaper, and I think that writer’s a douchebag and a cunt. Fuck him. He totally stole my idea, my idea that I came up with after reading Blogging Twilight. You know what? I’m going to internet sue him.

Yeah, that’s right, internet lawsuit! Fucking asshole. Jeez.

I guess there goes that transcript idea. Oh well. Here’s another thing I learned from Twilight: All women enjoy believing in a race of perfect men with abs forged from marble and glittering fucking skin. You know what, fair enough. I mean it wasn’t Shit-my-beef’s leading performance that pushed Transformers 1 and 2 past the billion dollar mark. But, like how I felt insulted that Shit-my-beef was supposed to be the audience surrogate in Transformers, I can’t help but feel that women should feel insulted by the fact that the whiny, bitchy, sullen, depressing, weak little shit known as Bella Swan is Twilight’s [voice cracks] audience surrogate.


It’s official. I’m out of Wheat Thins. Shit. I guess I’ll have to go out and buy some more food or eat this cardboard.

Fuck, I left my wallet in my house. Crap. Well, I’m not going anywhere now. I guess I’ll call this a night. For the record, I’m on chapter 10. Shit still ain’t going down.

Jul. 16, 9:00PM

[very out of breath]

I’ve spent the past day trying to get out of the cabin, but somebody boarded up all the doors and windows leading out of my house! I…shit!

[the recorder falls on the floor]


The only way out of this cabin is through the fireplace chimney. [huff] I’m not sure I can make it up there. I just…I don’t know what to do. I haven’t touched Twilight at all and…this just seems like a really bad idea in retrospect.

Okay. Calm yourself. You’re a trained scientist. Break it down into observations, patterns, hypothesizes. I got this.

Jul. 17, 2:14AM

Observation: The chimney is comprised of poorly laid down bricks. I might be able to use them as stepping stones to climb out through there.

Observation: The roof is high enough off the ground such that a fall would break some bones.

Observation: I have no cell phone and there’s no house within a mile radius. Shit.


Well, I might as well get back to Twilight. I left off on Chapter 11, a fascinating discussion about Bitch Swan’s favorite music and movies. Shit my britches. Speaking of which, I found some laxatives. Finally. I’d been constipated for the past

[recorder memory error]


Something strange is happening…I’m starting…no, that can’t be it. The Suburbs eerily fits the story. God I am such a hipster.


I wonder if you can turn Twilight into masturbation material, no seriously. I haven’t had any internet for the past three days and my balls are starting to itch. I’m really thirsty too for some reason. Anyways, I…well…Twilight is starting to…no, I don’t think that’s quite it.

So we got some really weird, almost softcore pornographic cuddling thing in the meadows. It’s quite…vividly written, if…nothing else.


You know what, fuck it. I’m going out and saying this: Twilight is not actually all that bad. Sure, the characters are cardboard cut outs and duller than a serrated feather, and the romance might suck too, but it’s a not unharrowing slog through teenage depression that’s quite vividly written with just enough panache in its fantasy-twist to propel the story forward-OUCH!

Christ, what the-OW!

[chair backs away from table]

[loud footsteps, water starts to pour out of the faucet]


I just got this awful, awful headache. I think it might be from staring at my iPad for too long. It needs to charge, anyways, so I’ll put it down for now. What was I talking about again?


Oh yeah, so I can totally see why girls would go for Twilight. Bitch Swan’s character is just dull and just bland enough for them to picture themselves as her, but retains enough of a spark, relative to the other characters, for them to get a confidence boost while living vicariously through Bitch Swan. And that Edward/Jacob to Megan Fox analogy…god I wish I had some Transformers 2 right now. My balls are really starting to itch. I think I might take a shower. For some weird reason, I’m not really hungry right now, even though I haven’t eaten today and yesterday.



Observation: The water is colored red.

Hypothesis: I’m losing my fucking mind.

Experimental Data: I’m probably losing my fucking mind.

Conclusion: I’m losing my fucking mind.

Oh no. What am I going to do? FUCK!

[pounding on the doors and windows]

[glass breaks]


[footsteps past the tape recorder]

[band-aid gets broken out of box]

[sound of band-aid wrapped onto wound]

[weight flops back onto chair]

I’m calling it a night. If I’m still alive and sane in the morning…

Jul. 18, 4:30AM

Observation: There is food on the table.


Observation: The food tastes good.


I’m going to go off topic there for a second, since nothing really happened in Twilight chapter 13. I took a nap during the afternoon and I saw him, my landlord. Except, he wasn’t the genteel atrociously smelling gentleman from Thursday.

He…I don’t remember all the details, but he was covered in sand. He said…something about my soul. I think he said that there’s something in my blood. If you can’t tell, it was a nightmare. I…

I wouldn’t mention this except when I woke up, I was covered in sand. Or rather, the bed sheets were covered in sand. I don’t know if he has something to do with the food…

This week cannot end soon enough.


I just realized that I only paid him for the first day. Whew. It was probably just my subconscious overreacting. I still wonder about the food though. And then there’s who the living fuck boarded up my windows and my door.


Maybe it was a prank. I definitely told Lang about my plans. He’s enough of a motherfucking jerk to pull one over on me. He’d probably laugh his ass off if I starved to death.

Mental note: ditch Lang after this is over. Fuck that smug pig.


Stephanie Meyer uses the word perfect or a similar antonym to describe Edward Cullen whenever she gets the fucking chance. You go, girl!

The romance is seriously the worst part of the story. Part of me wonders how deep the irony runs in Twilight. Maybe Meyer’s actually bashing traditional notions of marriage and gender roles by portraying them in such a boring, unflattering light.


Then again, I don’t think any of the legion of Twi-hards have gotten that, even if it was intentional. Anyways, I’ve made some progress today. Maybe I can finish the book tomorrow and get to the movie. Who knows, I might get out of here early!

Jul. 19, 2:00AM

[uncontrolled screaming for the next twenty minutes]


I saw him, the Sandman, with Edward Cullen. They were laughing at me, my small [redacted], my impotency and my man boobs. The Sandman said that I wasn’t a man. Edward started kissing him. He was glittering in the harsh desert sun.

And then, the sand rose. I tried to tread sand like I would tread water, but it didn’t work. I sank. The sand filled every cavity and orifice of my body. And then, I woke up.


Observation: I am having nightmares related to Twilight.

Observation: There is sand all over my bed, again.




Observation: I will relate this…in full. After waking up from my nightmare, I decided to take a three hour long bath. I drained the tub. I walked over to the mirror and I saw my reflection. Except, it wasn’t my reflection. I was covered in sand, from head to toe. But that’s not the scary part. I…I was shocked by my reflection. I didn’t see the Sandman, I’m going to refer to the landlord from my dreams as the Sandman from now on, but I did notice something in my eyes. A red glint.

Red means good fortune in China. It makes evil in America. It’s the color of blood.

I looked down and I didn’t see my [redacted]. Okay, so I have a pot belly that normally blocks [redacted], but I leaned forward and couldn’t see it at all! I nearly passed out. I touched my [redacted]. I didn’t feel anything. Just smooth skin. And…I think my breasts have increased in size.


Addendum: When I looked back up, my reflection was back to normal, confirming that I lost my [redacted].


Observation: I can’t find my iPad charger.

Observation: It is inconceivable that I could lose something in a cabin this small with only two rooms.

Hypothesis: Someone took it from my room.

Side note: My iPad is at 50% charge.


Observation: Someone has tacked pictures of the cabin to the walls, over my dick drawings. They are taken at various zooms…I can clearly see a pentagram formed by the trees in the surrounding region.

Hypothesis: I am losing my fucking mind and probably, in reality, huddled in a corner of my cabin, trembling from having eaten every piece of furniture in here.

Conclusion: My only hope is that the landlord busts me out for not paying the rest of the rent.


I don’t know why I like Arcade Fire anymore. They’re just the same dissonant chords over and over again, on different instruments. Their lyrics make no sense. They don’t evoke any emotion out of me anymore. I’ve stopped listening to music while reading Twilight. It makes the story go much faster now.


Finally on chapter 16.


Chapter 17.


Chapter 18.


Observation: All the Arcade Fire on my iPad has been swapped out for Lady Gaga, Switchfoot, Dashboard Confessional, Linkin Park, The Killers, Band of Horses, The Black Keys, Owl City, Damien Rice, Postal Service, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance, Anna Nalick, Lifehouse and Jack’s Mannequin. Thank god. Real music.


My [redacted] has started to itch. I went into the bathroom and saw in the mirror that I had a rash developing there. I think my breasts have [voice shifts an octave higher] gotten bigger, again.


Chapter 19. The new music has helped speed this up a lot.


Observation: Inexplicable urge to go shopping for clothes.


Chapter 20. I’m thinking…when I get out of here, I should probably order the next several books.


I see the boy that I was, flashing before my eyes.


I remember my brother. He always had my back. He was a good boy, a spitting image of my father, but with a tenderness beneath the playful anger. He was a good boy. He could read Austen and Twain just before his death. He was struck by a car, as he was reading Pride and Prejudice.


The trouble is, I don’t remember his face anymore. I don’t remember the sound of his laughter, the tone of his voice. I couldn’t tell you his favorite composer or his least favorite movie director. I don’t even remember his name. I do remember bits and pieces, like how his skin was pale and glittering in the sunlight. How his eyes could change color and opacity depending on how much blood he had imbibed.


Observation: I am describing Edward Cullen.


Observation: Edward Cullen was not my brother.


In the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time – in the good old summer time.


Chapter 21.

[the chair smacks onto the ground]

No. It can’t be.

[a gust of wind blows through the cabin]

[recorder memory error]


Observation: I will…The Sandman. He drinks blood to remain young, to stay alive. That is his game. He boarded up my windows. He feeds me. He changed me.


I have to escape. That is the only way I can make it out of here alive and with some remaining sanity.

[another gust of wind]

[recorder memory error]


The Sandman gave me a choice. I could either leave, or finish Twilight then watch the movie. Needless to say, I chose the latter.

He returned to me my charger. He warned me that my decision would be binding, that if I chose Twilight I would never leave here whole.

But, the Sandman doesn’t know about Edward and Bella’s ever lasting romance, their attraction to each other’s blandness, the charm of their condescendence. I wish I were them, both and all.


Time is an illusion. I remember the good old summer time, when Edward saved Bella and proved his love.


Bella knows so many long words. I wish I was as smart as she is.

[drops into a container, like the splatter of raindrops on pavement]


I feel…light-headed.


I’ve finally finished Twilight. Meyer really sucks at crafting interesting, or even particularly developed characters. As a result, the romance that was intended to hold the book together falls immensely flat. You’d probably get more out of rubbing two rubber ducks together than reading about Bitch Swan and Edouche Cullen’s “true love.” It’s quite a shame too, because the actual narrative part of the novel (the last 100 or so pages) was actually compelling at times. And Meyer’s ability to delve into the psyche of her main character is quite impressive. If only there was something worth sharing inside Bitch Swan’s dull brain.

It’s a double edged blade, really. If she made Bitch Swan a more interesting character, I’m sure the legion of twi-hards wouldn’t have been able to live vicariously through Swan as easily as they do with the actual narrative. It’s bland, insipid and quite regressive as far as gender politics go, but I can’t bring myself to completely and utterly hate it. Twilight deserves neither the immense scorn and backlash doled out by the internet nor the fervent, almost  religious admiration of its fans.


And now onto Catherine Hardwicke’s shit film!

[gush of liquid into a container]


I shall use the actors’ full names, i.e. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, instead of R-Patz and K-Stew because I still have a modicum of self-respect and dignity left.

[gush of liquid into a container]


Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have no

[gush of liquid into a container]


The languid pace of the novel translates poorly into

[gush of liquid into a container]


Observation: K-Stew’s brown jacket looks nice. I wonder if I can find it in a Macy’s.


Observation: R-Patz has the cutest eyes.


The beach.


Observation: The Sandman brought more food.


Observation: The food tastes good.


Observation: Light beyond light, city beyond city, stars upon stars; I search for you, my love, the one truth in the world. I search, forevermore.

My brother’s name was Mike Newton.

[recorder memory error]


Your Sony Digital Voice Recorder is running out of power. Please replace the old batteries with two new AAA batteries, and then resume recording.


Your Sony Digital Voice Recorder is running out of power. Please replace the old batteries with two new AAA batteries, and then resume recording.


Your Sony Digital Voice Recorder is running out of power. Please replace the old batteries with two new AAA batteries, and then resume recording.


Your Sony Digital Voice Recorder is running out of power. Please replace the old batteries with two new AAA batteries, and then

Subject was found two days later, lying in a ravine, starving and curled in the fetal position with his severed [redacted] in his left hand. Subject was brought to the Mental Ward of Montgomery General and has been in deep psychosis ever since. He has been observed muttering the words, “Twilight the film gets a 16. A 16. A 16.” ad nauseum.

The landlord never got his money.

Aladdin (dir. Ron Clements and John Musker)

July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

You know what saves Aladdin from my shit list? The music. Seriously, it’s some of the best ever in a Disney movie, which says a lot, mind you. I’ve never been a fan of Disney humor and Disney animated films in general (a rather demented aside: I started laughing uncontrollably the first time I saw Bambi’s mom get shot up, spoiler alert), but I’m willing to make a small exception for Aladdin.

Criticisms? Sure. I despise a lot of the characters in Aladdin, especially the good guys. Jasmine comes across as a clueless bint while Aladdin is a bit of a cunt. True, his cuntiness is rooted in interesting character motivation and unrequited (kinda) love, but it’s still aggravating. It’s really a shame because the story itself is one of the best in Disney’s lengthy canon.

Characters, when not acting like douchebags, have solid and well-conceived back-stories and motivations. The emotional sweeps offered by the tale of redemption and love far surpass the bullshit from Mulan and The Lion King (that’s sure to alienate some readers, if there still are any left). And the journey through a different culture feels less patronizing here than in Pocahontas, doubtlessly aided by several memorable musical asides and a gorgeously drawn vision of a romantic Arabic past (good luck making a movie about this kind of stuff now).

That said, the humor in this movie really fucks my nerves with sandpaper and Orc semen. That…thing at the beginning of the movie might be one of the most annoying and unfunny entries into the Disney universe. The whimsical one-liners and jokes from the Genie and cocky barbs from Aladdin and the villains don’t get much better.

Still, for a Disney movie, this is good. Really good, even. I still prefer my animated films to be foreign and traumatic, preferably about the loss of innocence – crap that sounded pretentious – but Aladdin managed to engage me for long stretches at a time, something I can’t say for most of ’em.


Tomorrow: Twilight.

My Neighbor Totoro (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

July 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Another Miyazaki film…this week is turning out to be an unofficial second Asian Cinema week. I suppose that means tomorrow I’ll have to look for a movie without a sea of yellow faces.

Stray observation here, but is it just me or do those white dancing things from the title sequence look like klan members? It wouldn’t have creeped me out as much had it not been set to the weirdest, most cheery song I’ve heard ever. Subliminal messaging, Miyazaki you sly racist Japanese dog (read that last part in City Wok guy’s voice, again)?

I seriously began wondering if I had accidentally tooned into some fucked up Japanese take on Blue’s Clues by the time the intro credits finally stopped and we got the fucking movie. If you’re boring and care about this type of shit, I watched the Streamline dub, not the Disney one, mostly of out of necessity than choice. It sounded fine, about as good as you’d expect an English dub of a quirky Japanese animated film to sound.

There’s really not a whole lot to talk about here. I could gush at length about the pretty wittle drawings, the exquisitely tender/poignant story or the overwhelmingly (probably hypocritically) nostalgic longing that pervades through most of the film. I will say that the soundtrack goes way too far. Like, way, way, way too far. In a movie that is already delicately perched between genuinely delightful and saccharine Disney funfest, an over-the-top musical accompaniment can tip the scale. But, fortunately, Miyazaki reigns in his more excessive tendencies towards the end. My Neighbor Totoro is a moving, haunting, but ultimately joyful ode to the childhood imagination, just like every other motherfucking Miyazaki movie. At least it doesn’t feature his other usual pet themes, thank god.


Tomorrow: The kind of movie that’s probably a part of most childhoods. But not mine. Yet another animated film, mostly in a vain attempt to stave off depression brought on by reading Stephanie Meyer and looking at her book sale figures. 

Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (dir. Mou Tun Fei)

July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The only frame I can show from the movie that's not drenched in blood and gore

The plan was, originally, for me to watch and write about My Neighbor Totoro today. But then I glanced at my schedule and realized that tomorrow was when I planned to start reading Twilight. Fuck. My 1:00PM self decided that leaving the delightful Japanese animation for tomorrow would be a good idea. So today I present to you a Taiwanese man’s dissertation on why the Japanese are the scum of the Earth. Suck on that Miyazaki.

So, we have Black Sun, a controversial blend of low-budget exploitation flick and incendiary historical docudrama. This one’s some kind of unofficial sequel to Mon Tun Fei’s earlier thesis on the suckitude of Japan revolving around some secret World War II biological research jaunt on Russian and Chinese prisoners. This one’s about the Rape of Nanjing, perhaps the touchiest subject still left over from World War II, and I get the feeling that hating this movie might make me a disgrace to my race.

Thankfully, Mou Tun Fei is a subtle filmmaker, recognizing the need for tact in discussing a still controversial topic that haunts the collective minds of China and Japan even to this…yeah I’m just fucking with you, he has all the restraint and tact of a 15 year-old Tyler Durden wannabe.

Black Sun follows the lives of several Nanjing residents as they get raped, stabbed, shot up, boiled, beheaded and straight up murdered by those motherfucking Japanese (read that last bit in City Wok guy’s voice). I have incredibly mixed feelings about Fei’s work here. While I do think that educating peeps about this stuff is certainly a noble endeavor, I don’t feel that Fei took the right road here. His movie reeks of blind, proud nationalism, reducing the Japanese to almost absurd over-the-top archetypes and evilness.

It’s the type of movie that seeks to enrage you, exploiting re-enacted human suffering in order to make you despise the Japanese soldiers in the movie. It’s reductive; what’s the point of showing us these atrocities if you’re not going to try and explain what went through the heads of those orchestrating the massacre? The movie’s thesis can basically be summed up as: people are capable of some really bad shit, especially those motherfucking Japanese (again, read that last bit in City Wok guy’s voice). Great. I’ll be sure to remember that the next time I’m stuck in an occupied, war-torn city.

And, really, whether or not you find Fei’s point to be of value or simply exploitative colors your entire perception of his film. It’s a quite shocking and effective movie (admittedly only in the visceral sense mentioned above). Fei successfully hides the low-budget-ness of his production by smartly mixing in historical footage whenever he doesn’t have enough money to recreate a big set piece. There’s a palpable sense of authenticity here, despite some wooden performances and the occasionally shit make-up.

I guess I’m trying to say that Fei is certainly not an untalented filmmaker. That last scene from the film probably ranks as the most gut-wrenching, heartbreaking thing ever committed to film. It’s just that Fei’s motivation in vividly recreating these atrocities seems amiss. I’m not sure if he intended this piece as a film to rile up nationalist hatred against those motherfucking Japanese (yeah, in City Wok guy’s voice again) or as a reminder of the immense evil found in men.

If he was going for the latter, then I’m not so sure how success a job he did here. Obviously, I don’t doubt that this shit did actually happen in Nanjing, but I do find it questionable that Fei only strives to do a surface level telling of the tale. Not all films have to be deep, introspective psychological probes of the human soul, but films about something as volatile and as controversial as the Rape of Nanjing probably should.



Tomorrow: Finally, fucking My Neighbor Totoro.

Spirited Away (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

July 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Okay, so this doesn't really have anything to do with Spirited Away, but I couldn't resist raping some childhoods. If you've seen both films (one of them's tomorrow's movie), consider your memories of Tortoro raped.

Somewhere, in the dark nether regions of my withered, blackened and atrophied heart, I was touched and moved by Spirited Away. Of course, somewhere else in the dark, etc of my withered, etc heart, I believe I am Melvin Gerkins, a 53 year old Papua New Guinean otaku who secretly believes he’s a robot unicorn sent by Lord Humungous to destroy the remaining horcruxes on Earth.

Christ, that sounded a lot more psychotic written out than in my head. Anyways, the point I’m laboriously driving at is that Spirited Away is a heartwrenching, at times, movie that holds up well as a whole. It’s like Where the Wild Things Are by way of Alice in Wonderland (not the Tim Burton one), but kookier and more fucked up than either.

I’m beating around the bush here. How is the bloody overpraised animated kiddie film? Pretty darn good. I guess it deserves the hype?

Personally, I’ve never liked Pixar’s brand of animation (Ratatouille aside). Miyazaki’s lovingly hand-drawn animation has always been more visually appealing to me than Pixar’s quasi-hyper-realistic computer animated Oscar-bait. Admittedly, many of my criticisms about Pixar (i.e. those motherfuckers reuse themes and story-lines like crazy, man) can also apply to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (how many fucking Miyazaki movies are about the generational divide in Japan and cultural alienation of youth?). But, and feel free for calling me out here as being a hoity-toity hypocritical double-standard Asian douchebag, I’ve always had less of a problem with Miyazaki’s repetitiveness than Pixar’s, mostly because of the superlative art direction.

As far as these things go, Kiki’s Delivery Service remains my favorite Miyazaki film, because of a potent mix of nostalgia and fondness for bitches on broomsticks, while Grave of the Fireflies is still my favorite Studio Ghibli flick. Spirited Away errs in that its plot is incredibly convoluted and batshit insane, even relative to Miyazaki’s other work, perhaps with the exception of My Neighbor Totoro which I have yet to see. You could make the argument that it’s part of the young main character’s messy imagination on overdrive, but I’d like to point out that that doesn’t excuse the plot for being messy, it just makes the movie pretentious.


Tomorrow: Read the fucking caption

Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Revenge of the Dumbledore Meets the Return of the Seven Trolls of the Forbidden Forest

July 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Consider this an addendum to Friday’s thang, if that’ll make you hate me less for raining on your parade.

I will say this, to Harry Potter 7 Part 2’s credit: it is, by far, the most cinematic adaptation in the franchise. What do I mean by that? I mean that it works like a conventional movie (minutia about the world and borderline nonsensical plot aside). Other movies have largely followed this formula: introduce new element of the world and/or new threat to main characters, slog through exposition and classes at Hogwarts, re-encounter big problem, happy ending. The last one was a dreary loose-ends tying slog through picturesque environs. This movie has a very clear through-line and a palpable escalation of tension, stakes and suspense. Which is to say that writer Steve Kloves must be congratulated for turning in the best script for the series to date, smartly trimming excess details in Rowling’s prose while adding that extra cinematic punch to numerous sequences, most notably that final boss fight with Voldemort.

Does that make this the best film of the series? Ughhhhhnugasdgh… I still like Yates’ stylistic decisions for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, e.g. the CGI elements that blend seamlessly into the sets, the mix of crazy Wizarding garb and normal, quasi-modern clothing. Some of the set pieces are gorgeously designed and lovingly shot and rendered, most notably any sequence involving Hogwarts getting blown the tits up. But, frankly, the movie just takes itself way too bloody seriously, a common criticism I have with all of Yates’ adaptations and Rowling’s last books. While we’ve heard on and on about how Harry’s “the chosen one” and how the world’s on his shoulders, there’s a huge disconnect between that and the actual story of the movie. Gravity added by Yates’ palette, the cast’s dead-serious line delivery and Voldemort’s surrealistically comedic “bad-guy” routine almost verge on parody when, at most, the only stakes on screen are a boarding school filled with children. I almost cracked up during the opening scene where John Hurt and Daniel Radcliffe exchange magic-gibberish as if they’re taking about spread of AIDS in Africa or bowel cancer in the world’s most dead-pan tone. Part of me wonders how much piss Yates is actually taking, and whether or not this almost fetishistic devotion to gravity and upping the ante is some kind of hipster-ironic take on Rowling’s work.

That’s not to suggest that the movie’s not funny. Oh, no. You, the audience, will laugh whenever the movie tells you to, you little bitch.  These moments do serve to contrast the other dour sequences of the film quite well, but they never tap in the wit and charm that made Rowling’s series so appealing in the first place, namely the whole MAGIC IN A MODERN CONTEXT jaunt.

To me, Alfonso Cuaron got that better than any of the other directors and, even, Rowling herself. It’s an admirable desire to ground your storytelling in reality and character drama as much as possible, but that wish seems to run counter to the whole reason why I read Harry Potter in the first place. What I’m getting at is that all this bullshit dark, mature crap that gets brandied about when discussing Harry Potter aren’t really positives. It’s neat that Rowling has ambition, great in fact. But she’s not a good enough writer to rise above Harry Potter’s pulpy-escapism trappings and writing dark, edgy character studies that rips off other fantasy novels does not make for the best time. There’s a balance to be struck between giddy HOLY SHIT MAGIC and deep character development, one that I think Rowling hasn’t hit since Goblet of Fire and that the movies haven’t hit since Prisoner of Azkaban.

To its credit, Harry Potter 7 Part 2 is very handsomely well made. While I won’t go far as to praise Yates’ storytelling ability, his work as a visualist is praise worthy.  I actually have a similar criticism here that I had with Transformers 3 in that the whole tearing down Hogwarts shit was more compelling than Harry and best friends’ character arcs (at least visually). Here, it’s less of a criticism than in T3 in that the stuff with Potter and gang actually push the story forward. Also, while watching this on 15/70mm IMAX, you could tell the times where Yates and gang switch film stock, which can get a bit distracting at times.

At times, some of the beats and moments feel coldly engineered and calculated to either coax a nostalgia trip, a laugh or emotion out of you. It’s at its most noticable whenever Alexandre Desplat’s score gives way to John Williams’ theme going full blast. I hated the movie a little bit whenever that happened, but, to its immense credit, I also hated myself a bit for being genuinely moved by that touch.