As my previous post suggested, I’ve been doing a bit of soul-searching lately, having arrived at a realization that has thrown me off balance these past few days. In essence: although I believe in what the Church teaches viz-a-viz homosexuality* and what it implies for my own kinda really gay proclivities, I am still nowhere near to being at peace with it. But I managed to trick myself into thinking that I had at least achieved that much.
Now I have to actually deal with this.
This blog used to be a lot more personal, and a lot more willing to look at my whole Cathlolic schtick from a more personal angle. In recent years I’ve retreated from that. It’s certainly made this blog a less awkward and more comfortable place, though I have at times felt the absence.
Last summer, I set myself a goal of producing fifty pages of comics within a year (from September to September) so that I could test the waters of the medium. And also, I hoped, escape the desperation I felt myself sinking into as the end of my academic career left me without a sense of purpose.
I might as well begin with the controversial: movies have a bad track record in dealing earnestly with the spiritual, not just because of the usual cultural pressures, but because the medium itself is at a bit of a disadvantage. Movies, by their nature, envelop and dominate an essentially passive audience; it foists a very concrete experience on you in a manner that doesn’t invite much engagement. During a movie, you have no aesthetic “I”, only the “I” of the camera. Say what you will about the aesthetic merits of any given Bible movie, but you ultimately cannot contemplate a cinematic depiction of the Crucifixion in the way that you can, say, a painted one.
When I think of the movies that strike me as the most spiritual, they tend to be the ones that break the most with conventional cinematic language to approximate an effect closer to that of the fine arts or music or whathaveyou – in this case, Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life, in a review that has been a long time coming.
I’ve been making a greater effort to reconnect with my weeb roots lately, and it occurs to me that anime is one medium that seems to be doing a good job of retaining its quality – if not getting better.
This has less to do with the intrinsic qualities of anime than it does with economics, I think. Movies and video games, for instance, have an ever-increasing amount of money riding on them, and so you see increasingly safe bets being made, with a lot of the same properties being rehashed and a greater push towards homogenization in general. There’s greater quality control, but much less of a chance of discovering something new that just takes you completely off guard.
Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ is a movie which I loved as a teenager, but which I’ve ignored for much of my adulthood. It’s one of those things which I almost unconsciously drifted towards a negative perception of, coming to view it as a visually inventive but ultimately vapid exercise in style: the sort of movie that would wow a kid who was just discovering Art for the first time, but which doesn’t hold up to any real scrutiny. That Fellini’s other movies were a tad disappointing only cemented 8 ½ as a momentary affair.
Actually rewatching it all these years proves that I was actually an idiot, and that I still really love it. I’d almost call it my surprise secret favourite movie, but I feel inclined to give it a more meaningful label: 8 1/2 is a movie which sums up everything I like about movies (well, this and Jurassic Park, let’s say).
I have another post up at Beneath The Tangles, talking about the season of Lent and Haruhi Suzumiya (as you do).
Chapter 1 of my comic, Future Fairyland, is now completely online. So it’s possible to read the whole thing in one go now. I already find some of its rough edges a tad cringe-worthy, but I have to keep in mind that it only represents a first attempt at drawing comics. And besides, I do want people to tune in for the next chapter, so do take a look.
I geek out about movies a lot here. But I’ve noticed that the stuff that is most salient for me as a budding comic book artist – the cinematography and related visual aspects, tend to get a sentence or paragraph at most; perhaps because I’m not that great at describing these things without just gesturing towards the image itself.
Let’s try to remedy that with one of my all-time favourite movies, David Lynch’s Inland Empire. Not that I have any particular competence in talking about photography,but whatever.
Aside from owning it in a format where I can easily take screenshots, it has the “advantage” of being shot on a crappy handheld Sony digital camera. So it has a very, uh, unique aesthetic that makes deliberate use of the camera’s difficulty of focusing on more than one object at a time, and the weird smeary textures you get to help create the movie’s dreamlike ambience. It’s a visually striking movie, but not the “man, this frame could have been a painting” sort, so I at least avoid defaulting to that description.
There isn’t even a director of photography – just a handful of camera operators.
I’ve been carried a little too far afield in my talk of classic Japanese arthouse cinema and contemporary American literature, so let’s change the topic to something a little more germane to the blog: something bad that Disney animation studios did in the 80s. By which I mean The Black Cauldron, a movie which was supposed to be a prestige project, but very quickly devolved into one of those long, soul-crushing production hells that deflate themselves into movie theaters before getting swept under the rug. There’s a not unlikely chance that you, the person reading this post, had no idea this movie existed until now.
It’s interesting when one thing unexpectedly becomes an inroad to something completely different. So it is that David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return and The Straight Story became a sort of key to Yasujiro Ozu. The last time I saw his movie, Tokyo Story, about a decade ago, it was something to be admired; now I find it’s something to be loved.