Top ten weeb shows

I’ve made too many top ten movies and games posts, but have never even made a proper top ten anime post. So it’s time to start mining this particular avenue of clickbait substituting for substantial content.

I don’t think my taste in anime is too esoteric or contrarian, so don’t expect too many surprises. For the sake of simplicity I’m not distinguishing OAV series from actual TV shows.

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I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I’m a bit annoyed that the best sci-fi movie, and indeed, the best movie since Mad Max: Fury Road is yet another sequel. On the other hand, Blade Runner 2049 is so good that it doesn’t really matter. Indeed it’s something almost of a necessary evil here, in that there’s no way a big budget sci-fi flick this challenging would have gotten greenlit unless it already belonged to an IP that could conceivably be bankable in this age of overindulgent nostalgia.

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The gum you like isn’t coming back in style

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me resembles Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in some regards. Both movies are movie spinoffs of a TV show that in some superficial way seem to betray their respective shows (Khan takes a piece of sci-fi utopianism and turns it into a naval war film, while Fire Walk With Me takes some soap opera vaudeville and turns it into nightmarish surrealism). Both movies could conceivably work fine as a standalone piece, although they’re more emotionally resonant if you’re familiar with the show. Both movies are extremely excellent.

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Pretentious movie post don’t read

Even if this year has been mediocre in terms of movies actually released in 2017, it has been phenomenal in terms of stuff I’ve been introduced to for the first time, with Inland Empire, Suspiria and now The Thin Red Line establishing themselves as favourites. The last one in particular is the most surpsising, given that it’s a Terrence Malick flick, and a war flick.

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The Return of the Return of Samus

One complaint about movies that you used to hear a lot was “it looks like a video game.” But it strikes me that the current movie industry has become more like the video games industry in a more fundamental aspect: its increasingly iterative nature. Everything is franchise-dominated, with sequels and remakes being cranked out at a breakneck pace.

This has more or less been the norm for video games, but it’s a norm that is more suited for that particular medium: games are, among other things, software and hence are very beholden to technical development and breakthroughs in programming knowhow. Ocarina of Time is really just a rehash of A Link to the Past, but the difference in technology that separates them makes them fundamentally different experiences. Movies, on the other hand, haven’t undergone a substantial change in form since the development of synchronized sound. Thus when The Force Awakens rehashed a forty year old movie, the intent and effect was one of nostalgic reminiscence rather than the creation of something new.

It’s rare to find a movie where it can justifiably be said that remaking it with contemporary technology would make it better. But a game, in its iterative nature, is more open to the possibility of improvement (or at least variation). All this is a way of underlining something which is often overlooked while comparing the two media while giving a sly dig at the movie industry while providing a segue into talking about how Metroid: Samus Returns can be one of the best, freshest games of the year despite being a remake.

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Once more, with style

I’ve been paying attention to the usual suspects who crop up on the various top ten movie lists I’ve posted here. And indeed the very silly amount of times I’ve done so has proven to be something of a boon in that the regularities say something about the salient features of the medium for me.

Movies are supposed to be “immersive.” You’re not supposed to be conscious of the fact that you’re watching a movie while you’re watching one – you’re supposed to be totally involved, with the sound and image in a theatrical setting completely dominating your field of view and aural sense of place. Usually, when you do become self-conscious during a movie, it’s because something has gone wrong: the acting is bad, or the special effects are off; something has happened to break the illusion. But a lot of the movies that pop up on my lists are movies that in some manner call attention to their very artifice, to the fact that they have a ‘surface’, so to speak.

Which goes a good way to explaining why, say, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch movies annoy a lot of people: they are in some respects actually bad movies, at least in terms of what I’ve described above. The experience is a little bit like reading a book or looking at a painting. You can, of course, aim for extreme realism in a painting, but the viewer is always aware of the frame and canvas, and needs to actively bring herself to imaginitively engage with it.

I wonder how far this notion can be stretched: you could make the case that the reason I prefer traditional 2D to 3D animation is how 2D much more explicitly has a surface, and that the reason why three strip Technicolor is my favourite kind of colour is because it seems more painted than real.

My theory isn’t too surprising, given how I typically prefer more stylized forms of art, but I guess it’s kinda neat to arrive at this conclusion in a more inductive manner.

Anyway, let’s do this.

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Talkin’ about French comics


Blending in with the locals

Of course, just when I kvetch about having difficulty finding what I want in comics, I immediately get smacked in the face by something amazing: The Incal. I’m still early on in the graphic novel, but so far it’s making a serious bid for being an immediate favourite. It’s a French comic which ran through the 80s, and along with Valerian it’s making a strong case for the Gallic contribution to sequential art.

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Talkin’ about comics

One of things fueling my desire to try my hand at comics is how they annoy me. I don’t mean the medium itself, but rather how much harder it is, compared to other media, for me to find those works that really feel tailor-made for me. Tolkien or some other author said that he started writing because no one else was writing the kind of books he wanted to read, and I understand the sentiment. “Produce the content you want to see” is a motivator in and of itself.

But anyhow, these are some comics I’ve really enjoyed.

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The Spiriting Away of JoshW — Beneath the Tangles

A couple years ago I started writing about Miyazaki movies here. Now I’ve gotten around to Spirited away at Beneath the Tangles.

Forgive me for having completely obvious taste, but Spirited Away is my favourite anime movie. More than that, it’s in the running for my favourite movie of all time, and if I had to pick just one animated flick that you absolutely had to watch, there’s a good chance I’d choose it over all those…

via The Spiriting Away of JoshW — Beneath the Tangles

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Writing a review or analysis of Suspiria feels almost like an effort in futility, not just because of how much has already been published about it within horror and cult movie circles, but also (and primarily) because of how it feels designed to baffle the attempt to describe the peculiar experience of watching it. Thus it has taken considerable time and effort to untie my tongue here, but at least the delay has had the benefit of making this a seasonally appropriate post.

Anyway, I’ve long, long heard people talk about Dario Argento’s little 1977 horror flick, usually in reference to all the buckets of blood that get spilled. But no one bothered to tell me that it was one of the last films to be made in three-strip Technicolor process, that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was in particular studied when it came to implementing the colour design, and that it was set at a ballet academy. I would have been all over this thing a decade ago, had I known. Priorities, people!

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