The king of elfland’s daughter’s friend

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.

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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).

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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.

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Cool things to look at

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.

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Gurgi, no!

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.

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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.

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Actually reviewing serious literature

I have a Ghost in the Shell post almost ready to go, but this book annoyed me so much that I have to get it out of my system first.

So I’ve long heard Cormac McCarthy described as one of America’s greatest living novelists, and Blood Meridian as his masterpiece. My recent rewatch of No Country For Old Men (adapted from one of his novels) finally made me curious enough to pick it up.

The results were very…..ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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Future Fairyland – Page 1 (Chapter 1)

Page one of my comic, Future Fairyland, is now up at my art blog. More pages will go up there in the days to come, so please do follow me at Purple Dragon Studios.

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At long last, my comic is starting to materialize. If all goes according to plan, I should be able to post one page per day until the first chapter is complete, after which it’ll go on hiatus until the second chapter is ready.

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More Tolkien nerdery

I finished my reread of The Lord of the Rings some time ago, and capped it off with The Silmarillion. And I also eventually finished going through the Peter Jackson trilogy, of which I’m sad to say that my opinion hasn’t changed much: it is impressive and enjoyable on the level of sheer spectacle, and for raising the bar in how the fantasy genre is portrayed on screen. But as an adaptation it misses the spirit of Tolkien for the letter, and in general I find it much more difficult to care about this version of the characters.

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Sailing to Byzantium

Here’s a forgotten favourite if there ever was one. I first saw the Coen Bros’ No Country For Old Men back when it was new over a decade(!) ago, thought it was the best thing they ever did, and then somehow never saw it again until now. Time has only enhanced my opinion of it: it’s one of the most perfectly constructed movies to come out during my lifetime.

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