Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Two Best Definitions of Empathy

"Do unto others as you would have done to yourself."

- Golden Rule

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

- John Lennon

Internet's Back Up!

So I can start posting again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Re-Watching "Sailor Moon"

This summer, and among other anime old and new, I will be revisiting an oldie classic I haven't seen since childhood. Sailor Moon, in addition to being my first anime (dubbed, of course), she was also my first cartoon crush, right up there with Ariel of The Little Mermaid. I have wonderful memories of being babysitted by my older cousins and bugging them everyday to turn to Sailor Moon. She was so beautiful and majestic, conquering evil everytime, and still being a big crybaby (just like me!).

I loved the transformation sequences above all else. Back in the days of VHS, I was absolutely obsessed with the "pause" button, stopping every bit of animation or action I saw on my tapes, rewinding them, and then stepping through every single frame, studying how the actions occurred and, especially, how the transformations were possible. (My all-time favorite: the genie from Aladdin singing "Friend Like Me" while shapeshifting every second or so.) If only I had Sailor Moon on video, because those transformation sequences fixated me forever. How did those band-aids turn into a swimsuit, gloves, boots, and, finally, a princess dress?

After searching via google, I found a great website with the episodes in Japanese with English subtitles. I'd watched the English dub, but excepting Susan Roman (Sailor Jupiter), I don't distinctly remember any of the performancing. The only reason Roman stuck out was because of my obsessive with husky girl voices, an obsession that continues today (I've got my eye on you, Cricket Leigh). Sailor Moon, if I remember well, sounded like a stuck-up, conceited chick. Not cool, particularly since the innocence of the Japanese voice actress rings true to her personality. So far, I've watched the first two episodes. Not as glorious as I remember, and actually kind of corny. And I love it!

P.S. Now that I recall, Sailor Jupiter was my favorite Sailor Scout (and thus my real crush). I liked her voice, her hair, and, in one episode, after a boy tries to lift her in the air (failing), she succeeds in lifting him! Intimidating? Yes. And yet, even at that age, my kind of girl.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Must Be Doing Something Right...

...because a friend of mine just told me I was a good friend.

I was on the phone with my friend Chris, who was actually very happy to hear from me because he'd lost my number, and was looking all over for it yesterday. We attempted to get together on two occasions to see a movie (the first was Up, which we've both seen and loved now, and the second was Spirited Away, which he missed), but failed to get anything going. Both we had a great conversation.

With Chris, the conversations are highly non-linear and tangential, so the conversation went from Up, to our surprise at the good reception of The Hangover (which neither of us has seen), to killing Spielberg for remaking Oldboy, to, "TCM is having a semi-Kubrick and Fellini marathon soon," to why he still hasn't gotten passed part one of The Decalogue, to how it compares to Grave of the Fireflies and Schindler's List, and finally, when can we hang out again?

It was his attempt to describe his reaction to The Decalogue that held the most significance to our phone call. He couldn't describe it at all. He tried and failed, trying hard to find words for a feeling he couldn't describe. It was very eerie listening to him do this, because it made me want to see the film that much more. This film really changed his view on life like none before it. He couldn't describe it, so I must experience (one day) for myself.

And for listening to his attempt to find those non-existent words, he said I was a good friend. Apparently, not many of his other friends would tolerate his ramblings. That made me feel good. I must be on the right track...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Funny "Fail" Video

Animal Identification Fail

I was going to post something meaningful (depending on if you think Sailor Moon is meaningful), but I had to wash dishes, which ate up a lot of time. For the Thursday deadline, here's this.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Looking to the Future as an Animator

While browsing through the archives of the Ghibli Blog, I came across a video Daniel posted in June 2007: a montage of food commercials made by Studio Ghibli. Same product, same music, same animation technique. It's the latter that truly stands out, for these ads featured a fantastic mixture of traditionally animated characters within a CG, but painterly environment. The combination was so seamless and subtle, maybe even more so then the exhilarating ballroom dance in Beauty and the Beast. If and when I ever become a good enough animator, this is definitely the direction I want my works to go.

It's strange to think about, but for all my love of Pixar's films, I don't think I'd ever want to make a completely CG movie. I love the possibilities with computers, which is why I'd never dismiss them outright (besides, in these days of digital ink-and-paint and compositioning, a computer is almost mandated in traditional animation), but there are a few reasons I don't think I would do. For one, none of the stories I want to do benefit at all from CG. So many of them are about ordinary people and their interactions with each other on generally mundane circumstances. Why use computer processing for talking heads? Quite a few of my ideas are knock-offs on my favorite traditional animations anyway. Another reason may be the availability of the materials needed to make an animation. My resources range from sketch pencils to paper. My home scanner doesn't work, I don't have Photoshop or GIMP (among others), etc. I might as well just learn to be a traditional animator and make traditional animations. I could probably later get into computer animation. (This point is pretty silly, actually; how many seventeen-year-old aspiring computer animators do have available, affordable resources to practice their craft?)

I don't know why, but to me, a CG film with all traditionally animated characters is so much more exciting than pure traditional or pure CG, maybe because it isn't seen too much. That can be attributed to the fact that mixing the two, and making it work, is extremely difficult. I've seen the combination disintegrate many times, most recently in Avatar: the Last Airbender. What should have been the greatest long take in the series failed because the separate components ran on different frame rates. You can not have the background move 24fps while the aircrafts trail off at 12fps, especially when said aircrafts were moving at 24fps a few shots ago. It's distracting, it calls attention to its mechanics. Maybe budget was a problem, so they cut it in half by bisecting the frame rate. A bad move that totally took away from the impact of the shot. Now, done well (e.g. Beauty and the Beast and the escape from the lava in Aladdin), it's breaktaking.

I'm getting way too ahead of myself. Before I can even think about trying to combine CG with hand drawing, I have to learn how to hand draw in the first place.

Lately, I've been working on drawing other artists' characters. One of these sets of characters (from the game Persona 3) will be used in a music slide show I'm working on with a friend. Then, I'm simply drawing some characters in my *snort* style. Thanks to John Kricfalusi, I've grown incredibly hostile toward drawing styles that aren't constructed with three dimensions in mind. I tried to find the heirarchy of the anime character Yoko Littner, and came out wondering, "Who draws this shit?!" The character designs of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Teen Titans, which I used to absolutely adore, are also pretty flat. Maybe because they were television, full three-dimensionality was out of the question. (Avatar was at least a major step up design-wise from Teen Titans.)

Speaking of John K. and getting ahead of myself, that's what I really should be doing: working on my construction. I printed out the first fifteen pages of Preston Blair's brilliant animation book and have yet to do my homework.

Must. Stop. Procrastinating.

It certainly doesn't help at all that I lack passion for anything. Martin Scorsese, in his master class at Cannes, says you must be passionate, you must be crazy and obsessive if you want to make a film, let alone a great one. I have lots to work on this summer (also including jazz piano practice, writing, reading, wu-wei, this blog, friends, movies, etc., etc., etc...).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How I was "Spirited Away" at the Movies!

The number of films I know I must see on the big screen is pretty long. Sitting on top of the list lies 2001: A Space Odyssey, still the most meditative, mind-blowing film I've ever seen; hell, all of Stanley Kubrick's films; Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, my favorite Martin Scorsese pictures; Akira is a must; Hayao Miyazaki's films are musts.

Most of the films I've listed I've already seen. The films I have seen have taught me that that means "bull shit." Let me make this easy for myself: any classic I haven't seen must be savored on screen (in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan, Lawrence of Arabia will be showing in August at the Redford Theater!).

As of now, of all the classics, I have only seen Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and, most recently last Saturday, Spirited Away. The first two I saw at the Redford, the last at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan. Aw well.

If that sounds pessimistic, I don't intend it to. I will say, though, that out of all of these cinematic experiences, Spirited Away was the best!

This must be true of all films, but especially this one: Spirited Away never looked better than one the big screen. It was great to do away with the black widescreen bars that occur on DVDs and just experience the moving painting. The surround sound was incredible: musical cues and other sound effects unheard before were loud and clear this time. Miyazaki really knows how to develop an ambience. Water, nature, pigs, trains, scraping of brushes on the floors and walls, etc., all hear. The imagery, having been magnified about a hundred times, made so many things more visible: in the scene when Chihiro first discovers the huge body of water after trying to escape (having seen her parents turned into pigs), she looks across to a beautifully lit city. Unbenowned to this DVD viewer, they are barely visible people walking around in that city. Who'd have thought?

More importantly than these selfish, technical details is the main event of any film experience: watching it with an audience. Everyone laughed, gasped, and cheered in all the right places...and then some odd spots that I thought were dramatic that garnished a lot of laughs. We were all in this together. A lot of us were in it together again. The first time I'd seen the scene of Chihiro going down the stairs, I jumped out of my seat. Having seen it about twenty times now, it affected me less. And then I saw again on the big screen. My friend and I all jumped. The power of film, man. The power of film...

And the film as a whole affected me differently when seeing it on that screen. Chihiro's growth meant more to me. She learned so much. (My friend pointed out, half-jokingly, that Chihiro learned how to run: initially, she was a wimpy, "girly" skipper; when Haku was in danger, she became Jesse Owens. Not a bad point, actually!) And those scenes with No-Face hit a little too close to home. When Chihiro rejected his offering of "gold" the first time, leaving him to wonder what he'd done wrong, I wanted to cry.

Of all the characters in the film, No-Face is the one I most resemble: no real personality, simply doing what he'd think others would want from him (the soap tokens for Chihiro, the gold for the workers) and using the voices of those he swallowed; lonely as Hell; looking for a purpose in life, etc. Thankfully, he finds his purpose in helping Zaniba with her activities.

So I thoroughly enjoyed the film (again, for the first time, for the last time). I don't really plan on watching this film on DVD again unless it's on a big HD television and/or accompanied by Andrew Osmond's companion book (which I've yet to get, but which Michael Barrier highly recommends). The experience was too great to cheapen. Now I really can't wait for Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. If a Miyazaki film I'd already seen was this new, this breathtaking, and this emotional on the big screen, then an all-new feature first seen in theaters is going to be exhilarating! Until next time, Miyazaki-sensei...

This last screenshot, next to No-Face's rejection, is my favorite moment in the film. Chihiro's finally grown up. She doesn't ever look back when she waves good-bye. She's looking to the future. In the theater, I instinctively waved as she went away.

Au revoir, my Stargirl. I hope we meet again soon...

All screenshots courtesy of, distorted by me to what I think is close enough to the original widescreen ratio.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

School is Over!

Hallelujah! Now I can actually devote time to the things I actually care about: writing, drawing, movies, and hanging out with friends, among other things.

Oh! And blogging.

However, I failed the final exam for Latin pretty badly. I think I may have summer school, which is unfortunately since I just got a summer job with the Greening of Detroit (they plant trees). Well, my fingers are crossed, my prayers are out, and hopefully God will have mercy on me. I've learned my lesson.

Anyway, summer is finally here. Now I can practice doing Nothing. I shall find the Tao!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cannot Blog Tonight: Catching Up on Sleep

Wow. That was easy.

I can't make this a habit, but it's important I get more sleep. After school, I'll have way more time to blog.