Friday, July 31, 2009

Comment on "Avatar" Audio Commentary, and Sporadic Commentary on My Own

I've listened to the audio commentary for the episode "Lake Laogai," and came to this conclusion: these people are not very interesting. Maybe it was the taxing labor of a television animation production that is to blame (I know my job sucks the life out of me, preventing me from blogging as often as I'd want), but DiMartino and Konietzko come across as timid, charmless, and unenthusiastic. Maybe, too, I'm simply spoiled by the idiosyncracies of my favorite filmmakers (Scorsese, Tarantino, Miyazaki, Kubrick, Spielberg, Coens, Altman, etc.) to the point that the rather level-headed nature of the Avatar creators' talk left much to be expected. Could their general, cheerful detactment be a sign of their strong connection to true Dao? (That would explain a comment made that DiMartino seems to take all bad production news with a smile.)

To give them the benefit of the doubt (how did I know this wasn't the worst commentary?), I listened to the commentary for the succeding episode, "The Earth King." It actually got worse. Now they seem to get excited about how you can "feel the weight" of those flying rock projectiles.

I sure as Hell did not feel the weight of those projectiles because, for reasons I'll detail much later: 1) scale is not relative; 2) the tempo never, ever changes, resulting in phony looking effects animation; and 3) the animation is so jerky that the physics of the projectiles are lost within the rigid compositioning of the drawings.

There was a moment I did feel, though, and wouldn't you know the filmmakers screw that moment up, too? Sokka stupidly tries to open an enormous palace double door. Suddenly, Aang Airbends the doors inside, off their hinges, knocking Sokka inside along with them. He skids to a stop on his face.

I felt that. It was a painful feeling, and while I didn't expect blood (there will be no blood in Avatar), I did expect some sort of reaction to this pain. Why the Hell does he rub the back of his neck?

Yes, Aang's winds wammed his entire back side, and I would have believed it had Sokka at least acknowledged his injured face. But no; the writers merely provide him the line (neck rubbing abound), "A little warning next time?" Tsk, tsk.

As far as reviewing goes, a large, coherent review of Avatar is out of the question. My thoughts aren't put together nearly well enough for such an undertaking. For now on, all Avatar-related criticisms will fall under the title "Sporatic Commentary on 'Avatar' ", followed by what the topic of that day will be. This certainly fits my short-attention span-induced mind better, and it allows me to more freely and clearly express my thoughts. Eventually, my ultimate motivation for doing all this grudging will be revealed...

All screenshots courtesy of -- [Tea . the Anti-Drug]

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Delays on Continuation of "Avatar" Review

Eventually, I may start all over, rewatching the entire series, and then writing a decent overall review, but for now, more delays.

First and foremost, I am switching episodes. Instead of "The Chase," I will review "Lake Laogai," which may or may have not been the alternative episode of choice, but it is the chosen one now.

I tried to find "The Chase" at my local Blockbuster, but they didn't have it. They haven't had much since the store space was cut down by half to make room for a clothing shop. They did, however, have Death Proof (which I will be showing to my friend, a Tarantino fan, this weekend) and the Avatar disk containing "Lake Laogai," so I got those. From this day on, though, I will never go to that Blockbuster again. Now where will I get my movies?

Anyhow, this is one reason I switched episodes. The others are: 1) to rewatch the episode the way it was meant to be watched - on television (quality varies from screen to screen, but it's more authenthic this way); and 2) to listen to the Audio Commentary, so that on a limited yet personal level, I can understand what Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were aiming for when they made this one. Their clarifications might actually help me like the episode more. (It is by all means one of the better Avatar episodes that aired.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Entries for the Future

I have experienced a lot in the past two weeks during this job, and I plan to write about many of those experiences.

This weekend, I will finish up that review of the Avatar episode "The Chase" so that I can continue reviewing the overall series. I'll also explain my obsession more deeply.

I will also start a whole new series of entries entitled "Surrogate 'Fathers' " detailing the men and women who truly shape my ways of thinking and living. (I am not around my father a lot, and I despise my stepfather.)

Generally, life is getting better all the time (it can't get no worse).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And the Winner Is: "The Chase"

I'll rewatch it, analyze it, and come to my conclusions. Who knows; I'll probably like it this time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

First Week of First Job Done

From July 6 to August 14, I will be working with the Greening of Detroit, an environmental organization that hires high schoolers every summer to pitch in and help clean and preserve the natural areas of Detroit. My grandmother essentially got me the job. She took my sister and I (she didn't get it) to the first orientation, to the tree planting tryouts, to the job interview, to the employment certification office, and to the final orientation. I knew nothing about it until she told me. And, if I remember clearly, about eighty students out of maybe six hundred that tried to get the job were hired. Lucky me, and thank you, thank you, thank you, Granny!

An exciting and exhausting week. The first day merely consisted of us dividing into crew teams, and getting to know our team mates. Mine's a cool group. All African-American except for crew leader Kate, who speaks a little slang and has braided hair.

The second day, we went to a work site to perform all the activities we'd ultimately be doing for the entire six weeks of work. That included: using tools such as a pick axe, spade shovel, lumber carriers, axe-and-pry (not actually name), etc. (for some reason, there are strange names for each of them); watering trees with buckets of water from various neighborhood fire hydrants; identifying trees; pruning tree branches; and mulching new trees. Pretty straight forward. One extraordinary event of that day, though. This is the first time I'd ever had a bee land on me, and I didn't get scared. This bumblebee was on my shoulder, and I turned surprised and said, "Hello." I thought it would fly away if I ignored it, but it crawled on the back of my neck. It tickled, and I nervously laughed and squirmed, a la Linguini of Ratatouille. I got a few strange looks. Still laughing, I managed to ask, "Is there a bee on my head?" One of them looked under my work helmet, and was shocked to find a bumblebee stuck in my hair! He shooed it away and I was OK. Cool.

The third day consisted solely of tree watering. Again, straight forward with a side of the extraordinary (to me): this day, I rode the bus all the way home for the first time in my life. All by myself. I know I'm seventeen, but stuff like this fascinates me. I actually fell asleep for a moment too much, and missed my exit by a few blocks. No real biggie; I passed a Little Caesars, so I got something to eat on the way. Also, while we were working, one of the students found a lost baby bird. And put a bucket over it. Shame, shame. There was nothing we could do for the poor little thing. Kate fed it a small worm she found, but we put it in a bush for temporary protection from cats. I wonder if it's true that human contact on a baby bird causes the mother not to take the baby back.

The forth day, we went to our worksite in River Rouge Park. Man was that placed filled with mosquitos! So irritating were they that I got frustrated and couldn't really concentrate on the work. This day, I had to wake up at five in the morning and catch a bus to work. First time. Pretty cool. I'm part of the working class now!

Finally, today, being scheduled as a shorter day, we worked on the site again. Mosquitos bugged us again, but we strayed ourselves well with bug repellate, and used additional clothing to cover our skin. Bites persisted, though.

It feels good to finally have a job. Exhausting as it is, the exercise will be very helpful to my health. And we get paid to work and play games in between work, so that's pretty cool. Five more weeks to go!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What to Do with All That Space?

Last month, I posted a link onto Ghibli Blog with some CGI/traditional commercials done by Studio Ghibli. I mentioned that this was the eventual route I wanted to take as an animator/filmmaker because it gives me the freedom of a CG-film (a la Pixar, especially Ratatouille) without sacrificing the simplicity and charm of traditional animation (which, for practical and artistic reasons, is the only way I shall animate).

But if I'm going to have that three-dimensional space, I have to use it, and I have to use it well, otherwise I might as well animate like everyone else, using static painted backgrounds and heavily simulated camera movements.

A few days ago, I posted on the AniPages Discussion Forum, asking if there was any definite definition of character animation. The answer was "no," and I also got a little clarification: whatever works. Not all animation has full character animation, and many of them I really love (i.e. very early The Simpsons). These shows and films somehow are able to compensate for that lack of animation and still be good entertainment. Whatever you don't use, you must find some sort of compensation so that the storytelling is still compelling.

That's all good and well, but now what if you have an additional tool, like space in my case? It's obviously there, which means if I don't use it, I'm wasting resources. And here's the other kicker: how do I use this space in an original way? A way that cannot be done in not only other animations, but live-action as well?

I've got a lot of preparation to do before I'm really to face that issue, though. Not only am I working on this Van Heist animation, but I'm doing an additional drawing project with a classmate. Plus, I need to start doing some construction homework from John Kricfalusi again (his posts from Preston Blair's book, which I desperately need to buy, are fantastic). I've got much work to do.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Received Permission to Animate Gogo (a Van Heist character)

Pre-S.: I am postponing more additions to my Avatar: the Last Airbender review until tomorrow night. I did not have much time tonight to get my thoughts straight. In other news...

Van Heist, one of Deviant Art's most original artists, has granted me permission to [attempt to] animate his most popular original character: Gogo Bomango.

I think this drawing says all you should need to know about her on a base level. Definitely mischievous.

What Van Heist does better than most artists I view on Deviant Art is create highly dynamic poses for all of his characters. Since Gogo is such an active troublemaker, she benefits most from Van's draftsmanship.

And now I have permission to [attempt to] animate her! This should be a fun and difficult learning experience, considering I only attempted an animation once (unsuccessfully) many months ago. Now, from all I've learned from John Kricfalusi, Michael Barrier, and Mark Mayerson, among others, I think I'm ready to try again. And, as a student, it's probably best I'm working from an established character of a very talented comic artist. Thanks again, Van.

This is the comic I want to work from since it is so simple (one continuous shot) and full of solid movement. It's pretty much an entire layout:

All drawings posted the property of Van Heist.