You May Have Missed: “Whisper of the Heart”

You may have missed this Studio Ghibli film since it is approaching its twenty second anniversary in July, but you still have time to seek it out, and it is well worth the search.

The first film produced by Ghibli that was not directed by either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, it is much quieter than some of the studio’s better known films. The story focuses on fourteen year old Shizuku dealing with two big coming-of-age moments: realizing her passion/dream to write, and navigating her first love.



You May Have Missed: Megamind

If you’re like me, you missed Megamind in theaters because the trailers didn’t really sell you on the movie. If you’re really like me, you will regret that decision after watching it at home. Megamind is another unfortunate example of a brilliant film being misrepresented and shown in its worst light via marketing (I think Mean Girls is another prime example). To be fair, I’m not sure the film knows whom it is targeting. Most of the jokes, such as the classic rock songs that Megamind favors for stylish entrances, seem like they would go over most kid’s heads. I would be curious to watch the movie with a child and see what they respond to and enjoy. As it is, I think the movie was made for me and my ilk. Especially because of what I consider the most interesting aspect of the film (spoilers): Hal Stewart’s character vs. Megamind’s and the representation, and critique, of white male privilege. Yes, I just went there.



From Page to Screen: The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror is a classic in the world of horror, both on the page and on the screen. After the ordeal the Lutz family went through their story made national headlines. It drew the attention of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, now famous because of the Conjuring and Conjuring 2, also based on cases they investigated. Within a year a book had been written (Jay Anson, 1977) that was an instant national best seller, and two years later the film (dir. Stuart Rosenberg, 1979) was released which quickly became the biggest indie hit to date. James Brolin was reading the book when some clothes that were hung on his closet door and scared him witless for a moment; at that point he said he knew there was something to this story. Clearly, it is a story worth the time to both read and watch, assuming you enjoy both claustrophobia and dread.

When is the house warming?
When is the house warming?

The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book. From the grand incidents, like Jody, to the little incidents or details, like the missing money or the mirrors in the bedroom, the movie knows and respects the source material.



You May Have Missed: Defendor

You may have missed the movie Defendor. If that is the case, here is the trailer.  The short version is that Arthur (Woody Harrelson) is a simple, honest man who adopts the person of Defendor (a DIY Batman) to rid the streets of crime, especially his nemesis, Captain Industry.

The difference between Defendor and other “super” hero movies is Arthur’s character.  All heroes want to help, but most are also seeking a little bit of glory.  Arthur never asks for recognition, he is simply trying to right the wrongs he sees in the world. Throughout the film various characters try and understand his angle: his hooker friend, the crooked cop, his court appointed psychologist.  Most have trouble accepting that he wants nothing more than to do what’s right.

Defendor plays like It’s A Wonderful Life in reverse.  Instead of seeing the effect of one man’s absence, you see the impact of one man’s presence. There is a device throughout the film of voice over for a radio host and his callers to show public opinion about the state of things in the city as well as Arthur’s influence as he goes on his crusade.  Initially you hear the public’s frustration with the status quo, but also their complacency to just call in to a talk show and complain, either because it gives them a sense of doing something productive, or because they think there is nothing else they can do.



From Page to Screen: Bubba Ho-tep

This post introduces a new theme in addition to page to screen adaptations. That is: things you may have missed. In case you don’t know, Bubba Ho-tep is a movie, and a short story, where neither Elvis nor JFK are dead. They are both in a Texas rest home and have been robbed of their identities by fate and the powers that be. To make matters worse, an Egyptian mummy has started to raid the home and steal the soles of residents. Elvis and Jack are the only ones who know and therefore the only ones who can do anything about it. You can watch the trailer here, though it doesn’t do the movie justice.

He's gonna take care of business.
He’s gonna take care of business.

I think a lot of people view this movie as a silly B-movie send up, and I had a similar opinion before I watched it. Now, it might just be my lifelong affection for Bruce Campbell, but from my first viewing I was in love. Sure, it has a ridiculous premise and outlandish characters, but I have only ever seen a beautiful portrayal of aging and the struggle to maintain one’s identity and dignity. Why else would the cast feature such American icons as Elvis, JFK, and the Lone Ranger? When I found out the movie was based on an existing story I was the most excited to see more of the world.

This adaptation was interesting because I have more experience with novels being adapted into films and this was a short story. As such it means the expansion of the world as opposed to the reduction. The film allowed for more time with the characters and the introduction of the funeral home workers who pick up the bodies of residents. They, in particular, brought the “youth” perspective of the plight of the rest home residents and the lack of empathy and interest the rest of the world have for them.



From Page to Screen: Pinocchio

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I even knew Pinocchio was a children’s novel and not a fairy tale out of Grimm’s or the like. And, boy howdy, is it a doozy; thirty-six chapters of absolutely bizarre Italian children’s literature circa 1880s. Granted, the chapters fly by like in Moby Dick, with each only being about three or four pages long. The book actually reads like an epic fable with very simple moral that is omnipresent: go to school and mind your parents.

You deserve everything coming to you.

The main differences between the book and the Disney film (I’m sticking with that adaptation for brevity’s sake) consist of a larger role for Jiminy Cricket in the film, who is only referred to as the Talking Cricket in the book; a smaller role for the fairy in the film, who is the Blue Haired Fairy in the book; and the actual character of Pinocchio, who is sweet and naive in the film as opposed to an amoral ass in the book.



From Page to Screen: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner

I have had an inkling for a while to make this a thing. There are two things I love in life: books and movies. Actually, there are a lot of things I love in life, but those two are really high up on the list. I’m especially fond of considering the translation of books into movies, and now that I have a public platform I can stop bothering my friends with this all the time.

So, to begin, we’ll throw in a third thing I love: dystopia. Thus we have our discussion of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner. It recently occurred to me that I had never read Philip K. Dick’s book, which is reason enough for me to read most things. Coincidentally, just as I finished the volume the theater near my apartment started a classic sci-fi series with the opening film being Blade Runner and a discussion following the film. It was an electric dream come true!

I know that you can never get everything in the book into the movie, but I was surprised to find in the first paragraph that book Deckard has a wife. Unfortunately, she is inextricably linked to some other very big ideas that had to be omitted, like Mercerism, the religious treatment of empathy, and all the real animals. Though I understand their exclusion, it is a shame nonetheless. The religious aspects of the people left on Earth were fascinating. Empathy is the only thing that separates humans from androids and empathy, through Mercerism, is the only thing that most people have to get them through the day. The androids of the film seem to have genuine affection for each other and Roy shows Deckard mercy in his final living act, but the androids of the book are clearly lacking in this most human experience. Reading along as a book android methodically snipped the legs off a living spider to see if it could still walk with four was bad enough, I can’t imagine how John Isidore felt. Especially given the reverence of life and the importance of taking care of living animals that is present in the book.



Freckles Are Friends

Freckles are friends.
Freckles are friends.

I have been absent for a while for various reasons, so to make my re-debut I think I will be annoyed.

We hear a lot about body shaming these days. The evils of promoting thigh gaps, or sexualizing the bodies of tween girls, or how every body is bikini ready. All of this is great, we should draw attention to the problem. In fact, I read about this wonderful woman just this morning, but there is another form I would like to point out: freckle shaming.

I was clicking through the photo gallery of a French chateau that is currently being renovated and an obligatory ad popped up. It featured a gorgeous  woman with red hair and freckles as it touted a dark spot removal service as though this woman (and by extension every freckled lady) has anything to be embarrassed about with regards to her appearance.

There is nothing wrong with her.
There is nothing wrong with her.

I have freckles, and I am quite proud of them. I’ve actually pondered the merits of cosmetic facial tattoos so I can have more. Sure, that is a little extreme, but no more so than a boob or nose job. I digress, we were talking about body shaming. In case you don’t know, there is a difference between freckles and dark/sun spots. The most notable being that freckles are often hereditary and will appear no matter how much you hide from the sun. They are not something that requires treatment (though most people assume that is what freckled folks want), they are not evidence of skin damage, they are not ugly. They are simply a part of some people, like the color of their eyes, or the shape of their face, and as such are just as beautiful as every other part of them.

Thank you for your patience. I will subsequently return to books, movies, and the like.


Big Hero 6 and Green Technology

Big Hero 6 screen shot

I was immediately taken with the movie Big Hero 6 the first time I saw it.  Actually, I was completely on board from the first teaser I saw for the film.  The movie is fun, compelling, beautiful animated, and involves Alan Tudyk. But, it took several viewings for one of the most visually striking elements of San Fransokyo to really register. I’m referring to the brightly painted, floating wind turbines that hover above the city.

It turns out that, like a lot of the technology in the film, these wind turbines are based on science fact, not fiction. These turbines, referred to as BATs for Buoyant Air Turbine, are already in small scale production.  Their use in the film is both obvious, and non-intrusive; a subtle way to start normalizing the idea of renewable energy in our modern, everyday lives.



Think of the Children… A Little Less

I recently read an article about a couple being investigated for child neglect after allowing their two children to walk, unsupervised, a block to the neighborhood playground. The whole idea of it really burnt my bacon. I realize we’re living in a different time, but as a child I spent a lot of time unsupervised. My parents taught me not to get into vans with strangers and told me to be home for dinner. I rode bikes all over my town, my brother and I took the boat out to visit friends, they even left us on Snake Island one night to go camping with friends. Sure, it could have turned into Lord of the Flies, or we could have been mauled by bobcats, but we were fine.

Technology has made it so easy to police children that it has become expected. “You don’t know where your children are every second of every day? What is wrong with you?” I acknowledge that I can only comment from the perspective of the child as I do not have children of my own, but the idea of constant surveillance sounds stifling. The implied trust my parents had in me to take care of myself and the space to move through the world and judge things on my own was an important aspect of my person growth. Sure, I made some mistakes, and that is when my parents were there to guide me and help me understand my mistakes.



Free Art Friday: Spontaneous and Beautiful

For my inaugural post I thought I would discuss something that occupies a lot of my free time. It is called Free Art Friday and it is an art based scavenger hunt that I play in Atlanta.

Though it is often pointed out that artists leaving art to be discovered by people on the street is not an original concept, the range and popularity of the Free Art Friday movement is impressive. It can be traced back to this web page and was born initially in England as way to engage with the public and bring a little whimsy and joy to the world at large. As the group description says, “go on, make someone’s day!”