“Grown-up” Chinese Jedi Elsa

Holy moly … CellSpex has the best, most eloquent (scathing) review of Disney’s live-action Mulan. Period. It starts with a hilariously satirical summary and goes on to dissect the maelstrom of bad decisions the film displays with its story adaptation (both from the folk tale as well as the Disney animated movie), characters, themes, style and production. I agree with each and every point.

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Dracula Untold, For A Good Reason

I like good stories and came across Dracula Untold. I didn’t like it very much. Maybe it’s because of my heightened sensitivity for anti-islamic racism. Or maybe it’s because the main theme of the movie seems to be that: it’s OK to join the forces of evil as long as your intention is to protect your family and your country … if that makes sense to you, it doesn’t to me.

They try to accomplish this by twisting the historic context both with regards to the time and place, the persons involved and in the loyalties they had. Also they try to convey that Evil is not something despicable in itself, but a tool to be used by the powers in charge.

I assume you’ve seen the movies and can relate tho following facts to the plot and the characters.

My first pain point are the movie’s extremely distorted “Vlad” and “Mehmet” figures. They are created from greatly mixing Vlad II

… and Vlad III.

  • was called the “Prince of Wallachia”
  • who was later called the “Impaler”
  • grew up as a political captive under the Ottomans (together with his brother Radu)
  • Radu had a friendship with Mehmet II, not Vlad
  • had a personal hatred for Radu and Mehmet
  • known for The Night Attack
  • he is often characterized as a tyrant who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing his enemies

And by greatly mixing Murad II

  • actually ruling in 1442
  • tried to establish Ottoman-friendly rulers in Wallachia

… and Mehmet II.

My second and more general pain point are the movie’s morals which are kind of strange to say the least. :/ Among those seem to be:

  • pacting with the devil is OK, as long as it’s against Muslims
  • choosing to become a monster is alright, as long as you can protect your family and your country
  • you can do whatever you like to your enemies (especially using torture or excessively cruel ways of killing), as long as you’re good-looking
  • you can both be a pious Christian and a henchman of the Devil
  • being “the son of the devil” is a source of pride
  • revenge is good
  • prominent characters in western literature must be made to fight Muslims
  • Muslims must be defeated, even if you have rewrite history

I find this extremely troubling. o_O

The Dark Wind Rises

I was surprised. The Wind Rises is a very dark story told in bright colors.

The plot seems innocuous, but at its core is about two sick souls.

One, Jiro, is obsessed with building airplanes and has vivid “dreams” about it since he was young. He is curious and helps others, but his mind wanders around and he’s a serious workaholic. It so happens that it’s leading up to WWII and the only way to build planes is for war.

The other one, Nahoko, is revealed to be terminally ill. None the less she enjoys life painting and being mindful of the beauty of life (e.g. in the scene at the spring). As the story mostly follows Jiro there isn’t much told about her thoughts and feelings.

After meeting once during an earthquake in which Jiro helps her and her maid. They meet again many years later in a summer resort. They fall in love and get engaged.

Now the tragedy unfolds. She won’t marry him until she’s cured, he accepts. Working away he’s constantly worried, leaving work regularly to see her. She finally decides to recuperate in a alpine sanatorium, which she flees from to be with him. He’s wanted by the secret police, hiding with her in his supervisor’s home. They marry. She’s bedridden, he’s engulfed in his work. At least they’re together now. 🙂

They exists at the same time in the same place, but are worlds apart.

In this Jiro represent active, Nahoko passive destruction … Jiro man-made, Nahoko natural … Jiro outward, Nahoko inward. You can watch it eat them up little by little. The only glim of hope seems to be a few genuine moments of love, mindfully spending time with each other, fading out the world around them for a short period of time. But sadly even these moments are insufficient to overcome their sicknesses.

In the end both get consumed by them. Nahoko succumbs to her illness and dies a physical death, in a way leaving the spirit to live in the absolute, in the afterlife. Jiro on the other hand–alive in this world–dies a spiritual death having sold his soul (“ten years”) (losing his soul mate in consequence) and is trapped in the virtual, in this dream of his. She reaches out to him a last time (“You must live”), but he doesn’t understand (“Arigatou”). :'(

Both die in a way, leaving the physical world behind, but in ways that can’t be reconciled. They can’t be together, never!

Very sad and gloomy.

Patlabor 2

This movie was truly way before its time … living in the post-9/11 world, seeing that this plot is from 1993 gives me goose bumps. *shiver*

Anyway, one of the most beautiful scenes has two characters have a more philosophical discussion set to a very “dreamy” (almost hypnotic) visual and audio backdrop:

What are you, the police officer, and I the JSDF officer, trying to defend? It’s been half a century since the last war. Neither you nor I have experienced a war. “Peace” … Peace is what we’re supposed to defend. But what is the peace of this city, this nation? The all-out war and the defeat. The US occupation policy. The Cold War under the nuclear umbrella and the proxy wars. And civil wars still go on in many nations of the world. Ethnic clash, military conflict. Blood-drenched economical prosperity created and sustained by those countless wars. That’s what’s behind our peace. Peace created by an indiscriminate fear of war. An unjust peace that is maintained by having the wars elsewhere, but we keep denying ourselves this truth.

No matter how phony the peace may be, it’s our job to defend it. No matter how unjust it may be, it’s better than a just war.

I understand how you hate “just wars.” Whoever said that word was never half decent. History is filled with people who fell from grace believing in that. But you know only too well that there isn’t much of a difference between a just war and an unjust peace. Ever since the word “Peace” became the excuse of liars, we lost our faith in peace. Just as war creates peace, peace also creates war. A make-believe peace that’s merely the period between two wars will eventually give way to real war. Have you ever thought about that?
While receiving the benefits of war, they’re hiding the truth behind the TV screen. Forgetting that they’re merely at the rear of the battle front … or rather pretending to forget about it. Such deceit will be punished sooner or later.

Tim’s Vermeer

You have an obsession … it intrigues you … there is a mystery … you have a hunch … you consult experts … you try it … you succeed. It’s still not a proof … but you’re convinced … you feel good. 😀

Tim’s Vermeer is an awesome documentary following Tim Jenison trying to figure out what technique 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer may have used to capture lighting, color and minute details of the painted scenes. It’s an awesome way to watch the geek’s mind at work. 😉

KAZ: Pushing Product Placement

After reading on arstechnica about a new documentary called Kaz I was psyched to watch it. I’m no console player, but Gran Turismo is a household name by now. 😉 The documentary is about Kazunori Yamauchi the producer of this legendary game series. It promised insight into the thoughts and ambitions of a perfectionist mind funneled though the game making process to produce one of the most acclaimed racing car simulation games out there.

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But what I went to see was utterly disappointing!

I expected insight into the process of capturing the “soul” of complex machines–that cars have undeniably become–and how they managed to produce a “piece of art” (in a visual and “feeling of realism” sense) so that they each car they put into the game feels and acts subtly, but recognizably different. I expected something along the lines of creator’s vision, technical process and production anecdotes (very much like the Oral History of Street Fighter 2).

How do you capture the very tactile nature of car racing and delivering it through a gaming console?

How do you deliver the sense of speed and deafening sound into the living room?

How do you make this livable so that people really think they have tasted a drip of the real experience?

Wouldn’t this be interesting to know?

There have been very different but good examples set by companies like Blizzard or id Software when it comes to this. (I’m only counting one-way communication here. so only videos, talks, interviews, etc.)
I loved the battle reports before StarCraft 2 came out or interviews with game director Dustin Browder talking about balance changes and giving insight into their weighing and thinking in the process.
On the other side you have people like John Carmack do after-the-fact (sometimes very technical) analyses of games his company produced on both very specific or very broad game development issues.

I have seen several documentaries that try to capture the fascination of gaming from the players side (e.g. The King of Kong) as well as some that try to show how certain very prominent games were made (e.g. Indie Game, Minecraft).

But this is nothing like any of them. It is a string of sterile interviews, shots in random (“industrial” looking) sceneries, with people (at best) vaguely related to the game, the industry, racing, the film or anything.

  • There are a bunch of random interviews with arists/crafts(wo)men neither of whom is involved in gaming or racing or anything todo with the movie.
  • Product placement
  • Interviews with a young racers and their families and trainers who have basically nothing to do with the game.
  • Pointless and empty phrases by car company representatives, etc. (e.g. Kevin Hunter makes me cringe)
  • Product placement
  • Endless adulation on how successful the GTAcademy is, without really going into how they actually recruit and train drivers
  • Irritating camera action (e.g. useless depth changes in interviews), superfluous shots and scenes just for product placement
  • And the list goes on …
  • Did I mention the product placement?

The only glimpse of how the game was actually made were in two short scenes: where they show how they digitize tracks and an interview with one of the games’ visual designers working on a track’s scenery.

The interviews with “Kaz” are interesting if it wasn’t for the over-the-top and totally artificial settings. There are also some rather bizarre outdoor shots with him in a forest and in a traditional around-the-corner restaurant. They seem like they were forcefully inserted to create the facade of a “happy” and “balanced” person … which seems odd … having a rough idea of the kind of mindset in both the (Japanese) corporate and the general gaming world.

It seems they were desperate to make one of the biggest game company’s largest and probably most expensive game productions look like a inspiring one-man handcrafted artsy garage project.

They basically failed really hard to portray it like an indie game (in spirit). The blatantly obvious and nonsensical product placements didn’t help either. So for a film trying to capture “feeling” it is a rather “over-engeneered” PR tool. Basically Sony achieved with KAZ what Morgan Spurlock couldn’t with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

So thats why I’m angry … there is no feeling, no emotion, no insight in this film … it’s a piece coming out of a soulless marketing machine … sadly …