Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Ansel

He has a way of writing that makes technical manuals seem like discourses on theory, philosophy, and semi-autobiographical portfolios. In the darkroom he was the technical master. He had more patience and self control than I do and it shows in his prints. We all have to have heroes, and Adams is one of mine.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More Movie Stuff: Animation

Looking over the movies I watched in 2008, I realized I watched quite a few animated films. So far I have carried that into 2009 as well. Just watched Ghost in the Shell and both of the Appleseed films. This has also launched me into many mangas/graphic novels as well, and I hope to start reviewing some of those soon, right here. But until then I just want to ramble a little.

I love animation. The tight, monochromatic, almost two-dimensional animation of Persepolis captivated me. The fantastic linework in Akira led a level of detail to that film and manga that are hard to find anywhere else but in architectural drawings. Appleseed (above) was interesting with its cell shaded models really taking on an animated feel with intricate densities - I actually thought it was drawn over a computer generated background, but I don't think it is anymore. Whatever they did there, with the first one, needs to be done more - it was just splendid.

But I think what I love most about animation is the balance between economy and detail which gives way to the balance between what is known and what is imagined. Last night my buddy John brought up the point that many American animated films just show the action, quickly, matter-of-factly. Anime on the other hand is over-the-top with its action scenes, often showing reactions to each and every move by the combatants. What I like is somewhere in the middle. The ridiculous anime fights have something western animation fights do not, and vise-versa. Appleseed mixed the two to what I consider great success. So did Ghost in the Shell. Slowing down some parts of the fight are an important element, but a scaled back version of the inter-fight over-analysis found in anime is another. What I like about animation is that the necessity of economy - played out with flat textures, color blocks, cell-shaded characters - leave something to the imagination. Something impeccably detailed leaves nothing to the visual imagination, a blank page leaves everything. Animation falls somewhere in between, like the Nausicaa image above. I just wish the fights fell in between as well.

Monday, February 02, 2009

First Edit To Best Movies Viewed

I can't believe I forgot that I watched The Fall in 2008. It kicks Persepolis off the list and onto the runner up list.

Tarsem Singh's The Fall is about stories, and there are quite a few interwoven. A poor family during the depression, a stunt man who didn't get the girl, a broken back, attempting to an hero, and taking down an ultimate hero. The Fall is visually gorgeous. The first five minutes are some of the most beautiful cinema I have ever seen. The entire movie is heartfelt and well done.

When a man starts telling a girl a story about some outcasts taking down evil, reality starts to meld with fiction and the two become inseparable to both the audience and the child's imagination. The two realities intertwine reflecting changes in each other as the movie builds towards its climaxes. This movie is a dissertation on story and the power of story audience, and as boring as that sounds, it is awesome.

It is tied for #8.