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Favorite movies<i>Gojira</i>, 1954Favorite writersJ.R.R. TolkienFavorite gamesLegend of Zelda: Ocarina of TimeFavorite gaming platformWiiTools of the TradePens...lots and lots of pens...Other InterestsAnime/manga, cartoons, kaiju, fantasy, sci-fi, video games
Reading: "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" comics
Watching: Mystery Science Theater 3000
Playing: Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Meant to get this up earlier, but following my Maryland visit I had to transition pretty quickly into my new job (short version: tough, but I can take it, and the trade-off of significantly more free time feels worth it thus far) so I had to kind of get that taken care of first. Still! All things told, I'm doing quite well; feeling more active than I have in months, with plenty of pics done and plenty more t'come, and thought I would take this time to get y'all up t'speed on me 'n' my thoughts of late!
Firstly, the wonderful is holding a Holiday Contest with some impressive prizes, and you should check it out; even if you can't enter, a signal boost would be appreciated. Holiday Contest (Updates and Changes)
As for the Maryland visit to ? As always, I had a lovely time, and was a wonderful host, also as always. It was actually fairly exciting, too, because thanks to an accident of timing, I got to see her earn her driver's license! Admittedly, I spent most of the time she was actually playing Smash Bros. 3DS because I always get anxious when people I care about take tests of any kind and it kept me calm, but still, it was pretty cool, and I could not be prouder of her for pulling it off. As for the Fun Stuff? Well, for starters, I got to try out some fine foods with her; not only a grilled-chicken restaurant and a lovely noodle shop in Washington's Chinatown (which, since she saw Chinatown Boston means we have now each visited each others' China Towns, a phrase I really wish did not sound as dirty as it does >w>), but her own delightful cooking. We took a tour of the Smithsonian, too; sadly, most of the Dinosaur Stuff was off the floor for various reasons, but not only did I still get a taste of Dinosaur Stuff, there were plenty of other neat things to see, like animal skeletons, insects (which creeped me out a little but it was still cool x3; ), and even Crystal Gems (and yes, I think it was implicitly understood that "Steven Universe" was part of why we were going there; we even pointed out to each other whenever we saw Gems who have characters on the show). Friday, which was the one all-free day we had, started by going to see "Big Hero 6" together (but I'll get into more detail on that later x3), and ended with us eating at her place 'n' watching the original "My Little Pony" TV Specials, "Rescue From Midnight Castle" and "Escape from Catrina" (the former being significantly stronger than the latter, IMO, though the poor editing and color transfers of the DVD versions did neither any favors; we had a delightful time of it nonetheless). Of course, as has been true of every get-together we've had so far, the majority of our time was spent talking. And I can think of few people I have ever known who are as fun to talk with as her. So my sincerest thanks to for showing me such a wonderful time, and here's to hoping for yet another such good time together soon. ^_^
I've also gotten to see some very interesting animated films recently, including the aforementioned "Big Hero 6", and thought I'd give my thoughts on them here for those interested.
"The Book of Life": Well, first thing's first, I want whoever was in charge of the advertising campaign for this movie slapped upside the head*. It does not, perhaps, give a completely inaccurate view of what this movie is like, but it does manage to undersell damned near everything good about it other than its immediately-striking and wonderfully-charismatic visual style. More than just a Loud-and-Fast comedy, "Book of Life" is actually a genuinely engaging Fairy Tale of the best kind, one that imparts some surprisingly progressive values in honest and enjoyable fashion. That's not to say it's perfect; indeed, I don't think I can fairly call it truly great, as there are a lot of elements to its pacing and line-to-line writing that are more than slightly rough around the edges, while its infrequent use of random Pop Songs (covered, with admirable intent but less-than-excellent execution for me, with a certain Mariachi Flair to help fit the setting) is not only pretty distracting but also feels awkward and out-of-place in the overall flow of the movie, since they disappear pretty much entirely once we reach the half-way point. But I front-load with those complaints because I want to make sure we really understand this movie's strength. Most reviews focus on the popping colors and unique animation, and the shocking and wonderful array of styles it uses to portray the many worlds across which the story ultimately takes place (a wrap-around narrative involving a museum tour, the "main" story as told to the tour's attendants, and the dual afterlives of the Lands of the Rememberd and the Forgotten, each defined by their own viscerally distinct aesthetics), and this is entirely fair. Director Jorge Guttierez (late of the criminally underrated Nickolodeon TV show "El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera") has an impeccable sense, not only of scenery and world-building, but also character design, and literally every last player in "Book"'s story, from the leads to the side-characters to the background noise, looks positively unforgettable as a result. But the true strength at "Book of Life"'s heart is...well, its heart. As I said, it's unmistakably rough around the edges, and I can't help but feel there's a certain conflict between what the story truly values and the ways in which it tries to fit into the proscribed "Animated Kid's Film" narrative structure, but the thing that really sticks is what those values are, and how the movie chooses to express them. Here's a story that says Love is about Respect. Here's a story that says true strength DOESN'T just come from feats of violence or heroism, but from simple kindness and mercy. Here's a story that asks its audience to reject the narrow definitions of who they are "supposed to be" and embrace who they WANT to be, and moreover, allows ALL of its central characters to learn and benefit from that lesson; in a year chock full of movies that are great overall but clearly could not give less of a crap about their female leads (lookin' at you, "Guardians of the Galaxy"), the fact that our female lead Maria gets a full, and fully-realized, character arc all her own here is REALLY important to me (indeed, all the female characters in this movie are surprisingly strong and well-written), while Joaquin's and Manolo's both manage to go to places you might not expect them to even as they reach fairly predictable conclusions. All of which is to say, "Book of Life" is a film that manages to rise above its faults in a way that felt very special to me. Guttierez has apparently stated his intent was for this to be a Trilogy (one movie for each of the three leads), and while the movie's already failed to be a Smash Hit, I do hope it finds an audience strong enough to make that vision a reality, because to me, it deserves that.
Big Hero 6: I have to admit upfront, this is a movie I can't quite love as much as I want to; it is quite good, and there are elements of it that are genuinely great. But unfortunately, it has problems, and they wind up interacting with its core themes and ideas really tightly; it's hard to talk about the stuff this movie gets right without having to address some of its major mistakes, for me. But that makes my feelings for the movie sound more negative than they really are, especially because whatever its problems, the world it has managed to create is brimming with potential, and it's pretty obvious Disney hopes to make a series out of this (which seems likely since it managed to outdo High Profile Christopher Nolan epic "Interstellar" at the box office for its opening weekend); it is, in other words, hard not to see future films in this prospective franchise working to correct a lot of the problems here, and while that's not a defense I've ever been fond of, in this case it does speak to one of the movie's key strengths: you want to see more of this world, and the characters who inhabit it. Because those characters are very well-drawn, not only in terms of design but personality. They can be roughly fit into stock-types, perhaps, but each member of the team nonetheless manages to display an admirable amount of nuance to their personality, as well as a vibrancy that manages to really animate their broader traits. Baymax is unquestionably the star of the whole enesemble, mind (his design is not only evocative, able to cover a tremendous amount of ground emotionally despite being just a series of mostly plain spheres and ovals with only two dots and a line for a face, but draws brilliantly from actual modern robotics), and Hiro manages to get the most breathing room as the main character, but all the characters really do manage to display a lot of dynamics, both individually and together, that keep them engaging and enjoyable all throughout. As well, the themes and emotions the story tackles are truly worthwhile; it's a story, ultimately, about how to deal with grief and loss, and not only does it do a solid job of going through the full process of that difficult and tumultuous journey (a journey that takes it to a fairly dark place and one of its strongest overall sequences), but does so in some pretty clever ways, playing with its Superhero Fantasy tools in creative and compelling fashion (in particular, looking at the idea of a super-hero team through the lens of a support group). It's also an absolutely ecstatic celebration of the power and importance of science, knowledge, and creative thinking, and it is hard not to find yourself endeared by its enthusiasm. Unfortunately, there are some big problems to grapple with too. A lot of it boils down to pacing; there is simply not enough room here for the movie to give equal attention to all of its moving parts, and as a result, some of the most important parts, in particular the nature and motive of the primary antagonist, wind up feeling pretty thin. Indeed, I can't help but feel like a lot of the more overtly-superhero elements of the story wind up feeling rather arbitrarily introduced into the mix; Hiro choosing to armor up Baymax, the team itself coming together the way it does, that sort of stuff...it all ends up flowing rather inorganically from the story, and feels like it's there more because it's obligated to be. There are "why"s to them, but they don't feel especially convincing. That speaks to the larger problem at work here, which is that the movie is trying to be both a super-hero story and a character study, but it can't quite figure out how to reconcile the two of them together, and its split focus winds up hurting both pieces; there are more than a few times I wish the movie could've gone into a bit more depth regarding its big emotional arc, or else put a bit more effort into integrating the action into the story. For all of that, though, "Big Hero 6" still ultimately works. Indeed, I'd be eager to re-watch it, especially since I recall having similar problems with "Wreck-it Ralph" the first time through almost all of which melted away with repeat viewings. As it stands, though, even with the problems I have with it, I consider BH6 absolutely worth seeing. It's fun, it's funny, and like "Book of Life" there is a real, unique heart at its center that can't be ignored.
*seriously what is it with animated movies and obscenely-misleading advertising campaigns lately?)</sub>