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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Japan trip schedule.

December 23rd : landing. Collecting Japan Railpass. Take train to Tokyo from Narita. Reaching Tokyo Eki, meeting with Enju, run to the Imperial Palace, check out the gardens, stroll, get out of there, stroll around the city.

December 24th: Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea.

December 25th: Stroll in Tokyo, KFC, Cake, kotatsu, romance with a cat.

December 26th: onsen day and Ghibli Museum.

December 27th: Trip to Kansai start, visit Tezuka Osamu Museum in Takarazuka.

December 28th: Still in Kansai (Oosaka or Kyoto).

December 29th: Still in Kansai but coming back to Tokyo.

December 30th: Comiket, Odaiba, romantic Cruise on the river. Maybe Ice Skating?

December 31st: Temple and fireworks.

December 1st: Temple with style.

December 2nd: bye bye, flight at 10:40

Wishlist for now: Dolls shops, Mayonnaise Kitchen, Akihabara, Shibuya by night? (and mandarake), Asakusa.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Puss has no boots!

Why is Puss in boot is the worse picaresque story in history? 
There's nothing original about it, starting from the posters.
I have nothing against the art, the look and the animation: stunning as usual.
Even so I did not enjoy the movie one bit.

For once none of the gags were so funny to make me even smile... I was left staring the screen with an impassible facial expression all the time =__= like this. 
At first I thought: why not go with the traditional story (finally put a bit of romance that does not involve the main couple or the main character, go Figaro on it using the figure of the clever servant as traditionally established but revised it - beside the clever servants are still the funniest figures around, call them sidekicks but the steal the show). Why go with Jack and Jill and humpt dumpty to do the Italian job?

Because the literally needed the rotten egg (^^" I know) and the Italian Job (without going to the core of the genre I have to say).

But whyyyy??? Puss belongs to the picaresque genre and this thing didn't even smell like one!

For once Puss was OOC. Puss was introduced originally as an assassin an ogre slayer, he is a con artist, he is a picaresque figure. 

So here he starts as a that and right away we are told that he truly is a hero who was turned into a con artist by a rotten egge, his brother humpty dumpty - ute play on words, quite clever I admit - after they establish this he turns into friggin Zorro! Goes 100% pure good hero and... huh? Wait, usually if you are good and the rotten egg is removed from your life you go straight... so why were you a con artist, a liar and a thief all along if you wanted to redeem yourself your entire life?  

Banderas plays it a bit undertone and at times he pushes the character to the point of ridiculous so Humpty Dumpty steals the scene... that's what secondary characters do... and Puss goes flat!

So the paso doble scene with miss Kitty is nicely animated (but long) and quite frankly the dangerous lady still does not hold a candel to Cel from Roat to Eldorado (a movie with lots more potential if it weren't so forced to go supernatural and commercial - plus elton john was gghhhh! Don't let me go there!).

This Kitty here I couldn't care less for. Maybe because her sad past is not shown to us, she tells us, in a scene made of talking head that felt too long for the brain to stay there.

I would to say that you don't have to necessarily go to Jesse's song extent to show me what she felt. But one or two images might have helped my empathy level rise. Just show me one powerful image! Besides you took so much effort to have Puss go flashback, why not work on perspective and have the same story told from different angles? Why not introduce her already in the past a put a long story between them? 

What the hello why not put more emotion into this??? 

As I said the animation is gorgeous, so are the background and the modeling, lighting. You wouldn't expect anything less from PDI. But this movie was just a generic filler and did not feel like a story that could flow and stand on its own. 

I like the cute attempt of role reversing on the maternity instinct for Jack and Jill. It became a bit overplayed in the end and completely lost its charm.

Plus this mania of introducing gigantenormous characters at the end of the movie, overpowering everything! Why? It was a big problem in Rango and this one is twice the weight because the story has no back bone!
In the end if you don't play well with proportions the huge character makes the movie feel like a toy and you are pushed out of the story, back into your seat thinking about: Oooh, legooo, I wanna play with lego noooow!
It's the godzilla effect in the carboard Tokyo! 

Unfortunately the movie was very predictable, all cartoons are, but one can predict the ending... not all the following scenes on after the other and even the next second with preciseness. Predicting the next scene makes the movie bland. 
So Puss' flashback not only makes you realize what will happen at the end of the flashback but it also tells you when and where the twist will happen and how. There are no loose end to the flashbacks that makes you doubt about Humpty. 

So throughout the movie you keep on thinking: naaay, he is a rotten egg... this and this will happen, then this and this... and the movie ends. So whent he twist shows up with the typical flashed flashed images from a different perspective, you go: I knew it, expected, predictable... I figure that out at minute 12!

I did not feel smart about it, I felt cheated! So... the last minute redemption is demeaned by this. It feels that it happens because it has to... was it felt? Maybe, but meh... at this point who cares?--------
Usually I do love simple, linear stories for children... I like to watch those 0-3 years old linear kids show with fairy tale in it of how I lost my toy and there I found it!  No conflict, a bit of emotion, lots of poetry! I love it.

If you are writing linear, simple story... keep the sex out of it though. Do not mistake falling in love with being in lust. Focus on the romance and remove the sensual tension, it is not needed! It makes the female character look cheap, your daughter will think it's alright to do things that give you white hair!
A few things... I found a bit out of place for a cute kiddy story.

As a picaresque story it fails because it need a bit more of the hustling combines with bad luck, if you want to make a caper movie  do not use The Italian Job it's not a good example. Go to the origin of the genre (like Tarantino did) go to Big deal on Madonna street and once again you are missing quite a lot of the Murphy's law here. 

Probably the only reason that did not happen is because memory is short and stops at The Italian Job not knowing where it comes from. To me Italian Job is already the water at the end of the pot. As we say in Italy when more guests arrive: add water to the soup. The last guest will get mostly water and very little soup.

I don't very much like being treated as the last guest if I know what the soup was like in the beginning. 

I yawned, with tears, four times during the movie.

PDI filler might bring money but don't do well for your good name: go back to Po and Megamind! Give us the charm and the emotion.
I don't look forward to see movies slowly turn more and more into Uncanny Valley. 

Getting ready for Japan!

I do so miss spending Christmas in cold weather.

Actually I miss the cold weather, the snow... freezing my ass off, not feeling my fingers...

I spend my whole year between 28 and 31 celsius and it's not fun at all.
Everything rots in hot weather, it rots right away and smells bad.

 For instance, and this is the most disgusting thing that happens to me every two weeks, the sponge you use to wash the dishes... grows worms on it. I
 have decided to switch to a brush.

 So then last year I remember going around the malls during Christmas season thinking: why the Hell do shops sell winter clothes?
Let me tell you, it's because even Singaporeans get tired of warm weather and run away to Japan.

This year is my turn... I shall meet many S'poreans there, I know it. Ha ha ha.

So I bought meself a nice little ticket and I will be going there from the 22nd of December to January 2nd.
Cousin Enju will keep me there with her cat for a while, take me around too, we're planning ahead like crazy. So here goes the first round of shopping. I went to Uniqlo (saw many things, decided, worse come to worse Uniqlo is from Japan, I'll buy more clothes there and then leave them to the cousin to use).

Oh, I do so love winter clothing! All the pretty colors, the browns and the blues... and the pattern... and the textures and the materials... aaah, I do so love winter clothing!

 So I've decided to start posting about the planning as well. Here's my album dedicated to the planning of this trip. Clyda and Grace offered to lend me more clothes... but Pj's and socks are personal items, so I had to go and purchase myself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This is the age of plastic beauty!

Maybe I am wrong to teach my students the regular good stuff: story should be climatic, emotions should drive the story.

But then again you see Jane Eyre 2011 and realize that it's enough to come from Sundance festival (and probably the previous movie was quite good too) and all is forgiven even the fact that, for the first time in my life... I dislike Jane Eyre as a character!

This concept came to me when I saw this picture. Quite frankly I don't know the lady to the right but the first thinking is... how comes her eyebrows don't move? Turns out that without makeup you see a lot of things that don't move. So here's the thing... the lady to the left will decompose after that and while living she might look like a mummy, but the one to the right she already underwent mummification process and will not become worm food. Worms are picky.

In the past few years the worrisome trend of appreciating artificial beauty hollowed out of any meaning has increased enormously. I thought we had gone beyond that but, let' face it, it's worse than ever.

You see actresses with the Judith syndrome winning and oscar... and she kept the same expression throughout the movie.
And more and more actresses are going the same direction... they should try different looks... I don't know: tiger, blue steal? XDD

Now this dude, the director of the movie, start in quite an interesting way: the part nobody ever wants to use when making a movie because there's St. John who tries the most impossible, ridiculous excuses to marry Jane because his horny XD (sorry, it's a joke).
Then it goes in small bits into flashbacks who increase in length gradually until a big jump, woaaah, the last flashback is veeery long... and I kinda longed to go back and see Jane at present times. But no...

Now, acting wise... these two as a couple are just as believable as a set of lego toys in a stop motion film (no, wait, I had lego toys move me to tears).

How do they fall in love? Beats me. It seems like he is trying to make a point of this situation like: I have decided I shall fall in love and marry the girl I spoke to twice and gave me the Bluesteal face!

She is barely there, it's not her decision to make, she is swept away somehow... in words she might state interest but everything else is totally disgusted.

To the point that in the first kissing scene she rushes to kiss him with a facial expression that is all: alright, let's do it, let's get it over with, we finish the scene and that's it.
So awkward... the director tried to simulate a moment of sexual tension very much based on the silly and most useless scene from the Price and Prejudice movie (yeah, because we all knew back then that Lizzie was insane and wanted to bloody kiss a mane she freaking hated).

You know... you can build erotic tension with hands skimming and a girl that doesn't look at you with the same intensity that she would use to stare at a steak. (wait, she might have felt something for the steak).

So she digs her hands in his shoulder, cringes, stiffens, gives kisses with tight sealed lips and looks like she is about to barf any moment.

And when they break up... ooooh, the meaningful 20 seconds spent on a match that needs to lit the straw... because dreams burned away like fire on straw... and.... mhhh... actually, quite the uninteresting shot, not so nicely composed... so why? Make it better if is a freaking metaphor! Use a secondary light source.
It's flat!

And the finesse... Jane has a dream and hence to give you an uncomfortable feeling the allocated space for the character is shifted... hence we cross the line too.

No, it is not a reverse shot... I see all the freaking 4 wall of the freaking cottage in the same scene and suddenly I am not in that room anymore.
I am not the voyeur anymore. I am not intruding on their privacy, I am not a spectator nor a bystander I am simply trying to figure out where the Hell is everybody going and why.

Oh, and awkward kissing again. For being two people that really don't love each other, because I totally did not see them fall in love, they kiss a lot and she truuuuuly does not like it.

Then the rushed ending... she send St. John to die horny and alone in India, hears the voice (like in the book) and teleport herself to he beloved side only to find out that the accident has left him bling but pretty, nor mutilates... but dame Judy Dench said he was eaten up by flames or something like that (devoured? Anyway, he was wrapped in flames like the frigging human torch from the fantastic 4).

No, he might look like Giuseppe Verdi and Garibaldi but he is still pretty and wears blind contacts now.

And again in 3 seconds they reconcile and kiss a lot and at this point poor Jane cannot take it anymore: oooh the horror of kissing his beard!!!

See her cringe.
Seal the lips: thou shalt not paaaaass!

Pull away... and put on the Magnum expression!!!!!

these are taken quite many seconds apart... and here she is thinking: wait, did I put the pot on the stove? Yes, yes I did...
what shall I cook for dessert, maybe we should order in, yes yes...

It is so painful the director has to flip the shot, yes, he might pretend it's a reverse shot but... truth be told, we are again on the other side of the line freaking wonder: where the Hell are we? Is the Enterprise still orbiting around the planet?

It's a mild consolation but his face cover hers.... and the movie ends like this....

And for the first time in my life I though: I dislike Jane Eyre, she is not strong nor appealing, she yells "get up, get out of bed" with the strength, panic and determination of a bean casserole steaming on the fire "pwet pwet pwet" and then you read comments from the critics and rotten tomatoes and realize: people is really getting used to this crap. They don't remember that there is better out there, that there was better out there.

They give 4/5 stars but their comments are like: it wasn't better than any other adaptation.
Then why give 5 stars, lah?

And comments on how good she was and how interesting she made Jane Eyre and all I am thinking is: this movie is full of male sensibility.
For one thing it takes for granted that you know the story (not the book, they hope you don't know the book), if you don't a lot of skipping habits make the narration quite confusing and there is not enough information shown to fill in the voids. Clarity lacks.

Again relying too much on telling and not so much on showing. But if you are not showing it, it's not there! You just want for people to make assumptions... For other things it's quite redundant and ill timed.

The worst part is: it was out of character like a bad fan fiction.
Quite honestly, not taking into consideration the intention of the original author when doing an adaptation makes you really wish these authors could come out of the grave and rip some people's apart for raping their concept and their themes and thesis.

Jane is a survivor and she is a strong woman, she is strong witted and she answer to Rochester in a very surprising way. All of this is heard from Rochester's replies but it is not seen in the direct interpretation of the main character. So am I supposed to assume by the reaction what the action was?

In the end there is no point... people are used to do assumption based on very little, emotionally constipated elements.
Sooner or later story will be flat, they already are getting deflated.

But quite frankly, there is no possible way to go wrong with Jane Eyre. Every single adaptation I have seen had interpreted it and in a clear way... how could this one be so rigid, algid, frigid and unromantic, I wonder? How can you turn a love story into something so emotionless?

The whole thing was plastic. It was painful to watch and I will definitely remove myself from Rotten tomatoes and wikipedia COMPLETELY!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

We took the students to see an exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore. It was hosting a special show with some of the minor pieces from the major artists exposed at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
Cezanne, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Millet, Degas, Doré, Moreau... and many more.

We split into two tour and every group was given a tour guide, a volunteer, so each of them decided to stop and talk about their favorite pieces.

I am always surprised at the fact that we take knowledge for granted, because it's part of our history or simply because we pay attention in class when the teacher explains (that's enough)... but on this side of the World what is normal, to us, is extraordinaire and hard to understand. How to explain the Franco-Prussian war? Who the Prussians were? Why it started and what it did?
How to explain the impact that the discovery of Pompei and Hercolaneum had on art and culture at the time?
How to explain that colors were first subverted by the Fauve and who the fauve are?

On the other hand, on our side of the World, do we really know anything about Asian history? (no, our teachers always skip Cina and Islam when we study history in school). Do we know what a stronghold Thailand was? Do we know what Singapore was like and what makes it so different? Do we even know what Malaysia and Indonesia were like aside from the few descriptions we read in Salgari's books (if we did bother, indeed, to read his books)?

No, we don't. So it was an interesting trip because after taking Asians thought a slice of European Art History and see how unaffected they are, as if it weren't important, as if it were just a little something while, to us, it's a monument to our culture and evolution... a European decided to roam around the rest of the museum and spent one hour in amazement in front of the teacups, the movies, the songs, the costumes for wayang and the historical pictures.

Then I realized. It's not a cultural gap it's a generational gap. Because Nopp was there too and she was happily strolling through art history and commenting the pieces with me.

Twenty years of difference and you see that curiosity exists in people who believe that life is diachronic. You place things in chronological order. You place things in space and contextualize.
That's why we can watch old movie without thinking: it's slow, it's funny, it's ridiculous. We think: that's what people said in the 30's, that's how the felt about things and that's how they acted.

For the newer generation life is synchronic. There is not past, they surely do not know about the future and are unable to determine what comes after tomorrow, because they don't have enough info from yesterday to derivate and induct.

There is only ONE linear way to see things. Then you break down the ending of Inception or Pan's Labyrinth and they freak out: I did not see that? How did you see that?

It was there, you just have to pay attention and don't let the movie absorb you.

And a symbol of how everything is only here and now is Facebook. Ever since it switched to the new version there are so many more things that are out of control (that's why I go there less and less). You see that the whole world is stuck in the limbo whereby the same image keeps on circulating and never gets out of the loop. An image you have seen hundreds of times already but it keeps going around even thought it does not represent a novelty.

Facebook is dying. It's eliminating the past and it's definitely not worrying about the future... but the fact is, all the good and useful information is now lost and the tool has lost its only useful traits: networking.

We are stuck in a constant here and now. A boring one. People copying each other without giving attribution and who get celebrated anyways simply because nobody knows or remember who came before.
And as internet generate short memory loss, inpatient users and passive aggressive behavior, it is also creating a fence that limits everybody for lack of words. The moment the web goes semantic, difficult, complicated concept will only be available to those who have a sophisticated lexicon and will be able to access it. The common knowledge will be degenerating more and more and faster and faster.

There are symptoms around already.

This one shows that somebody noticed what I have been noticing in my students' homework over and over: they all come up with the same SINGLE idea, they don't step out of their comfort zone, and that's because they have been exposed to a limited amount of imagery to take inspiration from. (they all have dead wives in their stories. That's when I forbid to put dead people and even mentioning dead. That's how you move UP out of the pictures!). When you have to deal with hundreds of this thing, on a daily basis, week after week, year after year, you are submerged by boredom.
Why? Why do you want to do this again? Why you too? Post apocalyptic world... okay, can you make it different? No! I have read and watched this before, hundreds of time, please... this is torture! There is so much more to be inspired out there.
Why don't you show me the world during the plague in the 1300, it's more post apocalyptic than a nuclear holocaust?

You can't because you don't know history.

Here's the Second Example showing the need to take an original thought, very nicely expressed, in good English by Mark Twain... "A dog think he's human, a cat knows he's divine", then gets turned into a funny joke that now goes around the web in different version and as anonymous: "A dog thinks: this person feeds me, he must be God. A Cat thinks: this person feeds me, I must be God".... and gets turned into something mediocre that ends up on the, oh so celebrated 9gag!

No matter how hard you insist, copyright does not exist. No matter how hard Creative Commons tries, there is always a way around attribution too.

Is it so hard to quote directly Mark Twain? Yes! Why? Because nobody knows him/remember him.
And because if he went out like that you would get a veeeeery long list of: I feel so stupid, I don't get it.

Of course you have the ones who come up with the most difficult explanations, almost rocambolesque, making assumptions (the world belongs to haters, assumptionists and passive aggressives) based on personal opinion - not fact - deduction but not induction.
Why the answer is very simple and linear and in front of them. But at times too simple is too clever and definitely counts to much on the ability to focus and background (that most of the times do not exists).

Hence the need to dumb down contents. The World IQ is going down, I hate to quote Wikipedia but I kind of witnessed this with my own eyes: Flynn argues that the abnormal drop in British teenage IQ could be due to youth culture having "stagnated" or even dumbed down.

Lack of exposure will kill originality, as the pond of inspiration gets smaller and smaller. A fish artist in the tank can only reproduce what he knows. You must see the Ocean. Then again... there are still many who get exposed but feel numb and go through extraordinary art pieces and monuments unable to have their mind blown.

If you cannot have your mind blown, if you don't feel the need to stare at the same object from different angles feeling a compelling need to analyze and see how it's done, if you don't feel the curiosity to figure out where it came from and how you can improve on it, or love it, or quote it, or simply observe how the light hits it... you are not an artist. Give it up. You are a draftsman.

My fear is that 10, 20 years from now... very old people will be called back to produce original work and will lead the young ones only able to work as little hamsters with computers (not pencils anymore). Revivals always bring a fresh breathe in stale art.

That's what Pompei and Hercolaneum did, didn't they? That's why it's important to have a diachronic sense of life, the universe and other things.

and here's the museum:

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The birthday present that Enju had sent me from Japan... arrived here right on time for Osamu Tezuka's birthday instead.

Ribbon no kishi stamps.

I put them up on the cabinet next to the previous set of stamps she had sent me: Jungle taitei.

The cool thing about these sets is that you have the stamps in the front and in the back there is something else, like a paper doll or something.

The packaging is super cute too.

Thank you Enju for thinking of me... I really like them!