Monday, August 31, 2009

Apocalypse Now

You may have heard we've got a little fire going here in L.A. Here it is in timelapse:

Thanks to "Doodles" Cuden for the heads-up.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Of fish and prawns.

We went to two movies this week. The first was "District 9," and I liked it a lot without quite loving it. As we came out of the theater, I commented to Audry that I wished some of the key sequences had a little more "Speilberg" to them. I was speaking about cinematic technique, but on terms of story, it actually does have some Speilberg in it. Because the dirty little secret at the heart of "District 9" is that underneath all the social satire and hard-edged action, it is really an R-rated "E.T." And while I wouldn't call it a blazingly original piece of work, it sure shows Hollywood what can be accomplished with wit, talent, and ingenuity instead of big budgets.

So, after all the disappointing crap this summer, the prefab thrills of G.I. Joe and Transformers, at last, a fantasy film that really thrills, that overwhelms the senses, that actually rearranges the way you see the world. But I'm not talking about "District 9." I'm talking about the other film we saw this week, "Ponyo" -- another miracle of cinema from Hayao Miyazaki.

I've been singing Miyazaki's praises since I first saw "Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro" in 1980. I think "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Spirited Away" are two of the greatest movies ever made. And in this day and age, when animated movies are almost all ugly-looking CG comedies about wisecracking animals, his special brand of of hand-made genius seems especially precious.

Unlike Disney's upcoming "Frog Princess," which seems to be trying to hide its 2-D nature under layers of CG effects, "Ponyo" celebrates its hand-drawn origins: the character designs are simplicity incarnate; the backgrounds are often deliberately sketchy; and in an extended sequence after the heroine unleashes a tsunami of magic on the ocean, the waves come to life with abstract simplicity: they look like something by Hokusai -- if he had illustrated children's books instead of making those famous woodblock prints. Miyazaki's legendary attention to the smallest details of everyday life is present in every scene. (In the sequence where Ponyo opens a thermos, she twists the stopper off exactly as a 6-year-old child would do it.) I won't say anything about the story, except that it accomplishes something that no special effects -- and very few films -- have ever managed: to put pure, unadulterated joy up on the big screen.

(Bonus: voice work by Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchette, and Matt Damon.) (Matt Damon!)

Here is the trailer. Unfortunately, the official, hi-res trailer can't be embedded. (Click here to see it.). This is a somewhat poorer-resolution version with an incredibly dopey intro by a woman who epically fails to pronounce a single Japanese name right, including the name of the film.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's all about selling razors, folks.

Okay, it's kinda funny, but if I were a woman I would be so offended by this.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dude! I have a "Doctor Who" connection!

...Aside, that is, from putting the phrase "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" into virtually every TV series  I've written since 1978* and having a bunch of Decepticons running around screaming "Exterminate!" in an episode of Transformers.

According to this entry in the Transformers Wiki, the BBC sound effect for the Dalek control room was used in one of my Transformers episodes!

I'm such a hopeless Doctor Who geek that this discovery completely made my day.

"Are you aware that we've been making threats to a test pattern all this time!?"

* Okay, I didn't use it in "Zorro" or "Conan & The Young Warriors," but it is in most of them.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!

Here's the mind-bender of the month: the Geo 600 Gravitational Wave Detector recently began picking up noise believed to be made by the breakdown of the space-time continuum. If true, this would prove that the entire universe is merely a blurry holographic projection of a two-dimensional reality at the boundary of space-time.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go lie down...