Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Two View Movie Review: Spirited Away

In this animated fantasy-adventure film, ten year-old Chihiro whines & complains to her parents about their move to a new home. On their way to their home, they come across an abandoned amusement park. While walking through the park, they see some deserted food, & to Chihiro disdain, her parents start to feast on it. Wandering the park, Chihiro spots a grand bathhouse; but, at nightfall, spirits start to appear in the park. She runs back to her parents, only to find them turned into pigs. A boy named Haku finds Chihiro & tells her that the place is a bathhouse for spirits & demons. In order for her to stay alive, she must get employment from the bathhouse's manager, the witch Yubaba. While working at the bathhouse, Chihiro comes across many ancient creatures, including Kamaji, the six-armed boiler room worker; No-Face, an empathetic wraith that feeds off the emotions of others; & a stink spirit, the worst customer to ever enter the bathhouse.

Spirited Away is my personal favorite Hayao Miyazaki film, who some would say overthrows Walt Disney as the supreme animator. Miyazaki presents to us a frighten & fussy girl who is forced into another reality & must learn to use the resources around her in order to survive. There was a moment in the film when I realized that Chihiro grew up at a point when she bravely trekked across a water pipe that was outside & overlooking a cliff. Earlier in the film, she was had trouble just climbing down some steep stairs. The film belongs next to other fantasy, coming-of-age stories like Alice's Adventure in Wonderland & Pinocchio. 

Besides following a liminal progression, Spirited Away contains many themes often seen in Miyazaki's films, which includes pollution (symbolized in the stink spirit), greed & gluttony (symbolized in Chihiro's parents), & the losing of customs & cultures in a global society. The later is a major point in the film, as Chihiro is isolated from the outside world & comes face-to-face with Japanese mythological creatures. And there are many Japanese symbols & customs shown in the film that may make it hard to follow for non-Japanese, but that is kind of the point. Chihiro doesn't understand most of it either, showing a decline in traditions.

This is great family film, as adults will be able to catch the social commentary & the weird creatures & action sequences will transfix the kids. Plus, anyone can enjoy it for its imaginative images & animation. It's just awesome.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Center Paige: Fun Sun Facts

This month's artists' book, Fun Sun Facts, comes from FAU student Kiran Trivedi & may be the only student artists' book that has been purchased by the JCBA. Made for a summer artists' book class in 2005, Trivedi went above & beyond the class' requirements, making a box & 50 copies of his book. The pages of the book are bristol boards that were laser engraved and cut by a 40 watt, carbon dioxide laser. The pages are shaped like a ray of sun, held together by a metal post screw & contains slits, which allows the book to look like a full sun when opened. The book is housed in an acrylic box that is also laser engraved & laser cut.

This book lives up to its name. All of the nine pages contain cool (more like, hot) information about the sun. And since I'm a sucker for time & space, here are some fun sun facts in the book:

"The Sun is 4.5 billion years old! If you think 4.5 billion years as the length of a 12 inch ruler, then the time humans have existed wouldn't even be the width of the lines marking the inches." (Page 6)

"The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are moving, dancing curtains of light that occur in the night sky near the North Pole. The aurora is caused by energetic particles from the Sun." (Page 9)

I don't know if the facts influenced the shape of the book or if the idea of the shape came before the text was brought to Trivedi's mind, but Fun Sun Facts is the perfect example of joining form & contain. And here's a fun fact; Kiran means "rays of sun."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The History of English in Ten Minutes

The Open University released on Youtube a funny & informative animated series about the English language. All the chapters speak of certain events in history that have transformed the way we speak, starting with the Germanic tribes entering Britain all the way to the Internet age. These are some of my favorite chapters.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sapling Press & Dear Blank, Please Blank

I came across some hilarious letterpress cards creating by Sapling Press with the text being from the snarky website Dear Blank, Please Blank, where anyone can post their short letter, usually just to get something off their chest. Here are my favorites.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Graphic Novel of the Month: Understanding Comics

Scott McCloud is a comic book writer & artist who experienced some minor fame & success with runs on various comics & with his own creation ZOT!, in 1993, McCloud decided to break out of fiction & try to theorize the confusing & misunderstood comic book. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art was his graphic novel where he defined the comic & its vocabulary, gave its history & theorized the various elements of the comic & their uses. It was a groundbreaking graphic novel because it was comic theory in comic form. Most comic theory books before this were text-based, but McCloud wanted to emphasize the power of the medium.

This graphic novel does have its controversy, especially when McCloud defines the comic & what he considers art. His definition of art includes "any human activity that doesn't grow out of our species' two basic instincts: survival & reproduction." This definition opens a whole can of worms that many will find engrossing. Still, McCloud realizes that he theories are just that & hopes that this novel will open up a debate.

McCloud makes the novel fun to read & look at. He draws himself & the panels as simple as needed, but shows off his drawing muscle from time-to-time for examples. As much as he tries to make it digestible, there is a lot of theory & thought in every page & is not a read-in-one-setting kind of book. This one requires a couple of reads in order for you to retain a good portion of the details. Still, I highly recommend this book for comic lovers, art lovers, & book lovers (so pretty much everyone), as it will change the way you look at comics forever.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Be A Writer, Not A Reader

I've recently read Roland Barthes' S/Z & I thought that I would convey an important & metamorphic thought from the essay. One should absorb text as a writer, not a reader (text including writings, artwork, movies, music, etc.) To view text as a reader would include being passive & interpreting the text in only the author's vision. Viewing text that way creates a one-sided conversation, with the author acting as an authoritarian figure (see what I did there.) You often see authors or directors talking about their purpose & vision for their text, which I think is good to have a thesis for your text, but their vision may not be relevant for everyone, since we're all individuals. Also, an author has to realize that when their text leaves their head & becomes part of public display, it is not their text anymore. It becomes part of the cultural language.

So, a better mindset is to view text as a writer would view text. Use your background to create your own interpretation. You may have thought of some deep meaning in a little part of the text that the author didn't think of. Actually, the writers of Lost would go on the fan sites & look at the speculations & plot devices that fans created & the writers would use them in subsequent episodes. So create a dialogue & don't get upset if no one agrees with you. There is no "truth" out there. Just be "honest" in your opinions.

And that is my short essay of S/Z. Thank you.