Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Thank goodness for Alice.

I thought it was quite the clever re-imagining. Mia Wasikowska did a stunning job of it. She maintained that sort of whimsical naiveté that recalls the original Alice - young Alice - and maintained it convincingly. And, of course, Johnny Depp was a perfectly Mad Hatter. His performance even brought something new to the role: a certain resemblance to split personality disorder. (Apologies if this is alluded to in the novel. Yet again I deserve to be covered in tomato etcetera for the fact that I have not yet read it.) My opinion of him stays very high.

Moving on, the visual effects were wonderful. Even if Crispin Glover's animated body was consistently unnerving, it was more than made up for by the Bandersnatch with his shark-style double rows of teeth. And of course the Jabberwock. On the subject of the Jabberwock, does anyone know the difference between 'Jabberwocky' and 'Jabberwock'? There's a flair button on facebook which asserts the former is plural and the latter singular. Personally I was always simply confused by the whole thing. I'd only be more so if Jabberwocky is plural - I always thought there was only one of said beast. Oh well.

For this production I simply must touch on the costuming. Alice's outfits get progressively more interesting as the movie goes on, ending of course with armor complete with vorpal sword. I love movies that put heroines in full armor. It made me remember Elizabeth: The Golden Age. There's something very triumphant and poetic about ladies in armor. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but I hope to see it more often.

In short my assessment is that Alice in Wonderland is a film with an all-star cast, impressive visuals (in both two and three dimensions), and admirable costuming: in my book, a success. But before I depart, ladies and gentlemen, how is a Raven like a Writing Desk? I'm sure I don't know. I suppose we'll have to wait and see if the Hatter wakes up from his perpetual quicksilver-induced daze enough to tell us one day.

V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

I have at last viewed that most vivacious and virulent work brought to our eyes by Vertigo,V for Vendetta! And I must say, buckle your seatbelts, folks: it's a doozy.

I will admit to the horrendous truth: I saw the movie before I read the comic. Apologies, V. I'm terribly sorry. Not to say the movie is not a wonderful piece of work in and of itself, it is simply lesser than that which spawned it. However, in the end the film shaped some of my impressions of the book and for that I am very disappointed. This is the kind of thing one needs to come to with a severely open mind to understand, I think. I devoured it and my head is still reeling. It leaves me with the solid impression that I will have to read it again - more than once - in order to really understand it, even in a small way.

That said, it's a book that cannot really be described thematically, nor can it be reduced to a single simple plot. The things I can tell you are that the writing is stunning, the art is magnificent (occasionally looking like stencil and spray paint work, which strikes me as both innovative and refreshing), and it is dark, but not without a kind of hope.

Read on, ladies and gentlemen. I recommend this especially to word-nerds, action fans, and caustically sarcastic cynics.

England Prevails.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Gentlemen's Duel

This, my friends, is one of the most fabulously funny animated shorts I have ever seen. Produced by Blur Studio and written and directed by Sean McNally and Francisco Ruiz Velasco, A Gentlemen's Duel is amusing in the way that only animated shorts can be. From over-exaggerated violence to the kind of stereotype that one can just barely get away with (I sincerely apologize to both the English and the French, respectively), it's at least a romp of a good time.

Yet again, I marvel at the fact that it took me so long to come across this piece (credit goes to Ryan). It was released in 2006, and appeared on the scene in 2008 when it paid a visit to the RiverRun International Film Festival. Now it graces viewers with its presence via the youtubes.

Be warned: this duel is not as it seems. But in the interest of not spoiling anything, I shall say no more.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Call of Cthulhu: Horror Roleplaying in the Worlds of HP Lovecraft

Rather than cap off the quarter with another novel, my teacher chose instead to subject us to the horror of Cthulhu: oh was I was grateful for it.

The Call of Cthulhu: Horror Roleplaying in the Worlds of HP Lovecraft is unlike most tabletop RPGs, or so it's reputed to be (I haven't played many). It's based entirely around intellectual games - gathering evidence and getting closer and closer to solving a mystery rather than monsterwhacking. Not to say there's a total lack of monsterwhacking, it's just that in this game you typically run your ass off upon such an encounter rather than standing to fight. Take our game for example. There is no way under the deep blue heavens we would have been able to fight Yig and live. In fact, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the fact that in this game, an investigator (player) cannot "win." Instead, you have three options. One is to get out while you have the chance until forces beyond the stars come to confront you another day. Another is to go irrevocably insane and be institutionalized. The last is to die.

On that note, I think the most intriguing innovation of Call of Cthulhu is the concept of sanity points. Upon encountering disturbing things, if the Keeper (dungeon master) calls a sanity check and you fail, you start losing sanity points. If you lose enough of these suckers within a certain amount of time - or collectively - you end up doing things like going into catatonia, logorrhea, displaying "strange eating compulsions" (cannibalism, dirt, slime, whathave you), or displaying "strange sexual impulses" (exhibitionism, nymphomania/satyriasis, etc) just to name a few. For those of you who have played tabletop RPGs, there's a table for this. If there's no logical choice (or just for the sake of it) the keeper can have you roll a D10 for it. It's painful.

On an entirely different note, as of yet I think one of the most pleasant parts of tabletop roleplaying is character creation: you get to decide on so many aspects of your character - there's so much room for creativity! From home town to occupation to income to possessions, it's all there. After a little influence from the dice, the rest is up to the creator. Actually sending said character out into their little world can be problematic, because at that point it's out of your hands entirely and in those of the Keeper. A good Keeper is absolutely essential. I haven't yet tried to be a Keeper, but I can see it's a lot of work. For those of you out there who are, I salute you.

My first game experience with Call of Cthulhu was rough at best. However, there is hope: I'll be playing another game with a couple of friends soon, and hopefully it will be a little easier to move in. Until then, venture on, ladies and gentlemen.

The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello

For a rollicking good romp in Steampunk lands comes the Australian short, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello!

I am not entirely sure how even to begin with this piece. It's beautifully done. Simple, but elegant. It recalls a combination of Tim Burton's aesthetic for The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride and paper cutouts. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan.

Once again, I am shocked to find that this has existed for quite some time and it didn't trickle down the grapevine to find me until now. Released in 2005 and directed by Anthony Lucas, it has won the AFI award twice and was nominated for an academy award in 2006. Kudos to my friend here in college-land Taylor for showing it to me.

Fortunately it appears to be out on DVD, available through Madman. Unfortunately it also appears to only be available to order in Australia, but who knows - perhaps it will make its way overseas before long. However, to make up for this minor setback, it appears that Jasper will not be confined to simply one voyage, ladies and gentlemen! According to The Gothia Gazette (Jasper's official website), he will embark on not one, but four voyages! I eagerly await their arrival.

Once again, thank you Taylor for the link!
For the rest of you, I hope you enjoy.

Pay Jasper a visit on the Youtubes!