A lot of the dialogue in The Counselor is strange, stilted, and at times it's just McCarthy spewing philosophy, which is something I'm not generally fond of. In this case I feel that it elevates the film to a strange surreal, funny place, and some of it is profound, often in a disturbing or depressing way. The film better as a whole though with less dialogue? Quite possibly.
I despise the worship of Christopher Nolan for essentially the literal-minded reasons that you mention.
How do you feel about Watchmen the film vs. the book? Are you a fan of Moore's other work at all? Promethea may be up your alley (though really I guess the main, silly, reason I say that is because it features a strong female heroine), does many fascinating things with the form as well as being a traditionally good story with some laugh-out-loud moments. Touches on similar themes as Sandman but in my opinion does so more intelligently.
― J.P. McDevitt, Monday, 30 November 2015 03:57 (seven years ago) link
I read and loved Watchmen back in 1989. It was the first Alan Moore book I'd read, so I sought out other titles of his, but I never found anything else to match. I'll give Promethea a shot. I never could get through a single issue of Sandman. Neil Gaiman shouldn't write comics. He's a very good prose writer, but doesn't get the visual medium of comics (or films).
Agreed, Nolan is a bore. He's all about the intricacies of the text with no interesting subtext.
― Peter Chung, Monday, 30 November 2015 08:39 (seven years ago) link
The film of Watchmen is an exemplary adaptation. It fully preserves the characters, themes and style of the book, while rendering them in a rich sensory experience that films are capable of. The use of Dr. Manhattan as the external threat at the end is a great improvement also. Setting aside the issue of originality, I prefer the film.
― Peter Chung, Monday, 30 November 2015 08:51 (seven years ago) link
I did a brief Google Image search of Incal and it looks very "Fluxian". Was it an inspiration for your architectural and city designs? I'm inclined to pick it up ASAP, always a bit confusing to figure out what's exactly been put into what collected volume, especially with foreign comics.
Sandman is generally considered to not have hit its stride until about issue 8, so if you tried from the beginning you might never have gotten to the "better" stuff. That said, I'd tend to agree that there's nothing that special about the stories as comics. There's also an unrelenting "dreams and stories are ultimately the most powerful things in the world" theme that is trite and irritating.
I had read your Former People interview last year and am re-reading it now. They also did a great write-up on Tide.
― J.P. McDevitt, Saturday, 5 December 2015 07:05 (seven years ago) link
Be careful which edition of Incal you get. Make sure you get the original coloring and not the awful digitally colored re-issue.
Also, make sure you begin with "The Dark Incal" from 1981. This is one series that started strong and became more diffused the more it spun out. I'd avoid the sequels and go from "Planet Difool" to Jodorowsky and Gimenez' Metabarons.
I had the opportunity to work with Moebius back in 1981, when he was trying to get an animated feature produced called "Internal Transfer". Of all the artists I've had the chance to work with over the years, he was the most inspiring, the most creative, and yet humble and approachable.
― Peter Chung, Saturday, 5 December 2015 14:01 (seven years ago) link
My God, that looks really awesome and wonderful..
Peter, as ever I drift in patient anticipation of your future work.
― Sam G, Monday, 7 December 2015 12:48 (seven years ago) link
Looking forward to more based Peter Chung!
And I'll be trying to get my hands on some of those recommendations. I love the New Gods and Hard Boiled and would like to know if there are any other American comics you'd recommend. Most of the modern mainstream just doesn't do much for me anymore.
― Man From the Machine, Saturday, 9 January 2016 23:46 (seven years ago) link
I'm not Peter, but as a like-minded person (presumably) I can recommend Alan Moore's Promethea and Swamp Thing very highly. I also adored his Tomorrow Stories volume 1. All of these recommendations at times had my mind utterly blown with the genius of some of the things he did with the medium and with storytelling in general. Like the kind of thing where you have to stop reading and shake your head in awe.
― J.P. McDevitt, Sunday, 10 January 2016 07:00 (seven years ago) link
Peter, I'm interested in what you, as an animator and expert on the medium, consider to be the best animated works. What would you include in a list of animated works you feel that everyone who has a strong interest in the medium should see?
― Man From the Machine, Monday, 11 January 2016 09:17 (seven years ago) link
"Best animated works" can either mean: best works that happen to be animated, or works that are the best-animated.There are good films with good animation. Bad films with good animation. Good films with animation that's just serviceable. For me, I'd rather see a good film with mediocre animation than a mediocre film with good animation. But it varies case to case. Sometimes the quality of the craft is the point of the film. Fantasia and The Thief and the Cobbler are prime examples. Whereas Disney's Pinocchio has some of the best animation ever done, but I don't think it's a good film.
What I, personally, consider best (please don't take my view as authoritative):Miyazaki, it goes without saying. The only Pixar films I like are: Toy Story 1, A Bug's Life, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. I find the rest hard to watch. My personal favorite Disney feature is Alice in Wonderland. It gets criticized for lacking character development and a coherent story, but those are features of the book it's based on. I like it for precisely the fact that there isn't a traditional linear story. I prefer such films in general because my interest doesn't get exhausted after one viewing.
Best European feature: Fehérlófia (The White Mare's Son) by Jankovics. La Planete Sauvage by Laloux. The Bolero sequence from Bozzetto's "Allegro Non Troppo".
Manie-Manie from Madhouse. Yuasa's Happy Machine from the anthology Genius Party. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. The End of Evangelion. The Adolscence of Utena. (not-great animation, but perfectly matching the film's style and tone). The Tree of Palme is heavily flawed and 30 minutes too long, but the good in it is brilliant. Of Oshii's features, the first Ghost in the Shell is best, but Kusanagi's character never comes alive for me, which is a crucial weakness. I love almost all of Osamu Dezaki's output, even if none of it has interesting animation.
For shorts: Fleischer, Clampett, and Chuck Jones are all required viewing.
The problem with being introduced to good films through a list like this, is that you see a title here, and you'll go in with expectations of greatness. The impact a film has on me is often from being startled by the unexpected. It's a very personal, intimate response that all good art evokes, when you spontaneously discover you're witnessing something extraordinary. So, by putting these titles here, I've already spoiled the film for you. Nonetheless, since you asked:
"in" by Philipp Hirsch. "Hen, His Wife", "Andrei Svislotsky", "Milch" by Igor Kovalyov."Street of Crocodiles", "The Comb", "Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies" by the Brothers Quay.Stop motion films by Jiri Barta and Jan Svankmajer."Harpya" by Raoul Servais. "The Game of Angels" by Walerian Borowczyk.
There's more, but that will get you started.
― Peter Chung, Tuesday, 12 January 2016 14:58 (seven years ago) link
Thanks Peter, a lot to chew on there.
― Nhex, Tuesday, 12 January 2016 17:28 (seven years ago) link
those Kovalyov toons used to give me nightmares
― the late great, Tuesday, 12 January 2016 22:17 (seven years ago) link
Thanks for the recommendations, Peter.
I watched Feherlofia about a month or two ago and I loved how the animation created this sense of unity between the characters and the rest of the world. The bright colors, the way the demigods interacted with their settings and how in some sequences they would become part of it (or it would become part of them). It really captured the ethos of those old nomadic myths where humanity and nature coexisted in harmony. That must be why the dragons had these rigid, dark, angular looks that contrasted with the rest of the film's aesthetic. Amazing film.
I appreciate most of Miyazaki's films to at least some degree, but I guess it's my personal taste that prevents me from really loving them. What do you think of his longtime collaborator Isao Takahata?
Masaaki Yuasa is one of my favorite directors in anime. I haven't not liked anything I've seen from him. The same goes for Kovalyov.
I've seen some shorts from Jones, Clampett and Fleischer but I should see more. And really watch more classic Western animation in general.
Regarding Ghost in the Shell, I think Kusanagi's character not really "coming alive" was in line with the film's focus on identity becoming less of a solid construct and more of a fluid one in a world where the boundary between human and AI/machines is becoming looser.
― Man From the Machine, Wednesday, 13 January 2016 16:41 (seven years ago) link
Jones is best known for Bugs, Daffy and Road Runner, for which Michael Maltese deserves a lot of the credit. I'll mention a few titles that are lesser known, but convey well the vaguely sinister unease that I find permeates his work. Its' the contrast between the cheerful character designs and utterly deranged psyches. The two Ralph Phillips shorts "A to ZZZZ" and "Boyhood Daze". "A Bear for Punishment". "Fresh Airedale".
Having seen all of Oshii's animated output (and a bit of the live-action), I think the coldness of his characters comes from stubbornness. He resists sentimentality, but loses the humanistic parts in the bargain. His Patlabor films suffer even more in this regard. In GITS, it's a particular problem in that I don't really feel like there's much of a change between who she is before and after she merges with the A.I. The same goes for GITS2 Innocence. The value of using real live girls to drive the gynoids is supposedly to provide something human which the androids can't on their own. The movie utterly fails to convey the difference.
― Peter Chung, Wednesday, 13 January 2016 22:36 (seven years ago) link
I read the first volume of Phoenix (Dawn). At first I thought it would be a stuffy historical epic, but it turned out to have lots of humor, goes full cartoon nonsense at times, fourth-wall breaking stuff, etc. And I was surprised that by the end I was fairly invested in character fates. Peter, any specific thoughts on Phoenix? I will probably continue the series.
I've started Kirby's Fourth World Saga, the Omnibus volume 1. Years ago I bought just New Gods based on Peter's article, that version didn't have color and since it's part of a larger story it probably made less sense to me than it would in context. Peter were you not crazy about the other comics in Kirby's Fourth World? Curious why you specifically mentioned just New Gods.
― J.P. McDevitt, Sunday, 17 January 2016 00:04 (seven years ago) link
Don't know if you've seen this yet, Peter, or anyone on here who likes animation. The Junkyard by Hulsing https://vimeo.com/84024649, blew me away for the technique and the story which were both incredible and told purely through visuals. I highly recommend giving it the 18 minutes of attention.
― Josh, Sunday, 17 January 2016 04:19 (seven years ago) link
I've been a fan of Tezuka's Phoenix since I first saw the movie "Hi no Tori 2772: Ai no Cosmozone" (aka "Space Firebird") in 1980, at which time I had the chance to meet him in person. A year later, when he was visiting the Disney animation studio, where I was working, I ran into him and started gushing like a little fanboy. He was completely alone- just his translator, no one knew or cared who he was. He was gracious and humble and asked about me. A cherished memory.
I've read the SF parts of the saga in print since it's been translated. I had the full set in a Japanese edition, which I couldn't read, but I used to spend hours marveling at Tezuka's masterful design, layout and pacing. The subsequent animated versions aren't as good as the comics, but I do recommend the 1980 film- if you can find the unedited original.
On Kirby- I used to have a lot of the Fourth World comics, but he was so prolific, that i'd never get around to reading them all. I used to also read the Eternals, which is basically New Gods, but done with Marvel, and couldn't remember which was which. New Gods stands out for me because it was brief and was my first introduction to the concept, so it went on the list. I remember liking OMAC and Mister Miracle also.
Thanks for the link to Junkyard. I'd seen his earlier film Seventeen and liked it well enough. Junkyard is like an upgrade. I'd seen the promotion for Junkyard in which he described the laborious process of completing it. Definitely well executed technically and smartly directed. My only reservation is that it's so unremittingly bleak. I had the same reaction to Okiura and Oshii's Jin-Roh. And Malick's Tree of Life. I don't remember childhood being like that. Childhood included a lot of laughter and beauty too.
If you liked Junkyard, check out the films of Yeon Sang Ho. The King of Pigs and The Fake. Very well done, but nasty and brutish.
― Peter Chung, Tuesday, 19 January 2016 14:47 (seven years ago) link
Some great picks in this thread. I saw Allegro Non Troppo when I was growing up; it messed with my head, but in a good way.
Uneven but brilliant is a good way to describe A Tree Of Palme, I think. Though I disagree about it being overlong; the film benefits from a deliberate pace.
The recent Studio Ghibli film Kaguya-hime is also very deliberate, but visually spectacular. I think it’s the best film Isao Takahata has directed, as well as one of the best things Ghibli has done, and I’d recommend it to any fan of animation.
There’s a good writeup on it (with some edifying commentary) on the Analog Housou blog: http://analoghousou.com/2013/12/31/so-crazy-japanese-folklore-kaguya-hime-no-monogatari/
― Blair Gilbreath, Wednesday, 16 November 2016 05:10 (six years ago) link
Peter, you've likely already discussed a lot of this if I searched archives, but probably not in quite the way I'll ask it. I'm curious about how you think about "meaning" in some specific works of yours. Let's use War.
I just re-watched it. On the surface, I get that it's in part a subversion of action movie tropes (including a direct Indiana Jones reference/"subversion"). We always see the ridiculous action hero getting absurdly lucky, but here we're forced to switch protagonists a bunch of times as we get to something closer to the reality of randomness. This was addressed to some extent in Season 1, I think.
On this viewing I missed the significance of the blood/oil puddle.
What I'm more curious about is whether you feel there is something deeper to War than "this is an entertaining short that pokes fun at the absurdity of many action films" (I hope you don't take this as a slight, as I like it a lot either way).
― J.P. McDevitt, Tuesday, 11 April 2017 05:48 (six years ago) link
Relating this question back to my comments about Oshii's GITS movie, every meaning you get from AF-War is conveyed solely through context. There is no exposition, there isn't any speech. There is, nonetheless, a "text". Any point, any meaning, any emotion, any theme either political or philosophical that you can derive, you do so by your own act of observation and deduction. It occurs in the viewer's mind. You own it.
If you see the oil puddle at the end and think: "the escaping couple are going to slip and fall, then die, just like all the other heroes whose efforts were pointless." Why is your mind having that thought? Your'e just looking at an innocuous image of a puddle of oil. This is what I mean by the power of the "loaded image".
You may go on to think "heroism in war is manufactured", or "retaliatory violence is futile" or "---", etc. For me, it's more important that the viewer finds himself in the act of seeing a meaning or just wanting to see a meaning in the film's imagery.
Describing which army is fighting which other army and the reasons for the war would only be a meaningless distraction. If the film conveyed information that the soldiers in black are fighting to defend their land from an invading force intent on seizing their resources, a portion of viewers will seize upon that information and derive the moral "message" from those fictional, arbitrary details. Doing so misses the point. Even if such information was included to provide "backstory", an artist has no authority to enlighten the viewer in that way.
I recently showed the old AF shorts to a filmmaker friend who'd never seen them. He brought up the shot of the tooth landing in the empty bottle. Why that shot?I explained to him that my reasoning behind that choice went something like this: I needed for the blonde warrior (Varsh) to dispatch the guards easily to enter the underground compound. I did not have the time, money, energy or desire to show another gun battle. I also wanted to convey Varsh's supreme prowess in the use of his weapon. By showing the tooth of his victim after being shot, flying into the bottle and dwelling on it rattling and settling inside, I could perhaps evoke all of that in a way that would be more engaging of the viewer's attention than if we just witnessed yet another scene of guys shooting each other. Very important too, is the fact that the camera anticipates the event by focusing on the empty bottle before the tooth comes flying in. This is an omniscient camera, and conveys the inevitability of the victim's death.
― Peter Chung, Tuesday, 11 April 2017 10:18 (six years ago) link
"What I'm more curious about is whether you feel there is something deeper to War than "this is an entertaining short that pokes fun at the absurdity of many action films""
The question makes me wonder also. What kind of answer might satisfy? If you are asking if there is some special insight to be gained through a process of interpretation of the episode- my answer is that you may find some such, but no, it is not my intention for the viewer to seek it.
The goal for me, is to deliver to the viewer a singular experience. More importantly, to put the viewer in a lasting state of having had a singular experience.
― Peter Chung, Tuesday, 11 April 2017 14:15 (six years ago) link
You are of course correct with the implication of your question, "what kind of answer might satisfy?" It's strange that I even asked the question, because this isn't something I generally concern myself with anymore. Looking for "deeper meaning" in terms of "does this work give you some trite advice about how to live your life better?" is very high school English, and that was sort of what I was asking (for reasons that escape me now).
That being said, if I do want to think of War as having some "deeper" significance, I could point out that your subversion of action tropes speaks to the ridiculous, impossible ideas that Americans hold about lone badass heroes saving the day, and that those ideas that Americans (and others) have can actually lead to pretty severe consequences. So by subverting them in a way that's engaging and entertaining, you're doing good for the world.
(This was not in my head when I wrote the original question.)
Do you tend to support reasoning like this about art, about yours in particular? Is this what you're talking about when you say you want to the viewer to find themself in the act of seeing a meaning? (Re-reading your first reply, it seems so.)
― J.P. McDevitt, Sunday, 30 April 2017 06:29 (six years ago) link
To me the tooth scene highlights the fact that action movies are (often) made up of ridiculous, contrived coincidences. I didn't think of the other possible philosophical implications.
Though I suspect it's best if the "message" of War is kept ambiguous on some level. It's the sort of work that raises questions more than gives answers. The way the lead character is killed off in a jump cut, for instance, again highlighting how much manipulation is baked in to the average action movie. That doesn't impart a moral message, but if it counters a form of subliminal conditioning (which I think it does) maybe we can come up with alternative messages.
― Blair Gilbreath, Sunday, 30 April 2017 15:29 (six years ago) link
(Also, I found it amusing how the first episode of Elfen Lied tipped its hat to War in a big way.)
― Blair Gilbreath, Sunday, 30 April 2017 15:30 (six years ago) link
"Do you tend to support reasoning like this about art, about yours in particular? Is this what you're talking about when you say you want to the viewer to find themself in the act of seeing a meaning? "
When I first considered becoming an artist in earnest while in high school, I was determined to make work that mattered, that carried an important "message" for the public. I thought I would use my skills to help enlighten other people. (I was also driven by a religious motive to proselytize). It became clear to me quickly that the claim to have this ability, on the part of an artist, is a sham. The best that an artist can hope to do is to demonstrate relationships that occur within the scope of a creative work.
That is as opposed to demonstrating any truths that relate the work to the external world. Those can only be contrivances. Those are arbitrary and can serve a didactic goal in service of completely divergent world views. They have no claim to being true or authoritative.
An artist however can rightly get the viewer to become aware of structures and patterns of meaning within the work that trigger novel trains of thought. That is not trivial and I am satisfied with that.
― Peter Chung, Sunday, 30 April 2017 16:10 (six years ago) link