March 2004 Archives

Sticky Fun

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I clicked through to an online exhibit of street graphics while reading Nofi, one of my favorite blogs. One of the things I immediately noticed in the exhibit is how often the graphics are layered, forming a palimpsest, with each prior image framing or informing those that come after. I chanced to click around on the front page and also discovered a great site for GUI goodies, I assume done by the curator.

I went to see the Triplets of Belleville a few weeks ago with the Cute Little Red-Haired Girlfriend and my friend Joe. Just before the Oscars each year, the girlfriend and I go on a film feeding frenzy trying to see as many nominated films as possible. We never quite hit all of them, but this year, because of the early telecast, we really fell short.

There were only three nominations in the animation category this year, and we managed to see just two of them: Finding Nemo and The Triplets of Belleville. I enjoyed them both and thought they made an interesting contrast in animation styles. While Nemo is a polished example of Disney storytelling, next to Triplets it seems formulaic and rather conventional. Although I am a huge fan of Disney animation, a movie like Triplets shows what has been lost through Disney's dominance in the field, at least in the U.S.

Where Nemo is heartwarming and clever, Triplets is, well, trippy. The story is told for the most part without dialogue, yet its narrative manages to be much more specific than Nemo. We know more about the internal lives of triplets characters, in part due to the film's evocative story-telling methods. For example, portions of the Triplets story are told through the dreams of a dog that belongs to the lead characters, which provides the viewer with a completely different, yet intimate perspective on the action.

Many viewers rightly praised Nemo for its beauty and technical achievement. The ocean provides a fantastic setting for dramatic colors and textures. I was a bit jaded going into Nemo, however, because I have for some time suspected that I may suffer from Animated Liquids Fatigue. This condition affects mainly animation fans who have seen one too many gratuitous scenes of animated water (e.g., Pocahontas), lava (e.g., Shrek) or other liquid, inserted into a film primarily to show off and say, "Hey! Look how realistic-looking this liquid is!" Wow. Just like water. How much did I pay for this ticket?

The ocean sequence in Triplets, on the other hand, lasts only long enough to make its story point: we are crossing water now. And it does so artfully, relying not on realism but on more suggestive, painterly effects. The animated transformations in Triplets are intended to make us marvel and to stretch the imagination, rather than to smoothly give the illusion of life. In this sense, I think the film embodies more of the spirit of animation, and is a better exemplar of the art form, than more technologically sophisticated endeavors.

I loved many of the characters in Nemo (a lesbian fish!), including the villainous, fish-eating sharks. The fish-eating Triplets, on the other hand, are not sentimentalized--they remain spooky and mysterious even in close quarters. None of the characters in Triplets are exactly lovable, though they are memorable. I expect the club-footed, bespectacled grandmother in Triplets will live long in my memory even though her character is not destined to become a stuffed toy in the Disney store.

As in the Wallace & Gromit series, there is a strange Rube Goldberg-like invention at the center of the story. At one point, the Triplets form a slapdash band, making music from household objects instead of instruments. Even the jazzy Triplets theme song, which was also nominated for an Oscar, is filled with verbal contortions. It is this unexpected action, of things turning into other things, that makes the film so magical.

I am Optimus Prime

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While browsing scribblingwoman, I came across this fantastic quiz and couldn't resist it: Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?


A Brace of Ideas

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In answer to Neilalien's recent post asking for a collective noun to describe comics fans, I would like to put forth the suggestion "a clamoring of comics fans." I really enjoyed Neilalien's link to a page entirely devoted to collective nouns. One of my favorites is "a cruft of hackers." My friend Joe has contributed "a gaggle of gay men" to our conversation, and I have come up with "a pride of lesbians" for my tribe. I think "a mob of bloggers" is appropriate, but perhaps that should just be for phone bloggers or mobile bloggers. Only then you'd be stuck with "a mob or mobloggers," which is a bit of a mouthful.

Reality cartoon strip

I've been enjoying the collaborative, reality-based comics at Pathetic Geek Stories, which bring to life childhood scenes of trauma written in by adult geeks. They're quite touching, even though they're based around events that were once experienced as humiliating, and very hilarious. Anyone can write in with a story about him or herself to share.

Imagine my distress this week when, pausing at my office desk for a bit of lunch, I discovered Flat Earth! had ceased to be worksafe.

Comics blogroll

There's a great new service freely available to comics lovers--a centralized comics blogroll of sorts, brought to you by Simply Comics. It tells you which comics-related blogs have been updated most recently. It's a good solution for me right at this moment, since my blogroll has grown unwieldly.

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