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Friday, August 31, 2007

Art School Confidential

Director: Terry Zwigoff
Screenplay: Daniel Clowes

Max Minghella ... Jerome
Sophia Myles ... Audrey
John Malkovich ... Professor Sandiford
Jim Broadbent ... Jimmy
Matt Keeslar ... Jonah
Ethan Suplee ... Vince
Joel Moore ... Bardo (as Joel David Moore)
Nick Swardson ... Matthew
Anjelica Huston ... Art History Teacher
Adam Scott ... Marvin Bushmiller

Jerome Platz, a talented but impressionable young artist just got a big break by
being accepted in the prestigious art school the Strathmore Institute. As somewhat of an outcast and a helpless romantic, he found in that school the girl of his dreams and started to desperately impress her with his self perceived talent. The only other thing he focused on was his ambition to be the greatest painter. However, the hypocrisy and pretentiousness of the cutthroat world of art school is something he hadn't prepared for. Add to that the lingering presence of a serial killer publicly dubbed as the Strathmore Strangler, and the antagonistic tension between the local police and his college community, Jerome must now face the fact that he is just one of the many stereotypes with a hollow pipe dream of becoming a famous artist.

The movie is very loosely based on the comic of the same title. Understandable as the comics was just a 4 page feature in the 7th issue of Eightball (an anthology comic by Daniel Clowes who also was the screenwriter for the movie).
I know most people had been disappointed by this flick and it did actually polarized critics with their reviews. I however fall on the camp that loved this movie. Most criticisms blames it for being based in a comic because said characters are either cliche or stereotypes and are bland because of that. I know comics is still a niche market and for some reason some people still want to separate manga from it, but it really amuses me that today, in the 21st century, there are still people stuck on the notion that all comics are simplistic kiddie fare full of characters with alliterative names. Such argument and platform for criticizing a movie basically has no legs in my opinion. Simply for the fact that first, they really have no idea about the source material and have not personally encountered it, citing it only on hearsay and assumptions based on stigma. Secondly, they obviously were oblivious to the context on how the movie is just loosely based on the concept of a very short comics and that is considerably divergent from the said material, besides taking its title and the core concept that it is a satirical parody of an art school environment. I may sound like I'm just making a straw man argument but I really needed to get that out of my chest.

I do not want to change the opinions of those who have already seen the movie and did not like it. Instead, I will just concentrate on what made it work for me.
Now on to the proper review.

What many people who have seen the movie fail to realize is, I doubt this was made to be a serious statement that reflects the social human condition in attempt to be high art. Cartoonist Daniel Clowes may be known for that in his comics work, but this movie surely is not. Just like the core of the source material (which has been noted by the creator himself was just nothing more than filler material who took a life of its own by becoming a phenomenon to various art schools), the movie was one big satirical parody of the art school community. It is full of exaggerations, cliche and stereotypes for that reason. The narrative is just incidental and a tool to showcase all of them. It should readily have been apparent to the audience once they saw the conclusion, showcasing the hypocrisy and opportunism of the protagonist in the end. It was commentary on a very small circle that exist in society, the artistic field. The creators were making fun of themselves and their peers.

I cannot guarantee that everybody will enjoy this movie. However if you are a professional artist, an art student, film major or anything similar, I'm pretty sure curiosity will take over and you'll end up watching this anyway. I do humbly recommend this film just for the fact that I have personally enjoyed it. This goes without saying that your mileage may vary from my own.

As always, I'm a nice guy enough to actually embed a YouTube trailer of the Art School Confidential movie just so that you could understand and have a better idea of what ever the heck i am talking about. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Monkey vs. Robot

Created by: James Kochalka
Published by: Top Shelf Productions
One of cartoonist's James Kochalka's earliest and famous works. It kind of became a phenomenon in a niche circle. I would not necessarily classify this as a silent comic as it did feature some words and special effects sound, but it is more of a visual story. The basic premise is simple, a group of monkeys fought a factory of robots for their jungle. I cant really spill much because you need to see it to actually get the story more fully, and it is such a short one even if the book does clock up 160 pages. It's the visual telling and not verbal saying of the story aspect of it that makes it so.

The story is basically an allegory of the "Nature vs. Technology" concept presented through simple yet beautiful and some might say in a crudely elegant art drowned in a sea of whimsy. All in all, this book is a great short read for all ages.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Henshin!?!


Directed by Takao Nagaishi
Written by Toshiki Inoue

Masaya Kikawada as Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1
Hassei Takano as Hayato Ichimonji/Kamen Rider 2
Rena Komine as Asuka Midorikawa

From the opening credits:

An organization that manipulates society from the underworld.
The soldiers they create [remodeled humans], have superhuman abilities that they use for their dark operations.
They keep their feelings and identities secret no matter what.
Thus they wear a [mask] (kamen) ----------

Synopsis:(Spoiler Section --read at your own risk)
College student Takeshi Hongo is abducted into terrorist organisation SHOCKER (Sacred Hegemony Of Cycle Kindred Evolutional Realm), where he was experimented upon to become a remodeled human agent for said organization. Brainwashed, he became an assassin for the group and successfully carried out his first mission. Later on when he was instructed to assassinate witnesses of his first mission, he found his lost humanity inside him and rebelled against SHOCKER. That was because he discovered the witnesses were the reporter Asuka Midorikawa, whom he has a crush on and interviewed him prior to being abducted and her fiancé Katsuhiko Yano .

The ensuing debacle led to Hongo being labeled as a traitor and ended up with him killing another remodeled human agent to avoid punishment. Yano was presumed to have died in the incident but was actually taken by SHOCKER to be turned into a replacement agent in Hongo's stead. Yano acquired a new identity as Ichimonji Hayato, the second Kamen Rider.

Hayato was willing to kill Hongo as a rival in order to win his fiancé back. That all changed however when SHOCKER decided to make the reporter into a remodeled human agent of theirs too. This forced the two Kamen Riders into a reluctant alliance to save the woman.

Honestly speaking I am very torn about this movie. I kind of love and hate it in a way. From what I have gathered, the general reaction from fandom seems to be the same way and my feelings about this is not even influenced by that.

This movie is basically a remake of the first series that basically became a huge franchise. Stylistically and visually, I really loved this movie for actually updating the original and for the lack of a better term "making it cooler". One major difference from the original TV series is it's obvious attempt to take itself seriously and totally and consciously avoiding the "campy" aspect of the series. In that regard, it tried to add elements and changes from the original. I wouldn't say they needlessly did those as I was quite fine with many of them but in retrospect they could have executed it in much better ways in my opinion.

The lack of the term "henshin" (literally translates as "transform") being used by the heroes is something I can easily accept for the remake compared to most fans who cry hypocrisy and that the movie was blatantly ashamed of its own genre of being a superhero movie. I have no problems with it in the fact that it fits the context of the movie, because the characters weren't really transforming either, they were just suiting up. The concept here is unlike in the series, even though they have become remodeled humans (basically cyborgs), they just still look like normal humans, just stronger, faster and basically I guess physically better. It's just kind of jarring for a long time fan of the franchise like me to not hear henshin being uttered, when the movie is basically based on the series that made the word famous and actually being used as a sub-genre descriptor in Henshin Heroes (literally meaning transforming heroes) for Tokusatsu (Japanese Sci-fi).

The concept of the remodeled humans needing blood transfusion lest they run the risk of the body rejecting their cybernetic parts and dying was a concept I really liked, however they botched it all up by not tackling and completely ignoring it after being introduced. I was honestly scratching my head why they even bothered with it since they really didn't even used the damn thing.

The plot that lead to the final scene, telling the origin of the two remodeled human agents that fought with the two Kamen Riders was totally hokey and disjointed in timeline. Initially confusing to the audience until they figure out that it is some poorly executed attempt of a Pulp Fiction (the movie) type presentation.

All in all it is a decent action movie with enough visual cues and candy for long time fans like me to geek out and latch on to and even impress first time viewers of the franchise. The only concern will be the retarded structuring of the story and seemingly disdain for the campiness of the original series by the movie, when in itself it just ended being what it didnt want to be, a goofy yet entertaining superhero movie. The Kamen Rider Black TV series still beats it as a more serious and darker interpretation of the series.

I still recommend this to first time viewers, as half of the possible issues I have with this movie is based more on my familiarity with the property. New fans will probably enjoy it better, not as a serious flick but more of popcorn fare type entertainment. I mean the action scenes are still top notch and dynamic. The story about average, the structuring of the narrative is probably only the weakest part of it.

Here's the Japanese theatrical trailer thanks to Tokyo and YouTube to give you guys an inkling of what I'm talking about:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Talent Spotlight: Jen Wang

Don't you hate it when you cant remember some of the people you've known or met? Imagine how harder it is for people you haven't even met or interacted with. When all you have is just a name. I mean yeah, it's easy to remember celebrities like actors, actresses, singers etc.; but that's only because you have a face attached to the memory and the media for one time or another has probably bombarded your consciousness with their existence.

Artists like painters, illustrators, sculptors and writers gets the short end of the stick in that regard. Especially if you're not a historical figure (yet?) or even someone on the top the so-called niche of whatever it is you decided to break in to. Of course today the internet changed all that, literally everybody can now be a celebrity to at least 3 people if we wanted to. So what does Jen Wang have all to do with that very long rambling of an introduction and who is she really? The honest answer is I really don't know. Well I used to, then completely forgot about her and whatever works of her I encountered, and then now I sort of remember. Try reading this first two paragraphs aloud and you'd probably think I'm some kind of airhead. Trust me, I could have edited this all out, but I do feel this fits this particular entry and of the message I'm actually trying to convey. So please bear with me some more.

The funniest thing in all of this is, had I just changed perspective and if someone had asked me if I knew what Strings of Fate was, I could probably give you an answer or at the least a bit of inkling within seconds. It's an online comic that I liked and used to follow years ago. Part of my problem of being a pack rat in real life is that it also transitioned into me being a bookmark junkie. I almost certainly will bookmark any webpage that manages to get my interest. And this has been the case with my knowledge of Jen Wang. It was her work, that particular one that made an impression on me. With the online comic now gone and the domain name used by a cyber squatter, it could have been virtually impossible for me to know who she was. Good thing she wasn't a one trick pony and I have managed to found who created Strings of fate with the help of Google. One amazing thing I have noticed, she has improved a lot from what I remember of her sketchy online comic to her being an actual high caliber professional artist. She has now been a 2 time contributor for the first two volumes of the highly successful Flight anthology series as well as the You Ain't No Dancer black and white anthology.

Her art has often been praised as an amalgamation of manga and Disney, which is actually funny considering the history of manga and the influence of Disney to legendary mangaka Osamu Tezuka, but that's another story altogether.

I must admit that I really know very little about her even today. However, her work speaks to me. Not just the online comic I used to follow but also from all the stuff I have seen now on her official website here. It may not be high art or anything, but the playfulness of her works, the ways she tells her stories with, heck the stories she comes up with in itself, the overtly naughty or edginess (a term I usually hate to use but is rightly appropriate here) counteracted by the whimsical appeal of her visuals really does command attention. Well at least for me that is. I like the playfulness inherent in her works, a sense of being familiar in her style yet completely claiming it as hers.

So what I was trying to say about her works in the first place, is basically I like her style. I don't know anything about the person, but as an artist she's really good. That's it!

Please don't kill me.

Please note that I actually recommend to check her Monster Sex series of art in the gallery part of her site. They look absolutely beautiful and she is actually selling a set of prints of it. I myself will be trying to find a way to purchase them without the shipping cost crippling me, since I live waaaaay outside of the U.S.

All artworks featured in this entry is copyright Jen Wang and is taken directly from her website found at

Friday, August 24, 2007

This Time It's Personal

If you don't know what MoCCA is, well then I'm glad to rectify that situation. Simply put, it's the acronym of an organization called the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. The name itself should be descriptive enough, but if you do want to find out more details about the organization, you can check the Wikipedia entry about them here or you can visit their official website here.

MoCCA is really well known to enthusiasts of comics for regularly hosting various events throughout the year that celebrates the artform. Every year they celebrate an annual MoCCA Art Festival. It was held last June 23-24 of this year. Luckily for me, even if I didn't had the ability to attend, that an online buddy of mine,one Jeremy Hughes, is a volunteer worker for that said organization. The list of guests and exhibitors this year was practically a "who's who" of professionals I admire or look up to. The guy managed to snag me some sketches with personal greetings or dedication to me and I really love and appreciated it. I'm sharing those to you now.

This one was done by Raina Telgemeier, probably and currently most famous for as the illustrator of the Baby-sitters Club Graphic Novel series, adapted from the novel by Ann M. Martin. You can find more info about her on her official website

This particular sketch is done by Craig Yoe. I have to admit that he is a bit on the obscure side of fame, but I really do love his works. With his body of works, nobody could really argue though his success as an artist and personal achievements.

Craig Yoe is co-founder of YOE Studio and a proponent of Arf. If you have no idea what the heck I just said, then just click the links, please? I do love Arf.

Okay, last but not the least (or is it?). This next artwork is something not done by anybody famous. Heck he doesn't even claim to be an artist himself. However, I do like, and I mean really like whatever drawings of his he posts on the internet. This one is done by my online buddy Jeremy Hughes himself, by special request from me. I asked for something that combined horror and 1950s sci-fi. This was what I got:

This sucker blew me away! I love it.

Gegege No Kitaro art by Craig Thompson

Well, before anything else, yes I had been gone for a while. I apologize for that, I wish I could post here more regularly but such is life. However, good news is you could consider this as a resurrection of sorts. October is near again and that seems when I'm active the most here. I do have tons of stuff to share again for that particular season of the year.

Now on to business...

If you guys still remember my Shigeru Mizuki entry last year, well this entry is obviously related to that. Famous cartoonist Craig Thompson (famous for the graphic novels Blankets and Goodbye Chunky Rice) apparently is a fan too. Well I'd just like to share that he did this artwork:

Said artwork is a gift for his friend who got him into the Gegege No Kitaro manga series. More details are found here in this link from which the pic is taken.

Heck why not visit his blog Doot Doot Doot Garden and poke around on all his interesting entries. I highly recommend it.