Posted on December 17th, 2019
It is no secret that I am a massive, massive fan of the films of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli. I own all the DVDs. I have the VHS and DVD imports. I have all the "making of" books. I even managed to get tickets and attend a rare American appearance by Miyazaki-san himself when he was in Los Angeles. There is just no end to the respect, admiration, and love I have for these animated masterpieces.
So naturally I jumped at the chance to purchase them digitally when iTunes finally had the films for sale this morning. There goes the iTunes Gift Cards I bought on Black Friday.
Surprisingly, there's no "Master Collection Bundle" to purchase all the films in one go. The closest you can get is a $100 "Six Films Collection" which includes some of Studio Ghibli's most popular animated classics...
All the other movies have to be purchased individually. This is a bit odd considering that three of his more critically renowned works (Only Yesterday, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and Grave of the Fireflies) don't get a bundle treatment.
I must say... it was worth the wait. Because every dubbed film purchase also gets you a subtitled version with the original Japanese actors! Don't get me wrong... the English-speaking casting is always good (Phil Hartman as Jiji in Kiki's Delivery Service is sheer genius), but I really enjoy hearing them as they were originally intended. The films are animated to the voice track, and sometimes the English dub doesn't quite get to where the original performances were at.
I have no idea why Miyazaki-san finally relented to digital distribution. I believe that he's gone on record more than once about wanting his work seen in theaters first... and perhaps television if a theatrical viewing is not possible. I think he bristled at the idea of the sublime subtlety of his animation getting lost on a tiny phone screen. And, to be honest, you can hardly blame him.
Studio Ghibli struck a deal with HBO Max to distribute all their films for streaming (starting next May, I believe). Given their long association with Disney, this was a bit shocking... but I guess Disney+ didn't want to pony up enough money to make it happen. The iTunes announcement came afterwards and was a bit of a surprise. I thought perhaps the films would never be released digitally... certainly not while Miyazaki-san is alive.
But here we are.
Even more exciting is Hayao Miyazaki's final film... an adaptation of 君たちはどう生きるか (How Do You Live?), which is a hugely famous 1937 novel in Japan. It is hoped that this movie will be released next year, but I haven't seen an official release date yet.
Posted on July 3rd, 2011
Oh, wipe your tears away... Sunday, bloody Sunday...
• Plus! Annnnd... Google debuted their "Google+" social media services this week. As a so-called "Facebook killer" it's pretty interesting. I like that its smarter at controlling who sees the things you post. I like being able to organize people into my "Circles"... which are kind of like old rotary phone dials...
Of course, if you have a hundred friends, you can only see thirteen in your little dial until you click on it, but I guess that's better than nothing.
I've already got Facebook, Twitter, and this blog sucking up my time. Do I really need another "thing" cutting into my already mega-packed offline life? I mean, I suppose I can give up sleeping and going to the bathroom, but is Google+ really worth it? Time will tell.
• Colbert. This past week Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report received approval from the FEC to form his own Political Action Committee. But, unlike regular PACs, he formed a Super PAC which has no restrictions on the amount of money he can raise. I'm absolutely fascinated at the prospect of a comedian having access to a PAC, and can't wait to see how much he can raise and what he's eventually going to do with it.
So I donated some money. And got an autographed photo for my trouble...
Whatever he does with his money, I'm betting it's going to be a heck of a lot more interesting than what Sarah Palin has been doing with her PAC monies.
• Roundabout. I noted an article link over on Neil Turner's Blog about how the British roundabout is conquering the US. This is something I can confirm as true. Years ago, the only roundabouts I'd ever seen in the USA were in Massachusetts. But now they are popping up everywhere. The first I remember seeing in my home state of Washington was at the I-90 interchange in North Bend...
Image taken from Google Maps
And now, even small local cities like nearby Wenatchee are getting roundabouts.
The problem is that nobody here seems to know how to drive on them. Most of the time I've seen people encounter a roundabout, they full-stop instead of yield. And, even then, they don't know what to do, preferring to just sit there for a while until they get up the courage to enter. Hopefully this will change as they become more prevalent, but right now they're more trouble than they're worth.
• Arrietty. The next film by animation genius Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli is called Arrietty, and is based on the beloved book The Borrowers by Mary Norton. As with everything Miyazaki touches, it looks stunning...
My loved of all things Miyazaki is well documented. He has been a massive influence on me for decades, and his works are without peer in the animation world (the people at Pixar practically worship the man, for example). That he has continued to work after his "retirement" in 1998 has been a source of absolute joy to me, and seeing yet another film with his fingerprints on it makes me happier than I can possibly express. And while his role at Ghibli seems mostly supervisory now (though he appears to still be doing some writing and drawing too), he seems to have good people (including his son) carrying on his work...
Arrietty was released in Japan almost a year ago and I have yet to see it. Today I learned that it won't reach the USA until FEBRUARY, 2012!! And while I would prefer to see the movie with the original Japanese soundtrack and subtitles, the North American release is certain to be an English dub (as usual). I don't even care. I just want to see it! Then hopefully the Blu-Ray release will preserve the Japanese version like Ponyo did. In the meanwhile... I wait.
And that's all she wrote since I have to get up early for work in the morning. Here's hoping all my fellow USAsians have a good holiday tomorrow!
Posted on August 22nd, 2010
It's a boring day for Bullet Sunday, but here it comes...
• Read. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the Curious George. It was George who ignited my life-long love of monkeys, and his books remain some of my favorites of all time (the best being Curious George Goes to the Hospital. For this reason, I was happy to see that the Library of Congress was using him to promote reading with a series of cool ads...
Books come and go, but the classics are forever.
• Digital. As a long-time fan of comic books, there's something... wrong... with the idea of reading them digitally on an iPad or computer screen instead of the wonderful tactile experience of flipping through the pages of a book. But, after downloading a bunch of freebies on my mom's iPad using the Comixology app, I have to say... I'm almost convinced. I'm growing to love the effortless navigation, brilliant colors, and distraction-free panel-by-panel "Guide View" that leads you through the stories. As if that weren't enough, you can store a lot of comics on a digital device, which beats having to lug around stacks of books and finding room to store them all...
However... pricing and availability sucks ass.
Take for example the acclaimed Vertigo series Y: The Last Man. I've never read the series, but have always wanted to. The first issue was FREE on Comixology so I snapped it up and was immediately hooked. I wanted more. So I click on the "Full Series" button only to find this...
WTF?!? They have just THREE issues of a SIXTY issue series... FOR A DOLLAR-NINETY-NINE EACH!! Even if the entire series was available, who is going to pay $120 when you can get PHYSICAL COPIES of all ten trade paperback volumes for $90? Heck, you can get all the OVERSIZED DELUXE HARDCOVER volumes for $100. This is insanity. Nobody wants to pay more for less. No printing. No shipping costs. No distribution. No retailer markup. No resale value. Nothing extra or special. Except the price, which just sucks. I would gladly pay $60 for the entire digital series, I may even pay $90, which is what the trade paperbacks would cost me. But $120? Screw that. Especially since there's no guarantee they'll ever release all the issues for digital sale in the first place. If this is the future of publishing, count me out. EPIC FAIL!
• Emmy. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Betty White won an Emmy for her hilarious guest host performance on Saturday Night Live...
To this day, I remain astounded at how she cut no corners... she appeared in every sketch, plus an SNL Short, plus all the MacGruber interludes plus Weekend Update. Truly one of the hardest working people in show business (she just signed on for a TWO-book deal!), this is Betty's fifth Emmy win and she deserved every bit of it. As always, I can't wait to see what she'll do next.
• Miyazaki. Good news for fans of Hayao Miyazaki (perhaps the greatest animator in history). Despite saying he was going to retire years ago, a recent interview revealed that he has no plans to retire. In fact, he's planning two films and is musing over a sequel to his underrated gem, Porco Rosso...
When I flew to L.A. and met up with Howard for a rare live appearance of Miyazaki-san discussing his career, I thought it was a kind of "retrospective farewell," and am happier than words could express that this is not the case. Next up, Karigurashi no Arietti (The Borrower Arrietty) based on Mary Norton's 1952 novel The Borrowers...
If there's anything you can rely on, it's that this movie will be yet another awesome Miyazaki work of art.
• Eggs. My fried egg sandwich was delicious. So far so good... but salmonella can take up to three days to incubate, so I could have a diarrhea explosion any minute now. I'll keep you posted.
Annnnd... I'm spent. This is going to be a loooooong week.
Posted on August 23rd, 2009
It's another edition of Bullet Sunday... this time coming to you from beautiful Denver, Colorado!
• I love Ponyo. Yet another Miyazaki masterpiece. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is such joyous, imaginative, feel-good fun that you don't even need kids as an excuse to go see it. Pretty much a retelling of The Little Mermaid, the oft-told tale of the little girl who wants to be human has never been seen in quite this way. Featuring some of the most mesmerizing traditional animated sequences I've ever seen, this is a stunning film which trounces the animated garbage we've been inundated with lately (hey, they're making a sequel to Happy Feet!)...
The main character, Sosuke, is so lovingly crafted that you'd swear he was a real little boy... everything from the way he walks to the way he acts is just captivating to watch. While I prefer to see Miyazaki films in their original Japanese, I have to admit that the vocal talent Disney lined up for the American release is pretty stellar (ZOMG! BETTY WHITE & TINA FEY!) and all the actors seem to ring true to the characters they're dubbing. Well worth seeing in a theater for the sheer spectacle of it all... the pastel-rendered backgrounds are beautiful, and demand to be seen on the big screen.
• Failure to Launch. I got to the Cherry Creek Center Theater for Ponyo a little early so I could eat dinner at the Johnny Rockets there, only to find out that they didn't have any vegetarian Boca Burgers. AGAIN! Why am I not surprised? After all, I've been denied Boca Burgers in San Francisco (twice), Santa Monica, Seattle University Village (twice), Seattle Pike Place Market, Seattle Pacific Place, Miami Aventura Mall, Seattle South Center, and Kent Station... why should Denver be any different? Still finding it positively absurd that a FROZEN item can't be stocked in such depth that it won't run out 50% of the time a customer would like to order it. If you're not going to bother to watch your inventory, don't bother putting it on the menu so that people like me don't waste their valuable time going to a restaurant expecting to get the food we want.
• Denver and Killer Squirrels. After the movie, Howard and Cameron dropped me off downtown so I could take a few photos around the Capitol Building. After goofing around for a bit, I decided to walk back to The 16th Street Mall for dinner and have a look around Union Station. As I was walking through Civic Center Park, I heard something in the tree above me and turned around to look. Much to my surprise it was a very angry squirrel, who glared at me just long enough to let me take a blurry photo of him...
That's when I noticed that squirrels were everywhere, and they had no fear of humans. One little guy was eating a pile of sunflower seeds somebody had left and I was able to sit right next to him. He barely noticed...
Just for fun, I was going to reach over and grab a few seeds, but didn't want to risk getting bitten and end up with rabies or something. That would be just my luck.
• Film by Tarantino. My most consistently favorite director outside of Hayao Miyazaki is Quentin Tarantino. In my capsule review of his latest masterpiece Inglourious Basterds, I said that the word "visionary" was inadequate to describe his cinematic genius. This prompted one reader to ask me how I would rank his films, which would be thusly...
&bull Housekeeping Aggressive. One of the most thankless jobs on the planet has to be that of a housekeeper at a hotel. Forgotten entirely when they do their job well, yet persecuted ruthlessly when they make a mistake, the housekeeper is in the ultimate no-win scenario. Historically, I've always endeavored to be excessively kind and generous with housekeeping staff in order to balance out this wrong, but my attitude has been changing as of late. Because, in addition to being the most thankless job, it can also be the most passive-aggressive career in history. And more and more this is getting to be the case. Housekeepers maintain this front of kindness in service, but all too many of them really don't give a shit and, indeed, are actively hostile in their work.
As an example... in the hotel I'm currently staying (which shall remain nameless, because it really doesn't matter) the housekeeping staff is so horrendously noisy each morning that I have no choice but to view it as intentional. And it begins the minute they exit the elevator... laughing and whistling and yelling and screaming and banging and slamming. Never mind that it's still fairly early and people are trying to sleep, they just don't give a fuck. Across the hall from my room is a laundry chute. What they could do is prop the door open so that the soiled linens will pass silently down to the laundry. But what they actually do is let the door slam shut again and again and again, which is an endless source of banging that is so forceful that my walls shake every time. And heaven forbid that you should want to sleep in, because if you stay later than they like, they will purposely create a huge racket outside your door until you ultimately give up and flee the premises. Every drawer is banged. Every word is yelled. Every cleaning tool is rattled. Every door is slammed. Because the housekeepers just don't seem to give a flying fuck anymore. They're up at the crack of dawn doing a thankless job, and they want you to suffer for it. Over and over and over again. One of these days I'm going to have had enough and scream into the hallway as loud as I can "SHUT THE HELL UP!" knowing full-well that it will only encourage them to be louder. Because that's what happens when you mess with people having the most passive aggressive job on earth.
• Farewell to The City. And that's all she wrote. Tomorrow I'll take a trip to some stores I want to check out which were closed today... and then it's off to the airport and other adventures.
Posted on July 29th, 2009
I am back home for seven hours before I have to turn around and leave again. That's just enough time to pack a fresh suitcase, print my travel documents, grab dinner, and get a couple hours of sleep.
I've had it worse.
The only problem is that my internet is all flakey, so I have to spend my final hours of freedom disconnected from the world. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, I'm so far behind on reading blogs and responding to email that I may now never get caught up. On the other hand, I can sit down and watch My Neighbor Totoro for the millionth time. I'm still riding on my high from seeing Miyazaki-san last night, and want to take a look at the film while his comments are still fresh in my head. Fortunately, it's a movie I never get tired of watching, and I discover something new every time I watch it.
Besides, I love NekoBasu (CatBus)...
Traveling via flying NekoBasu would be a lot more fun than the three airplanes I'm taking tomorrow.
Posted on July 28th, 2009
Imagine that there's somebody whose work you so admire that they inspire you every day. Imagine that what this artist creates fills you with such joy that your life is better because of it. Imagine that this visionary is one of your greatest personal heroes and you obsess over everything they've released.
Now imagine that this person has decided to make a rare public appearance to discuss these works which have been an inspiration to you for your entire adult life... and you have an opportunity to see them do so live and in person.
That's exactly what happened to me when I found out that animation legend Hayao Miyazaki would be speaking in Los Angeles today.
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. You just don't pass up an opportunity to attend a lecture with the man responsible for My Neighbor Totoro...
Blogging buddy Howard (from the Web Pen Blog) and I attended the event, and it was an amazing, incredible, wonderful night.
Too many times the best days of our lives go by unnoticed and are only realized upon reflection.
I know this was one of the best days of my life.
To read more about Hayao Miyazaki, here's a Wikipedia entry.
But to really understand him, just go watch his films.