Naked and Afraid

The Web just showed me an ad for a Discovery Channel show called “Naked and Afraid”, a show featuring a male and female survivalist put together in a survival situation. But they’re totally naked.

I hate television.

p.s. a survival challenge where the participants have literally no clothes to start with would be a cool idea, maybe. This show, however, seems to cynically exploit the male/female together naked thing, making it sucky.

Dove’s dissembling

I’ve just seen this Dove bar commercial for the bazillionth time on Hulu. They claim that ordinary soap leaves behind a residue, which Dove does not. They claim this residue is what causes your finger to “drag” across your skin after washing with soap, while Dove does not leave this residue, so your skin is smooth.

I call bullshit. Say you’re washing your dishes, and you’re washing off a plastic container that had some oily food in it. Leftover seared salmon, say. Is it that nice slippery feeling that you look for that lets you know you’ve washed all the grease off your item? No, it is not. You rinse that thing off, and if it’s still slippery, you hit it with the detergent again, because until that thing squeaks, it’s not clean.

If washing with soap leaves your skin with the same feeling as a squeaky clean dish, and washing with Dove leaves it a little slippery, I’d say it’s the Dove that’s leaving a residue.

Interestingly, they make no attempt to reconcile this whole line of reasoning with their product’s advertised feature of moisturizing your skin. You say “moisturizer”, I say “residue”.

Tetsuo!!! Kaneda!!! (The Abridged Akira)

Katushiro Otomo’s anime adaptation of his manga of the same name, Akira, is now 20 years old (and then some). While the film sadly lacks much of the subtlety and richness of the manga, it nonetheless remains one of the greatest animated stories of all time. One notable aspect of the adaptation is that it was released with an english dubbing in the USA only six months after it was released in Japan. (This is my recollection and wikipedia agrees with me, while IMDb does not.) Not only was that unprecedented, but even now, when all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films are being brought to the US with a high budget translation by Disney, these releases trail by up to a year.

One of the downsides of the film was the original english dubbing was a little… shall we say… cheesy1. As cheesy as the animation was superlative. This much was evident when I saw it for the first time the very week it was released. After the 2nd viewing I noticed something interesting: much of the dialog was composed of the main characters, Kaneda and Tetsuo screaming each others’ names. By 1995 I’d envisioned an abridged version of the movie, nothing more than the clips of those moments stitched together. Back then, the tools to implement my vision were not really available to me, so it was just a thought experiment, but one I’d share with other anime-loving friends now and again.

Imagine my blistering irritation when I saw this commercial on Adult Swim for the animated Inuyasha… that was my idea! Or at least very close. But that was a few years ago, and by then there was QuickTime, and iMovie, and Handbrake, and really I had all the tools I needed!

So now it’s done, and amazingly, I can see something that I didn’t know would be the case when I imagined it: that The Abridged Akira completely encapsulates the emotional struggle between the two characters.

I couldn’t get my hands on the original dubbing, and the 2001 Pioneer release actually has decent voice acting2, so some of what I’d envisioned is missing. Nonetheless, I present to you… The Abridged Akira.

Big, big, big ups to my friend M who supplied the DVD and helped a lot with the initial clip marking and cutting.

  1. There is hot debate on this topic, many feel the original dub is the best
  2. again, this is debated.

Magnificent Moments: Mad Men, A Night to Remember (s2e8) [Spoiler]

There have been many great moments in Mad Men involving Joan Halloway, but this week’s Mad Men Magnificent Moment goes to the best one so far. The show closes with a montage of evening activities: Joan getting our of her work clothes, Peggy bathing, Father Gill jamming out, Don drinking a Heineken in the office.

The context here is Joan’s disappointment at her loss of the TV script reading gig. It’s already clear that she’s enjoyed the job more than she expected, and moreover that she takes pride in her accomplishments — she impressed clients, and did so in a way that no man in the firm could possibly have. She deserved the credit and recognition that was her due, and instead they took the success that she gift-wrapped for them and used it as proof that they should hire a man (who will still rely on her for the details) to do her job. And since Joan is concealing her disappointment, we cannot know what she is thinking through dialog. She’s no crier, or shouter, or one to break things, and even if she did any of those things, all we’d know was that she was upset, and sure we’d know why, but without being drawn into her. What’s called for is a moment that innately connects her feelings with the exact situation that give rise to the injustice.

This week’s Mad Men Magnificent Moment is Joan sitting on her bed, back to the viewer, turned slightly in profile, slipping her bra strap off of her shoulder, and idly massaging the clearly painful indentation the strap creates there. In a single instant we know that she does this every night, that she is used to this pain and has no expectation of it changing. We may even imagine that she suffers from pain in her back, or will later in life. We see that her breasts, which she uses (and the men in her office view) as one of her assets, exact a toll on her, but that toll is so internalized and accepted that she is barely conscious of it. This is synecdoche for her womanhood in general: the physical pain Joan suffers is a direct result of being a woman. So it goes with her life — she is resigned (for now, at least) to the frustrations and degradations of being a woman working in an office in 1961. With uncomfortable strap marks and the glass ceiling, she sees no alternative to just putting up with it.

Joan pensive

Update: When I went to add this still as an illustration, I watched the scene again and read it slightly differently, she kinda acknowledges the strap mark and frowns at it, looks away, then back at it, and then goes distant. Like she’s used to fretting about it for moments at a time before resigning herself again. Slight elaboration on the above.

New topic: great moments from TV I watch

I’m going to start posting my favorite moment from each episode of TV shows that I watch. Which is currently Mad Men, the Terminator series, and that’s all, although when Lost and Battlestar Galactica start up again I’ll add them.

Since I’m studying screenwriting, I’ve begun to acutely appreciate certain types of moments in film (TV is just short, serial, film with its own conventions), so I’m concentrating on moments of genius writing, mostly.

Frankly, TSCC is not exactly the same caliber as Mad Men, which is inspirational each week, but I think I’ll manage to find something each week.

These posts will be spoilers for sure, and so will be titled accordingly.

Paprika

A few weekends ago when I was in Montreal I saw a movie called “Paprika”. It’s definitely one of the finest flicks I’ve seen. Weeks after seeing it, some of the imagery still haunts me. It feels a little like The Wall meets A Scanner Darkly

The plot essentially concerns a device that allows people to enter other people’s dreams. It was invented as tool to help therapists, but one of them is stolen and is used for nefarious purposes, haunting people, driving them mad, and destroying their minds. The scientists working on the team that pioneered the device must find it and get it back before too much damage is done. Our protagonist is the therapist Dr. Chiba Atsuko, and her dreamside alter ego, Paprika — an expert “dream detective”.

It’s not an “easy watch.” The movie is awash in vivid dreamscape imagery, some of it playful, some of it solemn, some of it downright spooky. The viewer is sometimes challenged to discern the difference between dream and reality, while the narrative expertly substitutes one for the other. Throughout this tangle, one may at times be tempted to give up on grasping the threads of the plot, overwhelmed by an increasingly tempestuous swirl of fantasy; fortunately, giving in and allowing yourself to be swept away by the tide of imagery is not boring, it’s enthralling. Nor is it just en exercise in impressionism. Part of the brilliance of Paprika is that these challenges to the viewer are a proxy for understanding the experiences of the characters in the story; by the time the major plot elements have unfolded, they have experienced similar challenges.

Paprika has a few major visual themes, many of them based on the psychological issues of the characters. These are enhanced with a superb soundtrack that magnifies their emotional impact. The fantastic parade motif is both festive and somehow ominous, as if lurking amongst all the marching kitchen appliances, dolls, trumpet-playing frogs, geese, and ticker-tape is an unpleasant secret. Paprika’s theme is fluid, ethereal, and triumphant, an electronica melody playing over a powerful fundament of choir and odaiko (the giant Japanese drum). Other tracks are tension-enhancers, super-creepy and insidious.

A few days after I saw the movie I bought the Paprika Soundtrack. Susumu Hirasawa - Paprika (From the Motion Picture)

Sadly, Paprika was never in wide release, and at this point is playing almost nowhere. I am at this point looking forward to its release on DVD.

Watch the to get a taste for this amazing movie. Also visit the official movie site.