This is Chris dot com
Music, Movies, & General Geekery: Life.
by Christopher Grant Harris

Friday, 19 September 2014

New Movie Review: The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises (2013) ★★★

The Wind Rises

Le vent, se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

I have such conflicted feelings about this movie! Much of it is a disappointment of expectations, though. The Wind Rises is a highly-fictionalized film about real-life person Jiro Horikoshi, who is most famous for being the designer of the infamous Japanese A6M “Zero” fighter plane for WWII. In movies about famous artists, designer, architects, or what-have-yous, I have a certain minimum expectation: I expect to learn about the hows and whys of the creative process that led them to their most famous work(s). How shocked and frustrated I was, then, when this film ends (spoiler alert) with the test flight of the prototype of the A5M—the fighter that came before the A6M Zero!

In fact, much of the movie hinges on Horikoshi’s thoughts on an inverted gull-wing shape that is used in the prototype of the A5M—but which is not actually used in the final version of the A5M, let alone the Zero!

The scenes that interested me most were the ones where Horikoshi makes a breakthrough of some sort in the design of his planes. The introduction of flush rivets, for example. The design of wing strut supports. Laughing with his team about how to reduce weight when the military demands two gigantic machine guns be mounted to the plane. In other words, the creative side of things.

Less interesting to me was the dying-girl romance between Horikoshi and his wife. Especially because it was completely fictional, and too perfect to find interesting. Horikoshi’s wife is the absolute perfect 1930s Japanese woman. There is no conflict in their relationship, only the specter of chronic illness. Guess what my least-favorite genre of movie is? The dying-girl romance. Horikoshi himself is portrayed as such a meek milquetoast that if it weren’t for his unending creative drive there would be little of interest at all in this relationship.

Other relationships in the film are great though. Horikoshi and his tiny but bombastic boss at Mitsubishi, Horikoshi and his lackadaisical best friend, and strangely enough the friendship that is formed with an enormous, exiled, big gay German. Wow, now there is a character who chews up the scenery! Also nice are dream sequences where Hirokoshi converses with a European plane designer (a somewhat hero of Hirokoshi)

The main theme of the film is handled exceptionally, though, that of creativity versus the exploitation of creativity. Hirokoshi is designing essentially war machines, but he has no love for war at all; it is the sheer creative and artistic process that drives him to design these planes, not any patriotism or idealism. He expresses great ambivalence about the way his designs are being used to essentially kill people. He believes he is creating something beautiful; but his beautiful creations are being used in less-than-benign ways. Does that negate the beauty of their design? Is the end-use usage of a creation inextricably entwined with its design? Or can the beauty of the design be held separately from the horror of its usage? Wisely, I think, the film never takes a stance either way, and the whole complexity of the situation is simply presented for the viewer to think about. In a wonderful ending dream sequence that takes place after the war, Hirokoshi sighs as a fleet of Zeros (the ony time they’re ever presented on screen) flies away. They are beautiful planes.

So the film is visually spectacular, of course. Especially wonderful are dream sequences of fanciful, old-fashioned airplanes. And dynamic scenes of harrowing test flights are great. But much of this is visually similar to the fantastic Porco Rosso, so I didn’t feel like I was seeing much new there. Scenes of 1920s & 1930s Japan and Germany are extremely detailed and specific.

So is this a good movie or not? It is enjoyable in many parts, and fascinating in many parts, and certainly gorgeous. The ambiguities of creativity and war and the corruption of beauty are handled very well. It also has an hilarious and bizarre Big Gay German in it. But it also feels somehow insubstantial and frustrating, focusing too long on the things that interested me the least and too little on the things that interested me the most. So, three stars sound good? Yeah, I suppose.

Categories: Japan, Movie Reviews.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Thursday: Seattle or Bellingham, Julia Massey or The Old Salt? (Plus bonus Jon Yoon)

Tomorrow (Thursday) there are a couple of musics shows happening in disparate parts of Western Washington. So you should go to whichever one is closer to your location:

Seattle Area: Brenda Xu, Julia Massey, & Shenandoah Davis

In Seattle this Thursday...

In Seattle this Thursday…

Brenda Xu (whom I must confess to never having heard of before now) is having a CD release party, and she’s being joined on the bill by two very talented ladies: My pal Julia Massey, and Shenandoah Davis.

This is at the very lovely Freemont Abbey Arts Center, which is a big ol’ church turned into a big ol’ performance space (two, actually; there’s one upstairs and one downstairs). So if you’re in the Seattle area, you should mos def check this one out.

Details:
Brenda Xu Album Release Party featuring Julia Massey & Shenandoah Davis (Facebook event)
Thursday, September 18th 8:00pm
@ Freemont Abbey Arts Center
4272 Fremont Ave N, Seattle 98103 (map)
$8/$10 door, get tickets here
All-ages, Bar with ID

Bellingham Area: Fight With Lions, The Old Salt, Dinofour, & Jenni Potts

In Bellingham this Thursday...

In Bellingham this Thursday…

Bellingham tavern & venue The Shakedown is hosting a whole mess of musics, headlined by post-rock instrumental group I Will Fight With Lions. Joining them will be Fools Play Improv’s own noise/experimental guitarist The Old Salt along with Dinofour and Jenni Potts.

It should be a crazy, trippy, loud evening of musics, so the Bellingham-bound should go there and do that. Yes.

Details:
FREE and LOCAL Thursday with I Will Fight With Lions, The Old Salt, Dinofour & Jenni Potts (Facebook event)
Thursday, September 18th 9:30 PM
@ The Shakedown
1212 N State St, Bellingham 98225 (map)
21+ FREE!

There are your two choices. There is no third option. One or the other. Oh, wait, there is a third option; you could go watch Jon Yoon play delightful ukulele pop in front of the Seattle Hard Rock Café from noon to 2:00 PM. But since that’s in the afternoon, then in the evening you have to choose one of two choices listed above. So, yeah, no real third option; just an optional addition.

Categories: Concerts/Shows.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Ginger Fool on TV in Z Nation!

z nation

Z Nation

Last Friday a new zombie-themed TV show premiered on the SyFy channel: Z Nation.

There’s something special about this TV show. And it’s not just that it was produced by The Asylum, the creators of Sharknado. Watch the trailer below and pay special attention at about 2:08 into it:

Yes, that’s right, the guy with the underwear-clad woman is none other than Fools Play Improv’s own Jamie Pederson, the Ginger Fool! Don’t believe me? Watch it again, and here I took a screenshot just to prove it:

Ginger action!

Ginger action!

He’s a special guest star in the third episode, so you’d best be watching that! And also you should probably watch the two episodes leading up to it so you know what the heck is happening in the show.

Details:
Z Nation
Fridays at 10:00 PM
On the SyFy channel

Categories: Fools Play, My Famous Friends, TV.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Julia Massey’s “The Story of the Earth So Far” Official Music Video!

All the people, all the lovely people...

All the people, all the lovely people…

Who knew that when I grew I would have so many über-talented friends? Whelp, a bunch of them just got together and released a music video full of awesome musics and awesome dance. Here is the official music video for Julia Massey & the Five Finger Discount’s song “The Story of the Earth So Far”

Not only is the song by my friends Julia Massey, Dom Cortese, and Geoff B. Gibbs, but it was choreographed by longtime pal Travis Goldman of Tacoma City Ballet, and one of the dancers is our lovely pub trivia buddy, Whitney Sprague! My friends are plastered all over this thang!

Plus it has…

GEOFF'S HEAD ON A STICK!

GEOFF’S HEAD ON A STICK!

Also, Save the Date: CD Release Party on November 8th for JM+FFD’s fourth studio album, “A.L.I.T.E.” at Conor Byrne in Seattle. Details forthcoming…

P.S. GEOFF’S HEAD ON A STICK!

Categories: Music, My Famous Friends, Videos.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

“Of the Month” September 2014

Video Game of the Month:
azure_striker_gunvolt Azure Striker Gunvolt
The creators of the Mega Man X series of video games really wanted to make another Mega Man X game… but since they don’t actually have the rights to do that they made Azure Striker Gunvolt instead! This is very much in the vein of Mega Man X‘s 16-bit side-scrolling platformer action. The big hook of this game is the combat system. You use your gun not to damage enemies (it does very little damage), but to “tag” them so that you can unleash your main weapon, a psychic discharge of lightning that automatically seeks out any enemy that you’ve tagged. You also create a field of electricity around you when you do this that damages enemies (a little) and blocks physical projectiles—but not energy-based projectiles. You’re also way more vulnerable to damage when you’re using the lightning. So combat controls is a fascinating game of know when to hold ‘em, know when to unleash ‘em.

The game isn’t without its faults. The random enemies that appear during the levels are shockingly uninspired, and except for a couple of instances don’t vary from level to level; it seems like you’re always fighting the same four baddies over and over. There’s an item crafting system, but to truly take advantage of it you have to play already-completed levels over again while activating “challenges” in order to obtain bonus parts. I’m at the final level and I haven’t been able to craft anything remotely useful—not to mention the fact that you already start the game with the best item in the game, the awesomely powerful Prevasion Pendant that lets you automatically avoid damage (as long as you aren’t actively using your lightning) in exchange for using up some of your psychic power (which you can replenish anytime by tapping down on the control pad twice).

But the levels are well-designed, all the boss fights are extremely excellent and surprisingly difficult, and the mini-bosses are pretty good, too. It’s a very fun throwback title, and it only costs about $15 bucks and comes with the “Mighty Gunvolt” 8-bit little game as a bonus.

TV Show of the Month:
Last Week Tonight Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Joining the ranks of John Stewart and Steven Colbert in savagely savaging the news media, this new show from John Oliver (Professor Ian Duncan from Community) does a weekly roundup of the events from the previous week. And it holds no punches while being uproariously funny.

I don’t post about politics on this website (much), but damn this show is some good stuff. Biting and insightful. Just watch this segment on Ferguson:

It’s an HBO show, but thankfully its YouTube channel updates pretty regularly.

Kickstarter of the Month:
the players score The Players’ Score
I would LOVE for this documentary to get made. Video game music (especially classic, 8-bit video game music) is one of my favorite types of music (so much so that I make my own), and this proposed documentary is all about it. If they reach their goal, artists on board to participate in the project include:

  • Hiroki Kikuta – Composer, Secret of Mana Series
  • Manami Matsumae – Composer, Mega Man, Shovel Knight
  • Danny Baranowsky – Composer, Super Meat Boy, Binding of Isaac
  • Random AKA Megaran – Chip Hop Rapper

SO GOOD! Do what you can, chip in (get it) a few bucks and let’s honor these un-sung heroes of pop culture who have influenced me so much.

Categories: Of the Month.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Fools Play’s Final Show (at Olympia Family Theater) This Saturday!

That’s TOMORROW!

Comedy & Bendy Straws.

Comedy & Bendy Straws.

It seems like we just went through this last year, but yes, ’tis true: Fools Play Improv‘s run at Olympia Family Theater ends this Saturday (tomorrow) night. And once again we are uncertain about where or when our next venue will be.

So for now let’s enjoy one last hurrah at our current venue!

Details:
Fools Play’s Final Show at Olympia Family Theater (Facebook event)
Saturday, August 30th 8:00-10:00 PM
@ Olympia Family Theater
112 State Ave NE, Olympia, Washington 98501 (Map)
All Ages, Only $5.00

In the meantime you should keep up with any Fools Play news at foolsplay.net on the internets or on the Faced Book Also I’ll most likely post about it on this here blorg.

But that’s in the future. Tomorrow I WHILST BE AT YON OLYMPIA! SO SHOULDST YE BEEEEE!

Categories: Fools Play.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Animated Open Mike Eagle & Julie C

At beautiful Columbia City Theater.

At beautiful Columbia City Theater.

We went to a hippity AND hoppity show over the weekend, and (as is my nature) I made some animated .GIFs from the performances. Enjoy!

Julie C hosted the event, and she graced us with two songs! Wish she could have done more, but it was great to see her go. She has quite the stage presence, as can be seen by just how much she jumps around in this .GIF:

Go, Julie, go!

Go, Julie, go!

And here are some animations of Mr. Open Mike Eagle:

Mike at his board.

Mike at his board.

Go, Mike, go!

Go, Mike, go!

It was an enjoyable show, and Mike kilt it deed. Although with so many acts on one bill some of them went on a li’l too long. Well I’m pushing 40 now, and Carrie & I get tired starting around 11:00 PM.

Categories: Concerts/Shows, Pictures.