Oct 07

More American Taliban

Bitch shouldn’t have been in that parody alluding to ass fucking.

The firing of Melanie Martinez, 34, marks the second PBS moral values scandal. The first was the censorship of the “Postcards from Buster” episode last year where Buster the Bunny, who regularly visits families in every episode, went to visit a family with two mommies. Previous families featured in “Postcards” episodes have included Mormons, Hmong and Pentecostal Christians.

Melanie Martinez was fired from her position as host of PBS KIDS Sprout’s “The Good Night Show” because she appeared in two 30-second online films when she was 27, “Technical Virgin” and “Boys Can Wait,” that spoofed abstinence-only education. The PBS ombudsman dedicated two of his columns to voice his opposition to the firing of Melanie, but her job wasn’t saved. Melanie says there is no lawsuit in sight.

The Technical Virgin parodies were genius and not inappropriate (the videos have all been taken down so far as I can tell, or I’d link them). Martinez’ firing is on par with that schoolteacher who was fired for taking a class to a museum where a nude statue was seen. This statue:

Nude statue that got a teacher fired
© Thomas Hawk

Ooooh, yeah, baby. Can’t you just feel the prurient interests being piqued?

Feel free to sign the petition to PBS about Martinez, though she’s already been replaced.

What the hell is this country coming to?

Aug 03

Wax museums are weird

And by “weird” I mean “disturbing and creepy.” I can understand the development of the wax museums in the days before photography (cheaper than granite!), and I can see the artistry required to make them… but, still creeeepy.

Sure, sure, it’s probably the uncanny valley giving me the creeps, but what I really want to know is… who actually visits wax museums these days?

Jul 29

Tony Takitani – 4/5

I watched Tony Takitani today. It’s based on a short story by my favorite Japanese author (Murakami) …then again, I really only know two Japanese authors. Anyway, he’s a good one. Here’s the synopsis:

Tony Takitani had a solitary childhood. Being alone was normal since his mother died young and his father was always away with his jazz band. At school he studied art, but while his sketches are accurate and detailed they lack feeling. Used to being self-sufficient, Tony seems to find emotions illogical and immature.

After finding his true vocation as a technical illustrator, he becomes fascinated by Eiko, a client who in turn is fascinated by high end fashion. Eventually he marries her, and his life changes. He feels vibrantly alive and for the first time he understands and fears loneliness. But her obsession with designer clothes begins to worry him. When he asks her to economize, the consequences are tragic.

It is quite a good movie; subtle, symbolic, powerful. Very much a minimalist masterpiece of love and longing and loneliness and isolation.

Jamie would not like this movie because the visuals are so austere; very flat colors with lots of stark contrasts (almost black and white movie level), but with spots of color at interesting or crucial points (interesting points in the frame, rather than in the story). Like the expression of an emotion that you just can’t keep contained. Did I mention the movie was subtle? Because it is.

In other words, the movie is very Japanese.

Tony Takitani

Murakami, who is as popular in Japan as, say, Stephen King is here, writes these strangely compelling stories, filled with supremely flawed characters who exist in a sort of narcissistic existentialism world. Some of his overriding themes are loss, solitude, despair… and love. For example, in A Wild Sheep Chase, the divorced, chain-smoking loner protagonist falls for a woman who has ears so enticing that she can never show them in public lest they cause a disturbance. And yet these characters function, in society and in the story, organically. And you, the reader, understand and love these characters by understanding their quirks. Understand and love them without explicitly saying so, because with understanding comes love, and your attention and interest in them is an expression of that love. No garment rending or grandiloquence required.

Like I said, very Japanese.

The pallette chosen by the director for the movie was deliberately muted in order to better reflect Murakami’s literary world. Much in the same way you would want a Luhrman adapting Allende‘s House of Spirits instead of an Aronofsky, I think the director was perfectly suited to the Murakami material.

Tony Takitani

There’s a gallimaufry of art house Art in the movie as well, which can float your boat or not, depending on your tastes. For me, it’s like a relaxing, thoughtful zen interlude amidst all the strife and turmoil of life. An expression and reflection of outward calm amidst crushing isolation and loneliness; an imposition of discipline to reign in some of the wild, potentially explosive emotions in life. The restrained formalism is also a nice counterbalance to the so-real-you-can-smell-the-horse-shit reality created in a series like Deadwood and without the overwhelming opulence and beauty of a Wang Kar Wai flick like 2046 or In the Mood for Love (the heartbreak remains).

From Murakami’s narrator, talking about the protagonist:

And even the emotions he had once embraced gradually receded from his memory.

His memory gradually shifted, like mist in the wind, growing dimmer with each change.

There’s more to it than that, of course. There’s some truly whack psychosexual overtones for the second half of the film (not to worry, it doesn’t take a turn to Audition land). Good score to the movie as well, also done in a minimalist, spare fashion (solo piano throughout, unless I missed some parts).

As for the actors, Rie Miyazawa, the lead actress (there are only four credited thespians in the movie) first became known to me from Twilight Samurai, where she was as striking as she is here. Turns out, she’s had quite the turbulent life (apparently,I’m not alone in constantly thinking “someone give this girl a sammich” whenever she’s on screen). I could find less about Issei Ogata, the actor who plays Tony.

Definitely very Japanese.