Nausicaä Remembered

Based on a one-off tweet from Roger Ebert the other day – one which led to his blog on the Chicago Sun-Times site – I completely jumped down the early adolescent memory rabbit hole.

You owe it to yourself to watch the video and read the essay re-printed there so I won’t steal it’s thunder.

For the uninitiated, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature film and if you haven’t experienced it (or his other works), you’re missing out. As Mr. Ebert says in his tweet, “Some people haven’t seen a Miyazaki film. They should start here.”

Several of Miyazaki’s films are on Google Video and here’s an embed of Nausicaä to make it easier for you:

I first saw a snippet of the movie at a comic convention where it was playing from a tattered VHS along side a similar quality copy of the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie. One of the two left a lasting impression on me.

Later during that same timeframe (middle school is, thankfully, a blur) I caught the bastardized international version on HBO. I was struck by the glider Nausicaä flew and the goliath “Ohm” creatures.

Watching it again as an adult – with the new voice talent for its re-release – I realize how brilliant and beautiful the story is. Miyazaki isn’t just an amazing animator or brilliant inventor of worlds, he tells very deep, emotional stories too, ones that transcend his chosen medium.

I’ve been going on ad nauseam about the movie to Jenn the past couple of days and I would really like Raelyn to watch it if we can track down a copy somewhere. I’d rather see it together on a bigger screen instead of a laptop, but I’ll take what I can get.

We’ve already watched Spirited Away together and, though she didn’t quite get what it was about, the fact that it was something the two of us shared together as father and daughter was really special. Plus, I like the fact that Miyazaki’s heroes tend to be heroines and that they show much more than just the courage and bravery of standard male heroic characters.

I want Raelyn to learn those lessons but also appreciate cartoons as an art form and not just a distraction (though we both enjoy Phineas & Ferb and Spongebob Squarepants, much to the consternation of her mother).

Seeing the movie reminded me of the wonder of animation and the power of childhood memories. Spirited Away hits more of the notes of the movement of child to adulthood, but something about Nausicaä really sticks with me. Maybe it’s the earnestness and conviction of the titular character. Maybe it’s just a damn fine film.

Either way, enjoy!

Doctor Strange Hands

Not to be confused with Dr. Strangelove OR Dr. “Strangehands”, I’m talking about the curiously curved hands of Dr. Stephen Strange AKA Doctor Strange.

I’m no fan of Steve Ditko’s politics, but his art – especially his work on Doctor Strange – really defines the characters he drew. Even more than Jack Kirby, for me, Ditko’s characterizations had a fluidity and humanity to them.

Where Kirby was “king” of the spectacular and epic, Ditko could convey emotion and body language unlike any of his contemporaries.

But I digress.

One of the best aspects of Ditko’s Doctor Strange art was the Doctor’s hands. He could throw shapes (and bolts of energy) of all size and description to employ his magic powers.

It’s such an integral part of the character and storytelling that I’m not going to re-hash this awesome post on the topic.

Some examples:

Doctor Strange's hand
Doctor Strange's hand
Mordo's hand
Mordo's hand

Here’s my own skill at employing my double-jointed-ness in a magical fashion. Note the glow, many thanks to

Double jointed fingers

I don’t know what other point this post has other than to firmly establish:

  • I’m double jointed in my fingers
  • Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange rocked

I’d also like to point out that both my kids share my “talent” and are surprised that Jenn isn’t equally gifted.

I don’t know what that says about any of us but I thought I’d pass it along.



Battle of the Planets

If you’re a child of the 70’s and 80’s you likely remember the first Japanese Anime cartoon invasion, highlighted by Speed Racer, which got the feature film treatment earlier this year.

But the Americanized Japanese cartoon that will always hold my heart is Sandy Frank’s Battle of the Planets/G-Force. Click the links to see the differences and show your age/generation.

Here’s the intro, if you need a refresher:

My favorite line?

“Watching, warning against surprise attack by alien galaxies from beyond space.”

I’m not exactly sure where “beyond space” IS, but I’d love to find out. Maybe the ridiculous and obviously added-in 7-Zark-7 could tell us.

Here are several versions of the Japanese title sequence for reference.

For those not in the know, Battle of the Planets/G-Force was actually called Gatchaman in Japan and tackled some fairly adult themes. Chief among them: death/mourning/grief and gender roles/hermaphroditus.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Even forgetting about it’s Japanese roots, Battle of the Planets notably spawned the team of 5 heroes/adventurers with coordinated outfits using giant robots to kill giant robots genre. Notable followers in this trend include, but aren’t limited to:

Given the fact that the show got the broadcast treatment twice in the States and that it’s always been a badge of geek-cred honor, it’s nice to see an even newer version being made now.

Insert internet rumors and teaser here. 😉

For those interested in verifiable data on the Americanized series and the newest release, IMDb is your best bet.

Ideally, I’d like to see the recent (2005) dubbed release (if it’s still available) and read the comics before seeing the new version, but maybe I’m being pedantic. Maybe.

Anyhow, Transmute!/Transform!

Strong Characters

Since I’m on a “talking about work” kick, here’s a cool analysis of dual female leads in Hollywood movies. Definitely worth a look.

This is related to the day job since one of my networks, TNT, airs two dramas that have as their centerpiece, amazing women leads: The Closer (Kyra Sedgwick) and Saving Grace (Holly Hunter). There’s even a long-form piece airing in Regal Cinemas that talks about these “Real Women”. Sorry, I have to shill a little bit. 😉

The whole thing got me thinking about characterization and gender roles and fictitious (acting) roles. What makes a good character? Who decides which qualities are ultimately favorable, remarkable and memorable? Why do some stereotypes and archetypes endure while others flounder?

Tough philosophical questions to be sure and likely too deep for the likes of me OR this blog, but I was thinking. And my thoughts turned to the best/worst character in pop culture: Superman.

Love him or hate him, Supes is a polarizing, singular character in pop culture. Iconic and enduring but also flat and stagnant. He’s great if you’re 8 and need some kind of never-failing, always-right hero but when you’re 28 you see that’s he’s basically a stunted 8-year-old himself: a dude who dons PJs and tries to save the world.

So, clearly, I’m not to keen on Clark Kent’s alter ego. I like my heroes (and my villains) more real and accessible. More like actual 3-dimensional people. More like Ben Linus on Lost!

The above link is an interview given to Ain’t It Cool News and it’s worth the read.

Lastly, I wanted to point out that I really connect with Joss Whedon’s characters despite the fact that I’ve been exposed to so little of his work. Sure, I’ve watched the occasional episode Buffy or Angel or Firefly; even read some of his Astonishing X-Men run, but it was always drive-by.

Maybe his characters are *too* real. Or too quippy. Or too tied to being ensemble as opposed to individuals.

Anyhow, his new series Dollhouse is getting some good advance buzz.

I don’t know what my point is here other than the fact that real people make the best characters? The truth is more interesting than fiction?

Points to ponder for my next Ficlet.