Amoeblog

Persepolis - Nothing As It Seems

Posted by Miss Ess, May 14, 2010 12:34pm | Post a Comment
Persepolis is the most affecting animated picture I've ever seen. (Yeah, it beats Bambi.)


It's about the life of a young woman (and co-director and writer of the film), Marjane Satrapi, growing up in Iran during the revolution, and about the price one must pay for freedom. Sure, it does what it sets out to do and what is generically expected of a film of this subject matter, showing the (presumably Western) viewer that at the core the divide between our lives and that of those living in Iran isn't as great as it's perceived to be, and that we all crave the same basic things, but it does this in a genuinely innovative and moving way.

Persepolis takes a disorienting, complex event in history and makes it personal. The deaths, explosions, loss of dignity, loss of basic human rights -- we see each of these happen individually to members of Marjane's family, her friends, herself, and through that, both the impact and understanding of what happened is heightened.

It's a serious topic, but the filmmakers allow for the inclusion humor and lightness often as well, especially around the universal adolescent experience of rebellion. Despite the Western cultural ban in Iran, Marjane writes "Punk is not ded [sic]" on the back of her jacket and buys contraband Iron Maiden tapes, picking up her tennis racket and headbanging around her room. 

The animated format packs a great and specific amount of detail into each frame, and also allows for an at times realistic and at times fantastical graphic focus on both Marjane's real life and what she imagines (chats with god and Bruce Lee-esque martial arts skills!). Using drawings instead of real shots enables Persepolis' creators to take a scary, overwhelming time and make it less difficult to watch as well as bring in a touch of whimsy where appropriate -- from simply a hand peeking out from rubble after a missile launch to jasmine flowers floating across the screen via Marjane's grandma's bra (yup).

Though her home country discourages it, Marjane has spunk and talks back when she feels she's been mistreated, and this, like the rest of the film, and to Persepolis' great credit, always feels perfectly authentic. Her grandmother and mother teach her to be a strong young woman of integrity, despite the limitations and obstacles that surround her. They want Marjane to have a freedom they once knew in their younger lives, the freedom to truly be herself. This kind of life is no longer possible in the Iran they are living in. Watching the pain of a family realizing their daughter will not have it better than they did unless she leaves is extremely poignant.

All this said, the film is not heavy handed whatsoever. I never felt like it was hitting me over the head with a carefully packaged "message" about human rights or world peace or anything like that. It was no Miss America pageant. Instead, Persepolis feels like an honest portrayal of a life, a life that just happens to include chaos, war and major sacrifice. It definitely made me think about the lines that separate the Western World from the Muslim World and the great cost of keeping those hard lines drawn.


Ghost World - Walking Amongst the Living Dead

Posted by Miss Ess, May 11, 2010 04:01pm | Post a Comment
I had completely forgotten how good a movie Ghost World is, and I also can't believe it's been almost 10 years since it first came out in 2001!


I don't think I had seen it again since then, and watching this film again with 9 years more life experience under my belt was enlightening in a way. I kinda can't believe this film ever got made, with its explicitly outsider view of the world and brash bitterness.

That said, Ghost World, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, is hilarious and accurate when it comes to commentary on our ever-more conglomerated modern world and the rough task of even attempting to remain an individual within it. Enid (Thora Birch) and her best friend Becky (Scarlett Johansson) have just graduated from high school -- free at last to blossom further into the budding creative types they already are! But is it possible to grow up and not sell out? I love Enid and Becky's dry, honest take on the people and places that surround them, and how the film portrays adolescent boredom and minutiae in all its pathetic, short-sighted and unabashedly self-assured glory.

When they meet 78 collector Seymour (fully embodied by Steve Buscemi), Enid's world opens up further. She learns about integrity and idiosyncrasy in a way that the surrounding city itself can't teach, with its hip hop jukeboxed "50's" diners and "sell up" policy-laden multiplexes...

My favorite character in the film is Enid's caftan-ensconced, spiky haired art teacher, who has a background in performance art (of course!), played to consummate perfection by Illeana Douglas. In fact, anyone who has sat through a high school art class will no doubt twitter in recognition of and amusement with its particular players, portrayed flawlessly here.

Ghost World has something so many films these days lack: subtlety. It's up to the viewer to gauge a scene as hilarious, obscene, truthful, confusing, tragic, whatever it may be. Director and San Francisco local Terry Zwigoff presents Enid's world to us, and through that shows, to those of us who are willing to see, anyway, the increasing difficulties of living an authentic life in a world where everything is a corporate lie. Looking in on Enid's experiences for around two hours at the very least left me feeling less alone in that particular challenge.

Films and Video Games

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 16, 2010 12:34pm | Post a Comment

With Tron – Legacy, the sequel to a movie about video games, scheduled to open in theaters this coming December and Tron – Evolution, a video game based on a sequel of a movie about a video game scheduled for release in November, now seems like a perfect time to look at the Ouroboros-like nature of film and video games and film.

     

In the early 1980s, Hollywood still sometimes made films that weren’t re-makes, adaptations or sequels and before there were movies adapted from video and computer games, there were movies about video and computer games. Tron (1982) was the granddaddy of them all. The Wizard (1989), WarGames (1983), Joysticks (1983), Cloak and Dagger (1984) and The Last Starfighter (1984) soon followed. 

In a culture where toys (Rubik the Amazing Cube anyone?) and sugar cereal are fleshed out into serialized children’s narratives (Cap'n Crunch - available on DVD), it was perhaps inevitable that video games would be adapted into cartoons. About the only thing memorable from Saturday Supercade (with segments including Donkey Kong, Frogger, Q*Bert, Donkey Kong Jr, Pitfall Harry, Space Ace and Kangaroo) was the excellent theme song. I have little memory of Pac-Man (1984) but was a big fan of Pole Position (1984), a show that really fleshed out the narrative of the game, which just featured a race car… racing. A couple of years later, the first film based on a video game appeared – in Japan - Super Mario Bros. - Peach-Hime Kyushutsu Dai Sakusen! (1986).

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Echo Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 22, 2010 05:44pm | Post a Comment


Cloudy skies over the bottomless Echo Park Lake

This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park. Please vote for more neighborhoods by clicking here. Also, please vote for more Los Angeles County communities by clicking here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


INTRO TO EP


Echo Park
is a Mideast Side neighborhood located north of Downtown Los Angeles in the Elysian hills west of the LA River. Echo Park has long associations with several arts, most notably literature and film. It's one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and is full of many old (by Angeleno standards) Craftsman, Spanish, and Victorian homes built between the 1880s and 1930s.



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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Tokyo

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 5, 2010 01:12pm | Post a Comment
This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Little Tokyo. To vote for other neighborhoods to be the subject of a blog entry, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


Little Tokyo Village Plaza

INTRODUCTION TO LITTLE TOKYO



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Little Tokyo


Little Tokyo (or ???) is a small neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles. It's generally considered to be bordered on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the east by Alameda Street, on the south by Third Street, and on the north by First Street.



Little Tokyo is bordered by the Boyle Heights to the east, Civic Center to the north, the Financial District to the west, and Skid Row, the Toy District and the Arts District to the south. As with many neighborhoods in the Los Angeles, the borders of Little Tokyo aren’t officially designated. It used to be considerably larger and there remain many vestiges of the neighborhood’s more expansive past beyond the current boundaries.

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