retsuko: (spoilers!)
Thursday!: Videos Games! Awesome Web Comics! A depressing panel that turned out OK! Talking with awesome people! )

Friday!: Defiance! Literary How-To's! Weird Outside Stuff! )

Saturday: We camped out in Room 8 for five hours! But the Adventure Time panel was worth it! Huzzah! )

Sunday!: Loose Ends of all varieties! )

General Thoughts:

~ The fundamentalists were more vocal and more... uhm, personal, this year, for lack of a better word. Last year, they just yelled about Jesus, but this year, their attacks were more Comic Con-specific, like the guy with a megaphone who shouted at all and sundry, "Don't let your souls be enslaved by comics!" (It took some willpower not to shout back, "Too late!") There were counter-protests, of course, and those looked unpleasant to referee. I tried to thank as many of the law enforcement people as I could when they weren't working or concentrating on other things; one of the transit security police officers looked surprised when I did, and confessed that he really wished he could go to the Con himself. (He wanted to meet Stan Lee for real, not just pay for an autograph.) As usual, even in the hoards of people, I never felt unsafe or afraid for my physical well-being once, and I think the SDPD is responsible in a large part for that.

~ For some reason, the crash after this Con was especially hard this year. The real world, as much as I love it, doesn't seem quite as interesting for the first few days afterwards, and today was no exception, with mundane chores and problems looming large.

~ There was a lot of zombie stuff--costumes, toys, images, etc.. It was not fun for me. I wish this trend would run its damned course.

~ There were times when the Exhibit Hall didn't seem as crowded as usual, and I couldn't figure out if it was actually truly empty, or I had just gotten really, really good at making my way through the knots of people. It is a lot easier when it's just me, and I tend to stay out of the central scrum of the big companies and their lines, but I could have sworn there were times when there were swathes of empty space, and that's an oddity.

~ The overall theme of this year's Con ended up being something along the lines of, "Crazy Contradictions!" It was personified best in the juxtaposition of the Christian Comic Arts Association booth next to the Killer Zombie Bunnies booth in the Small Press area. Comic Con often leaves me with the aftertaste of sweet and sour. On one hand, there's a pure interest in comics and reading that makes my heart sing, but on the other, there's a crass commercialism that manifests itself in the crazy-long lines for the exclusive toys and vinyl collectibles that makes me alternately groan and grumble. Comic Con is the only place where I can wear my Kate Beaton t-shirt and people not only compliment me on it, but also want one themselves. Comic Con is also the place where my phobia is everywhere, all the time, and I have to make compromises with myself to get past it, but it's also the place where many, many people I admire (both real and fictional) are front and center, and I can draw on their words and examples to give me strength. There's beautiful art, and there's the cheesiest of cheesecake, side by side; in fact, there are Charles Dickens-esque contrasts every two feet or so. It's sublime and ridiculous, and I love almost all of it, even as I realize that what I love is what some other attendees hate. But that's the beauty of multiple fandoms, and when they're all present and not in conflict, it's just completely awesome.

Pictures are here, updated with Saturday stuff. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on Sunday, so no extra photos. Still, lots of good ones, though. :)
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
I've long been a fan of "Adventure Time with Finn and Jake", and blogged about it several times before, but after the most recent, superlative episode, I feel the need to blog about it again, because this is one of the best things on TV right now, and almost every time I watch it, there's something new/meaningful/different that sticks with me.

The latest episode, "Simon and Marcy", is part of two characters' background story. The Ice King (or, Simon because he was the Ice King) has long been the series' go-to one-shot villain. Like Donkey Kong or Bowser, his motives are simple: kidnap the princess and cause arbitrary trouble for the heroes. (Fortunately, it's been quickly established that some, if not all, princesses in the Land of Ooo are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves.) Marceline, on the other hand, is an ally and friend to Finn and Jake, although her moral code is less rigid than theirs. It's been established previously that Marceline and Simon/Ice King have a history together, and the show is slowly getting around to the idea that they're the two oldest residents of Ooo. Last season's episode, "I Remember You" contained an unexpected moment of pathos when an impromptu jam session that the Ice King insists on turns into a revelation about his past with Marceline, and their survival of the post-apocalyptic landscape together. Marceline sets the Ice King/Simon's last words to music in the clip below:

(Note: apologies for the ad at the beginning, but I figured that the official Cartoon Network youtube upload was less likely to disappear.)

This song is one of Rebecca Sugar's best: it starts off disorganized and strange, but then it builds to an effective crescendo, and the second time through, the meaning becomes fully clear, contrasted with the fact that the Ice King has lost his previous self who wrote the words. (The writers get additional props for breaking up the bleakness of the sequence with the shot of Finn and Jake watching the action, clueless about what's really happening.) This is a lot more emotional depth than I expect from any kid's TV show, and especially one on Cartoon Network. (I cannot lie: the first time I saw this episode, I teared up. There's something about the desperation in Marceline's voice as she grabs her guitar.)

And then, Monday's episode came along, and there was yet more depth and pathos--again, unexpected, but engrossing and touching. I'm not usually a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, unless there's a good amount of time between said apocalypse and the actual narrative. However, for "Adventure Time", I will make an exception: the apocalypse lurks around the edges of the show, yet its bleakness never overtakes the main thrust of the story or becomes overly dark simply for the sake of dark. Character building is far more important to the show's writers than creating a horror movie, although horrific aspects certainly abound.Spoilers ahead. )

While the show isn't flawless overall, it's episodes like this that make the whole thing worth watching. There's so much more to the Ice King than kidnapping princesses and getting thwarted by our heroes. And there's a lot more to land of Ooo than meets the eye. And I should say here that this storytelling was accomplished in less than 22 minutes. There are a lot of shows and movies that could do well to learn how to build a world and/or develop characters in this amount of time, and I'm thrilled that at least one pop culture entity has it so right.
retsuko: (cool yuuko)
Waaaay too much TV lately, but all of it on the heels of some tough personal stuff, and soon to be followed by An Edifying Book Report. Also, one movie!

At the Movies:

Beautiful Creatures: So... sometimes I watch a movie or a show, and I wish the main characters weren't the main characters, and that a side character would step up and be the main character instead. In this case, it was Emma the librarian, played with steely layers of awesome by Viola Davis. The more I found out about her character, the more I wanted to swing the camera around to point at her and have her tell her life story. ("Hi, I'm a seer and unwilling-but-destined librarian for a group of quasi-immortal sorcerers who supposedly have a worldwide network with libraries connected via underground tunnels and I can talk to the dead. These quasi-immortal sorcerers drive me crazy with their self-righteous bullshit, but I take my work seriously, and I'll be damned if I give up anything before I'm good and ready to do it at the appropriate moment. Tea?") This isn't to say that the rest of the characters were bad or boring, but the teenaged love story paled in comparison to the world-building that struggled to take root in the background. I got the distinct impression that the authors of the original work had two goals in mind: 1) out-do Twilight with a better, slightly healthier romance, and 2) write up some cribbed notes from their best RPG sessions. Beautiful Creatures feels like a good role-playing game, as told by a storyteller who thinks that she/he had come up with something 100% original, when it's more like... about 50% original, but even the tried and true stuff was pretty good, so the players weren't complaining. The story unfolds in pretty standard teen romance fashion, but with the magic v. religion lens firmly in place, and with a villain who managed to be scary about two and a half times. The two teen leads were good actors and imbued the material with as much life as they could muster. The adults carried out their roles with varying levels of success, given the cheese in the settings and kudzu around them. It was a fun movie, a bit saggy in places, but I think it helped that I went in with almost no expectations. And I still wish I could have turned the story around to focus on the NPCs, er, side characters. Maybe rent it some night when you need something diverting and not too challenging.

On the TV:

Lost Girl, Season 1, and first episode of Season 2: I really, really enjoy this show, for a number of reasons which are too numerous and spoiler-rific, so are listed under this cut. )

All things considered, it's an excellent show, and one I'm glad to be able to watch most of on Netflix streaming.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Season 3 Finale: I really enjoyed it, mostly because it felt like a mini-Broadway musical, complete with songs about every mood and whim that took the characters along with the plot. It also addressed an interesting question about the world-building of the show itself, one that I've been wondering about for quite some time: if the ponies' cutie marks somehow are tied to their given vocations, what happens if you end up with the wrong one? (Why, yes, I have been putting far too much thought into a cartoon aimed at selling toys to girls ages 6-10, why do you ask?) That question wasn't really answered, but at least it was raised, and everyone got to sing, and the ending was sincerely sweet. I'm actually on board with the big plot development, and I wasn't thinking that would happen at all. A nice ending to a somewhat short and rather uneven season.

Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake, "Bad Little Boy": So, Donald Glover was PERFECT as Marshall Lee's voice, and I liked the twist on the original conceit of the episode. (Does this mean that we're going to see someone else write Fionna and Cake fanfic in the next installment? I'd love to see Princess Bubblegum's rejoinder to Marceline's assertions in this episode.) I also like that there was so much singing in this episode, although some of the songs didn't quite hold together the way I'd hoped they would--I was hoping for "happy earworm" and instead there was a great deal of "dueling dialogue through song" that I've already forgotten most of. Still, it was an excellent episode and makes me long for the day when Fionna and Cake is its own entity. (I also have to say that the funniest bit was that Pendleton Ward's voice for Lumpy Space Prince was exactly the same as Lumpy Space Princess's.) It made me want to dye my hair blond for Comic Con so I could cosplay as Fionna!
retsuko: (tea room)
I've seen, read, and experienced a lot of wonderful pop culture this year, and I'm still boggling over just *how much* I've gotten to experience at all, given that my son turned 2 and spent much of his time unintentionally taking up mine. (99% of the time, that's great, but the other 1% is tough.) I've been lucky to get anything done at all! Fortunately, what I have been able to reward myself with is on the top-notch side of the equation.

Movies! The usual suspects, with a late entry of 'Argo', a tremendous, tight piece of filmmaking. )

Books! Are you my influencing machine who knows how to be a woman/space girl/consulting detective/mother, or just a cloud atlas? )

TV Shows! Escapism in the form of ensemble comedy and music. )

If I had to wear a t-shirt with a design that encapsulated my pop culture choices of 2012, it would definitely be a collection of awesome ladies all having tea at the same table. (Princess Bubblegum would be hosting and discussing futurism with Sonmi-451; Alison Bechdel and her mother would be facing off against some of Joanna Trollope's family characters; Hushpuppy would be comparing monsters with Zita the Spacegirl; and everyone would have a "Leslie Knope for President!" button.) Before I forget about it, here is a tremendously interesting video that showcases the roles that women had in Hollywood/mainstream film this year:

This leads me into my hopes and dreams for 2013 and pop culture: More here. )
retsuko: (hugs)

Snow White and the Huntsman: This was surprisingly good! The design aspects of this production, from costumes to sets to creatures, were all excellent; there is a strong sense of imagery and purpose that runs through the whole thing. I'm actually a little sad that I didn't get to see this on the big screen. Charlize Theron is magnetic. The aura she creates for herself in this role was like a dying star, burning bright and dangerous, but always just on the edge of turning into a black hole. Everything that surrounded or clothed her was beautiful and pointy. (Her wedding dress, with its exoskeletal shoulders, was probably the best example of this, but the raven cape was pretty great, too.) I also liked the way the story shifted between different character's perspectives at pivotal moments, suggesting that meaning and interpretation was everything in the world, and giving greater heft to the idea that power is not what it seems. There is one scene where the filmmakers borrowed a little too much from "Mononoke Hime", but perhaps there are others who argue that they borrowed a little too much from Lord of the Rings as well, so maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Making a fantasy movie--and one that is a retelling of an already-told, multi-versioned story--without repeating anyone is pretty damn difficult these days, and these filmmakers did their best. See this on the night before your D&D game, to get in the mood.

50/50: It's so tempting to snark away this movie by saying I only enjoyed half of it, but that's the truth. Half of this movie was touching, even a bit of a tear-jerker, while the other half featured the main character and his douchebag best friend behaving selfishly and thoughtlessly. I think if Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't such a likable guy and brought a lot of humanity to the character he was playing, I would have given up fairly quickly. The story, which is every young person's secret nightmare (perfectly healthy guy gets diagnosed with surprise!genetic!rare!cancer, from which there is only a 50% recovery rate) careens between genuine sentiments (I dare anyone to watch the scene where he's going into surgery and his mother doesn't want to let go of him, without crying) and frat house highjinks (medicinal weed=score!). This film read almost like a guy's "chick flick": yes, there are feelings that get talked about, but at no point do these feelings infringe on the main character's "rights" to do whatever the hell he wants. There's also one alarming plot point that pops up at the end that sets off all sorts of warning bells on my ethics radar. All this said/snarked, the virtuoso acting jobs from Angelica Huston and JGL are worth watching, and this might be a good movie to show to young guys who need to learn to empathize, or gain perspective that their lives could be a hell of a lot more precarious. (If anyone has seen it, and wants to rag with me about the scene with the painting, I will happily do so, though. That pissed me off beyond measure.)

On TV:

The current season of Adventure Time, with spoilers up through "I Remember You": This is the best show I'm watching right now; it has the most compelling characters and is bursting with original ideas and jokes. )
retsuko: (Default)
This Sunday was spent in two ways: 1) the Adventure Time Children's Museum Installation, and 2) wandering through the Exhibit Hall for one final hurrah.

First, the AT installation: in one word, awesome! )

And then there was wandering on the Exhibit Hall floor: Getcher autographs here! Step right up and meet our renowned artists! One draws Cthulu, the other draws butterflies! )

Due to camera malfunction, there are no pictures from today. But if you missed the others, they're all here!

I'll try to do a write-up on the whole experience in the next few days, but I do have to say that it really was quite fun and I do not regret any of our time there. :D
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
OMG, Saturday! )

My thoughts on cosplay, let me share them here: )

As usual, if you're only interested in the pictures, they're here.

Tomorrow: The Children's Museum Adventure Time installation! Nothing else specific! Likely Xmas/birthday shopping! And the inevitable event horizon of I've Had Enough Con Thank You.
retsuko: (cool yuuko)
In Comics:

Doctor Who/Star Trek: TNG Crossover, Issue 1: I really like the way the plot is going, but the art is throwing me for a loop. I read a somewhat unkind accusation somewhere that it looked like the artist had simply photoshopped filters onto stills from both TV shows. I don't think that's what it looks like, but there's a weird disconnect between the quality of the art and story.

Angel and Faith, Issue 10, "Ladies of a Certain Age": I will admit, I broke my own rules to buy this one issue. Anything to find out more about Giles and the Watcher's Council... except that frustratingly little of that was extent. Instead, there was a funny story about Giles' two aunts, who turn out to be very good characters with interesting personalities (Best line, "Darling, we're shallow, not stupid"), and a lot of action and banter that made me feel like I was watching an episode of the TV show, not reading a comic. I don't know if I'll keep buying, but I didn't end up disappointed overall.

In Manga:

Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 5: For some reason, this one seemed more dull than the others. It could be that I'm tired of the set-up, but it's more that the introduction of two new characters is taking up a lot of the already slow plot's time. Anyway, this is still one of the sweetest, most adorable manga that I can think of. I know I should be reading it in Japanese to practice, but nothing can knock Yotsubato! from that perch, and I'm loathe to go find more things to put on the to-read pile.

At the Movies:

Men in Black 3: This was utter fluff, and I really enjoyed it. I didn't get the feeling that Tommy Lee Jones or Will Smith was in it simply for the paycheck, and the plot actually surprised me a couple of times. (I will say that I didn't really appreciate the digs at Andy Warhol, but whatever.) Obviously not Oscar-bait, but good, puffy, sci-fi-lite fun.

On TV:

Legend of Korra, Episode 8, Spoilers for the entire show so far! )

Adventure Time, "Goliad": This episode really reminded me of why I love this show so much; the writing was incredibly funny, the artwork was at its reality-skewing best. (Finn trying not to show his thoughts to Goliad was just wonderful, so real and relatable, and yet completely fantastical at the same time.) And even though I guessed the plot twist, it didn't matter. I was having too much fun to be annoyed. :D

The scene with the candy toddlers wrecking havoc at the daycare, though, made [profile] yebisu9 and I look at each other. After a moment, one of us said, "Yeah..." and the other answered, "I know." Funny how the animators managed to channel R.'s sheer chaos into an animated 20 seconds of perfection.
retsuko: (princess bubblegum)
In Books:

Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher: I promise this review will be SPOILER FREE because [ profile] yebisu9 hasn't read the book yet and has had to put up with my comments and exclamations as I read. (Things like, "No way!", "Whoa!", and general fist shaking at Jim Butcher.) I've had vague discussions with him about the plot: It takes place in Chicago. There are some characters. They do important stuff. These jellyfish-like accolades are so deliberately vague that it drives me crazy to even say them, but Yebisu is fanatic about not being spoiled, and I don't want to ruin the reading experience. Anyway, in slightly more helpful (but still not too spoilery) terms, there are some characters, and the stakes are really, really high for all of them. If Changes (the previous installment) was The Empire Strikes Back of The Dresden Files series, Ghost Story has shades of Return of the Jedi, but its conflicts are different, and the outcome is by no means a tidy "everyone is happy with their lot" ending. (Definitely no Ewok dance party, either, and I'm sure the majority of characters in the story would be appalled with me even suggesting that one might happen to occur.) This is an incredibly satisfying read, and I have to give Butcher major props for juggling so many plot points so efficiently. In one case, I thought he had simply forgotten about [plot point X], but nope! With fifty pages left, he picked it right back up! Very nicely done, sir. I bow to you! To all fans of this series, I do not think you'll be disappointed. Newbies, this is not the place to start the series, but it is a series that's well worth starting.

(Thanks again for the hardcover, [ profile] orichalcum!)

In Manga:

Read or Dream, Vol. 1: Mostly harmless. I mean, I read it, and it was cute, but it didn't wow me, or make me wish I could rush out immediately to buy the next volume. I suppose it's a bit like the vague spoilers that I mention above: there are characters. They are three sisters who love books and have magical powers over paper. They do stuff, like helping people find stolen books and aid sick, adorable children. For no apparent reason, the story takes place in Singapore. Or Hong Kong, I can't remember which. The artwork is pretty standard shoujo manga, but nothing special.

On TV:

Adventure Time With Finn & Jake: I am trying to have an embargo against new shows, especially with the distressing news about TV taking lots of minutes off your life. But this show is on when I'm feeding R., and it's so completely silly and wonderful that I'm completely taken in. It nurtures my inner 8-10 year-old boy as well as entertaining my female, adult self with a combination of witty writing, wacky/gross humor, and great comic timing from the voice actors. The viewing experience is made even more awesome by the artwork of one of the character designers, particularly the fact that she draws suggestive pictures of the two main female characters. I hadn't intended to blog about the show, though, except for the latest revelation: that one of the episodes next season will feature a gender-swapped cast!

This is made of so much awesome and win, because this is basically what my imaginary stories were like around age 8 or so. (Although I wouldn't have known what the word 'ice-blocking,' and its ruder variant, meant.) (Further awesome in the form of Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Prince Blowpop.) I wish more shows were open to this sort of experimentation with storytelling format! However, given the flack that the creators of the show are receiving over this, I'm worried that Cartoon Network will get scared and back away. Please, don't! This is too awesome not to keep going with!

May 2016

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