Sunday, February 24, 2008

But . . . But . . . But . . .

Nudity may cost ABC $1.4 million - Los Angeles Times

Stroll on a beach in Southern California, and there's a fair chance you'll glimpse girl glutes girded only by g-strings.  Feature the same female fundament, fully fabric-free, on a film-five-years -ago NYPD BLUE episode, and the FCC will fine you filthy lucre that would fairly fill a footlocker.  Specifically,  ABC and its affiliates have been mulcted (look it up) more than a million for displaying a 2003 NB episode in which a boy (and the audience) sees a woman's towel-less tuchus.  Actually, only affiliates in central and mountain zones are being fined -- eastern and pacific stations showed it after 10 pm, a difference that apparently allows all the arses an affiliate  can access.

Alliteration aside, is there any connection between the end of NYPD BLUE and the rise of high-definition programming?  There's only so much a body-makeup artist can do . . . .

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Stark Industries' Side Business

Scenes from Toy Fair 2008 - Los Angeles Times

The LA Times' Website featured this display of "Iron Man" movie toys from the 2008 Toy Fair.

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Mannix Comes to DVD

A Writer's Life

From cousin Lee Goldberg's blog comes the welcome news that "Mannix" is coming to DVD. "Mannix" is one of those shows I'd occasionally watch when I was a tyke in the early '70's. I didn't realize then that it was an unrepentant, politically-incorrect hardboiled PI show, loaded with unalloyed violence and innuendo. I just thought it was an entertaining hour of television with a likable lug of a hero, and some fun car chases. When I saw some episodes on TV Land in the '90's, I was struck by what a two-fisted show it really was (and by the cheap production quality, but that's something most '70's shows shared).

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Convenient Photo

I have a degree in political science. My brother Mike is actually politically active.

A few years ago, I attended a luncheon where Al Gore spoke. My brother actually met Gore, and got his picture taken with the ex-Veep.

He's got me beat.

An inconvenient truth indeed.

What? What are You Denying? What Did They Accuse You Of?

I was listening to Morning Edition on KRCW at 6 this a.m. when the station broke into the program with John McCain's press conference, already in progress. "I'm very disappointed in the New York Times," said McCain in his reedy voice. "Why?" I thought. Did they screw up his delivery? Did he finally realize that the Times has never carried comics strips? The story is untrue, he continued. "What story?" I screamed (silently -- it was six ay em, after all). McCain delivered denial after denial. Then his wife came on (his wife was there?! Why?) and she denied it. "Ah hah," I thought. (Yes, I really do think "ah hah," sometimes. Occasionally a little light bulb appears above my head, too.) "If his wife is denying it, it must involve hanky panky -- or at least alleged hanky panky." Still, though, they continued this Kafkaesque press conference, never revealing what it was about.

Afterward, I heard about the New York Times story and the controversy it has stirred (apparently the Republicans immediately sent out a fundraising letter, asking for money to fight the liberal media). But when you break away to a press conference in which a presidential candidate and his wife (and possibly his dog -- you can't tell on radio) deny some allegations, how about naming the allegations -- or at least the alligator?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Savage Birthday

According to Mark Evanier's blog, yesterday was the 75th "birthday" of Doc Savage. More precisely, it marked 75 years since the pulp fiction hero exploded into life in the pages of his Street & Smith magazine.

When I was a kid, Bantam was still publishing its paperback reprints of the Doc Savage pulp stories. Those paperbacks were a publishing phenomenon, primarily because of the new covers James Bama did for them. Bama's Doc, with his infamous widow's peak, didn't look much like the 1930's pulp paintings or illustrations of the Man of Bronze. But they did sell huge numbers of reprints of 30-40 year old stories.

I used to gobble up the reprints. They were cheap, easily available in used book stores, and short enough that I could consume a 125-page book in a few hours on a Sunday. I can't remember many of the details of those stories, but I loved them as the prose equivalent of the comic books I collected.

I've recently bought some of Anthony Tollin's reprints of the Doc Savage books. Reading them as an adult, I can see that the stories were linear and lacked subplots. I can tell that writer Lester Dent reserved characterization for Doc (not always easy, considering Doc's repressive upbringing and emotional control -- I savored every scene in which Doc suffers some emotional failing, just because he's otherwise so omnicompetent), his closest assistants, Ham and Monk, and the occasional interesting villain. And I note that Doc's three other assistants are primarily defined by their catchphrases, which are repeated ad infinitum.

Yet I can still get swept up in Dent's masterful storytelling. Anyone who wants to write adventure fiction of any kind should read some of the Doc Savage books, just to see how to use vivid descriptions and suspense to suck the reader along at a breakneck pace.

Grindhouse II: Sweeney Todd

I've had a fondness for the musical version of the Sweeney Todd story ever since I borrowed a copy of the soundtrack album from the Walla Walla Public Library. That was in the early '80's, so I can imagine the tortuous route the property traveled from Broadway to the silver screen, twenty-six year later.

We spent this Presidents' Day afternoon watching Tim Burton's film version of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET in the only venue anywhere near us where it was playing: the Academy Six theater in Pasadena, where matinees are $2 and evenings are $3. That it should be exiled to this low-revenue gulag less than two months after premiering (and despite being nominated for multiple Oscars) speaks volumes about today's movie theater business, which grinds up movies just like Mrs. Lovettt ground up pie filling.

Part of the delay in the movie reaching the screen is the changing market for movie musicals. I recall reading that when a movie version of THE FANTASTICKS (which took even longer to be made into a movie) played a few years ago, the audience chatted during the musical numbers -- because they didn't realize that the numbers were part of the story. Hence, the hallmark of sixties and seventies movie musicals -- gigantic song and dance numbers that filled the every corner of the screen -- is gone. The last successful movie musical, CHICAGO, staged the musical numbers separately from the narrative. And Burton's SWEENEY TODD not only avoids big set pieces, but even slices from the score the ensemble numbers, such as the marvelous overture. (Perhaps the thinking was that we didn't need a chorus singing, "His face was pale/his eye was odd/and he shaved the faces of gentlemen/who never thereafter were seen again" when we can see all that in the movie.) And in the number "God, that's good," Burton showed the restaurant full of customers, but cut out their chorus -- the one that gives the number its name!

But I quite liked this artsy telling of the story, carried much of the way by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the murderous pair at the center of the story. I enjoyed the selective use of color, though many may find it manipulative and artificial. And the almost victoria-punk wardrobe and makeup made the movie visually arresting. It was a delightful dive into darkness for an afternoon off.

Sweet Comics Rides

The Comics Reporter

The Comics Reporter Website featured this hilarious list of the readers' favorite comic book (and related media) rides.  Lots of votes for the Batmobile (various versions), the SHIELD Heli-Carrier (the flying aircraft carrier), and Ghost Rider's motorcycle.  Plus some unexpected ones, like Snoopy's doghouse Sopwith Camel.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Healthy Drive

This morning, Amy and I bicycled over to the huge West LA Sports Authority store, on Sepulveda between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevard. This behemoth of a sporting goods store is next door to Sports Club LA, an equally humongous health club.

How many bicycle racks do these shrines to athletic living provide?

I think you can guess.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Any Opportunity to Push an Agenda

A Lawyer’s Lifesaving Decision: ‘I’m Not Going to Sit Here and Let Him Execute Me’ | ABA Journal - Law News Now

The online version of the American Bar Association Journal posted this interview of the city attorney who escaped a shooter's rampage at a city council meeting by throwing metal chairs at the killer and then fleeing. The comments turn into a firefight between those who contend every citizen should be armed and those who disagree. Which doesn't make much sense to me, since the interviewee escaped without using a firearm. But advocates on either side of this debate seize on any story about a public mass shooting to assert their agendas.

If the city council had been armed, could they have stopped this rampage? We'll never know -- although the shooter's first victim was an armed police officer. (The shooter took the officer's weapon and used it on his other victims.) And he shot another police officer inside the council chambers.

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Valentine's Day: Eating Scorpions in a Typhoon

In September 2007, Amy and I were caught in a typhoon in Tokyo. On Valentine's Day 2008, we voluntarily entered another typhoon -- Typhoon Restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport. Despite some crappy service (isn't it standard practice to serve utensils with dessert?) we had a good time.

One of Typhoon's signature features is its "adventure" appetizers. We could not resist trying the Singapore-style scorpions. Not drinks; actual tiny scorpions (with the stingers removed). The actual scorpions themselves are crunchy, but rather tasteless, which is why they are served on shrimp toast.

When I Hear That Old Song Play, I Vote Democrat

ABC News: '70s Rocker to Huckabee: Lay Off My Song

Die-hard Republican Candidate Mike Huckabee (who seems unable to realize that McCain will will the nomination) has been using Boston's "More Than a Feeling" as the centerpiece for his rallies.  Boston chief songwriter and band founder Tom Scholz isn't happy about that.

Well, New England has traditionally been liberal.

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LA Times Obit: Cigar-Smoking Ducks and Gun-Toting Elves

Steve Gerber, 60; comic-book writer created Howard the Duck - Los Angeles Times

Yesterday, the LA Times published this well-done obituary of Steve Gerber.  In recent years, the Times has done a good job of posting obits for comic-book creators who pass away.  To my recollection, when each of Superman's two creators died, their deaths were not noted in the Times.

The photo is credited to Alan Light, who started in publishing with THE BUYER'S GUIDE TO COMICS FANDOM in the seventies, and then went on to fame and fortune as editor-in-chief for Spin Magazine.  THE BUYER'S GUIDE survives to this day as the COMIC BUYER'S GUIDE.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So It Goes -- February 2008 Edition

The past couple of days have brought depressing news of the passing of three extremely talented people.

On Sunday, Roy Scheider passed away. Scheider was one of thoes actors who seemed to be in every movie in the '70's. Turn on "Marathon Man," he was there. "French Connection?" Check. "Jaws?" Duh. If he wasn't in the movie, one of his co-stars -- Hackman, Hoffman, Dreyfuss -- would be in it.

Most obits are focusing on his role in "Jaws"; but to me his greatest performance was as Joe Gideon, Bob Fosse's avatar, in "All That Jazz." Not only was Gideon unlike any other character Scheider ever played, not only did he carry off the singing and dancing with aplomb, but he also turned in a marvelously multi-layered performance. He played Gideon as a total sunovabitch; yet he was so charming that you could understand why every woman in his life stayed with him, with full knowledge that he would eventually hurt them over and over.

Also on Sunday, comics and animation writer Steve Gerber passed away from pulmonary fibrosis. Gerber was one of the young, smart and angry writers who hit Marvel Comics in the early-to-mid 70's, along with Steve Engehart and Don Macgregor. Gerber's scripts were ferociously intelligent. He never sneered at superheroes, and seldom post-moderned them; instead, he somehow made the join between the Lee/Kirby/Ditko gosh-wow world and his deeper, more textured Marvel Universe seamless. When I read his work as a kid, I knew his work was much smarter than the average comic; looking back at his work as an adult, I feel the same.

The work he was best known for was his creation Howard the Duck (which was far, far, far better than that abysmal mid-eighties movie) -- an amalgam of Woody Allen humor, Disney iconography, and seventies satire that really should not have worked as well as it did. (And when Gerber tried to return to the character in the eighties and the zeroes, he never could recapture the lightning in the bottle.) But many on the web appear most fond of his work on The Defenders, a superhero team comic that Gerber made resolutely noncoformist.

Unfortunately, I found most of his later comics writing, in the eighties and beyond, to be too mean-spirited and nihilistic for my tastes. On the other hand, when he transitioned from comics to TV animation writing in the eighties, he produced some wonderful stuff -- particularly his collaboration with Jack Kirby, "Thundarr the Barbarian"; and the touches of satire he brought to even such straight-laced pieces of licensed material as "GI Joe."

Even as his life neared its end, Gerber kept writing; just six days before his death, he posted an entry in his blog relating that he had stayed up all night working on a comic book script about the magician Dr. Fate.

Finally, on Monday, Congressman Tom Lantos, a friend of my father, passed away. In his youth, Lantos escaped twice from Nazi camps; and his congressional record made clear that he did not care for dictators of any nationality.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Musical Blogs

This past week I did a post about the Superbowl. In turn, my brother Steve did a blog post about anime. I'll continue the blog swap by taking a page from my Cousin Lee Goldberg's blog devoted to TV opening titles. Here are three of my favorite anime opening titles.

COWBOY BEBOP is one of my favorite Japanese-animated TV series. It had one of the best soundtracks of any TV series, animated or non-animated. This sizzling jazz piece, "Tank!" was composed by series composer Yoko Kanno and performed by her band, Seatbelts. (Copyright Sunrise.)

Six years after COWBOY BEBOP came SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, from the same director. This is one of many anime series that have used an English song as an opening theme. The hip-hop theme was apropos to this highly anachronistic approach to a samurai period piece. (Copyrighted by Manglobe.)

Then there's the credits to my all-time favorite anime series, CAT'S EYE. Combine Maurice Binder type symbolism with FLASHDANCE -era fashion and you get CAT'S EYE. Magicplay is dancing. Copyright TMS/Tsukasa Hojo/Coamix.

Appellate Advocacy at Its Highest Level

Yesterday afternoon, I walked from my office to the Century Plaza hotel to attend a panel discussion at the American Bar Association mid-year meeting. The panel was held in a smallish conference room, and the chairs were only three-quarters full. That was surprising, because the panelists were two of the most accomplished appellate attorneys currently active in American courtrooms: Professor Erwin Chemerinsky and Dean/former Judge/former Solicitor General/former president-prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Although the two legal giants were amiable on the panel, they were practically stereotypes of liberal and conservative law professors. Starr's posture in his seat was ramrod-straight, yet seemingly relaxed. He has a perfectly-modulated (if a bit dull) voice that purrs like a well-tuned luxury car. When Chemerinsky spoke, Starr industriously jotted down notes. Chemerinsky, on the other hand, stared down at the table while Starr pontificated. He fidgeted and twisted his arms as he spoke in a slightly nasally voice. He was, in other words, a law nerd.

The two said nothing about the most notorious controversies of their respective careers: for Chemerinsky, the recent hiring, firing, and rehiring of him as Dean of the University of Irvine's law school (I still find it hard to believe that after hiring him, the powers that be would suddenly realize, "Oh! We forgot! Erwin Chemerinsky is an outspoken liberal! And this is an Orange County school!"); and Starr's investigation of the Whitewater and Lewinsky, er, affairs. Chemerisky did talk about the Gore campaign summoning him down to Florida in November 2000 to argue that the butterfly ballot was unconstitutional; but only to relate an anecdote about pulling his 17-year-old son out of high school to attend the arguments with him.

The panelists were ostensibly there to give tips for oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts. But the pointers are pretty much the same no matter who's giving them. Prepare. Know the record. Know the judges. Don't question the judges. Keep in mind three major points, and work them into the answers you give to the judges' questions.

So the highlights of the panel were actually the attorneys' reminisces of their own arguments. Chemerinsky described an argument before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in which the judges were beating him up with their questioning. He didn't know at the time that the judges had a custom of shaking the hands of attorneys after the arguments. So when the judges emerged from behind the bench and headed toward him, he thought they were going to beat him up for real. He also discussed a judge (who he declined to name) who not only tore into him during arguments, but plainly did not like him personally. He and the judge were both at a conference. They found themselves standing next to each other in the men's room. As the two men went about their business, the judge criticized Chemerinsky's legal views. Chemerinsky had an urge, he confessed, to "pee on his leg." (He didn't.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Long Ago, and Oh So Far Away

I confess a certain fondness for Sonic Youth's cover of the Carpenters' song "Superstar," which is making the rounds of "alt-rock" radio due to its inclusion on the JUNO soundtrack.  The whispery vocals make me feel like I'm back in the '70's, listening to Top 40 late at night on a static-y AM radio.

iBook, You Book, We All Book for iBook

I'm typing this on a frivolous acquisition.

Back around the turn of the century, I thought Apple's initial iBook G3 Clamshell laptops looked stylish, with their unusual shape and translucent colored plastic. But it was (and is) a Windows world; and I didn't want to blow $1800 on a Mac just because I thought they looked cool.

But in 2008, with the Clamshells long phased out and obsoleted, one can pick one up for pittance. Hence, I bought an Indigo Clamshell on EBay. Somehow, the seller squeezed a recent Mac operating system (OS X 10.4) and Office 2004 onto the computer, despite its relatively small hard drive, memory and processor.

No current Mac software will fit on the computer, so the Imac is strictly for amusement. The legendary Apple reliability was in evidence, however; it locked onto my home wi-fi network as soon as I brought it home.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shattered Illusions in the Magic Kingdom

Gasp!  Superbowl MVPs are paid to say, "I'm going to Disneyland!"

Double gasp!  The MVPs shoot two versions.  The left coast broadcast mentions Disneyland; the right coast one, Disneyworld.   (Does the European broadcast mention Eurodisneyland?)

And a sigh:  Eli Manning didn't go to Disneyland Monday -- so the victory parade went on without him (with a lot of ticked off  kids on the float that was supposed to hold Manning).  Instead Manning went to New York -- where he had to be satisfied with a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.  (Who knew that they still held ticker-tape parades?  Who knew that they still had ticker-tape?)

Monday, February 04, 2008

People I Grew Up With Who Are More Talented Than I (the Latest in a Seemingly Never-Ending Series)

Stephanie Frostad was a childhood friend. I knew her when we were little kids. We went to high school together, and were in the same art class. I can barely draw a straight line. She has become a renowned painter whose art is displayed in galleries, sold at auctions, and printed on album covers.

Obviously, the purpose of Google is to humble you by showing you how much everyone else you know has accomplished.

Man in Black -- in Akihibara

Anyone who's seen LOST IN TRANSLATION can understand how Tommy Lee Jones ended up in this Japanese Suntory "Boss" Coffee commercial. According to Anime News Network, this is the latest in a series starring Jones as a character named "Alien Jones." Here, "Alien" ends up in Akhibara, encounters cosplayers, plays rock-paper-scissors with a waitress at a maid cafe, and ends up being fork-fed om-rice. The voice-over -- supposedly Jones's narration -- is definitely lacking his Texas twang.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Enchanting In-Jokes

This afternoon, we went to see "Enchanted." (Only 2 1/2 months after it premiered. Good thing it was still around -- albeit in matinees only.) I'm glad we got to see it on the big screen. It showed that Disney can still do an entertaining family movie, 2-d animated movie, musical, and romantic comedy -- all in the same film.

I thought Timothy Spall stole every scene he was in. He truly looks like a cartoon henchman come to life. Between this film, the Harry Potter series, and SWEENEY TODD, he's got the evil toady market sewn up.

I particularly enjoyed the various Disney in-jokes -- from the obvious (the evil queen/stepmother's various transformations) to the more subtle (a sign for the "Bella Notte" cafe; Patrick Dempsey wears the tunic the Beast wore in "Beauty and the Beast," and the waltz scene features the tracking shot through the chandelier from that film) to the extremely subtle (Jodi Benson, the voice actress for Ariel in "The Little Mermaid," plays a law firm receptionist who watches while Giselle peers through a fish tank, while "Part of Your World" plays on the muzak). The film contained numerous in-jokes that I didn't catch. But other viewers did catch them. You can find lists here, here and here.

Living Heisman Trophy

Apple - Trailers - Iron Man - TV Spot - Large

I missed the Iron Man movie ad on the Superbowl this afternoon; but here it is on the official movie Website.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sakura Taisen-d off

Sakura Wars' Taishō Romandō Shop & Sakura Cafe Closes (Updated) - Anime News Network

How long can a cafe and gift shop devoted to a single video game/anime franchise survive?  In the Ikebukuro area of Tokyo, the Sakura Cafe -- dedicated solely to Sega's "Sakura Taisen" ("Sakura Wars") -- has been around for nearly ten years.  Alas, on March 30, it will close.

The Sakura Wars anime has never really interested me (an alternate history in which an all-woman troupe of performers protect 1920's Tokyo in steam-powered robots?  Ohh-kay . . . .), but Amy and I ate at the Sakura Cafe in September during our Japan vacation, and found it a fun place with pretty good food.  It would likely have been heaven for those devoted to the franchise.  So it goes.

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Nausicaa vs. Gedo Senkai: Atonement

While bicycling around Culver City this morning, enjoying the splash of sunshine before the oncoming rainstorms, I had further thoughts about NAUSICAA IN THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, which I posted about below.

NAUSICAA is a rich enough movie that one can watch it several times, and each time come away with something different. On this viewing, what struck me was one of the recurring themes in Hayao Miyazaki's movies: cleaning up your own mess -- or, as one of the characters in SPIRITED AWAY puts it, "Finish[ing] what you started." In NAUSICAA, "your mess" is interpreted broadly; and various characters are involved in cleaning up messes their clan, their nation, or even their fellow species created. Ultimately, (spoiler warning) the engine that drives the plot is the Earth's millennia - long attempt to clean up the mess humanity made of the world -- an attempt that, it is quite likely, mankind will not survive.

A subsidiary theme in NAUSICAA is atonement: realizing you did something wrong to someone, and working to make up for it. That's another iteration of cleaning up your mess. And again, the concept is applied on a collective scale. Characters are constantly apologizing for what they, their countrymen, their fellow humans, or their swarm did. A further subtheme is bringing about atonement as a form of diplomacy. Nausicaa does this often: She sacrifices her physical well-being to aggressors, so that they will feel bad about what they've done, abandon their aggression, and devote their energies to atonement instead. This works with some (those with the innate goodness to realize they've screwed up) and not with others (those so convinced they're doing the right thing that they won't be swayed).

I can't help but compare this with GEDO SENKAI (and again, spoiler warnings are appropriate). The movie begins with the main character, a prince, savagely killing his father -- committing both patricide and regicide. This act is never fully explained in the movie. Yet the goal of his character arc is his forgiveness of himself for this act!! This is the opposite of atonement; it is seeking sanctuary after committing a crime. It is an ultimately unsatisfying resolution of the story, because fundamentally an unexplained crime requires atonement, not forgiveness.

I've only read the first of Ursula LeGuin's EARTHSEA books, the source material for GEDO SENKAI, so I can't address based on personal knowledge the degree to which this unbalance originates in the adapted material. But LeGuin herself has commented that it originates with the adaptors. She has also, however, conveyed the comments of a correspondent from Japan that the movie has found an audience with those who seek to forgive themselves for unexplainable sins, real or imagined. Which still leaves the question: When is self-forgiveness deserved? And when is the proper response atonement?

Oh, and the beer bottle? They sold this beer at the Ghibli Museum's outdoor cafe. "Kaze No Tani" means "Valley of the Wind." Apparently, atonement gives one a mighty thirst.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Aero in the Valley of the Wind

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND is my all-time favorite Hayao Miyazaki movie. It's the first feature Miyazaki directed from his own story. When we went to Japan in 2004, on our first full day there, we went to the Ghibli Museum, which was devoted to Miyazaki's work. That night, when we went to Akihibara, I bought one Region 2 DVD: NAUSICAA -- which had just been released on DVD in Japan, and had never been released uncut on American video at that point. When our tour went to a Chinese restaurant in Ikebukuro later that night, guess what was playing on the restaurant's TV -- NAUSICAA.

So when the American Cinematheque played a rare big-screen showing of NAUSICAA this evening at the Aero theater in Santa Monica, how could we help but go? Apparently, a lot of people had the same idea -- the audience was full.

The only other time I saw the movie at a theater was when the horribly sliced up version, WARRIORS OF THE WIND, was shown at the LA Animation Festival in 1985. This version, like that one, was dubbed. But thankfully, it was a far more faithful dub -- and the film itself uncut.

The dub featured such actors as Patrick Stewart (Lord Yupa, naturally), Uma Thurman (Kushana), Chris Sarandon (Kurotowa), and Shia Lebouf (Asbell), and it wasn't too bad. But it wasn't quite up to the quality of such other Disney dubs of Miyazaki films as PORCO ROSSO or SPIRITED AWAY; or the celebrated dub of PRINCESS MONONOKE written by Neil Gaiman. And I'll always prefer the subtitled Japanese language film, particularly due to Sumi Shimamoto's performance as Nausicaa.

And the film. Oh my, the film. I've seen it many times, but it still has the power to squeeze some moisture out of my tearducts. Miyazaki's later films may be much more slickly animated (heck, this one even animates giant pillbugs by using sliding paper cutouts), and they have some excellent stories and characters; but nothing matches this one. And what character could match Nausicaa -- the teenage princess who's an ace flyer, a plant biologist, an incredible warrior (she wipes out a room full of sword and gun toting soldiers, using only a staff -- and it looks believable), a leader, a hero (she constantly finds herself saving both male and female characters, left and right), and someone who will fly toward a machine gun, unarmed, with her arms spread wide. And on top of that, she's compassionate and humble. As Amy mentioned, those parents whose daughters are infatuated with Disney princesses should show the girls this film; here's a princess who's a real role model.

Watching NAUSICAA brought to mind my recent viewing of GEDO SENKAI: TALES OF EARTHSEA, the debut animated feature from Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro Miyazaki. The character designs in GEDO SENKAI strongly resemble the elder Miyazaki's in NAUSICAA. But Goro's direction just doesn't have the storytelling art of Hayao's. Many scenes in GEDO SENKAI serve no purpose except to get the characters from point A to point B. Such a scene would be unthinkable in a Hayao Miyazaki movie. Every corner you turn in a Hayao Miyazaki film leads you to a new treat -- something that surprises you, or thrills you, or amuses you, or makes you gasp with wonder at its beauty.