Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas recommendations

Well Thanksgiving is over now and we are now rushing headlong into the Christmas season. I have been thinking about things and with the ton of choices of specials and movies to choose from I have outlined a few good ones to check out. Some of these you should all know with some taking the limelight recently and of course a few oldies but goodies.

1. Elf: This is one that has surprised me and is the only one of these that I don't have in my personal collection on the list. I really don't care much for Will Ferrell as many of my friends will attest. I did enjoy the spirit of this film and felt that it deserved a good view. I love Bob Newhart and really enjoyed the positive energy making Ferrell's character annoying but not as mean spirited as many of his characters tend to be. This is a very interesting movie to kick off the holiday season.

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas: This is a Christmas must. I remember this and the peppermint patty commercials they used to show with them when I was growing up. This is a very simple piece and is not recommended to those who didn't grow up with it but for those that did and for young children this is a traditional favorite that is a must see.

3. Mystery Science Theater "Santa Claus vs. the Martians": I used to love Mystery science theater as a teen and still have a place in my heart for it today. This episode is probably one of my favorites with the absurdity of the movie and the song "Patrick Swazie Christmas".  This is one that helps you get in the mood and gives a few laughs.

 4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: I had made it a tradition in my home to watch this every Christmas Eve (to the distaste of my mother). This film is funny and though it is now over 20 years old it still has a lot of great one liners and still applies well to our current time with its message of good cheer. One should not go without seeing this during the Christmas Season.

5. It's A Wonderful Life: In truth I hadn't watched the whole thing until last year. I actually feel ashamed but this is a staple of the holiday times and should be paid attention to. Jimmie Stewart is a great actor and the plot and message is still relevant even in this time period.

6. Scrooged: This is another one from my childhood. Bill Murry is a great actor and this movie is a Christmas Classic. The parodies of Christmas TV and movies as well as the social commentary about how commercialized the holiday has become are all relevant to current times. The cast has great chemistry and you will be guaranteed to have fun with this choice.

7. White Christmas: It isn't Christmas without White Christmas. My Mother had it as a tradition to watch this film every Christmas eve. I have really enjoyed the way things come together in this film through I do admit there was a great deal of frustration with the main protagonists dealing with a bad misunderstanding. The Stage work and song skill is well worth it through so if you haven't gotten a chance please check this one out.

8. Gremlins: Who wouldn't want to have a nice cuddly little critter for a Christmas gift? Well when this critter turns into a bunch of evil critters bent on reeking havoc in the city you have a wonderful film to kick off the Christmas season. Gremlins isn't as much about Christmas using it primarily as window dressing but it is a fun film to watch around the holidays.

9. Home Alone 1 & 2: These two films are usually dismissed around the holidays as a little corny and lame but I enjoyed them in my childhood (saw the first in theaters). The music in these films is wonderful and the story gets a bad wrap with fun characters and enjoyable scenes. The story does revolve around Christmas and the spirit it represents. Good values and good times for the holidays.

10. Santa's Slay: I was introduced to this about one three years ago after a friend of mine told me about it and I was able to find it and watched it with my gaming group. This is about an evil homicidal Santa that is tired of giving and is ready to give out some butt kicking. This film is a fun film set for the holiday season. So long as you can handle the above you will enjoy this movie.

 11. A Christmas Story: It is hard to believe that I didn't see this until a few years ago. It is a bit overrated but still is a must as I consider it Stand By Me set in the Christmas season with a tap off of the writing. This brings us all back to a time when Christmas was simpler and more fun.

12. Mickey's Christmas Carol: A wonder from my childhood. There are a lot of versions of the Dickens classic and this one is the version with the most heart. I loved this warm tale since I was a young child and continue to be entertained by it to this day.

13. Die Hard 1 & 2: I am not totally certain why but these movies just go well with the season for me. They of course take place during Christmas and of course there is the lovely phrase "now I have a machine gun ho ho ho". This film doesn't have any real moral to it unless it is don't messs with Bruce Willis. 

14. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Very few people don't know this one. It debued in the 60s on TV and didn't stop winning people over. The message is strong, the songs are fun and the whole of it is very enjoyable. Recently people have been putting this film down as it is said to glorify bullying but I say you sometimes just need to take things at face value. 

15. Frosty the Snowman: This is another of those lovely cartoons from my childhood. The animation is fair at best and the voice acting is also nothing to sneeze at but in the end this is one holds a special place in my heart with those childhood memories on the floor in front of the TV counting down the days to when I could open my gifts. 
16. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: I just keep hitting the classics here. This little tail is about how we cannot get ourselves caught up in materialism of the season. It is another one of those childhood classics filmed with songs and well done writing and skill one would expect of Dr. Sesuss' wordsmithing. 

17. Miracle on 34th Street: A film about how mental illness can be fun in spreading the Christmas spirit and help out materialism. It is kind of funny how the one before is about the pains of of over materializing the season and this is a big commercial. Just the same it does have a nice message to it and it is a classic that has stood against the flow of time. 

18. Tokyo Godfathers: I leave this with the last being about an anime. Though it is more about New Years that it is about Christmas this film shows the spirit of giving better than most holiday specials. It follows three street people after they have found an abandoned child and their struggle to take care of it over the season. This is very much a movie with emotion to the point where you very well may tear up in the end.

19. Ernest Saves Christmas: I really don't know why I keep forgetting this one. I used to watch this all the time and still consider it an essential for the holidays. Ernest movies are usually pretty funny and this one is one of the big 4 that had fairly good writing. This movie has a good message to it and a lot of holiday fun which will put a smile on most faces. So this film is a great end to our holiday list.

Well that's it. I hope you enjoyed this look through and make a plan for holiday viewing. I am sure that most of these will be on regular TV so mark your TV guides, check your Netflix or Hulu and get ready to lay back and enjoy the holiday season. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to get new people into anime :)

I know this blog has been pretty much about politics but as with everyone else I am sick of it since the election and have moved to a subject that I like a lot...anime.

My Girlfriend first came in saying that she really didn't like anime and J-Pop generalizing due to a bad first experience. Anime is such a broad form but for people to like it there has to be a good first experience or it can end up depriving them of a wonderful experience.

Speaking of Generalizing, like with most things different anime appeals to different people so please keep the person you are introducing in mind before showing one of these.

Studio Ghibli:I know this isn't a single movie or series but I fell that with only a small difference here and there really isn't any one of their projects that is far too weird or cartoony. Ghibli is especially good if the person enjoys disney animated films and if you show multiple movies you can do a slow move up the spectrum to introduce people to more and more adult oriented movies. Probably the most appropriate one to start with would be Spirited away or Kiki's Delivery Service.

Afro Samurai: This one was actually close to the other list of what anime not to introduce someone to but I thought about it an this is a good one for those who are really into action films. Those people who like movies such as Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill will likely enjoy this series. It is very violent and over the top but is americanized with the american and japanese cooperation. If you have someone that really like Samuel L. Jackson this series can also be great for them.

The Animatrix: This one is a good intro as it is one that you can slide in with any Matrix series fans blurring the familiar with the unfamiliar. Computer animation also is something that many americans are used to and the starting pieces are good to draw them in. This particular item is in my opinion better written than the last two matrix movies but still not quite as well thought up as the first.

Appleseed Movies: These are just solid sci-fi action movies that happen to be animated by the Japanese. This is very good for your typical sci-fi viewer. The action is not over the top like with a movie such as ninja scroll. The movie is also not cartoony like a lot of anime and will not throw audiences off with strange cultural  plot devices.

Clannad: This is based off of a video game oddly enough but it is also one of the few school girl anime that I would show to a newcomer. It is a very serious and sad movie with an enlightened ending. There is a series that also goes by the same name but it has parts in it that are cartoony using japanese humor that can be lost on an american just getting used to anime. The movie plays it straight as a high school romance that ends sadly. This is good for people that like Romantic dramas.

Cowboy Bebop: This is an excellent series for bridging the gaps that many people feel are between live action and anime series. It is a great sci-fi action series with a wonderful score that ensnares most who watch it. If your friend enjoyed star wars or high paced action series this series should be a home run. There are some strange characters but luckily here they are introduced after the viewer has been drawn in.

Death Note: This is a nod to our 24 or CSI crowd. A person finds a magic notebook that if you write someone's name in it they die. This has multiple aspects that can appeal to the mystery buff  with the killer and detective sparing mentally throughout. This also appeals to the goth crowd due to the darker aspects of this series. Be wary the ending is a bit difficult and the series does go downhill about half way in.

 Dragonball: This is a really good series for younger viewers to get into anime. Children in their early teens and under can easily drop into this series and laugh at the simple humor. Some adults may be able to get into this series but usually have to have had some grounding in anime first. This series is very simple and straight forward making it easy to follow and it is a great gateway to other anime action series.

Eden of the East: This is a series that has been fairly successful in the United States. It is very intense and the plot is very complex but for americans that love to follow action dramas like 24 will find this series very entertaining. It is one that I find more appropriate than Ghost in the Shell which is more familiar to american audiences but I believe is harder to understand. Eden of the east is a great dramatic thrill ride for most people.

 5 Centimeters Per Second: This is a great movie for people to get into anime if they have a love of good film. This is a sad series of short films following a love that cannot last. This is beautifully animated and makes for great first time viewing if the person you are showing this to likes romantic Dramas.

Fruits Basket:  This one is a bit harder to swallow than others on the list as it has a lot of quirky japanese humor to it. If you can get the person past this point you find at the core a very deep and well rounded series that involves deep emotion for the characters and the viewer alike. If the person enjoys cute romantic comedies mixed with a little fantasy then this may still be the one to use.

 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time:  This is a wonderful movie enveloping elements of science fiction romance and comedy that will be enjoyable to most viewers. This is a good first viewing as it shows great writing and elegance that usually only falls under anime.

Honey and Clover: This is a great series, probably one of the best. It follows a group of art students through their college career and into their adult lives. This series is a but sad for some so please keep it in mind but it also has another aspect to it that makes it an easy transition in that you can show the live action film first then move into the series. There are multiple anime that you can use this trick on so if you are thinking of introducing a series see if you have a live action one to show first in order to get the person to take it more seriously.

Initial D:  This is another series with a live action movie and though it isn't necessarily my cup of tea it is a perfect movie and tv series to introduce someone who is big into racing and films such as fast and the furious. This series has many qualities that are in common with action series and can be utilized to help people start to get into more traditional action or sports anime.

Kimagure Orange Road: This is another one of my top rated series that I do believe would make good introductory material. It is a simple romantic comedy with a nice twist. The series follows a family that has super powers and has to hide them while they addend school and live their lives. The main character quickly falls into a love triangle that lasts for most of the series. This series has a few flaws such as how long the japanese tend to extend their romance which can at times move to the point of frustration moving two steps forward and one step back. It does have a good resolution and is followed up by two films that round out the series well. The second film "Summer's Beginning" is a good film to use as a stand alone intro due to the length of the series (48 episodes). This series is excellent for people who love romantic comedies.

Kino's Journey: This series is superb and probably one of the best TV series of all time. Kino's Journey follows the exploits of a young woman traveling from one strange land to another being a witness to the world and the happiness, sadness and oddities that she comes across. This series has a beautiful score, excellent writing and has a lot of the odd japanese annoyances missing that might turn off most new viewers. If this is a person that loves good drama and science fiction they will learn to love this series.

Maison Ikkoku: This is a lovely series and has been tested several times in the past to good results. Like Kimagure Orange road this is a romantic comedy but relies more on the quirky aspects of the neighbors than the strange powers of a protagonist. This series has three issues that might bring trouble to first time viewers. The First is the humor value is more present and is something that many are not able to grasp yet there are quite a few that have gone beyond this. The second is that this has similar issues to Kimagure Orange Road in that you can get frustrated at the slowness of the development of the relationship between the two main characters. The Last is the length of the series. This series lasted for a few years in japan so you need to prepare yourself for quite a ride (96 episodes worth). If you can get past these three you are left with one of the best written romantic comedies out there.  

Mermaid Forest: What happens when you eat the flesh of a mermaid? Well you get the answer in this series and both aspects are not exactly wonderful. This is a horror series by the same author as Maison Ikkoku. For those that really love creepy suspense this is a great intro to horror anime incorporated far less of the strange humor found in other of her anime series. The stories are well crafted but a bit disturbing so showing this to a horror veteran is advised. An earlier version of the episode Mermaid Scar can be found but beware this one is even more disturbing than the remake. One major difference in this and some other horror anime is that the disturbing nature of the series is no where near how bad it can get with more intense series.

 Millennium Actress: This is a film that is very much up an the alley of a person that enjoys a good dramatic and artistic film. It has aspects that may be difficult too follow for most so it is not recommended for any but followers of artistic drama. This movie can be utilized after an introduction to anime is made to most other individuals that enjoy a good dramatic film. 

Perfect Blue: This is  a wonderful thriller that I would recommend to any tho enjoy crime thrillers with a little psychological horror thrown in. This movie has a good dub cast and even has a slight intro to the poppy japanese music without burying you in it like other series might. The movie might be harder for people with the preconceived notion that animation is only for children but luckily that generation is getting older and there are fewer who believe this these days. 

Read or Die OVA: This is as if you crossed James Bond and Super Heroes. This is an excellent series with great animation a good amount of action and story to boot. This series itself can bring in many action film junkies and can include those who are not into a lot of blood and gore. The TV series has more aspects that might detract from the interest of initial viewers but if you hook them with this series the TV series might be a great next step. 

Record of Lodoss War: This is a series that was created by a role playing group and is perfect for those who were into fantasy role playing or fantasy movies with elves and dragons. For many who loved lord of the rings this may be a good introduction for them as it involves a lot less cartoony comedic moments and tends to follow a straight story line. 

Rumiko Takahashi Anthology: This is a mixed bag but that can make it a good thing. It is well written and  covers the anime spectrum quite well. To people who are more open this can be used to introduce them to many different types including weird comedic and dramatic. This is not one to show an individual who is resistant to anime as there are aspects in the comedy and strange ones that would turn them off. 

Tokyo Godfathers: This is a great holiday film incorporating the spirit of love and giving during the holiday season. This like most of the film artist's work was well crafted story wise. Many first time people may be turned off by it not being a children's film but usually can be drawn into the main story with the themes being very general and easy to understand. 

Vampire Knight: A nod to people who enjoy vampire romance dramas. We have a mix of vampires, Vampire Hunters and High schoolers. The story can be light at times but never gets out of control with the humor and for the most part keeps to the straight romance and complex plot devices. For those who liked Twilight or Maybe True Blood. I would however put the writing quality a full hand above Twilight.  

Last Hints:

At first try and keep it to the dubbing unless you have someone that is used to watching a lot of subbed films and are used to hearing foreign languages as the high voices can be a bit of a turn off. 

Make sure you know the person. Just like you really shouldn't generalize anime as being all the same thing you shouldn't generalize for people as well. What works for one may not work for another. Make sure you understand their tastes before going in. Remember: there is an anime for almost any interest so don't give up.  

Lastly for any who think I left some off please feel free to add to the list just make sure you justify your reasons for making it first time viewing. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Political Inundation

I am sure that most of you will be very very happy at the end of this election cycle. I myself do have hopes for the outcome of the election but no matter who wins the sun will still rise we'll still continue to seek or go to work things for the most part will remain the same with the exception of one important thing: Political Ads.

Every time a big election comes in things get this way but this year is especially important which is the supreme court allowing corporate money to go into the political world. With More money inundating the process and large corporations getting involved our politicians are not only even more indebted to Corporate america (leaving them less concerned with the needs of the people) but there are now Super PACs,

The Super PACs are very special organizations that use their massive coffers to support a candidate weather they want the support or not. As the candidate does not necessarily support these organizations they can get away with things that no one has before making the elections since some of the dirtiest nastiest elections in history (and this can only get worse with time).

There are several things that our political figures and those that want to lend their aid (allowing them a measure of control over the candidate) use to try and influence the people:

Political Mailer: I have been lining my cat's litter box with these. It seems that almost every day i get at least 2 of them sometimes two of the same one. This is a good way to get to the undecided person by trying to force the person's name, image and attacks. The Attacks don't have to be true for this to work they just have to be constant. I don't really like political Mailers but I do like that they are helping fund the US Mail. 

TV/Radio Political Ads: This has got to be the dirtiest of things. I know both sides will say "I don't know what you're saying my side is totally clean it's their side using dirty ads". Let's face it TV/Radio Political ads from both sides have brought down the quality of our media. I am glad that I for the most part watch DVDs and try and keep away from the filth on the air. The attacks reach the most people as  political mailers can be discarded easily. As this is the case these ads are by far the most vicious and tend to only use bare scraps of truth. In the end if you see a political TV ad or hear a Radio ad expect 90% lies, 5% truth and 5% filler (that has nothing to do with politics).

Political Phone Calls: These tend to come in two type: Survey's and Robocalls. Surveys tend to seem innocent at first but in the end you have about a 60% chance that this is not a real survey this is an attempt by the group to find out how you are going to vote and then to either start flooding your phone with Robocalls or to try and convince you on the spot to vote for their candidate. Robocalls are even worse as they pull from the Radio ads and in these days of high money politics they are no longer what they used to be which was mostly "personal" calls from the candidates to mostly rehashes of expensive radio advertising. What is worse is that you can't escape them by not answering as they will fill up your answering service with their garbage. In the end no one is safe unless they decide to disconnect their phone for the entire election year.

 Computer Pop Ups: I really REALLY hate these! You're Surfing the web minding your own business then you are forced to look at a picture of Governor Romney's left butt cheek and an add saying how much smoother it is than the President's. These adds are usually the standard attacks and BS that you are used to but many of these you are forced to sit through in order to get to your content. You're computer is literally hijacked by the political money spenders. It is times like these that you want to just get rid of the computer all together.

 Political Spamming: You get these emails all the time. Sadly they are usually from the party you support and they are always looking for money. If you have ever given to or signed up at a political sight you will rue the day you showed your support for a candidate as you will be sent constant emails with headings like "We are doing great but we are only one centimeter behind please give $3 today". Your current donation is never enough for them. You could give these people 5 Million daily and they would still be asking for more. Do yourself a favor and if you decide to contribute to a political campaign, make it anonymous.

Political Posts on Facebook: I am also guilty of this nasty little pleasure. You see something that shocks you on facebook and decide to share or like it and then the warring begins. Many times people do not double check the facts of these especially if they think their party is always right. Many of you reading this probably feel you are the exemption but those who think this are the most guilty of all. This gets even worse if you have someone that is your friend posting stuff from the other side of the political isle. When you se these posts, many of which you know are lies you feel like firing back so you grab the first thing you see and fire it back. In the end the best thing for everyone in the end is to stop sharing or liking articles as all you're doing is spreading the filth around.

Well in the end no matter who wins I will be glad to see these ads stop running and people can go back to the research so they can fire it up again in the next 2 years.