Archive for September, 2006

SPIRITED AWAY for the weekend…

spiritedaway.jpg

I was still in a Miyazaki frame of mind today, so I thought I’d do a sketch of the lead from his wonderful film SPIRITED AWAY. This film is somewhat in the more lyrical vein of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, but it’s much more heavily driven with fantasy elements– as well as a sense of menace and peril– than TOTORO was. TOTORO is just plain sweet in nature (even though there’s the underlying theme of Satsuki’s and Mei’s mother being sick) and is a movie that even the youngest of children would love. SPIRITED AWAY is a bit more… nightmarish… in theme and action. There’s people being transformed into animals and bizarre and threatening creatures populating a strange and magical realm where witchcraft rules. Miyazaki’s usual themes of family, loyalty and love still thread through and infuse the film, however…. and for me, it’s every bit as wonderful and thrilling as anything else he’s done.

I’ve gotta keep it brief today— I’ve got a lot to do.

Everyone have a great weekend.

This is 283.

Mike

MIYAZAKI

nausicaa.jpg

I think the first Japanese animated film I ever saw was NAUSICAA OF THE VALLY OF THE WIND back in the 80′s. I had seen the trailer on TV, and it intrigued me, so when it hit the theaters, I went to see it (alone, as I did with many movies back in my early 20′s). It was a revelation for me– NAUSICAA was a beautiful film with an epic scope and it immediately emblazoned the name Hayao Miyazaki… the creator and director of the movie…. on my young mind. NAUSICAA is the story of a young princess who desperately tries to stop a war between her people and their greatest enemies– and in doing so, also tries to stop the very destruction of her planet. Many parts of her world have become poison zones– populated by fascinating and bizarre insectoid creatures. These poisoned zones hold a key to the survival of the planet even as they threaten the survival of NAUSICAA’s people.

I always remembered the NAUSICAA film…. and years later, when I became more aware of the diversity that Japanese animation offers, I bought almost everything I could get my hands on that looked like it would be of interest to me. I amassed a rather large collection of anime (as it’s known) over the years…. but sort of fell out of love with it a while back. I gave away most of my tapes to friends– I only have a few absolute favorites left like GIANT ROBO and APPLESEED….. but the anime most special to me is the work of Miyazaki that’s been released here in the States in the years since NAUSICAA. Films like MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, PRINCESS MONONOKE, and SPIRITED AWAY hold a very honored place in my DVD collection… they’re wonderful gems that I never get tired of watching over and over again. Hayao Miyazaki has been referred to as Japan’s Walt Disney– but I think that does him a disservice. Miyazaki’s films are so epic in scope and deep in meaning– often exploring the themes of man’s struggle to co-exist with nature… and each other– that they are timeless fantasies that strike a major chord in my heart. I have enjoyed many Disney films over the years, and count many of them as influences on my artistic growth– but Miyazaki’s films move me in ways that no Disney film ever has.

Any other Miyazaki fans out there…..?

This is Entry 282.

Mike

A KNIGHT’S TALE

aknightstale.jpg

I spent all weekend at the drawing board. When I have to work for such long periods, I like to have something on the TV in the background to kind of ‘keep me company’ while I’m working. Usually, I’ll have some sort of game on– baseball or football or basketball… whatever happens to be in season. Sometimes I’ll have a movie on I’ve seen so many times I almost know it by heart if one happens to be playing. Saturday, I came across the movie A KNIGHT’S TALE playing on TBS. I absolutely love that movie. Here’s the description of the movie from IMDB.com:

“Inspired by “The Canterbury Tales,” this is the story of William, a young squire with a gift for jousting. After his master dies suddenly, the squire hits the road with his cohorts Roland and Wat. On the journey, they stumble across an unknown writer, Chaucer. William, lacking a proper pedigree, convinces Chaucer to forge genealogy documents that will pass him off as a knight. With his newly-minted history in hand, the young man sets out to prove himself a worthy knight at the country’s jousting competition, and finds romance along the way.”

That sounds a bit dry — but A KNIGHT’S TALE is anything but. It’s full of humor and passion and it has a bizarre and yet wonderful mix of 14th century trappings and surroundings that get effectively interwoven with modern music and references. The cast is just wonderful, with Heath Ledger as the headliner. There’s no huge marqee name attached, but I think that makes the film better for that. TALE is the kind of movie that I just can’t change the channel from when I see it on cable. It just hits on everything that I enjoy in a movie– great acting, a wonderful script, a historical setting– and a villain (played by Rufus Sewell) that I just love to hate. I’ve seen it available on DVD– but it’s never been released (as far as I know) on a Special Edition version with all the ‘making of’ extras. I’m not much for those behind the scenes kind of extras usually, but I’d love to see them for this film.

fall.jpg

In honor of this past Saturday being the first day of Fall, I thought I’d post this piece I did a while back for the blog. It’s funny that here in North Carolina, the first two days of Fall were pretty hot. We had temperatures in the upper 80′s on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s cooled off for today– but over the weekend, I had to turn on my air conditioning because of the heat.

OK– that’s it for today.

This is Entry 281.

Mike

MISH-MASH

mishmash.jpg

I’m going to keep it pretty brief today. I’ve had a bunch of unfinished sketches and ideas laying around for some time. Some of them are ideas for projects I’d like to do someday (yeah… right– like that’s going to happen…)– yet others are sketches for things that didn’t work out the way I’d have liked and I went in another direction. For instance, the THING/SPIDER-MAN sketch is a part of a first-draft for the cover to the MODERN MASTERS that is coming out soon. So I just scanned a sampling of these unfinished sketches and put them together for today’s post.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

This is Entry 280.

Mike

THE SPIRIT

ruggedspirit.jpg

Over on DRAWINGBOARD.ORG, there’s a character jam thread featuring THE SPIRIT. I’ve posted the piece that I did for the WILL EISNER TRIBUTE book published by TWOMORROWS a while back in the thread (and here as well). But this morning, I felt like doing another piece while warming up. I have always loved Will Eisner’s work– especially his SPIRIT character. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was a kid and first saw the WARREN MAGAZINE reprints of THE SPIRIT comics back in the 70′s. Everything about Eisner’s work and the character itself instantly attracted and fascinated me. I read the magazines my father brought home over and over again until they were practically ragged out. One of the things I loved about THE SPIRIT was that although he would frequently get beaten to a pulp during his adventures, he’d always come back strong in the end. Eisner would really put him through the ringer. THE SPIRIT’S antagonists would bludgeon him, stab him, shoot him and throw him off of piers and buildings. He would often disappear for long periods of time after these beatings– but he’d always show back up at the end and save the day. That was part of the charm of the character for me. He was given up for dead in so many of his stories. Eisner brought such a feeling of danger and menace to his SPIRIT stories. They were such engaging reads.

There’s some fun stuff being posted in the thread…. go check it out.

That’s it for today.

This is Entry 279.

Mike