Kanahamonako Reviews: Harry Potter

Greetings blogiverse! Sorry for another unplanned and extended hiatus. Anyway, unless you follow me on twitter, you were probably unaware that for the past couple of days I have been rewatching and reviewing every film in the Harry Potter series. Why? Because I was bored and I wanted to. Here I’ve written down my opinion on each of the films in this 20 hour epic. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on each film and a rating out of 10.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:
Dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. Unimaginative hack Chris Columbus has absolutely no idea how to properly handle the source material and makes every wrong aesthetic decision. For instance, every scene is overlit with virtually no shadows, creating an utterly flat film with no sense of depth or darkness. And he stages every scene with all the action in the center of the frame, with no variety or kinetic motion of the camera; it’s all still and stagnant. The only redeeming qualities in this film are the casting and chemistry between the leads, and John Williams’ score.
5/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
An improvement on its predecessor in almost every way. The acting is better, the action is better, and the stakes are higher. But it still suffers from Columbus’ complete lack of vision. The cinematography problems are still there, and he still refuses to MOVE THE CAMERA. Better, but not by much.
6/10

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
Love this one. This film completely redefined the style of all the films that followed it. Alfonso Cuaron abandons Columbus’ static feeling in place of constant motion. There is not a single frame that isn’t dripping with visual symbolism and organic movement. And this film has a sense of DEPTH. In Columbus’ films, everything takes place on the horizon. The camera never explores the empty space above and below the action on screen. Not even the Quidditch matches break Columbus’ two-dimensional plane! Cuaron’s cinematographer Michael Seresin utilizes all three dimensions, especially in scenes involving flight. The camera is constantly moving, almost never standing still, and a lot of the time scenes are staged off center, adding to the realism. Cuaron would later collaborate with Seresin again on another 3-dimensional film, Gravity. Even the LIGHTING is amazing, with everything lit in a bluish tint, helping to convey the darker and grimmer atmosphere of the story taking place. The cast is on point in this one, and Cuaron allows the actors to behave like actual human beings instead of little kids playing dress up. It’s really the little details, like Harry goofing off with his buddies in the dorms like actual teenage boys, or Hermione slapping Harry’s hand away when he tries touching the time turner. It all makes it feel like this is happening to actual people, not actors. And, there are quite a few unsettling moments in the film, particularly the first appearance of the Dementor, excellently building up the tension and sense of fear until the payoff when we witness the dark creature extend its rotting skeletal hand. It remains in my opinion the single greatest scene in the entire franchise. And let us not forget the score, retinkered by John Williams and made all the better, invoking the right amount of creepiness and building dread. Basically, this one is nearly perfect.
9.5/10

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
I don’t really have much to say about this one. Outside of the first two films, this is my least favorite. I was extremely bored throughout its running time. Still, it has good acting, decent directing, and adequate cinematography. I’s not as interesting as Prisoner of Azkaban.
7.5/10

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
Honestly my biggest gripe with Order of the Phoenix is a problem I had with the book. The title. What I mean by this is that, in both the film and the novel, the eponymous Order is hardly in it. The real title should be “Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army” or “Harry Potter and the Pink Bitch of Pure Evil.” The film is solidly directed by David Yates with good performances out of the cast regulars, and fantastic performances out of newcomers Imelda Staunton and Evanna Lynch. Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge in particular really steals the show. She just exhumes pure bureaucratic evil. Also the use of color scheme in any scene involving her is excellent; her trademark garish pink in contrast with Hogwarts’ monochrome palate of greys reflects her oppressive desire for order. She’s just fantastic. Staunton manages to hide frightening amounts of malice and hate beneath a veneer of plastic cheeriness.The other standout performance is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. If you know the story of her casting you know how wonderful it is that she got casted. Lynch expertly and flawlessly brings the quirky character to life with a slightly sing-song line delivery and marvelous comedic timing. Of course, the cinematography and score are excellent as per expected. But, another issue I have is Sirius’ death during the battle between the Order and the Death Eaters. It lacks the impact it should. I want to feel sad about it, and in the book I did. But unfortunately the film completely fails to convey exactly how much of a loss this is for Harry. He was the closest thing he had to family, and it was cruelly snatched away from him. Also the screenplay is rather messy, jumping all over the place with no coherent idea of how it wants to tell its story. Other than that, I think this is an excellent film.
8/10

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:
The first time I saw this movie, I thought it was a disappointment, mainly because I kept comparing it to the book in the back of my mind. Revisiting it however, I realize how fantastic it really is. Half-Blood Prince is the best entry in the series since Prisoner of Azkaban. Also it really shows just how flawed Order of the Phoenix is, something I didn’t realize until I watched it immediately afterwards. In many ways, this film both mirrors and contrasts with Prisoner of Azkaban. Whereas Azkaban had moments of light dispersed in a somber gloomy mood, Half-Blood Prince is the exact opposite, with moments of dark sincerity in a mostly sunny and warm film. The most obvious contrast is the lighting. Azkaban relied heavily on bluish and grey tints to convey the cold, stark feel of winter. Half-Blood Prince is extremely warm in its use of color and lighting. An orange glow persists through almost every frame. It cements the film in an atmosphere of autumn, a time of transition, which reflects the story itself. Almost all the characters are coming to a crossroads. Harry is learning the true nature of the Dark Lord and what he must do to defeat him. Hermione and Ron are taking steps in coming to terms with their romantic attraction. And Draco is faced with a task he knows he must complete, but one he also knows he will regret. All the characters are starting to leave behind the naivete they had in the previous films, and realizing just how dark and serious the world actually is. The acting across the board is phenomenal. Never has the cast been this excellent. Particular standouts are Alan Rickman, always good as Professor Snape but especially sublime here. But the true MVP is Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy. Previously he was just restricted to being a whiney brat instead of a complex character. Here Felton truly grasps the moral dilemma and sense of weariness Draco feels. His hesitation and fear at completing the job assigned to him is expertly conveyed. The cinematography is also marvelous, the best we’ve seen since Azkaban, which is also something they have in common, particularly in the way the actors are staged. And then there’s the script. This is perhaps the funniest of the Harry Potter films. There are so many jokes about adolescent issues and relationships that, although cliche, are nevertheless effective and hilarious. And unlike the tragic death scene in Order that was sadly lacking any sense of gravity, the one in this film is handled excellently; I will admit that I may have teared up a bit. My only true complaint is that the reveal of who the Half-Blood Prince actually is is so underplayed it’s almost an afterthought; it’s supposed to be a big reveal and yet it just lacks any sort of import. In any case, I love this one and it is definitely one of the strongest entries in the series.
9/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I:
This film started a trend I don’t quite care for, that being splitting the final film of a franchise into two parts. And adapting the first half of Rowling’s gargantuan novel to film is problematic in and of itself, seeing as it’s the most boring part of the book. And consequently, not much happens, except for the opening 40 minutes and closing 20, which, given the two and a half hour running time, means there’s a whole 90 minutes where practically nothing advances in any meaningful way. You literally could cut out most of that 90 minutes of zilch and stick the remainder in front of Part II and you’d be fine. Sure you’d have a 3 and a half hour movie on your hands, but at least it would have a complete story with an actual arc. Now you’re probably thinking that this means I didn’t like Part I. And that’s not remotely the case. I quite like it. Why? Because for all that nothing which dominates the screenplay, it makes up for it with a collection of wonderful character moments, and gorgeous photography. Every scene where the cast just gets to work off each other is wonderful. These actors have built up a marvelous chemistry over the years they’ve worked together. Also, the stunning photography of various locations in the English countryside is pure eye candy, in my opinion making this the most beautiful out of any of the films. Still, eye candy and great individual moments are barely enough to justify such a bloated screenplay. I haven’t been this bored since Goblet of Fire. Though I do think Part I is better than both Goblet and the first two films. But yeah. Too bloated and lacking substance.
7.5/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II:
When I first saw this film, I thought it was good, but not great. Having rewatched it I am now confident in saying that it is indeed a great, nearly flawless film, despite the fact it lacks a beginning. Everything, from the acting, action, cinematography, and direction is nearly perfect. Honestly my only problems are certain aesthetic and stylistic choices, like how none of the villains that die on screen (i.e. Bellatrix and Voldemort) expire without a body left over. Like, they just explode or dissolve into tiny flecks of dust that are blown away in the wind. I always find it lame whenever a villain, or hero for that matter, dissolves into something slowly and gets carried off with the breeze. I didn’t like it in Corpse Bride, I didn’t like it in Kung Fu Panda, and I don’t like it here. But yeah, this is a minor nitpick. And I did indeed tear up more than once while watching. Furthermore, I don’t care what anyone says; I LIKED the epilogue in the book, and I like it here. Sure Harry named his son Albus Severus. And yes it is silly. But I don’t care. Come at me haters. In conclusion, Deathly Hallows Part II is a worthy, fantastic end to a decade spanning franchise that is a tent-pole in the popular consciousness of the Millennial generation.
9.5/10

Average score: 7.75/10

So those are my thoughts on the Harry Potter films. Tell me what you think of them in the comments. Follow me on twitter @Tanahamondo. Till next time beautifuls.

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An open letter to Irish: Why must you be so damn confusing?

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Dear Irish,

I love Ireland. I really do. Your country has great people, great food, and beautiful landscapes. But there is something that I will never get over, that being you, Irish language.

Just… why? Why Irish? Why must you be so confusing? Why can’t your words be pronounced the way they’re spelled?

For instance, the head of the Irish government, the Taoiseach.  You’d think it’d be pronounced Taoweeseech, but it’s actually Tea-shock. Why???

Or the name Saoirse. It looks like it should be Saoweerss, but it’s actually Seersha. What is your deal Irish??????? Do you just enjoy messing with an entire generation of linguists?

Or, and this is my favorite, the Irish parliament, the Dáil Éireann. It should be Dah-eel Ey-reen, but it’s actually Doyel Air-awhn. WHYYYYYYYYY!?!?!?!?

I love the way that Irish sounds. The way it rolls off the tongue. It’s literally music to my ears. But I despise the way it’s spelled. It’s almost as if the people to transcribed Irish to the Latin script intentionally made it as bizarre as possible just to dick with the British.

So, in conclusion, Irish, I like you, but you need to consider changing your spelling system.

Sincerely, a 20-year-old college student with an Anglo-centric bias.

Lilo & Stitch vs. How to Train Your Dragon

Greetings blogiverse! Sorry for the unplanned and prolonged hiatus, but I had reasons and things and distractions (and also laziness). But I’m back now, and ready to rock your world with my opinions about stuff! And what better stuff to talk about than two of my favorite movies! So let’s get into it shall we? 🙂

I often find myself in debates with various friends and acquaintances and random trolls on YouTube over the merits of How to Train Your Dragon vs. Lilo & Stitch. It is an incredibly easy comparison to make, given they were both directed and written by the same people (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois), and they both have a similar premise (human adolescent adopts and tames a vicious beastly creature). The only truly defining differences between both movies from a production standpoint are the animation mediums (traditional cel and CGI, respectively), and the production studio, (I won’t get into details about how Chris and Dean ended up at DreamWorks, because I already did that here, but suffice to say it had something to do with a guy named Lasseter and a movie named Bolt).

In any case, for my money I think that Lilo & Stitch is the better film, for one reason; the relationship between Lilo and Stitch is more endearing and mutual than the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless.

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Let’s start with Lilo. She is, as a character, deep, layered, and fundamentally troubled. At the start of the movie, she lashes out at anyone who mocks her strange tendencies, and intentionally makes the life of her older sister more difficult. However, she acted in these ways because she had experienced an unimaginable trauma; the death of both of her parents had left an empty void inside of her that she tried to fill with anger and sadness. Stitch is exactly what she needed. Being a literal embodiment of Lilo’s internal struggle, he represented all the anger, rage, and chaos that was churning inside her, and her attempts to civilize him gave her a newfound purpose; she had something else that needed her, something that could fill the hole left by her parents. And Stitch does indeed need her. Without Lilo, he would’ve eventually been captured and likely sentenced to death. She showed him that there was more to existence than chaos and destruction. She showed him that he didn’t have to be a monster.

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The relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, while still well done, is far less reciprocal than this. Toothless literally needs Hiccup in order to survive; without Hiccup he can’t feed himself or fly because of his injury. Hiccup, on the other hand, doesn’t need Toothless to the same extent. Sure training Toothless represents Hiccup coming to terms with what he wants instead of what his father wants, and learning that he doesn’t have to conform to everyone’s expectations of what he should do with his life, but it doesn’t really compare to Toothless’ physical necessity.

LILO & STITCH Lilo and Stitch

Lilo and Stitch are perfect cinematic foils for each other. They both need the other on a deep, psychological level, and they compliment each other’s characteristics, matching morbid curiosity with wanton chaos.

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Hiccup and Toothless? They do have a strong relationship, and it is still well made enough that it can successfully drive the tension of the movie, but they aren’t foils. One could even argue that Toothless saved Hiccup only because Hiccup provided him with food, because it is made very clear that Toothless is an animal, and he can’t even resist his own instincts, (for instance when he is drawn to the Queen like a moth to a flame, he can’t fight the urge), and because Toothless is an animal and a slave to his id, the relationship he has with Hiccup can never be anything more than that of a boy and his dog, or a man and his horse.

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Stitch is not an animal. He has thoughts and feelings and emotions. Sure he has the instinct to destroy, but Lilo shows him how to ignore those drives. He becomes more than what he was meant to be. He’s not a slave to his id.

I love both of these movies, I really do. But I maintain that Lilo & Stitch is the better film, and I will fight you on that.

Till next time, ta ta!

9 Reasons Why Avatar is the Best

Just as a warning, we’ll be going deep into the Avatar franchise and discussing it in depth. There WILL be spoilers. 🙂

Greetings blogiverse!

I’ve already talked about the Avatar franchise in this post. However, I feel I haven’t sufficiently discussed why Avatar is such a fantastic series.

I’ve been following Avatar since it’s initial airing way back in 2005, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Avatar is quite possibly the greatest artistic creation of the past decade. Don’t worry! I have evidence to support my claims.

So, without further ado, here are my 9 reasons why Avatar is the best thing ever.

9. Avatar has some of the best action. Period.

It’s exceedingly rare to find a show that consistently delivers on fast-paced and intense action sequences, and even more so in a show aimed at children. And yet, here we are.

Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra both have some of the most exhilarating action produced in the past decade. Almost every episode has beautifully staged and articulated martial arts sequences and hair-raising tension. And because both shows are animated, it frees the action from the constraints of reality.

THE LEGEND OF KORRA

Also quite impressive is how action-packed the shows are and how little actual violence there is. Because the characters in this world can control one of the four classical elements (water, earth, fire, or air), most of the combat takes place at a distance. Very rarely do we actually see characters make physical contact whilst engaged in a fight.

But does this diminish the intensity of these fights? Not at all. By focusing on the bending aspect of this world, the action provides visual thrills and high-stakes without resorting to violence, satisfying viewers of all ages and keeping concerned parents satiated.

Just watch the first 16 seconds of this clip and tell me that isn’t badass!

8. Avatar has the most complex world since Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

You can’t have a fantasy show without a fantasy world as a setting, and as far as fictional worlds go, the Avatar World is one of the most nuanced, complicated, and fleshed out locations in all of fiction.

Ultimate Avatar World Map

The Avatar World is a highly spiritual place, historically divided into four nations, the Water Tribes at the North and South Poles, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. Among these nations, only one individual has the abuility fo control all four elements, known as the Avatar. Each nation has it’s own distinct culture just as each bending art has it’s own distinct visual style. Every location in the show is constructed with meticulous care and art direction, creating a world that feels just as real as our own, in addition to a complicated history that extends back 10,000 years

The only other series I can think of that tops the level of world building achieved here is J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

7. Avatar has a phenomenal score.

Jeremy Zuckerman’s original score for the franchise speaks for itself.

6. Avatar has gorgeous animation.

Avatar’s art style is heavily influenced by Japanese anime, and as such has a completely different look and feel from other American produced animation. A consequence of this is that Avatar has the most gorgeous visuals on television, rendered in tradition animation which history has shown us ages way better than CGI.

The animation in Avatar also, as previously mentioned, allows the action to be freed from reality, permitting shots, angles, and particularly bending to be presented in a way that wouldn’t be possible in live-action.

Just watch this scene from the first show.

Every frame is gorgeous. Every gesture is flawless. And every emotion is present. No other show from the past decade comes close to achieving this.

5. Avatar respects its audience.

Today, if you were to flip through every channel aimed towards a younger demographic, don’t be surprised if you don’t find anything remotely cerebral or even clever. Most modern kid’s programming is a deluge of bottom-of-the-barrel ‘entertainment’ that views its audience as nothing more than reliable consumers, ready to gobble up whatever half-assed disgusting product they can get their hands on. Shows like Sanjay & Craig, Jessie, and Breadwinners come to mind.

These shows hold their viewers in contempt. They believe that the only way to keep their audience entertained is with scatological humor and ridiculous hijinks. Quite frankly, they think that children are stupid, and that children only enjoy stupid things.

Avatar is not like that. From the get go, the franchise has always been much more complex than the shallow shows it competes with. It has a philosophical foundation that promotes a deeper understanding of the world and the people that inhabit it. Does it have humor? Of course it does! But the humor never feels like a gimmick to hold our attention. Avatar understands that children can comprehend a lot more than we give them credit.

Are some of the shows ideas a little too heavy for children to completely grasp? Yes, that goes without saying. But another great thing about the series is that it understands this. Avatar is extremely re-watchable, and because its themes are layered and varied, as a child grows older, they can re-watch the show and take new things from it as their understanding increases. Can you say the same for Ed, Edd, and Eddy? I didn’t think so.

4. The show features an ethnically diverse cast without making a big deal out of it.

When it comes to children’s entertainment made by most white people for mostly white people, it’s not surprising that most of the characters displayed are also white. Occasionally a POC (person of color) will slip through the cracks, but when this happens, more often than not the POC character is restricted to an arc that deals with their ethnicity.

Characters like this are usually promoted by their studio to show that the studio is ‘progressive’ and ‘diverse.’ They use this character to promote their image as a benevolent and accepting corporation. Shows and movies like Dora the Explorer, Pocahontas, and Princess and the Frog come to mind.

Very rarely do you actually get a product featuring POC without the studio what made them making a huge deal about it. Lilo & Stitch is an example of this, as is the Avatar franchise.

Each of the four nations is based off a different Asian culture and ethnicity. The Water Tribes draw inspiration of Inuit culture. The Earth Kingdom, being the massive continent spanning nation it is, has many different ethnicities, but is predominantly influenced by Chinese culture. The Fire Nation, being set in a volcanic archipelago, is Japanese inspired. And the Air Nomads are an homage to Buddhist monks.

Both The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra feature casts from all four of the nations, and the most satisfying thing about this is that nobody gives a damn. Katara and Sokka are from the Southern Water Tribe. It doesn’t make them appear lesser in any respect. Aang is an Air Nomad. It doesn’t stop him from kicking some serious ass.

The show never hits you over the head with the fact that the characters are diverse. It never pushes an agenda. Everyone is equal regardless of where they come from and what color their skin is. That is true progressiveness.

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3. Avatar features truly strong female characters.

Just as with ethnicity, gender is another thing typically used by a studio to help boost their image. Films and shows marketed to have a pro-feminist edge typically only exist to make the studio look good. *cough* *cough* Brave *cough*.

However, like with ethnicity, gender is another thing Avatar handles extremely well without hitting you over the head with it. The female characters in both shows are truly strong in their own right. Never are their abilities questioned because of their gender (except for one episode).

Katara is a master waterbender who holds just as much authority as any male character. Toph is the greatest earthbender alive who turned her weakness into a strength and FREAKINGN INVENTED METALBENDING!!! Suki might not be able to bend, but she’s just as much of a badass.

The female characters are perfectly written, perfectly portrayed, and are on an equal standing with any male character. Once again, this is true progressiveness.

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2. Avatar has really good morals.

There’s not a lot of room in children’s entertainment for moral ambiguity. More often than not you have a black and white conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The good guys are always in the right, while the bad guys are irredeemably detestable. Most of the time there isn’t much of a gray area, as it is in the real world.

In the Avatar universe, there’s plenty of room for gray. One of the fundamental themes about the entire series is that there is no good or evil, there are people who are in balance and people who are out of balance. The world will always have corruption in it, but also always have purity as well. This is a very unique message for a children’s show.

Another interesting aspect explored is the consequences of war, on both sides of a conflict. We see throughout most of the first series how the people of the world suffered as a result of the Fire Nation’s crusade. However, we also see how the war impacts Fire Nation citizens as well. For instance, Prince Zuko was severely scarred by his own father and banished from his homeland for speaking out against a general. And we also learn that since the war started, a suppression of individualistic thought and expression was enacted upon Fire Nation citizens. No side of the conflict is without misery, and no side is without fault.

Finally, the show explores difficult themes not typically deemed appropriate head on, such as genocide, classicism, government corruption, the line between freedom fighter and terrorist, and the impact of industrialization on the environment.

Avatar’s morals are so strong because they’re real morals that arise as a consequence of prolonged conflict. None of them feel forced or feel like they’re promoting an agenda. They’re all completely natural and inevitable. In fact, it would feel strange and forced if these ideas were absent.

1. Avatar has a timeless story.

Every so often, humans will create something with the ability to transcend cultural, ethnic, and even temporal separations. Whether it is a play, or a book, or a film, something about it will make it timeless and universal, able to touch people no matter what their background is.

Shakespeare’s plays, The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, and The Lion King are all timeless classics that will never age. They will hold just as much relevancy 20 years from now as they do today and as they did when they were first created.

Avatar is a timeless story. War, genocide, corruption, purity, oppression, freedom, and spirituality all ring true to some extent for every person on Earth. And all of these things are present in Avatar.

It never resorts to pop-culture references to make it relevant in the now. It keeps its ideas and themes universal, so people will always be able to access what makes it incredible.

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When you look at other shows and movies that have come out in the past 10 years, you can find in them some of the elements listed above. However, Avatar is the only one among them that achieves all of this. Avatar is the only one with consistently excellent characters, writing, world-building, animation, music, and themes. Avatar is the most satisfying out of all of them, which is why it is the best.

Vermin of My Life

Greetings blogiverse.

I am fighting a war against the most disgusting and vile vermin that ever crawled upon this green Earth. They live in perpetual maliciousness, always watching, always plotting… I am of course referring to spiders, otherwise known as arachnids in the order Araneae, otherwise known as living incarnations of demonic beings.

Spiders are the most loathsome, evil, conniving monsters in existence, and they all have a personal vendetta against me. Their one goal is to cause me suffering as much as humanly possible. They do not feel remorse, they do not feel compassion. They are all sadistic sociopathic demons out to harm me in the most gruesome ways. The only thing that stops them is their size. Being so small, they can only do so much to me. And the larger, more venomous ones do not live in this country, so for the most part I am safe. However, they still come for me and taunt me with their presence. One moment I will be lying in bed, reading a book, and suddenly one will appear over my head! The moment I get somebody to come and squash the devil, it is gone! It probably went to tally up its points. Ten points for getting noticed, 30 points for living through it. I have no love for arachnids. If I could, I would destroy all of them. Sure, some people might say “But what about the insect population?” I would say, “To hell with it! I’m not scared of bugs! Let ’em live! Would you want to be trapped in a sticky web while your organs are turned into soup?” Spiders are nasty, grotesque, anti-pulchritudinous beasts! And they have caused me suffering my whole life.

I used to live in a beautiful Victorian style house. Painted light blue, three stories, and with white pillars in the front, it was a majestic, gorgeous house. However, my bedroom was in the worst possible place. I was in the basement. No windows, one door, one bed, and me. The walls and floor were very simple white plaster and carpet. There was nothing special about the room, yet it was an unprecedented breeding ground for brown recluse. The first time I saw one of these especially unpleasant arachnids, I thought that it was just a big, fat, hairy daddy-long leg. The difference is that brown recluse are scary. They creep across the floor like phantoms, their long spindly legs scurrying them along at up to five miles an hour. They have a bite that turns flesh into a dull greenish-brown and makes it rot. And my bedroom was full of them. I remember a particular instance when, after screaming for hours about a spider on my wall, my dad finally came downstairs to dispose of it. However, when his shoe came down on the spider, there was a loud crunch. This was not a nice potato chip or fresh pickle crunch. No, this was a nasty, juicy, pregnant spider crunch.

I have something of an obsession with maps; I could deal with it if I wanted to. I love maps. My room is covered with them. Maps of the Pacific Northwest, of Austria, of Lithuania. Maps of Europe, maps of Canada. My crown jewel is a massive world map that completely covers one of my walls. To my dismay, it has been commandeered by a tiny little spider who loves to watch me squirm. One day, while getting ready for bed, I spotted the monster sitting in the middle of the Atlantic. I was not sure if I had actually seen it, so I got closer just to make sure. Sure enough, there it was. It was a jumping spider, less than a quarter of an inch across, with small stubby legs and white stripes running down its brown body.

As soon as I was in breathing distance, it started running across the North Atlantic. This was when I started for my shoe! “I have you now!” I thought to myself. I kept my eye on the beast, making sure he did not try anything funny. Now he was next to France, living it up in the English Channel. “Enjoy it while you can,” I said. I thought gleefully of how I was going to smash that spider and clean its guts off France! On second thought, considering it would be France, I might leave the guts there.

There was one problem. My shoes were in the hallway! I would have to take my eyes off the spider in order to get them. I crawled carefully toward the spider, holding my breath lest I excite it and scare it away. I whispered, “I’ll be back! You stay right there!” and slowly inched toward the door like a ninja, warily keeping an eye on the spider, watching for any sudden movements. When I reached the threshold, I scrambled to my feet and rushed down the hallway, searching for anything that could be used as a spider-crushing device. Finally, I found my shoe. It was broad and flat. It would get the job done.

Reentering my room, the first thing I noticed was the absence of spider. I ran to the map, to where the beast had been situated next to France. It was gone! I scoured the map, searching everywhere for a sign of movement. Nothing. I did not dare get my face too close, for the monster may jump at me and bite off my eye! No, I would wait. He would turn up eventually. I sat in front of the map and stared. “Any minute…” I kept telling myself. The floor got very uncomfortable. I started drifting off. Just when I was about to fall asleep, I shook myself awake. I refocused on the map. Still nothing… This went on for several hours, until at around 3 A.M. I decided to call it a night. As I was falling asleep in my own bed, I sleepily called out to the spider. “Well played, sir… Well played…”

This was not the last I saw of that spider. Every couple weeks, he turns up on some other part of the map. Last week he was on Italy, and yet again, before I could find a shoe, he had vanished. The week before that, Tasmania. Before that, Argentina. He keeps popping up all over the world, taunting me with the fact that I cannot not beat him. However, I will have the last laugh! Eventually it will die! And I will still be alive! Ha ha!

Unless of course it had a mate… And children… Oh dear…

Senseless Wickedness: A Discussion On How the Universe is Out to Get Me

Greetings blogiverse!

There is a force out there in the universe; a malevolent, evil substance with maniacal thoughts and mischievous intents. This strange cosmological apparition seems to have one goal, my imminent suffering. Every day, at least once, my attempts to settle and become a happy content person are foiled by the insensitive pranks that existence pulls on me! Some ignorant person may say, “But you’re just a victim of coincidence. It’s not like the universe has a personal grudge against you.” Ha! Oh how little this person understands. The universe is a monster! It has only one thought for me; revenge. “Why,” that same person would ask, “would the universe have a bone to pick with you? What could you have possibly done to offend it?” The answer to that question is quite simple… I have no idea. I never did anything to our dear plain of existence! I always followed all the rules! I never tried to locate the exact positions of my electrons, I never tried to travel faster than light, and I never tried to go back in time and kill Hitler! I honestly do not know. But for whatever reason, I have been pegged as the universe’s punching bag. It does not always torture me in the same way… Oh ho! No, it tries to trick me! It puts on disguises; things that may seem unrelated all have the same puppeteer. He is a tricky one, Mr. Existence, but eventually I will confound him! I shall expose him as the tyrant he is!

Part the First

free_falling_by_li_wei_11

Rising and Falling (mostly falling)

The primary manifestation my antagonistic foe likes to take is one that is experienced by everyone all over the world. It is a force that is essential to our daily lives. It is extremely bizarre, and yet we are so incredibly used to it we do not even notice. I am talking about gravity.

Everybody knows what gravity is! Jimmy Obvious would say, “Gravity is what holds you on the ground!” Thanks Jimmy. Gravity is everywhere. And it is malicious. When I trip and fall on my face, who’s fault is that? Or when a $200 vase falls on my head, who is to blame? It is obviously gravity. However, most people just shrug off the negative effects. “There’s nuthin’ to blame!” Oh really? No! Gravity is a demon!

It purposefully makes me spill milk on my homework and knock expensive china into oblivion! Many a day have I seen when a perfectly balanced chair will inexplicably fly off of a desk and come crashing to the floor! Not a soul touched it. There was not a freak miniature storm system. No, it is gravity! If gravity is so innocent, then why are so many people scared of heights? There is a reason why we have an inherent fear of falling! It is our subconscious minds warning us about the malicious intents of gravity. I have no problem labeling it as the cause of about 84% of any bad thing that has ever happened to me.

Part the Second

pine-tree

Thou Prunest a Rotten Tree

This arch enemy of mine somehow managed to avoid my detection for years. Most just assume that they are thoughtless plants. However, I know the truth. I am referring to trees, specifically pine trees. More specifically, ponderosa pine. When I was younger, I saw these trees everywhere. They were quite prominent in the little town I lived in. I had absolutely no idea exactly how much horror they would bring me.

The thing with having trees as my enemy is, whenever they do something to me, I cannot tell anybody without sounding like a loon! For example, in the 7th grade, my English classroom had a window that opened out onto the football field. Next to the window stood a young lean pine. I never gave this tree anything other than a passing glance. However, things started getting a bit weird. One week, on Tuesday, the tree was in the same position it always was in. The next day, there was something different about the tree. At first I could not figure out what it was. Then it hit me. The tree was ever so slightly larger. I did not ponder this for very long though. However, the next day the tree was even larger. Nobody else seemed to notice the changes, so I remained silent about the matter. Over the next few days, the tree continued to grow in size, becoming larger and larger. It was only by the next Wednesday that I realized what was happening. The tree was not getting larger, it was getting closer to the window. This tree was literally stalking me! It was a really shocking revelation.

Trees punish me in more ways than just by stalking. If ever I am in a pine forest, the trees make sure that at least 70 pine cones fall on my face. Also, the trees make sure that I am aware of how allergic I am to them. Pine pollen is nasty stuff. Under a microscope, it looks like a punch of tennis balls with deadly flaming spikes protruding from them! When I inhale them, my face expands like a balloon, my eyes swell and turn a sickly shade of pink, and my nose decides to run a marathon. Yet another way that the pine trees exact their vengeance. I am also certain that every piece of paper that I have acquired a cut from has come from a pine tree. To this day, random trees will spring up in places I could have sworn they were not before. They are always there, watching me. Luckily I know how to use matches.

Part the Third

Hilarious-Windy-Portraits-1

Soft the Zephyr Blows

The most elusive form of the universe’s spite, the wind is an intangible thing that borders on substance and immaterial. It also ruins all of my schemes. I cannot reiterate exactly how many times I have been thwarted by the wind. However, several key examples do stand out.

Imagine me walking merrily down the street, whistling a merry tune, when a sudden gust blows a fly down my throat! Coincidental perhaps, but no. The wind will go out of its way to intentionally blow things into my face. It knocks Frisbees off course, snowballs, birds, and dragon flies. All of them somehow manage to smack me in the nose. However, whenever I throw something like a paper airplane for example, the wind makes sure that plane hits somebody important in their eye!

Despicable, that is what the wind is. It knocks me to the ground, blows away my lunch, and rips my homework out of my hands! It even blew a swarm of bees at me once. Unimaginably awful, that was…

Part the Fourth

endOfLine

The End of the Line

I continue to assert that the universe is a sick minded and corrupt beast with heavily sadistic tendencies. It is relentless, unforgiving, and overall psychotic. Therefor, I have decided that I will not tolerate it anymore. I disown existence! I declare that the universe does not exist, which to an extension means that I do not exist, which means that any frustration I feel is merely an illusion. By that logic, I can happily ignore any of these dreadful conspiracies. Now I can be paranoid about things that are important… like condiments.

evilmustard

You poor, poor hotdog…

Kanahamonako Rants: Hawai’i and Economic Imperialism

Greetings blogiverse! This is just a short little rant I spewed on twitter about United States economic policy and how it negatively affects Hawai’i. Enjoy!

So, sometimes when I bring up the whole “Hawaiian Sovereignty” thing, I get back the argument that Hawai’i couldn’t even make it on its own. And economically, they’d be correct. Hawai’i receives more money from the federal government than it produces. If they were to become independent right now, they’d be bankrupt within a month. However, this is a consequence of federal policy which prevents Hawai’i from growing financially.

The Jones Act, signed into law in the 1920s, prevents foreign ships from stopping at two American ports in succession. So, products bound for Hawai’i must first travel to the mainland, be placed on American ships, and then shipped back across half the Pacific. That’s why taxes are so much higher in Hawai’i. And that’s also why, despite being closer to Asia, Hawai’i is not as profitable a port as San Francisco and LA are.

So, why, you might ask, does the US even KEEP such an unprofitable money vacuum? The answer, of course, is China. Well, historically it was Japan, but now it’s China, and partially Russia. China has the largest standing army in the world. And they still function under an essentially communist regime. Pearl Harbor is one of the largest military bases in the country, giving the US a strategic advantage over the entire Pacific region. That’s why we still have Hawai’i, and that’s why the federal government continues to ignore historical facts and bend the truth.

So they intentionally make economic growth and possible self-sustainment nearly impossible for Hawai’i. And consequently, they’ll never seriously consider independence.

And that, right there, is imperialism.

Kanahamonako Reviews: “The Boxtrolls”

Greetings blogiverse!

Let’s talk about Laika.

You may know who they are, or you may have no idea why I just named the first dog in space. In any case, you most certainly have heard about the movies they’ve made. So here’s a little history.

Laika is an Oregon based animation studio that specializes in stop-motion animation. You know about stop-motion; the animation medium that takes FOREVER and consists of such classics as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and my personal favorite, Nester the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.

Ears Nester.

Ears Nester.

However, Laika is a relatively young company that first came under public scrutiny in 2009 with the release of their groundbreaking film Coraline. Directed by the same man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas Henry Selick, Coraline is a remarkable feat in stop-motion animation, attempting things never thought possible with the medium, and also spawning nightmare-fuel for an entire generation.

I wonder why.

I wonder why.

Then, 3 years later, Laika released another stop-motion masterpiece in 2012, ParaNorman. Once again, they pushed the limits of what could be done with the medium. Every shot of ParaNorman is literally dripping with detail, and the story they built in this miniature world is nothing short of remarkable.

Remarkable.

Remarkable.

Laika was on a role, and with two bound-to-be classics in their roster, they were ready to do it again. Thus, in 2014 they released their third feature, The Boxtrolls. Did they succeed? Did they manage to astound and enthrall us thrice in a row? Well… kind of.

When you watch The Boxtrolls, the first thing that stands out to you is of course the animation. Everything on screen moves in a fluid and believable manner. It is indeed a technical achievement. All the little details and characters that populate this fictional town of Cheesebridge are even more impressive when you consider that everything, EVERYTHING was made by hand. The little threads woven into the white hats, the miniscule holes in the cheese, the dirt between the cobblestones on the street, ALL OF IT was made by someone. And all the detail put into the film makes the generic story seem much better than it actually is.

The story of The Boxtrolls is by far the most disappointing part of the film. It follows the adventure of a boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), who was raised by the titular boxtrolls beneath the streets of Cheesebridge, a fictional cheese-obsessed town located somewhere in rural England. After years of being hunted by the obvious villain Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), the boxtroll population is being severely diminished. Eggs enlists the help of Winnie Portley-Rind (Elle Fanning) to try and convince her father Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), that the boxtrolls are not monsters but are in fact harmless, curious creatures that only eat bugs as opposed to human flesh. And thus, hijinks ensue.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the plot itself or the characters. In theory this should be a wonderfully clever journey in an original world with an original concept. All the major characters and even minor characters have complete arcs and believable motivations. Particular standouts include Winnie, who has a dark, sadistic side to her that manifests in hilarious ways, Snatcher’s henchmen Mr. Trout (Nick Frost) and Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade), who are going through a moral crisis as they realize that they’re the bad guys of the stories, and the eponymous boxtrolls themselves.

boxtrolls

I love the boxtrolls. Yes, they do have rather unappealing character designs, and they are utilized for some gross-out gags, but they are imbued with so much charm it’s quite frankly impossible to dislike them. Part of this is because of the animation; Laika pulled no stops with facial expressions. Every character has such a wide range of believable emotion it puts all other stop-motion features to shame. And all their little character dynamics and the relationship they have with Eggs makes them by far the most enjoyable on-screen characters.

However, the main shortcoming of The Boxtrolls is the script. The screenplay spends too much time focusing on big set-pieces and action instead of spending time with the characters. We don’t get enough of a chance to connect with Eggs and thus we don’t care when he’s put in peril. And although there are several jokes which did make me laugh out loud, most of the humor falls flat.

And perhaps most disappointingly of all, The Boxtrolls is simply lacking the same edginess that set Coraline and ParaNorman apart. Coraline was groundbreaking in what it did with animation, and in creating such horrifying images for a children’s feature. ParaNorman was groundbreaking by having characters state hard truths without euphemism, in addition to hysterical adult-oriented humor and the first openly gay character in a mainstream children’s film. The Boxtrolls doesn’t really push any limits. It feels very much like Laika is playing it safe by providing perfectly family-friendly entertainment that doesn’t ask too much of the audience and doesn’t try to have a powerful impact. If it were a CGI film, it wouldn’t be nearly as memorable.

And another final point of contention for me was the music. While Coraline and ParaNorman had beautiful scores that either evoked a sense of eeriness or harkened back to B-horror movies of the 80s (respectively), The Boxtrolls doesn’t really have any music that stands out to me, with the exception of the credits song “Little Boxes,” which is a delightful remix of Malvina Reynolds’ song from 1962.

All in all, The Boxtrolls is a wonderful visual experience with perhaps the most fluid and life-like stop-motion I’ve ever seen. But the story is something of a disappointment coming from Laika.

But at least it’s an original idea, which in itself sets it apart from most of Hollywood nowadays.

Final Score: 7/10

The Legend of Korra and Lingering Misogyny

Greetings blogiverse!

I was reading about the production of one of my favorite television series The Legend of Korra, and apparently, in early development Nickelodeon suspended production of the series because they didn’t like that the main protagonist was a female. This really surprised me, especially since modern trends typically support strong female leads (a trend which I think is awesome, by the way).

Then I started thinking, “How many Nick shows actually DO have female leads?” I did some research, and excluding Nick Jr, there are 6 animated Nick programs that feature a female as the main character. I was temporarily relieved. I mean, 6 shows?That sounds like plenty. Then I did some more research, and I learned that Nick has produced, in total 41 animated series. So, if we do the math, only 14% of Nickelodeon’s animated programming features a female in the lead. Suddenly, their reluctance to produce Korra makes more sense.

I’ve lived for a large majority of my life with a strong female presence, both older and younger than me. And I was always confused as to why girls ALWAYS seemed to watch the same shows OVER and OVER again. Why didn’t they watch something different for once? I was getting really sick of Dora. Now, I understand why it seemed that way. They literally had nothing else to watch.

The ratio of female to male protagonists in Nickelodeon alone is shocking, and it shows that misogynistic representations of gender are still prevalent. For instance, if you’re a girl, and you want a female protagonist to identify with, your options with Nickelodeon are very limited. The shows that you’re meant to identify with don’t offer very much variety in what types of identity you can choose for yourself. However, if you’re a boy, you have significantly more to choose from. 86% of the programming you watch is geared specifically to you; you have much more room to grow.

Now, of course there are girls that will watch what are typically considered “boy shows,” and boys that watch what are considered “girl shows,” but those individuals are outliers compared to the majority.

And what the majority shows is that, from the moment they can watch a television, children are taught that males have far more opportunities than females. Males are the ones that go out and save the day, while females are the ones that sit at home and gossip. Males are the ones that drive the action, while females drive the drama.

We need more shows like The Legend of Korra, or like it’s predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender. These were shows that proved that gender doesn’t matter. Sure Korra is a girl, but that doesn’t stop her from kicking some serious ass in addition to being the most important person in the world!

We need shows that teach girls that they can be whatever they want. They don’t have to be shackled by what society and pop-culture deems appropriate. And this ongoing promotion of old-fashioned gender roles is exactly that, old-fashioned. This is the 21st century. Women are changing the world just as effectively as men. Isn’t it time our children learned this?

Kanahamonako Rants: Stitch! The Anime

This the first of a new kind of blog post I will start writing. It’s called a rant, in which I spew my hatred for things that offend me on a deep and personal level. It is more personal and less professional than my other reviews, and as such should not be considered one. Anyway, on with the rant!

Greetings blogiverse! Let’s talk about anime.

Anime is a genre of animation that is usually defined as being made primarily for a Japanese audience my Japanese producers, with many productions marketed towards adults just as much as towards children. It comes in many forms, styles, and interpretations. These may range from the literal never-ending story of Naruto, to the masterpieces of Hayao Miyazaki.

I like ‘most’ anime. There are a couple that I have a deep-seeded hatred for, and I wish they and their creators would burn in eternal hellfire… But then again there are plenty of American cartoons I feel the same way about *cough* cough* Family Guy *cough*. But for the most part, anime is usually of a quality not matched by Western animation, or even Western live-action. Shows and films like Darker Than Black, Ghost in the Shell, and Evangelion push the limits of what animation, and even the traditional narrative, can achieve. Very few Western productions even come CLOSE to achieving that, (Avatar: The Last Airbender is the obvious exception).

But, as I stated earlier, there are some examples of anime I do not enjoy, among them being Naruto and Bleach. However, there is one anime that rises above all others as the single most awful abomination to ever walk or rear its hideously deformed maw on the face of the entire world. This disgusting perversion of something I hold dear to myself has the gall to even exist in the same universe as I. It is, without question, the eponymous, the atrocious, Stitch! The Anime…

Oh God now I’m thinking about it…

Why would you do this to me? I’m thinking about it now!!! WHYYYYYYY!?!?!?!?

Please excuse me while I go wash my brain of those awful memories…

This. This is what hell looks like.

This. This is what hell looks like.

 

It’s the worst piece of shit that ever shit in the history of shitting.

Okay, so here’s a little rundown for you… Lilo & Stitch, in case you couldn’t already guess, is my favorite movie. It has enduring characters, a smart and sassy script, and a sense of realistic warmth not typically found in other Disney films. Following the release of Stitch in 2002, Disney made a franchise out of it, with 3 direct-to-video sequels and a television series. Although these sequels and the tv show are nowhere near the masterpiece that is the original film, they at least kept the characters intact, *ahem* mostly.

Now, fly to the other side of the Pacific. Stitch the character is very popular in Asia, and I mean VERY popular. This probably has something to do with him literally dripping with kawaii. Anyway, Disney being the benevolent and peaceloving corporation that it is, thought they should exploit this fact. So, consequently, in 2008, Disney Japan released “Stitch! The Mischievous Alien’s Great Adventure!”

It’s basic premise was that instead of landing in Hawai’i, Stitch landed on a fictional island near Okinawa, called Izayoi. This isn’t an entirely bad premise in itself; it gives us opportunity to see how Stitch’s character would’ve responded to a different culture. However, this all depended on his human counterpart being even remotely engaging.

The character of Lilo was deep, layered, and fundamentally troubled. She lashed out at anyone who mocked her strange tendencies, and intentionally made the life of her older sister more difficult. However, she acted in these ways because she had experienced an unimaginable trauma; the death of both of her parents had left an empty void inside of her that she tried to fill with anger and sadness. Stitch is exactly what she needed. Being a literal embodiment of Lilo’s internal struggle, he represented all the anger, rage, and chaos that was churning inside her, and her attempts to civilize him gave her a newfound purpose; she had something else that needed her, something that could fill the hole left by her parents. And Stitch does indeed need her. Without Lilo, he would’ve eventually been captured and likely sentenced to death. She showed him that there was more to existence than chaos and destruction. She showed him that he didn’t have to be a monster.

So, let’s see if the anime can top such an interesting character dynamic. Instead of Lilo, who we’ve established as an engaging and fleshed-out character, we get Yuna.  Yuna is an unappealing, generic, karate-fighting Mary Sue who is the embodiment of Satan himself. There is nothing about this character that I find appealing. She’s rude to authority figures (excluding her grandmother), she intentionally puts herself in danger ALL THE TIME, (with the excuse being that she’s a black-belt and has her own dojo so she can defend herself and it’s all rank bullcrap), and worst of all, she treats Stitch like shit. Literally every episode usually focuses on some conflict between Stitch and Yuna where she tries to change him, he doesn’t want to change, she threatens to abandon him, and by the end he’s forced to apologize to her. Plus, the creators make it explicit that she has a crush on him, (which is absolutely disgusting, by the way). Yuna is a little brat who needs to die.

Behold! The Antichrist!

Behold! The Antichrist!

“But,” people might say, “it takes place in an alternate reality! You should be able to ignore it, right?” And all this would be fine and dandy because the basic premise WAS that this was an alternate reality. It started out entirely as a “what if” scenario. However, in the third season, (yes, they gave 3 seasons to this piece of crap), there’s an episode called “Lilo”…

In this episode, Stitch encounters Lilo as an adult. Despite this supposedly being an ‘alternate reality,’ he somehow recognizes the Hawaiian woman. The reason for this, is that this ISN’T an alternate reality! Apparently, at some point after Leroy and Stitch, Stitch came to the understanding that Lilo abandoned him (I’m not even going to touch the bullcrap explanation they give), and he jumped in a spaceship, flew around causing chaos and destruction, and ended up crashing on Earth, again, in Okinawa.

So, basically, they shit on the whole franchise. The plot of the anime is basically a rehash of the American tv series, where Lilo and Stitch had to civilize all 625 of Stitch’s genetic ‘cousins.’ However, because they ret-conned EVERYTHING, that means that all of his formerly civilized cousins were recaptured and brainwashed into being tools of the antagonist. It’s awful!!!! It takes the resolution of the original franchise and says “Yeah nope! Nobody had a happy ending!” This is unforgivable.

To sum it all up the characters are awful, the writing is awful, and even the animation, which I usually like in anime, is awful because they force characters not meant for the medium into an environment that they just don’t belong in.

It was and is still popular in Japan… And I’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes it the worst thing to ever exist ever. I could go on for hours. Believe me.

There are but few silver-linings to be found in this dreadful failure of animation. First, Disney tried airing this thing in America. They got it all dubbed in English and everything. But it was so unpopular that they pulled it within a week. And second, the original creator of the film, Chris Sanders, has stated that the anime is non-canon with the rest of the franchise. So for all intents and purposes, we can pretend it doesn’t exist.

This makes me feel better, if only a little.

Final Score: 1/10, if only because Stitch is still adorable.

Die.

Die.