Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shut Up Wesley. Shattering otaku expectations with Samurai Gourmet.

Nothing quite shatters the American Otaku psyche quite like being exposed to what is, the real Japan.  This isn’t new, but what is unfortunate is that it’s still a prevalent phenomenon out there.  Actual, factual, regular, real, Japan is nothing like an Otaku thinks it is going to be.  No, I don’t think any otaku is going to go to Japan and think the place is run by giant robots, dragon maids, and has a dating service for monster girls… what is going to happen is these wee-bee idiots are going to show up in Japan and expect that the social constructs that they are accustomed to in America are going to be there for them in Japan.  Sorry fresh, it’s not gonna happen.  Fandom is voluntarily suppressed in Japan much more in Japan than it is in the USA.  Admit to liking Pokemon as a fully functioning adult in the USA, and people just say “fine whatever” but in Japan it’s a great way to get fired.  Fans finding out that they can’t act like fans in the place where the things they are a fan of is a tough thing to deal with.  This happens the other way as well, with Japanese people needing actual psychological help when they come to New York and find out that no, it’s not just “Tokyo with white people” or when they go to Paris and realize that no, it’s not a Miyazaki movie with the Eiffel Tower in the middle of it.  Seriously, that's a medical thing, and they even have a help line they can call for when the cognitive dissonance destroys their brain.

Japan has social rules.  We are talking about a country where if you wear a suite without a tie, you are going to get all kinds of attention.  Mostly the bad kind of attention.  The reason you don’t know that is because it’s not really in any of the anime that ends up being popular overseas.  You wouldn’t judge American life just by watching Breaking Bad or Empire if you wanted to get an accurate idea of what the place was like, so don’t for a minute go thinking you’re getting an accurate picture of Japan from whatever the hell high-school themed anime you’re watching now.  Even if you have been to Japan, unless you’ve had to go apartment hunting, pay your electric bill, go grocery shopping, get your hair cut, buy toilet paper/condoms/feminine hygiene items, all the regular living life stuff, you still aren’t getting the real picture.  It would be like trying to form an idea of what the USA is like after spending a few days in Boston or something.


Why am I even bringing this up?  Because somehow, Samurai Gourmet on Netflix has a one-star rating.  Or I guess it had one when I checked it out last.  Things change, it probably won't stay that way but the fact that it happened at all leads to the sentiment of: What the absolute fuck?  This show is great and there are a bunch of reasons why.  Starring veteran actor and comedian Naoto Takenaka, it connects a number of small moments of zen that center around specific foods.  It shows real Japan …that mundane boring place where regular people go to regular jobs, not the factional-fiction (or fictional-faction, whatever you wanna call it) Japan of trash like what's in Lost in Translation, that seems determined to convince the world that everyone in Japan is actually originally from Mars and like OMG it’s just such a wacky place!  Samurai Gourmet is not Ruroni Kenshin with udon, it’s not Ghost in the Shell: Fast-Food Takeout Edition, it’s just a simple show about simple things.  And it’s that simplicity which is uniquely Japanese.  If you watch this show and come away thinking “oh it’s so bland, quick let me go check out Ouran High School Host Club reruns” then you know nothing.  You are that 12 year old who doesn’t like Empire Strikes Back because it’s "the most boringest one" to quote Red Letter Media.

Back in the 1990s Katsuhiro Otomo made a film called Project Z.  It was a well-made and excellent film which took a look into the aging population shift that is still happening in Japan today.  And everyone else in the theater I saw it in said they hated it.  Why?  Well, they were expecting Akira Part 2 basically.  Which is funny by itself, because if you actually knew anything about Japan in the late 1980s you’d realize how much of a social commentary Akira actually was… but all you could see was “ooo wooosh boom!  Motorcycles!”  So there is a real disconnect that American audiences seem to have and not realize it.  This continues to happen with weaboo fools, falling in love with a fictional Japan that doesn’t exist, and then having their brain short circuit when confronted with reality.  Will this ever change?  No probably not.  But you should still be watching Samurai Gourmet

 What do you mean  I can't cosplay 24 hours a day here?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Your Name, here. Digital film distribution to global audiences.

Digital distribution makes the world smaller, films more accessible, and offers audiences an escape from what seems to be an endless shit-parade of Hollywood drivel.

Siiiii, bitches.

If you haven’t gone to see the feature length anime movie Your Name yet, then you should go do that because it’s good.  Like, one of the best films of all time level good.  The best part of what I just wrote, is that it almost doesn’t matter where you are, because thanks to digital media storage, you can be in flyover-country and still be able to access film selections that were once the exclusive domain of places like The Angelica in hoidy toidy big cities. 

Despite the fact that human douchebagery continues to infest almost any aspect of life that involves a shared space, going to the movies can still be fun.  In fact, over the past decade, this activity has actually improved in terms of the enjoyment factor.  This is in large part due to the obsolescence of the 35mm film print.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nostalgic and fun to hear the sprockets engaging and seeing that celluloid turn, but there’s nothing about it that doesn’t suck when compared to modern alternatives.  They degrade quickly, are easily damaged, expensive to make, expensive to maintain, even more expensive to insure, they can burst into flames, to watch them requires complex high-maintenance machinery which is prone to malfunctions, and they are quite a heavy and inefficient medium for motion picture storage.  You can wax nostalgic all you like, but if you need an ambulance, you want a brand spanking new one showing up, not a friggin Ford Model T, no matter how nice it looked.  When I was in the home media business back in the 35mm print and VHS days, sending prints anywhere was a pain, and sending them to Canada was damn near impossible.  This was because Canadian authorities assessed taxes on the insurance amount, even if the prints themselves were simply being returned to their original owner after a simple telecine transfer.

They ended up driving them back across the border themselves without declaring the film prints, because, as he put it; "Fuck You, Canada."

You put all this together and you can see why art-house cinema was a limited entity, mostly existing in larger urban areas.  Going to see Ghost in the Shell back in 1995 was a major undertaking and required convention attendance to do it.  Not so is the case today, where digital mediums allow for any cinema across the globe to screen just about anything relatively instantly.  No waiting for the print to arrive, no rundowns, no re-spooling the fucking things, and no massive insurance costs.  Just calibrate and hit go.  Enter the modern movie-going age, now with 20% more anime.

Right now there are kids in school who are going to reach adulthood not knowing what the hell this is.

This has allowed something like Your Name to receive a much wider distribution than something like Princess Mononoke did in 1997.  Getting a print of a movie with a limited audience and no major studio behind it to mall multiplexes in whatever-town, was and continues to be, prohibitively expensive (read; impossible).  Not so today with digital distribution and projection taking the print "out of the picture" quite literally.  A studio in LA can have it's new release in theaters from NY to Guam within a few hours now.  However, with movie theaters in decline as an industry in general, what does this really mean?  Well, independent and foreign titles being available with close to zero overhead is no white knight magic pill happy day fix everything cure all that is going to come in and save things, they just are not a big enough draw.  But what I do see is that within 10 years, this kind of thing is going to help facilitate the rise of the popup theater.  What’s that?  It’s independent entities which license films and screen them in third party auditoriums.  College theaters, performing arts centers, non-traditional venues, convention centers, and hell, maybe even the occasional drive-in are all potential screening locations for limited runs.  These entities can operate out of a friggin PO Box until it’s show time, then bring the digital cart with the movie on it to whatever venue and collect at the door. 

In 3D too!

On the converse upscale side of that, there is also the possibility of private screening clubs.  People who buy memberships in private clubs which can have their own screening rooms and offer premium first run movies in an environment free from phone-using d-bags and that trashy mother fucker who just lit up a spliff in the back.  The “we’re rich and want to watch anime movies” demographic is something I am assuming is not really that big, so I think this kind of thing is going to be more of an outlier if it actually manifests at all. 

Again, eventually movie theaters most likely will stop being a thing within our lifetimes.  As internet becomes more internet-y, ah la cart Hollywood films are going to show up on services for people who either don’t feel like having to share space with other assholes, or we’ll all be too terrified to sit in a dark room with strangers because we’re in for a few more James Holmes Aurora Specials and that will be that.  This will slow going in development because studios are going to hate the idea that more than one person can potentially be watching the movie in a living room somewhere for one single price, and consumers won't be ok with paying what would most likely be something that's 3x the price of a movie ticket that the studios would charge because of that first thing.  Eventually, they're gonna have to accept that they're now just pay-per-view, but with no sports, and just go ahead and jump in so they can avoid becoming completely irrelevant.

Your Name currently benefits from the largest potential theatrical audience of any anime in the USA, even though Makoto Shinkai doesn’t want you to see it.  Well, fuck him, he doesn’t tell me what I can or can’t do.  If he doesn’t want people to see the movie he can wish in one hand and shit in the other.  Notice I wrote “the” movie, not “his” movie.  You know why I did that?  Because it’s not his movie.  He didn’t pay for the fucking thing.  He didn’t finance it, he doesn’t control the rights to it anymore, he wrote/directed it and while that's a big deal, that’s as far as it fucking goes.  That would be like you designing a T-shirt, and then selling it to the public via major vendors, but then you go around telling anyone who has one that they can’t wear it on an elevator because …reasons!  No, shut up ass, you're acting like George Lucas.  The movie belongs to CoMix Wave and Toho, and they have bills to pay, none the least of which include all the salaries of the massive amount of people who worked their asses off on this movie.  Fucking selfish creative-types who forget where their actual domain of ownership ends, just piss me right the fuck off.  So go see the movie.  Go see it twice, and be sure to buy Junior Mints and Dr. Pepper.  You’re being entertained and helping the economy.  That’s good.