Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FUCK THIS TROPE!: Framing the Hero

Recently, I went over to a neighbor's house to see the eight-week-old puppy the family had just bought, and since the youngest child, who was still in the Nickelodeon age group, was the one controlling the living room TV, my visit wound up having Henry Danger on.
Now I just wanna say for the record that I'm completely unfamiliar with this show. Hey, my specialty is cartoons, not live-action kids' sitcom fluff. Now anyway, I only stayed long enough to see the end of one episode and the start of another, and, as I'd anticipated, I found it rather boring. Hell, I didn't even see or hear any hints of laughter from the kid who was watching it in the first place. But I'm not here to bash a show I've barely even seen. No, what I'm really bashing is what the plot of the second episode that played was playing out to be. Basically, it's some sort of birthday party, the main character and his friends are playing with an automatic pitching machine, and it goes haywire and knocks a girl off the building they're on (she survives, though, because kids' show), and soon everyone's quick to gang up on the main character, accusing him of setting the thing on a higher, more dangerous level despite his claims to the contrary. It's at this point I decided to get the fuck outta there, though not before sharing with the kid my absolute hatred for this type of plot.

And see, this is where I'm going at attacking this kidcom I know next to nothing about. I'm introducing a new feature, which I'd like to call...


Basically, I go over tropes, plots, cliches, and other trends I see in cartoons that piss me off. I know I kind of broke a rule by going into live-action, but hey, shittiness isn't just limited to cartoons. As you can tell from my talk about the Henry Danger plot, my first topic is one of my absolute most hated plots not just in cartoons, but in media in general: that fucking plot where someone, usually the protagonist, is framed by some bad guy, either by impersonation or by proxy, and as a result, only a select few people are willing to help them get out of the mess, while pretty much everyone else goes into full on Dickwit Mode. No matter how smart they are, any character who isn't close enough to the lead often becomes the intellectual equivalent of Ralph Wiggum, or Son Goku, or Miley Cyrus.

Aside from the forced stupidity a number of characters suffer from, another problem is often that the circumstances themselves are often forced. For instance, the video game Super Mario Sunshine's plot starts with a doppelganger Mario covering Isle Delfino in graffiti, right when he goes there for vacation. And the residents don't even bother with a fair trial, even basically telling Peach to shut up when she tries to tell their side of the story. They just keep him on the island to clean up the mess he didn't even make, and continue to act like dicks to them, even after they see the fake Mario. Obviously, the story's not the main point because it's a video game (and not even a bad one at that), but still.

Finally, this damn plot's been used to death! It's like writers somehow think it's a good way to inject a plot with conflict, ignoring the other problems I've listed with it. I've even seen it been used in anime and manga, despite its origins (as far as I know) being in western works. One example was a chapter I read of Rosario+Vampire, where Tsukune is framed of being a pervert by an actual, honest-to-God pervert. On top of that, it's been used as the whole goddamn basis of certain works! This is why I'm never going to watch Stephen J. Cannell's Renegade, so please don't ask.

That said, there are some writers smart enough to make them work, though it usually helps when the bulk of non-important characters are morons to begin with. An excellent example is "Powerpuff Bluff", the episode of The Powerpuff Girls where three grown male criminals impersonate the kindergarten-age heroines, as an obvious parody of the plot. I'm also willing to give some leeway to earlier examples, like the Tom and Jerry short Tom's Photo Finish, since they happened before it became an easy way for lazy writers to pull a conflict out of their asses.

But still, I fucking hate this plot. It's overused, it's stupid, it needs to die. I don't get why so many hack writers continue to use it despite so many factors showing how dumb it is.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cinema's Lost and Found

Over at ToonZone, Daikun posted that Empty Socks, a long-lost short from Walt Disney's early cartoon series for Universal starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, has just been found, sans about half a minute, in two poorly labeled reels in Norway. Now, I hate to be cliche, but when I first caught wind of this news, this was the first thought on my mind:
Now, in my opinion, I can't think of anything more frustrating than the idea that a film or TV show or, hell, ANYTHING has been lost to the ravages of the time. It doesn't matter whether it's a flawless classic or a total piece of trash. The fact is that it fucking existed, and it pisses me off when I can't sate my curiosity by watching what many consider to be a milestone, such as Bray Studio's The Debut of Thomas Cat, believed to be the first cartoon made entirely in color.

Thankfully, a number of films thought to have been lost have been found in private archives, including the aforementioned Oswald short. For instance, we all know about London After Midnight, a still lost film everyone's talked about, and which I won't discuss much further because M. Bison already filled my overdone quota for the article.
Instead, I'll turn my attention to another film, one long believed to have been taken by the same fire that decimated you-know-what, the early Three Stooges short Hello Pop!. Just last year, a print was found in Australia, restored, and shown in public. A DVD was put out via the Warner Archive just three months back.

Going back to Disney, while a number of Oswald shorts and several installments of Walt's previous series, the Alice Comedies, are still lost, pretty much every cartoon put out by his very first studio, Laugh-O-Grams, exists today, including shorts thought lost, and thanks to the internet, will continue to the exist until the sun expands and fries our asses, and that won't be for another 5 billion years.

Unfortunately, cases like Hello Pop!Empty Socks, and the Laugh-O-Grams shorts are the exception rather than the rule. The website Silent Era, a great resource for silent films, estimates that a whopping 85-90% of silent era movies are gone forever. So why the hell are there so few films from this era still around? Because apparently, people back then were assholes who didn't give two shits about film preservation back then.

Okay, I'm sorry if I sounded like an ignorant dick with that last sentence, but can you blame me? I've been spoiled by living in a society where film preservation isn't just common, it's a must. Back in the early days of cinema, film was considered a disposable medium. If anything, the film preservation nuts today probably would've been considered lunatic hoarders by the standards of people living in the very early 20th century. This was well before home-based entertainment like television and home video were even thought about, so attempting to save a film for future generations was considered impractical for all intents and purposes.

That said, the other major obstacle in film preservation really has little to do with people not giving a damn. Really, film stock at the time was volatile as all get-out, no thanks to the nitrate compounds that made it up. It was very easy for it to decompose into useless, disgusting jelly, or maybe fall apart, turning into worthless dust. There was really no way to stop it from undergoing this sad process. All one could do was delay the inevitable through very specific storage conditions which archivists had little patience for. On top of that, the shit was more flammable than a Ford Pinto. Dark vaults with temperatures that can exceed 100°F in the summer are already insufferable for humans, but with nitrate film, it's a fireball waiting to happen. Such fires were what decimated the filmography of Argentine animation pioneer Quirino Cristiani, including what's believed to be the first feature-length animated film in the world, El Apóstol.

So all in all, film loss fucking sucks, but it's a cold fact of life that a lot of films will probably never be seen again. Despite this, we still find long-lost films on occasion (Hell, the late Mickey Rooney's first film was also found earlier this year), and you never know who will finally spill the beans on what priceless, long-unseen film they've been keeping to themselves for decades.

As for me, I'll over at my bed, praying to any famous and not-so-famous religious figure I can think of that some will please, PLEASE find a copy of El Apóstol! And if anyone happens to read this with a copy of the film, for the love of all those Gods and Goddesses, DON'T hesitate to chime in!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Toonami: Manipulating the Manual

Recently. the revived Toonami block on [adult swim] has started a campaign where viewers can write through mail or through the Tumblr page about their suggestions for the future of Toonami. Now, I haven't been watching Toonami much. Soul Eater has ended, I've decided to just marathon Space Dandy in the future, and I really couldn't get into Attack on Titan, so I dumped that after two episodes (the same amount it took me to abandon Kaze no Sitgma, though that was more Ayano Kannagi's fault; seriously, screw her), though I have Gurren Lagann set up on the good ole' DVR. That said, I do hope for the future of Toonami.

Now, here's a rundown of my main ideas for helping Toonami get better:

  • Dark is fine, but not too much. Darkness is fine in moderation. However, it's too much when it starts to become a noticeable problem. Not because of personal offense or because it evokes too many negative emotions, but rather, if all it is is darkness, darkness, and more darkness, then it can become clear that it's little more than a crutch for a predictable, bog standard story (this was my main problem with what little I saw of Titan). The opposite is true. Too much lightness isn't just insufferably saccharine, it's also a lazy attempt to hide mediocre writing, which leads to shit like Fantasista Doll.
  • Broaden horizons. Don't just work with the same two or three companies. While Aniplex, FUNimation, Viz Media, and Turner each have a good action library, that may not be quite enough. Companies like Sentai Filmworks and... I can't really think of anyone else, but they too have a great library of action shows that'd fit right in.
  • Try to get more airtime, if possible. More slots means more shows. There's really no other way to explain this. And finally, and this is a biggie...

         Let's be honest here: we've all liked stuff that turned out to be garbage when we got older. In fact, I remember liking Super Duper Sumos. Truth is, while there are greats like Rocko's Modern Life and Animaniacs that never go bad no matter how ancient they get, we're more than likely going to realize what terrible shows we liked. So the best advise is to ask with caution.

So that covers what I want to talk about. Not much else to add except support Toonami.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Animation Bliss!

I'm now a part of a YouTube channel called Animation Bliss. Animation Bliss was started up by Rabbitearsblog as a means of discussing all sorts of animation. The channel can be seen here.

Anyway, I did mean for my review series to be text-only, but with this new development, I plan to use my Animation Bliss membership as a platform for my reviews. The same grading rubric will be used. My first review for the channel will be a video remake of my Golden Time review.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Animation Recommendations: Welcome to the Machine

For this Animation Recommendations, I shall take a look at a little music video by Gerald Scarfe. Scarfe is a great creative mind who did several music videos for famed psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. Here we have one of their most famous collaborations, "Welcome to the Machine".
This video has all the trappings of a Gerald Scarfe classic; it's got stunning 3D drawings, a dark, surreal tone, and quite a bit of scary charm. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm a huge fan of animation that takes advantage of the fact that it's as such and does things you couldn't do in live action, even with a big-ass Hollywood budget. Oh, and the song's bitchin', too.

Speaking of Pink Floyd, I really should watch The Wall at some point.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bitching about Mundane Crap

Okay, a fair warning: this post is mostly just a vent. It's about how I got screwed by cuntstomer service.

Okay, so I somehow got an automatic renewal for Norton 360, and I wind up having to pay $85 on my mother's old credit card, long since already expired. So naturally, I want a fuckin' refund I put down my info and got on a live chat, and this is the whole chat. You should click on it to get the whole image, though.
Anyway, I ask for a refund, and the bastard CUTS ME OFF!!!
...this Nostalgia Critic clip is pretty much my reaction. You don't cut a guy off when he's trying to get a fucking justified fucking refund! So I wind up having to pay $85 for a fucking anti-virus program even though I already have the free version of Avast!!

Raja C. of Norton, if you are reading this, allow me to just say these words...



...next post won't be as whiny. I promise.