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Wednesday, March 30th, 2005

Yerself Is Steam

Why is it that movie coupons always seem to expire in the weeks when there’s really nothing in theatres that you want to see? Anyway, one such expiring coupon had me at the Carlton yesterday afternoon to see Steamboy. It’s the new film from Katsuhiro Otomo, director of Akira, and his first animated feature in 16 years. Now I recognize Akira as a masterpiece of Japanese animation, etc etc, but to be honest? I never got it. I’ve seen it a couple times and I try to keep up but by 2/3 of the way through, all it is to me is Neo-Tokyo blowing up and some kid riding a motorcycle around screaming, “TETSUO!!!!”. It certainly offered plenty of eye candy but I found it incomprehensible. Which is why I didn’t have that high of expectations going into Steamboy, but as I said – coupons were a-wasting.

However, I am pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a steampunk tale set in Victorian England during the London during the first World’s Fair, with three generations of inventors in conflict about how to apply their scientific discoveries to the world. Okay, that sounds a little dry, but plot-wise that’s about the size of it. It’s actually quite light in the narrative department, lacking the philosophical and dramatic heft of the best of anime, but it does have lots of loud whiz-bang – and sometimes that’s just what you need.

Most of the film is solid fight scenes as an arms race erupts and spills over into battle on the fairgrounds, destroying large swaths of London. As expected, the story does start to fracture as the film moves along, but it doesn’t cross that line into “what the hell?” like its predecessor did. The voice acting from Patrick Stewart, Alfred Molina and Anna Paquin (as the male hero, for whatever reason) is decent enough though there’s not really a lot of character depth for them to try and convey. The animation and visuals are excellent and the ultra-modern 19th century technology designs and overall attention to detail are stunning. The film as a whole is good fun – not a milestone in animation or storytelling, but certainly enjoyable. Note – I saw the 106 minute North American cut, apparently the director’s cut runs an extra 20 minutes. However this is one of the rare instances where I doubt that anything really crucial was excised and the shorter version is probably better.

You like the sludge rock? Sure you do. Comets On Fire are at Lee’s Palace on June 19. BYOB – Bring your own bong.

Buzz Magazine talks to Fred Smith about Saturday Looks Good To Me and making Every Night, as well as giving a sneak peak to the next record – a double album of half boy songs (“messed up and what’s wrong with you kind of songs”) and half girl songs (“Happy, stompy, fuzzy girl-pop”), due out next year.

The official name of the Son Volt collection will be A Retrospective: 1995-2000. It’s out May 24. Still looking for a complete tracklist, but it will run 20 track and include a version of Woody Guthrie’s “I’ve Got To Know”, Del Reeves’ “Looking at the World Through a Windshield” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Open All Night”.

I just discovered Paste magazine and going through their past feature, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll point you to their pieces on Shivaree, Low, Bright Eyes and Kathleen Edwards, but after that you gotta wade through their archives yourself.

Still bored? The plough through this fairly comprehensive library of videos, streaming audio and multimediary goodies at Prefix.

np – The Meeting Places / Find Yourself Along The Way

By : Frank Yang at 9:11 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. esmeseed says:

    Paste is great. That same feature has a great article (http://…/) on indiefolk and Americana, talks to Animal Collective, Sam Beam, Devendra B, etc. Their site navigation is kind of tedious, though.

  2. tankboy@aol.com says:

    Akira makes a lot more sense with subtitles and without the English dubbing.

  3. Frank says:

    perhaps, but does the "TETSUO!!!!" still have the same visceral impact? I’m not convinced.

  4. ET says:

    "Steampunk" — a new micro-genre, or are you making up buzzwords to infect the masses again?

  5. Frank says:

    Nope, "Steampunk" is a proper genre. So sez the Wiki:

    http://…/

  6. Chris says:

    Paste’s decent. I think Harp is a better magazine editorially but the CD in Paste usually tips the balance in my purchase decision (even though I’ve never listened to any Paste CD more than twice).

  7. mrchucho says:

    I was pretty disappointed with "Steamboy". I thought the incessant "Science is This. Science is That" grew old pretty quickly. And Miss Scarlet… what was that?

    Visually, it was incredible, but I kept checking my watch. It’s no "Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds"!