Summer has come and gone far too quickly, and these first few weeks of school have kept me real busy. The remainder of 2017 might be a time of growing pains for Infinite Thiccness, but I’ll try not to neglect the blog altogether. I really ought to make some kind of schedule and finally get my life together. One of these days I’m gonna get organizized.
Anyone who read my previous post is probably sick of apologies, but I have to make one more really quick. Don’t worry, it’s not about the lack of blog posts again, even this past month and a half has been the biggest dry spell yet. Rather, it’s about the lack of anime on this list. I’ve been sleeping hard on anime these past couple of months–I haven’t finished a single series. Not even one. I’ve already talked about shows like Little Witch Academia, March Comes in Like a Lion, Sakura Quest, Re: Creators, and other recently-aired or currently-airing shows in previous WIBWR entries prior to finishing them, but haven’t talked about my progress with them since. That’s unavoidable for some, since they haven’t finished airing yet, but others have been fully available for a long time now. I’m going to try to finish all of these shows this September and finally wrap up my thoughts on them. Until then, bear with me.
I don’t know how the hell to finish these introductions, so here’s What I’ve Been Watching/Reading in August of 2017.
Notable YouTube Videos
- Boogie2988‘s Weight Loss Surgery – Boogie is one of my favorite personalities on YouTube. As someone who’s been emotionally invested in his story for over three years now, seeing him take this massive leap forward has been a huge source of inspiration throughout the month. The man is living proof that it’s never too late to change your life for the better. There have been quite a few update videos released since the surgery–the one that I’ve provided a link for was the first. If you haven’t already, I recommend following Boogie’s Twitter to keep up with his progress on a day-to-day basis. Is promoting someone with millions of followers who you all probably know about already kind of pointless and unnecessary? Absolutely, but I could care less.
- “How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally” by Digibro – Neon Genesis Evangelion is tied with Gurren Lagann as my favorite anime series of all time, and Digibro is one of my favorite YouTube channels of all time. With that combination, you know I had to put this video on my list. With the insane amount of vlogs, podcasts, and other miscellaneous content Digibro produces at an incomprehensibly rapid rate (they don’t call him the Human Content Machine for nothing), I sometimes forget why I became a fan of his to begin with: well-written, well-edited, original, and thought-provoking anime analysis videos. This isn’t so much an analysis of Neon Genesis Evangelion itself, but rather the show’s lasting and immeasurable impact on the anime industry as a whole. Even if you don’t particularly like Eva, or even if you hate it, you have to appreciate how important it really was in shaping what anime has become over the past 20 or so years. If it weren’t for Eva, dozens if not hundreds of great shows would have never had gotten the chance to be made. This video only reinforced my love for both Digibro’s video and Evangelion, and I recommend giving it a watch if you’re as big a fan of either of those things as I am, or if you’re interested in the history of anime as a whole.
- Super Beard Bros‘ Sonic Adventure DX Playthrough – I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the original Sonic Adventure for a long time. It was one of the first games I ever owned back in the good old GameCube days, but it’s also painfully outdated. Where most of the classic-era Sonic games have aged like properly-stored wine, Sonic Adventure has aged like milk left out in the sun. But regardless of those flaws, the game is still pretty fun to play…sometimes. Needless to say, my feelings on the game are unsure, and The Beard Bros’ currently ongoing playthrough of the game perfectly reflects those feelings. Alex thinks Sonic Adventure is an unplayable mess, while Jirard is able to look past its flaws and defend what the game does right. The result of this unresolvable disagreement–in addition to Alex and Jirard’s impeccable chemistry–is one of the most entertaining Let’s Play series I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s a drinking game for you guys if you decide to give the playthrough a watch: take a shot every time Alex says “Oh my God” in reaction to the SA1’s bafflingly bad cutscene animations and camera glitches. You will die in under an hour, guaranteed.
- The Big Shave (1967) – What the hell did I just watch? is likely a common question among those who have just seen The Big Shave, a 5-minute body-horror short made by Martin Scorsese shortly after his debut film, Who’s That Knocking at my Door?. The premise is fairly simple: an anonymous man shaves in front of a mirror while a big-band jazz song plays in the background. About halfway through the video, however, he begins to cut a lot more than just facial hair, slicing his face into a bloody mess. Even as he finishes off by slitting his throat with the razor, the music continues on indifferently and the man’s facial expression remains unchanged. It’s downright cringe-inducing in its use of body horror (I mean this as a compliment, not a critique) and yet kind of hilarious at the same time. The whole thing feels like an excercise in aesthetic contrast–the deep red of blood against the clean white of the bathroom, the cheery soundtrack against the gory visuals, horror and disgust against irony and amusement. For as seemingly meaningless as The Big Shave might seem, it goes to show how much thought and creativity Scorsese puts into even his smallest projects.
- Fargo (1996) – Fargo opens with a text that claims the film is based on a true story, but then ends with another that claims the events are merely fictitious. The latter is the truth, while the former is a blatant lie. When people think back on the film, most probably remember Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson, the pregnant police chief who has to unravel a bizarre kidnapping plot. She’s the only actress listed above the title on the film’s promotional material and blu-ray release. What’s strange about all of this is that Marge Gunderson isn’t even really the main character of Fargo. William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Peter Stromare all have considerably more screen-time than McDormand–she doesn’t even make an appearance until about half an hour into the film. And let’s not overlook the film’s title, Fargo, which is the name of a small town in North Dakota that only a tiny fraction of the film actually takes place in–in fact, most of the film doesn’t take place in North Dakota at all, but rather Minnesota. These observations may ultimately seem inconsequential, but I believe they are crucial in understanding what turns Fargo from a darkly comedic film about incompetent criminals into a postmodernist masterpiece–and, without a doubt in my mind, the Coen brothers’ greatest achievement. There are two threads that really knit the whole film together. The first is the way it constantly blurs the line between the real and surreal. William Macy’s Jerry Lundengard, a car salesman desperate to get out of debt, attempts to stage a kidnapping of his own wife in order to get the ransom money from his wealthy father-in-law. But when the thugs he hires to do the job end up murdering three people, the consequences of the “fake” kidnapping become far more real than the knuckleheaded Jerry ever could have intended, and the situation spirals into chaos and confusion more and more throughout the film. For as bizarre as the events that take place in Fargo seem, much of the film also feels deeply relatable and remarkably true to life. This makes sense, since the Coen brothers actually grew up in the small-town upper-Midwest environment which Marge and the other characters inhabit. The film’s darker and more surreal elements, including a certain famous scene involving a wood-chipper, are reportedly the amalgamation of real-life stories and rumors the brothers heard while growing up. The characters of the film also demonstrate this blurring between fiction and reality–how the Coens’ managed to pull this off is beyond me, but the characters somehow feel like real people and caricatures of real people at the same time. One of the things I complained about when talking about Raising Arizona last month is how characters’ Southern accents are exaggerated to the point of incomprehensibility. In Fargo, everybody–minus Steve Buscemi, who talks like…well…Steve Buscemi, and Peter Stromare, who rarely talks at all–speaks in a prominent upper-midwestern accent, filled with lots of yahs, oh-kays, and you betchas. Like Raising Arizonia, the accents are exaggerated, but not to nearly the same extent. If anything, the accents actually add a lot of personality to the film and enhance the overall experience in my opinion. All of this is the Coens’ way of showing us that fiction can be more real than reality, and reality can be more surreal than fiction. The two are not the polar opposites many people make them out to be–rather, they are usually reflections of one another. The second thread that holds Fargo together is the aforementioned Marge Gunderson. She may not technically be the main character, but she and her husband Norm (played by John Carroll Lynch) are the soul of the film. They’re its moral compass–which is important in a cast full of criminals and frauds. Without them, the film would have been good, but not as amazing as it is because of them. Frances McDormand’s performance is perfect. She gives the character of Marge so much humor and heart–every second she’s on screen is a delight. In the cold, barren winter wastelands of Minnesota, Marge and Norm are the cozy log cabin, the burning hearth, the wool-knit sweater, the freshly-poured mug of hot coffee or cocoa–they’re a reminder that, even though life can be full of misfortune tragedy, it can be full of warmth and love as well. Fargo is incomparable–it’s the best thing I saw this month, and you all need to go see it too if you haven’t done so already.
- The Founder (2016) – Michael Keaton has been killing it lately; Birdman, Spotlight, Spiderman: Homecoming, and this film–while none are really personal favorites of mine, I’m glad to see that the man is back in business. By far the most recent entry on this list, The Founder is the true story of how Ray Kroc turned McDonald’s from a simplistic local business to world’s leading fast-food empire. I know I already talked about him, but Michael Keaton’s performance of Ray Kroc is really what carries this film. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch are great in their supporting roles of Dick and Mac McDonald, the brothers who started it all before Kroc took control. The Founder is something of a painful reminder of the perpetual, one-sided conflict between big and small business, and that greed and manipulation can be as viable a method on the road to success as honesty, integrity, and hard work–those aren’t exactly new and original ideas, but they work well enough. I really liked the visuals in this film–director John Lee Hancock did a great job capturing the look and feel of the 1950’s. The Founder isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s one of the better films I’ve seen to come out in the past couple of years, and an interesting piece of American history.
- Full Metal Jacket (1987) – While it’s no match for the greatest war movie ever made, Apocalypse Now, it’s easy to see why Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is ranked among the seminal films about Vietnam. It isn’t my favorite Kubrick movie by any means–2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining remain untouched as my top 3–it’s certainly worthy of his filmography. His brilliant directorial vision oozes from every frame of Full Metal Jacket–my eyes were glued to the screen the entire time. I’m still sure what it is exactly that makes Kubrick’s films tick, but they all have this inexplicably mesmerizing and hypnotic power to them, tempting you to watch them over and over and over again. The man was, without a doubt in my mind, a genius. It’s probably been said a million times before, but the first half of Full Metal Jacket is damn-near perfect. Detailing the grueling conditions of the Marine Corps’ boot-camp training on Paris Island, South Carolina (which I actually got to visit over spring break about half a year ago, coincidentally enough), R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D’Onforio steal the show as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman–whose vocabulary will irrevocably evolve your understanding of insults forever–and the perpetually useless Private Pyle–whose only redeeming factor as a soldier is his marksmanship… and the unhealthy bond he forms with his rifle “Charlene”. With all of that said, though, I think reviewers have overlooked how much the rest of Full Metal Jacket has to offer outside of these two powerhouse performances. The second chapter is a fascinating take on the dehumanizing effects of the Vietnam War, and Matthew Modine delivers a memorable performance in his own right as the actual main character of the film, Private Joker. As is to be expected with a Kubrick film, I probably need to give Full Metal Jacket a re-watch or two (or three) before I can confidentially analyze much of the its hidden themes and ideas. And speaking of Kubrick, you can expect me to talk about the director’s final project, Eyes Wide Shut, in next month’s edition of this series.
- The Great Train Robbery (1903) – No, you didn’t misread that release date. The Great Train Robbery was the first western ever filmed, as well as the first narrative film ever made. This was even before D.W Griffith came along and shaped the future of cinema by establishing a firm set directorial rules and techniques. The plot is extremely simple–a band of outlaws successfully robs the passengers of a train but are ultimately killed in a final shootout during their escape. You only really need to watch it if you’re interested in the history of cinema and/or silent-era films. It’s only 12 minutes long, so that’s not exactly a strenuous task.
- Hugo (2011) – Back in elementary school, I read a little book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, and I fell in love with it immediately. By the time I finished reading, it had become one of my favorite books at the time. That was over half a decade ago, though, and I haven’t re-read it since. I do remember seeing trailers for Hugo back in 2011, but I brushed it aside as Hollywood stomping on yet another half-baked adaptation of a good book (I was prematurely disillusioned about adaptations at the time because of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie). I had no idea that Martin Scorsese was the one who directed the film, nor would it have mattered if I did, since I only first learned of him in the past few years. 6 years later, I have to admit that this presumption caused me to miss out on one of the best films of the entire decade. Fargo may have been my favorite film of the month, but Hugo was a close second. At over 60 years old, Scorsese managed to flawlessly capture the sense of childlike wonder, adventure, and curiosity that I remember from the book. Considering that an overwhelming majority of Scorsese’s films are far from kid-friendly, this came as something of a surprise. Hugo is far from your typical family film, however. The story of orphan Hugo Cabret and his quest to fix a broken automaton and find a sense of belonging in the world is a reflection of life in Europe after the destruction and disillusionment of the Great War, as well as a reflection of Scorsese’s 50-year-long journey as a film-maker. Towards the beginning of the film, Hugo meets a bitter old man running a toy shop in the Gare Montparnasse train station. Later on, about halfway through the film, we learn that this old man is, in fact, the real-life French Expressionist director George Melies, who plays a fascinating and extremely important role throughout the remainder of the film–one which I will not spoil here. Hugo oozes with the Scorsese’s love and appreciation for the art of cinema, as well his passion for film preservation. In terms of visuals, the film is breathtakingly gorgeous, using CG incredibly well to re-create the beauty of 1930’s Paris. The entirety of Hugo is simply enchanting in every way imaginable. It may be the most unusual entry among Scorsese’s entire filmography, and it may just be one of the finest films he’s ever made. I plan on giving the book a much-deserved re-read sometime in the future, so you can expect me to talk about it sometime.
- Italianamerican (1974) – You probably know Martin Scorsese best for his legendary feature films—Mean Streets, GoodFellas, Casino, Taxi Driver (my personal favorite), and too many more to list here. What you might not know him for is the many documentaries he’s directed over the years. Italianamerican is one of the very first, made shortly after the success of Mean Streets. It’s a fairly simple documentary, giving us an extensive interview of Marty’s parents, Charles and Catherine Scorsese, as they talk about the history of Little Italy. It works really well as a companion-piece to the aforementioned Mean Streets, which was itself a sort of semi-biographical tale about the first sons of Little Italy. Oh, and remember that cameo performance by Catherine Scorsese in GoodFellas that everybody, including myself, loved? I honestly don’t think she was even performing then–that’s pretty much just the way she acted, and she basically turns Italianamerican from an already interesting and charming documentary to 40 minutes of joy. If you’re as big of a fan of Martin Scorsese as I am, and especially if you’re a fan of Mean Streets and GoodFellas, you owe it to yourself to give it a watch sometime.
- Miller’s Crossing (1990) – Miller’s Crossing bored me. Even though Fargo was my favorite film of the month, I feel like I’ve been giving the Coen Brothers’ way too much shit lately. For some reason, some of their films really click with me, but others are completely lost on me. I know a lot of people really like Miller’s Crossing, but it just didn’t appeal to me. Where Raising Arizonia was so absurd that I couldn’t help but be entertained at some points, this film was just a forgettable snore-fest. The cinematography is, as always, solid, and I really enjoyed John Turturro’s performance–he’s a great actor that’s been criminally overlooked by Hollywood over the years. Other than that, nothing. Who knows, maybe I’ll give Miller’s Crossing a re-watch some day and find it to be good, or even great. Until then, I’m unimpressed.
- A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) – As I mentioned when I was talking about Italianamerican, Scorsese has made countless documentaries over the years–damn good documentaries, at that rate. A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies may be one of his absolute finest. Narrated by the legendary director himself, the documentary explores the history of American cinema through the lens of Scorsese’s personal experiences with films, from childhood to adulthood. I haven’t even seen (or in some cases, even heard of) most of the films shown here, and I was still fascinated–honestly, I could just listen to Scorsese talk about movies all day. APJWMSTAM (not exactly a catchy acronym) is a bit on the long side, at three hours and forty-five minutes, but I highly recommend giving it a watch if you’re a fan of Martin Scorsese and/or want to learn more about the history and evolution of American cinema.
- Se7en (1995) – 4 years before he filmed the cult-classic masterpiece Fight Club, David Fincher had already proven himself as a director with a unique vision. Se7en might be the greatest police procedural drama ever made. Admittedly, that specific sub-genre isn’t one I have much experience with, but I can’t see how anything could top this film either way. Brad Pitt as rookie detective David Milis, Morgan Freeman as veteran detective William Somerset, and Kevin Spacey as the mastermind serial killer they must track down. These three performances and characters are what really carry Se7en. All of Milis’ and Somerset’s successes and failures mean something because of how likeable and empathetic they are–you actually give a shit about them and want to see them succeed them in the end. The revelation of the John-Doe killer himself is built up to brilliantly, and Spacey more than delivers once he is revealed. Se7en isn’t the kind of film that loses its appeal once you’ve learned “the big twist”–partly because of how brilliant and unique the plot twists are, but also because the film’s quality doesn’t lean on them. It explores a lot of fascinating moral and philosophical ideas, putting into question whether the society the John-Doe killer preys upon is any less evil than him. The directing isn’t quite as brilliant and creative as Fight Club‘s, but Fincher is more than on-point here, delivering countless great scenes. The ending sequence, in particular, will shake you to your core.
- A Trip to the Moon (1902) – In case you were wondering, No—A Trip to the Moon‘s role in Hugo wasn’t my motivation for seeing it this month. It was actually just a happy coincidence that I decided to watch both within such a short period, believe it or not. A Trip to the Moon is the oldest film I’ve ever seen, predating even the aforementioned Great Train Robbery. After learning about George Melies, a key director in the French Expressionist movement, through Hugo, it’s kind of hard not to appreciate to this relic of the silent era. Even without that context, though, A Trip to the Moon has an incredibly unique and interesting visuals that really make it feel like something special even after over a century. Like The Great Train Robbery, it’s only 12 minutes long, and is easy to find on YouTube and other platforms across the internet–if you’re a film buff, you have little excuse not to watch it.
- Tropic Thunder (2008) – Tropic Thunder is a Hollywood film that parodies Hollywood film-making as a whole, and it’s one of the best comedies of the past decade. The premise is as such: when director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan)’s plans to make the biggest, most expensive war movie of all time start to spiral into financial disaster, he and his eclectic cast of washed-up actors head into the jungles of Southeast Asia to take method acting to a whole new level–only to end up in real combat with a heroin cartel called the Flaming Dragon Gang. What makes this movie work so well is its brilliant performances. There’s Ben Stiller as desperate former superhero actor Tugg Speedmann, Jack Black as the cocaine-obsessed “comic” Jeff Portnoy, Brandon T. Jackson as closeted homosexual rapper Alpa Chino, Matthew McConaughey (in one of many legendary cameo performances) as Speedman’s Wii-Sports-playing agent Rick Peck, Tom Cruise as the perpetually angry, possibly insane studio executive Les Grossman, and Jay Baruchel as the much-needed straight-man Kevin Sandunsky. The one who stands out above the rest in this powerhouse cast is, without a single doubt from me or anyone who’s ever seen the film, Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus, an Oscar-winning actor who takes character-acting way too far. Pretty much every line that comes of his mouth is comedy gold–it’s no surprise that he’s what most people think of first whenever somebody mentions this man. Tropic Thunder isn’t the greatest comedy ever made by any means, but it had me laughing my ass off throughout, and was a pretty damn good time overall.
- [Notable Re-Watches]: Jackie Brown (1997) and Inglorious Basterds (2009) – Unlike last month’s notable re-watches, Gattaca and The Matrix, it hasn’t been very long since I first saw either of these films. I watched Inglorious Basterds around spring break, and you might remember me talking about Jackie Brown in the May edition of this series. Both became two of my all-time favorites instantly, though I ultimately decided that Jackie Brown edged out ahead as my third-favorite Tarantino film. After giving Inglorious Basterds a re-watch, however I wasn’t so sure anymore. They’re both just so fucking great–choosing which I like more is like choosing a favorite child. To settle this inner debate once and for all, I re-watched Jackie Brown–it was, of course, just as good as I remember, if not better. With both films fresh in my mind, I was able to make my decision. As much as it pains me to say, I think that Inglorious Basterds is simply the stronger of the two. It only ranks a single spot above Jackie Brown on my list of favorite movies, but even that’s a big deal for me. All of this, I suppose, is a testament to how extraordinary Quentin Tarantino really is–all of his films are so good, it’s practically impossible to decide which you love more than the other.
- Konosuba 2 OVA – Konosuba is one my favorite anime to come out within past few years. Where many comedy anime fall flat on me–likely a result of the cultural and language gap–Konosuba has never failed to make me laugh my ass off. It’s a riot. And since the first season got its own OVA last year, it only makes sense that the second season, which aired this spring, should get one too. Of course, I’d prefer a third season (and maybe a fourth, fifth, and sixth while they’re at it), but when I love a series this much, I’ll take what I can get. I realize that to got into detail about the OVA would require meticulously explaining and spoiling the entirety of Konosuba, and you’re all probably tired of hearing me ramble on and on all day. If you haven’t done so already, go watch this show immediately. I can’t recommend Konosuba enough, especially to fans of comedy anime.
- Satoshi Kon’s Opus – I read most of this lost gem by acclaimed anime director Satoshi Kon in a single sitting–in a car ride to Tampa Bay Airport to return home from Florida, to be exact. I’ll admit that I’m not Satoshi Kon’s biggest fan. I loved Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers, but when it comes to beloved classic anime directors, Hideaki Anno and Hayao Miyazaki rank way higher in my book. Who knows, though?–maybe that will change after I watch Paranoia Agent and Millennium Actress, but considering how backed-up my to-watch list is when it comes to anime. But I digress. What some may not know about Kon is that he actually started his career not as a powerhouse director, but rather as a mangaka. Opus was actually the last manga series he ever wrote before ultimately leaving it unfinished in favor of putting all of his energy into Perfect Blue. All of this is actually shown in Opus‘ unofficial final chapter, which acts as a sort-of half-autobiographical, half-meta-textual apology for the series never getting the conclusion it deserved. Being a mangaka is a hard-knock life, and I really can’t blame Kon for never finishing the series–and either way, what we did get was one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. Opus is utterly fascinating, using meta-fiction not only as a cool gimmick but as a vehicle to exploring unique thematic and philosophical ideas. I don’t want to go into too much detail–it’s the kind of story you need to experience yourself. And if you’re a fan of Satoshi Kon, there’s absolutely no reason not to go out and read Opus as soon as humanly possible.
- The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King – The Gunslinger may have been something of a weak start to King’s self-proclaimed magnum opus, but The Drawing of the Three almost immediately proved to me that The Dark Tower might be one of the greatest fictional series ever written. My biggest complaint about The Gunslinger was its writing, which is noticeably worse than not only the rest of the series, but most of King’s other early works as well. Thankfully, it really found its voice in this masterful sequel. The Drawing of the Three is packed with all of the edge-of-your-seat suspense and compelling character-writing that King does best. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down, and despite being over 400 pages long, it only took me about a week and a half to finish it. Where the first book introduced us to the series’ protagonist, Roland Deschain, the sequel introduces us to his companions, who Roland must draw into his world from our very own New York City. One aspect of The Gunslinger I held off complaining about last month was how unrelatable and even unlikeable Roland is compared to most of King’s other protagonists. The reason I didn’t mention it is because I suspected he had been written this way deliberately. After reading The Drawing of the Three and the first half of Book III, The Waste Lands, it’s safe to say those suspicions have been confirmed. It really is a damn shame that movie was such a flop, but I guess I shouldn’t complain when the books are already incredible on their own. I can’t wait to keep reading about the adventures of Roland and his ka-tet for the thousands of pages to come.