Monday, February 27, 2006

You Know Me, part 3.

OK, so I'm a sucker for personality tests; good ones, that is, not 'Which Desperate Housewife are your shoes like?' of course.

So this one is interesting; I'm a cautious artist, which is quite a nice way of describing me. The extraordinary thing is how very low I score on confidence. Ouch.

Interestingly, though, it rates me as an ISTP on the Myers Briggs, whereas two years ago I was an ISTJ; I think it's more accurate, as the judging aspect of my old categorisation indicated much stronger adherence to rote and rules and convention than I have. Also, the ISTP is fiercly territorial, which is accurate...

Of course, the problem I now have is working out how to make use of the insight...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Mirror Crack'd

I love Time Out for the moments of utter last moment woo it allows you. I stopped picking up the mag a year or two ago (I decided that £2 a week was too much to pay for the illusion of a cultural life) but just by chance I flicked through a copy in the office the other day. There, nestling in the also-rans in the film section, was a single line: a one off showing of Mirrormask at the NFT, followed by a Q&A with Dave McKean.

I think I may have actually squeaked out loud in the office.

Alas, on ringing for tickets the NFT tell me it's booked up. But I can queue for spares 30 minutes before doors open.

Oh yes. Yes, indeed.

Mirrormask first popped into my conciousness... ooh, years ago. I like Mr McKean's work very much - even looked into getting him to do something for the Dr Who website, only to be given a polite 'he's busy' by his agent. So the idea of a whole film done in his painterly goth-collage style was... overexciting. I'm a sucker for a pretty movie. But then it all went mysteriously quiet - a website appeared, but no release date. No advertising, no fanfare. It seems to have snuck in to the NFT by the back door, slinking through the shadows in Gaimanesque style.

I've even had the script book sitting by my bed for months - since may, in fact, when Ian bought it as a courting present. It was unread, as I didn't want to go in knowing too much about it.

So... I was pretty excited when I managed to get tickets after getting up at the hellishly early hour of ten last saturday. And then, the film.

It's great. Really. Flawed, yes, but very very lovely. It's classic Henson, too - a dark fantasy for solitary ten year old girls who don't like boy bands, and right out of the Labyrinth / Dark Crystal tradition.

From the Q&A afterwards it was clear that McKean sees the failings of the film; if anything, he was much to hard on it. Artistic training tends to teach you to criticise your work - it's how you improve - and I suspect that he was only seeing the shots-that-didn't-composite properly, or glitchy CGI. But the audience just don't see that - it's the kind of thing you only notice when you've been locked in an edit suite for two years. The audience saw a dark fairytale, unlike anything else filmed before.

Actually, the only thing it needed was a bit of ruthless exec-ing; it looses pace about three quarters of the way through, and a tiny bit of tightening up would make it a world-beater. Specifically, it doesn't need the 'Close to You' mechanical dolls section; whilst beautiful, and cool sounding on paper, it just disrupts the flow of the story, and doesn't really give any more depth to any of the characters. Alas, I get the feeling that it was the only bit that Gaiman (the co-writer) and McKean really agreed on, which is why, I assume, it made the final cut.

Gina McKee is a fantastic choice for the mother/evil queen role; she has a slightly ethereal quality which sits uneasily alongside her very real presence, which makes the transition between Mum-to-a-difficult-teen and jealous-faerie-bitch quite natural. And of course, Rob Brydon is just genius. He's so bloody affable!

But the look of the film is a triumph. I was really wondering how McKean's work would translate into motion graphics; it would be hard to maintain the level of density and constructedness in his illustration in a film setting. But it turns out his bricolage technique - compositing by any other name - is simple to translate. I asked him about the challenges of going from flat to film, and he basically said that as he works by building raw images up into a whole on a computer, it was pretty simple to extend that to see the shot footage as just more source material.

The man has a good eye, too - the direction was unobtrusive, but not pedestrian at all.

So what are the stand out images? Well, the visual density of the piece makes it hard to single anything out - it's like dipping your eyeballs in golden syrup and glitter. The Sphynx are great - they get the human-face on puppet feel of a Tony Oursler but have convincing weight and solidity in the story world. Sequences with the black Queen vomiting out darness are as disturbing as a Chris Cunningham video. Throwing down books to hitch a lift is a genius sequence, well executed. The Cities are marvellous, with a sharded, changeable feel that suits the hypnogogic imagery.

It seems a shame, then, that Sony don't seem to know what to do with the picture; how or whether to market it, or what market it's for. And it needs a cinema release; it will be beautiful on DVD, yes, but you need a twenty foot screen to appreciate the richness of the visuals

So - to sum up. An amazing opportunity to see a film that will become a lost masterpiece even before a commercial release. I feel sad that so few others got the chance to see it too.

When Designers Go Feral

Look everyone, this is what happens when TV people run the internets. They make it look like it's 1998, and its running off a 4x CD Rom!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/

Also - dark green on Cyan? What were you THINKING?

I'm actually quite embarrased about this.

Monday, February 13, 2006

21st Century Folktales: Games, Worlds, Stories - Presentation for BBC Writer's Room

So, about a month ago, I gave a talk about games. It was scary, but I got some nice feedback from the people involved.

I talked about the way that stories intersect with play, and how moving around in a virtual space is a bit like writing a character biography. I also pointed at some technological changes that might blurr even further the intersection between 'game' and 'real' worlds.

It's kind of a basic presentation, as it was written for a non-expert audience. But have a look and tell me what you think.
mildlydiverting.com - 21st Century Folktales: Games, Worlds, Stories - Presentation for BBC Writer's Room

Also, if you can work out how I've managed to break my CSS in firefox, I'd love to know.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Haptics

YouTube - Crazy Multi-Input Touch Screen

Just a little pointer to a lovely bit of video showing a haptic interface, with multi-point touch screen manipulation of images. Check out the multiple spinning records...

My favourite thing about 'The Island' was the desktop that functioned as screen and input device, controlled by touch and an executive toy. Vannevar Bush must have been thinking along those lines with his desktop memex...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Channel101 - The Unavoidable Future of Entertainment

Channel101 - The Unavoidable Future of Entertainment

Hmn. I think my department could learn from this. It's like Jackass meets Guerilla Film Maker's Handbook...

Super Dirty Sekrit Achilles Heel

I'm a cultured kinda person. I like terribly dry music, and thoughtful art, and stately television, and Radios and BBC 4s. I like my laughs intellectual and clever clever, not dumb and crass. I have a loathing of American Teen Grossout comedies. I despise South Park.

But I have a filthy little secret. Sometimes, when I think no-one is looking, I degrade myself by wallowing in Low Culture. It makes me feel dirty and transgressive and wrong. I enjoy the guilt.

I debase myself, and I love it.

I like wrestling, and the comedy output of Jack Black.

I like oiled men in spandex, and I *adored* Heat Vision and
Jack
. Men with mullets faking fights make me... well, flustered. And I have watched a Ben Stiller product and laughed.

There. I've admitted it.

Imagine, then, the ammount of wiping up I had to do after I was sent this:

Nachos are Yummy

It could only be improved by the addition of Owen Wilson, who I've had a bit of a thing for since back before I went straight. It was Shanghai Noon that did it. Mmmm, cowboys.

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