HEY! Why didn't anyone tell me about this?!
In search of a little palette cleanser after Game of Thrones last night, I stumbled on this new anime title on Netflix... A few stunned moments later, and I realized it was new Ghost in Shell stuff. I reeeally like Ghost in Shell and anything remotely related to Masamune Shirow. He is my undisputed spiritual father. Sorry, Dad. Apparently, "ARISE" as it is called, is something of a GiS prequel, telling the story of how Section 9 got together. In my excitement and ignorance, I mistakenly watched the second installment first. I'm keen to be corrected, but I think they formatted it as 3 separate hour long episodes or mini-movies. Almost BBC style.
The episode I was watched was damn good, folks. Some very satisfying mech action in there. The Fuchi/Tachikoma's first-gen incarnation are apparently called Logikomas, and I already love 'em. Feels to me like the classic design was remodelled by my friend -they have that sort of satisfyingly well engineered aesthetic.
Now, I must admit, between the uber techno-jargon and the intensively imagined geo-politics I can barely follow what the hell is going on in these things. Perhaps the subtitle translation was a tad rough around the edges, or quite possibly I'm not up to par with the intended audience, which apparently consists of the smartest Otakus in the universe, but either way, I made as much sense of it as my kids would a lecture on string theory. Really not so different from my experience w/ the equally excellent but more aged "Stand Alone Complex" and "2nd Gig" Gis series. But I still love the crap out of it. A typical western 'film' reviewer would no doubt chalk it up to poor narrative structure and claim it's too impenetrable for the uninitiated audience, but personally I wouldn't want that shit to change a bit. Someone needs to fly the super-techy super-dense anime banner out there, and I'm glad that this series is out there doing it as part of the GiS universe.
Also, Motoko has a cool motorcycle and a helmet that looks like it has cat ears. So it's not totally impaled upon its own ass-stick.
Also, I finally got around to seeing FURY -that WWII tank movie which was mandatory viewing, for obvious reasons. :
I thought it was excellent, if a bit fanciful and hackneyed. Bottom line; a good, realistic, honest WWII film focusing on the experiences of one specific tank crew is anything but hack. Not a lot of solid tank movies out there 'cept maybe "The Beast" and "Beaufort". For that alone, I love the fact that Fury was made, and especially w/ the added visibility and production value that only Hollywood can attempt. WWII History buffs please chime in if you have an opinion...
Speaking of visibility, props to Brad Pitt, who like a lot of gracefully maturing actors these days, fills me w/ hope and inspiration for not becoming a fat blob as I get older. Seriously, it looks like that dude swallowed two whole Daniel Craigs, and they went right into his deltoids! All the better to carry that film on his shoulders. Though the rest of the cast was impeccably well chosen, and acted their tits off, I felt some of the emotional baggage we're meant to experience, in order to achieve maximum impact, had not been sufficiently earned by the somewhat minimalist script. Shout out to The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal as Fury's token loose cannon. Sometimes type casting does cool things!
Naturally thrilled to see a modern top quality treatment of a very specific facet of military history, amazingly under-explored amidst the vast library of WWII films; tank warfare! Back in the day, I was that kid watching Top Gun, shouting that F-5s look nothing like Russian Migs. So even now, I'm happy to avoid bouts of nerd rage when the wrong hardware is passed off as something it most definitely ain't! Like the American Pershings in the much beloved film Patton that are supposed to be German tanks. NOPE! Fury has none of those glaring issues, to the extent that it features what I understand is perhaps THE last operational Tiger in existence (gloriously on loan from Bovington tank museum). Loud applause for such extreme dedication to technical authenticity. It matters. Also leads me to ponder yet again; when will someone do a big-budget film about Kursk or North Africa? A man can dream...
One must accept the notion of an American tank crew thrust into an epic "last stand at Thermopylae" type situation as a sort of exaggerated metaphor hinting at the horror of how uneven the contest was for them against vastly superior German armor. The myth of German material superiority in WWII, however, was sufficiently and astutely dissolved, given that the film featured a lot of horses, and often depicted German soldiers (and people) in equally desperate situations. FURY did an excellent job showing just how rough it must have been on both sides, and I appreciated that, despite certain sequences where enemies might as well have been 2-dimensional ducks in a shooting arcade.
I also savored the moral ambiguity of FURY's veteran tank crew. You don't go through hell without carrying some of that brimstone funk with you afterwards. Are they heroes? Unquestionably. Are they "good guys" ? ...eeeehh *vague hand gesture* Some. They're people, in all their fucked up often ugly naked reality. THAT is something which is often overlooked regarding the deservedly named 'greatest generation'. They were not all angels. Nor is it possible for anyone to be, and still achieve what they did. But they and veterans like them today did indeed live through hell so that others wouldn't have to. It is kind of important that war films shouldn't be shy, inoffensive, or averse to brutality, and myriad horrible shit. In that regard, Fury has balls of steel.
Via quintessential rookie we walk the well trodden trope of new guy learning to accept and embrace monstrosity in order to survive and ultimately realize truly honorable sacrifice. It is very easy to groan and say, 'yeah, seen this done a hundred times. Pass!' But do them a small solid and think of the young men who didn't get to say, 'pass'. Because they were amazing people. FURY vividly samples the sting of a young warrior's sweat in his baptism of fire. Illustrating the juggernaut war path of seasoned killers would be less complete without painting a portrait of their opposite first. The fasttrack transformation from weak innocent to hardened killer is FURY's central MO. A war exists beyond it, with barely glimpsed awesome and terrifying scope, but the narrower journey of a warrior's requisite metamorphosis is Fury's main concern, and what better way to define that than from within the crucible of a tank? Literally a crucible, because all that armor is as often an oven for cooking human flesh as it is the intended shield. Thus, the tank itself, as a metaphor for invulnerability and invincibility is also thoroughly dissolved. It is with this truth already established that the crew of Fury embark on their iconic last stand.
The "Das Boot" [a masterpiece] of tank films I'd have liked it to be. It grasps at that intention, but regrettably runs short on content. I almost always say the opposite about new movies, but in this case, I wish it were longer. Like, Peter Jackson longer. Fuck, I wish it had a part one in North Africa, and a mid-point in Italy, but all we get is the last cold slice of war pizza! We start at the last chapter of a long bloody story, and more masterful storytelling would be necessary to transmit the full weight of those hefty preceding chapters. As a straight up drama (war aside), I think it's damn good. Much more so because it is imbued with profound truth, even if it never happened.
My least favorite sequence was the end credits. Wanted more, yeah, but specifically, I did not like the modern-cool-grungey-shock effect treatment of archival WWII footage overlaid w/ angry red colors and angrier music. OK, it fits the title, and the overall tone, I get that... but bad creative decision. Know when to drop the mike and walk the fuck offstage, like a boss, with total confidence. Didn't need the final over-processed imagery that could just as easily have had Stone Temple Pilot's "Sex Type Thing" thrashing in the background. And I love that song. If someone massacred your family and friends, you might feel funny about the footage being made into a music video, even under the iron-clad license of artistic expression. We have the distance of history to afford a degree of objective impassivity, and that gap continually grows larger to the eventual point that history teachers will tell you shit like, "there are really GOOD things that came out of the Mongol invasions..." but the WWII generation is not distant enough yet that I can dig on sensationalizing their suffering.
-Even if I spend a great deal of time making silly WWII robots... based on a time that was not so silly.