Friday, August 31, 2012

Liebster Attack Forces Explosion Of Random Thoughts

It's nice to unwind a little and deviate from script, so I thought I would respond back to the lovely L.G. Keltner of Writing Off The Edge who marked me like a human contestant in The Running Man [1982]with the prestigious Liebster Blog Award. Thank you for the honor L.G..

Then just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water Jaws swims up looking for some chum. I blinked and the next thing you know It Rains... You Get Wet comes along and bestows the honor upon me like a facehugger on an unsuspecting space explorer. My compadre Michael whom I affectionately refer to as L13 hit me with the Liebster stick too. All of this in the span of three weeks. So I knew I had to take time to pull back the curtain. More than anything, I thought it would be fun to answer your questions and give a respectful nod back to both L.G. and L13.

Bestowed with the prestigious tag, I offer you 11 + 11 = 22 things you probably didn't care to know and follow by answering 11 + 11 = 22 of L13 and L.G.'s questions. Boy, my math is still sharp after all of this writing and math was never a favorite really. Hey, see that, there's one thing right there you didn't know.

1. Justin Bieber and the lot make me miss the 80s terribly.

2. Simon LeBon is one of the world's most underrated and greatest pop stars. In fact, I took my Boy Wonder to see his first concert, Duran Duran, on Aug 24. It rocked! Sadly, Nick Rhodes is quite exhausted at the moment and the band cancelled the rest of their North American Tour the next day, August 25. Get well Nick! You're the original synthesist - an amazing outerspace man!

3. My favorite Bond is Roger Moore and once again I go against conventional wisdom on these things. I happily rush to the top of the highest mountain and proclaim it and I don't care who knows it. The pop culture of my childhood is often disparaged. No more. In fact, The Spy Who Loved Me [1977] is one of the great films of the 1970s.

4. I have two toads living in my window wells around my house. I have one on each side. I regularly feed them live bugs I find around the house. They've been living at our home now since at least June. I did some research concerned for their well-being as the cold grows near, but they hibernate apparently and I need not worry. Anyway, I throw the bugs in the wells and they suck them right up! They take good care of our home.

5. I am addicted to The One To Be Pitied's affection for Dance Moms and especially Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I love that Honey Boo Boo. I know it's a guilty pleasure and I'm not proud, but damn it's a great show. There's always one out there that captures my attention for the sheer mindless fun. But seeing a family of country bumpkins who genuinely love one another, and need subtitles like they're from another country, is just too damn irresistible.

6. I like the cold and I like snow. Everyone is so down on snow. I also like a good fire.

7. I love looking at the ocean, but not swimming in it so much. I'll do it, but I prefer looking at it with something to drink.

8. I really don't like olives. I love pickles and green peppers but not olives. I don't want them on my pizza either. I can handle a few in a spinach pie. Funny thing is I loved olive loaf when I was a kid - you know the bologna with the green olives in it. Yeah, I loved that!

9. My Scottish terrier is Maisie. She's awesome. She greets me with big yawn sounds in the morning. She's done this since that first fateful day. She's black with big pointed ears. I tried naming her Spock but, well, I lost. In fact, I lose many battles. I don't think you'd want me on your team unless it's baseball.

10. I've discovered driving longer than five hours is not something I enjoy as much anymore. Road trips were once a dream for me. I lived for them. Trips up and down the east coast. Spotting South Of The Border and all sorts of American landmarks along with the occasional iHop stop. Now that was living. Today, I really can't hack it physically. I can still do it as evidenced by my recent road trip to Virginia Beach, but man it takes a toll. I even make old man faces. I really don't intend it, but it's natural. They're like pained Clint Eastwood faces.

11. I'm addicted to Words For Friends. I'm scrabble happy! I do that too much, but it's a phase. Out of frustration, I make old man faces there too. But I've come to the conclusion that having a great hand a and a little luck goes a long way. Skills are good. Having a command of the English language without cheating is good, but a good hand is even better. I'll take a Q and Z any day. That damn application skips you on Z, Q and J from time to time and you're almost thoroughly screwed. Whoever created Scrabble was pretty damn clever.

12. I never finished Lost. I should finish that last season.

13. I enjoy making onion rings from scratch on football Sundays. That with some chicken wings and beer on a football Sunday and you're sitting pretty. Looking forward to it.

14. As a kid I hated running. Running the field at school seemed like an eternity and especially with some of the kids who ran like gazelles. It really wasn't that big, but looking out at the field back then it felt like a barren wasteland that went on for miles. I actually enjoy it today with the ipod. Though, I am constantly calling the ipod my Walkman and my family makes fun of me.

15. I refer to just about anything with the word puppies. "Hey babe, grab me some of those puppies." "Guys, pop a few of those puppies." Again, I am made fun of by my kids. I also say "fudgepackers" a lot. After excessive time playing with my ipad I will use my laptop and try to touch the icons on the screen and then proclaim, "Argh! fudgepackers!" But, it beats cursing and the cliched "shut the front door."

16. I prefer sweet popcorn or kettle corn over buttered popcorn. It's not for everyone. Granted, the movie popcorn is so delicious I've been known to stop in and buy some of it and leave not having seen a movie. I'm not right.

17. If there was one series I still wished would return and for awhile I thought it had a chance, it's Firefly. It's not overrated. It was that good. Such a shame.

18. Of all the animated adventures growing up, I always hoped Gatchaman or Battle Of The Planets would make it to the live action film. Can you imagine?

19. I envision our roadways with transport tubes propelled by air as a mode of transportation. These tubes would be all over the country and would be clear glass and fun to travel. I think of things like this when I'm driving. I haven't considered maintenance or anything substantive like that but they would be cool, fast and fun.

20. I once passed on a T-shirt while in Rockport, MA once as a child. It had an iron-on of Space Glider of the Micronauts. I think of that shirt once in a blue moon because it's symbolic of so many things I decide not to purchase only to wish I had days later when it's too late. Don't you hate that? I was young then and those things do leave an impression.

21. I have Kodak pictures of my Planet Of The Apes dolls climbing my giant oak tree back when I was just a boy. Mind you, I don't have photos of me playing with them. I have close-ups of Cornelius and others in action shots because I was living a movie as a kid and everything was fantasy. I would grab my mom's Kodak and make those things come true. Roddy McDowall was awesome.

22. I was in love with Mrs. George in the 6th grade. She had these massive bosoms and she was a brunette. At the end of the year I said goodbye and she grabbed me, kissed me, and squeezed me against her boobs. GULP. That was as good as it got back then. Things have progressed considerably since based on today's headlines. I think it was best things ended with a harmless squeeze. Good times.

First, here are the answers to L.G.'s questions.

1. Which do you prefer: reading or writing? Or does your preference depend on your mood? Mostly I prefer writing, but reading is such a benefit to writing. I enjoy a good book, but I'm an incredibly slow reader because I tend to wander and day dream and generally need to re-read a page two times. Yes, writing is a process too, but I prefer it.

2. How do you prefer to travel: car, bike, or foot? For longer distances: train, plane, or boat? Honesty, I prefer to bike and jog, but prefer the car for long distances unless there is a big pond with no road. Still, as I've discovered recently, road trips aren't quite as romantic as they used to be.

3. What is the craziest thing you wanted to be when you were a kid? A pop star. I really wanted to be a pop singer. I suppose it's not really that crazy. I jumped around on my bed with music blaring and wrote songs and sang into tape players. All of the bands of the 1980s made me want to be a pop star. Even more crazy, my daughter had dreams of one day being a grocery seller. She's great and she dreams big.

4. If you could pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be? Principled or kind.

5. Board games or video games? Gosh, video games. I liked board games enough, but the second Atari arrived the few board games I enjoyed went into the closet. If I had to play another game of Candy Land I think I might have gone over the edge. Pitfall. Asteroids. Missile Command. Now we were onto something.

6. If you suddenly became a millionaire, what would you buy first and why? A vintage white lotus or red one from the James Bond films' The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. I'm such a product of that period. I always dreamed I would have one of those. To this day I still look from time to time. But features must include the ability to go under the water and explode if someone tries to steal it.

7. Where in the world would you like to travel most? Japan and the land down under. I've been to the UK. I love it there, but Japan is definitely a place I want to spend a few weeks visiting. I want to go to Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli Museum or wrestle a croc. It's a toss up.

8. If you had a chance to go to space, would you do it? Why or why not? I would definitely do it. I would be terrified. Those people don't train for nothing. What an amazing opportunity to do something like that. It's an experience and a thrill just going down an impressive roller coaster. Can you imagine going to space? I would definitely want to be armed so that I could battle all those Aliens too and our our spaceship must have missiles.

9. What is your favorite movie or TV show? Well, my favorite TV show would probably be Star Trek: The Original Series and that will always be. I'm also a big fan of all things Doctor Who and at the moment I am really digging the new doctors. I loved the classic Baker series, but the new stuff is just so innovative, original and compelling. I love it.

10. Do you collect anything? Maybe a better question would be, are you a science fiction hoarder? It's always such a fine line isn't it? I mean, what's the difference between hoarder and collector? If it's neatness or being tidy, than I am a collector, but yeah, die cast ships, auto cards, toy vehicles and plastic figures, sci-fi magazines and other oddities litter the basement. I also collect thoughts and ideas. Rolling them into action is another story.

11. Chocolate or vanilla? If we're talking ice cream, I prefer Coffee, but Vanilla is the one you can put peanut butter sauce and hot fudge on as well as nuts, cherries, sprinkles and other dips. I pretty much love the blank canvas option of Vanilla. Chocolate is so dominant. It's like a dominant gene. Vanilla feels recessive. I'm giving this way too much thought.

Here are my answer to L13's questions.

1. What was the last reference book you used? The Dalek Handbook. It's not like the Daleks are my favorite Doctor Who villains or anything like that, but I wanted to educate myself on Daleks since they are such a huge part of the Whoniverse. Of course, that's such an important subject I know. Most people would shake their heads.

2. What pop song from your youth, used in a movie, immediately got you to react, "oh, no you didn't!"? I love my music you know, but I can't think of anything.

3. Steve McQueen or Paul Newman? For whatever reason it was Steve McQueen. I just thought he was the coolest. Paul Newman was a terrific actor, but I just identified with McQueen. I enjoyed a ton of his 70s stuff.

4. What foreign country, known for its cinema, have you yet to watch a movie from? I suppose India. I have not connected with any of the Bollywood films. With so much out there to see I have not had time to squeeze one in from India.

5. Favorite Samuel L Jackson film? The man is prolific, but I'll go with F. Gary Gray's The Negotiator [1998]. It was a popular picture, but it's damn good entertainment.

6. Favorite over-the-top performance from Face/Off: John Travolta as Sean Archer/Troy Castor or Nicholas Cage as Troy Castor/Sean Archer? It's been a long while since I've seen this crazy, over-the-top flick and I'll give my nod to crazy Nicholas Cage. I just generally enjoy him as an actor much more than Travolta.

7. Ketchup or salsa? Ketchup! No doubt. Salsa, well, really good, homemade salsa can be wonderful, but I use ketchup for everything but eggs and hot dogs. Gross!

8. What clearly dramatic scene from a movie made you inexplicably burst out laughing in reaction? These are tough Mike! Again, tough to remember anything like this. Normally, it's stuff like Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones' love scene that is cringe worthy, but I never laughed out loud. Still, seeing them jump on those round critters was a little goofy too. I may have made a funny face.

9. Wyatt Earp or Tombstone? In full disclosure I have not seen Wyatt Earp, yet I've seen Dances With Wolves and Open Range. So Tombstone gets the nod because it was a great interpretation of that period. I enjoyed it tremendously.

10. What was the latest, or earliest, movie screening you’ve ever attended? I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show [1975] at midnight as a teenager. The audience was filled with crazy performers. It was hysterical. I didn't care for the film really, but the nuts in the audience made it a blast. So I guess I saw the film as it shoould have been seen.

11. Who is your favorite writer? Doctor Who's Russell T. Davies has written some amazing stuff. It really blows you away. He would definitely rank. Glen Morgan and James Wong are incredible and wrote some of the very best for The X-Files and Millennium. Honestly, much of their material from Millennium served as an inspiration for my upcoming entry into the much anticipated book Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium. Their themes fed into the concept of my own piece.

Well, I hope you enjoyed these random thoughts. Thanks for the nod L.G. and L13. Cheers to all and now back to our irregularly scheduled program.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Gunship

I'm a sucker for mecha design. In fact, more specifically, and especially, when they come in the form of diecast collectibles.

This is a beauty from Bandai. It's a rendition for collectors of Nausicaa's Gunship from Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind. It was released in 2011 for a limited time and has since been discontinued. It is loaded with moving parts. Fans of the film would no doubt adore this fine craft. And honestly, who doesn't love moving parts?

I know. Does it come auto-sized?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nausicaa Of The Valley of The Wind Promo

The many faithful images of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, a truly bold title to match its bold tale.

The art of the manga.
The art of the DVD package.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind [Kaze No Tani No Nausicaä] [1984] was a true milestone that marked the arrival of Director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, a film with an ecological message, was a story that germinated from the mind of Miyazaki and from his own manga adventure tale of the same name. His epic labor was the result of over 12 years of sporadic writing culminating in a text of fifty-nine chapters. The long-running serial seeded and blossomed into a picture that is still considered to be one of his most stunning achievements. It is an unrefined, personal favorites and delivers inspired, unforgettable cinema. Of course, it would be the first to flower in a string of amazing Miyazaki masterpieces over the next three decades from his own Studio Ghibli.

Overflowing with ideas throughout the process of bringing Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind to life, an animating studio was sown and dubbed Studio Ghibli. Ghibli is Italian for the hot wind that stretches the arid Sahara. This wind was a breath of fresh air and it was another crucial moment in Japan's anime history.

Partners Miyazaki and fellow Director Isao Takahata [Grave Of The Fireflies] were looking to make a bold statement. Their vision: create films with a global appeal. Today, Studio Ghibli films spread universally like a forest wildfire, or those self-described winds across the vast desert land.

In the beginning, Studio Top Craft [The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn] was the animating group intricately involved in producing Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. Upon completion, Studio Top Craft closed its doors. Studio Top Craft President Toru Hara would become Studio Ghibli’s first CEO. Out of necessity, the fledgling Studio Ghibli became a priority so the talented animators could move forward on the equally wonderful Laputa: Castle In The Sky [1986]. With nowhere to turn, Takahata (who produced both Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind and Laputa: Castle In The Sky) ultimately laid the groundwork to get Studio Ghibli firmly established so together they could affect their destiny and make film history.

Takahata and Miyazaki collaborated together as far back as Takahata’s The Little Norse Prince Valiant [1968] for Toei Studios, as director and key animator respectively. Panda! Go Panda! [1972], directed by Takahata, soon followed with a screenplay and animation by Miyazaki. Takahata directed the TV series Anne Of Green Gables [1979] with scene design and layout by Miyazaki. Their fates were irrevocably sealed with lives clearly entwined as creators and friends.

Those early formative months for Studio Ghibli started with a phone call from soon-to-be Studio Ghibli president Toshio Suzuki, then editor of Animage magazine, to Miyazaki requesting an interview. It was Miyazaki’s directorial debut on the TV series Future Boy Conan [1978], in association with Takahata, and the film The Castle Of Cagliostro [1979], which caught Suzuki’s attention and lured him to Miyazaki. Legend has it that Miyazaki ignored Suzuki for the better part of his in-person visit. Suzuki was passionate about Miyazaki’s concepts and their bond strengthened as Miyazaki realized Suzuki’s aspirations were genuine. Suzuki was the determined producer, a rare breed, Miyazaki required and quickly appreciated. Simultaneously, for a time, Suzuki was involved in production at the upstart Studio Ghibli while managing his Animage responsibilities. He was largely accountable for the publication and serialization of Miyazaki’s long-running manga, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, of which the film remains quite faithful. The source comic debuted in Animage in 1982 and Animage publisher Tokuma pressed Miyazaki for a theatrical rendition of the manga. Juggling both positions became tricky and Suzuki followed his natural inclination to support the work of Miyazaki and Takahata. Suzuki followed his heart into the world of Studio Ghibli leaving the editorial life of Animage behind. It was Suzuki who fortified the studio vehicle that would become the voice of Miyazaki and Takahata’s creations. The culmination of these events led to years of the most colorful, fantastical and fruitful ideas espoused in animation to delight a planet. The proverbial holy trinity complete, Takahata producing, Miyazaki directing and Suzuki promoting, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind was their lovechild and to the world it was born giving us both a great film and the official establishment of Studio Ghibli to follow.

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind is an environmental love letter. It had to be a labor of love for Miyazaki to bring his beloved heroine, the first of many, to life on the big screen. It is a cautionary tale, complemented with Princess Mononoke [1997], concerning the balance of man and nature and the fragility of that co-existence. Kindred spirit Ashitaka of Princess Mononoke is the spiritual brother to Nausicaä.

Miyazaki set the stage here regarding his affection for female empowerment and wisdom. His stories are typically voiced through the courage of the shojo [young girl] as lead protagonist and heroine. Implementing a female in the lead is indeed one of Miyazaki's calling cards.

It is a parable of woman, man and nature within science-fiction fantasy. More specifically, it is the story of a young idealist and her special relationship with a unique breed known as the Ohmu and how their power could ultimately transform a dying world. This is the story of one of anime’s most beloved and shining characters, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind.

The groundwork for Nausicaä, as a character, drew inspiration from a Phaeacian Princess in Homer’s The Odyssey coupled with elements of an insect-charming princess from Japan’s Heian Period [AD 794-1185]. This was Miyazaki’s template for Nausicaä.

Earth, ravaged by pollution, is not the planet we know. Miyazaki paints a warning. It looks foreign and feels alien. Civilization is infected. One thousand years have passed since The Seven Days Of Fire incinerated the planet. As a result, the proliferation of a sprawling toxic jungle, The Sea Of Corruption, threatens to spread and destroy the surviving human factions and thriving areas that remain. It may arguably be Miyazaki’s darkest cinematic hour next to Princess Mononoke.

The first images we see and the sounds we hear are not the clean, life-affirming winds of the valley, but the gusting whirr of toxicity and twisting echoes of desolation. Skeletal remains and a lifeless, desperate world are met by the calm, soothing voice of Lord Yupa, eloquently spoken by Patrick Stewart. “Yet another village is dead… soon this place too will be consumed by the toxic jungle” concedes Yupa cloaked inside of vital, breathing apparatus. The establishing shots signal an epic tale of fantastic, apocalyptic survival, amidst the encroachment of despair.

The wizened Lord Yupa offers a nice contrast or balance to the wide-eyed innocence of Princess Nausicaä who sees the creatures of the toxic jungle through very different eyes. When we meet her she lays in a field of toxic spores as she gazes skyward into light, willowy poison flakes. It falls white like snow and despite its lethality she finds beauty in it.

Kiki’s Delivery Service [1989] paid homage to the apocalyptic mis-en-scene with Kiki’s own unique bright-eyed opening. In contrast, Kiki lays back to dream in a healthy, vibrant field of green reflecting Miyazaki’s artistic mood five years later.

Like many of Miyazaki's heroines, Nausicaä is tender, selfless, brave, deceivingly mighty and skilled, a truly heroic warrior princess. She lives with her people on a stretch of land upwind from the infestation of the toxic jungle called The Valley Of The Wind. A plethora of large windmills dart the picturesque countryside. It is a naturally shielded location, prosperous and fertile, protected from the deadly spores that permeate other lands. A vast and dusty wasteland and dead seas separate the valley from the toxic forests where mutant insects of all shapes and sizes roam.

The massive, caterpillar-like crawlers called Ohmu often swarm in herds with a predisposition for stampeding. The Ohmu are prone to fits of rage when molested by humans they view as invaders. Nausicaä empathizes and connects with the creatures’ plight. She intuitively knows their pain is misunderstood and utilizes her special power. She is a bug whisperer to bridge the communication gap between their world and ours. When enraged the herds wreak havoc and devastation with bright red eyes. The “insect charmer,” as Lord Yupa refers to Nausicaä, has a special way with all animals illustrated by her calming influence on a feisty fox squirrel that sharply bites her finger. Her patience wins the creature's heart.

Yupa is a legendary sword master revered across the land as an expert warrior who also acts as Nausicaä’s confidant and mentor. Yupa’s quest is to discover a solution to the toxic jungle. The film is filled with rich, beautiful characters and locations.

With Earth increasingly factionalized and segregated [sound familiar?], there is a warring, imperial tribe called the Tolmekian Empire misguided by the stubborn arrogance and hubris of Princess Kushana. The Tolmekians are rapidly asserting their authority across the surviving lands deploying scorched earth tactics despite potentially catastrophic consequences. The people of The Valley Of The Wind witness a Tolmekian ship crash inside their valley. Amidst a fiery blaze, Nausicaä heroically saves Princess Lastelle [in chains], a prisoner of the Tolmekians abducted from her Pejite homeland. Following her extraction from the flames, Lastelle warns Nausicaä the cargo must be burned. The downed, contaminated Tolmekian craft has made matters worse by infecting the valley with spores from its hull. They begin infecting the trees and the water. Think the infestation of bugs and fish from non-native countries that plague nations today.

Exacerbating the conflict, Princess Kushana has unveiled an embryonic sack confiscated from Pejite for her own devices. Inside is a giant, throbbing cocoon, one of the last remaining ancient and powerful warrior gods. These powerful beings once annihilated the planet then turned to stone. Yupa heard rumor of the unearthing of an ancient warrior. It lives, it thrives and it has been brought inside the unsuspecting valley.

The Tolmekians will stop at nothing to nurture the monster. The king, Nausicaä’s father, is overrun by Tolmekians. Nausicaä is overcome with fury. She ferociously thrusts upon them lashing out, like a feral animal, blinded by rage. Her irrational reaction is one understandably pure, basic, and linked to nature.b She mirrors the response of the Ohmu when threatened; creatures with whom she shares a natural empathy and connection.

At last, Yupa intervenes and calms Nausicaä, like Nausicaa calming the Ohmu. She regains her composure and implores her people to lay down their arms. War is not the answer. The Tolmekians urge the valley peoples to join them in resurrecting the warrior god. Princess Kushana makes clear her intention to use the creature to cleanse the Earth of the toxic jungle. The village elder warns such foolhardy actions will only end in destruction for all. Soon, the Tolmekians begin subjugating the people of the valley, removing their arms and enslaving them, but never breaking their will.

Later, Yupa finds Nausicaä has absconded to a secret place, a secret garden greenhouse deep underground through a concealed passageway inside the castle walls. He is startled to find her shrine of living plants, those found in the toxic jungle, alive and well, healthy and unaffected by the same toxic plague. He inhales breathable air and is witness to her refuge. It is a beautiful scene and a delightful respite and haven from the violence. Her place is irrigated with fresh soil and clean running water.

Flashing a little unexpected fan service. Not really. There's nothing gratuitous going on with Miyazaki folks. Back above, Nausicaä agrees to leave with some of the Tolmekians for Pejite. Whilst among the pillow-like cumulous clouds, the airship is attacked by a Pejite gunship. Engulfed in flames, she boards her own gunship inside the Tolmekian craft’s bay and escapes with Mito and Princess Kushana. Distracted by the sudden site of Princess Nausicaä, the Pejite pilot is shot down into The Sea Of Corruption. Nausicaä and company land in the waters below kept afloat by the buoyant aircraft. The Ohmu greet Nausicaä, but will not harm her. An intriguing flashback sequence from her childhood reveals clues to her special connection with the Ohmu.

The creatures inform Nausicaä the Pejite pilot is alive and she quickly takes flight on her personal glider housed within her Gunship fleeing the hostile Kushana. Kushana is brought back to the valley by Mito. Nausicaä rescues Asbel, the Pejite pilot, from certain death at the hands of the jungle’s creeping critters. He is the brother of Princess Lastelle. Nausicaä and Asbel fall deep beneath the toxic forest into a pristine, pure cavity where they discover life has renewed and the air and waters run clean. The sea has evolved and the trees are now filtering the poisons left by the ills of mankind. It is a terrific example of evolution and nature's ability to rebound.

Asbel and Nausicaä repair the downed glider and return to Pejite. Pejite is littered with the dead. Mangled bodies and bug corpses blanket the burning land. His people inform Asbel that they plan to retake the giant warrior using whatever means necessary including wiping out The Valley Of The Wind. By luring the insects to the valley everyone will die. Incensed, Asbel holds his people at gunpoint and tells Nausicaä to escape and warn her people. Asbel is knocked unconscious. Nausicaä attempts to enlighten the Pejite with the good news surrounding the jungle’s evolution. She pleads with them proclaiming the trees have purified the water, while the Ohmu are merely acting as sentinels to the land. She urges calm, but cooler heads do not prevail and she is taken captive as the Pejite take flight toward the valley.

Miyazaki implements Princess Lastelle’s mother as the life-affirming force of reason that frees Nausicaä so she may escape into the skies upon her glider in the hopes of saving her people. Once again, Miyazaki emphasizes life and salvation through the strength of the woman.

In The Valley Of The Wind, Nausicaä’s people initiate an uprising, commandeer a tank and weapons and begin fighting back against the warmongering Tolmekians. The battle ends in a stalemate as the valley peoples hold up inside an old, impregnable, metallic shipwreck along the seashore utilizing it as their makeshift fortress. Nausicaä races against time in the hopes of staving off certain disaster between the Tolmekians and her people in a deteriorating standoff. Her battered, peaceful people proclaim with dignity, “We prefer the ways of the water and the wind.” Miyazaki never preaches his message, because this is the nature of a people and the philosophy of the living. As Nausicaä fast approaches she spots a stampeding Ohmu herd and is horrified by what incites their wrath. The Pejite have harpooned and brutally bloodied a baby Ohmu dangling it before the storming Ohmu mass as bait to fuel their fury and drive them toward the valley. It's a truly brutal sight.

Mito arrives on the battlefield to warn everyone that Nausicaä, a proverbial herald, is coming to halt the impending onslaught. Despite the warning, Kushana awakens the giant warrior prematurely unleashing the malformed behemoth. Dressed in a red Pejite dress, Nausicaä startles the Pejite pilots and brings the Ohmu baby down. Nausicaä is shot and wounded in the process. She weeps over the baby Ohmu in a truly touching scene.

She is pained by its suffering. The baby motions to crawl into the toxic waters, but Nausicaä braces herself between the creature and the sea while acid singes her feet. Digging into the sand she pushes it back to safety. The Ohmu baby ceases its drive and connects with Nausicaä. The undaunted Nausicaä stands steadfast in her charge to bring peace and prevent the mass slaughter of her people and the Ohmu. Still, the enraged Ohmu throng presses onward through Nausicaä and the baby with bloodlust.

On the hilltop the warrior giant emerges dripping with deformity, a symbol of twisted humanity. Despite its weakened condition it projects a lethal beam of firepower laying waste to the incoming Ohmu. Inevitably its shape dissolves into a soupy, primordial puddle.

Nausicaä miraculously calms the Ohmu pursuit, which has surrounded the baby. Red eyes subside and give way to the serenity of tranquil blue. The herd of Ohmu lifts a lifeless Nausicaä toward the heavens with their tentacle-like feelers. The creatures pay an almost religious tribute to their beloved savior who stood before them willing to die. Revived, Nausicaa undergoes a Christ-like resurrection by her multi-legged friends who restore life. Her dress alters from red to blue, once saturated with the baby Ohmu’s blood, accenting the changing, hopeful emotional tone. The ancient writings foretold of a male hero who would come forth and renew life, but the answer to the prophecy was wrong instead giving witness to a young woman named Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind.

Nausicaä is symbolic of Miyazaki’s female ideal and would represent his standard for films to come. She is a selfless herald, the culmination of nurture and nature. Miyazaki illustrates this with a final shot of her blue cap beside a green seedling sprouting from the barren sands. Only through the nurturing touch of a woman combined with nature’s resilience will the planet survive. And so Miyazaki’s tale comes full circle, ending on a note of hope embodied by two key images that contrast to the film’s opening shots of skeletonized death.

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind is a brilliant action adventure, science fiction fantasy and drama too filled with the kind of heart and social conscience only Miyazaki could pen.

So what were US distributors thinking in 1995? It was originally released in the US as the heavily edited Warriors Of The Wind [1995] like so many Japanese films like those to hail from Toho. Miyazaki was justifiably mortified and ensured that a no edit clause was amended to all future licensing deals. This measure secured the proper treatment of all Studio Ghibli releases going forward with Disney Buena Vista. All studio productions are issued unedited and in their entirety as the creators intended them to be experienced. His film received the grand treatment and a second chance with Disney.

The hand drawn 2D animation is a marvel to behold even more astonishing when considering how old the film is. It has its shortcomings and from time to time frames do lose detail or backdrops get simplified, but most scenes are fantastic - a sign of things to come. For example, Nausicaä’s underground greenhouse is a breathtaking sequence (see clip above). Character designs are exquisite, Nausicaä in particular. Her stylish blue uniform is striking and still holds its own distinct style decades later. Her blue skirt and kinky boots, like the film on the whole has stood the test of time. Let's face it, those boots are made for walking.

Mechanical designs are simple but inventively retro from Nausicaä’s personal glider and flying gunship to the hulking, early steampunk-styled, metallic warships. The steampunk style would be highlighted for Laputa: Castle In The Sky [1986] as well and later Katsuhiro Otomo's Steamboy [2004]. Bandai released a beautiful replica of the Gunship in 2011.

Creature designs are astounding. Nausicaä’s feisty fox squirrel would find its way back to Laputa: Castle In The Sky. The mighty herds of caterpillar-like Ohmu with giant saucer-shaped eyes are magnificent beasts. Finally, the brief appearance of the fearsome warrior god is a classic. In fact, the giant warrior designs, explosions and deeply imaginative heavy tank mecha came compliments of fledgling animator/designer Hideaki Anno in a key animator role. Yes, these designs were by way of the future genius behind Neon Genesis Evangelion and Studio Gainax. Anno does with a disintegrating monster in the film’s conclusion what he would do for a variety of creatures in Evangelion - infuse his ideas with genius, horror and beauty.

Weaponry is ultra retro chic including Nausicaä’s modernized rifle and the Tolmekians’ medieval-like battle armor.

Mattes provided for the toxic jungle are soft in blue and grey colorations. The subdued colors enhance and illustrate Miyazaki’s message of a dying world. The classic look of the spore-infested jungle is like cover art from a 1970s fantasy novel. Be sure to see the film color on Blu-Ray.

Additionally, other techniques were utilized including cut paper methods for presenting the large Ohmu herds. This was part of the improvisational aspect of animation in the day without access to computer technology and CGI enhancements. Due to lower cel counts, at times, it lacks the fluidity of later Studio Ghibli productions, but it is remarkably painstaking in its artistry and holds up against much of today's computer-aided animation.

Composer Joe Hisaishi provides the score. The sweeping, beautiful opening music is trademark Hisaishi that Miyazaki would come to rely upon for years to come. Despite highlights, some of the compositions have not aged well over the years, unlike his later soundtrack work. Time has not been overly kind to this film score due to a slight over reliance on vintage early-80s era synthesizers. Those dated electronic bpms [beats per minute] have a tendency to date the material. Some numbers lack the sophistication of his orchestral, string-driven suites that would flourish in his repertoire later.

Buena Vista, the distribution arm of Walt Disney, provides yet another sterling Studio Ghibli remastering. Voice talent for the creation of the English dub includes Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Mark Hamill, Edward James Olmos and the always commanding vocal presence of Patrick Stewart [Star Trek: The Next Generation].

In the end, Studio Ghibli was official in 1985. Laputa: Castle In The Sky [1986] would follow and was the first official release by the studio. The gorgeous, timeless family classic My Neighbor Totoro [1988] would follow. Nevertheless, it was Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind that became the inspiration for the legacy of Studio Ghibli. There is clearly an elegiac and mournful tone to Miyazaki’s message represented here by the emotional pain and struggle of its characters. The tale closes on a hopeful note regarding the harmony of man and nature beyond apocalypse. Nausicaä is a traditionally heroic female leader and one for which Miyazaki often returns. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind is a rare, definitively original science-fiction/ fantasy that stands the test of time and rules as a template for the traditional Miyazaki heroine. The film would fortify the relationships of three wise, visionary men, Miyazaki, Takahata and Suzuki, for generations, in much the same way producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, director Ishiro Honda and effects man Eiji Tsuburaya would represent Toho through film, elevating anime and animation to new heights. Come, reap the wild winds of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's first true labor of love.

Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind: A-. Writer: Hayao Miyazaki. Director: Hayao Miyazaki.

Friday, August 17, 2012

George Cole

"I can't think of an other Anderson story which hinges upon a guest as much as Flight Path. George Cole is this episode's saving grace." -Richard Derbyshire, Timelash, FAB Issue 72-

It's FAB FRIDAY people! Hallellujah, jump back and kiss myself! We open up the book on all things spectacular inside the minds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

In honor of the release of the latest issue of Fanderson's FAB Issue 72, we look back at George Cole [1925-present] and his odd, but interesting and emotional performance in UFO, Episode 3, Flight Path as Paul Roper.

The latest issue of FAB features a segment dubbed Timelash which looks back with a good degree of scrutiny at the George Cole-fronted episode. It was indeed one of the stronger earlier entries in UFO and much of its strength is due in part to the qualities of one George Cole.

The retrospective look back at Flight Path comes as a result of the timely look at the entry in the aforementioned magazine coupled with my recent reading in Virginia of the book by Doctor Who actress, the late and lovely Elisabeth Sladen, Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography. It prompted me to deliver a FAB FRIDAY focus on the actor.

The peculiar Cole comes across as an odd sort in the episode, but is genuinely fascinating to watch. Who knows what shapes a man? Cole was adopted at a very young age and who knows how the mind works as we mature and filter experiences in our lives. We're all saddled with a good degree of damaged goods.

The late Elisabeth Sladen once worked with Cole in theatre and found the man to be incredibly guarded and protective of self. Several attempts by the beautiful actress to befriend the man and reach out a hand of friendship to him were met with "wall"-ed responses.

Of course, Cole was a significant talent and starred as one of the main cast in Minder [1979-1994] as Arthur Daley. Sladen offers only one insight into the man and we are certainly much more than that, but it is interesting.

Sladen recalled Cole "an odd fish." She certainly respected his credentials as an actor. Cole has been making films since 1941 and as recent as this century.

Sladen just "knew right from the off that he saw the world a bit differently." She continued, "He was very insular, as if he had a wall around him. His wife had a second child... and I congratulated him. No smile, no thanks. He just said, 'Well, it's not nice watching your wife in pain.'" These are certainly things one would remember from an encounter.

Years later, Sladen ran into Cole again and tried extending her hand, yet again, and a "Hello, George. Nice to see you again." Cole responded, "Oh no, you never go up to someone and say that." Sladen even tried on a third ocassion, but the wall was there again. "Such a shame as there are so many delicious stories I'm sure he could tell," she recounted in her book.

So George Cole is indeed an interesting, seemingly different sort. Well, George Cole's nature certainly plays into his ability and talent as an actor and this comes across without question in his performance for UFO, Flight Path. Be sure to check out the updated Flight Path entry here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. We'll call it the UFO, Episode 3, Flight Path Special Edition. Enjoy the weekend flight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium

The time is near. The somber, considered and beautiful cover to the new book Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium. The return of Millennium and criminal profiler Frank Black is assured through the publication of Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium [2012].

The book has been compiled and edited by Adam Chamberlain and Brian A. Dixon. It will be released by their Fourth Horseman Press this year.

The book is a wealth of information, interviews, essays, art work. I'm pleased and proud to announce I'll be a contributing writer for the book.

More importantly, creator Chris Carter himself, writer/producer Frank Spotnitz and actor Lance Henriksen all headline the project with their own very special contributions.

This reference work is filled with material and is sure to be a dream for fans of the series. I'm eager to read it myself.

Personally, I'm equally excited to note that showrunners Glen Morgan and James Wong have contributed to the book. These were two of my favorite writers throughout The X-Files (Home)and Millennium (The Thin White Line, The Curse Of Frank Black) and their work in Season Two of Millennium generated much of the focus for my own submission.

Furthermore, you'll be pleased to know writer Michael R. Perry, actresses Megan Gallagher, Klea Scott, Brittany Tiplady, Kristen Cloke and the infamous Lucy Butler herself, Sarah-Jane Redmond, have all signed on for the book. Cinematographer Robert McLachlan, wonderful composer Mark Snow and director Thomas J. Wright are all on board for what promises to be the greatest tribute ever printed to Millennium, a series that has been long overdue to receive such attention.

Contributing writers include an array of prestigious pens including science fiction and horror analyst John Kenneth Muir (John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Cult Movies And Classic Television), the thoughtful author behind Not Bad For A Human, Joseph Maddrey (Movies Made Me) as well as author Alexander Zelenyj, professor Paul Clark and others.

Among such a prestigious group of talents, additional essays will be presented by the men behind the magic of the book, artist/writer James McLean, Troy Foreman, Brian A. Dixon and last, but surely not least, the bionic Adam Chamberlain.

Be sure to visit the Back To Frank Black website for additional details and official press release. More to come on this exciting new book.

When the book finally does retail, all proceeds will be given to the charity Children Of The Night. Hopefully, fans of the series will be interested in looking into it as the date moves closer. A great deal of time and commitment by a number of people went into the project. I wish them great success. I'm also thrilled to be part of it. Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium promises to be a quality affair by a legion of those who care. This is who we are. And we are excited.