Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 
The Sleep Deprived Crank
by editor Michael Hutchison

Discussed this month: The New Title for the column ... Final Fantasy movie (with spoilers) ... the Spider-Man teaser trailer ... Lord of the Rings ... comic collection woes

As you've no doubt noticed, this column is now titled "The Sleep-Deprived Crank". Given that I'm now trying to get as much sleep as possible, a title indicating that I'm awake at 3:00 a.m. is not giving the kiddies the right attitude. I'm now trying to go to bed earlier.

Yes, in answer to the inquiries I've received about last month's column, the CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine that I've been using when I sleep has made a big difference. I sleep much better now. Thanks for asking!


I just saw "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within".

What a horrible horrible movie! I mean, they HAD to animate this because if it had been done live action with real characters everyone in the audience would have detected the high crap factor this was giving off!

First off, I should say that the only character I liked was the "Bad Guy" because he was the only one that made sense. In fact, if not for the fact that he was voiced by James Woods (Giveaway #1), was not as handsome as the other characters (Giveaway #2), was a conservative militarist (BIG Giveaway #3 - this IS Hollywood, after all) and had his eyebrows shellaqued with a permanent scowl (Giveaway #4), I would have thought he was the smartest person in the picture. It's too bad that they write him as a three-dimensional character...because from his first appearance you know he's the bad guy due to the standard Disney bad guy characterization.

(i.e. Bad people are always ugly and sneering and wear black.)

The general is soooooo evil because he (gasp!) wants to use a weapon -- that has been shown to kill the bad guys -- to (get this) kill the bad guys. BOO! Hiss! Go back to Nazi Germany! How dare you try to kill the creatures that terrorize our planet?! Boooooo!

He is opposed in this by a "scientist" who believes in spirits and that the planet has a lifeforce called Gaia. (I always thought of this as something spiritual. Actually, the movie reveals that it's a visible electric blue mush that you can see if you drill about 1000 feet down...which I assume is this movie's way of telling George Bush not to drill in ANWR.)

ALL of the movie's "spirituality" is similar to this.

  • Human souls have been theoretical for thousands of years, but here you can actually see them ripped out of people. (You'd think that would yield a 99% religious conversion rate for the surviving humans!)
  • The "bad guy" scoffs at the idea of spirits, yet this movie apparently has spirits that can be pinpointed on a tricorder to within a square yard.
  • Another spiritual revelation: ghosts can be shot. With lasers.

Despite what appears to be a remarkably large amount of scientific progress on the religious-detection front, the spiritual nutball Dr. Sid offers no proof of his beliefs when using them as a legitimate beef against the plans of the "bad guy".

Dr. Sid is given oodles of credibility by the movie: he has a soft voice, he cares, he is meek and he speaks New Age gibberish. Similarly, General Hein makes a LOT of sense but the movie doesn't take his side; instead, he has the aforementioned appeal of a Disney villain and then engages in subterfuge and power plays.

Make no mistake: the general has logic on his side. He wants to use a proven weapon to fight a threat to Earth; Dr. Sid's objection boils down to "God would be angered; instead, let me summon the magic pixies to save us all. And yes, I'm a scientist."

General Hein then orders that the heroine be watched, for he suspects that she is being swayed by the aliens who have infected her. This is done with the deviousness and cunning of Nixon plotting a cover-up...which is necessary to sway the audience lest they realize that he's entirely correct.

Aside from the "militarists always wrong, New Agers always right" mindset, there are plenty of other problems. The cookie-cutter characters who make up the supporting members of the team are never fully realized...and yet they're the only ones I wanted to see surviving at the end. The movie plods along making Ferngully look more entertaining. The cheap emotional sentiment and glib lines shouted while firing big guns would make J. Michael Straczynski blush.

And General Hein gets killed because the "villain" must always die in movies like this. I think he had to be killed off because had he lived he'd only have to say, "Okay, you were in fact right this time, but how was I to know that chasing 8 magical macguffins around the world and changing your chi or whatever to transform the color of the aliens' energy would WORK? Sure, you were right this time, but are you making the case that rational decisions should always be subverted to the beliefs of any nutcase with a theory?" Yeah, killing him is a lot easier than admitting that touchy-feely crap only works in made-up movies.

Yes, Aki's hair is amazing. All the graphics are stunning. Unbelieveably stunning.

So?

If anything, that makes me even more disappointed. I can't imagine the creativity and man-hours that went into rendering this lousy movie. It bugs me that the visuals alone will probably generate oodles of profit for this film when a fine picture like "The Iron Giant" (or to a lesser extent, "Titan A.E.") fails at the box office.

Why couldn't they use these tools to make a movie with the overall story quality of The Iron Giant? And why must I overlook weak characters, horrible plot, terrible pacing and bad direction just because the visuals are good?

I should mention my friend Cy loved it, but he's
A) a Final Fantasy player and fan
B) a Democrat
so either one may have affected his receptiveness to the film.

That's not meant as a "bash" towards Democrats...but, given that the movie is against the idea of the large space weapon in favor of touchy-feely getting along, and given that the very liberal Roger Ebert noticed this too and used it as a reason to LIKE the film, I do consider it worth mentioning.


The Spider-Man teaser trailer

The shot of the helicoptor caught in the spiderweb is so lousy (it's obviously a toy) that I must agree with the people who say this was rushed to meet a due date and the finished movie will be better. Still, I think it was a bad decision to go ahead with a trailer that leaves the audience underwhelmed. How many people will expect the movie to look like that from beginning to end? And is that good advertising?


I'm finally starting on "Return of the King"...which is probably a bad thing. Once I've read this book, it's going to be a looooooonnnnnnnng wait for the movie adaptation!

One nice thing about the Lord of the Rings books being made into a movie trilogy is that it prompted someone to finally reissue Chuck Dixon's comic book adaptation of "The Hobbit". Yay! I wish I hadn't already paid $20+ for my copy on eBay!


I bought a six foot long plastic table at Sam's Club and sorted my comic books for the first time in almost two years! I re-sorted them, catalogued everything and now have reams of paper to plug into the comic book database that Simon Brown created for me. It'll probably take me a few months to compile, but when it's done I'll truly be able to revamp my comic books for sale site and perhaps build a data-driven XML site. COOL!

We'll see if that happens.

In the meantime, here are a few tips that I've picked up after years of collecting:

  1. Cardboard or plastic dividers are rather expensive...but if your collection spans more than four boxes and/or ten series, they're well worth it!
  2. Create Archival Boxes. These are boxes that are filled with concluded series, completed series or series you don't collect anymore. This way you don't have to haul them out much at all. I have a box filled with Guy Gardner, Firestorm, Damage, etc... and that puppy will stay buried on the bottom unless somebody buys an issue from me.
  3. In one box, put all of the Active Series that you are still collecting. If the series are too big (100+ issues, perhaps), consider putting them in a separate box and just adding to the permanent box when there is a sizeable handful to move.
  4. Don't write on your boxes with marker, except to number them. Shuffling is inevitable for the active collector. You can keep track of what's IN Box #1 on a separate sheet of paper. On the other hand, if you have labeled the box "Batman/ Detective/ Robin/ Nightwing", what happens when you need to move one or two of those to a new box? Scribbled out black marker looks terrible.

I hope this helps! I'll be sure to let you know when my revamped comics site goes up!

 
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