Wednesday, August 10, 2005


When I got home from work yesterday, I set to sanding the cabinets and a sheet of paneling I'd stained over the weekend for my office. The cabinets went quickly--producing a glossy, slick finish after just a few light rubs. That's what I love about sanding sealer! But the paneling was a different story. The surface was much rougher, and I had to sand much more vigorously to get a smooth finish. Even then, the result wasn't slick, and what's more, I was going through sandpaper like it was going out of style. After about three quarts of sweat and not quite half way through the job, I had an epiphany: Yours truly hadn't gotten around to coating the wood with sanding sealer. D'oh! I can be sooooo stupid sometime.

I watched Steamboy last night. I've been looking forward to it. Directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo--the guy who did Akira way back when--this one apparently didn't do the gonzo box office everyone was hoping for. A lot of folks were disappointed with it, from what I understand. And if they went into it wanting Akira II, I can see why they wouldn't like it. Steamboy is just about as far away from Akira as you can get. It's like comparing The Matrix to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It's like comparing apples to silicon chips.

For the record, I like Steamboy more than I liked Akira (although to be fair, I was first exposed to Akira via the inventive, groundbreaking manga, which left me very let down with the movie's more pedestrian resolutions). Steamboy is, as if you couldn't tell from the title, a steampunk adventure. Lots of steam-powered high technology here, in the setting of Victorian England. Most of the characters are British, and there's a fascination here with turn of the century Europe that is evocative of some of Miyazaki's work. In fact, this film feels very much like Otomo's effort to do a Miyazaki-style film. The anti-war elements are there, the wonderous flying sequences, the clever, self-reliant kid who's fascinated with technolgy, the misguided adults willing to sacrifice too much to achieve personal goals... Heck, it's very much a 19th century remake of Castle in the Sky.

The trouble with Steamboy is that it's too long. Everything unfolds at a languid pace. After a promising opening set in Russia-controlled Alaska (which got me jazzed--I really wanted to see more of this) it downshifts for the next 30 minutes, introducing a bunch of secondary characters that don't have much to do, then lets them wander around before the bad guys show up and the plot picks up steam. But even when things start happening fast and furious, they still take their time about it. Almost every scene goes on a minute or so too long, dialog is drawn out, too many sub-plots are added in but then dropped without any resolution. That said, I still like it. It's probably not for everybody, but I found it fun and inventive and while over-long, not tediously so. Check it out when you get a chance.

Now Playing: Gustav Holst The Planets

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