Monday, 31 August 2009

I don't think so

I had these two links up my sleeve for a while.
They are two best of lists regarding all time best cartoon bands.
With the occasional exception I can't believe the authors of these pieces took their heads out of their arses long enough to actually look around and research a bit better, though I will admit both did well their number one pick even if neither appeared in each others list.
If by chance this is their truthful and honest opinion I never want to see their favourite book or movie list.

Top Ten from Topless Robot

Top 5
from msnbc entertainment

From the archive

Monday, 24 August 2009

Some nice pieces of footage to share.

District 9 has began screening last week and those who aren't aware it was made after Peter Jackson gave up butting heads with Hollywood Sudio execs over the Halo movie and felt he owed (then unemployed) Director Neill Blomkamp a movie.
So he made a full movie version of Blomkamp's short movie Alive in Joberg.
So here is the short film and a fan made trailer for the unmade Halo movie.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Who watches the Watchmen? Me of course.

I observed with interest when news broke of the making of a Watchmen movie.
The comic (graphic novel) that it was based on had become legend in fanboy circles and deservingly so, Alan Moore’s genius script with Dave Gibbons competent artwork have created an amazing epic saga that satisfies immensely brilliantly detailed with it’s fantastic storylines,
plot subplot and ultimate finish.
The word was out that Zack Snyder would destroy the adaptation completely and Hollywood would be responsible for screwing up another masterpiece to satisfy the masses and their own wallets.

They were wrong in my opinion, it turned out Zack Snyder was the perfect guy for the job, heaven forbid if Michael Bay got the gig, the movie was faithful to the book and only omitted this not totally necessary to the plot, the Tales of the Black Freighter (the comic book story inside the comic) being the most noticeable.
It was a major hit and deservingly so and I bought the special release dvd and because of that I decided to have a peek at some of the other releases that the movie has set into action.

Of course you can get re-releases of the 12 part comic release as an omnibus, some are ridiculously expensive and are for people who collect don’t enjoy.
For me it was the $AUS 39.00 soft cover version which is more than satisfactory, because it is what it is, the complete story as it was told.
For those who thought the whole movie for some strange reason inappropriate (and there are a few out there) the answer came in the Dave Gibbon’s produced Watchen, motion comic dvd.
This is the next best thing to the comic if not better.
Because it’s the comic, panel-by-panel animated.
Nothing is left out At 5 hours it is terrific value and gives you a chance to relive the graphic novel as a whole new experience.
Something that is a bit of a mystery in the dvd if I have to be a critical.
The narration is handled superbly by Tom Stechschule , I just wish they could of spent a few dollars hiring a woman to do the female voices. It is the only failing in a great production.
As with most film adaptation of his work Alan Moore has said he has no intention of ever seeing Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie and in the Motion Comic you would be excused if you thought he had nothing to do with it as he is not mentioned anywhere in the credits.
Released at the same time is the Tales of the Black Freighter, this short animation is a retelling of the comic within a comic from the Watchmen graphic novel.
Technically better presented than the Motion comic and with "300" star Gerard Butler doing the voice of the doomed captain it is a bit short.
Clocking in at 30 minutes and incredibly gory it is the cautionary tale of madness, as a stand alone product it could be considered a bit of a rip off what saves this dvd from such accusations is the accompanying short.
Under the Hood. The memoirs of Hollis Mason mentioned in the comic and movie.
This mockumentary delves deeper into the cult of the Watchmen and uses all the movie characters to fill in a lot of detail regarding the formation of the minutemen and the period between the early “Masked Heroes” and the Keene Act the outlawed the new brand “The Watchmen” Of course this is all in the original comic but it shows Zack Snyder's geruine good will and respect towards the original concept by being a big part of these additional projects and hopefully dispell the nasty attacks that first appeared when it was first announced to head the movie project.
I believe he has breathed new life into a 20 year + project that could have got lost in fandom.
Once again the is no mention of Alan Moore only the Dave Gibbons co-created.
Highly recommended.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Free plug for the dreamer in us all


Most of us associate tattoos with bikers, pirates and bad guys and the tattoo parlor a sleazy shop hidden in the back streets that open after the pub shuts and closing just before dawn.
It’s an image that is slowly disappearing as “skin art” is becoming ever increasingly more popular especially with females of all ages.
Why am I writing about tattoos?
For that answer we have to go back when I first moved to the foothills of Dandenongs

(This is the part where the lines of words go all wavy and blurry to simulate a time differential)

When I first moved into the beautiful area I now call home I made a point of exploring the hills that I look up to (literally) every morning . This involved pointing the car in the general direction of the mountain and driving, usually with the wife, the kids and sometimes just me.

The old Willowwoods hut

It was on one of these trips I discovered the hidden treasure that was Willow Woods and it’s owner artist Jamin Swaneveld. Willow Woods was a little six sided hut just off the Monbulk Rd outside Belgrave . Like many before me I had often sped past it without noticing it, well , one day I didn’t and was rewarded with a shop of handcrafted treasures and other mystical trinkets dedicated to art and style of JRR Tolkein’s Lord Of the Rings, CS Lewis’ Narnia and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea and of course JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Inside the cosy little hut that doubled as Jamin’s “Reality Bubble” there was always something to catch the eye such as an Apothecary filled with old manuals and chemical bottles, wands, candles, ceramic mushrooms as well as wizards and warriors that were decked out with amazing detail. I’d often go up on a lazy afternoon where Jamin had made sure the small creek that ran beside the hut was kept in it’s usual immaculate condition. Something the creek didn’t really appreciate as it flooded the hut on three different occasions.
I would chat and look at the new additions and people would peek their heads in and be surprised there was someone in and they’d either buy something or join in the conversation or complement on the lovely stock.

Jamin before

More often than not time would pass so quickly I’d have neglected the other chores I was suppose to do that day like mowing , gardening, repairing something or even visiting the In laws.
About two years ago Jamin announced Willow Woods had to close. With the arrival of another child and the lure of working interstate doing his chosen profession as a builder becoming to attractive as well as necessary for his families needs– he couldn’t keep the business going because of lack of steady customer traffic – so I had lost my little escape from reality of modern life in the hills and Jamin had to suspend his dream of a Wizard’s Work Shoppe for a little while longer.

Well Jamin did get to carry on with his dream but this time he took it down another path and this is where we return to the present and tattoos.

(Cue: wavy lines)

In modern times the tattoo or skin art has become as common as ear piercing and big beards. It is no longer the domain of sailors and bikers, these days if you go to the Supermarket on a hot day you can see the amount of women of all ages supporting some kind of a design or another on their exposed skin.
Jamin had also had a love of tattoos because they also combined his three loves drawing, design and fantasy saw an opening.
It started with an idea to build a tattoo shop that would offend no one but welcome everybody

Jamin Now

Aware of the stigma tattoos and tattoo parlours had he wanted to get together with like minded people and create something different.
Something that was welcoming friendly and in a position that made people feel safe and comfortable.
So with fellow artist’s David Hall and award winning local tattooists Mik Szirer , Jamin created Last Frontier Studio in Main Rd Upwey.

Dave in the comfortable working/design area

What separates Last Frontier from other Tattooists in the area is the way Jamin has created a shop of wonders.
As you step in through the front door you can feel the air of creativity. At first glance one would think you have stepped into a design studio for a magazine or hip architect. Next to the door is an original HMV phonograph, which plays classic 78’s. The old Apothecary sits on the wall above the front counter and seems bigger and has more wonders inside. Bookshelves line the wall above where the guys draw out designs and are full of reference books of their favourite artists. Down the other side of the shop runs a faux laneway straight out of Harry Potter.

The alleyway

All around are some of the wonders and sculptures that once adorned the shelves and walls of the original Willow Woods, sadly not for sale anymore because they are the last of their kind.

Some of the old scultures and artworks

The Apothecary

The same friendly atmosphere radiates from the studio as it did with the little hut in Belgrave before and Last Frontier is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best places in the east to get some “ink done”
Morning openings have also made it available to mothers who would like to adorn their skins and judging by what Jamin has encounter women may become the majority of people getting tattoos in the future.
Jamin says that recently he did three generation of one family: Grandma in her seventies, mum in her forties and daughter in her twenties. Sometimes you think times are changing in different ways and how things that you were led to believe were bad have become quite acceptable but then I’m reminded of the fact that the great statesman historian and war time prime minister Sir Winston Churchill’s mother had a tattoo that surrounded her waist.
Purely for vanities sake.

The above piece originally appeared in the BBCN Feb 2008


just to make this more interesting here is a piece I wrote about Jamin and Willowwoods in its heydays... first appeared on Red Bubble July 2007

Recently I moved to the foothills of the Dandenongs. After living for years on a plateau looking across from the mountains, it was weird looking up at them and instead of a hazy green or shrouded in mist I could count individual trees near the top.
This also meant there was no excuse for driving around them anymore since the summit was a short 20-minute drive.
This opened up a whole new world of discovery for me, and it was a great to explore my new interest with historical and collectable items. There are some absolute gems hidden in that mountain as well as some beautiful picnic spots and it has an overall feel of bohemian charm and a certain hippie throwback feel about it.
The most wondrous gem I discovered was Willow Woods.

Nestled about a kilometre down the road from Puffy Billy in Belgrave, (if you blinked you’d miss it and that would be your loss) Willow Woods is the creative home of Jamin Swaneveld his “Bubble of Reality”, as he likes to call it.

It is here that I come on a week end afternoon with my son and talk about Dragons or Fantasy novels, It’s great to go somewhere and have an enlighten conversation that doesn’t involve religion, politics, current events or even family. We would also marvel at Jamin’s sculptures and woodwork as well as the many other pieces of creative artwork he has draped around his 6 sided cabin next the bubbling brook. Jamin with his laid-back manner and enthusiastic passion for all things mystical or mythical make it hard not to be drawn into his world and be inspired to become involved.

Because of Willow Woods I gained a better understanding of my own abilities and how much I missed making things with my hands and pretty soon I was building my own little reality bubble in the shed at home and shared my sons passion for Lord Of The Rings, where we both worked on models and dioramas from the movie. I‘ve got a lot to thank the move to this part of town, the mountain and Willow Woods for the way I look at things these days.




Monday, 3 August 2009

Goriilaz new album?


Rumours are rife that the third Gorillaz album is due for release early to mid 2010 with the working title of PLASTIC BEACH.
This is exciting news not just for the millions of fans who buy the CDs for the music but for people like me who are huge fans of the artwork, videos, storylines and assorted ephemera that has accompanied the last two albums.
Gorillaz have become a world wide smash and the most popular cartoon/virtual band in the world but it’s Jamie Hewlett and his company Zombie Flesh Eaters that have brought the whole project alive.
There was talk during 2007-08 that there was to be no more Gorillaz because Hewlett expressed annoyance at having to draw the band members again, He was quoted as saying: "I'm so fucking bored of drawing those characters. But then we had a moment where we had a new angle on it... I'm gonna adapt them.” In a later interview Hewlett said, "they'll be the same characters, but a little bit older and told in a different way."
Thank goodness for that I say.
The visuals and characters are what make Gorillaz for me,
Gorillaz as a concept has never replied on the music as a guide to the storylines and character development and work independent to the songs.
Each of the singles' videos contained humorous and often ridiculous storylines and imagery
The videos will often only have a vague reference to the song being featured while creating a new direction or help show of one of the group members personality traits.
The first albums videos Tomorrow Comes Today, Clint Eastwood. 19-2000 and Rock the House were exceptional pieces of art that made the band staples on MTV who were a perfect vehicle for a carton band.
This also made it possible for the band to be represented through interviews and Gorilla Bytes short 1 minute long vignettes that gave a humorous look at how the band members interacted with each other and give more glimpses into their personalities.
Artistically the Gorillaz never stood still.
With each video came new and bolder (and expensive) clips and when the band started to win awards they were actually able to play live thanks to Holographic technology and equipment.
From the very start Gorillaz embraced the web as way to communicate with it’s fans and promote itself.
The home of Gorillaz it’s web site has made it unnecessary to have a television show like the Monkees, The Archies, The Chimpmunks, Monk Rock and other famous cartoon bands and at the same time giving it a bigger audience. has been voted Webby Artist of the Year: The Gorillaz, the world's most successful virtual band and a pioneer in fusing music and animation. and is heading for it 3 rd incarnation with the release of the 3rd album. The web page gives the fans a look at the hulking old house on the hill that is Kong Studios where Gorillaz live and make their music and reinvents itself with the release of each new album release or phase as they have become known.
When Gorillaz released Demon Days in 2005 It showed a more mature sound on record and a band who had discovered themselves during their hiatus.
Noodle discovered she was part of a secret experiment involving the creation of a super army involving child prodigies, Murdoch got arrested in Mexico and escaped, Russell became dispossessed and discovered a love of taxidermy while 2D regained some self esteem by returning home and working at the family run Fun Fair.
Introduced during this phase was the floating island with the lighthouse which for a while was tethered outside Kong studios.
Of course the quality of the videos skyrocketed with Feel Good Inc, El Mañana , Dare and Dirty Harry bring movie style animation to the video shows.
Phase two finished with Noodle disappearing during the filming of the El Mañana" video when the floating island was shot down by two armored helicopters.
Both albums (phases ) have been wonderfully chronicled in two DVD's
Celebrity Take Down and Slow boat to Hades.

The excellent book Rise of the Ogre catalogues the history of Gorillaz up to this point but leaves the storyline open for more craziness to follow in phase three – which caused a major meld down of fans when it was mooted during 2008 that Gorillaz may not return because creators Hewlett and Damon Albarn were growing weary of the concept.