This past weekend was NYCC 2015, and it did not disappoint. Having been to this convention a number of times, I already knew what to expect in terms of chaos, masses of people, and long wait times, and as such, was determined to avoid all of the above. For the most part, I succeeded, which is a rare thing for anyone who has been to NYCC or any larger comic/pop-culture convention in general. As I tell friends and newcomers to the event, the first rule to have a happy comic con, is to have absolutely no expectations. Don’t expect you will get into that panel with the star studded cast of so-and-so movie and XYZ TV show. Prepare to wait 4 hours in line for this person’s autograph only to have the line cap off right in front of you. And prepare for $5 water.
Earlier this week, I celebrated my one year anniversary working at Blue Sky Studios. Although I worked for a few months at a small company in NYC before this, this job truly feels like the first one on the path that I want for myself, and thus carries more weight. I remember as far as my 5th month in to working here, wondering if I would ever “get it” and I can confidently, accepting-ly say “no.”
I visited Seattle, Washington the first weekend of September, where my good friend moved. This is the third summer in a row where I made this trip, with the last two occurring after the SIGGRAPH conference. Despite not attending this year, my northwest adventure more than made up for my absence in LA.
Have you ever had a period of time where things felt oddly connected? Or maybe you had a few unrelated classes thematically spill into one another? That was my week in Seattle. This trip had a much welcomed, consistent theme running throughout the duration, starting with the plane ride there. In the wake of the first casting news announced for Steven Spielberg’s filmic adaptation, I decided to re-read Ready Player One. The book heavily features a virtual world, OASIS, where the characters spend most of their time, and where they truly live their lives. I’ve always had a strong fascination with more technology-driven cartoons, to the point where I probably would not be working in CG animation without them driving my interest into computers. The references to some of these properties, and others such as WarGames really got me excited about these types of stories, and knowing about some of the VR and AR tech being developed, such as the HoloLens, OASIS won’t seem like a pipe dream for much longer.
In the years that I’ve known him, my friend has been a source of inspiration and assurance throughout my foray into CG/interactive technology. Working at Mircosoft, he definitely knows a thing or two about technology. We’ve always had similar taste in/appreciation for science, science fiction, art, media, and technology, so I supposed my little adventures being related shouldn’t be too surprising. 🙂
I have been attending this convention for a decade now, starting when I was in high school and when I was very much embarrassed of my love of animation (particularly Japanese animation). A couple of unfortunate instances with classmates made me hide it from most people. But at my first Anime NEXT, I distinctly remember being on my phone the first night, walking around the hotel lobby after things had quieted down, telling my mom how comfortable I felt, being surrounded by a proper community. It was a much smaller con then, as conventions weren’t the pop culture juggernauts they are now. Nonetheless, ANEXT has maintained the charm that initially drew me to it. And, although I’m not the active fan that I was, I can still appreciate everything the medium and fans have to offer.
Although the dealers room and artist alley are always jam-packed, the beautiful grounds of the Garden Sate Exhibit Center allow for people to spread out and appreciate all of the costumes and props designed. This year, a Japanese rock band my brother and I really like, FLOW, headlined the convention, and did not disappoint. It was pretty interesting for my brother, our friend, and me to attend a concert and then immediately after go to a rave, but somehow it worked. The DJ had a very interesting mix of trance, house, chip tunes, and video game soundtracks mixed together. In addition to FLOW, another huge celebrity attended, Trigger Studios. They are well known for hit shows like Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking, and Kill la Kill. They also received a lot of positive attention for their short film Little Witch Academia, which had a very, very successful Kickstarter campaign that is funding a sequel due out this October.
Most years, I don’t really do much in terms of convention day-time programming, but I am very happy to say that this year I opted to attend a few panels. Growing up, voice acting was something I was interested in (if only to find a career I could possibly have in the animation industry) so it was interesting to attend a couple of panels hosted by professionals. I also attended a nostalgia-fueled panel about Cartoon Networks Toonami block with some friends who also grew up watching it. We also attended the annual unofficial Digimon Vs. Pokemon soccer game, which is in it’s 5th year running. My friend, who dressed up as a character from Digimon, got to play in the game, which I am admittedly jealous of. Perhaps some day!
One of the panels I went to was called “Women in Animation,” ended up being one of my favorite things about the con this year, all thanks to one woman. The panel featured three American voice actresses, and one animator from Japan, Ms. Aya Suzuki. My favorite activity of the weekend (other than seeing so many friends) was a panel called “A Video History of Anime,” which was educational, funny, and entertaining. I’ll be writing more about both of these panels in separate posts soon, as I believe they warrant larger coverage!
There were a few other panels I’d have enjoyed attending, but didn’t get to. But it’s very reassuring that the convention continues to provide some more slightly serious/educational content for fans. This post is already a bit longer than I’d like, so I will simply end it by being generally grateful to have a convention like this one be in my life for as long as it has, and to encourage any readers to consider attending one in their lifetimes, whether their interest be anime or comic books or even any other random thing like tattoos. There are conventions /expos/gatherings/meetups for all sorts of things. Finding a broader community is a pretty nice thing.
This past weekend, I revisited the video essays of Tony Zhou. It reminded me that there are still so many classic and contemporary live-action films that I need to still see. The first time I saw his essay on the visual comedy of Edger Wright last year, I had realized I’d yet to see any of Wright’s films outside of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
And so, with the lessons of Mr. Zhou fresh in mind, I’ve been re-thinkng my viewing of the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy, consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013).
I enjoyed them in the order they were released, with Shaun being my definite favorite by a longshot, and, enjoying End, but not enough to seek it out again. I found that my reasoning for this solely had to do with the character Simon Pegg played in each, and how much I related to them. Or didn’t. Mostly didn’t.
In terms of visual comedy, dialogue, cinematography, and overall production, they were all on a level playing field. I found myself actually laughing out at funny quips, slapstick, and noise effects, that much more appreciative of them thanks to Tony Zhou.
And that much more disillusioned by American cinema.
But the characters…In End, I despised Pegg’s Gary King with every fiber of my being. I understand that that’s how his character is supposed to be, and that even his friends can barely tolerate him. Hot Fuzz‘s Nicholas Angel’s frustration was palpable to me, but the sheer idiocy surrounding him turned sour to me, to the point where I was more annoyed than humored. Shaun was clearly the most relatable of the three characters in his struggle to be a better version of himself for those around him. It made me wonder that, had Wright’s films not been so visually appealing, if I’d have been able to sit through End. I honestly don’t think so, considering my indifference for the characters. The heightened storytelling also allowed for the absurd premises of the films to be more digestible too. I wonder what came first as Wright refined his arsenal…it would be interesting to see his earlier work, either as a student or making shorts or commercials. Was his style always so outlandish, even with more grounded scenarios, or did his desire to expand outside the norm necessitate his inventiveness? I’ll have to do some digging for a follow-up post!
On top of peaking my interest in discovering and learning from new films, Tony Zhou also makes me want to analyze films more, and better. Way better. He’s such a gem, who must spend hours researching and composing his essays, let alone editing them, and this post was written in a collective 3 hours over 2 months (because I’m a weenie and didn’t finish and post it when I first thought to write about it). I know my writing can’t be as good as Tony Zhou’s video-ing. At least, not any time soon. Which means I need to start now. That is the constant struggle.
I’m glad that watching video essays could spur me into seeing films that, although I never would have sought out, would (and did) thoroughly enjoy experiencing. There are so many more films from Tony’s and other people’s essays (both written and visual essays) that I’ve never even heard of, so I intend for this to become a trend.
Definitely check out the work of Edgar Wright and Tony Zhou!