ocean waves (tomomi mochizuki, 1993)

This is the seventeenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 17 is called "GKIDS Week".

For over a decade, GKIDS has been a godsend for the distribution of foreign, independent, and adult animation. Through a large line of Blu-rays and theatrical re-releases, this company has opened the door to the world of animation for those looking to cross the threshold. Recently, they obtained the rights to distribute the films of Studio Ghibli, so those are definitely on the table here, but I would suggest maybe taking a look at the many other wonderful films GKIDS has made available. Unless you haven't seen Porco Rosso. Get on that shit, a pigman flies a plane. So dope.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film distributed by GKIDS.

It was suggested that we look beyond Studio Ghibli, but Ocean Waves is a Ghibli I'd missed, so I picked it. It is an anomaly in the Ghibli universe, the first one directed by someone other than Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. It was meant to be an opportunity for some of Ghibli's younger members, but it went over budget and over schedule. The film ended up on Japanese television, and wasn't seen in the U.S. for more than 20 years. It's something of a neglected stepchild, which is unfair, but in truth, Ocean Waves is not a typical Studio Ghibli release. It tells the story of a love triangle among three high school teens, and is absent the element of fantasy we've come to expect from films like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, which predate it by a few years.

The young woman isn't as interesting as the adventurous girls that feature in Miyazaki movies. In fact, none of the three main characters are particularly interesting, and the plot is rather mundane. Ocean Waves is never less than pleasant, but it rarely rises above that. The film becomes more affecting near the end, as the characters mature, and the theme of nostalgia is more effective once we've gotten a sense of what the lives of these young people were like in high school.

Ultimately, Ocean Waves might play better for an audience unfamiliar with Studio Ghibli. Fans of the studio bring expectations that aren't really served by the movie, and it's not a classic on the level of Princess Mononoke, but that's hardly a reason not to watch it.


music friday

Mikey Dread, The Warfield, 1980. Opened for The Clash. Dread, a leading DJ in Jamaica, hooked up with The Clash around 1980, touring and recording with them, especially on Sandinista! One of the best things to come out of their collaboration was "Bankrobber", the single of which had a dub version from Dread. Here are both:

Gang of Four, American Indian Center, 1980. One of the more surprising concerts of my life. I loved the first Gang of Four album, Entertainment!, but for some reason I didn't figure out from that record that they were a great dance band. Seeing them live convinced me. Here is that show:

Pee-wee Herman, Wolfgang's, 1983. I'll be honest, the site and date are educated guesses. This was before Big Adventure and Playhouse. As I remember, we had seen Pee-wee on Letterman. He toured with The Pee-wee Herman Show, which HBO showed at one point. Our seats were in the front, stage left. That's Phil Hartman as Captain Carl.

Jim Lauderdale, ?, late-80s. I know I saw him. He was an opening act. But I don't remember who was the headliner, I don't remember the venue, I don't remember the date. I remember my wife wasn't impressed. He's best known as a songwriter for folks like George Strait, and people from Elvis Costello to Lee Ann Womack have recorded his songs. There's even a documentary about his life:


revisiting heathers (michael lehmann, 1989)

You never know what will make you watch a particular movie. My wife and I are sitting around, and even though it was just a couple of hours ago, I can't remember the context. But I said, "I love my dead gay son", and by her response I could tell she didn't get the reference. Turns out she'd never seen Heathers. So we cranked it up.

I liked it as much as I ever did. I wrote about it here back in 2010. It was pretty short:

Its high points are very high indeed, but ultimately, it lacks the courage of its convictions. The ending is a copout, although Winona looks great covered in soot, cigarette hanging from her lip. That’s part of the problem: Heathers doesn’t reject the concept of cool, it just redefines it. This would be a better movie if they used the ending from Rock and Roll High School. None of this is meant to reduce its status as a cult classic.

It's half a good movie, but I love that half. It was fun to revisit it.

Heathers prisma


geezer cinema: the social dilemma (jeff orlowski, 2000)

It's odd ... I agree with much of what is in The Social Dilemma, and since it's a documentary with an argument, that agreement is crucial. But the presentation is lacking.

Jeff Orlowski trots out an impressive array of experts who know social media in part because they helped invent social media. They are sufficiently frightened about the negative side of social media that their concerns have an impact on us as we watch. But as the film progressed, I realized what was missing: actual, concrete evidence. There were a lot of anecdotes, there were a lot of connections that didn't always understand that correlation does not imply causation. And all of this was further muddied by an odd device wherein Orlowski occasionally switches to fiction, dramatizing the life of an ordinary family being controlled by an A.I. played by Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser. It's a bit like those true crime television shows that feature recreations of the crime.

And the attempted connections ring false. We're shown charts demonstrating that non-fatal self harm and suicide have risen drastically in recent years. We see a fictional teenage girl who reacts badly to being made fun of online. We're told that "A whole generation is more anxious, more fragile, more depressed", and "that pattern points to social media". Well, that may be true, but I'm not going to believe it because of a fictional vignette about a disturbed teen, nor am I convinced that self harm and suicide can be blamed on social media simply because all of them became more prominent at the same time.

This is frustrating, because as I said, I tend to agree with their arguments. But tarting things up with recreations isn't the best way to get those arguments across. And while you'd think watching The Social Dilemma would scare us away from our phones and our Facebook and our Instagram, it seems just as likely to do the opposite. I'm reminded of my mother, back when TV was no longer allowed to advertise for cigarettes. The only time cigs were on the screen came during anti-smoking ads. My mom, a serious smoker, once told me that every time one of those ads came on, she reached for her pack of cigarettes, because the commercials reminded her she wanted a smoke.