Changing Education Paradigms

I once received an F on a creative writing assignment because my “scary Halloween story” about kids being killed by the ghosts of fallen soldiers as they crossed an ancient battle field after dark “missed the point of the assignment and the spirit of the subject.”  Sometimes I think I would have done better in school if my school had been better for me.

These are the things I think about when I consider having a child…

The animation is cool, but this is only part of the talk.  The full thing is here.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

9 out of 13 nots.
for great animation but a not so great story

If I were a fanboy of all things Star Wars, I might be inclined to proclaim that this movie, The Clone Wars, is the best thing since sliced bread.  Since I am not, however, I maintain that when you consider it, sliced bread is in fact still pretty awesome.  If you know you, you might have heard me say some form of that before, and basically it means that I feel the movie was a great attempt, but that it missed greatness.

The Clone Wars is set during… the Clone Wars.  It happens between episodes II and III of the Star Wars Saga.  Someone has kidnapped Jabba the Hut’s son, and since the Republic needs use of the outer rim space travel lanes to move troops, the Jedis agree to help find and rescue him.  Of course, nothing is ever simple, and lots of things go awry.

The biggest problems I have with the film stem from the same place that the problems I had with the new trilogy came from: George Lucas is just making shit up.  And I don’t mean that in a “he’s a creative genius” way… I mean that in a “he doesn’t even read his own work for consistency” way.  So, despite it never being mentioned, not once in the three original films, or in the third new film (the most logical place for it to have appeared), Anakin gets his own paduan.  Which despite its complete out-of-left-field nature, makes perfect sense given Lucas’ (and others) incessant need to manufacture adolescent characters for kids movies, because they clearly would never be interested in any movie that didn’t have a kid in it.  (Note: The original trilogy of Star Wars films, which was wildly successful, contained no children, not even pre-teens.)  The character of Ahsoka feels completely shoe-horned in.  Dialog between her and other characters smacks of the “Oh yeah!  Well, I may be young, but I’m no kid!” attitude Hollywood loves.  Its just… annoying.  And every time I hear the word “youngling” I want to punch George Lucas in the face.

Outside of issues with the characters and story, the film itself is beautiful.  It sits in a place that I can only describe as a blend of computer graphics and painting.  The textures and shading used adds a unique element to the film that lifts it from being an ordinary CGI affair.

I will say, though, if you go to see an animated movie this weekend, see this instead of Fly Me to the Moon.


Last night, despite still being ill (more on that later), I went to a screening of the new movie Beowulf.

The story of Beowulf has been done so many times that I figure everyone knows it by now, so I’m not going to review that part. It is what it is, and its still pretty good.

This movie version is a computer animated tale. It uses the same motion capture system that brought us The Polar Express three years ago. I had the same problem with this film that I have had with every single computer animated movie in the past as they’ve approached realism: eyes and mouth. Two things that computer animation hasn’t gotten quite right yet, that eyes are not steady (people tend to flick their eyes around even if they don’t realize they are doing it) and that mouth movement actually affects the entire face (when a person yells, the jaw opens and it pulls the skin of the entire face, affecting the nose and eyes as well).

Now here comes the compliment… Beowulf is the first computer animated movie to make me forget that the eyes and mouth are wrong. Going in to the film, I did not know it was a digital 3D movie. The animation by itself would have been amazing, but rendered in 3D and popping off the screen it was breathtakingly phenomenal. Astounding.

Because of this, I highly recommend going to see this movie at the theater. The big screen and the digital 3D absolutely makes this film be exactly what Beowulf should be.

World of Warcraft

One of the reasons I’ve held to as to why I didn’t want to play World of Warcraft was that I found the graphics to be too cartoony… caricaturish. Since playing through some of the beta and playing live over the weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was both wrong and right in my opinion.

I was wrong in thinking that the level of caricature animation would detract from the game to the point of being unplayable. Its not. In fact, the caricatures aren’t as pronounced in most places as I originally perceived them to be. Yes, the human males are bordering on being too much the “square jawed hero” type. But overall the character graphics are highly stylized and create a pleasing fanciful playing environment.

I was right, however, when it comes to the gnomes. When I look at the cruel detail of the orcs, trolls and undead… when I look at the regal stature of the humans and night elves… when I look at the stoic strength of the dwarves and tauren… I see a beautifully drawn fantasy tale, like a novel come to life, even supporting the need for the square jawed human males… and then a gnome runs in and the fantasy, for me at least, collapses. They are the over-stylized uber-cute giant-eyed product of a country in love with the retarded almond eyes of Japanese manga. The gnomes could easily have been childlike and mischievous while retaining their dignity, but instead we get infant toys. They just rub me the wrong way, and after wandering around the world for a few days, I realized that it is specifically the gnomes that originally turned me off from the game.

I can only hope that none of my friends in game decide to play gnomes, I might have to play on the Horde on a PvP server just so I can kill the little disgusting things.