Mysterious Cities of Gold: One of the greatest children's anime series is now on DVD!

This is for those of us lucky enough to grow up watching Nickelodeon, or in France.  Back in the 80s, children's programming was top-notch with shows like David the Gnome, Belle & Sebastian, Adventures of the Little Koala, and Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics.  But the one that really stuck by me all these years was this little known series, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, a French-Japanese collaboration about the legend of El Dorado, that aired just 39 episodes on Nickelodeon around 1989.

It all but sunk into my memory except for the image of towers of gold and a big golden condor, but I do remember that I loved it, from the characters to the plot to the way it captured my imagination.  It was brainy, it was historical, and it was fantastic.

I sort of re-discovered it sometime in college and almost wept with joy when I found someone had uploaded the main theme onto an 80s nostalgia website.  I went on a quest to find out more, but the DVD at the time was only available in France.  People had created clandestine DVD-rips of the show and were selling them on eBay for like $15.  I bought one.  It was terrible quality, but I was willing to overlook it because, well, that's all there was.

Until now.

As of April 2009, this wonderful show has been released onto DVD in the United States!  It's quite pricey (the deluxe edition going for $78 on Amazon, but only $48 on  But probably worth it, no, for 39 hours of viewing pleasure, and so much happiness?

Reverse Jailbait: Taylor Lautner in Interview Magazine

How many ways do I love thee?? Let me count the ways:

1. Love how you are so humble - the more days pass the more down to earth you seem
2. Love how you bob your head to some far away music
3. Love those natural canines of yours
4. Love the way you talk about fans
5. Love the way you always seem to find words with out stuttering or running your hands through the hair
6. Love the way your skin must feel *sigh*
7. Love the way you smile at every sentence
8. Love the way you look at someone from under your lashes
9. Love the way you seem so Jacob-like with out any effort
10. Love the way you just seem so easy going, friendly and absolutely JAILBAIT for us!

That was a comment from an eager (presumably over-age) Twilight fan about the new interview that surfaced from Interview Magazine. I appreciate the not-so-subtle jab at the film's other heartthrob, Rob Pattinson, who always seems to "stutter" and run his hands through his hair. TEAM JACOB all the way.

I am watching this and trying not to think inappropriate thoughts as in the opening sentence, he lets the world know just how young and fresh-faced he is.

Buffy + Taylor Swift's "Love Story" mashup

Let me let you in on a little secret.  Directly following that week and a half I was completely consumed with Twilight, I decided I had not had quite enough of teen vampire melodrama, and I went straight to the library to check out seasons five and six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I hadn't really watched it at the time that it aired, so I totally missed out on all the cheeky monster-bashing.  

And why seasons five and six?  Because, of course, I prefer Spuffy over Bangel any day--I realize somewhere in season four, after Angel left, it became a totally different show.  Really, I just love Spike.  I'm a lover of anti-heroes, remember?  I can't get enough of his sly wit.  And the chemistry was scorching hot.

At any rate, I watched some fan-made videos on YouTube (there are SO MANY!) around the Buffy saga.  One of the best ones, alas, is a tribute to Bangel, but the girl who put it together (a Spike fan) proves herself to be an enormously talented editor.  She strung together a whole story based on the song, not based on the show.  Too bad it didn't turn out with such a happy ending for Bangel.

Interesting short film

I normally ignore stuff that my parents forward me because they are usually hoax-type warnings and powerpoint files of inspirational bible verses paired with nature scenes and cheesy music.

But, this was just a link to a YouTube video, and so my curiosity got the better of me and I clicked.  The film is just a tad heavyhanded, but rings rather true.  Happy father's day!

Underrated fictional (anti)heroes

The whole thing about Twilight and Team Edward/Jacob got me thinking about how women and girls seem especially susceptible to becoming enamored of fictional characters.  I am no exception.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, think of Mr. Darcy--how many girls have shamelessly swooned over that one? (Hint: 50,000 on Facebook alone)  Or Gilbert Blythe, from Anne of Green Gables?  

In all practicality, falling for a fictional character makes zero sense.  But here's where the often irrational nature of the female psyche makes all things possible--something about the way we're wired that makes it fun to eschew reality.  I wonder how real-life guys feel about this, because I rarely hear of guys going gaga over fictional women (with exceptions like Psylocke from the X-Men).

Thing is, I'm not here to talk about the conventional heroes who exercise romantic superpowers over legions of moony womenfolk.  As I had eccentric (and eclectic) taste in the opposite gender throughout my adolescence, it follows that my pick of fictional characters would be similarly offbeat/oddball.  SI share with you some of my favorite anti-heroes, from books and movies, who capture my imagination.  Sometimes they get the girl, but usually they don't.  Sometimes they die.  But they are all human, deeply flawed--some seek redemption, and some remained unabashed villains.  Yet somehow they win you over with their bravery, tragedy, humor, undiluted charisma, or all of the above. Reader Poll: who are your favorites?
  • Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities: one of my earliest literary loves, for his brokenness and unexpected heroism.  "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
  • Mr. Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre: Ornery and flawed, yes, but way more witty and sexy than dull old Mr. Darcy.  "Do you think me handsome, Jane?"
  • Jacob Black, Twilight Saga: I already explained this one in my previous post.  "Normal humans run away from monsters, Bella,  I never claimed to be normal.  Just human."
  • Jeff Rankin, Stranger With My Face: I don't expect anyone else to have read this one, but it's one of my favorites, and I loved this irascible outcast with the half-burned face as much as the heroine did.
  • Calvin O'Keefe, A Wrinkle in Time: Probably the most well-balanced and well-adjusted pick on the list, but who doesn't melt at his laid-back, sweet game?  "Well, you know what [Meg], you've got dreamboat eyes...You go right on wearing your glasses.  I don't think I want anybody else to see what gorgeous eyes you have."
  • Russell Hammond, Almost Famous: I wrote on my old blog when I watched the bootleg cut: I'm hopelessly in love with Billy-Crudup-as-Russell-Hammond.  As all romantics/idealists/delusionals should be.  This discovery made possible by Billy Crudup's impossibly expressive eyes and rockstar haircut, and some revealing footage that was cut from the theatrical version.  "Miss Penny Lane, I'll tell you what rock 'n' roll will miss, the day you truly retire.  The way you turn a hotel room into a home, the way you pick up strays wherever you go.  That cream coat in the middle of summer... That real name that you'll never reveal."
  • Harrison Bergeron, from my favorite story by Kurt Vonnegut: He's so bad-ass. "Even as I stand here - crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived!"
  • Nino Quincampoix, Amelie: He's lost, lonely, and a bit odd.  We're lost, lonely...and a bit odd.  Instant "affinity."
  • Shogo Kawada (川田 章吾) a.k.a. Boy #5, Battle Royale: Take bad-ass guy, the only one who ever survived the Battle Royale (presumably by killing everyone). Add selfless self-sacrifice.  Swoon.
  • Brendan Frye, Brick: Passionate high school outcast stops at nothing to unravel the mysterious murder of his true love. "Throw one at me if you want, hash-head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you."
  • Ben Hawkins, Carnivale: Taciturn, tough and infallibly decent young healer who never asked for an extraordinary destiny.  "I dunno, I'm not really interested in all their jibber jabber."
  • Tony Stark, Iron Man: Bombastic, obnoxious, and the one superhero whose "alter ego" you prefer.  Men want to be him, and women want to f him. "Let's face it [Pepper], this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."

And the best of the rest:
  • Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I never got into the show, but based on what I know about it, Spike is a veritable paragon of anti-heroism (is that an oxymoron?)
  • Edward Scissorhands: Poor odd creature. Don't you just want to give him a hug? "I'm...I'm not finished."
  • Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Thou art a villian.  An intensely charismatic (and powerful) villain. 
  • The Beast, Beauty and the Beast: "I let her go...because...I love her."
  • Atreyu, The Neverending Story: He was beautiful, courageous, and he loved his horse.  Who didn't cry when Artax died?
  • Jack Merridew, Lord of the Flies: I don't know why but I always had a thing for the evil choir boy in this book. It's a little f'ed up, I know. "Sucks to your ass-mar!"
  • Justin, The Secret of NIMH: Ok he is literally a rat, but so heroic.
  • Chris Chambers, Stand By Me: played by the incomparable River Phoenix.  "Not if I see you first!"
  • Madmartigan, Willow: Hilariously irreverent.  "Oh, I'm sorry, peck! Peck! Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck!"
  • Akira Fukushima, Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai): Ok so he's like 12 years old but he had to grow up so fast in this heartbreaking tale about a mother who abandons her four children.
  • U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin, Con Air: "That would be loquacious, verbose, effusive. How about 'chatty'?"
  • Irvine Kinneas, Final Fantasy 8: Interesting fact from Wikipedia: "[In creating Irvine,] Nomura tried to strike a balance between not overshadowing Squall and not becoming too unattractive. He gave Irvine a handsome appearance, but a casual personality, hoping that this would make him less attractive than Squall."  Little did Nomura know, the casual personality actually makes Irvine more attractive, especially when grinning and carrying a large gun.

How I feel about the Twilight Saga...

It is exactly, I mean exactly, like these stupid crushes I used to have in high school where I would actually be embarrassed to admit I liked the guy because he was usually kind of oddball, dorky or just plain weird.  Ashamed but strangely drawn in.  (Nothing, by the way, like the way I feel about my favorite founder.)

It's weird to think that one can have a crush on a book series, but looking back at the progression of the past week, it developed exactly like that.  So does, I guess, my relationship with many other books/movies/tv shows that I get really into.  It starts with curiosity, then denial, turns into compulsion, and finally fullblown addictive obsession.  (Sooner or later, more or less, I recover.)  In this case, I watched the movie over the weekend out of curiosity, to see what all the fuss was about, and then I've been sleeping at 3-4am this week because I stay up reading the books.  And now all I want to do is talk about it to anyone who will listen.

I still feel pretty conflicted about it.  The writing is totally atrocious - I tell people the dialogue is like reading my old AIM chat logs from high school, and the rest of the first book is like my high school diary where I would pontificate on the various perfections of some guy I never even talked to.  I think that's where it really sticks in my side, and maybe that's the genius of it--Stephenie Meyer managed to make us see just how absurd and silly we all were at that age (or still are).

I don't like most of the characters either - I despise Bella Swan and I think Edward Cullen is tiresome in his tortured angst.  The actors from the movie are another story; I think they are all adorable, even Kristen Stewart, whom I hated in the movie, but in real life she's like this spunky, awkward-funny amalgam of Janeane Garofalo, Alexa Chung, and Avril Lavigne (only not so bratty).  And yes, the chemistry between her and RPattz is like, super hotttt!

But I read some of the first book because, I don't know, I was feeling indulgent.  Then I read the synopses of the others to get the gist of what happened.  I started New Moon, and then the character of Jacob Black hooked me and drew me straight into the vortex of Twilight hysteria.  He's the one realistic, multi-dimensional, funny, tragic, incorrigible, naughty, beautiful, humane, immature, and wonderfully charismatic character in the whole series.  Plus I've had a mild fetish for Native Americans since I was young (I know.  Totally objectifying an entire culture).  When I got impatient with the smarmy, saccharine, and boring vampire-Bella bits, I started flipping through and only reading the parts that involved Jacob the werewolf.

I wonder if I should start the fourth book.

I'm actually thinking of getting a t-shirt that says "TEAM JACOB: I run with wolves."  When did it become okay to be this dorky?  And let's not get into how dirty us women feel about the sunny, likable, and newly ripped (but not quite legal) Taylor Lautner.  Control yourselves ladies, he's only 17.

And finally, the New Moon trailer:


Surprised by Drew Barrymore's Fresh Air interview

Fellow NPR listeners may have heard Terry Gross interviewing Drew Barrymore this week in anticipation of Saturday's premiere of HBO's Grey Gardens, a dramatized version of the 1975 documentary about Big and Little Edie Beale, aunt and cousin to Jackie O. whose existence descended into abject squalor.

I actually find Terry Gross's voice terribly smug, I don't like her giggly laugh, and I think she often cuts people off/interrupts them rudely.  But, I listen to her show because she does interview some really amazing people - accomplished artists, actors, thinkers, influencers.  I suppose people listen because of the great line-up and the great line-up comes because of the large audience.  Talk about network effect!

I was really surprised and impressed to listen to Drew explaining her approach to her character, the "anguish" over estranged relationship with her mother, and how the legacy of being born into a family of actors has made acting an integral part of her soul's creative outlet.  I know a lot of people assume Drew is kind of a ditz based on her roles in an endless string of romcoms, but I thought she sounded incredibly educated, drawing on a wider and more descriptive vocabulary than most people I know.  

I've also got nothing but admiration for how she went from drug-addicted wild child to stylish 20-something to confident, mature businesswoman/producer... and now to thoughtful director.  She's accomplished more in her first 30 years than I hope to accomplish in my lifetime, for real.

Listen to the full interview (34 min.) here.

EDIT: On another note, how do I get a hooded silk jumpsuit like the one Drew's wearing in that picture!?

If Audrey Hepburn has a funny face, then I'm Quasimodo.

I didn't particularly care for Breakfast at Tiffany's and I definitely prefer the 1995 version of Sabrina to the original.  I did enjoy Roman Holiday a lot and I actually really liked My Fair Lady - because it was witty/funny, not really because I'm some kind of Audrey fanatic.

I just watched Funny Face for dinner and was struck by how modern it was.  I could see where movies like Down With Love got their inspiration and I thought it was an interesting commentary on the world of haute couture.  Not to mention that I can't get over just how good Audrey and Fred Astaire really were at singing/dancing.  True all-around entertainers they were.

Anyway it's still a stretch for me to buy someone like Audrey Hepburn as a mousy chick who needs to get made over into a swan.  I wish more people who made Pygmalion-type movies would pick someone who looks really crazy in the beginning and does a total 180, like the main character in Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom - you can hardly believe it was the same actress from beginning to end.

My favorite quote about Carnivale

Episodes 3 and 4 were not quite as strong as the first two (I need more weirdness), but I'm not complaining yet.

From a reviewer on Netflix : "To say that this is a show about a carnival during the Depression is like saying Hendrix played the guitar: It really doesn't convey the essence of what you will experience when you watch Carnivale."

It's an incredibly interesting experience watching this show in the era of our own Economic Downturn, with a lot of chilling parallels as I'm reading more and more about the Dust Bowl (what an epic, massive disaster of Man Abusing Nature!), migrant workers who traveled from there to California, and the socioeconomic dynamics of the times.  Lessons for us all.

Carnivale: an Underrated Cult Favorite

 Where was I when the critically acclaimed HBO series Carnivale ran through its sadly curtailed and short-lived two seasons (2003 - 2005)?  Let's see...oh right--I was scraping by as a lowly Hollywood assistant with no expendable income to spend on outlandish extravagances like premium cable. 

I stayed up past my bedtime the other night watching the two first episodes of Season 1 on DVD and basically freaking myself out (my roommate was gone so I had to keep all the lights on!).  This is some strange, disturbing stuff, but somehow I couldn't look away.

The show has been on my Netflix queue and List of Things to Do for several years running because of 1) all the great things I've heard about it and 2) my long-standing celebrity crush on Nick Stahl (since 1993's Man Without a Face--yes, Garry, even though he was a pansy in T3), which has outlasted even my long-standing celebrity crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt (since 1994's Angels in the Outfield).  I mean, I even dragged my friends to watch Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill, something I am none to proud to admit.  

Anyway, I can safely say that no role has been better suited to Mr. Stahl, and he has never been better, than in the role of Ben Hawkins, the taciturn, young, and recently orphaned Okie farmer with healing abilities that gets picked up by a motley band of carnival freaks.  The show is thick with mythology, almost too smart for its own good, and yet strangely compelling, especially if you're a romantic.  Because there is something deeply and darkly romantic about the whole idea of social outcasts eking a living alongside the ordinary folks they entertain, who love and yet despise them, even though the whole thing's rather violent and dysfunctional.

Episodes 3-4 arrive in the mail today.  I'm so excited!