Sunday, July 4, 2010

Feelin' Steamy

Whew, busy day. Cleaned the house, got my hair cut and styled (apparently I now look like Kristen Stewart playing Joan Jett, take from that what you will) this a good thing? (my hairdresser seemed to think so. Also no, my hair's not black now, it's still brown-pinkishnesss)

and had an Evil Dead movie marathon with BFF Jon because he's in the Evil Dead Musical and had never seen the movies (yes, there's a musical and it is by all accounts awesome and Jon's most likely going to be a raping tree and that can only result in hilarity).

Cuz I see this and think: "You know what this is missing? A musical number!"

So yeah, anyway, gonna talk about steampunk now because I can and because way back when I first started this blog I had planned to have steampunk movies, books and whatnot be a more frequent topic. So there. I actually ended up with a bunch more movies than I originally planned so this will prolly be a two-parter (which actually works out pretty conveniently with Sean Connery Movie Sunday). But first, what exactly is steampunk? According most internet fangirls, it's taking whatever the hell you want, slapping some lace and some gears on it and calling it a day. (As a nerd, I hate steampunk-poseurs. "Lookit me in my corset and tiny top hat! I'm all steampunk and stuff...Tesla!")

Basically it is a form of speculative fiction centered generally around the Victorian period because that is when the Industrial Age was kicking off and everyone was writing books about the death of aesthetic pastoralism (countrified, small town innocence) in favor of a cold, mechanical Modernism (and I should know, I've had to read them all for class). Perfect time to introduce some ridiculous technologies. So steampunk can be boiled down to "hey, what if we gave the Victorians robots and just let them go apeshit?"

This, hopefully.

Steampunk embodies a sort of Victorian Idealism for the future paired with an uncontrollable desire to make everything brass, fitted with steam rockets and capable of flight. Fun times. Steampunk has become a juggernaut of genre and is no longer limited to weird geeks who spend too much time reading weird and geeky books but has hit the mainstream, and while this means more posers and trend-hoppers and teeth-grinding when a girl in a mini-skirt and high heels with gears glued on talks about how she's so steampunk and that the Victorians rocked, it also means we get to see a little love for the genre in the form of movies. Some of these are ridiiculous bullshit, but some of them are awesome. Here are three awesome ones:

1. Steamboy

As you can see from the poster, the lunatic behind the batshit-crazy masterpiece that is Akira made this one, so you know right away it's quality. Steamboy tells the story of Ray, a boy living in Manchester in alterna-England! He, like his loony grandad and slightly supervillain-y father, is an inventor, tinkereing with flying machines and such. But when grandaddy sends him a package that could revolutionize steam engines, various corporate baddies starts chasing his ass around trying to steal it. So Ray must avoid them, stop his father from the whole "going mad with power" deal, and also put up with a bratty rich girl named Scarlet O'Hara. Yep. Visually, this movie is fantastic. It's like an orgasm for you eyes, there are so many intricate details and stunning visual effects, especially when this mobile castle thingy explodes in the Thames. Storywise though, the movie never really takes off. There's not a whole lot of cohesive plot going on. Still, totally worth watching if just to stare at (and listen to. Steve Jablonsky takes the musical score and makes it his bitch).

2. Atlantis: The Lost Empire

This poor movie puts up with a lot of crap. It is the odd duck of classically animated Disney cartoons in that it has no songs, kicking action scenes, a racially diverse cast of characters and strong female characters. And we can't be having any of that. Atlantis is, I think, a very underrated film. It boasts a great voice cast, Michael J. Fox, James Garner and Leonard Nemoy among them, and encompasses several steampunk themes of exploration, idealistic views and large mechanical things that go boom. It is heavily inflluenced by Jules Verne's 20,00 leagues and has a very retro-style animation based on the design styles of Hellboy creator and general awesome dude, Mike Mignola. The story focuses on the dorky but lovable Milo Thatch, a linguist slaving away in the boiler room of the Smithsonian in the early 1900's. He believes he's found the key to finding Atlantis and crazy millionaire Preston Whitmore is willing to bet a flotilla of futuristic subs and wacky characters with specializations in medicine, tunnels and explosives that he's right. The ensuing adventure leads to the lost city, which is actually very much alive and full of white-haired people with flying machines and power-crystal thingys. Friends are betrayed, life-crystals are stolen and climatic battles ensue. It's a strong story with great action sequences and it's just very light and fun. Very much worth looking up.

3. The Prestige

I can see some people fighting me on this one, and indeed it is more loosely connected to steamunk than the first two, but this is my list so if you don't like it, go make your own. And anyway, this movie does boast illusionist magic in the Victorian(ish) era, a Tesla (played by David Bowie, no less) and a horribly terrifying Tesla machine which does things that I won't ruin for anyone who hasn't seen the film. I feel like the machine alone qualifies it as steampunk though. Anyway, the film is about two magicians engaged in rather psychotic rivalry: the showman Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and the quieter, but slightly more awesome Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). We follow them through the years and watch as their savage game of one-upmanship gets more violent and out of hand, and Angier go crazy trying to figure out how Borden pulls off the greatest trick of all time: The Transported Man, where Borden appears to somehow teleport. The two men throw their lives away chasing each other and trying to discover their secrets. It's a thriller and puzzler and though it drags a bit in the middle, the ending twists you around, slaps you upside the head and calls you Sally (that's a good thing). It's Christopher Nolan doing what he does best: fucking with the audience. And the audience loves every minute of it.

So that's it for now, I know I left tons out but it's a quarter to four in the morning and I'll have more tomorrow. For now, go glue some gears and cogs to your pillow and have steampunk dreams. 'Night!



    But, seriously, Tesla could kick Edison's ass. Fact.

  2. Didn't know Atlantis was designed by Mignola! Every day's a school day.

    Good stuff!

  3. Simon: kid, you need to finish high school, get into a college down here and just be my damn best friend already (for crying out loud!)

    Unwashed: Yeah I didn't know that for the longest time either. But when you look at the style in Atlantis and compare to like, the animated Hellboy movies, like Blood and Iron, and you can really see the similarities.

  4. I have seen all of these movies. I don't know what this says about my movie tastes.

    (I have to say though, my favorite by far and away is Atlantis. I adored that movie when I was a kid and still do.)


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