Kubo and the Two Strings (No Spoilers)


Image Source: Amazon.com

Kubo and East Lake Academy

Before I get into my impressions of the movie proper, I wanted to note the context of my seeing this movie.  I first heard about it from trailers and during the Oscars where it was nominated for a couple of awards (just checked via google and it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Visual Effects for 2017).  I then saw that after its theatrical run, it had come to Netflix and I intended to see it.  At the end of the 2017 semester, I went back to East Lake Academy during the final week of school just to see how things were going with my former 6th grade teammates.  They raved about Kubo and the Two Strings and told me how much the kids loved it.  I had always intended to see it, but one thing led to another and I would put it off again and again.  Finally, this week, it is set to go off Netflix the 6th (?) of this month here in the United States, so I thought I’d better make it a priority.

Kubo = A Great Animated Movie

I really liked the movie.  It is one in which the main character doesn’t complain about his circumstances.  He doesn’t always want to do as he’s told, but from the characterization and editing of the movie, you can see that he very much loves his mother and wishes that he could help her more than he is able to because of his young age.  He also wants to know his father better and that touches off the beginning of the story’s central plot.  While the humor is isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as, say a Pixar movie, still it has quite a bit of humor and their are a ton of verbal gags and quips that could easily become referential or memes in the future.

Kubo = A Film with a Message

Now, most films have a message or theme that they are imparting to the audience, regardless of whether it is explicitly made clear or not.  In Kubo, the theme is explicitly spelled out at the end, so if that type of thing bothers you, be aware that is there.  However, there are other themes, like fidelity, family (both the good and bad of familial life), and disability/ability that one can glean without having it told to the audience.  I personally don’t mind when movies do that in most cases (really, the only animated movie that I’ve actively disliked is Happy Feet which presented its theme in a very confusing way and in an utterly unrealistic ending).  Kubo isn’t like that–however, as its theme always derives from its story and the actions of its characters.  So, Kubo always makes sense in its formulation of story, plot, and characters.  And its fun, too, without being mean-spirited, which is ultimately what I think Happy Feet is–albeit unintentionally.

Overall Grade: B+

I think Kubo and the Two Strings is a strong entry in the animated movie field.  There are other movies that I like more than this one, but as both a story and a life-lesson, I think that it really has strong narrative and visual elements that help to make it a must-watch movie at some point.  As a Fantasy movie, it also works well, in that it allows the hero to access “magical powers” that are unique to the Eastern Tradition.  While the movie doesn’t fully explain his powers, it does explain the hero’s origin, which then suggests how Kubo can do magic (to explain further would probably be “spoilery” so I’ll leave it at that).  I really liked it and I only wish that I would have seen it earlier (when the teachers at East Lake were raving about it as I feel it would have been more impactful at that time because I wouldn’t have seen as many Disney animated movies and Pixar movies with which to compare it to.


Waiting a Week for Avengers Infinity War

No Avengers Infinity War for me this Week

So, as most of you know, I tend to go to the Marvel movies as soon as they are released (with some exceptions–I still haven’t had a chance to see Thor Ragnarok yet, although I’m hopeful that I will be able to see if for the Memorial Day Holiday at the end of May (fingers crossed).  While I haven’t looked to see if its being shown in Imax 3D at my local theater–pretty much the only way I’ll go to the AMC theater these days as I’m perfectly willing to wait the extra time until it is available for purchase due to the movie industry’s  desire to maximize profit by charging more for the Imax experience, but not offering movies in the 3D format as often as they used to–AMC still charges a premium price when showing movies in 2D when they’re Imax vs standard 2D.

EDIT: Did some quick googling and found that AIW was NOT shot originally in 3D.  However, it was shot using Imax cameras, a choice that happens rarely in the movie world, so it should look spectacular on the Imax screens even though the image will be 2D and not 3D.  I’m not sure how that will affect my movie going–2D is a much harder sell based on the prices at AMC.  At least with 3D, I can justify the expense by telling myself that it is something that I can’t replicate on my home theater.

It Isn’t All About the Money–Sometimes its about School

So, lest people think that I’m a poor college student (which I am at the moment, if truth be told), the expense of going to the movies (ticket prices & concessions) isn’t the primary driver of what’s keeping me away–this time, it’s school.  For the first time during my tenure as a PhD student, I have a Monday class with both a Final Exam and a Final Paper due after right as the AIW releases.  If Disney hadn’t moved up the movie by a week and kept it in its first Saturday in May release spot, then I probably would be going–2D or no 2D.  I have too much work to do and too much time and work invested in the class to throw it all away by not getting studying done or working on my paper over the weekend.

First rule of thumb for students (I tried to tell my 6th graders this time and again, but only a few listened), do your work first, then you have time to play.  This is a lesson that has been “hardwired” into me since my earliest childhood with daily “homework checks” at home.

So, all that to say that if the movie is still in Imax and it is a really good 2D movie, then chances are good I’ll try to see it next week, but I’m not going to risk my grade in my class (Plays Before Shakespeare) just because Disney moved the movie up a week in hopes that AIW would get 3 weeks to make money ahead of the mid-May release of Deadpool 2.  Something tells me that even if it isn’t in Imax, it will still be playing next week if I really want to see it.  Or–there’s always BluRay at the end of the summer.  Whenever I do see it, I’ll be sure to do a Mini-Review & add it my Marvel Movie Ranking Post.

Have a great weekend!



Perpetual Copyright


Image Source: SlideShare

As I was doing research on the character Kathryn Janeway for yesterday’s entry on Star Trek Voyager, I discovered something pretty amazing that I thought I’d point out.  The idea that we should have “Public Domain” for knowledge that is older has fallen out of favor due to lobbying by corporations.  Corporations are retroactively branding old pieces of knowledge and information as “new” and this will affect how we as consumers interact with knowledge and information in the future.

For instance, I was looking at Wikipedia and one of the entries on Janeway said that another actor (Genevieve Bujold) dropped out of filming and the actress that we now recognize as Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) replaced her for that role.  I was intrigued so I clicked on the footnote/citation and was taken to a nytimes.com article that explained the whole Janeway actor situation.  The date on the article is 1994.  However, if you read and/or scroll to the bottom, you’ll notice that the copyright date is 2017.  Now Congress has changed the copyright law recently with the Digital Millennium Act so as to address online violations of copyright, but copyright (to the best of my knowledge) is still defined as coming into play when the work was created in a fixed form or published (available for public consumption).  The copyright of the article should be 1994 which means that is when the clock starts for it to fall into the Public Domain (where anyone has a right to use it for whatever purpose), not 2017.

Now, I know that nytimes.com probably uses CSS or HTML 5 and the outer layer where the copyright notice goes is different from the layer/frame with the story, but it is telling that they leave the 1994 date for accuracy, but the change the copyright date to current year for economic reasons.  And nytimes.com isn’t the first place where I noticed this trend of companies “locking down” their information.  Microsoft was big into doing this when Windows was the dominate Operating System in the 90s and 2000s.  Their splash screens showed copyright dates of 19xx-20xx, implying that their technology was perpetual so don’t bother trying to decompile their technology because all of it (even the older tech) would always be theirs in perpetuity.

This is important because the Public Domain is important.  Disney grew to be the behemoth that it was through fairy tales that were in the Public Domain.  However, now NOBODY can even begin to reference Disney’s work without a lawsuit.  Imagine the irony.  Sure, you can do Snow White or the Little Mermaid, but your conception of those fairy tales had better be very, very far from what Disney has done or you’re risking a lawsuit.  This also hurts because the Public Domain needs to be refreshed with new ideas.  Right now, only corporations like Disney and Microsoft and the like (and really popular authors a la Stephen King) have the power to command vast empires of content (which is one of the reasons why I was so set against the Dark Tower), whereas those with ideas and a strong Public Domain might be able to remix works well enough to forge their own empires (i.e., become a new Disney–taking from the Public Domain and remixing old ideas into new ideas).  Perpetual Copyright is an idea whose time needs to go away if we want new ideas, new talent, and new blood to enrich our creative content.