Woman in the Dunes Short Review

Brief thoughts on the 1964 film by Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Are you shoveling sand to live, or living to shovel sand?

Haunting and incredible. So much sand. Fitting sound design. Visually striking.

It’s slow to start, but worth it in the end. The second half picks up the pace a bit and goes places I didn’t expect it too.

I don’t think I’ll be going to the beach anytime soon.

A Beginner’s Guide to Twin Peaks

An exploration into what makes Twin Peaks so great, and what folks new to the show need to know—entirely spoiler-free.

I unabashedly love Twin Peaks. It’s my favorite television series, and it occupies a good chunk of my mental energy. I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s so special. While doing so, I thought it would be a fun idea to create this: a spoiler-free beginner’s guide to Twin Peaks.

If you’ve never watched the show and are interested in what all of the hubbub is about, this is for you. Heck, if you’re already a fan, then you may enjoy this too.

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Twin Peaks”

What Makes a Book Cover Great

Thoughts and analysis on what makes an appealing and beautiful book cover.

Collage of book covers pt 1 (1Q84, Uprooted, Morte, The Setting Sun, No Longer Human)

As I work on the book cover designs for my own books, I keep asking myself, What makes a book cover great? Over the last few months, I have been saving my favorites to try to answer that question. Here’s what I have come up with.

  • Abstraction — I enjoy more abstract cover images that represent something in the book but can be interpreted in a number of ways. It gives me space to think about what it means, and that meaning may change as I read the book and as time passes.
  • Setting the mood — The Uprooted cover does a really good job of communicating the atmosphere of the book. The golden colors, typography, and imagery screams fantasy, and it is done so well.
  • Simple & clean — I dislike covers that are cluttered with text and images. In general, the less there is on the cover the better.
  • Contrast — Looking at all of these covers together makes it clear to me why contrast matters. The eye focuses on the typography or the imagery first, and then it flips to the other. It there’s no contrast, it’s difficult to comprehend both the imagery and the text. When they both blur together, nothing is distinctive.
  • Clear title typography — I want the title to be parseable and understandable from a distance. I love it when a book shouts, “Here’s my name!”
  • Tasteful typography — Picking the right typeface goes a long way. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or stylized. It needs to fit the theme, be clear, and not clash with the rest of the design.

The difference between a great cover and a middling-to-bad cover is huge. What one sees when they pick up the book every time they go to read it is important. Plus, if the book is forward facing at the store, it’ll catch people’s eyes. On digital bookshelves, the cover is what sets a book apart among a sea of others. Cover design shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Here are some more of my favorites:

Collage of book covers pt 2 (The Face of Another, Factotum, The Castle, Reflections, Men Without Women, A Wizard of Earthsea, Spring Snow, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Silent Cry, Kafka on the Shore, Ico)

I also created a Pinterest board where I’ll be adding new ones as I come across them.

What I Enjoyed, January 2017

Thoughts on the books, films, and music I enjoyed in February 2017—A Wizard of Earthsea, Game of Thrones, and more.

January 2017 was an unfortunately busy month for me. It was the kind of busy that threw off my balance, and I’m working on trying to find it again. Outside of work, I spent most of my time working on my personal projects, with some book reading and television watching mixed in.

Continue reading “What I Enjoyed, January 2017”

I Finally Watched Blade Runner

Thoughts on the film Blade Runner after truly seeing it for the first time.

When I was a freshman in college I had a professor that was very into Phillip K. Dick. We read a collection of his short stories and then watched Blade Runner. Strangely enough we didn’t read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We watched the film over the course of three class periods on a small CRT monitor with crappy speakers. I could barely make out the dialog. I had no clue what was going on. My most vivid memory is of Pris acrobatically putting Deckard’s head into a scissor lock. At the time and in the proceeding years until now, I didn’t get what all of the hubbub was about. People hailed it as the classic science fiction film. It’s historic. But to me, it was just that film I watched in class and didn’t really understand.

With the release of the visually impressive first teaser for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel set 30 years later, I felt like the film deserved a second chance. Wow, am I glad I gave it one.

Note: there are a few light spoilers below.

The settings throughout the film feel so real. They’re gritty and industrial, not sterile and modern like so many futuristic depictions. In a lot of ways, the city of L.A. in the film feels like its own character. It’s the kind of world that I want to spend more time in.

The predicted technologies, while off in some ways, still feel futuristic today. Little touches like the apartment lights automatically turning on in Deckard’s apartment when he walked into a room had me wondering, Why don’t the lights in my apartment work like that? Speaking of lighting, it is done so well in Blade Runner. It sets the mood and completely fits with the visual design throughout the movie.

The contained story works really well. I think the scope of it leaves enough to the imagination and doesn’t squander itself. I loved the ambiguous ending. It’s abstract and mysterious enough to make one wonder what it all means. Those kinds of endings keep the mystery alive, which I think keeps something churning in one’s mind after it ends.

The “Tears in Rain” speech at the end is very well known, and I found it to be very impactful. It gave me goosebumps. It’s a great performance. I think all of the actors did a great job.

The only think I didn’t really care for was Deckard’s romance with Rachael. It was forced, literally and figuratively. It seemed there was a checkbox for “add romance scene.” Everything else with Rachael, the Voight-Kampff test and Deckard conversation with her about how she’s a replicant, made sense to me. But the way the romance progressed felt like a stretch.

One of, if not the, most lasting parts of the movie for me has been the music. It’s incredible. I bought the soundtrack and haven’t stopped listening. I really enjoy writing while listening to it. It really puts me in a certain place. A dark and dreamy futuristic place.

Since finishing the film, I wanted to enjoy some stories with a similar atmosphere, so I started reading the manga BLAME! It seemingly draws some inspiration from Blade Runner and other sci-fi, and I am enjoying it. The art style is pretty unique. Blade Runner also has me excited to watch Akira again. They both nail the atmosphere of the futuristic cities. The world needs some more grit and neon in it.

I would say, with little doubt in my mind, that Blade Runner is now one of my favorite films. I’m very much looking forward to watching it again soon.


Additional Notes

  • I watched The Final Cut version.
  • I bought the Blade Runner Trilogy soundtrack by Vangelis, which has two discs of music from the film and one of original music inspired by the film. I highly recommend it.
  • I watched Blade Runner on an iPad, although it seems like the kind of film that would be even better on the big screen in a theater. Fingers crossed I get the chance one day.