I received the Blu-ray box containing The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Mirrormask this week. I have not yet had a chance to watch the latter (which I've never seen), but I can say that both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth look outstanding in high definition.
The Dark Crystal, which has always been very difficult for home video to present with any sort of accuracy (even, surprisingly, the "Superbit" DVD edition), is finally given the justice it deserves. Sequences were designed with a specific color scheme in mind, which mean that previous video incarnations had a monochomatic, filtered appearance to them. The additional resolution and color saturation of the high def format allow for the film to have the painterly appearance I vaguely remembered from the theatrical prints, and it now looks like a Brian Froud illustration come to life, which was the exact intention of Froud and Jim Henson.
Since the focus of The Dark Crystal was to immerse the viewer into the world being depicted onscreen, I can not express how much more effective it is in this format. The image has such detail and depth that the extreme attention to minutae that characterized the production now pays off in a way that it hadn't since its theatircal release. Oswald Morris' crisp Panavision photography is razor sharp. The sound is an improvement over the previous lossy codecs, but it is still a front-heavy stage with mild distortion in the music track, which I suspect is an element of the sound mix (the isolated score track on the original DVD has not been carried over).
Despite the fact that it is less of a visual cornucopia than The Dark Crystal (although it is still quite visually striking), the more conventionally shot Labyrinth has tended to fare much better on home video, and for the first time the earlier film eclipses the latter in picture quality. This is not due to any defect of the transfer, however, it is because of the different nature of the photography and special effects for each film. Labyrinth had more location photography and as a result tends to be a bit grainer; it also has more optical effects (most of the effects in The Dark Crystal were achieved in-camera). All of these issues are extremely minor and are aspects of the original film that have been accurately transferred to video. The movie looks outstanding, with the same level of detail as The Dark Crystal has. And, of course, the Dolby TrueHD track is much better than either the Dolby Digital or DTS tracks on the DVDs; the sound on this film was much more dimensional than that for The Dark Crystal and has none of the distortion issues on the music track, which presents both Trevor Jones' score and David Bowie's songs in full and rich sound that makes the old EMI Manhattan CD sound pretty pale in comparison.
While The Dark Crystal is about presenting a world that the viewer had not seen before, Labyrinth is the film that resonates more for me because it is about finding the proper place in one's adult life for fantasy. It is also rather subversive in that it uses the Great and Powerful David Bowie as a representation of sexuality. Each time I see it, I am surprised anew at how well-wrought the movie was, both as a contemporary fantasy and as a metaphor for adolescence.
There are a few concepts that need to be added to the set of cartoon cards for Risk, including "Blood Lust" and "Six Shooter." I have done preliminary illustrations for each, but have to refine them before they can be added to the existing set.
The game last Saturday was notable because "The Golden Hand of Wisdom" was awarded during the game to yours truly for the first time since its inception, the reasons for which have been long forgotten. I earned it by keeping track of whose turn it was during the placement phase, which we always somehow mess up. We still messed up (or rather I should say Nate still messed up), but on the whole that normally chaotic portion of the game proceeded without a hitch. Those who are superstitious may relate my receipt of the Golden Hand to my luck with the cards this game, but I am too pragmatic for that sort of thing. And it's not like my victory was easy, either. At one point I had to mount a two-pronged attack on Brad, sweeping through him in Asia, which was expensive and difficult and exhausting (what with all of the die-rolling), only to realize after that massive campaign that I still had to sweep up the rest of him in Europe from South America (which meant plowing through Pete's border armies in North Africa to get there). It was worth it, though, as that move left me with no less than eight cards and only one opponent with only two. And my victory dinner of Vietnamese food was most delicious.
Dan and I went to the street fair on Atlantic Avenue on Sunday and saw a performer there named Tiga Jean-Baptiste, who does not seem to have a website outside of MySpace. They put on a great show, it was fusing 70s funk with various Moroccan, African and South American idioms as well. They have a gig at L'Orange Bleue Bar on 430 Broome and Crosby in Brooklyn on October 19th, which I might go to.
Speaking of live music, only two days left until I get to see The Fellowship of the Ring at Radio City Music Hall! I am most eager not only to experience the film with live music, but also to meet up with some people I only know from online!
For those wondering, the title of this entry is part of the tirade one of the little creatures in Labyrinth goes on when Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) marks the direction she's heading in with her lipstick, which is paraphrased in the Blu-ray's subtitles.