The movies created by legendary director, Hayao Miyazaki, are high examples of what is possible in art. His animations embrace the fantastical but also transmute it, adding his own tincture of quirkiness and absurdism by bending concepts in a way that Lewis Carrol might have envied. The worlds of Miyazaki are many: there’re chaotic, post-apocalyptic realities ravaged by giant mutant insects; they’re tribal-feudal lands where warriors fight mythical beasts and ‘proto-industrialists’ armed with early medieval weapons; and they’re also fantasies involving children encountering hidden worlds and forest spirits.
For over 40 years, Miyazaki has released an impressive range of films that explore different genres, delving into sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, and even supernatural realms. His stories play on our curiosities with a host of incredible concepts such as reclusive wizards, squired ‘witches-for-hire’, forest spirits, sentient fires, floating castles and ‘worlds that exist beyond the everyday physical world.’ Throughout all these films, recurrent themes often thread cohesively through many storylines, including strong female characters on challenge quests to prove themselves, coming of age tales, magical curses that may or may not be broken, the destruction of the natural world, and a free-spirited sense of wonder symbolized through love, hope, and youthful innocence.
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The Recurring Themes in the Surreal Imaginarium of Hayao Miyazaki
Suspend your disbelief and open yourself up to the impossible. This affirmation has existed in some guise in the world’s religions and perennial wisdom for thousands of years. It has also been integral to the advancement of the Sciences, including the evolution of accepted schools of thought in both academic and public circles. Consider for a moment how unusual our reality is: with all our knowledge we still don't know where in the body consciousness resides, the 'nothingness' beholden to atoms redefines what is perceived to be solid universe, and most of the elements found in the human body were made in stars. Compare all of these concepts to the long-debated question, “are we alone in the universe?”, and the grounds for its improbability shrink faster and faster by the minute.
In his documentary, Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind, Dr. Greer goes far beyond the themes explored in his 2017 film, Unacknowedged and introduces us to 'CE5 contact protocols' that can be used to make direct contact with ETs without the need of an intercessor, something that has been reported and documented by thousands of witnesses all across the world. Also, according to Dr. Steven Greer’s book, Contact: Countdown to Transformation, attaining higher states of consciousness through deep meditation is the key to establishing contact. It is the “rosetta stone of interplanetary, extraterrestrial, interspecies communication.” Not only that, but Greer, who is the founder of CSETI (Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence) encourages others to create their own Contact Teams that “understand the technologies of the science of consciousness” and investigate alleged phenomenon for themselves. Those with altruistic intentions will experience contact, he promises. He goes on to say:
“This entire movie is about the empowerment of people coming together to make contact…
Real disclosure is humans making contact with these civilizations directly. And these civilizations are waiting for us to do it.”
To read the full feature, head on over to LLF: CE5: Making Alien Contact through Meditation
For many years Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula was regarded as a classic. Many thought the Gothic retelling to be awesome and unparalleled and that Gary Oldman was unrivaled as the master of the cape and fangs. Then 2020 saw the resurgence of the hall of fame monster who’d be adapted time and time again. A three-part mini-series starring Claes Bang was created by Mark Gatkiss and Steven Moffat – the creative team from Sherlock. The Danish actor’s portrayal put fresh blood back into this century-old legend with a performance that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. It has you hanging on edge for his next appearance. So much so that when he finally delivers, there’s no let down: he brings everything to the role.
It’s a thrilling sequence, watching Claes Bang transform from decrepit, aging aristocrat into erudite British man with all the manners of society. He is in many ways still a man, but one twisted into a cruel, demonic form of life. It is impossible to deny Count Dracula’s pure magnetism on screen. Bram Stoker’s creation described him as being panther-like and possessing inhuman strength and in this new series we see how he is able to manipulate and absorb others for his own purpose. Yet, if anything, despite his immortal strength and all the plot changes, the 2020 version of the legend gives us a character that fears his own mortality as much as anyone else.
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The Evolution of Dracula
Legends like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight have been passed down for centuries. In these tales, magic, medieval romance, political intrigue, and the hearty thrust of the blade and spear provide the backdrop against which larger-than-life characters play out their roles: Mordred, Morgan Le Fay, Merlin, Lancelot, The Lady of the Lake, and even a deathless adversary faced by Arthur’s own nephew, Gawain. Elements of these stories continue to permeate and influence new stories, encouraging our fascination with magic and epic sword and sorcery tales.
During the 1990s, in particular, we saw a rise in a certain type of fantasy that blend together magic and with elements of gritty realism, deep character-driven plots, and worlds that parallel our own in intriguing ways. Examples include Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, David and Leigh Edding’s prequel, Belgarath the Sorcerer, and to some extent the incredibly popular works of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman.
The proof of great writing can often be felt when the reader steps into a new fictional world and finds that it feels fully realized and lived-in—plagues, monsters, and all. And Andrzej Sapkowski’s tales of The Witcher do just that. For those who haven’t read the books that the upcoming Netflix series is based on, you will find Sapkowski’s stories full of well-crafted adventures and characters of every type: fierce rogues, valiant fighters with questionable morals, sorcerers that abuse their arcane arts, and all the back-alley cretins that would sooner relieve you of your coin than help you out of a quandary. The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, and Season of Storms are all great jumping-off points if you want a solid introduction to Sapkowski’s characters of the series and the world they inhabit.
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Learn More About the Major Characters and Cast in Netflix's The Witcher
A warrior roaming the lands has gained notoriety among the commonfolk. Word of his deeds has spread far, and his approach strikes fear at the heart of the most formidable opponent. Known as the “Butcher of Blaviken” or the “White Wolf,” Geralt of Rivia’s reputation as a killer of men and monsters has earned him appreciation and disdain in equal measure. Better known by his famed moniker The Witcher, Geralt goes where no man dares. He answers bounties and notices posted by the citizens of the continent, calls for aid in ridding their towns of haunting menaces or in breaking curses that trouble the innocent: blood for coin. And in his mastery of the sword— rumours telling of a steel blade for men, a silver blade for non-humans—he is almost unrivaled.
Like a relic of the past emerging from the mists of Avalon, Geralt of Rivia has entered our awareness over the last two decades. He rose out of the fog of fiction and settled in our consciousness, a deadly sword-bearer schooled in the arcane arts. Created by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the Witcher series of novels and stories has risen to prominence as one of the best modern fantasies ever written, ranked alongside works by Robin Hobb, Philip Pullman, and George R.R. Martin by its fans.
Discover more about The Witcher, and what you’ll need to know in the lead-up to the new, highly anticipated Netflix television series by clicking the Tor.com link: An Introduction to the Worlds of The Witcher
We’re so busy concentrating on gaining proof for our beliefs or sheltering our disbelief that we forget to question what’s right in front of us. Reality. What is it and how do you define it? In the documentary,
Renegade: The Life Story of David Icke, investigative researcher Icke opens with the epitomal words: "People say I talk about some weird stuff – some far out stuff. But how about that chair you're sitting in? – isn't solid! How weird is that? This reality is nothing like we think it is."
This includes our modern world and his belief that those in the shadows are run the show according to their hidden agenda. There’s a growing social movement that’s happening worldwide. People are waking up. They are coming to an awareness that the way things are being run aren’t necessarily for the benefit of the citizens. As Icke explains at one point in the film, the powers that be only have that power because of we are accepting of it: "The power of the few is in the acquiescence of the many. And if we stop acquiescing with our own enslavement, we cannot be enslaved."
To read more about one of the most important films of our generation, click here:
David Icke Renegade of the Zeitgeist.
What if we lost the war in WWII? What if, in 1947, allied forces surrendered to the axis powers after an atomic bomb was dropped on Washington D.C. and the world saw a violent leap towards a dangerous new empire? This is the alternative history Phillip K. Dick envisioned in The Man in the High Castle. Our leaders and resistance fighters kowtowed to oppressors and years later, life in America is partitioned into the Pacific Japanese States and the Greater American Reich. Life goes on but liberty is dead.
In the Amazon adapted TV series of the same name, rule by fear is the name of the game. Citizens are expected to obey, commit themselves to the greater good, and avoid the path to moral decay. The repercussion for failing this is torture and death. This is when you start to see that the war was really won not when the allies laid down their weapons or even when they submitted to a powerful enemy, but when people accepted defeat and the new world they were given.
Read the full feature at the link below:
'The Man in the High Castle': How the Post-war Speculative Fiction Still Rings True
The latest magical fantasy to be picked up by Netflix is The Witcher. The titular character invented by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski, pits a monster hunter-for-hire against beasts no mere mortal can conquer. Judging from the the source material, producers have a big world to play with and plenty of episodic tales to keep us enthralled.
Why many look forward to the show has everything to do with timing. A whole host of TV series made today are steeped in realism. They take place in gritty, dark worlds where swords cut deeper, armies fight harder, and beasts become more and more formidable. These are the things that may yet shape the story that will reach our screens.
Read the full feature article here: Why 'The Witcher' is Perfectly Primed for a Small Screen Adaption
One epic fantasy that will forever be considered a classic of both literature and the big screen is The Lord of the Rings. Although not a direct adaption of the key sources, the new Amazon TV series will start by taking us back to the Middle Earth of the Third Age at a time when a young Aragorn explores the lands of his forebearers as one of the ranger folk of the north. From what we’ve seen with the success of Game of Thrones adaptions, this production is one of the most exciting medieval adventures promising not another lackluster trilogy, but seasons full of the rich lore laid down by J.R.R Tolkien.
Though there’s a great deal of speculation as to what adventures will finally reach our screens, looking back into the appendices and references included by the author may give us a clue as to what shape the stories will take. Read the full opinion piece here: Why You Should Be Hyped for the New Lord of the Rings TV Series
Some of the best movies have come from contemporary fantasy, including The Golden Compass (based on the first novel in Phillip Pullman’s trilogy Dark Materials) and the Harry Potter franchise from the J.K. Rowling series of the same name. Next up: The Witcher, based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s collections of stories about a monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia, coming to Netflix in 2020.
Altered Carbon, Death Note, and Disenchantment: you can see Netflix is trying to win through its bold programming choices. Yet these did not have the challenge of adapting a 13th Century, Euro-Polish-Scandinavian-style land known as The Continent, populated by Fiends, Drowners, Katakans, and other vicious monsters. It'll be interesting to see how it develops!
Read more at ComingSoon: What We Know About Netflix's The Witcher Series
If there is a new Australian sci-fi TV series that everyone must watch, its Cleverman. The first episode, “First Contact,” is filled with an undercurrent of dislocation, anger, and loss. Through the vehicle of social science fiction, the series tackles things that make for sometimes uncomfortable viewing, simply because these are relevant issues that come from a real place of pain and subjugation.
But far from the silver streaming screen, the reality of many black people is dire. For the Aboriginal people in Australia, I can’t help feel that their struggle is beset with even more challenges: alienation, misunderstood mentality, double identities. These are a people that have endured a systematic genocide during colonial invasion that's on the scale of the Rape of Nangking in WWII. With this in mind, it adds significant emotional weight when you watch Cleverman.
For the full feature, including how Yidinji sovereign nation leader, Murrumu Walubara, is changing the notion of 'tribal' identify and 'modern statehood', visit LLF: 'Cleverman', indigenous futurism and the Empowerment of a Lost Culture
For eons we have philosophized on the nature of the afterlife. Scholars have debated the existence of spiritual and dimensional realms and where we go after death. But what if you could live forever, the only fall back being you have to trade in your old body for a new one? In Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, anyone with wealth, power or connections can enter ‘sleeves’ and implant memory-imprinted ‘stacks’ that contain their digitally recorded consciousness. As long as someone has access to these, they could outlive entire civilizations and historical periods of innovation.
But would our collective extended lives prove fruitful grounds of progressive deliberation or become an existential parody? Would living that long really change our understanding of the universe or would it create more doubt?
Full feature available at LLF: Altered Carbon and the Future of the Biological Condition
Recently, the developers behind the Battlefield series announced their newest upcoming title, Battlefield V. It comes almost two years after its highly successful Battlefield 1 shooter which thrilled gamers with a highly stylized return to the battlegrounds of WW1. But game developer, EA DICE, is in the news for an entirely different reason. With the announcement of Battlefield V, they received a lot of flack for including playable female characters. Their response? Their products have always been about fun and not historical accuracy. It was then that I realized the immersive storytelling power of videogames that can change our perception of warfare and how many important and pivotal moments of history are edited out for the sake of adventure.
To read the full feature, head to LFF: Is the Simulated Battlefield Changing Our Perception of History?
Ever since George Lucas’ decision to hand over the creative reigns of his massively popular space adventure, we’ve had three Star Wars films. Force Awakens introduced us to a new generation of characters, Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren, while Last Jedi saw the return of Luke Skywalker. In the first stand-alone movie the pre-Episode IV Rogue One, we saw Jyn Erso and Diego Luna fight against Orson Krennic and the Empire. We’ve also seen a host of threaded storylines appear in the animated series, Star Wars Rebels, while Star Wars Battlefront II introduced us to a post-ROJ tale starring the imperial commander, Iden Versio. Yet it’s Han Solo’s storied rise of a smuggler that gives us the best adventure since the rebellion days of the original trilogy.
For the full review, head over to Cream magazine @ Solo: A Star Wars Story
The Pervading Myths and Truths About Our Non-Terrestrial Encounters
Ancient medieval woodcuts recorded a war in the heavens. Armenian scholar, Zecharia Sitchin, explored evidence of an alien progenitor race that created mankind. Controversial researcher and speaker, David Icke, plays with the notion that the moon might be an artificial construct. And finally, Dr Steven Greer uncovers a shroud of secrecy surrounding our visitation by extraterrestrial civilizations.
But is it true? Have we been seeded by and monitored by our 'interplanetary cousins'? What would the unveiling of this truth mean for us? The Vatican itself issued a statement on what could be the greatest disclosure in human history:
“Extraterrestrial life is going to be discovered much sooner than anybody previously expected. And for this reason, the time has now arrived for the beginning of a very serious discussion about the philosophical and theological questions that are posed to our human family by the discovery of extraterrestrial life.”
View the full feature on LLF @: Unacknowledged: The Pervading Myths and Truths About Our Non-Terrestrial Encounters
Indie Publisher and author of Fiction, J.K.A. Short also writes on music, games, and other creative entertainment