Hayao Miyazaki

Joe-Berlinger-Crude

With Earth Day coming up next week, it’s the time of year to highlight documentaries dealing with our planet and its well-being. In other words, we’ve got environmentalism films to recommend. For our first list devoted to this theme, I’m interested specifically in the low points, the damage that’s been done to the earth, some of it ongoing and some of it remedied. These docs look at disasters like pollution, oil spills, changes to eco-systems and more. And they aren’t all necessarily issue films devoted to making a difference. Most are simply a look at what’s been done. All are necessary works to remind us, maybe affect us, but also to stimulate us in other ways, too. Below are 12 nonfiction features — a few of them Oscar nominees and a couple of them outright masterpieces — from Werner Herzog, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, Noriaka Tsuchimoto, Joe Berlinger, Ken Burns and other great filmmakers who know how to create a feeling in us, whether or not they’re also communicating direct information about these disasters. Where known and available, I’ve noted how you can watch each one. Before the Mountain Was Moved Robert K. Sharpe‘s Oscar-nominated 1970 feature is about the effects of strip mining in West Virginia. The primary focus is on the people living in an area where private homes are being damaged by the mountain top removal process and their attempt to either sue the coal company or at least get them to stop being “bad strippers.” It’s […]

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Beasts of the Southern Wild Fantasy

Jim Henson has been dead for almost 25 years. Hayao Miyazaki is retiring. And Carl Rinsch may have single-handedly killed all hope for anyone getting a lot of money from Hollywood for an original live-action fantasy film for a while. His 47 Ronin was only partly original, too, since it was based on a historical legend. Still, it was a fresh take on the true story with additions of magical and mythical creatures. The movie wasn’t just a flop; it broke the record for biggest box office bomb of all time (maybe even when accounting for inflation). So don’t expect to see any more epic entries into the genre unless they’re sure things with a built-in audience. Do we need original fantasy films, though? On TV, we have Game of Thrones, which has plenty of imagination in spite of being adapted from the novels of George R.R. Martin, and which is now back on HBO for its fourth season. And there are occasionally great movies sourced from previously written material, as well. For instance, out on home video today there’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of the Smaug, a highly entertaining installment of Peter Jackson’s second (and by most accounts lesser) Tolkien-based trilogy. Occasionally is key, however, as that was one of only three titles on my list of the best sci-fi and fantasy movies of 2013 that didn’t have sci-fi elements.

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Princess Mononoke

In the context of American animation, Hayao Miyazaki’s films seem nearly unfathomable. With their conspicuous absence of exclusively kid-centric theatrics and their eschewing any burden of pop culture topicality, Miyazaki’s films are instead allowed to explore the limitless imaginative possibilities of animated filmmaking. And there are few imaginations quite like Miyazaki’s. That’s what makes his retirement on the occasion of The Wind Rises that much more of a loss. It’s difficult to be anything but grateful for the beautiful films the 73-year-old director has made, but his absence will certainly leave a giant, gaping hole that no other filmmaker can replace. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who makes us wish we could call a giant wood spirit our neighbor.

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The Wind Rises

Editor’s note: Kate’s review of The Wind Rises originally ran during last year’s NYFF, but we’re re-running it as the film opens today in limited release. It opens with a dream sequence – a young boy awakens one morning, only to scamper up to a child-sized plane waiting for him on his home’s rooftop. Taking the controls, he lifts off into the sky, and he soars over his village, the river, up into the clouds, where his dreams of aeronautical freedom literally take flight. For a master like Hayao Miyazaki, such a sequence doesn’t seem too insane – this could all be very real, at least in Miyazaki’s whimsical and often magical worlds – but for a film like The Wind Rises, it can only be what it is, just a dream. A highly fictionalized biography about aeronautical engineer (and creator of the Mitsubishi A5M and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, one of the most advanced fighter planes, and the one that eventually became the choice of Japan’s “kamikaze” pilots) Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Hideaki Anno), the film traces Jiro from his childhood up to his greatest professional achievements for Mitsubishi. The film has already been hailed as Miyazaki’s most mature work to date – and it should be, after all, The Wind Rises is concerned with highly adult themes, from artistic expression, personal tragedy, professional obsessions, all the way up to worldwide destruction. Told through Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s trademark hand-drawn animation, the film is visually moving and warm, even […]

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For the first eight years of its existence, The Simpsons was one of the most vital things happening in popular culture. It was sharp, it was funny, and it did a great deal to introduce smart comedy to mainstream audiences. That was a long time ago though, and The Simpsons has been on the air for so many years now and has amassed so many seasons of questionable content that it really couldn’t feel any less vital or relevant to the current cultural conversation. At this point, the only time the show even makes any headlines is when it pulls off some sort of elaborate animation gimmick, like when Guillermo del Toro animated the opening for their annual ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episode and stuffed it full of all sorts of references to his movies. While this is a sad reality, at least we have these occasional gimmicks to act as reminders of how much The Simpsons once meant to all of our developing geek brains. And, hey, would you look at that… it seems like the show is about to air yet another one of those attention-grabbing gimmicks, and one that is going to be of special interest to film fans, because it involves the work of a pretty much universally beloved filmmaker. To cut to the chase, this Sunday’s episode of the show is going to feature a sequence that pays tribute to animation master Hayao Miyazaki, and seeing as the sequence has been put up on Youtube already, […]

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Amy Adams;Jennifer Lawrence

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Nobel Theater

There is no Nobel Prize for Cinema, but there should be. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, of course. Alfred Nobel put aside the funding for the five prizes (Medicine, Peace, Physics, Chemistry and Literature) in his will, and he died in 1896. It seems entirely likely that the Swedish inventor and philanthropist never even saw a single film projected in his life. Why would he set aside some of his fortune to reward the practitioners of an art form that had been around for less than a decade? I suppose one could leave it at that. Tough luck, cinema. But in 1969 the Swedish Academy began giving out the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. If they can grant an annual award to a fake science, then they can certainly do the same for an entirely real art. What would such a prize look like? It should probably take most of the parameters of the Nobel Prize in Literature, which is the only current award that recognizes artists. The aren’t really specific criteria, except that the recipient has to be living. The list of prior laureates is international and interdisciplinary, including novelists as well as poets and playwrights. And, most importantly, the prize is given out for an entire body of work. Individual books have been included in citations, but that’s rare these days.

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Spirited Away

Since some fans are keen on creating petitions, here’s something that’s actually worthy of public outcry. This is what it would have been like to hear that Walt Disney was quitting. For five decades, Hiyao Miyazaki has been a wondrous fixture in our imaginations, and at the ripe young age of 72, he’s expressed interest in retiring, according to Variety. What’s remarkable is that he’s only directed 11 features (all in a time-intensive medium), but that batting average places him in an elite group of filmmakers that aimed high on quality instead of overwhelming quantity. He’s also threatened to retire before — notably after Princess Mononoke — so there’s still hope that he’ll change his mind again. If he shunned a permanent vacation then to make Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, it seems reasonable that he has even more magic up his sleeve (or in his fireplace)  following his latest, The Wind Rises. But if that is indeed his last film as a director, its anti-war sentiment, epic scope and connection to his airplane-building father make it a fitting capstone. The world needs Miyazaki’s vision, but we’re lucky to have gotten so much of it already. Then again, maybe we should be launching a petition anyway. He really needs to know about the Soderberghian Retirement Method.

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Jiro and paper airplane_out

Over the past few days the Toronto International Film Festival has been releasing trailers for many of the films they’ve chosen to run this year, and now, thanks to their efforts, we’ve got a trailer for animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, The Wind Rises, complete with English subtitles to help give us ugly Americans some context to understand everything that’s happening on the screen. Given the fact that this trailer is a little over four minutes long, some may be reluctant to give it a watch, worried that it might show too much and spoil the film, but really that isn’t any kind of concern here. The English subtitles do give us a better understanding of what all this beautiful imagery is about than we had when a trailer for the film’s Japanese release first hit, but Miyazaki being Miyazaki, he’s of course made something that’s clearly too complex and original to be fully grasped from a plot summary or a series of clips. So feel free to click away and see how epic in scope but meticulous in attention to detail his new work is.

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TheWind-Rises1

If there’s one thing that Hayao Miyazaki loves (besides animation, obviously), it’s flight. Nearly all of the legendary animator’s films have seen characters take to the skies in one gorgeous sequence after another, via dragons, broomsticks, fighter planes, Totoros, and anything else willing to go airborne. Miyazaki’s latest film, The Wind Rises, puts his love of flying front and center, and today marks the arrival of a brand new (and absolutely gigantic) four-minute trailer. Check it out below.

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studio-ghibli

It’s long been rumored that legendary Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli, was working on two new film, one each from its two founders, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, but today the studio went ahead and made the rumors into official announcements [via SlashFilm]. Not only is Princess Mononoke director Miyazaki set to bring us a new film called The Wind is Rising, which is said to be something of a biopic for the designer of a famous Japanese fighter plane, and not only is Grave of the Fireflies director Takahata set to bring us a new film called The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which is said to be a re-telling of the old folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” but both films are actually set to be released on the same day. This is kind of a throwback to when Miyazaki released My Neighbor Totoro and Takahata released Fireflies on the same day 25 years ago. Which was kind of a big day for animation.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr takes the week off because the studios didn’t screen the new releases anywhere near him. In fact, he was specifically told not to come to one particular screening. And that can’t be a good sign, can it? What else can you expect for the movies in the weeks leading up to the Oscars, ‘cause the new ones in the theaters don’t stand a chance of winning anything next year. To take away the pain of not seeing movies this week, Kevin makes a deal with the devil, selling his soul for the ability to set his skull on fire whenever he sees a bad movie. Unfortunately, the light from said flaming skull got him kicked out of the theater because someone thought he was using his cell phone to pirate the film.

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According to Twitch, the legendary animation house Studio Ghibli will be producing new work from co-founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Miyazaki’s next is described as an “autobiography,” but it’s unclear whether that means he’ll be telling his own story on screen or telling someone else’s (although Dick Cheney just had a book out, right?). As for Takahata – in his first project in 12 years – he’ll be telling a classical Japanese story involving a baby found inside a bamboo stalk who turns out to be a princess. We call that the Reverse Moses. It’s most likely “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” a folktale from the 10th century. That’s speculation based on the description, but if someone else knows their Japanese literature and has a different answer, please feel free to enlighten. Even if these two announced a joint project about watching paint dry, it would still be exciting. Ghibli is perhaps the most consistent studio on the planet – delivering phenomenal work year after year. Miyazaki and Takahata are the heart of it all, so this is like an all-you-can-revel-in buffet of good news for animation fans.

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So Lars Von Trier isn’t forcing Martin Scorsese to remake Taxi Driver. Who cares? Here are ten directors that the madman should punish for being geniuses.

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While 2009 may have been a weak year for movies overall, animated films shined in a way they haven’t in a very long time.

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Kevin Carr breaks down the week’s releases, looking at District 9, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Bandslam, and Ponyo.

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Fat Guys at the Movies

Neil is whisked away for an “emergency” surgery in the Netherlands, so Kevin welcomes guest host Emily McFadden. Together, they take a trip to District 9 and galavant with The Time Traveler’s Wife. Kevin and Emily also talk Bandslam and Vanessa Hudgens in pictures.

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From the next film from visionary Hayao Miyazaki, we’ve got a ton of new images to entice you into theaters next week.

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ponyo-header

I’ll get excited every time Hayao Miyazaki makes a new film. But apparently Disney has some difficulty figuring out how to make a trailer that accurately portrays anything about a film’s plot.

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