I’m very glad to say that “Princess Mononoke” was my first real experience with Hayao Miyazaki’s amazing cinematic contributions. After its Oscar buzz in 1997, I sought out the film, and was shocked at what I’d been missing from the master director. “Princess Mononoke” is probably Miyazaki’s broadest film, but one that also conveys a meaningful alllegory about the sanctity of nature, and how the wars of men can taint the sacred lands. It’s an action packed and incredible morality tale that will win over fantasy buffs instantly. “Princess Mononoke” is set in the Muromachi Period of Japan where a local village is attacked by a vicious amorphous demon. The bow and arrow wielding warrior Ashitaka, comes to the rescue of the village, fending off the demon and defeating it after a horrific battle, but the demon manages to corrupt his body with its vile darkness.
2013 signaled the final film release from master director Hayao Miyazaki with his gorgeous and somewhat controversial “The Wind Rises.” Though Studio Ghibli presses on with their slew of amazing films, Miyazaki will leave a large hole in filmmaking. We’ve been fanatics of Studio Ghibli for many years since we first saw “Kiki’s Delivery Service” in the late nineties and fell in love with Ghibli’s sense of awe and wonder. In celebration of the brilliant studio (that we often prefer over Disney, by the way), here are our top five films from Studio Ghibli.
“The Wind Rises” is such a beautiful note for Hayao Miyazaki to leave us on. It’s a bittersweet affair as a film and an animated feature, mainly because Miyazaki hasn’t lost his ability to tell stories. He’s the most incredible animator working today, and his retirement is heartbreaking because the man has many more years left to deliver lucid, entertaining and thought provoking stories to his fan base. “The Wind Rises” is not an explosive, fantastical exit for Miyazaki, but a respectful and quiet bow out. One that really does stick with you long after the credits have ended.
I can understand why Disney loves Studio Ghibli so much. Many of their epic films revolve around death and lack of parental units in the lives of youngsters, and Hayao Miyazaki quite often depicts a world where children are either without a mother and father, or are at risk of losing their mother and father. Like many of Studio Ghibli’s animated works, there’s an entirely vast and amazing world that many never explore unless they’re given that privilege.
I hate Anime. I know. I often get looks of shock and awe from people who know me and know I’m a complete pop culture junky but I hate Anime. I hate it in every incarnation and rarely do I ever approve of it. Liking anime is akin to having a tattoo. You grab the most obscure and edgy design imaginable only to discover your next door neighbor who happens to collect potato chips in the shape of Jesus has one and suddenly you realize you’re not really as ahead of the game as you think, and that’s just where anime fans and the anime trend finds itself. Anime fans always pretend they’re ahead of everyone else as if they’re on to something other people aren’t, when in fact all of mainstream has embraced anime as the norm and is transforming every single property it can in to anime from “Spider-Man” to “Cloverfield.” It’s not hip, and the ones that actually are obscure are much too disturbing for anyone to actually indulge in.
10. Wall-E (2008)
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Written by: Jim Reardon
Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Studios
This was a last minute choice, but watching “Wall-E” in theaters this year was an incredible experience and has made me somewhat of a fan of Pixar Animation. Pixar and co. seem to put Disney on the fryer for the messages they influence here with themes of consumerism, materialism, and the dangers of dependence on big corporate conglomerates who keep us fat and happy. In their infinite ignorance, I doubt Disney saw the jabs through their dollar colored goggles. One of my favorite movies of 2008 and now one of my favorite animated movies of all time, “Wall-E” is that rare picture that features one of the most sympathetic heroes of all time, a droid with a simple purpose: Clean. He is then met by Eve, a new entity in his life that he falls in love with at first sight. This inspires a look in to a new world and a better purpose beyond working and he learns that he has a choice in how he lives his life. Just seeking to reclaim his love, he doesn’t know he’s introduced an apathetic, fat and lazy society to a world beyond comfort and sloth and to a crooked organization whose given up on humanity. It’s one of the most visually stimulating animated films with some of the best characterization I’ve ever seen in a movie that didn’t rely on dialogue.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” is probably one of the weaker entries from Miyazaki. Miyazaki’s films have one thing for them that you can not deny. Originality. “Howl’s Moving Castle” is original, and it’s brutally entertaining, and that’s why I enjoyed this very much. Sure, I was watching the American dubbing (accidental, give me a break), but “Howl’s Moving Castle” possesses more unique fantasy elements and plot progression that really kept me in awe constantly. A scarecrow that follows our heroine like a lovesick dog? An old dog that weighs a ton? A little boy who masquerades as an old man? And a heroine who turns into an elderly woman sporadically? You take a look at Miyazaki’s universe and you’re nothing short of breath taken the entire time.
As an uncle, as a brother, the oldest of three, and as a son, “Grave of the Fireflies” was a grueling film to sit through. Being a victim of a horrible sequence of events and watching your loved one fade away is something I’m all too familiar with. Watching “Grave of the Fireflies,” possibly the most heart-breaking film I’ve seen in years, you will know what that’s like too. Isao Takahatacreates a film that doesn’t need ghouls and goblins and fairies. It’s all frightening enough.