Wednesday, August 26, 2009



Ponyo (Miyazaki, 2008) is the latest (and most likely final) offering by Hayao Miyazkai, whose previous works include Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and, of cource, Porco Rosso. The dub and distribution of Ponyo, as for all recent Miyazaki work, is being handled by the Walt Disney Corporation.

Starting off with the negative: my first and major complaint with Ponyo lies in the story. In terms of narrative, it is rather lacking, the conflict completely peters out in the third act, and some of the characters are more loose sketches than fully fleshed-out well-rounded characters.

But, films aren’t (as much as I loathe to admit it) just about narrative. In terms of almost every other technical and emotional element, Ponyo really shines.


No surprise given Miyazaki, but Ponyo is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in the backgrounds. The animation is generally breathtaking, and the story, despite the flaws I addressed above, is very emotionally engaging and poignant.


Should you see Ponyo? Are you under the age of 7? If so, I commend your grasp of advanced vocabulary and reading comprehension for having read this article. Tip of the hat, young geniuses. You’ll probably like it, and see some striking maturity and raw emotions that are often ignored by contemporary “family films.” Are you a parent? You should enjoy this film quite possibly as much as your kids do, although they might deal with it in different ways than you do. Disaffected, pretentious, childless hipster? You mean you haven’t seen it yet? No, in all seriousness, and without hyperbole, this is fun for the whole family.


Overall, it’s on the borderline of a B+ and an A-. However, the emotional artistry of the film pushes it over to an A-.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday!



Thank you very much, Morbo.


Morbo means he loves you.

I love you too, you space monster, you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Expanded 11 Word Review: End of Evangelion


I wouldn’t call myself a full-blown anime fanatic by any stretch of the term. Like almost every nerd in the mid-90s, I went through an anime phase, and I have fond memories of a lot of the horribly butchered dubs that were in syndication in my Junior High days (Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, I’m looking at you... I’ll prove my nerd cred by namechecking the Samurai Pizza Cats.) I’m also a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki, as I mentioned in my Porco Rosso review. But I would say my interest in most anime now is casual at best. If I find a series or a film I like, I don’t bias the medium one way or another. But I also wouldn’t get into something just because of its country of origin, and the style isn’t as offensive to me as some more old school animation fans.

I ended up watching Neon Genesis Evangelion this summer more or less by accident. I’m a huge fan of FLCL, another extremely out there anime, which was produced by the same studio (Gainax,) and I had heard that a lot of the show was sort of in reference to this one. So, finally, on a whim, I started watching. After watching the 26 episode series, I ended up watching the theatrically released film End of Evangelion that was released shortly after the show’s run. The show plays heavily and subverts the conventions of the “Giant Mecha” subgenre of brave pilots controlling giant robots and using them to fight other robots.

The show (and film) focus especially on Shinji Ikari, a neurotic teenage pilot of one of the EVA units, and his battles with the monstrous robotic Angels who threaten the earth, as well as his relationships with his fellow (female) Eva pilots, his (almost all female) superiors, and his strained relationship with his father and commanding officer Gendo Ikari. This film deals with the climax of an apocalyptic “Third Impact,” and the struggles of Shinji’s inner turmoil to make sense of his life.

This leads into one problem. The first issue I could see with this movie is it’s basically incomprehensible. Taken in context with the final two episodes of the series (which are folded into the second half of the film,) and with my own understanding of Judaic-Christian imagery and Lacanian psychoanalysis, it still took me two viewings to get a basic understanding. The plot almost defies summary, and I would be hard pressed to actually recommend this movie to someone not already familiar with the show. A lot of the issues of Third Impact it has to do with Self-Other binary issues and a sort of anxiety about reintegration with the self and a focus on suffering that seems almost masoochistic in nature (whether people would prefer to exist without pain and boundaries or not.)

As confusing as this might seem based on the last paragraph, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s erratic and nonsensical in a lot of ways, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s really profound in a lot of the issues it explores, psychoanalyzing Shinji (and a lot of the side characters) and exploring and deconstructing their motivations in a way that’s extremely Neo-Freudian.

I have to admit part of the reason I like this movie is how it basically falls into place into a manner that I can pick apart as a film scholar. It seems like a really rich text for analysis almost on purpose (as a matter of fact, as of the writing of this article, I’m preparing a paper for submission analyzing the film’s depiction of the feminine and motherhood as a method for individualization.)

The ending sequences also has some interesting uses of animation to explore some very heady issues about how people relate with themselves and with others.

Even if the story is confusing, the action is straightforward and really exciting. I really liked it, and I’d recommend if you’re open to the idea of having a Japanese anime mess with your head, and not be afraid of not getting all of it, you check this out. I give it an A- in my 11 Word Review.

It is (at least for now) available both dubbed and subtitled on Youtube, so check it out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Derek Domike and The Half-Blood Prince

Six Harry Potter movies have been released over the past 8 years, with two more currently in production (representing the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.) The franchise is incredibly prolific in both its print and film forms, making author JK Rowling the wealthiest woman in the United Kingdom.

As a somewhat scrawny (although I, like star Daniel Radcliffe, have been bulking up a bit) brown-haired Caucasian male with glasses, I was a lightning bolt scar away from “The Boy Who Lived,” at least at first glance to people who don’t really look closely at me. I don’t particularly welcome the comparison, but it has been made (multiple times, to my chagrin.) This made me exploring the Bildungroman of the novels something of a painful chore. So, in a way, this one is a little personal for me.

For the next six days at 11 Word Movie Reviews I’ll be posting reviews of all the Harry Potter movies. My thoughts, overall of the franchise, are they are generally solidly made and dependable, if occasionally unremarkable. I always enjoy watching the Potter films, even though I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the franchise in general. But as, I guess, a casual outsider, this might give me a chance to be slightly less biased than reviewing say, The Dark Knight. (If you didn’t catch how ridiculously in love I was/am with this movie, here you go.)


Overall, Half-Blood Prince did not disappoint, but it did not necessary surprise either. My brothers, having read the books, told me about parts that were shortened or excised, and that they felt were suggested at to fans in a manner almost akin to “you should be familiar with this.” Having not read the books, I really didn’t notice this, and the story should make sense, although the movie does seem to presuppose you’ve seen the other five parts (which, in all likelihood, one has.) The movie flowed pretty well, it dragged a bit in the second act, and it is pretty long. But, with the prices of the multiplex the way they are, I find less and less reason to complain to a movie for at least keeping me entertained for the time allotted.

The special effects were good, and a general kudos to the screenwriters for their adaptation (trimming a rather sizeable book into this was likely a challenge.) Everything, overall, was about par if not slightly better than average, and looking back on it, I didn’t really have any complaints. If you’re a fan, you’ve already seen it, and if you generally dislike the franchise, I doubt this movie will change your mind. But I generally find them solid (if not spectacular) pieces of filmmaking and thoroughly enjoyable.

What stood out for me was the acting, especially amongst the younger cast. Over these six films we’ve seen a lot of growth and improvement in the craft of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry,) Rupert Grint (Ron,) and Emma Watson (Hermione,) although overall I don’t think anyone will keep them in mind when Oscar season comes around. Tom Felton (playing Potter’s rival Draco Malfoy) is given a lot of storytime this time around and he seems to shine in it. The adult cast, including a lot of luminaries of British filmmaking, does a great job as well. I particularly enjoyed the over-the-top manner of the villainous Death Eaters.

(I have decidedly mixed feelings about Potter fandom as well.)

The grade I give this movie, alongside the rest of the franchise, will be shown soon.

In conclusion, here’s how I would rank the films in terms of quality:
Order of the Phoenix
Prisoner of Azkaban
Half-Blood Prince
Goblet of Fire
Sorcerer’s Stone
Chamber of Secrets

If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it, especially for Potter fans, but I would definitely recommend you go rent the series up to this point and catch up and watch it as well. It’s definitely not a disappointment, and worth the price of admission. They also definitely are, in the most hopelessly cliché way imaginable, fun for the whole family.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

RIP John Hughes

A more fitting tribute to the king of 80's teen flicks might be forthcoming. But, in the event that doesn't happen:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Based on a 1945 and 1946 collaboration between the two strange bedfellows if there ever were any, Walt Disney...


...and Salvador Dalí...


Destino was shelved after 1946 due to financial concerns and put on indefinite hiatus. In 1999, the project was revitalized, and based on Dalí's (and John Hench's) storyboard, the project was subsequently animated. Done by Disney Studio France, it was produced by Baker Bloodworth and directed by Dominique Monfrey. Nominated for a 2003 Best Animated Short Academy Award, and show in museums from the LA County Museum of Art, NYMOMA, and Melbourne Australia. It is currently projected to have a DVD release sometime next year.

I try to avoid going too much into my "animation as a legitimate medium of expression" argument, because it's either a very easy or very difficult argument depending on who I'm talking to. But, in short, like any form of expression, from writing, to painting, to photography, to film and video, and to animation (which carries such a strong "immature/for children," bias that people seem blinded to their potential aesthetic and thematic capabilities,) there should be no stigma to a medium for artistic expression.

I saw it just recently, and wanted to share it with everyone. It's like a moving Dalí painting, and has some parts reminiscent of some of Dalí's short works (the ants seem straight out of Un Chien Andalou, for example.) This allows some interesting juxtapositions and metamorphoses of forms, and playing with time in a really intriguing way. It's like a cross between an experimental Dalí film and a Dalí painting, and I really don't have any more glowing review of it than that.

Here is Destino. Enjoy!