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Saturday, January 5, 2013 01:47 PM
(Last updated on Saturday, January 5, 2013 02:01 PM)
On the Viewer - My Neighbor Totoro
 by Fëanor

I saw Hayao Miyazaki's animated children's film My Neighbor Totoro for the first time many years ago, but I don't seem to have ever reviewed it here, and this morning I got to be with my son when he watched it for the first time, so I thought I'd give it a bit of a write-up now.

Last night, Griffin actually picked Princess Mononoke out of the DVD cabinet and tried to get us to put it on for him. I definitely want him to see that eventually (it's one of my favorite movies of all time), but at the moment we feel like it's a little too violent and scary and adult for him, so we turned him down. We offered him My Neighbor Totoro as a replacement option, but he refused it at the time. However, this morning he was more amenable, so poppy put it on for him.

Well, I can't describe to you how fantastic it was to watch him watch that movie. The joy and wonder on his face, and the way he cheered and laughed - it was just amazing. I was so pleased. (And relieved - I might have had to disown him if he didn't like it.) After it was done, he wanted more, and when told there was no more, he wanted to watch it again. I think it's safe to say he's a fan. (UPDATE: I should mention that at the end he said, "Good-bye, Totoro! Good-bye, Catbus!" It was beyond cute, I tell you!)

Of course, watching the movie again, now as parents, and with our child actually sitting beside us, poppy and I had pretty powerful emotional reactions to it. There's a sequence in the film in which the two little girls who are its main characters are upset because they think their mother might die, and they get angry at each other, and one of them runs off and gets lost while trying to bring food to her mother that she thinks will save her, and it is just wrenching. Of course, this kind of material, even in the hands of a novice filmmaker, can be pretty powerful stuff - a cheap shot to the heart. But Miyazaki is no novice. He isn't cheap; he's economical. Precise. He doesn't milk it. This is a subtle and careful and very realistic movie, despite the elements of magical fantasy. The sequence wouldn't work if you didn't care about the characters, and he spends the first half of the movie making sure you care about them deeply, by making them very real and likable people and putting them in a very real and beautiful place. The setting - a small rural village outside Tokyo - is carefully developed through slow, lush shots of the scenery until it seems to be another character in and of itself. Which makes sense, as the trees and the wind and the fields and the dust and the soot are all embodied or governed by spirits which only the children can see, and chief among these is the huge furry beast known as Totoro.

One of the things I like best about the spirits in the film - especially Totoro and the Catbus - is that even though they are cute and always helpful, they never seem quite safe. There is always something just a little bit creepy and scary about them. In their eyes you see that they are wild and inhuman, and not to be trifled with or defied. And indeed in Princess Mononoke we find out what happens when you anger a creature like Totoro.

One of the amazing things about My Neighbor Totoro is that, when you think about it, very little happens in the movie. I feel like, if you tried to pitch it to Hollywood, they'd laugh in your face and walk away. (Warning: some spoilers ahead.) A family moves into a small village. The children meet some magic spirits. The mother is sick, but eventually gets better. One of the girls is lost, but then found again. That's it. But Miyazaki does so much with this tiny, simple story, invests you so much in it, puts you so much into the skin of the main characters, that even the smallest events are full of wonder and drama. When the little acorns the girls have planted sprout overnight into tiny plants, you celebrate with them. The scene where the little girl is asked to confirm whether a sandal belongs to her sister or not is tremendously powerful, even when you already know the answer. Miyazaki forces you to slow down and appreciate the silences, the stillness. Wind passing over grass. Water dripping from a tree. He makes you see the wonder in the world. Miyazaki makes you a child again.

My Neighbor Totoro is really a masterclass in the art of filmmaking. Even taking into account the slightly cheesy soundtrack, it is about as perfect a film as you can make. I look forward to showing it to Griffin again. Although I'll have to keep the tissues handy.
Tagged (?): Anime (Not), Cartoons (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not)
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012 12:44 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Advertising (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Automobiles (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Commercials (Not), Diablo (Not), Diablo 3 (Not), Harry Potter (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Highlander (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Mario (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Scooby-Doo (Not), Shirts (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), Web comics (Not)
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Friday, April 27, 2012 04:33 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

I didn't have time to do my usual thorough examination of the entire internet for this entry, but I figure I'll post what I have now and maybe add more later, we'll see.



Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Avengers (Not), Batman (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Fantastic Four (Not), Fringe (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Language (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Sesame Street (Not), TV (Not), Twitter (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Friday, September 16, 2011 02:27 PM
Not really a full-on Recyclotron...
 by Fëanor

... but here are some fun things I saw today.

Bat-Totoro!

Creepy llama.

Amusing Harry Potter animated GIF that imagines what Snape's after-life in his headmaster portrait must be like.

I like that license plate!

Steven Soderbergh is directing a new movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, or Alexander Skarsgard may be up for a role?! Woah!
Tagged (?): Animals (Not), Animated GIFs (Not), Art (Not), Batman (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Harry Potter (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), LOL (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Photoshop (Not), Tolkien (Not)
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Monday, April 25, 2011 12:20 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Advertising (Not), Art (Not), Cartoons (Not), Craft (Not), Facebook (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Mashups (Not), Mortal Kombat (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Nintendo (Not), Photography (Not), Pirates (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Star Trek (Not), Toys (Not), Tron (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not)
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011 09:25 AM
(Last updated on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 10:28 AM)
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Art (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Craft (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Links (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Painting (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Science (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not)
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Monday, January 10, 2011 01:33 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Captain America (Not), Cartoons (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Food (Not), Godzilla (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Kaiju (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), LOLCats (Not), Mashups (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Photography (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Science (Not), Shirts (Not), Star Wars (Not), Terminator (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), Video (Not)
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Monday, August 23, 2010 10:08 AM
(Last updated on Monday, August 23, 2010 11:20 AM)
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.




UPDATE:
Tagged (?): Advertising (Not), Art (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comedy (Not), Craft (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Harry Potter (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Indiana Jones (Not), Links (Not), Metroid (Not), Movies (Not), Muppets (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Street Fighter (Not), Tolkien (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Video games (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 04:44 PM
On the Viewer - Recently Seen Film Roundup
 by Fëanor

Holes - I don't know if it's because I'm a big softy anymore, or because I was blinded by my fond memories of the young adult novel that this film is based on, or because it actually is a good film, but I really enjoyed Holes, and found it to be very moving. It's the story of a young boy sent to a brutal work camp for a crime he didn't commit. That story is interwoven with two other stories out of his family's past which turn out to have essential connections to people and events in his present. Ultimately it's a story of redemption, and the way everything ends up coming together is really powerful. It's a funny, clever, poignant film with a surprisingly great cast which includes Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson, Henry Winkler, Dule Hill, and Shia LaBeouf (whom I still like, despite the fact that he was in the Transformers movies and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull). It's hard to call it a kids' movie, though. I mean, the story set in the Old West that revolves around Hill's character is incredibly dark.

Toy Story 3 - The Toy Story films are probably Pixar's greatest achievement in a long line of great achievements. If you think they're just kids' movies about talking toys, you are woefully mistaken. Toy Story 2, I feel, is about becoming aware of the inevitability of death - or at least, the inevitability of change and loss. In Toy Story 3, that change and loss - that death - cannot be put off any longer, and we must finally stare it in the face and come to grips with it. The film is incredibly effective and moving, especially to a new parent like myself. It's about a child growing up and learning to leave childish things behind. But it's also about a parent learning how to let a child grow up. It's about knowing when and how to stick together, and when and how to let people go. And besides all that, it's also incredibly entertaining, clever, imaginative, fun, and funny, and in the middle it turns into a classic, perfectly executed jailbreak thriller. It's an amazing cinematic achievement. But I warn you - have tissues handy. The scene in the garbage dump, where they're staring the end in the face, and they all join hands? Oh my God!!! The weeping! Anyway, I assume they will eventually release a Toy Story trilogy DVD set, and when they do, I'm going to have to pick that up and introduce Griffin to these films.

Ratatouille - Speaking of Pixar, I missed a lot of their movies! Seeing this one was my first step toward catching up. I almost didn't finish it, though. I watched the first ten minutes or so and I got bored and turned it off. I just couldn't connect with it. I didn't care about a rat who could cook. I think part of my problem, oddly enough, is that I was having trouble suspending my disbelief. Usually at the opening of a movie, I have almost no problem with that; I'm willing to accept nearly any crazy premise you want to feed me, as long as the rest of the movie follows logically from that premise. But for whatever reason I had a hard time accepting a world where rats can not only cook, but also read, and understand human speech. Oh, and they can also talk to each other just like we do, we just can't understand them. I know it's ridiculous for me to rebel at something like that considering all the other insane things I'm willing to believe, but what can I say? I'm fickle. Anyway, I eventually turned the movie back on and watched the rest of it, and it ended up winning me over. I continued to have issues with suspension of disbelief, especially during the sequence [SPOILERS AHEAD!] where the rats take over the working of the kitchen entirely, and the sequence where the famous food critic accepts that his delicious meal was cooked by a rat. But by that time I cared about the characters, I'd bought into the story, and I was willing to let things slide. Plus, c'mon, the scene with the health inspector is hilarious. Ultimately, it's a really sweet story with a rather wonderful moral: not everyone is an artist, but great artists can come from anywhere. I was particularly moved by the scene in which Anton Ego (who's a wonderful character with a great name and a perfect voice - thank you, Peter O'Toole) eats the ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood. It's a wordless sequence that captures perfectly what's so comforting about comfort food, and how deeply someone can be affected by great food - and, by extension, great art. This is not one of Pixar's great works, but it's definitely a fun and lovable film.

Ponyo - I haven't caught up with Pixar yet, but now that I've seen this movie, I've caught up with Hayao Miyazaki. I've seen all his feature length films, and although there are a few I didn't love, there isn't one that I disliked. This latest work is another masterpiece - a simple, weird, beautiful, gentle film which is Miyazaki's take on "The Little Mermaid." It's about how a child's love is so blind and pure, it can save the world. It's also about how ham is delicious. It's a ridiculously cute film, with riotously colorful, insanely imaginative, jaw-droppingly epic visuals. The story is simple, yet also deep. Miyazaki's usual plea for humanity to treat nature with care is delivered with more subtlety than he's used in the past. He introduces us to the characters and their relationships and tells us their stories with careful mastery, using a minimum of words and backstory. We see a mother looking up at her child out of one eye, and in that glance are a thousand words - none of which need to be said aloud, and so they are not. As with many Miyazaki films, Ponyo is pretty much devoid of villains. The "evil wizard" turns out to be more frustrated and misguided than evil, and even the cranky old lady has a good heart. Nobody can paint shades of gray more beautifully than Miyazaki.
Tagged (?): Books (Not), Cartoons (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not), Pixar (Not), Toys (Not)
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Monday, May 24, 2010 12:15 PM
Recyclotron
 by Fëanor

Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.

Tagged (?): Art (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Clothing (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), News (Not), Painting (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Shirts (Not), Star Wars (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), X-Men (Not)
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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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