Monday, August 17, 2009

Top 97 Films (Part One)

Now Part One may imply that this list will be broken up. It will not. I plan on compiling this list each year and seeing how it has changes and all that fancy stuff, so I guess that's basically it. I'll toss up posters from Wikipedia for the Top Ten and then scatter others throughout, but this will be it until August 17th, 2010 as far as the Top 97 goes.

Top 97 Films

1. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964)

2. There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)

3. George Washington (Green, 2000)

4. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (Parker, 1999)

5. I’m Not There (Haynes, 2007)

6. Hercules (Clements and Musker, 1997)

7. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971)

8. Vincent (Burton, 1982)

9. Elephant (Van Sant, 2003)

10. Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, 1988)

11. The Departed (Scorsese, 2006)

12. Wendy and Lucy (Reichardt, 2008)

13. Big Fish (Burton, 2003)

14. Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)

15. Superbad (Mottola, 2007)

16. Paranoid Park (Van Sant, 2008)

17. Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977)

18. Paprika (Kon, 2007)

19. Perfect Blue (Kon, 1998)

20. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coen, 2000)
21. The Lion King (Allers and Minkoff, 1994)
22. Gerry (Van Sant, 2002)
23. Porco Rosso (Miyazaki, 1992)
24. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)
25. My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988)
26. Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)
27. Rashômon (Kurosawa, 1950)

28. Grindhouse (Rodriguez, Roth, Tarantino, Wright, Zombie 2007)
29. Bambi (Hand, 1942)
30. Mind Game (Yuasa, 2004)
31. Chop Shop (Bahrani, 2008)
32. Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997)
33. Unfaithfully Yours (Sturges, 1948)
34. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Burton, 2007)
35. Once (Carney, 2006)
36. My Own Private Idaho (Van Sant, 1991)
37. Ratcatcher (Ramsay, 1999)
38. All the Real Girls (Green, 2003)
39. Millennium Actress (Kon, 2001)
40. Man Push Cart (Bahrani, 2005)

41. Oldboy (Park, 2003)

42. King of Comedy (Chow and Lee, 1999)
43. Adventureland (Mottola, 2009)
44. Hot Fuzz (Wright, 2007)
45. Toy Story (Lasseter, 1995)
46. Infernal Affairs (Lau and Mak, 2002)
47. Ed Wood (Burton, 1994)
48. Team America: World Police (Parker, 2004)
49. Un Chien Andalou (Buñuel, 1929)
50. Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)
51. Fargo (Coen, 1996)
52. sex, lies, and videotape (Soderbergh, 1989)
53. Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1943)
54. Tomorrow, the World! (Fenton, 1944)
55. Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008)
56. Song of the South (Foster and Jackson, 1946)
57. Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2004)
58. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Smith, 2008)
59. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993)
60. Funny Games (Haneke, 2008)
61. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel, 2007)
62. Tokyo Godfathers (Kon, 2003)
63. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Move Film for Theaters (Maiellaro and Willis, 2007)
64. Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004)

65. Dont Look Back (Pennebaker, 1967)
66. Mars Attacks! (Burton, 1996)
67. Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)
68. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975)
69. Clerks (Smith, 1994)
70. Batman Returns (Burton, 1992)
71. The Pagemaster (Pixote Hunt and Joe Johnston, 1994)
72. Orgazmo (Parker, 1997)
73. Shotgun Stories (Nichols, 2007)
74. Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987)
75. Il Postino (Radford, 1994)
76. The Squid and the Whale (Baumbach, 2005)

77. Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)
78. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Apatow, 2005)
79. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Burton, 2005)
80. Beetlejuice (Burton, 1988)
81. In Bruges (McDonagh, 2008)
82. Pinocchio (Luske and Sharpsteen, 1940)
83. Ikiru (Kurosawa, 1952)
84. The Cove (Psihoyos, 2009)
85. Waltz With Bashir (Folman, 2008)

86. Lymelife (Martini, 2009)
87. Adaptation (Jonze, 2002)
88. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Charles, 2006)
89. Big Daddy (Dugan, 1999)
90. Children of Men (Cuarón, 2006)
91. High Fidelity (Frears, 2000)
92. The Host (Bong, 2006)
93. Cannibal! The Musical (Parker, 1996)
94. Dumbo (Sharpsteen, 1941)
95. Still Life (Ke Jia, 2008)
96. Synecdoche, New York (Kaufman, 2008)
97. Bolt (Howard and Williams, 2008)

So how's about some statistics?

Most Populated - Burton (8 films)
Top Twenty - Kubrick (2 films) [edges out Van Sant, Burton, and Kon due to rankings]
Recent Films - 3 2009 Films (How did I forget about Moon?)
Non English Language Films - 22 (Not a bad number, I guess)
Completionist - 5 Directors (Each film by these directors I have seen made the cut if they had more than one film on the list. Winners are: Satoshi Kon, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Akira Kurosawa, and Greg Mottola
Best Animated Film (Feature Length) - Grave of the Fireflies
Best Animated Film (Other) - Vincent

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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What A Gas It Was To See Him Walk Her Every Day Into A Shady Place

Planned on doing a double shot review, but I just do not feel that I have much to say about the second film, so I'm just going to tack on a little bit at the end to give it some attention.

Gigantic (Aselton, 2009)

In many ways, Gigantic is a wonderful experiment that ends up, somehow to its benefit, less than the sum of its parts. Anchored by a wonderful cast, featuring Zooey Deschanel in her second, and more impressive, performance of the year, first time director Matt Aselton comes out firing on all cylinders, but has a good deal of trouble putting everything together for a transcendental film. However, this does not prove to be the detriment that it would immediately seem to imply. Gigantic constantly walks a fine technical line, shifting from beautifully disciplined camera movement, albeit a bit too contained at the film's start, to wonderfully beautiful hand held shots that showcase a striking freedom, such as the scene where the camera drifts in and out of trees in the woods. Unquestionably, the film is a visual powerhouse. The cinematography is some of the best of the year so far and Aselton shows a ton of potential for any future films he will hopefully involve himself in. Whether in the city or out in the forest, he has a way with presenting scenes in visually striking manners. The film is technically brilliant.

The ideas presented in the film are mighty interesting as well, though the movie could have likely used another ten minutes or so to give the viewer a push in some sort of general direction. I am all about ambiguity, and the way the film is constructed the ambiguous nature of the plot lines proves to be crucial to the entire experience, but the idea does not completely pay off at the end. However, I find myself incredibly interested to take a look back and see if I over looked any tiny details that may help give me something more to latch onto and ponder even more in depth. The humor, surprisingly, lands when it is used, but the film is hardly a laugh a minute. Thankfully, the film also crafts some pretty fascinating characters to make up for the fact that that plot is a little lean. But the film is also fairly complex and, much to my delight, only hints instead of coming out and actually revealing things, which I love in films. It makes the audience work, and I can respect the script for taking that chance.

Of course a lot of the writing could easily go to waste with a cast that is not capable of handling the roles. As I said, Deschanel is brilliant, and beautiful, and just about everything the role needs. Of course placing Dano opposite her, and having him turn in a performance that is both human and genuine, capturing the struggles of what appears to be a troubled man attempting to exist in 'normal' society, is a choice that pays off in droves. Goodman is mighty great as well, and Asner turns in a performance that is certainly at least five steps above his voice work in the underwhelming, and incredibly overrated, Pixar film Up from earlier this year. Other highlights of Gigantic include a soundtrack that rivals Adventureland and Lymelife for the year's best, a fantastic supporting cast, and a highly stylized world that all add up to one Hell of a debut for Matt Aselton.

Throne of Blood (Kurosawa, 1957)

The film is visually gorgeous, the score is pretty great, the acting is good, and the film is another great effort from Akira Kurosawa. Sadly, this film felt much slower than the two previous Kurosawa films that I have watched and I really think that the silent portions here, unlike in Rashomon, detracted instead of added to the film. Basically the film is a standard retelling of Macbeth, and I've always been of the mind that Macbeth is much better material to be discussed than to be watched or read. Not surprisingly, that transfers over to Throne of Blood mostly. It's a pretty great adaptation I suppose, despite leaving out a few things from the play, I believe. But he also injects his own themes and visual symbols, which adds more to the film, I reckon. Can't say I was blown away though or that I have much to say about the film. It's really solid and a technically great film, but it just never really grabbed me.

B+ or 3.898213472146702381645823

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

And The Sun's So Hot I Think I'll Catch Fire And Burn Up In The Summer Air So Moist And Sweet

Summer Hours (Assayas, 2009)

So I reckon I should get this out of the way right now, I have not yet seen the French film from last year that is apparently part of this series, The Flight of the Red Balloon. Actually, my exposure to French cinema, both modern and the New Wave movement, is rather limited. However, as of this writing the only other French film I have seen this year, The Class, currently sits as my sixth best film released in 2009, so I found myself fairly excited as I sat down and went into Olivier Assayas' latest film, Summer Hours. Focusing on the surviving family of some French artist, I don't really get into these details because I do not know a damn thing about paintings and sculptures and stuff like that, in about a 100 minute run time, Summer Hours explores different concepts about loss and memory, along with the economic extension of real world circumstances that are important to more affluent families. While I knew little of the film upon entering, the first scene at the estate is a stylistic bang that really cements what proves to be an incredibly visually striking film. The first fifteen minutes or so set up the film and the characters so wonderfully that I found myself mostly swept up in the world being presented.

Being swept up, as I have said, is probably caused by, in no small part, the beautiful cinematography and masterful direction. Assayas does not employ the traditional handheld camera style that would seem like the obvious choice for this type of film, but he also does not make extensive use of a traditional camera style either. At numerous times the scenes feel a little contained, but the idea that these decisions were anything but intentional seems insane simply because the film just looks so professionally constructed. Not to mention that, when using more traditional wide shots, the film looks beautiful. Maybe the way it is shot is supposed to mirror the audience's expectations that these people are supposed to be free because of their social status and money, but in actuality they are just as trapped as 'average' people, yet there is still a noticeable beauty in the human experience. Either way, the film is also anchored by performances that range from really good to great. The standouts are obviously Juliette Binoche and Charles Berling, with Berling really delivering a stellar performance, but all of the supporters are pretty damn fantastic. The younger actors who play the children are also mighty impressive. However, the true mastery is only shown for a very short time, in the form of Edith Scob. She brings an elegant grace and knowledge to her role, despite it mostly being contained to the first portion of the film.

On the whole, Summer Hours is a pretty interesting experience. The film is almost deceptively complex, touching on numerous themes despite presenting them in seemingly simple circumstances. The film is both broad and specific, taking a brush and painting a portrait of both beauty and melancholy, blending the best of emotions at any given time. I should also mention that the final three scenes in the film are some of the most effective of any film so far this year. I find pinpointing a single reason for their success rather difficult, but I almost believe that part of the intention is that nothing in the film is as simple as one would imagine. Summer Hours is a truly touching film that, even for someone with my disposition, works on both an emotional level and actually builds up my faith in the human condition, however minor that construction may seem.

A- or 4.1984892174238015472385320157

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Wish You Could Swim Like The Dolphins, Like Dolphins Can Swim

The Cove (Psihoyos, 2009)

While I would not consider myself very well versed in documentary film making, I do have an interest in these types of films and, when one builds buzz like The Cove, I feel compelled to do everything in my power to check out these types of films. Luckily, The Cove opened at a local theatre this week and I did not have to go incredibly far out of my way to see the film. The power of a documentary is something that few other films, or even many other artistic mediums, can effectively wield because, quite obviously, a documentary has the advantage of, at least to an extent, presenting life in its purest form. I knew little of the material that would be covered, only that dolphins in Japan were a focus, so I was hardly prepared for what I was about to witness.

About a year after the mesmerizing, and Academy Award Winning, doc, Man on Wire, The Cove begins to set up as a documentary that draws influence from various styles of film, most notably espionage films. While The Cove has far fewer constructed sequences than Man on Wire, the comparisons to these genre films are still incredibly warranted because, even without the construction, the entire film is practically an adrenaline rush of social and political intrigue that had me riveted from beginning until end. The action sequences here, and by action I mean the car tailings, the cop stuff, and the actual infiltration, are all nicely handled and enhanced by one of the best scores of the year. The film is surprisingly suspenseful for the type of film that it is and, quite masterfully, never skips a beat in terms of narrative, which is and of itself an impressive characteristic in any type of film, let alone a documentary.

Of course the film also succeeds as a standard documentary as well. The interviews all serve the film's purpose, the examination is immediately identified and builds throughout, and the whole thing advertises a payoff that, unlike in other docs, hits incredibly hard. For example, the film goes about humanizing the dolphins incredibly effectively. However, to say that the film is simply about dolphins is misleading, as Food, Inc, as well as other older documentaries, has chronicled an abusive industry. No, the tragedy of The Cove is elevated by the dolphin trade, but the actual sadness is in the exposure of government policy, the corruption of power, and the countless victims that will result in the future, all of which the film covers nicely. These aspects are all universal, and I would argue that every individual a part of at least once, usually for extended portions of time. The struggle is tragically heartbreaking and seems to be overlooked in favor of the film's more overt material.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT...I reckon. I mean the trailer kind of spoils it, and I have made references earlier. Still, spoilers.

Still, I do not mean to lessen the effect of the dolphin killings on screen, as the film serves wonderfully as a call to arms for that particular cause as well. The entire film's intrigue is built on seeing the inside of this cove, and once the film really starts to drive at that things start to pick up immensely. And of course that all leads to the hidden cameras in the cove, and the final fifteen minutes of the film, which also happen to be the best fifteen minutes or so of the year in cinema thus far. Soul shatteringly gruesome, the massacre of these dolphins is shown in full force, capped off by the greatest shot of the year, a cove where the water has gone completely red. The film then starts to wrap things up in grandiose fashion. One interview we have been seeing throughout the entire film is revealed to have taken place after the discovery of the footage, as O'Barry, after just being shot down with "I told you, we are not going to talk about what ifs," pulls out a camera and asks the man to take a look at some footage. Sure it's not very professional, I guess, but it's such a satisfying conclusion, you just want the man to be confronted with this evidence. And his reaction is priceless. Cue the reveal at the IWC, the final monologue, the obligatory call to arms, and then the mesmerizing introduction of David Bowie's "Heroes" as the credits start to roll.

It started during that hidden camera sequence, but by this point I had been effectively bowled over. I recall getting upset over films, I recall weeping after seeing George Washington, but until watching The Cove I had never broken down in tears in a movie theater. The political implications I talked about earlier, mixed with the chilling score and the scenes of the red water left me practically immobile. Does the film have some flaws as a documentary? Probably, as there are one or two points that really do not go very far. Does The Cove present all the facts? I don't really know. However, as I finally worked up the strength to leave the theater and began stumbling my way to the car before breaking down again, I was practically positive that The Cove is nothing short of one of, if not definitively, the best films of the year so far.

A+ or 4.9128934721842374230174

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Take A Look At Eye Full Towers, Never Trust Them Dirty Liars

Paper Heart (Jasenovec, 2009)

In a year that has seen its fair share of incredible comedies and phenomenal documentaries, Paper Heart pulls both genres together, sits them in a room, and tells them to fight. In many ways this film is likely the physical result of the make up sex of that encounter. Featuring the infectiously endearing Charlene Yi as she travels across the globe in a quest to define love, Paper Heart sits somewhere between film and mockumentary with a noticeable grace. Now after seeing the film I am still not entirely sure what it should be classified as, the actual interviews seem to be genuine, but the film is clearly a fabrication. Regardless, the tactic is mighty interesting and plays with the notions that viewers have both of film and drama while adding to the questions about what is real and what is constructed when deal with the idea of love, so the film certainly succeeds in its assembly.

Speaking of constructed, the actors on display here are pretty fantastic. In many ways the only actor in the film is Jake Johnson as he plays the film's director, Nicholas Jasenovec, but I am fairly sure that each cast member in the film, that is the non interviewees, are all performing. Yi is spectacular, and she needs to be for the film to succeed at any level, but her real strength constantly seems to be her reluctance mixed with her curiosity. These traits keep the interviews compelling, but they also help build her character progressively throughout the film. Still, the obvious standout has to be Michael Cera. Cera plays an altered version of himself, seemingly embracing and challenging the notions of him always playing the same character, with tremendous humor and subtlety. Cera is mighty spectacular in the role, slightly reminiscent of his time on the Clark and Michael web series but also a good deal more refined. He does not play himself, Michael Cera plays the public perception of Michael Cera.

As for the technical aspects, the film is actually impressive as well. Designed to keep the viewer off guard, Paper Heart switches from overly documentary sequences, where the film grain is kicked up to enormous levels, to really beautiful and disciplined shots, like the walk through the forest between Yi and Johnson. However, the sequence that stands out would have to be the scenes in Paris. At the drop of a hat the film takes these entirely constructed sequences and switches the way they are presented almost instantaneously, which is even more impressive the more I look back on the film. However, the direction is not the only striking visual aspect showcased here. The film has numerous charming sequences where interviewees detail their own personal love stories while Yi animates the stories with hand crafted puppets. These scenes are some of the most visually striking of the film and are used to great effect. The film is also enhanced by the score, which is mighty top notch.

In many ways, Paper Heart is probably a comparable film to Bruno, and I would actually be interested in doing a follow up comparison of the two films so someone should make me do that in the near future, in the sense that both subvert a viewer's notions of what a docu/mockumentary should be and how the topics should be covered. Obviously, Paper Heart is more of a film than Bruno, and even more complex as I begin to write more and more about my short time, about an hour and a half, with the film, but they both share some downfalls as well. Not all of the interviews land and the laughs, though clearly there, are not as big as in a straight comedy. However, all of these minor problems are practically irrelevant when looking at the bigger picture. Paper Heart is a layered and complex film that does not only examine love, but examines the entire idea of fabricated realities. At first I was not entirely blown away by the film, but, as is the case with every great film, the more thought I allot to Paper Heart, the better the film appears.

A/A- or 4.389289472308147810234723104

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another Morning, Another Opportunity To Do Something Progressive, To Prove That He's Worthy

Observe and Report (Hill, 2009)

I recall when this film was first released, I was interested in checking it out but never had the chance to getting around to the theatre because school was pretty hectic at the time. Upon finally getting around to the film I find myself pretty disappointed that I did not get out earlier and actually support it during the theatrical run. In many ways Observe and Report is far from a perfect film. Hell, it's far from a great comedy. Still, I could not help but being fascinated by the entire implications of releasing this major Hollywood film on unsuspecting audiences. Obviously following the release of Paul Blart: Mall Cop a few months earlier the initial comparison is to think this film will be a slightly more mature, in terms of humor, film that operates on a similar premise. Now while I have not seen Paul Blart, I feel mostly confident in saying that the similarities between these two films are likely very minimal. Observe and Report is a black comedy that breaks so many conventional rules of standard Hollywood comedies that I am practically obligated to at least respect the film, but thankfully it also works as a film incredibly well. Also, I should state before getting into my review, that the film has drawn criticism for a 'sort of date rape' scene. I'm not going to talk about that because the scene is used very nicely in the film's context and the real problem people should be having with the depiction is not the sex, but rather the fact that Seth Rogen had a huge glass of beer during the date, yet he still drove Brandi home. Buzzed driving is drunk driving!

By this point in his career Seth Rogen has started establishing himself as a talented actor. While many would likely point to the recently released Funny People as his coming out party, those who watched Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno from last year should already know of his acting abilities. That being said, Observe and Report is likely Rogen's best performance to date. Ronnie gives Rogen a character that experiences and expresses a range of emotion while remaining distinctive enough that Rogen must make the character his own. Not surprisingly, Rogen approaches the role with a certain amount of respect and hits all the major aspects of the Ronnie characters perfectly. As for the supporting cast, Anna stands out because she is pretty funny and mighty pretty, while Michael Pena and Ray Liotta turn in two really great performances as well. Actually, next to Rogen I would have to say that Liotta provides the second best performance, both dramatically and comedic.

Of course the film's strength is not really in the actors themselves but really in the writing and the different characters on screen. Faris, for most of the film, plays the perceived 'love interest,' but Hill makes it clear from the very beginning that she is, despite being physical beautiful, one of the least attractive people in the entire film. Similarly, Ronnie plays the protagonist, but he is so deluded and misguided that any perceived positive qualities are constantly underscored by the obvious negatives. Mixed in with some genuinely funny comedic writing, Observe and Report is set to be decently successful from the start; however, the film always seems to be self aware as well, which actually enhances the entire experience instead of detracts. The line that stands out to me is uttered in the police station by Ben Best, "I thought this was going to be funny, but it's actually kind of sad." The film shifts from humor to drama at the drop of a hat, and instead of feeling disjointed or out of place it actually meshes nicely simply because it is so off putting. Hill seems to know what he is doing with the writing and the film does not feel manipulative just to elicit a response, it seems to directly mirror Ronnie's character. Not to mention that, in a genius move, the film takes a pseudo-There Will Be Blood approach and has a finale that is cleverly shot as realistic but actually is a fabrication in the mind of the main character.

Thankfully the writing here is so strong because, sadly, the technical aspects are nothing worth mentioning in any detail. The direction is mostly solid, but very few shots actually stand out as definitive marks of Hill's style. The film does have a nice sequence where Dennis and Ronnie are going around the mall causing havoc which is shot wonderfully though, and is also really funny. The lack of definitive direction is made up for with a pretty stellar soundtrack that features a ton of perfectly used songs. Still, the one that stands out the most is the song that is used in conjunction with the finale, the tipping point that solidifies the sequence as one of Ronnie's creation rather than any sort of reality. Next to Adventureland and Hannah Montana: The Movies, Observe and Report probably has the best soundtrack of the year, unless I am overlooking an obvious choice to two, which is fairly likely.

On the whole, Observe and Report is much more than the sum of its parts. The film is not side splittingly funny throughout. The movie is not a revolutionary drama. It is not even the most in depth or amazing of character studies. Still, Observe and Report is one Hell of an experience that proves to be both casually entertaining and deceptively complex, depending on how a viewer decides to approach the film. There is a certain genius in the way the film is constructed and the way it was marketed. It is hardly a typical comedy, much like the year's stand out gem Adventureland, but it can exist as a fairly typical comedy. I am a sucker for these multi-layered films and Observe and Report is no exception. Now it looks like I need to go back and check out Hill's previous works since he apparently deals with similar ideas in both his television series and The Foot Fist Way.

A- or 4.1892342748213750213760572348

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

There'll Always Be A Few Things, Maybe Several Things, That Your Gonna Find Really Difficult To Forgive

Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997)

Well, I suppose it is about time that I get to Miyazaki's crown gem, or what I assume is his crown gem considering that Spirited Away is not nearly that great. Going into Princess Mononoke I had only the film's reputation to go on as I did not know anything of the film's plot. Of course as I gazed down at my Netflix sleeve to see that the run time was listed as two hours and fourteen minutes I found myself pretty worried that this film was going to be a bit too long for its own good, after all, the best Miyazaki films are the shorter ones. Oh yes, I was also pretty sure that I heard this film dealt with some environmentalism crap, and since I have made it my mission in life to personally see my own carbon footprint before I die I was pretty sure that any overtly environmentally friendly themes would end up pissing me off. But hey, I'm an open minded kind of guy, so bring on the Mononoke!

The first striking characteristic the film possesses, well aside from the visual aesthetic, is found in the form of the story. Now I do not use the word story in the sense that the word refers to plot, but rather I mean to say in the way the story is told. In many ways Princess Mononoke is a fairy tale, not unlike classic Disney films that focus on Princesses, albeit with much more characterization, as it possesses all the whimsy of a magical world existing in a mostly realistic setting. The world is really well established. The story is simple enough that it feels like it is being told instead of watched, a characteristic that is captured perfectly in the film, but I do not think designating Mononoke as a simple fairy tale completely does the film justice. In many ways Princess Mononoke feels more like a myth, lore passed down from generation to generation and being refined through each progressive telling of the tale. Now I'm sure I got this feeling because of the film's context, it does take place in historical Japan, I think, so the fact that it feels like a myth rather than a fairy tale is expected. However, what I found particularly fascinating was how it felt so culturally specific yet works so well for an audience member who is not a part of this culture. I think part of Miyazaki's ability is to craft and play with this universal magic without sacrificing the Japanese element of the film. In short, the way the story is presented is pretty wonderful.

Of course that is not to say that the film is all whimsy and child friendly. The content is rather mature, limbs fly all over the place and blood plays a hefty part in Mononoke, but it is all handled so gracefully. And there is that little environmental aspect, but the film handles it more as a reverence that is nicely disguised to work with the time instead of being something that hits the viewer over the head. Plus the film does not take the whole 'all technology is terrible' route either, so I can definitely appreciate that given the way Miyazaki openly says that both sides can coexist peacefully. The film works as an allegory alright, but as a straight up film it works as well. The opening sequence is riveting and really all of the action sequences are high energy filled thrill rides. On top of that the film mostly nails all of the sombre moments as well, so I am mostly confident when I say that the run time, despite being a little lengthy, is not a detriment to the film at all, though I did need to take a break during the run time for what that is worth. Actually though it is refreshing to see an animated film willing to stretch out the run to over two hours, as most great animated films I generally want to see more of, so having Mononoke take on a lengthier feel, which also enhances the mythological epic feeling, was a wise choice.

Speaking of animated films, all the technical aspects on display here are top notch. From character animation to the way scenes are drawn, the film is a visual power house. Obviously the imagination in the fantastic characters is going to stand out, Miyazaki has a way with designing these larger creatures that oozes originality, but the real strength is the way that he designs the worlds. The forests, the mountains, and the towns all have a believable beauty to them, not to mention that the traditionally drawn animals are incredible. However, to enhance these creatures, the ones that actually speak are voiced with an insane intensity that makes for numerous great voicing performances. Now I watched the film with subtitles so really all I could go on was how the lines were delivered, but even with this I found myself mostly swept away with the characters. A lot of effort apparently went into the dub as well, so I watched a few scenes with the American voice cast and I can mostly say that the quality of the voice acting there is at least on the level of the Japanese voices. The film, all around, sounds spectacular. Mix that with a brilliant score and the film records high marks in terms of technical quality as well.

So by now it should be pretty obvious that I loved my time with Princess Mononoke. The film is mature, complex, and pretty much a master piece. It avoids the pitfalls that plague some of Miyazaki's lesser works like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, and I would have to say that it rivals My Neighbor Totoro and possibly even Porco Rosso as the best Miyazaki film that I have seen. Okay, well maybe not Porco Rosso, but I certainly love it as much as Totoro. Any minor problems that I found with Princess Mononoke have quickly been forgotten in one night's time and I am left remembering all of the breath taking positives. On the whole, the film seems to capture what is great about animation, both Eastern and Western, and I think for that alone Princess Mononoke deserves to be championed as an artistic accomplishment. Truly one of the best films ever made.

A+ or 4.83748324623954163596159

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