There was an Empty Spot in My Heart
That is Now Filled With This Movie
writ. & dir. Hayao
we begin, I have to admit something: I have a thing for
animation. O.K. 'thing' is a little weak. I am obsessed,
I have an undeniable thirst for anime. I watch these movies
like I would smoke crack if I weren't already too busy watching
animation to start.
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is quite possibly
The Cutest Movie Ever Made. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
(or Spirited Away for those of you too lame to understand
Japanese)won Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards
and at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Additionally it has become
the first animated movie to ever win the ultra-prestigious
Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. What
is so shocking and delightful is that it is actually more
clever than it is cute. The imagination behind this film
is grand and sweeping.
The animation is unbelievable. Spirited Away is
absolutely beautiful. Every inch of the animated world is
vibrant and alive and rich with detail. When you're watching
a live action movie that has brilliant special effects so
that the distinction between the real and the un-real is
completely seamless, there is still that itch at the back
of your mind saying "well that's nice and all, but
it's obviously not real." With animation, you already
know that nothing is real from the outset, not one ounce
of the film is actual, or based on truth, and therefore
you can believe anything. The willing suspension of disbelief
never falters when you watch animation.
Making this movie as a live-action film would have been
very possible, and it probably would have looked spectacular,
and actually been less expensive to produce; but there would
have been no magic. It would have been clever, it would
have been cute, but it also would have been cheesy, and
over the top. Animation gives you a lot more freedom, and
power over the world of your movie. Absolutely anything
is possible and Miyazaki knows how to wield this power deftly.
There is plenty of animation (both American and Japanese)
out there that takes this privilege and abuses it terribly.
It is the truly great animators that use their power to
sculpt the world gently before the viewer's eye, rather
than vomit up a Technicolor fiasco of blood and vampires
and giant robots. The greats won't push their envelope too
far, but they will also refuse to be confined by anything.
At the center of Spirited Away is one of the simplest, most
natural notions. The desire of an abandoned child to be
reunited with her parents. Miyazaki runs with this as far
and as fast as he can, but he never loses touch with this
one absolute. He is, at heart, a storyteller; especially
stories for the very young. He never once loses himself
while wielding the vast power he is given.
The story that sits behind the animation is equally amazing.
The characters involved, the depth of the world the simplicity
of the story. The movie draws on many separate, classic,
Japanese myths, pulling them into a new and totally unique
story. And Miyazaki's imagination that is the root of the
story is, as always, unparalleled. Every creature in this
vast epic is unique and fascinating.
I had to dig pretty deep for these. It's a week after I
saw the movie, and I'm still riding its high
It's really, really long. Disney never takes up more than
an hour and 15 minutes of your time. Mr. Miyazaki is a little
more brash and egotistical. Be ready to chill out for over
two hours on this one. The story doesn't really drag at
all, but he does take a lot of time to show you just how
clever and creative he can be, and how skilled at animation.
It might be too cute. If you though Amelie was a bit much
then be warned this movie is about 10 times more endearing.
In a really, really good way, but do watch out.
Action: Two-and-a-half Racers X
There is a good amount of action to Spirited Away. Or, rather,
there is a ton of enjoyable eye candy, which is all action
is, in the end. The movie is so entertaining to look at,
you could probably see it in Japanese with no subtitles
and still love it.
Adult Viewability: Three-and-a-Half Kids at Heart
Everyone give huge kudos to Disney for making movies that
adults and kids can both enjoy. Their method for doing this
is simple: throw in some jokes that will fly right over
the kids' heads and make the adults chuckle. Miyazaki takes
a very different path. He opts to make a movie for kids
which is interesting enough, and complex enough, that adults
will actually like it.
Tension: Two Plastic Knives, which can't really
It being for kids there is very little tension to Spirited
Away. It isn't something you really miss, however. I mean
everyone knows right from the start how it's going to end,
so why bother trying to convince us that it won't. Better
to know the destination and fully enjoy the ride.
Over all: Four Shiny, Golden Calves
Worship this movie like it is your god! Anyone whose read
any of my previous review knows that two and a half whatevers
is a perfectly good score. That three thingys means you
definitely should see this thing, and that four is simply
unheard of. 'Nuff said. Just go see the damn movie before
it leaves the theaters!
For those of you who don't know, the We-Bergies are Williamsburg's
very own entertainment awards. Presently they're only being
handed out for excellence in movies, but if anyone wants
to start throwing some at musicians or mimes or whatever,
go for it! There's no set date for when they will actually
be handed out, or what they're supposed to look like or
be made of, but I've started the nomination process anyway.
So far, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys is up
for "Best Opening / Credit Sequence" and has already
received a special award for "Most Entertaining Use
of a Ransom Note Ever."
Spirited Away is, without a doubt, the best animated
movie in years. Out-doing even the wildly successful Princess
Mononoke, also by Miyazaki. So unless Treasure Planet
some how manages to pull miracles out of it's ass, just
go ahead and give the award to Miyazaki. I'll put twenty
bucks on some other animated movie winning the Oscar, though.
Spirited Away is also slated to receive a special
award for being The Cutest Movie Ever Made, over throwing
last years hands down winner, Amelie.
I'm giving a writing nod to The Good Girl (I was
too lazy to actually write a review of it, but it's a damn
fine movie). However Igby Goes Down is a very close
second, and will probably pull into the lead once I get
over my huge crush on Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Ensemble Cast leader right now is Full Frontal.
I hated the movie, but the acting was impeccable. Mostly,
though, there just haven't been any really remarkable casts
The Front Runner for best picture right now is, Surprise!
Surprise! Spirited Away.