In Praise of the BFI Spirited Away book

Via: Good Reads

Admittedly (and ashamedly), the Spirited Away book by Andrew Osmond published by the British Film Institute (BFI) sat in my cart on Amazon for quite literally years before I finally got around to buying it. I know, I know, but that’s just the way it happened.

In any case, the wait was absolutely worth it. Far smaller in size than I had originally imagined, its dimensions are no indication of the stature of the writing. Presented as sort of an overarching summary of the plot intertwined with details of the production and overarching themes, the BFI Spirited Away book serves as a comprehensive guide to one of my very favourite films.

Delving deep into the beginnings of the production, Osmond teases out the reasons for its very existence; why Hayao Miyazaki decided to make it when he did, and why it stands as one of his best films to date. Analysis comes in the form of the various themes (environmental and social) running throughout the film as well as focusing on the character of Chihiro and her development during the course of the film.

Osmond has done a fine job of conveying the sometimes complex traits of the film that have confused many Western (and Japanese) audiences since the film debuted in 2001. He also does quite a good job when it comes to the background to the film, and to Miyazaki himself, going into some detail about his career to date and how is personal experiences helped shape the film.

Overall, the book is a definite must-read companion to the film. It does an excellent job of stripping away some of the layers and, at least for myself, has lead to a clearer understanding of the film. You can buy it on Amazon and consider it the best $15 book you buy this year.

Flixist Looks At Spirited Away But Neglects One Very Important Thing

Matthew Razak over at Flixist has a great in-depth look at Hayao Miyazaki’s seminal 2001 film, Spirited Away. That article is well worth a few minutes of your time as it discusses many aspects present in that film that are sadly lacking in many contemporary American productions.

However, while Razak focuses a lot on the animation, the direction and the over-arching themes of the film, he almost completely neglects to discuss the characters.

Yes, he talks about Chihiro and her transformation from a spoiled little girl into a more mature adolescent and his analysis is quite good in that regard. However, he glosses over the supporting characters that help her in that regard.

Like Haku, the faithful, if resentful, servant of the bath house owner Yubaba who is on a quest for self-redemption and rediscovering his identity, or Lin, the worker at the bath house who teaches Chihiro some of the realities of working life. Not to mention Yubaba herself, show imparts a tough impression of the businesswomen and her strikingly contrasting sister, Zeniba.

If it were not for characters such as these, as well as the multitude of supporting characters, from river gods to no-faces, Spirited Away would be an altogether duller film. Visuals and direction can greatly improve a film, but if the characters themselves aren’t complete, the film will feel stifled and wooden.

That is where Miyazaki excels in his films; the characters are never boring, or repetitive or simple. They are complex, flawed and plentiful; just like real people. Their importance should not be overlooked when analysing a film.

 

 

Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky Shatters Tweets Per Second Record

Snapshot from a larger infographic featured on Silicon Republic

I saw this today and can’t help but be amazed. A ~26 year old movie managed to shatter the tweet per second record during a broadcast in Japan. Now you could say that it’s in its natural environment, but one can’t help but wonder how such an old movie managed to garner so much attention. If anything it’s proof that good films can generate discussion man years after their initial release.

 

 

Hayao Miyazaki: His FIlms In His Own Words

Hayao Miyazaki imageEmpire Magazine has a surprisingly insightful interview with Hayao Miyazaki which contains his own thoughts on his movies over the last 30 years or so.

Well worth a read for choice quotes like this:

Why did the lead character have to be female? Well, it doesn’t look truthful if the guy has power like that! Women are able to straddle both the real world and the other world — like mediums…..It isn’t the swordplay that Nausicäa is good at, it’s that she understands both the human world and the insect world. No animals feel danger in approaching her; she’s able to totally erase her sense of presence, existence. Males, they are aggressive, only in the human sphere — very shallow! (Laughs) So it had to be a female character.

H/T to Eddie White for tipping me off with his tweet 🙂

It’s Now 10 Years Since the World Was First Spirited Away

 Via: Inside Pulse

Today marks ten whole years since Studio Ghibli first shared Spirited Away with the world. Thus far it is the only foreign film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which says a lot about it and its success with foreign audiences.

Spirited Away is one of my favourite films for the simple reason that it has a lot going for it. A great coming-of-age story, a quirky yet layered set of characters, fantastic animation that stays true to traditional methods while incorporating digital technology and a superb score by Joe Hisaishi all combine to make it a very enjoyable film yet at the same time remain an emotional tale.

Its hard to believe its now 10 years old but it is. A true testament to the deftness and skill of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. John Lasseter also deserves an honourable mention for handling the better than usual English dub.

Oliver Good over at The National has a nice write-up on how Spirited Away helped break the mould for Japanese movies.

 

 

People I Respect: Hayao Miyazaki

This is the second in a series of posts in which I explain why I respect certain people in the animation industry and why you should do the same.

Hayao Miyazaki imageDo you really need me to explain why I respect the greatest animation director alive today?

How about a long and varied history of making animated films of the best quality? How about being the single biggest force in helping anime films attain popularity in the US? (Yeah, Akira helped too but Hayao’s films appeal to everyone).

Hayao Miyazaki’s output at Studio Ghibli has mesmerized the world for over 25 years and shows no sign of stopping. That is not why I respect the man though.

No, I respect him for his devotion to animation as a storytelling medium. Much more than that is his devotion to traditional animation as a storytelling medium. In an age when the computer has conquered production, he remains lovingly committed to the paper and pencil.

Besides that, Miyazaki’s films remain fascinating studies in character. Yes, the animation is superb, but that is always a sideshow to the characters and their story, on whose level we always see the film.

Hayao Miyazki is more than worthy to be included on the list of people I respect.

How Animators Should Be Managed

Hayao Miyazaki imageVia: Collider.com

According to Hayao Miyazaki:

I am an animator. I feel like I’m the manager of a animation cinema factory. I am not an executive. I’m rather like a foreman, like the boss of a team of craftsmen. That is the spirit of how I work.

And that’s the way it should be. Craftsmen only need a light hand to guide them and someone else taking care of client-relations, budgets and the like. There is no reason to micro-manage someone who knows what they are doing.

If only more studios were run this way, just imagine what things would be like…

Hayao Miyazaki in The New Yorker

In 2005, Margaret Talbot wrote an article on the one and only Hayao Miyazaki for the The New Yorker magazine. It’s an excellent profile of perhaps the greatest animation director alive. It’s a bit lengthy, but you will be richly rewarded should you take the time to read it.

Link: Hayao Miyazaki and the future of animation by Alec Nevala-Lee

I just thought I’d share a link to a post by Alec Nevala-Lee who takes a look at Hayao Miyazaki and how his films are fundamentally different from anything put out by a regular studio and why he will be extremely difficult to replace. It’s well worth a read.

Happy Birthday to Mr. Miyazaki!

Via: Collider.com

Woops, I almost forgot about this in my quest for tomorrow’s topic, but today is the birthday of the one and only Hayao Miyazaki, whose now 70 years young!

All I can say is that I love this guy’s films. After catching a few on Cartoon Network some years back, it was love at first sight. He’s by far one of the best animation directors alive and his film Spirited Away is perhaps my most favourite of all. On top of all that, he’s served as an inspiration for countless animators on both sides of the Pacific for which he is rightly acknowledged for through his friend, John Lasseter.