Today we get to one of the hardest years I think I will face in this analysis of the films nominated for Best Animated Academy Award each year. I love all of the 3 films nominated and can see going with any of them.
Check out my video where I talk about the films and decide- did the right one win? If you like the video give it a thumbs up. Thanks!
Picking my favorite was difficult because they are all so strong. In the end I went with Corpse Bride because I love the Danny Elfman music and being a lover of musicals that will always put a movie over the top. I particularly like these 2 numbers.
What would you pick? Please put in the comments section. Thanks. I’ve really loved this discussion on both my channel and here on the blog from this series so thank you for contributing!
Get out the tissues for more than just a heart-wrenching movie. I have now seen what is evidently the last Studio Ghibli film. This is my response to that reality:
The last film is called When Marnie was There and I’m happy to say if they are going to go out this is a great one. I LOVED it!
Here’s my youtube review. I’d love if you guys give it a watch and a thumbs up. (I said wrong name on my youtube review. Sorry)
It’s about a girl named Anna who is clinically depressed. So much so she wishes she was dead. As a foster daughter she is deeply loved but still struggles with feeling unwanted and unloved. She says at the beginning ‘there are some people who fit in the circle and there are some that are outside”. She has resigned herself to being an outsider and thinks she is incapable of both giving and receiving love from anyone. I was really impressed with how deep they were willing to go. This is no cliched ‘down in the dumps’ kind of depression. This is real despair.
Worried about her, Anna’s mother sends her to a relative in the country to try and help her with her asthma and get her emotions back from this dark place. The animation is gorgeous in the countryside, some of Studio Ghibli’s best.
The sound mixing is also excellent. When she walks through grass it sounds like someone walking through grass. The rain and water sounds are so authentic. I don’t normally notice things like that but in this case it was wonderful and really gave a lush rich and textured feel to the movie.
Anna likes to sketch and one day she stumbles upon a marshland with a big mansion at one end.
Eventually she notices a teen like herself at the house. She has long blonde hair, blue eyes and seems like almost a ghost on the lake. She comes and goes at odd times and there is something other-worldly about her. Anna dives further into the mystery of the marsh and the mansion and as she does a relationship between her and the girl named Marnie develops.
Some might see it as a lesbian romance but because of things we learn I think it is a deep and abiding friendship. Regardless they love each other and through the experience Anna begins to realize she is worthy of love and that she has great love in her life. She learns her value to the world and that’s a story arc that almost always works for me.
I was bawling my eyes out! I would say more but I really don’t want to spoil it for all of you. It is very clever and does not wash away her mental illness too easily. She grows little bit by little bit over a summer and really comes to know who she is. She even can be a jerk at times because she is so nervous about being rejected. That all felt totally authentic to me of someone dealing with a mental illness.
I felt like Anna was very close to hurting herself (like I said very dark) and Marnie is the equivalent of an angel sent to rescue a lost soul. I also loved the mystery element and like all good Studio Ghibli films I wasnt quite sure where it was all going. The climax in a silo was exciting and heart wrenching.
If I was going to nitpick I wasn’t that crazy with the US dubbing they did. It just didn’t seem to fit and normally Ghibli does a great job. I also thought the music was just ok (Kaguya had one of the best scores I’ve ever heard). The Priscilla Ahn song is nice during the credits. I love her but the score was average by Ghibli standards
But other than that I loved it. I thought it was bold and took a girl from a dark place to one of joy and happiness in a believable way. It’s a movie about hope and how we all have people rooting for us. Friendship and a knowledge of our eternal worth is what gives us hope and makes life worth living and Anna realizes that and is a new vibrant woman as a result. (In a way it is kind of like Field of Dreams. Other worldly message from the past to heal wounds and move forward).
The mystery surprised me at times and kept a brisk pace. The love overwhelmed me and the animation is stunning. It is definitely one I will want to get on blu-ray and it holds its own with the Studio Ghibli greats. If you can find it near you please go and see it. These studios need to know we love their work. Maybe someone else will pick up the banner with Studio Ghibli leaving us?
Lets talk some Studio Ghibli specifically their latest film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Studio Ghibli if you are not aware is the Japanese animation team that has produced anime films such as Spirited Away, My Friend Tottoro, Howls Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke. They are most known for the works by Hayao Miyazaki, the amazing artist and director.
There has been some talk of Studio Ghibli taking a break with the retirement of Miyazaki but he has talked of retirement before and then finds a reason to make another film so we will see what happens. In the meantime there is still plenty of talent at Studio Ghibli to draw upon as can be seen by Kaguya which is directed by Isao Takahata. By the strength of this film, I am very excited to see what Takahata has for us in the future! (I guess Takahata directed Grave of the Fireflies which is also dark and beautiful).
This is a very different kind of movie than the Miyazaki films and honestly it is going to be a tough sell for some western audiences. It is very slowly paced. The only thing I can think to compare it to is maybe Bambi. There isn’t a strong plot to Bambi but it is beautiful and it tells the tale of a deer growing up to be a prince. Kagayu is kind of like that.
It has a very different look than other Studio Ghibli films and reminds me more of The Secret of the Kells or Ernest and Celestine the way it uses watercolor and hand drawn animation to tell the story. Some may have issues with the film but, nobody can deny that Kaguya looks stunning.
Take a look at the trailer.
It tells the story of a bamboo farmer who finds a little girl in the bamboo. It looks like a doll but he takes it home to his wife and the baby miraculously grows very quickly as it is taken care of.
Kind of like with Bambi when you see him learning to skate or playing with Thumper, in this story you see the baby called Little Bamboo frolicking with her friends. There are multiple scenes with babies bottoms and women breastfeeding which I guess could bother some people but I think breastfeeding is beautiful so that didn’t bother me. You see Bamboo playing with frogs, eating melon, chasing pigs, scenes like that which are sweet but some may want more story.
Little Bamboo’s father finds gold in the bamboo and great silks and kimonos and he feels this is a sign from the Gods that she is of noble birth and must be trained as such. This leads us to the second half of the movie (it is a very long 2 hours and 17 minutes and it is slow paced so like I said some will find it boring) where Little Bamboo is trained as a lady and renamed by the naming man to be Princess Kaguya.
This part of the movie is so Japanese and may be a tough sell for western audiences. In Western films such as Mulan or Little Mermaid, our heroines Mulan and Ariel rebel against their fathers and cultural customs and find happiness. In this film Kaguya repeatedly agrees to do as her father directs whether it is moving to the city, painting her teeth black, listening to suitors, or plucking her eyebrows .
There is only one moment where she refuses to submit to the Emperor and be his concubine (all the suitors in the movie have multiple wives and concubines so that’s not the reason she refuses). She has a moment of free spirit that is gorgeously drawn but in the end even the God’s force her to submit.
This is such a different character arc than I am used to and it was challenging because it didn’t seem like she was a happy person. She’d have glimpses of happiness but then it would be taken away from her a second later; however, I know that is because I come from a culture that see’s happiness and life very differently, so I try to learn from this culture presented and not be too judgmental of their choices.
Like I said I think The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a tough sell for the average American audience. It is long. It has minimal plot and the characters make choices that go against our modern sensibilities. However, if you can set all that aside you are in for a treat. It is so beautiful. The music by Joe Hisaishi is one of the best scores I’ve ever heard. There are whole sequences when Kaguya is running or when a character is at sea and faces a monster that are stunning.
There is also something to be said for obedience and submitting your will to a higher power’s plan, even if it makes you temporarily unhappy . As a Christian, I certainly believe that is often the case. There are many things I do not do which at least seem to give others pleasure because I want to be obedient. So it does have a valuable lesson to teach. It’s just not the independence and strong will power we value so much in Western and particularly American culture.
I’d be very curious to know what any of you think if you get to see it. The US Dubbing is good with Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden and others. As with all Studio Ghibli films they manage to merge the languages so that it feels like the characters have always been speaking English.
It certainly strengthens my argument of how wonderful 2014 has been for animation because nobody can deny The Tale of Princess Kaguya is one of the most beautifully animated films of this or any other year. It is gorgeous. Some people will definitely have issues with pacing and character’s choices but I was able to move past those barriers and really was blown away by it.
See it in the theater if you can not only to get the most beautiful viewing experience, but to support hand drawn animation when you can because the box office is where it really counts. DVD and blu-ray sales help but when studios are deciding whether to produce movies they look at box office sales, so if you love hand drawn animation it’s time to put your money where your mouth is like I did. If it is not playing at a city near you (25 cities so far) than follow them on facebook and contact your local theaters. Let them know you want to see it.
It is going to be extremely difficult to determine this year’s Best Animated Feature for the Oscars because I don’t know how you don’t include this film. It is awe-inspiring to look at. I think either Boxtrolls or Book of Life is going to lose its spot which is a shame because they are both so inventive and great to look at. I don’t care if I’m the only one who feels this way I just love this year’s films! If Song of the Sea is as great as people say than the Oscars noms are likely to be Song of the Sea, Tale of Princess Kaguya, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Big Hero 6 and The Lego Movie. I would love to see Hisaishi get a nom for best score because it really is outstanding but it’s been a great year in that department too. A great year for movies!
Here are some more clips if you are still trying to decide whether to see it or not.
As far as a recommendation for kids it is tough. Certain kids will be very rambunctious throughout the film and like I said there are breasts, baby butts and talk of wives and concubines if that is a concern for parents. Other than that there isn’t any content that would be offensive. Nothing is scary or violent. There are some kids who really love artistic films and sometimes it’s the adults that get antsy! I’ve seen that happen many times.
My niece who really loves Japanese culture and art I think would love it, so it just depends on the kid. Maybe watch the trailers with them and gauge their interest? But I think it is good for kids to see challenging films on occasion and not the easy to digest but fun films mainstream Hollywood gives them. It’s good for the brain to have to work a little bit harder to appreciate what we view from time-to-time.