Posts Tagged ‘Hayao Miyazaki


Review: The Wind Rises

Does Hayao Miyazaki's latest (and maybe last) film take flight? Or does it get declined with the pattern being full?

Does Hayao Miyazaki’s latest (and maybe last) film take flight? Or does it get declined with the pattern being full?

Coming aboard the Hayao Miyazaki train fairly late in his career (the first film of his that I saw was Princess Mononoke), I’ve really enjoyed the imaginative worlds and engrossing stories that he has put forth to date. The Miyazaki that I love is at his best when he’s dealing with fantasy elements and natural/spiritual worlds. It was with this background in mind that I was really hopeful for what is being called his final film, The Wind Rises. While tons of critics everywhere are heaping a huge amount of praise on the film, I found myself feeling a little disheartened after walking out of the theater.

In many respects The Wind Rises is a biopic, and I would even dare to say his most accessible film to date. It follows the journey of Jiro Horikoshi, the Japanese engineer who would go on to design the Mitsubishi A6M Zero — Japan’s deadliest carrier-based fighter plane during World War II. From dreams during his youth and as a result of debilitative eyesight, all Jiro aspires to do is build planes. The journey to do so leads him to school, his job at Mitsubishi, a trip to Germany to study German aeronautics, and to the love of his life, Naoko.

Naoko and Jiro.

Naoko and Jiro.

The film plays with a melancholy vibe throughout as Jiro struggles to create the ideal aircraft–one that he has envisioned in his dreams, yet seems impossible to attain despite his best engineering efforts. Adding to the pensive theme of the film is Jiro’s relationship with Naoko. They meet early on and are then separated for a good chunk of the film. When they do reconnect, their relationship weighs on Jiro and adds a wrinkle to his professional life.

For a Miyazaki film, The Wild Rises is fairly straightforward. While a lot of the elements are based on historical events, there are some trademark Miyazaki fantasy flourishes. Throughout the film Jiro has recurring dreams in which he appears with Caproni, a famous Italian aeronautical designer, on a flying airplane. These sequences are always somewhat fanciful as Caproni and Jiro sometimes appear walking or standing on the wings of an airplane as it flies through the air. Serving as a way to analyze his current situation and obstacles, these dreams guide Jiro on a path to creating his airplane.

Say 'hi' to all the people going to see The Lego Movie again.

Say ‘hi’ to all the people going to see The Lego Movie again.

The Wind Rises has all the trademarks of a Studio Ghibli film: wonderful animation, great characters, funny moments, and an interesting story. Though it has all of those touches, that was never enough for me to be fully engaged by the film. I had heard beforehand that this Miyazaki film was based on historical events, but that didn’t really prepare me for how different it would be. What was missing for me was that wonderment you get from being in an imaginative world with colorful characters, a sense of awe by something you haven’t seen before. None of that was present for me in The Wind Rises. Instead I felt like I was watching a dramatized history lesson. While it was interesting, it just was not as enjoyable.

I have heard that the reason Miyazaki chose to develop this project was because he identifies himself with the main character Jiro. Miyazaki did feel the effects of World War II as he has stated that a memory that will live with him forever was when he fled his burning town after an air raid when he was just four years old. Whatever his motives were, I can’t help but think of the grim picture the film paints if Miyazaki does see his life paralleling that of Jiro. The eventual fallout from Jiro’s creation is a machine that is used by the Japanese military as an instrument of death. And this is what gives me some pause regarding the Jiro/Miyazaki parallel–if this is the case, what is Miyazaki trying to say about the legacy that he leaves behind?

Is that Jiro, or Hayao Miyazaki riding off into the sunset?

Is that Jiro, or Hayao Miyazaki riding off into the sunset?

I think you owe it to yourself to see The Wind Rises if you’re into cinema in general, like anime, or are a Hayao Miyazaki fan. If you’re just an average moviegoer looking for something to take the kids to this weekend, this probably is not it. While there’s nothing that I think kids under ten years old would find scary or would be offensive for them to see, I think the bigger issue kids will have is that there is not enough going on for them to hold their attention. With the fantasy aspect gone and no real killer visuals, the movie is a drama that takes the audience on a journey with the main character to build a plane–not the kind of fodder I see little kids really getting into. When you factor in that a majority of the showtimes will be in Japanese with English subtitles, that’s not something kids usually like having to do.

While I wouldn’t call myself a Hayao Miyazaki devotee, I do like many of his previous films and was hopeful for this one. With the shift in direction, in both theme and content, The Wind Rises was a bit of a letdown for me. If this is Miyazaki’s last film, I’m just happy that he got to go out on his own terms with something that was a project dear to his heart. I can always go back and watch his older stuff for the fantastical Miyazaki that I love and will remember him by.

The Wind Rises will be playing exclusively at Consolidated Ward 16 Theatres this weekend with both Japanese and English versions before expanding to more screens next weekend.

Rating 3/5 stars // PG-13 // 2h 6min


HIFF 2012: Must See Preview

Well, it’s that time of year again . . . time for the Hawaii International Film Festival. While we haven’t been as active as we’ve been in the past in the days leading up to the festival, this year we will be busier than ever trying to cover it while it is going on. In fact, with the festival kicking off tonight; we’d be remiss if we didn’t throw out our own two cents on some of the stuff we’d like to see as well as make a few notes on other stuff you might want to check out. So here it is, with the festival unspooling just hours away, I give you the Red Band Project’s HIFF 32 Must See Preview!

#1 Silver Linings Playbook

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet – and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

Why I Want to See It:
Before all the hype, before it won the audience award at TIFF, and before it debuted in Toronto last month; the trailer for David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was released early this summer. The trailer showcased Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss from The Hunger Games) and Bradley Cooper (that guy from The Hangover movies) in a dramedy of sorts and it looked to be a pretty fun film. I was definitely feeling what the trailer was selling me about the film, but absolutely sold me on it wasn’t that this film was from the dude that gave us The Fighter or the two big leads . . . it was Chris Tucker. Yes, the dude that played Smokey in Friday and made fun of Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies, he’s in this movie. After having a great run in the late 90s the dude just dropped off the Hollywood map–until now. I’m not sure how much of a supporting role he has in this film, but it definitely looks like he has a bit more serious role in Silver Linings; which I think could signal his comeback. The fact that this movie tore it up at Toronto and won the audience award only got me more excited to see it and I can’t wait!

#2 The Sessions

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Based on the poignantly optimistic autobiographical writings of California–based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, THE SESSIONS tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who is determined – at age 38 – to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality.

Why I Want to See It:
There were two films that generated a ton of buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. One of them was Beasts of the Southern Wild (which I wasn’t all that over the moon for). The other was The Sessions. The premise itself is funny enough, but with a pretty stacked cast (John Hawkes as the lead with Helen Hunt, William H. Macey, and Moon Bloodgood) and being picked up after a heavy bidding war; I’m hoping that where there’s smoke there’s fire. More so than with Beasts. The movie has a comedic drama angle to it so I think it’ll definitely be more accessible to a wider audience. Word is that Hawkes could have another potential Oscar nominated role on his hands with the film. With all of this swirling about, it’s definitely a no brainer for me wanting to check out.

#3 Holy Motors

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man… He seems to be playing roles, plunging headlong into each part – but where are the cameras? Monsieur Oscar is alone, accompanied only by Céline, the slender blonde woman behind the wheel of the vast engine that transports him through and around Paris. He’s like a conscientious assassin moving from hit to hit. In pursuit of the beautiful gesture, the mysterious driving force, the women and the ghosts of past lives. But where is his true home, his family, his rest?

Why I Want to See It:
I still don’t exactly know what it is about Holy Motors that intrigues me, but there’s enough going on there that I want to see the film to find out what it is. I saw the trailer shortly after the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival back in May and at the time I wasn’t too impressed. As the film has played the festival circuit it has garnered somewhat mixed reviews; though more of them have been on the favorable side. What sold me on seeing the film is that it won the critic’s award at this year’s Fantastic Fest (the largest genre film festival in the world) just a week ago. With a lot of fanboy journalists/bloggers behind it how can I go wrong?

#4 Rust & Bone

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

Ali, a man of formidable size and strength, gets a job as a bouncer in a nightclub. He comes to the aid of Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) during a nightclub brawl. Aloof and beautiful, Stephanie seems unattainable, but in his frank manner Ali leaves her his phone number anyway. Stephanie trains orca whales at Marineland. When a performance ends in tragedy, a call in the night again brings them together. When Ali sees her next, Stephanie is confined to a wheel chair : she has lost her legs and quite a few illusions. Ali’s direct, unpitying physicality becomes Stephanie’s lifeline, but Ali, too, is transformed by Stephanie’s tough resilience. And Stephanie comes alive again. As their stories intersect and diverge, they navigate a world where strength, beauty, youth and blood are commodities— but where trust, truth, loyalty and love cannot be bought and sold, and courage comes in many forms.

Why I Want to See It:
The film original got on my radar after it got some pretty good buzz coming off of its premiere at Cannes. What got my attention though were the two leads, Marion Cotillard of course most us may know her from The Dark Knight Rises, but also Matthias Schoenaerts; who broke onto the scene in last year’s Oscar nominated film Bullhead. Together these two seem to have some strong chemistry and I’m itching to see how it all plays out. The setup for the film seems tailor made for tragedy and I think it’ll definitely showcase their acting talents.

#5 Hang Loose

Trailer // HIFF Page // Official Site

HANG LOOSE turns on the manic vs. medium cool performances of actors Dante Basco (THE DEBUT, Festival 2000) and Kevin Wu (aka KevJumba), here playing slightly dialed-up versions of themselves. Wu is newly-single Kevin who, having been dumped by his longtime girlfriend the week he graduates from high school, flies out to Hawaii to attend his big sister’s wedding. Upon his arrival into Honolulu, he meets his future brother-in-law Dante (Basco) and his crazy groomsmen Ben (Benjamin Arthur) and Dion (Dion Basco). Clearly out of his element, Kevin lets himself get talked into tagging along for Dante’s bachelor party, a soiree that quickly goes wrong in so many ways

Why I Want to See It:
Hang Loose is directed by Ryan Kawamoto and produced by James Sereno . . . two of the guys behind Kinetic Productions and who’s feature arm (Kinetic Films) made last year’s Paradise Broken (One of the best films that I saw at HIFF last year). After watching Paradise Broken and their anthology series 6B I am sold on anything these guys do and I’m definitely looking forward to their lighter comedic offering in this year’s Hang Loose.

Other Films of Note

This preview wouldn’t be complete without us tossing out a few more recommendations on cool and interesting things that you could possibly check out at this year’s festival. Here are a few things for the high and/or family minded . . .

Potential Oscar Candidates

The word “international” in Hawaii International Film Festival is there for a reason . . . the festival is showcasing some of the best films from around the world. Seven films playing at this year’s festival have been submitted by their respective countries as their entry to potentially become nominated in the Foreign Language Film category . . . aka The Oscars. Though a crowded field to be sure, you might be able to get a jump on your Oscar ballot by checking out these films:

  • A Royal Affair (Denmark)
  • Barbara (Germany)
  • Barfi! (India)
  • Caesar Must Die (Italy)
  • Bwakaw (Phillipines)
  • Beyond the Hills (Romania)
  • Sister (Switzerland)

Studio Ghibli Retrospective

Though I came late to the party on the Hayao Miyazaki bandwagon (the first film that I saw was Princess Mononoke), once I was on board . . . I was on board. The Studio Ghibli Retrospective has been touring the country for the past year and now it makes a stop right here in Hawaii for HIFF. It’s definitely a great opportunity for you to catch up on some of these classics, or if you’re like me, see them for the first time in a theater with other like-minded people. The highlight of the retrospective will definitely be this weekend when HIFF, in conjunction with Our Kaka‘ako, present Spirited Away on Saturday night under the stars at the Kaka‘ako Gateway Park. There’s going to be food trucks, cosplay contest, and should be a lot of fun for the entire family.

Are you going to be checking out HIFF this year? If you are, let us know in the comments and tell us what films you’re interested in seeing.

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