Tag Archives: Hayao Miyazaki

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The Boy and the Heron

by Hope Madden

Remember when Hayao Miyazaki said he was retiring from filmmaking? And we thought the sublime The Wind Rises was his last feature? Well, the animation master delivers the best Christmas gift this year with the lovely, likely swan song, The Boy and the Heron.

More meditative than his early work, but more whimsical than The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s latest follows Mahito through a turbulent time in his life. WWII rages, and Mahito recently lost his mother. His father, who runs a factory aiding in the war effort, relocates to the countryside where he’s married his late wife’s younger sister, Natsuko.

This new house brings with it something of the supernatural. Miyazaki taps some of the same wonderous ideas that fed Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro – two of his most beloved films ­– but The Boy and the Heron feels more like a farewell than an invitation.

Mahito is lured into an upside-down world in search of his stepmother. No one, absolutely no one, does an upside-down world as well as Hayao Miyazaki. Floating happy faced blobs, an army of hungry parakeets, even a pirate!

Characteristically gorgeous, the film combines the spectacle of Spirited Away with the solemnity of The Wind Rises. Joe Hisaishi’s plaintive score never overwhelms but quietly emphasizes the sense of loss that permeates the movie. And though the painterly magic we’ve come to expect from the unparalleled filmmaker is on display in every frame, the storytelling this time is openly wistful.

The Boy and the Heron may represent Mahito’s coming of age, but as he turns his back on the imaginative world he leaves behind, it’s hard not to feel as if Miyazaki is likewise waving goodbye.

Like Johnny Cash’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around”, Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker” and David Bowie’s “Blackstar”, The Boy and the Heron represents an artist without peer delivering, lyric by lyric, an outright goodbye to all he’s built in his lifetime of artistry.

Stocking Stuffer Countdown

It is officially the season. For anyone looking to stuff stockings, we’ve hand-crafted our own wish list.

5. Studio Ghibli BluRay Combo Packs

Three lovely Hayao Miyazaki films – The Wind Rises, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke – are newly available on BluRay. The trio hit upon Miyazaki’s playful, serious and personal sides, and they look glorious in HD.

4. Earth, Wind & Fire: Holiday

Whether you pop an old school CD into a stocking or download the holiday happiness for your own festivities, this is an excellent way to funk up your yule.

3. Simpsons: Season 17

The return of Sideshow Bob, Patty and Selma kidnap MacGyver, Homer swaps Marge on a reality show, Lisa tries to “My Fair Lady” Groundskeeper Willie – do we really need to go on? Hours of lunacy, and for George, an excellent way to kill time during the Maddens’ post-turkey naps.

2. Stanley Kubrick: A Masterpiece Collection

Ten disks containing many of Kubrick’s greatest films from 1962 to 1999 –Dr. Strangelove, 2001, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and others – as well as a few documentaries on the filmmaker, his influence on other directors, and the influence of his film A Clockwork Orange.

1. Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series BluRays

Painstakingly remastered and insanely hilarious, this complete set of the best kids’ show of all time will absolutely make someone – maybe your entire holiday gathering – happy. Full of glee, even.

Miyazaki’s Final Film?

The Wind Rises

by Hope Madden

The Wind Rises – the Oscar nominated, animated, fantastical biopic of Japanese aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi – may be genius filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s final film.

A body of work like his – Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke and so many more – deserves a unique capstone, and The Wind Rises is certainly unique. This film is not only unlike anything else Miyazaki has crafted, but unlike anything else period.

Set in Japan in the early 1920s, the film offers a fictionalized account of a nearsighted boy who dreams – literally – of aircraft. In Jiro’s dreams, Italian aeronautical pioneer Gianni Caproni enlightens the boy to the elegant, creative possibilities of airplanes. Unable to become a pilot because of his eyesight, Jiro determines to design planes.

Like everything Miyazaki does, Wind is a visual glory. Whether crowded city streets, mountainside locales, or cloud-speckled heavens, the scenery in this film is breathtaking. Touching, intimate moments and catastrophic acts of God or of war, Miyazaki treats them with the same poetic brushstroke.

The subject matter here proves more adult than his previous efforts, though, and he limits the fantastical elements because of it. Though the dream sequences are a joy, don’t expect to find unusual creatures or outright feats of magic in this one.

Rather, Miyazaki attends to some of Japan’s most epic historic moments, contextualized behind the journey of one quiet, delicate young man’s voyage through life. The result is less giddily entertaining than what you might expect from the filmmaker, but no less captivating.

Maybe we can hope for just one more?