“Spider-Man: Homecoming”, A Bullet Point Review

– I cannot praise Tom Holland’s Spider-Man enough. He was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It was honestly my favorite live action portrayal of a superhero EVER, even more than Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. What an incredible performance.

– The score is absolutely awesome. Michael Giacchinno actually reworks the original, iconic Spider-Man theme as the main theme of the movie, to fantastic effect.

– “Homecoming” sort of feels like two movies smushed together, one very, very awesome movie and one that’s kind of “meh”. There’s the superhero movie about a young Peter Parker who wants to gain the respect of Tony Stark and become an Avenger, but who still hasn’t really gotten this whole “hero” thing yet, and makes a lot of mistakes. That movie is fantastic! It’s the best Spider-Man movie yet, even better than the awesome Toby McGuire starring “Spider-Man 2”!

…And then there was the sort of meh teen drama going on with Peter. It was…adequate. Okay. A thing. It did the job in humanizing Peter, but beyond that it didn’t really add anything. For a few reasons…

– This was a movie that had Spider-Man surrounded by a bunch of characters who never appeared in the comics before but shared the same names. We had Flash Thompson, who looked and acted nothing like Flash but shared his name, Ned, who was apparently an Ultimate Spider-Man character who never actually had anything to do with Peter Parker, Aunt May as Marisa Tomei, who, what, Liz Allen, a minor character that like 5 people remembered from a short-lived television show, and MJ, a character who is actually a character about as close to the polar opposite of comic book MJ as you could possibly get. Even the Vulture isn’t anything like comic Vulture, but as he’s much more awesome I’ll let it slide.

There is something very, very weird about somebody making an adaptation of something and then not just not using the source material but perverting it into something completely different. SJW’s seem prone to this, leading me to…

– I stand by something I said on this site previously. “Homecoming” was not itself an SJW movie, but it was an envelope pusher. Marvel is testing its limits. Expect the movies to trend more and more leftward the years to come.

– Zendaya’s character is the absolute worst, and that she is supposed to be MJ is a travesty. Just throwing that one out there. Spit in John Romita Jr.’s eye, why don’t you.

– ALL OF THIS SAID – When “Homecoming” is good, it is really, REALLY good. The best thing about the MCU, that the DCEU was missing up until “Wonder Woman”, is that it understands why people love superheroes, and why people love these characters, and it gives people what they want. This movie is packed with insanely cool imagery – Spider-Man climbing up the Washington Monument, Spider-Man rising from the rubble through sheer willpower to rejoin the fight, Spider-Man running into towering flames to rescue a man, Spider-Man attempting to hold a cruise ship together singlehandedly. The Vulture, one of comics’ lamest villains, gets a huge and awesome upgrade here.

And it has those stand-up-and-cheer moments that the MCU is so good at, too. Spider-Man’s character development is expertly handled and immensely satisfying to watch. And even that “meh” half of the film is anchored by Tom Holland’s outstanding performance as Peter Parker.

– Did I mention how great Tom Holland was? So, so great. What a terrific performance, and a terrific portrayal of the character.

OVERALL: Recommended. Probably not up with the very best of the MCU, but it was money very well spent to see it in theaters.

Ghibli Retrospective: “Whisper of the Heart”

What a charming film, and what a tragic history behind it. “Whisper of the Heart” was written by Miyazaki, produced by Miyazaki, and had its storyboards supervised by Miyazaki, but it was not directed by Miyazaki, nor Isao Takahata. The director of “Whisper of the Heart” was Yoshifumi Kondō (creating that line over the o is annoying, so with all due respect to Kondo I’m done with that). Ghibli had a significant problem, then and now, of developing a new class of directors once Miyazaki and Takahata retired (the problem is so significant, in fact, that after Miyazaki’s latest non-retirement is was an open question whether or not Ghibli would be making any more films at all). Some people rose up and made good films – Goro Miyazaki, who directed “Up on Poppy Hill”, Hiroyuki Morita, who directed the sequel/spinoff “The Cat Returns”, and Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who directed “The Secret World of Arrietty” – but none of them were truly designated the successors to the Ghibli brand like Kondo was.

Kondo was to be the next Miyazaki – indeed, Miyazaki himself had essentially hand-picked him as his successor. And it’s hard to ask for a better debut than “Whisper of the Heart”. Tragically, though, Kondo died not long after “Whisper” of an aneurysm, which Miyazaki himself blamed on overwork (another way of saying that he blamed himself for Kondo’s death, being the one who pushed him so hard).

And it’s such a shame, not only for him and his family, of course, but for the world, because “Whisper of the Heart” is truly an excellent film. I’d probably rank it above at least “Ponyo” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. “Whisper of the Heart” is the story of Shizuku, a young teenage girl on the cusp of her entrance exams for high school, but whose real ambition is to be a writer. Shizuku struggles from insecurities about her art, as well as the normal trials and tribulations that a young Japanese girl goes through regularly in suburban Tokyo. Along the way she discovers that a boy named Seiji has been checking out the same books as her at the library, and after rocky introductions the two fall in love quickly thanks to their shared ambitions – Seiji wants to be a violin craftsman.

The more I think about this film the more I realize how much I liked it. The movie is clearly a movie for girls, but it’s more than that. It’s a movie for writers. I don’t know a writer in the world who can’t empathize with Shizukui’s lack of ideas followed by her sudden burst of inspiration that causes her to spend up to four in the morning writing. This happens to me all the time; I’ll be run dry of ideas, and then I’ll get the BEST IDEA EVER, and I’ll have to get the story out RIGHT NOW. It is more than once that I have stayed up until four in the morning writing.

And I can empathize surprisingly well with Shizuku’s romantic life. There is a scene when Shizuku, who has never really shown interest in boys before and is quite shy, is talking with Seiji alone, but unbeknownst to her the entire class is hiding behind a nearby door and eavesdropping. When she figures it out, she’s furious.

This is me. I am not outgoing, and so people find it amusing or entertaining when I take an interest in someone, and I HATE that. I have made excuses to leave my house in order to talk to people without worrying about eavesdropping, so Shizuku’s reaction rang VERY true to me.

The direction in the movie is indeed fantastic, if not quite flawless. Some of Kondo’s visual themes and motifs are brilliantly subtle, to the point where I’ve had to read other reviews to actually catch them, but some are rather on the nose, like the scene where Shizuku tells Seiji that she does not want to be a burden on his life, but wants to aid him, while she is helping him push his bike up a steep hill. This is effective, I suppose, but blunt enough that you can sort of see the gears working in the background. “Hey, you know what would make a good metaphor…” But it’s also something that is quite easy to chalk up to directorial inexperience, and his use of visual storytelling is so on point, so razor sharp in so many other places that his skill and talent is readily apparent.

The script is Miyazaki, and thus excellent. It is much less whimsical than most of Miyazaki’s fare (most; remember that one of the things that makes Miyazaki great is that he could tackle ideas from any direction and knock them out of the park regardless), but it has as much heart as any of them. The story is only barely less slight than “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, but Kondo treats it with the utmost respect; maybe what’s happening here isn’t a big deal in the sense that, say “Princess Mononoke” or even “Porco Rosso” was, but it’s a HUGE deal for Shizuku, and Kondo doesn’t minimize that.

When a boy Shizuku’s friend Yuko has a crush on upsets her, Shizuku and Yuko are both angry, but also both mature enough to talk it over and come to a more rational decision about what to do about it. What happens to them isn’t something for us to laugh at, but a real crisis in their lives that they handle; the only difference is that it happens not to be the sort of crisis we face often as adults. Later, when Shizuku bursts into tears after hearing Nishi’s opinion of her story, we empathize and understand why. To Kondo, being a teenager just means you deal with different issues than adults do, not that they’re less important.

This goes all the way down to the controversial ending. Sure, a marriage proposal is sudden, and they’re too young to act on it anyway, but then the whole point is that being young doesn’t mean your decisions don’t matter. Miyazaki said that the reason he added that ending is that he wanted the protagonists to commit to something; again, it all comes down to respect for the characters. Their choices are not unimportant. They matter. Them being teenagers doesn’t change that.

The ending, by the way, is also EXTREMELY refreshing. Both Seiji and Shizuku, when given the option to go the path of the starving artist to chase their dreams, reject it, and choose to finish their schooling so they could come back to their ambitions after standing on more solid ground. There’s something particularly Miyazakian about that touch, a level of sophistication and maturity lacking in most western films.

Also worth noting: The love story might be the closest of all of them to the Miyazakian ideal of “Two people inspiring one another to live”. This is basically the sole reason Shizuku and Seiji believe they’re suited for each other; both of them are inspired by the other’s dedication to their dreams, and both agree to help the other fulfill them. You can see why Miyazaki decided to adapt the original manga in the first place.

“Whisper of the Heart” is an underappreciated entry in the Ghibli canon. It’s something of a bittersweet pill when you realize we’ll never have another Kondo film to watch, but he left us with – to use a metaphor from the film – a real gem. Perhaps it is rough and unpolished occasionally, but beautiful regardless. And, ah, when it sparkles…!

We’ll never know what Kondo could have been, but we know what he was, and that is the director of a beautiful, moving, and inspiring piece of meticulously crafted cinema. And that’s a better legacy than most of us will ever leave.

Review: “The End of the World as We Knew It”, by Nick Cole

Nick Cole gets it.

Superversive, I mean. He gets it. What it means. How to write it. Every single book of his I’ve read, even the poorer ones, have had at least one moment that pulled me out for a second and made me say “Wow”. And I mean wow as in, “I suddenly got the impression that my world was a little bit brighter and better than it was before”.

Like, his book “The Dark Knight”? I think it was a good book, not great. Except, there this one moment at the end…when one character is caught between saving a library that is essentially the last repository of mankind’s knowledge or saving a 19 year old mentally challenged man…where I just sort of stopped reading for a moment and said “Wow.”

Just, “Wow.”

And “Wow” is sort of “The End of the World as We Knew It” in a nutshell. The book is a little bit like “World War Z” if it were hyperfocused on two characters. The world has ended, and fiancees Alex and Jason – no last names given – are on the opposite sides of the country. When the apocalypse hits, both cheat on each other. Alex is a drunk. She has contributed nothing to her life and knows it, and the thought of Jason, who loves her whatever her flaws, is the only thing that keeps her moving in the apocalypse.

Jason is a rich stockbroker who makes his money by climbing on other people’s backs; he wonders aloud more than once how many people he exploited for his riches. When the apocalypse hits, he cheats on Alex, assuming her dead. After making it out of his office building he takes a train down with the military to California, almost as a sort of penance, in an attempt to find Alex.

Unusually, Alex is much more likable than Jason – this is probably because she seems genuinely repentant and is constantly hoping and praying to find Jason and beg forgiveness. Jason starts off almost dead to the world, but as the story goes on he realizes how much he truly loved Alex, and finding her becomes his mission in life. By the time the book ends Jason has grown much more likable, because he’s thought of someone outside of himself.

But really, that’s not why I’m even writing this. It’s for those “Wow” moments. Like, at the end of Jason’s story, when he rescues a woman who is nearly killed by an explosive strike dropped on a massive zombie attack, to atone for not rescuing the woman he cheated on earlier, only to then see her get embraced by the man who loves her…

That was a “Wow” moment.

When Jason finds the body of a woman who is known only as the Lady, who he has been convinced all along is Alex, but he discovers she’s not, and this prompts the revelation that love truly is stronger than death, or even the of the world as we knew it…

…Wow.

And then the biggest one of all. SPOILERS for the ending.

It is many years later, and Jason and Alex have both dropped out of history. Alex’s story ended with her stuck and surrounded by zombies; we don’t know that she died, but it didn’t look good. Jason’s story ended with him striking out into the North alone to find Alex, armed only with a compass tied around his neck.

The man who killed the last reported zombies from the Apocalypse shares his story from the nursing home: Expecting to find one zombie, there were, in fact, two- a man and a woman.

And…

“He loved her. He wouldn’t leave her,” sobs Cal.

“What happened next?” I prompt. “By the river that day. That last day of summer.” Then Cal remembers. “Can they love each other? Do you know that, boy? Do you know if they can do that?” I didn’t have an answer. Who could?

“The last one was the worst. He loved her. All those zombies, all those years, they’d become nothing more than animals, less than even, and the last of them turned on me in the end. I was glad they were the last. He loved her. He wouldn’t leave her,” he sobs over and over into his nurse.

But of course, that’s not the last thing we learn:

The last two zombies had no identification. Just some personal effects.

The yellowing paper of the official report reads: Female, one diamond ring, left ring finger. Male, one battered army compass, worn around the neck.

Wow.

Sorry, John C. Wright. Nick Cole may be the most superversive writer working in the field today.

Ghibli Retrospective: “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

Isao Takahata is Studio Ghibli’s second critically acclaimed director. He is neither as good nor as prolific as Miyazaki, but he is, for lack of a better word, “artsier”. Takahata’s best known film is “The Grave of the Fireflies” (which I will NOT be getting to), the notoriously sad and depressing wartime classic about two children who starve to death in WWII era Japan. “Grave of the Fireflies” is universally acclaimed, undeniably brilliant, profound, moving, and something nobody ever, ever desires to watch twice. Takahata is not a crowd pleaser like Miyazaki is.

…Which isn’t to say that he’s bad. Quite the contrary, Takahata is very good, and certainly interesting. He has two of the most artistically unique Studio Ghibli films, “My Neighbors the Yamadas” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”.

The first and most obvious thing to note is that yes, the pencil-drawn “Kaguya” is a beautiful film. The story of the film is taken from the Japanese folktale (or, technically more accurately, Monogatari) “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. The plot is that a bamboo cutter discovers an infant the size of his thumb inside of a magical stalk of bamboo, an infant he immediately recognizes is a Princess with no name. Together with his wife, they raise the infant as she grows with supernatural speed into a young woman of exquisite beauty. At the same time, the Bamboo cutter finds gold and fine clothing appearing inside other stalks of bamboo, and takes it as a sign from Heaven that he is to move to the capital and raise the Princess as actual royalty, where she learns the duties of a real Princess and leaves her friends back in the bamboo valley behind.

The movie is – bluntly – rather dull, but it is an interesting look at Japanese culture and history. However, this is also its biggest failure. Miyzaki is often cited as a feminist, but he is not in the way westerners think of the term, at least as far as his movie go. If this movie is anything to go by, Takahata is. “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” is profoundly and obnoxiously anti-men, and the truly harmful thing about this is that to reach that point the movie needs to lie about its past and its origins.

“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” tries to paint a picture of an old Japan where young Princesses were swept up against their will by the whims of the patriarchy, unable to make their own choices or escape the expectations of a male-oriented society. The Princess is clearly far happier at her original home by the bamboo forest, playing with other children and living among the beauty of nature, than she is living at the cold, sterile palace. But her father essentially forces her to live at the palace he builds for, claiming the entire time that royal life and marriage are for her happiness but obviously thinking more about his own newfound status.

The royalty who come to visit the Princess and ask for her hand in marriage clearly know absolutely nothing about her and don’t care, comparing her to various objects and completely uninterested in getting to know her personally. The Emperor almost kidnaps her. The one male character originally portrayed as positive in the film considers leaving his wife and children to run off with her. Literally none of the male characters are portrayed positively. The father has a change of heart at the end of the film, but he has been such a negative influence up until then that it very much comes across as too little, too late.

The big issue here is that this isn’t how the original 10th century story went; put another way, this movie is portraying a lie. This is not what all men were like. Her father did not shop the Princess out to various men like a slave in the market, but rather tried to protect her from the outside world; he was not happy about making her choose among the royalty who come to court her, but is pressured into it.

When the Emperor comes to court the Princess, he does not attempt to kidnap her, and when she rejects him, he does not vow to return and make her marry him whatever her issues on the matter. In fact, the Emperor treats the Princess with great respect the entire time. He continually proposes to her, having fallen in love, but accepts her rebuffs with grace. When the moon people come for her at the end of the story, the Emperor tries to stop them despite the fact that she rejected him. In the original tale, the roles of the men and women are, if anything, reversed; the Princess has the royalty wrapped around her little finger while her father is forcibly bullied by them despite his best efforts to help her.

At the end of the story, the Princess and the Emperor have such a close relationship that the Princess writes a letter to the Emperor herself before she is taken back to the moon, and the Emperor is so overcome with grief he sends men to the top of Mount Fuji – the mountain “closest to heaven” – and tells them to burn the letter in the hope that it will one day reach the Princess.

And ultimately this is the biggest issue with the film: It tries to paint an image of a time gone by when women were treated as objects and men were selfish boors and jerks, when the original story simply doesn’t portray a world like that. The point of the film is a lie, and if the movie is most interesting as a piece of Japanese culture, it is highly disappointing to see it wear its anti-men agenda so proudly on its sleeve like that.

If you like the idea of watching an experiment in pencil drawn animation and semi-dreamlike storytelling, then you might find the movie of interest; I can’ really say I regret watching it. But for most people, it’s not recommended.

 

 

A Romantic Distinction

I propose a distinction between two varieties of romance in fiction: Girly romances and manly romances.

A girly romance is a romance where the man, or woman, is willing to give up everything in order to be with the one they love.

A manly romance is a romance where the man, or woman, is forced to give up, or risk, their happiness with the one they love in order to achieve a greater good.

Girly romances don’t necessarily have to be bad (See: “Wall-E”), and manly romances don’t necessarily have to be good (I can’t think of any bad examples off the top of my head, but I’m not a fan of the romance genre generally). But I think the distinction is at least an interesting one.

To see the quintessential examples of both, “Titanic” is THE girly romance, and “Casablanca” is THE manly romance. They’re both considered classics (though I can’t stand “Titanic”, but hey, it’s popular), and both of them fit the categories perfectly: Rick gives up Ilsa in order to aid the war effort, even though it hurts them both, and in “Titanic” Jack is willing to give up even his life in order to save Rose, and Rose apparently happy to give up her posh upper class status in order to be with Jack.

If “Casablanca” were a girly romance, Rick would have run off with Ilsa and Lazlo would have been sad but happy that Ilsa was happy, and they would flee Casablanca together.

If “Titanic” were a manly romance, Jack would be forced to leave Rose behind in order to – let’s say – find and release lifeboats to save the other passengers, and Rose would recognize that she had responsibilities to her family and society that made a relationship with Jack irresponsible and reckless anyway. Both would be sad but would part ways in the knowledge that they were doing the difficult but moral thing. Interestingly, in this version of “Titanic” it actually might make more sense for Jack to live.

Just food for thought.

Standard Right Wing Talking Points and Casual Sexism

This might be the new tagline for John C. Wright’s Hugo nominates story “An Unimgainable Light”. From Nerds of a Feather:

An Unimaginable Light: Imagine a thought experiment dealing with the nature of being human by  playing with the nature of robots and mix in some casual sexism and some standard right wing talking points. Then, imagine the story is even more didactic and poorly written than it sounds and you have the beginning of what John C. Wright’s awful “An Unimaginable Light” is. The reality is so much worse. Rich Horton notes that much of the context for the story is tied to Wright’s collection God, Robot and perhaps it would read very differently in that context, but coming into the story as a discrete piece of fiction I can only say that it is bad. It is not worthy of being considered for the Hugo Award.

Seriously, when will people understand that the story is literally an argument *against* casual objectification of women? It’s not even subtle. The person who “casually objectifies” women is literally nicknamed “Skinner”. Because he flays people. He’s not the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for.

As for “Standard right wing talking points”…here are the other Hugo stories. This is taken from books.zennaro.net. All emphasis mine:

A Fist of Permutations in the Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Hannah and Melanie are two sisters, with the ability to bend time and reality. Unfortunately there are limits of what they can achieve, and when one succumbs to self hate, suicide, family transphobia, and hate crime, the other traps herself in a never ending loop of alternative realities, fueled by her sense of guilt, desperately trying to change an unchangeable past.

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
This is the story of Tabitha, and Amira. Their stories, and their roles are the archetypal stories and roles of women in fairy tales. The same fairy tales that we still read to our children, often without realizing how misogynistic they are. One day, as Tabitha walks around the world to repent for having revealed to her mother she was a victim of abuse, she meets Amira. Their encounter will deeply change their lives, their way of thinking, and of living.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
A very interesting, and very fine example of message fiction, focusing on women rights, and rape. Given the brevity of the story, it is hard to say anything about it, without spoiling it. I would just say that it is a great piece from a Hugo / Nebula / Sturgeon / Locus finalist writer.

The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin
All the great metropolis on Earth, when they get big enough, and old enough, they must be born. Now it’s the turn of New York, and a homeless queer black man find himself tasked with the role of facilitate this birth [sic]. But nothing it easy: there are mysterious enemies that want to prevent this from happening. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts his reluctant midwife.
I found the short story interesting, in particular the way it touches some very actual themes like xenophobia, and homelessness. The story is not as good as Jemisin’s previous work.

(Carrie Vaughn’s story seems pretty neutral ideologically, for what that’s worth.)

But, sure, the issue here is that there are “standard right wing talking points” in John’s story. THAT’S what we should be concerned about!

Mostly I notice that this Hugo Award year, at least in the short story category, is divided on deeply ideological lines – there is no question that John’s story is very definitely on the conservative side of the ideological divide. But they’re not even trying to hide it anymore; message fiction is being acknowledged and stories are being praised specifically for the ideologies they happen to be pushing.

If you want to see something from someone who *actually* seems to be neutral, here are some good reviews from Reddit, of all places:

The gist of his notes on John’s story:

It’s an interesting thought experiment and is more metaphysical and philosophical than science fiction in feel.

I really enjoyed this story, though it is up to you to decide if the $5 purchase price is worth it to read this Hugo nominee.

See, this reviewer seemed to like other stories more, including stories I’d probably dislike myself. And, hey, that’s fine; at least his judgments don’t seem to be based on “Is my preferred political viewpoint being expressed?”

Because that seems to be the theme of this year’s Hugo Awards. How depressing.

Miyazaki Retrospective: The Final Analysis

I have sometimes heard a term used when talking about Shakespeare called “Bardolatry”. Essentially it refers to the assumption that because he is Shakespeare, every single thing he wrote is a perfect masterpiece that we should be falling over ourselves to praise. A good example is “Titus Andronicus” a play universally considered absolutely terrible right up until the second half of the twentieth century, when people mysteriously “discovered” how brilliant it was. But it’s not. It’s terrible, Shakespeare or no Shakespeare.

Does this take away from Shakespeare? No, of course not. The five great tragedies (“Hamlet”, “Macbeth”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “King Lear”, and “Othello”) are even today unmatched masterpieces, and his best comedies and romances are brilliant as well. It’s just a good reminder that just because a certain name is attached to something doesn’t make it good by default.

This is all a preface for me to say that while I am trying to avoid engaging in “Miyazaki-dolatry”…it is REALLY hard. The truth is, the hype surrounding this guy was so huge that really, who could possible live up to it? I wasn’t *expecting* him to live up to it. It would be unfair to, really.

…And then, dammit, he did. He really, really did. He was as good as promised, and in some cases *better* (“Howl’s Moving Castle” particularly). After viewing his filmography in full, there are four main things I took away:

  1. The man is good at EVERYTHING. Slow moving and idyllic slice of life films? Brilliant. Biopics? Brilliant. Epics? Brilliant. Comedies? Brilliant. Action movies? Brilliant. He has movies that are powered mainly on the strength of his dialogue (“Porco Rosso”), movies powered by the strength of their action scenes (“The Castle of Cagliostro”), movies most notable for their scope and complex plots (“Princess Mononoke”, “Nausicaa”), movies carried by the sheer beauty of the animation (“Ponyo”), wonderful romances (“Howl’s Moving Castle”), and then movies that are so original, so purely Miyazaki, that you’re simply in awe at the uniqueness of his vision (“Spirited Away”). Never have I seen a director who isn’t just good at *something*, but who has mastered every aspect of his craft.
  2. The consistency of his brilliance is remarkable. There is not one single “bad” movie in Miyazaki’s filmography. His worst film, “Ponyo”, is absolutely gorgeous, has lovable characters, and bursts with atmosphere. “The Castle of Cagliostro”, probably his second worst movie by default, has action scenes that are still revered by directors today. In my “Spirited Away” review, I pointed out that I’ve seen at least six different films all ranked as Miyzaki’s best on one list or another – and every decision is completely defensible.
  3. He knows how to do female characters better than anyone else I’ve ever seen. Miyazaki creates female characters that are brave, tough, kind, beautiful, admirable, and very, very feminine. And all with distinct personalities as well; you can palette swap the average female Strong Wymyn Character in western media today and come up with basically the same character with a different name, but Miyazaki’s female characters are all *different*, yet all *admirable*. It is a little sad that this is so remarkable (a writer can create interesting and competent characters, stop the presses), but that is the situation we’re in right now.
  4. He is the most superversive director ever. I’m not really sure how you can dispute this. Every single one of his movies contains at least one moment of love or beauty that points the viewer towards away from themselves, and towards the divine. Miyazaki’s characters literally and figuratively look upward – towards the rising wind, towards something bigger than themselves, towards things worth risking their lives and making sacrifices for. He has heroes who are truly heroic, villains who are truly villainous, and characters with understandable goals and motivations that nevertheless are not excused for their actions, because they live in a world where morality is real and there is such a thing as making the *wrong* decision, both practically and morally. If C.S. Lewis is the patron Saint of superversive fiction than Miyazaki is the current king of the castle.

Ultimately I feel a little like I did when I discovered the excellent show “Justified” for the first time and learned there was still one season left: Very, very lucky. Miyazaki is not done: He is is still drawing, still writing, still creating. And I am absolutely thrilled to be lucky enough to watch him do it one more time, right in front of me, and experience his movie when it’s released as it’s meant to be.

And you can be sure when that happens, the retrospective will be updated again!

So what’s next? I am done?

Nah. I’ll move on to more Ghibli (but NEVER “The Grave of the Fireflies”). “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” should be in the mail right now, so that will probably be the next in the retrospective. Stay tuned!

Ah, and one last thing. My personal ranking (Note: Every movie is recommended, and all should be watched at least once)…

  1. Princess Mononoke
  2. Spirited Away
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle
  4. Castle in the Sky
  5. The Wind Rises
  6. Porco Rosso (Note: I rewatched it recently and liked it a lot more, but am still surprised to find myself putting it higher than a couple of these movies!)
  7. My Neighbor Totoro
  8. Nausicaa in the Valley of the Wind
  9. Kiki’s Delivery Service
  10. The Castle of Cagliostro
  11. Ponyo