Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Written by Hayao Miyazaki based off the book by Diana Wynne Jones
(number 239)

I watched this with Anna although I have seen it many times before. I saw this first at the International Film Festival in the Embassy, although this time I watched it in English. It’s a lovely, atmospheric movie about accepting oneself, improving the lives of others and believing in love. The English version is very good, Christian Bale provides the voice of Howl and Lauren Bacall is the voice of the Witch of the Waste.

I dunno why but I find sequences of people cleaning up make me really happy. I love seeing all the stuff get cleaned up and organised and the room going from mucky to sparkling. It’s one of my favourite bits from Fruits Basket as well, anime seems to have it as a bit of a trope, giving time to showing a character cleaning house. Actually I’ve loved bits in books like this too, like that one Enid Blyton book where they find a run down house in the middle of a forest. What’s the appeal? Cleansing as a character restart maybe?

The movie is an adaptation of the book by the fantastic Diana Wynne Jones and when I first saw the movie I was quite sad that they had taken away some of Sophie’s power and given it to Howl instead. I don’t mind so much watching it now, perhaps because I haven’t read the book in so long. I like that they retained Sophie’s ageing/de-ageing as part of the story – a reflection of how she is feeling at the time. The more down on herself she is the more she reverts back to the cursed age the witch gave her.

Does it make me love the people? Always. I adore Calcifer from the first moment he speaks but I also love the wizard Howl, with all his emotional outbursts and charm, and of course Sophie with her temper, her way of taking other people in. There’s an incredible amount of forgiveness and acceptance that Sophie displays and the nice thing is that it’s not something that is made a fuss of in the story, it’s just a part of who she is as a character.

It’s, like pretty much all the other Ghibli movies, visually stunning. Lush landscapes and watercolour flowers. Lots of mountains and open blue sky. It made me miss the landscapes we saw zooming through Japan on the Shinkansen.

Bechdel test: Yes and very early on. Sophie talks to her sister Lettie about the weird way she got home, and about being safe, and she talks to the Witch of the Waste about lots of things over the course of the movie. Anna pointed out that when talking to her sister Sophie also expresses the opinion that she doesn’t need any man (their absent father in this case) worrying about her, because she can take care of herself.

Best line:
Howl: I feel terrible, like there’s a weight on my chest.
Sophie: A heart’s a heavy burden

State of Mind: Dreamy. Although possibly because I started to nap a little during the movie, but it is a very dreamlike film visually. The music is soothing and generally pastoral which probably helped as well.

Film Festival post 2

On Tuesday I went to see Love is Strange at the Penthouse and it was exceptionally good. It’s measured but not slow, and the fantastic performances made it feel immersively real. The little ordinary annoyances of living and the utter devotion of the lead couple.

Fred Mollina and John Lithgow were wonderful, and I adored Patricia Arquette in it. The problem with this movie is that I loved all the characters too much so the end made me cry a lot. It hit me hard in the long distance relationship/missing my girl feels.

Friday I ditched out of the work party even though I was rocking a Gerard Way costume and saw The Darkside. I didn’t regret this choice.

The Darkside is what happened when Warwick Taylor put a call out to Aboriginal communities and asked them to share their stories of encounters with ghosts and the spirit world. Then he got Aboriginal actors to perform the stories to the camera. It was amazing. It was spooky and beautiful and sad. I sort of believe in ghosts and I sort of don’t, but I believed that these people had real experiences.

Definitely recommend if you can track it down.

InRealLife

It’s always odd to see a clearly biased doco, because you listen to the ‘doom doom doom’ music and hear the voice over say ‘and this happened!’ and I think to myself ‘yes, but…’

There were a lot of ‘yes, but..’s while I watched this film. I mean, I don’t think anyone would agree that some of the things the teenagers were describing were bad, but I couldn’t help but think that she’d only interviewed a tiny sample and shown us the most shocking things, where most experiences would be pretty much fine.

It was a very well shot doco but the bias never went away, and she touched only lightly on too many things.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya was on Saturday, and I had a lovely friend-date/catch up with Sam since I had a spare ticket. It was a really horrible day weather wise, so we had comfort food at Joe’s Garage and a hot drink at the Embassy and really enjoyed this film!

It’s one of the last movies which will come out from Studio Ghibli and all the art is based on ancient Japanese ink and watercolour paintings. It’s truly beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Film Festival first weekend

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s newest film was filmed over 12 years, tracking mostly the boy from the title but also his older sister, mother and absentee father. It’s a movie about growing, about parents, about life in all it’s dreary normality. And it is so stunning. I don’t like raving about movies because I hate when people build films up for me and I’m disappointed, but I have to emphasise that if anything about the premise or the trailer intrigues you then you should go and see it.

Glenn and I went after a very satisfying dinner at Uncle Mikes. It was a long movie, but it didn’t once feel it. It was lovely and beautiful and it made me love humans so much.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

This documentary is part character examination of Hayao Miyazaki, part diary of his last film The Wind Rises being produced and part immersion into the world of the offices of Studio Ghibli. The pace of the movie was a bit on the slow side, lots of shots of the pretty scenery and loving sequences of the studio’s cat, but getting to see Hayao so up close and personal was a total joy. He’s a hilarious guy, and he was very open with his stories to the camera. I really enjoyed it.

I especially loved the bit where the radio calisthenics played over the office and Hayao got up to do them and then complained that it was version 2, which he doesn’t know so well. Trying to work out if I can get this happening in my office…

20,000 days on earth

I’ve heard that this movie doesn’t play well if you’re not a Nick Cave fan, and I’d believe that. You sort of have to be invested and thinking he’s cool to start with or he might come off as a self centered tool, but then… most rock stars would. I read somewhere that this was meant to be a doco but Nick Cave ended up helping write a script to show his typical day, the 20,000th day of his life.

I loved this film. It was beautifully shot, just stunning on the big Embassy screen and the conversations Nick had – with his Freudian psychologist, with archivists collecting up bits of Nick Cave memorabilia, with his band mates and with himself in voice over were all interesting to me.

My most treasured bits of the movie where when he spoke about his creative process. He talked about his song writing as being all stories which take place in another world, a dark violent and strange world where there’s a god like figure taking score of what people do, but he doesn’t actually believe in god in the real world. Those ideas are fascinating to me.

The movie also made me fall in love with his latest album Push the Sky Away, which I have since bought, so… there’s that. I’d definitely watch this again, in my head it files in very nicely with the Leonard Cohen doco ‘I’m your man’.

Antichrist

movie 498 on the list is Werner Herzog Lars Von Trier’s film that caused a lot of scandal, a lot of people walking out of the cinema when it was screened in the local film festival.

I was afraid to watch it, but then my personal circumstances made me feel pretty crappy so I figured this movie wouldn’t make me feel worse.

It’s a beautiful film, visually. Strange and unsettling, an alien landscape of trees and mist to reflect the mental turmoil of the central two characters.

Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg do an amazing job, it’s a two hander film and they carry it beautifully. The slow descent into something like madness.

There’s an unsettling line drawn between women and evil, but… I dunno. It’s hard to tell if it’s something the film maker intended or if it’s just this particular story. There was the familiar ‘women are of nature’ kind of trope as well with the birds helping her out at one point, deer watching and apparently she could summon hail?

Heh. I dunno, maybe I’m desensitized after seeing a bunch of other movies (The Piano Teacher, Hard Candy, Dogtooth) or maybe it’s my mood, but I don’t think it was the worst/most shocking movie ever. Then again I haven’t watched Saw yet…

That said, there’s no reason anyone should have to watch this. I don’t imagine it will change anyone’s lives, and it certainly didn’t make me love the humans depicted in it. It was more like dispassionately watching their breakdown.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I might though. I may even watch it again as it is aesthetically pleasing and the soundtrack was pretty cool.

Maybe I should rate these, but I don’t know what scale to use heh. No, I know. State of mind in the reaction phase.

State of Mind: shell shocked, confused by the ending, impressed with the visuals, dispassionate.

Things I Love Thursday

 

Welcome to Night Vale

it’s a podcast, it’s a weird funny podcast which is written to be like you’re listening to the local radio show for the town Night Vale, which is a very… very odd town indeed. It’s funnier than I expected, and I am very much in love with it. I have found I can do testing while I listen to it, although I cannot write test plans while I listen. I suspect this is related to the colour blue, or possibly the lights over Radon Valley.

Have a taste:

Reading and writing. I’ve been reading a fair bit, but the best thing is writing regularly. Not just larps at the moment, but fiction and fiction and it feels good. Even did my old bit of wandering around Te Papa and stopping at random places to write.

Actually.. Te Papa was a lot of fun. They’ve updated some of the exhibits and there’s a whole section of New Zealand in the 20th century and it was cool.

The Film Festival. It’s my smallest one in so so many years, but I’ve still managed to see three movies and one more this weekend. Lucky for me it’s been all good films and it feels good to be in the cinema and eating candy or popcorn and enjoying the feeling of being high brow.

Skype it makes long distance a lot less hard. Makes it feel like we’re closer.

Honourable Mentions: Tacos Thursday, delicious roast turkey, sitting down to share food with wonderful friends, washing on the line in the sun and wind, lego, Pacific Rim and flannel sheets.

Film Festival movies

The Guard

Did you see In Bruges? Did you like it? Then you should see this. Brendan Gleeson stars as the man cop in very small town Ireland and Don Cheadle is an FBI agent who comes over to put an end to an International drug ring. I don’t want to say too much here, but it’s funny and I’m keen to see it again. It is screening at the Embassy and Reading now, so hop along.

The Women on the 6th Floor

I like French films, pretentious boring French films. But I just couldn’t quite get behind this story of a married man finding joy and love outside of his marriage. Might just be a wife-bias I have, I don’t know. There were lots of good moments in this movie, but the story didn’t hang together very well and Lee and I both felt it lacked something important. Maybe…a plot? A likeable lead actor? I don’t know.

Troll Hunter

Norwegian students make a documentary about a guy who they think is a bear poacher. Actually he’s employed by the Norwegian goverment to monitor the massive trolls that are kept in preserves and National parks. It was freaking awesome. Watch the trailer.

Obviously, the Norwegian government doesn’t want this getting out, but we saw the truth at the Film Festival! We saw it!

Film Festival Movies

What with going to Fiji and generally being disorganised, I didn’t make it much in this year’s film festival. It was kind of nice taking it easy for once, although I am sad I missed out on some things. Here’s the first three movies I did manage to get to.

Pom Wonderful presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold!

Morgan Spurlock is best known as that guy that ate only Macdonalds for a month and made a movie about it. He’s a very likeable guy, makes lots of jokes and his documentaries are accessible. Greatest Movie Ever Sold is about product placement in movies, and it’s entirely funded through product placement. It didn’t get quite as Meta as teenage papparazzo but it was close. It also ventured a bit into the effect of advertising on the cultural landscape and the affect on human brains. I really recommended it, and if you have ever noticed product placement in a show or movie then it’s pretty neat to learn the business behind it. Features interviews with Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Quentin Tarantino and the Pom Wonderful Pom Queen.

Plus, Morgan was actually there for the screening and he did a gracious, informative and funny Q&A afterwards.

Being Elmo

One of the most astounding moments in this movie is Kevin Clash walking through Times Square, past a guy dressed as Elmo and a kid with an Elmo balloon and no one has any clue of who he is. I mean, how would you, right? You never see the puppeteer behind the character. Well, unless you see this movie I guess. It was a real feel good movie, with Kevin talking about the puppets he made as a kid and his dream to work with Jim Henson. Lots of cool moments of him fulfilling his dream and meeting Make a Wish kids as Elmo, and I cried and cried and cried because it was just! so! lovely! They also had a bit of footage from Jim Henson’s funeral. Cries forever.

In conclusion, this is an awesome doco, go see it.

Nothing to Declare

This is like Hot Fuzz, set at the border of France and Belgium just before they declared open borders. It was hilarious, weird and edgy. I never really realised just how racist the French and the Belgians are against each other. It was great fun, and the whole of the Embassy was laughing along with it. Recommended.

Film Festival weekend 3

Turtle: The Incredible Journey

This would have been an excellent movie if it wasn’t for the narration. I guess it was to make the whole movie more child friendly but it made the movie not Jenni friendly. Too much anthropomorphizing of the sea turtle and the other animals. Too much calling the undersea currents ‘blue highways’, too much description of things we were looking at “the ocean: liquid and elemental”. Duh.

The photography was very beautiful a lot of the time, so it was good in that way. I’m not that I learned much, though. I would recommend watching this either with kids or with the soundtrack muted. The music was quite bombastic and intrusive, so even if you just muted the narration it would still be annoying. I do love sea turtles though.


Bill Cunningham: New York

An excellent documentary about Bill Cunningham who has spent the last 30 – 40 years photographing fashion on the streets of New York. He’s had a regular ‘On the Street’ columm with the New York Times for much of that time.

There were interviews with his friends, a lot of big name people who he has photographed (Anna Wintour for example) and lots of his photographs and footage of him photographing people. It was a fascinating companion piece to Teenage Papparazzo as Bill says several times that he couldn’t care less who is wearing the clothes. Celebrity means nothing to him, he only cares about the clothes. Also a nice companion to The September Issue from last year, for the insight into the fashion world.

The best thing about this film was Bill himself, he is utterly unassuming (he wears a street sweeper vest because it’s durable) and completely lovely. He really loves people and especially people who wear interesting clothes. He’s sweet and funny and you can see in his relationship with his editor that although he’s a bit eccentric, he is loved.

American: The Bill Hicks Story

I didn’t know much about Bill Hicks, I just knew that I had seen some of his stand up at some point and it was funny. This documentary was made by his friends and family, and was understandably a bit fawning, but at the same time they were very honest and open about his drug habits and alcoholism so it was still a good look at his life. Lots of footage of him being funny, lots of interviews and a lot of neat stuff where they animated old photos.

I liked it, but I didn’t love it the way I loved Bill Cunningham.

The Inventions of Dr Nakamats

Dr Nakamats is amazing. He’s invented heaps of things, including floppy discs, CDs, DVDs and a sexual aid called Love Jet. Well, that’s what he says and I believe him. This little hour long film is following him around for a couple of days and seeing how he lives.

I was a bit annoyed that the audience for this documentary seemed to have come along just to laugh at Dr Nakamats. I noticed a bit of this in Bill Cunningham, there was a section of the audience who laughed uproariously at some of the pictured fashions, some of the New York characters that Bill photographed. It’s kind of mean spirited. I mean, I only speak for myself of course, but I go to documentaries to learn something. And I know I’m an optimist, but I generally expect to learn more about someone and open up my mind a little more to the world at large. Going to docos to laugh at other people is completely contadictory to this goal. But this is the problem with seeing movies in a cinema, you do have to experience other peoples’ reactions to the film and they will frequently be different to your own.

Anyway, leaving that aside, I enjoyed this documentary.

And that’s it, that’s all the films I saw in this year’s International Festival.

Film Festival second week

Farewell

Lee was struck down with man flu, so I hurriedly texted a couple of people I knew lived in Wellington and would hopefully be free to take the other ticket. My brother in law came through and we saw Farewell in a packed out Embassy theatre. I really really enjoyed this movie.

It’s based on the story of an actual KGB colonel who started leaking important information to France and America and essentially started the end of the Cold War. The espionage was great, but the best thing about the movie was the humanity of the two leads: the KGB agent and his amateur French contact. The KGB agent was funny and playful, actively making friends with the French businessman who had been roped in to be the contact. The French guy’s relationship with his family suffers and it’s very tense because you’re constantly worried that they’ll be found out.

Great movie, would recommend.
See also Svend and Morgue’s reviews for more opinions…


Wah Do Dem

I’m not sure about this one. It was kind of like watching unhappy hipsters the movie. It was kind of like watching a documentary about the worst trip ever. It was kind of funny and I liked the lead character, most of the time. It is very very indie, lots of handheld camera work and some poor sound and lighting. It got a bit mystical/noble savagey in the middle and then it ended very abruptly.

Overall I think I liked it, but then I think I might have been happier if I’d stayed in, had a bath and then gone to bed with a book. Tough to say.

On Wednesday I thought I was going to see The Strange Case of Angelica but I had the day wrong and nobody noticed until someone else tried to sit where I was sitting. How silly of me! So I went home and Lee suggested we see Inception and I said yes, because the internet is a dangerous mine of spoilers when you haven’t seen it.

Without spoilers: I really enjoyed Inception and it was pretty and mind-warpy and Joseph Gordon Levitt was awesome and Leonardo was awesome and Ellen Page was super awesome and I liked it. Also Cillian Murphy is very pretty.

The Runaways

Awesome. Just plain awesome. Great music, great acting, great chemistry between Dakota and Kristen (Cherie and Joan). It’s the story of The Runaways, all girl punk rock band that launched Joan Jett’s career. I don’t want to say too much, just that if the thought of watching an all girl punk band in the 70s appeals then you should see it. Reading Cinemas have a poster up for it so it looks like it’ll get a regular release.

After seeing it, I am inspired to: write, start an all girl rock band, wear crazy ass 70s shoes, style my hair like Joan Jett and sing lots and lots and lots.
Also, I am now totally addicted to this one song:

The original:

Film Festival Weekend 2

Babies

An easy to watch, slice of life documentary following the first year or so of 4 babies in different places around the world: Mongolia, Namibia, Toyko and San Francisco. It kind of reminded me of anothe French doco from a couple of years ago Avoir et Etre which just followed some kids through a year at school. The documentarians are expert at staying out of the way, not affecting what’s happening with their subjects but getting incredibly close all the same.

It was really a study in cultural differences. Like the Namibian kid who had a bone to chew on comapared to the fancy toys the American baby had. Or the incredulous laughter in the audience when the Mongolian baby’s swaddling blanket was tied with string so it wouldn’t come open. I felt bad about really judging anyone though, it’s so not my place. Except for when the white, upper middle class ‘Friscan father and baby were at a baby sing along class and they were doing a Native American chant. Seriously, cultural appropriation much?

My favourite moments were: Mongolian baby is taking a bath in a tub by a window when a goat comes to have a drink from the tub. Excellent WTF? expression from baby. Emo drama when Japanese baby can’t get ring to stay on stick, throwing herself backwards on the ground and wailing. Then she sat up, was going to read a book, took one look and then throws it away, wailing and throws herself back down.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The radiant child

I love documentaries about artists, they’re so inspirational. Most of what I knew about Basquiat I knew from the old movie and from some mentions in the Keith Haring doco a couple of years back. I know a lot more now. It was a good, if fawning, depiction of his career and his life, with some thought put into how he died and why. Lots of great interviews with people who knew him and lots of shots of his art and his influences. I liked it a lot but I came out feeling a bit sad and introspective.

The Room

How to describe The Room? It was an excellent viewing experience, with funny things being called out, lots of laughter, spoons to throw at the screen and a football that was tossed around while it happened on screen. The movie itself? I gotta say, it’s not the best worst movie I’ve seen. Lee pointed out that unlike Birdemic the production values (particularly lighting, camera work and sound) were generally pretty good in The Room.

The script and acting are bad, but since it’s a romantic drama there’s no terrible make up or badly animated monsters, there’s no ridiculous Mega Shark eating an aeroplane and I found that I missed those things. My theory is that awful/awesome movies are better if they’re genre.

There is lots to love about The Room though. My favourite character, Denny, makes no sense at all. There are such great lines as ‘you’re tearing me apart’ and ‘so, how’s your sex life?’ I’m gonna show it at a movie night I think, so we can try it again with our friends.

An excellent viewing guide to The Room.

A little mash up of all the ‘oh hai’s and ‘hey Denny’s (worth watching right til the end, trust me.)

Howl

Another inspiring movie about a creative person. This was a kind of almost-documentary biopic about Allen Ginsberg, centred around the court case about whether his poem Howl is obscene. Cross cutting between Allen (played by James Franco) reading Howl at a Beat cafe, animation of the poem, Allen, older, recording an interview and the court case. Apparently the movie script is taken in large part from the actual court records and interviews, so I feel like it was accurate.

As someone who has studied 20th Century American literature, and therefore, Howl itself, I loved the movie. Not sure how much you’d understand otherwise, since both Svend and Stacey mentioned specifically that they hadn’t read it.

Anyway, I came away inspired.

Teenage Paparazzo

A weird circular, meta kind of documentary. Adrian Grenier, who is famous for playing someone famous on TV, investigates the paparazzi phemomenon in the process he tries out being a pap and also elevates the subject of his documentary, a teenage pap, to semi-celebrity status. I really enjoyed it.

Basically, Adrian notices this kid in amongst the regular paparazzi and asks him what he’s doing. Austin, 13, is a paparazzo just like the others. He has tip offs, a really flash camera, he’s sold pictures for a thousand dollars a pop. Through him Adrian explores what it means to be famous, whether the paparazzi have a right to be doing what they’re doing and what the implications of it all are.

It’s a very entertaining doco and peppered with interviews with celebs (Matt Damon, Paris Hilton, Linsday Lohan, Whoopi Goldberg, etc), plus it made you examine the way you relate to celebrities and Adrian himself was very open and honest about what he was doing and what he learned.

After the screening he did a Q&A and some interesting stuff came out of that too, although it bugged me that two people asked much the same question (how do you like NZ?). Adrian seemed very down to Earth, soft spoken and polite.