Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wally is an idiot, never listen to him again

Ponyo is easily the best thing Miyazaki's done since Porco Rosso, largely because it, like Porco Rosso, completely can't be fucked with having a plot. The weight of his story threatened to crush both Mononoke and Kamikakushi, and absolutely ruined Howl's Moving Clusterfuck; Ponyo represents a welcome return to form.
The dub is beautiful done; were it not for a few obvious greetings and utterly arbitrary honorifics, you'd think it was always in English. The two kids get a bit shrill at times, but we had actual five year olds in the theater to compare them to, and they came off well. (These kids were never inappropriately vocal, and one of them happily declared this the best movie ever, so we're cool.)
I do advise you to leave before the end credits song slides horrifyingly into a techno remix from hell - zombie Disney couldn't resist rising from the grave to assfuck Miyazaki's movie at the last possible second.
While I doubt Miyazaki will ever be able to surpass Porco Rosso, I do have to say the scene with Ponyo running along the backs of the giant fish as the kid's mom drives frantically along the winding road is possibly the finest thing he's ever directed.


  1. Did you purposefully tag this as "Not Recommended"?

    About the "love" thing, I'm still confused. Granted, I did go a bit overboard with my rant on romance. Very clearly, it's a shade less extreme than that. However, I'm not certain that this love is intended to be specifically and exactly one of family or friendship. I talked with some people after the film, and even though I was already in disagreement with people then about the film (they liked it, as well), they too saw "likey-likey" undertones between Ponyo and Sousuke.

    This brings me to the whole audience issue. I watched this with a smattering of college students. No children, no parents. I'm very curious as to how I would have reacted to this film in a different audience.

  2. I typed recommended and the fucking autocomplete kicked in. Stupid autocomplete.

    I don't think a five year old distinguishes between different types of love. It's a known fact that kids that age often do mimic romantic behaviors - many kids that age will claim to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. We can see it's something else, but what was in the movie matched up with that.

  3. Now that's more like it. Good on ya, Andrew, for setting the record straight.

    Though I don't hold Porco Rosso is nearly as high esteem (it's actually one of my least favorite Miyazaki films), I do have to agree that Ponyo is a welcome return to form after Howl's Moving Castle.

  4. I have heard so little definitive opinions on Ponyo that I've just ignored them, but I'm going to trust you and have at least some good expectations for this movie. And also, I'm glad someone else knows how much of a fucking trainwreck Howl's Moving Caste was. Every time someone says it's 'awesome' or one of their favorite movies, I just find myself scratching my head and wondering if it's my fault for watching it on TV or something.

    I have to admit, I've never seen Porco Russo. I've been, uh, meaning to. But honestly, my favorite Miyazaki film is currently Kiki's Delivery Service. It's just clean fun.

  5. I'd say Kiki's is his most underappreciated film. It's a really great movie, and tends to get dismissed as less important, somehow.

    I think reading the perfectly pleasant but not particularly memorable book makes it painfully obvious exactly where Howl's goes off the rails. The movie has that fantastic sequence where the old evil witch loses her powers, which is great stuff...but removes the villain. After that, there is no villain, and no way to bring the story to any kind of satisfactory resolution, so he just does some half assed anti-war shit.

  6. I was wondering what all the hate for Howl's was about, but that's a fair criticism. I just thought it was amazingly refreshing to actually have an active protagonist in anime after such an endless parade of feckless losers being bowled over by fate. Even Chihiro in Spirited Away is basically a permanently passive victim.

  7. It's also a collection of random scenes that work on their own but make absolutely no god damn sense strung together. It does a lot of things right, but ultimately ends up really incoherent.

    And Chihiro is the SOLE passive Miyazaki character! She was a fucking departure for him! That was the POINT.

  8. That autotune remix is fucking horrid. Normally don't stay for credits, and this, of all things, had to be the one exception I made.

    "While I doubt Miyazaki will ever be able to surpass Porco Rosso, I do have to say the scene with Ponyo running along the backs of the giant fish as the kid's mom drives frantically along the winding road is possibly the finest thing he's ever directed."

    A thousand times yes.

  9. I'd also really like to highlight the entire emotional arc with the mother after dad calls to say he's not making it back that night after all. Miyazaki has always been (or has always hired animators who are) a great observer of human behavior, which is reflected in the body language and facial expressions of his characters, but he's always been less interested in that kind of subtle emotional psychology than Takahata, so it was lovely to see him tackle something like that and utterly nail it.

  10. The music playing while Ponyo runs on the backs of those fish is about as close to "the Ride of the Valkyries" as you could get without it actually being that: a nice bit of conscious naughtiness, I suspect.

    I thought the film sort of went crazy in its second half with all that wig-out phantsmagoria, sea-goddess and devonian fish and heaven knows what, but if anyone has the right to indulge himself it's Miyazaki. The original ending music was not especially good either.

  11. Just got back from seeing this. Yeah, I would have to invent an entirely new critical vocabulary to describe how entirely wrong Wally is about this movie, especially Tina Fey's participation in it. It would have been so, so easy for the dub to completely destroy this movie, and they managed to pull it off-- in point of fact, Ponyo herself is, I think, the only time I have heard that particular Japanese-character speech pattern work in English.

    Sure, there's the piffling complaint that nothing actually, like, HAPPENS (all that talk about "the test of love" briefly fooled me into thinking this movie would actually have a dramatic arc or something), but this just ain't one of those kind of movies. It's the kind of movie you sit around watching on a lazy afternoon and just let enjoy wash over you. It's absolutely gorgeous and all the characters are likeable-- sometimes that's enough. My one complaint is how calcified Miyazaki/Ghibli's character designs have gotten-- I swear I've seen almost every one of those characters before, and the ones I haven't are combinations of preexisting ones. I can't be the only person who thought Fujimoto was some kind of mash-up of Howl and the various witches from Ghibli's last two films, with a pinch of Iggy Pop and Willy Wonka for spice.

    I was astonished to see that Joe Hisaishi was credited with composing that awful-ass autotuned remix over the end credits. I guess that's what he thinks Americans want?