Seventies Slackers, Bikers & Psychedelic Japanese Animation: All That and Much More in Our Retro Guide to the 2016 Atlanta Film Festival

Posted on: Apr 2nd, 2016 By:

10294346_10153376281298424_3819900343571644880_nCinephiles rejoice! Now in its 40th year, the Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF) is back in bloom from Friday April 1 through Sunday April 10. ATLFF has long been known for a huge line-up of more than 200 diverse and offbeat features, shorts and documentaries from local to international filmmakers, and this year has one of its most exciting line-ups to date with some gems to warm our Retro heart.

Because it can be challenging to wade through such a wide-ranging schedule, we’ve taken the time to sort out some productions that you, our Retro readers, might particularly find of interest including a number of cult and classic revival films screening for free. We’ll also be running social media coverage and reviews of some of our favorites, so be sure to check back. And because we can’t mention everything, be sure also to check out the full festival schedule because there are lots more great films you won’t want to miss.

All screenings below are at the festival HQ at the Plaza Theatre, unless otherwise indicated. 

dazed-and-confused-movie-poster-1993-1010327275 Friday April 1

Opening night brings a red carpet of stars at the Atlanta premiere of THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING directed by Rob Burnett and starring Paul Rudd, but we know our readers will be more ready to get back to the 70s with a rare chance to see Richard Linklater‘s hilarious comedy DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) at 9:30 p.m., followed by Lips Down on Dixie as they present their extremely popular midnight performance of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). Although a Plaza staple for years, the show gets even better when seen with a festival crowd of fervent movie fanatics.

DudeDesigns_FCB_WEBSaturday April 2

Things get badass crazy with the world premiere of FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS (2016) at 9:30 p.m., which kicks off the MORPHINE DREAMS horror/weird series. The homegrown 1970s-style neo-exploitation feature promises to be even more over-the-top than its precursor DEAR GOD! NO! (2011) (Read our Retro Review here).  Just about everyone involved with this feature is a dear friend to ATLRetro and lots of the cast and crew will be there, including star Lawrence R. Harvey (HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 & 3), so we wouldn’t miss it even if we might have to cover our eyes once or twice. Read our Kool Kat of the Week interview with Director James Bickert for a pretaste of the ultraviolent insanity (WARNING: not for everyone!). Just $10 but buy in advance as we betcha it’ll sell out. Facebook event page here.

Gwilliam_Poster_11x17_v03Also on Saturday: Get your bizarro horror fix started early at Noon with THE WOOL shorts segment which includes the award-winning GWILLIAM by Kool Kat Brian Lonano and more of what the ATLFF describes as “other-worldly fibers.” 1979 (do we detect a theme here?) is the setting for GOOD OL’ BOY (12:30 p.m.), about the challenges of assimilating into a new culture for a 10-year-old boy who moves with his Indian family to an American small town and has a crush on the girl-next-door. everybody-wants-some-posterThen EVERYBODY WANTS SOME! (2016), Richard Linklater’s new “spiritual sequel” to DAZED AND CONFUSED set in the world of 1980s college life, screens at 7 p.m. Actors Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin and Blake Jenner are scheduled to attend. Also at 7 p.m. and free with RSVP at the Hill Auditorium at The HighRUBY IN PARADISE (1993), Ashley Judd‘s film debut as a Florida girl struggling to escape her working class life and achieve her dreams during Pensacola spring break, gets a rare return to the big screen as part of a retrospective of director Victor Nunez‘s career. A PECULIAR NOISE (2015) at 7:30 p.m. (7 Stages), is a sentimental documentary of the DIY underground music scene in the college town that spawned such alt-favorites as The B-52s, R.E.M. and Pylon. Director Jorge Torres-Torres is scheduled to attend.

CcufcVTW8AER7JQSunday April 3

Festivities kick off at noon with a 25th anniversary screening of Southern foodie comedy classic FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (1991) (free with RSVP). If you’re hungry afterwards, for just $20, there’s a Food on Film after-party at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center from 2-4:30 p.m. CONCERTO, at 5:15 pm (7 Stages), is a documentary about brothers Christopher Rex (Principal Cellist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 1979) and Charles Rex (a first violinist with the New York Philharmonic since 1981) who struggle to overcome a childhood at the hands of a disturbed but brilliant composer father. At 6 p.m., head to the Rialto Center for the Arts to revisit the explosive 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings where Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment in HBO Films’ docu-drama CONFIRMATION, filmed in Atlanta.

2012110720180322562_artikelThe second installment of the MORPHINE DREAMS series at 7:15 pm at 7 Stages, THE FORBIDDEN WORLD (2015), directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, is seriously crazed with a side of William Hope Hodgson : “A never-before-seen woodsman mysteriously appears aboard a submarine that’s been trapped deep under water for months with an unstable cargo. As the terrified crew make their way through the corridors of the doomed vessel, they find themselves on a voyage into the origins of their darkest fears.” Then rush back to the Plaza if you like crazy Japanese trippy Weird animated horror for MD#3, Eiichi Yamamoto‘s legendary BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (1973), a real event being that it was previous unreleased in the USA. Based on SATANISM AND WITCHCRAFT by Jules Michelet, young and innocent Jeanne is ravaged by the local lord and makes a pact with the Devil. According to the description: “The Devil appears in phallic forms and, through Jeanne, incites the village into a sexual frenzy. In a new restoration using the original camera negatives, this erotic and psychedelic trip of a film springs to life.”

CHEERLEADER

CHEERLEADER

Monday April 4

Get your dose of bubblegum, side ponytails, ’80s music and revenge in the 7 p.m. world premiere of CHEERLEADER, a witty satire of an all-American pastime.  Director Irving Franco and Producer Nathan Marcus are scheduled to attend. Then at 9:15 p.m., THE FOUNDERS goes back to the 1950s and the 13 women who fought male chauvinism to found the Ladies Pro Golf Association (LPGA). Co-Directors Charlene Fisk and Carrie Schrader, Producer Phoebe Brown and Actor Caleb Messer are scheduled to attend.

HandmadeVol6final_medTuesday April 5

At 7 p.m., the COTTON documentary shorts series at 7 Stages includes HOTEL CLERMONT, about residents of the notorious seedy and recently closed Atlanta landmark (yes, we said landmark), and THE NEW ORLEANS SAZERAC, about the quintessential Big Easy cocktail. Released first in 2005, HANDMADE PUPPET DREAMS (also 7 Stages, 9:15 p.m.) doesn’t date back to the 20th century in itself, but puppetry is a Retro art, right? This handpicked selection of puppet film shorts has received tons of international acclaim and just looks friggin’ cool, plus it’s introduced by Jim Henson‘s daughter Heather Henson. Read our Kool Kat of the Week interview with her here.

Bill Genovese in WITNESS.

Bill Genovese in WITNESS.

Wednesday April 6

At 7 p.m., THE WITNESS reopens the famous Kitty Genovese murder, which 38 witnesses watched from nearby apartments and did nothing. Forty years later, her brother Bill Genovese, who was 16 at the time of his sister’s death, digs into the case and “uncovers a lie that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era.” Bill Genovese, Director James D. Solomon and Producer Melissa Jacobson are scheduled to attend.

static1.squarespace-1

MANOMAN, directed by Simon Cartwright, UK

Thursday April 7

Head to the Center for Puppetry Arts at 7 p.m. for WOOD, a screening of international puppetry shorts, followed by a reception in the Atrium and free entry into the new Worlds of Puppetry Museum featuring the Jim Henson and Global Collections, which includes rare artifacts from Henson-related films such as THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982) and LABYRINTH (1986) and a selfie opportunity with Muppets Kermit and Miss Piggy.

LOA

LOA

Friday April 8

During COPPER, a special presentation by the always intriguing Contraband Cinema at 7 Stages at 7 p.m., see contemporary and classic avant garde and experimental shorts with some of the filmmakers in attendance. At 9:15 p.m. also at 7 Stages, director George Koszulinski and other members of his creative team will be on hand for a screening of the “mystical, experimental” Haitian documentary LOA about the life of the Extanta Aoleé, a local houngan or ‘Vodou man.” And ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW screens again at midnight with Lips Down on Dixie audience participation floor show (see Fri. April 1).

MV5BOTA3Mjg2NDQ3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjExNTU3NzE@._V1_UY1200_CR73,0,630,1200_AL_Saturday April 9

In HUNKY DORY, at 12:30 p.m., “Sidney—an artist of many things but an extraordinaire of nothing at all—struggles to live up to the expectations of his glam rock dream.” Director Michael Curtis Johnson, Producers Tomas Pais and Jacqueline Johnson and Actor Chad Hartigan (who also directed “closing night feature” MORRIS FROM AMERICA which screens Sat. at 7:30 p.m.) are scheduled to attendAt 2:30, the GOLD documentary shorts series includes SAULTOPAL, in which Atlanta-based artist Susan Cofer invites Georgia-born filmmaker John Henry Summerour (SAHKANAGA) to spend a year documenting Saultopal, an 1100-acre farm in northwest Georgia populated by Longhorn cattle, gigantic rock sculptures and Carl, her husband in his 80th year, and TOURIST about a Vietnam vet revisiting the nation where he once fought.

41cIba3SqsL._SY355_Sunday April 10

The last day of the ATLFF is pretty Retro-kickass, we have to admit. See David Bowie live again on the big screen as the iconic Goblin King in a 30th anniversary screening of LABYRINTH (1986). Then in the much-anticipated MILES AHEAD at 2:45 p.m., Don Cheadle directs and stars as legendary jazz man Miles Davis. Not a full biopic, it centers on the period of five years in the late 1970s when Davis was holed up in his home with chronic hip pain and a fictional encounter with a music reporter which leads to a quest for a stolen tape of his most recent compositions. There’ll also be some Encore screenings yet to be announced, so keep checking the schedule if you miss a screening and/or it sells out.

Of course, these films represent just a tiny portion of the events, shorts, seminars, screenings and receptions/parties taking place. For a complete list, again you need to check out the official Atlanta Film Festival Schedule. And keep an eye on ATLRetro throughout the fest for coverage on all the fun and films. Enjoy this year’s ATLFF, movie lovers!

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Poppin’ in with Dante DeStefano on Her Way to DragonCon’s Comics and Pop Art Alley!

Posted on: Aug 27th, 2014 By:

dante_heroes_tableTo some, Dragoncon (Aug. 28-Sept. 2) is a five-day visual feast of costumery, to others a cosplay playground. A chance to meet, listen to and get the autograph of a favorite celebrity. Or the ultimate marketplace for all things phantastique. Sooner or later, however, all the Kool Kats find their way to Comics and Pop Art Alley. Two levels beneath the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

Here you’ll find not only top nationally known comics artists but some of Atlanta’s finest creative talents from Kool Kats Chris Hamer to Derek Yaniger, aka DerekART, who designed ATLRetro’s swingin’ logo.

One of our favorite local artists who’ll be lurking in the Alley this year is Dante DeStefano, the dark art mistress extraordinaire of Rag Bone Studio. Dante began her art career as a freelance illustrator focusing on painting with traditional media and illustrating children’s books. She developed a signature style of spooky-cute art, which she displays in galleries and conventions around the southeast United States.

ATLRetro caught up with Dante to find out more about what attracts her to creepy things that go bump in the night, what she’ll be doing at DragonCon and her latest excapades honing her skills as an animator and visual development for film, television and new media.

ATLRetro: How did you get into art and comics?

Dante DeStefano: Like many artists, I’ve been drawing and making things since I can remember. I’ve never been one to stick to any one medium for very long. I love creating and I want to try everything. I’m an illustrator, painter, animator, sculptor, puppet builder and seamstress. I got into making art because it feels good to create and to enjoy the creations of others. My brother, Nic, is also an artist, cartoonist and game developer. He helped foster my love of drawing. I got into comics by visiting comic book stores with him when we were kids.

giant bunny lrWho are a few of the artists who inspired you then and now and why?

My favorite comic when I was a kid was Walt Kelly’s POGO. I didn’t get a lot of the political jokes then, but I loved copying the characters from the strips, and as a native Georgian, the fact that it was set in the south resonated with me. Around that same time was when I heard my first Tom Waits album, THE BLACK RIDER. The imagery that danced around in my head was so vivid. I still draw inspiration from those daydreams and his music. Synesthesia is a great tool for me.

As far as comics go, I discovered Dianne DiMassa thanks to Charis Books when I was 15. HOTHEAD PAISAN is still my favorite comic book. It was my gateway into underground comix. As a young, queer, Italian myself, Hothead became a sort of demented role model for me. DiMassa and Allison Bechdel were great queer cartoonist trailblazers for the pre-web-comic era.

I also admire Wayne White for his uncontainable body of work and multiple careers. From puppets to animating to sculptures, I love artists who to do everything they can get their hands on.

How would you describe your own work, and what might ATLRetro readers be familiar with?

My own work is definitely on the cartoony side. I’m all about designing original characters. A lot of my characters have a heavy Fleischer animation influence. A lot of my paintings and animations feature monsters, freaks and spooky things. I have displayed paintings in some local galleries, including Homegrown Decatur. Readers might be interested to know that I illustrated album covers and T-shirts for Blair Crimmins and the Hookers.

StateHotel_cover webMany of our readers indeed are big fans of Blair Crimmins. Any story behind how you met him and your work with him?

I heard “Old Man Cabbage” on WRAS a few times. Whenever I heard that song, a brilliant haunted house scene that looked like it came right out of Fleischer Studios would play in my head. I didn’t catch who the band was until I heard an interview with Blair on that same station. I bought that album and immediately began drawing and painting the characters that popped into my head while it was playing. I emailed him pictures of the paintings that were inspired by his music. Before I knew it, I was meeting with the music man himself and painting a cover for STATE HOTEL featuring those characters.

There’s so much to do at DragonCon. Why should attendees be sure to visit Comics and Pop Artist Alley?

Everyone should visit the Artist Alley because that is the heart of the so-called “comic convention.” Before costumes, movie stars and parties, there are the artists who come to show you their original content. This is where the creators are, newbies and old pros. Artists’ alley is where you can meet and support artists directly. We come out to table at these cons because we are excited to meet you and to show our work. It’s especially a great way to discover your new favorite artist. Plus, you might be able to get a custom commission right at the con!

style_frame_001_lrWhat are you bringing to Comic and Pop Artist Alley?

I have an exciting new line of limited edition art toys that my partner Colin and I have made by hand. Each one is based off of an original character and hand-painted. I will also have original paintings (large and small), a series of art prints, T-shirts and greeting cards. Most importantly, I’ll be offering sketches and commissions on-site!

Do you do commissions outside of conventions?

Absolutely! This is a great time of year for commissions. I do a lot of them around the winter holidays. One of my specialties is spooky skeleton portraits. I like doing portraits and caricatures in general. If you have any requests, you can send them to dante@ragbonestudio.com.

starlight_mural_screenshotWhat else are you working on now? I understand you have an exciting new animation project.

Yes! I am making a film called MUSEUM OF MONSTER ART. It’s a short 2D traditional animation, based off of MONSTERS, my first art show at Kai Lin Art (Gallery). In this version, a young artist meets a monster who helps draw a crowd of his monster friends to her show. It features a lot of my characters from paintings that I made for the exhibit, both in the characters and the backgrounds. My crew and I are finishing up the rough animation at the moment. I’ll be submitting my film to festivals in the winter, but ATLRetro readers can see more at www.monsterartfilm.wordpress.com.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RETRO REVIEW: JODOROWSY’S DUNE Celebrates One Man’s Passion to Take Cinematic Audiences to Another Planet

Posted on: Apr 29th, 2014 By:

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (2013); Dir. Frank Pavich; Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, H.R. Giger, Michel Seydoux;  Now playing at UA Tara Cinemas @ 4:45pm and 7:15pm.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Frank Herbert’s DUNE is a paradox. It’s a novel of fantastic scope, high adventure and spirituality that hangs on a deeply personal space opera plot. In short, DUNE is everything a movie producer wants in a blockbuster film.

On the other hand, the same material that makes Herbert’s novel so appealing renders it a whopper to reel in. The story is dense and inaccessible, the setting weird and unwieldy, and everything that happens is in pursuit of a drug that alters your consciousness and expands your mind. That’s a hard sell in Peoria.

DUNE is like a siren sitting on an enormous safe full of cash, and great filmmakers have sunk to the depths trying to crack it. Perhaps the greatest is David Lynch, a true visionary of the art form, whose turgid, silly 1984 adaptation clearly got away from him. Rumors abound that prior to Lynch, names like Ridley Scott, David Lean and even Jack Nicholson all considered giving it a go. A 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries had its merits but came woefully short. The fact is that the story of DUNE as a movie is written with the misfires.

Before all of these failures, there was Alejandro Jodorowsky. The Chilean-born surrealist behind art house smash EL TOPO (1970) and the breathtaking, bonkers THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) [NSFW] built a team in the mid-70s—not of technicians, but of “spiritual warriors”—to bring DUNE to the screen for the first time. What he created was a landmark of cinema history, an impact crater that shook the industry and left a mark on pop culture that’s easy to identify even today. Not bad for a movie that wasn’t even made.

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE, a new oral history of the film that never was, begins with an interview from DRIVE (2011) director Nicolas Winding Refn in which he claims Jodorowsky once walked him through the screenplay and storyboards step-by-step, making Refn the only person who has actually seen his version of DUNE. The documentary tries to rectify that to an extent, filling the screen with storyboards and animated concept art that gives audiences a glimpse at what could have been a cinematic mind-trip to rival that of Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Jodorowsky, you see, had no interest in the pop and whizz of traditional space opera. He believed that with DUNE he had a responsibility to change the world, to alter the minds of those in the audience and to provide the experience of tripping on LSD without the pesky need to actually take the drug.

And then he asked Hollywood studios for millions of dollars.

In the story between Jodorowsky’s inspiration and the inevitable collapse lies a truly inspired documentary, one that breathlessly fawns on the director and his vision, but still allows Jodorowsky (now in his 80s) to work himself into a puckish frenzy describing every wild shot or audacious casting choice or the moments where his artist’s indignation causes friction with his crew. (Evidently Pink Floyd was really into hamburgers, that most banal meal.) Watching Jodorowsky rant is almost a bigger draw than the fragments of his lost film. This is a man who once talked Salvador Dali into playing the crazed emperor of the universe, and his charm still shines through in his advanced age, even if he is prone to halting interviews to play with his cat or indulge in an inappropriate metaphor or two.

The story of his film, as painted by Jodorowsky and the others, is an unlikely “team on a mission” tale as the director assembles his collaborators, from the late Dan O’Bannon (DARK STAR, ALIEN) to comic artist Moebius, HR Giger and the French progressive rock band Magma. Every time the peak of the story is seemingly reached, it just gets bigger. By the time a burning giraffe gets a mention, it’s just another oddity to throw onto the pile.

Of course, Jodorowsky never misses an opportunity to find the metaphysical in the moment, and likewise the documentary becomes about something more than a lost artifact of cinema history, but also about life and loss and the very-human need to create. It’s a credit to Jodorowsky’s vision that shortly after his project fell apart, other science fiction films began to hire his team (O’Bannon, Moebius, and Giger were all hired by Ridley Scott for ALIEN) and gradually his failed effort flowed out and gave life to other projects, films and stories that would alter the course of the movies in a very real way. Although DUNE was never made, its influence is everywhere. The documentary makes a compelling argument that the lost DUNE is a keystone project. It’s death guided the subsequent four decades of genre cinema, but if it had lived. . . well, then maybe it would have changed the world.

Maybe the money guys were right. Maybe the film had no chance of achieving its ambitions, and there may have been little chance of making back its budget even if it did. But, then, one never knows. Jodorowsky still hopes for a DUNE animated film that incorporates his script, and now that you mention it, advances in special effects and a renewed interest in smart science fiction may have created an environment that’s ripe for a DUNE revisitation. An attempt led by Pierre Morel fell apart back in 2011, but maybe the right director can finally crack this nut.

What could go wrong?

JODOROWSKY’S DUNE is now playing at UA Tara Cinemas. Get tickets HERE.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: Oh, Miyazaki!: Grab a Cat Bus Because The Studio Ghibli Collection is Coming to Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Posted on: Nov 7th, 2012 By:

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984) and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988); Dir: Hayao Miyazaki; The Studio Ghibli Collection at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, Fri. Nov. 9 through Thurs. Nov. 15; NAUSICAA plays November 9 at 1:45, 7:00 p.m., and 12:15 a.m.; MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO plays November 11 at 12:15, 5:00, and 9:40 p.m.; showtimes for additional movies here; all films presented in 35mm. NAUSICAA trailer here and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Landmark Midtown Art Cinema may not be the center of the known universe, but for film lovers and adventurous families from November 9-15, the theater may certainly feel like it. That’s because the Art Cinema is playing host to an incredibly special event that will see almost the entire Studio Ghibli collection light up the screens, each film proudly offered in an increasingly-elusive 35mm presentation. Some film nuts may just move into the building.

While Ghibli doesn’t have the widespread name recognition in America that, say, Pixar enjoys, Ghibli and co-founder/frequent director Hayao Miyazaki combine to form one of the biggest animation brands in the world, especially in the studio’s home country of Japan where Ghibli’s films routinely break box office records and land major awards. Here in the states, Ghibli films have competed favorably for critical attention with the mighty animation brands of Pixar and Dreamworks, winning the second-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar for SPIRITED AWAY in 2002 and scoring another nomination just a few years later for HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004). In the world of animation, Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are already considered legends, and they’re currently working at the peak of their talents.

So who is Hayao Miyazaki? An animator and artist, Miyazaki was already a 16-year veteran of the Japanese animation industry when he released his first full-length film, THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (1979), based on the long-running LUPIN III manga and anime TV series. Miyazaki followed that success by moving into the world of manga—Japanese comics—where he created his own series about a girl caught between warring territories in a dying post-apocalyptic world. Miyazaki named his series NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND and he helmed a feature adaptation in 1984 that garnered enormous critical and commercial success in Japan and convinced Miyazaki and co-founders Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki to make the move to their own studio. So, while NAUSICAA is not officially a Studio Ghibli release, all things Ghibli began with that film and it holds a special spot of reverence in the collection.

Likewise, NAUSICAA is one of the crown jewels in the Ghibli film series playing at the Art Cinema because, frankly, it’s so rarely screened. Although widely available on DVD today, the original American release was marred by a lack of respect for the material. NAUSICAA received international distribution before Ghibli had made a name outside of Japan, and local producers didn’t hesitate to make massive cuts and add bad dubs to make the film “palatable” for their audiences. As a result, truly terrible versions of the film still exist out there (including an American hack job called WARRIORS OF THE WIND). Fans can finally see the original cut on 35mm and exactly as Miyazaki intended when NAUSICAA hits the screen on November 9.

Thanks to that highly public Oscar win, SPIRITED AWAY is perhaps Miyazaki’s most well-known film in America, but MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is arguably his most popular. The third official Studio Ghibli release (and the second directed by Miyazaki), TOTORO is the story of two young girls who move to the country to be closer to their gravely-ill mother. Left largely to their own devices, the girls soon discover that the forest around them is teeming with fantastical creatures who become close companions just as the girls need them the most. Absolutely packed with Miyazaki’s trademark imagination, whimsy, and heart, TOTORO has become something of a signature film for Studio Ghibli, who adopted the film’s primary critter as their studio logo, and for fans who obsess over the film’s compelling fantasy elements (who doesn’t want to ride in a CatBus?) or create their own wild theories as to what it all means. (Don’t click here unless you’re ready for massive spoilers, possible lunacy). Bottom line, it’s hard to go wrong with any Studio Ghibli release, but if you’re only going to make it to one, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is a must-see.

The film series runs from November 9-15, and while movie fanatics and toon-heads will be arriving en masse, families looking for wholesome entertainment for their children have plenty to be excited about as well, especially parents of young girls. One of the trademarks of Miyazaki and all of Studio Ghibli is the presence of strong, complex, young female lead characters. In an American marketplace that mostly serves a particular princess archetype to girls, Ghibli is powerful counterprogramming. The sisters at the heart of TOTORO and the stoic leader of NAUSICAA are two great examples, but so are the brave heroes of SPIRITED AWAY, KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989), and THE CAT RETURNS (2002). Children seeking action and adventure may take to the war and strong themes of PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997) and younger children will delight in the Ghibli’s PONYO (2008), a sweet-natured take on “The Little Mermaid” story. Just be aware that all films are presented in the original Japanese with English subtitles—many kids will enjoy reading along with the story, and those who can’t will have plenty of visual input to enjoy on the screen, and a lot of engaging questions to ask on the car ride home.

Overall, the Art Cinema’s film series is offering just about every film in Studio Ghibli’s catalog, including the little-seen MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS (1989), a comedy from Takahata that diverges from the usual Studio Ghibli art style into something a bit more experimental. In fact, the only films that the Art Cinema isn’t screening are a few of the most recent Ghibli releases and the hefty post-war drama GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (1988), which is an extremely heavy film and is a bit more comfortable standing alone. Still, any established Ghibli fan or curious newcomer has plenty to choose from, and is highly unlikely to go home disappointed.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2019 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress