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.

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30 Days of the Plaza, Day 15, Now Playing This Week!

Posted on: Jun 19th, 2012 By:

So many of us tend to only get down to The Plaza Theatre when there’s a special screening, but that’s part of the reason we could lose this Atlanta treasure if we’re not careful. So before you head down to the multiplex, how about instead seeing that first-run movie down on Ponce. You might even see a cool indie or foreign film that you didn’t even know about. Here’s what’s playing through Thursday…

I WISH

Twelve-year-old Koichi lives with his mother and grandparents in a small town by a smoking volcano. His parents’ divorce has split the family, with his younger brother Ryu and their feckless rock musician dad living over a hundred miles away. Koichi yearns for his family to be reunited, and when he learns that a new bullet train line will soon open—linking the two towns—he starts to believe that the combined energy when two trains pass each other at top speed could make his wish come true. With the help of friends, Koichi organizes an expedition to the mid-point of the train lines, with Ryu coming from the other direction—all of them thinking about what they would most like to wish for. A sweet ode to what we value in life, written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (NOBODY KNOWS, STILL WALKING, AFTER LIFE), who is known for his keen depictions of the trials and tribulations of everyday existence, the innocent minds of children and the warmth of family life.

MARLEY

Bob Marley‘s universal appeal, impact on music history and role as a social and political prophet is both unique and unparalleled. MARLEY is the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best.

HUNGER GAMES

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, WINTER’S BONE) is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. Based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy that has developed a massive global following, the sci-fi action drama THE HUNGER GAMES also stars Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland and Lenny Kravitz, and is directed and co-written by Gary Ross (SEABISCUIT, PLEASANTVILLE).

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: An Ode to Megalon as Godzilla Fights Again at The Plaza Theatre’s Silver Scream Spookshow

Posted on: Apr 28th, 2012 By:

Megalon Days

By Tim McGahren
Contributing Writer

Silver Scream Spookshow Presents GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973); Dir: Jun Fukuda; Starring Big G, Megalon, Jet Jaguar; Sat. April 27;  kids matinee at 1 PM (kids under 12 free & adults $7) and adult show at 10 PM(all tickets $12); All proceeds of today’s shows benefit Atlanta’s oldest running independent cinema, the nonprofit Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Down, down deep in Seatopia,

Those water cats drillin deep, deeply.

In their ocean, in their souls,

they rise to call and call to rise.

Raise up Megalon, raise baby, raise.

 

Goro, Rokuro, Hiroshi, what did you see?

What did you see, down by the sea?

Furious sound and motion.. ambush!

They grab through you to your metallic brother.

Brother in spirit, Jet Jaguar is turned against.

 

Second controls, hidden core,

Twist the button agents don’t know.

To and from, then a battle joined.

Gigan, Megalon, Godzilla, Jet..

a wailing waltzing warring quartet.

 

Smash smash smash

till the break break break of day.

Around and around, clowning rounds,

Victory for the victory goes.

And away Gigan and Megalon goes.

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

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