RETRO REVIEW: Flying Castles, Forest Spirits, and Valleys of Winds: Midtown Art’s Studio Ghibli Collection April 13-19, 2018

Posted on: Apr 10th, 2018 By:

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

Do you remember the first anime film you ever saw? The chances are fairly high that whichever one popped in your head, it was a Studio Ghibli production. Prior to the mid-’80s, anime films did not receive wide releases that spanned continents and instead found moderate success at home in Japan. This all changed very quickly upon the release of Hayao Miyazaki’s NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND in 1984, a film that garnered massive financial success in Japan and international critical acclaim. Encouraged by the success of NAUSICAA, Miyazaki, along with fellow director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, have created 21 films for Studio Ghibli since its inception, with at least one more directed by Miyazaki in the works.

The Studio Ghibli films are often the first exposure many Americans have to feature-length Japanese animation and have garnered beloved cult cinema status for many fans in the U.S. If you consider yourself to be one of these fans, then you will be delighted to learn that Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema will be screening eight Studio Ghibli classics, starting Friday April 13 and running through Thursday April 19. And if you have a friend that has yet to have met King Totoro, No-Face, and all manner of talking cats and warrior princesses, this is the perfect opportunity to show them the wonders of the world of Ghibli right here in Atlanta!

SPIRITED AWAY (2001) (4/13 & 4/17) The young protagonist Chihiro is based in part on the 10-year-old daughter of a friend of Miyazaki’s. Meeting her inspired Miyazaki to craft a new film despite the fact that he was considering retirement at the time. Chihiro and her parents come across what appears to be an abandoned theme park in the country. Unbeknownst to them, the pavilion is really an otherworldly bathhouse that plays host to demons, gods and spirits of all kinds. It falls upon to Chihiro to save her family and escape the clutches of the most powerful spirits.

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984) (4/13 & 4/16). Technically speaking, this film precedes the formation of Studio Ghibli by a year, with Nausicaa being released in 1985 and the studio being created in 1986. Thousands of years after nuclear war has ravaged the Earth, a peaceful princess becomes embroiled in a battle to save her land from both the the poisonous jungle that borders her kingdom and the violent and power hungry political factions that lie just beyond.

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004) (4/14 & 4/18). Actor Christian Bale was so impressed after seeing SPIRITED AWAY that he expressed interest in playing any role in the English dub of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, no matter how small. He ended up voicing the male lead. A curse laid by a petty witch onto young and insecure Sophie turns the 18-year-old into an elderly woman. Sophie soon discovers that the spell can be reversed, and her plan leads her to a powerful, mysterious wizard and his flying castle.

PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997) (4/14 & 4/18) holds the title of being the most expensive anime film ever produced at the time, having cost around $23.5 million to create. This investment paid off, as it went on to out-gross E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and become the most profitable film in Japan until the release of TITANIC (1997). A young woman raised by wolves leads her fellow woodland creatures in rebellion against the industrial town that seeks to vanquish them. She is aided by a warrior from far out west who seeks a remedy for the curse that has befallen him.

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (4/15 & 4/19). The character of King Totoro became so beloved that sales of plush toys in his likeness boosted profits for the film considerably, and he went on to become the official Studio Ghibli mascot. Two sisters find themselves in an unfamiliar environment after their family moves to the countryside for the health of their ill mother where they come across a playful bunch of nature spirits, led by the lovable King Totoro, who bring joy and adventure into the girl’s lives.

 

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KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989) (4/15 & 4/19). This film can be considered a work of alternate historical fiction, as it is set in an unnamed European town where neither World War I or World War II took place. Upon turning 13 years old, apprentice witch Kiki leaves home for the city with her feline companion Jiji to learn the two most important skills a young witch can master: flying on one’s broomstick and personal independence.

THE WIND RISES (2013) (4/16). Miyazaki stated that he had never cried upon watching one of his own films, until seeing THE WIND RISES for the first time. A biopic that chronicles the life of Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi from his childhood dreams of aviation to his rise to success as an engineer, as well as the romance and war that come to shape his world.

CASTLE IN THE SKY (1986) (4/17). The titular castle drew inspiration from both the airborne island found in Jonathan Swift’s novel GULLIVER”S TRAVELS and the real life Paronella Park located in Far North Queensland, Australia. After a young boy befriends a mysterious girl he finds hovering in the sky, he is drawn into an aeronautical adventure filled with pirates, airborne ships, and a floating island that may hold the key to discovering the girl’s true identity.

Purchase advance tickets here.

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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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