Isao Takahata

Isao Takahata

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The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya Review


Excellent

Like The Wind Rises, this Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli animation is a proper cinematic epic, telling a sprawling story with artistry, invention and vivid characters that leave most Hollywood animated movies in the dust. It's based on a 10th century Japanese folktale that's packed with resonant themes, and it's been animated in a way that makes it look like a childhood storybook come to life. So even if it feels rather long at 2 hours 17 minutes, the visual minimalism is relentlessly beautiful.

The story begins in the countryside, where farmer Okina (James Caan in the English-language version) finds a tiny girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in a bamboo stalk. Believing her to be a princess, he raises her with his wife Ouna (Mary Steenburgen). When he finds silk and gold in his bamboo grove, Okina decides that the gods want them to raise the now-teen girl in a more regal setting, so they all move to the capital, where she's officially named Princess Kaguya and becomes the most eligible girl in the kingdom, attracting offers from five wealthy men, plus His Majesty (Dean Cain) himself. But Kaguya is longing for the quieter life in the country, and misses her childhood pal Sutemaru (Darren Criss).

As it develops, the story becomes deeper and richer, offering hints as to where the events are headed, although nothing prepares us for the final-act sequence, which feels almost anachronistic in its surreally eclectic splendour. But by then, we have become completely engulfed in Kaguya's story, identifying with her longing to reconnect with the friends who used to call her "L'il Bamboo" because she grew up much more quickly than they did. This tension between sophisticated high society and rural simplicity adds an extra layer of meaning to the entire film, as does the running commentary about Japan's gender politics. And the hint of romance between Kaguya and Sutemaru offers further subversion of the social order.

Continue reading: The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya Review

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Trailer


Once upon a time in Japan, a bamboo cutter discovered a miniature girl inside the body of a glowing stalk of bamboo. When he took the girl home, he adopted her as his daughter, and decided that she must be a princess. The princess began to grow at an alarming rate, soon becoming a young woman. One day, the bamboo cutter discovered another glowing stalk and once again, decided to chop it down. Inside was enough gold for him to build a palace for his princess. But a princess with a palace needs a prince, and the little princess wanted only to return to her friends. The punishment for dishonouring the prince's request would be death, so the princess was forced to embark on a journey through love, life, and Japan, in search of her heart's desire.

Continue: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Trailer

My Neighbors The Yamadas Review


Very Good
In the US, we embrace animated families steeped in enormous dysfunction--the Simpsons, Family Guy's Griffin clan, or the poor bastards on King of the Hill. The Japanese Yamadas, on the other hand, title characters in this unique collection of vignettes, have a more universal level of dysfunction. Their humor doesn't lean on huge levels of bumbling idiocy and resentment; instead, it is gentle and knowing, like the Japanese poetry that appears throughout My Neighbors the Yamadas.

The Yamadas are your basic suburban family weathering the storms that most families deal with. Because their issues have such a commonality, nearly everyone, regardless of age, will find something to connect with -- and chuckle at -- in this charming feature just released on DVD here in the States.

Continue reading: My Neighbors The Yamadas Review

Grave Of The Fireflies Review


Very Good
Japanese animation normally consists of the flying fists of people imbued with otherworldly strength and agility, dazzling moments as they, say, slice clean through their foes with a samurai sword, or mind-meld with a computer. And usually super-powered monsters are running around at the same time.

In other words, hardly the stuff of reality cinema.

Continue reading: Grave Of The Fireflies Review

My Neighbors The Yamadas Review


Very Good
In the US, we embrace animated families steeped in enormous dysfunction--the Simpsons, Family Guy's Griffin clan, or the poor bastards on King of the Hill. The Japanese Yamadas, on the other hand, title characters in this unique collection of vignettes, have a more universal level of dysfunction. Their humor doesn't lean on huge levels of bumbling idiocy and resentment; instead, it is gentle and knowing, like the Japanese poetry that appears throughout My Neighbors the Yamadas.

The Yamadas are your basic suburban family weathering the storms that most families deal with. Because their issues have such a commonality, nearly everyone, regardless of age, will find something to connect with -- and chuckle at -- in this charming feature just released on DVD here in the States.

Continue reading: My Neighbors The Yamadas Review

Pom Poko Review


Excellent
As an ambitious morality tale, the Japanese animated film Pom Poko is certainly worthy of a solid recommendation. As a family-friendly film, this story of angry raccoons saving their land from destruction has a problem. Let's just say Pom Poko ain't no Ferngully.

In the midst of their battle against man, raccoons are hit by cars and ensnared in traps. They use their ingenuity and crazy skills (more on those later) to sabotage construction and kill a handful of humans. They create a fever dream-style parade used to haunt the locals. This kind of adult-level entertainment boasts smart, stylishly trippy animation that veers far from anything that can be called a "kid" movie. But Pom Poko is one of a series of Japanese Studio Ghibli films being distributed in the US by Disney -- so, to the uninitiated, it looks like a warm cuddly Disney movie on the DVD shelves.

Continue reading: Pom Poko Review

Isao Takahata

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Isao Takahata Movies

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Movie Review

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Movie Review

Like The Wind Rises, this Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli animation is a proper cinematic epic, telling...

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Trailer

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya Trailer

Once upon a time in Japan, a bamboo cutter discovered a miniature girl inside the...

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Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review

Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review

Japanese animation normally consists of the flying fists of people imbued with otherworldly strength and...

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