December 17, 2005 - 12:12am
finally reached the end of 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother,
and I'm left with that same empty, dull ache I had when I finished Anne
of Green Gables. This weekend I'll try to compile some notes
about the series, and try to come to terms with it all. The story
carries a complexity and sense of depth that is unsurpassed in
animation (and nearly all live cinema).
suspected this when watching Anne, and 3000 Leagues has confirmed
it. Takahata and Miyazaki's greatest work are their World Masterpiece
Theatre productions. The Studio Ghibli movies play out like brilliant
short stories; but Heidi, Anne, 3000 Leagues...ah, these are
the epic novels.
December 16, 2005 - 7:12am
now it's official - the people who run Air America Radio are
jerks. You guys suck! BOOO!!!
Sedition has always been my favorite AAR show after Randi Rhodes.
Much like Unfiltered, which likewise was cancelled (and replaced
with...Jerry Springer?!), it was a great radio show that defied
my expectations and immediately hooked my on the network. I expected
a shrill, self-righteous version of public radio...only "nerdier." I
discovered a wildly funny, casual morning show that also happened
to know the score with what was happening around the world.
I'm starting to really hate the people who own AAR. Who's making
these decisions? What are they gonna replace it with? No more "fire
truck?" No more "zombie death cult?" No more "Morning
Sedition Radio Theatre?" No more Red Hot Chili Peppers at
six in the morning?! BOOO!!! BOOO!!!
Leagues in Search of Mother - A
December 14, 2005 - 12:00am
been relentlessly watching Isao Takahata 3000 Leagues in Search
of Mother for the past ten days. I have another 16 episodes to
go, and it is masterfully complex, thoughtful, literary. It is
also an emotional ride, full of tragedy and heartache. A wise,
sad stoicism permeates throughout.
the video quality on the Taiwan DVD box set is noticably weaker,
using an older film print covered in scratches, debrit and faded
colors. It's the only release with English subtitles, so I'm
still grateful, so I can't compare it against the Japanese DVD's
use the following pics as a comparison. The first photo, like
the two above, were taken from a German fansite devoted to World
Masterpiece Theatre; the second is from the 3000 Leagues DVD:
quality of the artwork, as you can see, is outstanding, combining
the neo-realism of a De Sica with an expressionism that brings
out the characters' minds. Notice the above picture's strong
resemblance to Much's "The Scream," an appropriate
setting for that particular episode. You can also see the obsessive
attention to detail that is a hallmark of Takahata and Miyazaki's
Leagues in Search of Mother deserves to be seen in North America
(alongside Heidi and Anne, of course). Anyone who decides to
bring it here, however, would have to work on completely restoring
the picture quality. We're talking about a 26-hour epic. Know
anyone who wants to go into business?
New Studio Ghibli Movie Has
December 13, 2005 - 7:20pm
Studio Ghibli's next feature-length film has been announced,
and it's not without a degree of surprise and controversy. The
title of the film is "Gedo Senki," or "Gedo War
History." It is an adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard
of Earthsea, and is set for release next June. The director for
this project is Goro Miyazaki - the son of the master filmmaker.
is where much of the controversy stems from. Hayao Miyazaki's
son, to the best of my knowledge, has no experience in animation,
either as an animator, a writer or a director. He has been in
charge of the Ghibli Museum since its 2001 opening, and is listed
as a Planner for this year's Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum
one does not have to be a craftsman to become a great filmmaker
in animation; Isao Takahata is the greatest example of that.
However, I have to admit to feeling, well, a little skittish.
The elder Miyazaki has been very vocal in his opposition; he
is fiercly against the idea of having his son dropped in charge
of a major Ghibli production.
something of a feeling of privilege in this that I just cannot
shake. Miyazaki dragged himself through the ranks the old-fashioned
way, with endless hard work and a relentless drive that is legendary.
The democratic environment in place at Toei Doga in the 1960s
enabled this, and young Hayao ran at the opportunity.
a famous story of the 1965 animation film Gulliver's Space Travels,
where a young in-betweener (essentially a starting position in
animation) boldly suggested a completely different ending to
the story, one which completely changed the context and tone
of the movie. The story originally involved Gulliver rescuing
a robot princess, but Miyazaki suggested that the princess, and
all her people, should be humans trapped inside the machines.
That the new kid could essentially walk up to a director, make
such a suggestion and then animate the scenes, is extrordinary,
and speaks volumes about Miyazaki's spirit that carries through
to the present day.
Miyazaki, who started with nothing and became the highest-grossing
filmmaker in Japan's history, the idea that his son could be
hand-picked for the role of film director cannot be deeply offensive.
It's goes against everything: his work ethic, his politics. At
least, that's my theory.
have no doubt that Goro Miyazaki can possess a degree of talent;
he has to have inherited something from his parents (his mother,
Akemi, worked as a key animator on Horus,
Prince of the Sun, Puss in Boots, Animal Treasure Island,
and Panda Go Panda).
But, I ask myself, why not simply work up the ranks first? Shouldn't
he have to pay his dues?
own suspicion is that this relates to the looming crisis for
Studio Ghibli. Namely, what will happen to the studio when the
old masters, Takahata and Miyazaki, finally retire? Both have
projects in the pipeline, but they are getting older; Takahata,
who's last Ghibli film was 1999's My
Neighbors the Yamadas, is 70, and Miyazaki is 65.
are many brilliantly talented senior animators at Ghibli, and
several who have directed short films, incliding Yohiyuki Momose
(Ghiblies Episode 2),
Hiroyuki Morita (The
Cat Returns), Katsuya Kondo. and Kitaro Kosaka (who directoral
debut was the 2003 film Nasu: Summer in Andalusia). These are
all clear candidates for successors at Ghibli. The clear successor
was once Yoshifumi Kondo (Whisper
of the Heart), but he died suddenly in 1998. This has been
a growing problem ever since.
now, we suddenly have the son of Miyazaki in charge of a major
film, and that may be enough to keep the public interested. It
makes great press, and everyone will want to see if Goro can
follow in his foosteps. No doubt Gedo Senki will be a good film,
but this feels so much like a gamble.
would be foolish to expect the younger Miyazaki to create the
same kind of emotionally complex, personal films as his father.
So much of Japan's greatest animation comes from that post-war
generation, whose explosion of freedom and creativity revolutionized
the medium. Can a new generation create classics in the vein
of Horus, Heidi, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Nausicaa, Porco
Rosso? Or will they be safer, more formulaic, more committed
to the cliches and conventions?
thing that strikes me about the new movie poster is how much
it looks like the last one. It looks just like Howl's
Moving Castle, and is likewise adapted from a series of Western
children's fantasy novels. But what made Howl so great, what
I really loved about it, was how Miyazaki threw away the book
after introducing the major players, and told his own personal
story about war, his marriage, and growing old instead. It's
the sort of bold thing you expect from a great filmmaker. Imagine
someone taking similar liberties with C.S. Lewis or Harry Potter.
kind of risks would Goro Miyazaki take? Where would he take animated
film? Does he possess that love and respect for Italian Neo-realism,
that awareness of Japan's rich history and culture? How much
of his personal life, his inner turmoil, will appear on the screen?
Or will we simply see a calcluated, audience-friendly cartoon
fantasy, set within the confines of the quote-unquote "Ghibli
movie?" The Cat Returns had these same problems, and to
a degree it is to be expected; these are movies made by young
people who are inexperienced, learning their style, learning
to hear their own voices.
sort of thing takes time. I'm not sure that this is the wisest
path to take; sometimes being the child of a famous artist, and
being asked to continue their legacy, can prove a heavy burden.
Think of Julian Lennon. Perhaps, again, this is why Miyazaki
pere is against the idea. I don't know. I'm only an American
artist and writer who's still digging through all that history
and trying to make sense of it all. Next June should prove very
Shipping Dead Marines Home as
December 11, 2005 - 11:10pm
a pack of sick, sadistic fascists. Now can we impeach these
bastards (insert favorite swear words here)?
often wonder about the members of the Bush Cult, that twisted
cult of personality that comprises at least a third of Americans.
Do they get some sort of perverse joy out of this? Do they just
stick their fingers in their ears and parrot, ever louder, that
daddy is perfect, daddy can do no wrong, daddy is doing God's
work? Just what is it going to take?
military family who knows the score should ever vote Republican
again. The GOP has shown their contempt over and over again.
Patron Saint of Minnesota
December 11, 2005 - 12:30am
Minnesota, if you are a progressive or liberal, or an Irish Catholic,
then Eugene McCarthy is your patron saint. He was truly one of
the great souls of this state, a strong, generous man of conscience.
Politics has always been, to coin "The Adams Family," dirty
pool, but McCarthy stood above it all, and remained a beacon
of hope and a voice for justice, until his final days.
recent weeks, we have seen the passing of great people whose
lives are a testimony to the power of a single individual, the
power within any one of us to change the world. Taking a stand
for what's right is rarely easy, it is rarely without sacrifice
or hardship. But never dispair. When you feel overwhelmed by
the stupidity and cruelty of humanity, remember that you are
look at America today, and recoil at how far she has fallen.
Rising poverty, rising debt, a cruel and senseless war, a political
class sliding ever futher into fascism, rape and torture perpetuated
in secret locations across the globe, increasing pollution, increasing
corruption, increasing incompetance, insecurity, uncertainty,
Gene McCarthy. Remember the injustices overcome in his day, the
evil of Jim Crow, the evil of Vietnam. Perhaps, as rabbi Harold
Kushner has suggested, God is to be found in the resistance,
the struggle for freedom. We need to continue that struggle for
freedom, the fight for equality and justice and peace for all.
McCarthy now resides with the spirits of those other great Minnesotans,
Hubert Humphrey and Paul Wellstone. We will always miss his voice,
just as we will always miss theirs.
Was 25 Years Ago Today
December 8, 2005 - 11:00pm
Leagues (Marco) DVD Has
December 3, 2005 - 9:45pm
DVD box set for 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother arrived today!
Hooray! This is one of the prize finds in my DVD collection.
Leagues, aka Marco, was the 1976 season of World Masterpiece
Theatre, the groundbreaking television series that was the jewel
of Japanese animation. WMT became an annual tradition in 1974
with the Heidi, Girl of the Alps, directed by Isao Takahata.
Marco was his second WMT production in 1976 (their third and
final production was Anne
of Green Gables in 1979), and also includes all the major
players from Toei: animation director/character designer Yoichi
Kotabe, screenwriter Kazuo Fukuzawa, art director Mukuo Takamura,
color designer Yasuda Michiyo, and layout/continuity by Hayao
Heidi carried a naturalist tone with flights into fancy, Marco
was fully immersed in neo-realism. Imagine De Sica's Bicycle
Thieves and Umberto D, painted with watercolors. If you've noticed
the European neo-realist streak in the Ghibli films, this is
where much of that comes from.
story focuses on a poor Italian family in the late 1800's, and
specifically the young boy, Marco, who is traumatized when his
mother departs for faraway Argentina, in search of work. Over
the course of 52 episodes, Marco struggles to grow up, often
arguing with his family, while dreaming of bringing his mother
back home. He eventually sails for Argentina along with a family
of travelling performers (think Fellini's La Strada).
this point, Takahata's creative genius has already been cemented
(with Horus, Prince of the
Sun and Heidi), his masterful sense of control, his understanding
of the camera and formal composition, and his ability to present
an emotional intimacy to his characters that is matched or surpassed
by only a handful of great filmmakers. Much of it comes from
his training - Takahata is not an animator, but a director who
chose to work in animation, and brought a filmic sensibility
that - together with Miyazaki - revolutionized the medium. They've
proven that over and over with Ghibli.
a little about this DVD set. This is the official Chinese release,
packaged in 10 discs in two boxes. Each box includes a booklet,
with a synopsis on the characters and each episode (which is
in English), and the second box includes three illustrated postcards.
This is the only version of 3000 Leagues with English subtitiles,
aside from a shady bootleg version that's unfortunately more
bought this set online at JSDVD Mall, which is located in Taiwan.
They also have for sale a number of other WMT series, including
Anne of Green Gables, Heidi (at least the first half), and some
of the later series. It goes without saying that this series
deserves a place among your DVD collection.