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Discussing Dreams and Reality with The Wind Rises

“Would you like to live in a world with or without pyramids?”

After a lot of thought, I realized that this is the essential question asked in Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film The Wind Rises.

The Wind Rises is an interesting film. I haven’t seen every single one of the films he’s directed or worked on with Studio Ghibli, but I’ve seen enough to know that his final film is a very different film from the rest of his work. Where Miyazaki’s work is usually people with very real issues in a very magical situation, The Wind Rises is very much grounded in reality, but enhanced by the main character’s dreams.

Jiro and Naoko. [theverge.com]

Jiro and Naoko. [theverge.com]

Perhaps it’s because of the film’s background. The story of The Wind Rises combines the work of aerospace engineer Jiro Horikoshi and the novel The Wind Has Risen by Hori Tatsuo. It tells a fictionalized version of Horikoshi’s life leading up to World War II with his work on the Mitsubishi A5M and is inspired by his quote, “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”

Which brings me back to that essential question.

Part way through the film, when it’s implied that Germany and Italy are leading up to the war, the dream mentor of Giovanni Caproni asks Horikoshi if he would prefer to live in a world with or without pyramids. The implication is this: would you rather live in a world with beautiful things that are rooted in hardship, or would you want to live in a world where our dreams remained untainted by the outside world and therefore unrealized.

It’s an interesting way to look at the realization of dreams and makes me wonder why so many have seen this as an anti-war film. It doesn’t really take a stance either way and certainly doesn’t go into how the war affects Horikoshi’s life in the way Grave of the Fireflies looks at how the war affected Japan. In fact, it seems to look at war as a necessary evil at some points. For all the horribleness and hardship it brings, it also produces technological advancements the world has never seen. Technological advancements that Horikoshi dreams about when he sleeps at night. It reminded me of the Wernher von Braun quote about the V-2 rocket he created being used in the Blitzkrieg: “The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet.”

Horikoshi on his first "meeting" with Caproni. [filmjunk.com]

Horikoshi on his first “meeting” with Caproni. [filmjunk.com]

However, the film doesn’t really try to justify the war in that sense either. With the focus on this fictional Horikoshi’s life as he creates the A5M and falls in love with a woman doomed to die, it ultimately becomes less about the war and more of a bittersweet lesson. That sometimes our dreams don’t work out exactly how we hoped, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to live them out.

This was a hard film for me to process. It’s not that it wasn’t beautiful. It was gorgeous both in scope and story. It also sneaks up on you because I found myself tearing up a lot at it when I least expected. It was challenging and quite the shakeup for Miyazaki in a good way.

I just don’t know where it falls for the rest of Miyazaki for me.

I know he can handle mature subject material just fine. You only need to see Princess Mononoke to see that and this film does it well too. It’s less that it’s bad in my book, but more of if it’s going to be my next Children of Men: A film I love and admire, but could only watch once due to the number it did on my mental health. I don’t think it will be that bad, but I don’t see myself revisiting this film a lot in the future just because of the context and content of the film.

I would like to rewatch it at least once though to hear the original Japanese with Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno as Horikoshi. I love Joseph Gordon Levitt, but his performance as Horikoshi felt a bit flat. Perhaps that was intentional and I would love to get some perspective.

Horikoshi and his dream of the A5M. [highsnobiety.com]

Horikoshi and his dream of the A5M. [highsnobiety.com]

It’s a film worth watching though, and it’s a shame that many members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dismissed this film (and the other films in the category) as for children without giving it a serious view. It’s a very different film from Frozen and could have been a serious contender for the win if it had been looked at more seriously. Because really, it is a film that deserves to be watched, no matter if you think it’s an anti-war piece of garbage or the best film Hayao Miyazaki ever made. Even if I remain forever unsure about it, I’m glad I saw it because it reminded me to go forward with my dreams and live.

Because even with the most important question, there’s an even more impression that overrides that coming from Caproni.

“Is the wind rising, Japanese boy? Then we must try to live!”

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Film

 

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Moonrise, Vampires, Dark Knights, and the Neighborhood Watch: Quick reviews of the last four movies I watched.

Okay, I don’t know how I let myself go so long again between updates. It’s either Dragon*Con insanity, or just pure laziness on my part. Either way, there are four movies I haven’t reviewed yet that I’m going to knock out right now, or I’m going to let myself fall behind even more. Starting with the first one I promised:

Moonrise Kingdom

I’m just now starting to become familiar with Wes Anderson. When most people’s first exposure to Anderson was Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, mine was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I didn’t expect to like The Fantastic Mr. Fox as much as I did, but the slowed down frame rate and the quirky, somewhat adult spin on a children’s story was a treat in terms of stop motion animation. Plus, Petey’s Song had to be the best part of the movie.

I guess it’s appropriate that the followup to Anderson’s adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel is a story about childhood and first love. Moonrise Kingdom has all the elements of a live action Wes Anderson movie. There are the delightfully insane characters, the adults who aren’t quite satisfied with their lives, the bright primary colors that don’t seem to exist in real life, and the masterful use of music. However, it doesn’t feel as hilariously bleak as a usual Wes Anderson movie. Instead, there’s a bit of hope and optimism to be had between our protagonists Sam and Suzy. They’re young, misunderstood, and in love. And no adult is going to keep them apart. I kept expecting a terrible turn around for the two due to Suzy’s more pessimistic nature or the adults who seemed determined that they had to be apart, but was pleasantly surprised and relieved when it didn’t turn out that way.

Through the story of Sam and Suzy, we get to see the usual Anderson adults, but they’re not the focus of the story. In fact, some of them even have improved lives by the end of the film after the events of chasing the two runaway lovers across New Penzance. There are a few Anderson newcomers among them, such as Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, but there are also some great memorable performances from Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann, who probably only have about 30 minutes of film between them. A lot of credit has to be given to the child actors though. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward made me fall in love with Sam and Suzy so much with their performances and all the Khaki Scout boys managed to be hilarious as well.

This movie was a fun and hilarious watch, and a great addition to the world of Wes Anderson. I hope he continues to make these children’s movies for adults, because he seems to be rather good at it.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This movie is not a good movie, but it’s damn entertaining.

There are many goofy moments, some very terrible racial connotations with the vampires using slaves as a food source, and horrible CG, but if you can turn off your critical eye for a couple of hours and turn on your inner Crow T. Robot, this movie is a fun piece of Alternate History. An Abraham Lincoln that acts like Liam Neeson with an axe that doubles as a shotgun, Rufus Sewell as a deliciously decadent baddie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead defying her aging makeup as Mary Todd Lincoln, Dominic Cooper being a hot vampire teacher, and Anthony Mackie bringing out his inner Samuel L. Jackson? Again, they make this slow motion trainwreck of hilarious badness amazing.

Also Alan Tudyk and one of the McPoyle brothers are there. Enough said.

The Dark Knight Rises

I wanted to like this movie so much more than I actually did.

I mean, it’s not bad. It’s not like it was a Schumacher movie, but compared to the chaotic exhilaration of The Dark Knight and the endless fun of The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises was just… eh.

There were several good elements, like Anne Hathaway’s performance as Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blake, Cillian Murphy’s cameo as the Scarecrow that brought back memories of Batman: The Animated Series, and Michael Caine making me cry with his emotional performance as Alfred Pennyworth, but as a whole, there seemed to be so much missing. Catwoman’s arc wasn’t developed enough, Bruce suddenly going broke was sort of trite, the twist about Talia and Bane really shouldn’t have been a twist and/or developed from the first or second film, and Tom Hardy’s voice as Bane was purely laughable. Among other things about his whole plot to destroy Gotham.

Or was it Talia’s?

Either way, there was so much of this film that didn’t seem to go together. It didn’t really feel like a Batman film either. For how much Bruce was absent throughout this film and how much focus their was on the police and the antagonists, it felt like it was actually Christopher Nolan trying to adapt Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central but added in Batman being a recluse ala Frank Miller and trying to get rid of a bomb ala Adam West just to appease Warner Bros. Well, if that was the case, where was Renee Montoya? Because she was the B:TAS character I wanted, not Daggett. Though, any time Burn Gorman as Daggett’s assistant got beat up by Selina, I felt satisfied due to my hatred of Owen Harper.

The biggest crime of this film though? They killed Batmanuel. That is completely and utterly unacceptable.

The Watch

Finally, I saw The Watch, Akiva Schaffer’s second film as a director. If this film had been presented to me with its plot and only with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, I probably would have waited to see it on DVD or HBO.

However, I was presented with an irresistible fourth lead: Richard Ayoade, making his American film debut.

With that, I was pretty much required to see this movie.

The Watch isn’t the best comedy ever. In fact, it’s not even as hilariously ridiculous as Hot Rod, Schaffer’s directorial debut. However, Ayoade brought an amazing performance as Jamarcus. The character was slightly like Moss from The IT Crowd, but there was enough cursing, confusion, and enjoyment of sex to set the character apart from Moss. Plus, there were some legitimately hilarious and heartfelt moments in the film. I was actually pretty surprised with the way the story of Bob (Vince Vaughn) and his daughter Chelsea turned out. I expected it to be the two of them arguing throughout the film, but it turned out to be quite realistic and sweet the way their relationship turned around. Ben Stiller’s character also had a interestingly realistic story arc with him and his wife trying to conceive. It was surprising, but refreshing as well.

The film also features great cameos from R. Lee Ermey, Billy Crudup, and The Lonely Island. In fact, The Lonely Island’s cameo seems to harken back to their 100th digital short on SNL.

I’m all caught up now. Next topic will be my late halfway through the year music coverage.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Film

 

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