Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Frankie Jonas, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey

Ponyo, the latest anime feature film from academy award winning writer/director Hayao Miyazaki, is a heart-warming tale of childhood and love set in a peculiar tragic landscape.

The film is centered around a meeting between Ponyo, a little girl of aquatic origins, and Sosuke, a little boy who lives with his mother and father on a cliff over-looking the sea. Ponyo escapes from her underwater family, curious to see the land above. Her father  (voiced by Liam Neeson) is desperate to take Ponyo home, for fear that she will destroy the balance between water and land by becoming human.

At it’s core the story is fairly simple as far as fairy tales go, but in typical Miyazaki fashion, the world that his characters inhabit is considerably more complex.

One thing that surprised me the most about the film was the balance between a sense of dread at the surrounding tragedy and a giddy feeling watching Ponyo experience the world that she so desperately wants to be a part of.

In fact, I was so involved in Ponyo’s exploits, that there were moments in the film where I had to stop and remember what was at stake in the story. This is the power of animation. I highly doubt that Ponyo would work as well as a live-action film.

Sitting down in the theater, I was surprised that there were so many children in the audience, and I’m curious what their overall reaction was to the film. Did they enjoy it, was it too metaphysical, or as I would like to imagine, was the premise of the film easily accessible to people of all ages? I would love to see some answers from movie-going parents.

As for me, I’m going to go watch some more Miyazaki films.

(Originally posted at MovieZeal.com)


The Way We Get By


The Way We Get By
Directed by: Aron Gaudet
Written by: Aron Gaudet

The Way We Get By is a fantastic documentary by writer/director Aron Gaudet. It is about three older people and what they’ve gone through in the last five years as the self-appointed welcoming committee for American troops as they return to native soil. The film is predominately set in the Bangor Airport in Bangor, Maine, and the homes of the welcomers.

The Way We Get By is a short documentary that was made for the long-running PBS television series P.O.V. It’s a film about nothing, and yet, everything. By that I mean that the stories don’t seem to be as heavily influenced by the director as other documentaries might be. And the many themes that come across in the film (loss, loneliness, family, spirit, etc.) are universal themes.

The style presented in the documentary keeps these stories fresh and interesting. There’s an amazing rhythm from story to story that keeps it going. One style in particular reminded me of David Lynch’s on-going Interview Project, which centers around individual stories. The similarity lies in the edit, where the interviewee’s audio track is dubbed over a different shot, trying to capture the right emotion for what is being said.

Each person in The Way We Get By is a dear soul, and I instantly connected with William, Joan, and Gerald on an emotional level. There’s so much pathos here. Heck, the preview itself had me tearing up. I found one line from Gerald to be especially poignant. When asked why he was doing what he was doing, he replied, “Be nice to somebody and that makes you feel nicer. That’s the only way you can deal with it.”

I loved seeing the different attitudes and opinions of the greeters as well. I love how these people, even the ones who don’t support the war, are there to support the troops regardless of their stance. That in mind, I wouldn’t call The Way We Get By an anti-war film. Rather, I think anti-loss would be a more fitting term.