Japanese Cinema Blogathon: Porco Rosso (1992)

Image Source: KinoPoisk.Ru

Synopsis: Trained as an ace fighter pilot for the Italian Air Force during World War I, pig-headed (literally) Porco Rosso now answers to no one but himself – and anyone with enough cash to hire his services as a bounty hunter, of course. He maintains a friendly rivalry with the local “air pirates,” bandits in sea planes who swipe their booty from passing ships. Instead of joining their band of merry thieves, Porco makes his money stealing backtheir plunder on behalf of the victims! Yet after dark they always put their differences aside and come together to share a drink at the bar of the Hotel Adriano, owned by the lovely and tragic Gina. But when hotshot American pilot Curtis arrives on the scene, he makes it his mission to take down the meddlesome Porco once and for all. With the help of his immature yet skilled mechanic and co-pilot Fio, can Porco defeat Curtis in the ultimate dogfight – and finally win the affections of the beautiful Gina?

This is an official entry in the week-long Japanese Cinema Blogathon for disaster relief, co-hosted by CinemaFanatic and Japan Cinema. As we all know, Japan was struck with a 9.0 earthquake on March 11, resulting in devastating tsunamis and widespread destruction. Please CLICK HERE to make a donation to the represented charity of your choice to aid Japanese disaster victims, and be sure to click the banner at left to view the other contributions to the blogathon.

This is my second contribution to this very worthy blogathon, as well as the second entry in my own mini-marathon of Studio Ghibli reviews. I apologize for skipping around in time a bit; I had planned to review these lesser-known (though by no means obscure) Ghibli films in chronological order, meaning Grave of the Fireflies (1988) should be next after Nausicaä (1984), but as I am not yet emotionally prepared to tackle that one, Porco Rosso it is. Like Nausicaä, Porco is based on a manga penned by Hayao Miyazaki himself, Hikōtei Jidai (The Age of the Flying Boat), originally published in three parts in Model Graphix, a monthly magazine for scale model enthusiasts. Miyazaki also directs (which may sound like a given, but remember Isao Takahata directed two of the first seven Ghibli films). The film takes place between the two World Wars in and around the Adriatic Sea; the location was intended to be more specifically indicated as Croatia, but the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia during production prompted the filmmakers to leave the location a bit more ambiguous. Still, of the films directed by Miyazaki, having a clearly-defined historical and geographical setting makes Porco Rosso unusually reality-based. Aside from the fact that, you know, he’s a pig. (more…)

Japanese Cinema Blogathon: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis:A thousand years after an apocalyptic war destroyed the earth’s ecosystem, the scattered human survivors are still fighting each other and their environment. Their settlements are separated by impenetrable toxic forests, guarded by giant insects and filled with poisonous plants releasing deadly spores. There is only one girl who does not fear the forests: the princess Nausicaä, of the Valley of the Wind. Seeking to regain control, the war-like Tolmekians plan to resurrect one the legendary Giant Warriors, used in the war but potentially strong enough to defeat the monstrous bugs and destroy the toxic forests. However, prophecy states that the destruction of the forests will only make things worse for the human inhabitants. Can Nausicaä stop the Tolmekians from unleashing the Warrior before it’s too late?

This is an official entry in the week-long Japanese Cinema Blogathon for disaster relief, co-hosted by CinemaFanatic and Japan Cinema. As we all know, Japan was struck with a 9.0 earthquake on March 11, resulting in devastating tsunamis and widespread destruction. Please CLICK HERE to make a donation to the represented charity of your choice to aid Japanese disaster victims, and be sure to click the banner at left to view the other contributions to the blogathon.

I only got word of this blogathon for Japanese earthquake/tsunami relief at the last minute (thanks Eve for alerting me!), but I automatically knew I had to participate. My girlfriend’s brother and his wife, along with their ten-month-old baby, live in Japan, and while they are doing fine and are too far south to have been affected by the earthquake/tsunami, we have been glued to the TV and computer since the quake occurred. (We mostly rely on this English stream of NHK instead of the American news networks, as most of the information coming from the American sources seems to be either factually inaccurate or shamelessly fear-mongering.)

Since this is a fundraising blogathon for a very worthy cause, I wanted to contribute more than one measly post. So for the duration of this blogathon, I will be marathon-reviewing some of the lesser-known masterpieces of Studio Ghibli. Japanese animation is more than Hayao Miyazaki, and Japanese cinema is certainly more than anime. However, this is the last minute, I love the films of Studio Ghibli, and we happen to own twelve of them, so this is the best I can offer. (more…)

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: It’s Christmas Eve in Japan, but the only present friends Gin, Hana, and Miyuki are hoping for is a decent meal and a warm place to sleep. Gin’s gambling debts have reduced him to scrounging on the street; Hana is a former night club performer who lost her job and, with it, the only family she ever knew; and Miyuki is a teenage runaway trying to keep her distance from her repressive father. All three are homeless, and have joined together in a makeshift family to help each other survive another night on the cold streets of Tokyo. But their lives are forever changed when they encounter a small baby abandoned in a pile of trash. While Gin thinks they should take the infant to the police, Hana sees the serendipitous discovery as a Christmas miracle, and makes it her mission (and Gin and Miyuki’s mission as well, much to their chagrin) to return the lost child to her family.

Satoshi Kon (October 12, 1963 – August 24, 2010) was born in Kushiro, Hokkaidō, Japan. He studied graphic design at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, graduating in 1982. In 1984 he published his first manga, the short story Toriko, which won him a runner-up spot in Young Magazine‘s 10th Annual Tetsuya Chiba Awards. He then found work as an assistant to Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of the renowned manga Akira. In the late 1980s, Kon slowly transitioned to film work, acting as occasional animator, layout artist, and screenwriter. In 1995 he acted as writer, layout artist, and art director of “Magnetic Rose,” the first of three short films adapted from Otomo’s work and compiled in the anime omnibus Memories. Kon made his directorial debut with 1998’s Perfect Blue, a psychological thriller loosely based on Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s novel of the same name. He followed this with 2001’s Millennium Actress, which won high acclaim as well as numerous international awards, including tying for Grand Prize with Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away in Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs’ Media Arts Festival. He followed this with 2003’s Tokyo Godfathers, which won an Excellence Prize at the Media Arts Festival; and the thirteen-episode television series Paranoia Agent, which he created, wrote, and directed. In 2006 he released Paprika, which won the Best Feature Length Theatrical Anime Award at the sixth annual Tokyo Anime Awards (and is now credited as being highly influential on Christopher Nolan’s 2010 smash box office hit Inception). He then began work on his next film The Dream Machine, described by Kon as “a road movie for robots” targeted at younger audiences. Tragically, in May 2010 Satoshi Kon was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Though he showed relatively few signs of illness, the cancer rapidly progressed, and Kon passed away on August 24, 2010, shocking his friends and fans the world over. He was 46 years old.

Yes, I know an anime movie from 2003 doesn’t seem to fit in with the theme of classic film on the surface, but, like Zelda Rubinstein, I can’t let my In Memoriam series end without talking about Satoshi Kon. Like Rubinstein, I feel Kon’s death has gone unnoticed by the majority of film fans who simply may be unaware of his work and his importance to Japanese animation. I know I mucked it up by not getting all my planned reviews done in December, so a lot of important people who died in 2010 are going unmentioned; this is to be my last review in this series, and out of all of them, Satoshi Kon is the only one I couldn’t bring myself to leave out. That should show you how important his work is to me, Tokyo Godfathers in particular. (more…)

Tonka (1958)

Image Source: IMP Awards
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