America in the fifties, a futuristic robot, charming characters…

… in The Iron Giant. I re-watched it the other day and was taken again by it’s charm and the heart warming story. It’s beautifully drawn too. Autumnal forests drowning in earthy colours, the diner’s bright and perky pastels, the cool shades of grays and blacks of the robot and the junkyard. The movie deals with many important questions of life, identity and death. It portrays how the robot and the young boy come to terms with who they are. And the all important message – you have the power to choose your own identity.

A lovely movie with lots of feel good moments. And (perhaps most important) an awesome robot!

Worlds of Wonder and Beauty – The Secret World of Arrietty

Studio Ghibli has once again translated a written adventure to the screen, with a fantastical visual and emotional journey as a result. This time, they have interpreted Mary Norton’s The Borrowers.

In The Secret World of Arrietty a young boy named Sho meets borrower Arrietty, a young girl of a tiny folk called “borrowers”, as they borrow (or steal) everything they need from ordinary people. Their seemingly innocent meeting, no more than a brief glance at first, results in the upheaval of their lives. Arrietty has to save her family from danger and Sho has to confront his attitude towards life.

The Secret World of Arrietty is a heart warming, beautiful story with most of the classical elements that I love about Studio Ghibli stories – strong female characters, picturesque sceneries, strange and lovable characters, comic relief, slow and comfortable pace leaving room for thought, and a general “feel good” quality. What I did miss was perhaps a stronger magical or surreal element and some fantastical creatures, but I guess there is not always room for such. All in all, a very good movie.

Before Studio Ghibli was Studio Ghibli there was…

… Miyazaki and Takahata and their separate carriers. At Tor.com there is an interesting article – Six Pre-Studio Ghibli Anime Films You Should Track Down – about some of the movies that were made before Studio Ghibli was officially formed. Great recommendations. I was not familiar with all titles, but will definitely check some of them out. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is one of my all time favourite movies, all categories. The writer of the article mentioned above sums it up;

“the pair’s stunning gift for storytelling, with many of the themes of Ghibli’s output – environmental destruction, industrialisation, conflict and children facing up to their roles in the world”

I can’t wait to see The Secret World of Arrietty, I hope to get my hand on it soon.

Stranger than Fiction – Auditor Delves into Literature to Dodge Death

Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a stiff yet warm hearted tax auditor, who leads a calm and structured life on his own, with only a wrist watch as close company. The wrist watch does not say much, but still plays an important role in the story. One day Harold hears a female voice narrate his every action, a bit disturbing, to say the least. And when his narrator goes on to say “little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death”, he is shaken to his core. Harold needs to find out why he is on a path that will lead to his imminent death, and also who is leading him there. With the aid of a professor of literature, played by Dustin Hoffman, he delves into the literary world of heroes and anti-heroes and searches through themes and motifs to figure out what type of a story he is in. Also, he tries to figure out whether he is in a tragedy or a comedy.

The movie has elements of comedy and tragedy at the same time, lots of quirky and funny scenes and great characters. It is a warm story of love, life and death and of making the most of your life while you can. And, of course, it’s about literature and writing. Some of the most interesting scenes are those with Emma Thompson, who plays the neurotic writer, where she struggles against writer’s block and tries to find just the right way to kill Harold Crick.

Attack the Block – Hairy Gorilla Aliens Invade London?

Nick Frost plays a smaller part in this British science fiction action movie (2011). The movie tells the story of a crazy night in South London, where aliens suddenly come crashing to the earth. A street gang, all young guys, are thrown into the action when they encounter the first of the aliens, just as they have mugged a woman who will later become their reluctant ally. The action is mixed up with comedy, but the movie also carries a more serious tone in some parts where the characters touch upon important and sensitive subjects. There are elements of parody, but they don’t overshadow the story. Definitely worth watching.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, anime from 2006 by Mamoru Hasada. Seventeen year old Makoto accidentally gets the ability to leap backwards through time. She uses this gift selfishly, to correct past events in her own every day life, which causes difficult and unforeseen consequenses for the people around her.

It’s a beautiful, sad and thought-provoking story about the moral and ethical complications of time leaping. At the same time it is a story of the first love, in all its youthful pain and glory.