Friday, August 18, 2023

Anthology - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

I’ve always found anthologies to be divisive among movie fans. There are a lot of people that just don’t concern themselves with the genre at all. The only anthology flicks most people tend to gravitate toward would be along the lines of Love Actually (2003). It’s a film that flows like the recipe of a typical rom-com. The framing device is something that is only really seen for three minutes split between the beginning and the end, the rest of the film plays out as if there’s no real anthology aspect to it.
Most anthologies don’t tend to play to a wider theatrical audience the way Love Actually does. They often have a different writer/director for every segment. Sometimes each entry is even filmed in a different style. As a result, a lot of people tend to steer clear.
I tend to prefer anthologies that present themselves as they are. I like a strong framing device that’s seen several times throughout the flick, and stories that revolve around a main theme but are otherwise completely different.
Anthologies give a short look into the work of various artists which helps me decide if they’re people I want to see more of. An unfamiliar name in an anthology can introduce you to a whole new filmography of work. A good anthology can even lead to several introductions.
In my original personal cinematic landscape, I covered anthologies of both styles. I wrote about New York, I Love You (2008) and If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) – both anthologies that exhibit the Love Actually style. I also discussed The Animatrix (2003) and The ABCs of Death (2012) which are more like the latter description.
There are two anthologies I’ve seen since the last look into my cinematic landscape that deserve to be added in. Both for the exact same reason: V/H/S/94 (2021) and The Mortuary Collection (2019).

The V/H/S series is pretty well known. Most of the movies in it, however, aren’t all that memorable. Even those that have decent reviews tend to get lost to history. Still, the found footage VHS tape framing device – especially for the horror genre – is a stroke of genius. I think that’s the reason the series has had so much staying power over the years.
V/H/S/2 (2013) was the first of the series that I greatly enjoyed, but it wasn’t until V/H/S/94 that it had any effect on the way I perceived anthologies.
Each of the various stories in V/H/S/94 kept me glued to the screen. Even if they hadn’t, though, the framing device had its own interesting story with its very own twist. It was so interesting that it held up to the short stories being told throughout the rest of the flick.

In The Mortuary Collection that twist in the framing device is more pronounced. In fact, I’d say the framing device is the best story told in the entire film. It’s so memorable that I can replay it in my head scene for scene even though I’ve only seen it once, several years ago. (I looked it up to see if it really was something I remembered scene for scene – and it is. So, I’ve seen it twice now.)
The framing device being its very own story in an anthology is something I believe could heighten the popularity of the genre. It feels less like someone sitting there telling tales than other anthologies with the same style tend to. It becomes almost like a game to try and figure out how each short ties together – on their own and within the frame.
It’s even better when the framing device has that ending twist that turns everything on its head. It elevates even a mediocre anthology into something worth watching – and recommending. I hope to see a great deal more of that in the future.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Studio Ghibli Fest: Howl's Moving Castle (2004)


Movie Name/Year: Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Animation
Length:  1h 59min
Rating: PG
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Japanese Language Cast: Chieko Baishô, Takuya Kimura, Akihiro Miwa, Tatsuya Gashûin, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mitsunori Isaki, Yô Ôizumi, Akio Ôtsuka, Daijirô Harada, Haruko Katô, Yayoi Kazuki
  • English Language Cast: Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, Emily Mortimer, Josh Hutcherson, Billy Crystal, Jena Malone, Crispin Freeman, Mark Silverman
IMDb Blurb: When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.
© 2004 Studio Ghibli - NDDMT
Cat’s Point of View:
I have recently had Studio Ghibli heavily on my mind - in a good way. My daughter and I have been watching several of the beloved animated movies recently, and my Ghibli Fest attendance only fueled that fire. While I haven’t yet seen the film that is immediately up next in August 2023’s festival lineup, I am intimately familiar with September’s showcase film: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle is everything you’d want an adventure and fantasy animation to be. There are witches and curses, wild transformations, epic conflicts that require resolution through unconventional means, epic journeys of personal growth, a rich landscape, and even a splash of romance. 
© 2004 Studio Ghibli - NDDMT

When I say romance, I’m referring to the concept in it’s pure form and absolutely suitable for most ages. As I mentioned in my last Ghibli Fest article, Hayao Miyazaki’s (Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro) work focuses on developing the overall story; and while love and romance might be cornerstones of quite a few of the films it never goes to the graphic lengths that most mainstream cinema takes things these days. 

When considering watchability for the very young, I’d just have to encourage parents to review the material or watch the movie at home before taking the kids to a theater to determine if they feel the content is suitable. There are some slightly grotesque shape-changes and a few scenes that might be scary to the very young - but that’s also very relative and subjective regarding the individual child. There’s nothing as graphic as in Princess Mononoke (1997).
© 2004 Studio Ghibli - NDDMT

I feel I would be remiss without mentioning that I was “today years old” when I realized that Howl’s Moving Castle is actually a novel adaptation. Reading some of the reviews of the film clued me in to the fact that the movie does differ from the book in potentially significant ways. I haven’t read the book so could not advise whether I, personally, mind the changes. I am intrigued now, though, and do intend to add this book to my ever-growing to-read list. If you’re a fan of the book, I’m not sure if you’ll be ok with the changes or not. (If you don’t mind spoilers, IMDb’s trivia page for Howl’s Moving Castle has some of these differences listed.)
© 2004 Studio Ghibli - NDDMT

This is one of those few rare movies that never get old for me. I could watch it a million times over and over and never tire of it and watch it a million times more. It’s a comfort-watch for both myself and my daughter and is one of the first films she insists her friends watch if they’re into anime. 

The Ghibli Fest 2023 is running through early November, so if you would like to catch a showing of these classic anime movies, check out the schedule through the Fathom Events site

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 87%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 93%
Metascore – 82%
Metacritic User Score – 8.7/10
IMDB Score – 8.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
P.S. - Just as an extra piece of trivia in clearing up a common misconception stemming from a few of the DVD and blu-ray release editions of some of the Studio Ghibli movies - Disney does not, and has never owned Studio Ghibli. They only had a limited distribution deal with Studio Ghibli, and that expired in 2017 when GKIDS took over the distribution rights. 
Movie Trailer: