Hey folks, Harry here… I finally met Vern when I went to Seattle recently. Just so you know, Vern is actually a Paul Bunyon looking muther. He’s literally like 6’11” 310lbs – solid as a granite dildo slammed home! He has most of his original teeth, and a few he’s knocked out of others’ heads that he keeps in a ju-ju medicine bag that hangs around his neck – “Nobody fucks with the Vern!” – He reminds me of a redneck John Sayles. Without further thumb twiddling, here’s Vern…
Usually I address my stories to you AND moriarty, but now that you’ve been to seattle, it’s like we have some kind of bond, you know. who needs that old “professor” joker anyway. all he does is drone on and on. “this is a great little piece of character acting” blah blah blah. Isn’t he still on 1986 in the best of the ’90s list? GET IT THE FUCK TOGETHER, moriarty. jesus.
Anyway harry my good friend today I am Writing to you because I have seen Mr. Miyazaki’s new cartoon called SPIRITED AWAY. If you don’t know Miyazaki, he is the beloved japanese cartoon director who did “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki the Flying Witch”, “Princess Mononoke”, and etc. He is not the type of japanese cartoon director who does lots of robots and demons stickin their tentacles up a school girl’s coochie and that kind of nonsense. He has a style and a feel all his own. In fact you could say his movies transcend anime, even transcend cartoons in general. He has a great filmography that you could put next to any of the great directors and not be embarassed.
(Really Harry I’m surprised I have to explain who miyazaki is to you, you really should know this kind of information to be frankly honest.)
Still, WHY, you ask, would an individual like me, the award winning film Writer and Theorist of the Badass Cinema (Vern), be watching a god damn CARTOON? Aren’t all cartoons only for children, like comic books?
Well I’m glad you asked that Harry because there is an answer to that and it involves a Theory of mine, the Theory of Certain People Who Everybody Has to Like or They Must Be An Asshole. There are a handful of these individuals or characters who pretty much universally everybody likes. You got your Stevie Wonder, your Martin Luther King, Jr., your Gandhi, your Curtis Mayfield. And you got your Miyazaki, and that one movie about the talking pig that everybody loves. GORDY I believe was the title. These are all individuals who are so talented, so charismatic, and so full of positive energy, that you cannot deny their importance to the universe. It doesn’t matter if all you ever listened to in your life was Billy Ray Cyrus. If you pop in “Songs in the Key of Life” and it doesn’t impress you, you’re probaly some kind of asshole.
Well Miyazaki is definitely in that category. Alot of dudes in their ’20s say they like PRINCESS MONONOKE the best because it is the most violent so they are less embarassed. But everybody knows that the best ones are the totoro (about some weird racoon monster thing with an umbrella, and then there is a bus made out of a giant cat. hard to explain) and the kiki. They are real sweet and quiet and when it comes down to it, small. There is no epic journey, just down to earth rites of passage that real children often go†through, but infused with surreal flights of fancy, and lots of gratuitous flying. Also Harry I think you saw PORCO ROSSO so you know how good that flyin pig movie is.
SPIRITED AWAY is another one about an ordinary girl in a realistic family but it is more in the epic fantasy realm of a LAPUTA THE FLYING CASTLE OF THE SKY or NAUSICAA THE GIRL OF THE VALLEY OF WARRIORS OF THE WIND. Because just as Chihiro arrives to a new town with her parents, they get lost, and end up in what they think is an abandoned amusement park, but is actually a bathhouse of the gods. (hard to explain). Next thing you know her parents eat the food of the gods, which turns them into pigs, and she is trapped there working at the bathhouse for a bunch of freaky ghosts and creatures with giant heads and weird masks or some fuckin frog wearin a shirt and weird shit like that.
Still, she does not go on a journey, at least not literally. She stays in the bathhouse, working hard, while trying to figure out how to save her parents and other people she meets at her new job.
To me this is definitely Miyazaki’s WIZARD OF OZ or ALICE IN WONDERLAND. In the early scenes it was creepy enough I was almost expecting something like CARNIVAL OF SOULS. But it gets so fantastical and surreal that I’m sure the american kids with parents smart enough to take them will have a great time. It is scarier than disney but maybe on the level of wizard of oz or neverending story.
You get all the great things you expect from a Miyazaki picture. Little subtle character moments that most cartoonists wouldn’t bother with, like the great care Chihiro takes in not stepping on the living balls of soot who throw the coal into the burner in the boiler room. Sweet little gestures like when Chihiro leaves the door open to be nice to a scary creature out in the rain, or when her boss uses his incredibly long arm to tuck her in. And there are some environmental themes, not in a preachy way but in a very organic way. I mean, this is what would have to happen if the ancient ideas of river gods still existed today. There are interesting, multi-faceted type characters – you’re not always sure who Chihiro should trust, and characters who seem nice might suddenly do something a little crazy and vice versa.
There are some unforgettable scenes in here. The “stink god” scene will definitely be a favorite to many. I also liked the part where a giant baby manhandled Chihiro in exactly the loving/threatening way a small child would to a kitten. Fuckin kids, man.
And that reminds me, there are lots of weird circular ironies when you really look at it. like the baby treats chihiro like a pet, and later becomes chihiro’s pet. Her parents eat the food of the gods so they turn into pigs, and now since they are pigs they may become the food of the gods. gulp.
But most of all you get the most visual invention ever crammed into one of these pictures. I mean take any two or three other Miyazaki pictures, add up all the weird creatures you saw in those movies, and you’re gonna get more in this one. I mean there are giant blobs, black ghosts in creepy masks, a creepy old hag with a head as big as a volkswagen bug, triplet heads with no bodies, a giant baby, a guy with extendable arms, a dragon that looks like a wolf but moves like a fish (good job on that one animators, that was incredible.)
In short, this picture will spirit you away. It will spirit your socks off man. In fact, it will spirit both your socks and your pants off. I’m not sure if you’re wearing shoes or not, I’m not sure how that works. Also it will spirit you right on your ass, spirit the shit out of you.
I look forward to seeing the english version of this picture. It might not be as good but they usually do a good job on them in my opinion.
Anyway thanks harry, I hope you enjoyed your stay in seattle. Too bad you didn’t get to see WAR OF THE YODAS at the Cinerama while you were here, I was hoping you could help end this myth that digital projection looks better than real projection. (CLICK HERE) I’m glad you didn’t come this week because we got the fuckin Blue Angels flyin over all day for the annual “Sea Fair” celebration. So you hear an ungodly scream, you look up and see a bunch of navy planes flyin over and that’s supposed to be a good time. It’s like being in afghanistan, only it’s not your wedding, and your family isn’t on fire.
anyway thanks again harry,
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/12914
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
Aug. 2, 2002, 9:32 p.m. CST
Jesus… He means Babe, right?
Aug. 2, 2002, 9:39 p.m. CST
Vern, Alexandra and Moriarty should start their own splinter faction and get out from under the considerable shadow of Knowles. Glad to see that my UserID wasn’t revoked after that allison janney incident, sorry guys — there was Wild Turkey involved.
Aug. 2, 2002, 9:49 p.m. CST
for fuck’s sake, harry
I am not “trailer” and I am not “trash”, in fact I am an award winning film Writer. But thanks for running my story, bud your friend Vern
Aug. 2, 2002, 9:59 p.m. CST
I had the impression he gave the Gordy answer as a joke, after planting the name “Babe” in people’s minds by describing the film. But, who knows. I like My Neighbor Totoro. I felt like I’d taken a vacation after I saw it for the first time.
Aug. 2, 2002, 10 p.m. CST
oh, and by the way
I forgot to mention in that review that “anime” is what they call japanese cartoons. They used to call it “japanimation” here in the states until they realized that sounded dumb. So they started calling it “anime” as a way of not sounding like they like cartoons. However now people who like “anime” are generally looked down on more than people who like “cartoons” so they will eventually catch on and start calling it something else. But for now it is called anime. I hope this helps clarify things fellas, thanks for reading.
Aug. 2, 2002, 10:06 p.m. CST
Yeah, I figured it was a joke… But, consider my sense of humor permanently stilted after all those years of the grandparents reading me Family Circus and expecting to get something akin to laughter.
Aug. 2, 2002, 10:23 p.m. CST
Bring on Nausicaa
IT would be cool to see Nausicaa. Oh yeah, when will we get Castle in the Sky(or Laputa), Kiki, and Totoro on DVD! Soon! Now! Please!
Aug. 2, 2002, 10:56 p.m. CST
That’s pretty funny how Harry managed to piss Vern off in so
by Shabba McDoo
You must be a real bastard, Harry. I’m playing, I’m playing. But seriously, I very much agree with ol’ Vern on this one. This movie will spirit the shit out of your ass, it’s in the toilet, it’s flushing itself, baby. Import this thing. Since seeing it, I feel I owe it to Miyazaki to make as many of my friends as possible buy this movie RIGHT AWAY. Yes, it’s that good. Seriously.
Aug. 2, 2002, 11:09 p.m. CST
Vern, and a bit about mononoke
Loved the review, vern is one funny guy (that ‘shirt’ bit was class). I too have a passion for miyazaki’s style, he knocks the formulaic, computer assisted drivel of now-a-days disney (important to separate the new and the old there)into a cocked hat. Having watched the trailer for this movie it seems as though the spirits have been inspired by woodcuts of classical demons and monsters from japanese mythology. This would be one indication of the massive amount of depth behind any of miyazaki’s work. My little sister (16 y o) loves Totoro and mononoke, and when asked by my father as to why she still watches ‘cartoons’ she replied “it’s like an iceberg dad, with this guy you see the pretty top sticking out of the water…but there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on underneath…and it can get quite dark down there”…couldn’t have put it better myself. Oh..and hello by the way, im new here.
Aug. 3, 2002, 12:07 a.m. CST
“that talking pig”
It’s ironically funny he mentioned a talking pig in his review, since Miyazaki also released another amazing film about just that. Kurenai no Buta/Porco Rosso featured none other than an Italian fighter pilot who was turned into a pig, named Porco. One of my favorites of Miyazaki’s but quite different from his usual fare.
Aug. 3, 2002, 12:09 a.m. CST
Haha, I hadn’t read beyond the first few paragraphs yet last time I posted, so I didnt notice he mentioned Porco in his review. Either way, both are great movies.. cant wait to see Spirited Away in the theatre, dubbed or not.
Aug. 3, 2002, 12:11 a.m. CST
Funniest review I’ve ever seen here
by Buck Toofs
I never talk back here, I just mainly read. But I just had to become a member to thank Vern for putting together one of the funniest reviews I’ve ever read. The part about the burning families was brilliant.
Aug. 3, 2002, 12:12 a.m. CST
Ah, Vern’s reviews are back on track.
by Critical Bill
Aug. 3, 2002, 1:32 a.m. CST
oh yeah, and one more thing
Thanks for the compliment critical bill, you know I only do it for you. But this review woulda been even more on track if I remembered to write the paragraph about the animation. You see the animation in this is another advancement for this studio. The drawing is more detailed, more three dimensional while still keeping the same great style of character design, monsters, etc. At the same time it is groundbreaking because the little girl is wearing shorts so they never have a part where her skirt flies up.
Aug. 3, 2002, 2 a.m. CST
I’m waiting for Miyazaki’s film of Sanrio’s latest c
I hear his favorite meal is tacos. BTW, Totoro is supposed to be a cross between a bear and a cat.
Aug. 3, 2002, 4:36 a.m. CST
Buena Vista has actually released Laputa on DVD in asia with brilliant subtitles.and i presume it ‘s not hard getting a copy off the net (presuming you can read chinese) one more thing , just got Cowboy Bebop : Knocking On Heaven’s door on dvd and any self loving homosapien should check it out. Like VERN said, there are just some thing that everyone’s gotta love or they’re arsefucks and Cowboy Bebop is one of them. wait, we’re talkin Miyazaki here, tell you what, i’ve also got an unaltered Nausicaa DVD tucked under my pillow and PORCO ROSSO, and TOTORO, HA, living in Asia is soo cool
Aug. 3, 2002, 7:06 a.m. CST
Vern, write more often…
That was hilarious! I laughed my shoes right off!
Aug. 3, 2002, 7:11 a.m. CST
Better than a previous review…
by FD Resurrected
Considering my review of Sen to Chihiro DVD deserves to be derided as a badly-written piece of shit.
Aug. 3, 2002, 8:10 a.m. CST
Heheheh–looked in the talkbacks just to see…
if Vern set Harry straight about the trailer trash/redneck monikers. Typically sloppy of Harry. He’s an OUTLAW, like he says. And typically great and funny review by pretty much my favorite reviewer. Check out his site for more: http://www.geocities.com/outlawvern/ Keep ’em coming, Vern.
Aug. 3, 2002, 8:24 a.m. CST
by Tokyo Joe
Laputa is out in japan with english subtitles at the end of next month. Or is it the beginning of October??? Whichever it is I’m sure there’s plenty of sites you can import it from for huge ammounts of cash.
Aug. 3, 2002, 10:35 a.m. CST
Actually, Sen does go on a literal journey(and RE that “Stink Go
Not trying to be smug or a know it all, esp since I didn’t know it when I saw the film either, you might have just been trying to keep a spoiler, but if not you might find it interesting that the “stink god” is actually supposed to be******Spoiler******a river god covered in polution. If we knew Japanese mythology we’d probably get that when we see him cleaned off, but as it is it’s still a great part of the film. And about the journey, Sen(Chihiro) does go to find Yu Baaba’s twin sister to remove a curse on her friend Haku. It’s not the whole of the story, it happens only in the last act, not like Ashitaka leaving his home at the start of Mononoke, but there the action does go further than the premise of a little girl in a Bathhouse for the Gods–which all by itself is the kind of imaginative idea you just don’t see very often in kids’ entertainment over here in the States(ironically the worst Kids’ craze to ever exist–Pokemon–also came from Japan). Actually, with Spirited Away, the whole movie IS the young heroine’s journey because it starts with her and her family on their way to a new house before they wander into the “adventure.” From there it becomes the figurative hero’s journey for Chihiro(Sen) that Vern mentions. She has to rely on her wits and be brave, where before she had always been the spoiled, apathetic little girl who hids behind her mommy when things get too scarry. Again, it’s not the epic fairy tale that Mononoke was, its definitely more Alice and Wonderland or even Peter and Wendy than it is Lord of the Rings, but it’s still a big film in its own right. I read that the ending was originally going to be a magical showdown with the witch Yu Baaba to retrieve Sen’s name(part of what keeps her trapped in the Gods’ world is that her name was shortened from Chihiro to Sen, a bit like the characters in MIB becoming the first letter of their original names “Jay” and “Kay”). I guess they decided that was too over the top–although it sure wouldn’t have been left out of an American production(heck, even I am not sure it would have been a bad thing to end it that way). ******* I’m surprised Vern knows people who are more comfortable saying they like Mononoke because of the violence. My experience has been the exact opposite, with people hating that film because it deviates from Miyazaki’s usual, more intimate charm. I think it’s a winner no matter what though, something different from a master storyteller who can’t make ENOUGH movies for my liking. They all belong in American theaters, and it’s a shame we don’t live in that kind of a world. I have a feeling he won’t be recognized by the American mainstream as the great filmmaker he is until he’s dead. He’s in that, “this was my last film” stage right now, so perhaps the library has reached its limit anyway(I hope not). No matter which you’ve decided is your favorite though, everyone of his films is a drop dead classic. The only reason I can understand people not liking his films is because they’re being contrary or they just can’t get over the stigma against animation(and foreign animation at that).
Aug. 3, 2002, 12:56 p.m. CST
I loved the movie, I’m loving the DVD…
…and I’m glad people are talking about that gem. I wished the reviewer was less interested in making an impression and more focused on the movie. It’s both more profond and gorgeous than it’s described. As usual it has beautiful watercoloured backgrounds and wonderful designed characters and the “love story” between Sen and her dragon/river/friend feels very natural and touching, especially when she remembers falling in him when she was little. Finally, I thought the faceless ghost was the most interesting character depicted in a movie for quite a while…
Aug. 3, 2002, 7:36 p.m. CST
Yes I did understand about the stink god (if you read it again, but I mean don’t bother, but if you did you would see I did mention the polluted river god in another part of the review). But you’re right, she does make a literal journey at the end of the movie. But it didn’t feel like that was what the movie was about and I thought that was a good thing, made it different from what you usually would expect (if it was some other jackass and not Miyazaki). To no no: I disagree with whatever your point is although only because you didn’t like my review too much, not because you are wrong in any way.
Aug. 4, 2002, 4:54 a.m. CST
Another great Miyazaki film.
I just got back from a business trip to Japan where I couldn’t resist picking up the recently released video copy of Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. (I would have picked up the 2-disc DVD, but my player can only play region 1. I know, it sucks.) Anyway, I watched it again today and even though it’s on VHS and not DVD, it still looks great and is definitely a movie I can say with confidence that continues to improve and become more meaningful with multiple viewings. I have loved this movie since I first saw it last year in the theaters in Japan. Some of those scenes like where Chihiro (Sen) goes through the flowers outside the bathhouse, or the scene where she walks towards the horizon along the tracks just underneath the surface of the sea are just few of the many that are so indelible in my mind. The art, the music, the story and the sheer creativity leave me in awe. An absolutely great movie that makes me think that so called animated “children” movies here in the U.S. still have a ways to go to reach this level of being able to entertain both children and adults. It is this ability to appeal to a wide audience that perhaps made it the biggest grossing film in Japan’s history. My only fear is that the eventual dubbing for the U.S. release will ruin this movie and that the large incorporation of Japanese culture, society, mythology (all the creature/nature gods, how the name Sen is derived from Chihiro’s real name, etc.) will cause a general U.S. audience to be somewhat at a loss. However, undoubetdly, despite this, true Miyazaki fans will be in for a treat. If you are in this category, go see this movie.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.