Tales From Earthsea on UK Film4 - Hide Your Kids

The UK's Film4 is showing Goro Miyazaki's Tales From Earthsea (Gedo Senki) today at 6:45 pm. Let's see...add in the time zone difference...and what time is it over there....

Ack! Quick! Shield your eyes! Bad movie, bad movie! No buscuit for you!

Alright, alright, in the spirit of being helpful, since yesterday was my birthday and all, I'll give you a few readings from the movie, and offer up some, um...comments. Yeah, that's it. We've got movie sign!

Is it just me, or does this dragon look like Jimmy Durante?

Uh, oh, it looks like he's going to start singing. Mariaaaaa....I met a girl named Mariaaaa....

Oh, wait. The dragon doesn't really do anything. It just sorta....flies by. Wow. That was an exciting, um....fly-by.

"Waaahh, Ricky! Get me outta this picture! Ahhh, I need a scotch."

I'm a cartoon drawing, and even I don't wanna be in this picture.

He looks like he's being given a perp walk.

This is the same way everybody looked when they walked out of the movie theater.

Oh, that reminds me of the time I super-glued my hand to my face in shop class.

"Listen, Marsalis told you to show me a good time. And I want that trophy."

So are they just gonna sit there all day? Did Morissey make this movie?

In the Director's Cut, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show up and everyone starts go-go dancing.

This is the worst High School Musical ever.

It's Gandalf and Marilyn Manson!

Okay.....um.....alright.....DO SOMETHING!!

I've seen better fights on The Maclaughlin Group. Wrong!!

So the big action sequence in this movie is a staring-down contest?

You know what this scene really needs? Eddie Murphy.

Is Goro trying to punish his father by making this movie, or is he trying to punish us?


serhei said...

My favourite part is when the underside of the tower collapses for some reason in exactly the same way that the underside of Laputa did in Castle in the Sky, and it's too random to be called a homage and too pointless to be called plagiarism.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

My friend, the whole damn movie is theft. Goro stole from his father lock, stock and barrel. Which would have been annoying in itself, if he wasn't airing all the family laundry in public and generally behaving like a spoiled teenager.

The ending with the tower? It's the castle chase from Puss in Boots, which has been quoted, riffed and stolen many, many times. Sigh.

Chris said...

But wouldn't you much rather sit through Gedo Senki than Bambi 2 or Space Chimps or Barbie and the Diamond Castle or The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends.

By the way, the last two items on the list are real movies. I kid you not.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Yeah, but isn't that like asking me if I'd rather eat White Castle burgers?

It doesn't take much to beat movies like that. Heck, we've got the means to make our own cartoons now with Xtranormal.

Give me one good weekend, and I'll kick Barbie's sorry ass.

Chris said...

Top Barbie and the Diamond Castle?! Yeah, right! In your dreams!!

Doug said...

I've seen better fights on The Maclaughlin Group.

HAHAHAHA I nearly fell off my chair. Given your comments, perhaps its best that we in the U.S. won't get to see it until 2015 due to the battle over rights, or whatever it is.

asuka said...

funny post! ::mean laugh::

WhoIsJohnGalt? said...

Daniel, you missed the most aggravatingly moronic shot in the whole picture:
It's Byzantine Ninja Ballet! Now With Racist Caricatures And Faulty Props! Coming To A Cinematic Outhouse Near You!
Sorry, I have no sense of humor.

asuka said...

who was responsible for the character designs, and the fact that the slightly camp thug minion looks like kurotowa from nausicaä?

WhoIsJohnGalt? said...

Animation Director Takeshi Inamura designed the characters. Hare/Usagi does look like a thoughtless ripoff of Kurotowa, but, in Goro's defense (hoo boy), there are characters in Hayao's manga Shuna no Tabi with a similar appearance; Goro actually credits Shuna as inspiration in the end credits (mind you, this does not absolve his cartoon of being a hack-job, however). Goro has not a single idea within his little mind. He may be somewhat intelligent, as can be discerned from the various interviews scattered round the 'nets, and of course from his own production blog--yet he'd be more in place directing the next episode of The Penguins of Madagascar (blehhhhh, desu ne?) than being put at the reins of the next Ghibli. Come to think of it, he'd butcher that, too. The man is cinematic poison.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

John Galt, eh? Is this Alan Greenspan?

You're certainly right about Shuna no Tabi being a major influence. "Influence," in this case, carrying the same meaning as, "fell of a truck."

I don't know how much of the animosity against Goro Miyazaki's movie involves the film itself, or the public fued he waged against his famous father. Airing the family laundry in public is one thing. Turning around and heavily cribbing your father's work while doing so...well, that's another.

I have no doubts that Goro is highly intelligent. This was his very first movie, after all. There's usually a learning curve at the beginning. We shall see what his next move is, and see just how much he as matured in the intervening years.

I wouldn't go so far as to call him poison. If his next movie is good, his reputation will be instantly redeemed. And I don't expect more family drama the second time around. Let's see if Father Miyazaki's overture with Ponyo makes any difference.

WhoIsJohnGalt? said...

No, I'm not Greenspan or any of those frigid Objectivist econo-elites. Sorry, I enjoy Ayn Rand, even if she's blatantly wrong about human nature. Same with Hume, Kierkegaard, or Marx, for instance. An open, tolerant mind is nothing to be ashamed of, is it? Am I being hypocritical here in regards to my attitude towards Goro and Gedo? (Y-E-S.)

It's so easy to be vindictive towards Goro. I just can't fathom him matching Ghibli's previous works in quality, or even coming close. He doesn't need to, but it would help. Give him a chance, you say. I agree. No need for him to produce films which respect the blood, sweat, and tears of his predecessors. That's not a prerequisite of film production, is it? Just give other directors an opportunity as well, to awe or to disappoint--don't let Goro dominate the studio, especially if he is unable to mature artistically. Not that my thoughts will be heeded beyond this blog--I don't expect them to make any sort of impact. (I don't think any Anglophone Ghibli employees realize that there are admirers of their studio on this continent). While I'll keep my eyes peeled, I can't be too optimistic about it--Goro's future and Ghibli's future.

As for Goro's opinion of Ponyo, I remember reading that he felt it could not stand up to multiple viewings. There goes the reconciliation...

Chris said...

I'd like to pose a question to you, Daniel, and to any other person visiting this blog.

My question is this: What separates film quotation from downright theft?

Daniel, you mentioned here and other places that Miyazaki Goro "stole" many of the images and situations from his father's (and perhaps others') work. This got me thinking about something I experienced earlier this year. I finally got to watch Paul Grimault's Le Roi et L'Oiseau. Now I have always loved Laputa and will always love it. (It's simply a magical filmic experience.) But after watching Le Roi et L'Oiseau I was stunned by how much (and I mean a lot) Miyazaki Hayao "borrowed" from that film. Really and truly the similarities are staggering. A few years ago I experienced something similar after viewing the two Panda Kopanda films. Totoro is more or less a complete remake of those two short films; there is not just quotation or riffing going on there. Admittedly, Totoro is a much more mature and meaningful work, but it is essentially Panda Kopanda at its very core. (It's not lost on me either that Miyazaki played a crucial part in making Panda Kopanda.) There are many other examples of Miyazaki referencing other animators and other films like the Fleischer Superman cartoons and so on.

Now another filmmaker I adore does something similar. Woody Allen has many times taken the structure of other films by his favorite filmmakers and "riffed" his own story from them. Stardust Memories is bascially Fellini's 8 1/2. Deconstructing Harry is Bergman's Wild Strawberries redone. Interiors is Bergman from beginning to end. And there are more examples.

All of these examples are great films. I don't need to tell anyone here how wonderful Totoro and Laputa are. And all of those Woody Allen films I mentioned are amongst my favorites of his.

My personal background is in literature which is my first love. The history of literature is a history of "referencing" earlier works. The most revered literature in the academic world is the stuff the looks back on the history of literature by either directly quoting something or by adapting earlier stories. Obviously in the Western world both Homer and Shakespeare are the two writers who are referenced the most. The greatest novel of the 20th (by many people's standards) Ulysses is a work that adapts Homer and references a myriad of sources.

So where does that lead me? Well, there're these questions: Is it okay to reference other work if you are good at it, as in the case of Miyazaki Hayao? Is it not okay to reference work if you are not so good at it, as in the case of Miyazaki Goro? What is the distinction between acceptable reference and inacceptable reference (referred to above as "theft")?

asuka said...

interesting question that, about what borrowings are good or excusable.
i don't think there's a simple answer. you're right that hayao nicks a bunch of stuff from grimault - especially in cagliostro, where ideas are borrowed and used for much the same effect they had in the original. it's hard for me to see that hayao did much original with these visual ideas. rather, he apparently just loves them and wants to play with them, without pretending he made them up (at least that's my take).
gedo senki on the other hand seems to me to use ideas from other works without really understanding them or trying to say anything with them (even if it were the same thing the elements said originally!).
i mean, there must be a difference between "quoting", however closely and mechanical "parroting".

Chris said...

Asuka, yes, I completely forgot to mention Cagliostro which is the direct Miyazaki connection to Grimault. Laputa came after that. The castle tower in Cagliostro is almost brick for brick the same as the one in Le Roi et L'Oiseau as are many other elements of Cagliostro (and later, Laputa).

I think all artists need to bridge the gap between their influences and their own emerging voices. I am reminded of the Van Gogh paintings which are direct copies of Hiroshige's Ukiyo-e prints. By "exactly" painting Hiroshige, Van Gogh was able to find a unique voice within himself.

Most creative people are similar. They take in their influences and hold them inside letting them simmer creatively. The greater ones will beget something new, a conglomerate of the influence and the artist; the minor and lesser ones will merely repeat these influences verbatim unable to bridge anything.

I recently picked up the DVD, Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum. In it there is a wonderful extended discussion between Miyazaki Goro and Takahata Isao. Watching this, you really get a sense that Goro is an expert on his father's work and has studied the films intently. He has some insightful things to say about his father's work. Perhaps in Gedo Senki he was taking in the influences of his father's work and in the process trying to find himself. It seems that he is still searching for his own voice as an animation director. Let's hope his next work will be more his own and less others'.

asuka said...

you're entirely correct, i think, that that's a common creative trajectory. hayao sees "le bergère et le ramoneur", is so bewitched by the idea of this castle that he wants to play there too, and does so quite straightforwardly in cagliostro. then this idea gets reworked in more abstract ways till by the time he's designing the bathhouse in spirited away all that's left is the basic idea of exploring and crawling over a marvelous, impossible structure. (at least that's how i see it.)
so he starts by borrowing ideas from others, and continues by reworking his ideas, which become his own.
why do i for one enjoy cagliostro and regard the thefts indulgently? i don't know. is it the talent and spirit of fun that accompanies them? the creativeness framing them rather than any novel use of the elements in themselves?

asuka said...

ŵps. "la bergère" - typing too quickly.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

This is an excellent discussion, guys! Keep up the great work! You should be writing your own movie blogs.

Bono has this great line from Achtung Baby, "Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." And that's true of just about everyone. But it's doubly true of the young and growing artist.

That's just the nature of the game. You study hard, and as you slowly absorb your influences, your work evolves from copying the old to innovating the new. I know this from my own experience, and as much as I hated it in my 20s, I knew the process would take a lot of time.

There was an art teacher from Chicago who caused me no shortage of grief for his assertion that an artist shouldn't be taken seriously before they turn 30. Oh, boy, did I hate that. But now that I'm a bit older, I can appreciate his wisdom. True vision requires a period of gestation. Before your unique vision emerges, you are really just copying your idols and repeating the lessons of your teachers.

I've been a writer almost as long as I could hold a pencil, and it's really only in the past few years that I became good at it. Writing long essays was especially difficult, and it took me many years to become more comfortable with that. Thank goodness for the blogs, that's all I can say.

Now back to the Miyazaki clan. It's no secret that Father Miyazaki was greatly influenced by French animators like Grimault. The King and the Bird was a major inspiration for everyone at Toei Doga, as you can see from the great castle chase in Toei's 1969 movie Puss in Boots.

That castle sequence, animated in tag-team fashion by Miyazaki and Yasuo Otsuka, has been seen in Castle of Calgiostro, Nausicaa, The Cat Returns, and, of course, Goro Miyazaki's Tales From Earthsea. There are also various poses and shots that have been riffed endlessly. Needless to say, they've been stealing from Puss in Boots for ages.

And, of course, all of this points back to Grimault, who was a flashpoint for the Toei gang of the '60s. Isao Takahata claims this was the movie that inspired him to pursue a career in animation. And the roots of his genius lie in the cinema giants of the West - the French New Wave, the Italian Neorealists, Jean Renoir, Igmar Bergman, Orson Welles.

All of this brings us finally to Goro, whose movie begs, borrows, and steals from his father's work. There's good and bad in this, and I suspect if he were 20 years younger, we'd cut him more slack. He's on his first movie, and it's clearly going to take time to discover his voice.

Gedo Senki, really, is about the son who is haunted by his father's shadow. Theirs is a complicated relationship, full of ancient animosities and lost chances. And Goro certainly did himself no favors by publicly airing his grievances with his father. I think this is the real reason for the Goro backlash, and the harsh treatment of his movie.

At least, that may be the case for me. I found it very difficult to approve of his movie, when his childish tantrums overshadowed everything. The hero of the movie was a sulking, whiny teenager, and so was Goro.

Then he compounds this family melodrama - "Hayao Miyazaki earns zero points as a father" - with a movie that plays like a highlight reel of Father's career. Horus, Heidi, Nausicaa, Shuna no Tabi, Puss in Boots. I'm frankly surprised the Cat Bus didn't make an appearance. Remember that scene in Pom Poko with all the Ghibli cameos? Tales From Earthsea is two hours of that.

Ahem. Not to become too critical of Goro or his movie. I happen to think he is highly intelligent, and he is closer to his father than either of them would admit. He's capable of better work than this. The key is whether he manages to learn and grow in the meantime. His Ghibli Museum exhibit, where he plans out and storyboards two stories - Ghibli sent him to film school, in other words - shows growth and promise.

I'm very surprised at how much attention Goro Miyazaki receives from the Ghibli Freaks and anime fans in general. He certainly draws the heated discussions out. So the eyes are still upon him, waiting to see if he can succeed or fail. It's his trial by fire, and if Goro-san wants to inherit his father's throne (Ghibli), he will have to earn it.

Goro's next movie will be the main event. His reputation will be made or broken. I would even expect Gedo Senki's reputation to improve over time, if only because it inspires so much fierce attention. I wouldn't say it could become a good movie, because it isn't, and it won't. But I wouldn't be surprised to see it elevated to the level of "controversial."

Tales From Earthsea is the story of Goro Miyazaki. Both are destined to share the same fate.

David said...

I hope he grows as a film maker and his next movie is great.

But people should prepare themselves to accept that Goro's role may be one of playing Don Bluth to Hayao Miyazaki's Walt Disney, forever doomed to copy , but never exceeding the previous work.

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