2009-09-30

Two New Miyazaki Productions in 2011, 2013?

Studio Ghibli's official blog has also reported yesterday that Hayao Miyazaki is in the planning stages for the next two films, which will follow Takahata in 2011 and 2013.  There is no word yet on details, so I feel no need to gossip or speculate.  It's common for the studio to plan several years in advance, even though they are notoriously secretive and play their cards close to their chest.

Currently, Studio Ghibli is devoted to two main projects: Isao Takahata's newest movie, and the Nintendo DS fantasy game Another World.  Usually once a feature film is completed, the pre-production work on the next has begun, and everyone switches gears to the new project after a short break.  I'd expect Miyazaki to be working and sketching out ideas right now, and be ready to go by summer.

The interesting news is that Miyazaki is attached to the next two features.  Ghibli has always rotated directors, and this is important because of the tight production schedules.  This hasn't always been the case - Kiki's Delivery Service followed My Neighbor Totoro by one year - so anything is possible.

One possibility is that Miyazaki will direct the next two features.  Another possibility is that he will direct one, and produce the other, handing the second movie to the younger staff and another director.  This has been the case with I Can Hear the Sea and The Cat Returns and Ghiblies Episode 2.  So that's a possibility.

The third option, as always, is Goro Miyazaki, and he remains the studio's wildcard.  I have the impression that he is being properly groomed and educated; that despite any public declarations, the son is the studio's heir apparant.  It is critical that he establish himself if Ghibli is to secure a long-term future.  And Goro-san has burnt many bridges with his controversial Gedo Senki.

His recent work at the studio shows me that he's being taken through film school, that he's learning the crucial skills and developing his own voice.  Father Miyazaki briefly mentioned his son while in California in July, and insisted that Goro-san's responsibilities are now as a father to his growing family.  I had the impression of the father taking control of the situation, regardless of their personal differences.  I trust Hayao Miyazaki to know what to do, and he understands what is at stake.  Goro-san gets one more crack at the bat; if he loses the public on his sophmore effort, he won't earn another.

But this is how great art is born.  It's how Nausicaa was brought to the big screen, and it transformed Father Miyazaki's career and brought us here.  Every great artist must be tested by fire.

Anyway, I'm only thinking out loud.  Nobody knows any specific insights into Ghibli's future plans for the next three years.  The only thing that is certain is that Hayao Miyazaki will continue to be the studio's driving force.  He will be working and painting and scheming until the day he dies.

Taketori Monogatari - Isao Takahata Is Back!

Studio Ghibli has now made it official - Isao Takahata is Back!

The news was revealed on the studio's official blog yesterday, September 29.  Takahata's newest movie, as widely expected, is titled "Taketori Monogatari," or "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter."  This is an adaptation of Japan's oldest surviving folk tale, Kaguya Hime no Monogatari, from the 10th Century.

This folk tale was actually quoted in My Neighbors the Yamadas, in the scene depicting Nonoko's birth inside a bamboo stalk.  Takahata has become a master scholar of Japan's rich cultural heritage, with his works becoming ever more densely layered over time.  The Story of Yanagawa Waterways, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas are excellent examples.

Another brilliant example is Takahata's short in the 2003 anthology film Winter Days, in which teams of animators around the world realize an epic Basho poem.  Winter Days was his last work as director; I certainly don't need to remind everyone how loud we've been shouting for the grand master of anime to make his return.

What sort of movie will Taketori Monogatari become?  We can expect a stunning attention to detail and documentary realism, emotionally-charged human drama, and Takahata's patented style of logic and precision.  His adaptations are more logical and calculated than Miyazaki's instinctive, almost impulsive style.  He doesn't scrap the original source material as Miyazaki-san always does (Conan, Kiki, Howl).  Instead, Takahata gets to the core of the story, fleshing it out, adding depth and color and bringing them to life.  As always, the World Masterpiece Theater trilogy of the 1970s stands tall - Heidi Marco Anne.

It's important to remember that Pom Poko remains his one original screenplay.  All of his other works have been adaptations, from Horus, Prince of the Sun to Yamada-kun and Winter Days.  This is the realm he is most comfortable navigating.

I expect that we will see the first trailers by the end of the year, at least the teaser trailers.  These will be eagerly awaited, and rest assured that I'll have my hands on them as quickly as possible.

There is one major question on the horizon, however, and that's the question of box office.  Yamada-kun rather famously bombed at the box office in 1999, as Japanese audiences thought Jar Jar Binks and Pokeman was a better way to spend their time.  No doubt many moviegoers would like to have that moment back.  But there's no question that this will be a concern for Ghibli.  It's a foregone conclusion that Isao Takahata will not have a blockbuster success on the level of Hayao Miyazaki, who continues to be staggeringly successful.  Yet Takahata remains beloved, the Grand Master of Anime who gave the world Horus and Heidi and Grave of the Fireflies.

I would expect Taketori Monogatari to become a success at the box office, enough to ensure Studio Ghibli's place as the top domestic grosser of 2010.  How successful it will be remains a question.  And how successful it will be around the world remains a question, too.  It should do well in Europe, especially France.  The United States?  Would Disney and John Lasseter consider a US theatrical run, like Ponyo?  What are the odds of that?  Slim?  None?  I honestly don't know, but at this point I wouldn't expect more than a token presence at the art-film circuit, with eventual release on DVD and Blu-Ray.

In any event, we are guaranteed a masterful experience by the world's greatest living film director.  We won't have many more opportunities like this, so enjoy the moment while you can.

2009-09-27

The Ponyo Boat in Action



This is a terrific video, courtesy of one of our readers.  It shows a toy boat that's based on the one seen in Ponyo, it runs on candle power, and the pot makes a pop-pop-pop sound, just like in the movie.  This is terrific!  Why can't we ever get cool toys like this?

No doubt the price would be steep for most import shops, but it would be worth it for the bragging rights. If my play money wasn't already devoted to scoring the new Beatles CDs, I'd grab this toy boat in a heartbeat. Now we need a larger version that we can actually use on the lakes, heh heh.

2009-09-23

Ghibli Announces Details on R2 Ponyo Blu-Ray

...And it appears that the US Disney dub will appear on the Region-2 Ponyo Blu-Ray after all.  You can see details on all the Ponyo home versions in Japan here.

Ponyo will appear on 2-disc Blu-Ray, and a 3-disc box set that includes the making-of documentary.  That looks very nice, and I would really, really hope that we could get that doc on our US release.

According to GhibliWiki, here are the features on the Japanese Ponyo BD.  The Disney dub appears on the second disc:

North American edition (English Dub, Japanese Sub)


Trailer: 2 versions

TV spots: 11 versions

Collaboration TV spots: 3 versions

NTV TV spots: 2 versions

Credit-less ending: 5 minutes

Theme song announcement press conference: 11 minutes

Voice recording: 25min

The first day opening greeting: 10 minutes

Hayao Miyazaki interview: 15 minutes

A talk between Toshio Suzuki and Toshio Tsuchiya: 30 minutes

NTV's program NEWS ZERO spin-off "Five genius craftsmen": 49 minutes

A collection of document film "Hayao Miyazaki wise remarks": 40 minutes

A collection of document film "Venice International Film Festival": 13min

Theme song music video: 4min

Theme song music video (Korean edition) : 3 minutes

No US Dub on Japanese Ponyo Blu-Ray?

There's a bit of controversy on whether the US dubbed soundtrack will appear on the Japanese Region-2 Ponyo Blu-Ray this December.  GhibliWiki says no, while AsianBluRayGuide says yes.  Unfortunately, no official press releases are available to read, so we're left with guesses and reading tea leaves.

For most of us, this is a moot point.  Ponyo on BD should be released in the US this December, and both the US and Japanese soundtracks will be included.  We will do perfectly fine no matter what happens.  But I would still be very surprised to see the R2 Ponyo so stripped-down.  Multiple languages are typically standard on Ghibli's DVDs; the Mononoke 3-DVD set included eight soundtracks on the second disc, including the Miramax dub.

It's an interesting topic for discussion, but pretty minor stuff, really.  We'll just get the American Blu-Ray for Hannukah.

2009-09-19

Today is Pirate Day!






Yaarrgh!  Today be International Pirate Day!  We´re going to be watching Animal Treasure Island, drinking lots of beer, and causing mayhem whenever possible.  I suggest you better do the same.

2009-09-17

Happy Vacation Blogging

¡Hola!  If you´re wondering why I haven´t been blogging this week, it´s becuse I´m out on vacation with Marcee.  I won´t be headed back home until Sunday, so blogging will be extremely light for the rest of the week.  However, I do hope to get some writing in, even though I won´t have my army of photos and art assets to rely on.

On the upside, I have brought a number of movies with me to watch with Marcee.  Let´s see...we have Puss in Boots, Animal Treasure Island, Gauche the Cellist, Castle of Cagliostro, Castle in the Sky, and Howl´s Moving Castle.  The idea was to go through all of them during the week...but you know how these things go.  I don´t get nearly enough face time with the beloved girlfriend, so walking and hiking and dining and smooching take precedence.

You might have noticed that posting comments now requires one of those trippy passwords, instead of waiting for my approval.  This is the reason for that change.  As such, I have been unable to keep track of all the comments since Saturday.  I do hope everybody is staying on their best behavior.  The Ghibli Blog has always been a home for thoughtful and intelligent discussions, and we all know how truly rare that can be.  I want to thank each and every one of you for your kindness and thoughtfulness.  This is as much your blog as mine, and you should take pride.

Okay, we´ve got to get Marcee fueled up.  She´s been battling a sore neck all day, thanks to a mattress and pillow that might as well be stone.  So I´ve got to get her some food and drink.  We´ll be back later to watch some DVDs.

Oh, and a quick reminder for everybody - Saturday is International Pirate Day, so do your best to play along.  I´m saving Animal Treasure Island for this special occasion, heh heh.

2009-09-10

John, Paul, George & Lupin


Since I devoted my big Wednesday post to The Beatles, here's a clever way to work myself back to the main course.  I want you to take a look at this screenshot from Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro.  Am I the only one who sees this as a direct homage to the 1969 Beatles LP, Hey Jude?  Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but if that's the truth, then I'm overreaching on most topics on this blog.

I say the hat on the statue is a tribute to The Beatles.  Who's with me?

P.S. Is there any specific reason why Hey Jude was not accepted into Beatles canon?  Did it seem too close to the Capitol records which reshuffled the UK albums with other singles?  Or was it the double punch of the Red & Blue and Past Masters albums?

The Greatest CDs Ever Made


I made mention of the new Beatles CD remasters in the comments today, so I thought I might as well make a formal post here on the blog.  A bit off-topic?  Ehh, whatever.  The Beatles are my absolute favorites, and these new CDs are spectacular.  Absolutely spectacular.  I haven't been this excited over digital music since the '90s, and that means a lot when coming from a turntable junkie.  These are the greatest CDs ever made.  Period.

Now you may be surprised, but it's pretty difficult to find good Beatles records on vinyl.  The biggest problem is that the American Capitol pressings are almost uniformly bad.  Perhaps "bad" is a bit harsh, but they are all too often flat, muddy, and somewhat dull.  The "Apple labels" are the best, and I have an early-press of Abbey Road that I adore, so there are exceptions to the rule.  But I would personally rank the Capitol versions of Rubber Soul, Revolver, and The White Album poorly.

The UK Parlephone albums are spectacular, the Gold Standard (especially the "yellow and black" label pressings from the 1960s).  You've never heard The Beatles until you've heard them on the UK records, and I think it's worth the investment of a solid turntable, phono cartridge, and stereo receiver just for these albums.  The Japanese reissue pressings are also fantastic (I've been lucky enough to score a Japan White Album...wow!), and they have the added benefit of being more affordable.

However, for the average person on the street, you're not going to hear your favorite Beatles albums on those records.  New Beatles vinyl LP's are scheduled for release, but the expectation is that they will be pressed from the new digital masters, sadly.  The UK and Japanese analog masterpieces will forever remain a holy grail for collectors and die-hard fans.  If that describes your situation, these new CDs are the perfect substitute.

Oh, and Capitol chopped up The Beatles' albums with shamefully padded out records like Something New, Beatles VI, Beatles '65, and Yesterday and Today.  I actually enjoy their version of Rubber Soul, which swaps in a pair of folk songs at the start of each side - "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love," respectively.  But Revolver had its heart and soul ripped out for no good reason.  Yuck!

Hmm...I only meant to write a few words on this subject, so I'll be wise to stop now before this turns into a 1,000-word manifesto.  Feel free to talk about these albums on this thread all you want.  We'll be back to our regularly-scheduled Ghibli blogging when the sun rises.  I'm off to sleep.

2009-09-09

10 Years Old Today

Today marks a special anniversary.  No, it's not just the long-awaited arrival of the Beatles CD remasters.  Today is the tenth anniversary of the American launch of the Sega Dreamcast.

Maybe it's just a function of age, but Dreamcast was the last great videogame console in my eyes.  It was the last time that games were being made - fast, exciting, competitive, original games.  Not reenactments of Hollywood blockbusters, not cynical ploys for computer geeks to break into the movie business, but video games.  There are so precious few examples of classic games today.

Dreamcast was just about the best game system for multiplayer games.  A decade ago, I was working as a waiter at one of the sports bars at the University of Minnesota campus, and every Friday and Saturday night, after closing time, we'd pull out the DC, hook it up to the tv sets, and play until dawn.  NFL2K1 was the undisputed champion - ah, another lost classic! - as were endless drunken rounds of Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi, Chu Chu Rocket, Virtua Tennis, and San Francisco Rush 2049.

Ah, great times.  You can score a DC and a large pile of great games for next to nothing these days.  I'd still rank it higher than what's available now.  Add in the console's ability to play emulators (4-player M.U.L.E.!) and you really have something of value.

2009-09-08

Photos - Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (Blu-Ray 720p)


Finally got around to downloading the fansub copy of the Cagliostro Blu-Ray fansub, which uses the exact same subtitles from the Manga DVD.  The movie looks terrific, much better than the DVD releases.  So I'm sharing screenshots from the magnificent title sequence (uncut, of course).

This is a favorite sequence of mine, as it brilliantly establishes the mood of the film, while also showing a glimpse of these action heroes on their off-hours.  I've written about this before, when discussing the 2006 Manga DVD reissue.  I'm still cranky about the title scene being chopped up on that release, and I've never really touched it since.  The picture quality may have been a great improvement over the original Manga DVD, but I just couldn't accept the cuts.  I only hope that Manga and Telecom can figure this out whenever they decide to release the Blu-Ray in North America.

I think my favorite element in this scene is the theme song.  It's so wonderfully sung and flows so nicely.  It has the feel of a Leonard Cohen song, doesn't it?  All of the music in Castle of Cagliostro is excellent.  Definitely dated to the late '70s, yes.  But that's what makes it great.

Roger Ebert & Miyazaki At the Movies

(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube.  Sorry.)

Here is a trio of video clips from Siskel & Ebert, and then later, Ebert & Roeper, featuring reviews of Hayao Miyazaki's movies.  I think this is a great opportunity to witness how these films were first received when they were new, and the director's name was largely unknown.

The first is a classic Siskel & Ebert showdown over My Neighbor Totoro (famously mispronounced as "to-TO-ro" the first couple of times).  I'm sure fans will feel somewhat critical of Gene Siskel's opinion on the movie (he was bored), but that was the majority opinion at the time.  Totoro was a puzzle to Americans and especially most movie critics.  Animated movies were expected to be full of action and adventure and simple melodrama and fast movements.  My Neighbor Totoro has none of the qualities, and stubbornly moves in an opposite direction.  Roger Ebert, a lover of animation as well as the films of Yasujiro Ozu, was an early convert, and he became Hayao Miyazaki's first champion among US film critics.  This show was most likely from 1993 or 1994.

The second clip shows Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles with Ebert discussing Princess Mononoke.  Two strong thumbs up at this point, and the name Miyazaki is now commonly spoken.  Harry Knowles also name-drops Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso, which would be major cool points for 1998.

The third clip, now on Ebert & Roeper, gives enthusiastic praise for Spirited Away in 2002.  Now the word "masterpiece" is easily banded about, and there's no need to persuade anyone that this is a great movie.

Finally, we have Howl's Moving Castle, earning a surprising split decision between Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert.  Ebert is dramatically thinner by this point in 2005, thanks to some serious weight loss.  We can also notice the effects of surgery on his jaw, which was never fully successful; his scratchy voice was also a harbinger of the cancer that took his voice, much of his jaw, and almost his life.

I feel a sense of sadness watching this final clip.  Ebert, thankfully, is alive and well, and his writing has never been better.  But just knowing that the voice is silenced forever, to know that Siskel & Ebert is truly gone, that's what saddens me.

I was very surprised, and I think Ebert was, too, that he didn't enjoy Howl's Moving Castle.  He had been Miyazaki's strongest supporter for many years and carried the torch, but the film's many complexities left him lost.  But that's fine by me; I freely admit that Howl is dependent on a lot of "inside pool."  You have to be familiar with Miyazaki's career, and, more importantly, his storytelling style, which is decidedly non-linear and non-Western.

2009-09-07

Trailer - Howl's Moving Castle



I love how this trailer works.  We hear no dialog, only Joe Hisaishi's wonderfully romantic musical score.  We see no thrilling action scenes or breathtaking visual effects, only a seemingly ordinary scene of an old woman cleaning a rustic house.  The text describes the setup and nothing more.  We are invited to immerse ourselves in the moment.

Of course, when Hayao Miyazaki is the most successful filmmaker in this history of Japanese cinema, you can forgo those old conventions.  There's no need to sell anything.  The theaters are already packed.

Photos - Howl's Moving Castle


I wanted to compare my newly-acquired series of hi-res photos from Howl's Moving Castle (the theatrical release), and I wanted to compare them against the DVD, and wouldn't ya know it, I stay up all night to watch the movie.

I only watch Howl on rare occasions.  I think it's a spectacular movie, and I don't to spoil it by becoming too familiar with it.  You never want to lose your sense of wonder and awe.  You especially don't want to feel numb to the emotionally-charged scenes between Sophie and Howl.  I never want to lose my sense of outrage against useless wars waged for no useful reason.  And I never want to lose the impact of that climactic flashback at the end, a masterstroke of personal filmmaking.

I absolutely love this movie because it is so densely packed; how many storylines are woven into one another?  This is the one film that captures the sprawling epic scale Miyazaki brought to his Nausicaa manga.  There are so many moments of brilliance that I almost always lose count.  Joe Hisaishi's superb Staussian Waltzes certainly help; his musical score reminds me of Stanley Kubrick more than anything.  And the lush, boundless colors are breathtaking.  I could probably write essays on every scene in the movie.

Howl is surely the least-accessable of Miyazaki's Ghibli movies.  You have to know about the man, and his work.  You have to have seen most everything.  You have to have read the Nausicaa books.  It might even help if you're familiar with Kubrick and Fellini.  Major bonus points if you recognize the name Akemi Ota.  How else would you discover that she's the heroine of this film?  She's always been the Heroine, in a certain sense.

Anyway, I'm rambling on and it's getting late.  Enjoy the screenshots from the Howl's Moving Castle DVD.  Someone mentioned to me recently that the colors on the Ghibli DVDs are a little faded when compared to the films, and I have to agree.  But that's a consequence of compressing a feature-length movie onto such a tiny disc.  I am hopeful that the Blu-Ray will retain the spectacular color saturation.  If the upcoming Ponyo Blu-Ray is any indication, I'd say that's very doable.

2009-09-06

Photos - The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro


Okayyy....slow weekend.  I'm guessing everybody is off for Labor Day.  I was given a slate of high-resolution screenshots from the theatrical releases for Miyazaki's last three features - Spirited Away, Howl and Ponyo.

I think I'm going to stick with the Japanese title, translated, of course.  I just like the way it sounds.  Ghibli's movies are given such flowery titles.  American movies have always been very short and functional, really just a grunt or two to let you know what you're getting.  Explosions!  Slasher Flick!  Rom-Com!  More Explosions!  Ahem.

I haven't watched this movie in a long time.  I know it's beloved in the West, regarded as Miyazaki's masterpiece and all, which is a bit strange considering this was just about the only one they've ever seen.  Oh, well.  I think you can enjoy this picture as pure escapism, without paying much attention to the cultural details.  The Japanese elements are smoothly integrated into the background, so it's not necessary to notice.  It's not as explicit as Pom Poko, which was a visual encyclopedia of Japan's rich heritage.  Miyazaki evokes the archetypes without calling them by name.

This movie really stands apart from the rest of the Miyazaki canon.  It feels like a clean break from his past, as close to a true original as anything he's done.  Perhaps he really wanted to get away from his more serious side, and felt purged at last after Mononoke's enormous success.  But then again, we find ourselves hurled right back into the thick of things again, in Howl's Moving Castle, which felt like a fusion of Horus, Heidi and Nausicaa, reforged as one of Fellini's great surreal circuses.

So Spirited Away managed to achieve a universal appeal, and that's a good thing.  It was never created as such, but these sort of things just happen.  And this really is a spectacular film.  I remember watching it on the big screen, reading stories on the intertubes about this movie that's "even better than Princess Mononoke."  Could such a thing be possible?  I left the movie theater completely awestruck.

Enjoy these photos.  They're very large, so be patient when clicking on the full-size.

Riffs - Omohide Poro Poro


This fanciful shot from Omohide Poro Poro is quoted again humorously in Pom Poko.  It's nothing more than a quick sight gag, but Pom Poko is loaded to the rafters with these sort of riffs.  Take a drink!

Riffs - Heidi, Girl of the Alps



This shot from episode three of Heidi was riffed by Miyazaki in the stunning flashback scene in Nausicaa.  Both scenes are remarkable to watch, even though the emotional overtones are completely different.  Both share an almost dreamlike quality, presented in visual styles that dart in unique directions.  This willingness to shift gears is a trademark of the Studio Ghibli films.

Riffs - Heidi, Girl of the Alps

Heidi is the motherlode for Ghibli Freaks, especially once you've seen all of Takahata and Miyazaki's later films.  When I watched the entire series, I tried my best to take notes of all the riffs, and at some point I just lost track.  In nearly every episode of Heidi, at least one shot has been quoted in later work.  We'll see how many of these we can chronicle.

I think I'll start at the beginning and work my way up from there, at least until my old supply of photos is spent.

Episode #1 of Heidi was endlessly mined for riffs.  We've seen some examples here, here, here and here.  And let's not forget where Peter originated from.  Whew!


Here's the next trio of riffs from the pilot episode.  This first one is one of the many brilliant nature shots in the series, a Takahata staple.  The shot of the bees polinating flowers is seen again in episode three of Anne of Green Gables, during that wonderful musical interlude of Anne's wandering imagination across her landscape.

These momentary reflections is one of Heidi's greatest strengths, and allows us to fully enter this world, not merely as escapist fantasy, but as a means of depicting everyday life.  Many of the daily events appear to unfold in real time, and it's that naturalist style that stays with me.  Takahata's documentary realism is the perfect antidote to the endless visual assaults of today's Hollywood movies.  It's enough to make you want to visit the Swiss Alps and run through the hills.


The second riff is probably the highlight of the first episode.  Heidi, who was made to wear her entire wardrobe for the journey to her grandfather's, finally sheds everything and starts running up the mountain with Peter and the goats.  The theme music swells, everyone is laughing, the goats are jumping and hopping about....it's the moment where Takahata, Kotabe, and Miyazaki are most triumphant.

This shot is quoted at the very end of Pom Poko, and it's a similar moment of liberation and celebration.  The tone in Pom Poko is far more tragic, of course (being the story of a native people who are swallowed by the invading culture), but this moment is a happy one.


Our third and final riff also hails from this moment in Heidi.  This is probably the most debatable one, but the shot from Nausicaa, of clothes scattered about the ground, had the same compositional feel as the shot from Heidi.  The spirit and mood are very different between the two, however, so it's a point worth arguing.  I think it's close enough to qualify for the drinking game, so it gets a thumbs-up from me.

Riffs - Horus, Prince of the Sun


As always, I'm far behind on the riffs.  I have a sizable database of photos on my computer that I really need to post on the blog.  Let's get started with a famous shot that has been quoted many times.

Our first shot hails from Horus, Prince of the Sun; the short celebration that is interrupted by the attack by the wolves.  This moment was riffed a few years later in Heidi, shown in the second screenshot.  Notice the person in the bear costume?  It's a clever nod to Renior's Rules of the Game.  The riff appears once again in Howl's Moving Castle, as we see here.

Finally, have a look at this.  I was genuinely surprised when I saw it.  This is the animated Transformers: The Movie from 1986.  The animation was outsourced to Toei in Japan, a far cry from their glory days as the "Disney of the East."  This homage to Horus must have made Isao Takahata smile a little.  The studio he battled finally paid homage to the movie they so fiercely resisted.

Notes on Film, Digital and Blu-Ray

"John Smith" offers some key technical insights on film and digital and Blu-Ray specs, as discussed in our recent Ponyo Blu-Ray posts:

The contrast on the negative is about 1200:1. Since they usually run copies off very fast and cheap to distribute to theaters, that drops down quite a bit to around 100:1 about. NTSC standard for reference is about 32:1. Yep, that's all you get, even on Blu-ray.

I also want to point out these figures apply mainly to live action film. Studio Ghibli produces their films digitally at 4k or 2k or slightly, so when it was transferred to film, it was never really using the full potential, not that it matters except in seeing the brush strokes in the background. Their old films shot with a film camera do have 6k worth of resolution, but once again, it is rather trivial for traditional animated films.

The Blu-ray spec currently only allows 8-bit, and does not support 10-bit xyColor. That means instead of billions of colors that 10-bit offers and what Studio Ghibli creates their digital films in, all we get is 16.7 million colors max from 8-bit.

The stills I gave you aren't from actual film. They were created digitally from the digital source. No film involved. Film is basically just used to transfer and show the movie in theaters from since many theaters have traditional film projectors still.

For most people Blu-ray is good enough (heck DVD is good enough for most people), and we are indeed entering diminishing returns, at least in resolution. Contrast and color range are what need to improve.

Oh, and there probably won't be a physical format after Blu-ray. We'll be downloading our movies in an iTunes style system.

Poster - The Guns of Navarone


Since I'm in the habit of sharing movie posters and grouping topics together, let's take a look at a couple movie posters from The Guns of Navarone.  Whenever I finally get around to seriously collect movie posters, this will definitely hang on my walls.  I really love the French movie poster. Its rich saturation and expressionist color tones evokes the spirit of animation.  What can I say?  I like strong and vivid colors.

2009-09-05

Trailer - The Guns of Navarone



This week's movie on TCM's "The Essentials" was one of my favorite adventure films, 1961's The Guns of Navarone, starring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and David Niven, and a terrific ensemble cast.

The Guns of Navarone is one of the great descendants of Akira Kurosawa's masterwork, Seven Samurai, and it's probably my favorite of the whole bunch. This is my ideal vision of a classic adventure story, the kind I would read as a kid; suspenseful, thrilling, exotic locales, ferocious storms at sea, scaling great rocky cliffs, and defeating the Nazis.

I love a good ensemble picture, especially when the chemistry clicks so well. Anthony Quinn is just a big grizzly bear, as always. I could watch him even in a bad movie and have a good time. Cough, Barabas, cough. Gregory Peck, of course, remains one of my great movie role models. I may just get a turtleneck sweater and thick boatman's coat just because I saw him wear that in this movie. The cool toughness might grow on me.

Navarone also has my favorite courtship scene in the movies. "I like you." "Well, I like you, too." Hah! That's really how a courtship should be. No wasting time, no stumbling around trying to avoid hurt feelings. You just state your case and get right to the action. I blame this belief of mine on a childhood spent watching Pepe Le Pew cartoons. But, heck, if this is how Anthony Quinn gets the woman, then it should work for me, too. In fact, it has. Hah!

Why can't Hollywood make movies like this anymore? Really, why not? I enjoy adventure movies, but I can't stand all these noisy, stupid CGI blockbusters. All these pictures are aimed at nine-year-olds, anyway, between the '80s toys and the comic books. Give me something with heart, with soul, something with real, live human beings in it.

There's not a lot I can say here that will persuade you. Classic movie, great movie, yadda yadda. There used to be this 20th Century art form called moving pictures. Here is a great example of one. You should watch it in a dark room and on a very large screen.

The entire movie is currently on Youtube - watch here. Hurry up before it gets taken down. You really should see this on a big screen, though.

Ponyo - Film, Blu-Ray, and DVD


Okay, last post on the subject.  I wanted to show all three versions of Ponyo together at once - film, Blu-Ray, and DVD.  These film screenshots come from Studio Ghibli's press packets, and they're taken directly from the source.  And remember that the Blu-Ray shots come from the trailer on the Race to Witch Mountain disc.

You'll have to view them in full size to get a fair look, so be sure to click on the photos.  First photo is the film, second is the Blu-Ray, and third is the DVD.