Roger Ebert Delivers the Goods

Roger Ebert's 4-Star review of Ponyo is available here. I have to admit, I was slightly concerned whether Mr. Ebert would enjoy Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, as Howl's Moving Castle left him somewhat confused and nonplussed. This may be a simpler, more direct movie, but it still awash in the director's surrealism, and many other movie critics are coming away confused. But there should be no need to worry. Most movie "critics" only hustle the PR racket, and like insecure teenagers, are obsessed with the approval and acceptance of the popular crowd. Roger Ebert is a scholar of film criticism, a noble art.

I also never tire of pointing out that Roger Ebert was the first major American film critic to champion Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. It was his essays for "Great Movies" that introduced me to My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies. And it's no stretch of language nor flights of the imagination when I say that I truly would not have pursued these great filmmakers without those essays. If it weren't for "Great Movies," this Ghibli Blog would never exist.

So it is with great joy that Ponyo receives the most coveted of all thumbs-up. For animation lovers and Ghibli Freaks alike, Mr. Ebert is their champion. Long may he remain so.

This passage deserves to be bronzed and emblazed on plaques for every animation studio in the world (my emphasis in bold):

This cannot help sounding like standard animated fare. But I have failed to evoke the wonder of Hayao Miyazaki’s artistry. This 68-year-old Japanese master continues to create animation drawn by hand, just as “Snow White” and “Pinocchio” were. There is a fluid, organic quality to his work that exposes the facile efficiency of CGI. And, my God! — his imagination!

The film opens with a spellbinding, wordless sequence beneath the sea, showing floating jellyfish and scampering bottom-dwellers. The pastels of this scene make “Ponyo” one of the very rare movies where I want to sit in the front row, to drown in it. This is more than “artistry.” It is art.
Do what you can to bring as many people to Ponyo this weekend. If you are a lover of traditional hand-drawn animation, this is your great moment. Your voice must be heard. 2009 could mark the great turnaround, if only you raise your voice.


asuka said...

agreed - ebert's review of totoro is very sensitive and well-put.
i'm glad he liked ponyo - looking forward to seeing it for the time (legally). i love the whole thing of using a panda-ko-panda-ish mood to touch on ecological concerns.

(the only thing i didn't like was the cocoon-like bit with the grannies. hmmm. ^^

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ah ah ah! No spoilers! The rest of us haven't seen the movie yet. La la la la, I can't hear you.....

asuka said...

i mean: it's great and everyone should see it. that's all. '(^_^A)

Anonymous said...

careful folks, most of ebert's reviews contain a bunch of spoilers

benevida said...

I have to agree with Ebert: Howl's Moving Castle was confusing and didn't end well. By well, I mean, I couldn't decipher what I was watching.

And I too was nonplussed. I loved Ghibli films, so sight unseen, I presented this film to friends and family. My friends weren't impressed. My family was confused. They did not become Miyazaki fans that day.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

@benevida: Howl's Moving Castle is definitely not one of Miyazaki's more accessible movies. It's really more of a kitchen-sink picture best understood by the longtime fans.

If you're trying to turn on family and friends to Ghibli, I would recommend My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rosso, or Whisper of the Heart. That's a pretty solid range and are easy to connect to.

Sean L. said...

Well, well. I, for one, was impressed with Howl's Moving Castle from the get-go. And all of my friends who've seen it were also impressed (admittedly, they're anime fans).

I watched Howl's again last week, and it was such a deep experience even though I've seen it three times before. It felt like I rediscovered it's beauty all over again. It's just stunning. Each time I watch it, there's something new about the experience. I think the film's narrative obscurity, if you will, is what makes it so fascinating to delve into, especially as I'm learning more and more about Miyazaki and his work. Even now, there are still moments of it that I don't understand, and because of this I anticipate my next viewing when I'll discover something new again. Howl's is a work of art that can't be taken merely at face value. Mysteries abound and you have to engage your mind and your heart to unravel them. Many viewers aren't accustomed to this (I know I wasn't until recently) because most of the movies we see are so literal. But when you open your mind, it's amazing what you can see in the art of film.

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