December 11, 2008

Madeline and Brenden have shown quite a bit of love on behalf of fps for Mamoru Oshii's Sky Crawlers (Read Madeline's review from the September TIFF screening).

The film has been showing in Los Angeles since last week (the last screening is today) at the Los Feliz 3 in order to qualify for Oscar eligibility, and will screen at the Lincoln Center in New York twice on Friday, December 12.

If you are lucky enough to be in either city to see it, let me know what you think of the film!

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September 13, 2008

Mamoru Oshii's latest film is an adaptation of Hiroshi Mori's novels of the same name, and tells the story of an ageless pilot, Yuichi Kannami, who transfers to a remote airbase controlled by a cold, self-destructive young girl named Suito Kusanagi afflicted with the same condition that keeps him eternally youthful. They also share an affinity for aerial dogfighting, and the relationship between the two ace pilots deepens as Yuichi slowly recollects fragments of his mysterious past and gets to know the odd denizens of the surrounding countryside.

The plot for Oshii's latest film sounds strangely peaceful for a film about war, and it is. The film unfolds at a leisurely pace (it lasts a lavish 122 minutes), with plenty of time to show the viewer intimate details about the alternate Europe that Yuichi and his fellow pilots inhabit. Oshii clearly holds high regard for Mori's fictional environment and sough to reproduce it with love and attention. The simple but startling beauty of the countryside, the quiet shadows of an abandoned city, and the cramped quarters of a converted manor house all resonate sharply in photorealistic animation and perfect sound.

And, of course, there are the dogfights.

Oshii's films, even his live-action work, are known for their sudden swerves into shockingly elegant violence. This is no different. The title is apt: these pilots are insects crawling across a sky that is vast and deep, limitless and unforgiving. While the dogfights are less visceral, perhaps, than the first scene of Innocence, they do communicate the dizzying, nearly nihilistic quality inherent to aerial combat: Yuichi survives because he is a good pilot, not because he's an arrogant flyer who likes to show off. This isn't Top Gun or even Macross Plus: Yuichi has no special moves, no prototype plane, nothing but skill and experience.

But his experience is the heart of the film, as we discover that there is more behind the "Kildren" -- people who, like Yuichi, remain eternally adolescent -- than a simple genetic disorder. There are clues layered throughout, and Yuichi's realizations come slowly but surely, a story that he pieces together rather than a sudden, shocking recollection. The film's ultimate conclusion is surprisingly hopeful for an Oshii film: eternity is not a life sentence, but a chance to start again.

However, there are some standard Oshii issues: a striking lack of exposition, and a lyrical pace that favours characterization and setting over plot or coherence. The story is secondary to the sentiment, but the story is also pure Oshii: a dreamlike exercise in issues of memory, identity, and the role of the military in a peaceful society. Along the way we get a heartbreaking love story, an endearing environment, and several references to Oshii's past work and anime in general (even the afore-mentioned Macross Plus). The story is not about an alternate universe; rather, the universe is the story.

Thankfully, The Sky Crawlers manages to avoid the long, drawn-out mindgames that feature so prominently in Oshii's other work. Gone are the painful, film-interrupting chunks of classical quotations, and gone are the belaboured references to Oshii's beloved Basset Gabu. (Don't worry; Gabu shows up, but as a dog and not an advertisement.) We get a tiny nod to Camus, but the script is remarkably clutter-free.

Featured above is the six-minute promotional trailer available at the Ghibli Museum. Studio Ghibli worked alongside Production IG on the film, and the whole film is infused with expertise from its auteur director to the Skywalker Sound work. Sony Pictures just picked it up, so hopefully we'll see distribution soon.

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August 1, 2008

- Studio Ghibli's Ponyo will screen at the 65th Venice International Film Festival (taking place at Venice Lido from August 27th to September 6th) along with Mamoru Oshii's The Sky Crawlers. Hayao Miyazaki will be in attendance and commented, "Lido is very beautiful place. I'm glad that I can walk there again." Via Ghibli Wiki

- Goro Miyazaki talks in depth about layout and the Studio Ghibli production process. Via Ghibli World

- CG images from the new Gatchaman movie with animation produced by Imagi are up at the felix ip。蟻速畫行 blog.

- WTF?! Is Keanu Reeves really going to end up playing Spike Spiegel in the upcoming live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop? Do I care? Via

- Is Pixar going to slap us with a sequel to Monsters Inc? Pete Doctor is playing coy but we think it's gonna happen. Straight to video anyone? Via MTV Movies Blog

- More high-def Harryhausen!!!! Sony is eyeing an October 7th release date for the 1958, stop-motion animation/live-action classic, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad on Blu-ray and standard DVD. Via HighDef

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July 3, 2008

I've never been a wild fan of the work of anime director, Mamoru Oshii. Everything he does, no matter the visual spectacle, seems to leave me cold. On the other hand, most films produced by Studio Ghibli, even the much-maligned Gedo Senki (Tales from Earthsea) by Miyazaki-the-younger, warm my heart to some degree.

Both camps have always maintained a healthy rivalry, from the days of their first failed collaboration, Anchor to the Ghibli assist on Oshii's Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2, with Miyazaki feeling Oshii's work too philosophical and unsatisfying and Oshii maintaining that everything that leaves the doors of Ghibli is wantonly idealistic and fantastical.

Just this week, the website for Oshii's upcoming feature, Sky Crawlers posted some comments from Goro Miyazaki and Anno Hideaki. While Evangelion director, Hideaki gathered favourable quotes from friends, Miyazaki's remarks seem less than complimentary.

"Those guys on screen never eat a meal. They only live on liquor and tobacco. No, they didn’t ingest them, but just pretended to be ingesting them. And about sex, they just pretended to be having sex. There wasn't any smell of sweat or sperm. They rode on airplanes and motorbikes. However, all of them seemed like unsubstantial machines on the monitor display. Even those machines seemed to pretend being machines."


Previously on fps:
Miyazaki, Oshii and Anno parody
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

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