Ponyo on a Cliff (2008)

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gau dog
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Ponyo on a Cliff (2008)

Post by gau dog » Tue Mar 20, 2007 1:37 am

Miyazaki's next movie's been announced.
From http://www.ghibliworld.com/news.html#1903: "a story which revolves around a 5 year old boy Sosuke and the Princess goldfish Ponyo who wants to become human."
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Lookin' forward to it even though admittedly, his last two movies' nonsense plots were too fantastical for my tastes. I have to say, I've been watching Isao Takahata's older work like Anne of Green Gables, Marco, Chie the Brat, and Gauche the Cellist and really like those much more. I hope Miyazaki's next can be a little more grounded and less over the top.

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Post by jshamblin » Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:03 pm

I'm also looking forward to this film. I had my doubts from the description of the movie and the fact that most of the film is suppose to take place at sea, but hey, it's Miyazaki. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle were nonsense movies to you or where you talking about his short films? His last three feature films just happen to be my favorites. What didn't you like about them?
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Post by gau dog » Tue Mar 20, 2007 8:42 pm

Too many weird things happen in Spirited and Howl's. They were pretty and played to the heart but I didn't understand those worlds and why certain things resulted from the character's actions. I know that Miyazaki created Spirited and Howl's stories without following an outline or knowing how it would progress and I'm not sure if he's always worked that way but I felt the random illogical plots and events are more evident in those two movies than in previous ones. I can take fantasy up to a certain extent, Nausicaa, Laputa, Totoro even Pom Poko are fantasies in the sense of costume, situation, character, or (transforming) abilities though they follow logical plots in worlds we can understand. Sprited and Howl's are quite detached from our familiar perception of how things function. Howl's and Spirited are very mysterious, bizzare, dream like movies. I think there's a clear difference between the type movies Miyazaki made before Mononoke and after Mononoke. For me, I just have a greater liking for worlds that make sense. Which is one of the reasons why I value Isao Takahata's work more (another reason is his work is more culturally Japanese).

But overall, Miyazaki's movies entertain better. I'm still glad Miyazaki's still productive and isn't retiring at least. It's funny in the report that Suzuki challenged Miyazaki to outdo his Totoro character by remarking Disney couldn't outdo Mickey. I'm eager to find out if Ponyo is Miyazaki's answer to the challenge. I'd like to see Miyazaki change the direction of his movies. He seems to change direction after every two or three. Here's how I sometimes group his movies:

Adventurous/Futuristic Industrial Direction (reminiscent of Sherlock Hound/Conan)
Cagliostro
Nausicaa
Laputa

Light Hearted/European Direction (reminiscent of World Masterpiece Theater Heidi)
Totoro
Kiki's Delivery Service
Porco Rosso

Crazy Fantasy Direction
Mononoke
Spirited Away
Howl's

New Direction?
Ponyo

Reflecting more on Ponyo, she's a strange looking thing isn't she? Anyhow, I think it's interesting to be reminded of the princess or royal characters used in his earlier movies. Clarisse, Nausicaa, Sheeta, The Princess Mononoke. Helen McCarthy would consider Fio a Princess in her book. In Mononke, San was a human who wanted to be an animal and in Ponyo, it seems an animal wants to be a human. Another notable is Porco, the pig who was once human. The role of a five year old boy seems to be a major protagonist that other than maybe Marco from World Masterpiece Theater, Miyazaki hasn't dealt much this type of young character to my knowledge. It's well known that Miyazaki likes girls more than boys so it's a refreshing choice. Since the themes of the movie are "father", "mother" and the boy is modeled after either his grandson (or young Goro himself reports another source), it'll be especially interesting how Miyazaki will portray the father son family relationship in light of his public personal life with his own son. I definitely want to see a "love of nature" theme in this movie.

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Post by squirpy » Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:37 am

Howl's wasn't Miyazaki's story. It was based on a British book by Diana Wynn Jones. So it wasn't really Miyazaki's stream of consciousness or anything. Although he did change it a lot.
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Post by jshamblin » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:55 pm

gau dog wrote:Too many weird things happen in Spirited and Howl's ....
James, I think there might be some underlining meanings you are missing that tie many of these strange occurrences together in the both these films. The stories make more sense once you understand what they are. Otherwise, it's like you are taking 5 or 6 30 second clips and splicing them together at the end. You might have an idea of what the story is about, but not enough to really enjoy it.

I think it's interesting how you grouped his films together. It's a refreshing perspective. I think Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Howl's Moving Castle would also fit nicely into the European Direction category. European culture is a big influence in all his work.

Ponyo does look strange. The illustration didn't appeal that much to me at first, but the more I see it, the more intriguing it becomes. The basic story feels a lot like The Little Mermaid, but if anyone can take a good idea and make it extraordinary, Hayao Miyazaki can.
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Post by gau dog » Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:57 pm

I think I have a grasp on the underlying meaning of the events but they seem to occur for no understandable reason. Like how does Chihiro know her pig parents weren't there when Yubaba told her to identify them? For the sake of character development, she's supposed to know to show she's changed somehow although to the audience, it isn't obvious how she knew. Also, the hair charm the twin sister gives to Chihiro, as a viewer, it didn't seem to serve any obvious purpose in protecting her but in the end, sparkled hinting the whole experience was not a dream. Dragon boy Haku gets shocked and turns back into a boy because of Sen's surprise relationship with him, executed with maximum dramatic effect. I didn't even feel there was much of a character arch in Sen. If any it's subtle. I always joke about the stink monster's "cake" as looking, smelling, and apparently tasting (gag vomit) remarkably like a turd! I've seen Spirited Away quite a number of times, each time wishing I'd like it and understand it but I always have the same feelings about it.

In Howl's, why does the door suddenly lead Sofi back in time to see how Howl became how he was? Things like this bother me.

I get why they happen for story's sake but not knowing why they happen for making sense of things make me uncomfortable. The worlds of Spirited Away and Howl's are too other worldly illogical. I can buy like Porco Rosso's a pig for no reason other than it best suits his character but if he like opened a magic door at the end of the movie that lead him back in time to see pivotal moments in someone else's life and the door's never possessed such qualities before, it's unsettling to me. I'd rather prefer a character recall such incidents through a first person perspective memory.

Anytime I see a highly rated movie and come away with a much different rating, it always bugs me. I know everything is subjective but when I'm not agreeing with the masses, it's something to think about.

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Post by jshamblin » Sat Mar 24, 2007 7:42 am

If you have a good grasp of the messages in the films, then I guess it's just a matter of taste and there's very little for me to add. I can attempt to answer your questions about the films though, but I'm not an expert and it's just my opinion.

How does Chihiro know her pig parents weren't there when Yubaba told her to identify them?

It's been a while since I watched Spirited Away, but doesn't Chihiro discover her parents as pigs before she asks Yubaba for a job? I can only assume that the traumatic event was fresh in her mind and she saw enough of her parents to recognize them.

Also, the hair charm the twin sister gives to Chihiro, as a viewer, it didn't seem to serve any obvious purpose in protecting her but in the end, sparkled hinting the whole experience was not a dream.

The charm could mean any number of things, which may have more significance in Japanese culture. In some cultures, a gift is a token of friendship and friendship is always considered good luck. Zeniba may have considered luck as a protector from unfavorable events. The sparkle from the charm hinting the whole experience isn't a dream helps Chihiro take everything she's been through more seriously. It also let's the audience know that she won't simply dismiss everything as a bad dream.

Dragon boy Haku gets shocked and turns back into a boy because of Sen's surprise relationship with him, executed with maximum dramatic effect.

I'm not sure which time you are referring to. The first time when Haku takes the herbal cake or the second time when Chihiro helps him remember his name and breaks the control Yubaba has over him?

In Howl's, why does the door suddenly lead Sofi back in time to see how Howl became how he was? Things like this bother me.

When Sophie first asks Markl where the black color on the dial leads, Markl replies that only Howl knows. When Sophie finds the same magic door that takes her to Howl's past, the color on the door knob dial is black.

I hope I was able to help rationalize certain events for you. Also, Porco Rosso has the face of a pig because of a curse. That is never fully explained, but the film does explain to why he was cursed.
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Post by Nunumi » Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:55 am

I guess that a lot of misunderstanding of the movie is due to some cultural differences. Miyazaki makes his movie for a japanese audience. And also, as occidentals we sometimes lack some references or even, just the translation can mix everything up. I remember a lot of differences between the English, and Japanese dialogues. Even the French one was different.

Chihiro's world is perfectly logical if you know the references.

I think the biggest difference in plot I saw was this one. In the english version of the movie Sen knows right away that Haku is the white dragon when she sees him flying in the sky for the first time. But in the original version, she realizes it when he's being chased by those papers figures. She's yelling Haku! Which is one of the prononciations for white, the white dragon. And then she understands.

But average occidental audience do not hold such references, so they have to patch up at the translation. That's why sometimes the plot may look a bit illogical.

Oh, and for the fact that she knows that her parents aren't there. Haku brought her to the pig farm once, and told her to remember how they look ^.^

I think that in gerenal, Japanese audience is a little bit more patient (even children), and is ready to accept more things that do not need to be justified. That's why this may create some conflicts for us.

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Post by jshamblin » Sat Mar 24, 2007 9:26 am

You made some excellent points, Minini. Thank you for correcting me that Haku brought Chihiro to her parents once. It's been so long, I've forgotten that scene. Also the white dragon fact you present is very interesting. Thank you for sharing it. Miyazaki films really do tie in well together.

I don't watch foreign films unless they have subtitles anymore. Dubbed movies feel like a cheap pirated version of the original to me. The idea to lip-sync dialog with mouth movements is a nice, but it shouldn't take precedence over telling a good story.
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Post by gau dog » Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:26 pm

Thanks for the explanations, Jerry. It makes better sense, however I thought the Haku's curse was already broken after Sen stomped out the worm thing. And Sen remembered her name and it didn't do much for her. You see, when I have to think about these things and how they make sense of the importance of things like the significance of name remembering, and the effect it has in that world, it adds an extra hurdle for me to think through. In the beginning, Sen recognizes her pig parents. After getting the herbal cake, she seems to forget about which pig is who (Although this sequence is suggested to be a dream since it cuts to Chihiro waking up afterward). At the very end, with her contract on the line, she knows none of the pigs presented are her parents. I don't know what makes her know that. But I can only assume she's since overcome "something" and is able to do it. I could keep nitpicking on these "what the heck" moments but I think it's better not to. Would anyone agree at least that the last two movies are similar to each other yet quite different from the rest of Miyazaki's body of work?

Also, speaking from a guy's perspective, I can't stand the characters of Howl and Haku. They're pretty boys. Prince Charming tuxedo mask type characters. I don't like those types of characters as much I do Conan, Lupin, Lord Yupa, Pazu, Porco, Ashitaka. Can you imagine any of those guys freaking out over their hair-do?

I don't think for me it's a cultural barrier, Minini; I liked all of Miyazaki's other movies. I admire Takahata's work even more and his work is much more Japanese. I normally assume the general US anime fan usually likes crazy action fantasy animes rather than plain ordinary life animes. There's a highly regarded Japanese filmmaker that I'll admit to not completely being infatuated with despite trying, understanding, knowing, and respecting: Ozu. Akira Kurosawa make a joke about Ozu that I shamefully admit to laughing, saying something like: his work is dull, like the flavor of green tea over rice (making a pun out of the title of a movie with the same name). "Ohayo" was a fun fart movie though. According to the IMDB's statistics, Miyazaki's latest 3 films are not only the most viewed, but also the highest rated. And there isn't much discrepancy between the ratings of US users and Non-US users.

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Post by jshamblin » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:38 pm

I thought the Haku's curse was already broken after Sen stomped out the worm thing.

From what I remember, the black slug/worm thing that Haku spat out along with the seal was another matter all together. It was a spell by Zeniba that was placed on the seal and was meant to kill whomever stole it. Killing the slug didn't break Yubaba's control on Haku.

And Sen remembered her name and it didn't do much for her.

Chihiro being able to remember her name allows her to keep her free will and prevents Yubaba from taking complete control over her.

I believe the message behind the name contract is to remind people not to forget who they are, but that might be me making something out of nothing. That's what I get out of it anyway.

I do agree with you that his last two movies are different than the rest. I think they are more metaphoric and he's putting more of himself into his films now. I like the direction he's taken with his films and it looks to me that Gake no ue no Ponyo will be no different.
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Post by Nunumi » Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:11 pm

I don't watch foreign films unless they have subtitles anymore. Dubbed movies feel like a cheap pirated version of the original to me. The idea to lip-sync dialog with mouth movements is a nice, but it shouldn't take precedence over telling a good story.
Yeah, same for me. Usually dubbed movies are more adapted than translated, and the original essence from the creator is always a little bit diluated.

I'm really anxious to see what Miyazaki will do with his next movie. For me, nothing has beaten Sen to Chihiro in every aspect of the film yet. I wonder if he can do it this time.

I also wonder what is going to be Miyazaki Goro's next movie, with the success of Gedo Senki, he will surely make another one! This movie was great too ^.^ We could easily see his father influence in style, but the storytelling looked different. It must be really hard to make movies in the shadow of such a talented father O_O

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Post by jshamblin » Sat Mar 31, 2007 8:07 am

Minini wrote:Yeah, same for me. Usually dubbed movies are more adapted than translated, and the original essence from the creator is always a little bit diluated.
That's probably a more accurate way of explaining it. In movies like Howl's Moving Castle, I think the way Disney adapted the movie changed the story significantly.

I'm jealous that you've already seen Tales from Earthsea. Hopefully, this summer I'll be able to get my hands on the DVD release for the UK.

I do have high hopes for Ponyo on a Cliff. They say it's going to have an original animation style based on watercolors. I'm very interested in learning how they intend to accomplish this. It might be a useful technique.

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Post by gau dog » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:19 pm

Here's the segment on Ponyo that NHK Professional ran.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugkucTg9lQc Ponyo makes a cute goldfish and little girl. Her "frog" form looks wierd though. But cute, still cute.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tit-tQlNbE ooo watercolors.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxyB9U4niqc I get the feeling Ponyo's story is going to go the "illogical fantasy" route again.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDLCQrDj0S8 Hayao walks out of the middle of a VIP screening of Gedo Seki for a brief smoke.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SstlOa94GA A single frame of the movie!

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Post by jshamblin » Tue Apr 03, 2007 10:46 am

Thanks for the links, James. You can almost get a good sense of what the movie is going to be like from all the painting pinned to the walls.

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