Episode 36: Single-purpose websites and Hayao Miyazaki
IN WHICH a master storyteller is celebrated, and websites that do exactly one thing are remarked upon.
Briana’s pick: Single-purpose websites
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t know everything. Thankfully, the internet is here to answer all of our questions. Even the most obvious ones, like uhhhhh, is it Thursday? Hot damn! I bet the folks at isitthursday.org can hit you up with an answer. Not sure whether they’ve discovered life on Mars yet? No degree in astrobiology necessary, doods! Just click on havetheyfoundlifeonmars.com to find out! Can’t seem to remember who won the Super Bowl or what night the Lakers are playing? What the what what!?!? Don’t waste your time searching endlessly for answers! There are websites devoted to those precise questions! Gahhhhh! I mean, just when you thought the internet couldn’t get any better and/or more absurd…
Here’s just a smattering of knowledge…
Days of the week:
James’ pick: Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki is often referred to as “the Japanese Disney,” and while the people that say that mean it as a compliment, I think he is actually far greater. Miyazaki-san’s movies are all animated, and all ostensibly “children’s movies,” but they contain a richness, a maturity and a love for humanity that is simply not present in the merchandise-driven world of The Mouse.
All of Miyazaki’s movies are amazing, but I have three recommendations, the first two very child-friendly, the third one slightly more adult (nothing inappropriate, but some intensity and possibly scary imagery):
My Neighbor Totoro is the story of a father and his two daughters that move into a house in the country to be near the hospital where their mother is being taken care of. While there, the girls encounter Totoro, the giant, benevolent forest spirit living in the woods outside their house.
Ponyo, his latest movie, is about a goldfish that turns into a human girl, and befriends a young boy. Then it turns into a full-on environmental parable about the ocean that couldn’t possibly be timelier. Among other things, this movie has an amazing color palette, using some colors that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a film before.
Spirited Away is a psychedelic freak-out, the story of the young girl Chihiro who goes to work in a “bath house for spirits,” where supernatural entities go to get cleaned. Her parents turn into pigs, there’s a haunted train that drives track-less into the desert, and a giant baby. And a bunch more. Wonderfully strange and inventive. This one won the Academy Award, by the way, the first time that happened for an anime film.
Roger Ebert, who I think is one of our greatest living writers, is a big Miyazaki fan, calling him “the greatest of all animators.” He shares my appreciation for the appreciation that Miyazaki-san obviously has for childhood and children. He sees things through their eyes, not through the adult version of a child’s point of view.
That manifests itself in some interesting ways. For instance, there’s a scene in “Ponyo” where the young boy runs down a flight of stone stairs to the shore. In a Disney or Dreamworks film, he would just run down the stairs. Here, the boy takes a few steps, stops, turns to the side a little bit, checks his balance, looks at the rocks. Details. Miyazaki sees the details, and puts them on the screen.