Tag Archives: Academy Award

The House of Small Cubes (2008 Anime Short)

Robot Communications

My rating: 5 of 5

An elderly man lives alone in a single room above an ever-rising sea, smoking his pipe and reflecting quietly. One day, he accidentally drops his pipe through a hatch in the floor, prompting an unusual purchase–a diving suit! And once the man has begun his descent through the flooded levels of his home, he finds himself remembering, reliving his life in reverse from times with his grandchildren to his daughter’s growing up to early memories of his wife. It’s no wonder he chooses to stay in a place so rich with memory, even if he must fight the floodwaters to do so.

Wow, speaking of floodwaters . . . I cried buckets in the short time it took to watch this anime short film. I cried at least as much on the second viewing, possibly more. It’s just that sort of story. The sepia-toned, granulated illustration style carries an immediately nostalgic feel. And the music is just perfect–beautiful and enchanting, reflective without being depressing. I loved that the entire short was completely without dialogue; no translation needed for the universal impact of the story. I also loved the way the story challenged my perceptions–I started out feeling sorry for a lonely old man and ended up nostalgically happy knowing that he had a good life, people who loved him however crotchety he may have been. Incidentally, I also liked the way the illustrations reminded me of Shaun Tan’s illustrations; it’s quite a nice and unusual style. Seriously, The House of Small Cubes is less that 15 minutes long, so there’s no reason to not at least give it a try. Highly recommended.

Written by Kenya Hirata/Directed by Kunio Katō/Produced by Masanori Kusakabe & Yuko Hata/Music by Kenji Kondo

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Big Hero 6

Walt Disney StudiosBig Hero 6

Directed by Don Hall & Chris Williams/Produced by Roy Conli/Screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, & Robert L. Baird/Music by Henry Jackman/Based on the graphic novel by Steven T. Seagle & Duncan Rouleau

My rating: 5 of 5

Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada has a great brain, but he’s not exactly motivated to put it to use . . . until some well-placed encouragement from his brother Tadashi and four of Tadashi’s “nerd friends” inspires him to join them at their college’s robotics program. Hiro seems set on a course for great success when the unthinkable happens: an accidental fire at the school kills his brother Tadashi and destroy’s Hiro’s robotics project as well. Overwhelmed with depression over his brother’s death, Hiro again finds himself completely unmotivated to do anything with his life. That is, until he accidentally activates Baymax, a nurse-robot that his brother had been working on. With Baymax, Hiro discovers that the fire at the school may not have been as accidental as it seemed–and so, Hiro, Baymax, and Tadashi’s four college friends team up to find the truth and bring justice where it’s due. True superhero style.

Big Hero 6 was one movie that I was actually excited to see from the time I first saw the previews, although it didn’t work out for me to see it until it came out on DVD. I wasn’t disappointed when I watched it either. Unlike many of Disney’s movies recently, I felt like this one came together extremely well. The characters were great; you could definitely tell that they were, well, based on stereotypes of sorts (probably because that worked better with their superhero transformations later), but they were also full of personality and individuality. Hiro himself is adorable in a punk sort of way . . . I think the first few minutes of the movie give a very good idea of his general character, but he also is someone who grows a lot during the story. (On that topic, the “hugging and learning” aspect of the story might be a bit much, but I guess we know it’s that kind of story going in to it.) Not that she shows up particularly much, but I really think Hiro and Tadashi’s aunt is an awesome character–I wish we saw more of her. I really appreciated the balance that was found in a lot of areas here: the combination of Japanese and American (especially in the architecture–wow), the meld of science and “superhero” tradition. It’s neat that this is based on an actual comic-book series (one I haven’t read, but it sounds interesting) by the same title . . . it sounds like the movie is almost something of an origin story from what I can tell. In any case, the use of science to explain/create the hero capabilities is fun. Also, bonus points for pretty art–I know CG has come incredibly far in just the past few years, and that’s not really even what I’m talking about–more like, the creators intentionally made pretty stuff (cloud patterns, incredible architecture, cool carp-kite wind machines, etc.) even when it wasn’t necessary. I appreciate that. So yeah, I would definitely recommend Big Hero 6 to anyone, say, elementary school and up who enjoys a solid, fun action movie with, yes, some hugging and learning mixed in.

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Spirited Away

spirited awayStudio Ghibli

My rating: 5 of 5

Young Chihiro is not only bummed out about moving, but is slightly scared as well. When her family gets lost taking a “shortcut” to their new home (thanks again, Dad), her life takes a serious turn for the scarier as Chihiro finds herself in an Alice-in-Wonderland-like world of Japanese spirits, her parents transformed into pigs, and herself quickly becoming translucent. Haku, a local spirit boy who seems to know her, takes Chihiro under wing, but when it turns out that he’s the head henchman under the evil ruler of this place, you have to wonder if he’s really looking out for Chihiro . . . ?

Spirited Away is a masterpiece of a movie. The story is complex and very Japanese–kind of a zen version of Alice in Wonderland, really. The character development in Chihiro is excellent; it’s fascinating to watch her grow from a whiny brat to a brave girl who is willing to work hard and risk a lot for others. The animation in Spirited Away is incredible–there’s an intricate attention–to detail, light, texture, and even the way people actually move–that is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously pay attention to the water . . . it’s not just some puddle of blue, but actually looks like real water! The creativity and detail put into the plethora of side characters and settings is remarkable as well. Might I also mention that the soundtrack is wonderful–great for setting the mood, plus just absolutely beautiful. And the English dubs are actually good too, which is a shocker; usually anime dubs are terrible (in my personal opinion). Basically, Spirited Away is one of my favorite movies ever, possibly my absolute favorite. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out.

Written & Directed by Hayao Miyazaki/Produced by Toshio Suzuki/Music by Joe Hisaishi/Starring Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tsunehiko Kamijō, Takehiko Ono, & Bunta Sugawara

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