A gorgeous adaptation of the acclaimed manga, and a story with a hard moral question: Who gets to be redeemed?
All but unseen by Western audiences, this breezy, bracing 1957 comedy cross-sections Japanese society at a turning point, for both fast laughs and wise insights
A real treat: a made-for-TV historical fantasy, by way of some Studio Ghibli regulars, that starts lighthearted and in time becomes genuinely ambitious
When Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb appeared in theaters, there were more than a few critics who hated the movie on principle; after all, nuclear war was nothing any sane person could laugh at. Except, of course, that black humor and comedy are precisely how people have always dealt with the cruelest and most horrible of subjects. Today, complaining about Dr. Strangelove seems almost quaint—perhaps not so much a sign that we are desensitized to the whole apocalypse thing (when does the end of the world ever really stop being scary?) as that we have stopped wasting time with silly grousing about art being in bad taste.
Here is a work of art, a great one even, about a man who tried to make himself into a work of art — but perhaps not a great one, and at the cost of no small part of his humanity. Yukio Mishima was not content merely to be a post-WWII literary figure of Norman Mailer-esque proportions: novelist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, cultural gadfly, social butterfly. He wanted to carve himself into the cultural consciousness of the world or die trying. He achieved both.
It helps to talk about Mary And The Witch's Flower, from an ex-Studio Ghibli outfit named Studio Ponoc, by way of its two most likely potential audiences: kids and parents generally, and people specifically looking for a Studio Ghibli-related product. The first group will be quite happy; this is a sprightly, diverting, lavish-looking movie with an intriguing moral undertone. Group #2 will be counting off on their fingers the number of outward references, aesthetic and explicit, to both other Ghibli productions and other anime. But while this movie doesn't break ground aesthetically, it breaks rank with other stories in its vein aimed at young viewers, and reminds us that the best magic of all is the most commonplace kind that exists between friends and beloveds.