photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ive been on a bit of a HAYAO MIYAZAKI kick as of late and recently rewatched the 2004 DISNEY re-dubbed version of the classic JAPANESE animated fantasy film MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (STUDIO GHIBLI, 1988). the film centers around two young girls who relocate into an old countryside house with their father in order to stay closer to a hospital where their ailing mother is convalescing.
what draws me to this film again and again is how much of the narrative is propelled by a sense of intense interiority on behalf of the psychological state of the two young girls, SATSUKI and MEI. contrary to AMERICAN animated films, the pacing is very slow and prodding which only spurs further attention to these young girls and their experiences with sprites and ultimately TOTORO and his cadre of friends. these small sprites known in the film as the SUSUWATARI are a part of the natural world and can only be seen by children. this invention feels very much deep rooted in JAPANESE CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITIES surrounding SHINTOISM and BUDDHISM where connection to the ENVIRONMENT and one's place in the NATURAL ORDER and its cycles is of paramount importance. it is a source of STRENGTH and NOURISHMENT and is the basis for the psychic vitality of a COMMUNITY.
i also cant help as a westerner watching this film and not somehow project this notion that such fantastical journeys with animistic entities are stand-ins for a deprived maternal presence. the girls very much miss their mother and are confronted with adult concepts like INFIRMITY and DEATH in a very tangible, almost existential manner. its fascinating to think of this animated film as a celebrated product for children given its thematic bent, but then JAPAN is a very different culture that doesnt attempt to shield some cold, sober realities from the next generation such as in the UNITED STATES. the very concept of ADOLESCENCE is very much an invention of THE WEST so its compelling to consider the interplay of such an idea within a traditional JAPANESE setting.
i cant praise this film enough. much like everything MIYAZAKI and STUDIO GHIBLI touch, it is very much worth checking out.
as a white dude i'm careful not to overstep my bounds and pass judgement on another culture. buts thats not to say i can't appreciate someone from that community doing so, which is basically what THE BOONDOCKS (CARTOON NETWORK, 2005-2014) animated series on ADULT SWIM was for the AFRICAN-AMERICAN community during its initial run of four seasons. in my estimation, this series (which is based on show creator AARON MCGRUDER's syndicated comic strip of the same name) is one of the most intelligent extended examinations of society in the animated genre, only rivaled by SOUTH PARK.
first off, its more than obvious the amount of love MCGRUDER has for his community. just the sheer scope of the animated world he created, with several characters designed to showcase the fault-lines in his community, whether they be along traditional economic and generational divides or rival gangs/rap cliques that resemble each other more than they don't, each episode is a vignette of sorts into some aspect of examined daily life through the eyes of a black child.
and that childlike perspective is the real genius of the show. where other shows (THE SIMPSONS, FAMILY GUY) use children as props ineffective in affecting change in their communities, THE BOONDOCKS instead utilizes young brothers HUEY and RILEY FREEMAN as two young black boys attempting to figure out how to assimilate into AMERICAN culture after moving in with their grandfather into a white suburban neighborhood. their trials in making sense of black culture and establishing their own identity mirror that of the broader community as well.
could not recommend this show any stronger. just don't be an idiot and think that the language they used gives you permission to do so as well. sorry, doesnt work like that STATEN ISLAND, no matter what contrived justification you attempt to make. its called white privilege.
cover by nacrowe
if you were ever a fan of the animated series SEALAB 2021 (CARTOON NETWORK/ADULT SWIM) or ARCHER (FX) then you are pretty much beholden to seek out its more insane antecedent FRISKY DINGO (CARTOON NETWORK/ADULT SWIM).
the show deals with a would-be hapless super villain named KILLFACE who is hellbent on enslaving the people of earth if he can just get over his complete incompetence and terrible people skills. there is also a playboy tycoon/superhero named XANDER CREWS/AWESOME-X that can't support his fighting force the X-TACLES after conquering the last of his villains. much like ARCHER deals with the mundane internal paper-pushing business of being an international super-spy, FRISKY DINGO equally finds humor mined from efficient PR strategies and the business implications of being too good at your job of being a superhero. basically, FRISKY DINGO takes the superhero construct to its logical conclusion and mines it for all its worth comedically.
unlike ARCHER, FRISKY DINGO has basically little to no character development and an ever expanding internal network of inside jokes and catch phrases. in fact the whole show just seems to be an excuse to expand on these in unexpected situations. the plot is minuscule and largely not the point. whether or not KILLFACE is successful is not the point. his futile efforts in organizational management and networking allies in his evil deeds is far more interesting. perhaps this is why this show was killed off after its second season, a blunder not made in the aforementioned follow-up series ARCHER, which uses its characters to parody a myriad of films, locations and tv shows.
but i prefer FRISKY DINGO for its almost MONTY PYTHON level of insanity and ever shifting plot points to no avail. it was quite the ride.
as a young kid, no other DISNEY film scared the shit out of me quite like DUMBO (1941). the whole idea of being estranged from your family by a bunch of evil circus freaks set out on exploiting you and making you do crazy shenanigans against your will was just too much to process back then. even viewing it as an adult i can't believe they got away with showing underage drinking and racist blackface caricatures, wait actually the later part i can believe. this is the same company that put out SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946) and WALT DISNEY himself was quite the walking contradiction himself, on one hand nurturing a reputation for wholesomeness while on the other being one of the lead proponents in HOLLYWOOD of RED SCARE propaganda and MCCARTHYIST misadventures into purifying the entertainment industry, with all of its antiemetic connotations intact. this is the same MISSOURI transplant that took inspiration from JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS's reimagined racist slave narratives and basically white-washed them for commercial consumption. but i digress.
i'm not one of those people that share the criticism of DISNEY films for their routinely used plot trope of breaking up the nuclear family through death, estrangement or otherwise (see BAMBI, CINDERELLA, THE LION KING, FINDING NEMO, etc). i'm fine with that since in the end the films are about seeking connection with the greater community and establishing a surrogate family. its uplifting. but man the existential dread i experienced as a child watching DUMBO get drunk after watching his mom sing goodbye to him still makes me emotional. most depressing scene of all time. easily.
i really hate you WALT DISNEY for making me love this film so much.
photo manipulation by nacarowe
its funny how with everyone wearing beanies these days it almost looks like a scene out of the classic animated film THE POINT! (MURAKAMI-WOLF PRODUCTIONS, 1971). its even more interesting given that the children's film deals with themes related to identity and conformity, main character OBLIO wearing his unique cone-shaped hat to hide the fact that he doesn't have a pointed head like all the others in the POINTED VILLAGE.
this film was the brainchild of criminally underrated songwriter HARRY NILSSON and director FRED WOLF (ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS, DUCKTALES, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON), who both co-wrote the screenplay, and boasts an incredible list of voice actors that includes RINGO STARR, DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ALAN THICKE as well as various others that worked on everything from ROCKY & BULLWINKLE to THE BRADY BUNCH.
im fascinated by films from the 1970s in general because it was the initial period when the creative albatross known as the production code was pretty much a thing of the past and with it the last remnants of the STUDIO SYSTEM. it also predated modern marketing (we can thank STEVEN SPIELBERG and GEORGE LUCAS for that - JAWS, STAR WARS, E.T.) so what you get is creatives taking on interesting projects without later shackles of focus groups, marketing strategies and the pressure of cross-platform media promotion. the stakes were lower but the products churned out were unique.
now i originally saw this as a child and what hooked me then as well as now is the music. unlike DISNEY films, past and present, these songs are genuinely haunting and very much evoke the loneliness and desperation of OBLIO as he goes about his journey with his pet ARROW to find his point, because by law everyone must have a point. NILSSON had such a tender, lilting quality to his voice and the songs are just powerful. i remember them hitting me very hard as a child, with lines about teardrops falling into the ocean and being eaten by fishes that were eaten by other fishes, who in turn was swallowed by a whale who grew so old, he decomposed. blew my mind. lyrically its very out there and very much the result of a unique songwriter given full control at the height of his powers. i also love the message that you don't need a point to exist. such a deep movie that is far superior to the drivel thrown our way by DISNEY and the like.
i cannot recommend this film any more passionately. its a favorite from my pre-elementary years and is compelling for both young and young-at-heart audiences.
guilty as charged
its funny when rewatching old TV SHOWS from your youth how prescient things become in retrospect. such is the case with the animated MTV show DARIA (1997-2002) and its depiction of disaffected high school geeks and outcasts and the general jaded malaise that sets in when you come to realize that world is full of it.
what makes it interesting now for me is the fact that it depicts a time pre-SOCIAL MEDIA and at the very beginnings of modern internet culture and 24/7 cable news coverage. in my mind, turning on TV nowadays is all REALITY TV, news coverage or not. everything has come to, in essence, be a SICK SAD WORLD segment, meant to jolt and shock you from the fog of information inundation but essentially just contributes to the sensation overload.
i'm sure at the time this was meant as a knowing commentary on late night tabloid TV newsmagazines like A CURRENT AFFAIR or HARD COPY or INSIDE EDITION, but as we now know, this yellow journalistic model has spread and metastasized in mainstream new coverage of every political stripe. its all about the hits, clicks and likes in this era and such is perfect for coverage without moral and ethical restraints that trades on our most debased and uninformed tendencies.
and i don't think its gonna change. ever.
so thank you DARIA for welcoming us all to this new world order. ironically this show is brought to you by the same channel that brought us all REALITY TV (a la MARK BURNETT PRODUCTIONS) and later our very own REALITY TV president (a la THE APPRENTICE - a BURNETT production).
sick sad world, indeed!