Monday, November 17, 2014

Old School

This weekend, Ensley and I kept a date we'd had for a long time and went to Durham to attend the NC ComicCon. It was Ensley's first "big" con and I had great fun playing sidekick. Along with the cosplay and acres of merchandise which ranged from back issues to steampunk-inspired clothing and one-of-a-kind collectibles, you get a chance to mix with dozens of fandoms, all of whom are as into their as you are into yours. Cons are a great time, provided they're well run. More and more of them have official harassment policies, a necessary addition as more females attend in costume and a small fraction of fanboys think a costume is a license to touch.

At NC ComicCon, the con included a film festival and our tickets entitled us to two showings. After looking at the program for panels, signing times and other events, we decided to see Hayao Miyazaki's first film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and Brad Bird's first film The Iron Giant (1999). Both films are different in style, yet similar in theme and really - these are both really worth seeking out.

Nausicaa is from the early period of Miyazaki career. We saw the original version, in Japanese with English subtitles. The film was heavily re-written for American release (as Warriors of the Wind) and Miyazaki demanded that any later licensor for his films be contractually bound to do no edits to the film aside from a straight translation and language dubbing.  The Mouse bought the rights to all Miyazaki films from Nausicaa onward and has honored that agreement. Just to make sure the idea got across, Miyazaki sent a samarai sword to the executive at Disney with a two word note that simply read: "No cuts."

Nausicaa contains many themes that will be seen throughout Miyazaki's works - flight, war on a massive scale impacting ordinary people, the actions of one brave person turning the tide, and supernatural/magical elements affecting daily life. ("Nausicaa" is also the name of a character in Homer's The Odyssey - she's an example of unrequited love and without her assistance, Odysseus may well have wandered even longer than he did.) It's a lovely, magical, otherworldly movie about life, climate change, and finding harmony within a changing world. Go see it.

The Iron Giant should have been as big as Bird's The Incredibles a few years later, but Warner Bros. didn't know what to do with it and didn't seem to care that much, so the movie came and went, but slowly developed a cult following, not least of all for its voice talent, which includes Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., and Vin Diesel. It's a lovely movie, all about a time that really never was in the deep, snowy woods of Maine where a lonely boy could hide a new and highly improbable friend. Best line? Easy - "I am not a gun." It's a move that will choke you up a bit and make you dig out your old favorite toys, the ones that used to give you such comfort on the days when you were very small, the world was very large, and no one seemed to tell you much. There will probably never be a sequel to this movie, although jibber-jabber raises hopes from time to time. Maybe that's so - but go see this one. Seek it out if necessary - it's worth the effort.

No comments: