CASTLE IN THE SKY [1986] review

April 15, 2007

Totoro and I watched CASTLE IN THE SKY tonight, my seventh Miyazaki film. CASTLE stands in stark contrast to most other Miyazaki films, maybe most closely resembling HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, in that it depicts the machinery of war a lot. This is by far the most action packed Miyazaki film I’ve seen. Maybe Miyazaki himself was aware of this, for his next movie, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, including not even a single enemy or machine of war. There were moments of contemplation and wonder in CASTLE, but they were just brief pauses between long action sequences and explosions.

Not surprisingly my two favorite scenes were when Sheeta and Pazu encounter Uncle Pom where the latter tells a tale of a magical, forgotten element. The other was when Sheeta and Pazu follow someone through a garden of wonder.

Driving all the action and adventure is another solid story from Miyazaki’s bountiful imagination with the usual assortment of colorful characters, with the standout Dola–female pirate captain. The story reveals its secrets and revelations with the usual sense of wonder. Things introduced to us as simple things, later show their full power.

Sheeta is a strong and determined heroine, bring joy and energy to all around her. She quickly earns the loyalty of Pazu, a fellow orphan who eagerly protects her and is pleased to find out they share a similar pursuit, learning of the legendary castle in the sky. The climax of the movie is an explosion of bittersweet action. Though not quite as magical as other Miyazaki films, it still had plenty to make it a great movie.

***SPOILER***

I wonder why the spell for “save me” is a complicated set of about 5 words but the spell for “destruction” is a simple two-syllable word??

Skateboarding in Kikuna VIDEO

April 14, 2007

Bit of a long delay getting this video edited and posted! But back in February I went down to finally see my friend Maho’s new condo in Kikuna (near Yokohama) and take her up on her offer to go skateboarding at a nearby skate park. Neither of us was brave enough to actually enter the skate park, but we represented in the large parking area around there and even rolled down some long sidewalk ramps.

Skateboarding in Kikuna, Yokohama, Japan

February 2007

Filmed & Edited by Jason Collin

CHINATOWN [1974] review

April 1, 2007

If you’ve mostly seen Jack Nicholson in roles when he’s over 50, it will be quite a shock seeing him young and brash in CHINATOWN, a deep mystery and thriller that includes some good humor and a few good scares. Jack plays a P.I. looking into, at first, a simple matter of marital infidelity that soon reveals itself to be much, much more. It’s all about getting water to Los Angeles, which means taking it from somewhere that it’s needed.

…It’s Jack’s reluctant job to sort through every character’s angle while all the while making sure he himself doesn’t get duped and caught holding the bag. … Roman Polanski using many camera tricks and positions, all to great effect. This is a movie of utmost craftsmanship, and if one appreciates that, it will be a feast of camera angles, cinematography and still camera shots. I really like creative camera use, and ate up each new shot Planski put on the screen. The screenplay, by Robert Towne, is incredibly strong with memorable dialogue coming left and right, mostly from Jack’s mouth. He always has a clever reply, but not too clever as to seem like a script, but more like Jack is really speaking out of experience.

Jack is a tour de force in this movie, like all great P.I.’s eschews guns and just using wit and sometimes a well timed kick to the nads to get himself out of jams. Faye Dunaway is the heroine with the unusual make-up, especially her eyebrows which make her look almost constantly surprised.

The joy of the film is watching Jack follow leads and see through people’s stories, then having him tell them to their face the truth. The score comes up nicely in tense scenes and adds enough atmosphere so it feels like the 30′s, although it seemed to me that tech was pretty decent back then, cars especially.

CHINATOWN is one of many films I’ve been wanting to see for a long time and was waiting for the right time to watch it. … The movie made me want more with Jack’s character, which was the screenwriter’s intention as a trilogy was planned, but only a second film was ever released back in 1990.

…The reveals come fast and quick so one needs to keep a sharp ear or be ready to rewind to soak it all in. What your left with is what you began with, just Chinatown, which we are advised to “Forget it…..it’s Chinatown.”