Friday, March 7, 2014

REVIEW: The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises

Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
John Krasinski


February 21, 2014 (NY/LA)
February 28, 2014 (WIDE)

Hayao Miyazaki

Touchstone Pictures, (Disney)
Studio Ghibli

2 hours 6 minutes



Hayao Miyazaki has made a name for himself as the grandmaster of anime films, with films like "My Neighbor Totoro," "Howl's Moving Castle," and the Academy Award winning "Spirited Away" all under his belt.  Now, the legendary filmmaker has decided to retire after several decades in the business.  Before he called it quits, though, his latest, and final film, "The Wind Rises," made its splash on the festival circuit last September.  After an Oscar qualifying run in November and a few more appearances at film festivals, "The Wind Rises" has finally been let out of the cage, now with an English dub consisting of the voices of celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, and Martin Short, to name a few.  And needless to say, it was worth the wait for this flick, as "The Wind Rises" is a quiet, gorgerous marvel of an animated film.

SYNOPSIS: (From the film's official website)
Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes, inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni.  Nearsighted from a young age and unable to be a pilot, Jiro joins a major Japanese engineering company in 1927 and becomes one of the world’s most innovative and accomplished airplane designers, earning the respect of prominent industry greats, including Hattori and Kurokawa The film chronicles much of Jiro’s life, depicting key historical events, including the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, the tuberculosis epidemic and Japan’s plunge into war. Jiro meets and falls in love with Nahoko, and grows and cherishes his friendship with his colleague Honjo. 

Without a doubt, this is some of the most beautiful animation I've ever seen a film.  Every shot, every landscape, and every moment captured in this 2 hour flick is a work of pure art.  There is one shot involving the main love interest Nahoko crying that I swear might have been the single best animated shot I have ever seen, period.  It told so much without saying much, and I personally loved that.  There's another scene involving the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that was also quite breathtaking to watch.  The list of incredible scenes and shots goes on and on, because the movie itself looks that good and just has the sense of enveloping your eyes and mind into this realistic world of anime.  The American voice cast compliments the gorgeous imagery here, but the real star of this film is the incredible work done by Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli.

The irony of this film is that it is based on the life of a real man, Jiro Horikoshi, yet it is animated and fully of mystical imagery.  And yet, that works to the film's benefit.  The story and the script on their own are really good, but putting this animation on top of all of that really has an effect on the overall experience.  If this film was live action or CGI, chances are it wouldn't have had the same effect as it does with anime.  This film could have only been done, and succeeded as well as it did, in Japanese animation.  Some may not be into the mouths not fully syncing up to the English dubbing, but in the end, you get invested in the animation, the story, and these characters who you grow to love over the course of 2 hours.

I'd argue that this was the animated film that should have won at this past Academy Awards.  Don't get me wrong, "Frozen" was a great film and I'm glad many fell in love with it, but I don't completely get why it has become this huge cultural phenomenon of some sort and people calling this Disney's best work of the past century.  Even though this was only distributed by Disney and not fully produced by the Mouse House, I wish that the honchos over there had given this film more of a push, because I honestly think this could have won a lot of awards.  I honestly cannot find a single flaw present in this film, and would really need to see it again to fully process in my mind what I had seen, because the first experience was so overwhelming and so captivating.  "The Wind Rises" is a journey of the mind and soul, and is, without a doubt, the best animated movie I have seen so far this year.  And if really is the last film of Hayao Miyazaki's long career, then he sure as hell ended on a beautiful high note, as his swan song is simply incredible.


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