I’m trying to start a new tradition in our family, inspired by Claire of Little Farm, Growing: Fridays as Family Pizza and Movie Night. We’re three weekends in, and I have to say, it’s not really a hard sell. For the first week, my husband G. Grod borrowed 9 (the animated film, not the dancing debacle) at 7yo Drake’s request. This didn’t turn out so well. First, I made the pizzas and didn’t get started till late, so I didn’t get to watch. Second, the movie was too scary for the boys. I asked Drake to get some socks from the laundry room the other day.
“You go,” he said. “Memories of 9 keep me from going into darkness.”
He phrased it so poetically; how could I not comply?
The next two weeks worked out much better, with animated films by one of our favorite film makers, Hayao Miyazaki. He has been, incorrectly to my mind, described at the Japanese Walt Disney. A more accurate analogy is that he’s like the Kurosawa of animation. In the U.S., he is perhaps best known for his sweet children’s fable My Neighbor Totoro, or the more recent Ponyo. We chose two of his earlier works, as the later ones, including Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away are too violent, IMO, for small children.
Porco Rosso is the story of a former Italian army sea-plane pilot, Marco, who’s been cursed by a witch to take the form of a pig. He frequents a small island bar reminiscent of that from Casablanca. It’s run by Gina, whose pilot fiancee was shot down in the war. Porco has trouble with sea-plane pirates, as well as an uppity American pilot who is vying for Gina’s affection. Along the way, Porco has to deal with costly repairs, police pursuit, and the company of Fio, a traditional Miyazaki heroine: smart, brave and cute as a button. (No mincing princess, she.) It’s a rousing, romantic tale, and charmed both the parents and kids. I’m thrilled to see a sequel is in pre-production.
Castle in the Sky refers to a floating island, pursed by young Pazu, whose father died soon after seeing it. (In Japanese, the movie was called Laputa, a hat tip to the inspiration from Gulliver’s Travels.) Most people believe it’s a myth, but two others seek it as well: sky-pirate queen Dola, voiced with cackling relish in the US version by Chloris Leachman, and bad-guy secret-agent Muska, voiced by Mark Hamill. Both of them want to kidnap Sheeta, a young girl with an ancient crystal connected with Laputa. But when Muska’s sky ship crashes, Sheeta escapes, and is found floating and unconscious by Pazu who seeks to shield her from her pursuers. This is a suspenseful tale with an undercurrent of the eco-awareness found in other Miyazaki works. There’s adventure, cool robots, treasure and smart, capable kids. As with Porco Rosso, this was a movie that delighted both me and the children.
On deck? We have many movies at home, but I’ve just reserved John Sayle’s Secret of Roan Innish. I saw it years ago at a Philadelphia film festival before it received distribution and was so glad when it did get picked up and released to glowing reviews.