Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's a backwards kind of day

When the movie Ponyo first came out in theaters, I knew literally nothing about it. My friend Lixie mentioned on Twitter she and her husband were going to see it. I blinked once, twice, and let it pass. What the hell is Ponyo?

So when it came up on my library's new movies list, I requested it just for the hell of it. If Lixie liked it, I was willing to give it a try. Even then, I waited until the day before it was due back at the library to watch it. I chose to watch some seriously crappy fare instead. I am kind of an idiot.

Before we start, let me emphasize that I love and adore Disney's The Little Mermaid. I didn't go to the movie theater more than a half dozen times when I was growing up. It just wasn't something we did. We watched movies at home, and I was happy with that. Even as an adult, the idea of going to a theater to see a movie doesn't hold a lot of appeal. People talk. I can't pause, or rewind a scene, and there's no closed captioning. As much as I love movie theater popcorn (and oh, how I do), I'd rather eat a meal while watching a movie.

Because of this, I remember all of the movies I saw in theaters growing up. And one of them was The Little Mermaid. Someone on my knitting website, Ravelry, was semi-trash talking it the other day, and I got annoyed and jumped in to defend it. This isn't the entry for my long, drawn-out defense, but criticism of the movie will lead to my finger waggling and head shaking as I tell you off and threaten bodily harm upon your person.

I know that the Disney version isn't anywhere close to the original Hans Christian Anderson (SPELLING) version. I don't believe I've ever read it, but I know there's something about sea foam, and that it's rather dark and depressing. Good times! I'll stick with my Disney version, thankyouverymuch.

But Ponyo is another story based on the HCA version, with mentions of sea foam. I don't think it ended the way HCA's did, either.

This movie led me to believe someone had spiked my cherry coke. Seriously. We're floating along just fine with the movie, and then all of a sudden there's chicken feet and fishy waves and I had to get up and walk around for a bit because I was a little worried I was tripping and didn't realize it. Eventually the story levels out, as much as a story like this can, but what the hell was that, exactly?

The character Ponyo is absolutely effing adorable. But I prefer her as a fish. The little girl version was seriously annoying at first, and then she kept doing that weird flat-faced thing that freaked me out again and again. Her voice was also grating, and I wasn't entirely surprised to learn it was a sibling of Miley Cyrus involved in that. I saw the name 'Jonas' for the little boy voice, I'm presuming it was one of the Jonas Brothers spawn? So disturbing.

In the beginning, I didn’t much care for Sosuke. I found him more irritating than anything else. But the fact that he rescued a goldfish from a jar did appeal to the bleeding hearted animal lover that I am, so I went with it. Eventually I really, really got into it. When he was standing by his mom's abandoned car, yelling her name and crying, I started blubbering. Dammit!

At first I thought Ponyo's father was a bad guy. I mean, anyone who would name their child Brunhilde is a bad guy, right? But eventually it sunk in that this was the King Tritan of this particular movie, and I could look at him in a different light. He also had really great hair, and was voiced by Liam Neeson. So I started to love and feel for him.

The actors voicing this movie did an incredible job. When it comes to animated film, the one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when you immediately recognize a voice and you can't see the animated character, only the celebrity doing the voice. I have this problem with the Shrek movies, even though on the list of issues I have with those movies, that is not even breaking the top 20. I've already discussed my dislike for Cameron Diaz, and when her voice is on the screen, I don't see Fiona, I see her. And it makes me angry. Same with Eddie Murphy's voice, and later, Justin Timberlake's.

With these actors, it took me awhile to realize who everyone was. The only exception was Betty White's character, and really, who can get mad at Betty White? She's Rose Nylund, for christ's sake. I didn't realize who Tina Fey was voicing until halfway through the movie, and Lily Tomlin's voice didn't register until the very, very end. This was especially pleasant, because I'd gone so long not realizing, and suddenly it was a little lightbulb over my head. "Say, I know that person!" Excellent job by the actors.

The story of Ponyo is possibly one of the most confusing head trips I've ever watched. I still don't get the husband/wife situation there with Ponyo's parents. I mean…she's like…the size of the ocean. How exactly did they mate? And the magic, where the hell did the magic come from? And why did she have chicken feet? And…I don't want anyone to answer these questions. Maybe I just need to watch it again. I don't know how I feel about it, other than hella confused.

Silly side note: I really want to learn how to make noodles this way. Where do I get one of those bowls?

The animation is the real star of the movie, though. I watched the "introduction" on the special features, and saw how the entire movie was hand drawn. Even if it hadn't been explained in the intro, and hadn't been set in Japan, I would've realized the Japanese/anime influence. Even from the opening scene with the jellyfish the animation drew me in. So unlike anything American children are accustomed to. I wish more movies were unconventional like this. Everything is so precise, down to the waving pieces of grass, or the fur on the animals. Old fashioned hand drawn animation is a wonder for the eyes.

Again, I don't know how to feel about this movie. But I'd love to buy it and rewatch it a few times to get a good grip on it. The story of friendship is truly too sweet to pass up.

1 comment:

  1. If you do rewatch, try putting on the Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles. :D

    You may also want to look for Whisper of the Heart, Spirited Away, & Kiki's Delivery Service if you haven't seen them - besides Ponyo they're my favorite Miyazaki films.

    Oh, and if you're using rice pasta you can make it like that in any lidded bowl that won't break/melt from the heat. Probably works with regular pasta, too, but I've never tried.