Coming out of the 2nd week of the Celebrate Studio Ghibli the rankings now include My Neighbour Totoro and Only Yesterday.
Alas this will probably be it for me as I’ve gotten sick and don’t want to spend more time than I have to away from central heating and copious quantities of tea.
1. My Neighbor Totoro
It’s really crowded at the top of the rankings, and despite Spirited Away being arguably a better film, My Neighbor Totoro is always the the one for which the magic, truly, will never leave me. One little detail I noticed on this viewing that I somehow hadn’t noticed (or remembered before): Satsuki doing Cat’s Cradle at the bus stop. I suspect that the general hilarity of that scene has erased those little details.
2. Whisper of the Heart
This gentle film really is one of my favourites, and it remains a tragedy that director Kondo died before he made anymore films. The moment when Shizuku is told, gently, that her writing kind of sucks right now but that’s OK is one of the moments in anime that will bring a tear to my eye. Because whilst this may sound harsh, it’s framed as hope for the future, for a future Shizuku who will be great writer once she puts in the work to polish and facet the raw stone that she has discovered inside herself.
3. Spirited Away
Spirited Away really is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s finest films with a message of kindness that truly sings. Chihiro may start as something of a brat, and gets hammered for it, but every act of kindness that she makes from that point on is repaid tenfold or more. From the moment she hits bottom you can’t help but cheer for her every little win, and the ending is truly satisfying.
4. Pom Poko
I expect Pom Poko to drop in the rankings as I see more films in the festival. The hilarity of transforming tanuki testicles will carry a film a fair way, but the pacing is uneven and the polemic sometimes overwhelms the story. Fun but pompous is an odd mix, and it doesn’t quite work as well as it should.
5. Princess Mononoke
The ranking of Princess Mononoke shows that sometimes there’s a huge difference between “This is excellent” and “I like this”. Princess Mononoke is an excellent film. Technically, dramatically, it may well be superior to Spirited Away but whilst I admired it this time around I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other films I’ve seen so far.
6. Only Yesterday
Only Yesterday is, in terms of how I experience it, one of the most variable films I’ve ever encountered. There have been times when I’ve stopped watching it at home because I was bored to the point of falling asleep, and times when it can move me deeply. This time I found that audience reactions, particularly to the humour, can lift the film to a middle ground for me.
The ranking here reflects how much I enjoyed Only Yesterday on this viewing. If there’s another festival, and it catches me in a better mood, it might well be higher. That my experience of this film is so variable is fascinating to me, and all but guarantees that I will try it again if there’s another festival
That’s where I’m at so far and, alas, where it’s likely to end for me. If I recover quickly I might see some more but at this point recovering and preparing for [REDACTED] are absolutely my priorities right now.