Ennio Morricone died yesterday in Rome at ninety-one years old, according to The Los Angeles Times. Staff writer Randall Roberts describes him as not only “the most important film composer of the twentieth century,” but “also the busiest.” Roberts lists his top ten scores as: Sergio Leone’s Trilogia del dollaro; Gillo Pontecorvo’s La battaglia di Algeri (1966); Sergio Sollima’s La resa dei conti (1968); Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code (1971); Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976); Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978); John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982); Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986); Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987); and Quentin Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight (2015).
Studio Ghibli is not all soot sprites and fire demons dubbed by Billy Crystal – indeed, Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988) is one of the most devastating films you will ever see, anime or otherwise.
If you don’t know what to watch next, Grave of the Fireflies is available to stream on Hulu. The animated war film is based on the semiautobiographical short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka. It stars Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, Yoshiko Shinohara, and Akemi Yamaguchi.
Set in Kobe, Japan, around World War II, the movie opens September 21, 1945, with a teenage boy named Seita (dubbed by J. Robert Spencer) starving to death and his spirit joining that of his younger sister, Setsuko (dubbed by Corinne Orr).
Several months earlier, the two children are orphaned after a firebombing destroys most of Kobe and kills their mother (dubbed by Veronica Taylor).
Upon moving in with their aunt (dubbed by Amy Jones), Seita and Setsuko face the brutal reality of growing up as refugees in wartime Japan.
Studio Ghibli is known for its antiwar themes. For example, Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) is heavily influenced by the filmmaker’s childhood in postwar Japan.
Grave of the Fireflies is the dream factory’s most powerful tragedy, though, its young characters developed in such a way that only Ghibli would know how.
To be sure, it is because of the studio’s family-friendliness that Grave of the Fireflies is so mature and heartbreaking. Seita and Setsuko are childlike in a way that transcends across cultural as well as artistic boundaries.
That they are cartoon characters does not detract from their characterizations.
But the nationalistic, toxic masculine intent behind the picture sullies it somewhat. After all, Japanese audiences interpret Seita’s decision not to return to his aunt’s as a wise one, even though the consequences are deadly.
While there are cultural differences at play, Seita’s pride in himself as an imperial Japanese male should not be more important than life itself.
But intentionalism is a critical fallacy – there have been many filmmakers throughout history who did not mean to shoot unethical works but did so anyway – so the director’s interpretation is no less subjective than that of the viewer.
Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne has joined “Harry Potter” himself, Daniel Radcliffe, in condemning JK Rowling’s recent transphobic social media posts, according to The Guardian. Redmayne – who played Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl (2015), the first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery – says, “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself.” Similarly, Radcliffe says, “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations, who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”
On Thursday, the Criterion Channel has joined the likes of A24 and Bad Robot in coming out to help support the fight against systemic racism, as well as advocate police reform and support for protestors throughout the United States, according to IndieWire. In an email from Criterion president Peter Becker and CEO Jonathan Turell, the company announced a $25,000 initial contribution, in addition to an ongoing $5,000 monthly donation, to organizations that back Black Lives Matter. Criterion will also lift the paywall on titles from Black filmmakers and white documentarians who have captured the Black experience, available on their homepage.
Between violent confrontations with police in protests over George Floyd’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as record unemployment rates, there is little to celebrate about this year’s Pride Month, according to The New York Times. This isn’t to say all Pride events are canceled or postponed, because many can still be enjoyed online, such as virtual drag shows, benefit concerts, and, of course, “entertaining and evocative” films about the queer community and its history. Seven of these movies are: Arthur J. Bressan Junior’s Gay USA (1977); Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s Before Stonewall (1984); Christopher Ashley’s Jeffrey (1995); Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008); Matthew Warchus’s Pride (2014); Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017); and David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017).
As protests continue to rage over the death of George Floyd, Black social justice leaders as well as scholars urge people wanting to make a change to educate themselves on systemic racism through books, conversations, movies, and documentaries, according to ABC. Doctor Creshema Murray, founding fellow at The Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown, published her first book in 2018, Leadership Through The Lens: Interrogating Production, Presentation, and Power. “Television and film is a way for us to disconnect from what’s happening in the real world, but it’s also a tool for us to understand,” says Doctor Murray.
Extinction Rebellion has enlisted sixty-four-year-old Hollywood star Whoopi Goldberg for their three-minute climate change film, The Gigantic Change, which goes live on their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram for World Environment Day, according to Inside Nova. The short takes a look back from the year 2050 at how people came together to save the world and ends by directing audiences to a page outlining the most effective actions they can take to fight global warming. Goldberg, who has been a co-host on ABC’s The View (1997-) since 2007, announced earlier this year that her calling in life is to help people.
Women In Film Los Angeles released a response to the ongoing protests in LA and around the world against the racist murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, according to Deadline. Calling for an end to anti-Black violence on their official Twitter account, Women In Film went on to encourage “real, systemic change,” while, at the same time, declaring their support for those among their members (as well as the LA community at large) who fight for racial justice. With this statement, Women In Film joins the many media organizations, agencies, and networks in the industry endorsing sociocultural change.
Between the programming on Turner Classic Movies, the Columbia Noir series currently streaming on the Criterion Channel, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, film noir has found itself part of the contemporary critical conversation again, according to The New York Times. It is difficult, if not impossible, to define noir, if for no other reason than that it transcends genre, but critic Ben Kenigsberg says Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), which is streaming on Criterion’s Columbia Noir series, is a “place for getting a handle on what noir is.” Kenigsberg writes, “It has elements of murder mystery, melodrama and Hollywood insider scoop.”
With Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) released forty years ago this month, BBC critic Nicholas Barber writes that he finds the Star Wars film considered as the best to be “slower, stodgier, more contrived, convoluted, and repetitive.” Indeed, Barber is not alone in his opinion – notable reviewers such as Vincent Canby at The New York Times were also underwhelmed with the first sequel to George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). Instead, Barber argues that the original is the greatest entry in the franchise, “with its wealth of history, mythology, politics, and technology.”