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Good Will Hunting (1997) – Great Movie Review

Good Will Hunting

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Shorter Review

I Gotta See About a Girl”

Robin Williams as Sean

Nearly two weeks ago, as I write this post, the film industry suffered a great loss. The death of one of the best actors of all time. Robin Williams’ death is a tragic one. He was an amazing comedian, and an even better actor. An actor whose films I’d grown up watching.

I decided that I needed to revisit what I think was Williams’ greatest achievement. His greatest performance, and my favorite film starring him.

Good Will Hunting is one of those films that is just a powerhouse of writing and acting. Every word spoken feels powerful, and you’re never completely sure if it’s because the writing is good, or the acting is good. But you’re pretty sure that it comes down to both.

Storywise, Good Will Hunting is pretty simple. Will Hunting is an ordinary guy from South Boston. He drinks too much, and has a few too many offenses, but what he really likes doing is hanging around with his three best friends. Oh, and also he’s secretly a mathematical genius. After his parole officer assigns him to work as a janitor at MIT, Will solves an equation meant for an advanced mathematics class, leading to the professor taking him under his wing. Will is bailed out of jail on two conditions, that he continues to be mentored by the professor, and that he gets therapy.

Will continues to grow, and defeats his fears about the world by talking to his new therapist, another South Boston local, Sean, who Will can relate to. He also meets a Harvard girl, named Skylar, who changes his view on the world.

It sounds like a pretty typical movie, extraordinary guy meets new people who help him overcome the odds. But the way Damon and Affleck wrote it really elevates it above anything else like it. Will Hunting is not a new type of character, but he’s made into something great because his dialogue is so damn good.

I actually read the script of the movie before I saw it, and I still believe that it’s one of the best around. Every line has a purpose, everything is there to help build character. There’s hardly any filler, it’s an airtight script.

Another great part of the film is how many genres it covers, it’s a buddy movie, a love story, and a film about mental illness. All these genres, and it never feels like it doesn’t know what it’s going for, it knows exactly what it wants to be. Which is a razor sharp witted character drama, with a ton of brilliant performances.

Speaking of brilliant performances, I need to speak about the man that I rewatched the film for. Robin Williams. Williams gives one of the most deep, emotional, and strikingly funny performances I’ve ever seen. The role shows off every bit of his range, and showcases exactly how great he is.

From scenes of screaming at Will, to quietly reminiscing about how his wife farted in her sleep, every single thing he did on screen was captivating. He also improvised a surprising amount of his extraordinary dialogue, which goes to show again how talented Robin was. He steals every scene he’s in, and delivers every line in such a brilliantly real way.

Then of course, Matt Damon doesn’t get enough credit for his performance here. He’s amazing as well, and this is probably the role that shows his most range, the “it’s not your fault” scene being an example of just how good Matt Damon can be.

Good Will Hunting is a masterpiece of writing and acting. It manages to be such a gritty look at south Boston, as well as being such an inspirational and good hearted piece. Like I said earlier, a film like it can easily lose track of what it wants itself to be, but Good Will Hunting never loses sight of it’s goal.

It’s a love story and a buddy movie, but above all else, it’s a portrait of a deeply flawed character. Will enters the film an immature little child, a Peter Pan type, who refuses to grow up and leave his Neverland of Boston. But the journey this movie takes him on helps him realize that there’s so much more out there. It’s a pleasure for us to take this journey with him.


The Princess Bride (1987) – Great Movie Review

The Princess Bride

Directed by Rob Reiner

Shorter Review

“As you wish”

This film was first introduced to me, by my father, when I was about six, maybe seven years old. I was sick, of course, and just like the character of the boy in the film, I did not want to sit and watch something called The Princess Bride. It was going to be girly, it was going to be boring, it was going to be all mushy and gross, it was going to be “a kissing movie”.

Of course, I ended up watching it, and loving it. Now it’s one of my ten favorite films of all time.

No, I didn’t just summarize the framing device of The Princess Bride, well I kind of did. I mean, William Goldman basically wrote the framing device so that it mirrors real life. Fathers and Grandfathers who were shown this movie while they were sick in youth, are going to show it to their sick children, who are going to resist watching. In a way, the young viewer is the character in the film, and that’s part of what makes the framing device so effective.

Instead of a gooey, sappy, cheesy love story, we’re given a swashbuckling, hilarious, action packed, fantastic, creative, slightly cheesy (in a good way) and heartfelt love story. It delivers what you expect in a different way than you’d expect it. It’s very much a love story. But it’s also a comedy, an action, an adventure, and a fantasy.

The story of The Princess Bride, in case you have not seen it (which you should correct immediately if not, and also should probably not read this part) goes like this. Buttercup is a young, beautiful girl, who the young, and handsome farm hand boy, Westley, falls in love with. In time, Buttercup falls in love with Westley as well. To make money, Westley takes a job on a shipping boat, which gets captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who kills Westley, and everyone else on board.

Years later, Buttercup, still broken hearted, is engaged to marry the prince of the kingdom. One day, while riding, she’s kidnapped by three men, a Spanish swordsman, a giant, and a Sicilian genius. The three of them plot to kill her, and blame it on the neighboring nation, which would cause war between the two kingdoms.

Their plan is stopped by a man, dressed all in black, who out sails their ship, beats the Spaniard in fencing, beats the giant in wrestling, and the Sicilian in a game of wits. The man in black takes Buttercup away from them, and reveals that he is actually her long lost love. The prince then marches in, captures Westley, and takes Buttercup away, leaving Westley to try and save her from marrying against her will.

That is the extremely simplified version, but in it’s whole, it’s one of the most exciting, fun and charming films ever made.

William Goldman, both the screenwriter of this film, and the author of the book it was based on, really struck gold with both his book and his screenplay. They both follow the same story, and same characters, but what I think is the most amazing thing, is the fact that both book and movie are satire, but the satire in both of them is very different. This shows how good his writing is, that even though they follow the same story, have the exact same plot points, and often times even dialogue, the satire behind it all can be different. His satire in the book, the way it’s written, is a satire of the literary styles of classic books like “Les Miserables” and “Don Quixote”. The satire in the movie is making fun of the typical storybook fairytale. Both are equally spectacular, and I highly recommend checking out the book if you haven’t already.

Not only is the satire excellent, but even without the satire, it would be a hilarious film. It has some of the most witty, razor sharp clever lines of dialogue in film. This film is definitely, by far, the most quotable film in the history of film, only followed by Pulp Fiction. This is one of the rare films where every scene has a moment, a line, or an action that makes it memorable.

Rob Reiner handled the direction of the film perfectly. It’s wonderfully cheesy. Yet intentional, and self aware so it always functions as a good movie. It walks a dangerous line, and in the hands of a different director, could have been a disaster. Rob Reiner was the perfect match for this script. Though he’s kind of had a sharp decline in the quality of his films since the mid nineties, I would still consider Reiner to be a great director.

The Princess Bride is one of those films that I can only finish watching with a smile. It doesn’t matter my mood before the film. I could be so sick that one could fry an egg on my forehead, I could be plain depressed, I could be pure angry. All that vanishes for the runtime of this movie. Just like the boy in this film, who goes into the film sick, and unhappy, and ends with a smile on his face, and a “can you come back and read it to me again tomorrow”.

I think this is why this is my default movie when I’m sick. It can bring my mood up, and make any day seem a little brighter. It’s the perfect movie for when you’re a bit down in the dumps.

Any film that can get as strong an emotional reaction as this one can is a great film. It does it’s job in completely altering your mood, it makes you feel different than you did before starting the film. That’s powerful, and successful filmmaking, and that’s why this movie resonates with so many people, and why it’s such a great film.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – Great Film Review

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Shorter Review

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good”

-Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Before we begin, you may be thinking “does this guy really think that the third Harry Potter movie is one of the greatest films ever made?” The answer to that question is yes. Yes I do. I think that this movie is the perfect example of something that entertains general audiences, and provides more seasoned filmgoers with what they want to see as well.

The film, directed by master director, Alfonso Cuaron, is the most grand artistic achievement in the entire series of films. It sets the new standard for the series, in terms of how the next 5 films were made.

Cuaron took the series away from Chris Columbus’s happy, fantastical wizard world, and turned it to a darker, more scary wizarding world. Cuaron’s film wasn’t only an achievement in terms of being a single film, but it also became the model for the way each of the following films was created, and what their atmospheres were like.

In the third Harry Potter movie, Harry goes back to Hogwarts for his third year, after an incident where he turns his aunt into a human balloon. On his way to school, Harry learns of an escaped convict, a man named Sirius Black, who was in the Azkaban wizard prison for murder, and he’s the only person to ever have escaped this jail.

After an incident with some Azkaban guards; which are spirits who feed on souls, called Dementors. Harry learns that Sirius may be coming after Harry, to avenge the dark lord, Voldemort. He later learns that Sirius Black was in jail for assisting in the murder of Harry’s parents.

Then there’s a few incidents with a griffin, which is a large horse-bird thing. Another few encounters with Dementors. As well as a new teacher who may or may not be a werewolf. Eventually, it all ends in Harry discovering that everything he knew was wrong, and using time travel to fix his mistakes.

Really, in the grand scheme of things in the Harry Potter series, not much important to the main storyline happens in this section of the story. It’s more of a filler book in the book series than anything.

However, Alfonso Cuaron turns The Prisoner of Azkaban into possibly the most important film in the whole series, because it switched up the tone. It moved up from being filler, to being a transition from the sweet, innocent childhood of the series, into it’s dark adolescence.

Also, not only did it switch up where the film series itself was going, but it changed the entire genre of young adult films, from things like The Goonies, and Gremlins. To dark films like The Hunger Games. I’d argue that before Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, nearly no films marketed to children were all that dark, if you look at any young adult films before this, and after this, you’ll see a huge difference in tone. This was one of the first films meant for children that dared to be grim.

Another thing I feel that needs to be mentioned when talking about this film is the fact that you can see how the director impacted it, rather than the series itself. Sometimes, in big franchise films, the producers want to keep a constant feel through the series, regardless of director, so the producers become the auteurs of the film. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you can feel that this is a Cuaron film. It has all of his trademarks, and little touches to it, so you can tell he had near full artistic freedom on the movie. There are some great long takes in this film, not as long as any of his others, but still impressive. As well as lots of visual nods to Terry Gilliam movies. (The huge magnifying glass lenses on the divination teachers glasses being an example)

It’s rare to see the producers of a film like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban give so much artistic license to it’s director, but I guess that this proves it does happen.

Beyond the dark visuals, and visual nods to other filmmakers, the film is generally just beautifully shot. One of the most beautiful images in it, and the example I give when I argue that this is the most beautiful film in the series, is the image of students walking up the spiral staircase, shot from above. They went into one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England to shoot this one shot, and it just goes to show how beautiful the film really is.

Another thing I’m constantly amazed by with this movie, is looking at it’s visual effects, in comparison to both the film before it, and after it. The Prisoner of Azkaban had some visual effects that were far ahead of it’s time, and that looked far better than the ones even in the next film, which was released a year after it.

All these things go towards making a truly great film, but what makes the film timeless is what it did to advance the entire genre of YA fantasy. You can see it’s influence in every book, every film in this genre since it’s release.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is both a fun film, that entertains casual moviegoers, and an artistic triumph which anyone more serious about film can appreciate, and even love.

Planet of the Apes (1968) – Great Film Review

Planet of the Apes

Directed by Franklin J Schaffner

Shorter Review

“Get your paws off me you damned dirty ape!

-Charlton Heston as Taylor in Planet of the Apes

When Planet of the Apes was first released in 1968, it was something that most serious moviegoers did not want to see. Many people wanted to go nowhere near a movie called Planet of the Apes. I can see why. The title makes this movie sound like a cheap, dumb, ordinary blockbuster. Little did anyone back in the 60s know, that this would be held as a science fiction classic for decades afterwards.

Planet of the Apes is not a cheap blockbuster like any other, and it deservedly stands the test of time. This is a film that is not one dimensional like many other popcorn flicks, this is a film that pushes it’s audience to really think about it’s themes. It may occasionally do this kind of heavy handedly, but it’s effective, and it both entertains and educates it’s audience. 

Those looking for an empty good time of a film will be satisfied with it’s action, and it’s cool story. Those searching for something more thoughtful will be enthralled by it’s commentary on the animalistic nature of man, and how tradition and old beliefs can keep us from advancing in our society.

The story of Planet of the Apes is one of the coolest, smartest science fiction stories ever told. It goes like this:

A spaceship traveling into deep space with a crew of four has been traveling at hyper speed to the deepest reaches of space. They’ve only been gone for half a year or so, but since they’ve been traveling so fast, it’s been more than five hundred years on Earth.

We open up on Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, who gives his final captain’s log, as he prepares to go into cryogenic sleep till he returns to Earth. When he wakes up, his ship is burning up, flying through the atmosphere of a strange planet, and eventually crashing in a lake. He and his remaining crew members start trekking through the mountains surrounding the area of the crash sight. Eventually discovering a plant, and following a trail of life till they’re in a jungle.

The spaceship crew eventually finds a group of humans, all of them mute, all of them seemingly animals. They’re attacked by a group of apes on horses, who hunt them as though it’s a sport. Taylor is separated from his crew and captured by the apes.

When Taylor wakes up, he’s in some sort of zoo, where monkeys give him medical treatment. Taylor wants so badly to be able to communicate with the apes, and speak, but his voice isn’t working due to a throat injury he received in his capture. Taylor eventually learns to communicate with the apes, but they all refuse to believe that a human could talk. All but two apes that is, Zira and Cornelius, two forward thinkers who are looking to prove that there was a civilization on this planet prior to apes.

Eventually, Taylor is taken to trial, where the elders of the ape village decide that he must be killed, as he is a “scientific impossibility.” However, he manages to escape out to an archeological dig site in “the forbidden zone”, where Cornelius proves that men possibly ruled the planet before apes did.

Taylor then goes off into the forbidden zone by himself and discovers that *SPOILER ALERT IF YOU SOMEHOW DO NOT KNOW WHERE THE PLANET OF THE APES IS SET* he has been on Earth the whole time. The ending culminating in a scene where Taylor screams at the Statue of Liberty, one of the last remaining traces of human life.

Planet of the Apes is one of the most iconic films ever because of it’s final scene. Actually, it seems Charlton Heston is the go to actor when it comes to final scene reveals in which he yells things. From “You blew it all up!” to “Soylent Green is people!”. It seems to be nearly impossible to escape knowing the ending of this film, from the fact that the new prequel films are both clearly set on Earth. To the fact that even on the dvd box of Planet of the Apes you see a still of someone kneeling on a beach below the Statue of Liberty. It’s impossible to be surprised by the fact that the planet was Earth the whole time anymore, but that doesn’t make it any less of a great twist.

Just put yourself in the characters shoes, this whole time, you’ve believed you’ve stumbled upon this weird reverse world, this place where man is the animal, when really it’s been your home the whole time. It’s a brilliantly thought out and executed plot twist.

Planet of the Apes is so much more than it’s final scene though, from it’s first scene forward, it’s amazing in so many ways. I’ll try and touch on everything that Planet of the Apes does that are either revolutionary, or just plain excellent.

First of all, the make up effects of this film are amazing. While they may not look like the most realistic apes ever, it still looks real enough to make you believe that these actors in masks and prosthetics truly are apes. For the makeup to work to the degree they do is really freaking incredible. I mean, imagine how hard it is to believably make your scrawny actors look like they’re gorillas. That is an incredible feat, and Planet of the Apes is a landmark in makeup effects.

Second, the camera work is amazing as well. It has the scope of a spaghetti western, with all it’s epic landscape shots, it’s deserts, and the spectrum of color in the film. It photographs desert landscapes perfectly. It also creates some very intimate moments, and memorable shots. I don’t even know how to describe why I love the photography of this movie so much, I just do. It looks beautiful.

Third, the music is amazing. That is, it suits the film amazingly. I’m not sure if I would really want to put the music on my iPod and listen to it along with some of the other movie themes I have on there, but with the visuals and the story of the movie, the music is absolutely perfect. It’s an animalistic sounding score, using staccato xylophone notes to make us feel tense, and to give a kind of savage atmosphere to the film. The music is the epitome of building atmosphere through sound in film.

Planet of the Apes is brilliant, taking something that could have been a massive failure. A movie about a monkey planet. Making it something above that. Something that reaches some extraordinary artistic levels. This is a film that will be around for a long time after most other films of it’s era are long gone. Planet of the Apes is a grim, bleak, and truthful look at the human condition through the eyes of the new rulers of our planet. And it is spectacular.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – Great Movie Review

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Directed by Sergio Leone

Shorter Review

“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”

-Clint Eastwood as Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In Sergio Leone’s films about the wild west, there is this feeling that this is both the most epic and most intimate view of the old west out there. This is why I think that Leone’s westerns, are the definitive westerns.  Leone’s west truly incapsulates what I picture when I think of the old west; Huge open spaces, nothing in sight for miles, just desert. Stand offs between two very grubby looking people. The coyote howl music. The cowboy costumes.

Although Leone’s westerns may not all be my favorite western films out there, they are the ones I think of as definitive westerns. The western films that sum up the entire genre of film.

That said, while not all of Leone’s westerns are my favorites, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly definitely is my favorite western ever made. This is a film that is both definitive, and thoroughly enjoyable on every level to me.

When you think of a western genre film, you think of a man with no name, you think of a mysterious wanderer coming into town, you think of themes of greed, you think of a search for gold (or some other MacGuffin plot device), you think of cowboys having stand offs with really really extreme close ups, cutting into extreme long shots.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is all of this put into one, epic, three hour long masterpiece. This is a film that showcases everything that people love about the western. This is a film that does it all. And this is a film that does it all better than the other films do.

The plot of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is pretty simple, and classic, while also being a very grand and epic story.

The film starts off by introducing us to our three lead characters; The ugly, who in his opening scene, kills three men off screen and runs away; The bad, who in his opening scene murders an entire family and is told about a cashbox full of gold; And finally, the good. Who runs a scam with the ugly, where they collect his bounty, and then escape before he’s hanged.

The good eventually decides he’s had enough of conning the law, and so he leaves the ugly in the middle of the desert. The ugly then does the same to him later on, and the two of them are told of the location of a cashbox. One of them is told the graveyard it’s in, the other is told the grave. The two must now work together if they want to get the gold.

Then there’s the bad, who is just always a step ahead of everyone else in the plot. He eventually meets back up with good and ugly, and gets them to take him to the cashbox as well.

All three head to a graveyard where they have an infamous showdown. Leaving one with all the money, and the other two do not get away so clean.

Leone’s story is pretty typical, it’s fun, it’s outrageous, it’s unrealistic. It’s not really the part of the film that makes it such a stand out film.

Sergio Leone’s style is over all else, what makes this film work. His extreme close ups are unforgettable, and let you really see into what characters are thinking. Particularly during the big final shoot out scene.

Then he’ll cut to an extreme wide angle, our focal points are hundreds of yards away. They’re specks on the screen. And he’ll hold these shots for longer than anyone else would. In the background, we see desert that stretches on forever, and in the foreground, the action holds us. The camera doesn’t move. It’s simply stationary, and we just get the action. We can be captivated for minutes of non-moving camera, and extreme wide, just because of what we see happening in the shot. Most directors would have the action right in our face, but Leone can simply show a distant scene and make it interesting because of his editing between the close ups, and the distance. In addition, when we see a very long, extreme wide shot, after seeing lots of extreme close ups, it feels more normal, and it’s like a break from the tense closeups. Instead of being right in the action, we simply become over-lookers of the scene.

And finally, of course no “great film” essay on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is complete without talking about the music. Ennio Morricone revolutionized western soundtracks with his work on this film, and the trilogy in general.

Morricone took animalistic noises, and sounds that you would expect to hear in the wild west, and made a theme song out of them. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to let this man put a coyote howl in the theme was absolutely insane. But they turned out to be right. The coyote howl might be one of the most iconic bits of music ever. It certainly is my most memorable bit of music.

The music also helps build every moment, even when nothing is happening on screen, the music helps build tension, excitement, and every other emotion you need to feel. Every moment is a visual and auditory feast, as the music and visuals come together perfectly.

Really, all together, everything about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly merits a truly great film. From the performances, to the dubbing, to the camerawork, to the music, to the story. It is a brilliantly conceived movie. In every way. The pinnacle of the western genre.

Spirited Away (2002) – Great Film Review

Spirited Away

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Shorter Review

“What’s going on here?”

“Something you wouldn’t recognize. It’s called… love.”

-Spirited Away

About 12 years ago now, when I was just 5 or 6 years old. Some family friends of mine came over for a visit, and brought a gift for me and my brother.  That gift was a copy of My Neighbor Totoro on dvd. The first Hayao Miyazaki movie I ever saw, and the defining film of my childhood. 

I did not see Spirited Away until just two years ago, and so unfortunately, it was not as much a part of my childhood as Totoro was. However, on every watch of Spirited Away, it enchants me, and spirits me away to a time when I was first brought into the magical world of Miyazaki.

Spirited Away is a film that makes you feel like a child again.

You’re brought into this scary, big world of spirits, not knowing much about it, and seeing things through the innocent eyes of the lead character, Chihiro. The way Miyazaki builds the world of gods and spirits in the bathhouse, and the way he presents it to his audience makes us feel like we’re children once again. Or if we’re children, it makes us feel a magic that is rare in other children’s films.

Spirited Away starts off with a sullen, sad girl, Chihiro, who sits in the back seat of her parents’ car. She looks at a goodbye card in a bouquet of flowers. Her family is moving to a new city, she’s going to a new school. Chihiro feels her entire life is gone.  Her parents take a wrong turn, thinking that a road will be a shortcut to their new house, but it really leads them to a dead end, and a tunnel.

Chihiro’s parents step out, and start walking through the tunnel to see what’s on the other side, much to Chihiro’s protests. She decides to stay in the car, but gets scared, and runs after her parents.  Through the tunnel the family finds a run down, and abandoned amusement park. They decide to start exploring the place. Chihiro’s parents smell some food somewhere, and follow the smell till they find a buffet filled with wonderful looking foods. They start digging in, but Chihiro says she’s not hungry. She instead goes to explore the park.

She walks towards an old fashioned bathhouse, crossing a bridge towards it, when a young boy sees her. He gasps, and tells her she’s not allowed to be here, and she has to escape before night time. He pushes her away and she starts running back towards where her parents were, as lights start to turn on, and shadow-like spirits start appearing. When she returns to the buffet, in place of her parents are two pigs. Chihiro’s parents have pigged out so much that they have literally been transformed into pigs. At this point, Chihiro has no clue what’s going on but she knows she’s scared. She tries to run back to the tunnel, hoping this is some bad joke. But she finds a lake separating her from the tunnel.

The boy she saw on the bridge comes back to her telling her to eat some food from this world or else she’ll disappear, he then tells her his name is Haku.  Then leading her back towards the bathhouse, which at this point is filled with spirits and gods, lined up for miles to get in. Haku tells Chihiro that she needs to get a job in the bathhouse, or else Yubaba, the witch who runs the place, will turn her into a pig like her parents.  Haku says that she’ll only be able to get her parents back and leave if she works at the bath house for a while.

And so begins Chihiro’s spiriting away. She works in the bathhouse, washing gods, letting in a monster that feeds on greed, meeting all sorts of weird creatures, and eventually getting her parents back.  Chihiro is put under a spell, having her name taken away and replaced with “Sen”, and making her forget her past.

Chihiro is not a typical protagonist that you would see in a children’s film. She’s sad, quiet, mature. Most animated film protagonists are witty, energetic, and quirky. Chihiro does not fit in with typical Hollywood children’s film characters. But then again, Spirited Away is not a typical children’s film.

In place of the jokes and constant action that you see in most animated movies, we get room to breathe, we get silence, we get time to let the film make us feel. Miyazaki does not subscribe to the theory that in order to keep children entertained, he needs to fill every second with action, humor, sounds, or anything at all. Miyazaki lets the characters have silent moments. He lets them stare at nothing for a few seconds, lets his characters, and audience take a breather from the spirit world. Miyazaki dares to be boring. He does what other animated film directors can’t seem to do, which is let there be moments where absolutely nothing happens.

Is every moment in Spirited Away a necessary moment? Does every moment and every line help drive the story forward? No. No they don’t. In fact most of the film doesn’t need to be there to advance the story. But every moment, necessary or unnecessary feels like it needs to be there to give us the true feel for this story.

Miyazaki makes a children’s film like no other by letting the audience feel their own emotions, instead of being told to feel them.

Another thing that makes Spirited Away truly a great film is the care that went into it.  Every image in the film was hand drawn by Miyazaki and his crew. Meaning thousands of these images were hand made. I know that some of the animation was computer made, but most of it wasn’t, meaning that these people took the care to draw tens of thousands of images.

I know every hand drawn animated film does this, but what makes Miyazaki’s special is the care that goes into it.

Looking at an old Disney film, you’ll see the subject of each shot moving, and the rest is just filler movement, everything that isn’t the main subject is just… there.

In Spirited Away, none of these secondary parts of the scene are of any less importance to Miyazaki. If you look around the screen at any time, to parts where it really doesn’t need to have any animation, because really, who looks at the top left corner of the screen when the subject of the image is in the center? But wherever you look in shots, there something happening, constant movement, and where most people would just draw motion, Miyazaki populates the rest of the screen with recognizable characters, doing recognizable things. Miyazaki creates his films in a way that no matter where we’re looking on screen, even if it’s not at the main subject, we’ll still see something.  He truly cares about every part of every frame of his films.

Spirited Away is also one of the most beautiful movies ever made in terms of animation, character growth, music, metaphors. Everything about this film constitutes something great.

Even though Spirited Away may not have been as much a part of my childhood as some of Miyazaki’s work, this is a film that takes me back to my childhood. Spirited Away makes us look at a whole new world through a child’s eyes, dazzling and enchanting us.

Chihiro is very much a child, but when Yubaba takes her name away, and replaces it with Sen, she becomes less of a child. The literal translation of the original Japanese title, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi is “The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro”. The title represents both sides of Chihiro/Sen. Her innocence as a child, and her more adult, working side of Sen.

The title represents us as the audience too. Spirited Away takes us to another world too. Bringing our adult side into this magical world, and pulling the child inside us along too. Helping us rediscover what it’s like to view the world through innocent eyes.