Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Frozen

Directed by: Adam Green

Produced by:
Peter Block
Cory Neal

Written by: Adam Green

Emma Bell
Kevin Zegers
Shawn Ashmore

Music by: Andy Garfield

Cinematography: Will Barratt

Editing by: Ed Marx

A Bigger Boat
ArieScope Pictures

Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Release date(s):
January 24, 2010 (Sundance Film Festival Premiere)
February 5, 2010 (United States)
September 24, 2010 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 94 minutes

United States
United Kingdom

Language: English

Gross revenue (as of publication): $2, 790, 076

A little plugging on my part, but thank you to The Cities We Captured, Only Fumes And Corpses and the crowd in the Bunatee at Queen's University for a right appropriate tear-up and last hurrah to The Lobotomies. This gig on Friday was riotous, and it was fantastic to see a crowd that didn't act like they were at fucking church. If anyone else has this problem with gigs, please feel from to consult me as your agony aunt, for I will console you in an appropriate manner. Any time I have been to a hardcore gig in Belfast, the crowd response is tremendous. Anyone coming to Belfast should check them out, because they are one of the best things to do while on holiday. You really don't regret having ears ringing two days on. R.I.P The Lobotomies!

Excusing my little digression on a different matter, the topic of discussion, as suggested by the title, is Frozen. Frozen is the new film by director Adam Green, most famous for directing the film Hatchet. Premiering at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Frozen has built a reputation through word-of-mouth, after numerous audience members had been reported fainting. Horror film as a genre is very polarised at present, balancing between two extremes. On one hand, you have graphically violent horror films, Hostel and Saw being prime examples, while on the other you have minimalist horrors that are mostly without gore, last year's Paranormal Activity being a recent example. Frozen falls into the latter 'less is more' category, and this approach permeates throughout.

In Frozen, a group of three young people, two childhood friends Dan and Joe (Kevin Zegers and Shawn Ashmore respectively), and Dan's girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell), intend to spend Sunday afternoon on the slopes, but don't have enough money to buy tickets for the ski-lift up Mount Holliston. After bribing the attendant, they head up, but much to Joe's dismay, he does not enjoy the day due to Parker's inexperience. Eager to have a last run up the mountain, they convince the attendant to let them go back up after closing time. However, via a miscommunication involving another attendant and a separate group of skiers, the trio gets stuck. And that is all the setup to the action that follows: the entire film stays with them on the ski-lift.

The film remains rigid to the central concept. Concept horror films often have problems in the unraveling of tension in the idea itself. No such problems occur here. Writer-director Adam Green plays his idea with great skill. There is no jumping back and forth between different locations: once we get to the ski-lift getting stuck, we stay there. Alfred Hitchcock always used to employ this narrative device, quite rightly, for it is more intense if we don’t know what is happening on the other side. This ensures that the viewer is always asking questions whether or not steps are being taken to help our trio's plight. Furthermore, the drama that follows is appropriate and progresses very well. Decisions whether or not to jump from the ski-lift, bladder issues etc all come into play. At first, you are unaware how intense the film is until things start happening, and from then you are caught in a vice grip that doesn't let go until the final minute. From an ideas perspective, its execution is marvelous. Green knows what he is doing, milking the base, simple idea down until there is nothing left to do.

A good idea is more often than not the beginning of a good film. All art, good or bad, comes from ideas, without which, art would not exist. In the case of Frozen, the idea is great. However, the audience wouldn’t care about this idea if we did not have the central trio deliver good performances. Emma Bell does with a basic character something interesting. She is a watchable screen presence who makes you genuinely care for the character's outcome. Her character goes through a wide emotional scale with many peaks and depths, and Bell does this rather well. It is the kind of performance that could be overlooked, but I found terrific. Not to spoil anything that goes on in the film, but Parker goes through the most. Bell conquers potential audience annoyance towards her character, because she does cry and moan (a lot). Kevin Zegers gives a good performance as Dan, although he has far less to do than the other two. I was rather impressed with Shawn Ashmore, who I had seen in The Ruins. In The Ruins, the acting was poor all round, but here Ashmore gives a very good performance as Joe. His is the 'going through changes' type, and manages to pull this off well, even if this aspect of the character is not written as well as he acts it. Although goeing through an emotional scale like Bell, Ashmore delivers the more subdued performance. In light of the fact that the film's talking point is the whole 'three people stuck in a ski-lift' thing, the acting, in its lack of bravado and more 'human' approach, fits in with what unfolds and is a large contributing factor to it's success.

More surprising, but not to the film's detriment, is how good it is from a technical standpoint. Will Barratt's cinematography is highly inventive. He does as many camera tricks as is possible, shooting from every conceivable perspective to capture the action. The cinematography here helps save the central concept from running dry, and not once does Barratt's contribution make it seem mundane. If you did not know that this was a 'low-budget' low-budget movie made on a shoestring, you would think that Barratt's work was from a far larger film in budgetary terms. Stylistically, it creates a kind of voyeurism, coming from angles that it would be hard, but not impossible for people to watch from. It is like we, the audience, are stalking the trio, although the film does not decide to tell us off for it a-la Michael Haneke's Funny Games, but revels in it. This is terrific work, and does everything that can be in this closed setting. Ed Marx's editing compliments Barratt's work. The editing is a deviation from trends of recent horror films. Avoiding the trend of horror (and action) films of shooting on DV, either raw or with shaky-cam thing going on, the DV editing is given a layer here so that we can clearly see the action unfold. Also, it cuts at exactly the right moments it should.

Frozen is a superior horror film, but by no means is it flawless. First off, the unfolding of the ideas in the script is done well, but there are problematic elements that exist within the script. For example, the characters are for the most part two-dimensional. It is the skill of the actors that make us buy them, but it does not disguise the fact that these are cutouts. While their external dilemma is original, their internal dilemma is unoriginal and comes across as filler. You care for the characters because of the acting, but on occasion the script lets down the drama that is unfolding.

I know this is a typical thing for me to say, but once again, the original score is very flawed. The filmmakers know how to balance the moments of intensity. In these moments, Andy Garfield's score works well, heightening the tension, as opposed to being overt and intrusive. However, much of the film remains in the ski-lift where things don't happen. This is not a bad thing, but act as moments of meditation in the midst of the obvious parts where things do happen. Here, the characters are talking and their internal dilemmas are given more space. At these moments, Garfield's score is more overt and intrusive, with music once again signifying important 'character moments' that are already obvious to everyone in the audience. With the sound effects working well, Frozen is the kind of film that would benefit from a lack of a score. We have seen from Paranormal Activity's recent example that people do not need a score to be scared, and Frozen would only contribute from such a decision.

The final problem with Frozen emerges from decisions made in the pre-production stage. It is a highly entertaining and intense horror film, but simply lacks the complexity of a great horror film. Part of this emerges from the simple approach taken. The script is written well for the frightening, very real concept of being stuck on a ski-lift. However, it is not layered enough as a whole. If you take the case of Jaws, a concept film at surface level about a shark terrorising a summer beach resort town. Underneath this layer though is a battle between man and nature. Frozen lacks extra layers that great films, never mind horror films possess. In a second viewing, there are no additional layers to fall back on once everyone knows what happens, so while I thought that Frozen was great on the first watch, I doubt that by the time you see it two or three times it will maintain this intensity.

This isn’t a suggestion that you don't see Frozen. Far from it, as I will reiterate, it is a superior horror film. The central idea is transformed into a plausible, ninety-minute film that is well acted, well shot and well edited. I was impressed with each of these aspects, Emma Bell and Shawn Ashmore giving very good performances, Will Barratt doing a tremendous job with cinematography and Ed Marx doing a solid job at editing. Adam Green as director does a very good job, and I think there is talent suggesting better work in the future, although his screenplay is flawed. Also, music in the film was an unwise decision. Finally, because I enjoyed it this much first time round, I worry about it lasting as a film in audience's eyes, for it lacks the layers that truly great horror films possess. However, if you want to see an original horror film that is in this year's upper crust of the genre, by all means see Frozen.

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis – 7.8/10

The Thin White Dude’s Self-Diagnosis – Reflective (on the dangers of ski-lifts)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Ponyo

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Produced by: Toshio Suzuki

Written by: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice Cast:
Yuria Nara
Hiroki Doi
Tomoko Yamaguchi
George Tokoro
Kazushige Nagashima
(Japanese Version)
Cate Blanchett
Noah Cyrus
Matt Damon
Frankie Jonas
Tina Fey
Liam Neeson
Cloris Leachman
Lily Tomlin
Betty White
(English Version)

Music by: Joe Hisaishi

Cinematography: Atsushi Okui

Editing by: Takeshi Sheyama

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Distributed by:
Toho (Japan)
Walt Disney Pictures (United States)
Optimum Releasing (United Kingdom)
Madman Entertainment (Australia and New Zealand)

Release date(s):
July 19, 2008 (Japan)
August 14, 2009 (United States and Canada)
February 12, 2010 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 100 minutes

Country: Japan

Language: Japanese

3.4 Billion Yen
(US$34 million)

Gross revenue: US$200, 820, 152

And now, your feature presentation, Ponyo. That’s a lie in itself, because you are not getting Ponyo, but instead a review for it. If you are foolish enough to read this instead of going out to watch the film, then 'fool you' as my old sociology teacher would say. No really, it would be nice if you made time to read my reviews. I do them so that they are read and not just for my own biggity sense of self-satisfaction or obsessive-compulsiveness.

Lets talk Ponyo. Released in 2008 but over here on February 12, Ponyo is the new film by Hayao Miyazaki, known worldwide as the oft-quoted "Japanese Walt Disney." His films have enlightened children and adults in the East and West, among the few foreign-language films to transcend the boundaries of language and communication. Spirited Away, winner of the 2003 Animated film Oscar, Princess Mononoke among others are wonderful, heartwarming soulful works, and it is a shame for people to go a lifetime without seeing one, because the discovery of Miyazaki is a truly amazing experiences of the cinema. Ponyo is a work of a similar vein.

The story of Ponyo follows, well, Ponyo (Yuria Nara/Noah Cyrus), a fish-girl who after escaping her father's (George Tokoro/Liam Neeson) underwater castle befriends a young boy Sosuke (Hiroki Doi/Frankie Jonas). His love for Ponyo encourages her desire to become a human, much to the chagrin of her father, who attempts to stop this from happening. The film is a retelling of The Little Mermaid fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, a story that is familiar to people around the world. This makes Ponyo an obvious import into the West, and I am glad for anyone who has seen it.

To mention the better parts of the film, it is impossible to overlook the genius of Miyazaki. Every time he makes a film, there is usually a period of a few years before his next work is released. With Howl's Moving Castle being released here in 2006, we have had to wait four full years for his latest work. Unlike many other directors, who take their time and have the tendency to have a patchy record, such as Roland Emmerich, Miyazaki-San never disappoints. A true auteur in every sense, his footprint is all over Ponyo, one that never overwhelms the audience: it is distinctly 'Miyazaki' without being 'Miyazaki this' or 'Miyazaki that', being in your face. He always remembers that story is first-and-foremost the most important aspect of filmmaking, and without this there is nothing for a work to revolve around. Miyazaki writes a wonderful screenplay that is terrific in so many ways. Structurally, it abides by the basic three-act formula, but around this formula the film thrives and weaves itself. It is a case of traditional and familiar film-making done in a wonderful manner which puts other traditionally made films, mostly those in Hollywood, to shame. The dialogue in the screenplay is spot on. It is written with a great range that caters to all aspects of the story. Exposition, character and thematic material are assembled very well in this simplistic but nevertheless dense screenplay. The balance on display stands in great contrast to The Sky Crawlers, Mamoru Oshii's latest film. It is does everything that film should do to a much better degree and weighs everything out appropriately. Miyazaki exhibits such control on his work that much of their success is dependant on him. As director here, he does a fine job. Over time, he has developed as a director to the point that he found a method that works for him. Not that he doesn't make an effort, he does after all personally inspect every drawing/shot that enter the film, but he does such a good job that he is able to make the work seem effortless. As a director, he is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, in that it is rare for them to make anything less than a solid film. Miyazaki's intelligence regarding his craft shines through in Ponyo and is a huge contributing factor to it's power.

Being a Miyazaki film, it is a given that the animation on display is going to something special. With every new film, the animators on his films seem to break new ground with what can be done in traditional anime films. For the past three films, Miyazaki used computer-generated animation in order to create certain elements. With Ponyo, he abandons this and makes a completely 2D anime. The concept that each of the images were created by human hands and drawn, coloured and shaded by people, as opposed to computers, is quite amazing. This is because, while all the film looks beautiful, the water is animated to literal perfection. The sea is an important part of Ponyo, and would therefore be essential that the animators do the job correctly or else it would simply fall apart in their faces. They handle what no doubt was an incredibly hard job with suitable gusto. Every single drawing is synched seamlessly that you are really amazed by the work. After the initial 'wow factor', you then view the sea as something natural and take it for granted, which I think is the greatest indication of how well animated the film is.

To go without a mention for Joe Hisaishi's music would be unfair. His work here adds another layer to the strong narrative of Ponyo. His work of Miyazaki's films contributes without end, and this is no exception. This is heartrending music of genuine emotion that synchronises with the emotion of the story. In movies, I get incredibly cross whenever in scenes which are 'emotionally stirring' you get that 'feel' music that tells you 'this is where you cry'. Here the score is non-intrusive and lets me get into the story of the film and truly feel the emotion, as opposed to being told to feel it. His 'feathered touch (points if you get the reference. hint: also animated)' and delicacy is exactly what is need for Ponyo. Hisaishi also does a good job of pacing during the 'action' sequences with the sea going rampant and causing all sorts of havoc. Finally, the end credits song, Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo On The Cliff), is the years ultimate feel-good song. It is really one of those songs that gets your feet moving and in a corny kind of way, had me starting to sing along, not helped of course by lyrics onscreen actively encouraging me to do so. Most of the time I will start without the effects of alcohol or peer pressure, so encouraging me with lyrics just started me up. It is great to find out that in Japan it got to number four on their Billboard Hot 100, and deservedly so. I would have this beaming through my own radio show if I had the opportunity.

One of the aspects that make Miyazaki's films so easy for people to watch in English-speaking countries is because Studio Ghibli often has Walt Disney Pictures distribute the film in the US. For theatrical release in the US, an English-language dub is recorded and is more often than not a good one. I myself watched both the English and Japanese language versions of Ponyo, and found them both to be equally satisfying for different reasons. Perhaps it speaks well of the universal language of film, but some members of the vocal cast stand out in each version. In the Japanese language version, Yuria Nara and Hiroki Doi shine as Ponyo and Sosuke respectively. While Noah Cyrus and Frankie Jonas (both siblings to more famous family members with same surnames) do a good job, it does on occasion sound more forced, whereas their Japanese counterparts come across as natural. The one shines most obviously in the English language version is Liam Neeson. Terrific actor that he is, as a reluctant antagonist he injects such heart into the character of Fujimoto. You genuinely get the emotions and motivations of the character with every intonation that Neeson makes. Although the English language cast is good, it is Neeson's work that transcends most.

The answer is yes. The question: do I love Ponyo? Excuse my linguistic pretentiousness back there, but this really is a great film. However, there are reasons as to why I do not think it is a masterpiece. Like Cemetery Junction, it does pain me to criticise, but it has to be done, regardless of the bulk of charm that it possesses. For starters, in both translations there are problems with the voice cast. As mentioned, Cyrus and Jonas' chemistry comes across as more forced in the English language dub. In the Japanese language version, you don't get the complexity of the relationship between Fujimoto and Ponyo as you do in the English version. Whereas Neeson creates a more rounded character with genuine motivation, George Tokoro's vocals come across as more antagonistic and villainous. Also, I think Austin Kennedy of Sin magazine makes a good point when mentioning how he was troubled by Sosuke's mother left him in the middle of the storm at their house in order to help the old people at the retirement home. I'm sorry, but I myself don't buy this. Ponyo is a film that despite fantasy elements is embedded in the real world and is a 'human' story. In Spirited Away you can understand the parents departure because they travel into an alternate universe and as a punishment for gluttony turn into pigs! This is a poor excuse for Ponyo and Sosuke to go off on their own little adventure and does not hold up. I know it sounds like a quibble, but it is a flimsy plot device to get the narrative moving. Instances such as this occur on occasion throughout and for a real world film with fantasy elements and not the other way round, this is a wrong turn and denies it from being placed among the upper-upper ranks of Miyazaki.

Nevertheless, despite my problems, I found Ponyo to be one of the best films that I have seen all year round. It is a sublimely charming film with some terrific animation, done in a unique style. Also, the vocal cast is for the most part in both versions sublime. Wonderful music of the same level of charm as the central story also is a great contributing factor. Finally, no one can doubt that Hayao Miyazaki is one cinema's great masters, and his footprint on this film is without question the big factor in Ponyo being as good as it is.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Utterly charmed

P.S. And here's a little treat. Don't be encouraged to sing along: it's not the same without having seen the movie.

Gake No Ue No Ponyo (Written by Katsuya Kondo, Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi: Performed by Fujioka Fujimaki and Nozomi Ohashi)

Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, fishy in the sea
tiny little fishy, who could you really be?
Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, magic set's you free;
oh she's a little girl with a round tummy.
tip-tippie-toe, jump-jump and hop, now that I've got my legs, I cannot stop
pat-pattie-pat waving 'hello!'
come and hold hands with me, dancing we go
my feet are skipping, my heart too
happy-happy are we all
maybe I might love you, maybe I might love you
so hold on tight and hold me close,
you're my hero!
Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, fishy in the sea
tiny little fishy, who could you really be?
Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, magic set's you free,
oh pretty little girl will you swim back to me?

Yum yummy yum I smell a treat
Let's fill our tummies now good things to eat
Peak peak-a-boo that's what we'll do
I see my favorite boy he sees me too.
My cheeks are rosy from smiling
Laughing, laughing are we all
Maybe I might love you, maybe I might love you
So hold on tight and hold me close,
you're my hero!
Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, fishy in the sea
tiny little fishy, who could you really be?
Ponyo, ponyo, ponyo, magic set's you free,
Oh she's a little girl with a round tummy.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Sky Crawlers

Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Produced by: Tomohiki Ishii
Seiji Okuda
Mitsuhisa Ishikawa
Written by: Chihiro Ito
Starring by: Ryo Hase
Rinko Kikuchi
Shosuke Tanihara
Chiaki Kuriyama
Music by: Kenji Kawai
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures (Japan)
Sony Pictures Entertainment (International)
Release date(s): August 2, 2008 (Japan)
May 31, 2010 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 122 minutes
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese

I'm not going to say 'I'm back' because I've never really been away. Haven't gone off to my grave and risen from the depths of our collective consciousness to tell us strange tales, still very much on this side of the world. I have rather unfortunately been bogged down with some assignments for English and Film Studies, and as such, have not been able to focus on the reviews. Nevertheless, the struggle goes on and here comes a review for, yes, my first foreign-language film of the year. It took this long and finally it's here!

For any of you who are regular readers, you might remember whether or not (can't remember myself, don't read everything again once it's published) I was hyping a review for The Sky Crawlers, but decided not to because it came out in 2008. On finding out that Ponyo was a 2008 film and only came out here this year, I decided to go back and deliver as promised. This doesn’t change the fact that I, by my criteria, cannot publish a review for The Road. Although released here in 2010, it was nominated for Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography in the 63rd BAFTA awards earlier this year, meaning it would have to be considered in last year's bunch of film's.

The Sky Crawlers is the kind of movie that for most people would slip under their gaze. Being a Japanese-language anime film that isn't Akira, Pokemon or directed by Hayao Miyazaki usually means that in the West it is going to have a small audience. In fact, I only found about it because I was looking for film's to review in my university's library catalogue. Shocked to find that a new Mamoru Oshii film had passed under my radar, it was a given that this had to be watched. For anyone who doesn't know, Oshii directed the first two Ghost In The Shell theatrical films, two of the few anime films to gain at least something more than a strong cult following. He is a director held in high regard in America by James Cameron and The Wachowski Brothers, his work influencing AvBoldatar and The Matrix. I love these films and consider them among the best animated films , so I was looking forward to this film.

Set in an alternate historical universe, with fighter pilot being hired by private corporations in order to maintain peace, easing the tension in a population used to war and aggression, The Sky Crawler follows a group of pilots. Yuichi Kanami, voiced by Ryo Kase, is one of these young pilots known as Kildren, young adults who seemingly never age and remain in a state of suspended development in their age process. These Kildren, headed by their commander Suito Kusanagi, voiced by Rinko Kikuchi, are all ace pilots, highly skilled with talents in aviation that are borderline supernatural. Being a Mamoru Oshii film, there is a reason for all of this, and things are not as they seem.

There is much to like about this film. For starters, Hiroshi Mori's source material (The Sky Crawlers was a five-part novel series) seems foundation wise for a feature film. I have not read the series, but this is littered with ideas at parts. This caters to Oshii as a filmmaker and philosopher. Unaware of the source material, I thought that this was an original creation. His Ghost In The Shell films are fascinating philosophically, asking us questions regarding the nature of our existence and what it means to be real. With work that is reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, Oshii always creates an uncertain atmosphere that is both frightening and entrancing.

Animation has risen in terms of standards of the work presented. It is rare for any animated film that sees the light of day in the West to have really poor animation. Even films such as the recently lacking Shrek movies have a very high standard of animation, even if one couldn't give a toss what's onscreen: the work here is no exception. Oshii has of late began directing his films with a style of combining classic anime with 3D computer graphics, giving his work a unique visual artistry. This comes across best in the aviation sequences, which are just tremendous. Topping many war movies in their visual genius, these individual sequences are something to behold. It just goes to show that while people are harping on (myself included) about the dangers of technology and what have you, they certainly contribute to new concepts in the creative arts.

I would like to take the time to highlight Kenji Kawai’s score. Kawai has previously worked on the film's of Oshii, and his contributions cannot be overlooked. The main theme to The Sky Crawlers is a wonderful piece of music and one of the better qualities of the film. Any time Oshii decides for there to be a scene without dialogue seems almost written for Kawai to contribute an at times thrilling, at times delicate score. The use of orchestral sounds alongside electronic instruments is highly skilful, making the right moves as to where to go, never overdoing things. It is a display of the impressive range of his talents, which have extended outside of Oshii's work to films such as Hideo Nakata's Ring, a very different score. What we get here is one of the best scores of the year, presented to us by a great composer.

To finish up about what is good in the film, the character of Kusanagi (coincidental, no reference to the main character of Ghost In The Shell) is solidly written. Introduced in mystery, we uncover the layers of this character, seeing something very different than what we first expected. A dark and challenging creation, she is the philosophically pessimistic element of the film. As the rest of the characters attempt to make sense of the world around them, she rejects it, posing interesting questions. Rinko Kikuchi, who was great in Babel, gives a similarly great vocal performance. Although not physically inhabiting the character, her vocal work is appropriate coming across as natural. Playing both to pessimistic and tragic elements, Kikuchi makes Kusanagi someone that is rounded. This contributes without end to the character, making her stand out as the most fully-fleshed out of all in the film to a great extent.

There are good elements in The Sky Crawlers to its credit, although it is hard to remember them as well in the context of the overall piece. The Sky Crawlers is a highly flawed film with problems that stick out like jagged edges in a film that would otherwise be rounded. It comes from the fact that while there are individual parts that stand out, these parts do not add up to a sum total equating a great film. Each of these problems is as outstanding as the good parts.

For starters, the script is poorly balanced, both in terms of structure and dialogue. Granted, Chihiro Ito does have a hard job to do with this, and some of the film is written well. However, there are entire scenes at points between the aviation sequences that are so dull that they come across as more than just filler: they are actively intrusive in your enjoyment of the film, prodding away at you like some annoying child that won't stop. When the characters are done talking about the deeper philosophical topics, the incidental dialogue between the characters is forced and rigid, taking away from the 'human' side of the argument, for in the end, they come across as robots. This is the case in particular for Kannami, Ryo Kase's character. For someone who is the protagonist, for pretty much all of the film (later on for plot's sake, not character, you sympathise), he is a dull and lifeless individual whose only personality trait (if it can be called that) seems to be his horrible fringe. Structurally, the film is a real mess. Even if the film was re-edited so there is a balance of good and bad at different sections, it wouldn't seem as all over the place in terms of quality. The structure consists of good aviation sequences, bad scenes that don't contribute anything and twenty/thirty minutes of a philosophy lecture. In the first half, they are interspersed randomly. Then, there is a big chunk of about twenty minutes that is great, and then back again, and finishing on a high note. It detracts from enjoyment of the work significantly.

This brings me to my next problem. As mentioned, it is unbalanced, with numerous scenes that don't seem to contribute much at all. With a running length of 122 minutes, this is a long stretch that is 40 minutes too flabby. It is interesting in comparison to Oshii's Ghost In The Shell works, both under 100 minutes. A film by nature is better if it is as short as it possibly can be, because there is less an opportunity to puncture a hole in it. Not that there isn't good long movies, but it is harder to make them flawless. What this film needed was a vigilant editor who knew what was going wrong here.

It would be a blatant lie to say that I wasn't disappointed, because I was. It is all the worse because there are some really good elements. Mamoru Oshii always manages to give you something interesting in the philosophical sense, with the character of Kusanagi, brought to life by the wonderful Rinko Kikuchi, being the pertinent example. Also, buy (ahem! download! ahem!) the soundtrack because even if you never see the film, which I suppose is worth one watch (although I might watch it again to analyse, being as anal as I am), Kenji Kawai's work is a thing of beauty and bar the stunning animation in the aviation sequences, the outstanding element of the film. Despite these pros, it is plagued and diseased by cons of a terminal nature. The script is transparent aside from the odd interesting scene, being full of rubbish dialogue and some poorly written characters. The structure is more than transparent and more aptly described as non-existent. On a final note, it is at least 40 minutes too long, with these extra forty being genuinely bad, in contrast to the good of the film. The Sky Crawlers is a good film at best and not much more, making me very angry whenever I think of it. Oh, and hello to Gabriel the Basset Hound!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cross (both at this and the North Koreans!)

P P.S And yes, I know it’s Wednesday!