Saturday, March 26, 2011

NYICFF Shorts One and Two PLUS two by Miyazaki at Carnegie Hall

The final weekend of the New York International Children's Film Festival was a double feature of short film programs, and that was followed up by a showing at Carnegie Hall of two films by Hayao Miyazaki that have never screened outside of Japan. Some of these were among the best films I've seen this year so far.


Quiet sedate screening early this morning began strong and ended weakly.

The screening began with Don't Go. I posted a link last weekend to this. It's a very funny film about a one eyed pink guy who plays with a cat. It's set to the title song by Yaz.

Little Boy And The Beast is one of the best films of the year. The story of what happens when we turn into beasts. It's a magical look nominally at divorce, but actually is any sort of parental depression. I loved it. I wish I could have shown this to my mom because the beasts very much reminded me of her, both in appearance and demeanor, in the year or so before she died when she was in the depths of depression. It's a masterpiece of animation and storytelling.

Gravityis a musical little film where it's all the sound of falling objects. It's an amusing trifle that had the audience screaming with laughter.

Minnie Loves Junior is a sweet film about a young boy who is in his own little world in a coastal town. He is loved by a young girl. How they come together is the gist of film. The young girl who played Minnie is a revelation and if there is any justice we will be seeing a great deal of her over the upcoming decades...yes, she's that good.

The Deep is animator Pes' look at animals of the deep. It's all done with tools. As a technical achievement it's one of the most amazing things you'll ever see. As a film beyond that it's okay. Thankfully it's only two minutes long so it never wears out its welcome.

Fluffy McCloud is an amusing film about a cloud who uses his power to rain to annoy a certain sunbather and ends up causing chaos. He then decides to do the right thing. Lots of fun.

Tigers And Tattoos is about Maj who lives with her Uncle Sonny, a tattoo artist. She wants a real family, and Sonny will be happy to try and find one for her, but when Maj ends up tattooing a sleeping customer the pair has to take it on the lam. A great looking film, it's wildly over-long and poorly written. It just didn't work for me and several others in the audience who felt the flaws outweighed the charms. I've spoken about how I don't like when subtitles are read out loud, and if you ever want to see why it's not s fun thing see the version they screened today with a single voice reading all of the text. It made a fair film seem worse.

After that there was an hour break. I went for a short walk around the neighborhood.


Waiting for the films to start the kids around me were talking how much they loved The Storytelling Show which I saw last weekend.

Dot is an Aardman produced film about a young girl running from an unraveling thread. It's an amazing animated film since it was filmed on a microscopic level. It's just really cool, especially when you see how it was done.

Marcel The Shell With The Shoes On is an Internet sensation that is one of the best films of the year. It's a funny film about a shell, with shoes. It was improvised and shot in two days and has spawned a book, a possible TV series and soon a sequel. It's a must see because it's pure joy.

Incident At Tower 37 is one of the best science fiction films of at least the past five years. In a desert where a water tower stands, two figures show up with uncertain intent. I won't say more but this is a great film that plays with your expectations. It's great. I want to tell you more, especially since the director said somethings in the Q&A that makes clear why it's so good; basically it's not for us to know or it's for us to figure out.

We Are Boys is a documentary about what it's like to be a boy. It's very good and on target. It's a true life cousin to the wonderful Kenny And Company which is about boys at about the same age. I overheard a conversation before the screening and I heard something troubling: the festival cut this film down. The person I heard talking was one of the big directors of the festival and they said they removed some of the R rated material. I'm shocked that they would do it. Frankly it shook my respect for the festival. I always loved that this festival treated kids and their parents as little people who could handle things. By cutting the film without the directors consent (The person said "We had to cut the film, I hope Tomas doesn't mind what we did"), they really made me question whether the festival may be heading in the wrong direction. My annoyance was amped up with the last film of the series, which had the audience in a slight uproar with a passionate lesbian kiss and talk of lesbianism (the parents around me were not happy at having to explain what was going on to their kids who started to ask questions)

Bottle is a great animated film about a friendship/romance that happens via items in a bottle between a sandman on a beach and a snowman by a river. I have no idea how it was all done, but it was cool. It's a great little film that I really want to see again.

The Lost Thing recently won the Oscar for best animated film. Ken's write up just about covers it, except it was really cool to see this on a big screen.

Savage was a terrible little film that looks good, and has a nice idea behind it, but really sucked. The film has a little Native American girl go off to school. Her mother sings a song of loss. She and her fellow students become zombies. It's horrible. I hated it, and so did the kids around me who wouldn't shut up about how bad it was.

Leitmotif was a good looking, but not very good, film about a jazz pianist and his cat. Looks great but the film doesn't work.

The last film was Hammerhead, about a young boy who loves sharks whose mother has run off with another woman. He wants to go see the shark that has been spotted off the coast, and on his birthday, he goes, with his dad, his mom and her lover. It's an amusing little film that had the audience in an uproar when the women kissed and the little kids wanted to know what a lesbian was. I liked the film a great deal, but wish it was longer since the shortness of the film required things to be a little too forced.

After the films the directors of We Are Boys, Marcel ,and Incident, plus an animator on The Lost Thing and the voice of Marcel did a Q&A. It was actually a good discussion that brought out lots of details, almost all of which I can't go into since they relate specifically to the films and give plot points away.

After that I took another walk. After stopping at the site of the Triangle Shirt Waste Factory (now an NYU building), I went uptown to wait for the arrival of John and Randi for screenings at Carnegie Hall of two films from the Studio Ghibli museum which, until tonight, have never screened outside of Japan.

I'll need to write them up fuller, but for now you need to know that they are neat little confections.

Househunting is a cute little experiment; there is no music or sound effects except those made by two actors. The plot has a a young girl packing up her things and walking out into the wilderness, dealing with the various spirits along the way. It's a trifle.

Mon Mon The Water Spider is a lovely little film about a spider who falls in love with a water strider. Let me just say that this is one of the most beautiful and best films that Miyazaki has ever done (and if you know the high level of quality that Ghibli turns out you'll know how good that makes this film). It's a charming little romance that is easily one of my favorite films of Ghibli, and of the year.


  1. I also spoke to the directors of the festival about cutting "We Are Boys," and even had a chance to speak to the director of the film about it. It turns out they only cut a quick shot of a naked woman and some images of a gynecological anatomy book in order to be able to show the film during their screenings for public school kids (held at the Museum of Moving Image).

    The director seemed genuinely amused by their choice to cut the two shots (apparently not the first time his film has been edited for festivals), and we had a pretty enlightening conversation about the different things that irk parents from different cultures.

  2. Thanks for the info. Not knowing what the images were I can't comment but I can't imagine they were that bad. Somehow I don't think it would have provoked the reaction that the kiss did in Hammerhead. To the festival's credit if I hadn't heard the conversation I never would have known anything was missing.

    I envy you're being able to talk to the directors at the screening. I wanted to stay after the screening but I had to meet friends.

  3. I was surprised that people reacted that way to the kiss in Hammerhead. I doubt people would have been as up in arms if it was a man and a woman kissing...