The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a big box of awesome Japanese animated films, some early silent films, a couple of Criterions, another Hobbit, and much more.
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I remember distinctly the first time I ever watched a Hayao Miyazaki film.  I was still single, but heavily into the girl who would become my wife.  I was a film buff who was interested in foreign films but who had not yet seen all that many, certainly not any foreign animation outside of a Robotech series or two.  I’d started hearing really good things about Princess Mononoke, and the English language cast for it was pretty awesome (Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, and Gillian Anderson to name a few) so I went out and rented it.

And kind of hated it.  Or rather I didn’t know what to think of it.  The film was so different than any other movie I’d ever seen.  It was miles away from the animated films I’d grown up with, or that Disney was making at the time.  It's such a strange film filled with demons, wolf princesses, shape-changing gods, and weird little tree spirits.  The animation is just as strange, taking on an almost impressionistic style at times.  It was so beyond what I was used to in an animated film that I really didn’t know how to process it.

A few years later I watched Spirited Away and liked it much better.  By then, I’d gotten married, travelled outside of America, and seen many more foreign films.  These experiences helped my mind get used to things out of the ordinary, helped me to grasp various differences in cultures.  That, in turn, helped me to dig into the strange worlds of Hayao Miyazaki and learn to love his films. I’ve since seen most of his films and returned again and again to Princess Mononoke and am constantly amazed and blown away by the worlds in which he creates.

He’s made a great many films, many of them more traditional affairs.  All of them are worth watching.  I’ve yet to see a Miyazaki film that I didn’t like.  Though I do tend to prefer his more strange ones.  This new set collects all of the feature-length films he’s directed, plus the pilot episode of Yuki’s Sun, a 1972 anime series; three episodes of another anime series, Little Samurai; an uncut version of his retirement press conference; plus a big book on the director.

That's a great package.  Unfortunately it comes at a great price (and by “great” I mean a lot, not awesome).  As we’ve discussed before, the purchase of this set will likely depend on how much you want to double dip.  Personally, I own the majority of these films already and I can’t quite see spending the extra cash on this big set (Amazon has it listed at $215) just to get the ones I don’t have and the cool extras.  Still, I’ll be adding it to my Christmas wish list so if anybody has a couple of extra hundred laying around you know where to find me.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:  Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy finally comes to an end.  I still haven’t seen the second one, but now that they are all out on home video I may try to visit the entire story.  Like all his other films set in Middle Earth, this one comes in an expanded edition with loads of extra footage and tons of special features.  You can grab it in a variety of versions with varying amounts of extras, depending on your need for such things.

The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, The World of Apu) (Criterion Collection:)  Two decades ago, the original negatives of these films (barely) survived a fire. The Criterion people have found a way to restore them and put it out under their label.  Generally considered the greatest films to come out of India, Satyajit Ray’s trio follow the life of a young boy as he grows older.  All the people I know who care about these sorts of things are very excited over these films, which gets me all hot and bothered as well.

In Cold Blood (Criterion Collection:)  Truman Capote revolutionized the true-crime story in 1966 with In Cold Blood.  They made a film of it a year later.  It didn’t get quite the praise the book did, but it is generally considered a very good film.  Despite being a fan of the crime genre, I’ve never read nor seen the story.  With Criterion’s new Blu-ray release, I might just have to remedy both of those flaws in my character.

Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies:  In 1914, Charlie Chaplin signed a one-year contract with the Essanay Film Company (for the unheard of amount of $1,250 per week!).  In that time, he made a whopping 14 films.  Though he had created his iconic Tramp character before then, it was during this period that he really developed it into the character known the world over.

Faust:  Kino Lobber has restored (as best they can) this F.W. Murnau classic from 1926.  It's generally regarded as one of the greatest films from the silent age and now its got a Blu-ray upgrade.  Sounds great!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.:  I never watched the TV show this was adapted from, the reviews were pretty tepid. and hardly anyone went to see it, but for some reason I am looking forward to watching it.  I want to say it's because I really like its leads - Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, but I’ve not seen that Superman thing Cavill was in and I rather loathed Hammer’s Lone Ranger movie, but still I root for them as actors.  I’m weird, I know.

Dangerous Game:  Bad Lieutenant’s director Abel Ferrara directed this tale about abusive characters.  It stars Harvey Keitel as a director who gets involved with his star, Madonna.  Together, they are making a film about a marriage being violently blown apart and it all becomes to real as the abuse from the story starts taking root in reality.  I really liked Bad Lieutenant and I’m interested to see if the director can pull off another dark drama again.

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