*** Official PONYO Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by DaveF, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Kirk, I've been looking forward to other reviews on Ponyo to see how others felt about it. Your review is akin to that in EW: finding its magic and awe.

    I read your review and EW's and think we saw different movies. :)

    In your view, what was the point of the Soske's (sp?) father? I thought he was an undeveloped distraction; a "strand" as you would say about Howl's Moving Castle.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now designated the Official Discussion Thread for "Ponyo". Please, post all comments, links to outside reviews, film and box office discussion items to this thread.

    All HTF member film reviews of "Ponyo" should be posted to the
    Official Review Thread.

    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


    Crawdaddy
     
  3. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    (Thanks, Crawdaddy. :))
     
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I fear my inner 5 year old child has died because I couldn't wait for this film to end.
     
  5. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Ebert loves it
    Slate raves
    EW gives it an A

    Patrick, I'm with you. My wife said she was glad I didn't rave about it because she was falling asleep and afraid she was missing a "good movie".

    It had some marvelous scenes; the storm with Ponyo racing along the waves is thrilling. But I can't figure out how these critics are raving about it. The plot, more than any other Miyzaki film I've seen, doesn't hang together. As my wife points out, the ending was asinine: the "test" of whether Sosuke will love Ponyo no matter what was answered in the opening act!
     
  6. JediFonger

    JediFonger Producer

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    i'm curious: is English dub the ONLY PRINT that you guys have access to? i called all 10+ cinemas around my area and that is the case. i have already ebayed my region2 copy and seen it in original soundtrack+ENG dub. i'll venture out into the cinema to compare. from what i hear/read, miyazaki himself approved it. it better be good!!! >P.
     
  7. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    John Lasseter / Disney has done original translations and dubs for the Studio Ghibli films for their distribution deal. The theatrical releases are, to my knowledge, solely the English dubs.

    And as Ebert noted,

     
  8. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    Dave, the father figure feels somewhat like like a misdirection, no? If this was a more conventional movie, I would say he is being set up as the "good motive, extremist, turn into bad guy" role early in the film. But it turns out he is not so extreme as to want the planet's destruction, and is a caring father. I think his "function" in the movie is to provide a backdrop to Ponyo's fantasy elements. Though I appreciate JediFonger's perspective on cultural differences in the review thread, I tend to think sometimes we overstate the mysticism of the East. With Ponyo being a central character in the movie, Miyazaki has to provide some kind of background to explain her powers and transformation, and the father is an entry to that world. I would not be surprised if the filmmakers had an elaborate backstory for the father and mother, but ultimately the story is about the adventure of the two kids. Perhaps by making his character more simple, or by giving him a lot more screentime, his character would be more satisfying.

    To me, that may be part of the charm of the Miyazaki films. The Pixar movies, which I also love, comparatively have perfectly thought through threads. If something is mentioned early in the film, you know it will come back and be resolved later in the film, including its planting of the villains. I find that immensely satisfying. But the recent Miyazaki films seem to give me the moment-to-moment surprise highs more, even if I feel the overall story isn't as completely told.

    I don't think this shows a lack of storytelling ability on Miyazaki's part. Naussica, Totoro, Kiki, Porco Rosso and so on showed Miyazaki perfectly capable of telling stories without hanging threads, even enormously large scale stories such as Naussica and Castle in the Sky. Like other filmmakers that put different emphasis in different times of their career--David Lean the editor vs. the cinematographer, Kubrick pre and post 2001, the dynamic Kurosawa and the more contemplative one--I think Miyazaki now prefers to throw us in a big, magical world and just go with it. I recall in the HTF discussion of Spirited Away, someone wondered why the girl got a chance to save her parents at that particular moment, and my view was just that Miyazaki had given us enough of a ride, that it was time to end the movie. Not a particular deep reading of a film, I realize, but I thought any conventional character "growth" or "journey" in the Joseph Campbell sense could have been too easy to supply at any moment to end the movie anyways.

    Re: English dub: I don't know if Disney released Ponyo with its Japanese language track anywhere in the US. They did in select theaters for Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. I saw both of those movies in Japanese first. Like with the Ponyo English dub, I find the English tracks to be perfectly fine, but still feel the Japanese voices to be more expressive, especially in the more extreme emotions.
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I agree with your assessment of prior Studio Ghibli films. But with Ponyo specifically, it was noticeably sloppier. The father wasn't softened: he was given a specific line indicating he planned to destroy the world; and he had the means and desire to do it. And then it was completely dropped and ignored. This is misdirection, this is bad writing or editing.

    And unfortunately, this movie showed no journey or character growth. Sosuke's love of Ponyo, on which he was "tested" at the climax, was fully demonstrated in the opening minutes of the movie. Contrast this to Howl's or Spirited Away, where the characters' attitudes toward each other decidedly change through the story.

    I may try to re-watch Ponyo when it's released to video, to reassess. I want to like it. And I don't care to tear down this sort of movie with others would admire it. But I'm completely baffled by the reviewers' response.
     
  10. Steve Y

    Steve Y Supporting Actor

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    I'm glad there are so many differing opinions on "Ponyo", because it makes me re-evaluate my own responses to this film.

    I understand (I think) the points most of you are making (those critical of the film), but I can't shake the feeling that criticizing hanging plot threads in this movie are like criticizing hanging plot threads in a dream - dead ends, characters that seem to embody a particular archetype but shift midway, or drop altogether... that's normal in a dream, but not in a book or film.

    We all know that Miyazaki (and his staff) are capable of making a film that ties itself in a bow, or contains tighter character or plot arcs, but I really feel like these films are constructed purposefully in this "loose" way so that the story is like one a child tells, or like how we experience our dreams. (Or the dreams we used to have.) Sorry if that sounds corny. In some ways it is more difficult to construct a story this way, because we have certain expectations about what characters should do, or what "conflicts" are supposed to occur, and to avoid them is hard (as a filmmaker or viewer). When we don't get those conflicts and tensions and arcs, it seems like "nothing is happening".

    Not to me, though. Some also criticized "Spirited Away" for a "shaggy dog" nature. And it makes sense that some viewers find this style somnambulistic (for lack of a better word, seriously) but I feel that Studio Ghibli's "dream style" unwraps itself from broad plot developments and tensions, and frees us to watch the imagery and events unfold in miniature.

    I realize I'm probably in the minority here, but I thought I'd explain why some of us love this movie.
     
  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    But it wasn't an arc-free movie. Arcs were started and forgotten. Arcs appeared mid-story and concluded pointlessly. Tensions were created, then ignored. Tensions necessary were suggested but never crafted.


    I appreciate that all the Ghibli films I've seen have that looseness to them. But for me, Ponyo took it too far, beyond being dreamlike and enjoyable.

    Ponyo is by no means a bad film, even in my estimation. But it was so below my expectations that I'm left equally disappointed by the movie and bewildered by the critical praise.
     
  12. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    I loved Ponyo. I think Miyazaki is fostering a rare breed of creativity for children by making films like this, in an age where so much kids' fare is hyperactive and formulaic. I loved every second of this film. Miraculously, I didn't find myself distracted or let down by hanging plot threads or incomplete or rushed story arcs. I'm not trying to say they weren't there; it's just that a movie like Ponyo is like a spell... you're either caught up in it or you aren't. Miyazaki chose to tell a mythic tale in a very unconventional way, and from the point of view of childhood, without a lot of conventional storytelling methods that we've all become accustomed to. During my viewing, I was completely delighted from start to finish. I am far from an easy sell - in fact, my wife often accuses me of being a critical snob, expecting too much from movies. However, there is a kind of poetry to the way Miyazaki films are staged and paced that (for me) transcend a lot of the storytelling conventions I go into most other films expecting to see.
     
  13. JediFonger

    JediFonger Producer

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    i have since watched this FIRST@home w/Japanese dub w/ENG sub and THEN in the cinema w/ENG dub almost immediately afterwards.

    wow! it was terrible lol. well, not completely anyways, cate blancette and liam neeson were great. the rest i dunno =P. i really feel like they changed the meaning of the film AGAIN! accept others who are different? lol in the original Japanese it's about TRUE LOVE, but then again US audiences wouldn't understand about that for 5 year olds right? lulz. pubescent luv has always been a major theme of coming of age stories for miyazaki but the ENG really dumbed it down. so i was right, the ENG is horrible =p. completely changed the story.
     
  14. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

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    I'm going to have to wait until it comes out on DVD/BD in order to see it, since I doubt that it will make it into the theatre in my town; however, this is the first Miyazaki film where the trailer really made me feel that the film was specifically made for little kids. Miyazaki's films normally have an appeal to me as an adult, but PONYO definitely had "kiddy" written all over it. Maybe it was the English dubbing which I find for the most part is uniformly poor for Japanese animated films, excepting "Cowboy Bebop" which was one of the rare ones that really did have decent voice work.

    Subtitling is not the ideal solution, but I prefer it to English dubbing. The characters always seem to lose an undefinable "something" when English voice actors replace the original Japanese ones.
     
  15. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    I didn't initially consider how the English dub might dumb down some of the themes. Had I seen Ponyo with the English dub first, I might have read more of a 'kiddie' theme into it. With a good literal English translation and the original Japanese dub, Ponyo has much more resonance IMHO. I saw it a while back with a literal understanding of the Japanese being spoken, of course the Japanese voice. I generally avoid the English dubs of these films because in an attempt to garner the Disney audience, themes are sometimes purged of their complexity. Just my opinion but I can see how Ponyo might not go over as well unless the original Japanese is being heard and understood.

    That said, Ponyo is definitely geared more toward children than any of the last several Miyazaki films.
     

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