Wednesday, November 22, 2017

At the Movies: Princess Mononoke

At the Movies with Michael5000

Princess Mononoke
Hayao Miyazaki, 1997.

imbd: 8.4 (imdb 250: #65)
Ebert: Four Stars.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% Fresh



I wasn't sure if I had watched Princess Mononoke, because I have watched a number of animated features from Japan whose titles don't always stick in my head, except for Howl's Moving Castle, which is the one with the moving castle.  This one is of course the one with Princess Mononoke, but this is confusing because she isn't really a princess (although she is more or less a real mononoke, which is apparently halfway between "spirit" and "monster.")  I had not seen it.

It is a longish epic adventure, with vaguely pious gestures towards environmentalism and quite a lot of what I take to be Japanese mysticism, but this is not always easy to parse from the outside.  Its biggest strength as an epic adventure is that it avoids a simple good-guys and bad-guys structure.  The iron-making human village is despoiling nature and so you'd expect it to be bad, but it is also a fairly happy, prosperous, socially progressive community.  The boars, who are part of nature and so presumably good, are a bunch of vengeful numbskulls.  The apes are... well, I never figured out what they were up to. 

Plot: A demon attacks an isolated village.  The extremely handsome and serious-minded young prince saved the day, but gets infected with demonitis.  The village matriarch tells him that he must therefore go on a quest.  In his adventures, he meets Princess Mononoke, a young human who has been raised by a wolf goddess and will need lots of therapy to sort out her identity issues when she reaches adulthood. He first catches sight of her in the woods, face smeared with blood from tending to the wounds of her wolf-goddess mother, and falls in love on the spot, as what young man wouldn't?  His love for her will motivate most of his actions for the rest of the film right up to the conclusion, when they will perfunctorily decide to be just friends, since he's a human and she's a wolf.  Meanwhile, a lot of action will take place: forces of the Emperor attack the iron-making human village, since iron weapons are powerful and destabilizing!   The village teams up with the Emperor's henchmen to attack the Spirit of the Forest, for no particular reason!  The prince defends the Spirit of the Forest, perhaps in order to impress Princess Mononoke!  The various animal communities talk the talk about defending the Spirit of the Forest, but mostly just bicker and fall into in-fighting!  There's another demon running around!   You lose track of what's going on, but fortunately the cinematography always gives you clues on who you want to win any given battle.

Visuals: Princess Mononoke was an important film in establishing the style of Japanese animation that many, many people think is revolutionary and enchanting.  I am clearly missing something here, for to me it just looks like pretty-darn-good animation.  We saw it on the big screen, where it looked especially pretty-good.

Dialog: We saw the version that was dubbed in English by a talented, all-star cast.  I dislike dubbing in live-action movies, but it works fine in animated films, which after all are dubbed in their original language, too.

Prognosis: With many moments of beauty, violence, cuteness, humor, and suspense, it offers the complete package in terms of entertainment.  It avoids blacks and whites of morality, which is good, but lets you lose track of why people (and deity animals) are doing what they're doing, which is kinda bad.  It feels just a little bit like church, but fortunately it doesn't really have a coherent message to deliver. 

Michael5000's imdb rating: 7.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 3: Waterhouse v. Van der Weyden!

John William Waterhouse
1849 - 1917
English

Beat Antoine Watteau decisively in Round 1.
Fended off Carel Weight in Round 2.








Rogier Van der Weyden
1399ish - 1464
Dutch

Came from behind to beat Benjamin West in Round 1.
Came from way behind to take down Whistler in Round 2.







Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Zurbarán v. Velázquez!

Francisco de Zurbarán
1598 - 1664
Spanish

Beat Francesco Zuccarelli easily in Round 1.







Diego de Silva y Velázquez
1599 - 1660
Spanish

Tied with Victor Vasarely in his first try at the First Round.
Defeated Marcel Duchamp in the final match of Round 1.







Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Wallis v. de Vlaminck!

Alfred Wallis
1855 - 1942
British

Lost to Andy Warhol in Round 1 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Beat Edward Wadsworth in First Round Elimination.






Maurice de Vlaminck
1876 - 1958
French

Defeated Simon Vouet in Round 1.
Lost to Maurice de Vlaminck in Round 2.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: Vigée Le Brun v. Warhol!

Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
1755 - 1842
French

Lost to M. C. Escher in Round 1.
Crushed Simon Vouet in First Round Elimination.






Andy Warhol
1928 - 1987
American

Defeated Alfred Wallis in Round 1 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!
Ambushed by Édouard Vuillard in Round 2.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Vasarely v. Zorn!

Victor Vasarely
1908 - 1997
Hungarian; worked in France.

Tied with Velázquez (!) in his first shot at Round One.
Beat Vladimir Tatlin in Round 1.






Anders Zorn
1860 - 1920
Swedish

Defeated Johann Zoffany in Round 1.







Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round 3: Escher v. Vuillard!

M. C. Escher
1898 - 1972
Dutch

Tied for First in Phase 1, Flight 4 of the Play-In Tournament.
Placed Third in Phase 2, Flight 4 of the Play-In Tournament.
Won a spot in the Main Tournament Brackets away from Bill Viola in the first "Fight for Their Right" Contest.
Beat Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in Round 1.
Trounced Maurice de Vlaminck in Round 2.








Édouard Vuillard
1868 - 1940
French

Trounced Edward Wadsworth in Round 1.
Defeated American Andy Warhol in Round 2.








Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Infinite Art Tournament, Left Bracket Second Round: del Verrocchio v. Utamaro!

Andrea del Verrocchio
1435 - 1488
Florentine

Thumped by Vieira da Silva in Round 1.
Beat Veronese by a single vote in First Round Elimination. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!






Kitagawa Utamaro
1753 - 1806
Japanese

Beat Paolo Uccello in Round 1.
Lost to Félix Vallotton in Round 2.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting, but likely much longer.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Semi-Finals: Rego v. Pissarro!





"Semifinals" designates the Fourth to Seventh Rounds of the Infinite Art Tournament.  This is a Left Bracket Fourth Round Match between Paula Rego (4-1, 30-24, .555) and Camille Pissarro (3-1, 28-14, .666).  Leaving the Tournament is Odelon Redon (4-2, 37-23, .617).


Paula Rego
Born 1935
Portuguese








Camille Pissarro
1831 - 1903
Caribbean-born; French
  • Lambasted Andrea Pisano in Round 1.
  • Came from behind to beat 15th century master Pisanello in Round 2.
  • Won easily against Jackson Pollack in Round 3.
  • Lost to Patenier in Round 4 by a single vote. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!!!








Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Fourth-round matches are open for at least three months after posting.