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FANTASIA 2001: MORIARTY Basks In CASTLE IN THE SKY, NEKOJIRU-SO, MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, JEEPERS CREEPERS, CITIZEN TOXIE!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

Have you ever had a French speaking whore offer to make your asshole tremble for ten American dollars?

But, wait... I’m getting ahead of myself.

I can’t think of a better way to start a day than to see a Miyazaki film on the bigscreen. I admit, I came to my appreciation of his films late in life, but I am a rabid fan now, and I have been waiting since the release of KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE in the U.S. to see the Buena Vista dub of LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY. I think Disney sucks for not releasing all the Miyazaki films they have the rights to, but I will commend them for the work they’ve done so far on the dubs themselves. When I first heard that James Van Der Beek was going to be giving voice to Pazu, the hero of the film, I groaned, but I have to give the big blonde dolt some credit. I didn’t recognize him at all in the film. He does a great job of capturing just the right note of boyish enthusiasm from the moment he’s introduced picking up meatballs for the boss of the mine where he works. Walking back to deliver the meal, he sees a girl floating down from the sky, her strange necklace glowing brightly. When he takes her in, he sets off a chain of events that leads him to a remarkable discovery, one that finally proves a story his father had told him, a story that everyone else had dismissed as lies and lunatic ravings.

I first saw this film at UCLA, where it was presented in its original language with subtitles, and I’m glad I was able to compare the two experiences. For one thing, the Buena Vista print is a knockout. Miyazaki’s longtime composer Joe Hiasashi has expanded his score for the American version, and it’s beautiful, sweeping work. The lost city is still called Laputa (Lah-pyu-tah, according to the dub), so purists can relax. Hell, they still have the word in the opening title, but it's underneath the CASTLE IN THE SKY, so as to downplay it. The film practically jumps off the screen now, and the rest of the voice actors, including Anna Paquin and Chloris Leachman, do fine work. If you didn’t know this was a Japanese film, you might swear the lipsynch was right on. That’s how invisible the dubbing is on the movie. I know this is going straight to video and DVD (Disney swears it will be soon in the program notes), but I think that’s a bloody shame. This is a better film than any of their animated features as of late, and audiences are being cheated. As I looked around me on Saturday afternoon and saw the families that were there together, I saw the magic of the movie reflected back in the joy on their faces. I adore this film with every fiber of my being, and I’ll own it as soon as it’s available, hoping sincerely that both versions are available on the DVD so I am free to choose how to enjoy this epic adventure.

Now hurry up with NAUSICAA, you pricks.

I’ve already covered NEKOJIRU-SO in my coverage of my second day at Fantasia. It’s the 33 minute short that played before THE FUCCON FAMILY. I went to see it again, though, because it had such a strong impact on me, and because I wanted to see if it was something that would hit me that well again.

It did. Maybe even more so the second time.

The film opens with a title sequence that I found underwhelming both times. It’s obviously shot on video, a camera moving over a static illustration of little cat footprints moving around the credits in a tangled path, like a HELLO KITTY version of one of those Sunday "Family Circus" strips where Billy doesn’t go straight home from school. It doesn’t begin to hint at the power of the film itself, and if anyone ever gets smart enough to release the film on video for Region One (hinthinthinthint), I hope this one part of the picture is rethought. From the first image, though, the film itself is magic. Nyatta, a tiny kitty, leans into a bathtub to play with a toy boat, accidentally dunking her head underwater as she does so. Her family is spread throughout the house. Mother is in the kitchen washing dishes. Father lies on the floor in the family room, drunk. And Nyako, her brother, is alone in his room facing the God of Death. As Nyako lies on his back staring up at the ceiling, we see through his eyes for a moment. He closes them, then opens them and watches the light and shadows play across the dappled surface above. Nyatta happens to come into the room at just the right moment, her eyes still pure and clear enough to see Nyako leaving, hand in hand with Death, and she follows out of curiosity more than anything.

It is a surreal world Nyatta ventures out into. A group of housewives stands around yattering at one another, and Nyatta pauses to release the air valve on one of them, causing her to deflate like a beach toy. The other women just keep talking, paying no attention. When Nyatta catches up with her brother and Death, she grabs hold of one of his arms and pulls, refusing to let him go. She and Death each end up with half of Nyako’s soul, and she runs home to find that her parents have already called in a doctor, who is pronouncing her brother dead. She puts his half a soul back, and for the rest of the piece, there’s something broken about Nyako. One eye is open a little further than the other. He stares straight ahead, hardly aware of the landscapes around them as his sister takes him from place to place.

They go to a giant tented circus show, where a magician performs incredible feats. His very words take shape, becoming an armchair or a fish or an elephant. When he brings out a giant being made of clouds, the being fills up with a storm that gives way to rain, flooding the tent and the earth itself. Nyatta and Nyako find themselves adrift on a boat, lost in a world that is nothing but water. Somehow, they’ve picked up a pig as a companion, and when he offers them fish to eat, Nyatta slices him open and removes a section of his fat instead. She cooks it, feeds part of it to Nyako, then gives the pig the rest of it to chew on happily. When all the water dries up and they find themselves in a desert without end, they ride the pig as far as they can, bashing him on the head and carving off the lumps for food. He drops dead, and they are forced onto foot, eventually leading them to a house where a strange man waits to feed them dinner. He has a bird tied to a rope that flies in small circles over the table until he sets it on fire. It continues to fly as it cooks, eventually dropping in front of Nyatta, ready to eat. The strange man feeds them desserts until they are full, then leads them to a large pot, where they are placed to boil. He vanishes for a moment, returning in strange fetish gear, ready to chop them up for stew. Nyatta tricks him, though, and cuts his arms and legs off, leaving him in the pot, the lid on, while she and her brother escape. When she cracks his head open and finds clockwork, she doesn’t seem remotely surprised.

In fact, nothing in this world seems to phase Nyatta. She understands that life is brutal, and with every good thing that happens, there is bad as well. They dig for water under a crystal mushroom in the dessert and find a water hole that issues forth a large water elephant. Nyatta and Nyako ride inside of it, swimming in the elephant from water hole to water hole, but eventually the heat is too much, and it evaporates. Time and time again, their joy gives way to further misery, and the siblings are forced to adapt. When the clockwork of the universe gets stuck due to half a cabbage stuck in the gears, God himself reaches in and runs things in reverse, and there is a haunting montage of atrocity and accidents played in reverse, car crashes giving birth to complete drivers, age giving way to youth, evolution moonwalking us all the way back to the oceans.

I love this movie. I must own this movie. You must see this movie. I will be haunted by these images for some time, and if you’re fortunate enough to see the film, you will be, too.

Saturday was a good day for animation fans. I’m sure my e-mail buddy Jennifer would have loved to have been here. Just before I left town, she wrote me a letter demanding that I go to as much of the anime as possible, and one of the films she seemed most excited by was MILLENNIUM ACTRESS. Easy to understand why. Satoshi Kon worked on films like ROUJIN Z (a movie I like quite a bit, actually) as a background artist before getting a chance to direct his own film, a segment of the lovely MEMORIES called "Magnetic Rose." This earned him his first feature gig, and PERFECT BLUE was the result. If you haven’t seen that one, find it. It’s fairly easy to get hold of in America now, and it’s a great example of how animation can be used to tell stories that are not about cute singing animals with sidekicks that fart. It’s a complex psychological thriller that’s more akin to the work of Dario Argento than Walt Disney. On Saturday, we were the first audience anywhere to see Satoshi Kon’s new film, and the audience response was phenomenal.

I think MILLENNIUM ACTRESS is another strong step forward in terms of the types of stories that can be told in animation, and in some regards, it uses the medium in a subtle way that might be overlooked by some viewers. I heard a few people afterwards say, "That could have been live-action, and it would have been just the same," but that’s not true. This is the story of a woman who became a screen legend in her teens that follows her through almost 70 years. By using animation to tell the story instead of make-up and a series of different actresses, we are allowed to lose ourselves in this journey across time and really believe that we are watching someone’s whole life represented. The film plays with time and reality in a sophisticated manner, and there’s a gentle, quiet longing to the whole thing that surprised me. It’s 180 degrees away from PERFECT BLUE in terms of content, but much of the technique on display here is similar. An interview about her career and a mysterious key that is returned to her set Chiyoko Fujiwara on a trip through her own past, as well as that of Japanese cinema. A number of genres are represented here as we see scenes from Chiyoko’s work, including science-fiction, Godzilla films, samurai films, and romantic epics. Through it all, Chiyoko chases after a phantom, the image of a man she loved as a young woman, a man she barely knew. There’s enormous heartbreak just under the surface here, and quite a few people were moved to visible tears by the film’s resolution. Satoshi Kon was present on Saturday, and he was rewarded with a five minute standing ovation at the end of the movie. This is definitely a milestone in terms of animation for any culture, and deserves serious attention when it released around the world.

Oh... and a quick personal note to the bitch who kept poking me in the ribs during the film. Just because someone is congested and breathing heavily, it does not mean they’re asleep. Keep your damn hands to yourself.

Even though I’ve already seen and reviewed JEEPERS CREEPERS here on the site, it was great fun to see it with an audience of this size. These are hardcore horror fans, too, so they weren’t about to write the movie a free pass. If anything, being a major studio offering might have caused some people to be skeptical going in. I still think the film is a blast, although as I see it again, I will say that there’s one character who really slows things down for me, a psychic woman who shows up late in the picture. There’s a phone call from her early on that’s very effective, and it sets up a great scene with Eileen Brennan as a crazy lady with dozens of cats in her house. Towards the film’s end, though, the character becomes more of an annoyance than an asset, and she slows the film down with exposition that feels forced. Still, if all horror movies had a first hour that works as well as JEEPERS does, genre fans would be dancing and singing every time they left the theater. UA should have this one in theaters for Labor Day weekend, so you’ll have a chance to judge for yourself then.

There are very few fans in the world as dedicated and as strange as Troma fans, and they turned out in force for Saturday’s midnight screening of CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER 4. As the theater filled up and I found myself surrounded by guys wearing Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD masks, I had to laugh at the bent genius of Lloyd Kaufman, the most shameless self-promoter since William Castle. Troma films are not for all tastes. Hell, they’re not for most people. They’re foul, filled with vile jokes that mock the unmockable, overflowing with graphic bathroom humor and disgusting images that would test the strongest of stomachs. That’s the charm for a crowd like this, though, and CITIZEN TOXIE delivered on every front. The opening scene features a terrorist group called the Diaper Mafia that takes over a school for retarded kids and begins to kill them, not bothering to issue any demands. There is blood and shit and vomit and masturbation and naked boobs and retard jokes and gunplay and pregnant woman pinata games all in the first ten minutes, and each new offense was greeted by a hearty cheer from those assembled.

There are some big laughs in the film, and there are some eye-rolling groaners, too. Lloyd reuses a car crash that’s been seen in at least four other Troma titles. Old women are run down in the street. Mutant twin fetuses wrestle in utero to see who gets to be born. There are parallel dimensions, allowing us to see Amortville, the mirror opposite of Tromaville, and also to meet The Noxious Offender, Toxie’s evil twin. Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf shows up as God, wearing a diaper and handing out fatal diseases for kicks. "Polio." "God, I think they cured that one." "Then give him AIDS!" There is more blood spilled than you can imagine. Ron Jeremy is killed with a cross through the head. Lemmy from Motorhead shows up to comment on things. Randy and Jason Sklar provide a running commentary as local newscasters. There’s a parody of CITIZEN KANE’S newsreel that was shot at The Playboy Mansion, complete with a massacre in the grotto and a pun so bad you’ll scream. There’s a slapstick abortion clinic sequence that ends with someone’s butthole being ripped out. There’s a lot of close calls with Toxie almost having gay sex. Corey Feldman shows up in disguise. They make Stephen Hawking jokes. A rapping superhero called The Masturbator showers a crowd in semen. Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD shows up in the film’s most genuinely funny subplot. There’s a guy named Tito who wears a jacket that reads "The Retarded Rebel" who made me feel ashamed for laughing every time he was onscreen.

And that’s just for starters.

Both before and after the film, Lloyd took the stage with Heidi Sjursen, the Courtney Love-alike star of the film, for a bizarre round of promotional hype and surreal Q&A. I was sitting next to Johnny Butane and the GirlCreature from CreatureCorner.com, and I had to lean over and ask if they had slipped me bad acid before Lloyd’s appearances. That’s how strange things got. Daniel, one of the Fantasia’s volunteer staffers, got recruited to take the stage as Toxie, complete with mask and mop, and made the most of his few minutes in the spotlight. He’s the same guy audiences cheer at the start of every show when he breaks down the microphones onstage, a Jeunet character clad in the same t-shirt and green shorts every day. All in all, it was a perfect midnight movie spectacle that summed up the appeal of Troma’s twisted world.

Oh... I almost forgot the short film that played before it, EXTREMISM BREAKS MY BALLS. It was a perfect fit, a genuinely dirty little ditty by Nicolas Debot, one of the people I’ve been seeing at each gathering I’ve gone to this week. It’s a quick joke about what happens when you let a facist party take power featuring a nasty castration scene. Nicolas stars in the film, and I don’t know quite what to say to him now that I’ve seen his giant uncircumcised hog on the screen of the Imperial. I don’t know whether to commend him on how he looked with his own severed balls in his mouth or not. One thing’s for sure... it’s not an image I’ll be able to forget.

Most of the regulars went out to party until dawn, but I was wiped after the full day of viewing. I had purchased a few lovely Cuban cigars (they’re legal here! Whoo-hoo!) and was headed back to my room when I was made the offer that I mentioned at the start of this piece. Despite having a wallet full of this crazy Monopoly money, I declined her offer, since I didn’t want to have to explain to my girlfriend why my asshole trembled on a Saturday night in Montreal. I just enjoyed my cigars and a wicked noir thriller called THE ICE HARVEST (another book I’ll be reviewing here soon) and drifted off, already looking forward to Sunday’s offerings.

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback
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  • July 30, 2001, 2:43 a.m. CST

    "There is blood and shit and vomit and masturbation and naked bo

    by xavier masterson

    Sounds like a must see.

  • July 30, 2001, 2:48 a.m. CST

    what the f%&* better than LEGION OF THE DEAD not....

    by femme fatale

    I can't belive the cool Olaf Ittenbach's Legion of the Dead was slated by Moriarty and a few drunk members of the audience and you think that troma piece of shit was good, you guy took to much Canadian pi^& beer. c'mon get real guys.

  • July 30, 2001, 2:48 a.m. CST

    naked boobs and retard jokes

    by tommy5tone

    sold!

  • July 30, 2001, 6:58 a.m. CST

    Toxie 4

    by ImMorganFreeman

    Does anyone know when Toxie 4 is supposed to be coming out? A friend of mine and I were in it as retarded students, and we haven't seen a frame of it. And it was shot two years ago. If anyone knows, please e-mail me. (And the shit gag in the first ten minutes was hilarious to watch film. That was suggested by a fan on the website)

  • July 30, 2001, 7:34 a.m. CST

    I WANT NAUSICAA!! and I am not the only one

    by drspilkus

    Laputa is good and all, dont get me wrong. But my favorite(and I am ont the only one) Miyazaki film is Nausicaa: The Valley of the Wind, which was released years ago under the name Warriors of the WInd and had all the characters names changed in it. When will Disney get ahold of the entire Miyazaki empire and release that one? Probably never considering the violence in it. Ass.

  • I can tell I'm gonna be spending the next 5 years trying to track down this sumbitch. That Millenium Actress thing sounds good too.

  • July 30, 2001, 7:46 a.m. CST

    endless wait on laputa

    by mnoble

    I saw a trailer for Castle in the Sky more than a year ago on the Kiki's Delivery Service VHS and still Disney hasn't released it. what's the hold up? are they going to release this on dvd before or after Kiki?

  • July 30, 2001, 11:51 a.m. CST

    NEKOJIRU-SO on region 2 DVD

    by junkbomb

    It's out on DVD in Japan. Get it here: http://www.amotokyo.com/default.asp?main=/main/result_item.html&category=category&find_item=nekojiru&navi=7 or here: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=KIBA-566

  • July 30, 2001, 12:22 p.m. CST

    "Magnetic Rose" quibble...

    by Oh Hell

    Koji Morimoto directed "Magnetic Rose." The IMDB credits the talented Satoshi Kon with writing the screenplay for the first segment of _Memories_, which both adapts and expands Katsuhiro Otomo's original manga story.

  • July 30, 2001, 5:37 p.m. CST

    d00d! you had American to Canadian rates! You so could have scor

    by Tall_Boy

    yeah, that exchange rate is a kick in the balls for us Canadians, but you Americans must love it. enjoy the cubans!

  • July 30, 2001, 7:38 p.m. CST

    I'm a bit disappointed

    by Dan42

    I expected the Millenium Actress review to far far more efusive than that. It was by FAR the best movie of the day and it looks like it got the shortest review. But then again, I wouldn't even know what to add to this review! How do you describe something like Millenium Actress, how do you describe a movie like that... it's nearly impossible to make any synopsis except "Chiyoko Fujiwara relives through memory the events of her own past, as well as that of Japanese cinema", which is what Moriarty did. That one sentence summarizes nearly the WHOLE movie, and I find it impossible to add anything to make it any more meaningful. This movie is not so much about the plot than about the *telling* of the story. The events in the movie are structured in a dream-like order, which make the events mere vehicles for the ideas they carry. So how do you describe a movie which isn't about events but which is rather about a pure concept? *I* sure don't know. I thought it was only because I'm not a very good reviwer, but it seems that Moriarty can't do it either. Or maybe he's just not as impressed as I was because he's not the animation freak that I am.

  • Aug. 1, 2001, 1:15 p.m. CST

    Glad you liked Laputa!

    by Drath

    After that AI review, I thought maybe you and would never see eye to eye again, Moriarty. Glad to know you and I still agree on some things. I hope you're right about the DVD, since DVD wasn't a format covered by the old deal with Ghibli. And god I hope they kick everyone in the butt with the Nausicaa redub. That old '80s dub/re-edit was a sin. Here's hoping the Nausicaa manga becomes a high profile phenomenon in the US this decade--hey, Lord of the Rings was out long before it got all that attention from college kids in the '60s!