Film: Spirited Away & Song: Friday

This is a double review! I was planning on talking pretentiously about Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, which I just rewatched, but then my concentration was ruined by someone playing the now-viral music video of Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” So I’ll try to cut my ramblings on the film short and give some uneccessary opinion on the song.

If you haven’t read my “Films everyone should see” post, do that. Done it? Good. You may have noticed that toward the end I start waxing lyrical about a whole bunch of Studio Ghibli films: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke, to be specific. I haven’t seen any other films from Studio Ghibli (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and Castle in the Sky come to mind as other films).  What is special about these films? First of all, they were all masterminded by Hayao Miyazaki, who must be a genius. As far as I know, this man has never made a bad movie. Secondly, they are (as far as I know; Spirited Away certainly was) competely hand-drawn. That’s pretty amazing, especially given the level of detail in the drawing. Ok, now to the film.

One of the most noticeable things about Spirited Away is that it’s a very Japanese film, and I mean that in a highly positive way. There is a sharp contrast between the Westernized, modern world of the humans and the traditional spirit world, and this divide is probably made even sharper if you’re (like me) not Japanese. The human world is familiar (in fact, I thought the family was American but living in Japan; they certainly fit the right stereotypes) and the spirit world’s different aesthetic, clearly defined rules of etiquette, and rituals make it even more alien.

I really don’t want to talk about the story of the film, so I’ll just say something about some of the messages and symbolism. Since the spirits are almost all spirits of something, how they interact tells you something about the world they live in. For example (SPOILER ALERT), there’s a huge, disgusting “stink spirit” that Yubaba tries to drive away from the bathhouse, because he will make a huge mess and stink up the place. They can’t do it, so she makes the protagonist, Chihiro (who is called Sen while she works in the bathhouse) help him with the bath. She ends up finding something stuck in his side, and yells about it. Yubab realizes that the “stink spirit” is not what he seems. She and the rest of the workers help Sen pull out the thorn…which turns out to be a bicycle, and a lot of other trash. The spirit was actually a river spirit, who flies away after he is clean, leaving gold nuggets behind for them. That’s the last we see of that spirit, but it’s an interesting interaction between the human and spirit worlds; people polluting the rivers makes the river spirits sick and disgusting. Nice. (END SPOILER ALERT). Much is made of the transformative power of love, which is not nearly as corny as it sounds. Well, fine, yes it is, but I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. Chihiro’s character development is one of the best parts of the movie. Man, is this girl obnoxious in the first five minutes of the movie. But after she gets told off for it a few times in the bathhouse, she learns her lesson, and her good heart shines through. Don’t take more than you need; be kind to others; work hard; it never hurts to be polite; treasure and help those you love–these seem to be the main messages Miyazaki conveys through Chihiro. I can’t disagree.

Bottom line: it’s a film “for the people who used to be ten years old and the people who are going to be ten years old,” in Miyazaki’s words. You definitely need an inner child for this one. Assuming you have one, this is a great, strange, heartwarming film. Highly recommended.

And now we turn to something that ruined my post-Ghibli glow…Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”

Holy crap, this is a lame song. I realize that this girl is probably in her early teens, so harsh criticism seems kind of mean. “She has a career ahead of her,” I might reason with myself, “she’ll grow out of the ‘idiotic lyrics and whiny autotune’ phase.”  And then I thought, “I certainly hope she doesn’t have a career ahead of her. I don’t want to have to listen to shit like this at parties…”

Pretty much everything  about this song has already been said by someone else on the internet, so I leave you to that if you like. If you haven’t seen the video, don’t see it. It’s not worth your time, even if you have nothing to do.

Bottom line: See Spirited Away instead. Already seen it? See another Miyazaki film. Seen them all? Watch Jet Li’s Hero, it’s pretty fun. Seen that? Donate money to Japan. My heart goes out to everyone suffering because of the natural disasters.

[Featured image:]


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