You guys know how I love the Japanese animation filmmaker Miyazaki? Well, I do. I love his movies. Totoro. Howl's Moving Castle. Spirited Away. From up on Poppy Hill. And many more. They are a great visual treat, and great feats of storytelling, with imagination that sidesteps the usual narrative conventions, not to mention: there's serious girlpower. His heroes and problem solvers are almost always young girls. There's no sexualization, either. Just power. Will. Spirit.
But more on that in a second. I mainly want to share this snippet:
Roger Ebert, on Hayao Miyazaki:
I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.
Isn't that good? I saw a blockbuster movie sequel this year (which shall remain nameless) that I was looking forward to, having enjoyed the previous movie. But this one, aside from other storytelling failings, existed entirely at a state of high-velocity high-stakes drama. EVERYTHING WAS LIFE OR DEATH! So, you know, you just got deadened to it really quickly. There was none of this "ma." I love the line above: "If you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension."
It's so important. As a storyteller, it's something I'm always trying to structure. Plus this: often I find the "at rest" moments to be the most fun and rewarding. From my very beginnings as a novelist I've been trying to strike the balance between imperative forward momentum and enjoyable interludes that exist purely for color, character development and fun. Like, for example, hanging around the Himalayan faerie bazaar in my second book Silksinger. Or like Karou and Zuzana at Poison Kitchen, in Daughter of Smoke & Bone. You can't indulge in too many of them or you slow down the plot. But if you don't have them at all, at least for me, I find that I care less about the plot. There has to be a feeling of life and reality extending beyond the plot. There has to be an established threshold of "normal" that is being overthrown by the high stakes of the current situation. Or else ... EVERYTHING IS LIFE OR DEATH yawwwwwn ...
So there's that. And just now, googling a picture of Miyazaki's girls, I came across this excellent explanation of why Miyazaki films are so much better for kids than Disney princess fare. Read it HERE. And there was this graphic I just came across too. I actually enjoyed all of these movies, but as an adult and storyteller and parent of a daughter, I have a deep unease about their message, expressed pretty well here:
(Also, here's a piece from bitch magazine on Miyazaki's feminism. Speaking of that magazine, when I was walking around Wordstock with Clementine last weekend, she, who is learning to read, asked me, "Mama, what does b-i-t-c-h spell?" Ha! It was the bitch magazine booth. Um, never mind that one for now, sweetie :-)