Now that the Oscar run is finished, I can go back to watching good movies. And there aren't many as good as Princess Mononoke. It's the latest in my Gift That Keeps on Giving box set of Studio Ghibli films, and the fourth film I've seen by Hayao Miyazaki. You know, I want to say these movies aren't "my type" ... animated, spiritual, nature-loving fantasies. But I have to quit kidding myself. I gave 9 out of 10 to the first three I saw, and I'm going with the full 10 this time for Mononoke. It's an oddball epic, weird and beautiful and brutal by turns, sometimes weird and beautiful and brutal at the same time.
I often get a bit lost in the plots of these movies, and Princess Mononoke was no exception, but they are so loony in their pretty aesthetic that it hardly matters. Hollywood is capable of creating special effects that cause your jaw to drop, but Miyazaki creates special effects out of his brain ... he's always got some little character that's unlike anything you've ever seen before (this time it's the white thingies whose heads crack sideways), and there's wild boars that transform into squiggly monster things (Miyazaki always manages to include beings that would fit comfortably into a futuristic Philip K. Dick book ... Dick would give them names like greebs), and stunning landscapes, and heroic young women, and complex characters with complex motivations ... this isn't just a good cartoon, this is a great movie.
And the thing is, even the plot got to me this time, for as the film nears its end, I was caught up in the narrative, gasping and moaning and, of course, dropping my jaw in amazement.
I should add that the version I watched was in Japanese with subtitles ... there's an American Disney DVD with Claire Danes doing the voice-over for the title character, and I have no idea if it's any good ... in general, I don't mind dubbing when it comes to animation, I'm just saying, caveat emptor and all that if you watch the American version.