lupin the third: the castle of cagliostro (hayao miyazaki, 1979)

This is the twelfth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 7th annual challenge, and my third time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", and last year's at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21"). Week 12 is called "Animated Auteurs Week":

When discussing auteurs, we usually stick to live-action filmmakers, which makes sense based on audiences' relationships with animation (outside of Japan, anyway). Here we take a moment to see creators who have made a name and signature style for themselves through an animated medium. Considered omitting Miyazaki since he is the exception to the rule, but it's for that same reason I had to keep him in.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by one of the following animated auterus: Ralph BakshiSylvain ChometDon HertzfeldtSatoshi KonHayao MiyazakiTomm MooreBill PlymptonIsao Takahata, or Masaaki Yuasa.

This was the first feature directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and it didn't do much for me, the first time I've thought that about one of his films (I've seen ten). I don't know much about the background of Arsène Lupin III, who starred in manga series going back to 1967. The Castle of Cagliostro presents Lupin in a more genial tone, apparently, which wasn't necessarily popular at the time but which has become more accepted as Miyazaki emerged as one of our greatest film makers. In this case, the characters didn't appeal to me, and I didn't really care about the plot. There is a good fight scene near the end that takes place within the works of a large clock tower, and the drawings of some of the secondary characters are intriguing. Ultimately, I just didn't care enough to get excited.

Popular choices for this challenge included Paprika and Millennium Actress, both by Satoshi Kon.


african-american directors series: king richard (reinaldo marcus green, 2021)

King Richard falls into two fairly predictable genres, the biopic and the sports movie. Sports movies often have a thrilling conclusion ... boxing and horse racing work this quite well. Biopics? They can get our attention if we are fans of the person in question. Both genres suffer, though, from restrictions. There is usually a beginning, a rise, a drop off, and then a finale that leaves the audience happy.

As a sports movie, King Richard does have a twist or two, mostly because the people we care about the most, sisters Venus and Serena Williams, are secondary characters, with their father, the titular King, being the focus of the film. It's not that Richard Williams is uninteresting, it's just that the reason we've heard of him is because of his daughters. You would be forgiven if the movie gave us more Venus and Serena and less Richard. Having said that, Venus and Serena are executive producers of King Richard, and they seem fine with the focus on their father.

Biopics usually fudge facts to make for more entertaining movies, and King Richard is no exception. It helps that Will Smith gives the kind of performance people will remember come Oscar time. But then, most stars of biopics get that kind of attention. In recent years, we've had Best Actor nominations for Gary Oldman (twice), Rami Malek, Michael Fassbender, and Bryan Cranston (not to mention Will Smith in Ali), while Viola Davis, Andra Day, Renée Zellweger, Cynthia Erivo, Margot Robbie, and Natalie Portman getting Best Actress nominations. Some of these performances are excellent, although there's a tendency to congratulate and actor for imitating their subject. The biggest problem with biopics is that the real lives of the characters matter, but making entertainment matters more, and when you opt for entertainment, you are likely telling something less than the truth about the actual human being.

King Richard holds our attention, albeit for too long a running time (144 minutes). But it doesn't help when you learn more about Richard, when you learn what was left out.

Saniyya Sidney as Venus makes up for a lot, though. She is the best thing about the movie. The result is a movie I am glad I saw, but not a movie I will rave about.