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Oscar Injustice: Howl's Moving Castle   (March 7, 2006)

While the general media Oscar post-mortum is focusing on why Crash beat Brokeback Mountain, I would rather bemoan the fact that Howl's Moving Castle didn't win best animation feature. Yes, I'm sure the Wallace and Gromit film was worthy (though unseen by me), but Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle was perhaps the more enduring and thoughtful film.

Part of the charm of this film stems from the way the quasi-Victorian clothing and setting is inhabited by the dark Japanese anime themes of malevolent witches and a tortured, impetuous young wizard. Though ostensibly a children's film, the themes are certainly mature. The heroine is cursed by an evil witch not for any wrong-doing or even nobility on her part, but simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The young male wizard's moral character is ambiguous; while he speaks kindly to the poor cursed girl, and offers her some aid, he also returns from wizardry outings bloodied and beaten. There is a secret war within him and in the world beyond, and some thread connects the two. The witch's animosity for the young wizrd is unexplained and must be intuited; nothing is as it seems at first glance, and we, like the innocent heroine, must figure out a complex world of strange powers and shifting alliances.

Too bad this wonderful and thought-provoking film didn't win the Oscar.


copyright © 2006 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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