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‘The Boy and the Heron’: Hayao Miyazaki’s Gorgeously Haunting Adventure Is A Confounding Coming-Of-Age Story

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A still from 'The Boy and the Heron' (Studio Ghibli)

Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki has been making movies since the late 1970s, and he’s attained legendary status for his extraordinary films. I have been reviewing movies for the last 8 years and it’s almost more than one and a half decades watching them. But ‘The Boy and the Heron’ is the first time I have had the fortune of watching a Miyazaki movie in the same month of its release. And there’s no prize for guessing that I am in awe of the latest animation flick.

If you’ve watched movies like ‘Porco Rosso’ (1992), ‘Spirited Away’ (2001), and ‘The Wind Rises’ (2013) by Miyazaki, you’re familiar with his unique way of making films and the captivating stories he shares with the audience. Certainly, ‘The Boy and the Heron’ combines all the elements that make the filmmaker inspiring, capturing the same charm found in his previous projects. But Miyazaki’s latest film is more personal and darker than usual.

A still from ‘The Boy and the Heron’ (Studio Ghibli)

The story chronicles the journey of Mahito (voiced by Soma Santoki), who lost his mother inside a burning hospital. Mahito and his father, Shoichi (voiced by Takuya Kimura), have fled the Pacific War after the tragic incident. The child’s life has changed drastically after his mother’s demise and is always tormented by the dreams of that fateful night. His father has married someone else, but Mahito doesn’t call her mother. Even though the woman cares for Mahito, the boy doesn’t see her as his mother. However, his life is changed when a grey heron starts taunting him and takes him into an abandoned tower filled with magic. What happens next is a wonderful tale of adventure that takes us on a thrilling, yet thought-provoking journey.

This is not your typical Miyazaki movie and there are elements that have never been seen in his previous projects. That’s why ‘The Boy and the Heron’ feels more interesting than his earlier movies. All the previous titles from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli were family entertainers. Make no mistake, the title is suitable for families, but this time they explored new and different areas without holding back. For example, death is a central theme of the movie, along with desolation, and are shown with utmost precision. All these elements are vital for the story to move forward and in the final moments of the film, you’ll realise why Mahito’s actions were so important.

A still from ‘The Boy and the Heron’ (Studio Ghibli)

Just like before, Miyazaki’s story is filled of special characters, each with their own unique qualities and things they want to achieve. Meanwhile, the hand-drawn animations are amazing and pull you into Miyazaki’s magical world. This movie is a masterclass in how visuals can be used in telling a story that is mysterious, yet so endearing.

The voice cast is brilliant and there’s no doubt that they took the film to a whole new level.

All in all, this Studio Ghibli movie is a marvel in filmmaking and storytelling. The movie stays in your thoughts even after you have left the theatre and will mean something different to each person watching it. From sorrow to longing for acceptance, this movie will make you feel every emotion that there is. ‘THE BOY and THE HERON’ is another triumph and takes audiences on a journey that is adventurous yet thought provoking. Visually stunning and deeply resilient, this Hayao Miyazaki film is a beautiful coming-of-age story.

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‘Jane Austen’s Period Drama’ Review (TRIBECA) | A Brilliant Fusion of Comedy and Social Commentary

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Julia Aks
Julia Aks in a still from 'Jane Austen's Period Drama' (Photo Credit: Mickwick Productions)

We are in 2024 and sadly, the subject of periods or menstruation is still considered to be taboo in several cultures and societies. In cinema, we have seen a lot of titles talking about the issue with great sensitivity. However, none has been so effective and powerful as Julia Aks and Steve Pinder’s Jane Austen’s Period Drama. The short film, which is set against the backdrop of Georgian England, starts with a joyous moment of Miss Estrogenia receiving her much-awaited marriage proposal. However, things go upside down when she realizes that her period has arrived and her dress is drenched with blood. Upon seeing the blood, Mr Dickley takes Estrogenia to her home and calls for a doctor. Although Estrogenia has decided to tell Dickley about menstruation, her mother stops her from doing that because she feels that Mr. Dickley would drop the idea of marrying her daughter.

The movie’s narrative is clever, and witty, and intertwines traditional themes of love, social status, and marriage with contemporary issues of feminity and bodily autonomy. The unique mixture of both these elements creates a distinctive storyline that feels timeless and relevant at the same time. In this narrative, the unexpected period serves as a metaphor for the often unspoken aspects of womanhood that clash with societal expectations of decorum and propriety. This bold narrative allows viewers to be a part of Estrogenia’s life and how she navigates the balance between honesty and societal pressures.

Jane Austen Period Drama

A still from ‘Jane Austen’s Period Drama’ (Photo Credit: Mickwick Productions)

The writing is quirky, yet thought-provoking and explores the subject with sensitivity. The direction by Steve Pinder and Julia Aks is skillful, balancing the film’s comedic elements with its more serious undertones. Another aspect that makes the film such a brilliant watch is its cinematography. The cinematography captures the elegance of the 18th-century setting and opulent interiors that take viewers to a time when things were pretty different. The costumes and period-accurate set designs enhance the movie’s authenticity. Acting-wise. Julia Aks steals the show with a mesmerizing performance. Her performance enhances the viewing experience, giving viewers a glimpse of her impeccable talent. Meanwhile, the supporting cast delivers strong performances, adding richness and complexity to the story. The dynamics between characters are well-developed, with each interaction contributing to the overall narrative.

Overall, Jane Austen’s Period Drama is a brilliant and charming take on the genre of period drama. The film masterfully combines humor, thought-provoking storylines, and heart most extraordinarily. Additionally, the film does occasionally lean into modern sensibilities but never forgets its true destination. Solid performances, engaging script, and beautiful cinematography make this film a must-watch for everyone who loves literature and contemporary comedy.

Jane Austen’s Period Drama had its premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

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HORROR

Longlegs: An Atmospherically Distressing Exploration of Evil

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Longlegs [credit: neon]

Longlegs has been the talk of the town with early screening reactions terming it as “the scariest movie of the decade”, which not only raises eyebrows but also significantly raises expectations. Neon is backing it with a strong marketing campaign that has got many horror fans extremely excited about it. Oz Perkins’ latest horror feature stars Maika Monroe, Nicolas Cage, Blair Underwood and Alicia Witt.

 

The official synopsis says “In pursuit of a serial killer, an FBI agent uncovers a series of occult clues that she must solve to end his terrifying killing spree.” Maika Monroe plays Lee Harker, the FBI agent on the hunt for Longlegs, described as highly intuitive and sensitive, while Nic Cage who also produces the movie, plays the horrifying serial killer. Perkins sets the standard right off the bat with the very first scene of the movie, which proves to be just an appetizer for what’s to come.

 

Longlegs [credit: neon]

The movie is divided into 3 parts that act as the standard three acts in a feature. The first two acts are heavily focused on Lee as we get to know her and follow the FBI’s pursuit of a serial killer on a spree. Lee is a single child, lives alone in a cabin in the woods, and is highly intuitive, maybe even psychic. She is able to decode the clues left behind by Longlegs at the locations of the murders. Her performance is restrained yet penetrative and often symbolizes how the viewer feels while watching Longlegs.

 

Nicolas Cage is horrifyingly creepy as our serial killer. He is the best horror villain since Bill Skarsgaard’s Pennywise in my opinion. His screen time is limited but, highly impactful. The makeup and costume design deserves a lot of credit for his extremely gross appearance and at times you won’t be able to recognize that it’s Cage under that wig. He has a certain mannerism that is extremely distressing and just his words are enough to scare the hell out of you. Perkins manages to get the best out of both his leads, while the supporting cast is decent as well.

 

When it comes to the visuals, this is a very aesthetically strong film. Perkins manages to create atmospheric tension and fear with constantly changing aspect ratios and his color grading choices which are supported by a crisp sound design. Where he falls short is the writing. The movie is too slow at times which causes it to lose its intensity. Some of the dialogues also feel very generic or amateur, with jokes that feel abrupt and unnecessary.

Longlegs [credit: neon]

The movie also slips into multiple genres, most of which are intentional but do not necessarily work. It is a horror movie at the outset but also a serial killer crime drama, an investigative thriller with shades of noir and supernatural. The writing really falls off a cliff in the third act, with a twist that makes sense, but massively underwhelmes. That said, the way it explores evil is intriguing and offers a lot of food for thought. I would suggest going into this movie without any knowledge, the lesser you know the better.

 

Longlegs may not be the scariest movie of the decade but has more than enough to crawl under your skin and deliver pulsating chills. It has strong lead performances, effective jumpscares, and a beautifully unnerving aesthetic and works best when it explores evil and focuses on its characters. Horror fans should definitely experience this suffocating and haunting ride. Perkins’ latest feature is his best so far, but that said, it gets buried under its immense expectations.

Longlegs will be released in cinemas on July 12.

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(TRIBECA) ‘I NEED YOUR LOVE’: Camille Trust Offers a Heartfelt Look at Music Industry Sacrifices and Triumphs

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I Need Your Love
Camille Trust in a still from 'I Need Your Love' (Photo Credit: Via Vespucci Productions)

Making a career in the music industry is never easy. Yes, musicians do have platforms such as YouTube, and Spotify to showcase their talent, but that doesn’t mean every aspiring musician will turn out to be the next Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Several aspiring musicians face immense challenges to achieve success in the music industry, yet their struggles often remain from public view. Mostly, we hear from artists who have made it big in the world of music, leaving the sacrifices of countless artists unrecognized. One such artist carving out her path is Camille Trust. Despite reaching a notable level of success, Trust never lost her way and continues to strive for greater heights. Her music has been praised by several big outlets. However, Trust stays grounded, fully aware of the sacrifices she made to reach where she is today. To shed light on her journey and countless aspiring musicians, Trust, in collaboration with director Walker Kalan, launched an indie series I Need Your Love.

The series, which had its premiere at this year’s TRIBECA FESTIVAL, follows the journey of Camille Trust and provides an authentic look at the challenges faced by the musicians trying hard to make it big in the industry. Although the narrative does sound a bit serious, Trust and Kalan blend the serious storyline with a brilliant mix of quirkiness and hilarious situations. From the very first scene, I Need Your Love serves as a bittersweet comedy that plunges viewers into the gritty reality of the music industry through the eyes of pop singer Camille Trust. It is a heartfelt and humorous depiction of the relentless pursuit of musical stardom in the middle of New York’s cutthroat scene. The series opens with an unflinching look at how aspiring musicians have to perform in settings that might not be ideal for any kind of performance. This particular scene sets the tone for the series that is brutally honest, yet darkly comedic.

Photo Credit: Via Vespucci Productions

One of the standout aspects of I Need Your Love is its ability to tackle serious issues with a satirical edge. The episode focusing on toxic fandoms, for instance, provides a scathing yet humorous critique of obsessive fan behavior. Trust’s firsthand experiences with aggressive fans add a layer of authenticity to the narrative, highlighting the often-overlooked dark side of fame. This episode strikes a delicate balance between satire and sincere commentary. Walker Kalan’s direction brings a nuanced balance to the series, seamlessly blending humor with the emotional weight of Trust’s journey. The writing is sharp, capturing the absurdity and frustration of the music industry while never losing sight of the human element.

Acting-wise, Camille Trust is mesmerizing. She never lets her guard down and doesn’t shy away from letting people know about her struggles. Trust’s portrayal is raw and authentic, making her the beating heart of the show. Her journey is very relatable not just with the people in the music industry but with people across all professions. Meanwhile, the supporting cast – Inès Nassara, Athan Chekas, Willy Rincón, and Ben Becher – comprised largely of Trust and Kalan’s friends, brings a level of authenticity to the series. The chemistry between the actors is natural and enhances the viewing experience.

All in all, I Need Your Love balances humor and moments of desperation in the most authentic way possible. Camille Trust is a treat to watch and should be applauded for making herself vulnerable to show the reality of her life as a musician. Most importantly, the series makes her struggles deeply relatable and her triumphs all the more rewarding.

(‘I NEED YOUR LOVE’ debuted two episodes at this year’s TRIBECA FESTIVAL)

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