Tim here. The story over the weekend as far as popcorn movies go might have been the monstrous over-performance of Guardians of the Galaxy, but for those of us who like a little more personal artistry and a little less big-budget sizzle out of our movies, Sunday's biggest news was the apparent revelation by Toshio Suzuki, general manager of Japan's Studio Ghibli, that the company is ceasing to produce animated films.
Or maybe not. The internet, in its glorious need for news, News, NEWS, has perhaps jumped the gun on some ambiguous words that have slightly different weight in Japanese than in English. They're merely talking about restructuring and re-evaluating their business and production strategies in the wake of Hayao Miyazaki's retirement. That certainly could mean that they're going to close; it doesn't mean they've closed yet (though that "yet" might well be nothing but diplomacy talking). What is certainly the case is that following the newly-released in Japan When Marnie Was There, Ghibli has no future plans involving animated features. So even if it's not The End, it's not a very good day for lovers of animation or just top-quality world cinema.
While we stew and wait for more news on the Ghibli front, I'd like to invite everyone to share their favorite movies from the studio. I'll start off: if I wanted to showcase to a newbie the breadth of Studio Ghibli's artistry (and today of all days, that's exactly what I want to do), these would be the five movies I'd pick:
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - a generous children's fable filled with a love of nature
- Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - a deadly serious examination of the human cost of war
- Porco Rosso (1992) - a clever spin on an animal fable and loving tribute to the beauty of flight
- Whisper of the Heart (1995) - a quiet, beautiful story of adolescent curiosity and self-knowledge
- Spirited Away (2002) - the perfect gateway drug: bold visions, fearless storytelling, impeccably clear characters
What are your favorite Studio Ghibli films? And how sad are you going to be if this really is the end?