I had a unique opportunity last week to watch Howl’s Moving Castle. I was told I was attending the North American Premier of the show. It turned out to be a slight exaggeration. As it turns out it was an early release party. I didn’t find this information out until after I got there. That’s why I did extensive research on this film before I attended.
By extensive research, I mean I looked it up on IMDB.
I paged through the actors listed on there, and of course, the big names stand out: Billy Crystal, Christian Bale. From there, the names get a little more arcane. Jena Malone, someone I knew of from one of my very favorite films, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, played a somewhat infrequently appearing character named Lettie.
The film it self had a very high standard to live up to. I watched Spirited Away both in the theatre, and much later on when I purchased the DVD a couple years ago, and the detailed nuances that Hayao Miyazaki achieved noteriety with in that film were really what I was looking for in Howl’s Moving Castle. The level of excellence he achieved there would be hard to beat.
Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), an average teenage girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome-but-mysterious wizard named Howl (voiced by Christian Bale), and is subsequently turned into a 90-year old woman (voiced by screen legend and two-time Oscar. nominee Jean Simmons) by the vain and conniving Wicked Witch of the Waste (voiced by screen legend and Oscar. nominee Lauren Bacall). Embarking on an incredible odyssey to lift the curse, she finds refuge in Howl’s magical moving castle where she becomes acquainted with Markl, Howl’s apprentice, and a hot-headed fire demon named Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal). Sophie’s love and support comes to have a major impact on Howl, who flies in the face of orders from the palace to become a pawn of war and instead risks his life to help bring peace to the kingdom.
Given that Miyazaki’s bar was set so high in Spirited, it is no wonder that coming out of Howl’s that I wasn’t as floored from this film as I was Miyazaki’s first – and I’ve reflected on why this is. It wasn’t the voice acting. Many of you who know me know that I’m generally not a fan of the dubbed anime. I cannot fault the voice acting, however, as a well rounded cast of knowns and unknowns alike took their crack at the film. The nuanced character animation was there, too. The oddly shaped spirits, alternative demonology/spirituality, and mechanical gadgets were all there, too, and all fairly impressive in their own right.
No, after careful reflection, I think I’ve determined that you simply can’t improve on perfection, and Miyazaki’s style was so amply displayed in Spirited Away that I must have expected the bar to have been raised past that somehow. None the less, the minutes will fly by as you watch the film. Like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle is definately one of those films you will want to own so you can see all the tiny details you missed the first time around.
But back to my “research:” I’ve developed a fairly decent memory over the years, so operating under the assumption I was going to be at a premier, and running into some star types, I memorized different parts of some of the actor’s and actress’s bios. In fact, I called up my good buddy Darrell (the friend I’d call if on Millionaire, and needed a movie question answered), and we brainstormed some original questions that would be both interesting to read about on the site, as well as make a lasting impression on the actor’s memories themselves. For your amusement, I will detail a few of them here (keep in mind, they come from the same sick minds that brought you the Mark and Darrell Show):
Blythe Danner: 1) How did you likeworking with Edward Burns in No Looking Back. (Apparently Edward Burns is an exception actor, according to Darrell, and I’m one of the few people in the world who hasn’t been impressed by his stuff, therefore it would be good to ask her about this) 2) Since Bon Jovi is a rock star, did he ever looklike he was going to break into song and dance when he was on the set of that movie? [to be accompanied by a hair band yowl!]
Josh Hutcherson 1) Call him a little brat. 2) Do you even know who Tom Hanks is? 3) Do you know what an honor it is to have been able to work with him? 4) Throw him out the window. (Darrell suggested I save this one until last.)
Billy Crystal 1) You worked with Bob Zmuda on some comedy projects early in your career. Do you know if Andy Kaufman is alive? 2) You worked on Spinal Tap. Do you want to hear an idea about a mockumentary Darrell and I want to make about Paint Drying? It’s really good. Think A Mighty Wind meets the ill-fated XFL. But with better marketing. In both cases.
Lauren Bacall 1) Call her Betty (her real first name). 2) Ask about John Wayne. (No one’s probably done that in about 30 years).
Emily Mortimer 1) Can I have your phone number? (Emily Mortimer is most notably remembered (in my mind) as the really hot woman that Val Kilmer sat next to on the airplane in the beginning of The Saint.)
Hope Levy 1) What’s the deal with Knot’s Landing? What was that show about? My mom and dad never let me stay up past Dallas to watch it.
And that brings us to Kristen Rutherford. She played a seamstress in the early part of the movie. I was lucky enough to come upon a contact address to get a hold of her and ask her some questions. She emailed me back this afternoon saying she’s seen the movie and wants to talk all about it. Unfortunately, due to what I can only assume is both of ours’ hectic schedules, we haven’t been able to complete our “interview” so I will have to add it later this week (hopefully).
The bottom line is, go see Howl’s Moving Castle. It rocks.