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  • Spirited Away (2002): ***½

    Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

    This movie, like all of Hayao Miyazaki's movies, is filled to the brim with fantastic imagery and imagination. Actually, this movie probably has more packed in than any of his other movies. Every single shot almost has something freaky going on in it. It seems as though Miyazaki (who as always has threatened that this will be his last film) has completely pulled out all the stops in his brain and just plopped down into the movie anything that came into his brain. As a result you're practically in awe of every single thing you see for a good long while, until eventually you actually become accustomed to the strange new world. That's quite a feat for a filmmaker to make such a bizarre world somehow seem normal.

    The animation of course is great, and is full of the little character touches we've come to know and love from Miyazaki (when Chihiro puts on her shoes she taps the toe of one of them to make sure it's on right. Stuff like that). It's all rightly brilliant.

    The movie is about a mother, father, and youngish pre-teen daughter (Chihiro) who take a wrong turn while driving to their new home and end up at an abandoned theme park. Or so they thought. It's actually a posh resort for the spirit world. Chihiro's parents end up getting turned into pigs, and then it's up to Chihiro and the mysterious boy Haku (who claims to know Chihiro, although even he doesn't know how) to figure out a way to somehow get everybody back how and where they belong.

    The only reason that I didn't give this movie a full four stars is because it's really quite an ordeal. Chihiro's life in the spirit world is not exactly pleasant, and we get to grind along with her. All the characters and everything are all vibrant and colorful and it's fascinating to watch, but it's just such a grueling experience for Chihiro. And since she's the character with whom the audience sympathises, the film is kind of a greuling experience for the audience as well. I was actually releived when it was over, which is a strange thing for such a fantastic movie; usually I want good movies to just keep on going. Also I have no real desire to see the movie again. I feel like I need some time off before going back to that world—a good, long, restful vacation from Spirited Away.

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