The Secret World of Arrietty (2011)
I know of no better way to begin the day than with a wonderful film. Even an overall decent film such as Arrietty will suffice. The Secret World of Arrietty is the most recent film from Japanese Animation giant Studio Ghibli, and it lives up to the reputation of its ancestors such as Spirited Away (2002) and My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Though perhaps not as well-written as those former films, Arrietty is a huge step in the right direction after the cute, but perhaps over-the-top Ponyo, released in 2009. It is a retelling of the classic children’s novel The Borrowers, told with some of the best 2-D animation in years. Some images in the picture, such as the dewfall on leaves or the sun shining through the canopy of a forest could be pieces of art in and of themselves. Unfortunately, Disney (which distributes Ghibli’s films in the United States) has done an unusually poor job of dubbing the original Japanese language soundtrack. Many lines of dialogue come off as awkward and unnecessary, and listening to clunky dialogue is like nails on a chalkboard. Other than this, The Secret World of Arrietty is an excellent, beautifully animated adventure which everyone should love.
The Gold Rush (1925)
I picked up the brand new print of Charles Chaplin’s The Gold Rush from the Criterion Collection a few weeks ago and just got around to it today. Compared to the rest of Chaplin’s work I’ve seen, this basic and joyful comedy is one of his best. Chaplin stars of course as the Little Tramp, this time a prospector during the Alaskan Gold Rush. It stands out to me as one of the few Chaplin films with what could properly be called a “happy” ending. My favorite, City Lights (1931), ends on a devastatingly ambiguous note. In Modern Times (1936), the final appearance of the Little Tramp, he wanders off into the distance with nothing but possibly a hopeful future. The Gold Rush, however, is fun and slapstick from start to finish, managing to tell two interwoven stories at once (something common today, but novel for its time). Being from Criterion, this two-disc release costs a pretty penny, but the extra cash is worth it for anyone who loves Chaplin’s work.