The recently maybe perhaps un-retired Hayao Miyazaki turns 73 today. Whether or not the legendary Japanese animator and director makes another film, his filmography speaks for itself as one of the strongest in world cinema. As the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, he is responsible (with Isao Takahata) for many beautiful and powerful anime films, including Spirited Away, the first anime to win an Academy Award (for Best Animated Feature).
Miyazaki worked in the animation industry for almost two decades before directing his first feature, 1979’s The Castle of Cagliostro, which was followed by the successful Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984. Once at Ghibli, he prolifically directed Castle in the Sky, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso between 1986 and 1992. He went into semi-retirement after Princess Mononoke in 1997, nothing uncommon for him, and returned in 2001 with his most widely appreciated film, Spirited Away (I dressed up as No Face for Halloween this year, an easy costume but very effective – several young children recognized the character).
Since then, Miyazaki has helped to co-write and produce From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), his son Gorō’s second film, and has directed only three films himself – Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008) and last year’s praised (if somewhat polarizing) The Wind Rises, a biopic of Jiro Horikoshi who designed fighter planes that Japan used in World War II. Generally heralded for being bittersweet and mature, the film opens wide in the US on February 21.
Miyazaki is known for his quiet and gorgeous films, usually fantastical, that present an admirably positive worldview. He loves nature, free thought, children, animals and pacifism, and he is opposed to war and unsympathetic antagonists (when his movies even have antagonists). All of these things regularly manifest themselves in his films, which are immediately recognizable with the distinctly stunning Ghibli animation look.
He is also rightly celebrated for his feminism, which he participates in with his studio and with his strong female protagonists, who often challenge gender roles. These movies, which many children around the world watch during their most formative years, are crucially important with their many vital themes, one of the most prominent and powerful ones being this support for feminism and women.
There are the universally beloved classics, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, but a personal favourite would be Kiki’s Delivery Service, which, as fellow MM writer Christopher Runyon recently highlighted, is one of the most delightfully pleasant movies ever made.
Other birthdays today:
- Diane Keaton (68)
- Robert Duvall (83)
- Bradley Cooper (39)
- January Jones (36)