10 Most Life-Changing Studio Ghibli Moments

Earlier this month, tragedy struck.

Okay so, recent times have been quite packed with bad news, so I’m going to have to be more specific. But you must brace yourselves. It was a devastating one.

I’m talking about Studio Ghibli announcing it’s closure.

“Oh why did you have to bring THAT up again?! I was doing so well in therapy!”

Except that it didn’t.

It turns out that no one actually said it was closing (though the studio will be taking a break of some sort, and there is some uncertainty surrounding the studio’s future). The original report was just poorly translated and everyone ran with it because fact-checking is for suckers, ammirite?!

Regardless, for a brief period there, it seemed very plausible to me that this powerhouse of creativity and wonder was calling it quits. It was a dark time with a lot of sad feelings, but it also made me reflect on all the thrilling, beautiful, heartbreaking moments that the studio had provided over the years.

Which all sounds like a pretty good reason to revisit some of those moments, don’t you think? …

(WARNING: Some spoilers)

 

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – The God Warrior

Miyazaki’s second feature film is a true epic that introduced many of the elements we’d see recur in his later works. One of those elements is kick-ass creatures. Seeing the God Warrior rise from its slumber and take out a few hundred Ohmus (giant bug-like critters) is breath-taking. It’s also quite frightening, seeing as by this point in the movie we know that the Ohmus are harmless and that the God Warriors are man-made weapons capable of bringing about the end of everything.

“Wake up, you big sleepyhead! We have a busy day of death and destruction ahead of us.”

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – The bus stop

While waiting at a bus stop for their father, two little girls are joined by the giant forest spirit, Totoro. He waits with the girls like it’s no big deal, borrows their umbrella, calls the Catbus (part-cat, part-bus, all party) and hitches a ride off to wherever. The girls are left stunned. It’s a simple scene but it’s just the right mix of odd and adorable. 25 years on, the three characters waiting at the bus stop is one of the most recognisable images from all of Ghibli’s films.

Satsuki could no longer hide the fact that she’d been overfeeding her pet cat.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – Those aren’t rice balls

Many Ghibli movies leave you feeling uplifted. They leave you feeling like you could belt out a rousing rendition of “Everything is Awesome” and actually mean it. They leave you feeling like you could punch all the bad guys in the world in the face, and then be friends with them because the bad guys aren’t all that bad after all.

Grave of the Fireflies isn’t one of those movies. In fact, it’s one of the most depressing, soul-destroying films ever made. In this scene, a young girl is so delirious with hunger that she starts to imagine the small rocks she finds are rice balls. Needless to say, the rocks don’t hold a lot of nutritional value, and she dies shortly after. So yeah, it’s a downer. But it’s such a powerful scene that it actually brought me to tears.

Okay now I’m sad again.

Porco Rosso (1992) – The spirits ascend

Porco (a fighter pilot with a face of a pig – for reasons never fully explained) tells a story of how he once passed out during a long dogfight only to wake up above the clouds. He then watched helplessly as the spirits of his comrades rose up to join an endless procession of fallen planes and pilots high above. It’s a rare moment of melancholy in an otherwise rather manic film, and it made a deep impression on me.

“Wait! You never gave back the $50 you borrowed! … At least throw me down your wallet!”

Princess Mononoke (1997) – Arrival of the Forest Spirit

A young warrior is taken to a sacred area of the forest in the hopes that it will heal a bullet wound in his chest. There we see the Nightwalker – the giant luminescent form of the Forest Spirit – arrive and shrink down to it’s daytime form (a many-antlered deer with a humanoid face). It makes its way to the warrior, leaving new plants growing with every footstep, and heals him with one touch. It’s a quiet, surreal moment – full of imagination and just a little bit creepy.

“If I lose my job as a Forest Spirit, at least I can always get some work as a hat stand.”

Spirited Away (2001) – The spirits appear

Speaking of spirits arriving, in this scene our young heroine, Chihiro, finds herself transported into the hidden world of the spirits as darkness falls in an abandoned theme park. We see ghostly figures materialise all around her, and a boatload of masked phantoms docking on a nearby shore that was just a tiny stream only moments before. Chihiro reacts in the way that you’d expect – by freaking out entirely – especially when she finds that her parents have been transformed into pigs that no longer recognise her. This was my introduction to the magical, surreal side of Ghibli’s films, and I couldn’t think of a better place to start.

A boatload of vaguely “ethnic” figures landing on shore? … Man, Tony Abbott must HATE this movie!

Spirited Away (2001) – No Face’s rampage

Every scene with No Face is captivating, but I particularly love this mad moment where Chihiro feeds him some of the “medicine” she receives earlier in the film. The medicine fixes the bloated, corrupted No Face quick-smart, but as they say, sometimes “the cure is worse than the disease”. He begins to shrink and disintegrate while throwing up the contents of his belly – including the workers that he greedily swallowed beforehand. Feeling tricked, he chases Chihiro through the bathhouse where she works, causing major damage. She eventually leads him outside, where the influence of the bathhouse disappears and he returns to his quiet former self. Then, in a bizarre but beautifully bold act of forgiveness, Chihiro quickly accepts him as a travel buddy.

“Hmm. Pink, huh? Must be strawberry flavour … But I told them I only want spearmint humans!”

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – Howl’s tantrum

This scene has it all. It’s funny (the ridiculousness of Howl calling upon the spirits of darkness every time a girl dumps him), it’s touching (Sophie’s outburst that she has never felt beautiful), and it’s spooky (the stretching shadows and ooze pouring from Howl’s catatonic body). And after all that drama, Sophie just matter-of-factly states that Howl is simply throwing a tantrum, and gets straight down to the business of getting him cleaned up. She is able to care for Howl while letting him know that she won’t stand for his immaturity and selfishness.

Must be love.

“Look, guy, us Spirits of Darkness are kind of busy. Just how long is this moping going to take?”

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – Catch a falling star

This moment sees Sophie, who fears that Howl is dead, transported into Howl’s childhood. There she witnesses a defining moment in his life when he caught and ate a falling star (I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time). It’s a gorgeous bit of animation and it reveals a lot about what the deal is with the troubled wizard. It also helps that the scene features a lot of Heen – one of the cutest cartoon dogs ever.

People often assume that Miyazaki used a lot of artistic licence in his depiction of a star. But not so. Howl is just several light-years tall.

Ponyo (2008) – Ponyo’s second escape

Tsunami’s are kind of a serious business, especially in Japan. Which is all the more reason why this moment, where an escaped fish-girl unknowingly brings destruction to a small island town, is impressive – tsunamis have never been so much fun. Seeing Ponyo shoot out of an underwater house riding a wave of giant golden fish is fantastic, but the best part is when Sosuke (the little boy in the story) looks out into the deadly waves bearing down on him and sees Ponyo sprinting along on the back of a fish. The expression on her face is priceless. She has no idea the damage she is causing. She’s just really psyched to be seeing her friend again.

“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM”

Well that’s 10. So although there are many other great moments, I’ll stop there.

I hope to see many more years of quality output from Ghibli, even now that Hayao Miyazaki has retired. But if not, myself and my inner child will be forever grateful for the work they’ve done.

Arigato gozaimasu.

 

Ghibli has a number of projects yet to be released in places like USA and Australia, including the documentary, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. So keep an eye out for those! In the meantime I’d love to hear about your own favourite moments in the comments, or please check out my previous Ghibli post.

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Just Quickly … I Have a New Blog

I’ve decided to start another blog. So now there are two. Here’s a handy compare and contrast table, so you don’t get them mixed up …

  Blog 1 Blog 2

Name

A Hole in the Head

A Song A Day

Post Regularity

~ 1 per month

~ 1 per day

Post Length

Somewhat long

Short and to the point

Quality

Reasonably high (attempted)

Quick and amateurish

Topics

Everything

Songs I like

In other words, the new blog is for me to quickly tell everyone about songs that I’m enjoying. Please check it out here.

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The 3rd Annual GIT Awards (Good Internet Things)

Look what’s back. Back again. GITs are back. Tell a friend.

git award

No long list of nominees this time. Just a quick nod to a couple of worthy runner-ups (keep up the good work Sometimes Interesting and Crumble Cult!) and let’s move straight on to announcing the winner!

And that winner is …

Waiting for Satan

“Oh my, I’m blushing. This is such an honour” – Quote from something that Waiting for Satan guy will say when he reads this. Probably.

Questions?

What is it? It’s a blog by a guy in the USA. It’s somewhere between actual writing and a comic.

What’s so good about it? All of the posts are highly entertaining, most of them are genuinely funny, and many of them are surreal or disturbing (in a good way).

Where should I start? Probably the about page – it’s one of the most beautifully bizarre out there, and it gives you some idea of what to expect (though be warned – it drops you into the surreal side of the blog pretty quickly). Also, I really like these ones about Canada and the difficulties of writing.

Can you compare it to something for me? Sure. Do you know “Hyperbole and a Half“? If not, you should really check out. Waiting for Satan has a somewhat similar flavour.

Did this guy draw you a picture of his interpretation of Australian politics? Why yes, as a matter of fact.

 

It’s strangely accurate.

Missed the previous exciting installments of the Annual GIT Awards? Have no fear! 2012 and 2013 are right here!

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This is Why I Didn’t Post Anything on ‘Refugee Week’

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Further watching:

Further reading:

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The 50 Greatest Songs by The Eels

I recently made a big career change. It’s scary and exciting, but I can tell that it’s mostly exciting, because whenever I think about it, this song pops into my head …

“I’m tired of the old shit. Let the new shit begin!”

That’s the Eels’ ode to getting on with moving on, Old Shit/New Shit, and it just so happens that they released a new album quite recently. So in celebration of new shit and new albums, I thought I’d ressurect my “Mega-List” tradition, where I pick a favourite band and choose my 50 favourite tracks by them.

So here it is. I’ll write a little about selected tracks, and include a quote from each song (seeing as E’s lyrics are often the best part). If you’re a fan of Eels, please let me know what you think of the choices. If you haven’t heard much of them before, I hope this post will help you set off on a journey to discover their incredible music!

(Note: Songs from the newest album weren’t eligible for this list)

 

50. Hello Cruel World – A Man Called E (1992)
“Hello cruel world/So this is you/A broken heart/But with a view”

It’s a bit weird to start the list off with a track that isn’t strictly by the Eels (it’s from an early solo album by main man, E) but considering the title, it couldn’t be more appropriate.

49. The Man – Tomorrow Morning (2010)

“The old homeless guy who smells like pee/Stops talking nonsense and says “Morning, E”

48. Trouble with Dreams – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)

“Trouble with dreams is you can’t pretend/something with no beginning has no end”

47. Fashion Awards – Shootenanny (2003)

“Let’s go down to the fashion show/With all the pretty people and piles of blow”

46. New Alphabet – Wonderful Glorious (2013)

“When the world stops making sense/I make a new alphabet”

45. Selective Memory – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“I wish I could remember/but my selective memory won’t let me”

44.  Love of the Loveless – Shootenanny (2003)

“I got something that you need/I got the love/Love of the loveless”

43.  Grace Kelly Blues – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“The kid in the mall works at hot dog on a stick/His hat is a funny shape, his heart is a brick”

42.  All in a Day’s Work – Shootenanny (2003)

“When I was born the doctor said/there’s something wrong inside that baby head”

The band opened with this the only time I’ve ever seen them live. E was nowhere to be seen. Then he appeared on the balcony amongst the crowd, playing harmonica. It was brilliant.

41.  The Good Old Days – Shootenanny (2003)

“It’s up to you and me, and who’s to say?/These could be the good old days”

40. Peach Blossom – Wonderful Glorious (2013)

“Open the window, man, and smell the peach blossom/The tiger lily/The marigold”

39. The Only Thing I Care About – Broken Toy Shop (1993)

“Played every record that I owned today/But the only thing I care about got away”

Another one from an early solo album, which I don’t even have because it’s kind of rare. I found out about this song via. the ‘Eels with Strings’ live album – and that live version is still favourite.

38. Mental – Beautiful Freak (1996)

“They say I’m mental ‘cos I’m not amused by it all”

37. Ant Farm – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Hate a lot of things/But I love a few things/And you are one of them”

36. Efil’s God – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Don’t close your eyes as I turn into dust”

35. Kinda Fuzzy – Wonderful Glorious (2013)

“In my heart there lives a little riddle”

34. Hospital Food – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Tiptoe through the alley and tiptoe through your life/You’ve still got comin’, be it gun or be it knife”

33. Fresh Blood – Hombre Lobo (2009)

“You gotta pull me out of this mud/Sweet baby, I need fresh blood”

32. Electro-Shock Blues – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Write down, I am OK/A thousand times, the doctors say/I am OK/I am OK/I’m not OK”

A harrowing, minimilast song with lyrics adapted from the notebook of Elizabeth Everett (E’s sister). Elizabeth was institutionalised then committed suicide shortly before E wrote this and most of the ‘Electro-Shock Blues’ album.

31. The Beginning – End Times (2010)

“Everything was beautiful and free, in the beginning”

30. The Medication is Wearing Off – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“See this watch she gave me?/Well it still ticks away/The days I’m claiming back for me”

Matt Stevens

29. Bus Stop Boxer - Souljacker (2001)

“One lucky kid waiting for the bus/made a winner out of one of us”

28. Losing Streak – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)

“Feeling like the weight that weighed a ton/is lifted off my shoulders now/My losing streak is done”

27. Old Shit/New Shit – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)

“I’m tired of the old shit/Let the new shit begin”

26. That’s Not Really Funny - Souljacker (2001)

“The little boy will wipe his nose because it’s runny/Then point at me and laugh, but that’s not really funny”

25. 3 Speed – Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Looked into the sky last night, and I thought I saw a bomb/Why won’t you just tell me what’s going on?”

24. To Lick Your BootsBlinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)

“People spend their days trying to find new ways/to put you down, all over town/But they’re not fit to lick your boots”

23. Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Laying on the bathroom floor/Kitty licks my cheek once more/And I – I could try/But waking up is harder when you wanna die”

It’s one of the most brutal, emotionally-raw openings to an album ever. And I love it for that. However, it makes it one of the least appropriate albums ever to put on at a party.

22. Hey Man, Now You’re Really LivingBlinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)

“Do you know what it’s like to fall on the floor/cry your guts out till you’ve got no more?/Hey man/Now you’re really living”

21. Bombs AwayWonderful Glorious (2013)

“I’m no longer keeping my mouth shut/Bombs away! Gonna shake the house”

20. Dog Faced Boy - Souljacker (2001)

“Ma won’t shave me/Jesus can’t save me/Dog faced boy”

19Saturday Morning – Shootenanny (2003)

“I’m gettin’ up and comin’ over/We’re gonna rock the neighbourhood!”

18. Somebody Loves You – Shootenanny (2003)

“Somebody loves you, and you’re gonna make it through”

E has known his fair share of depression and tragedy. So when he tells you that everything will be OK – because no matter who are somebody loves you – that means a lot.

17Sound of Fear – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“Some people like to call me Chuck/It’s Charles, and you are shit out of luck”

16. Climbing up to the moon –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“It’s getting hard to tell where what I am ends and what they’re making me begins”

15. Souljacker, Pt 1 - Souljacker (2001)

“Trailer park of broken hearts/Won’t let you leave until you’re bleeding”

14. PS. You Rock My World –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“I was at a funeral the day I realised/I wanted to spend my life with you”

Electro-Shock Blues is a record that really takes you on a journey, and it’s nice to have that journey end on a relatively positive note. Especially when it’s as masterful as this.

13Tiger in my Tank – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“I bought some rock-star ashes from the back of Rolling Stone”

12. My Descent into Madness –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Twenty days go by and every day looks the same”

11I Like Birds – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“It’s all right if you act like a turd/Cos’ I like … birds”

10. Manchild- Beautiful Freak (1996)

“I will quietly standing by/While slowly I am dying inside”

This song makes me want to cry. I could be wrong but I’ve always assumed it was about E watching his sister fall into a downward spiral – which is heartbreaking considering Elizabeth’s eventual fate.

9. Susan’s House – Beautiful Freak (1996)

“TV sets are spewing Baywatch, through windows into black”

8. Going to Your Funeral Pt 1 –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Going to your funeral and feeling I could scream/Everything goes away”

7. Fresh Feeling - Souljacker (2001)

“Old paint is peeling/This is that fresh – that fresh feeling”

Most of the description I’ve written are for the sad songs, but the Eels work often has great humour to it. It can also be genuinely uplifting, as this track shows.

6. Beautiful Freak – Beautiful Freak (1996)

“You’re such a beautiful freak/I wish there were more just like you”

5. Cancer for the Cure –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“Father knows best about suicide and smack”

4Flyswatter – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“Field mice, head lice, spiders in the kitchen”

3. Novocaine for the Soul – Beautiful Freak (1996)

“Life is white, and I am black/Jesus and his lawyer are coming back”

The Eels biggest hit (it made the US Top 40) is a little masterpiece of 90’s indie rock.

2Mr E’s Beautiful Blues – Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

“God damn right, it’s a beautiful day”

My introduction to the band. Perfect pop in every way.

1. Last Stop: This Town –  Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

“You’re dead but the world keeps spinning/Take a spin through the world you left”

 Another incredible pop song, yet it’s also crammed full of the same eloquent misery that makes so much of E’s work so interesting. The two elements are balanced brilliantly – making it a track I can listen over and over again.

Hey, you made it all the way to the end! Wanna check out more lists like this? There’s plenty of Flaming Lips and Radiohead right this way.

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Tasmania!

A month ago, D and I spent ten days driving around the little island at the bottom of our big “island”.

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There we checked out MONA – a private museum owned by an eccentric, sex-and-death-obsessed billionare, …

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… soaked up the atmosphere at Hobart’s Salamanca Markets, …

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… took in the views from Mt. Wellington (it’s worth clicking to expand this one to full size), …

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… and immersed ourselves in the violent history of Port Arthur – Australia’s most famous convict settlement (as well as the fascinating, naturally occuring “tesselated pavement” on the way there) …

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… – a violent history that could also be seen at “Old Hobart Town” (a scale model of the city during it’s early days).

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After Hobart, we were off to the stunning Freycinet National Park, …

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… the picturesque Cataract Gorge near Launceston, …

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… the bizarre geology of “The Nut” at Stanley, …

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… the rugged peaks of Cradle Mountain (seen from Dove Lake), …

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… the less pristine, but still impressive mountains of Queenstown, …

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… the beautifully unspoiled Gordon River (near Strahan), …

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… the isolated Lake Pedder (which I managed to fall into), the controversial yet remarkable Gordon Dam …

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… and the simply breathtaking Russell Falls.

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But perhaps best of all, everywhere we went we had close encounters with the local wildlife; Tasmanian Devils, …      DSCN5001  … pademelons, …DSCN4918    … wallabies, …DSCN4708   … bandicoots, …DSCN4643   … and even a rarely-seen baby wombat and platypus!IMG_1435DSCN5245

Though, we can’t forget that some of the less-wild animals were just as cute, like these two at Giant’s Table Cottages in Maydena (our favourite place to stay out of all the accomodation we tried).DSCN5236

Now we have just one more state to tick off our list before we can say we’ve stepped foot in each one!

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Like this? Wanna check out our previous trips, like this one or this one in Malaysia, or this trip to USA?

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100 Followers!

811w2ro9yhl-_sl1200_Lesley Stanfield
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