HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE

howlscastle.jpgI’ve always had a hard time deciding which of Hayao Miyazaki’s films I like best. Between Castle of Cagliostro, My Neighbor Totoro, Laputa: Castle In The Sky, Naussicaa, Kiki and his more recent works, it’s always been a tough decision. But now, ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner.HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is a masterpiece – and maybe his best work. It’s certainly my favorite. I was invited to special screening several weeks ago and was planning to hold my comments till closer to the film’s release. However, I just saw the trailer and got excited all over again – and feel compelled to spread the word.This film is totally in a class by itself. It’s an incredible, romantic adventure – with a storyline even more bizzarre (and yet more accessible) to western audiences than Spirited Away. It concerns a young girl being placed under a magic spell causing her to literally become an old woman. The spell also prevents her from telling anyone about her predicament – so she packs up her things and goes off to seek help, moving in with a handsome wizard and his unusual companions, who live in an enchanted castle that travels between several war-torn dimensions. As you might already suspect, this is not your average Disney fairy tale.Miyazaki has a way of pulling you into his world within the first few seconds of a story; taking you on a wild ride and dropping you off at the end, leaving anxious to experience it all over again. This trip is no exception.Though filled with echos of past Miyazaki pet themes, Howl’s storyline feels fresh and exciting. There’s a new compelling idea or breathtaking visual in practically every minute of the film. The images, a combination of traditional anime, full character animation and dazzling CGI are lush and magical. I screened the Japanese language version, however I look forward to the U.S. release English dub being supervised by Pixar (Pete Docter is directing the voices – which includes Lauren Bacall (!) as the Witch).Clearly an early contender for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, Howl’s Moving Castle is not to be missed. It opens June 10th.