Movie academy to honor Belafonte, O'Hara, Miyazaki
There have been many brilliantly inspired filmmakers, but few deserve the often-slung superlative "genius." Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. I came to his films late in my movie-loving life, taking what I considered a chance on Spirited Away when it played in my hometown. I went with my dad, who was then in the stages of Alzheimer's where he could no longer compensate for what he'd lost and was still draining away. He needed help with daily tasks, he'd drift away at times. The man in the mirror was increasingly a stranger. He longer could quite comprehend moving pictures on television. Even televised baseball games were beyond him for the most part, and he was a guy who knew baseball enough to teach it and coach it.
And even in his best years, he'd had this tendency to fall asleep if he sat still for any period of time. We'd go to the movies and he'd nod off about twenty or thirty minutes in and he'd wake up in time for the credits and the ride home. And those were movies he wanted to watch. For something like Spirited Away, which he went to just to hang out with me and get out of the house for a bit, I expected him to have a pleasant afternoon nap.
At about the halfway point, during one of Chihiro's colorful misadventures in Yubaba's bath house, I stole a glance at ol' Dad and saw his eyes glistening in the dark, the images from the screen reflected in the glassy curve of their corneas, the corners of his lips turned up in an ever-so-slight smile. He had the same expression he wore many years before when we all went to Disney World and rode the horse-drawn trolley. That trolley was the only thing that he really enjoyed doing simply for himself that day in the park. Sure, he got a kick out of watching my mom and me do our thing, but being pulled along by a horse spoke to his country heart in a way anthropomorphic mice and ducks never could. That trolley was his thing.
Years and years later, there he was, already on the other side of the initial stages of a disease that wouldn't kill him but instead would hasten his death within two years, watching the work of someone from another culture and it spoke to him. Maybe the colors. Maybe the movements. He wasn't a guy to analyze stories or his enjoyment of them. When the cowboys farted in Blazing Saddles, he responded with laughter. That was the level on which he approached media. So I don't know why Spirited Away kept him awake and pleased when so many other good movies, even ones he enjoyed, rocked him gently to sleep, but it doesn't matter. As much as I'd been enjoying Spirited Away up to that point, seeing his face like that, that pure enjoyment of something for its own sake, was enough to bond me with Miyazaki forever. I still feel I owe him a big thank you for giving my father and me one more moment like that in a life full of little moments and memories.
There's a lifetime achievement award from me to Hayao Miyazaki.