Show contents, with start times:
- Industry Trend: Animation, Part 3 (1:44)
- Trivia Question: Horror Character (12:13)
- Film Buff’s Dictionary: Auteur Theory (12:35)
- Top 6: Actors For Monologues (25:34)
- Director Spotlight: Peter Bogdanovich (39:48)
- Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (57:43)
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Industry Trend: Animation, Part 3
Anime literally just means “animation,” but we use the term to refer to Japanese animation. Japan started developing its own animation art and industry right as America was doing the same thing. But anime never really broke into the western world until the television series Astro Boy found its way to NBC and aired in the United States.
Other television series followed in its wake, but often only those with elements of Japan’s culture excised. The popularity of anime rose and fell throughout the next three decades, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that an unprecedented anime boom hit that not only captivated a new generation but did retain a distinct Japanese flavor and piqued the interest of many in the Japanese language and culture.
This new wave was probably triggered by the western release of the film Akira (1988), a mature, post-apocalyptic epic, whose action and violence and dystopian outlook couldn’t feel more different from the American animation of the day.
Akira’s popularity triggered a massive influx of anime of all kinds. While a large portion of it is comprised of superficial Saturday morning cartoons and weird cyberpunk, it’s important to realize how broad the range of anime is. Consider Grave of the Fireflies (1990), a firmly character-oriented drama that tells the story of two orphaned children during World War II, when there was a devastating famine at home. There are few if any films sadder than this one, which is certainly not an emotion “stereotypical” anime would evoke. And there are whimsical flights of fancy and sweeping historical epics and Hitchcockian thrillers, too.
One of the greatest of all animators is Hayao Miyazaki, whose works include My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), and Spirited Away (2001). You can’t go wrong with a Miyazaki film. We’ll be spotlighting his work in more detail on a future episode.
If we’ve piqued your interest in anime but don’t know where to start (and let’s face it — there is a lot of chaff to weed through), here is a list of some of the great anime films we think stand out from the crowd.
- Ghost In the Shell (1995) - Oshii - science fiction
- Grave of the Fireflies (1990) - Takahata - tearjerker drama
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) - Miyazaki - fantasy adventure
- Laputa: Castle In the Sky (1986) - Miyazaki - fantasy adventure
- Millennium Actress (1995) - Kon - character-oriented comedy
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - Miyazaki - fantasy adventure
- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds (1984) - Miyazaki - fantasy adventure
- Porco Rosso (1992) - Miyazaki - fantasy adventure
- Princess Mononoke (1997) - Miyazaki - mythological epic
- Spirited Away (2001) - Miyazaki - fantasy adventure
- Whisper of the Heart (1995) - Kondo - romance
Trivia Question: Horror Character
This character has been in more horror movies than any other character (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out how many).
Film Buff’s Dictionary: Auteur Theory
The auteur theory (from the French word for “author”) is a term that posits films can be said to have a single author, specifically the director. Because film is such a collaborative medium, critics of the auteur theory say that a film cannot be said to be “by” a specific person.
Screenwriters often take offense to the idea, since many films begin as directorless scripts. But directors, especially those working outside of rigid studio systems, have the greatest control over the finished product. Since film is primarily a visual medium, the proponents of auteur theory would argue that the person with the most control over a film’s visual style should be considered its primary author.
Film critic Andrew Sarris coined the term and popularized the idea in the English-speaking world. It has stuck to the point that it is usually only directors who are given the authorial credit in films (this is the “a film by” credit at the start of a movie).
Most proponents of the theory would not argue that every director is necessarily an auteur. It is easiest to cite directors who are take on multiple roles in the creation of a film. Orson Welles, for instance, was involved in almost every aspect of the production of Citizen Kane, and his fingerprints are all over it.
And yet a film like Casablanca does not have a clear directorial style to it. And while directors like Alfred Hitchcock have clear styles, great directors such as William Wyler do not have obvious directorial styles.
It should also be noted that not every auteur is a great director. Ed Wood, for instance, would probably qualify as an auteur (as would somebody like Michael Bay), but nobody would argue Wood was a great director.
The director is not the only candidate as the auteur. As mentioned above, one can make a strong case for the writer, but producers are also good candidates. As the person who often shepherds the film from its conception (frequently before a script is written) through its release, producers like David O. Selznick, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Joel Silver all have distinct and recognizable styles.
Top 6: Actors For Monologues
Director Spotlight: Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich was one of the young directors who burst onto the American film scene in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Starting out as a film critic, he broke into directing by making sub-B pictures for Roger Corman.
His first great work was The Last Picture Show (1971), a small and insightful film about the characters in a small town. Nearly 20 years later, he directed Texasville (1990), a sequel. Though not as good as the original, it is an interesting look at how the characters have aged over the long interim.
Bogdanovich would move into comedy in 1972 with the screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972). An homage to the film Bringing up Baby (1938), the film shows off its director’s love for and knowledge of film history. He followed that film up with Paper Moon (1973), perhaps his best film, a character study about a father-and-daughter con artist team.
Unlike his more famous contemporaries, Bogdanovich’s career stalls — both creatively and commercially — after this point. The 1974 film Daisy Miller was a surprising disappointment, and in 1981, he filmed the They All Laughed, a movie that bankrupted him after he paid for its distribution following a tragedy involving one of its female leads.
Though he continues to make movies throughout the 1980s, they became increasingly sporadic. Some of his later films, especially Noises Off… (1992) and The Cat’s Meow (2001), are well worth watching, but his directorial career never lives up to the promise of his three great films made between 1971 and 1973.
These days, Bogdanovich is as known for his contributions to film history and preservation as he is for directing. He was a student of Orson Welles and one of the leading scholars on Welles. Bogdanovich has also found something of a second career in acting, as he shows up in a large number of smaller roles (including a recurring role on the television show The Sopranos).