Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli

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  1. Castles in the Sky:
  2. Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli

“Charm as innocent, vibrant and entertaining as this cannot be constructed electronically; it lives and breathes in the spirit of its creators.” —Angus Wolfe Murray, EyeForFilm.co.uk

From June 8 through August 2, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents “Castles in the Sky,” a tribute to Japan’s renowned Studio Ghibli, screening fifteen animated features showcasing the work of founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and founding producer Toshio Suzuki. Creator of some of the most beloved animated films of all time, Studio Ghibli conjures up the magic that has captured the hearts of fans around the world of all ages through films including CASTLE IN THE SKY, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, and SPIRITED AWAY.

Trademarks of the Studio Ghibli film include breathtaking visual style, characterizations often derived from Manga (Japanese comic books), a concern for the environment and the interrelationship of mankind and nature, and a deeply affecting, expansive view of family and community. Studio Ghibli continues to create films through the labor-intensive technique of cell animation, requiring thousands of hours by artist/technicians to draw each frame. Directors Miyazaki and Takahata have each developed a unique style, which may be savored through the range of work in this series

All but two films screen in new 35mm prints, and two titles, ONLY YESTERDAY and THE OCEAN WAVES, have never been released in North America. Where available, and as noted below, we offer the option of seeing films in the original Japanese-language version with English subtitles (indicated in the listings below), or in the English-language version with voices by major stars.

The Gene Siskel Film Center thanks Dave Jesteadt and GKids for assistance in making this series possible.

—Barbara Scharres
Saturday double-bill discount!
Buy a ticket for the first Studio Ghibli film on any Saturday in June or July, and get a ticket for the second Studio Ghibli film that day at this discount rate (tickets must be purchased at the same time): General Admission $7; Students $6; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second film only. Discount rate available only at the Film Center box office.)
Chicago Film Critics Association appearances!

Throughout the “Castles in the Sky” series, distinguished members of the Chicago Film Critics Association will briefly introduce selected films and lead post-screening discussions. These appearances are listed under the relevant film descriptions.

CASTLE IN THE SKY

Showtimes

Fri, Jul 6th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jul 7th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 11th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.9 (20 votes)
  1. CASTLE IN THE SKY
  1. (TENKÛ NO SHIRO RAPYUTA)
  2. 1986, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 126 min.

“The sort of adventure movie that just keeps giving.”
—Jay Seaver, eFilmCritic.com

“Flawless…the film which truly catapulted Miyazaki to the forefront of world animation.”
—Bill Gibron, PopMatters.com

A soaring sense of flight keeps the thrills coming in this largely airborne adventure that begins with a pirate attack on a fantastical airship, one of the Jules Verne-derived elements that makes this Jonathan Swift-influenced film an early example of steampunk anime. Teaming up with orphaned apprentice miner Pazu and assorted ancient robots, Sheeta, young princess of the lost sky-island Laputa, defends her powerful crystal amulet against kidnappers in an action-packed showdown in the sky. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Wednesday in English with voices by Cloris Leachman, Anna Paquin, Mandy Patinkin, Barbara Goodson, and James Van Der Beek.

See video

THE OCEAN WAVES

Showtimes

Sat, Jul 7th at 5:30pm
Mon, Jul 9th at 6:00pm
Tue, Jul 10th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.4 (11 votes)
  1. THE OCEAN WAVES
  1. (UMI GA KIKOERU)
  2. 1993, Tomomi Mochizuki, Japan, 72 min.

“A hidden treasure…a unique gem that fans of the studio really should see.”
—MovieVortex.com

Never before released in North America, THE OCEAN WAVES was created by ten young protégés of Studio Ghibli founding directors Miyazaki and Takahata. The film’s contemporary setting, flashback structure, and subtle color palette most closely reflect the influence of Takahata. En route to his class reunion, twenty-something Taku muses on the love triangle that introduced him to adolescent heartbreak as he vied with best friend Yutaka for the elusive affections of Rikako, the school’s pretty but heartlessly manipulative new girl. DigiBeta video. (BS)

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles.

SPIRITED AWAY

Showtimes

Fri, Jul 13th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jul 14th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 18th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (23 votes)

Patrick McDonald in person!

  1. SPIRITED AWAY
  1. (SEN TO CHIHIRO NO KAMIKAKUSHI)
  2. 2001, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 125 min.

"Enchanting and delightful…the best animated film of recent years.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“A masterpiece, pure and simple.”
—Dave Kehr, The New York Times

With its seductive imagery and haunting story evoking the darkest childhood fears and wishes, SPIRITED AWAY, Japan’s first and only winner of an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, holds up to many viewings. Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl, becomes separated from her parents and lost in what appears to be an abandoned theme park but turns out to be a ghostly spa for gods and nature spirits, ruled by a canny witch. Surrounded by shape-shifting goblins, Chihiro learns to rely on herself as she navigates a world in which nothing is what it seems. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Wednesday in English with voices by Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Michael Chiklis, and Susan Egan.

Patrick McDonald, film critic for HollywoodChicago.com, will lead a discussion after the Friday screening.

See video

POM POKO

Showtimes

Sat, Jul 14th at 5:30pm
Tue, Jul 17th at 6:00pm
Thu, Jul 19th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.4 (11 votes)
  1. POM POKO
  1. (HEISEI TANUKI GASSEN PONPOKO)
  2. 1994, Isao Takahata, Japan, 119 min.

“Splendid, environmentally conscious comedy...The richness of the film's animation is astounding”
—Robert Pardi, TV Guide

A simple story of nature vs. mankind, POM POKO is steeped in elements of Japanese folklore. Two bands of forest raccoons rise up to combat the destruction of their environment by using their legendary shape-shifting powers to threaten and thwart their human adversaries. Animation styles shift from realistic to cuddly to fearsome, and Takahata’s mind-bending sequence in which the raccoons invade a town as a hellish horde of ghosts and spirits is one of many unforgettably stunning set pieces. 35mm. (BS)

On Tuesday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Thursday in English with voices by J.K. Simmons, Kevin Michael Richardson, Brian Posehn, Tress MacNeille, and John DiMaggio.

See video

PRINCESS MONONOKE

Showtimes

Fri, Jul 20th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jul 21st at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 25th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (20 votes)

Locke Peterseim in person!

  1. PRINCESS MONONOKE
  1. (MONONOKE-HIME)
  2. 1997, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 134 min.

“A great film…one of the most visually inventive films I have ever seen.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“A landmark feat…amazing to behold.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Working at the height of his powers, director Miyazaki poured all the skills of his art into this magnificent epic of mythical history set at the dawn of mankind’s Iron Age, when humans and the spirits of nature battled it out for mastery of the earth. Young hero Ashitaka saves his village by slaying a demon with a body of writhing snakes. Marked by a curse as a result, he searches far and wide for the source of the evil, and faces gods, devils, fantastical life forms, and a beautiful girl who rides the back of a gigantic she-wolf. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Wednesday in English with voices by Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Gillian Anderson, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Jada Pinkett Smith, and John DiMaggio.

Locke Peterseim, film critic for Hammer & Thump at Open Letters Monthly, will lead a discussion after the Friday screening.

See video

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE

Showtimes

Sat, Jul 21st at 5:30pm
Tue, Jul 24th at 6:00pm
Thu, Jul 26th at 7:30pm
Average: 4.8 (19 votes)

Tasha Robinson in person!

  1. HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE
  1. (HAURU NO UGOKU SHIRO)
  2. 2004, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 119 min.

“Dazzling…an organic, childlike wonder, fabulously unpredictable and seethingly inventive.”
—Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

“Comic, dramatic, romantic, transporting visions.”
—Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Another Oscar nomination came Studio Ghibli’s way for this delirious fairytale based loosely on the teen novel by Diana Wynn Jones. A lovely but shy young hat-maker is transformed into a creaky crone by the jealous Witch of the Waste, punishment for catching the eye of the handsome wizard Howl. Against the background of a war between kingdoms, a journey to self-realization and love involves multiple transformations of body, landscape, and, not least of all, of Howl’s magnificent walking steampunk contraption of an abode. 35mm. (BS)

All screenings in English with voices by Jean Simmons, Christian Bale, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Emily Mortimer.

Tasha Robinson, Associate Editor of The A.V. Club, will lead a discussion after the Thursday screening.

See video

PONYO

Showtimes

Fri, Jul 27th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jul 28th at 3:00pm
Wed, Aug 1st at 6:00pm
Average: 4.6 (15 votes)

Lee Shoquist in person!

  1. PONYO
  1. (GAKE NO UE NO PONYO)
  2. 2008, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 101 min.

“There is a word to describe PONYO, and that word is magical…This is more than ‘artistry.’ It is art.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“A movie for anyone who, like Miyazaki, can still happily commune with his inner five-year-old.
—Scott Foundas, Village Voice

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” may be a distant source for this story, but the realization is all Studio Ghibli in its splendid and touching beauty. Ponyo, a little goldfish mermaid, longs for life on land after she recognizes a soul mate in the human boy Sosuke, who saves her life. Sorcery makes her wish a reality, but her transformation throws the balance of land and sea into disarray, and Ponyo’s father, the gruff ruler of underwater kingdoms, is not pleased. 35mm. (BS)

All screenings in English with voices by Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, and Liam Neeson.

Lee Shoquist, film critic for Mindful Metropolis and N:Zone, will lead a discussion after the Friday screening.

See video

PORCO ROSSO

Showtimes

Sat, Jul 28th at 5:00pm
Tue, Jul 31st at 6:00pm
Thu, Aug 2nd at 8:15pm
Average: 4.5 (15 votes)
  1. PORCO ROSSO
  1. (KURENAI NO BUTA)
  2. 1992, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 94 min.

“Charming, original, downright funny, and evokes a dreamlike sense of poetic fantasy.”
—U.J. Lessing, eFilmCritic.com

“An enthralling, endearing and mesmerizing piece of animation.”
—Tom Mes, MidnightEye.com

One of the most delightfully bizarre films in the entire Studio Ghibli body of work, PORCO ROSSO recounts the adventures of a former fighter pilot transformed into a pig through a mysterious bit of magic involving his WWI glimpse of heaven. Buffoonish sea pirates, Italian fascists, a swaggering American challenger, an ingénue aircraft designer, and a love-struck chanteuse figure in this wild ride of a yarn replete with thrilling aerial dogfights over the Adriatic. 35mm. (BS)

On Tuesday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Thursday in English with voices by Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Brad Garrett, and David Ogden Stiers.

See video

NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND

  • Previously in "Castles in the Sky"

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 8th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jun 9th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jun 13th at 6:00pm
Average: 5 (9 votes)

Peter Sobczynski in person!

  1. NAUSICAÄ OF THE
  2. VALLEY OF THE WIND
  1. (KAZE NO TANI NO NAUSHIKA)
  2. 1984, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 116 min.

“A delight…manages to expertly juggle philosophical concerns with breathtaking action scenes.”
—Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic.com

Miyazakis’s second feature, the first for which he had complete artistic control, heralded his trademark environmental themes and strikingly original style. The film stands as his first certified masterpiece. Thanks to mankind’s nuclear-warring ways, the earth has been reduced to a toxic jungle on the edge of an acid sea, but the earth finds a champion in courageous Princess Nausicaä, heir to the throne of a tiny kingdom. Battling an invading queen, killer plants, monster insect mutations and all the gathering forces of aggression, she unlocks the toxic jungle’s amazing secret. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Wednesday in English, with voices by Uma Thurman, Alison Lohman, Shia LeBouf, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos, and Mark Hamill.

Peter Sobczynski, film critic for eFilmcritic.com, will lead a discussion after the Friday screening.

See video

ONLY YESTERDAY

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 9th at 5:15pm
Tue, Jun 12th at 6:00pm
Thu, Jun 14th at 6:00pm
Average: 4 (4 votes)
  1. ONLY YESTERDAY
  1. (OMOHIDE PORO PORO)
  2. 1991, Isao Takahata, Japan, 118 min.

“Nostalgic and romantic…well-done.”
—Jay Seaver, eFilmCritic.com

Never before released in the U.S., ONLY YESTERDAY follows a young girl’s journey to womanhood, wondrously depicted through shifting animation techniques, with an emphasis on emotion and real-life experience, the trademarks of Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata. To the horror of her family, Taeko, a perky young urbanite, turns down a marriage proposal and daringly strikes out for a solo summer in the country, where a new view of the world awaits in this charmingly loopy tale of self-discovery. 35mm. (BS)

All screenings in Japanese with English subtitles.

See video

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 15th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jun 16th at 3:00pm
Sat, Jun 16th at 4:45pm
Mon, Jun 18th at 6:00pm
Tue, Jun 19th at 6:00pm
Wed, Jun 20th at 6:00pm
Thu, Jun 21st at 6:00pm
Average: 4.8 (10 votes)

Jeffrey Westhoff in person!

  1. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
  1. (TONARI NO TOTORO)
  2. 1988, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 86 min.

“One of the most beloved of all family films…rich with human comedy…awe-inspiring…enchanting.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Visually arresting and consistently compelling, this movie is magical.”
—Bill Gibron, PopMatters.com

“An almost perfect merging of fantasy with everyday domesticity.”
—Christian Blauvelt, Slant Magazine

Childlike but not childish, magical but not sinister, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is a film capable of putting a joyous smile on the face of anyone of any age. In this simple but profound story, two little girls and their dad move into a ramshackle, reputedly haunted house in the country while mom is in the hospital. Encounters with mythical creatures that inhabit the nearby forest, including a gigantic tree spirit, become part of the unfolding of daily life. Miyazaki blends the fearless, innocent adventures of childhood, the wonder of the natural world, and a life-affirming sense of family and community into a most extraordinary tale. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday and Tuesday in Japanese with English subtitles. All other screenings in English with voices by Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, and Frank Welker.

Jeffrey Westhoff, film critic for the Northwest Herald, will lead a discussion after the Saturday 4:45 pm screening.

See video

WHISPER OF THE HEART

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 22nd at 6:00pm
Sat, Jun 23rd at 3:00pm
Wed, Jun 27th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.9 (7 votes)
  1. WHISPER OF THE HEART
  1. (MIMI WO SUMASEBA)
  2. 1995, Yoshifumi Kondo, Japan, 111 min.

“Visually stunning from its first moment until its last.”
—Keith Allen, MovieRapture.com

“Remains one of the most remarkable films produced by Studio Ghibli.”
—Patrick Gamble, Cine-Vue.com

Miyazaki wrote WHISPER OF THE HEART for his protégé Yoshifumi Kondo, the director he groomed to succeed him. Kondo died prematurely, leaving this sole feature as a testament to his Ghibli-worthy artistry. First love, love of books, and a magical cat figure in this story of a boy and a girl whose unusual entre to friendship begins with following a trail of library books. She’s an aspiring writer; he’s apprenticed to a violinmaker. A mysterious figurine of a cat has a special role to play as a young artist finds her voice. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Wednesday in English with voices by Ashley Tisdale, Cary Elwes, Harold Gould, and Brittany Snow.

See video

THE CAT RETURNS

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 23rd at 5:15pm
Tue, Jun 26th at 6:15pm
Thu, Jun 28th at 6:15pm
Average: 3.8 (5 votes)
  1. THE CAT RETURNS
  1. (NEKO NO ONGAESHI)
  2. 2002, Hiroyuki Morita, Japan, 75 min.

“Lewis Carrollesque fantasy takes some deliciously bizarre turns on the way to a stunning finale high above the rooftops of contemporary Japan.”
—Neil Smith, BBC.co.uk

“An animated bit of pleasure…at its best when it captures the stubborn sweetness of felines.”
—U.J. Lessing, eFilmCritic.com

Tender-hearted schoolgirl Haru saves a cat from being hit by a car one day, and therein lies the fantastical tale of her journey to the Cat Kingdom, where she is offered the paw of the cat prince in marriage by his grateful but irascible father, the cat king. Being human, Haru is not eager for a furry husband, and searches out a pair of eccentric feline friends at the Cat Bureau to help effect her escape before the fateful wedding day. 35mm. (BS)

On Tuesday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Thursday in English with voices by Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, Elliott Gould, Tim Curry, Andy Richter, Kristen Bell, and Avril Lavigne.

See video

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE

Showtimes

Fri, Jun 29th at 6:00pm
Sat, Jun 30th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 4th at 3:00pm
Average: 4.9 (7 votes)

Steve Prokopy in person!

  1. KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE
  1. (MAJO NO TAKKYÛBIN)
  2. 1989, Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 102 min.

“One of the most celebrated Japanese family films in recent memory.”
—TV Guide

A teen-age witch-in-training and her “familiar,” a wise-cracking black cat, are at the center of this coming-of-age story, one of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved films for its gorgeous animation and its positive message. Complete with cat and flying broom, young Kiki ventures out into the world to learn her trade, putting those flying skills to work making deliveries for a baker and his wife in an imaginary European city that Miyazaki brings to life with evocative detail. 35mm. (BS)

On Friday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Wednesday in English with voices by Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett, and Debbie Reynolds.

Steve Prokopy (aka “Capone”), Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, will lead a discussion after the Friday screening.

See video

MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS

Showtimes

Sat, Jun 30th at 5:00pm
Tue, Jul 3rd at 6:00pm
Thu, Jul 5th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)
  1. MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS
  1. (HÔHOKEKYO TONARI NO YAMADA-KUN)
  2. 1999, Isao Takahata, Japan, 111 min.

“A stunning achievement…consistently funny; I guarantee a smile on your face from start to finish.”
—Dave Foster, TheDigitalFix.com

A delightful anomaly among the more visually flamboyant Studio Ghibli films, MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS retains the simple line-drawing style and pastel watercolor washes of the Manga on which it’s based, but boasts the very engaging emotional complexity typical of director Takahata. The life of a family of five consisting of dad, mom, bossy mother-in-law, and two kids, is depicted with poignancy and hilarity in vignettes that range from the drama of changing the TV channel to a threatening confrontation with a motorcycle gang. 35mm. (BS)

On Tuesday in Japanese with English subtitles. On Saturday and Thursday in English with voices by James Belushi, Molly Shannon, and Tress MacNeille.

See video