In what is certain to be one of the key cinema-related events of the summer, the Chicago Film Critics Association is teaming up with the Gene Siskel Film Center to help present "Castles in the Sky," a program celebrating the work of Japan's renowned Studio Ghibli, best known for being the home of internationally acclaimed animator Hayao Miyazaki. From June 8 through August 2, the Film Center will be presenting 15 examples of the studio's beloved output, all two in new 35mm prints and many in both their original Japanese-language versions and in English-language editions featuring the voices of some of Hollywood's biggest names. In addition, members of the CFCA will be on hand throughout the series to introduce several of the films and lead post-screening discussions with audience members.
Formed in 1985 after the resounding success of Miyazaki's second film, 1984's "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" (which will be kicking off this retrospective), Studio Ghibli and their output have been celebrated throughout the world for presenting films combining astonishing visual styles (which are still achieved through the time-honored method of hand-drawn cel animation as opposed to the computer-generated imagery of most other animated film being produced today) and surprisingly deep and nuanced narratives (often inspired from Japanese manga stories) that stress emotional concerns over empty spectacle and which often concern themselves with environmental issues as well. The results, including such instant classics as "My Neighbor Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service," "Princess Mononoke," "Spirited Away" and "Ponyo," have achieved critical and commercial hits throughout the world and have earned Miyazaki comparisons with no less of a figure in the world on animation than Walt Disney himself.
To show their own admiration for the films of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, members of the CFCA, an organization of local film critics formed in 1990 as a way of helping to advance the cause of film, will be appearing at designated screenings of some of the key films in the retrospective. Each one will briefly introduce the film at hand and then lead a discussion with audience members either in the theater or in the gallery/cafe area located in the Film Center lobby. Here is a list of the screenings featuring discussions and the CFCA members that will be taking part.
NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (1984): Discussion led by Peter Sobczynski of eFilmcritic.com. June 8. 6:00 PM. (Japanese-language version)
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988): Discussion led by Jeffrey Westhoff of The Northwest Herald. June 16. 4:45 PM. (English -language version)
KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989): Discussion led by Steve "Capone" Prokopy of Ain't It Cool News. June 29.6:00 PM. (Japanese-language version).
SPIRITED AWAY (2001): Discussion led by Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com. July 13. 6:00 PM. (Japanese-language version)
PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997): Discussion led by Locke Peterseim of Hammer & Thump at Open Letter Monthly. July 20. 6:00 PM. (Japanese-language version)
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (2004): Discussion led by Tasha Robinson, Associate Editor of The AV Club. July 26. 7:30 PM. (English-language version)
PONYO (2008): Discussion led by Lee Shoquist of Mindful Metropolis and N:Zone. July 27. 6:00 PM. (English-language version)
For further information on the "Castles in the Sky" program, including additional titles and screening information, go to http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/castlesinthesky.