Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Year Released: 2004
Positively gorgeous film by Miyazaki, who I keep thinking is going to actually retire, but who continues to forge on anyway, making great animated feature after great animated feature - perhaps the high quality of this and Spirited Away are due to his belief that they may actually be his final cinematic statements and therefore have to be his best (that nasty cigarette addiction he has isn't helping his health). There are two prominent themes working here: war and the fear of aging - though the war aspects are more or less pushed into the background (Miyazaki's not big on details in this matter), the director was vocal in Time Magazine about his displeasure with America's use of force in the Iraq war(s) (most telling is how the character of Sophie says she'd rather Howl be a coward than a warrior). Still glorious, especially in the cute details - the horrifying folds in the skin of the old women, the scarecrow, Turnip (who has his own Feel Good Ending), the lazy dog, the scene stealing fire demon Calcifer - and possessing such an aura of joy with the world and its small pleasures, that complaining about the length would just sound like sniveling. This is why I go to the movies.