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Half-Baked

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Even with its radiant colors and Joe Hisaishi’s score, a lush mixture of Snow White, Wagner, and Shostakovich, Ponyo could be insipid. Its magic comes from someplace deeper. We constantly see movies that contradict their own messages—celebrations of mavericks that are slavishly formulaic, testaments to selfless love suffused with snobbery and narcissism. But when Miyazaki makes films that decry the threat to the natural world, every molecule onscreen resonates with that belief—a belief that dissolves the boundaries between form and content.

In brief: Go soon to my blog, the Projectionist, for brief takes on godfather-of-mumblecore Andrew Bujalski’s Beeswax, which starts on a bracingly indefinite note—Bujalski is a poet of the emotionally paralyzed—then slackens and loses its satirical edge; and Cold Souls, an oddly dour Charlie Kaufman–like fantasy in which Paul Giamatti stores his soul to be able to play Uncle Vanya without breaking down. From August 12 to 18, Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade screens Gerardo Naranjo’s unnerving teen-rebel romance I’m Gonna Explode, in which a pair of runaways pitch a tent on the roof of one boy’s father’s mansion and slip indoors when the grown-ups go out searching. The DocuWeeks documentary festival runs at the IFC through August 20. I’ve only seen—and can recommend—NC Heikin’s Kimjongilia, a bitter look at North Korea’s grandiose propaganda and the lives of people who managed to escape from its lunatic regime.

Julie & Julia
Directed by Nora Ephron.
Columbia Pictures. PG-13.

Ponyo
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Walt Disney Pictures. G.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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