The Boy and the Heron’ earns Miyazaki 2nd Oscar; Godzilla Minus One’ wins for visual effects

by Mar 11, 2024Featured Article, News

Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary Japanese filmmaker whose anime classics have enchanted fans around the world for decades, has won his second career Oscar.

At 83, Miyazaki won for helming the best animated film, “The Boy and the Heron,” the long-awaited fantasy from the director of “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”

He is the oldest director ever nominated for the category and the oldest winner by more than two decades — adding to a big year in Hollywood for older filmmakers.

Hailed as one of the best films of 2023, “The Boy and The Heron” beat its top rival in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” as well as “Elemental,”“Nimona,” and “Robot Dreams.”

It’s only the second hand-drawn animation winner in this category. The first, 21 years ago, was Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” — his first-ever Oscar.

Sunday’s win for Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki caps off a solid awards season run for the film, which won the top honor for an animated feature at the Golden Globes and the BAFTA Film Awards.

They were not present at the awards, but Studio Ghibli’s Kiyofumi Nakajima read a statement backstage from Suzuki.

“Both Hayao Miyazaki and I have aged considerably,” he said through a translator. “I am grateful to receive such an honor at my age, and taking this as a message to continue our work, I will devote myself to work harder in the future.”

It was Miyazaki’s fourth Oscar nomination for best animated feature — tying with Pixar’s Pete Docter for the most nods in that category.

Miyazaki began work on “The Boy and the Heron” not long after announcing in 2013 that he intended to retire from film — again.

In journal excerpts from around that time released in the film’s press notes, Miyazaki writes: “There’s nothing more pathetic than telling the world you’ll retire because of your age, then making yet another comeback.

“Doesn’t an elderly person deluding themself that they’re still capable, despite their geriatric forgetfulness, prove that they’re past their best?” he adds. “You bet it does.”

Miyazaki worked through those concerns, and the resulting film earned him not only his second Oscar win on Sunday night, but his first No. 1 feature at the North American box office.

“The Boy and the Heron” follows a boy named Mahito Maki who moves to the countryside after his mother’s death. There, he is lured by a mysterious heron into a secluded tower, a portal that transports him to a fantastical realm amid his grief.

The film was a decade in the making. In the age of CGI and artificial intelligence, Miyazaki has stuck to the lengthy process of hand-drawing his animations.

When he received an honorary Oscar in 2014 celebrating his artistry and storytelling, he expressed gratitude for the art of drawing.

“My wife tells me that I’m a very lucky man,” Miyazaki said in his acceptance speech. “And I think I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to participate in the last era when we can make films with paper, pencil and film.”

Meanwhile, Godzilla finally made it to the Oscars this year — and slayed.

The movie “Godzilla Minus One,” set in the waning days of World War II, won the Oscar for best visual effects, pushing aside such big-budget behemoths as “Guardians of the Galaxy 3,” “Napoleon” and “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.”

“Godzilla Minus One,” from writer-director Takashi Yamazaki, marked the first time the prehistoric reptilian monster was nominated for an Oscar in the franchise’s 70-year history. It is the 37th film in the film series, which usually uses Godzilla as a sober symbol of nuclear holocaust and atomic trauma.

“Godzilla Minus One” became the highest-grossing Japanese live-action film ever in the U.S. and Canada. Only two international live-action movies — “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life Is Beautiful” — collected more than the $56.4 million grossed by “Godzilla Minus One.”

Some 610 effects shots were created by Yamazaki, who also served as effects supervisor, and his small team of artists. Lacking the budget for hydraulics, the crew shook would shake a boat set to mimic ocean bobbing or rotate a cockpit to simulate flying.

Yamazaki told the AP he believes it’s telling that both he and Christopher Nolan with the epic “Oppenheimer” were separately drawn back to the dawn of the nuclear era in their moviemaking.

“The world, in some sense, has forgotten the implications, the impact, the ramifications of what a nuclear war could entail,” Yamazaki said.

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