Monday, August 22, 2016

Still My Shamisen Gently Weeps

As a kid I was prized amongst my cousins as a storyteller. I got it from my grandmother, who used to squirrel us away at family events to sit us in the dark and tell scary stories - all my life has basically been a chase after the endorphin rush she gave us screaming about her golden leg. But as soon as I was old enough to put my nutty thoughts into words I was aping her tricks - I have the most vivid recollection of a mad scientist tale I regaled my family with where the blood-spill turned out to be... wait for it... red kool-aid! Dun dun dun!

Anyway that joy in pure imagination pulses through every frame of film that Laika's ever put out into the world, and it's why every year that they release a stop-motion masterpiece their new stop-motion masterpiece makes it into my favorites movies of the year... a perch I have no doubt Kubo and the Two Strings will be staring down upon us from come year's end.

Kubo is a story about storytelling (not just the act of it but the whys, like Ratatouille - or the Bible, for that matter - is a story about creation) and how that act informs and deepens our lives. And in the process Kubo goes on to inform and deepen our lives. By being brave, and being beautiful, and being blindingly honest. Kubo tells his stories, without end, as his mother told him before... and by the time you understand why the end's evaporating away from us the story's already got you hook line and sinker, and shaken at that.

It is lovely, and terrifying, by equal degrees. Both bigger and smaller than us. It's about the ways we can make up happy endings for ourselves that are just as lovely and and as true as the paper we hold, and shape, in our hands. The tactility of stop-motion animation is both subject and object here - here is a thing that people held in their hands, and here is the magic that they made out of it that carries us away for an hour and a half from the real world. Here is art, and magic, and family and love. Here is Make Believe, and I want to believe.

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