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Movie Review: The Wind Rises

11/08/2013 09:45 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

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Hayao Miyazaki has been a critical darling as an animator almost since his films started being imported to the U.S. He's been hailed as a master and even given an Oscar for Spirited Away.

Having announced his retirement, he's made one final feature: The Wind Rises, which is getting an Oscar-qualifying run starting today (11/8/13). It's an animated film for adults, but I can't imagine adults -- let alone kids -- sitting still for it.

For one thing, it's pokey and tedious, which is characteristic of most of Miyazaki's work. For another, it's about the guy who invented the fighter plane with which Japan fought against the U.S. during World War II.

His name is Jiro Horikoshi and I wonder how his family feels about having him immortalized with a biopic that's a cartoon.

The film follows him from youth to the brink of WWII. The sections when he's a kid emphasize his fascination with flight, at the dawn of aviation. That fascination is depicted in fanciful fantasy and dream sequences of improbable early flying machines.

Eventually, he becomes an aeronautical engineer, trying to design the perfect airplane as an act of artistry, as opposed to trying to punch his ticket into the military-industrial complex. There's also a love story, focused on his feelings for a young woman with tuberculosis. Ah yes, an animated TB plague -- now you're talking.

This review continues on my website.