Joyful Movies
2 Nov 2013
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

Director: Kundan Shah (1983, Hindi, 143 mins)

Reviews: IMDB (8.4), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube, YouTube, YouTube.

Similar movies: comedy, joyful.

Summary: Yet to write.


Vicky Donor

Director: Shoojit Sircar (2012, Hindi, 126 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: comedy, joyful.

Summary: Yet to write.


Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001, French, 122 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (90%), IMDB (8.5), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: NetFlix.

Similar movies: joyful, romance.

Summary: An adorable movie, one of my favorites.

Plot: A shy waitress spreads joy into others' lives with random, anonymous acts of kindness. Occasionally, she's mischievous too! She runs into a guy who is equally good hearted and equally quirky. Amelie is intrigued. She engages with the boy but maintains her distance, concealing her identity. At the same time, she keeps setting up elaborate trails peppered with clues leading him to her.

On the whole, the movie is artistic and joyful. Not a single dull moment. I chuckled so many times! Nominated for five oscars (didn't win any) - writing, art direction, cinematography, sound and best film. Character development, humor, storyline, dialogues and music are awesome. But above all, there is a touch of artistry that is unique to this movie that makes it special. For a brief moment, the nightlamp takes human form. Semetimes, characters in photos talk to each other. In one scene, Amélie turns into water! I sensed a touch of Miyazaki in these brief moments.

Amélie brought me much relief from the negative after effects of two movies by Bergman that I saw recently: Wild Strawberries (1957, Swedish) and The Seventh Seal (1957, Swedish). Both are awesome movies on old age and death. But Bergman's approach is depressing. Wild Strawberries haunted me for two weeks. I'm thankful to directors who make movies like Amélie to help us dispel ghosts created by Bergman's movies.


My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1988, Japanese, 86 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (8.2), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful.

Summary: A lovely movie by Hayao Miyazaki! A father moves with his two young daughters (eight and four) into a house in the woods. The kids spend time with a granny, explore the forest, meet Totoro and eagerly await their mother who is sick in a hospital. Throughout the movie, they are playing around and laughing. There are moments of fear and anxiety too but they are part of routine life. I loved the fearsome looking but benign "Cat Bus". Overall, the more I think of the movie, the happier I feel :)

In both Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki blends real life with fantasy very smoothly. They made me think: what is real and what is imaginary in the experience of a child? Everything is magic!

Roger Ebert's rave review is insightful. He contrasts American anime with Japanese anime. Worth reading.

My Neighbor Totoro is among the 50 Films You Should See By the Age of 14, a list made by British Film Institute in 2005 after consulting 70 experts.


My Neighbors The Yamadas (Hôhokekyo Tonari No Yamada-Kun)

Director: Isao Takahata (1999, Japanese, 104 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (71%), IMDB (7.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: anime, family, joyful.

Summary: A comedy anime movie by Isao Takahata. Minimalistic hand drawn cartoons. Some beautiful scenes showcasing conflict and love among all members of a family. The movie does not have a story. It is a series of short scenes showing various aspects of the family. The last fifteen minutes seemed long drawn to me. Overall, a watchable movie.


Laputa Castle In The Sky (Tenkû No Shiro Rapyuta)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1986, Japanese, 124 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (94%), IMDB (8.1), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: An engaging movie by Miyazaki. A thriller that reminds me of his earlier movie The Castle of Cagliostro, which was a James Bond style movie.


Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo No Takkyûbin)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1989, Japanese, 103 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (25%), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful.

Summary: A heartwarming movie by Hayao Miyazaki. There are no villains. Everybody is kind hearted. The story is centered around Kiki, a witch with a broom. She also has a companion: a black cat named Jiji.

At age 13, tradition demands that Kiki become independent and get settled in another town. She is excited! She flies afar to a town that looks like San Francisco. Soon, she is accepted by good people and given a room to stay in a bakery shop. There she takes up the job of package delivery. Her job is well suited for her; she leverages her flying skills! Package delivery leads to adventures and encounters with interesting people. She also starts developing a friendship with Tombo, a teenage boy who likes her.

As the movie progresses, Kiki's spirit goes through highs and lows. At one point, when her spirit is sagging, she loses her power to fly! Her skills are revived through help by Ursula, an artist friend who happily lives in the woods by herself. Ursula explains her that ups and downs are normal. She mentions techniques that she employs to revive herself when she is feeling low and cannot paint any more. The final scene shows a recharged Kiki saving Tombo in mid-air in a dramatic closing sequence.

On the whole, a lovely movie. Highly recommended for kids.


Only Yesterday (Omohide poro poro)

Director: Isao Takahata (1991, Japanese, 118 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: anime, joyful, romance.

Summary: A lovely movie: calm and gentle like a steady stream. With comedy, nostalgia and romance packaged together into a wonderful work of art.

The story revolves around a 27-year old girl Taeko. She starts remembering her childhood, when she was nine or ten. There is no 'cat bus', no mythical creatures, no fantasy. It's real and simple. In fact, the beauty of the movie lies in its simplicity. It reminds me of movies like 'An Autumn Afternoon' by Yasujiro Ozu.

Details: Taeko is an unmarried city girl with a busy but boring life. She makes a trip to the countryside. During the trip, she starts remembering seemingly mundane events from her childhood: how she was picky and didn't like certain foods, how she had quarrels with her sisters over bags and clothes, how she was awed by big bathhouses, what happened when girls of her age started getting their periods, how her dad didn't let her participate in drama because it wasn't perceived as a good line of work, how her dad slapped her the only time in her life, how she developed feelings for a boy for the first time, how she had a difficult time understanding division of a fraction by another fraction, how she continued to feel guilty at being unkind and rejectful towards a boy who sat next to her for several months, and so on.

Scenes of the past are interleaved with scenes from the present. During her trip to the countryside, Taeko develops a friendship with Toshio, a joyful farmer who loves nature and organic farming. Slowly, Taeko realizes that her friendship is actually a deep connection because her conversations with Toshio evoke memories from the past, which help her understand herself better. Their connection is sublime. No hugs or kisses.

The movie interleaves the present and the past very well. The transitions are smooth and poetic. The interleaving increases as the movie progresses, culminating in a beautiful end sequence. As Taeko departs from the countryside in a train, she starts wondering whether her happiness lies in a career in the big city or with Toshio in the countryside. "Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation", as Gibran says. If I close my eyes and imagine, "could I have made the end sequence any better?" Not at all. "Could I have even conceived of it?" No. The end sequence is a gem.

All in all, the movie narrates a story of self realization - what makes us truly happy? And it reminds me of creeks and forests. The most endearing conversations that I remember from my hikes centered around memories from childhood

Good reviewAnother good review.

Watch online: Part IPart IIPart IIIOther choices.

The closing sequence plays the song Ai wa hana, kimi wa sono tane by Miyako Harumi. The song is a Japanese version of "The Rose" by Amanda McBroom:

THE ROSE by Amanda McBroom

Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower, and you its only seed.

It's the heart, afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance.
It's the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes a chance.
It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give.
And the soul, afraid of dyin', that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes The Rose.

Somehow, I feel that the Western style of singing doesn't do justice to these lyrics. My ears are attuned to warmth and gentleness of Indian classical singers like Lata Mangeshkar, S P Balasubramaniam and Hari Haran. Anyhow, the best version on YouTube that I could discover is by Amanda McBroom herself.


Whisper of the Heart (Mimi Wo Sumaseba)

Director: Yoshifumi Kondo (1995, Japanese, 111 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (90%), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, childhood, joyful, romance.

Summary: Whisper of the Heart is a lovely movie about two teenage students falling in love with each other. Screenplay is by the famous Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. No symbolism, no message. Simple, lighthearted movie that made me smile. If you loved somebody and your feelings were reciprocated, then this movie will remind you of those special, magic moments :)


Kirikou And The Sorceress (Kirikou Et La Sorcière)

Director: Michel Ocelot (1998, French, 74 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (96%), IMDB (7.5), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: Lovely, award-winning movie which is listed in BFI list of 50 films to see by the age of 14.

An infant named Kirikou fights Karaba the Sorceress who eats anybody who stands up to her. He is creative, fearless and adventurous. He is also compassionate.

Very early in the movie, Kirikou is keen to know why Karaba is mean and evil! Villagers around him actually don't know! So he undertakes a journey to meet a wise man, his own grandfather, who lives on the other side of the mountain. From the wise man, he learns that the sorceress is actually in pain, which is why she's mean and evil to everybody. Why and what will relieve her? Kirikou asks for a talisman. The wise man tells him that talismans are useless against the sorceress - the child must use his innocence and his intelligence, which are more powerful than any magic in this world! :)

The above dialogues reminded me of Heng Sure's 800-mile "three steps and a bow" journey in 1977. When he ordained as a monk, he decided to walk from Los Angeles to Ukiah in silence, by taking three steps at a time, then bow to the ground. His master told him, 'You will need a companion and a protector.' A few months later, Heng Ch'au emerged. He was skilled in martial arts. Just before the duo embarked on their journey, the master instructed them, "No dazzling martial arts moves or surefire weapons. Walking into a world troubled by rage, violence and turmoil, your protection shall be the Four Hearts: Kindness, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity. If you use these, you shall find them inexhaustible." Their journey took them 2 years and 6 months. They went through rough neighborhoods, hoodlums and unkind people but they were unharmed, without using any martial arts skills.

The first scene in Kirikou and the Sorceress is impressive: an infant named Kirikou talks through the womb, brings himself to life earlier than his due date, cuts off the umbilical cord and jumps into a bowl of water to cleanse himself. He playfully asks where is father is. His mom replies, "he went to fight Karaba the Sorceress who ate him." What about his father's brothers? "They went to fight Karaba the Sorceress who ate them." What about his mother's brothers? "They went to fight Karaba the Sorceress, who ate them." Except one.. who is presently on his way to fight the sorceress. Kirikou whizzes through to meet him and face the sorceress!

The movie is different from regular movies for kids in that neither men nor women never wear any tops, as was the norm in pre-colonial Africa. Kirikou himself doesn't wear anything throughout the movie. He's an infant.


The Cat Returns (Neko No Ongaeshi)

Director: Hiroyuki Morita (2002, Japanese, 75 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (94%), IMDB (7.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: A young girl has the ability to talk to cats. When she saves a cat from being hit by a truck, her life changes. Cats visit her and transport her into a kingdom of cats whose king wants her married to the prince :) A watchable, entertaining movie made by Studio Ghibli.


Kung Fu Panda

Director: Mark Osborne and John Stevenson (2008, English, 90 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (87%), IMDB (7.6), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: Yet to write.


Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (2010, Japanese, 101 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (92%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: A cute story of a goldfish who wants to become a human. Nicely done. Good movie for young kids.

Storyline: A goldfish escapes the ocean and is saved by a five year old boy named Sōsuke, who names her Ponyo. The scenes in which Sōsuke takes care of the goldfish are moving. They fall in love with each other (not romantic love but innocent child-like love). Ponyo is endowed with supernatural powers. She decides that she wants to be a human and turns into a five year old girl. Her father sweeps her back into the ocean because he is afraid that Ponyo could upset the balance of nature with her abilities by becoming human. Ponyo escapes again to be with Sōsuke.

On the whole, I loved the movie for its creativity and the screenplay. Worth watching!


Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

Director: Stanley Kramer (1967, English, 108 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (65%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: Amazon Prime.

Similar movies: family, joyful, romance.

Summary: A brilliant movie. The story revolves around a rich white liberal San Francisco couple. Their 23-year old daughter comes home from a trip to Hawaii along with a 37-year old black man who lost his wife and son in an accident many years ago. The man is a famous doctor with a long list of accomplishments. His dad is a retired mailman. The love birds announce that they are getting married within a few days. In 1967, such a marriage was a criminal offence in many states in USA. The couple spend the afternoon and the evening with the girl's parents. Later, they are joined by the boy's parents and a reverand.

The movie showcases how various people in the situation react: the girl, his mother, his father, their maid, the boy, his mother and his father. I chuckled many times. The plot, the characters and the dialogues are entertaining. For the first several minutes, the movie felt like a play but I quickly got used to it.

The Indian connection is that a lot of modern marriages are between couples from different family backgrounds. Some have different native languages. In a few cases, even the religion is different. The movie shows how parents react to an announcement by their children that they have fallen in love with somebody that their parents may never have imagined. The relationships between the mothers and their kids, the relationships between the dads and their kids and with each other - these are brought out well.


Bhuvan Shome

Director: Mrinal Sen (1969, Hindi, 96 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (11%), IMDB (7.0), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube, YouTube.

Similar movies: comedy, joyful, old age, village life.

Summary: A cute movie with a simple story. Utpal Dutt is cast in a semi-comical role. He is a grumpy, 50-year old widower and a strict disciplinarian. He takes a break from his city life to spend some time in a village. He is hosted by a family of two: a father and his recently married daughter. The innocence and joyfulness of the daughter ("Gauri", played by Suhasini Mulay) transforms him. The movie is worth watching for her playfulness and her big smiles :) The soundtrack has good classical music.


The Castle of Cagliostro (Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro No Shiro)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1979, Japanese, 102 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (90%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: Hulu, WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: anime, joyful.

Summary: A James Bond style movie! Fast paced, dramatic, creative and comical. A unique movie by Miyazaki.


From Up On Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka kara)

Director: Goro Miyazaki (2011, Japanese, 91 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (83%), IMDB (7.3), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Similar movies: anime, joyful, romance.

Summary: A lovely movie made by Hayao Miyazaki's son. What I liked was the fluidity - everything is natural, people are good hearted and there's no melodrama. Like the movie 'Whisper of the Heart' but with a twist that gets resolved in the end.


Porco Rosso (Kurenai No Buta)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (1992, Japanese, 94 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.8), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: WatchAnimeMovie.

Similar movies: adventure, anime, joyful.

Summary: Awesome movie! Like a Tintin comic :) Porco is an ace fighter pilot who lives life with gay abandon. He has the face of a pig. He rides a bright red plane and fights sea pirates. He doesn't realize that he's genuinely loved by many, including a long time woman friend of hers, and a young girl engineer who idolizes him. Lovely movie with fighter planes, pirates and comic gangsters.


Hector and the Search for Happiness

Director: Peter Chelsom (2014, English, 114 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.0), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: joyful.

Summary: The main protagonist, Hector, travels to several places to try out different ideas for happiness. Most ideas that he explores can be found in self help or positive psychology books. Still, the movie is watchable; it reminds us of these techniques that makes us happy.


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