It has been incredible and, frankly, heartening, to see the speed with which the Oklahoma film community has responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to technology, film festivals – which could easily have suffered death blows at the hands of the shutdown – have found ways to keep going, largely by migrating online. While June saw Oklahoma’s biggest festival, deadCenter, go virtual, this month we’ll see a much smaller one, Enid’s Fly Film Festival, chart similar uncertain waters.
As of my writing this column, it’s still not precisely clear what the way forward will be for the festival; their only update so far is that the festival will be happening, either in person if possible, or online if necessary. One way or the other, films will be available, and you should absolutely take advantage. Fly has the feel of a small, indie event, and screens many local films, short films and documentaries: three sorts of films especially difficult to watch outside of a festival setting. Keep your eyes peeled for more information.
Over the last twenty years, a lot of progress has been made combatting the idea that animated films are only for kids. No studio has done more for this perception that Studio Ghibli, the home of legendary director Hayao Miyazaki. While American studios often try to appeal to children and adults via different methods (jokes for kids, emotions for adults), Ghibli films appeal simultaneously to both, presenting situations and characters that appeal to adults without talking down to children.
This month, Shout Factory re-releases two classic Ghibli films in sleek new Blu-Ray editions: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki’s breakthrough film (which technically predates the founding of Ghibli by one year), and Kiki’s Delivery Service. The two films differ widely in tone – Nausicaä is a more mature environmental fable, while Kiki has the charm of kid’s classics like Madeline – but they share Miyazaki’s distinct sensibilities, including an openness to the strange and marvelous, and a knack for unexpected comedy. Featuring plenty of extras, including making-of featurettes (always welcome in the case of animated films), and packaged in sleek, minimalist steelbook wrapping, either film would make a great gift for the animation skeptic in your life – or just a great treat for you.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding the return of movie theaters: how many people will be allowed in, what will screen on schedule and much more. For now, I’ll preview a film that appears to be going ahead with its scheduled August release, whether in theaters or on demand. It’s strange to recommend a Liam Neeson film these days that’s not some sort of action thriller, his raison d’etre of late. But Made in Italy appears to be a startlingly personal film, starring Neeson alongside his son, Micheál Richardson, as a father-son duo grappling with the death of Neeson’s character’s wife, a real-life situation for Neeson, who lost his wife, Natasha Richardson, in 2009. Though ostensibly a comedy, expect the film to bring out moments of poignant emotion.