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DVD Review: Ghost in the Shell

Howdy!  To all regular (and not-so-easily-categorized) readers of “Back Seat Producers,” I send greetings!  Tony and the gang have invited me, Melanie Young, on as an estrogen-heavy contributor of DVD reviews.  I’ll be attempting to post here a couple times a week, though I also post daily over at my regular blog: – which I welcome you to visit!

I’m attempting to review 365 movies in 365 days as my 2009 resolution.  So far, I’ve done well – until this week.  I’m two movies behind, but gaining.  That’s why I post which day it is, and which film I’ve made it to in my Quest, as in Day 1, Film 1 (the memory of which is fading quickly).

Be forewarned:  Tony picked me up after reading my “Godfather” review – in which I bemoaned any woman ever being anything but bored by the thing (ask your wife).  So, if you’re a guy, we might not always see eye to eye.  Rest assured, I adore many movies these guys like.  I think Joss Whedon walks on water, and that the new “Battlestar Galactica” is the best thing TV has produced in 20 years.  I’ve got no specific agenda or axe to grind, I’m just trying to give an honest, modern American woman’s view on film.  Since only half of American newspapers even bother printing reviews by women, it might be something you’re unprepared for. 

Many, many thanks to the guys at Back Seat Producers for taking the plunge.  And I do have a treat for you today…comment away!

 Day 22, Film 20:  “Ghost in the Shell” (1995)  (Japan)

Written by Kazunori Ito based on the manga by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

So I’ll admit I hadn’t ever made myself actually watch “Ghost in the Shell” until now.  If you live outside the sci-fi/fantasy worlds, you’ll be wondering why this is a big deal.  If you travel inside them, as I often do, you’ll be shaking your head at my audacity.  Especially if you’re a male cybergeek of a certain age – this film essentially put manga on the world map.  I hear it referenced with awe at both sci-fi and movie conventions – a sort of breathless wonder at the purity of the manga form (Japanese comics). 


I personally am not a manga girl (I won’t be reviewing the sequels), but it doesn’t take one to see the appeal of “Ghost” – nipples.  Robot nipples, skin-toned nipples, buffed-out, straining nipples; wet ones, arched ones, thrashing ones, falling-to-certain-death ones, even electrified ones…you get the picture.  Who couldn’t?


Yes, there’s some pretty cool animation throughout.  Tonally, it’s “Blade Runner” animated; the rain never stops falling.  And subject-wise, there are some deeper questions being discussed – what makes us human?  Is it merely self-awareness?  In a futuristic world peopled by humans modified extensively by technology and Cyborgs, this becomes a hot political topic – one worth killing for, covering up (with never-ending expositional speeches) and engaging in gratuitously violent chase scenes.  There’s some cool technology – especially the ‘cloaking’ type devices that most of the villains and heroes employ.  Funny how only the male ones get to keep their clothes on to use it. 

But the beautiful Japanese folk music isn’t enough to cover clunky dialogue or add any real meaning to the random wind-swept profile shots.  There’s way too much backstory being told instead of seen, and the deep introspection of the often-naked female lead evaporates alongside a male scientist’s 14-year old joke, “I wonder if he [the male voice inside a naked, prone female Cyborg body] has a girlfriend?”  Just in case you needed guidance to any porn-lite fantasies you weren’t already having.  At least this first installment features the faces of fully-grown women, versus the follow-ups, which obviously devolve into the normal 12-year old schoolgirl fantasy (somehow retaining the chest of a 22-year old pinup).

All I have to say to those holding out this film as evidence of a deeper sensibility in the sci-fi world is: get over yourselves.  You dig the naked chicks.