Melon beat me to it but let it be said again:Ponyo is the new Totoro.
Seriously. There's hasn't been such an innocent and sweet but not sugar-coated story every since. You could draw a lot of parallels between the two, but Ponyo is by no means repetitive.
Also, while not really comparable, overall this is Ghibli's (not only Miyazaki's) best movie since Mononoke Hime. All the movies since then, with the exception of The Cat Returns which I didn't see and Spirited Away which was good but not that good, were rather forgettable. I'm trying very hard to remember what Howl's Moving Castle was about, but can only vaguely recall a few scenes and nothing of the plot. Ponyo I feel like returning to already.
As Melon mentioned, Ponyo quotes the classic Andersen's The Little Mermaid
tale. While the movie overall is a much more loose interpretation of the tale than the Disney's classic animation, at least the quote is much more accurate and not sugar-coated, despite there still being a happy ending
I have a hard time deciding which movie impressed me more, Ponyo or Totoro. They both are beautiful with their carefreeness, and both give me the shivers with their depictions of the nature and the elements. In Ponyo, especially the cliff chase scene
was making me sit on the edge and bringing tears to my eyes. It's something to be studied how without over-dramatization achieve such a powerful effect, and how to so naturally slip into magical realism while completely enchanting the viewer.
I could go on... But to save me the trouble, just go and watch it now. Preferably the subtitled version, in which I noticed nothing about what Melon raged.
I really, really hope it will get the Oscar. It deserves it so much more than Spirited Away! I didn't see UP yet, but for this sole reason I'm silently hoping that it will be a huge letdown. Melon brought up a good question, 2D vs 3D. I think I found my answer, by recently watching Ponyo, Totoro, WALL-E, and Toy Story (all for the first time except Totoro, which I've only really watched twice many years ago). Toy Story looks so very dated now. While story-wise it is ok, visually it's just not cutting it, even if you're a geek and can appreciate all the neat little references the geeks who made the movie had fun putting in. Totoro, on the other hand, looks and feels as fresh and beautiful as if it was made yesterday. I was worried watching it right after Ponyo, but it just didn't lose any points nor didn't seem to have aged at all.
WALL-E was fantastic and all, but despite that I don't expect it not to look aged in 5 or so years. One could argue that Pixar themselves realised that there's only this much to 3D CGI, which is why they dared to foray into live-action. I'm really looking forward to seeing more such surprises in UP.
One more thing... I really wish I could nail down and name the something
that makes especially certain anime like Ponyo and Totoro stand out among their Western counterparts. People are being labelled filthy weeaboos for going "hurr durr animu is SPESHUL". I thought I've left that far behind many years ago
, but damn me if there isn't something to it. No, actually, damn you Hayao Miyazaki for proving it so flawlessly. And damn the old farts in the Academy if in all their wisdom they don't see this something and not cast the right vote.