Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

LENNON NAKED (2010)
But what's your point? Christopher Eccleston straddles the line between impression and performance as John Lennon, primarily between 1967 and 1971, the time his marriage to Cynthia was falling apart and he was falling in love with Yoko Ono. It's an emotionless film, and off-putting because of it. I applaud them for showing us the side of Lennon that most people want to gloss over--in his later years, Lennon admitted he was a selfish asshole during those years, a terrible father, a drug addict who was angrily searching for something to be. This movie sticks with his father issues, showing a son with an absent father who grew up to become an absent father. But I don't buy the film's notion of triumph, with John leaving London to go to New York. The film seems to want to paint this as Lennon's liberation, but it's really just him leaving his son behind and fleeing all sense of responsibility. He's leaving his country--the ultimate father--to assuage his ego. It doesn't make sense without the rest of Lennon's journey, in which he tries to redeem himself after years of alcoholism and selfishness. This movie is fitfully interesting, and provides glimpses of what a more honest and brave movie might have done. *1/2 stars.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (2010)
I adored this one. I've given DreamWorks a lot of shit over the years, but this film is the best thing they've ever done. It's the story of Hiccup, a timid viking boy in training to fight dragons. He manages to down a Night Fury with an invention--a dragon no one's ever seen before and live to tell about--and slowly, cautiously, befriends it as he nurses it back to health. He's unable to kill it, because it looks frightened and helpless. He names the dragon Toothless (it can retract its teeth) and in the process of caring for it, learns as much as he can about the true nature of dragons and the folly of an endless war between dragons and vikings. Everything works in this movie--the humor comes out of the characters, the actors are excellent, the animation and character design are appealing and expressive. The design of the dragons is wonderful, especially Toothless. He doesn't speak (and thank you for that), but his round eyes and head movements are emotive and communicative. The animators have made a great decision by making his movements very catlike; he stalks, watches, and sits expectantly like a feline. His friendship with Hiccup grows organically and naturally. That friendship--which grows out of compassion and curiosity--is the heart of the movie for me, and Hiccup's desire not to let his father down feels more real and moving than in a lot of animated features today. Definitely the best animated film of 2010, and one of my favorites of all time. Just a wonderful film. **** stars.

5 comments:

Tallulah Morehead said...

But at least it told me Lennon was a Time Lord, which I hadn't previously known. I wonder why he didn't regenerate when he was shot. Or did he, and we just don't recognize his new face?

The station I watched it on followed it with the documentary "Lennon in New York", so we did get the whole story.

Not to brag (Okay bragging), but in 1974, at the opening of The Rocky Horror Show (The stage show, not the movie, which hadn't been made yet), I was seated at the table next to the one John Lennon was seated at. We spent more time watching him than we did watching the show.

Kal said...

I LOVED 'How To Train Your Dragon' also. It was so opposite to every thing I had been trained to expect from an animated film involving humans and animals. I so DO NOT want any kind of sequel to be made of this gem. Let it stand proudly alone and move on to another original story. But knowing how Dreamworks drained all the life they could out of 'Shrek', I have little hope that my dream will come true.

Allen L. said...

I loved "Dragon". I thought it was terrific, just up and down. But, "Best animated" of the year? In a year with Toy Story 3 with it's terrifying climax and heart wrenching tale of closure? I have to rate Dragon as number 2. TS3 was just...well, it was in a different class.

SamuraiFrog said...

Yeah, I liked Dragon better. Toy Story 3 was very, very good, but it hammers its points a little too hard and opts for the orgy of sentimentality at the end. It's just a shade too much. And frankly, John Lasseter's insufferable folksiness is starting to wear on me.

Michael said...

I couldn't agree with your opinion more. I found HTTYD inspiring and funny. The humor was top notch, the best I've ever seen in an animated production. Sentimental but not overly so. Great call.