Thursday, November 5, 2020

Capsule Reviews - Animation

A trio of Animated Films.

1. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

The oldest surviving animated feature-length movie, Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a spectacle of the highest order, a film of incredible imagination that, almost 100 years later, is as entertaining as ever. Using her own brand of silhouette animation (in which cardboard and lead cutouts are manipulated, frame by frame), Reiniger relates the amazing story of Prince Achmed, son of the Caliph, who is whisked away to foreign lands by an evil magician’s flying horse. With the Prince out of the way, the Magician intends to kidnap Achmed’s sister Dinarsade and make her his wife. But with the help of a clever witch and Aladdin’s magic lamp, the Prince hopes to not only rescue his sister, but win the heart of Pari Banu, a beautiful island maiden he met during his travels. The fact that The Adventures of Prince Achmed was made in 1926 is itself impressive, but with animation that is so rich, so detailed, this film is an absolute wonder to behold; even the opening sequence, in which Reiniger introduces the main characters, had me in awe. Add to this a jam-packed fantasy tale that features flying horses, demons, and magic lamps, and you have a film that you simply have to see to believe.
Rating: 10 out of 10

2. The Point (1971)

A 1971 TV special (the first animated movie ever to air in prime time on U.S television), The Point is narrated by Ringo Starr (who voiced the home video release; Dustin Hoffman narrated the original broadcast version) and is based on an album of the same name by singer / songwriter Harry Nillson (whose music makes up a large portion of the finished film). In The Point, a father (Starr) tells his son a bedtime story about a young boy named Oblio (voiced by Mike Lookinland, aka Bobby in the popular TV series The Brady Bunch), a round-headed child living in a village of pointy-headed people. As the law of this land states, anyone without a pointed head must be banished forever. So Oblio and his dog Arrow are sent away, and during their travels they encounter a series of strange individuals, all of whom teach Oblio the value of being different. Directed by Fred Wolf, The Point is a curiosity; a breezy, well-paced movie that may look rough around the edges (the animation style is dated), but thanks to some memorable characters (after he’s banished, Oblio meets, among others. a creature made entirely of rocks and a man with three heads) and its timeless message of acceptance, this little oddity still has the power to entertain.
Rating: 7 out of 10

3. When the Wind Blows (1986)

Devastating. Having just watched director Jimmy Murakami’s animated film When the Wind Blows, that’s the only word that comes to mind, the only description I can offer as to how this movie affected me. It is a devastating motion picture. Based on the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, When the Wind Blows is the story of Jim Bloggs (voiced by John Mills) and his wife Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft), an elderly couple that resides in a small village in Sussex, England. The news is reporting that war between the Soviet Union and the west is imminent, and England could be rocked by a nuclear attack at any time. Having picked up several pamphlets the last time he was in town (which offer advice on how to survive a nuclear blast), Jim prepares his humble abode for the impending strike, while Hilda, who remains skeptical that such precautions are even necessary, tries her best to support him. When the bomb does hit, Jim and Hilda remain upbeat, but are they truly prepared to survive the aftermath of a nuclear war? Both Mills and Ashcroft do a masterful job behind the mic, infusing their characters with warmth and personality to spare, and there are moments in When The Wind Blows that will have you laughing out loud (As Jim follows the instructions laid out in the government pamphlets, which includes painting the windows white, Hilda angrily chastises him for making a mess). The animation is also superb, with Murakami employing different visual styles throughout (two brief dreamlike sequences - set to the music of Roger Waters - were really quite brilliant). But it’s the later scenes, when Jim and Hilda show their naiveté, that will stay with you long after When the Wind Blows has ended. Though it’s not an easy film to sit through, I wouldn’t for a minute want to deprive you of the experience.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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