Saturday, March 29, 2008

I'm Not There

DAN - I’m Not There is a tribute to Bob Dylan as directed by Todd Haynes. Although being in a biographical format, the film doesn’t feature a singular representation of Dylan. Instead, six different actors portray various elements of Dylan’s life, be it truth or legend. The result is an intertwining set of separate narratives that amount to the director’s impression of one of his favorite artists.

Even though I know very little about the real Bob Dylan, it is apparent that this film’s construction of his character is unique. Dylan is depicted as a child, an outlaw, a poet, a prophet, and more. Each side of his personality is filmed in a different style; some segments are black and white, while others are in color. These stories could have been presented individually, but are instead intercut with one another, creating a unified presentation on the character of Dylan.

The effect of this myriad of plot lines can sometimes be disorienting. It’s clear that director Haynes is expressing himself through artistic editing, but I wasn’t always able to catch the intended meaning. Haynes’ style of storytelling, though unconventional, is not off-putting. It simply requires a greater level of attention from its audience.

Haynes previously directed a film called Velvet Goldmine that was based on the life of David Bowie. That film was more difficult to follow than I’m Not There, despite having only one actor in the role of the main character.

This film’s cast delivers a cornucopia of terrific performances. Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, and the late Heath Ledger are standouts in an ensemble that lacks any notable flaws. I am impressed that black, white, male, and female actors are all able to convey something that resembles Bob Dylan.

The film’s soundtrack comprises Dylan’s music; some songs are original recordings, and others are covers. The music complements the film well, though at points there are some obvious problems with lip synching.

I’m Not There is an experimental film that is far from being mainstream. It’s an impressive outing for cast and crew alike. I imagine it would help to be a Dylan fan when watching this movie, but it merits a viewing by any interested audience.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Horton Hears a Who!

DAN - Horton Hears a Who is the latest cinematic adaptation of a Dr. Seuss novel. Horton is an energetic elephant who hears voices coming from a tiny white speck as it floats through the jungle. The voices belong to the Whos, a race of miniature people in a world where nothing ever goes wrong. Though the other animals think he’s crazy, Horton takes it upon himself to transport the Whos to a safe spot in the jungle.

This film has some good things going for it, the best of which is its animation. The characters’ movements are fluid and creative, and they add individuality to each persona. This can probably be attributed to the movie’s directors, Steve Martino and Jimmy Hayward, the latter of which was an animator on five Pixar films.

The animation also fits well with the film’s voice actors. The cast, particularly Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Will Arnett, and Isla Fisher, put forth lively and unique performances.

The score by John Powell is fittingly whimsical, never overpowering the accompanying visuals. At times it adds an emotional charge to the film; I actually got chills at one point.

For the most part, this film successfully adapts the world imagined by Dr. Seuss. However, the story might have been a bit too modernized. Some pop culture references, including a segment in the style of Japanese anime, seem out of place. They may be good for a few chuckles, but they were unnecessary.

Horton Hears a Who is a family film, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to children. Like last year’s Enchanted, this movie can be a pleasant break from the heavy drama that is common in the theater, as well as in real life.


STEVE - From the creators of Ice Age comes the beloved story of an elephant named Horton, who stumbles upon a flying speck that can talk. Most of us know how the old story goes, and thus becomes the obstacle for screen writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul to turn a beloved child’s book into a feature motion picture.

Without a doubt, Horton Hears a Who is the best Dr. Seuss made adaptation for the sliver screen so far. It seems Hollywood has learned from its mistakes. Instead of dressing up Jim Carrey in green costume, they use his voice and give to a very dedicated elephant. Yes, Jim Carrey lends his voice to Horton in his second Dr. Seuss outing. And along with him comes comedic actors Steve Carell, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Seth Rogan, and the great Carol Burnett. All of whom do an excellent job, with the exception of Seth Rogan who just felt a little out of place in this movie as Horton’s somewhat loyal mouse friend Morton.

Though it relies heavily on voice actors and sight gags, which tend to fall short of the mark about once or twice, the film does an exceptional job of keeping the spirit of Dr. Seuss alive, all the while mixing in twenty-first century humor. Although it’s not a perfect movie by any means, Horton Hears a Who is a fun filled adventure for the whole family and even retains the rare rating of “G”. When was the last time you saw one those?