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"The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation" is like a visit to
Oprah's couch for dysfunctional families crossed with "The Sopranos"
and PBS's "American Experience" but through magical animation.
Director/co-writer John Canemaker tells a presumably autobiographical story that makes Noah Brumbach look like he was too easy on his father in "The Squid and the Whale." It brings genealogy to life in a uniquely beautiful way.
Canemaker uses a dazzling array of animation styles and techniques, from black and white photographs to colorful childish drawings and much, much more, to tell the raw story of his bullying Italian immigrant father and his fraught relationship with him. He is like a wizard calling forth all the considerable creative talents at his command to not just recreate the vanished world of his and father's pasts but to try to effect an impossible reconciliation. It's like he is clenching and unclenching his fists throughout the film. While Faulkner-like the past is never past, he goes to extraordinary visual lengths to try and understand how he and his father became the men they are and were.
I can't think of any animated short I've seen before where I was so more emotionally involved in the story than in the images. As narrators, John Turturro as The Son and Eli Wallach as The Father (with the non-Anglicized version of the director's last name) eerily capture a tale that swings from light-hearted to horrific, sweet to scary, angry to sympathetic. It is a very unusual perspective on The American Dream across all of the 20th century as it swings back and forth from bitter and cynical to loving and almost forgiving.
The film incidentally illustrates an aspect of Italian immigration that has been documented by historians, such as Mark Wyman's "Round Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880-1930" and Betty Boyd Caroli's "Italian Repatriation from the United States, 1900-1914" but not generally in popular culture.
This film was viewed as part of a commercial screening of Oscar nominated shorts.
This animated film is absolutely wonderful. The drawings are really simple (it can't be compared to "Cars" or other "big" animated movies) but there's so much emotion and creativity that you go out of this film deeply moved and absolutely fascinated. It's the kind of film which makes you want to make animated films, thinking that it's something great and making you think something you didn't think before : animated films can be sometimes more powerful than any other films. The voice of John Turturro has something to do with it, both melancholic and angry. What really defines this film is "true feeling" and "simple". It's something very creative and new : the story told is a true story. Sometimes, true photos or newspapers are put into the film. It creates a wonderful mix between the reality and the dream, a true person and his image and for the director, between the desire of rediscovering his childhood and the fear about it. It's very sad as the father died before the film was made and it's strange what someone who didn't talk can say to his child and how love can impersonate itself in our lives and stories.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was the winner of the Best Animated Short Oscar for 2005.
When I saw the film, I was a bit surprised, as it didn't seem THAT
interesting, though it certainly was innovative in style.
The film is an imagined conversation between a son and his dead father and its told through very splashy and simple animation along with photographs. At first, it all seems rather sweet, as the son seems to miss his dad and begins to talk to the ghost-like memory of him. However, instead of just fond memories, you see that the son is asking and even demanding to understand why Dad was such a horrid person. In fact, as the film continues, it's a bit hard to watch. It feels like watching an episode of "Dr. Phil" when a grown child confronts their abusive and neglectful parent.
This is all well made and very creative but also very painful and difficult to watch. From a psychological point of view, it is very interesting but I wonder how many people will be willing to watch this in its entire painful entirety.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to admit that this film has two very important and creative
aspects to it. Firstly, it uses a lot of different styles of drawing
and mixing of other footage to create its animation. Secondly, it's
about the only stream-of-consciousness animation (or even film) I've
ever seen, which is fundamentally important because the very process of
making a film (and especially an animated one) is slightly too labor
intensive to be stream-of-consciousness. Those are both very neat
aspects that make this an original and unique experience pleasant to
But what it is, really, is anticlimactic. As the dialog in the film itself states, it is the movie he promised, but not the one expected. Furthermore, while the story is gritty and real, and the emotion effect profound, there's still a large level of personalness to it that isn't very audience-engaging. Obviously the poor guy who made this has some stuff to work out, but does that stuff need to be a dialog with the audience? It's a dialog in his mind, and has all the features of a dialog in the mind, but one thing that's different between a dialog of the mind and an imagined dialog to share with an audience is that the latter has a completely different language to it beyond the regular aspects of a spoken language (in this case English).
When holding a conversation with oneself in one's own head, even giving another voice to the other side of the conversation, there are unspoken and completely understood interpretations that are useless to even convey in the conversation because both voices automatically understand them being from one source. When creating a discourse to be understood by an outsider, there's a different means of presentation that involves an almost structurely linear (even in stream-of-conscious) presentation of events that either reveals slowly or can hold off information 'til the end, requiring multiple viewership in order to fully extract its needs. This film is caught up in the circular and arbitrary motions of the internal conversation without a good structural presentation for an audience, thus making some of its scenes superfluous and repetitive and making other assumptions about things the audience should understand that they don't. In the end, this short is such a personal production that it needn't have any audience but the guy who wrote it at all.
I'm not saying that just because something is personal means it shouldn't be shared. I'm saying that somewhere there must be a compelling engagement with the audience for them to share in the personal aspects, which this film doesn't provide. It's a well-done work of art, it just doesn't take the responsibility of narration.
I'm glad he got it out of his system though.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation" is the Academy Award
winner for best animated short film from 2005. The thing that most
likely gave it the win was the emotional factor of a problematic
father-son relationship and the fact that the competition was not
particularly strong either. However, I found the animation as mediocre
as the story was lacking real appeal. If it helped director John
Canemaker in working out this difficult relationship and finally get
over his struggles, good for him, but I personally found the film just
not interesting enough to be suited at a larger audience. I am somebody
who had a tumultuous relationship with his father as well and even
despite this the film did not really click with me.
Apart from that, the references in terms of time back then and history were quite a few, but even there the film gets barely once past the state where it is a personal story about a family. The talk about the father's youth was a bit random, maybe as a way to give a reason for his later actions. It did not succeed though. The narrator's anger near the end comes very suddenly as well after, previously, he seemed to have a fairly normal conversation. I can't really recommend watching this although I felt Turturro and Wallach, who died this year aged close to 100, did a decent job with the voice acting. I am not too surprised this film did not work as a stepping stone for Canemaker to become a truly prolific animation artist and director. What I maybe disliked the most about the film is sharing such an intimate and personal story with the whole world. It blends right in with letting the whole world know your Facebook status these days. Personal inspiration and experience good, but not a whole film about something like that. I wonder how most of Canemaker's family feels about the film and about how his mother would feel.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This short is a combination of animation, still photos and what look
like home movies in trying to create an imaginary conversation between
a father and his son. Like Ryan, which was an animated look at the life
and troubles of animator Ryan Larkin's life, this short looks at very
real people and situations and, like Ryan, it also won the Oscar for
Animated Short. Because I want to at least touch on some of the
details, this is a spoiler warning:
This short is a conversation going on in the head of its creator, John Canemaker between he and his father and is basically Canemaker's questioning his father about his actions and the events in his life which wound up putting the father on trial for arson and eventually resulting in the incarceration of his father for five years. It's a fascinating story, told primarily by the voices of the father and son, ably done by actors Eli Wallach and John Turturro. Anyone who says that voice work isn't really truly a full acting performance may technically be right, but the performances in this short should at least prove that you can turn in a memorable performance even if you're just providing the voice alone.
Just about every emotion you would expect to come out in a conversation between a parent and a child with a significantly adversarial relationship is found here-anger, rage, frustration, irritation, accusation, pain and love are quite apparent in both men as the son tries to find out what precisely happened and why his father went to jail for arson for five years in the early 1950s. As you get deeper in, however, it becomes clear that this is just the most significant problem in a string of problems between father and son, most revolving around the father's temper and the short fuse which causes that temper to be frequently displayed.
The animation is simple but quite effective and appropriate to the subject matter. At times, the animation appears to be deliberately child-like and it feels like Canemaker is trying to show the reaction of a confused, frightened and hurt eight year old (which was how old he was when his father went to jail). The animation basically fits with the mood of the short.
This short is really difficult to describe in words which will do it justice, as it really should be seen. Fortunately, it and most of the other 2005 shorts nominees are available on a compilation DVD featuring all five Live-Action Shorts and three of the five Animated Shorts (the other two animated nominees weren't included because Pixar presumably had plans to release One Man Band and 9 has been optioned to be turned into a feature film). Highly recommended.
There are a number of folks who think baring their all emotionally
must, somehow, equal ART. This movie lies there as the definitive proof
that that is not the case; despite how many idiots are praising it for
It is, instead, brilliantly dishonest. The filmmaker has issues with his daddy. After apparently never having confronted his father about the things that bothered him while he was alive, the filmmaker decided to make up a conversation with his dad into which he, the filmmaker, would put words into his dead father's mouth, making it clear it was all his fault.
The film comes across as whiny and nasty, a post-death "f*** you" to his old man.
There is no imagination, style or talent for imagery revealed in the pedestrian animation with which he illustrates all this.
Watching it is like watching a child throw a particularly nasty childhood tantrum, and that is all I can remember of this self-absorbed film.
"The Moon and the Son" was the most breathtaking animated film I have ever seen. This was due to it's truthful content. A simple imagined conversation between a man and his deceased father gives insights to the man's need for understanding as well as the understanding that is unveiled. This story is brilliantly told and illustrated. I would highly recommend people to watch this gem. It touched my heart. I laughed. I cried. I personalized. And it made me think. The odyssey of a persons search for heritage, love, acceptance, understanding, empathy is all encompassing. This short is masterful in it's simplicity. It will touch your heart and possibly open it and expand it, too. Two thumbs way up!
Add my voice to those who are underwhelmed with this Oscar winning short. This is the personal story of filmmaker John Canemaker attempting to come to terms with his deceased father. Using a variety of animation techniques, home movies and photos Camemaker imagines a conversation between himself and his father. What were his father's secrets and why did his Dad do the things he did? Canemaker takes a stab at trying to work out things, but because the answers were never revealed in life the answers revealed here seem some how more wishful thinking than anything else. Its not bad but it never really seemed to amount to much. The problem with the film for me was that the material seems to be almost too personal, it never transcended into a universalness that great stories do. Its not bad, really, its not, its not great, certainly not best of the year (Bill Plymton's Fan and the Flower is infinitely better as are the other Oscar nominated shorts).
Self-indulgent, tiresome and whiny. I saw this with the other films nominated for the 2005 Animated Short Oscar. This one generated the least audience response (no clapping afterward)of the five. There's a second act, so-to-speak, that tells the father's story that is interesting and better than the first and third acts. But it's pretty much a downer of a film. The animation is simple and interspersed with home movies and photographic stills. The animation shifts among visual styles for no apparent reason. Reminded me a lot of a Woody Allen film -- if you like his work, you'll like this. If, like me, you don't, give this a pass. Many other works have examined the tensions of the father-son relationship much better.
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