IR Film Review: DUMBO [Disney]

The texture of “Dumbo” is an unusual one. The original, one of the first films from the animation studio at Disney, was barely a feature and buried in the lingo and perception of the time. Like “Pinnochio”, the perception was not on reality or magical realism but purely an simple surrealist fantasy. There was an edge of darkness for sure but yet the story seemed very intimate. It was not a story told by humans but by the animals themselves. The texture of a mouse and an elephant becoming friends and overcoming obstacles against those who would make them perform. The aspect of the dark world and the unknown coming towards the innocent while blended in the wonder of flight. These thematic bases are textures that were essential in “Pinnochio” and even “Bambi”. Tim Burton creates a mileau to understand “Dumbo” in the modern context (even though the story again takes place in the early 1900s). The story points are sound and the essence of whimsy is inferred in many points. But as a fable despite the ultimate resolution, the essence of risk seems candylike.

Most of the characters are painted in saccarine colors and disposition. In many ways, there is a reflectivity of 1950s nostalgia in many ways. Unlike the previous “Dumbo”, the parallels are in a pair of children who have lost their mother and a father unable to connect after returning from the war. The reconnection of both Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito as a circus ringleader and a big time promoter in their first pairing in a way since “Batman Returns” seems to not have the crackle their scenes so richly deserve. In many ways this may be the way the characters are drawn which come off muted at times and two dimensional but nonetheless the archetypes even seem stilted. Granted this is meant to work in an almost hazy way.

However when push comes to shove at the end, it is the circus folk who help propogate the progression of the third act that really harken back to true Burton when the mechanics of the ideas fuel the intention and, by extension, the eccentricities of the characters. The character that should have the most empathy is Dumbo, and that is the success of the movie since, by taking away the muse in Timothy the mouse, forces the texture even more so. While certain aspects of surrealism from the cartoon couldn’t cross over sensibly in a narrative based production per se, Burton does find a way to include pink elephants (which undeniably would be a good reason to take on the show from the get go) although the matter of approaching them is quite different.

Both Colin Farrell and Eva Green take on thankless roles per se that progress the story but adhere to the essence of Burton. But what Dumbo essentially is is Burton-lite, using his talents for a broader, more subdued audience. There is nothing wrong with this at all…it tends to make most of the film though very passive…effectively done…but in many way inert both characterwise and in a way creatively. There is the essential world building that Burton is known for but even the Danny Elfman score has lightness to it. Again, no problems but nothing that lifts the heart undeniably.

There is a glimmer in Dumbo’s eyes as he watches the pink elephants but that is fleeting. But there is also nothing quite like the moment in the animated film where Dumbo’s mother cradles her young baby in her arms from her jail and swings him back and forth. “Dumbo” makes its story in the modern era through an essence of nostalgia and human fraility but in doing so loses a little bit of the magic of being separate. There is a mythic structure in the final shots that bears ode to “The Lion King” in an ironic way. Also, listen to the final notes of the closing credits where that aspect of the original lingers…just a tiny bit.


By Tim Wassberg

Centrifugal Force & Corridor Dreams: The 2010 Brooklyn International Film Festival – Feature

The intentions of building an ideology within a film festival is knowing its structure and who the consumer base reflects. While the Brooklyn International Film Festival creates awareness effectively in its targeted marketing ideas, the infrastructure shows an inherent possibility despite a imbalance of geography mirroring its best intentions.

The idea within the festival is to showcase the varying aspects of Brooklyn in its many forms. While this is inherently accomplished between Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg, the inescapable divergence is the fact that if one screening is full, undeniably the other will have been started concurrently effectively creating conflict.

While both arenas are infinitively accessible within walking distance by subway or cab, the lack of centrality at times creates a lack of identity on the part of the festival. However the dexterity of surrounding locations and the highlight of new ones allows for the optimization of evolution.

Optimizing a former club structure at an optimum site on the East River, Indie Screen has the potential of being the next Angelika. The Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is quickly growing and becoming a veritable Bohemian path in accordance with street culture that has almost become non-existent on the streets of Downtown Manhattan since the fall of the Towers.

The Minutemen“, which documents the inherent struggles of vigilantes along the Texas/Mexico border and their attempts to enforce the structures of immigration when the hands of their respective US officials are tied, shows an impending showdown that is raging along the border. While the ideology of the American initiative is being paradoxically waved here, the film shows that the inability of the actual people inside this movement to get along ultimately is what combats the actual functionality of their actions. Everyone seems to be searching in tandem for a quick fix which is fundamentally flawed.

“Win/Win”, a dystopian view on the nature of success hailing from The Netherlands, shows how the Wall Street viewpoint of greed corrupting absolutely allows for a reverse psychology aspect which is not in all points restricted to our own country. The idealism of being the best and the brightest until the younger guy comes along is at the cornerstone of this diatribe. The realism that some minds are not made for the pressure despite the inherent math ability shows a tendency in the modern world that maybe our logic centers are not able to balance in terms of the emotional run-off that ensues.

“On Thin Ice”, a short feature made cooperatively between Finland and the NYU Graduate Film School, highlights the business model that exists outside the US and, respectively, helps those inherently wanting to work within their native country. Before being allowed to make a full feature, according to director Alli Haapasalo, would-be filmmakers must cut their teeth on a straight-to-TV adaptation to establish talent. The film itself is buoyed by a teetering emotional ride provided by Finnish actor Pertti Sveholm who creates a vision of a man rattle by nothing, insulated to the core and ready to crack. The dramatic progression lies in the film’s humor in showing that the littlest trails of domestic tranquility from the quietness of a dinner to game of pool creates the focus of life’s little treasures that can dissipate like the wind.

The Brooklyn Film Festival also benefits from a strong shorts program though its allowance tends to swing more heavily in the animation category.

In terms of live action shorts, the presence of love seems to overcome everything within its structure simply because of its universal means highlighted by two specific outlays.

“Barehanded”, from France, comes through with the most eccentric function following a woman who cannot control the visceral nature of her hands. When she brings a man home inadvertantly who tries to understand her plight, the emotional turns rage against him across the grid.

“The Shelter” rectifies its intent with a more stylized version of life on the downswing. Using smooth and lyrical camera movements, the lack of words allows for a perception on the viewer’s part to the actual extent of what is actually happening. The forced use of alot of foley belays the lack of budget but the inherent peril of the leads forgives much of the lacking plot.

In terms of animated shorts, the presence of undeterred irony forms the basis for the most astute structures played.

“Clean Carousel”, created out of Denmark, is simple but effective in its intentions. A man wants to keep his merry-go-round clean. While the birds will not show him mercy in his necessity to maintain cleanliness, when his actual customers begin to cause much the same disaster he cannot help but respond vehemently creating a quick but vicious dissertation on the nature and perspective of life.

“Skylight” and “Hicine Airlines” use the infinite structure of an environment purged of its posturing that either sees the destruction of the earth as a mental shoveling or a call to capitalism. “Skylight” works on the idiom that the self-destructive nature of humans is just a way to a higher evolution or simple nihilism while “Hicine Airlines” wholeheartedly embraces the emphasis on gluttony but chooses to highlight the personification in that of chickens which more than lightly translates to a let down on the human side.

Beyond the functionality of any festival, the possibility rests in the variance of networking. While the festival did integrate many local establishments, the accordance at times was too few and far between.

The Brooklyn Heights location, directly in tandem with the Brooklyn Bridge, offers more instanteous offerings with the Henry Street Ale House offering the most direct possibility and drafts to pillage the night despite an early closing time at midnight because of its kitchen status.

If Chinese Food NY style fills your idea, Great Wall is directly next door to Heights Theater with the great wonders for the price that Brooklyn is know for…quick and ready in time for the next screening.

However for the late nights after the 12 hour, the Dumbo area underneath the Brooklyn Bridge off Front and Water less than 3 blocks away offers many different possibilities despite many being closed. However ReBar, normally tapas heavily, has the coolness down with a loft space that oozes chill in dark shadow and burnt tapestries.

The Brooklyn International Film Festival understands its structure but in competing and increasing its brand against the firm elements of Manhattan, a more intensive structure of centrality needs to be integrated. While partners like Roger Smith Hotel NY in Midtown shows a willingness in growing, the main possibilities lie in the connections of the filmmakers, many of which showed up to commemorate their screenings but, in some instances, lacked a bigger forum in which to evolve. Time with tell but Brooklyn has got dexterity on its side which makes its potential tried and true.