Movie Review: Brother Bear (2003)


TitleBrother Bear
Release Date: November 1, 2003
Director: Aaron Blaise | Robert Walker
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Walt Disney Feature Animation
Summary/Review:

The period of around 2000 to 2009 was an odd one for Walt Disney Feature Animation.  After the Disney Renaissance era where every film release was a major event, this decade saw the release of several movies that had next to no cultural impact.  This era produced one unqualified classic in Lilo & Stitch, but most of the movies I’ve watched thus far are either ambitious but flawed (The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Bolt) or obvious duds (Home on the Range, Chicken Little). I keep hoping to discover a lost classic, and while Brother Bear doesn’t quite achieve that, it is a diamond in the rough.

Set among the Inuit people at the end of the Ice Ages, it tells the story of Kenai, the youngest of three brothers.  Kenai comes of age and his tribal leader gives him the totem of a bear representing love.  Kenai objects to this totem feeling he’s called to better things.  Shortly afterward, in a conflict with a grizzly bear, Kenai’s oldest brother Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) falls to his death.  Seeking revenge on the bear, The Spirits along with Sitka in the form of his totem, a bald eagle, transform Kenai into a bear.

Kenai is rescued from a bear trap by a chatty bear cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez), and they join together to seek the salmon run near the spot where Kenai was transformed.  Pixar seemed to pilfer Brother Bear when they made The Good Dinosaur, as both movies feature an odd pairing on a journey of self-discovery across a beautifully animated primeval North American landscape.  Brother Bear is a much better movie though.  While some of the themes of Kenai finding his way to love and respect bears, and become a brother to Koda, are quite obvious, I was nevertheless surprised by the ending.  Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas also appear as a comic duo of moose channeling Bob and Doug MacKenzie.

While an enjoyable and heartwarming film, I feel it would’ve been better if like the later Disney film Moana, more indigenous people were involved in the voice cast and creation of the story.  I also didn’t think Phil Collins’ musical score was suited to the story.  Nevertheless, it’s worth a watch.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Nanook of the North (1922) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “N” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “N” documentaries I’ve reviewed are New York: A Documentary FilmThe 1964 World’s FairThe Night James Brown Saved Boston, No-No: A Dockumentary, and NOVA: Iceman Reborn.

Title: Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic
Release Date: June 11, 1922
Director: Robert J. Flaherty
Production Company: Pathé Exchange
Summary/Review:

It’s hard to pinpoint the first documentary film ever made.  The term “documentary” didn’t come into use until 1926.  But many of the earliest motion pictures made were documentaries in the sense that they documented events and everyday life as they presented the wonders of film. All that being said, there’s a good case that Nanook of the North is the first feature-length documentary.

On the other hand, not everything in this movie is factual, as Flaherty chose to stage some elements for dramatic and practical reasons.   The central figure “Nanook” is actually named Allakariallak, and the woman said to be his wife was not actually his wife.  The Inuit had adopted Western-style clothing and weapons by this time, but for the film they wear traditional clothing made of animals skins and hunt with harpoons instead of firearms.  It was impossible to fit the camera inside an igloo and have appropriate light to film, so a special three-sided igloo was built for interior shots.

Despite the film being more docudrama than documentary, I still felt a sense of awe watching these real live people from nearly a century ago, at the time my grandparents were still children.  And the Inuit we see are in fact kayaking through ice floes, hunting walrus and seals, and building an igloo.  It’s also impressive that Flaherty could make such an ambitious film in Arctic Canada with the limited technology available at the time.  Finally, Allakariallak shines through as a genuinely warm and ingenious hero of the film.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

Keeping in mind the caveats above about staged scenes, Nanook of the North still provides a glimpse into the traditional lifeways of the Inuit. The Inuit we see in the film are essentially reenacting the practices of their recent ancestors.  And as Roger Ebert notes “If you stage a walrus hunt, it still involves hunting a walrus, and the walrus hasn’t seen the script.”

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Listen to the music of Tanya Tagaq, and Inuk artist from Nunavut, Canada, who performs traditional throat singing and creates fusion with more contemporary styles of music.  Tagaq has even performed live musical accompaniment to screenings of Nanook of the North, which is something I’d really like to see!

Source: Kanopy


019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Album Review: Toothsayer by Tanya Tagaq


AlbumToothsayer
Artist: Tanya Tagaq
Release Date: March 2019
Thoughts: The throat singer Tanya Tagaq combines Inuit traditions with modern electronic, ambient, and industrial music. This 5-song EP was made to  accompany the British National Maritime Museum’s “Polar Worlds” exhibit.  Without words, Tagaq’s compositions paint vivid images of the extreme wildness of the Arctic, while expressing the danger of climate change and the asserting indigenous rights. Tagaq’s voice is a powerful and expressive instrument.
Rating: ****