“There’s nothing wrong with being scared, Norman, so long as you don’t let it change who you are.”
The second feature from stop-motion supremos Laika, ParaNorman is perhaps a perfectly pitched family-friendly ghost story. Its scares are quick and sharp rather than the pervasive creepiness of Coraline’s other world and, although it features zombies, there is sufficient slapstick to undercut their horror. The titular Norman is a kid with the ability to speak to the dead, something that results in his ostracisation as a freak until he becomes the only one capable of saving the town. The derivative tale might kindly be described as “traditional”, with an interesting conclusion that revolves around the power of storytelling, a theme that Laika would explore further in the extraordinary Kubo and the Two Strings. Although the voice cast features a number of high profile names, unusually for animated fare they are not hired to be recognisable, only Christopher Mintz-Plasse being easily identifiable as Norman’s bully. The artistry of Laika’s character design is the highlight, eschewing the generically smooth features that pervade most animation for a distinctive and fresh appearance to each of their films.
A charmingly constructed dramatised narrative of George Lazenby’s colourfully defiant life, as told by the man himself, Becoming Bond is in essence an audiovisual autobiography where the veracity of the personal account is as questionable as it is insightful. Given that Lazenby’s story includes a litany of admissions to acts of duplicity (including fabricating an acting career to land the role of Bond), the man’s relationship with the truth is evidently strained. At one point the filmmaker intervenes to ask him directly how much of the story is true, which Lazenby deflects, “how could I remember it if it wasn’t true?” In many ways it doesn’t matter — this is Lazenby’s story. Although marketed as a unique style of documentary, it actually bears a strong resemblance to Holy Flying Circus, an underrated fictionalised account of the controversy surrounding the release of The Life of Brian, presented in the style of Monty Python. In both cases, the nature of the individuals is the core of the movie and so, as I have often said of fiction, just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it isn’t true.