DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

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MIKE HUGHES

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MONIQUE NAZARETH

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TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
40 Years Later, You Really Should Get 'The Point'
February 1, 2011  | By David Bianculli
 
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Forty years ago -- on Feb. 2, 1971 -- ABC presented a 90-minute animated movie called The Point. Directed and animated by Fred Wolf, with story and songs by Harry Nilsson, it was delightful, unique and way ahead of its time. In 2011, it still is...

If anything continues to resonate in mass memory from this 40-year-old pop-culture artifact, it's doubtlessly "Me and My Arrow," the hit song to emerge from this extended, playful fable. In The Point, Oblio is a young round-headed boy, the only non-pointed inhabitant of the Land of Point. Arrow is his faithful dog.

At first, Oblio's parents disguise their son's difference by knitting him pointed caps. But in time, Oblio is singled out as being pointless -- and banished to the Pointless Forest. Like Dorothy and Toto in the land of Oz, Oblio and Arrow travel the Pointless Forest encountering strange people and creatures, singing wonderful songs, and learning valuable lessons.

In The Point, the lesson is that everything, and everyone, has a point. And the point is, you don't have to conform to be appreciated.

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The Point is framed as a story within a story, a bedtime story read by a father to his child. (The 1987 movie version of The Princess Bride, based on the 1973 book by William Goldman, later employed a similar trick.) When ABC first telecast The Point, the narrator of the story -- the father reading the book to his son -- was played by Dustin Hoffman. For video release, Hoffman's lines were re-recorded by Ringo Starr.

I adored this animated program at the time, and still do today. It makes a great gift for children, and an equally terrific gift for adults. You can buy the DVD of The Point, with its still-vivid cartoons and its still-charming Nilsson music and lyrics, by clicking HERE.

And, if you just (or also) want the CD, which has all the songs and a pared-down narration by Nilsson himself, you can get that (for only $7.99!) by clicking HERE.

But wait! -- as we sometimes say around here -- there's more!

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Recently released on DVD is one more piece of Harry Nilsson bounty. A 2010 documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?, has recently been released on DVD. It tells the story of one of pop music's most gifted, enigmatic and elusive singer-songwriters, and tells that story achingly well.

In the late '60s and early '70s, Nilsson scored such hits as "Without You" and "Everybody's Talkin'" (which weren't written by him) and "Coconut" and "Jump Into the Fire" (which were). In this documentary, enlisted to tell the story of Nilsson's amazing vocal range, his behavioral excesses and his stage shyness are a gaggle of friends, in new or vintage interviews. The lineup includes such friends and fellow performers as Eric Idle, Randy Newman, Ringo Starr, Jimmy Webb, John Lennon and, yes, the Smothers Brothers.

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There are clips in this documentary I've never seen -- including a British show I'd love to find and see in its entirety, capturing the live recording, with Nilsson singing with full orchestra, of A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, a gorgeous album of standards. Who Is Harry Nilsson? answers its titular question nicely -- but even if you know the answer, you'll learn, and hear, some new things in this documentary.

Order it, as my final Nilsson recommendation of the day, by clicking HERE.

Oh, and by the way: About 40 years before Cee-Lo pulled the "outrageous" stunt of using the F word prominently in the lyrics of his 2010 hit "F--- You" (clean version: "Forget You"), Nilsson did it with "You're Breaking My Heart," which is heard, and explained, in the documentary. (Opening lyrics: "You're breaking my heart / You're tearing it apart / so f--- you!")

So who, I ask you, is the true pioneer? Nilsson, unlike Cee-Lo, never recorded a more acceptable, less explicit cover version of HIS song for radio or TV airplay.

What would be The Point of that?

 

3 Comments

 

Stewart said:

The Schmilsson BBC documentary is on youtube in five parts. Just search 'Schmilsson in the Night'.

[Stewart, you are my hero! I searched it for purchase, but didn't think of YouTube. Thanks! -- DB]

Comment posted on February 1, 2011 11:03 AM


wilberfan said:

Nice!

I mentioned the doc to you a few weeks ago; I'm glad you chose to tie it in with the anniversary of that delightful animated film. (I always miss the original narration, though.)

Comment posted on February 1, 2011 2:32 PM


Mac said:

Some more things Harry. Just got the doc last week; fans have been waiting for this for a while. Finally, his sad story gets his due.I have been a fan since Herb Alpert covered Harry's original "Without Her" in 1968 (also a very credible early version by Blood,Sweat & Tears, and BS&T founder Al Kooper became a lifelong fan). Strange that Harry's biggest hit was titled"Without You"(from an equally heartbreaking music story, Badfinger). His other well known hit, "Everybody's Talkin'," was penned by Fred Neil, while Harry's attempt to put an original song in "Midnight Cowboy," "I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City," was rejected. Part of the "no respect" of Harry's career, even in death. Many folks, even those who lived during his lifetime, wonder who was Harry. As evidenced in the film,he was the true Fifth Beatle. Besides what's in the doc, interesting that Harry took parts of his first two RCA albums and remixed and tweaked them, possibly the first time anyone had gone back to thier material and changed it around. Harry took a lot of interest in his work before things spiraled downward. While reconfiguring an album for 8 -track tape,Harry wouldn't allow RCA split up any songs (a common event back in the day). Instead,he put a little comment on the end of one track (nothing nasty like "Heart") to equalize the timings. Just fun.
There is a tribute album that floats around used stores called "For Love of Harry." If you have interest in his catalog, find this, too. Randy Newman nails "Remember(Christmas)," and you can hear the tears. Jimmy Webb, the Roches and others capture some of the charm of Harry originals. But missing on this is Jim Henson & the Muppets' definitive "Coconut" (the lime & coconut song). Unique.

[Great comment! I hadn't thought about Nilsson's early album revisits as being groundbreaking, but you're right: He did it before remastering, or even director's cuts in cinema, came in vogue. And you're right: the Muppets really DID nail "Coconut." -- DB]

Comment posted on February 2, 2011 4:54 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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