Movie Review: 'Da 5 Bloods' And 'Marona’s Fantastic Tale'
The Oscars may be tying themselves in all sorts of knots yet again, but at least one thing everyone seems to agree on at this point is that Spike Lee’s new movie Da 5 Bloods is almost certain to be a part of this year’s awards.
It really is one of Lee’s very best films, it showcases everything he does well as a filmmaker and a social commentator, and it’s just plain exciting, to boot. It was released on Netflix last Friday, and by that time plenty of excellent pieces had already been written about the movie, its place in Lee’s body of work, and its urgency in this moment, and here is where I need to admit to you and to myself that I can’t do justice to Da 5 Bloods in the short time I have here. So I’ll direct you to a couple of those excellent written pieces: one from Bilge Ebiri at Vulture and one from Odie Henderson at rogerebert.com, both of which really get at what Lee is doing, why he does what he does, and why it’s so important.
But while I expected greatness from Da 5 Bloods, that’s not something that was really on my mind when I started watching a movie I’d never even heard of before called Marona’s Fantastic Tale. Offered through the website of Wichita’s Mamafilm microcinema, it's an animated movie that’s described as being about a dog looking back at the various people who’ve owned her through her life. I like dogs and I like animation, so I went ahead and gave it a shot, and it turned out to be one of the best movies of the year.
This isn’t a spoiler, since it’s how the movie begins, but to give you an idea of the film’s tone: We start with Marona, the sweet little dog, having been hit and killed by a car, and in voiceover — in French with English subtitles — she begins to look back on her life and the people she’s known.
The movie doesn’t treat Marona like a typical cartoon dog — it knows she’s a dog, with a dog’s wants and needs, and she perceives the people around her as she actually might. She’s no omniscient narrator. And in this way, it becomes both a simple story about a dog’s life, and also a way for us to contemplate ourselves, as people, and our lives, the way we treat ourselves and others, and the vast, extraordinary journey of it all. The movie’s animation is simply jaw-dropping, some of the best I’ve ever seen in my life, and it makes for a gorgeous, sad, thrilling, elevating experience that I never expected to have. You can rent Marona’s Fantastic Tale at the website mama.film and help to support Mamafilm in the process.