Friday, May 1, 2009

Bananaz review

After two albums and over eight years of work, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett finally give the public a look at how the fictional band came to be; presented as a documentary directed by Ceri Levy.

Bananaz isn't a typical documentary, but then again, the Gorillaz are not a typical band. For those not familiar with the group, Gorillaz are a fictitious, animated band co-created by musician, Damon Albarn, known more famously as the lead singer of Blur, and artist, Jamie Hewlett, known for being the co-creator and artist of the comic series, Tank Girl. Together, their efforts, along with that of numerous other performers, led to two successful albums, 2001's self titled album, and 2005's Demon Days.

A bulk of the film, roughly two thirds of it, focuses solely on the first album, mainly because of the fact that it also includes aspects of the band's creation; something obviously not necessary come the second album. Essentially, the film is a journey from where Damon and Jamie started, all the way to Demon Days Live at the Apollo Theater; so, sadly there's no insight regarding the future of the group, let alone any mentions of a third album. But that's not to say it's bad though, it just would have been cool, as a fan, to see a bit more.

What I really liked about the film though, is its shared focus of music and art. Constantly throughout the film, despite showing real people, you are given an insight to the art aspect of the band, and not just the musical part. This includes Hewlett going through and drawing various character designs, working on album art, and we even get a nice selection of storyboards and animatics from the music videos and shorts, which I felt was a nice touch.

As for the musical aspect of the film, there's a real sense of development that I noticed. Early in the film, when they're just starting, there's a lot of discovery to be had, experimentation, etc. But when the film reaches the Demon Days phase, there's a sense of professionalism and growth, even while Damon and Jamie act goofy. For me, it was just really interesting to see how many people it takes just to bring those four animated simians to life, and it brings up a sense of appreciation that didn't fully exist before.

I think first and foremost, Bananaz is really a film for the fans to watch and appreciate, whether you're a fan of the music or just art aspect. However, I think even casual fans, and maybe even non-fans, will get a new found appreciation for the work that goes into Gorillaz after watching this. And if you're reading this, thinking, "Why do I want to watch a boring documentary?" Then you would be thinking wrong. The film is presented in an attention keeping manner, and I personally had a few laughs from Damon and Jamie's antics, not to mention all the creative insight I got from it. Plus, what do you have to lose? You can watch the film for free, officially, at Babelgum right now!

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Bananaz will release on DVD June 1st 2009, with over sixty minutes of extras not found online.

Watch Bananaz for free at Babelgum
More info at Bananaz - Official Website

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