Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)

To the real Jonathan Livingstan Seagull who lives within us all.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a 1973 film directed by Hall Bartlett, adapted from the novella by Richard Bach. It tells the story of the title seagull, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who, after being outcast by his stern flock, goes on an odyssey to discover how to break the limits of his own flying speed. The soundtrack for the film was recorded by Neil Diamond. Although nominated for Academy Awards, the film was panned by critics at the time of its release. Since then, it has sporadically grown in popularity, and it was released to DVD in October of 2007.

As the film begins, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is soaring through the sky hoping to travel at a speed more than 60 miles per hour. Eventually, with luck he is able to break that barrier, but when Jonathan returns to his own flock he is greeted with anything but applause. The Elders of the flock shame Jonathan for doing things the other seagulls never dare to do. Jonathan pleads to stay and claims that he wants to share his newfound discovery with everybody, but the Elders dismiss him as an outcast, and he is banished from the flock. Jonathan goes off on his own, believing that all hope is lost. However, he is soon greeted by mysterious seagulls from other lands who assure him that his talent is a unique one, and with them Jonathan is trained to become independent and proud of his beliefs. Eventually, Jonathan himself ends up becoming a mentor for other seagulls who are suffering the same fates in their own flocks as he once did.

The film was critically panned at the time of its release in 1973. Roger Ebert, who only awarded it 1 out of 4 stars, confessed that he walked out of the screening after approximately 45 minutes, writing: "This has got to be the biggest pseudo cultural, would-be metaphysical ripoff of the year." Five years later, film critic Michael Medved, along with Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss, added the film to their book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. However, in recent years, the film has garnered at least one postitive review from Rotten Tomatoes critic Shane Burridge, who writes: "From a technical viewpoint, Bartlett's film is an ambitious accomplishment, and it's certainly the only talking seagull movie in the world with a time-capsule Neil Diamond soundtrack (his fans must love this film)."

The film was nominated at the Academy Awards on April 2, 1974, for Best Cinematography (Jack Couffer) and Best Film Editing (Frank P. Keller and James Galloway), both of which it lost.

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