Metafilter: Everything has a point
November 12, 2013 9:29 PM   Subscribe

The Point! (1971) is the animated TV adaptation of singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson's fable about a boy named Oblio, the only round-headed person in the Pointed Village, where by law everyone and everything had to have a point. Despite his round head, Oblio has many friends. But an evil count, jealous that Oblio is more popular than his own son, says that without a pointed head, Oblio is an outlaw. Along with his faithful dog Arrow, Oblio is exiled to the Pointless Forest. There, he has many fantastic experiences (including encounters with a 3-headed man, giant bees, a tree in the leaf-selling business, and a good-humored old rock). From his adventures, Oblio learns that it is not at all necessary to be pointed to have a point in life. Directed by Fred Wolf and narrated by Ringo Starr, the film features all the original songs from Nilsson's album of the same name.

The film, which first aired as an ABC Movie of the Week, originally starred Dustin Hoffman but for contactual reasons his part had to be re-recorded for future airings. Director Fred Wolf and producer Jimmy T. Murakami are probably best known for the animated TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Harry Nilsson said of his inspiration for The Point!, "I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, "Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn't, then there's a point to it."

Fair warning: SnagFilms includes some ads in the playback.
posted by Room 641-A (41 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
Me and my Arrow
straighter than narrow
where ever we go
everyone knows
it's me and my Arrow
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:37 PM on November 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

Hang in there pile driver!
posted by edgeways at 9:39 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Grantland did a great Harry Nilsson retrospective a few months ago.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:52 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

sit beside the breakfast table
think about your troubles
pour yourself a cup of tea
think about the bubbles
you can take your teardrop
and drop it in a teacup
take it down
to the riverside
throw it over the side
to be swept up by the current
and taken to the ocean
to be eaten by some fishes
who were eaten by some fishes
and swallowed by a whale
who grew so old
he decomposed
(doo doo de doo de doo)
he died and left his body at the bottom of the ocean
now everybody knows that when a body decomposes
the basic elements are given back to the ocean
and the sea does what it oughta
and soon there's salty water
(which tastes just like a teardrop)
and we run it through a filter
and it comes out from a faucet
and it pours into a teapot...

now, think about your troubles
posted by suelac at 9:55 PM on November 12, 2013 [20 favorites]

I loved this story as a kid, and played it over again for my own kid. I didn't know until now that Nilsson was inspired by an acid trip, but it makes perfect sense.

One of my favorite revelations listening to it as an adult was about the Rock Man's state-o'-mind... When Oblio meets him and asks if he's still in the Pointless Forest, the Rock Man tells him "There ain't nothin' pointless about this gig. Just look around yourself--the birds singin' sweet love songs to the trees, the squirrels doin' crazy things all over the place, Mother nature, she watchin' over the whole scene, and dig me, takin' it all's the here and now that I'm talkin' 'bout--the smell of sweet life in the air, the warm feel of the sun, and the beeeeat of the music, just diggin' see what you want to see. You hear what you want to hear."

Oblio says "Gosh Mr. Stone Man" and the Rock Man corrects him, "It's Mr. Rock Man. You got to keep yourself in a historical perspective."
posted by gubenuj at 10:31 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

When I was a little kid I used to 'borrow' my older brother's album of this and listen to it all the time. He took it with him when he left home and I was utterly bereft. Then, suddenly, it started showing up on cable! I think it was on the Disney channel, but perhaps not. I've now seen it or heard it with Ringo Starr, Dustin Hoffman and Alan Thicke doing the narration. I think I actually might prefer Alan Thicke.

And I'd love to play some Triangle Toss. Anyone have a dog I can borrow? A pointer, preferably.
posted by taterpie at 10:32 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite movies - and albums - ever, from my childhood through my kids' childhood. Always glad to see it again. I just got the DVD, actually, even though there are no children in my life anymore - I find I can still watch the Point. You been messing with the bees?
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:44 PM on November 12, 2013

The Flat Five, a Chicago group, have done a series of awesome covers of some of these songs:

"Think about Your Troubles"
"Poly High and Life Line"

Oh, for the days when pop musicians actually gave a damn about, you know, melody and harmony.
posted by valkyryn at 11:29 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

My dad used to put this movie on when I was a kid, but I had completely forgotten about it until this post.

I became a Harry Nilsson fan later in life and I've just now made the connection. I thought some of those songs sounded familiar!!!
posted by chaz at 11:30 PM on November 12, 2013

Oh gosh, I was just telling someone about this the other night, she'd never heard of it and I rhapsodized about it for a very long time.

The Rock Man's "you see what you want to hear what you want to hear" has guided me my entire life.

I was in fifth grade with a horrendous case of the flu, so sick that they were starting to talk about taking me to the hospital, and I'd read in the TV previews in the newspaper about the movie coming up and I begged my parents to let me watch it. But since I couldn't get out of bed, they had to buy a tiny B&W portable TV to bring to my room, and I watched it on that. It was one of the first records I ever bought, and I wore out two copies before it became unobtainable. The instant it became available on CD I bought that, though I've kept the vinyl because of the large sized booklet with the original art in it. I could never get rid of that.

This has been my sustaining music and movie for a lot of my life. It was one of the first things I turned to when my twin sister died. I adore it. So lovely to see a post here about it. (My favorite narration is still Hoffman's, but that's lost to time.)
posted by emcat8 at 11:32 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Oh, and "Are You Sleeping?"
posted by valkyryn at 11:33 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

(My favorite narration is still Hoffman's, but that's lost to time.)

Lost to time, you say?
posted by mykescipark at 11:54 PM on November 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

I love this movie! I bought it for my kids but they were underwhelmed.

(Nah, who am I kidding. I bought it for me. Yay iTunes.)
posted by leahwrenn at 12:51 AM on November 13, 2013

i always loved this movie. neat to learn some of the background behind it.
posted by moss free at 1:18 AM on November 13, 2013

Watched it on TV, bought the album and played it until I could hear it in my sleep. Right now I'm mentally hearing the beginning of "Think About Your Troubles", the way it plunges into bubbles and edges softly into the beat... Thanks for posting, this is like running into a favorite old friend.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:01 AM on November 13, 2013

This movie terrified me as a child, so much so that I've thought about it often over the years and wondered if it was some sort of 1970s Cold War Soviet psychological weapon. Coincidentally to this post, I tried watching it again a couple weeks ago and couldn't make it halfway through. The three-headed guy and the bottomless pit, gahhhhhh! Thanks for posting this, I'm comforted that people like it. It must not be an instrument of abject terror as I suspected.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 3:57 AM on November 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have very faint memories of this from my childhood, and had no idea Harry Nilsson was behind it.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:00 AM on November 13, 2013

Thanks for this!

I love this album so much. 'Hey man, you been goofing with the bees?' still cracks me up. I'd never seen the film until earlier this year and I could only find random youtube clips with oddly edited versions of the tracks. I was amazed that it had narrative between the songs, I never expected Oblio to be an actual child for some reason...
posted by freya_lamb at 4:28 AM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

This movie terrified me as a child, so much so that I've thought about it often over the years and wondered if it was some sort of 1970s Cold War Soviet psychological weapon.

Total Nightmare Fuel. I'm glad it wasn't just me.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:43 AM on November 13, 2013

I watched this as a kid when they screened it at the library, and the sweetness of the loner boy and his dog stayed with me. So a few years ago I talked it up with my kids & arranged a Family Movie Night to watch it w/them. The questions started before Oblio was even banished: "was this guy on drugs or something?" "Mom, were *you* on drugs or something?" "So what drugs did you do back in the day anyway?" .... I tried to defend it but they were right, it was awful!
posted by headnsouth at 5:11 AM on November 13, 2013

Awful? No way. This movie and music are amazing. Glad to see its still beloved.
posted by agregoli at 5:54 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved this album and video as a kid. Thank you for reminding me of this.
posted by gauche at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2013

And Blackalicous samples it:

posted by zscore at 6:11 AM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by gimli at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I saw it as a young teen when it was first broadcast. It was like nothing else animated I had seen on TV at that point (Yellow Submarine did not appear on U.S. TV till a bit later I think, and H.R. Pufnstuf was live action with puppets). The Point was very trippy to watch - and I was aware of the drug culture at that point via my hippie cousins - but I enjoyed The Point on its own terms (as did my niece, many years later). I remember my parents drifting by and asking what I was watching, attracted by the snatches of music. My mother got quite fond of the soundtrack. Hearing any snatch of the songs even today will evoke vivid memories of that movie for me, which did not happen often with stuff I saw on tv in that era.
posted by gudrun at 6:42 AM on November 13, 2013

Oh, man. The Point! was my absolute favorite movie as a kid (and my parents loved it too, because it featured lots of famous music people whose voices they recognized but I did not) and I think that in many of the most important ways it still is.

It's whimsical, it's trippy, it's got great music and unique animation, here and there it's deliciously scary (to a little kid, anyway), and it has a message that really resonated with me and still does. What a great movie.
posted by Scientist at 7:02 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is great! I can't wait to watch it again. I found a VHS of it years ago and the quality sucked.
@suelac, that's ,
My favorite song in the whole movie.
Thank you!
posted by dbmcd at 7:11 AM on November 13, 2013

"The Point" is one of the only reasons we still have an old-school VHS VCR. Need to get the DVD version some day so we can move on.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:30 AM on November 13, 2013

zscore: And Blackalicous samples it

That was my introduction to the film and the soundtrack.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:50 AM on November 13, 2013

Never heard of The Point! until I got to college. My freshman/sophomore year roommate adored the album and I quickly jumped on board. It wasn't until sophomore year that we tracked down a copy of the video, which is great, but I really prefer the album on the whole.

He really liked listening to music while he slept, which I had no problem with. Most of the stuff in the regular rotation, including The Point!, is now some of my most beloved music.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:57 AM on November 13, 2013

Lucky enough to see it done live in 2003 by the Boston Rock Opera.

It featured John Surrette of Boys Life who BTW is producing a new PunkRock Opera, Tomorrow The World.
posted by Gungho at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2013

@dbmcd, My favorite song in the whole movie.

My pleasure! Although I just realized I forgot the second-to-last line, which ties it all together: "which is just about to bubble"

Ah, well. Nice to know my memory is still pretty good. I don't think I've heard that song in twenty years, and I haven't seen the movie in more than thirty.
posted by suelac at 8:27 AM on November 13, 2013


I watched this in elementary school in the late 80s....I think it was used to teach us it was okay if people were different or something....I haven't seen it or thought about it weird to revisit it over 20 years later.....
posted by zizzle at 10:28 AM on November 13, 2013

Thank you very much, mykescipark, that's my favorite, too!
posted by cookie-k at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2013

This movie TERRIFIED me as a child.
posted by Young Kullervo at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2013

Oh, man, I fucking loved this!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:30 AM on November 13, 2013

My 4th grade teacher played this record for our class the Friday before February vacation, to conclude our studies about prejudice and racism. Most of the other kids used this as an excuse to sleep and/or throw spitballs, but I was completely entranced with the record. Mrs. Ohanian put it on reserve for me at the library, and thus my lifelong obsession with Nilsson began.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:58 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I kinda grew up with The Point in different versions. The LP had a comic book insert which was very cool. Currently I've two CDs, 1 LP and the DVD. The past year the local indie cinema showed in on the big screen even
posted by edgeways at 12:07 PM on November 13, 2013

Maybe I'm biased because this was my childhood introduction to Harry Nilsson, but this is, by far, my favorite thing he had ever done. My dad still has the puzzling tendency to drop the question "You been messing with the bees?" into most conversations.
posted by Mooseli at 1:19 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing terrified.
posted by brappi at 6:09 PM on November 14, 2013

Scary? The only non-scary thing about summer camp was the screening of The Point.
posted by Scram at 9:04 PM on November 14, 2013

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