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Walter Biggins

Great commentary on Up, of which I'm afraid you thought more highly than I did, though you're making me reconsider it. My quick commentary: first half is dazzling and heartbreaking, in part b/c it's done with so much visual shorthand and wonderfully understated music; second half becomes formulaic, with an old man becoming a physical Superman/Indiana Jones hybrid in a way that's totally unbelievable, given the previous hour. Haven't seen Cars or Toy Story 2, so my ranking goes like this: Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, A Bug's Life, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up, and Monsters, Inc.

Stray, overly simplifying thought: Pixar's movies seem to seesaw between triumph-of-individualism odes (Ratatouille, Up, Up) and community-ethic-let's-band-together idealism (A Bug's Life, Toy Story), and it's sorta schizophrenic to see the same (small, clubhouse-like) studio produce movies with wildly differing ideology about heroes. But, as I said, that's over-simplifying, but that schizophrenia is on display in The Incredibles, which tries to swing it both ways. What do you think?

Lance

Walter, Thanks. I definitely agree with you that the first part of Up, Ellie's part, is much better than the second. My feelings about Ellie and her role carried me through the rest of the way though. I have to note that Ratatouille has risen on my Pixar meter. I was kind of let down the first time I saw it. But I've enjoyed it more each time I see it again. I don't know how Up will fare when I'm dragged to it again and then when the DVD comes out.

I hadn't thought about the seesaw of themes before. Interesting point. It sounds as though you're describing what I can imagine are regular in-house debates at Pixar as the individual artists try to work out their places in the grand scheme of things. Pixar's a team effort, but then they have Brad Bird as part of the team.

Cars, by the way, is another let's band together one. But I don't think that has anything to do with why I think it's the weakest of Pixar's movies.

Jim 7

I saw it yesterday, and like most I loved it. But at one point I turned to my wife and asked "Are we watching 'Fitzcarraldo?'

actor212

Wall-E, Ratatouille, and that's it. The rest are insufferably Spielbergian.

As to Anakin...I always thought of him as being more than just the fallen and redeemed hero.

He's Christ, as told by Scorsese in Last Temptation. He has to not only be tempted by the Devil (the Emperor) but he has to defeat the Devil on his home turf. Because we got to see the film (and it is one film) unfold out of order, we lost the thread and believe Luke is the hero of the film.

He is *a* hero, but I would argue that Anakin is *the* hero or at least the main hero. Luke would be Paul, who reminds Jesus (in the LToC) that he needs the Jesus who died so he can bring salvation to the galaxy, I mean, world.

Anakin comes out of it just in time to accept his fate, that he would kill the Emperor and become the Convergence, just as Jesus has to die to redeem our evil.

Mike Schilling

Toy Story 2
The Incredibles
Up
Wall-E
Toy Story
Ratatouille
Finding Nemo [1]
A Bug's Life
Monsters Inc.
Cars

1. Nemo would be quite a bit higher if I hadn't already become tired of hearing Albert Brooks whine.

If I were judging by the best part of the film rather than the whole thing, Wall-E and Up would rate much higher, as would Ratatouille (since the rat is much more interesting than the comically clumsy guy who can't cook is.)

Walter Biggins

actor212: "The rest are insufferably Spielbergian." *sigh* Which Spielberg, Kemosabe? The dystopian of A.I. and Minority Report? The melancholy moralist of Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and Amistad? The wise-ass satirist of 1941 and the Indiana Jones movies? The apt suburban chronicler of E.T. and Poltergeist, who was making movies about suburbia--when it was actually beginning to make inroads into American life--when other American filmmakers couldn't be bothered to treat the phenomenon with empathy? The dazzling visual stylist of, well, all his films? Or the happy-go-lucky, pie-eyed optimist who, um, seems to exist only in the minds of detractors who say "insufferably Spielbergian" without clarifying further? Enough. Pixar's complicated enough to support all those modes.

I didn't realize, until making my list, that my two least favorite Pixar movies are both directed by Pete Docter, who seems to get Spielberg's over-reliance on sentimentality and crowd-pleasing, but not the rest of the aforementioned traits.

Lance: You mentioned Brad Bird as the wild card, which is fascinating. Bird, I think, is at once the best Pixar director (in that he's the most visionary and the most interested in pushing the boundaries of "kid's" animation, and also that he's got a moral/political vision that's more detailed and complex than the others) and its least representative director. It's telling that Lasseter, Stanton, and Docter were all part of Pixar's founding and technical development, while Bird came from outside the studio's system. It's been a difficult fit.

back to actor212: Can Anakin really be considered a Christ figure if he's capable of genocide? Sure, Jesus was tempted and faced Satan, but he did nothing as horrendous as what Anakin/Darth Vader did, and Anakin's redemption at the end doesn't make up for his bloodshed. To me, Anakin's the Paul figure who gets redeemed by the light of his son and daughter, who seem Christ-like to me. Of course, Christ is split into two people (Luke and Leia), and the theology gets mishmashed confusingly with Eastern metaphysics. But convoluted symbolism and half-read theology is insufferably Lucasian, after all.

Jim 7: That's a great crack about Fitzcarraldo. For kicks, I'll take to calling Pixar the Herzog of animation--who's gonna join me?

Rana

D. and I were talking about Pixar the other day, and how refreshing it is that they seem interested in original stories, unlike the rest of Hollywood. Reading this, though, I think it's more subtle than that. Pixar is more interested in telling Stories, tapping into the deeper narrative archetypes, while the remakers and reissuers are too focused on the surface details of specific variants, and so end up retelling stories, small S.

Instead of coming up with their own variant on the struggle of Good and Evil, for instance (as one director framed it), they remake Transformers, for example, or hack together yet another tawdry vampire flick. It's Pixar's ability to look beyond the surface for the meta-story, and then build a new skin for it, that distinguishes the studio these days.

Rana

I will add that the silent review of Ellie and Carl's courtship, marriage, and life together is one of the most poignant, beautiful, and truthful accounts of a marriage that I've ever seen on film. The trailers did nothing to prepare us for that, and it is perhaps the best part of the whole thing.

We also really appreciated the way that Russell was clearly a child, and that the adult characters in it recognized this; the ways that Carl was protecting him without his being aware of needing protection, for example; the subtext - understood by both men but not Russell in the head-rolling scene; the moment when Carl understoods, suddenly, what Russell's trying to say about his home life without admitting it to himself... It's a movie that recognizes the differences between children and adults, and respects both of them. So it is, literally, a movie for the whole family, and it gets there without cheap innuendo that (hopefully) flies over the heads of the innocent tots.

Campaspe

My ranking:
Up (Rana makes some beautiful points about how the movie works for both adults and children)
Wall*E
Ratatouille

The others have their charms (except The Incredibles -- didn't care much for that one at all) but those three are on a different level altogether.

actor212

"The rest are insufferably Spielbergian." *sigh* Which Spielberg, Kemosabe?

All of them. They are all insufferable. Fun? Yes, in some contexts (Raiders, as an example), but for the most part, I'd rather have needles drawn thru my scrotum than try to analyze a Spielberg film. Next?

Can Anakin really be considered a Christ figure if he's capable of genocide?

God the Father wiped out all of mankind with the Flood. So yes, he can, particularly when placed as the apprentice to the Emperor.

Dave Schuler

I think I was a little more impressed with Up than you were, Lance. I thought it was a significant artistic achievement. Sound, color, and 3D were all quietly harnessed to enhancing the story-telling, not thoughtlessly or as curiosities but with quiet artfullness. In particular I thought it was the best 3D motion picture, animated or live action, ever made.

But even better the story, sound, color, motion, visuals, and 3D were used to explore serious themes in a mature way. Rana has already written eloquently about the treatment of marriage. Other themes that were developed included aging, divorce, isolation, and possessions.

In the case of the latter at the beginning of the story Carl is clutching tight to his possessions, they're weighing him down. By the end through the relationships he's built (Russell and Dug) and the choices he's made he has gotten back in touch with Ellie, his living spirit of adventure, and is ready to let go.

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