Wall-E was a delightful movie, with the most endearing characters of the entire stock. What's remarkable is that the main characters never even speak in a traditional sense, only in robotic noises!! If you had told me a few years ago that a Charlie Chaplin-esque sci-fi movie could completely capture my heart the way this one did, i would have been hard pressed not to ridicule you...and yet, here i stand totally attached to this little metal guy. My favorite thing about this film is how reverently it treats its subject matter. What i mean is this; take for example the movie Robots, where the machines in that movie are not even really machines at all but completely anthropomorphic autonomous beings that happened to be made of metal. Wall-E however is a completely functional being, whose personality arises out of that. It's brilliant!! Why would humans program a trash compactor to talk? They wouldn't, so Wall-E must function within his programming, speaking in only simple sounds. I can't go on enough...incredible, just incredible.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Well at last my adventure of Pixar-osity has come to an end. I have laughed, i have cried, i have leapt with joy! It really is simply awe-inspiring to me, that a single studio can have this many good movies in a row, and i really wish that it could go on forever.
It's hard to express in words just how much i love this movie. When i saw it in theaters (with a bunch of kids, which i have found to be the best way to experience these films) i had this huge grin on my face the entire time that i could not manage to get rid of. I totally bought into this world, and was transported into the story in a way that i hadn't been in movies in a long time. Thats the first thing that really struck me about this movie is what a beautifully crafted story it had. What's even more amazing is that Brad Bird (the director extraordinaire) managed to put it all together in only a year and a half, which is half the time it normally takes!!
I remember during one of the scenes where Remy and Linguini are cooking their first actual meal and they change the recipe halfway through the process, while the rest of the kitchen is trying to stop them. I recall being on the edge of my seat during the whole scene, and then at the end kind of realizing that i was having that reaction over someone preparing a dinner! The whole plot is that way, keeping you rooted to the 'action.'
The animation is gorgeous, the physical comedy is really kicked up a notch (a rat controlling a human using his hair...far fetched sure, but visually genius), and the score is the best out of all the films. (This movie happens to be my favorite out of all the Pixar movies; it was a tough choice, but it is just so good!)
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Unfortunately this is my least favorite of the Pixar lexicon. Now granted, that still means that it is still fairly high up on my list of favorite movies period, but when compared to the rest of this companies masterpieces...i just thought it was left wanting. However, since i have tried to give rational reasons for the adoration i have for the other films, i will attempt to come up with a real reason why i don't like this movie as much. At least one reason is that the plot seems to be driven more by happenstance as opposed to character or plot. Like when Lightning kicks the can into Doc's house which happens to crash into something, which allows Lightning to stumble upon the fact that Doc is a racecar legend. It would be a bit like Buzz tripping out of the window instead of being pushed by Woody.
So really though, i still find it to be an immensely entertaining film. One thing that i feel is a triumph is the mastery of tone. What i mean is that; the movie begins in the fast lane and the audience gets excited watching this race of the champions! We feel a lot like Lightning does, eager to see more flashing lights and revving engines. Then, he gets stranded in Radiator Springs where things slow down...a lot. It takes Lightning (and us) a while to get used to this new pace, but we gradually get accustomed to it and in fact become attached to it. So much so, that when the narrative heads back to the racetrack, it is jarring and just feels loud and empty until the townfolk join in. This is remarkable that the movie allows the viewer to feel all of these things along with the protagonist, and just goes to show again how masterfully Pixar is able to tell a story.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Alright, let's role play here for a second. Imagine for a moment that you are the head of a major movie studio. So far you have produced 5 films, all of which have been critical and box-office smashes. What do you do? Now, the typical Hollywood thinking on this is to stick to the formula and with what works. Pixar however, had an entirely different idea on how best to proceed. They brought in Brad Bird, a rather obscure (his only other work was the Iron Giant, which was a massively underappreciated masterpiece) yet rambunctious personality in the entertainment industry. Why did they do this? In their words, it was so they didn't get complacent. So they wouldn't just slink back into what was comfortable! Who are these people!?!
Their gamble worked, and the Incredibles shattered every preconceived notion that the world had about what animation could and could not be. Here there were action scenes more visceral and exciting to watch than any summer blockbuster (Dash running from the bad guys through the forest, dare you not to cheer). Family drama more engaging and heartfelt than any indie oscar bait ("I can't lose you again, i'm not strong enough!" Dare you not to tear up). Emotional stakes just as tense and dangerous as any Martin Scorcese blood fest (The missles coming towards the plane. Dare you not to get shivers down your spine). This was a real turning point for animated films, where they finally started to get taken seriously.
I remember seeing this movie for the first time in the theater. I had been pretty out of the loop for two years on my mission, and so i knew absolutely nothing about it. I was floored! It remains the best experience i have ever had watching a movie; and as opposed to getting older every time i watch it, it just keeps getting better!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Finding Nemo is still the most successful of all of the Pixar movies, and many consider it to also be the best. Of course this is a little like saying that B-cells are the best part of the immune system, when all parts of them are equally awesome (so, the best part of this is that i actually wrote that before i realized what a nerd it made me sound like...) At any rate though, this again proved that Pixar could improve themselves with every movie instead of just chasing former glory.
This story follows an extremely protective father who must scour the ocean to find his lost son. Through his quest the father learns that while worrying constantly about his sons life, he had forgotten to let him live. Easily the most emotionally charged of the movies to date, Nemo showed viewers that animation was not a genre, but rather a medium through which any kind of story could be told. With the drama reaching heights unheard of in previous animation, the comedy had to keep up as well, and boy did it! Ellens' Dory is easily the most lovable and humorous character (possibly in any movie) and the supporting cast does wonders yet again (two notable highlights being the ever-young surfer turtle Crush, and the Shark recovery group).
Add to that some of the most beautiful animation ever put to film (it wasn't photorealistic, it was better), clever writing, and a moving score, and you get a truly remarkable experience that rises far above any of its component parts.
Monday, August 25, 2008
This movie was to be Pixar's proving ground. John Lassetter (who is the head animator and chief of awesomeness) had directed every movie up to this point. Monster's was the first movie to be helmed by another director, and thus the true test as to whether the company was a "one-man show," or a full-fledged studio. Well, we all know how that turned out...
Turns out that Pixar represented that rare (and by rare, i mean otherwise non-existent) entity that truly learned from its mistakes and only got better with time.
Pixar grew up for this movie, by leaps and bounds. Not content to simply make an entertaining buddy-flick, Monster's aimed for something higher...art. The stakes are high here, with a conspiracy to steal the screams of (ie- kill) all the worlds children in order to develop a more effective way of harvesting energy for the monster world. The main characters must choose at one point between what is right and what is...also right. Sully is confronted by the fact that his life-long friendship with Mike might need to be sacrificed in order to save Boo's life. What a choice!? This profoundly adult dilemma is what gives real danger to the action that happens on screen (and the action is top notch; that race through all of those doors, brilliant!)
Add to that shockingly good animation, humor, and a wonderfully off-beat jazzy score and what we got was proof that Pixar was going to be around for a very long time.
Friday, August 22, 2008
So, I'm not sick. At least not in the conventional sense of the word. I used this picture mostly to get sympathy for the horrifyingly disgusting experience i just had. Let me explain; i have recently heard from just about everywhere, that the health benefits to drinking apple cider vinegar are tremendous. So, i decided that i would jump on the train...big mistake! It should have been a tip off when i took a whiff of the bottle and nearly lost my breakfast from that alone. But, always the sucker for punishment, i trudged onward. Two tablespoons was the general consensus (which may seem like a small amount, but let me assure you that it might as well have been a gallon), and so i put it in a small glass and proceeded to stare at it for five minutes. Finally, i grabbed the glass, plugged my nose, and downed it. Of two facts, i was immediately certain; my throat had never burned so profoundly, and i had never wanted to throw-up so badly in my life. So now, here i sit, trying to recover from this sordid affair--i heard that eating liver can help overcome the effects of drinking vinegar, maybe i should give that a try...
Sequels are notoriously tricky to pull-off. On the one hand, people who go to see a sequel want to see the same thing that they saw before. They want to relive the adventures of the same characters and experience a similar feeling as they did during the original. On the other hand, they want something different. If there is any hint of 'copy-catting' the first one then the audience will feel simply bored at best. Needless to say, this creates a tough balancing act that has seen very mixed results in the history of cinema.
This movie is one of those rare times (Dark Knight being a notable recent example) where the sequel very well may be better than the original! What an accomplishment! As this movie begins, we know the characters, we know their weaknesses and their strengths, and we know what is important to them; so where do you make a character arc from there?! Well, Pixar answered that question with flair.
In this film, Woody is presented with a choice. He can either choose to live forever in a loveless, sterile world; or he can live with his owner who loves him. Seems like an easy choice, right? Well, what if there was no guarantee that the owner would always love him? This then, is the decidedly adult choice that this 'kids movie' character must face, and it resonates with the audience because it is a decision that we all must face at some point in our lives. Do we give our hearts to others even though they may at some point break them, or do we keep them locked up; safe, sterile, and hard?
This heart and pathos is what gives the movie its core. It makes the jokes funnier, the stakes higher, and the characters more endearing. For most of the movie, you don't even seem to be watching toys anymore, but old buddies who you actually care for! One last thing; with the recent announcement that there will be a third film in the series one has to wonder if the trend will continue. The history of successful 'thirds' is positively elite compared to simply sequels (in fact, off the top of my head i can only think of Harry Potter, Bourne, and Lord of the Rings). However, i have learned to simply have faith in this studio, as they have yet (in my opinion) to make a single bad movie...
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Unlike most of the Pixar movies (with the possible exception of The Incredibles) which focus on one main character (or a pair of them), this is the closest the studio came to a true ensemble picture. And honestly, with a movie about a colony of insects, how could that not be the case! That is the true victory of this film, the richness of its secondary cast members. Each one of the circus bugs is so well cast and characterized, and oftentimes are the most well-remembered parts of the movie. The fat and lovable Heimlich who only wants to be a butterfly, the ladybug who is actually a man-bug, and the two spanish/russian/?-speaking pill bugs ("You fired!") just to name a few!
The plot channels many classic films like Seven Samurai, and follows the plight of a helpless group of insects which must come to an understanding of their place in the world while under the oppression of the evil grasshoppers. The ants (spearheaded by the outcast Flik) seek in vain to find an extrinsic solution to their problem, in the end discovering that they had always held the power to vanquishing the enemy...the power within (cue Chariots of Fire music). Ironically this is something that the villains had known and exploited all along, exhibiting a simple yet powerful lesson (which history has shown us time and time again) on the ability of the 'powerful' few managing to oppress the 'weak' many.
The animation in this movie was stunning, giving the viewer a glimpse into how nature is seen from the other side. And last but certainly not least is what i consider to be the most ingeniously clever thing that has ever been done in an animated film, outtakes. I mean seriously, whoever had that idea should be set for life, because it was a stroke of brilliance!!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The year was 1995, and the movie was Toy Story. I was merely a tender lad of 12 at that time, but even i could tell that something important was happening. I was obsessed with this movie then, spending every cent i had on anything i could get my hands on (which at the time wasn't actually very much...stuff, as well as my budget). I listened to the soundtrack on cassette until it started to wear and the little tape thing actually broke (Boy, those were the dark ages)! This was the world's first computer animated film. But what is even more important, is that instead of using that fact alone to trump up publicity, Pixar created what many still consider to be the greatest CG animated film ever!!
Now, i'll admit that i do consider others to be better per se, but the beauty and intelligence of this original Toy Story cannot be overstated.
As tensions in the story rise, one of this films crowning achievements begins to surface; its superb characterizations!! Woody is selfish and jealous of Buzz taking the attention away from him, but who isn't!? Potato Head is quick to accuse Woody and slow to forgive him, who isn't? These characters are flawed and have personal insecurities! They are real!
Mix that with genuinely funny moments (which come from the actual situations, as opposed to relying on pop culture reference with tongue firmly in cheek as so many animated movies tend to), witty dialogue ("The word I'm searching for, i can't say."), and beautiful animation and you end up with this pioneering masterpiece in every sense of the word.
So, it occurred to me the other day that it had been some time since i had last perused the perfect pantheon of Pixar pictures (and obviously a long time since i had used shameless alliteration in a blog post). These are in my opinion the most well-made set of movies in existence. Now that may seem naive considering all of the amazing movies out there, but in my opinion no other collection of movies even comes close to Pixars' in regards to: cleanliness, humor, heart, visuals, characterizations, and creativity. So, i decided that since i was planning on watching them again anyway, i might as well make the whole experience a little more productive and include my humble bloggers in the blessed experience (i.e.- if your reading this, your probably the only one). So i decided that i am going to watch one Pixar movie a day for the next 8 days, and then write a review describing the event! Should be fun, right? RIGHT?! :)
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I enjoy having facial hair. And i think that only recently am i finally coming to understand exactly why. It is a fact well understood (coming from such credible sources as Hitch) that 90% of communication is non-verbal.
Now, nobody likes to have lulls in the conversation, so who wants lulls in the nonverbal landscape? Facial hair helps create variety and excitement; so it seems perfectly reasonable to me to exhibit some pleasant decor on one's face so as not to allow the nonverbal discussion to hit a snag! Now, i suppose the debate rages on over whether or not facial hair (and more especially the creepy, half-filled-in kind as demonstrated here by this poor fellow) actually qualifies as "pleasant decor." So, i figure until that debate is resolved i shall continue to use my 'enhanced' nonverbals to say the following to the detractors....
I found this picture and decided that it pretty much sums up...well, everything. Admittedly this is how i often feel in life. I am meant to be the aggressor, the alpha male, the hunter! Dating provides a good example. Now like any cat, i have labored at times under the false impression that the world has been laid out for my enjoyment. So at my leisure, i would choose to pounce on my "unsuspecting prey" feeling that they would quickly surrender to my glory and might! Come to find out though, that my claws don't even puncture their skin, and that they instead only force me to hang on for dear life as the "prey" carries me about helplessly. Admittedly, not the lesson in leadership that Mufasa had intended. Now, forgive me if i have run away with the metaphor here; in truth, i think its just a really funny picture.
I guess i have finally made the jump. Up to this moment I had always been comfortable with the fact that i was not very techno savvy, in fact i kind of enjoyed it. I managed to grow up right behind the curve. All this business of cell phones, internet sites, and moving pictures didn't really catch on until the "learning of new technology" window in my brain had already closed. However, one day i looked around and saw that everyone had Facebook (i was the last one to jump on that train), and cellphones (swore i would never need one). So, now i have joined their ranks. I am now a certified techno-phile! If you need to contact me you can reach me on my pager :)