OK, I know this film was out in The States over the summer, but it’s only just arriving in cinemas over here in Britain. I went to see it last night. Today’s great thing is yesterday’s great thing for some many of my fellow Americans:
103. Pixar’s Up
You know, when I first saw Wall*E last year, I couldn’t get over how amazing and touching and original it was. What a movie! What a message! Pixar, in all their success, makes me proud to be an American. As a film fanatic living in Britain, I’m all too often reminded what a copycat factory Hollywood typically is. We produce cheesy romantic comedies, brash and violent films based on toy company properties, and the occasional overwrought melodrama. Don’t get me wrong, I usually lap up all that crap happily. But whilst I can usually defend American movies on the basis of being wholly entertaining, I could never rightfully argue that much of it is ‘artful’. Pixar though…they just make me so patriotic. They are proof that not everyone in the American film-making business is a brain-dead hack. People in fricking France could watch Up and be impressed by its beauty.
Anyway, around a year ago was when Pixar first announced that filmmaker Pete Docter’s Up was to be Pixar’s 2009 release. (Usually, when Pixar releases one film, they let you know a wee bit about what is next on the slate.) After seeing Wall*E and then subsequently reading about this challenger to the throne–a film about an old codger and his house tied to balloons, I thought–”No way, man! This film is bound to suck in comparison. Nothing can top Wall*E. Wall*E forever!”. (That’s pretty much verbatim what went through my head when I first saw the production article for Up in Total Film magazine.
This is Pixar’s tenth film and Docter is a Pixar veteran having directed Monster’s Inc. (another one of my faves) and contributed to last year’s absolutely amazing Wall*E. I still think that Wall*E should have taken the award for best picture last year…but it seems that now that Animated Films have their own category, they’ll never be nominated for the main prize. It’s a bit unfair, really. Why not just create a genre category for everything? That way, the standard tear-jerking drama that ALWAYS wins the top honor at the Oscars can stop bumping other worthy and ground-breaking films out of the way.
As most readers are already aware, Up is the story of an old man, Carl Fredericksen, who makes a grand attempt at fulfilling his lifelong dream of following adventurer hero–Charles F. Muntz–into the South American jungle. He does this by fixing millions of helium-filled balloons to his house.
Let me just say that I spent the first fifteen minutes of this film crying so hard that my neck was wet from the tears falling down from behind my 3D glasses and spent the remainder of the film hysterically laughing. One of the prime sources of mirth is talking dog character–Dug. A golden retriever wearing a special language collar that translates his thoughts into spoken language. Peterson voices this character and admits to adapting the hilarious ‘I have just met you and I love you” line from something a child once said to him when he was a camp counselor. Awww.
Without giving too much away, let’s just say that another hefty majority of the laughs belong to Alpha, a Doberman Pinscher with the same ability to communicate but with his ‘voice’ on a different setting.
I think my initial reaction to the announcement of this film–that of “you’ll never be better than Wall*E” was partially born out of my resentment that an old white man should get to be the center of attention–yet again!!! Let me explain. I spend an hour every night watching a political news broadcast from back home. So, I spend a lot of time seething at old white men who are far too entitled and spend their days and powers stopping American progress. I suppose it’s a bit unfair to generalize the situation to apply to every single old white man. Additionally, as a woman–I’m constantly disappointed by how few vehicles are created with women as the central characters. Take for instance “The Simpsons”, one of my favorite shows by a mile. Still, how many female characters can you think of that are regulars on that show? There are over a hundred regularly occurring characters. Let’s take a tally (of only the regularly featured characters) that are female: Marge, Lisa, Maggie, Krabapple, Mrs. Skinner, Sherri and Terri, Patty, Selma, Crazy Cat Lady, Mrs. Hoover…that’s about it. Yeah yeah, I know…there’s Mrs. Lovejoy and Mrs. Hibbert and some other Mrs.’s to count–but honestly, Crazy Cat Lady probably appears more than any of them…and has more to say. My point is, there’s not a lot of consideration for making women more prominent in film and television. So, I guess that sort of rubbed me the wrong way too. I was just not in the mood to hear that yet again, our hero would be another middle-aged to old white guy. But, what can I say, I’m glad I put my knee-jerk liberal feminism aside and went and saw this movie anyway. (As if I wouldn’t have gone to see the latest Pixar…).
It’s a beautiful HUMAN story, much more rooted in earthly bi-ped reality than most other feature-length toons and it shouldn’t be missed. (And as far as my PC policing goes–it at least features on of animations first Asian-American lead characters in Russel…the good intentioned and loquacious Wilderness Guide.)
Also, the lead-in cartoon Partly Cloudy is one of the best shorts I’ve seen in a looong time. It’s actually written and directed by the gentleman whose jubilant personality inspired Docter in creating the character of Russel.
In doing a bit of background reading for this entry, I came across this story of a 10-year-old girl from Hntington Beach whose last wish was to see this film before she died from vascular cancer. It’s nice to know that Pixar made such an effort to help that happen but it’s still a tearful story to read. article
Here’s a glimpse of why this movie is so special. Meet Dug: