I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

notes on Toy Story 3

tn_toystory3Live action filmatists, pick up the fuckin pace, please. I didn’t want to review TOY STORY 3. It is a cartoon about children’s toys. We all know by now that this Pixar company is the best at what they do. I already admitted that WALL-E touched me inappropriately in the heart, that UP made me cry like a bitch and that CARS made me wonder how talking cars make love. So it’s no surprise that I keep enjoying these Pixar movies. Everybody does. But nobody wants to hear what the guy who wrote the book about Steven Seagal thinks about Buzz Lightyear or whatever. It’s just not something I should have to do. There are plenty of movies starring ex-wrestlers or karate champions that I haven’t written about yet. But you live action directors are fuckin up this summer. You’re backing me into a corner.

mp_toystory3So I thought I could get out of reviewing this, but here I am a week later still thinking about the movie and realizing that it’s by far the best I’ve seen in a theater this year. That’s not saying much I guess, but it deserves a few words I think and I know some of you individuals will want to commentate in the comments area.

Well shit, I’ve crossed the line already, so while I’m here I guess I’ll take this opportunity to admit that I also enjoyed the dragon movie earlier this year, it was surprisingly good. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON is the second pretty good cartoon movie I’ve seen from the Dreamworks computer cartooning company (first one was kung fu panda). It looked real nice, had a few laughs and built nicely to an exciting action climax that looked real good in 3-D. But what I liked most about it was that it’s about this kid who becomes friends with a dragon in a culture where everybody hunts dragons. So as a rite of passage they put him in a situation where he’s supposed to kill a dragon, but he doesn’t believe in it. So it’s about a kid who doesn’t believe in something that is acceptable in his culture, and that puts him in a really uncomfortable position. I thought about kids who don’t want to stand for the pledge of allegiance to protest something or who don’t believe in eating meat or things like that. I couldn’t think of another cartoon that dealt with that type of conflict.

When one of my buddies mentioned that the dragon movie was the best movie of the year so far I said, “What? No, come on. I mean it’s pretty good, but best of the year?” And he said, “Well, what do you think is better?” And I said, “uh… hmmm.”

He stumped me. The only one I could think of was UNIVERSAL SOLDIER REGENERATION, which he didn’t think counted because it wasn’t in theaters. So I was stuck admitting that the DRAGON movie might’ve been the best of the year so far unless I was forgetting something. Now TOY STORY 3 runs about ten laps around it, and we must admit we live in an upside down world if all the best films being made are either family friendly computer animation or straight to video Van Damme pictures.

If you’re not familiar with the TOY STORY movies, here is what they are about. Toys are alive when you’re not looking, same as Puppet Master, but one is played by Tom Hanks. There is many different dolls and etc. And you can imagine where it would go from there.

This might be the best trilogy since the original Star Warses. Each chapter is very true to the characters and advances some emotional themes. I like that by part 3 Woody and Lightyear are a solid team. They have a disagreement about what to do but they don’t get mad, they completely support each other and work together, knowing each other’s strengths and how to back each other up. In this one they don’t travel as far as in either of the others (no high speed auto chase or visit to the airport) but it feels way more epic because of the huge amount of detail and the highly populated world it takes place in. The toys move to a daycare where an entire toy society already exists. The daycare toys seem to have it all figured out, they have a hell of a setup there, kind of reminded me of DAY OF THE DEAD somehow.

You probly shouldn’t read this sort-of review unless you’ve seen it. I’m just gonna assume you have and list some thoughts about it and some parts that impressed me into having no choice but to do this write-up.

1. The filmatism of the “caterpillar room” scene is outstanding. As the toddlers pour into the nursery and terrorize the unsuspecting toys you’re thrown in there with them. The “cameras” are put at floor level so you’re looking up at these kids like they’re monsters about to bite your head off. I remember a POV shot from Lightyear’s perspective as his face is used to hammer blocks into slots. It just puts you right into the action, there’s all kinds of fast paced mayhem and you see it, understand it, and feel it. I know I’m a broken record on this point of how bad modern action direction is, but let’s be serious here, THE A-TEAM is one of the more passable recent action movies and it doesn’t have any scenes as visceral as this one about kids smearing snot on toys. I never thought I’d say this, but modern big screen action directors, forget everything you know and study some Pixar cartoons.

2. You thought I was gonna say this first but I saved the good shit for number two: Holy shit that part at the garbage dump is amazing! Here are these toys who we’ve been worrying with for three movies. In part 1 they were afraid of being replaced by new and better toys (or pets). In part 2 they were afraid of being outgrown and forgotten by their owners, or sold in a garage sale or to a collector who just puts them under glass. In this one they’re biting the bullet and facing down the inevitable, that their kid won’t play with them forever and they should be happy being put in the attic or donated to the daycare.

But here they end up facing a fate worse than they had considered before, they are actually garbage. Bad, right? And it gets worse when they’re about to be incinerated. For three movies they’ve worried about abandonment and damage from mean kids but they’ve never even mentioned the possibility of being completely melted down – what I can only assume is actual toy death. That’s kind of a heavy notion for a movie like this, but not nearly as heavy as the fact that they see this fate in front of them, they accept it, and they wordlessly face it down, holding each other’s hands to die together as a family. This is some profound shit.

And then the thing that saves them is, from the perspective of the martians, an intervention from God! We’ve known since part 1 that this was the martian religion. We just didn’t take it seriously.

After seeing this scene I almost believe my own ridiculous prediction that CARS 2 will find some way to make my CARS-hating buddies shed tears over the emotions of an anthropomorphized vehicle.

3. This one didn’t get me like UP did, on account of me being so manly and everything. But the part that came the closest was when Woody was peaking out of the box and saw the mom getting choked up about Andy’s room being empty as he’s ready to go off to college. It’s touching just on the surface level of relating to the mom and the kid, but also it’s touching when you consider what it means to Woody. I think this is the first time he’s realized that people have to say goodbye too. He sees that the mom is sad to see her son grow up, but she has to send him off into the world. He knows that he has to do the same thing.

4. I really like the character Big Baby. He works so perfectly as a dimwitted behemoth henchman in the world of toys. He’s creepy as hell and then he’s lovable at the end. I also like that killer monkey, I think that’s the one that’s gonna haunt the dreams of children across the world, not the incinerator scene. At a young age you probly can’t comprehend all the implications of what’s going on in the incinerator, but you can definitely appreciate the terror of that fuckin monkey clapping his cymbals on your head.
5. Anybody else wonder why these toys got such a problem with Ken being girly? There’s the scene where the bookworm thinks he sees Ken wearing pumps, and he shakes his head in disgust. Later the main characters all seem very uncomfortable with Ken’s feminine handwriting.

Let’s examine this. The toys of TOY STORY have the ability to fall in love. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are in love, Buzz seems to have a thing for Jessie, Barbie for Ken, etc. But unlike cars, toys do not reproduce. They’re manufactured by man. The Potato Heads cannot bear children, they can only adopt martians. There’s no reproductive need or instinct, and even if there was, we all know that Barbie and Ken have no genitals to mate with. So there’s no reason for the toys to have genders at all, let alone to have an instinct for male-female pairs. So why are they so uncomfortable with Ken? Is it homophobia?

I think it’s cultural. Gender roles are forced on young people through their toys. In fact, Barbie herself got into some trouble for saying “math is hard” and making girls feel dumb. If anybody is a slave to these archaic ideas it’s toys. Although if my dream of an animated movie about laundry ever comes true I’m sure there will be some real strong differences between the different types of underwear.
* * *

Anyway, great movie. It can’t be denied. It’s great to see people who put so much thought and care into something, especially since that approach seems to have gone out of style.

Seriously live action people, this is not a hollow threat. This is real, this is happening. Already, Brad Bird of the “incredibles” and the cooking rat one has been conscripted to direct MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: 4 using live humans. And do you have any doubt in your mind that he’ll knock that shit out of the park like one of those steroid monsters they had in baseball until a couple years ago? If you don’t start doing better, the cartoonists will be happy to take over.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 25th, 2010 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

129 Responses to “notes on Toy Story 3”

  1. every time one of these pixar’s come out, i brush it off, assuming i’m not interested. in the end i always end up dying to see it, and am very impressed once i do. i’m sure this’ll be no exception.

  2. I’m pulling for Brad Bird’s success like a little kid following his/her favorite baseball player.

    Best trilogy ever? Hmmm, yeah, Star Wars, but then the last 3. . . Death Wish 1, 2, 3, but then they had to get greedy with that franchise too. . .
    Gotta go with the Apu trilogy for now.

  3. Well, you could always review The Stranger Vern, it just came out a week or two ago.

  4. Kind of off-topic, but relating to the state of current action films, I just saw a screening of the MECHANIC remake starring Jason Statham and Ben Foster. A bunch of shaky cam nonsense, although there is one decent fight between Ben Foster and a gay giant. Oh yeah, and they changed the ending.

  5. I’ll be on board for Brad Bird’s “Mission Impossible” movie the second they announce that the one white friend of Ethan’s who wears a suit glasses ISN’T an evil traitor, and whoever plays Ethan doesn’t have a love interest that gets kidnapped. Until then, colour me sceptical.

    Although I will definitely catch Toy Story 3. So many good reviews can’t be wrong. Heck, I haven’t seen a film this critically lauded since “Pearl Harbour”.

    (Oh… wait…)

    In all seriousness, I’ll be seeing this one as soon as it comes out on DVD. In the meantime I’ve still got my horror collection to get through. “Kairo” is every bit as good as everyone says, by the way.

    Ben Foster as an action hero? That seems almost as bad as Tobey Maguire. (Yeah… I know people liked him… but I wanted to wipe that death’s-rictus smile of his right off his face with a croquet mallet.) He was pretty good in “Hostage”, but really…?

  6. “But nobody wants to hear what the guy who wrote the book about Steven Seagal thinks about Buzz Lightyear or whatever. It’s just not something I should have to do. There are plenty of movies starring ex-wrestlers or karate champions that I haven’t written about yet.”

    This point is so strong and I agree with it so thoroughly that I did indeed skip the review.

    My personal feelings about the movie aside, what was cool about discovering Vern recently (I just discovered Vern recently, through his latest book) is that he’s discussing movies few others are, in a way that few others are. Even if this is a perfect movie it doesn’t need another fucking review.

  7. I gotta agree with all of this Vern. I was 11 or 12 when the first TOY STORY came out, and that was around the time that I started resisting “children’s movies”. For a long time, Pixar or not, if it was animated I passed it up for something more mature, like AMERICAN PIE. I can’t remember what brought me back around, but I gained actual maturity and realized these Pixar gents are some of the finest storytellers working in Hollywood. Now I usually go see Pixar joints in the theater. I think TOY STORY 3 joins TOY STORY 2 and WALL-E as the best of their work. There’s real emotional resonance running throughout, I can’t believe how much I actually care about these characters and their fates. And for the first time ever in one of these movies, that conveyor belt/garbage incinerator scene made me think: “holy fuck. I have no idea were this is going. They’re not actually going to let them die, are they? DON’T LET THEM DIE PIXAR!” And I actually got all the misty eyes and the chest flutters at the end when Andy is giving the toys over to the little girl. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it right now. What a perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

    This might actually be the best movie of the year so far. GREEN ZONE is still in my #1 spot, but I still have to let TOY STORY 3 marinate a bit longer. And I’d hesitate to argue that GREEN ZONE has the better action scenes, even though I think it does the shaky cam style better than it’s ever been done and never loses a firm grasp on action geography, even when it’s punching you in the eyes with indistinguishable blurs of movement. What else even comes close though? I really liked SHUTTER ISLAND and BROOKLYN’S FINEST, but they both have their flaws. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP is the best documentary I’ve seen so far this year. I’d put UNDISPUTED 3: REDEMPTION a notch above UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION. And PLASTIC BAG and M.I.A.’s BORN FREE music video are some of the best short films I’ve ever seen. But as far as theatrical features go… GREEN ZONE is the only thing standing in the way of TOY STORY 3 right now. Touche, Pixar. Very impressive.

    Anyway thanks for reviewing this one Vern even though it’s for kids and shit

  8. I have been reduced to tears by all the Pixar movies I have seen. I guess thats my badass juxtaposition, getting caught sobbing like a child over a lost clown fish. The incinerator business in Toy Story 3 sounds to much for me to risk sitting in a cinema. I’ll wait untill it comes on dvd and tell my wife that I have something in my eye.

  9. How to Train Your Dragon has one of the most propulsive action scenes in a movie since…the ending of Star Wars? Or, maybe, the truck chase in The Road Warrior? (SPOILER: that moment where the kid falls off the dragon, goes tumbling through the air, climbs back on and then…) I ended up seeing it at least 4 times. My only complaints are that the messagey part of the movie is predictable and banal (Why do kid’s films need messages anyway? Back in the 80’s the only message I ever got from any kids film was “Fantasy is fucking awesome!”; back then, it was actually considered bad form for Hollywood to tell people how to live their lives); and the main character is a bit of cunt. In his opening narration he’s basically calling all the villager’s stupid while they’re heroically risking their lives to protect him and insure the village’s survival. Fortunately, the film-makers handled all that so elegantly it doesn’t really matter.

    I’d also like to stick up for Dreamwork’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which I would describe as likeably bizarre.

  10. I’d say this comic summed up all my feelings about TS3 perfectly (down to the toys he gets out at the end, which are the same ones I had as a kid): http://hijinksensue.com/2010/06/22/youve-got-a-friend-in-me/

    Frankly, these days Pixar is the one studio that absolutely guarantees quality. Everyone else is hit-and-miss. I don’t know if these guys sold their souls to the devil at the crossroads or something, but damn, they’ve got something going on that no one else does.

  11. No disrespect to Ronald, but I’d just like to point out that a big part of the joy I derive from “Then fuck you, jack” (aside the title) is the way Vern goes from topic to topic and through sometimes0-overlapping phases. At least compared to my own, it’s a very honest approach to the exploration of cinema. It’s a vast subject encompassing all manner of topics and styles. Cinema has led me down a number of different intellectual alleys and I will happily explore it until the day I die.

    Also, if anyone has any interest in Knight and Day, pay to see it this weekend. Word is the direction of the next Mission: Impossible picture rides on its box office results. Personally, I love Tom Cruise movies. But even if you don’t, do you really want Paramount monkeying around with Brad Bird’s live-action vision? If you’ve seen his animated work, you do not.

  12. this movie is nothing less than a masterpiece

    I was 5 years old when Toy Story came out and I still remember seeing it, I was 9 when Toy Story 2 came out and now I’m 20 when Toy Story 3 has come out, I’ve grown up right along with Andy

    also now I regret missing How to Train Your Dragon, darn it Vern you should have posted a review so I would have known it was worth seeing!

  13. Ancient Romans – KNIGHT & DAY looks like a fun ROMANCING THE STONE-type, which really we honestly haven’t had a good one of those in awhile. James Mangold is that sort of guy who could pull it off, he always gets the best out of his casts for whatever genre he’s tackling.

    M:I though the franchise is such a mixed bag for me.

    #1 is really fun, Brian DePalma indulging in his Hitchcockian spy thrills mixed with big budget blockbuster elements and hey that whole Voight/Cruise scene in the station was….awesome?

    #2 was a piece of shit, last I remembered it. Chaotic, nonsensical, apparently Cruise kicked Woo out of the editing room, cut 90 minutes out. Also its funny when you think that the villain lost out on Wolverine because of this bullshit.

    #3 was ok, more disposable than recommendable if you ask me. We finally get the team dynamic proceduralism from the TV show (#1 skemped too much on it, and #2 just didn’t give a fuck) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is awesome. But then little sillyness distracts me, like that damn creepy romance with a younger Katie Holmes-type woman that I just don’t buy Cruise banging. Only in a Cruise movie would young women still want to screw him. The baseballs scene was fun though.

    Its NEXT-levels of ewwww.

  14. If the studio wanted KNIGHT AND DAY to do well they shouldn’t have moved it to Wednesday at the last minute. Surprise surprise, it comes out Wednesday, does poorly, and there’s 48 hours of reports on it flopping before the weekend proper. I thought they saved Wednesday releases for sure things, and this is a good example of why.

  15. I just saw Knight & Day tonight. Not bad, actually, 6/10. I giggled and enjoyed it more than I thought I would, though I admit I’ll probably never rewatch it. I don’t recall in any other film ever seeing a gunfight featuring topless Porsches and a motorcycle amidst the running of the bulls.

  16. I’ve always enjoyed Cruise’s pictures (and never even doubted his heterosexuality) but have to admit that, post-couch jumping seeming craziness, there’s been an extra layer to his work for me. His films are perfectly enjoyable if not better, but I also get enjoyment out of the crazy calculations they suggest. For instance, the Michelle Monaghan romance in Mission: Impossible 3 seemed to say, “I am accessible to the average woman. Single mothers, working nurses. Play your cards right, housewives of America, and you could be next.” Which is why, aside from cementing Brad Bird’s creative freedom on M:I 4, it’s the self-parody of Cruise’s performance that most intrigues me about Knight and Day.

    Side note: In addition to Dougray Scott’s ill-fated attachment to the film, I also remember watching the (never truly reliable) IMDB page for Steve Zahn when Mission: Impossible 2 was in production. He was listed as scheduled to appear in about a half dozen films, including M:I 2. As the production went on and on and on, the number of films he was slated to appear in (including American Psycho) dwindled down, reportedly due to Cruise’s post-Kubrickian perfectionism, until there was just M:I 2 left. And then that disappeared, too. I’ve always wondered about that point in Zahn’s career, when he was just about to breakout, but I’ve never heard him address it in interviews.

  17. I’ve still been pontificating on the best film trilogy. The right answer, it turns out, is obviously the Qatsi trilogy, though maybe Toy Story 3 will change my mind when I see it this weekend.
    Seriously, though, these things will blow your mind: http://www.koyaanisqatsi.org/films/film.php

  18. I’ve only seen KOYAANISQATSI, but it would be hard to beat FISTFUL OF DOLLARS/FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE/THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

  19. WS- CLOUDY wasn’t a Dreamworks picture. I agree it was a good one though, even if it does get a bit much in the last 15 minutes or so. I liked how the design was decidedly “cartoony”, almost like an early Hanna-Barbera cartoon, avoiding the “uncanny valley” syndrome that effects, for example, the SHREK films and even a few Pixar films. But on the Dreamworks front I will say I really enjoyed MONSTERS VS ALIENS, that was the kind of carefree, well-crafted fun I wish I could find in more live action films these days. And from Handmade Films(!) I found PLANET 51 a nice surprise (if we have to have a SPACE CHIMPS 2 I hope we can get a PLANET 52). It’s great that Pixar can make animated films that get nominated for Best Picture and all, but at the same time I don’t see anything wrong with animated films that are more in the spirit of classic WB etc. cartoons. That would be like dismissing action films or comedies because live action is capable of reaching greater dramatic peaks

  20. I didn’t really enjoy Monsters Vs Aliens that much, mostly because of its uneven humor (Every clever joke is followed by something even by mid-00’s-Dreamworks-standards incredbly stupid, like when the president starts to play Axel F on the keyboard). But I would like to see the characters in a new adventure. They had a great chemistry together. And even more important: Apparently Dreamworks moved away from being the studio that fills its movies with uninspired popculture references, to being the studio that is able to craft some awesome action sequences. (As examples I give the prison break in Kung Fu Panda and the fight against the giant robot in Monsters Vs. Aliens.)

  21. And yes, Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs rules! It had me rolling on the floor with laughter more than once. I second the wish for more animated films that “just” want to be comedies, instead of “serious” Oscar material.

  22. Knight & Day looks like a rental at best, sorry

    also I haven’t seen any of the Mission Impossibles since the first in 1996 and I remember almost nothing about it (except for exploding chewing gum and Emilio Estevez getting crushed in an elevator)

  23. Some brainiac film-critic suggested that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was really a satire of all that redemptive character arch, three-act-story-structure Campbellian nonsense that screenwriters use. I didn’t quite see that, but I like the idea.

    Kung Fu Panda is, for me, another movie that is awesome on every level except for the message scenes, which are stomach-churningly banal; “To make something special, you just have to BELIEVE it’s special!” Ugh, gross.

  24. I don’t know if I would call it the best trilogy but the Vengeance movies are pretty good. Oddly enough, the third one (Lady Vengeance) is the best in my opinion, and how often does that happen?

    Of course the best trilogy ever…The Verhoven Trilogy: RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers

  25. Don’t forget about Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) doing John Carter of motherfucking Mars

  26. I haven’t seen nor had any desire to see an animated cartoon children’s movie for babies who play with toys since Finding Nemo, but I can’t deny the science put forth in this not-quite-a-review. Supposing (simply for the purpose of anthropological study, you understand) I was to give these Pixar folks and their lovingly hand-crafted zeroes and ones another shot, where should I start? I don’t really feel like crying, I don’t like cute talking things that shouldn’t be able to talk but can talk anyway because it’s cute when things that aren’t supposed to talk can talk, and I am a fan of violence. Please keep these things in mind. Choose wisely, gentlemen, because your recommendation will determine whether or not I’m gonna turn into one of you weirdos who won’t shut the fuck up about how Pixar movies are like gumdrop smiles made of handjobs and freedom.

  27. Mr. M – What a wonderful NeoCon posting.

  28. See? I try to extend the olive branch, meet you wackos halfway, and you gotta resort to name-calling.

  29. Mr. M – Be lucky I didn’t call ya a pussy.

    Because really, openly admitting not wanting to bother checking something out and self-applauding yourself for it?

    The worst that happens, you see it and you don’t like it. OH MY, life goes on. And if anyone gives you shit, well we remember TRANSFORMERS 2, don’t we?

    If you can deal with me and others tweaking you over that, I would believe you could arm wrestle Pixar nerds.

    But hey, maybe you’re getting soft in the progressing nature of your lifespan? Maybe we should rename you Mr. Mineke.

  30. ChopperSullivan

    June 26th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    So see The Incredibles. It’s about superheroes. No talking cute things or whatever the fuck it is you’re worried about.

  31. choppersullivan – Maybe Mr. Mineke will revolt at the baby? Its kinda cute for a cartoon baby, I guess?

  32. Chopper: Thank you for the suggestion. I figured I might start with either The Incredibles or Wall-E. Those seemed most up my alley.

    Everybody else: Thanks for the snark.

  33. Mr. M – If you want my recommendation, do INCREDIBLES first then WALL-E.

    To use a metaphor which someone at AwardsDaily (of all places) cooked up to explain….WALL-E is White Album, INCREDIBLES is Rubber Soul.

    Or to bluntly explain for the non-audiophiles out there, the reviews about WALL-E is about about a creative, genius 1st half saddled with a pedestrian 2nd half which its ordinary ugliness is even more obvious because of the 1st half. Part genius, part OK.

    INCREDIBLES is just…Incredible. All the way good, not too geeky with the comic book knowledge but not too snarky about about the material. A nice tightrope balance. Almost feels like Brad Bird’s feel good rebuttal to WATCHMEN the novel regarding these ubermensch which according to Bird’s objective Ayn Rand influences, are supposed to lord over us because they’re naturally awesome.

    Plus how Mr. Incredible in the cave escapes the probe….BADASS.

  34. Oh and Mr. Majestyk, don’t go wonky on us like that again or before you know it, George Foreman will become your spokesman.

  35. Wait, I was going wonky? I thought I was just being man enough to admit that I may have been wrong. A man needs time to change, after all.

    Is that a grill joke?

  36. I gotta say, if it wasn’t for Pixar I’d probably be going quite mad by now… my almost two year old son will only watch Toy Story 1 and 2, and Cars… that’s it. Over and over and over again… thankfully the movies are so well put together that I can handle the constant replays and have grown quite fond of them (looking forward to checking out TS3 as soon as possible if for no other reason than expanding the playlist…). He’s just let me run the entirety of Finding Nemo the other day, so it looks like I can layer that one in every once in a while now, which is good (gotta work on The Incredibles next…).

    Man, I remember when my nephew picked his endless rotation a few years ago when he was about the same age… ended up being the two live action Scooby Doo flicks… my poor brother still stares off into space like the little sister in Sudden Impact…

  37. I have never seen one Pixar movie in my life. NOT ONE. I have this incredible bias towards animated movies for some reason that i’ve never seen a pixar movie in my life. I’m starting to come around though. I think its time to take the plunge. Its kinda like if someone was racist against black people his entire life and then realizing all the great relationships he missed out on because he was racist. Pixar is my Halle Berry. I think another reason why I haven’t seen one is that pixar movies are universally praised by everyone, and I mean everyone. In my mind, these movies just can’t be as good as everyone says. They just can’t. Its like watching these movies will result in almost certain disappointment. Why do something when you know it will be disappointing right? Well its time I know for sure. I think I’m gonna start with Toy Story and work my way up.

  38. not cool Mr. Majestyk

    I love violence as much as the next guy, but I also love movies that are actually great and that’s becoming a rarity these days and thus I love Pixar

  39. Jareth Cutestory

    June 26th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Whoah, time for me to cover Majestyk’s back. After listening to grown men get all gushy about Pixar for ages, I finally saw that garbage collecting robot flick. I gotta say, I think it was contrived, manipulative, and the plot was as thin and unappealing as piss on a plate. Nothing THE RESUCUERS didn’t do better 30 years ago. So if the Pixar stuff doesn’t work for you, Mr. M., you can hang with this deviant.

    But anyway, I’m just here to encourage AsimovLives to share his thoughts with us about MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3. Actually, I just want to see what joke name he comes up with for the title.

  40. Jareth – Well thats why I recommended starting with that superhero one first. I don’t give warnings for fun. I’m the old man in FRIDAY THE 13TH. You fucking pot smoking whore kids, I warned ya this camp is cursed!

    Besides I doubt Asimov will get involved. Unless he perceives the nerds as giving the credit of M:I 4 being good or doing well all to J.J. Abrams* and not to Brad Bird or whatever. At least thats how I gather he thinks I suppose.

    “Nothing THE RESUCUERS didn’t do better 30 years ago.”

    Now that’s sorta unfair, that one had a titty shot.

    *=Which I don’t know how that’ll work but regardless.

  41. Like, say, Springsteen or Dylan, Pixar does have a sickeningly untouchable reputation. Still, even if not every minute is pure enchantment or whatever the fuck the starry-eyed fans call it, they’ve never made a feature not worth watching. Each one feels like someone had an inspiration beyond cranking out product. The filmatism is palpable.

    The Incredibles is probably my favorite too, though I think you can like it and not give a hoot about, say, Cars or Ratatouille. There isn’t a stylistic imprint that goes from film to film.

  42. Li – To be fair, guys like Dylan or Pixar got those reptuations because quite frankly they basically earned them. It’s not arbitrary rewardism. Maybe that said reputation is too high, but that’s a completely different question all together to ask.

    Its funny but Pixar, all their movies have basically the same plot framing. A character by fate or choice (both usually) is forced to exit their comfort zone and develop as people as they meet other folks along the way. They may become better Dads or calm down their midlife crisis or fall in love or whatever shit.

  43. “Its funny but Pixar, all their movies have basically the same plot framing. A character by fate or choice (both usually) is forced to exit their comfort zone and develop as people as they meet other folks along the way. They may become better Dads or calm down their midlife crisis or fall in love or whatever shit.”

    RE:

    That same thing could be said about almost any story ever made. Only very few stories, in any format, fall outside that basic story structure. People in static situations make for boring stories.

  44. Mr. Majestyk

    I totally second The Incredibles, one of my favorite movies, animated or otherwise. Brilliant soundtrack and “set-design”, inspired by John Barry and Bond-movies from the sixties. Great set-pieces, great characters and great direction by Brad Bird.

    But most important of all: great action! It takes it time to get going, but once it hits the halfway mark, it just keeps building and building. I can`t think of an action-movie besides “Aliens”, that has a more brilliant action-structure, if that makes any sense. I think all of Pixars movies are brilliant, but The Incredibles hits all the right notes on my “how to do a rollercoaster action-movie” – checklist. Even if it`s animated. One of my “perfect movies I never get tired of watching”-cannon, which includes “Starwars” , “Evil Dead II”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Raiders of the lost Ark”, “From Russia With Love”, “Aliens”, “Die Hard”, “Akira”, “Audition”, “Lady Snowblood”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Hardboiled”, “Pulp Fiction” and “Trainspotting”.

  45. Tuukka – That’s good to know.

  46. dna – woah, AUDITION?? great movie, but man i felt depressed for like a week after watching it, and i haven’t ever had a strong urge to re-watch it, though i suppose i would if the opportunity arose. just thought it kind of stood out as not fitting with all the other movies on your list.

  47. Tuukka

    Yep, except for comedy, melo-drama and tragedy (according to that greek guy who invented drama. But he also said that women are not fit to tell stories. Guess Kathryn Bigelow kicked his dead ass).

  48. I don’t want to piss all over anybodies enjoyment of Pixar movies because I’ve liked pretty much all of them myself (except for Ratatouille which, to me, was vile on every level) but, I really do balk when it comes to calling those guys great artists; there’s something a little too shrewd and glib about their films for me to consider them “great”. There’s no mania or eccentricity or passion (or maybe there is but it’s a very beta male version) at least not the kind that evil genius Walt Disney crammed into Dumbo, Pinocchio and, especially Fantasia; could the Pixar guys ever create anything as intense and potently mythological as The Night on Bald Mountain sequence? I doubt it. They’re just nerds making well-crafted movies for suburbanites, which is fine. But, that doesn’t make them Mozart.

  49. Thanks for the input, fellas. LES INCROYABLES has been queued up and I am excited to see Craig T. Nelson’s long-awaited return to voiceover work after his performance as “The Monster” in FLESH GORDON.

    Just to clarify, I haven’t been boycotting Pixar on principle. I saw their first four movies, and they were okay. Not my cup of tea, but totally decent. But I never really had the urge to see anymore, so I didn’t. I never talked shit about the company except in a tongue-in-cheek way. I just stopped consuming their product because there were always other movies I wanted to watch more. But all this talk about the action filmatism has me intrigued. I guess maybe things really are as bad as Vern says

  50. I expect you’ll get slammed for that but I do know what you mean. There was an admittedly pretty snippy article on Pixar around the time of CARS where the writer described a tour of their studios and the guide described a “creativity room” where the “creators create creativity”, and you do sense a little of that kind of mentality in their films. But then when you’re dealing with something as rigorous as computer animation, I suppose that’s kind of inevitable. And hey, it seems to work for them.

  51. That comment was a resonse to WS BTW

  52. I dunno’. I like the look of this TOY STORY THREE but is it going to be better than DOGTOOTH or UN PROPHETE?

  53. – virgin gary

    Well, you can`t argue with taste, but Audition might be my all time favorite movie and one of the few movies that actually changed my perspective on life. Starwars made me fall in love with movies (sorry, but it did), Evil Dead II made me fall in love with directing, Apocalypse Now made me aware of movies as great art and Audition made me realize that I have a purpose as a filmmaker.

    Yeah, this a long one, but my love for Audition commands me…

    I once knew a girl who loved horror and Marilyn Manson and all that dark, painfull shit. She had been molested as a child, an incident who fucked up her life real good. She was struggling with low selfesteem, shame, confusion, depression and distrust of love and friendships. And uncontrollable rage. She was also a fighter; creative, beatiful and very intelligent.

    When Audition came out, it was described as one of the most brutal and sadistic horrormovies ever, so I thought it would be right up her ally and invited her on a date. When she showed up, she had completely changed from the last time I saw her. She used to be all goth and cleavage, but now she dressed in nice pink clothes. She explained she had been working on a art-project, which included pictures of child-pornography, but her co-worker had suffered a nervous breakdown because of the depressing subject matter. And my friend experienced a crisis. Why was she so obsessed with pain and hatred? Why did she keep making art that depressed herself and her friends? She decided to become a mindless bimbo, dress in pink and listen to Britney Spears. Maybe that would give her some piece of mind. And it apparently worked, cause I had never seen her so happy before.

    “Well”, I thought, “maybe it is a bad move to go see the most brutal and sadistic horrormovie ever, then…” But she didn`t mind, having seen everything from Cannibal Holocaust to Henry: Portrait of a serial killer. Another horrormovie could`t possible ruin her piece of mind.

    We finished dinner and went to the cinema. And the movie started. And was kind of nice and romantic, with this older man falling in love with a young girl etc…

    And then it suddenly exploded in horror, about child-abuse, depression and torture. I looked at my friend and realized she was crying. I suggested that we left the cinema, but she refused, totally hypnotized by the carnage on the screen.

    After the movie she kept crying and crying and I tried to apologize: I didn`t know the movie would be that bad, I didn`t know it was about child-abuse etc. And then she turned to me, gave me a smile through the tears and said “this is the most beatiful movie I have ever seen.”

    Well, a guy eating puke is not really my idea of beauty, but as a horrorfan I thought the movie kicked my ass. I bought it on dvd as soon as it was released and decided to show it to some of my friends. We sat down to watch it and I suddenly became overwhelmed with sadness. And started to cry. Yeah, kind of embarrassing, but anyway..

    I could try to explain why and analyze the shit out of it, but that would be like dissecting a David Lynch movie and it`s gonna make me sound stupid. My former-goth friend couldn`t explain why it made her cry for at least half an hour either, but tried to explain that “this movie is how I feel”.

    This girl was 30 years old and tried to explain how she felt through dark and depressing art, cause she nobody really knew what i felt like to be her. Except a crazy japanese director. Being lonely and confused for thirty years and suddenly realize that somebody actually understood her, must have been a fucking loveletter straight through the heart, as my main man Frank delicately put it.

    I stopped seing her, being quite fond my feet and all, but I can`t watch Audition without feeling a profound sense of sadness, love and understanding. And that makes it good darn tortureporn in my book! Good job, Miike.

  54. RRA – Don’t get me wrong, not saying Pixar doesn’t deserve a huge amount of praise. There’s just a point when that huge amount of praise develops its own gravitational pull, and discussion around any individual work kind of slides lazily towards “It’s Pixar – it’s unimpeachable.” E.g., Up is pretty wonderful in my book, but it chafes when the resolution depends on ridiculous physical feats from the kid, who’s been established as being on the clumsy and couch-potatoey side. The climax satisfies, but on the writing side it’s more because it’s what you want for the characters, rather than because the writers figured out how to get that ending in a way that honored how the boy character was built. Pixar has done so much right that the reliance on a deus ex machina never gets discussed. Part of that oversight is because there’s so much momentum and investment and goodwill already built up within the movie that the conclusion works – but outside the movie I also think there’s this overriding “Pixar is flawless” attitude that prevents people from considering that maybe the finale is forced and a significant comedown in quality from the opening.

    Yes, I realize I’m looking for character consistency in a movie centered around a house carried away by balloons.

  55. Jareth Cutestory

    June 27th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Maybe someone wants to take a stab at responding to this: Would Pixar films be less highly regarded if they were conventional animation? How about if they employed unknown voice actors rather than big name Hollywood folk?

    Also, if you had to choose between your favorite Pixar film and the SOUTH PARK movie, which would you choose?

  56. That’s a bizarre and beautiful story, dna. Now I too want to rewatch Audition.

    I wonder if I take this stuff too seriously, but surely some of you guys think about the same issues, so here goes. I much prefer to separate the experience, the surrounding circumstances of the experience of moviegoing from the film itself. The practice of giving one’s undivided attention to the film and nothing else is important for someone who considers cinema an art form. It has been a major point of contention in my ongoing inner monlogue/argument over the value and purpose of criticism. I actively refuse to consider studio/auteur/crew/celebrity when I watch a film. If you do it on your first viewing, it’s ultimately frustrating to sit there and pick out the parts of a film that will make a critic happy or disappointed. Yeah, I dissect the filmatism and we all armchair QB the casting director’s job when we discuss films with buddies, but during its running time I absolutely have to have tabula rasa and let it hit me as though nothing exists except the movie and me. (I make exceptions for Steven Seagal films, which are fun to watch primarily because of Vern’s Seagalogy and Ruthless Reviews’ 80s Action approach.)

    And then, there are those rare occasions like what dna described when the stars align and something’s going on in your life when you see a movie that just hits you like a ton of bricks. Something outside your belief in the purpose and method of art criticism comes in and transcends what you thought was the best way to enjoy a movie. Er, for me and my beliefs, that is. I haven’t had that emotional experience yet, and I think I’m jealous. The best, most memorable & powerful movies for me have generated an emotional response solely from their own content, not from the circumstances of watching them and not from another audience member. dna has reminded me that I know nothing, that my knowledge is meaningless.

    I bet a bunch of you have stories similar to dna’s. Mine’s as yet unwritten.

    Meanwhile, my criteria for greatness and my method of cinema criticism has led me to believe that The Incredibles is, in my well-informed opinion, the best film of this century so far. I honestly had no idea who Brad Bird was before I saw it in the theatre. I try not to notice studios. I try not to attach personal experience to filmgoing. I just bought my ticket, took my seat, and had 2 of the best hours of my life. Ahem, not that I want to get your expectations up too high for those who haven’t yet seen it.

  57. Jareth, I despise the use of well known actors/actresses for voicework. It’s usually pointless, useless, and offensive to me. How much is Cameron Diaz being paid for the Shrek series? And how much has she uniquely contributed to that character that anyf***ingbody could do just as well? There are loads of underemployed performers that studios are too scared to use because the movies would lose some of their mass appeal.

    Often, it takes me out of the film, which is the worst thing that can happen to an audience. The Incredibles is one of the exceptions, though, b/c the voices are perfect for the characters and they aren’t superhuge stars.

  58. Mouth – I remember reading ocne that Diaz got $10 million (plus points) for one of those sequels. Maybe more for the last one.

    Jareth Cutestory – That question is like asking if the original Disney animted classics would be more acclaimed or less if they had been done in CGI.

    As for casts, I think Pixar is unique in that (save for maybe TOY STORY) they don’t advertize the stars voicing the parts. They tend not to because PIXAR is the selling point, not the actors. Hell UP, no offense to Ed Asner and Christopher Plummer, didn’t have “stars” yet still made over $700 million.

    but you all do bring up a good question: Who actually goes to see a cartoon because of the (celebrity) voice acting?

  59. Other than making my head explode by providing the painful answer to my rhetorical question, you make excellent points, RRA.

    Perhaps we should mention that the voicework in Ratatouille is perfect as well. Anton Ego’s voice could only be that of Peter O’Toole. He probably didn’t get paid enough.

    The animation style question, indeed, is a silly one, though consideration of the stylistic choices always prompts interesting discussion. For now, I prefer to point to the evidence, the films themselves. You can’t improve this stuff. Note my favorite Ratatouille character again — coffin-shaped body, coffin-shaped office. Could a different animation style have conveyed Anton Ego’s coffin motif sufficiently?
    Note the early frantic kitchen sequence when the rat tries to hide — I have to believe that it would remind Vern of this from the above review:
    ***The “cameras” are put at floor level so you’re looking up at these kids like they’re monsters about to bite your head off. I remember a POV shot from Lightyear’s perspective as his face is used to hammer blocks into slots. It just puts you right into the action, there’s all kinds of fast paced mayhem and you see it, understand it, and feel it. ***

    It’s just great action.

  60. Jareth Cutestory

    June 27th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I guess what I’m trying to figure out is whether or not some responses to Pixar stuff can be attributed to the wow-gee factor of the newness of the technology, which, admittedly, looks really expensive. Subtract that, though, and I wonder if some of the more shopworn elements of the scripts become apparent. And the WALL-E script certainly was shopworn, in my opinion. Also heavy handed and maudlin, though individual responses will certainly vary on that front.

  61. I hate celebrity voices. Especially when they are used for the German dubbings of foreign movies. Because then you can be sure that they ONLY got hired because of their name and not because a casting director thought they did a good job. Okay, from time to time you encounter some huge surprises (Like when the annyoing and untalented wannabe-comedian Anke Engelke gave a brillant performance as the German voice of Dori in Finding Nemo)or very inspired choices (Mr Incredible’s boss at the Insurance company was dubbed by Herbert Feuerstein, who not just has a very fittingg voice, but also happens to LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THE CHARACTER! Just google him!), but most of the time we have to listen to boring, untalented celebrities who couldn’t even act if they would stop counting their money for a minute.* And it pisses me off to hear that someone had the bad idea to replace Peer Augustinski, who was perfect as Woody in the first 2 Toy Story films, with star comedian Bully Herbig, who isn’t THAT bad, but does neither sound like Augustinski, nor Hanks.

    Talking about “normal” actors as voice actors: This is slightly off topic, but it came to my mind today. Is there anybody in the world who had expexcted that Will Friedle, the crazy, older brother from Boy Meets World, would become such a talented voice actor? (Unfortunately he wasn’t in any Pixar movie yet and to be honest, I think I never heard him outside of TV cartoons. But he is great! Often totally disappears into the characters he speaks!)

    *Which recently caused a huge controversy, when professional voice actor Benjamin Völz demanded much more money than usual for providing David Duchovny’s voice in the last X-Files movie, something he did since the show’s first episode. He complained (rightfully) the he, as professionally trained voice actor gets a minimal wage (I think they get payed per spoken line), while bad celebrities like Showmaster Thomas Gottschalk (You probably know him as the German cook in Sister Act 2 or as Shia LaBeouf’s dad in Breakfast With Einstein) often get fees in the hundred thousands. (Somebody else dubbed David Duchovny in the movie then, but on TV Völz is still Duchovny’s voice.)

  62. CJ Holden – That dubbing shit pisses me off to no end, yet all that is done basically to give actors more jobs within that national TV/film industry to pad their pockets.

    Really otherwise, there is no excuse for dubbing. Shit in Portugal they generally don’t dub movies. How is Portugal more progressive than most of the continent?

  63. – mouth

    Thanks :-) And nice to see some love for Ratatouille, my other favorite Pixar movie (a childrens movie about the true meaning of art. Way to go, Brad!)

    To answer your question about enjoying movies without knowing about their story, creators etc.. My best cinematic experiences are always small movies at festivals. The less I know about the movie, the more I enjoy it. That`s actually how I experinced Starwars, Apocalypse Now and Audition, amongst others. I thought Apocalypse Now was a horrormovie because of that fat guy`s melted face on the cover, when I rented it.

    Nowadays, I have way too much knowledge about movies coming out. I have (mostly) already created my own movie in the head before I experince it in the cinema. Sometimes I even dream about watching a movie in the cinema, if I`m really excited about it. Which totally ruins the whole idea of being told a story.

    On the other hand can I give a movie a second chance when I read about how other people percieve it, why they love it etc. That`s the main reason I love to discuss movies, or read reviews of them.

    And sometimes it really enchances the experience to know about the creator of the movie. The more I know about Tarantino and the movies he loves, the more I enjoy his own movies. For example, I really enjoyed Kill Bill as an exercise in style, but nothing else. Then I read about Tarantinos childhood, his relationship with his mother and her decision to live without a husband in order to give baby tarantino a safe childhood environment. Baby tarantino on the other hand was pretty upset about not having a father like everybody else. Thus Kill Bill, a 3 hour loveletter to his mother, a cruel and unforgiving sadistic bitch who does horrible things in order to protect her little baby. Yeah, that movie actually made me think a lot about motherhood and deep shit like that, the second time I saw it. And I think the movie is a lot better for it.

    I must therefore conclude that the way to experience a movie must be

    1) Watch it without any prior knowledge.
    2) If you don`t like it, then talk to people who do and then give it a second chance.
    3) If you like it, read up on the creators and there is a fat chance that you might end up loving it.

    Oh, and mr Majestyk.. Sorry for hyping the shit out of The Incredibles. Try to think of it like the new movie from them guys who make those cute childrens movies about toys and bugs. And then crank it up to elleven. Sorry for monologuing!!!

  64. Jareth – I know that I come down on the opposite side of that theory. As amazing as Pixar’s animation is, I pretty much hold all modern animated movies in contempt for looking relatively the same. The wow-gee tech factor of the animation never overcomes the generic character design in my opinion. There are probably tens of thousands of possible animation styles with modern technology, and yet every single one of these movies still employs the geometric simplicity and “cartoonishness” of character design that comes from the Disney tradition. Which isn’t necessarily bad, especially where kids are involved, but it would be nice to see something more outlandish once in a while. I think that you could probably take the human characters from any Pixar movie and swap them for the human characters from any Dreamworks movie and no one would notice. And I’m sitting here wondering why no one has used this technology to bring, say, a Ralph Steadman or a Robert Crumb or a Hayao Miyazaki or a John Kricfalusi or a Frank Miller (just the first names that came to mind, I actually don’t know much about animation or cartoonists) into the animated third dimension.

    However, in the case of Pixar, the overriding attention to story is always what wins me over. I don’t think their scripts are shopworn, I just think they play the right notes in the right order. And I’d argue that they wouldn’t be nearly as popular if they didn’t. As much as I’d like to see what Jodorowsky would do with Pixar technology, I respect Pixar for the fact that they make product for the masses, but without cynicism or lack of attention to quality.

  65. I remember watching THE INCREDIBLES and thinking “There’s no way FANTASTIC FOUR will come close to this level of competence and enthusiasm for its own material.” And I was painfully right. I love how little fat and b.s. is in that movie, from “You remember those cartoon villains? Theses guys are not like that: they will kill you.” to that *amazing* “Mayday-mayday!” sequence.

    It’s cut a tad too close to a Greengrass movie – especially in the middle fight on the island – but damm!!!

    Not a fan of Pixar (or any other corporate/entertainment factory for that matter) but they do have a better batting average than almost anyone else.

    And RATATOUILLE would have been oodles better if they’d kept the original script thematic; lack of courage turned a potentially subversive flick into pablum for the brains. And shame on WALL.E for foisting more of that “instant ecological recovery” nonsense – it’s that exact pervasiveness of idiocy that got us where we are now.

  66. The Incredibles is by far the most violent PG movie I’ve ever seen. IIRC, the very first shot (after the opening talking heads montage) is of a criminal firing a machine gun at the cops during a high speed chase. To borrow a turn of phrase from our moderator, “kids’ movies” don’t got to be soft.

  67. I just saw two new films: “Kung Fu Panda” (don’t ask) and “Role Models”.

    Is it just me or are comedy standards slipping? Look, I fucking loved “Anchorman”. I felt as though the whole thing stuck true to its original mission of being batshit-bonkers and hilarious at the same time. “Role Models”, not so much. It kinda reminded me of Vern’s review of “Wedding Crashers”. Yeah, the ten-year-old black kid who speaks like Samuel L Jackson in “Pulp Fiction” is funny, and the “larping” scenes were good; but the two central characters were stereotypes I’ve seen a hundred times before. They didn’t amuse me, they bored me. Why must there always be a responsible but boring guy who has to find his purpose in life while his wacky but irresponsible friend has to learn to steady himself? How many “mainstream” comedies have this pairing?

    As for “Panda”, it was ok. Not as good as I imagine “Toy Story 3” will turn out to be and definitely nowhere near “Wall-E”.

    Dammit, I’ve seen so many excellent movies recently (most J-horror and the ilk) that I’m actually kind of down now. “Role Models” was on half a dozen “top twenty of the year”-type lists. I didn’t expect to find it so “bleh”.

    On the other hand, I watched and loved “Open Water”, “Kairo” (although I accidentally watched the American remake first, without realising it was the American remake if that makes any sense, and didn’t like that), “Blood and Bone”, “Primer”, and a few others. This was mostly a result of a shopping spree in London by the way – I just bought as many second-hand DVDs as I could get my hands on from a shop that sells just about anything you can ask for. So far, with a couple of notable exceptions, it’s working out really well.

  68. “And I’m sitting here wondering why no one has used this technology to bring, say, a Ralph Steadman or a Robert Crumb or a Hayao Miyazaki or a John Kricfalusi or a Frank Miller (just the first names that came to mind, I actually don’t know much about animation or cartoonists) into the animated third dimension.”

    Yes. Imagine Charles Burns brought to life. Fincher was supposed to do BLACK HOLE, but instead he wound up making a movie about Facebook, of all things.

    Somebody please explain the anti-RATATOUILLE sentiment to me. I think it actually took guts to make a movie in favor of aiming higher and risking accusations of “elitism.” (Nothing sets my alarms off more than the casual use of that word. Got standards? Don’t eat McDonald’s? Didn’t like TRANSFORMERS? You’re a fucking SNOB, buddy!)

    Mouth: Apu wins because there are NO FUCKING EWOKS in India. (I know, I know — I’ve had almost 30 years to get over it. A man needs time.)

  69. I couldn’t tell you why other people hate Ratatouille, but let me take a shot at explaining my own disdain for it as briefly as possible. To me, Ratatouille is not about the path of an artist, it’s a movie about “good taste”. In fact, it’s so into “good taste” that there are scenes suggesting that having it, or appealing to those who have it, is more important than the survival of your own family. Aton Ego may seem like the villain, but he’s not….on just about every important aspect he and Remy agree. The real antagonists of the movie are Remy’s family. This might explain why critics weren’t that upset by a seemingly negative portrayal of their profession, they understood that the movie was essentially on their side.

    I personally think “good taste” is a horrible and oppressive thing to sell to children – a “dreadful thing” as Picasso said. (Were the film-makers actively trying to create a generation of hipsters?) And something Ratatouille never addresses, and even seems to endorse, is contained in this passage from the book Incredibly Strange Films: “The concepts of ‘good taste’ are intricately woven into society’s control process and class structure. Aesthetics are not an objective body of laws suspended above us like Plato’s supreme ‘Ideas’; they are rooted in the fundamental mechanics of how to control the population and maintain the status quo.”

    So, yeah, the whole thing slightly sickened me.

  70. I’m not a Joss Whedon fan, necessarily, but, there’s an episode of The Office that he directed that has far more profound and moving things to say about making art than anything in Ratatouille. Ok, done, sorry.

  71. frankbooth, I am a little surprised at the lack of COOKING RAT love as well. That and GARBAGE ROBOT were my two favorite Pixar movies.

    I have to admit Brad Bird owes Michael Giacchino a lot of credit, though… that soundtrack really helped the movie.

  72. Vern, thank you for allowing me to see even more in the film than I already did. I actually had a problem with the incinerator scene, thinking it was to overboard a set piece. Now I’ll be able to appreciate it in context.

    Toy Story 2 is literally my favorite movie of all time. Talk about badass cinema, there’s some serious shit in that one. The structure is perfect and the emotion is its most profound. I don’t think I’ll ever like TS3 that much, but it’ll be nice to see it as a whole package.

    Also, I had to see it in Imax 3-D which was annoying. So I look forward to an undisturbed 2-D viewing experience to contemplate these themes much further.

    As far as Pixar goes, they did make one misstep. A Bug’s Life is a truly, truly terrible movie. Story rings so false, doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s just not funny. And I think it has a really terrible message (that you can be a shitty inventor but still deserve to be “special.” No, you actually have to be good at stuff.) I guess it still inspires passionate emotion, even if it’s hate. But anyway, this is about Toy Story 3. Thanks, Vern

  73. RRA – As much of a pain in the ass dubbing sometimes is, when it’s done right (and to be honest, on a technical level are the German dubbings #1 in the world) it is the best possible way to watch a movie if you don’t speak its original language or can’t read fast enough to live with subtitles. Shit, there are even several films and series that are IMPROVED by dubbing! Like the Ice Age movies. The German voice actors are a hundred times better than the original ones!

  74. Also I would like to say that Ratatouille, while it’s still a good movie, is also Pixar’s weakest, that is not about cars. The reason: Storywise it’s a huge mess! It’s one of these movies, where you can easily see the troubled pre-production history. Just remember all the guys in the kitchen. There is a scene, where they give each one of them a backstory, but then they not just do NOTHING else, except standing in the background, they later just leave and never come back! And the story just lacks a real focus. I think in the last act it chages its plot more often than The Dark Knight! Suddenly the boy is the son of the dead restaurant owner, then the rat must decide if it belongs to his family and then they have to convince the evil critic that there is such thing a s good food!
    But at least it’s a highly watchable mess, without any boring parts, but with a heart in the right place, so I can forgive it for that.

  75. Mr Majetyk – You should watch Up. This will completely change your views on cute talking things.

    And if you don’t feel like crying, just play the vuvuzela while watching the first 15 minutes of the film. That should distract you.

  76. -Ws

    I saw Ratatouille a couple of years ago, so my memories might not be that fresh, but I never thought of the critic as the bad guy. The bad guy was imo the owner of the restaurent, who wanted to turn it into a fastfood chain. I never got the bit about good taste either, since the point of the movie is that our hero makes Ratatouille in the end, a simple peasents meal NOT associated with good taste. I read the whole movie as a comment (among other things) on moviemaking. How a small personal low-budget movie crafted with care, love and integrety can reach the audiences (critics) heart in ways a fastfood studio movie cannot. If the movie took place in America, they might have served a hamburger for the critic in the end, but a hamburger made with talent, care, love and integrety. Not some crap from Mcdonalds (or Disney).

    What really freaks me out is that I have been thinking about the mechanics of storytelling for several years, like how to control your audiences expectations, how to create feelings in them, how to reach a moment of catharsis etc, and Ratatouille it all explains it better that any teatcher I`ve ever had, with a talking rat, in a couple of minutes.

    – CJ Holden
    I think the point of introducing the staff in the kitchen, was to make the kitchen an importent place, a place for people who doesn`t fit in in the normal fastfood-oriented world. Again comparing with the world of cinemas: Great artist are often pretty weird people who doesn`t fit in. Think of David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Peckinpah, Lars Von Trier etc. The movie might be a big fuck you from Pixar to Disney: “leave us alone and let us make OUR movies with care, love and integrety, instead of fastfood.” By presenting the kitchenstaff as outsiders, it makes the small restaurent an important place worth fighting for.

    I might be over-analyzing this movie, but one of the extras on the dvd is a short feature that compares cooking to creating a movie.

  77. CJ – I dunno, maybe BUGS LIFE is the weakest (after CARS of course) but I haven’t seen that in years so I can’t haggle on that one. Good point about the dubbing.

    dna – Yeah the movie critic isn’t the villain. A dick, but not a villain. I mean that whole scene when he eats the food and backflashes to his childhood…I mean isn’t that many of us moviephiles to a degree? Reminds me how Pauline Kael could be a total elitist bitch, even in her greatest reviews. DIRTY HARRY anyone? But then she is absolutely sincere in pimping not exactly well-regarded movies like THE WARRIORS and Brian DePalma’s THE FURY.

    So yeah RATATWHATEVER was good, and I’ll be honest. I only saw it at a free college screening in second run, I didn’t bother with it in theatres because honestly the premise was stupid. A rat aspires to be a Paris chef? OH FUCK THAT. Plus as CJ alluded to, the public production problems didn’t help. Brad Bird coming in felt like he was hired to salvage the situation as best he can, not like he necessarily had a good plan in place.

    And son of a bitch, he did. And won the Oscar.

    Plus wasn’t it funny having a Pixar/Disney movie sport a dick joke?

  78. Gwai Lo – Funny enough, I read somewhere that in 08/09, Ralph Bakshi came down to Pixar and gave employees a work clinic in retoscoping animation.

    Doesn’t mean anything I guess, but I thought that was kinda cool. And random.

  79. I always thought Bug’s Life got a bum rap. Yeah, it’s just another “Triumph of the Artistic weirdo” story, but I think it’s wonderfully executed, has some awesome sequences and builds some really memorable characters. Plus there’s maybe my favorite exchange in any PIXAR movie:
    “If I hadn’t sworn to mother, on her death bed, that I wouldn’t kill you, I WOULD KILL YOU!”
    “Believe me Hopper, no one appreciates that more then I do.”

  80. Ok, let me settle this once and for all. Because as everybody knows, your opinions may matter, but mine are RIGHT. (And yes, I am being sarcastic, thank you very much for asking.)

    Cars – never seen it.
    Bug’s Life – second weakest Pixar film after “Up”, still very good indeed.
    Ratatouille – loved it.
    Wall-E – probably one of my favorite films ever.
    Up – Fantastic opening sequence but the rest was not great. Still very good movie.
    Incredibles – loved it.
    Toy Story and Toy Story 2 – not on the same level as Wall-E, but still great.
    Toy Story 3 – haven’t seen it, will do so ASAP.

    In short, I enjoyed even the one of Pixar’s films I thought was the weakest, and the strongest is one of my favorite films.

  81. I would like to see just one of those standard issue father/son conflict story-lines that they constantly reuse in animated movies (How to Train Your Dragon, Ratatouille, Chicken Little, Kung Fu Panda, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, etc..) end with the father actually being right. Where the kid just says, “Wow, I wasn’t a loopy creative genius at all, I was actually an egotistical asshole. Thanks, Dad, for seeing through my stupid, delusional bullshit.”

  82. Brendan, interesting your experience is Bug’s Life gets a bum rap. My experience is that everyone is an apologist for it. They may say it’s Pixar’s least great movie, but it’s still just as great as all their stuff. That was until Cars came out and that became the whipping boy, and Bug’s Life is just the forgettable second feature everyone assumes was great. I’ve really given it chance after chance over the years and just find it dreadful.

    The story goes through formulaic motions without even setting them up. I still remember, he brings the circus bugs to town and you just know they’re going to make things worse. But they actually come up with an awesome idea, building a bird, that totally works. But THEN the town finds out that they’re not warriors, after they’ve already built the bug. So they get all pissed that their warriors are only circus bugs, but who cares at that point? They’ve already saved your town. They proved their worth before the plot was even ready for it, because they had to have a dark third act turning point.

    Anyway, happy to be here in the discussion.

  83. For those who hold a bit of contempt for Pixar because of how much praise gets heaped on them, bear in mind that a lot of that praise stems from comparison to other studio’s efforts in the animated family-film genre. Of course, the quality of the products of other outfits like Dreamworks has been increasing in the past few years (e.g. the Dragon movie, Kung Fu Panda), but I think the point at which Pixar went from being “yeah, Pixar” to “OMG PIXAR” was back in the early – mid 2000s when there was sort of a dark period in mainstream American animation. You had Disney trying ambitious but not overly accessible stuff like Atlantis and Treasure Planet that didn’t quite connect with audiences across the board (which then transitioned into REAL crap a la Home on the Range), you had Dreamworks riding the Shrek buzz but in the interim releasing the likes of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Shark Tale, etc. So you can see why even a film not even considered by many to be Pixar’s best (Finding Nemo) was in position to just blow the minds of everyone who likes all that cartoony stuff. It wasn’t that Finding Nemo was the best animated or family-friendly movie ever, but it was certainly better that whatever else was out at the time.

    I don’t think Pixar’s body of work is perfect, but I do think that for the most part the amount of hype each film gets is just about appropriate. I don’t recall too much orgasmic praise for, say, Cars or Ratatouille so much as for The Incredibles or any of the Toy Stories. And pretty much the majority of reviews are honest about where the various films are strong or weak, so for example you’ll see a lot of praise for the Carl & Ellie sequence in Up and the first act of WALL-E because those ARE really the parts that set those movies apart from the herd.

    Where Pixar keeps succeeding is that they just seem to try a little bit harder than everyone else in their field. They for the most part stay away from the obvious topical jokes and the tired humor device of “oh, this film is set in such-and-such era but the characters are being snarky like people today are, haha that’s funny”. They pay amazing attention to design and detail. And, most importantly, they’ve mastered the technique of building an emotional scene without a lot of contrived exposition or “monologuing”. It’s significant that some of the most moving characters (WALL-E, Boo from Monsters, Inc.) don’t even really talk beyond some minor babble. I wouldn’t call most Pixar films “groundbreaking”, but they’re well-made, enjoyable, and moving. Not that there aren’t “better” or “more important” films out there, but would that more movie studios tried to shoot for the same standards.

    Oh, and lastly, one minor quibble: “And shame on WALL.E for foisting more of that “instant ecological recovery” nonsense – it’s that exact pervasiveness of idiocy that got us where we are now.” No, not really. Remember that by the time WALL-E finds the one little sprout in the fridge, it had been 700 YEARS since the Earth had been abandoned due to the trash problem. And still, all we see on Earth when the Axiom lands are little sprouts – no trees or anything. I’d say that the fact that they DON’T return to a lush, green paradise after all that time is a powerful statement that the Earth CAN’T instantly recover from ecological devastation of that magnitude anywhere near “instantly”. We don’t really know how long a time period the end credits sequence is referring to, but it could be interpreted to be hundreds or even thousands of years, considering that we start with the characters in Lascaux-type cave paintings and end up in a Van Gogh. The only ones shown at the end are EVE and WALL-E anyway, who have a theoretically infinite lifespan.

  84. WS – haha, yeah, I’m trying to think of movies that buck the trend of “kid rebels and is actually right all along”, but so far all I can think of in recent memory is The Lion King (and the dad is actually dead for most of the movie!). The rebellious kid/conservative, overbearing father device is worn out but it still sells, I guess. The best you can hope for these days is that the son and father/father-figure learn a little something from each other, e.g. Lightning and Doc Hudson in Cars.

  85. I don’t understand why no one seems to be showing more love to UP. I love The Incredibles and think the first half of Wall-E is some ambitious and amazing film making, but I don’t like Wall-E anywhere near as much as UP. Maybe it is because I connected with UP at a very personal level, but it is my second favorite Pixar movie.

  86. I can`t think of a single movie where the son rebels and is proven wrong by his conservative father (-figure.) Can anybody?

    Unless it`s a greek tragedy like Revenge of the Sith, Caligula, The Godfather or W.

    That`s kind of interesting actually, cause I can think of a lot of movies where a kid rebels against a dead conservative father (Spiderman 2, Hellboy, The Bible II) for a bit and then gets his act together and aknowlegdes the responsebilites he has inherited. But it`s always about realizing your potential, not realizing that daddy`s right and you don`t have any potential. Which would be a great story too.

  87. Charles – can’t agree with you there. While “Up” is good, it is nowhere close to being on the same level of sheer brilliance, in just about every way, as “Wall-E”. Although I think we’re arguing about which priceless diamonds are the shinier here.

  88. Hola all. This is my first post on this site (having just discovered it about 3 weeks ago). Just wanted to say that the actual thoughtful discussions on this board are a breath of fresh air. And Vern….well, after spending the aforementioned previous 3 weeks going through almost the entire history here…..I believe that we are definitely tapped into the same wavelength filmatismically speaking. I don’t always agree with you, but I always see exactly where you’re coming from, and our criteria for what makes a ‘good film’ are eerily similar. I haven’t seen TS3 yet, but it’s on the list for damn sure.

    And dna—-3:10 to Yuma. That snot-nosed little bastard got a lesson in guts from his 1-legged daddy.

  89. Charles – I can definitely see appreciating UP more from a emotional standpoint than WALL-E because, let’s face it, the relationships and conflicts that Carl, Ellie, and Russell go through are much closer to what the audience might experience than what a couple of super-intelligent robots do. I think what gets WALL-E more praise in some respects is that it’s more nuanced – there’s very little dialogue, the characters struggle through the whole movie just to understand one another, and for a good part of the film you just have that one robot trying to understand his evolving sentience. It’s not really a concept we can directly relate to, but it’s fascinating to watch.

    The early part of UP is very emotional, but afterwards it’s a more straightforward caper-type story. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, of course, because IMO the folks at Pixar know how to put together a good caper. But it’s not as minimalist or as ambitious as what they were trying to do in WALL-E, I think. Still, there’s lots of good comedy and excitement, and Ed Asner totally rules, so you can’t go wrong.

    I’m still trying to think of “dad was right all along” stories – does BARBERSHOP count? I mean, you can almost make a case for Cedric the Entertainer’s character being a father figure since he was close with Calvin’s dad, but OTOH Calvin has people telling him almost from the beginning of the movie that what he did was a dick move. Still, there’s definitely a message there about tradition and the “way things are” being important, maybe more important than always looking for the next big opportunity in life.

  90. – fuzzyjefe

    But Bale was the protagonist in that one, right? It`s not uncommon that the protagonist in an actionmovie has a snotty brat, that only starts respecting his old man, when daddy realizes his potential and kills the bad guys (True Lies, The Last Boyscout, A history of violence etc). Does a similar story with the son as the maincharacter excist (a son rebels against his conservative father, only to realize in the end that daddy was right all along)? I would love to see that movie.

  91. Just barely on topic…
    Toy Story 1 came out when I worked as a cinema projectionist. During one of the screenings – about halfway through – some kids set fire to the bogroll holders and the things holding the rolled up towels in the gents toilets, causing the whole of the auditorium to fill with smoke. On noticing this I switched on the auditorium lights and switched the film off. The reaction of the overwhelming majority of the audience (approx 300 people, a mix of parents and kids) was to point blank refuse to leave the cinema until the film had ended . They did eventually leave – when flames crept up the corridor leading to the toilets and became visible from inside the auditorium. After the fire brigade had put the fires out the whole place stank of smoke but a group of angry parents refused to accept that we would not be showing the rest of the film, or any other films, that day due to smoke & water damage that needed to be cleaned up ! Despite being given concessionary tickets for any show of their choice once we reopened, vouchers for free munchies etc. they only left when the Police threatened them with being arrested for disturbing the peace.

    Although the pay was shit I often wonder why I left that job…

    I thought I had a point to make here about Pixar films being (generally) awesome, but if I did I forgot what it was whilst reminiscing.

  92. DNA–

    How about Big Fish? No…I guess the father is the main character in that one too. Hmmm….this is a stumper. Maybe The Passion of the Christ? Or The Last Temptation of the Aforementioned?

  93. Or The Lion King. Simba has to accept his responsibilities, just as his father taught him and he spends a good deal of the movie running from. And maybe even Indy Jones & the Last Crusade. Ol’ Daddy Jones gets Indy to let the Grail go, even though that had been Jones Sr’s obsession for many years. And I bet Nemo wishes he had listened to his father too. Teen Wolf? Hell, it’s late and I’m just spitballing here. *Ptooey*-splat.

  94. Exit Through the Gift Shop is the best movie so far this year, in my opinion

  95. Well Mr Majestyk, how’d you like LOS INCREIBLES? (Hint: it was awesome)

    Toy Story 3 was okay. Got a little boring in the middle, around the 5th conversation that went something like “Andy threw us away!” “He didn’t mean to!” etc. Yes, the incinerator scene was pretty damn good, and the baby doll henchman was creepy as hell (along with the monkey), and Lotso was somehow menacing even before you knew he was supposed to be.

    But I liked HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON better. It was more different-er.

    SHREK FOREVER was pure shit. Not one funny moment and it just drug on and on.

  96. okay i just finally watched this movie a couple days ago (just came out over here), and a) i doubt i have anything constructive to add to the conversation, but b) i am too lazy to go through all the comments right now, so c) i just want to mention that (in addition to that i LOVED it) the tortilla mr. potato head was one of the funniest things i have seen in a long time.

  97. Well, fellas, some of you may remember (and possibly even care) that several months ago I declared on this very board that I would break my longstanding streak of not watching cartoon movies for underage children on account of I didn’t like them all that much. THE INCREDIBLES was recommended as a picture that did not have talking animal sidekicks and was not likely to make me cry when the adorable animated anthropomorphic robot had a baby or whatever, so I promised to give it a shot. And lo these months later I did in fact watch it. And it was…you know. It was…cute. I liked it. Sure. Of course I liked it. There’s nothing wrong with it, and quite a bit right. I mean, it’s got themes and stuff. That’s good. Nothing wrong with themes. A lot of movies don’t even bother having them at all, so bonus points. (Of course, celebrating a movie simply for doing what it’s supposed to do is sort of like congratulating someone for never going to jail, but that’s cool.) And hey, it sure did look spiffy. But I must have something missing in my soul that lets me get excited about the adventures of a bunch of drawings with celebrity voices because it was sort of an academic exercise for me. It just wasn’t that funny or exciting. I appreciated the fine work done by all involved without that work ever really blowing my skirt up. (The skirt is purely metaphorical. I don’t know what you guys are into but I don’t sit around watching kids movies in a skirt, as comfortable and practical as it might be.)

    But I’m willing to explore further, even though I’ve now seen five Pixar movies and have had the same passively appreciative/mildly entertained reaction to them all so I’m not likely to go out and buy any Underoos at this late juncture. I guess I’ll go with WALL-E unless someone has a better idea.

    Oh, that part where the mannequin baby gets shot with machine guns was pretty funny. That made me laugh.

  98. I don’t know man, if you’re not getting anything out of five Pixar movies you’re probably immune to their particular brand of movie magic, but definitely watch WALL-E before you call it quits, as I think it’s their best. What about Hayao Miyazaki? Or Wallace and Gromit?

  99. I haven’t seen any Wallace & Gromit (I did see [and almost completely forgot about] CHICKEN RUN, though. Same guy, right?) but I’ve seen five of Miyazaki’s movies and they all have about a half hour of really astonishing wonderment at the beginning and then they become an endurance test. Particularly PRINCESS MONONOKE, which I thought I liked until it was almost over and I realized I never wanted to see a single frame of it ever again. For me, the guy’s movies (and anime in general) are sort of like Yes albums: relentless virtuosity that ultimately becomes wearying and unpleasant.

    I will check out WALL-E, though. I don’t hate these movies, but I fail to see the genius. They’re well-made cartoon adventures, that’s all. I don’t get what the big deal is.

  100. I don’t know about Miyazaki, but that is a truly brilliant description of YES’ albums.

    Although WALL-E is probably Pixar’s most daring film, I can’t imagine it will really change your mind if UP, RATATOUILLE, INCREDIBLES, and the TOY STORIES did nothing for ya. It’s probably worth a watch though, if you’re in the mood. It’s cute, funny, a little bold, a little beautiful.

  101. I have not seen RATATOUILLE, UP, or the TOY STORY sequels. I’ve seen the TOY STORY, BUG’S LIFE, MONSTERS, INC., FINDING NEMO, and THE INCREDIBLES. I guess at this point I’ll just watch them all. It’s a painless experience, except for the slight ennui I feel from knowing that so many people I respect are getting so much more out of something than I am.

  102. Mr. Majestyk, forget Pixar. If that’s not your bag then so be it. Thanks for playing and here’s your consolation prize: Seek out FIRE AND ICE on Blu Ray. It’s a Ralph Bakshi, Frank Frazetta co-production from 1983. I think it may just be the kind of animation you’ll appreciate.

  103. I’ve seen FIRE & ICE, but not in years and years. Perhaps I’ll revisit it. And I’ll think I’ll just finish my Pixar tour. My bag or not, they’re important works of contemporary cinema and I like to have an opinion about such things. Like I said, it’s not a chore or anything. They’re all good for one watch.

  104. Majestyk – you have seen “Chicken Run” but not anything that involves “Wallace and Gromit”. You have seen “Up” and “Ratatouille” but not “Wall-E”.

    You remember how I listed the Jet Li films I’ve seen and everyone said, “Well no wonder you’re not a huge fan, you haven’t seen any of his best”? Well that’s pretty much how I’d respond. Quite honestly, although I share the love here for all things Pixar, Wall-E is just on a different level again. And “Chicken Run” is basically an animated pastiche of “The Great Escape”, and not a particularly great one. (It’s ok… I enjoyed it… but it ain’t as half as good as any of the Pixar films you’ve seen.)

  105. thanks for such a great post, I found your blog while surfing the web for a bit the same. But I dont concur with everything that you have written but then it is your post and up to you what appears. On the whole I have found your article inteligently written and well presented.I will send your post details to a few of my acquaintances as i am sure they will not only want to look at this article but track your web site as you appear to have your finger on the pulse and can clarify things in a clear and attractive approach.Well enough of the drivel good luck and keep blogging.

  106. Paul: Yeah, I had a feeling somebody would say that. That’s why I’m continuing to give the studio a chance to wow me. After all, Tom Waits had six or seven albums before he got to RAIN DOGS.

  107. Mr. Majestyk – Would you have liked those Pixar movies more if they had rapping ghetto robots in them?

    Oh what? You knew I had to ask that. Don’t give me that look.

  108. Maybe. It’s possible that Pixar is simply too tasteful for me.

  109. I’ve been reading over this review again, and it frightens me to the core that Brad Bird has been signed on to direct “MI:4”. Maybe it’s foolish, but after being utterly blown away by the first one and everything it appeared to be setting up (a world where anybody can, with the right mask and build, be anybody else, how much awesome fucking stuff can you do with that concept?) I can just see him taking this one like J J Abrams did with MI:3 – a film that, paradoxically, I don’t think is technically that bad, and yet utterly despise for the mediocrity and the missed opportunities it represents. Are we going to have yet another movie about a dick-headed lunk whose girlfriend / wife / etc gets kidnapped?

    I mean, A WORLD WHERE ALMOST ANYBODY CAN PERFECTLY IMITATE ANYBODY ELSE. There are about a dozen different awesome things I can think to do with that concept, and MI:2 and MI:3 somehow managed to avoid every single one of them. What if, for example, Tom Cruise’s character was secretly imprisoned and replaced by the villain of the piece, and appeared to have been framed for a crime or espionage or something that he actually did do (only nobody would believe it because it’s Tom Cruise)? I know it’s gimmicky, but at least it’s SOMETHING.

    (Also, remember in the original when Ving Rhames had a relatable, morally-ambiguous character – at least something other than “supportive black friend #2974”? I liked that guy, what happened to him?)

    You’ll notice that I’ve not said anything about Toy Story 3 yet, despite having seen it recently. The reason for this is because I don’t have anything at all to add to Vern’s review, I pretty much agree with it completely. The only bit that struck me as in the least off-colour was the bits about Ken being somewhat effeminate. Great, great film, as is generally the case when Pixar are involved.

  110. OK Mr M — give WALL-E, UP, RATATOUILLE, and TOY STORY 3 a chance to wow you. Taken together, they represent the studio at its most ambitious, unique, and successful. I seriously doubt any other studio would take on story elements like the ones in those films and deliver them so potently. Yeah, at the end of the day they’re still bright animated films for the kiddies, but they also don’t shy away from their darker themes or completely succumb to the predictable tropes of that genre. Watching well-executed but more typical fare like MONSTERS INC and FINDING NEMO, I can easily understand why you’d fail to understand what all the fuss is about. I must say, INCREDIBLES is a pretty weird, dark, challenging film under its colorful surface, though — if you didn’t find that to be at all unique it might be a red flag.

  111. Well, boys, I have followed through on my promise from upthread and made it all the way to TOY STORY 3: REQUIEM. And I gotta say, I get it now. This is a great fucking movie. I was sorta lukewarm on the first one (which I rewatched after having not seen it since the movie theater—yes, there was once a time when I considered computer animation sufficiently novel to warrant a trip to the cinema), but I was pretty much on board by the second one. I think the Cowgirl flashback sequence did it for me. Suddenly, I gave a shit. It wasn’t just pretty colors and well-executed but toothless slapstick.

    I’m starting to suspect that my problem is that it takes me longer to warm up to cartoon characters. It took me nearly two full movies to connect to the TOY STORY characters, but by the third one, I was a fan. I was actually EXCITED to watch it. Me! It was weird. And then I totally loved it. Sweet, sad, funny, uplifting…all that good shit. I get it now. No regular movie has made me feel like that in a minute. (In my defense, I was hungover, which always makes me sentimental. And I was also peeling an entire gunny sack full of onions at the time. Not sure if that’s significant.)

    A lot has been said about the intense drama of the incinerator scene, and I totally agree with it all. It’s fucked up that I felt more of the weight of impending doom from these plastic characters sharing a resigned moment of silent togetherness than I did for a hundred movies about flesh-and-blood people in peril. But the threat of death isn’t what gives these movies their depth for me. It’s the threat of immortality. There’s something about not being able to die but not having any control over your destiny, to be at the mercy of more powerful beings who don’t regard you as a person but as a disposable object, to be stored in darkness for decades or left to rot in a landfill over centuries, your non-biodegradable body only prolonging your agony…it all adds up to an existential nightmare for me. It’s kind of the same thing I got from the PIRATES movies that I’ve never heard anyone else mention: These people aren’t just fighting against bodily harm, they’re fighting against eternal damnation. It makes everything more dramatic when you can get eaten by a giant squid and the worst is yet to come. I can handle death; it’s at least an ending. It’s eternity that scares the shit out of me.

    So yeah, I loved—LOVED—this animated children’s cartoon motion picture for baby toddlers. Best existential action-adventure since UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION.

  112. Hardly seems like anything worth razzing you about, since it’s obviously a really super film and pretty much everyone assumed you’d like it if you got a chance to see it. It’s interesting that you mention the immortality angle, since of course that’s the crux of the conflict in the story, and yet they don’t really explicitly address it. I mean, as far as we can tell, can toys even die? Will being incinerated kill them, or will they continue to exist forever as ash (or be recycled into starbucks cups and thrown into the ocean, or whatnot?) I mean, look at those toys in Sids’ room in part 1. That shit didn’t even slow them down. I hadn’t thought about it until your post, but the Woody and the gang are actually kinda kindred spirits with Abby in LET ME IN (and possibly though more ambiguously Eli in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) — childish creatures who want to love, but have to come to terms with the fact that they will long outlast the object of their love. TOY STORY is almost worse — like David from A.I. these little critters are basically machines built with one purpose, which is to please children. But they continue to exist even after that service is no longe required. Scary stuff.

    I forget, did you see UP or WALL-E yet? As much as I like TOY STORY 3, I think both of those films are even more ambitious and unusual.

  113. Haven’t seen UP but I saw WALL-E and liked it quite a bit (the first Pixar flick I appreciated in an emotional way) but I think TS3 is better. In retrospect, WALL-E gets a little schematic toward the end, methinks, and the opening third didn’t blow me away the way I thought it would. I’ve seen the silent post-apocalypse thing before, and the incessant interruption of slapstick gags tended to ruin whatever trance the stately pace was trying to put me under. It was all good but TS3 got under my skin more.

    I kind of want to quit while I’m ahead. I’ll probably watch UP someday, but for now I’ll leave it with me and Pixar on good terms.

  114. Reading through this thread has brought to my attention the fact that Vern has never seen How To Train Your Dragon. You should really check that one out bud. My niece brought it over a few months ago, and while reluctant to watch it initially, it didn’t take long for me to catch on that it was a real breakthrough film for Dreamworks animation.

    I seriously consider it to be one of the best animated films of all time, up there with TS3 Wall=E and Bebe’s Kids.

  115. Vern is mentioning in this article that he HAS seen HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and that he liked it.

  116. Well now I feel like a a real ding-dong. I usually read old threads from the bottom going up so I guess I just didn’t go far enough. I withdraw my previous request and beg the forgiveness of the boards.

  117. Yay, this thread is officially resurrected, and I get to respond to a seven-month-old post. Woo!

    Majestyk – “Up” was a disappointment for me. For a long time I thought that pretty much the entire midsection of the film was a dream – it probably would’ve worked better if it had been. The first twenty minutes or so, taken in isolation, are ridiculously good, as good as anything in “Toy Story 3”. But it kinda loses it for me after that. Honestly… it’s worth seeing, but go into it with expectations lowered. Especially as I think that you and I think alike about a lot of animated films, and I suspect we’d agree about “Up” as well.

    On “Toy Story 3”, on the other hand, I absolutely agree with you. I thought the first two films, while good, had major flaws that stopped them from being truly great – #1 had a dearth of likeable characters; #2 suffered badly from “weak villain syndrome” and there’s plot threads all over the place, like the undercooked “whodunnit” angle, that aren’t really developed into anything interesting; but #3 was absolute perfection.

    Still think “Wall-E” goes above and beyond even that, though. It’s right up there with “Lost in Translation” for me.

  118. infinitely big…

    […]notes on Toy Story 3 | The Life and Art of Vern[…]…

  119. So I caught MONSTERS UNIVERSITY this weekend, and I guess I’ll be in the minority when I say I almost liked this as much as MONSTERS, INC. Almost. I figured it wouldn’t have the same emotional hammer dropping of MI, but I’m surprised by close it did come with the evolution of the relationship between the leads from rivals to uneasy allies to friendship, which in other films could’ve come off as trite and forced, but I found it natural here. Hell as a prequel, I admire how much it actually fits MI. Plus its a decent comedy, just because this is a G movie the college movie/stereotypes we don’t get to recycle include panty raids and fratboy terrorism at homecoming parades or cinderblocks tied to the male member. I’m lucky we live in a world where a R-rated Pixar film will never happen.

    But anyway the ending at the bus, I really liked that moment for some reason.

    Of course I should add, I know friends who pick MI as their favorite Pixar film. I don’t think its great, but its a pretty good movie. MU is a pretty good movie.

    I can’t remember which critic, but one compared MU to THE PAPER CHASE. I never would’ve thought of that comparison, but holy shit it works!

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Plus I love the comic strip touches from the Godzilla-size creatures playing frisbee on the campus and the old librarian squid/monster/something throwing students freely through the roof and into a pond next to the library, not giving a shit if they live or die. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

  120. Knox Harrington

    June 23rd, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I haven’t watched a Pixar movie in years. I just can’t be arsed anymore.

    Toy Story 3 is wonderful, but with some of the ones before it I already started losing interest. And seriously, who the fuck wants to watch Cars 2? Haven’t bothered with Brave either.

    I think Pixar is heading where Disney was heading in the late 90’s/ early 2000’s. The formula is just to transparent now. And it’s not just them. It’s Dreamworks and all the other animated franchises too (fucking Ice Age 4? Madagascar 3? Really?). There’s just too many now. And they’re all structured the same, and the characters all look and act the same.

    Animated movies are gonna seriously need to reinvent themselves soon. Remember how epic and operatic the early’s 90’s Disney animated movies were? Nowadays they just seem like feature length sitcoms.

    Maybe I’m just being cynical, but I haven’t been interested in watching any new animated movies for years now.

  121. Knox – The formula has always been transparent, if you will. This was talked about maybe 10 years ago, when St. Pixar could do no wrong. So I don’t think that’s the problem. Hell what was Pixar’s 2nd film? A BUG’S LIFE, one of their weakest efforts. (2nd weakest, in fact.)

    TOY STORY 3 came out what 3 years ago and that was a Best Picture-nominated, billion dollar hit that most folks liked? So then boom, they’re not not good? OK I’ll admit CARS 2 is their worst film and yeah, they whored themselves out on that one. (Not substantiated, but I’ve heard the story that they did CARS 2 simply for the merchandising because the first one did gangbusters, and since UP/WALL-E/RATATOUILLE all didn’t do jack apparently in toy sales. But wouldn’t TOY STORY 3 have made up you might ask? I would guess so but I don’t know.)

    BRAVE was decent. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is stronger than that one. I still contend Pixar (who I very much respect) generally make adult comedies (if also presentable for the whole family) with good gags and a decent story. I think that observation might explain Pixar’s adult fanbase. (Nevermind the kids who grew up on Pixar and are now adults.) Sometimes Pixar hits homeruns, sometimes just doubles. Or a strikeout like CARS 2. Generally you’re not gonna waste your time with them.

    If they’re next movie is a homerun, watch those assholes saying Pixar is on the downhill slide come back into the fold and praise them to the high heavens.

  122. sheesh, I haven’t seen A Bug’s Life since I was a kid, but I don’t remember that one being bad at all, sandwiched between Toy Story 1 and 2 it’s not as good as either of them, but it was still the movie that proved Pixar was here to stay and not a one hit wonder

    “just because this is a G movie the college movie/stereotypes we don’t get to recycle include panty raids and fratboy terrorism at homecoming parades or cinderblocks tied to the male member. I’m lucky we live in a world where a R-rated Pixar film will never happen.”

    awww man, I was actually hoping that there would be a panty raid scene, with monsters running out of a sorority house with odd shaped panties (like say, one with leg holes) because come on, that shit would be funny

    I dunno about R, but wouldn’t want to see a PG-13 Pixar movie with humor skewing a little older? think along the lines of Valve’s Portal series or something

  123. Griff- I rewatched ABL a few years back. I like it, but it does have considerable flaws. (Like first off, the hero is a tad too annoying.) Still it does have an awesome scene.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7QUXss1Y54

    Holy shit that’s brilliant.

    “awww man, I was actually hoping that there would be a panty raid scene, with monsters running out of a sorority house with odd shaped panties (like say, one with leg holes) because come on, that shit would be funny”

    Good point.

    “I dunno about R, but wouldn’t want to see a PG-13 Pixar movie with humor skewing a little older? think along the lines of Valve’s Portal series or something”

    Except at times Pixar has done clever adult humor that go over kids heads. Remember the penis joke in RATATOUILLE? My crowd couldn’t believe that (but they loved it.) Hell even MONSTERS, INC. has a toilet joke, it’s actually a funny one.

    Look I respect Pixar not because they do “clean” humor. I admire that they can be funny without necessarily going into Vince Vaughn or Judd Apatow territory. I mean funny is funny, G or R-rated right? I like the bad words and sex jokes and all that, but I’m also a “Weird Al” Yankovic fan.

    Tonight on U62….GANDHI 2!

    ~And teach Poodles how to fly! *yap yap SPLAT*

  124. I noticed that Pixar recently became everybody’s favourite victim. Don’t know why. Although I gotta say that BRAVE was pretty lame and shouldn’t have won the Oscar. (Especially not over ParaNorman!) And I actually enjoyed CARS 2 a little. At least more than part one or BRAVE. Although definitely less than some movies from other companies.

    I think I raised the question here before, but why do animated movies always have to be “deep” or “epic”? There is nothing wrong with a cartoon being just or at least mainly a comedy. Dreamworks Animation recently found their niche as the studio that makes great popcorn cartoons. Stuff like the KUNG FU PANDA movies combine the studio’s typical 5-gags-per-minute approach with well written characters and stories and of course from time to time they even come up with something like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, which would fall into the “deep” and “epic” category.

    But MADAGASCAR 3 was a little bit painful to watch for me, just because it was a huge step backwards, not just because for the series (Yes, part 2 is actually seriously good! Even the Will I Am songs are great!), but also for Dreamworks at all. They didn’t even bother with giving us a good explaination why the movie took place in Europe. They just left out the first act and said: “BAM! They are in Monte Carlo. Enjoy!”

    Also the ICE AGE movies are at least 50% better than their reputation. And with that I mean that I really love parts 1 & 3. Especially part 3, which is one of the most entertaining adventure comedies of the last decade! 2 & 4 really don’t have much of a story to bother with (part 4 even felt like they hired a 13 year old fanfiction writer for the script), but 1 & 3 are seriously engaging animated comedies.

    And then of course there is CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, which is my favourite comedy of the last decade, animated or not. This is a movie that is more related to a Looney Tunes cartoon than to BAMBI and yet I even use parts of the soundtrack as ringtone.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say here (again!) is that y’all should be more open to the concept of an animated comedy. I know that none of you watches only deep and profound arthouse movies, yet for any reason you seem to dismiss stuff that you would watch in live action as soon as it is animated.

  125. Knox Harrington

    June 24th, 2013 at 3:46 am

    RRA – I don’t think we’re really talking about the same thing. Pixar, like any creative force, have had their ups and downs over the years, and that’s fine (I was never as into Finding Nemo as everyone else. Loved Ratatouille and Toy Story 3). I still think they’re incredibly talented, and without a doubt the best at what they do. And I don’t even mind “the formula” that much.

    I just feel that animated films in general have nothing new to offer me these days. I already know what the characters are gonna look like, sound like, move like, act like. It’s like watching a hundred different movies all starring the same 3 actors. I kinda feel about them the same way I feel about Johnny Depp nowadays. The dude’s just playing dress up. Look, Johnny Depp as an indian! Look, Johnny Depp as a vampire! Look, Johnny Depp as a pirate (again)! Look, Johnny Depp as a mad hatter! I just can’t do it anymore, man.

    Why the hell would I watch Johnny Depp try to steal the show in The Lone Ranger when I know Donnie Brasco exists? I don’t know. Like I say, maybe I’m just worn out on this shit and being too cynical, but it pisses me off when I know that animation can do so much more. Even mainstream family-friendly animation.

  126. CJ Holden – Honestly I would’ve prefered if PARANORMAN or WRECK-IT RALPH had won, but if you want my own conspiracy theory most of the Academy voters that hadn’t seen all the movies just picked BRAVE because it was Pixar, who usually owns that category. Plus with the older members having zero relation to video game culture and references, I was a fool for predicting RALPH would win.

    Knox – You’re talking about American animation. What about Studio Ghibli?

  127. Knox Harrington

    June 24th, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Yes, I’m specifically talking about mainstream American animation (in other words, the stuff we get to see on the big screen). Ghibli is fantastic. I love pretty much all their stuff. Totoro is probably my favourite animated film (my favourite American one is The Iron Giant. Now there’s a movie).

  128. I’ll tell ya what I miss is the traditional 2D animated Disney musicals, after their ubiquity in the 90’s it feels weird to think that it’s now a retro thing of the past (the last one was The Princess and The Frog, which was 2009, but that was still almost 4 years ago), now even Disney has been taken over by CGI with stuff like Tangled (which, if you ask me, has weird and ugly looking characters)

    while it was most definitely played out by 2003/2004 after flops like Treasure Planet and needed a good long break, I think it’s been long enough that it should make a comeback, I got nothing against CGI animation in principle obviously, but in a perfect world there would be a happy medium between it and traditional 2D animation, Disney should spend a little less time and money on Johnny Depp starring action movies and a little more on what them Disney in the first place

  129. But Madagascar 3 was crazy! The pet detective character scuttling around, the backstory of the lion who covered himself in olive oil and got burnt, this was good stuff. (I hadn’t seen the other two, just saw it because Baumbach).

    Yeah Monsters U was pretty good. I think the Monsters world is my favorite creation of Pixar’s, and maybe because of that, I was a little underwhelmed with what they were able to do with it here. I kept waiting for some really inventive shit to happen in which Mike emerges as a master tactician … it was important for them to preserve continuity, and I liked that it’s modest enough that you believe it’s the same wise-ass you see in the original film; that said when you look back on the sequence in Inc. where all the doors become powered and they’re chasing each other among the door conveyor system and THROUGH the doors (maybe my favorite action sequence in a Pixar movie) I can’t help but feel a little shortchanged.

    I did enjoy the movie thoroughly; it’s so packed with creative characters and gags and all that shit. I like that it fits with the Pixar cannon in continuing the theme of that not everybody can be good at everything (I was so worried that they violated, but then the other shoe drops, you guys know what I mean if you’ve seen it). There’s a little moment I really appreciated, when Mike sneaks off during the party and admires his reflection in the trophy: his body has been distorted by the trophy’s shape to make him look scarier than he really is! Sets up his ensuing victimization perfectly.

    I guess I fall in step with the popular opinion: a notch higher than Brave.

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