If you're like me, you walk away from each new Pixar film screaming, "Holy fuck! That was the best Pixar movie ever!" (Well, let's all just agree to ignore Cars for the duration of this blog post, shall we?) I'm not entirely sure if Pixar actually keeps topping itself—I think it's just that Pixar films are so overwhelmingly astonishing in their storytelling, thematic, and technical craft that it's hard to think about anything else except for the movie at hand, at least for a little while.
I just saw Up with Mama Gomolvilas, and I have to say: "Holy fuck! That was the best Pixar movie ever!" (I cleaned up my language around mom, though.)
This story of how a geriatric curmudgeon flies over continents in a floating house powered by helium-filled balloons, with a rotund stowaway Asian kid in tow, has all the things you'd expect from Pixar: big laughs, real tears, lovable characters, and stunning visuals.
But what thrills me the most about Pixar movies is that the filmmakers take very simple themes and riff off them, like fine jazz musicians, revealing new and sublime layers of complexity. The basic message of Up has to do with how the pursuit of our dreams may seem important (after all, that's one of the things America is all about, isn't it?), but it's our relationships with other people that shape and contribute to our lives in sometimes mysterious and mostly unquantifiable ways that even the fulfillment of a lifelong wish cannot match. Cram all that into the image of a man carrying his house (his American dream) on his back, while you draw parallels to the current recession, and you've got heady stuff for a cartoon.
What's additionally satisfying about Up is how quietly revolutionary it is. While all Pixar efforts are really for adults but come in the disguise of kids' films, Up one-ups that act of trickery by making an elderly man (voiced by Ed Asner) and an Asian-American boy (voiced by Jordan Nagai, below) its main heroes. In a culture where old age is feared and where ethnic minorities still struggle for representation, Up delivers a pair of delightful and complex role models for people who had given up on the notion that anyone gives a fuck.
(Note: I had it on good authority that seeing Up in 3-D was not a necessity. So I didn't. And I loved it anyway. Just so you know.)
(By the way, all this comes after me seeing Drag Me to Hell a couple days ago, where foreigners and the foreign-looking are demonized or exoticized and surround the film's white heroine and hero like a gang of crazies. Now I don't want to come across as one of those militant paranoid liberal nutjobs [you know who you are], but didn't anyone else notice how the evil hag was Eastern European; the duplicitous bank rival was Asian American; the strange psychic was Southeast Asian; the tormented ghost medium was Latina; and the demon was first introduced to the audience through a panicky Mexican family? No, it's not protest-worthy or anything, and I don't think this was intentional, but is it not my duty to pay attention to such things? ISN'T IT?!)
So, dear readers, what's your favorite Pixar movie and why? And does anybody out there want to defend Cars, which I have never managed to get through?