One Fat Asian Bastard + One Grumpy Old Man = My Favorite Movie of the Year (So Far); Plus, What's YOUR Favorite Pixar Movie?

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?


  1. i never finished cars, either... my favourite remains toy story, and, when jessie sings in toy story 2.

    i can't wait to see 'up'... and am so thankful our little town has three screens devoted to it, with no waiting time.

  2. I took my four-year-old son to see "Up" today, and we had to leave the theater because he was too scared of the dogs. So I'll see it with my sweetie next weekend.

    I loved what I saw, though. The love story montage killed me. And the kid, Russell, holy crap he's a fantastic character.

    Since you asked, my favorite Pixar movie is "Monsters, Inc." I love most of the Pixar movies. "Cars" not so much--even my kid was bored by that movie.

  3. I loved this movie for the very reasons you gave - a little boy and an elderly man do amazing and *lovely* things, for others and each other. No princesses to save (except for Kevin!), no extraneous and contrived romance. The message is that sometimes our heroes aren't what we think and we are called upon to be heroic ourselves. Actually, Jim's Big Ego has a song about exactly this.

  4. I've yet to see the movie Cars. Looking forward to UP. My favorite Pixar film is Finding Nemo.


  5. DEFINATELY "It's a bug's a life". The part where the fat caterpillar goes "I'm a beautiful butterfly" never fails to crack me up.

    Monsters VS Aliens is awesome too.

  6. not sure about my favorite Pixar movie - they're all pretty darn good. I even enjoyed Cars, at least, enough to finish it.

  7. I'm with everybody else on "Cars"--bored me silly. Have never finished a viewing of it.

    It's a toss-up for me between "Toy Story 2" ("When Somebody Loved Me" breaks my already broken heart) and "Finding Nemo" (most of that movie makes me cry).

  8. I know how you feel about the whole, "best pixar movie yet." I get that same feeling. I want to say that Up is my favorite, but I know if I go back and watch others I'll find them just as endearing.

    Since I work with the elderly, I appreciated the detail pixar used to make him seem like a real character. The tennis balls on his cane?!! Him having a stairlift in his house. Brilliant.

    I really hadn't cried that hard in a long time, it reawakened the spirit of adventure with in me and made me think about some of the dreams I've let slip away.