Monday, June 15, 2009

As For Film: Up


Pixar can do no wrong. Well, except for Cars and A Bug's Life. But other than that, they're pretty awesome.

After watching Up, and having such a distinct feeling of appreciation for the company, I started to associate each of their movies with different types of people. For example, my wife, Jaclyn, is a Toy Story. She is adventurous and sweet, with a childlike spirit and uplifting attitude. I am a Wall-E. I am a philosophical guy, concerned with the end of world. I value liberal/progressive education. I should make one of those facebook "which ____ are you?" quizzes.

My old coworker at the champagne and caviar lounge, Tomas (Toe-mahhhs), was a fancy pants. He was a connoisseur of food and wine. I'll never forget the night he strolled up to me with his hands clasped in front of his belt which his back perfectly arched. "Mister Dylan," his chin was held high, "have you seen Ratatouille yet?" I told him that I hadn't seen it yet. "It is a BEAUtiful movie." I smiled at this human Ratatouille.

The fat girls that wear their greasy black hair in tightly scrunchied ponytails and pastel colored Eeyore shirts? They're A Bug's Life or on a good day, possibly Monsters Inc. (on a REALLY good day.)

Finding Nemo is the shy and introverted stepchildren, the ones from the broken homes. The Incredibles is nerds. Superhero, comic book stuff. Nerds and fans of action. And the hicks and republicans are obviously Cars

But now we have Up. This film doesn't fit into any sort of niche, and for that I'm thankful. If Pixar was in danger of anything, it was becoming a simple vehicle for visual spectacle. By that I mean, Pixar movies always pick subjects that look good as computer animated cartoons. With each new Pixar movie that comes out, you always say to yourself, "yeah, I could see why they would make this as a computer animated movie. Toys, fish, cars, robots. Makes sense."

With Up, Pixar has gone beyond the merely visual world. Up is a marvel of compelling storytelling. Unlikely metaphors abound, and even surprise us at times. I mean, what in the world was up with that big colorful bird? And why would all of the dogs talk? And why were there so many? And so on.

And then there's our hero, a grumpy old man. I'm not sure what kind of kids' movie decides to make this old crank a protagonist, but practically nothing about this movie is orthodox.

Even with all of its complexities, I had a hard time relating to a lot of it. I'm sure you've heard from most people who've seen it that it's a tear-jerker. Maybe you even cried yourself if you saw it. Now, I am not opposed to crying at the movies. I've done it a few times. Finding Nemo set me off actually. Hell, I've already cried at Where The Wild Things Are. The trailer choked me up. But I didn't cry during Up

There were definitely some emotional moments in the film, but I spent most of my time trying to figure out what the hell I was watching. By the end, I understood what the filmmakers were trying to say, but I disagreed with them. Personally, I thought the ending was too happy. There were some mildly sad moments throughout, but the ending really needed to drive the nail home. But instead, they yanked the nail out, filled the hold, washed it and put a band-aid on.

Unless the old man developed Alzheimer's or had become senile by the last scene, I felt kind of betrayed by the end. It felt like he replaced his wife with the boyscout, and that the boyscout replaced his father with the old man. It showed them each doing things that were so meaningful in their prior relationships, in the exact same ways. What about their memories? Were they of no value?

Sure, the great lesson to take away from the story is that "love is the greatest adventure." I know. It's not about zeppelins and exploring uncharted territory. I get it. But true adventure is not about filling a void either. And that really seemed to be what happened by the end of the movie. In the "New Adventure Book," it basically seemed like the old man cut his wife out of all of their old pictures and replaced her with the boyscout. How is that a "new" adventure?

A better ending would have been the death of the old man. He would then have the opportunity to pass all of his wisdom about "real adventure" onto the boy. Sure it would've been sad, but at least his sacred promises wouldn't have been co-opted. "Cross my heart" really became a vice by the end of this movie. Eventually, it wasn't even a noble thing anymore. Once the old man admitted, "eh, it's just a house," everything went to shit. The lessons of loyalty eventually flew out the window. And the concept of death was diminished. Unless that line really meant, "eh, we're all gonna die anyway. Who gives a shit." Because in that case, he's right. And the movie's better.

But yeah, I don't think that's what he meant...

The old man's death would have been a little more real. It would have also been a little more staggering. And the film wouldn't soon be forgotten as a result. Seeing him having a picnic at the end really felt shameful.

As it is, Up is a very good movie. Probably on a par with The Incredibles. And it showed us that Pixar does have some balls when it comes to trying new things. I think the story could've been better, but with what they had, they did well.

If anything, I'm excited for whatever Pixar has next. Because I'm sure that they'll work out their storytelling kinks and give us their most emotionally potent and cinematically gratifying film yet. Until then, I'll try to figure out what type of person Up correlates with. Maybe it's just the misunderstood person. I'll leave it at that until I can come to a better understanding myself as to what the hell the movie Up is all about.

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