Saturday, May 30, 2009

Up to something...

Pixar's latest feature, Up, for me is slightly lower-level Pixar...but that means I would only give it, say, 95.5% instead of 100. It's been said more than once, by more people than me, but even when they don't hit 100% they're so far and above what anyone else is doing...

For me Pixar's greatest achievement, and the one against which I judge all others either consciously or unconsciously, remains Finding Nemo. Then on the low-end we have movies like Cars and Monsters, Inc.

You see my point.

It's certainly possible that this one could inch "up" in my regard on repeated viewings--Ratatouille did. I liked Ratatouille just fine when I saw in the theater; through repeated viewings on DVD and cable I'd now say it's one of my favorite films.

As an achievement in animation, Up is really something; like WALL-E, it has the confidence to tell large parts of its story without dialogue. And you're really struck--I was, anyway--by how deeply its characters feel, and just how much of that feeling is conveyed by, well, pixels.

If they gave awards for animated performances, Carl Fredricksen would be a shoo-in. He's well-voiced by Ed Asner but, as I'm sure Asner would be the first to agree, his is only one part in this memorable and substantial character. The whole Pixar team, led by director Pete Docter on this project, would have to share in the award.

Even Carl's conception is something fresh for a family film.

As Roger Ebert wrote in his Journal, he is a

cranky old [man], which is a wonder in this era when the captain of the Starship Enterprise must be three years out of school, lest fans be asked to identify with a veteran officer. "Up" doesn't think all heroes must be young or sweet, although the third important character is a nervy kid.

Chuck Jones used to tell a story of being introduced to a child as "the man who draws Bugs Bunny," and having the child reply, affronted: "He does not! He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny"--implying that Bugs had a separate existence from that of his representations--which, of course, he does.

So does Carl Fredricksen.

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