Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh Holy Pixar

In honor of Pixar Animation Studio's tenth film opening tomorrow, here's a look back at the nine films that precede it. Up, the latest (probable) classic (it's marker at Rotten Tomatoes is at a sturdy 98%) opens tomorrow, as does Sam Raimi's return to horror flick Drag Me to Hell, so as you see it's a big movie big weekend-- I'm too psyched for words-- but I digress-- back to the point:

Small embarrassing confession-- I have yet to watch the 2007 film Ratatouille, as thus it's eliminated from the listing. I'm working on it-- sad but true.

8. Cars (2006)- directed by John Lasseter & Jon Ranft
Pixar's least successful film (also it's longest by far-- it's almost 2 hours long) is still a highly enjoyable throwback, featuring a nice voice performance from Paul Newman, but it's still far from the quality benchmark that the brilliantly crafty studio is known for. The antromorphics are unsettling in my opinion and the voice work seemed uneven from Owen Wilson. By far not an embarrassing film, but the least sophisticated and memorable from Pixar.

7. A Bug's Life (1998)- directed by John Lasseter & Andrew Stanton
The second feature film from the studio (following Toy Story) is a beguiling winner, even though most of the film is but a blur in my memory. I remember at the time (I was all the tender age of 14 when the film first opened) that DreamWorks opened the similar Antz shortly before and liked it a whole lot more, but then again that was about the same time when I first really started exploring the ouevre of Woody Allen and that may have been a primal influence...I need to re-check this one, but I'm fairly certain it's standing will still hold.

6. Monsters, Inc. (2001)- directed by Pete Doctor & Dave Silverman
I recently revisited Monsters, Inc. and must admit my stock in the film greatly increased. The odd tale of monsters scaring children in efforts to power there alternate society is such a pleasureable, unabashedly witty experience, that I feel almost embarrassed for favoring Shrek at the time when the film opened-- this was the first Pixar film nominated for the animated feature category, and only the first of two that lost the statute (Cars lost in '06 to Happy Feet), but time is the real victory-- this one has the larger staying power I believe-- it's jazzy, staccacho score adds to the fun, free associatiative story-- plus Billy Crystal and John Goodman make a terrific comedy duo-- I love that Pixar's films are always casted so perfectly, not always focusing on big marquee names.

5. Toy Story 2 (1999)- directed by John Lasseter & Ash Brannon
The only sequel thus far in the Pixar cannon (Cars 2- boo- and Toy Story 3 are in development at the present), and one of only sequels in film history that compares favorably to the original. It's more of the same, but when the same accounts for the joys of the first Toy Story, that's high phrase in deed. Again, I must revisit this one again soon, but fond memories alone make the ranking justified. On a sidenote-- the great 'toon year of 1999 (which also included other non-Pixar triumphs as The Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke, and to a lesser extent Tarzan) prompted the AMPAS to add an animated feature category two years later, which annually ghettoizes grand pictures deserving of a best picture berth to animated status alone, again I digress.

4. Toy Story (1995)- directed by John Lasseter
The film that started it all, which now sits pretty (well in 90-something place) on AFI top 100 list, one of the greatest and grandest of film history-- and it's only 4th on my list, damn quality machine! I remember at the age of 11 when this master work premiered, I, the eternal movie snob initally snubbed the film thinking it was would waste of time (what is this- computer animation thing, I don't like it!)-- what an ignorant fool I was. When that settled I fell madly in love with beautifully new concoction and was hooked fully to the promise of Lord Lasseter and his team of fine technicians. As a story, as a visual beaut, a comedy, a tender bromance-- Toy Story is eternal. Bonus points- a young Joss Whedon has a screenplay credit!

3. Finding Nemo (2003)- directed by Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
Arguably the most beautiful looking of all the Pixar films, this underwater pleasure sits comfortably at the top of my personal list of top films of 2003 (sometimes the more auteural flourishes of Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation top it, but that's a conflict only for my brain.) The simple story of of father Marlin (wonderful voice work by Albert Brooks) searching for his son is one of the most poignant films in Pixar history, thankfully Ellen DeGeneres' delightfully dim Dory provides the comic relief. I believe this when I really first appreciated the Pixar entity and embraced it as the most daring, most consistent production company ever! EVER!

2. WALL-E (2008)- directed by Andrew Stanton
This one would probably be at numero uno, if it weren't so spanking new-- but I need a bit more time to make a marking like that, but it's potential is luminous. I've spoken grandly about this one often (it was my favorite film of last year), but I'm so confident of it's classic status, enough said.

1. The Incredibles (2004)- directed by Brad Bird
I can't proclaim enough how much I enjoy Mr. Bird (The Iron Giant, The Simpsons), so it's little surprise that this one marks my current favorite, but I can't get enough of this movie-- it's with certainty one of the greatest cinematic triumphs of this decade and proves the worth of Pixar stock so completely with elegant storytelling, magnificent visual wonder, great casting, and the wonderful child-like sense of "magic" that most live action and other non-Pixar animated studios lack so much of it. Every frame here seems earned and perfected. The title explains it all.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Festival de Cannes


PALME D'OR: The White Ribbon, directed by Michael Haneke of Funny Games (both versions) and Cache fame.

GRAND PRIX: A Prophet, directed by Jacques Audiard, who has recent hits stateside with Read My Lips (an excellent suspenser) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Wild Grass, directed by Alan Resnais

JURY PRIZE: Fish Tank, directed by Andrea Arnold and starring Michael Fassbinder, who recently had an award wattage role in Hunger.

BEST DIRECTOR: Brillante Mendoza, Kinatay

BEST ACTOR: Christopher Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino's latest had a mixed reaction at Cannes but opens this August.)

BEST ACTRESS: Charlotte Gainsbourgh, Antichrist (directed by Lars von Trier; Gainsbourgh has appeared in French and American films, notaby I'm Not There and 21 Grams.)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Spring Fever-- Lou Ye
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...