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Peter T Chattaway

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Of the critics I regularly read, Mike D'Angelo is one of the most difficult to impress.

He hinted at his affection for it in Tweets (as Prins noted earlier). He starts off his review of Up with a description of all of his reasons to be skeptical of this movie. And considering he was at Cannes for the opening, he was probably surrounded by similar skepticism.

So far, there are 20 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes... all positive. And D'Angelo's review is one of the highest raves:

Admitting I was wrong gives me ulcers ...

Oookay, so I was wrong. Up does occasionally succumb to a slight case of sappiness—it’s a tale of dreams deferred, and there’s an Aesopian reminder that the grand adventure you’ve sought was always right there in your own backyard—but nobody in Hollywood right now can touch primo Pixar for lunatic comic invention and sheer visual splendor. Like WALL

Edited by Overstreet

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D'Angelo? Did Pixar contribute to his online fund drive this year? I am not surprised that Up is good, but that certain critics are so readily expressing their admiration for it. Bodes well.

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Saw it in 2-D.

Go on worrying about the trailer, folks. ;) As we should have learned by now, the trailer gives us no idea what's coming. I'm off to bed with a giddy grin on my face.

Edited by Overstreet

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This is based on the movie and not on the trailer, so it might be less amusing, but anyhoo... Joe Morgenstern @ Wall Street Journal (this was published a week ago, and nobody linked to it yet? hmmm):

In the spirit of high adventure -- the same spirit that guides the buoyant heart of its venerable hero, Carl Fredricksen -- "Up" dares to explore the full sweep of a man's life, from young love, shining hopes and tragic loss to the perplexities and possibilities of old age. In the spirit of candor, accompanied by regret, I must say that I admired the film much more than I enjoyed it. . . .

Russell is amusing, in an insistent way, but he's so repetitive that you wonder if he's meant to be mentally challenged, and he becomes as much of a strident nuisance as Carl first makes him out to be. Carl, for his part, sustains a likable fa

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Ed Gonzalez at Slant.

Is Up the first Pixar creation where characters spill blood? That's not what makes the film so special—it's the inspired sense of scale, thoughtful framing, and dreamlike interplays of colors and shapes, the simultaneous fear and joy roused by its nutty flights of fancy and suspense, and the fearless emotional affect its story never ceases to risk. A series of colorful vignettes on love, fidelity, and adventure, Up is emotionally and aesthetically hieratic, conflating from its very first, Citizen Kane-referencing sequence—in which a young Carl Fredrickson (voiced by Edward Asner), eyes agog, watches a black-and-white newsreel celebrating the rise and fall of famed explorer and personal hero Charles Muntz—the act of watching movies with the ecstasies and banalities of living. Life, like going to the movies, is seen as a grand communal experience, a ride worth enduring even when it teeters toward and over the brink of a nightmarish abyss.

Edited by Overstreet

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Ed Gonzalez wrote:

: Is Up the first Pixar creation where characters spill blood?

Apparently not. On a hunch, I Googled "the incredibles" and "blood", and up popped this review at Jesus Freak Hideout: "Blood/Gore: We see a tiny bit of blood on Mr. Incredible's arm when he's cut there. We briefly see creepy skeletal remains of a late superhero." Maybe a mere cut doesn't quite count as spillage, though; having not seen Up yet (they don't screen it in Vancouver until next Wednesday night, and I've got to look after the kids then), I couldn't say how the quantity in one film compares to the quantity in the other.

: Life, like going to the movies, is seen as a grand communal experience . . .

So long as everyone keeps their cell phones to themselves, at any rate.

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Well, I've just spoken with a colleague who liked the first twenty minutes and "hated" the rest of the movie. So I guess this one's likely to split the audience as well. Oh well. There were nay-sayers for Toy Story and Finding Nemo too. Time will tell.

Edited by Overstreet

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Yay! Diversity of opinion flourishes! Vive la liberte!

Oh, and speaking of blood in Pixar films, how could I have forgotten this bit -- it doesn't merely spill, it DRIVES PEOPLE MAD WITH BLOODLUST:

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Still not blood spilled by a character's act of violence. (Mr. Incredible's scratch was caused by a robot. And Marlin wasn't trying to hit Dori, just to hold onto the mask.)

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FWIW, when WALL-E came out last year, one critic remarked that Pixar was going through its Rubber Soul phase -- which I think might be more accurate than what the writer below says. But anyhoo.

Oh, and never mind characters shedding blood -- this writer says Up "may include the first miscarriage hinted at in an animated film." I wouldn't know where to begin looking for a precedent for THAT one. Such a thing would not have been out of place in, say, Watership Down, but I don't think such a thing ever actually came up in that film.

- - -

'UP' YOURS

It's been 14 years since Pixar released its first full-length feature, and the studio seems to be going through what parents might call "a phase." These are its teenage years, and as anyone who's read an article about Bristol Palin knows, teens are all about rebellion. Maybe in a decade or so, the studio will settle down, move to a quiet co-op in Park Slope and go to law school. But right now, it's all about getting a tattoo of a butterfly on its ankle and phoning that college boy who works at Abercrombie.

How else to explain the animation house's recent offerings? In an industry in which familiarity is semingly demanded, Pixar has branched out with a trio of difficult-to-categorize films whose concepts and execution elicit more than a little bewilderment.

Following an infancy that gave us solid-but-conventional movies such as "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo," Pixar has zigged, beginning with 2007's rodent-driven "Ratatouille" and continuing with last year's "WALL-E" -- an amazing, mostly wordless film about a robot tidying up after an environmental apocalypse.

On Friday, the Head-Scratching Trilogy concludes with "Up," the story of grouchy Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) who, following the death of his wife, ties hundreds of helium balloons to his house and floats to South America. The movie is seen by some as risky because it gives a bony, arthritic finger to animation conventions. . . .

New York Post, May 24

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Heh. Yeah, for some it's a real head-scratcher when someone comes along and actually tells an original story without regard to what's common, popular, and box-office-proven. I know that the film's second half is going to bother some folks, but I don't care. I'm just thrilled to see at least one movie this summer going boldly where no filmmakers have gone before.

Edited by Overstreet

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I'm stoked. This should still be in theaters when I get back to the States for summer vacation and it's on my short list of films NOT to miss.

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How else to explain the animation house's recent offerings?

Um. Not the way this writer chose to. The butterfly tattoo/teen rebellion conceit strikes me as a singularly unenlightening metaphor.* As opposed to the metaphors at work in Up, which are potent and evocative. Those who complained that Wall-E wasn't about anything will have plenty to chew on here.

*"Rebellious" teenagers are actually mostly shallow conformists. They may write poetry, but it's generally shallow and obvious. Unlike any of Pixar's recent films.

Even the idea that Toy Story was "solid but conventional" strikes me as tin-eared.

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No kidding! Exactly how is Toy Story conventional?

Maybe because its popular and was fairly readily accepted when it came out? :huh:

In a way, if you're not paying close attention to the art itself, "conventional" is really quite a construct. The initial public reaction to the first impressionist exhibit was, if I remember right, that it was art about nothing. i.e. it didn't have a conventional subject and was thus quite radical. Now of course, impressionist paintings are very popular and well, "conventional." I suspect this holds true often. Perhaps this odd trio of Pixar films will become common standards which other studios imitate in ten to twenty years. Viva la arte!

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SDG wrote:

: They may write poetry, but it's generally shallow and obvious. Unlike any of Pixar's recent films.

Eh? I agree that some of Pixar's films have been uncommonly "deep" for cartoons, but how have they not been "obvious"? (And are you counting Cars as a "recent" film? Because I'd be inclined to place that one at the "shallow" end of the pool. It's certainly "conventional".)

Jeff: I am intrigued to hear that you think the second half is the less-conventional half of the film. Everything I have heard and seen so far -- from the filmmakers, the trailers, the reviews, etc. -- leads me to expect that the second half will be the wacky-wacky Dreamsworks-y part of the film, while the first half will be the part with the unusual emotional pull. Maybe I'll be surprised...?

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This would be better placed in the Wall-E thread, but since we're discussing first-half/second-half distinctions, I'll add here that I recently saw Wall-E a second time. I was bracing myself for the much discussed second-half "falloff," but honestly, I was more captivated this time by the second half than I was the first time I watched the film. The human characters have been the focus of criticism, but I found Wall-E's relationship with Eve quite beautiful in that second half, FWIW.

Edited by Christian

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No kidding! Exactly how is Toy Story conventional?
Maybe because its popular and was fairly readily accepted when it came out?

So was Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. For that matter, so were Ratatouille and Wall-E, in general terms.

By this sociological standard, it would seem that either immediately successful work cannot be considered revolutionary, or else work can be simultaneously revolutionary and conventional. Neither approach seems helpful to me. I would rather say that "conventional" efforts work within the familiar and unsurprising approaches and fashions -- the conventions -- of established practice, while revolutionary efforts branch out in some startling new way. How quickly or easily audiences glom to the branching out is not really to the point.

In a way, if you're not paying close attention to the art itself, "conventional" is really quite a construct. The initial public reaction to the first impressionist exhibit was, if I remember right, that it was art about nothing. i.e. it didn't have a conventional subject and was thus quite radical. Now of course, impressionist paintings are very popular and well, "conventional."

Right, because creative branching out into new territory doesn't remain new. That's not the same as saying that conventional or revolutionary is all in the eye of the beholder.

I suspect this holds true often. Perhaps this odd trio of Pixar films will become common standards which other studios imitate in ten to twenty years. Viva la arte!

If Pixar's success spurs other studios to try to create stories about artistic rodents, apocalyptic robots and grumpy old geezers, fie. (Especially if they start giving the grumpy old geezers "hilarious" catchphrases that were hip five years ago, etc.)

If Pixar's success spurs other studios to be willing to countenance artistically daring efforts, fantastic. It seems almost too much to hope for, but it would be a glorious thing to see. (I'm afraid the failure of Battle for Terra could weigh in the opposite direction, although perhaps that wouldn't deter a big studio like DreamWorks or Fox. Then again, perhaps DreamWorks is content to crank out genre parodies like Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda ad infinitum, and leave Pixar territory to Pixar.)

Eh? I agree that some of Pixar's films have been uncommonly "deep" for cartoons, but how have they not been "obvious"? (And are you counting Cars as a "recent" film? Because I'd be inclined to place that one at the "shallow" end of the pool. It's certainly "conventional".)

By "obvious" I don't first of all mean as opposed to subtle and suggestive, but as opposed to surprising and daring. Cars is not surprising or daring. Ratatouille and especially Wall-E are. So is Up -- and it's also subtle and suggestive, though it's not without on-the-nose aspects too.

BTW, I'm following the article in considering the last three Pixar films, thus not including Cars, which I'd agree is shallow (though at least somewhat convention-defying as well as conventional).

I am intrigued to hear that you think the second half is the less-conventional half of the film. Everything I have heard and seen so far -- from the filmmakers, the trailers, the reviews, etc. -- leads me to expect that the second half will be the wacky-wacky Dreamsworks-y part of the film, while the first half will be the part with the unusual emotional pull. Maybe I'll be surprised...?

Will you be surprised if you're surprised? :) I confess, I don't understand why you would choose to go into a film like this armed (or weighted down) with so much information and the baggage of third-party opinions. I like interacting with other opinions as much as possible, even before writing a review, but I like my first viewing of a film to be as unmediated as possible.

For the benefit (?) of those who don't feel the same way, the first half-hour or so certainly packs an emotional wallop, and is certainly daring in its subject matter and approach. The rest of the film is daring in quite different ways. There's surreal silliness, too whimsical and nutty for me to reach for an adjectival DreamWorks reference as a point of contact -- Dr. Seuss or the Fleischers would be nearer the mark -- but the emotional underpinnings carry throughout, and the film's central metaphor becomes more powerful and evocative as the story progresses.

This would be better placed in the Wall-E thread, but since we're discussing first-half/second-half distinctions, I'll add here that I recdently saw Wall-E a second time. I was bracing myself for the much discussed second-half "falloff," but honestly, I was more captivated this time by the second half than I was the first time I watched the film. The human characters have been the focus of criticism, but I found Wall-E's relationship with Eve quite beautiful in that second half, FWIW.

(nod) The world of the AXIOM is also a big part of what I like about the second and third acts.

Edited by SDG

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SDG wrote:

: Will you be surprised if you're surprised? :)

Heh. I dunno, really. Pixar's been good more often than not, and even their middling efforts have had their pleasures. (Yeah, even Cars.) I would be surprised if I DIDN'T like at least part of this film.

: I confess, I don't understand why you would choose to go into a film like this armed (or weighted down) with so much information and the baggage of third-party opinions.

Oh, I wouldn't say I'm going in "armed" or "weighted down" with anything. The trailers are what they are, and the director's statements are what they are. (How can those things be construed as "third-party"?) Given how overwhelmingly positive most of the early reviews have been, and how I've been maintaining a wait-and-see approach until I have, well, SEEN the film, I wouldn't say I'm "arming" myself with those opinions. Some other people here might have been doing that, though. :)

: The world of the AXIOM is also a big part of what I like about the second and third acts.

I like it too, to a point. But all that wacky-wacky robots-on-the-loose stuff is where the film lapses into DreamWorks-y "convention", for me. (For now, I don't mind the fact that all the emphasis on robots "sticking to the lines" is basically a rehash of the ants who didn't know what to do when a twig or a leaf fell in their path in A Bug's Life. I merely note the connection to suggest that this is one of a few ways in which WALL-E isn't necessarily all that "original" even among Pixar films. Note: I don't have anything against artists noodling a theme across several different works. But my experience with Woody Allen may have burned me out a little. Then again, I did love Antz, and regarded it as superior to A Bug's Life back when those films were brand new. Hmmm. I'm rambling now.)

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Then again, I did love Antz, and regarded it as superior to A Bug's Life back when those films were brand new.

Me too, and I still do. FWIW, I think A Bug's Life *is* rather conventional. Great animation, some good laughs, but all the way through the story just feels too familiar. Do I recommend it? Sure. I like it as much as most animation studios' best work. But compared to other Pixar films, it lacks a certain spark of inspiration... IMHO.

Edited by Overstreet

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No kidding! Exactly how is Toy Story conventional?
Maybe because its popular and was fairly readily accepted when it came out?

So was Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. For that matter, so were Ratatouille and Wall-E, in general terms.

By this sociological standard, it would seem that either immediately successful work cannot be considered revolutionary, or else work can be simultaneously revolutionary and conventional. Neither approach seems helpful to me. I would rather say that "conventional" efforts work within the familiar and unsurprising approaches and fashions -- the conventions -- of established practice, while revolutionary efforts branch out in some startling new way. How quickly or easily audiences glom to the branching out is not really to the point.

I was speculating why the article writer might have thought Toy Story less "Rubber Soul" like than the recent trio of films. When something is popular immediately, I think it becomes easy to forget what might have been radical and new about it initially. When we think of the first Star Wars film today, do we think of it as being radical or conventional? When it came out, it certainly branched out in a startling new way.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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Star Wars certainly WAS revolutionary in some ways, notably its advancement of sound design and special effects. In other ways, though, one could argue that it was COUNTER-revolutionary, that it returned Hollywood to the simplistic morality of an earlier era while un-doing the counter-cultural and arguably just-as-revolutionary stuff that had been going on ever since Bonnie & Clyde and Easy Rider. The late '60s and early '70s were all about tearing apart the "myths". With Star Wars (and, shortly after it, Superman, etc.), the "myths" came back with a vengeance.

I guess one could always argue that a revolution is a revolution, whether or not it's counter-. So long as things keep going 'round and 'round... :)

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When we think of the first Star Wars film today, do we think of it as being radical...?

We certainly do, if we are historically minded. Not to deny that it's conventional in other ways.

Oh, I wouldn't say I'm going in "armed" or "weighted down" with anything. The trailers are what they are, and the director's statements are what they are. (How can those things be construed as "third-party"?) Given how overwhelmingly positive most of the early reviews have been, and how I've been maintaining a wait-and-see approach until I have, well, SEEN the film, I wouldn't say I'm "arming" myself with those opinions.

I was thinking of the Morgenstern WSJ piece you linked to. That's exactly the kind of baggage I don't want to go into a movie with (not on my first viewing anyway).

FWIW, I think A Bug's Life *is* rather conventional.

Heck yes.

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