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Peter T Chattaway

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Awesome. At first, I was surprised by this... and then, five seconds later, I was no longer surprised. McCarthy's so good at creating characters, this just makes all kinds of sense. And aren't McCarthy's stories usually about guys who have shut themselves off from the world, and then learn to engage? Edited by Overstreet

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SDG wrote:

: 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).

Well, the sea of raves pose their own "baggage" problems, so one dissenting opinion (which I found when a pro-Up critic linked to it from his blog, for whatever that's worth) hardly seems like the same kind of "baggage" to me. If anything, it makes the experience of seeing the film more liberating.

Frankly, knowing that this film was co-written by the propagandist behind The Visitor imposes much more "baggage" on the film than any of the reviews.

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I suspect that if you watch The Station Agent again, you'll feel better. And consider that he's also directing George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic A Game of Thrones.

Was The Visitor a little heavy-handed and preachy? Sure.

But good grief, isn't it a little extreme to sum up McCarthy as a propagandist?

Can we wait and see if that becomes a pattern in his work before we write him off?

The preachiness of The Visitor seemed to me like a matter of a storyteller leaning too heavily on a theme... not anything equivalent to Michael Moore grossly distorting to make a point. If being a bit zealous with one's opinion in one movie is enough to brand a filmmaker as a propagandist, well, we can slap that label on a lot of other fine artists as well.

I lend out The Station Agent more than any other DVD in my collection due to its nuanced storytelling, memorable character development, and tender portrayal of suffering people. It's like a gateway-drug for art films... accessible and funny and thoughtful and sad. And full of surprises.

Why did Pixar bring McCarthy in? Do you hear anything about "Because he was so good at preaching a message" or "Because we wanted a heavy dose of human rights activism"? No. They brought him in because of his way with character development. I would have brought him in too. Heck, I would have asked him to be on the team in the first place.

Edited by Overstreet

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Overstreet wrote:

: And consider that he's also directing George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic A Game of Thrones.

I know nothing about George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic, let alone what McCarthy would do with it, so that's neither here nor there, for me.

: Was The Visitor a little heavy-handed and preachy? Sure.

"A little"?

: But good grief, isn't it a little extreme to sum him up as a propagandist?

I wasn't summing HIM up. I was certainly summing up that particular MOVIE, though. We can discuss that movie in its thread, if you like; I posted a few comments there when I first saw the film (and no one came to its defense at the time), and I still have my review copy, so I could see it again quite easily if need be.

: Why did Pixar bring him in?

Doesn't matter. He brings "baggage". That's the point.

But don't worry. Paul Haggis brings a truckload of "baggage" with him too. And I still like Casino Royale anyway. Indeed, I like it a lot. (Quantum of Solace, on the other hand...)

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Well, the sea of raves pose their own "baggage" problems

Which is why I don't look at them in detail either. I don't mind knowing that critics X, Y and Z loved a film -- or that critic N was more skeptical. I don't want to know what N took issue with, or what X, Y and Z praised.

Watching a film for the first time is challenging enough just sorting out my own reactions. The last thing I want is a dialectic in my head involving other critical voices ("Okay, I see what A was getting at ... Well, B has a point, but ... and what was C smoking?"). Time enough for that after the film.

Incidentally, I can't say I see where knowing about the involvement of a particular filmmaker imposes any sort of similar burden, so I'm not sure it's helpful to apply the term "baggage" to all cases. Semantics aside, I find thoughts like "Yeah, that sounds like something B would write" or "I see the connection to movie C" or even "Wow, nothing in D's previous work anticipates this" far less intrusive than the critical dialectic mentioned above.

The latter case is still just me and the filmmakers; the history of their previous works is a legitimate part of what the filmmakers bring to the table. Me, the filmmakers and a row of other critics, that's too crowded for that sensitive first encounter.

: But good grief, isn't it a little extreme to sum him up as a propagandist?

I wasn't summing HIM up. I was certainly summing up that particular MOVIE, though.

Well, you didn't say "the guy behind The Visitor's propaganda," you said "the propagandist behind The Visitor," so it SOUNDS like you're summing HIM up, anyway. And again without digging too deeply into semantics, in context you do seem to mean the characterization to potentially reflect on films beyond that one film.

Edited by SDG

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: Why did Pixar bring him in?

Doesn't matter. He brings "baggage". That's the point.

Not for every viewer...having not seen the Visitor or the Station Agent, he is far more a blank slate for me as a viewer than, say, Brad Bird was...I am pretty sure I am not alone. Movie Critics see a lot more films than we the non-critic audience, I venture a guess that for the general public, he has far less baggage than you think.

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I'm not a huge fan of McCarthy's films, but I thought he was pretty good as an actor in Season 5 of The Wire.

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: Was The Visitor a little heavy-handed and preachy? Sure.

"A little"?

This was also my first impression, but on subsequent viewings I noticed a lot of visual detail, depth of focus, and pacing that can't come from someone primarily interested in preaching. He is a good director. He develops characters well, which may be in part due to the fact that he is a good actor himself.

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What MLeary said. I've seen The Visitor four times. I've been moved every time, even if I do think he stacked the deck somewhat. I do believe in those characters. And the film is about much, much more than immigration.

Edited by Overstreet

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As I said before, I will happily discuss The Visitor in its designated thread, where the discussion of its merits and demerits has already begun (and in greater detail on both sides).

As for Armond White, any critic who dismisses all ten of Pixar's movies is as of little use to me as any critic who praises all ten of them. Possibly even LESS use. Though I sympathize with his suggestion that the "inevitable shift to anthropomorphism" and "chase mechanics" -- a feature that is abundantly evident in the trailers already -- is "very nearly depressing". (Note: I sympathize, but I cannot say I agree, quite, because I have not yet seen the film itself. And just to give this comment some extra context: I seem to recall that some people here had quibbles with Finding Nemo back in the day, because of its abundant scenes of peril etc., but I think it's safe to say that most of us have gotten past that, perhaps on repeat viewings.)

SDG wrote:

: Well, you didn't say "the guy behind The Visitor's propaganda," you said "the propagandist behind The Visitor," so it SOUNDS like you're summing HIM up, anyway.

Well, let's not overanalyze an off-the-cuff remark, or take it out of context. If a filmmaker makes a propagandistic film, then for the purposes of that film, at least, he is a propagandist. Likewise, I wouldn't spend too much time parsing the distinction between "baggage" and other kinds of expectations that a person brings with him to a project. We're not editing a dictionary here. :)

Nezpop wrote:

: Not for every viewer . . .

Quite so, and I think my statement was clearly made within that context.

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Well, let's not overanalyze an off-the-cuff remark,

I'm going to remember that you said that, Peter. :)

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IFC starts rounding up the reviews!

And... wow.

Many of these critics are very, very strict, and aren't the type to grant Pixar a free pass.

Moreover, with all of the films they see, research, and write about, I suspect that many of them enter the theater carrying as much "baggage" as any of us.

So, I'm not saying we must believe them or agree with them. But to witness this nearly unanimous ecstasy is really deeply gratifying to me... since I love the film too.

Note: David Hudson, after surveying so many detailed raves, leaves Armond White for last:

Meantime, according to Armond White in OurTownNY, every review cited above - but especially all those reviews we saw just a couple of weeks ago from all those "Cannes Film Festival shills" - merely "clarifies contemporary news media's unprincipled collusion with Hollywood capitalism."

:D

Edited by Overstreet

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Haven't seen the film and haven't been paying close attention to the reviews, but I just wanted to say that I love how, when describing how certain Pixar films disappoint them, reviewers usually write about how the films evoke Dreamworks. Every insult to Pixar is heaped twice upon their competitor. That amuses me.

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Steven, do you want to first crack at Armond White?

No. :) I have nothing to say that won't be in my review.

Well, let's not overanalyze an off-the-cuff remark, or take it out of context. If a filmmaker makes a propagandistic film, then for the purposes of that film, at least, he is a propagandist. Likewise, I wouldn't spend too much time parsing the distinction between "baggage" and other kinds of expectations that a person brings with him to a project. We're not editing a dictionary here. :)

(shrug) While I wouldn't say I was either overanalyzing or taking anything out of context (quite the opposite), I already indicated I wasn't all that concerned about semantics, and whatever you meant by "propagandist" is fine with me. W/r/t "baggage," OTOH, vocabulary is precisely not the point, the effect on the viewing experience is. Call it what you like, I generally find awareness of critical specifics from other writers' reviews during an initial viewing to be a distraction and an impediment in a way that awareness of the filmmakers and their creative history is not. To equate the two or to group them together as roughly comparable sorts of "expectations" doesn't seem helpful to me.

Edited by SDG

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Well, I'm not sure I was saying they are "roughly comparable". If anything, I was saying there was a difference. :)

Some movies, I pretty much HAVE to pay attention to everything that is said before they open, simply because I'm a journalist and those movies happen to be on my beat. The new Terminator is a perfect example of this: it's a sci-fi flick with quasi-religious overtones, and part of a franchise that also has those overtones, and it was in my interests to know what I could, when I could. And if I brought any "baggage" to my viewing of that film, it was mainly the baggage of expectations raised by the trailers and interviews, etc. I can't say the handful of reviews that I read beforehand affected me one way or the other.

I won't say that Up is one of the movies that I HAVE to pay attention to in this way. But given a few other movies this month that have merited that sort of attention from me, I'm kind of in that mode, I guess.

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Again... some reviews tell you a whole lot more about the reviewer than the film...

'Up' would have been a 'better' movie sans villain, mythical bird, and all those things that will likely most please the youngest quadrant of its eventual audience. But then 'better' is always highly relative.... I still hold out hope that someday Pixar might produce an honest-to-goodness film for adults (and, it should be noted, that it would be nice to find similar sensitivity deployed around the narrative of a same-sex couple), but for now they've been churning out the next best thing. Up is Pixar to the core, for better and for worse. Mostly better."
Edited by Overstreet

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Pixar will never do a film "for adults". That's why Andrew Stanton says his John Carter of Mars movie will NOT be released under the Pixar banner: because Pixar films are, by definition, intended to be for the entire family.

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Steven, do you want to first crack at Armond White?
No. :) I have nothing to say that won't be in my review.

And now I have said it.

P.S. Marking up the review this AM, I notice that the term "baggage" appears in my review (written before it became a bone of contention in this thread) in a somewhat different connection, albeit only in the "Final thoughts" tag intended for viewers who have seen the film.

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One of your finest works, Steven. Thank you for this.

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Sara and I have just returned from seeing this movie...

Amazing.

I now have a new favorite Pixar movie.

We found the film to be both beautiful and moving. If was clear that most of the adults in the movie were crying at several points in the film, including the two of us.

I'll need to process it more before making significant comments to the thread, but this is an exceptional film.

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My wife and I just returned from seeing it as well. Even though our theater contained two (count 'em, two!) crying babies and a child sitting directly behind us asking his parents "What happened?" ever few minutes, it wasn't enough to ruin our experience. We still loved, LOVED this movie. We cried, laughed, and left the theater delighted.

While I certainly think kids will enjoy the animals, the jokes, and the visuals, this is a movie that married folks should really enjoy. I'm not sure it would have meant quite as much to me before I was married. But who knows?

It is a PIXAR movie, so it will be enjoyed by all different types of people.

I just want to spend the rest of the evening thinking about it.

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FWIW, this is very very early, but Nikki Finke and/or her sources are predicting $17 million for Friday and $55 million for the weekend, which would be the 4th-lowest opening of the 10 films released by Pixar to date (ahead of only 1995's Toy Story, 1998's A Bug's Life and 2007's Ratatouille).

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