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Peter T Chattaway

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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

Her early estimates have been pretty unreliable. As I recalll, her Friday evening estimate on Star Trek's second weekend total was $7M low ($36M projected vs. $43M actual). I'd just wait and see.

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bowen wrote:

: Her early estimates have been pretty unreliable. . . . I'd just wait and see.

Good point. FWIW, David Poland openly questions Nikki's estimate and guesses something between $62 million and $72 million. Of course, the next point of discussion would be how much of that is inflated due to the extra $5 per ticket (or whatever) that gets charged at 3-D screenings.

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Heh. And now, at that very same URL, Nikki has bumped her weekend estimate up to $65 million, which, if accurate, would be behind only The Incredibles and Finding Nemo among Pixar opening weekends (though the first few Pixar films were released on the Wednesday before the American Thanksgiving, so Up would also be behind the cume for Toy Story 2 as of its first Sunday in wide release). Nikki also notes that this new estimate would be better than the $59.3 million that Dreamworks' first 3-D cartoon, Monsters Vs. Aliens, earned in its first weekend (in March, which may or may not have been a more auspicious time of year for this sort of film).

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bowen wrote:

: Box Office Mojo is reporting a $21.4M opening day for Up.

Interestingly, people are reporting that this is the second-best opening day for a Disney cartoon ever -- behind WALL-E's $23.2 million. But when all was said and done, WALL-E ranked #6 among Pixar films, behind even Cars. So, as ever, opening days/weekends aren't everything. Word-of-mouth will be key.

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I agree with Jeffrey. Thanks for the great review, Steven.

I've stayed away from this thread for the past month because I didn't want anything else to color my first viewing of the film, so I was unaware of Tom McCarthy's involvement until I saw his name in the end credits. As someone who loved The Station Agent and counted The Visitor as my favorite film of last year, I was glad to see he had worked on Up.

While I loved every aspect of the film, the part I'm most enthralled with at the moment is Michael Giacchino's score. I think it is my favorite Giacchino score so far - I like it even more than The Incredibles. There are some gorgeous melodies here.

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And in case anyone's wondering, no, I haven't seen the film yet. They had only one preview screening, and it took place while my wife was at work, and since then I've had to send the car to the shop and so on and so on. (Even weirder, I got a call -- like, literally, just this minute -- telling me that there's nothing wrong with my car but someone who had access to the building's parking lot seems to have played a prank on it...) Anyhoo, I do hope to see it soon.

In the meantime, Ken Morefield's review is interesting:

The central problem in a Pixar film is how to ground the gee-whiz-look-what-we-can-do-special-effects with human (and hence consequential) emotion.

Toy Story

solved this problem brilliantly by relegating the human story entirely to the background but allowing us glimpses of it at the fringes of the avatar story.

Wall-e

less successfully tried the same thing

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Wow, Peter, you're not saving many surprises for your experience of the movie, are you? Want me to tell you the twists that happen in Moon before you see it?

Edited by Overstreet

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In the meantime, Ken Morefield's review is interesting

Wow. Fascinating as always from the estimable Dr. Morefield, as well as one of the most gobsmackingly wrong-headed reviews I have read in a long time. Ken may succeed where Armond White failed, in getting me to say more than what is in my review. Later. When other projects aren't pressing.

Wow, Peter, you're not saving many surprises for your experience of the movie, are you?

Perhaps Peter's still trying to balance his baggage load. :) Of course, how balanced it is is one thing, and how heavy it is is another.

Edited by SDG

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FWIW, what's bothering Ken doesn't bother me at all.

I'll add an extra warning here, folks, since Peter has basically re-posted WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FILM'S CLIMACTIC SCENE before he's seen the film, please avoid uncovering the spoiler text in this thread if at all possible.

SPOILER

Just because some characters live meaningful lives and experience deep pain in their loss doesn't mean that the movie's being insensitive if a maniacal villain, setting in motion a chase driven by a murderous rage, falls to his death. The film does nothing to *celebrate* the villain's downfall. But I don't see anything hard-hearted about feeling a momentary sense of relief when a man, in the midst of trying to murder an old man and a child, ends up achieving his own end instead. That's not saying "Let's take death lightly." That's saying, "Look at what pride can lead to."

Ken seems to suggest that the storytellers wanted to kill off a bad guy so bad that they sat around brainstorming ways to make him so evil that he'd deserve it. That seems rather backward to me. The characters is portrayed as one becoming so obsessed with proving himself, so obsessed with solving a mystery for his own advancement, that he has become blind to all that really matters. To contrast with Frederickson, he doesn't see human beings anymore... he sees only obstacles to his own glory.

Sounds to me like the stuff of fantasy and fairy-tale tradition. It bothers me when we're led to *celebrate* a villain's downfall. But heck... from Shakespeare to scripture to fairy tales, stories have told of bad guys who come to horrible ends because of their own horrible-ness. And I think it's a little much to start calling out the Pixar storytellers as insensitive for telling a version of that story.

And for what it's worth, my praise for the film hasn't been "hype." Hype is, if I understand right, hyperbolic praise. I haven't meant to use any hyperbole. The film moved me not through sentimentality, but through meaning. So did WALL-E.

Edited by Overstreet

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Overstreet wrote:

: Wow, Peter, you're not saving many surprises for your experience of the movie, are you?

It's a nasty habit I got into during the build-ups to Star Trek and Terminator Salvation (and Angels & Demons, I guess, though in that case, I had at least read the book three years earlier). I should also note that Up is the only one of these four films that I did not get to see at a preview, and darn it, I don't want to fall TOO far behind the conversation.

: I'll add an extra warning here, folks, since Peter has basically re-posted WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FILM'S CLIMACTIC SCENE before he's seen the film, please avoid uncovering the spoiler text in this thread if at all possible.

You prefer this to the "hide" function? I think "hiding" spoilers is far more elegant than placing big black blocks on top of them, but that's just me, I guess. (I will grant you that the big black blocks at least give you a sense of the SIZE of the spoiler-ish digression, which the "hide" feature does not.)

FWIW, I had planned on not reading Ken's review until after I saw the film, but somehow, while posting the link here, I got hooked. I'll try to do better, now. :)

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I just saw this with my wife and daughter today (on a side note, since having Audrey, I've seen 2 films in the theater - this and Wall-E). I don't typically avoid film spoilers. In fact, I go into most of the films I anticipate most knowing most of the plot. No difference here. For me, watching a movie or reading a book is as much - probably more - about the character development and storytelling as the story itself. I knew most of what was going to happen, but still my wife caught me crying a few times (and giving me "the look" for laughing too loud at others). On first viewing, in my opinion, this ranks among the top tier of Pixar's films.

It's really amazing to me how much detail they pack into this story without ever resorting to exposition save for the newsreel at the beginning (which makes sense as an expositional vehicle). For example, there's an entire story surrounding Wilderness Explorer Russell's family that gets pieced together without any explicit mention. Pixar has consistently, and in this case beautifully, created movies that don't "talk down" to the audience or speak to the lowest common denominator while at the same time being consistently funny, entertaining and even profound. And they do this creating "family" films, appealing to all ages.

My wife's favorite Disney film is Beauty and the Beast and we've recently watched it a few times with Audrey. Not at all to knock that film, but if that received a best picture nom, I really can't fathom how Pixar hasn't received one yet. In terms of character development, including written and animated facets, Up makes Beauty and the Beast seem absolutely pedestrian in comparison.

Even the villain in Up has a moment, while showing the protagonists around, that fills in all kinds of character development and provides shades of grey in his character.

I wouldn't say it's a perfect film - I do think the second half feels, if not "conventional," maybe rushed. But all my quibbles are minor.

The theater we saw it at (in 2-D, my wife actually saw it with her parents Friday night in 3-D) was only 1/5 of capacity - which made me sad - this film should be sold out!

Also, someone posted earlier from a review about this film implying a miscarriage. My wife and I both thought infertility. I suppose you might infer miscarriage since they were preparing a baby room, but Ellie certainly seemed the kind of character to us that would prepare a baby room before even knowing she was pregnant. (Which suddenly brings to mind - the cloud watching montage was just wonderful, as was Carl's "daydream" when Russell is first discovered in his house. It's funny how that "daydream" was flipped around when things got serious later on - Carl tells Russell he doesn't want his help, he wants him safe - wonderful pre-shadowing there.)

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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Also, someone posted earlier from a review about this film implying a miscarriage. My wife and I both thought infertility.

Yeah, that's how I read it too. Had a Raising Arizona flashback in that moment when we see them talking to the doctor.

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there's an entire story surrounding Wilderness Explorer Russell's family that gets pieced together without any explicit mention

I actually didn't get Russell's family story. He mentions a woman's name, who Carl takes to be his mother, and he says she isn't his mother. Who is she? His nanny? His father's second wife? Who is the woman at the ceremony? Is that his mother? Is it the other woman named earlier in the film? Are his stories of himself with his father real memories or are they fantasies about how he wishes his relationship was?

Also, someone posted earlier from a review about this film implying a miscarriage. My wife and I both thought infertility.

Yeah, that's how I read it too. Had a Raising Arizona flashback in that moment when we see them talking to the doctor.

I read it as both. She miscarried and was told that she would not be able to carry a baby to term. I thought it made both emotional and logical sense, and still do.

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First impressions:

The first half-hour or so is transplendent. Tears crawling down my cheeks by the end of the opening prologue (but I cried during the prologue to Star Trek, too, both times I saw that film, so don't read too much into that).

I was also impressed by the depth of some of the images, and the way they "pulled focus" to shift our attention from the foreground to the background or vice versa; this effect works especially nicely in 3-D, of course. Speaking of which, they did the 3-D very well, giving the movie a sense of scale but never doing anything gimmicky. (Re: 3-D movies and senses of scale, possibly my favorite moment in Journey to the Center of the Earth is when they're climbing up a mountain, near the beginning of the film, and you can see the mountain range stretching off into the distance; in my review, I said it was moments like that which almost made me want to see films like Lawrence of Arabia in 3-D. Almost. Boy, did DreamWorks drop the ball by hitting us with a paddleball in the opening seconds of Monsters Vs. Aliens.)

One thing I liked about the prologue was the way it found the love between Carl and his wife in such boring, mundane, routine activities as sweeping the living-room floor. I appreciated how understated this was. And then, maybe an hour later, I sighed when Russell came right out and spelled out the movie's theme (i.e. "Maybe those moments were boring, but I think I remember the boring moments the best," or whatever the exact words were). Why be subtle when you can be so on-the-nose, etc.

But of course, by then, the air (helium?) had already started to go out of the movie. And the air-letting all began with the arrival of the talking dogs (the lot of whom bore more than a passing resemblance to the seagulls yelling "Mine! mine! mine!" in Finding Nemo, which in turn always struck me as a bit derivative of those alien squeeze-toys obsessed with "the claw" in the Toy Story movies).

The fact that Muntz is such a two-dimensional villain -- and ready to murder a child on multiple occasions, at that -- didn't help, either. (So, as with WALL-E, so with Up -- Pixar lures us in with promises of greatness and maturity and then reverts to something far more conventional lest it leave the children, literal or otherwise, behind.) This constant felt need for scenes of "peril" in animated films is such a hackneyed cliche, these days. My wife and I occasionally talk about how the original Winnie-the-Pooh got by without such stuff, but the big-screen sequels like Piglet's Big Movie always seem to need a climax in which our beloved plush toys almost fall off a cliff to their deaths, or something. (In some cases, they are even presumed dead by their friends. Is that sort of grieving or mourning what Winnie-the-Pooh is really all about?) Anyway, given that Pixar movies are "original" and not based on existing material, at least not officially, the studio is certainly well within its rights to push its stories in any direction it wants ... but this is one convention I'm not particularly fond of.

Not sure about the having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too aspect of the climax, especially where the very, very last shot is concerned. (Or is that last shot not meant to be taken literally?)

Didn't care for the gratuitous Star Wars reference. It just reminded me of how Toy Story 2, an otherwise wonderful movie, hit a really wrong note with that "I am your father" gag.

It's interesting how the main character is once again presented as a nostalgist who doesn't care for the fast-paced modernization rising up around him (with skyscraper developers and a Sushi Pronto store across the street, etc.). The early Pixar films celebrated progress and technology, to a point (e.g. Flik's inventions in A Bug's Life -- something that really stood out to me at the time because the setting of that film was so rural, in contrast to Antz and its critique of industrialization). But between this, Cars and WALL-E, it seems like Lasseter and co. are sort of backing-off from that. (Although, just as the closing credits for WALL-E show robots helping to re-seed the Earth, so too the closing credits for Up show

Russell teaching Carl how to use a computer

, etc.)

Anyway. Those are my first impressions, before I go to my next movie.

Oh, and re: the miscarriage-or-mere-infertility debate, the film never spells it out, but I would have to guess "miscarriage" because I don't think Carl and his wife would be getting the baby room ready unless she were already pregnant. It's interesting, though, that Ellie was so excited by the possibility of having children, because they clearly would have represented the sort of expenditure that would have made a trip to Paradise Falls absolutely unthinkable, at least for the next few decades.

Re: the final scene with the scrapbook, I find myself thinking about C.S. Lewis's remark in A Grief Observed that, without his wife alive and at his side, he is increasingly prone to misunderstanding her because all he has is his memories of her -- memories which, inevitably, could become somewhat self-serving on his part. So when

Carl turns the page and sees more photos than he had expected, there is an element of surprise there that cuts through Carl's somewhat petrifying idea about Ellie

. I do wonder how likely it would have been that he hadn't

looked inside the scrapbook in so long

, though. But oh well.

Okay, on to my next movie.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Didn't care for the gratuitous Star Wars reference. It just reminded me of how Toy Story 2, an otherwise wonderful movie, hit a really wrong note with that "I am your father" gag.

Aha! Peter and I agree on something! :)

Edited by Overstreet

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FWIW, after my second movie of the day, I accessed this webpage on my cell phone, and I found that neither the "hide" function nor the "spoiler" function work on my phone. The "hide" function simply doesn't hide anything, and the "spoiler" function simply replaces black-letters-on-white-background with white-letters-on-black-background. At least on my phone, don't know about any others. For whatever that's worth.

Overstreet wrote:

: The film does nothing to *celebrate*

the villain's downfall. But I don't see anything hard-hearted about feeling a momentary sense of relief when a man, in the midst of trying to murder an old man and a child, ends up achieving his own end instead. That's not saying "Let's take death lightly." That's saying, "Look at what pride can lead to

."

I dunno, I think you may be giving the film too much credit, there. Why was Muntz so murderous in the first place? We don't get to know him at all, really, so I don't get the feeling that the film wants us to draw any particular "lesson" from his story. He's just a plot device -- a way to motivate Carl's journey in the first place, and a way to provide the sense of peril that all cartoons seem to "need" towards the end. It seems to me that the reason Muntz is made so evil is precisely so that

we can feel "satisfied" when he dies

. Whether that means we're "celebrating" anything, I leave to the viewer. But certainly we aren't supposed to mourn anything. And given everything Muntz had represented to Carl and Ellie, perhaps we OUGHT to be mourning something.

: It bothers me when we're led to *celebrate*

a villain's downfall

.

FWIW, I don't mind "celebrating" that sort of thing, depending on the story and the context etc. When Ripley yells at the Queen Alien to "move away from her, you bitch!" it's a completely cheer-worthy moment. On the other hand, when Khan's ship explodes, there is no joy about it; there is only the tragedy of seeing a man (and all of his friends!) brought down by the man's own hubris; and in fact, one of the things I love about ST2:TWOK is that, as far as we can tell, Khan goes to his death believing that he has won; many, many filmmakers would have inserted a shot of Khan watching the Enterprise get away from him at the last second, a shot of Khan going "Nooooo!" as he realizes he has been defeated -- but ST2:TWOK doesn't give us the "satisfaction" of seeing Khan acknowledge his defeat. (Of course, "celebrating" Khan's death would have set absolutely the wrong tone there anyway, because as soon as the Enterprise has escaped, Kirk discovers that Spock is mere minutes away from dying; like it or not, Khan really HAS "won" on some level, if not by killing Kirk then by killing someone who was nearest and dearest to Kirk's heart.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, "celebrating" a certain kind of thing. In some films, I think it's perfectly fine; and in others, I don't. But in Up's case, I don't get the feeling it wants us to "celebrate" the thing in question; however, I do think it wants us to be "satisfied" by it, whereas I think a more complicated emotion may have been called for.

: And for what it's worth, my praise for the film hasn't been "hype." Hype is, if I understand right, hyperbolic praise. I haven't meant to use any hyperbole.

Well, whether you "meant" it is neither here nor there. :)

: The film moved me not through sentimentality, but through meaning.

Such as...? The only meaning I think I've seen you articulate so far is the one that prompted me to say you may be giving the film too much credit (reading meanings into the film that aren't necessarily "meant" to be there), etc.

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The fact that Muntz is such a two-dimensional villain -- and ready to murder a child on multiple occasions, at that -- didn't help, either.

I don't think he's entirely two-dimensional. Largely so maybe - but as I noted in my post - when Carl and Russell first meet him he was quick to welcome his guests and gave some history of a character who thrived on adventure and the respect of others who couldn't do what he can. When things turn sour halfway through dinner, he mentions the backgrounds of the other visitors he's had through the years. I think it's obvious he became so obsessed with proving himself that he wound up perceiving any visitor to the area a threat, whether they were in search of the bird or not.

I also think there's an interesting contrast between Muntz and Carl. Muntz is a man committed to a sole purpose in life and has the will and means to accomplish his goals. Carl always wanted to be like that, but he kept wandering down life's side paths until circumstances finally allowed to to pursue his dream. Even then, I don't think Carl actually expected to succeed. Still, in the end, it is Carl who succeeds in locating the bird that was said not to exist, but that wasn't even important to him by that point.

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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Didn't care for the gratuitous Star Wars reference. It just reminded me of how Toy Story 2, an otherwise wonderful movie, hit a really wrong note with that "I am your father" gag.

Aha! Peter and I agree on something! :)

I don't agree with either of you, I'm afraid. I thought the TS2 reference to Star Wars was quite funny, and the entire fiction-within-the-fiction of Buzz Lightyear was never played for anything but laughs for the adults in the audience. (The same actually goes for the fiction-within-the-fiction of Woody's Roundup.) I also enjoyed the final pay-off with toy-store Buzz playing with his dad at the end. As to why it was good to have it in the movie, I'm with King Kaiser in My Favorite Year: "Because it's funny. And in the comedy business you never cut funny."

Edited by bowen

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The only meaning I think I've seen you articulate so far is the one that prompted me to say you may be giving the film too much credit (reading meanings into the film that aren't necessarily "meant" to be there), etc.

I'm not really interested in describing what a film means to me at A&F anymore. I learned that lesson the hard way with WALL-E and Rachel Getting Married. It's hard for me to watch those movies now without feeling like there are several people who [correction: have huge problems with the movie] sitting behind me and grumbling and heckling it all the way through.

You've expressed to me your opinion of this film. I respect that. So I won't pick your posts apart line by line. I find that's like throwing fuel on a fire here. It rarely moves us forward. Experience at A&F has taught me that if I detail my own opinion of a movie, my words will be sliced, diced, dismissed, and discounted by others who have already made up their own minds. [uPDATE: Keep reading, and you'll see that, in spite of my pointing this out... it's happening again!] That's not the kind of "dialogue" that I enjoy or find useful. I'm enjoying and appreciating so much about Up that I'm not willing to spell it out here, have my gratitude written off as "hype-ing" the movie, and watch my interpretation rigorously eviscerated.

Let me put it this way: If I was a teacher who was proud of a student for impressive work on a challenging project, I wouldn't be inclined to respond by putting that student and his work up for a public assessment if I knew that the judge had already declared his disapproval of that student's work. Civil debate is one thing; a meticulous, endless argument is something else.

I'd be happy to talk with anybody on the telephone or in person about the movie, so we could actually have a conversation instead of the blow-by-blow exchange in print.

I'll probably write a review one of these days. For now, I'll say this: I heartily affirm what Greydanus wrote in his review. And that's only the beginning. I didn't feel any air hissing out of any balloon. I watched a movie in which an old man sailed into the world he had imagined as a child, encountered the conventions of those old B-movie stories (talking animals, conventional villains, dramatic showdowns), and passed through those conventions gleaning very different, even profound lessons from it: lessons that weren't about survival or machismo or worldly fortune, but about relationships, aging, the dangers of clinging to the past, and the richness of fatherhood. I don't mind conventions when they're invested with such passion and grace.

Is it a perfect movie? Of course not. I'd be hard pressed to think of a genre exercise that isn't obviously faulty. Such shoddy but popular formulas as Lost-world adventure tales are easy targets to begin with.

But I'm impressed with any movie that takes a conventional form and invests it with so much imagination, so many surprises, and that transcends the form to become something new, something that will last in spite of its cliches. Almost every element of this film contributes to enriching its themes. Up does what I'd expect a movie about an adventurer in a "Lost World" to do, and it does so playfully and with affection for those silly cliches. But it also does much more than that. It shows me beauty. It introduces characters that compel me (in a genre that rarely does). It tells a story that's the antidote to the "family is whatever you make it" kind of Hollywood standard. It is likely to put daggers in the conscience of any deadbeat dad who watches it. And it steeps the children who watch it in lessons that I really hope future generations will learn.

And how about this: Even the poop joke made me laugh. Now *that's* unusual.

Edited by Overstreet

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Okay, Peter gets first dibs on my extra-review comments. Keeping it minimal, though.

Peter, I think your normal inhibitions about spoilers may be at a low ebb, possibly due to your excessive exposure to plot points prior to seeing the film.

Why be subtle when you can be so on-the-nose, etc.

That is one of two overly on-the-nose moments, yes. (The other is

the wording of Ellie's final note to Carl in the adventure book

.) I would have appreciated more subtlety in those two moments.

The fact that Muntz is such a two-dimensional

villain -- and ready to murder a child on multiple occasions, at that --

didn't help, either.

He may be two-dimensional, but they're two well-rendered dimensions. He's one of the more interesting

villains

in recent animated fare. But what's most interesting about Muntz is the contrast his story arc poses to his hero-worshiper, Carl.

My wife and I occasionally talk about how the original Winnie-the-Pooh got by without such stuff, but the big-screen sequels like Piglet's Big Movie always seem to need a climax in which our beloved plush toys almost fall off a cliff to their deaths, or something.

I love The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, but I love it for the three separate stories it is. It's not a feature film, per se.

Not sure about the having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too aspect of the climax, especially where the very, very last shot is concerned. (Or is that last shot not meant to be taken literally?)

I take it you haven't read my review? Specifically, the "Final thoughts" section at the end?

Whether it's taken literally nor not doesn't matter, I think.

Didn't care for the gratuitous Star Wars reference. It just reminded me of how Toy Story 2, an otherwise wonderful movie, hit a really wrong note with that "I am your father" gag.

Like Jeff (but not bowen), I agree with you about the gratuitous "I am your father" line in TS2, but in Up I didn't think the Star Wars allusions were gratuitous at all. It's natural for a story like this with roots in serial adventure to pay homage to the film that first celebrated and revived the genre ... and it works organically in the story.

It's interesting how the main character is once again presented as a nostalgist who doesn't care for the fast-paced modernization rising up around him (with skyscraper developers and a Sushi Pronto store across the street, etc.). The early Pixar films celebrated progress and technology, to a point (e.g. Flik's inventions in A Bug's Life -- something that really stood out to me at the time because the setting of that film was so rural, in contrast to Antz and its critique of industrialization). But between this, Cars and WALL-E, it seems like Lasseter and co. are sort of backing-off from that. (Although, just as the closing credits for WALL-E show robots helping to re-seed the Earth, so too the closing credits for Up show

Russell teaching Carl how to use a computer

, etc.)

I won't quarrel with your take on Wall-E, a movie that is very much open to the interpretation you've proposed, but in the case of Up I think you're making too much of personal details in a story that is, after all, about one old widower, not about civilization as we know it.

Oh, and re: the miscarriage-or-mere-infertility debate, the film never spells it out, but I would have to guess "miscarriage" because I don't think Carl and his wife would be getting the baby room ready unless she were already pregnant. It's interesting, though, that Ellie was so excited by the possibility of having children, because they clearly would have represented the sort of expenditure that would have made a trip to Paradise Falls absolutely unthinkable, at least for the next few decades.

True. It indicates her level of investiture in the adventure she was already having. :)

Re: the final scene with the scrapbook, I find myself thinking about C.S. Lewis's remark in A Grief Observed that, without his wife alive and at his side, he is increasingly prone to misunderstanding her because all he has is his memories of her -- memories which, inevitably, could become somewhat self-serving on his part. So when

Carl turns the page and sees more photos than he had expected, there is an element of surprise there that cuts through Carl's somewhat petrifying idea about Ellie

.

Very, very good connection.

Edited by SDG

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In the meantime, Ken Morefield's review is interesting

Wow. Fascinating as always from the estimable Dr. Morefield, as well as one of the most gobsmackingly wrong-headed reviews I have read in a long time. Ken may succeed where Armond White failed, in getting me to say more than what is in my review. Later. When other projects aren't pressing.

Well, other projects continue to press, but some brief thoughts on Ken's review anyway. NOTE: SPOILERS.

Gaston was pompous and arrogant and menacing, but he also struck me as more stupid than evil, and his insistence on returning homicidal rage for forgiveness appeared more about assuaging any reservations we might have about sentencing him to death rather than a life of scorn and ridicule.

This seems like a cart/horse issue. I can imagine the character of Gaston as he's been established by, say, the middle of the film being taken in a direction in which he doesn't make the same choice to return homicidal rage for forgiveness. But I can't imagine an ending in which that character who doesn't return homicidal rage for forgiveness is still killed off and we're left with moral reservations about it.

In other words, I don't think that the decision was first of all to kill off Gaston, and it then became necessary to make him evil enough to justify it. I think the decision to make Gaston finally choose evil, and therefore bring about his own death, was made because a] it's more dramatic and b] it seems like a logical extension of Gaston's character (see below).

As such, there has always been something troubling to me about the increasing insistence of Disney and Pixar films that the villains not only be wrong, but incorrigibly evil–not merely defeated but destroyed.

If there is such an increasing insistence, I would probably agree with finding it troubling. But the only previous Pixar films I can think of that fits the bill in this regard are A Bug's Life and The Incredibles. Sid gets scared, Stinky Pete gets playtime and Al the Chicken loses the sale of his life, Randall gets shoveled and Waternoose goes to jail, Darla loses her birthday fish, Chick Hicks wins the freaking Piston Cup (does he even get the Dinoco sponsorship?), Skinner the Chef gets tied up and loses his job, and Otto gets switched off.

As for recent Disney, IIRC, no villains were harmed in The Emperor's New Groove, Lilo & Stitch or Bolt, and I don't think any villains were killed in Treasure Planet, Brother Bear or Home on the Range. Meet the Robinsons anyone (I haven't seen it)? Some of these films (Lilo, Treasure Planet) actually have quite a soft spot for their villains.

So I'm not seeing a trend, yet.

Oh, there were witches and snakes and demon kings who were evil before then, but there always seemed to be a sense that death for Cruella De Vil was, perhaps, a disproportionate penalty for her wanting a Dalmatian coat, that it was enough for the Aristocats to escape Edgar without having to send him to his grave.

Which is part of the reason why those two films, from the post-classic Disney era, are lesser efforts rather than classics of the stature of Beauty and the Beast.

Edgar the Butler's stature as a villain is not worth discussing. Cruella is one of the great over-the-top villains, but she was also merely a pampered, luxury-loving bully and a thief.

Gaston was worse than that from the outset. His determination from the outset to take (definitely the right verb) Belle as his wife with no concern for her wishes and if necessary by any means required -- and especially the scene where he actually shows up at her house with cleric and wedding party in order to try to bully her into marrying him -- shows him for a rampant egoist whose callous disregard for the personal dignity of others towers over Cruella's sartorial ambitions.

whose great moral defect appeared to be that he was the grumpy old man who was not the protagonist of the film

Well, I thought his great moral defect was that after over half a century of single-mindedly seeking to vindicate himself to a world that scorned him, cut himself off from all human society, he had long since become completely consumed by bitterness and rage and was psychotically concerned with his own agenda above all.

It’s not enough that Muntz be a hunter, he must be an attempted child murderer–otherwise we might not think he is evil enough to warrant his own death.

Once again, cart and horse. The idea that the filmmakers really wanted to kill off Muntz, so they made him really evil, isn't persuasive to me. I think they decided to make him really evil for storytelling reasons, and then decided to kill him. (And FWIW with Jeff I don't think the film wants us to cheer his death, only feel relief that he's not a threat any more.)

I tend to dislike the dead wife as back story conceit in general–why is it always the wife? Why does the husband never die and the widow discover an adventure?

That may be a legitimate concern in general, but FWIW we aren't talking about Coral the clownfish or the wife in Signs being violently struck down as an occasion of the hero's extraordinary journey. Carl and Ellie live together to a ripe old age. This is a film about mourning the loss of a loved one. In principle it could have been the husband who died -- except that in this relationship Carl was the painfully shy, introverted one and Ellie the vivacious, outgoing one.

Think about it: a story about a shy, introverted girl who meets a confident, adventurous boy who, because he later marries her, never goes on any of the adventures he otherwise would have, and who then dies and leaves his widow behind hiding in her house until she slowly, painfully begins to break out of her shell and learns to have an adventure ... well, I'm not going to say Pixar couldn't sell that story in this day and age, cuz they're freaking magicians, but I'm not going to scold them for walking away from that mine field either.

Would the film really have been substantively different if the elderly couple finally went to South America?

Gah. Bzzt. Hic. Um.

Well, I don't know. Would Citizen Kane have been substantially different if CFK had spent a happy childhood sledding down hills?

Would The Searchers have been different if John Wayne's neice were accompanying him on the Comanche trail because Wayne wanted to offer his neice to Scar in marriage? You get a road trip either way.

Up is a story about grief. That is what it is. A story about the couple finally going to South America would still be a trip to South America. It would also be a completely different story.

If you Google “Ellie Docter Pixar Up” you’ll get pages of images from the film, but, oddly…none of her.

Yet Google "Ellie Pixar Up image" and you get pictures of Ellie (and the actress who voiced her in childhood). But that speaks to the film's publicity, not the film itself. When I think of the movie I saw, I sure as hell have mental pictures of Ellie. When I reviewed it, I talked about Ellie a lot. She's not just a plot device to me.

The central problem in a Pixar film is how to ground the gee-whiz-look-what-we-can-do-special-effects with human (and hence consequential) emotion. Toy Story solved this problem brilliantly by relegating the human story entirely to the background but allowing us glimpses of it at the fringes of the avatar story. Wall-e less successfully tried the same thing–and succeeded up until the point where the avatar story and the human story merged. Up has neither Toy Story’s brilliantly confident understatement nor its separation of avatar and human being.

The same could be said of The Incredibles, which of course is a super hero movie, which is a form of stylization unto itself. Up improvises its own approach, and if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for you.

Edited by SDG

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(So, as with WALL-E, so with Up -- Pixar lures us in with promises of greatness and maturity and then reverts to something far more conventional lest it leave the children, literal or otherwise, behind.)

I would go as far as to say that the first 20-30 minutes of WALL-E and Up are the greatest openings in any American animated movie ever. (I say American not because I have a non-American counterexample but because there's a number of acclaimed Miyazakis I haven't seen.) In some twisted way I wonder if I'd have liked Pixar's two latest more had they started slightly more weakly; in both cases, my sky-high (so to speak x 2) expectations after a half-hour no doubt colored how I viewed the less transcendent main bodies.

Dale

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(I say American not because I have a non-American counterexample but because there's a number of acclaimed Miyazakis I haven't seen.)

FWIW, there are some Miyazakis that have the same issue. Howl's Moving Castle is a prime example -- the first several minutes are magnificent, but it falls apart after the first act. And while I admire the heck out of Castle in the Sky, the opening act and even more the opening credits animation had me in a transport of joy the first time I watched the film, which made me a lot more conscious of the weaknesses of the rest of the film. To me, Wall-E and Up are more like Castle in the Sky than like Howl's Moving Castle in that regard (i.e., the film as a whole is a triumph for me) than like Howl's Moving Castle; FMMV.

Edited by SDG

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[W]hile I admire the heck out of Castle in the Sky, the opening act and even more the opening credits animation had me in a transport of joy the first time I watched the film, which made me a lot more conscious of the weaknesses of the rest of the film. To me, Wall-E and Up are more like Castle in the Sky than like Howl's Moving Castle in that regard (i.e., the film as a whole is a triumph for me) than like Howl's Moving Castle; FMMV.

"Truimph" might be slightly too positive of a word for my feelings on the films (particularly w/r/t Up), but yes, I should clarify that I do, to varying degress, like the less-infused-with-awesomeness bulks of WALL-E or Up. It's not as though I'm trying to invoke Mike D'Angelo's infamous review of Saving Private Ryan. ("Crap crap genius genius genius genius genius genius genius genius crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap genius genius genius genius genius genius genius genius crap crap.")

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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