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Peter T Chattaway

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LOL.

I love D'Angelo's review of The International: "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzGUGGENHEIM!!!zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

I suppose if I followed that format to sum up my experiences of WALL-E and Up it would be "AWESOMEAWESOMEAWESOMEAWEOMEfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfanta

sticfantasticGRATITUDE."

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I suppose if I followed that format to sum up my experiences of WALL-E and Up it would be "AWESOMEAWESOMEAWESOMEAWEOMEfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfantasticfanta

sticfantasticGRATITUDE."

Well said. :)

(The rest of the stuff you said about the film in your earlier post was well said too.)

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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.

Just how much thought went into Ellie's character? They even gave her a balloon-shaped head. (I heard one of the filmmakers discussing that in an interview recently, I can't remember where.) I thought she was a fantastic character. She had so much personality and style, and so did her scrapbook.

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Just how much thought went into Ellie's character? They even gave her a balloon-shaped head. (I heard one of the filmmakers discussing that in an interview recently, I can't remember where.) I thought she was a fantastic character. She had so much personality and style, and so did her scrapbook.

She is a fantastic character, and makes more of an impact in ten minutes (or less?) than many characters make in a whole movie. At the same time, the towering issue in the film is the Ellie-shaped hole in Carl's life -- and, as Peter's Grief Observed comments highlight, the way that hole is ever so slowly losing its shape as the tide comes in.

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: I don't think he's entirely two-dimensional.

Not entirely, perhaps, no. You can certainly hear Christopher Plummer striving to make a real character out of him, especially in that scene that you highlight. But there's so little there, it serves little purpose beyond flipping him like a pancake from "good" to "bad", and suggesting that he has killed people before and is ready to do so again.

Personally, I wasn't sure why Carl was so reluctant to let Muntz know about Kevin in the first place. Kevin's just a bird, right? And at that point in the story, Muntz is still Carl's childhood hero. (Yes, I can understand from a dramaturgical point of view that Kevin has children, and therefore the loss of Kevin would mean the loss of a parent to those children (do they have no second parent?), and that the ability to have children is of thematic importance to the movie as a whole... but if I put myself in Carl's position, in that moment in time, I might be somewhat excited by the thought that I can help my lifelong hero achieve his lifelong quest.)

: 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.

Well, I don't think the bird was EVER important to Carl. Carl just wanted to take the house down to Paradise Falls, like he had promised Ellie they would do. That's another reason I am puzzled by his reluctance to reveal the bird's existence to Muntz.

Overstreet wrote:

: I'm not really in the mood to spend much time expressing in great detail what a film means to me here anymore.

But ... but ... engagement! Learning from people who disagree with you! All that good stuff you've talked about before!

: 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 hate the movie sitting in the row behind me grumbling and heckling it all the way through.

Wow. I can't recall anybody here "hating" those movies.

: 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.

Well, I lost your number when my kids dropped my old cell phone in the lemonade a couple weeks ago. :)

: 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) . . .

Was Carl ever a big fan of B-movie stories, though? I'd have to go back and check this out again, I guess, but it seemed to me that Muntz was not the star of fictitious B-movies, but rather, he was a real-life explorer who took pride in his accomplishments. Paradise Falls was a real place that children could really imagine they would really go to some day, not a matte painting or a movie set or something that existed only on the screen.

(Side note: If the story starts in the '30s, as I believe it does, then Carl and Ellie would have reached adulthood and marriage etc. either during or after World War II. I wonder if Carl ever considered joining the army as a way to "see the world".)

: I don't mind conventions when they're invested with such passion and grace.

Well, as with a lot of your generalities, I don't see where these ones are coming from, necessarily. The film certainly has energy -- I guess that can overlap with passion. As for grace, I dunno. Even people who like the film, like Darryl, have called it "rushed", and I would agree.

: It tells a story that's the antidote to the "family is whatever you make it" kind of Hollywood standard.

Really? If anything, I'd say the surrogate (grand)father aspect of the story fits right in with that Hollywood standard.

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

Heh. I did like Russell's enthusiasm there. At least they kept the poop off-screen -- unlike all those spittle-and-phlegm shots. Gah.

SDG wrote:

: 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.

Yeah, I may be taking my cues from some of the reviews I have read, as to what may be mentioned in a review and what may not.

: He's one of the more interesting villains in recent animated fare.

I think he COULD have been -- he's certainly an interesting IDEA for a villain -- but there just isn't much, there. And of course the talking dogs don't help. (For me, that is.)

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

I would agree, except I don't see an "arc" there. I see a beginning and an ending, but nothing in the middle that would explain how we got from one to the other. Was he ALWAYS a murderous brute? Or did something happen to him during all his decades in isolation? Who knows, who cares, and it's on to the next thing.

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

Heh. I hadn't, at the time. But I do like your spin on that bit. And your comments about "baggage" and "burdens" are now cast in a whole new light. :)

: 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.

Well, I wouldn't say I was making "much" of those details, just noting that when details recur across a series of films made by the same creative team, you can detect a certain pattern in their sensibility. If I were looking at Up in isolation, I wouldn't make much of this at all. (Nor would I complain about the lack of female protagonists.) But since you could easily call this film Pixar 10 -- something that the trailers, with all their references to Pixar's previous films, pretty much encourage -- I think one can legitimately point to how this film fits in (or doesn't) with Pixar's previous output.

(Oh, and hey, according to that 'Easter eggs" page that Jeff linked to, the construction work near Carl's place is for a new Buy'N'Large outlet. Hmmm.)

: : 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. smile.gif

Exactly. I'm not sure if

that connection is accidental or one of those subtle things that I only picked up in hindsight

, but either way, I'll take it. :) (Heck, it might every well have been

an accidental thing that the filmmakers themselves picked up in hindsight somewhere along the way

; story creation is full of moments like that.)

: Very, very good connection.

Thanks!

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SPOILER CONTINUE

Personally, I wasn't sure why Carl was so reluctant to let Muntz know about Kevin in the first place.

Because of Russell, silly. Russell would have been horrified. And then it wasn't long before Carl realized how far gone Muntz really was.

Was Carl ever a big fan of B-movie stories, though? I'd have to go back and check this out again, I guess, but it seemed to me that Muntz was not the star of fictitious B-movies, but rather, he was a real-life explorer who took pride in his accomplishments.

True, Muntz saw himself as a real explorer, but the world saw him differently ... and while Up doesn't tell us what the feature was that Carl was there to see that day, it seems safe to say that the effect that Muntz had on young Carl's imagination would likely have made him a big fan of Republic serials and the like.

: It tells a story that's the antidote to the "family is whatever you make it" kind of Hollywood standard.

Really? If anything, I'd say the surrogate (grand)father aspect of the story fits right in with that Hollywood standard.

Only after first grieving the absenteeism of the father. That makes it different.

Yeah, I may be taking my cues from some of the reviews I have read, as to what may be mentioned in a review and what may not.

Yeah, I try to avoid that. In my review I didn't even describe the balloon scene or the house taking off.

I think he COULD have been -- he's certainly an interesting IDEA for a villain -- but there just isn't much, there. And of course the talking dogs don't help. (For me, that is.)

Have you ever had a dog? I admit, it took me aback at first, but eventually the sheer dogginess of the dialogue won me over. That, that is EXACTLY how dogs think. :)

I would agree, except I don't see an "arc" there. I see a beginning and an ending, but nothing in the middle that would explain how we got from one to the other.

In light of the general themes of the piece, a beginning and an ending is enough for me to go with. Your analysis of "pancake flipping" in Crash won me over, because the juxtapositions were merely startling to our preconceptions without involving any larger context or plausible mechanism. Here, though, it's not hard at all to fill in the blanks.

Heh. I hadn't, at the time. But I do like your spin on that bit.

Thanks, I hoped you would, especially since I remember you being appreciative of my house-analysis in The Spiderwick Chronicles. :)

Well, I wouldn't say I was making "much" of those details, just noting that when details recur across a series of films made by the same creative team, you can detect a certain pattern in their sensibility. If I were looking at Up in isolation, I wouldn't make much of this at all. (Nor would I complain about the lack of female protagonists.) But since you could easily call this film Pixar 10 -- something that the trailers, with all their references to Pixar's previous films, pretty much encourage -- I think one can legitimately point to how this film fits in (or doesn't) with Pixar's previous output.

That's fine, and it might warrant a sentence or two in an essay about technology and such in Pixar movies, but in terms of understanding this particular film I don't think a quasi-auteur approach of bringing WALL-E-ness into Up is a helpful approach.

Exactly. I'm not sure if

that connection is accidental or one of those subtle things that I only picked up in hindsight

, but either way, I'll take it. :) (Heck, it might every well have been

an accidental thing that the filmmakers themselves picked up in hindsight somewhere along the way

; story creation is full of moments like that.)

Indeed!

P.S. Are you pulling my leg with the spoiler tags? :)

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SPOILER CONTINUE

Personally, I wasn't sure why Carl was so reluctant to let Muntz know about Kevin in the first place.

Because of Russell, silly. Russell would have been horrified. And then it wasn't long before Carl realized how far gone Muntz really was.

Wasn't it just a scene or two before this that Russell makes Carl promise to help Kevin using the "cross your heart" phrase?

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SPOILER CONTINUE
Personally, I wasn't sure why Carl was so reluctant to let Muntz know about Kevin in the first place.
Because of Russell, silly. Russell would have been horrified. And then it wasn't long before Carl realized how far gone Muntz really was.
Wasn't it just a scene or two before this that Russell makes Carl promise to help Kevin using the "cross your heart" phrase?

Ah, right, thanks. So it was because of Russell, who made him cross his heart in the first place, but it was also bound up in an oath and even in Carl's loyalty to Ellie, with whom he associates that phrase.

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I haven't followed the link to the Time article yet myself, but here's Chris Orr's commentary on Richard Corliss' ranking of the 10 best vocal performances in Pixar films.

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FYI, I'm giving away an Up poster to the writer of my favorite entry in an Up review contest. 600 - 1200 words. Deadline next Monday at noon. Email me your review and I'll publish my favorites.

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SDG wrote:

: : Personally, I wasn't sure why Carl was so reluctant to let Muntz know about Kevin in the first place.

:

: Because of Russell, silly. Russell would have been horrified.

This, in and of itself, wouldn't necessarily persuade me; Carl and Russell don't exactly sing from the same page all the time. But if Carl had "crossed his heart" with regard to Kevin by that point already, then, well, okay, I guess.

: And then it wasn't long before Carl realized how far gone Muntz really was.

Well, you can hardly justify anyone's behaviour at any given moment by what they learn LATER. Just because WE'VE seen the trailer doesn't mean that THEY have. :)

: True, Muntz saw himself as a real explorer, but the world saw him differently ... and while Up doesn't tell us what the feature was that Carl was there to see that day, it seems safe to say that the effect that Muntz had on young Carl's imagination would likely have made him a big fan of Republic serials and the like.

That's certainly a plausible explanation. It's just not a connection that the movie itself makes. (But hey, if I can "explain" the gaps in Terminator Salvation, then Pixar fans can certainly "explain" the gaps in Up. :) )

: : : It tells a story that's the antidote to the "family is whatever you make it" kind of Hollywood standard.

: :

: : Really? If anything, I'd say the surrogate (grand)father aspect of the story fits right in with that Hollywood standard.

:

: Only after first grieving the absenteeism of the father. That makes it different.

Well, that's hardly unprecedented. Aren't most "family is whatever you make it" stories responding on some level to absentee something-or-other? (FWIW, it wasn't clear to me whether Russell's father was a "deadbeat", as Jeff suggested, or a workaholic who is always out of town. There'd be a huge difference between the two -- though I'm not sure it would matter to Russell either way. Absence is absence.)

: Yeah, I try to avoid that. In my review I didn't even describe the balloon scene or the house taking off.

Yeah, I noticed that. It made me wonder how you'd manage if your website posted images from the films it reviews. :)

: Have you ever had a dog?

Nope. A cat and a budgie, but not at the same time; and for a while I lived with my brother, who has an aquarium. On the other hand, my wife's aunt has a dog (she used to have two, but one passed away), and two of my uncles owned dogs at various points in their lives.

: I admit, it took me aback at first, but eventually the sheer dogginess of the dialogue won me over. That, that is EXACTLY how dogs think. :)

Well, some of the time it is, yeah, sure. But at times it just reminded me of stupid people, period. (Some of Dug's dialogue actually got me thinking of Kevin Spacey's idiot brother in A Bug's Life.)

: Thanks, I hoped you would, especially since I remember you being appreciative of my house-analysis in The Spiderwick Chronicles. :)

I am, indeed, impressed by your ability to pull that film and Monster House into your review of this film. There does seem to be a thesis there -- but I can't say I've particularly thought about either of those films since I first saw them, so the connection never, ever occurred to me. Did you make those connections due to an impressive memory on your part, or does your family watch those films on a regular basis? :)

: P.S. Are you pulling my leg with the spoiler tags? :)

Heh, no, actually. Though I hoped you'd smile. But there are times when I don't even want to run the risk of HINTING at what happens near the end of a film, lest it get people speculating. There are certain surprises that are only surprises if you don't know a surprise is coming; once you know that you should be expecting SOMEthing at a certain point in the story. it's often quite easy to guess what that something would be.

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(FWIW, it wasn't clear to me whether Russell's father was a "deadbeat", as Jeff suggested, or a workaholic who is always out of town. There'd be a huge difference between the two -- though I'm not sure it would matter to Russell either way. Absence is absence.)

The implication is that Russell's dad is living with another woman. When Russell calls him, another woman answers the phone. Another woman, he points out, who *isn't* his mom. And that's definitely his mom who comes to the badge ceremony at the end. That's one of the things that thrilled me time and time again through this film: Its courage in addressing the deadbeat-dad problem without giving the dad any kind of modern excuse. That makes this film stand out from any other animated "absentee parent" films that I can think of.

Edited by Overstreet

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That's one of the things that thrilled me time and time again through this film: Its courage in addressing the deadbeat-dad problem without giving the dad any kind of modern excuse.

That makes this film stand out from any other animated "absentee parent" films that I can think of.

Yeah, that's probably true. Among family films generally (not just animated ones), The Spiderwick Chronicles also does this -- in spades (not to mention butcher knives). So does E.T. (sans the deadly weapons). There may be others, but even so it's a pretty exclusive club, and yeah, it's something I value highly in all these films.

Edited by SDG

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I'll link to the full John Podhoretz review once it become available, but it's a bit of a head-scratcher. After confessing that the film made him laugh and cry, and calling it "immensely affecting," Podhoretz accuses the film of being boring for long stretches. He then called Monsters Inc. "Pixar's masterpiece."

A sampling:

The fact is that you won't hear anyone say Up is boring because it would be, well, improper to say it-just as you never heard anybody say its Pixar predecessor, Wall-E, completely ran out of steam in its disastrous second half, even though everybody knew it did. A cultural orthodoxy has been imposed on us, according to which it is impermissible to criticize a Pixar film.

Pixar, the cartoon maker whose 10 feature films since 1995 have set a new standard for the animated film, has now become an Object of Cultural Piety (OCP), which is simultaneously one of the deadliest and most potent forces known to man. Once someone or something becomes an OCP, it must be the subject of veneration. ...

That is the danger built into becoming an OCP. It is an enviable accomplishment. It brings awards and praise and cash, and ensures you a place in the American Pantheon. But it almost always happens just after you have hit your peak and are on the way down. Critics may have dubbed Wall-E Pixar's greatest work, but there is no chance it will be remembered as fondly, or thought of with affection as deeply, as Toy Story or Finding Nemo or even Cars, which is the least of them but does manage to burrow itself into a child's consciousness and won't let go.

That caution about OCPs is worth heeding, I think, but some of the assertions about other Pixar films border on risible.

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The fact is that you won't hear anyone say Up is boring because it would be, well, improper to say it-just as you never heard anybody say its Pixar predecessor, Wall-E, completely ran out of steam in its disastrous second half, even though everybody knew it did. A cultural orthodoxy has been imposed on us, according to which it is impermissible to criticize a Pixar film.

Hogwash. Many critics, even Pixar fans, discussed varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the second half of both WALL-E and Up. And A Bug's Life, come to think of it. I love WALL-E and Up, and yet I freely acknowledge that the first act of is the strongest act in both films. And I've criticized other Pixar films. To this day I have no desire to own A Bug's Life, and I only like certain stretches of Monsters Inc. Most Pixar fans I know will discuss high points and low points.

Podhoretz is creating a straw-man consensus so he can look bold in knocking it down.

"... even though everybody knew it did..."?

That's the kind of arrogance that makes me stop reading. Not just the article... but anything from that writer.

Edited by Overstreet

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What Overstreet said.

If Podhoretz wants to criticize Up, Wall-E or any other movie, I'm all ears. The argument he's actually making is unworthy of engagement.

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If Podhoretz wants to criticize Up, Wall-E or any other movie, I'm all ears. The argument he's actually making is unworthy of engagement.

The problem with arguments like his is that they are preemptive ad hominem attacks. If you were to challenge his views of the movie, it would only "prove" that he is right: that attacking Pixar is impermissible, and that any courageous truth-teller (i.e. him) who does it comes under attack by the mindless thugs enforcing the orthodoxy (i.e. you). Engaging in a discussion with someone who has taken such a position is of doubtful utility.

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If Podhoretz wants to criticize Up, Wall-E or any other movie, I'm all ears. The argument he's actually making is unworthy of engagement.

The problem with arguments like his is that they are preemptive ad hominem attacks. If you were to challenge his views of the movie, it would only "prove" that he is right: that attacking Pixar is impermissible, and that any courageous truth-teller (i.e. him) who does it comes under attack by the mindless thugs enforcing the orthodoxy (i.e. you). Engaging in a discussion with someone who has taken such a position is of doubtful utility.

Which is why I take a third way -- I neither challenge his views of the film ("If Podhoretz wants to criticize Up, Wall-E or any other movie, I'm all ears") nor engage him in discussion (on his ad hominem argument). I'm not enforcing any orthodoxy, merely ignoring the posturing of a self-styled heretic martyr.

In other words, Podhoretz's take on the film is within the pale as far as I'm concerned. If he wants to think of himself as boldly outside the pale, that's his lookout. If he wants to accuse me and all Pixar fans of casting him outside the pale, that's a judgment I consider beyond the pale. But it's a judgment about Pixar fans, not Pixar films.

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Overstreet wrote:

: The implication is that Russell's dad is living with another woman. When Russell calls him, another woman answers the phone. Another woman, he points out, who *isn't* his mom.

: And that's definitely his mom who comes to the badge ceremony at the end.

Huh. For some reason I thought the woman he was talking about (and the woman we see at the end) was his stepmother. Or, maybe, some sort of foster mother.

Side note: Does anyone ever talk about deadbeat moms at the movies?

Side side note: SDG, it just occurred to me that Zathura might fit into this "house" theme, too.

Christian wrote:

: I'll link to the full John Podhoretz review once it become available, but it's a bit of a head-scratcher.

Has it ever been otherwise with JPod?

JPod wrote:

: The fact is that you won't hear anyone say Up is boring because it would be, well, improper to say it-just as you never heard anybody say its Pixar predecessor, Wall-E, completely ran out of steam in its disastrous second half, even though everybody knew it did.

What, JPod thinks he's the first person to make these claims?

Personally, I don't think I would call Up "boring". "Conventional", yes, in places. "Forgettable", maybe, even, in the sense that conventions are forgettable. But I wasn't twiddling my thumbs through this movie like I was through, say, Cars.

: A cultural orthodoxy has been imposed on us, according to which it is impermissible to criticize a Pixar film.

Once this claim is adjusted for hyperbole, I must say it's certainly hard to argue with it, at least when you come across critics who gleefully claim that Pixar has a "perfect score" of 10 for 10, or that Pixar has never made a mediocre film, etc. Cars broke the streak (everywhere but the box office, where Ratatouille has a better claim to be a streak-breaker, at least domestically) and that's that.

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Well, you can hardly justify anyone's behaviour at any given moment by what they learn LATER. Just because WE'VE seen the trailer doesn't mean that THEY have. :)

I hadn't seen the trailer.

I seem to recall it happening rather quickly ... I can't say for sure, but it seems to me even momentary reluctance to hand Kevin over might have gotten Carl to the tipping point where he began to realize what sort of man Muntz was.

: True, Muntz saw himself as a real explorer, but the world saw him differently ... and while Up doesn't tell us what the feature was that Carl was there to see that day, it seems safe to say that the effect that Muntz had on young Carl's imagination would likely have made him a big fan of Republic serials and the like.

: Only after first grieving the absenteeism of the father. That makes it different.

Well, that's hardly unprecedented. Aren't most "family is whatever you make it" stories responding on some level to absentee something-or-other? (FWIW, it wasn't clear to me whether Russell's father was a "deadbeat", as Jeff suggested, or a workaholic who is always out of town. There'd be a huge difference between the two -- though I'm not sure it would matter to Russell either way. Absence is absence.)

But not all absence is mourned. Not all parents are held responsible for their absence. In some stories, divorce is just the way things are, something to be accepted. E.g., Zathura.

Yeah, I noticed that. It made me wonder how you'd manage if your website posted images from the films it reviews. :)

When I handed off my review to my editor at the Register, I knew the Register layout artist likes splashy layouts where possible, so I asked my editor to pass along a message that it was okay to show the balloons, but to please avoid showing the balloons lifting up the house -- to consider it a challenge. :) Alas, advertising ate up the space, and they had only one modest image with no balloons at all.

: Thanks, I hoped you would, especially since I remember you being appreciative of my house-analysis in The Spiderwick Chronicles. :)

I am, indeed, impressed by your ability to pull that film and Monster House into your review of this film. There does seem to be a thesis there -- but I can't say I've particularly thought about either of those films since I first saw them, so the connection never, ever occurred to me. Did you make those connections due to an impressive memory on your part, or does your family watch those films on a regular basis? :)

No, it's just writing about them that cemented the details in my mind.

The germ for the motif started with Zathura, where it seems to me we could see the angst of the broken home tranfered to the literal destruction of that beautiful Craftsman home. I concluded, "Somehow, no matter how the damage escalates, the boys are sure that if they can only finish the game to the end, the house will be magically put back to rights. It would be nice to see this as a metaphor for the secret wish to have an intact family again." (Looking back at my review, I see I explicitly compared the "literal uprooting" of the house to The Wizard of Oz.)

That idea was then reinforced by Spiderwick, a movie that struck me at once as a remarkably apt counterpoint to Zathura, with "two brothers with an older teenaged sister living with one of two divorced parents in a spacious old house full of woodwork -- and a dumbwaiter! -- assailed from without by paranormal forces."

The great difference, though, was that in Spiderwick the almost demonic goblin attack on the house seems clearly thematically linked to the impending dissolution of the marriage ... especially with the way that the magical circle that protects the house, the circle that the goblins cannot cross, and which the children are safe as long as they stay inside the circle, close to home -- that circle falls and the house crumbles under the goblin assault within hours of Jared discovering that his father has moved in with another woman, that he isn't coming back for Jared. The father has abandoned his family, the circle is broken, and the goblins can enter. And that means that the man who wears the face of Jared's father, the man who smiles at Jared and says he loves him -- that man is a troll.

I didn't initially connect Monster House with the other two, but as soon as I started thinking about Up the connections to Monster House leaped out at me, and then Zathura and Spiderwick got rolled into the mix.

We had an extended debate about Monster House here, IYR. Some participants (without looking back, I don't remember who said what) felt that the house embodied Nebbercracker's wife in such a literal way that destroying the house was analogous to euthanizing a loved one. But I took the view that Nebbercracker's wife was dead, and the house represented, not the wife herself, but ... okay, I'll get the exact phrase, I said the house represented "the tyrannical shadow of a tragedy he can't put behind him, a dreadful memory that has taken hold will not let go."

In other words, I saw Nebbercracker as having long since succumbed to what, for Carl, has begun to be a danger toward the end of Up. Both men lost their wives; both men grieved and lived in the shadow of that grief and their lost life together for years afterward.

But Nebbercracker did so for far longer, and never let it go, never cut it loose. For Nebbercracker, the house -- his memories, his mourning, his grief and loyalty to his wife -- became a deathtrap, a monster, just as Carl's house eventually threatens to become.

Grief is critical, necessary and healthy, but there is also unhealthy, crippling, pathological grief. Carl, who lived to a ripe old age with his beloved bride and laid her to rest in peace, was able to make the transition far more easily than Nebbercracker, whose wife died prematurely, wrongfully and violently, in a state of rage. It's not hard to see how bitterness and obsession swallowed Nebbercracker for so many years, while Carl escaped comparatively unscathed.

So, in all four movies it's possible to see a house in turmoil or transition as more than a house, as representing in some way a shared life that has already passed away -- sort of the architectural after-image of a family that is no more.

In the two fantasy-action movies, the shared life was ended by divorce leaving children behind in a broken home; in the two computer animated films, by the death of the wife that leaves the man childless and alone.

And in both pairs of films the second film offers a contrast to the first film that is in some way healthier than what we see in the first film, either because the film's own attitude is healthier (in Spiderwick vs. Zathura) or because the characters' choices and outcomes are comparativey healthy (in Up vs. Monster House).

Maybe I'll try to work all that up into an essay, some time.

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Once this claim is adjusted for hyperbole, I must say it's certainly hard to argue with it, at least when you come across critics who gleefully claim that Pixar has a "perfect score" of 10 for 10, or that Pixar has never made a mediocre film, etc. Cars broke the streak (everywhere but the box office, where Ratatouille has a better claim to be a streak-breaker, at least domestically) and that's that.

I used to use language like "perfect score," but now I just say that I, personally, am greatly impressed by all of their films, and have registered only minor complaints about two of them (and Cars isn't one of those). But I don't frown upon people who disagree with me. I only frown upon language that shows a critic to think himself capable of having the "final answer" on this matter, or who pretends to have a vantage point by which he can make presumptuous generalizations about other critics. Forgive me, but the expression "and that's that" sounds as presumptuous as "perfect score." Nobody here gets to have the "final answer" on matters like this.

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SDG wrote:

: Maybe I'll try to work all that up into an essay, some time.

Seems like you're almost halfway there -- looking forward to it! :)

Re: Zathura, I note that you cite that film both as an example of the "angst" around broken homes but also as an example of how divorce just needs to be "accepted". I don't think these two statements are necessarily contradictory, but I noticed the two references just the same. Perhaps you would argue that the film presents characters who feel "angst" around the break-up of their family but learn to "accept" it in the end. But the very fact that the "angst" exists is still kind of telling, no?

Overstreet wrote:

: Forgive me, but the expression "and that's that" sounds as presumptuous as "perfect score."

It's not presumptuous (I've seen all ten films, after all). It's adamant. :)

The important thing to note here is that Cars does have a certain reputation that alert critics -- critics who see themselves as part of a broader conversation that goes beyond the studio hype -- will at least acknowledge, even if they remain neutral on the question of whether Cars deserves that reputation. Hence, I can certainly respect a critic like Todd McCarthy who begins his review of Up by saying, "Depending on what you think of 'Cars,' Pixar makes it either 9

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: Maybe I'll try to work all that up into an essay, some time.

Seems like you're almost halfway there -- looking forward to it! :)

Thanks!

Re: Zathura, I note that you cite that film both as an example of the "angst" around broken homes but also as an example of how divorce just needs to be "accepted". I don't think these two statements are necessarily contradictory, but I noticed the two references just the same. Perhaps you would argue that the film presents characters who feel "angst" around the break-up of their family but learn to "accept" it in the end. But the very fact that the "angst" exists is still kind of telling, no?

Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "telling."

To me the question would be: Are we meant to see angst here -- and not just angst, but anger at parents who are seen as having failed their children -- as a just and proper response, even if one that either ultimately needs to give way to or at least coexist with acceptance?

Or is the lesson that this angst and anger is like the resentment children feel when, say, their family moves to a new town and they lose their friends and have to deal with a brand-new social scene?

As I remember it, in Zathura the older brother Walter's resentment over being shuffled from father to mother doesn't seem that different from his generally grumpy attitude toward his younger brother Danny. If you want to go beyond the movie's own perspective on its events, I guess you might say that it's "telling" that Walter treats Danny the way he does, in the sense that he is taking out on Danny his sense that the family unit is not what it should be. But I think the movie's perspective is that Walter is being just as unjust to his parents as he is to Danny, and that he needs to get over it and accept that this is just the way things are without it being anyone's fault.

: Forgive me, but the expression "and that's that" sounds as presumptuous as "perfect score."

It's not presumptuous (I've seen all ten films, after all). It's adamant. :)

I think by "presumptuous" Jeff may mean that in the context of the present conversation, in which we have all been accused of complicity in a conspiracy of silence not to allow criticism of WALL-E when "everyone knows" that it runs completely out of steam -- i.e., it's an objective fact that the rest of us "really" know but are suppressing -- to say "Cars is mediocre and that's that" seems to suggest a similar sense of "final answer" preemptiveness and dismissiveness, rather than engagement with a broader conversation.

Now, from where I sit, if any Pixar film is mediocre, it's A Bug's Life. I'll take Cars over ABL in a New York minute. I say "from where I sit," not "that's that."

OTOH, I also contend that (from where I sit) Pixar's record can be called "perfect" in the sense that they have never produced a bad film. I won't say they haven't produced a mediocre one, although my only asterisk in that regard is ABL.

Edited by SDG

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The more I think about it, the more insulting Podhoretz's posturing is. There is nothing wrong with being a contrarian or a minority report, on Pixar or anything else. Why not just embrace it? Why shake your fist at the world and say "I won't be silenced, damn you!" Who is trying to silence anyone?

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