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Transplanted from premature Up discussion...

FWIW, my Cars review.

I think there is daring in the decision to create an entirely automotive parallel world of such silliness and whimsy, a world without drivers, humans or living creatures of any kind, with cow-like tractors (and tractor tipping), insect-like VW Bugs, automorphic landscapes, etc. There is also a certain brio in a finale in which the hero

comes in third

in the big race.

Isn't it more of a requirement than an exceptional achievement for animated comedies to riff off of reality to create a unique fantasy world? What's so daring about that? (Or is it the sheer amount of whimsical fun that impresses you? Lord knows, it wouldn't be a Pixar movie if there wasn't plenty of gratuitous silliness.)

Well, compare Cars to the Toy Story films, for instance. What Toy Story films offer is a fantasy interpretation of our own world, from the imagined perspective of our own artifacts who share the world with us.

So do Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, in slightly different ways, though they also expand their scenarios to give the monsters and the fish their own "space" with anthropomorphic monster-worlds and fish-worlds on the fringes of the human world.

A Bug's Life similarly takes place in an anthropomorphic corner of our world, in this case without involving humans at all. DreamWorks' Shark Tale does the same. There's nothing unusual about that. Nor is there anything unusual about all-out fantasy worlds like that of the Shrek films.

Cars is a little different. It isn't our world with a little imagination added (like the Toy Story films), or some corner of our world beyond our usual experience (like Finding Nemo and Shark Tale), or a parallel dimension linked to our world (like Monsters, Inc.), or an all-out fantasy world (like the Shrek films). It isn't even a mock homage of our world on an alternate scale, like the submarine Times Square of Shark Tale or the murine London-underground of Flushed Away (both of which, FWIW, I think I appreciated more than most).

It's our world, in great specificity -- the American Southwest, Route 66, Los Angeles, the Hudson Hornet, etc. -- but in a parallel automotive universe in which humans simply don't exist; a world reimagined as necessary to accommodate its automocentric conceit, from courtrooms to motels, press conferences to helicopters.

And, yeah, it is just so goofy (tractor tipping for goodness sakes) and imaginatively, um, fleshed out that I can't help admiring the creative juice at work in the film, despite its flaws.

And this specificity is grounded in the fact that it is a film with an idea -- even if a half-baked one -- or at least a film that really cares about something real, rooted in the filmmakers' own interests and engagement with the world. It doesn't feel prefabricated, artificial, the way the Shrek films do.

And though it's somewhat preachy, it seems persuasively a preachiness that is at least grounded in appreciation, in affection for something, not just in scolding people for how bad they are, like the typical anti-human environmentalist kid-pic (e.g., Brother Bear, Over the Hedge -- and, again, I liked Over the Hedge).

Yikes, I don't mean to overstate it! This is a three-star, B-plus film, no better. But it's a three-star film with something humming under the hood, something can can be more and do better than this, and you get flashes of that throughout the film.

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Let me be the first (?) to say that I prefer Cars to A Bug's Life.

For the record, so do I.

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Let me be the first (?) to say that I prefer Cars to A Bug's Life.
For the record, so do I.

For the record, your preference was already a matter of record (I wasn't the first).

However, I disagree with you about Monsters, Inc. (I know, Crystal's shtick grates on you).

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SDG, thanks! for the in-depth reply. FWIW, I agree with your last paragraph entirely. We're reaching the same conclusion through slightly different means.

Although I agree that there are significant differences between Cars and the movies you've listed, there's another movie which makes a better comparison IMHO, one which I'm not sure if you've even seen -- it received practically no discussion here at A&F. That movie is Surf's Up. When I get a chance (work presses), I'll elaborate.

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Overstreet wrote:

: There was value in the "winding road" . . .

And that road is still there. It is, in fact, even MORE valuable now, because it has become a special destination and not just a route that everyone is forced to take whether they like it or not. (Most people like to go "off the beaten path" once in a while, no? Now that the "winding road" is no longer "the beaten path" itself, it has the opportunity to be something else, something better, yes?) It was the movie's insinuation that there is something wrong with faster, more efficient freeways -- and that we should feel pity for road-dependent businessmen who refuse to go where the road is -- that annoyed me more than anything else. Nowhere did I get the sense that pavement, per se, was a bad thing or a sign of loss: how could it be, in a movie about racing cars?

It is interesting, though, to see how Lasseter's approach to modernization has changed, between now and A Bug's Life. A Bug's Life celebrates an inventor who creates labour-saving devices designed to harvest the crops more efficiently -- a theme that stood in stark contrast to the satire of industrialization in Antz, a similar insect-themed cartoon released only the month before. But now Cars, as you say, seems to be a reaction against all that -- it seems to say that doing things quickly and more efficiently (and not, say, enjoying the beauty of the plants that one harvests, as one harvests them) is more of a problem than a solution.

Maybe Lasseter is beginning to have second thoughts about the monster he has helped to create. ;)

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FWIW, my son was watching this the other day, and I finally happened to re-watch the entire sequence that so offended me the first time I saw this film ... and, yeah, it's just as offensive the second time around.

I mean, really. I quote from memory: "Back then, people didn't drive to MAKE great time, they drove to HAVE a great time." Seriously? I mean, really?

Are we really supposed to believe that people never tried to get anywhere as fast as they could in the 1950s (or whenever "the old days" are in this scenario)? Are we really supposed to believe that every drive down the highway in those days was some sort of relaxing luxury cruise? And are we really supposed to believe that nobody drives for fun any more nowadays?

At best, this is stupid, and at worst, it's a lie. And the fact that these lines are delivered in the same slow, dull tone that John Lasseter uses whenever he's promoting a Disney movie and trying to make it sound Really Important doesn't help.

I could go into more detail, but work beckons, and I'm sure some of those details have already been fleshed out in this thread as it is. But I figured I'd just note that this movie still comes across the way it did when it first came out four years ago.

Oh, and it dawned on me while watching bits of the film this week that the agent played by Jeremy Piven is kind of a precursor to the agent we see in Bolt (the first Disney movie made more-or-less from scratch after Lasseter took the reins at that studio). For whatever that's worth.

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FWIW, I take the statement to be a generalization.

And FWIW, in my experience it's a reasonable generalization. I've heard folks from my grandparents' generationtalk about how they'd take a Sunday drive for recreation. Never in my life have my parents or my friends suggested to me that we "go for a drive" as an event in itself.

I'm sure there are exceptions here or there. Or, maybe "going for a drive" is the rule, and I'm living out a very strange exception to the rest of America. Maybe you folks go for drives just for the experience of it. I hate traffic, and freeways don't give me any reason to want to just "go for a drive" on them. I suppose that if I did, I might discover an outlet mall I haven't noticed before, but that's not enough to inspire me to try it.

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At best, this is stupid, and at worst, it's a lie. And the fact that these lines are delivered in the same slow, dull tone that John Lasseter uses whenever he's promoting a Disney movie and trying to make it sound Really Important doesn't help.

Isn't that the technology question in general? In 20 years are we going to see a movie called Internet?

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Overstreet wrote:

: FWIW, I take the statement to be a generalization.

Even if the generalization were true -- and it's not -- that wouldn't be a sufficient defense of the line in question. We're not just talking about some generalized point that someone makes on the way to making an even bigger point; we're talking about one of the film's CENTRAL ARGUMENTS. (Note again the slow, dull, Lasseter-ish tone. He's trying to make a point here.)

For somebody of Lasseter's generation (born in 1957) and tendency towards nostalgia, the 1950s and 1960s might seem like an idealized time in which people drove on highways purely to relax. But the actual films produced during the 1950s and 1960s say otherwise. Psycho (1960), for example, takes place at a motel -- a "motor hotel" built specifically to cater to passing traffic -- that is now completely vacant because "they moved the highway". And let's not forget the Goofy cartoon Freewayphobia (1965). People were complaining about bypasses and the faster pace of life even THEN.

Is Lasseter pointing to an even earlier era in the flashback sequence? Is he being nostalgic for the generation before his own? Possibly, I guess. But most of the residents of Radiator Springs are based on 1950s models, and the music in that sequence is by 1960s/1970s icon James Taylor, so that seems to be the era they're aiming for.

: I've heard folks from my grandparents' generation talk about how they'd take a Sunday drive for recreation.

Sure, and no one's denying that anyone ever did that. But like I've said before, nothing's stopping anyone from doing that NOW. If anything, the creation of faster-paced freeways for people who really do want to get places in a hurry has freed up space on the older, windier roads for people who really do want to do nothing more than enjoy the view.

: Never in my life have my parents or my friends suggested to me that we "go for a drive" as an event in itself.

You've got the wrong parents and friends, then. :)

Whenever we used to drive home from my late Oma's place, my sisters would insist that I drive down the Telegraph Trail instead of heading straight for the freeway -- and if there was time, we did that. I often go out of my way to take alternate routes to places, just to see what's along those roads. One or two of my better friends used to go for long drives with me to Maple Ridge just so we could hang out in a diner at 2 in the morning there. And I love, love, love it when I have an excuse to go for a long drive, whether it's to a concert somewhere in Washington State or a wedding on the far side of the Rockies in Alberta. I just wish my children had the patience for long trips, and the interest in long trips, that I have.

And those examples all date to a period long after I finished university. In my late teens, of course, my friends and I used to go cruising all the time, usually around Surrey and North Delta. (I happen to live in Surrey nowadays, and there are neighbourhoods I can never pass through without remembering those days.)

But do I feel guilty when I drive the streamlined Coquihalla Highway (built in the mid-1980s) instead of the older, windier Trans-Canada Highway? Hell no. Sometimes making great time really IS more important than having a great time. (Though I like to think that making great time CAN be one way of having a great time. Sometimes when I see a car or truck way, way in front of me, I "lock in" on that vehicle and think of nothing else until I've passed it, which could be as much as half-an-hour later. And then it's on to the next vehicle, way way out on the horizon. It helps the time fly.)

MLeary wrote:

: Isn't that the technology question in general? In 20 years are we going to see a movie called Internet?

Or CGI. Made by whatever company comes after Pixar.

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Oh, and it dawned on me while watching bits of the film this week that the agent played by Jeremy Piven is kind of a precursor to the agent we see in Bolt (the first Disney movie made more-or-less from scratch after Lasseter took the reins at that studio). For whatever that's worth.

I think that may be Lasseter's longing for yesteryear and days of old.

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Oh, and it dawned on me while watching bits of the film this week that the agent played by Jeremy Piven is kind of a precursor to the agent we see in Bolt (the first Disney movie made more-or-less from scratch after Lasseter took the reins at that studio). For whatever that's worth.

Maybe, kinda, sorta. The agent in Cars strikes me as a typical shallow, glib, insincere agent type like I'm sure I've seen before. The agent in Bolt is one of a kind, and one of the most hilarious supporting characters in recent memory. (He actually reminds me a little of someone I know.) We just rewatched Bolt this week, and he's so great.

I still have converging agreement with Jeff.

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Is Lasseter pointing to an even earlier era in the flashback sequence? Is he being nostalgic for the generation before his own? Possibly, I guess. But most of the residents of Radiator Springs are based on 1950s models, and the music in that sequence is by 1960s/1970s icon James Taylor, so that seems to be the era they're aiming for.

I think he's mixing generations a bit. My dad, who was born in 1931 grew up taking "Sunday drives" and continued that tradition with me, as I grew up in the 80's and early 90's. I didn't really know any of my friends who did and I never do it anymore, though.

I must admit though, I find this an odd point to be "offended" about. I view it, like Jeff, as a generalization. I don't even necessarily see it as specific to cars, although it is in a movie titled Cars. The characters in the film don't know they're not conscious in the real world. It's a generalization about longing for a slower pace of life that correctly or not, is viewed through the lens of nostalgia.

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: I must admit though, I find this an odd point to be "offended" about. I view it, like Jeff, as a generalization.

But is it a TRUE generalization? No. And is it a BACKGROUND generalization? No. Rather, it is one of the film's central arguments, and it is wrong.

As for why anyone might take "offense" at this argument... Well, for some reason I find my mind drifting back to our discussions of, e.g., Up, and how some people hoped that that film would make divorced dads feel guilty about not spending more time with their kids. Likewise, we could argue that Cars is trying to make people feel guilty about building and using the faster, better, straighter roads and thereby not spending more time with the landscape. But that is one form of guilt-tripping that I definitely can't and won't subscribe to.

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But is it a TRUE generalization? No.

I don't think you've established that. Neither the personal experiences you cite (driving home from your Oma's, etc.) nor the cinematic references you mention establish that a certain type of recreational country driving has not waned since, say, the 1950s. My own experience supports the sense that for most people "Sunday drive" has long been an archaism and the activity a quaint relic of a bygone era. Certainly saying that people "have the wrong parents and friends" doesn't help. If enough people have the "wrong" parents and friends, "Sunday driving" has waned. Nor does saying that people could still Sunday drive if they wanted to. The question isn't what people could do, it's what they do do.

The fact that Psycho documents the phenomenon of a road bypassed by a newer highway somewhere circa 1960 doesn't mean that by that year country roads and leisurely drives had all long since been bypassed by rushing modernity, that the process was not still ongoing. "Freewayphobia" sounds precisely like a document of a society in transition, whereas Cars is an elegiac look back at a transition long since completed.

Even if people in the 1960s, 50s or even 40s complained about life having already sped up, it doesn't follow that life then wasn't leisurely and relaxed compared to today. Life does continue to accelerate more and more. Heck, the commuters and consumers in Koyaanisqatsi look almost quaintly relaxed today. They didn't have the Internet, BlackBerrys or Twitter. In 1975 the highest speed limit in the country was 55. Ten years later we had 65. Today we have 75 and even 80.

From Wikipedia I learn that the Interstate Highway System, a product of the Eisenhower administration, got underway in 1956. So the transition in question began in the second half of the 1950s. Route 66 wasn't removed from the Highway System until 1985. The chronological locus of the movie's nostalgia seems reasonable.

Likewise, we could argue that Cars is trying to make people feel guilty about building and using the faster, better, straighter roads and thereby not spending more time with the landscape.

I don't see it as a guilt thing at all. It's an elegy, a lament.

I agree that the message is half-baked, as I've said many times. I find it less than persuasive. That doesn't stop me from enjoying the movie. I'm not sure I can wrap my head around why you seem to find it positively objectionable, why it seems personal for you. (That's not a question ... I don't need you to explain it to me again! :) )

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Likewise, we could argue that Cars is trying to make people feel guilty about building and using the faster, better, straighter roads and thereby not spending more time with the landscape. But that is one form of guilt-tripping that I definitely can't and won't subscribe to.

As I mentioned before, I'm not sure it's entirely about fast "roads" so much as more generally about our overall fast lifestyle. And whether or not things were slower "back then" (and if we're talking about general lifestyle, I don't think it can be denied they were*), we can certainly hope for slowing down and enjoying the scenery in our daily lives. I don't feel like Cars is trying to guilt me into this view - in fact, I embrace it as something I aspire toward.

All of this said, Cars is my least favorite Pixar offering thus far, I don't particularly want to use up too much effort in defending it.

* I will qualify that by saying I am confident that the 30-year-old in 1950 felt just as rushed as I do now when he looked at the speed of lifestyle in 1900.

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I don't see it as a guilt thing at all. It's an elegy, a lament.

Yeah, that's my sense of it too. And thus, the central characters learn to adjust in the end, with some appropriate sadness for what is being lost in the new era.

When I walk across campus here at SPU, I see that half or more of the students crossing campus are talking on cell phones. When I was a student here, students walked together and conversed, or gathered in large study groups on the grass. I don't see that happening nearly as often anymore. Thus I conclude that the culture has changed significantly, and that this change has brought about a significant loss... a diminishing of relationship and conversation with those who stumble into our path, due to the streamlining and accessibility of electronic communication with those we *choose* to contact.

This reflects, somewhat, the losses we've experienced due to the development of streamlined, efficient freeway systems that have made it rare and even sometimes difficult to experience the slow, winding, "Sunday drive" path of discovery between Points A & B. I'm not going to condemn freeways, but I do believe that I am missing something meaningful as a result.

Edited by Overstreet

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Even if people in the 1960s, 50s or even 40s complained about life having already sped up, it doesn't follow that life then wasn't leisurely and relaxed compared to today. Life does continue to accelerate more and more. Heck, the commuters and consumers in Koyaanisqatsi look almost quaintly relaxed today. They didn't have the Internet, BlackBerrys or Twitter. In 1975 the highest speed limit in the country was 55. Ten years later we had 65. Today we have 75 and even 80.

The 55 MPH speedlimit was passed in 1974. Before it was enacted, speed limits were similar to what they are now.

Likewise, we could argue that Cars is trying to make people feel guilty about building and using the faster, better, straighter roads and thereby not spending more time with the landscape.

I don't see it as a guilt thing at all. It's an elegy, a lament.

I agree. I don't think guilt gets the emotional tone of the movie right at all.

Edited by bowen

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Oh, and it dawned on me while watching bits of the film this week that the agent played by Jeremy Piven is kind of a precursor to the agent we see in Bolt (the first Disney movie made more-or-less from scratch after Lasseter took the reins at that studio). For whatever that's worth.

Maybe, kinda, sorta. The agent in Cars strikes me as a typical shallow, glib, insincere agent type like I'm sure I've seen before. The agent in Bolt is one of a kind, and one of the most hilarious supporting characters in recent memory. (He actually reminds me a little of someone I know.) We just rewatched Bolt this week, and he's so great.

Isn't Piven's character in Cars just his character from Entourage transplanted? I haven't seen Bolt, so I can't comment on that.

I don't see it as a guilt thing at all. It's an elegy, a lament.

Yeah, that's my sense of it too. And thus, the central characters learn to adjust in the end, with some appropriate sadness for what is being lost in the new era.

When I walk across campus here at SPU, I see that half or more of the students crossing campus are talking on cell phones. When I was a student here, students walked together and conversed, or gathered in large study groups on the grass. I don't see that happening nearly as often anymore. Thus I conclude that the culture has changed significantly, and that this change has brought about a significant loss... a diminishing of relationship and conversation with those who stumble into our path, due to the streamlining and accessibility of electronic communication with those we *choose* to contact.

Exactly. And this example, like the freeway system, is a tree to the woods I have attempted to describe.

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Before we go any further, here is the scene in question:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrVARbSHLGg

"Forty years ago, that interstate down there didn't exist. ... Back then, cars came across the country a whole different way." Okay, since the film came out in 2006, that takes us back to 1966 at the earliest. That's the period for which Lasseter feels nostalgia. (Coincidentally, that happens to be one year AFTER the release of the Goofy cartoon Freewayphobia -- and apparently eight years BEFORE highway speed limits were reduced or limited to 55mph.)

"Cars didn't drive on it to MAKE great time, they drove on it to HAVE a great time." Okay, that's the false generalization right there. Is this film seriously suggesting that people drove across the country for a Sunday drive? I don't think so. Is this film seriously suggesting that people didn't care how long it took them to get across the country? I hope not, for sanity's sake.

"You settled down and you built a town and made it there, and you watched it grow." Really? Then why is everybody driving across the country? And what's with everybody in Radiator Springs setting up businesses that are explicitly designed to appeal to PASSING TRAFFIC? (Side note: Where were all these "settlers" who "built this town" coming from? What ever happened to growing up within the town in which you were born? Is the film perhaps tacitly admitting that Radiator Springs was built during the '50s to capitalize on the new road system? If so, then exactly how many tears should we be shedding, really, just because the road system diverted traffic in a slightly different direction a couple decades later? Apparently the residents of Radiator Springs didn't have deep roots there to begin with -- apparently Radiator Springs is, itself, an expression of the culture's increased mobility -- so why couldn't they have moved when the traffic moved?)

"The town got bypassed just to save ten minutes of driving." Nope, no guilt-tripping there. I don't know how seriously I can take any claim to the effect that so much expensive damage was done to the landscape just to save ten minutes of driving. I don't suppose there could have been, oh, safety and maintenance issues that might have made straighter, shorter roads more appealing, too. Oh, and how DARE we all be better stewards of our time on the road when we could be spending time lollygagging in some semi-ghost town just to prop up some dying businesses.

SDG wrote:

: Neither the personal experiences you cite (driving home from your Oma's, etc.) nor the cinematic references you mention establish that a certain type of recreational country driving has not waned since, say, the 1950s.

I didn't say it hasn't waned. I haven't done any statistical analysis. I'm just saying that the film gives us what Obama might call a "false choice", between the luxury driving of the past and the fast driving of the present. The fact is, both kinds of driving have always been with us -- or at least for as long as there have been cars.

: The question isn't what people could do, it's what they do do.

Well, that depends. It depends on whether the film and its defenders are asserting that the new roads have REPLACED the old roads or whether they are asserting that the new roads have given drivers more OPTIONS.

: Heck, the commuters and consumers in Koyaanisqatsi look almost quaintly relaxed today. They didn't have the Internet, BlackBerrys or Twitter.

Koyaanisqatsi came out in 1983. I'm pretty sure I started dabbling in bulletin boards and primitive forms of e-mail not too long after that. (My father and I communicated by e-mail while the family went to Australia for a few months and I stayed home to finish high school in 1987.) So at least some of the people in Koyaanisqatsi probably had the Internet already. :)

: I agree that the message is half-baked, as I've said many times. I find it less than persuasive.

Believe me, I appreciate that.

: That doesn't stop me from enjoying the movie. I'm not sure I can wrap my head around why you seem to find it positively objectionable, why it seems personal for you. (That's not a question ... I don't need you to explain it to me again! :) )

Well, suffice it to say that Cars is still, to this day, the only Pixar movie that has had me thinking, in the theatre, "Do I really want to get this when it comes out on DVD?" I found it dull and boring to begin with. And then this bit of ill-advised sermonizing got dropped into the mix, and I guess it pushed me over the edge.

Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: I will qualify that by saying I am confident that the 30-year-old in 1950 felt just as rushed as I do now when he looked at the speed of lifestyle in 1900.

FWIW, here's a 1941 cartoon set in the 1890s; it includes a bit of driving in the "horseless carriage" towards the end:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUSJQVBLoKo

Overstreet wrote:

: This reflects, somewhat, the losses we've experienced due to the development of streamlined, efficient freeway systems that have made it rare and even sometimes difficult to experience the slow, winding, "Sunday drive" path of discovery between Points A & B. I'm not going to condemn freeways, but I do believe that I am missing something meaningful as a result.

Well, if you don't make time for "Sunday drives", and if you don't go looking for out-of-the-way roads on Google Maps or whatever (technology gives just as easily as it takes), then that's your choice. I don't think we can say that "society's to blame", as it were.

bowen wrote:

: I agree. I don't think guilt gets the emotional tone of the movie right at all.

My comment pertains to a single scene, and not the movie as a whole.

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When I walk across campus here at SPU, I see that half or more of the students crossing campus are talking on cell phones. When I was a student here, students walked together and conversed, or gathered in large study groups on the grass. I don't see that happening nearly as often anymore. Thus I conclude that the culture has changed significantly, and that this change has brought about a significant loss... a diminishing of relationship and conversation

Presumably though, there are people on the other end of those phones, no? And FWIW when I was a student I often walked across campus alone and in a rush.

And what's with everybody in Radiator Springs setting up businesses that are explicitly designed to appeal to PASSING TRAFFIC? (Side note: Where were all these "settlers" who "built this town" coming from? What ever happened to growing up within the town in which you were born?

And, more importantly, how did they build it anyway given that they only have tyres for hands?

That probably sounds more facetious than it was meant to be, but then I did get through 80% of this film with my 3.5 year old daughter before she asked something like "why are all the cars talking"?

Matt

Edited by MattPage

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And, more importantly, how did they build it anyway given that they only have tyres for hands?

That probably sounds more facetious than it was meant to be, but then I did get through 80% of this film with my 3.5 year old daughter before she asked something like "why are all the cars talking"?

Matt

That's the "gimmick" of Cars that bothers me. I was disappointed the first time I saw the movie but it has actually grown on me over time (I'm with those who feel that the controversial scenes being discussed are an elegy rather than a guilt-trip). But on a basic level, something doesn't quite connect in a world full of cars but no people. Why do all those cars have doors and rear-view mirrors when there are no people to open said doors and look in said rear-view mirrors? And the image of cars racing around a speedway while there are also cars sitting in the stands watching them is just... strange. I guess the human equivalent would be a track meet, but still.

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Yes, I have several times tried to repackage Cars in a different technology or product that makes similar commentary on shifts in human social behavior, and have a hard time. Carrier Pigeons? Scrolls? Musical Instruments? Would the instruments pluck themselves?

This exercise gets weird in a hurry.

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Peter,

Once again, I agree in significant part with your analysis; I made some of the same points myself in my original review, including the point about the elevated danger that came with "Bloody 66's" land-hugging curves. Obviously there were people trying to "make great time" on 66 even at the cost of driving too fast and causing accidents. I'm in favor of shorter, safer roads.

I could pick lots of nits with your analysis too, but I'll content myself with these basic points. The locus of the movie's nostalgic sense of loss is, variously, for a time when life was slower, when it was more common to stop and smell the roses, when people had a different relationship with the country they drove through, and when one particular community had its heyday. All of these seem to me reasonable subjects of a nostalgic sense of loss, and all of them can be credibly linked to the bypassing of Route 66 by the Interstate.

Yes, people tried to make great time on 66. But they couldn't make as good time no matter what they did; and, for many if not all people, when you have to drive slower, and when the trip takes longer, and when you're weaving back and forth through the country rather than plowing through it, it encourages a whole different mindset, a whole different way of looking at the trip.

Here is my anecdote, which is not actually mine, but Suzanne's. When Suz was little, she had grandparents out in the Hamptons on Long Island. Past a certain point, there was no big road going out that way, so a large part of the trip was on smaller roads. While they were on the highway as far as it would take them, it was just highway ... but once they got off the highway, the trip became an adventure of watching for familiar landmarks, noticing what had changed, and so on.

The highway was everyone's highway, featureless and anonymous; the smaller roads were their roads, and everything on them mattered. The highway leg of the trip was merely to get there; the smaller-roads leg of the trip was part of the experience of going to the Hamptons.

Today, I think, there's highway pretty much all the way. You can make great time, plus it's safer and cheaper. And something has been lost.

Also, the whole character of the Hamptons has changed now that they're so easy to get to. The building of a better road has altered a community, in almost the opposite way as in Cars, but with a similar sense of loss for some. Suz's feelings about "her" Hamptons are not wholly unlike Sally's feelings about her Radiator Springs. (On an unrelated note, the house was sold long ago.)

Change happens. Loss happens. Loss hurts. Hurt inspires art. In this case, not completely persuasive art, but art with a certain depth of feeling that is not obviated by asking questions like "Why didn't everyone just move"?

Your case for "guilt tripping" is strongest, I think, with the line "The town got bypassed just to save ten minutes of driving." But even there I don't see "guilt tripping" at the audience's expense, since the audience didn't build the road. The line suggests that building the road cost us something precious for the sake of something trivial, which is an unconvincing argument, but people who find it convincing are likely to feel a sense of loss rather than guilt. It's not like fathers neglecting their kids, where you personally have a kid that you personally are neglecting.

P.S. For some reason I thought Koyaanisqatsi was late 70s, I didn't realize it was actually early 80s. I did know that the national speed limits came out in the mid-70s, which is why I connected the 55 speed limit with Koyaanisqatsi rather than Psycho. I didn't know that prior to then speed limits were similar to what we have now (really? there were 80mph speed limits in 1955?). Anyway, nobody was driving 80 for much of Route 66, even if they wanted to.

Edited by SDG

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Your case for "guilt tripping" is strongest, I think, with the line "The town got bypassed just to save ten minutes of driving." But even there I don't see "guilt tripping" at the audience's expense, since the audience didn't build the road. The line suggests that building the road cost us something precious for the sake of something trivial, which is an unconvincing argument, but people who find it convincing are likely to feel a sense of loss rather than guilt.

The parallels between what Cars conveys to me and what I'm experiencing in many areas of my life just keep multiplying.

Sara Zarr asked me today if there might be a site like http://indiebound.org for record stores. (Indiebound is a site that helps direct people to the closest independent bookstore, so they can find the book they want while investing in a neighborhood, independent business.)

Truth is, there are fewer and fewer independent bookstores for Indiebound to recommend, and independent record stores are vanishing from Seattle in a hurry because of new digital music download options. We can now get what we want faster, more efficiently, on straighter streamlined paths, if you will. But we are losing the experience of driving to a record store, wandering into it with friends, browsing the aisles, discovering unexpected releases, conversing as we pull the tangible objects out of the racks, visiting with the record store guy at the counter, etc., etc., etc.

Yeah, I can get the new Peter Gabriel album the moment it comes out, or collect the whole thing through various internet "previews." But I miss the communal, tangible experience... the "work"... of going to the record store for one reason and experiencing much more than I bargained for. The music was then attached to an experience that was much richer than pushing the DOWNLOAD button.

In the same way, I can get to Bellingham to visit my friend Luci in a hurry. But I still can't tell you what lies between my home and Bellingham, save a few pretty sights of farmland and a couple of outlet malls. Sometimes I'm embarrassed at how little I know the region in which I live, and I wonder if I might not be much more "grounded" in my home state if I were forced to participate with its people and geography better. Once upon a time, I would have learned about my community and region because I had no choice; now, for the sake of convenience, I draw what I want and need from faraway places, and I'd have to make a concerted effort to get to know my community... or, well, what "community" remains.

Wendell Berry has written stacks of books about the price we're paying for the sake of efficiency - in how we shop, in our relationships, in how we run our businesses, in our health, etc. I think he would enjoy Cars. I think he might even get a little teary-eyed.

Edited by Overstreet

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I didn't know that prior to then speed limits were similar to what we have now (really? there were 80mph speed limits in 1955?). Anyway, nobody was driving 80 for much of Route 66, even if they wanted to.

In 1974, when the 55 MPH speed limit laws was passed, limits were much like they are now. However, that doesn't mean that they were like that into the indefinite past. I do remember as a boy being driven on family trips in the 60's and we routinely drove at 70 MPH on the Interstates. In general, speeds rose historically as cars became faster and roads built to handle faster traffic. Some states out west, as I understand it, had no speed limits on their highways prior to 1974 and just required that you drive at prudent and safe speeds. (A police officer could charge you with reckless driving, but not with exceeding a non-existent speed limit.)

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