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Ratatouille

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This one's been in the pipeline for a while now, IIRC. I'm surprised that it's only just getting a director. Still, Brad Bird is worth the long wait. He's an awesome director.

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If it was from any other director or studio, I'd be tempted to forget about it. As it is, things can't possibly go wrong with Brad and Pixar in charge.

Unless, of course, this is for both of them what "Howard the Duck" was for George Lucas ...

It's kinda weird. I thought that Disney bought Pixar. 8O Or was that just some crazy rumour?

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I made an eggplant a squash ratatuoille about a week ago. I was skeptical, too; I don't generally do eggplant or squash, but it was DARN good. Lessons from Ratatouille: I guess you should give this a try, too. :D

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Exactly -- I never understood all the hype around The Phantom Menace in 1999 ("the first new Star Wars movie in 16 years! yay!"), because Lucas had produced nothing all that good for YEARS -- most recently, there had been the "special editions" of Star Wars in 1997, and almost all the changes made to them had been awful -- and before that, there had been Radioland Murders (1994), which I never saw, but it did flop and the reviews were pretty bad -- and before that, there had been the Indiana Jones sequels (1984, 1989), which were sub-par in different ways -- and in the midst of that, there had been Labyrinth (1986) and Willow (1988), which were underwhelming retreads of Lucas's earlier films -- and of course, there was also Howard the Duck (1986), which again, I never saw, because it flopped so badly.

And while I never saw The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1993), most of his other TV spin-offs were pretty bad, not least his two Ewok movies (1984, 1985) and, of course, The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978).

More and more, the one-two punch of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), two of the greatest Saturday-matinee revivals ever made, looks like a miracle to me.

- - -

As for Ratatouille, I can NEVER hear that word without thinking of a certain episode of Fawlty Towers. :)

And I don't think Pixar's record is without blemish, either. Cars and A Bug's Life were underwhelming, and as Jeffrey noted at his blog recently, Monsters, Inc. had to fight to win over those who don't find Billy Crystal funny.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Nope, the one with Manuel's "Siberian hamster", also known as a "rat", which Manuel has named "Basil" after Basil Fawlty. There is a hilarious scene where Polly is trying to communicate a secret message about "Basil" the "rat" without giving the animal's existence away -- a health inspector is on the premises -- and she ends up saying that the chef has put "basil in the ratatouille", which leads Manuel to think the chef has killed his rat.

Ah wait, here's the scene in question, as transcribed here:

Manuel:

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Don't think I'm saying Lucas hasn't made any mistakes besides Howard the Duck. I'm just saying that, before said abomination, all his films had been fairly successful (American Graffitti, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark). I'm not sure about THX 1138, but it WAS his first film.

Ah, yes, the Ratatouille. "Veal" is another word I can't say without thinking ...

Hotel Inspector: Yes, I couldn't help but notice you had some veal out.

And again ...

Patron: We'll have the veal.

Basil: Oh, I'm sorry, the veal's off.

Patron: But it's on the menu!

Basil: Oh, er, that's a misprint. It should say, um, eel.

Patron: Eel escalope?!?

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IGN Movies got a peak at some more footage and chatted with Brad Bird. The more I read about this film, the more I get excited for it.

http://movies.ign.com/articles/783/783392p1.html

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Is Disney now trying to manage box office expectations for "Ratatouille" ?

I have been hearing some very strange things lately about "Ratatouille." About how Disney's own people are reportedly already out there, whispering about how this Brad Bird movie may not do as well as "Cars" did.

Don't get me wrong, folks. Everyone that I've spoken with starts off by saying that "Ratatouille" is this thoroughily charming little motion picture. That -- from strictly a technological & artistic point of view -- this new animated feature may be the very best thing that Pixar has ever produced. They then go on to say that the film's story is solid and its characters are engaging. Which all sounds very positive.

But then (You knew that there was a big "But" coming, didn't you ? ) they then go on to describe "Ratatouille" as being this " ... little film with the great big heart." And say how it might have been a mistake for Disney to release this particular Pixar project right in the middle of Summer blockbuster season. . . .

Hollywood actually has a term for a whispering campaign like this. They call it "managing expectations." As in : Getting the word out well in advance that your motion picture may not do as well as your studio had initially hoped. So that when your film actually does go on to meet its initial box office projections (As high or low as they may be) ... The entertainment press then reports this news as if it were something just short of a triumph. . . .

I have to admit that it bothers me when Disney insiders say:

"You know that 'Ratatouille' isn't really a Brad Bird movie, right ? That Brad just did what he could with a Jan Pinkava film that was already going down in flames. But because 'Rats' 's setting had already been chosen and the characters had already been designed, this wasn't so much a movie as it was a rescue mission. But given that 'Ratatouille' still had to be ready to go into theaters in just 18 months, there was only so much that Brad could do."

So when you have people inside the company telling you things like that, as well as continually using phrases like "It's a cute little film" or "It's a small but charming movie" ... That doesn't honestly bode well for "Ratatouille" 's chances in the middle of Summer blockbuster season. . . .

Jim Hill, May 29

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The world needs more little films with great big hearts. During the summer or anytime. Let the executives worry about whether it's a blockbuster or not. The Iron Giant wasn't a blockbuster. But it's legendary.

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The world needs more little films with great big hearts. During the summer or anytime. Let the executives worry about whether it's a blockbuster or not. The Iron Giant wasn't a blockbuster. But it's legendary.

++

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: The world needs more little films with great big hearts. During the summer or anytime.

Agreed. I am vaguely reminded of how Michael Eisner expected Finding Nemo to be a flop, in a sort of "That'll teach Pixar a lesson!" kind of way -- and then it turned out to be the highest-grossing animated film of all time. (Until Shrek 2 came out a year later.) I don't necessarily trust the studio executives' opinions of their films, or of their audiences' tastes.

: Let the executives worry about whether it's a blockbuster or not. The Iron Giant wasn't a blockbuster. But it's legendary.

Would it be so legendary if it had been popular, though? I get the feeling this film is remembered as well as it is -- by the relative few who remember it -- partly because it is more obscure than all the Disney / DreamWorks films that have dominated the multiplex.

Then again, maybe it's done WAY more business on video and DVD than it ever did in the theatre, I dunno.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Ratatouille is Pixar's most ambitious, most sophisticated film yet... visually complicated and detailed to an astonishing degree. (Astonishing even for Pixar.) It's a celebration of creativity and art, making more than a few sharp observations about entertainment driven by commerce and audiences that happily choke down any garbage served up to them.

It's also, quite obviously, the story of Brad Bird and Pixar being given the keys to the Disney kingdom and all of its resources, and restoring the reputation of a once great "restaurant" by rejecting all "fast food" projects and focusing again on genuine, original creativity. And it has a lot to say about the role of the critic when it comes to art... and it says it in a way that had me cheering. (Peter O'Toole is perfectly cast as the voice of the critic.)

Ratatouille feels wholly original... in that it doesn't follow the Disney formula. It's not about anybody trying to find their parents or recover from the loss of parents (although I *did* wonder where Remy's mom was). It explores themes in ways that didn't remind me of any other Disney film. It feels like storytelling from a storybook, rather than storytelling from a board room.

Could I call it The Secret of NIMH meets Big Night? I think I will.

And wow, the folks making The Tale of Despereaux sure have their work cut out for them.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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It's really encouraging to hear your comments, Jeffrey; of course, I'm always up for a Pixar film, but everything I've heard about this film has me particularly excited in a low-key, non-franchise driven way (I'd almost forgotten how that feels, this summer.). I'm fully expecting this to make up for all the disappointment of Cars being --merely!-- "pretty good." (And given that I just read the chapter on a "Feast of Movies," in Through a Screen Darkly, it's nice synergy to see you again making art metaphors out of a food story.)

Every time I watch the trailers for Ratatouille, I'm struck by this quality I can only describe as "lushness" or "richness." There's something so incredibly warm and beautiful about the images I've seen that goes beyond simple technological advancements in CG; it's the lighting, it's the textures, it's the color choices-- it's artfulness.

There's been a number of CG films come and go lately with very little buzz about "pushing the envelope" of CGI, and I think it means that we're reaching a point where the technology of CG is leveling out, and the real competition will be who can use that technology most artfully. Don't get me wrong; I'm sure Pixar developed umpteen new programs and gadgets and processes for the film, but it's no longer something that can be trumpeted for its own sake. And Ratatouille looks worlds ahead of anything that's come from any other studio for sheer loveliness, probably since, oh, Finding Nemo.

I suspect you mostly name-dropped The Secret of NIMH because both films star rats, but that was another film that used the processes available to almost everyone in the market in such a rich and artful way that it looks worlds better than any other animated film of the period.

Edited by N.K. Carter

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There's at least one moment that I believe to be a specific nod of tribut to NIMH.

With all of my enthusiasm, I include one qualifier: Your ability to kick back, suspend disbelief, and enjoy the film depends on your willingness to accept not only that the rat want to be a chef and can read cookbooks, but on another even more whimsical (and wildly implausible) device... upon which the entire story depends.

My trouble with The Secret of NIMH (the movie, anyway) was the amulet. Wasn't it enough that science had made the rats able to talk and read? It really felt like a cop-out that the story provided "Mrs. Brizz" (Why Brisby? Why not Frisby, like in the book?) with a MAGIC STONE of unexplained origin that could pretty much solve any problem if you "just believe"? That always bugged me. It just felt like the most convenient and incongruous addition, a way to bring some hocus pocus to a story that didn't require it. Ratatouille's device is much more integrated into this movie's story and world, but it is still rather confounding, since it asks us to reimagine how the human body works.

Oh by the way, Ratatouille opens, as usual with a short: "Lifted." "Lifted" doesn't disappoint, although it did remind me of both the previous Pixar short about the snowglobes AND, at one point, the famous Bambi vs. Godzilla.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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With all of my enthusiasm, I include one qualifier: Your ability to kick back, suspend disbelief, and enjoy the film depends on your willingness to accept not only that the rat want to be a chef and can read cookbooks, but on another even more whimsical (and wildly implausible) device... upon which the entire story depends.

You mean the hair thing that's in the trailers? Already over it.

Oh by the way, Ratatouille opens, as usual with a short: "Lifted." "Lifted" doesn't disappoint, although it did remind me of both the previous Pixar short about the snowglobes AND, at one point, the famous Bambi vs. Godzilla.

Yeah, I saw "Lifted" at the Animation Show of Shows when it came to USC. Funny, but not quite as brilliant in its simplicity as some of the best Pixar shorts-- Luxo Jr. and Geri's Game, for instance. It is amusing, though, to learn that it was directed by Gary Rydstrom, Pixar's famed sound guy, who surely must have empathized with the main character.

Edited by N.K. Carter

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Why Pixar Is Better

When he starts work on a movie, Bird looks for core thoughts. The core here: "Cooks are givers, and rats are takers. In the larger world there are people who are givers and people who are takers. Cooking, feeding people, is a giving act. All art at its best is a giving act that continues to give as long as the art is consumed. As with a cook, you're handing it over to someone to enjoy."

Time, June 7

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A Rat With a Whisk and a Dream

While earlier Pixar projects centered on child-friendly subjects like bugs and monsters, this one takes viewers deep into the world of French haute cuisine. . . . Although the story line has its charms, the precisely rendered detail of a professional kitchen will appeal to the food-obsessed. The Pixar crew took cooking classes, ate at notable restaurants in Paris and worked alongside Mr. Keller at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

New York Times, June 13

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Wow! Sneak previews all over the place tomorrow. And I have to wait another week before my screening.

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Can't wait to hear your responses. The more I think about it, the more I love it.

Enjoy!!

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