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Christian wrote:

: Is this film rated? I can't imagine it getting away with a "G." "PG-13" would seem

: a little extreme, so I'm guessing it'll be "PG."

Yup -- FilmRatings.com says it's "Rated PG for action violence." Incidentally, that makes this the first Pixar film to be rated something other than G.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The upcoming election has turned the most minor dust-ups into HUGE campaign issues, but today


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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The upcoming election has turned the most minor dust-ups into HUGE campaign issues, but today

"The most important thing is that people love in the same way. Whether they are monarchists, republicans, or communists, they feel pain in the same way, as well as hatred, jealousy, fear, and fear of death. Whether you are a deeply religious man or an atheist, if you have a toothache, it hurts just the same." - Krzysztof Kieslowski

"...it seems to me that most people I encounter aren't all that interested in the arts. Most of the people who are my age ... appear to be interested in golf, fertilizer, and early retirement schemes.... I will stop caring passionately about music, books, and films on the day that I die, and I'm hoping for Top 100 album polls in the afterlife." - Andy Whitman

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The upcoming election has turned the most minor dust-ups into HUGE campaign issues, but today

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let_it_all_out.gif

I started to write a rebuttal of the pathetic Times piece, but my goodness, it just wasn't worth it.

What I will say is this. If you want to scratch this story and find some themes, themes to be found include, e.g., the joys, responsibilities, frustrations, and foibles of family life; the need for heroes vs. the pitfalls of either excessive hero worship on the one hand or social resentment of excellence and pressure to conform on the other; and the gap between shallow feel-good affirmation of everybody and the actual self-esteem issues of actual people.

Scratch this story, and you might notice that a father who gives up his day to sit in rush-hour traffic and mark time in a cubicle sacrifices for his family, while at the same time a mother who gives up a career and works as a homemaker while her husband leads a life that may seem or may be comparatively exciting or glamorous also sacrifices for her family.

Scratch this story, and you might notice that the litigation culture hurts us all, and that insurance companies are evil and add insult to injury. You might notice the lesson that Spy Kids knew but Unbreakable missed, that being a husband and father calls for a kind of heroism beyond that of superheroes or superspies.

And yet for some people, apparently, it must somehow be made to be about red states vs. blue states... no matter how banal or forced such a reading is.

One can only feel pity.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I'm headed to sleep, but wanted to report in.

Saw the Star Wars trailer. Liked it.

Saw Boundin'. Liked it.

Saw The Incredibles ... liked it a lot, but didn't love it. Maybe it'll grow on me, but for now, it's got third... maybe fourth... place in the Pixar list for me, behind Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo, definitely.

Don't get me wrong... it rivals Spider-man 2 as best superhero movie of the year. It's very funny. The voice matches are once again perfect.

But the animation, while astonishing, seemed at times a bit flat and unfinished, compared to the faultlessly awe-inspiring Nemo.

Not to mention the fact that this one's built out of used parts, whereas all of the previous Pixar films have been worlds unlike anything I've ever seen. I've seen too many superhero films, and this one, while it brings a freshness and energy to that kind of wonderland, still falls a bit flat because of so much familiarity. When characters can do just about anything, I don't feel one whit of suspense.

The film also failed to deliver the emotional wallop that I feel watching both Toy Stories and Nemo.

And, while this isn't a bad thing, it's certainly the most "grownup" of the Pixar movies. I was very surprised at a few of the "mature" punchlines along the way, and the subtle dealing with the threat of adultery and the allure of its "mirage."

But these characters are instant classics, and I do hope there are sequels.

More tomorrow. About this and the Star Wars trailer.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Jeff: Why I disagree with your less than glowing assessment (with the caveat that, yes, we agree that it's a good film and we both liked it, but here is why I disagree with your reasons for not liking it more).

First, visually, what strikes you as the relative "flatness" of the Incredibles universe, I hail as an overwhelming triumph of visual style and flair over previous Pixar films.

Previously Pixar films have achieved an astonishing level of verisimilitude in portraying real things like Slinky undulations and water lapping against boats, as well as what things would look like if they were real, e.g., if toys moved. Buzz Lightyear looked exactly like a real plastic toy, and when they went and created a real-world knockoff, it looked pretty much exactly like the character in the film. Monsters, Inc. certainly had some wacked-out character design, and Finding Nemo did a far better job of anthropomorphizing its fish characters than Shark Tale.

But The Incredibles is visually far more stylish than its Pixar predecessors. The advance is easiest to see if you look at the human characters in this and previous films. In earlier films, human characters are stylized and animated competently, but without much imagination or verve. The best analogy I can think of is character design in Animaniacs vs. the classic Looney Tunes, where the stylization aspect favors the earlier exmplars rather than the latter (with the possible exception of Pinky and the Brain). Look as Skippy and Slappy Squirrel, look at Chicken Boo, look at Buttons and Mindy, and then look back at Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn. It's no contest. The old characters have a dash and verve that's just not there in the later characters (and I say that as one who adores Animaniacs).

In the same way, the Incredibles are characters with style. Next to them, Al and Geri (the toy repair artist from "Geri's Game") in Toy Story 2 and the dentist in Finding Nemo look pedestrian. In fact, in my book The Incredibles is the first CG cartoon to rival The Nightmare Before Christmas for visual flair (though Monsters, Inc. already rivaled it for creature design).

Another advance: long hair. I was conscious throughout the film of how great Violet's hair especially looked. Until now the high watermark of CG hair has been Sully, whose silky polyester-like coat undulated gracefully with each breath of wind and caught individual melting snowflakes when they were banished to the mountains. Violet's peekaboo hair is a major technical advance.

As for the spare-parts point: I guess it depends on what you mean. Imaginatively, the Toy Story movies certainly created a world unlike anything we had ever seen, i.e., a toy culture with a toy's-eye view of the world, toy values and psychology, etc. In terms of what it actually put up on the screen, technically it was certainly new, but in another sense most of it was stuff we all grew up with, so it wasn't a "new world' in that sense.

On the flip side, Finding Nemo was a visual triumph, an astonishingly beautiful reimagining of a world you can see in documentaries like Atlantis, but imaginatively and emotionally it didn't really offer a particularly inspired take of a fish psychology or a a fishes'-eye view of life in the ocean. It was just human relationships and issues transposed onto anthropomorphized fish characters.

The world of Monsters, Inc. was distinguished, once again, by its outlandish creature designs, and the conceit of the interdimensional doors and the monorail conveyor system offers some inspired visual lunacy, but the picture of monster culture and psychology was merely clever rather than inspired.

In a way, Monsters, Inc. was the biggest missed opportunity, since the chance to explain the world of monsters and what makes them tick was an imaginative opportunity comparable to the challenge of explaining the world of toys and how they view the world, and somehow the world of the toys seems more persuasive and satisfying than the world of monsters. To put it another way, when I watch Toy Story, something in me feels that this really is what toys would be like if they were alive, whereas when I watch Monsters, Inc. I don't feel that this really is what monsters would be like if they were real.

And A Bug's Life, alas, was neither especially visually interesting nor a particularly insightful or creative take on insect psychology or culture.

Recapturing the mythic insight of Toy Story seems to be a daunting proposal, and creating a new world every time you set out to make a movie seems, in an ironic way, a rather limiting and constraining way to work.

In many ways, I find the cross of super-hero myth and family drama in The Incredibles a more satisfying imaginative world than any other non-Toy Story imagined world in the Pixar portfolio, certainly including Finding Nemo, the appeal of which is in emotion rather than its fishy point of view, and even Monsters, Inc. The Incredibles also has a better story than Monsters, Inc., which is really a rather straightforward chase-caper type story.

On the subject of emotion: The Incredibles may not have had more emotion than Finding Nemo or the Toy Story flicks. But I think it's emotionally at least as interesting and complex as any of them, and maybe more so than any except Toy Story 2. I find the conflicts of these characters more intriguing than Marlin needing to learn to let Nemo grow up and be independent, for example. Thematically, I think this may be the richest Pixar film to date, as set forth in my post above.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I may be completely off the deep end here, but it occurs to me to wonder if the character of Buddy Pine / Syndrome might not be a satire of someone in the real world -- and not just the Pixar employee who was allegedly the model for the character's walk.

In many ways, the character strikes me as a possible satire on a real-world person who arguably recalls Syndrome above all in his ultra-geek fanboy tendencies, as well as in the color and length of his hair, and in his relative girth. And some people would argue he's a super-villain too, even though he's a hero to others.

Just an idea.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Can't remember if it was David Poland or Jeff Wells... but one of them put forth the Harry Knowles theory a few weeks ago, saying the villain looks just like a perfect fusion of both Harry Knowles and Drew McSweeny (Moriarty), Harry's right-hand-man.

Personally, I think he looks a little like the Heat Miser from one of those old stop-motion Christmas specials.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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This post meanders into NEAR-SPOILER TERRITORY ... but not much.

In many ways, I find the cross of super-hero myth and family drama in The Incredibles a more satisfying imaginative world than any other non-Toy Story imagined world in the Pixar portfolio, certainly including Finding Nemo, the appeal of which is in emotion rather than its fishy point of view, and even Monsters, Inc. The Incredibles also has a better story than Monsters, Inc., which is really a rather straightforward chase-caper type story.

Steven, I don't disagree with your observations about the film. I just marveled at Pixar's ability to avoid any kind of "hip" attitude in the earlier films. They were pure kids' entertainment that was solid enough for adults. This film feels more like a stealth bomb for adults... a film that will entertain the kids but primarily speaks to grownup dilemmas.

Again, nothing WRONG with that ... it's just a different goal than the other Pixar films.

Frankly, I'm burned out on superheroes. And as far as superheroes go, the Incredibles have completely unremarkable powers. And isn't that one of the main reasons to come up with new superheroes? We've seen ALL of these things before. The difference is that they're used with supreme cleverness in a way that should have the Fantastic Four very nervous about their big screen debut. Perhaps the film is in part a reprimand to comic book writers for their lack of creativity. If so, Pixar has succeeded in that agenda.

But it's not just the "powers" that left me a bit dissatisfied. It's the strange way that Dad's inappropriate departure from honesty and integrity is what ends up leading to the discovery that saves the world (or at least the Supers). While he does have to face a reckoning for his lies and "sneaking around," you have to admit that if he hadn't, he never would have discovered the enemy's plan.

Moreover, once he discovers the enemy's plan, he keeps it to himself. If I recall correctly, after the "big reveal" of Syndrome's evil agenda on that BIG SCREEN computer, I don't think the film ever really calls Syndrome into account for what he's done. Does Mr. Incredible ever put out any kind of all-points bulletin to remaining Supers that they're being hunted? Does he evil tell his wife? I thought that was an odd omission.

I did, however, appreciate the moment when Syndrome does his typical "Here's where I explain myself to you before I kill you" speech ... my biggest adventure movie pet peeve of all ... and he stopped, chuckled, and said, "Now you've got me monologuing!" For that, I'm forced to forgive the scene.

I guess I can't give a completely rational defense for this... I just didn't feel drawn into the adventure breathlessly like I have in other superhero films because these guys can do just about anything. As with the X-Men, the more powers you have available to you, the smaller the real challenge, and thus the less-exciting the scene. I like the X-Men films because they invest so much time and energy in character development. But they have some pretty cool varieties of powers to play with, and their villains have equal or superior powers to generate some real suspense.

So many of The Incredibles' action scenes are just variations on things that have come before. This time, Indiana Jones' boulder chase is different, because now it's a SMART boulder rolling after the hero. Instead of speeder bikes zipping through the woods, we have speeder DISCS that are edged with blades that saw down the trees in their path. And while this may just be a matter of unfortunate theater release timing, there's the scene in which Mr. Incredible has to save an elevated train that is headed for disaster that made me wince with its familiarity.

And the soundtrack is also derivative... just a playful tour of James Bond motifs.

Now for my most ludicrous and unnecessary question: Where did the bad guy get all of his power from, if he wasn't "super"? Maybe the film explained it, but it seemed awfully convenient that this guy could just go build himself a super-villain fortress, get armies to work for him, produce super-robot armies, and build forces strong enough to bind Mr. Incredible. I know these are ridiculous questions in a world where such "realities" are purely whimsical... but still, it seemed awfully convenient that Buddy could just BECOME Syndrome.

Once again, I find myself coming across as a nay-sayer on the movie. Heck, I'm giving it an A-. It's supremely entertaining stuff. I'm just going into detail on why it isn't a step up, in my book, from previous Pixar achievements, why I'm still but merely a step OVER... to something new and very different. I'm a big Brad Bird fan, and that hasn't changed.

I LOVE ELASTIGIRL'S BIG SCENE, where she infiltrates the fortress and deals with the guards in a rather flexible fashion. Brilliant. I love the way she figures out how to cross the ocean. She's easily my favorite Incredible. Holly Hunter's voice is a natural for a Pixar character. (Am I admitting that I have a schoolboy crush on a cartoon character? Yes. Yes I am.)


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I just significantly revised my previous post. Just in case you've already read it, I added a few points. As you can see, my posts here are slowly becoming a storehouse for points I'll make in my review.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I've only read a few of Jeffery and SDG's posts, because I don't want to go near spoiler territory. However, Jeffery's less than glowing review actually makes me more excited, because unlike Jeffrey, I found Nemo to be less than moving. I found the film to be the most visually dazzling (at least in the underwater sequences), but the least inspired as far as story. The characters and emotions in Monsters, Inc. - for me - makes it by far my favorite.

SDG sums it up nicely, when he says:

On the flip side, Finding Nemo was a visual triumph, an astonishingly beautiful reimagining of a world you can see in documentaries like Atlantis, but imaginatively and emotionally it didn't really offer a particularly inspired take of a fish psychology or a a fishes'-eye view of life in the ocean. It was just human relationships and issues transposed onto anthropomorphized fish characters.

As for Incredibles, my own love of superheroes and comic books makes me even more excited for this one. Count me in line drooling come the weekend.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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However, Jeffery's less than glowing review actually makes me more excited, because unlike Jeffrey, I found Nemo to be less than moving. I found the film to be the most visually dazzling (at least in the underwater sequences), but the least inspired as far as story. The characters and emotions in Monsters, Inc. - for me - makes it by far my favorite.

SDG sums it up nicely...

Thanks, Anders, I'm glad you liked my summary -- though I should add that I find Finding Nemo EXTREMELY moving -- cried like a baby the first time I saw it, in fact. I still choke up at certain scenes every time I see them. And the more I see it, the more I appreciate the incredibly tight, well-crafted story. But it's true that the world of the fishes isn't conceived with any particular imaginative inspiration -- at least, not the world of the ocean. There were a few flashes of inspiration in the fish tank ("Fish aren't meant to live in a tank... it does things to you").

Monsters, Inc by contrast I find to be comparatively thin on both emotion and story. Its strengths are creature design, tight scripting, buddy-movie chemistry, the crazy logic of the interdimensional doors, and the inspired lunacy of the climactic conveyor monorail chase sequence.

As for Incredibles, my own love of superheroes and comic books makes me even more excited for this one.

Now here we completely agree! smile.gif


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Monsters, Inc by contrast I find to be comparatively thin on both emotion and story. Its strengths are creature design, tight scripting, buddy-movie chemistry, the crazy logic of the interdimensional doors, and the inspired lunacy of the climactic conveyor monorail chase sequence.

[nod]

And its weakness is that you have to really like Billy Crystal, or else his constant ranting becomes really annoying by fifteen minutes into the film.

Okay, that's overstating it a bit, but after seeing Monsters, Inc. the first time, I knew I never wanted to see it again unless I could mute that little walking eye's voice.

Monsters, Inc. does pack the most powerful closing shot, though. I did tear up at that.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Monsters, Inc. does pack the most powerful closing shot, though. I did tear up at that.

That was a fantastic ending for any movie, nevermind a CGI flick. So perfect for the age group, too.

Abso-bloody-lutely. That final shot crams in enough heart to close the deal on my four-star review.

And I've seen it lots more than once, Jeff. wink.gif


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I LOVE ELASTIGIRL'S BIG SCENE, where she infiltrates the fortress and deals with the guards in a rather flexible fashion. Brilliant. I love the way she figures out how to cross the ocean. She's easily my favorite Incredible. Holly Hunter's voice is a natural for a Pixar character. (Am I admitting that I have a schoolboy crush on a cartoon character? Yes. Yes I am.)

I loved that scene too, especially the part where she runs into an escalating series of complications. It's a brilliant little set piece. And yes, Elastigirl is my favorite Incredible as well. Her power is certainly the most visually interesting of any character's (Frozone is next)... and while I wouldn't say I have a "schoolboy crush" on her... let's just say that as a husband and father I find sexy wife/mother/homemaker types very appealing. smile.gif


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Monsters, Inc. does pack the most powerful closing shot, though. I did tear up at that.

Yep, that's the part that did for me too. So good.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Um, well, yeah, actually, this is what I was getting at, at least partly, when I wrote about "social resentment of excellence and pressure to conform" and "shallow feel-good affirmation of everybody." So yeah, I agree, in substance, and have been planning on making these same points in my review. (Though the incidental political spin Chaw gives things by calling the film's themes "close to Commie-talk" is wishful thinking: Criticism of the self-esteem culture and celebration of elitism are solidly conservative stances, and if indictment of consumerism is a "left-wing" ideal, it's one that's certainly fully consonant with a certain kind of traditional moral outlook.)


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I saw the connection ... he just seemed to think it was a nearly-scandalous event in the history of family films, whereas I was thinking more that these were some pretty cool themes.

I couldn't find much room to address them in my CT review, due to a word-count limit, but I'll expand on it in my Looking Closer review, where I can ramble on ad nauseum.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Oh, I see. Well, yeah, you're right, maybe Chaw's review is a bit hyperventilating. I think The Incredibles is intelligent and pointed, I would go farther than to say "neat themes," I think, but "devastatingly honest indictment" is a bit over the top.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Thanks man... can't wait to see it this weekend.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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