Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Cried During the Opening, And So Did You

So, if you're at all interested in Pixar's latest, Up, then you've no doubt heard the overwhelmingly positive reception: it's funny, it looks great, the characters have immense emotional depth and the movie is brimming-over with heart. So, I'll talk about other stuff.

More than anything else, I found the movie to be incredibly surreal. Years after Monty Python's Flying Circus, the kids who grew up watching their shenanigans no TV (sorry, "telly") are now all grown up and making bizarre movies of their own. I can't help but think that this is a major influence on the Pixar cadre because their movies--Up in particular--share some of those same absurdist sensibilities, albeit those sensibilities are a bit more grounded.

For example, we've all seen the talking dog, but this turns out to be dozens of talking dogs. Some of them have funny voices. Some of them fly planes. At least one of them cooks. Then there's the, ahem, sword fight that takes place towards the end. It's bizarre, but it's just rooted enough in the world of the movie that it works. Furthermore, I think you almost have to take things a little bit in that direction. I mean, it's about a guy who flies his house to South America--if the audience is going to buy into that, you might as well give them some weird treats along the way.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I don't think so, because there are several nods throughout the film--notably the Wilderness Explorer badges that show up during the credits. There are some strange things you can get a merit badge for, it seems (that may or may not include--SPOILER WARNING--detonating an atomic bomb--END SPOILER WARNING). But my favorite nod to surrealism is in the form of an Easter egg that takes place before the house even leaves the ground. While Carl flips through the channels in his living room, he lingers on a shopping network and we hear an ad for a camera. The audio comes directly from this scene, which is arguably one of the most surreal naturally-occuring moments ever captured on videotape.

I will say something about the 3-D, right quick. I liked it, but I don't think it ultimately changed my opinion of the film. It was used very subtly throughout: usually giving depth to vistas or bringing you into an intimate conversation. There was exactly one instance of the-thing-on-screen-hits-you-in-the-face (conversely, the 3-D trailer for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs has at least three hit-you-in-the-face moments in the trailer alone!!!!).

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