November 7th, 2004
|11:54 pm - Everybody must go see The Incredibles|
There, I've said it, go see it, it is good. I liked it better than Finding Nemo, which is an incredible feat. I'll have to see Toy Story 2, my favoritest Pixar film of all time, again at some point to see what I think -- hell, I just need to see Toy Story 2 again, that's all there is to it. If you don't read the rest, just take to heart that it is a great film and done well in all the right places and even the short, Boundin', that precedes the film is adorable and with a good, positive message too. I kinda like the jackalope. Looks kinda familiar. Go figure.
Pixar has done some amazing work here. They produce feature animation that doesn't need to rely on fart jokes or a constant barrage of tired pop culture references to be funny, entertaining, and engaging. They present positive messages without hitting you over the head with the Preachy Mallet. The adult jokes work for the adults, and the kid jokes work for both kids and adults, and never do you feel condescended to. Never do the jokes feel forced. It's a lesson Dreamworks desperately needs to learn, even if they've had success with their woeful offerings like Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, the latter of which has to stoop to Martin Scorcese trying to rap as an Italian mobster fish in order to get laughs. Where's the human nature in that? Where's the natural humor?
Compare that to a scene from The Incredibles where the family is driving along in a van. Bored, the kids ask "Are we there yet?" and Mr. Incredible, now Dad, hunches over the steering wheel and quietly seethes along the lines of if you kids don't stop that this instant...
...only the van is flying underneath a giant rocket, and Mom, as Elastigirl, is holding the van to the rocket, and the whole family is flying off to Save The Day.
And we laugh, cause, well, we've been there. At least, partly. The joke is great because it takes the old cliche of a family trip and puts it in a new context, and the result is, amazingly enough, refreshing and funny and nobody has to resort to Whitebread Rap. (The joke's also in the middle of a high-energy sequence, nearly unexpectedly, so the laughs come from that as well.)
The main characters in The Incredibles are cartoony and overexaggerated, yes, but at the same time all too human. They're superheroes forced to put their powers away and live in the Regular World, but they can't keep themselves from, well, being themselves. Sometimes they react to this with defiant pride, as when Mr. Incredible (now "Bob Parr" -- Bob Average) grouses, about his son's fourth grade "graduation": "They just keep on inventing ways to celebrate mediocrity! They want to make everyone special, and when everyone's special.. nobody is."
Sometimes they react with unrestrained giddiness when finally allowed to be themselves -- when Dash, the 10-year-old boy who can move at super-speed (but sorely chastised in the Regular World when he does so) is finally allowed to open up and run full throttle, the ensuing action sequence is giddy and exhilirating and it's not only just because of the way the film moves, but also because we're allowed to share Dash's joy in being able to let go.
And Mom, wise Elastigirl Mom, stretched in all directions as busy moms are, impressed me with her knowledge of What To Do And When. That's the hallmark of a good Mom. There's one sequence when she and her kids are threatened but daughter Violet (adorably voiced by Sarah Vowell) has a superpower that can save them. Mom immediately tells Violet to use her power. She knows what Violet can do and knows how to react. We don't have any of those tired, boring reveals that go along the lines of "...wait a minute... Violet... you... you know this! You can do this! Do it!" The power is not a surprise, we've seen it all along, and Mom doesn't have time for astonished discovery. I liked that.
There's another magnificent scene in which Mom and the kids, faced with certain danger, have a heart-to-heart. Mom says the bad guys they're about to face aren't like the bad guys on TV. "...they won't show restraint, just because you're 15 years old. They will kill you." She has the courage to admit this to her kids, and Brad Bird and Pixar have the stones to present it to us like that. Death is a part of this film. It's inferred that evil henchmen die, for one. No GI Joe copouts for this PG-rated film ("It's a good thing everybody in that helicopter had a parachute and is now safe!") There's also a skeleton and not a cartoony one. I was impressed to see it.
There are some delicious little details in the film, too. Listen for the name of the island hideout inhabited by the film's villian. Listen to the list of names Mr. Incredible calls Jason Lee's character in the beginning. Watch for the Pizza Planet truck (but don't tell me where it is! All I know is, in Pixar tradition, it's in the film somewhere and I'll need to go back and see the film again to find it.)
And watch for two old men near the end who appreciatively cheer on the heroes. They nod approvingly and say "Now that's old school!" These men are cameo caricatures of two veteran Disney animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of Walt Disney's famed "Nine Old Men". Between them they worked on every Disney animated feature from Snow White on up to The Fox & The Hound, with many shorts and segments in between as well. Thomas and Johnston voiced the old men too, just like they did for their cameo roles in Brad Bird's brilliant 1999 animated film, The Iron Giant (which, if you haven't seen, you MUST get on video or DVD right this instant. More on Brad in a moment.)
Of course the old men aren't just cheering the heroes, they're cheering the new school of animators, the Good School, the one that Brad Bird brilliantly belongs to. And the tribute is all the more poignant as Thomas recently passed away at the age of 92. I believe Ollie Johnston is the last surviving Old Man -- we're now without Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Woolie Reitherman...
The art design is spectacular, early James Bondish features with a hint of Googie and Tiki and some striking 60s home design (check out the door of the Parr's suburban home, with the doorknob smack in the middle. The last time I saw that was in UHF.) The island hideout has a kickass monorail system with egg pods for vehicles, and wonderful brooding hideouts and lairs. The downtown has the cold, unfeeling 60s department store style ("Clump's" is the name of the store and the signage is perfect.) And the closing credits are nothing short of stylized 2D beauty. I delighted in the film's style; I want the posters and the concept art.
The story is tight, it moves well as all Pixar stories do, and never bogs down for sentimentality or regrouping or whatnot. This is a testament to the way Pixar makes their films with story first. For me they've done it again and I'm so grateful they did. Their departure from Disney will only strengthen them and allow them to continue on this path they've started to forge with The Incredibles -- they can make kiddie films still, like Cars (which looks cute, I do admit) but they can also bring out darker features, ones with more adult themes (and I mean the grown-up 'adult' in this case, not the prurient -- though there are a few scenes where Elastigirl, uh, shows off her flexibility in a way that makes yer jaw drop.) They're breaking free like Dash, and it will be great to see what they do when finally able to go full throttle on the projects Disney wouldn't let them do. I eagerly await Ratatouille.
Brad Bird deserves all the accolades and praise he can get for this film. He's a wonderful storyteller and a great idea-thinker-upper, and it's a shame his previous stuff didn't get him this kind of mainstream praise. The Iron Giant is a brilliant film, but Warner Brothers had absolutely no idea how to market it -- or they just didn't want to -- and as a result the film died at the box office. Now you really have to seek out the tale yourself. If you haven't seen it, you really should. You will like it. I was so glad when the Boston 24-Hour Science Fiction Marathon screened it the year after its release. It was so wonderful to hear an appreciative audience, a full house, stand and applaud the film at the end. I'm so very glad Bird got the chance to kick some serious ass with The Incredibles because, well, he has. You go, Brad.
I'm muddled and probably need to regroup this writing, but I'm just so goshdarned excited about the film. It's great. Sadly, we got a preview of a live-action film with CGI shoved in for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong places: Son of The Mask. It features a horrible CGI dog and a horrible CGI baby (FOLKS, COMPUTER ANIMATED "REALISTIC" BABIES ARE CREEPY AS HELL) and a level of jokes that made Baby Geniuses look like Raising Arizona. Well, maybe it wasn't that bad, but brother, it sure stunk, and I'm glad the stench dissipated from the theater quickly so we were able to enjoy our Feature Presentation.
I can't wait to see it. I've been wanting to see it ever since I saw the poster ("Whoa, new Pixar...with superheroes...this could be really quite awesome") and now everyone's telling me how good it is.
However, this is likely to involve a certain amount of pre-planning, because the Czech film distributors believe that ANIMATED=KIDDIE, so pretty much every screening will be dubbed into Czech. There will probably be one titled showing in the entire country, at a cinema that can't be reached without employing tram, Metro, train and bus, at 8.30 in the morning, which is a problem when only one of the people in the house is freelance.
I guess we can probably see it in London over Thanksgiving.
I love the Iron Giant. I didn't see it until the first time I lived in England. They play ever once in a while on BBC. Along with The Three Amigos and Willow. I should buy the DVD if it is available.
My 2yo son Rafe is addicted to Nemo, to the point where, when he is mad at me, he growls under his breath, "I hate you" just like Nemo to Marlin, even though he doesn't know what it means (she kids herself). Anyhow, I've been waiting and waiting for a big-screen movie I could take him to, being a sucka for big stories, willing suspension of disbelief and an excuse to eat a LOT of junior mints and swedish fish, but there have been no good, not-scarringly-violent movies for kids out in ages. Could I take him to the Incredibles, or is it a little much?
I think it's easier than Finding Nemo. Nemo had a lot of trauma (mom: eaten by shark. Ends up in aquarium where he might be flushed down a toilet). Incredibles gets a PG because a bad guy dies, and there is a suggestion that a married man and woman enjoy very special hugs.
Well, the film certainly is violent. The action is loud and frenetic and realistic, on par with a bombastic live-action explody action picture. We saw it at the Loews Boston Common in one of the big theaters, so we had big bass THX-enhanced explosions galore. There was a small child near us, but the kid was around 6 or 7 and seemed to dig it. While we don't actually see any onscreen deaths, it is inferred -- and there are plenty of scenes in which the good guys, even the kids, are in real peril. If Rafe is cool with the fact that the people on the screen aren't in real
danger, he might be cool with the film. As Doolie said, it's not as traumatic as the first five minutes of Finding Nemo
, at least, not in the sense of loss. The peril, however, is always there.
The other thing is that there are plenty of moments of downtime in the film between the action, especially near the beginning when Bob Parr's stuck in his cube farm and has to endure his boss yelling at him and whatnot. Kids may lose interest during the adult parts of the film. The section between the opening action and the action on the villian's island is a loooong stretch for kids, but then again, the 6 year old in front of us didn't seem to mind.
Then again, the only real experience with two-year-olds in a theater I've had was when I was two years old and went to see The Jungle Book. Apparently I fussed up a storm, but it was mostly to the fact that the house lights went down and things were REALLY dark.
I guess I just didn't see the action-peril as being much worse than a lot of TV cartoon offerings. Compared to either Dumbo or Bambi, I think it's actually much improved -- everyone in peril has some chance of escape or of fighting the peril. There's a lot of teamwork in the face of peril.
Boundin' had a good, positive message?
IT'S OKAY IF THE MAN GRABS YOU, SHAVES YOU, AND DUMPS YOU NAKED ON A ROCK EVERY YEAR JUST AS LONG AS YOU MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE?
I'm not sure this is the message I want kids getting in George W. Bush's amerika.
The Man has already yanked us and shorn us clean this month. Now you can sit there and mope about in self-pity or you can get up and DANCE, you crazy lamb you, DANCE, for this, too, will soon pass and coats will be shiny and wooley again. And if they do it again, by gum, we're just gonna hafta dance again.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go drink heavily.
It's the 'you get kidnapped, shaved, and dumped back naked EVERY YEAR, so buck up!' message that worries me.
Year One: OK, I'll cheer up.
Year Two: Oh, shit, this is annual?
Year Three: Uzi!
The doorknob in the middle of the front door is an English thing--at least, it's very common in England, where doorknobs are very rarely incorporated into the latching mechanism. One turns the key in the lock and uses the doorknob to move the door, not to unlatch it. Inside doors are more likely to have latching knobs.
That's pretty cool. The middle doorknob seems pretty much like a stylistic anachronism in America. I wonder how the 60s-future look will play in other countries.
|Date:||November 8th, 2004 05:57 pm (UTC)|| |
I saw the movie last night and I am so happy to see you singing (well, prosing) its praises today. It was magnificent! Gorgeous! Exhilarating! I want to see it eight more times and then buy 4 copies just for myself! I want to kiss Samuel L. Jackson for being the coolest ice-maker ever! I wanna hug Violet for pulling her hair back and being VISIBLE! I wanna fondle Steve Jobs and everyone at Pixar! I loved it at the end when Dash said, "That was the best vacation EVER!" and you think, "Those poor parents will die young because of that boy."
Sigh. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I liked the movie.
|Date:||November 8th, 2004 06:34 pm (UTC)|| |
Haven't seen it yet, as my usual filmgoing partner is rubbing shoulders with Paddington Bear's relatives in Peru at the moment.
I'm looking forward to this, though part of me wants to say "why didn't they just make a Fantastic Four movie?" Pixar could do it WAY better than this new one looks to be. Instead we get ANOTHER superhero satire, which, really, outnumbers serious takes on superheroes pretty considerably in other media. The actual comics industry is killing itself with its own insular seriousness, while its bread and butter genre, the superhero, is being slowly mocked to death by Hollywood ... as dearly as I love Pixar, I can't help but feel apprehensive.
The satire is handled well here, and the overall tone of the film is definitely not a mocking one. The heroes are all serious, no "crazy" hero parodies like in Mystery Men. While there is a lot of humor in the hero family trying to conform to the real world, the film never pities them or leaves them open for ridicule. The trailers and advertising make it out to be a laff-fest of MR INCREDIBLE IS FAT LOL jokes, I know, but there's only really one major one I can remember in the film (getting stuck in the deployment capsule) and it's over with quickly. (The scene where Mr. Incredible tries to put on his suit before dinner and hollers "JUST A SALAD!" is a scene made solely for the trailers. It does not make the final film cut.)
I understand your apprehension, though. The film could've easily become a tired, broad parody of heroes, but it ably sidesteps that, and I think that's one of the reasons why I was so impressed by it.
Apprehensive comment #2: Did you see The Iron Giant? And did you like it?
I fear the Mystery Men similarity, but the fact that Incredibles is by the guy who did The Iron Giant -- which I loathe -- is a big strike against it.
I do admit I really liked Iron Giant. Was the director what turned you off the film, or just the story?
I kinda liked it the first time I saw it (mostly because of the tearjerker stuff revolving morality based on Superman), but then I made the mistake of watching it a second time, and its heavy-handed Capra-esque foot-stomping manipulation made me crazy. My mother saw Incredibles and didn't like it, and since she had the same reaction to Iron Giant as I did the second time 'round, I fear I may agree with her on this one.
BTW, it wasn't that Warner didn't know how to market Iron Giant. It was that the exec who oversaw its development was canned before release, and the new administration didn't want any of its predecessor's projects to do well. They buried it deliberately, and that's why.
Which doesn't change the fact that I really dislike the film.
To help with your fears, keep in mind that Iron Giant was an adaptation of a Ted Hughes story.
The Incredibles is, I believe, an original script.
Really quite different.
|Date:||November 8th, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC)|| |
I was impressed that Sarah Vowell was wooed to lend her adorable talent to the voice of Violet. I first heard of her while tuning in and out of NPR, and later read through both of her memoirs. (If anyone would like to borrow either book of hers, let me know.) Knowing this is her first film credit, I wonder if this will be a new calling for her.
I read an interview where Sarah Vowell said she'd been approached before to do animation voiceovers, but didn't think she could pull it off. When Bird approached her for The Incredibles, he showed her some concept art, and she said there was one picture of a group of happy, normal-looking junior high kids with one painfully shy girl off to the side, hiding behind her hair, and Sarah said "Yeah, I can do that."
|Date:||November 8th, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC)|| |
I saw an early "teaser" preview of Son of the Mask about seven months ago and it was actually booed. Loudly. By Everyone.
That was the horrible "dancing baby" teaser, wasn't it? The kind that went out in 1997 OH HELLO ALLY MCBEAL HERE IS A CREEPY LOOKING "BABY CHA-CHA" THAT EVERYBODY HAS MAILED TO EACH OTHER, HELLO 640K AVI FILES THAT CLUTTERED UP MY 36.6 EXISTENCE?
Yeah. I remember booing that piece o' crap too.
|Date:||November 8th, 2004 08:08 pm (UTC)|| |
That was the one.
|Date:||November 9th, 2004 02:06 am (UTC)|| |
...and no mention of the score at all? For shame!
|Date:||November 9th, 2004 07:36 am (UTC)|| |
Re: All that,
Why, I was waiting for you to mention it!