votw ii.23: Two In Fin E.T. FBI!

Que pasa, mundo? I’m just here, shooting the breeze. And what an evil breeze it is. If it weren’t such a wily target, it would have gotten itself murderlized a good minute ago. Damn mounties.

So the world is full of lonely people, huh? Try being the last robot on this condemned planet 800 years from now. Now there’s a lonely existence, no foolin’.

As you might expect, I went to see WALL•E over the weekend. Yes, it was so grand, so amazing, so resplendent that I had to go back to the theaters the following night for a second go-around. (That, and the bullet-riddled Wanted was sold out.) WALL-E, the poster boy automaton for the 21st century, is a cross between the impetuous zirps and burps of Artoo-Deetoo and the self-aware binoculars of a squished-down Johnny Five. And that’s where the comparisons end. Whereas both Artoo and Number Five are surrounded by humans and New Yorkers (and a homoerotic gilded robot), WALL-E has no one. (Except a wee cockroach, but who’s counting?) And then he meets EVE.

I don’t want to give anything away for any of you’ze who are gonna skip Will Smith’s Hancock this Fourth of July weekend in favor of the little robot that could (most likely the better bet, judging by early Hancock prognostics), but it’s a love story for the ages. The characters are profoundly nuanced, layered with a filmy coating of aww and teeheehee.

That’s some top-notch writing, I’ll tell you what.

Oh, and to the fools who so snidely commented that I would rush home to chime in with a blog review: up yours, Krabappel. *Raspberries in your general direction*

So what else has the Pixar Animation Studios committed to film since entering the public consciousness back in the mid-’90s? Well, Cool World, for one.

Oh, I keed, o’ course.

Alas, the CGI animation revolution all started with a bin full of lifeless toys. Look, a plastic dinosaur, and there, Mr. Potato Head’s upside-down grinning at me, so dead. But wait, that cowboy doll — is it, is it winking at me? Avast! The spaceman, is he — no, he isn’t speaking! The toys! The toys are ALIVE!!!

In 1995, Toy Story punctured the side of Pandora’s dox and a worldful of talking animals, automobiles, and Shreks have burst forth onto a scene once dominated by singing lions and cheeky genies. The original still holds up as one of the best testaments to the medium. It all boils down to a simple jealousy aroused by the new kid on the block, and the ensuing friendship that develops after the best of times, the worst of times. After all this years, your head still rattles with Randy Newman rasp-dopey-singing, “Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.” Er, “You’ve got a friend in me.”

In 1998, the first of many oh-yeahs! from DreamWorks hit cinemas with Antz, which arrived just a month prior to the much more successful A Bug’s Life. Over the next ten years, DreamWorks would claim a position right alongside Pixar, although its outings would be nowhere as brilliant, cutting edge, or sublime as that of Pixar’s offerings. Like Buzz Lightyear, DreamWorks is loud, flashy, and a bit one-dimensional, whereas Pixar is truer to Woody’s mold of simple yet earnest pride, elegant in its subtle albeit bubbling attention to the details. Confused?

I find that A Bug’s Life is probably the least mentioned of all of Pixar’s movies. My basis for saying this is not the major media outlets, the Internet ramblings, or any sort of credible source — just word of mouth, hearsay, los chismosos del barrio. It’s been ten years since Flik and co. overthrew the evil grasshopper political machine (death to Hopper!), and it still holds up pretty well. Just don’t pay any mind to Dot’s exasperated cries about Y2K.

In the 9teen90nines, the boys were back in town: the Toy Story gang roared back atop Bullseye, that lovable steed that kept that rascally cowpuck Jessie and that scurvy Prospector company. I adore the sequel as much as the first one. I honestly don’t know which one I prefer. I mean, this one has the evil Emperor Zurg. Zurg, people. ZURG!

Angry eyes and the Walt Disney World attraction that gets you 999999 points with a single overkill.

Sadly, this would be one of Jim Varney’s last credits (as Slinky the Dog). Varney was most famous for portraying the Ernest P. Worrell character of the ’80s and ’90s. The good die tend to die young…Unless you’re Toy Story. Look for a second sequel a couple of years from now. I’ll be the EP.

Monsters, Inc., blew into town in 2001, but its focus on screwy-designed spooks was overshadowed by DreamWorks’ infinitely successful Shrek, released half a year prior. So, which movie about children’s nightmarish ghouls is the better buy? I’m gonna have to give it to Shrek this round. That one was truly the first animated romp that incorporated sly nods at pop-culture and adults. Of course, like any good thing, it became the blueprint for every DreamWorks picture that followed, and it quickly devolved into a franchise of ever-excremental sequels (Shrek the Turd, ja). As for Monsters, Incorporated, it’s probably the Pixar film that I least care for. The best bit is Boo shouting “Mike Wazowski!” throughout the film — she’s just so cute!

If a parent/legal guardian ever says that you have a “lucky elbow,”
it’s just a lie to cover up your unsightly disfigurement.
And your mother was probably mauled because of you.

2003’s Finding Nemo breathed astounding life to Australian sea critters. The story about a concerned father and his search for his lost babe is a heartfelt one. Ellen’s turn as the absentminded Dory is also exemplary for voice-over work. This would be just grand by itself if it wasn’t for the gorgeous, lifelike animation. You can almost taste the rip currents splashing against your tongue. (That’s how I swim, anyway.) Spoiler warning: Nemo is never found. (The Internet was abuzz when his corpse was uncovered drifting along the New York harbor.) A year later, DreamWorks chimed in with the me-too that was Shark Tale. Slightly racist and entirely uninspired, this one is one undersea rock better left unturned.

The Incredibles, released at the end of 2004, was a bold move in that it was Pixar’s first attempt at human characters. Essentially, all you have is a family of mundane nobodies, all living their rather unincredible, humdrum existences. (Much like you. Yes, you. Quit being such a Debbie Downer.) Turns out, though, that ma and pa have these superpowers, you see, and they were forced into hiding after the public outcry against the collateral damage their high-octane, supercool battles caused. (Finally, a film that addresses all of the insurmountable costs of a battle between Superman and Darkseid. The property value in Metropolis is dirt cheap. No insurance coverage! None at all!) With all its animated wizardry, its spectacular action escapades, and the darling, minute costume designer, one wouldn’t think that a story about a simple family trying to get along could be told. Buddy, have you been reading at all?

Frick, so fricken’ realistic. How do they do it?!

2006 gave us Cars. Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Automocar stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator — and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Automocar finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap…will be the leap home.

What? I should stop watching Quantum Leap sometime and just sit down to give Cars a shot? Well, that’s a novel thought.

That was my look in the women’s bathroom.

Last summer, we got the fairest of all tales (pun?) in the rat with the ability to make one mean omelet. Ratatouille was the name, being a rodent was its shame. If you were turned off by the premise of a flea-ridden pest preparing delicacies on your plate, then you’re just plain racist. There, I said it, Adolf Ratpoison. Who says rats can’t make food? Health inspectors? Social protocol? The bubonic witch hunt? We know what happens during witch hunts, sir, and us civilized folk will take no part in it. (Unless the witch hunt is in a bar, and the witch in question is a touchy-feely Samantha Stephens, but only then.) There have been many an honorable rodent over the course of history. There’s Rizzo from the Muppets, obviously, the cast of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, and the infamous Rat King. Most importantly, would you deny a pizza slice from Master Splinter? You make me sick.

The ostensibly (?) awesome Patton Oswalt has Remy treating chefing on an empty canvas — each taste embodies a swirl of color, each aroma a splash of purpley splendor that ruptures in your nostrils. The Best Animated Feature Oscar winner is also about the unlikely friendship between a fraudulent, insecure man and his teeny puppet master, as well as the power behind the food of one’s childhood. Sort of.

Which brings us to this past weekend. No, it wasn’t Shrek Goes Fourth (May 21, 2010), Puss in Boots: The Story of an Ogre Killer (2011), or Shrek Five (2013) — it was the most original love story since Romeo had the gall to crush on his cousin. WALL•E is probably the least kid-oriented of all the films mentioned here. Why, to call it a children’s movie would just be embarrassingly silly. It’s not even an animated feature until we stumble upon the oafish humans halfway through. Up until then, we get a retro-tinged silent film, swooping with music your grandpappy waltzed to and the cleverest physical comedy this side of…well, calling physical comedy “clever” is a feat onto itself. Not only is it a mature story of romantic devotion, but it is also a cautionary tale for all of you who so disrespectfully skipped Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Our green planet is going down the toilet, almost literally, and this movie exemplifies how Mother Nature will simply give us the boot in some years’ time.

Both Johnny Five and WALL-E are, ahem, ALIIIIIIIVE!!!

Add to the green consciousness the over-reliance of technology (“I didn’t know we had a pool!”) and the globalization of super-conglomerates destined to rule you, me, and Disney, and you have the most insightful animated feature to ever pull the wool over your binoculars. (Keep an eye out for 2001‘s HAL impersonator, as well as what sounded to me like a Star Wars alien language. For the hardcore only.) All this — as well as the drop-dead gorgeous sights, sounds, and delirium of rogue robots — is what brought me back to the silver screen the following night for encore, encore, encore!

And so you have the abbreviated history of Pixar, the movie studio that unintentionally killed its parent company only to become the production house with the best track record in recent memory.

So what a-ha music video can possibly compete with the warm feeling the animated short films preceding each Pixar presentation bring forth? Pixar bid farewell to 2-D animation for the sake of the new era of 3-D, just like “Summer Moved On” trumpeted the rebirth of a-ha in the eyes of the Americans world. It is finally time to shine a light on the beginning of a-ha’s Fourth Phase. We know Phase One to be the melodramatic Synthpop days of “Take On Me” and its accompanying three albums; Phase Two stripped away the synthesizers for a more harrowing, acoustic era (the “Brown” epoch); Phase Three exists as the band’s breakup and individual pursuits; Phase Four brought us the new millennium and the sound that combined everything they’ve been through. Are we in Phase Five now? Does Analogue belong in the Fourth Phase with the millennial instrumentation, or should their separate-but-equal approach be considered its own mini-era? [And if you’re wondering, I named this entry thusly because, to my non-English-speaking dad, our Buzz Lightyear toy sounded like he was saying “FBI” instead of “and beyond.” Finite?]

How do you say “me love you long time?” in Norwede?

Anyway, “Summer Moved On” was the first music video to usher in their reunion after their breakup hiatus. I’m sure rivalries were riding high during that time, but after a very successful turn at the Nobel Peace Prize Awards in ’98, why not give big, bad 2OOO a chance? And thus we have one of the earthiest, most calming, uncluttered-but-worthwhile music video from the boys, one with creamy visuals and fluorescent despondence. (And yeah, I still find myself cupping the sunlight, shielding my eyes, in the same Morty fashion.) And as always, marvel every single damn time you hear Morten Harket hit that record-shattering Note. Eight years on, you still get goosebumps. Eighty years on, you want to hear him sing those 20+ seconds right before you die your gruesome death. Don’t deny, toots.

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~ by Alfredeus on July 2, 2008.

One Response to “votw ii.23: Two In Fin E.T. FBI!”

  1. greetings from the wacky beatle.
    i’m glad you and the rest of the world love pixar as much as i do. next up? up, in theatres may 29th, 2009 (thank you, wikipedia). so now the pressure’s on to keep churning out the heart-warming, wonderfully-told blockbusters.. short films too, so no pressure. as to sam stephens, i liked her brunette cousin too, and the way she antagonized darren. see? can’t leave out family. and whatever were you doing holding cheese in the women’s bathroom?

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