Whew. Pixar is back in a big way. Happy Amy Poehler leads a Herman’s Head of emotions inside a girl’s brain, and when the girl’s family moves across the country, shaking up her life (see also: Coraline, Totoro) and crumbling the “islands” that represent her core personalities, Sad Phyllis Smith (of Butter) slowly gains influence. And weirdly, that’s the “happy” ending, that it’s okay to be sad. Maybe too much frantic running around through the long-term memories department in the second half, but mostly it’s brilliant.

Jen Chaney:

Eventually, in another moment that will cause 3-D lenses to get misty, Joy sees that in many of the supposedly purely happy Riley memories, melancholy and disappointment were present, too. Light can’t exist without dark: It’s something most grown-ups know, but when Joy finally understands this, it feels as though we olds are really getting it for the first time, too.

Tasha Robinson:

The script makes the stakes bigger than whether one 11-year-old can learn to be happy again. Joy and her fellow emotions conflict on how to react to Riley’s circumstances, but they all care deeply about her, and worry about where she’s headed. And through their passionate concern, Docter builds the audience’s deep engagement with how Riley feels, how she expresses it, whether she can make herself understood to other people around her, and where her feelings take her. … Pixar vets will remember the profound emotions brought up by the opening sequences of Up, the final scenes of Toy Story 3 and Monsters, Inc., and so many other watershed moments in the company’s library of films. Inside Out not only evokes that profundity of emotion, it does it with emotions capable of examining their own response.

And I quote heavily from The Dissolve, my favorite film site, because I had these articles bookmarked to read after I saw Inside Out, and by the time I saw it, the site had shut down, causing Sadness to start touching all my film-criticism memory balls.

Lava (2014, James Murphy)

Two volcanoes sing each other a song of longing, looking for somebody to love-a (lava). Tasha: “The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But hey, at least those sad volcanos get to date each other, right?” And at least Katy liked it.


EDIT: Watched Inside Out again on New Year’s Eve 2017/18

Get a Horse! (Lauren MacMullan)

Like the premise of Tezuka’s Broken Down Film with the pacing of Pixar’s Presto and revised into a self-consciously old-meets-new Micky Mouse cartoon. The director has worked on Wreck-It Ralph and some quality television.

Mr. Hublot (Laurent Witz & Alexandre Espigares)

Great steampunk 3D – nervous shut-in manages to leave the house to rescue a neglected dog, which eventually outgrows his apartment. Based on the artwork of Stéphane Halleux, who goes uncredited on IMDB. One of the directors worked on the feature version of 9.

Feral (Daniel Sousa)

Wild child is “rescued” and brought to civilization, doesn’t adapt well. Black and white, faces are all toothy mouths, with eyes hidden. Some cool expressionist bits.

Possessions (Shuhei Morita)

A lost traveling repairman seeking shelter gets imprisoned by a house full of vengeful discarded artifacts – broken umbrellas, torn clothing and the like. He convinces the objects they still have worth, thanks them for their more productive years. Not as formally exciting as the previous three nor as cute as the next one.

Room on the Broom (Jon Lachauer & Max Lang)

Clearly based on a children’s book: a witch gradually gains new friends while looking for lost things. Her broom gets more and more weighed down, which is a problem with a witch-eating dragon on their trail. All animal grunts were voiced by famous people, but famous voices are lost on me since I thought Simon Pegg’s narrator was actually Rob Brydon. Cartoony 3D style, like if those animated shorts we used to see on HBO had been made with today’s software.

A la francaise (Boyer & Hazebroucq & Hsu & Leleu & Lorton)

Versailles 1700 with the king’s court portrayed as chickens. Loved it.

The Missing Scarf (Eoin Duffy)

The second short in the program about someone asking woodland creatures for help finding a lost article of clothing. Belatedly, I’m going to declare that the major trend in cinema last year. This definitely wins best performance of the bunch, for the voiceover by George Takei. Conversations with neurotic animals turn philosophical, then metacosmic, with infographic-style animation. This and the previous one were not nominated, but they’re the two I most want to watch again. Aha, the chickens are on vimeo!

The Blue Umbrella (Saschka Unseld)

Seen this before. A good closer.

These were stitched together with not-great ostrich/giraffe vignettes voiced by a guy from Thomas and Friends and a guy from Nightbreed who also appeared in the amazingly titled The Glam Metal Detectives. We saw the traveling theatrical presentation – all screenshots are from online trailers.

I liked Helen Mirren’s dragon dean.

And the hissing vampire sorority, or whatever that was.

Sometimes hard work and following your dreams just isn’t enough.

The Blue Umbrella (2013, Saschka Unseld)

A remake of Paperman using photorealistic umbrellas with cartoon faces!

Princess Merida, with the most awesome red hair I’ve seen in any movie, doesn’t want to be won in a contest by the first-born sons of the tribal leaders, so she competes to win her own freedom. That night, as the good-natured annual party (led by her father the Bear King) threatens to devolve into full-on war, Merida creeps away and asks a witch to change her controlling mother. So mom is changed into a bear. Now Merida has to save her mom from her bear-hunting father, and break the spell, and figure out what to do about the marriage thing before war breaks out.

Katy called it “rambunctious” and said she likes at least ten other Pixar features more than this one. We both felt a bit chastised for not recognizing the film’s full greatness after reading L. Loofbourow’s brilliant article Just Another Princess Movie.

Late director Mark Andrews helmed Pixar’s One Man Band and co-wrote John Carter of Mars, replacing original writer/director Brenda Chapman (co-dir. of Prince of Egypt).

La Luna (2011, Enrico Casarosa)

The moon is covered with tiny shooting stars, and as it rises each night, a couple of boatmen lean a ladder against it, climb up and sweep them into place to form the proper crescent shape. More golden light and wide-eyed wonder than is typical for Pixar. Writer/director Casarosa was an artist on Ratatouille and Up. Too-big music by Michael Giacchino (Super 8, Cars 2). Katy and I liked it.

full title:
Animated, Machinery-Themed, John Turturro-starring Sequel Double Feature at the Drive-In

Cars 2 (2011, John Lasseter)

In the first movie, Turturro plays a hotshot open-wheel race car named Bumblebee, I think. Larry the Cable Guy gets mixed up in a Man Who Knew Too Little super-spy plot with Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, while Owen Wilson is off having a biggest-dick contest with Turturro. The guy who developed the so-called green alternative fuel turns out to be the bad guy, because green fuels are fake and ultimately cause more environmental harm than fossil fuels. As Ruppert says in Collapse: corn! don’t make me laugh. Katy and I loved the Barbie & Ken short. This sequel was more exciting than the predictable first movie.

Transformers 3 (2011, Michael Bay)

Then Turturro, having learned humility and the value of friendship in the first movie, uses his money and influence to help Shia The Beouf fight Megatron and Shockwave and revive Roddimus Prime, whose ship crash-landed on the moon (Katy says there is no “dark side” since the moon rotates, and that the man in the moon is a myth). Frances McDormand was an army guy, I think, and John Malkovich was his usual Malkovichy self. Patrick O’Dreamy from Katy’s shows played the evil human who’d stop at nothing to defeat Turturro’s and The Beouf’s schemes because the Decapitrons have promised that he’ll be king of the humans after they win using some Fifth Element columns to bring an entire planet into Earth’s orbit, or something along those lines. More comprehensible than part one, with the masturbation/embarrassment jokes easier to take since I saw them coming this time. Oh, and the Spanish teacher from Community.

Surogat (1961, Dusan Vukotic)
Slightly naughty beach picture about a fat guy who brings inflatable ball, boat, car, food and girl. Real great anything-goes animation. Disney, Friz Freling and Chuck Jones must’ve cancelled each other out, giving the award to the underdog foreigner.
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The Crunch Bird (1971, Ted Petok)
“Crunch bird, my ass!” Ugh, punchline shorts. Was there no competition this year? I would’ve awarded Thank You Mask Man over this. From a co-writer of What’s Up Tiger Lily, this beat a comic Canadian short about evolution and an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale (OW wrote fairy tales?).
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The Sand Castle (1977, Co Hoedeman)
A desert man with arms and legs but no body creates clay creatures to help him build a giant sand castle. All stop-motion, the short that (probably deservedly) beat Doonesbury at the oscars.
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Every Child (1979, Eugene Fedorenko)
More of a foley demonstration than a proper cartoon. The animation is there I guess, though slightly Squiggle-visioney. Wow, someone sings the Umbrellas of Cherbourg theme. So the foley guys are telling the story of an unwanted baby… to a baby. One foley guy went on to voice the French version of Chief Quimby on Inspector Gadget. This beat a short called Dream Doll which I’d like to see, apparently an X-rated spoof of The Red Balloon.
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Tango (1981, Zbigniew Rybczynski)
An empty room, simple tango music. A kid (looks like stop-motion cut-out photographs) throws a ball into the room, comes in, throws the ball outside, leaves, repeat. Then another person is added, then another and another, none of them interacting with each other until the very end. How’d they do it? Beat out some stop-motion from the great Will Vinton and a half-hour piece about a snowman.
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The Man Who Planted Trees (1987, Frédéric Back)
Just about the happiest thing ever, so lovely it made my head hurt. Story of a lonely shepherd who singlehandedly reforests an entire region of France. I looked it up, hoping that it’s a true story, and unbelievably it is. Narrated by the familiar voice of Christopher Plummer and animated with lush, colorful sketches. The romantic short from the creators of Bob & Margaret and a big of head-morphing Bill Plympton hilarity never stood a chance against this beauty.
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A Greek Tragedy (1985, Nicole Van Goethem)
The characters are man/pillars holding up a stone wall that has fallen into ruins. When it finally collapses, the pillars are free to frolic. The kind of simple cuteness you’d see at a festival with three of four similar pieces, not the kind I’d think would win a major award. Hard times in 1986. Actually this beat Luxo Jr. somehow. I guess computer animation wasn’t in style until ’88. At the same time, it’s nice
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Tin Toy (1988, John Lasseter)
A one-man-band toy escapes the wrath of a slimy toddler, then grudgingly returns to cheer it up when it’s crying only to be ignored in favor of an empty box and a paper bag. Clear precedent to Toy Story. 1988 computer technology was not up to the task of accurate baby rendering, but it’s still pretty cool looking. It beat a Tex Avery-style short from the future director of FernGully and Cordell Baker’s great The Cat Came Back.
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Manipulation (1991, Daniel Greaves)
A good ol’ artist’s-hands-interacting-with-drawing-table short, somewhere between Duck Amuck and Rejected. Funny how one of the most recent shorts is the one available in the lowest quality. The line-drawing guy turns 3D at the end, which I think was done in claymation. Very inventive and fun. Apparently Greaves’ Flatworld is also a must-see. No U.S. shorts in this year’s competition – this UK film beat out two Canadian pieces (including long-time fave Blackfly).
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Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase (1992, Joan C. Gratz)
Really wonderful little animated film which would probably be the greatest thing ever if I was an art history major. Since I only knew about five of the paintings which were mighty-morphing into each other, I probably attribute more of the film’s beauty to its director than I probably should. Oh wait, it won the oscar so I guess I’m not the only one who was impressed.
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Then again, some of it is just silliness.
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Quest (1996, Tyron Montgomery)
A man made of sand navigates increasingly more difficult and dangerous worlds of paper, rock, metal and water. The end is the beginning – would work as a looping DVD or art installation. Nice stop-motion, like The Sand Castle but I liked this one better, Thought it was anti-technology for a while, but now I think its just trying to say the world is a dangerous place. Competition included an Aardman, a Canadian piece I’ve seen but don’t remember, and a stop-motion short from a future Pixar animator.
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Time out from Shocktober to watch some Pixar films in 3D – coincidentally the only two Pixar films I’d not seen in theaters. The 3D effect works nicely, but I didn’t find it especially amazing or engrossing here, not as much as with Coraline. Seems like a plain ol’ 2D double-feature would’ve been equally effective.

I was hoping Katy would be wowed by the sequel, but it was late and she was tired. In fact, it was too late… after the tenth time the toy dinosaur told us to go buy snacks during the intermission segment, I went to buy snacks only to find that the snack bar had closed.

The barbies in part 2 are awesome, but the ones in Small Soldiers have got ’em beat.

I still think the “When She Loved Me” song is pretty.