Friday, September 11, 2009

Top Films: Up

Wow. Pixar have done it again. The secret to their success is taking imaginative, entertaining settings and telling great stories in those worlds. They seem to also tap into almost universal fascinations. Who hasn’t imagined that their toys really came to life when they weren’t in the room? That the world of insects is an amazing jungle in miniature? That monsters really do exist behind closed doors? In a time when animation was increasingly devoted to interchangeable fairy-tales, they have managed to create a wide variety of settings. Maybe because they don’t see their art form as a genre, but a medium.

This year’s Up is no exception. The set-up is simple. It is a classic explorer’s tale a-la Professor Challenger and The Lost world. The delivery is anything but simple. When was the last time you saw an animated movie deliver such emotion and tell such a heart breaking story? In a simple montage of visuals they deliver a lifetime of information and move the viewer to tears. And what animation! There is one shot in the film of a photograph of Ellie looking out a window. The grainy texture of the shot, the color and fading are pure perfection.

And not everything here is emotional and touchy-feely. This may be the most comedic and laugh out loud film Pixar has delivered yet, and that is saying a lot. The writing and acting in this film are excellent.

As with all movies that aren’t just good but great, Up has a message—a kernel of truth. Karl is one of those people who think about actually living someday, but never seem to get around to it. He is in love with his dreamer of a wife, but when his life has seemed wasted and almost done, he learns once again from her that a) he hasn’t just been waiting for life to happen, but has had a pretty great adventure all along and b) there is more to be had after all. We tend to live too much in the past or the future and let the present pass us by.

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