Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Up#37 at time of writing.

My wife and I attended a preview screening of Pixar's tenth feature at the BFI Southbank last week. My love for Pixar only grows.

There was a particular sequence within the first 15 minutes of the film that made me cry. Within the first 15 minutes! I can't think of any other film that has achieved that, ever. Beautiful, touching, bold, genius. It was followed by a good hour of belly-laugh comedy excellence, and then the end just about lived up to the beginning.

The plot of Up is (typically for Pixar) wonderfully left-of-centre. A 78-year old widower ties thousands of balloons to his home and flies it to the tepuis of South America, accompanied by an unexpected companion. I can't think of any Hollywood films that dare to have an old widower in the starring role since, I dunno, About Schmidt.

Director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera were in attendance for a Q&A after the film. It's wonderful watching a film alongside its creators - the audience was much more vocal than a normal cinema audience, clapping and cheering and laughing out loud.

Pete had lost his voice, so Jonas did all the talking. He spoke of many things. There were no new technical challenges in Up (like fur in Monsters Inc, water in Finding Nemo), which allowed them to focus on design. And it shows - Up is gorgeous. Although come to think of it, isn't being in 3D a new technical challenge?

Talking of 3D, the extra dimension is used subtly to add depth to the sweeping Venezuelan vistas, rather than to make things jump out of the screen. This was the first 3D film, as well as the first animated film, ever to open the Cannes Film Festival.

The producer admitted that they had trouble with the villain character, and indeed I think the villain's story is the weakest link in an otherwise flawless film. The villain Charles Muntz is named after Charles Mintz, the Universal Pictures executive who in 1928 stole Walt Disney's production rights to his highly-successful "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" cartoon series. This led Walt Disney to create Mickey Mouse, who soon eclipsed Oswald in popularity.

Up with Pixar, say I! Bring on Toy Story 3, Cars 2, The Bear and the Bow and Newt! (And 1906!)

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