Tuesday, July 27, 2010 04:44 PM
On the Viewer - Recently Seen Film Roundup
 by Fëanor

Holes - I don't know if it's because I'm a big softy anymore, or because I was blinded by my fond memories of the young adult novel that this film is based on, or because it actually is a good film, but I really enjoyed Holes, and found it to be very moving. It's the story of a young boy sent to a brutal work camp for a crime he didn't commit. That story is interwoven with two other stories out of his family's past which turn out to have essential connections to people and events in his present. Ultimately it's a story of redemption, and the way everything ends up coming together is really powerful. It's a funny, clever, poignant film with a surprisingly great cast which includes Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson, Henry Winkler, Dule Hill, and Shia LaBeouf (whom I still like, despite the fact that he was in the Transformers movies and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull). It's hard to call it a kids' movie, though. I mean, the story set in the Old West that revolves around Hill's character is incredibly dark.

Toy Story 3 - The Toy Story films are probably Pixar's greatest achievement in a long line of great achievements. If you think they're just kids' movies about talking toys, you are woefully mistaken. Toy Story 2, I feel, is about becoming aware of the inevitability of death - or at least, the inevitability of change and loss. In Toy Story 3, that change and loss - that death - cannot be put off any longer, and we must finally stare it in the face and come to grips with it. The film is incredibly effective and moving, especially to a new parent like myself. It's about a child growing up and learning to leave childish things behind. But it's also about a parent learning how to let a child grow up. It's about knowing when and how to stick together, and when and how to let people go. And besides all that, it's also incredibly entertaining, clever, imaginative, fun, and funny, and in the middle it turns into a classic, perfectly executed jailbreak thriller. It's an amazing cinematic achievement. But I warn you - have tissues handy. The scene in the garbage dump, where they're staring the end in the face, and they all join hands? Oh my God!!! The weeping! Anyway, I assume they will eventually release a Toy Story trilogy DVD set, and when they do, I'm going to have to pick that up and introduce Griffin to these films.

Ratatouille - Speaking of Pixar, I missed a lot of their movies! Seeing this one was my first step toward catching up. I almost didn't finish it, though. I watched the first ten minutes or so and I got bored and turned it off. I just couldn't connect with it. I didn't care about a rat who could cook. I think part of my problem, oddly enough, is that I was having trouble suspending my disbelief. Usually at the opening of a movie, I have almost no problem with that; I'm willing to accept nearly any crazy premise you want to feed me, as long as the rest of the movie follows logically from that premise. But for whatever reason I had a hard time accepting a world where rats can not only cook, but also read, and understand human speech. Oh, and they can also talk to each other just like we do, we just can't understand them. I know it's ridiculous for me to rebel at something like that considering all the other insane things I'm willing to believe, but what can I say? I'm fickle. Anyway, I eventually turned the movie back on and watched the rest of it, and it ended up winning me over. I continued to have issues with suspension of disbelief, especially during the sequence [SPOILERS AHEAD!] where the rats take over the working of the kitchen entirely, and the sequence where the famous food critic accepts that his delicious meal was cooked by a rat. But by that time I cared about the characters, I'd bought into the story, and I was willing to let things slide. Plus, c'mon, the scene with the health inspector is hilarious. Ultimately, it's a really sweet story with a rather wonderful moral: not everyone is an artist, but great artists can come from anywhere. I was particularly moved by the scene in which Anton Ego (who's a wonderful character with a great name and a perfect voice - thank you, Peter O'Toole) eats the ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood. It's a wordless sequence that captures perfectly what's so comforting about comfort food, and how deeply someone can be affected by great food - and, by extension, great art. This is not one of Pixar's great works, but it's definitely a fun and lovable film.

Ponyo - I haven't caught up with Pixar yet, but now that I've seen this movie, I've caught up with Hayao Miyazaki. I've seen all his feature length films, and although there are a few I didn't love, there isn't one that I disliked. This latest work is another masterpiece - a simple, weird, beautiful, gentle film which is Miyazaki's take on "The Little Mermaid." It's about how a child's love is so blind and pure, it can save the world. It's also about how ham is delicious. It's a ridiculously cute film, with riotously colorful, insanely imaginative, jaw-droppingly epic visuals. The story is simple, yet also deep. Miyazaki's usual plea for humanity to treat nature with care is delivered with more subtlety than he's used in the past. He introduces us to the characters and their relationships and tells us their stories with careful mastery, using a minimum of words and backstory. We see a mother looking up at her child out of one eye, and in that glance are a thousand words - none of which need to be said aloud, and so they are not. As with many Miyazaki films, Ponyo is pretty much devoid of villains. The "evil wizard" turns out to be more frustrated and misguided than evil, and even the cranky old lady has a good heart. Nobody can paint shades of gray more beautifully than Miyazaki.
Tagged (?): Books (Not), Cartoons (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), Movies (Not), On the Viewer (Not), Pixar (Not), Toys (Not)

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Welcome to the blog of Jim Genzano, writer, web developer, husband, father, and enjoyer of things like the internet, movies, music, games, and books. For a more detailed run-down of who I am and what goes on here, read this.

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