Pixar's Greatest Hits

Ahoy! Long post ahead! Towards the end it's list based though so skim if you must :)

Two weeks ago Pixar released the newest addition to their family of greats, Brave. (And yes it's taken me this long to blog about it...but seeing how many viewers I got from my prompt blog on The Amazing Spider-man I will have to improve on that..) Now remember how often I talk about expectations? There's definitely a reason for that because for me, they really are everything in how I view something. I've always had incredibly high standards and expectations with Pixar. And why shouldn't I? For years they produced quality film after quality film. However, in 2006 came the mediocre addition Cars. It was obvious it wasn't up to standard, but I still found to be better than most of its other animated competition from other studios, so I let it slide. Then the following year when Ratatouille was released all was forgiven and Pixar was back to form. 3 straight hits following Ratatouille, only confirmed that the studio couldn't be touched or matched.

[Emily tangent: ] Okay, I know if a few certain siblings are reading this right now they might be a little outraged because they know of my Pixar bias. I admit, I really don't watch any animation unless it comes through Disney or Pixar first (and even most of Disney's ventures into CG animation I completely avoid, minus of course Tangled.) Why? Because it's a genre that can be so slapped together without a thought or care in the world. Easy way to make a buck because families are always going to keep needing new movies to give to their kids (addicts I tell ya.) I feel like watching a lot of them ends up being a waste of time. I only take the time if I know it will be worth my time as far as this genre goes. I know I tend to give other genres a break...but poorly made kids films I really have no patience for (right up there with poorly made formulaic dramas). Maybe it's because studios give kids absolutely NO credit, so they know they can just churn out crap. I'm not the audience for it, so why subject myself to it?  Yeah I know there have been hits from other studios that have been well-reviewed but I still find it's not something I go out of my way for unless I know for a certainty I'll love it. [/ Emily tangent over..now where was i?]

So anyway.... back to the history of Pixar. To many, Toy Story 3 was an absolute masterpiece. So how do they top that, one might ask? What's that? They chose to follow it up with a sequel to the weakest member of the Pixar family??? As I mentioned, I myself didn't love Cars so I had low expectations for a sequel, but I hoped maybe they'd right the wrongs and come back even stronger with its sequel. And then the HORRIBLE reviews came...so I never dragged myself to the theater to see it. Why bother? Didn't like the first.. To this day it is only Pixar film I have never seen. A pixar movie with a RT rating of 38%?? It seemed like the great Pixar had fallen. What happened? Were they on the same level as Dreamworks now!? Gulp.

And along comes Brave. When I saw the previews (that really showed NOTHING of what the movie was actually about) I was unimpressed and didn't consider it something to be looking forward to at all. Just more confirmation Pixar had sunk. It looked like all those other movies. Were they going to have 2 duds in a row really? And thus...all my expectations were destroyed. I had none. I had a trailer that gave nothing, I saw decent but non masterpiece rave reviews, and then there was my own personal bias that just felt the movie was gonna be "meh." But of course I went to see it anyway, planning to give it a shot and form my own opinion. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised and when I found what was really at the heart of the movie (that like I said, the previews never even gave a glimpse of..) was very worthwhile. I don't want to give anything away because the surprise of where the story goes was a really big reason that I enjoyed it (The same thing happened with Super 8...I'm beginning to think vague trailers are the way to go.) The adventure that came with the movie was totally unexpected and just delightful. And at the core, it was really all about a mother/daughter relationship which is RARELY portrayed with such sweetness in animated films. If you notice the mom's are usually dead and all that's left are evil stepmothers. Mom issues much? I thought the film had a real tenderness in carefully portraying that relationship and I'm not gonna lie I kind of teared up a bit and thought "aww I LOVE my mom...even if sometimes I want a witch to take care of her.."

Now Brave is far from perfect. It borrows heavily from a lot of successful animated films before it, including from its Pixar brothers and sisters, (uh don't ask me the genders of each film..) and I don't know that it fully carries the same charm as the others (or level of creativity). Maybe that has something to do with the animation...looks wise, it wasn't really my favorite even though they got down certain vital-to-the-story mannerisms down to a tee. What it feels like is a highly popular band putting out a best of hits and adding a new song that is good...but probably not to the same incredibly high standard as their other works. Oddly out of place, yet it is still a good, memorable addition.

So how does it stack up against the rest? Well I'll leave Cars 2 out of it since I can't say. But Brave probably falls towards the lower middle of the pack. That's not speaking against its merits, but rather saying how great the other movies were and that they're incredibly tough to compete with. To sum it up, I would say that Brave DID have that Pixar magic that I have come to love and is definitely lovable in its own way...even if it's not the blow you away way that the others made me love them. Definitely worth a watch and will be a nice addition to many a mother's collection of films to distract their children. But onto the list which should probably be a separate blog this is getting so long..

1. The Incredibles and Ratatouille TIE. Many will probably see these as odd choices, but I find both to be utterly enjoyable and perfect. They always make me laugh and I love their stories.

2. Monsters Inc. This movie is probably the most adorable of all the Pixar movies. The details they create in the Monster worlds are practically infinite it's incredible.

3. Toy Story 2. Yeah people will probably see this as another odd choice be so high up, but I just LOVE the Star Wars references and I've always thought it was the funnest of the Toy Story movies.

4. Toy Story 3. A sweet little conclusion to the trilogy, and the Barbie and Ken romance had me in stitches. Very clever and hilarious.

5. A Bug's Life. I've always found this one to be very underrated. Like Monster's Inc. there is incredible detail in this world and I think the story here is one of the best and most creative. Plus it has a nice little message.

6. Up. Seriously that opening montage alone really made this one a favorite for me. It's flaws are a little more evident though with an underdeveloped villain and an unbalanced third act it wasn't perfect....but it's great moments are among the best of all Pixar films.

7. Wall-E. This isn't one of my go-to Pixar films, but I think it's one of the most artistic and visually beautiful. It is sweet, funny and the titular character is very endearing. Sure it kind of has a preachy message, but at least it did it in a way not as dumb as Avatar (not that that's hard...)

8. Brave. See entire blog above.

9. Toy Story. Yeah more people will think I'm crazy. but I've always preferred the stories in the Toy Story universe AFTER Woody has learned his lesson and he and Buzz are BFF's. I think it's a good story and a fun film, but definitely a learning process and they've made many improvements and things have gotten even better since.

10. Finding Nemo. Truthfully this doesn't deserve to be so low on the list, and I probably would be more likely to be in the mood to watch this than Wall-E. It's definitely a pleasant watch and I enjoy it a lot. It's just never been one that I adored or felt I had a ton to say about it. I like it very much, but most of the other films I think have been able to offer just what it did, but more.

11. Cars. I can barely remember a thing about it to be honest. Owen Wilson did a good job...but I think it's pretty forgettable...given the fact I can't really remember enough to write anything about it in the short blurb. All I can think of at the moment is how in Flight of the Conchords the Prime Minister wanted to know if the boy car ended up with the girl car and had to ask Murray about it. If I didn't know movie tropes so well I would almost have to ask too! Let's hope Monsters University is high quality, because Inc. was fantastic! I guess we'll see come 2013!

So? Agree or disagree? How would YOU rank them?


RobertSterlingOwen said...

Pretty good list. I liked Brave a lot better than most critics did, which surprised me. Not the best of the litter, not the worst. It had good pacing and the sum was worth more than its parts. The real conflict, I thought, was between mother and daughter. Kind of like Finding Nemo, but with different genders.

It's interesting, but if you look at all the real Pixar greats, they have one thing on common: a really good, fleshed-out villan. Which I might add, is present in the film pretty much from the beginning.

Wall-E, Up, Cars 1 & 2, and Brave all had a problem with this. Either the main villans (and thus, most conflict) started half way into the movies (Wall-E, Up, Cars 2), or the main villans weren't that omnipresent (Cars, Brave).

What about finding Nemo, you may ask? Though not as obvious as "Darla," a red-headed, spoiled little girl, who was the main villan for part of the film, -I think the real villan was the broken relationship between father and son... something most people can relate to in any parent/offspring relationship. So I wouldn't classify this in the same category as those prior.

As for the greats: Incredibles, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 1,2,3, Ratatouille --they all share one common trait, which is a really good antagonist who is constantly nipping at the heals of the protagonist(s). Even a simple, simple story like Terminator 2 was good because it understood this formula. Think about it. :)

Emily said...

That is a verrrry good observation Rob. Dang I miss talking movies with you and Benji! (as evidenced in my prequel fight on Benji's wall haha!) I agree that the critics were rough on it (same goes with spidey)... probably because of their expectations! But I think that you're spot on with the villain idea...even if my list doesn't really reflect that. Up and Wall-E had more redeeming factors that made me care less about that...but that fault is definitely what keeps them from being the top of the list.

David said...

I thought Brave should be at the bottom of the list. There were no twists in the story. The which never came back and there were only two characters who had any depth. The main character had no ambition in life. Aside from some great one-liners and some great animation Brave didn't have a lot to offer. Your list is good but Finding Nemo should be a lot higher. From a cartoon standard Brave is a good movie but from a Pixar standard, I expected better.

Sarah said...

I just watched The Incredibles again with my boys this morning and it is such a great movie! The drawback to that movie, however, is that it doesn't speak to all ages the way some of the others do. Finding Nemo is one that appeals to kids at their tiniest.

So, here's my list order (excluding Brave since I haven't seen it yet):

1. Monsters, Inc.
2. The Incredibles
3. Finding Nemo
4. Toy Story 2
5. Toy Story 3
6. Toy Story
7. Ratatouille
8. A Bug's Life
9. Wall-E
10. Cars
11. Cars 2

And I know you don't love non-Pixar CGI flicks. But you should really check out (with an open-mind) How to Train Your Dragon and Puss in Boots. I really like those two.

Sarah said...

Blast. I forgot Up.

Here's my revised list:

1. Monsters, Inc.
2. The Incredibles
3. Finding Nemo
4. Toy Story 2
5. Toy Story 3
6. Up
7. Toy Story
8. Ratatouille
9. A Bug's Life
10. Wall-E
11. Cars
12. Cars 2

And I have this to add: it doesn't matter if Pixar blows it on the Monsters prequel or on the dinosaur movie that is slated to follow the next year. Cars and Cars 2 will still be at the bottom of the list for me. Cars is cute and has nice touches in regards to the little flies (volkswagon beetles with wings) and the landscape looking like cars, etc. But Peter never sits through that movie and so it is a fail for me. I want to put on one of those movies for a little peace and quiet so that I can make dinner, etc. If my kid doesn't stay put, the movie didn't do its job. Same for Cars 2 (only with less cute touches).

Emily said...

@ Sarah good list and pretty similar to mine except having ratatouille and wall e so low.

@ David: valid points to be sure. I think your expectations were a lot higher than mine.. Allowing greater room for disappointment. I still think no matter what your expectations were Brave is better than cars.

seanmackay.net said...

There are two points that I would really like to make:

1. Sarah and Lee (Emily) are my sisters.

2. Hi.


Sarah said...

That Sean is just so funny! :)

Mom said...

You want a witch to take care of me? :(

Laurie & Clint said...

1. fantastic mr fox
2. ratatouille
3. how to train your dragon

Sarah said...

Ha ha! I love that Laurie!