Nanook of the North

Nanook of the North (1922) movie poster

(1922) dir. Robert J. Flaherty
viewed: 06/19/09

The best silent documentary about Eskimos that I’ve ever watched.

Seriously, though, Robert J. Flaherty’s classic film, Nanook of the North, is deemed to be the first feature-length documentary film, following the life of a Canadian Inuit and his family as they hunt walruses and snow foxes, build igloos, and romp with their huskies.  The film has many amazing pieces to it, many fascinating elements.  But the film is criticized from a documentary angle in the Flaherty staged most of the sequences, building a partially full igloo, with an open end so he would have enough light to shoot by, but also that the family is not Nanook’s and Nanook is not Nanook’s name for instance.

Being the first of its kind, many of these standards didn’t exist.  Flaherty’s approach is almost diorama-like, setting Nanook on display more in the ways to document they ways that Inuit people survived in the times before the Europeans came along.  In fact, according to my reading, Nanook hunted typically with a gun, though for the film he is shown with spears and bow and arrows.

The most interesting sequence either way includes Nanook and company snaring, killing, and eating a walrus, which they did with traditional means.  Flaherty’s intentions were good, if dubious by standards of non-influence in documentary methodologies of today.  The film is still a landmark in cinema and still captures actualities that still have great power.  One of my favorite images was the naked baby, slung from his mother’s back-pouch, dropped among the husky puppies, some simple, beautiful image of nature and humanity.

According to Flaherty, Nanook went on to starve to death in a hunting expedition only two years after this film was made.  Again, research suggests that this may have been a fabrication and that Nanook may have succumbed to illness brought by the Europeans.  This particular element shows what truth is lost in the fabrication, why documentarians try to rely on “truth” to be the powerful element in the process and the soul of the production.  When the truth is lost or altered, it clearly diminishes the power of the image.  But clearly, no matter how much staging is created, these people are captured in many ways doing things or at least acting out the realities of a life long now gone.

Le bonheur

Le bonheur (1965) movie poster

(1965) dir. Agnès Varda
viewed: 06/15/09

Le bonheur is another really interesting film from the great Agnès Varda, the lone woman affiliated with the French New Wave.  As I’ve mentioned in past comments, I’d first seen her film Vagabond (1985) back in film school, but for some reason didn’t get around to really exploring her work until last year.  But after watching Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) and The Gleaners and I (2000), her unique style and vision and her very singular films are beginning to make her a bit of a favorite.

It’s not that Le bonheur seems a masterpiece, or even that I feel like it’s fully yet sunken in, but rather it’s the way she uses the camera, the way she “sees” things, frames them, both visually and within the narrative that is strange, striking, and hard to catergorize.  It’s easy to suggest a Feminist stance virtually for any female director whose work was by the happenstance of her gender pioneering.  And it’s not to say that the film doesn’t potentially have a distinct Feminist reading perhaps even deeply within it.  But it’s something that arises to an extent, though not in a pedantic or unambiguous way.

The film opens on a pastoral scene, a young family, man, woman, toddler and baby, picnicking in the gloriously colorful summer woods.  It’s almost a standing cliche of an image, but the film whose title translates as “Happiness” lends one to both drink in the visual beauty and the image of familial bliss.  But also, there is a concern that this image, as genuine as it is portrayed and as beautiful as it is, is doomed at some point.

Color is so alive in the film that it’s amazing.  Varda “fades out” scenes to bright hues of blue, green, yellow, red, pink, violet, and then the scenes are alive with natural colors and also the painted hues of bright primary colors as well as the colors throughout the clothing of the characters.  I was reminded of the way that Jean-Luc Godard used colors in Made in U.S.A. (1966), but in his film it felt much more random and pop-arty.  In Le bonheur, there is a grand logic and an elegance to the utilization, not that I understand it as a “code” but as something, much like the music, Mozart, that comments upon the story and pervades and creates the mood or tone.

The story follows the young couple in their simple, beautiful lives.  The husband is a carpenter, a traditional, non-modern job, and the wife is a seamstress, taking jobs of sewing wedding dresses.  Their small home is lovely, their life is almost something from a past era, pre-modern, simple, happy, and idealized.  Until the husband starts an affair with another woman, though he sees the affair as potentially something outside of the traditional family unit, something that could work and be good and expand their lives.  And ultimately, he tells his wife about the affair, hoping for acceptance.

It’s one of those kinds of films which you could discuss and discuss because the meanings are open and even some of the events are mildly questionable.  And what is the ending, with more muted autumnal colors?  Just a part of the passage of time, the seasonal change?

At times, especially at first, I was thinking how much I would recommend this film to people because of the beautiful aesthetic and the charming world.  But as the story darkened, the mood changed and it’s more complex and not necessarily so cheerful.  And that is not to say that I wouldn’t recommend it, because it’s quite amazing, really, just complex and vaguely or potentially tragic.

Varda is a fascinating director, with a unique eye, capable of making the camera “see” the way that she sees.  And the feeling, this film, a femine voice, so different an experience, fresh, vivid, and beautiful.

The Hidden Fortress

 

The Hidden Fortress (1958) movie poster

(1958) dir. Akira Kurosawa
viewed: 06/14/09

My continued travels in the realm of the samurai film bring me back yet again to the Japanese master director, Akira Kurosawa, whose own works in the genre make up for almost half of the notable films listed on Wikipedia.  And while other directors have been quite interesting, Kurosawa, as noted, made so many films in this genre, that it’s almost a career unto itself, a series of films that can be viewed as part of a whole.  And while I am still far from understanding that whole, my comprehension does grow every film.

The Hidden Fortress is perhaps more comical than many of his other films, whose humor is often more subtle or just low-key.  But the film starts with a pair of thieving peasants, escaping from a battle scene in which they’d hoped to profit, having been forced to bury the dead and now reek of death and quibble and fight constantly.  These two are actors Kurosawa uses frequently, and their characters here are simpleminded and singleminded, driven by fear and only tempered by cowardice.  Their bantering and arguments (and perspective, being the lowest on the social order in the film) have been noted by George Lucas as his inspiration for the droids in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977).

They happen upon a wily fellow, Toshiro Mifune, who sees that these two have happened upon some of the store of gold that belongs to his embattled princess that he serves.  She is holed up in the titular hidden fortress, hiding out from other clans that would have her dead.  And Mifune is trying to move her across the realms to a place where she can be reinstated to power along with her family’s store of gold.  The peasants never fully understand what is happening, but are cowed to play along for fear and greed.

The princess is kind of interesting.  Raised “as a boy” according to one line of dialogue, she runs around in shorts and often takes a pose, arms akimbo, atop mountain passes, with a decidedly authoritative way, meant to be read as masculine.  She’s clearly feminine, but her disguise is one of class, to make her appear as a deaf-mute peasant woman (whose value is considered extremely low, so low that once a man realizes that she cannot hear or speak, opts out of trying to purchase her as a slave).  She’s a bit of a proto-feminist, never quailing in her protective needs, but enthralled by the life on the outside, enjoying deeply a pagan burning of firewood and dancing that is held by some peasants while they are on the run.

It’s an enjoyable film, certainly, and it features many good characters and some interesting action, including a duel with spears and an impressive race on horses for Mifune to cut down some soldiers who might report back about them.  The tonality switches between the more intended comedy of the two peasant thieves and the more noble adventure of the nobles.  But I have to say that some of the comedy was harder to appreciate than others.  Some moments of the two peasants’ bickering have genuine flair and humor, like when one of them complains that the other “blinks too much”.  But also, they are so shallow, so given to switching their loyalties to one another given an opportunity at more money that it’s less funny than tedious.  But that’s just me.

Not my favorite of Kurosawa’s films, but still a solid, excellent film.  He was indeed “the man.”

A High Wind in Jamaica

A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) movie poster

(1965) dir. Alexander Mackendrick
viewed: 06/12/09

I rented the 1965 film A High Wind in Jamaica after having only just recently finished reading the novel from which it was adapted, published in 1929 by Richard Hughes.  The novel struck me immensely.  It’s probably one of the greatest novels that I’ve ever read, a vivid, Surreal horror comedy about a group of children who are sent back to England after their families survive a massive hurricane in Jamaica where their father is stationed.  But their sailing vessel is captured by pirates and they end up in the hands of strange, not wholly viscious men who don’t really know what to do with the children and let them run amok on the ship.  There is death and suggestions of child molestation, and moments of beauty both genuine and bizarre.

The film is directed by Alexander Mackendrick, a directer affiliated with the Ealing studios and their comedies and who has to his credit some of the notable films from there including The Man in the White Suit (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955) as well as the notable American film Sweet Smell of Success (1957).  The film also features such strong leads as Anthony Quinn as the captain of the pirate ship and James Coburn as his roustabout first mate.

The film is a fine adaptation in many ways, sticking with the comedic nature of the story and keeping some of the emotional tone of the relationship of the eldest of the girls, Emily, and Quinn’s captain Chavez.  And while a good adaptation, one not altogether skirting some of the more darkened aspects of the book, it loses in its actualization of the characters and story the remarkable strangeness that the book entails.  For in the book, the voice is omnipotent yet flitting within the perspectives of various characters, keeping a tonality of naivite and unrealness.  In fact, the strangest scene in the book isn’t attempted in the film at all, when the sailors capture a ship full of sea-sick circus animals and attempt to get a tiger and a lion to fight to the death.  Of course, it would have been a difficult, problematic thing to film.

But it’s part of the nature of film to an extent.  The visions are much more actualized, more information is given, you have your own reaction to the reality of the actor’s faces and the film’s settings and in a story so powerfully evocative of both Jamaica’s jungle and the sea’s open power, there is so much more in the book than the film could ever have attempted.  That perhaps is an aspect of the nature of such adaptation, some source material lending itself more easily to the translation.  And yet, it’s not a bad film.

The book is brilliant, and I have been recommending it left and right.  Republished by New York Review Books (my favorite publishing company), it’s just a wonder to read.

The film, as I’ve said, is a good one.  Not a classic, not a waste.  Perhaps less diminished if seen prior to having read the book, but still it’s something so different, outside of the heart of the actual narrative events, it’s hard to say exactly that it is in any real way alike it.  And I have no idea what a child might think of it, though it could perhaps be seen like a children’s film.

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Jack Perez
viewed: 06/12/09

The YouTube trailer sensation that is/was Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus may be so like two weeks ago or something, but it took Netflix that long to send it to me.  The direct-to-video piece of pure garbage and genius is something indeed.  Quite amusing.  Quite bad.

Starring Deborah Gibson (of teen pop fame) and featuring Lorenzo Lamas…those facts and the title almost manage to say it all.  But really, this movie is high concept but so absurd and over-the-top that it’s hilarious.  Woken from a frozen battle from pre-history, a megalodon (largest marine predator ever perhaps) and a giant octopus are released into the contemporary oceans and attack everything there is.  Large ships, an airplane coming in for a landing, an oil rig, and most notably, the Golden Gate Bridge.

All these digitally executed hijinks are indeed the film’s primary highlights.  The rest of the film is amusingly awful with rotten dialogue and some of the worst acting you may ever see.  It’s kind of amazing, but Gibson can’t even rise to the material.  Her bemused expressions are out-and-out camp and incongruous and hammy.  It’s a kind of beauty.

The most hilarious “acting” scene is when the scientists, including Gibson, are in a research lab trying to decide how to capture or kill the two beasts (who don’t seem capable of being injured by man-made weapons).  This sequence is a montage, showing their “process” and how hard they are working to solve the problem.  However, they are primarily pouring different colored liquids into test-tubes (red, yellow, green, blue), it’s like something out of the 1960’s Batman TV show.  It’s absurd.

Of course, that’s the whole reason to watch Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, the absurdity of a giant shark leaping from the water and taking down a passenger plane or sinking its jaws into the Golden Gate Bridge.  Or the cornball stuff that is the rest of the film.  It’s bad.  Very much so.  And somewhat ingenious.  It’s kind of nice to see big “monster” movies make a comeback, even on (or perhaps especially on) the low-budget world where nonsense is as good as any sense and production qualities be pretty much damned.

One Million Years B.C.

One Million Years B.C. (1966) movie poster

(1966) dir. Don Chaffey
viewed: 06/10/09

This cult caveperson film from 1966 features special effects from the legendary Ray Harryhausen, but as it is best known, the best special effect in the film is simply Raquel Welch is a leather bikini.  And yeah, that figure is something else!

This movie has got it all: giant tarantulas, giant iguanas, giant turtles, and a couple of T-Rex-like dinosaurs and a triceratops (with the obligitory battle between the two dinos) and even some ape-men.  And volcanos.  And a catfight between Welch and another cavewoman with hair-pulling and rolling around.  What’s not to love?  The only thing that it doesn’t have is meaningful dialogue.  Largely because it doesn’t really have any actual “dialogue”, though I’m sure if it did it would have been meaningful.

What’s interesting, that I’ve only semi-stumbled upon since watching it, is that this film seems to be a remake of sorts of a Hal Roach-directed One Million B.C. (1940) but also echoes back to The Lost World (1925) though that has more to do with the dinosaur battle than the true period setting.  Because despite the massive scientific anachronisms, this film is meant to be set amidst the real time of the film’s title and even features a very humorous voice-over that begins the film, setting back, back to the creation of the Earth.

The film is directed by Don Chaffey, who worked with Harryhausen on what is probably both men’s masterpiece (certainly more so for Harryhausen), Jason and the Argonauts (1963).  This one is more rip-roaring camp, saddled as it is with Caveman acting.  And oddly enough, though I am going through the entire Harryhausen catalouge, I actually rented this one with an eye to the Caveperson movie, after having watched 10,000 BC (2008), which clearly is of a later time, but at the same time not lacking in its own anachronisms.

As a cult film, it’s pretty solid, because it’s pretty funny to see a giant iguana and a giant spider alongside a giant sea turtle and dinosaurs.  As well as caveman acting.  And monkey people.  And Raquel Welch in her bikini, well, that will never ever go out of style.

Valkyrie

Valkyrie (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Bryan Singer
viewed: 06/08/09

Valkyrie is a film based on real events in World War II, when German military officers attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and stage a coup to stop the Nazi regime and end the war.  It stars Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, the leader of the plan and national hero who helps to demonstrate that not all German’s were behind the Holocaust, that some tried to heroically bring down the monstrous evils that were perpetrated under Hitler’s leadership.  Cruise apparently got interested in playing Stauffenberg because he saw a picture and thought he looked a lot like him.  Deep thinking there.

World War II has been approached so many, many times in film, telling stories, the many, many stories that emanate from probably the most significant event of the 20th Century.  And effecting so many people and so dramatically, of course, there are lots of stories to tell and many of them are compelling.  I discount that fact not at all.  But I do have to say that to make another WWII film, you really have to have something to say.  The story can convey itself, document, enlighten, but unless it has something bigger or the story itself is so significant, you really have to want to tell something, or perhaps you should want to tell something bigger.

Director Bryan Singer is one of the younger directors in Hollywood who still carries a lot of cachet and whose work is often worth looking at.  But really, this emanates primarilly from his first film, The Usual Suspects (1995) which I haven’t seen since it came out, even though it’s such a cult film and common cultural reference point.  His later work on the X-men franchise, X-men (2000) and X2 (2003), helped move him along, while not making great art, he managed to make popular action films.  But he wasn’t so lucky with Superman Returns (2006).  The bottom line, I think, is that his work is not all that great, not bad necessarily, but just not all that great.

Valkyrie is a decent film.  I am not a fan of Cruise, and he’s okay here, mostly stiff and dignified, but I think he gets a lot of abuse for his beliefs in Scientology.  In fact, there was a lot of controversy in Germany in his casting because of the German government’s perception of Scientology as something totalitarian or something.  I think Scientology is idiocy too, but anyways.

One of the other really weird thing in the film is language.  Everybody is pretty much German, right?  But most of them are notable English actors, including Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and heck even Eddie Izzard.  And of course, our all-American Cruise.  And everybody speaks in their own natural accent.  But the film starts with its title in German “Walküre”, then morphing into the English “Valkyrie.”   And then Cruise starts speaking in voiceover in German, as he is writing in his diary, which them morphs over to English, too.  I think, like a lot of people, while logical to an extent to have people act without doing really bad German accents, it draws a lot of attention to the language.  And I think it’s kinda weird.

Why this film then?  I mean it’s a noble story, worth knowing, worth telling.  But why exactly?  Because you look like the dude?  The hero?  And Singer, who worked with another Nazi-related story in Apt Pupil (1998), perhaps has some interest with more depth, but really, the moment when we first see Hitler, he’s totally like Satan, shot from the back, sitting in a chair wtih his hand resting on the head of a dangerous-looking German shepherd.  He’s evil incarnate.  I get it.  History has judged him and he’s one of the worst people in modern times.

Other moments with Hitler suggest little of his character, angry, but vaguely intellectual.  I don’t know, maybe I’m just being particular.  The film is fine, not thrilling or spectacular, a little weird perhaps with the aforementioned language thing.  It is an interesting and noble story, but perhaps a documentary would be more informative.

The Bad News Bears

The Bad News Bears (1976) movie poster

(1976) dir. Michael Ritchie
viewed: 06/05/09

My son just finished his first season of little league the week before and is more into and excited about baseball than he ever has been.  I’d thought of renting The Bad News Bears some time ago, but I remembered it being a bit rough and rangy with language and wasn’t sure how appropriate it would be.  But after the little league, I decided he’d probably enjoy it and so we got it and gave it a go.

The older of the upstairs girls came down, and actually, in watching it, I think it was probably just as well that the younger ones sat this out, watching other stuff on the computer and upstairs.  The film has a lot of unabashed cursing, largely by the 11-year olds and early teenagers that comprise the team.  I mean, that’s the character of the film, their foul-mouthed, down-and-out rejects, with a coach/manager, the terrific Walter Matthau, whose drinking beer spiked wtih liquor in almost every scene.

I know that they made a re-make of the film in 2005, directed by Richard Linklater, and I have to say I’ve been curious, but what comes to mind is that this film just feels a bit more like an unwashed, pre-PC snapshot of kids of the 1970’s, whose cursing and racial epithets are quite representational.  There are definitely things in this film that I don’t think you’d hear in a film or a show unless it was used ironically like it is in South Park (perhaps to a much more pernicious degree).  But the unscrubbed nature of this film is its character and a huge part of its charm.

As for the kids, Samantha was a bit taken aback by the kids and their words and the coach and his drinking.  Felix, on the other hand, laughed and repeated, “Move it, Lard-Ass!”  which was a little worrying.  I think the adult appreciation of the film and its character is perhaps more sophisticated.  It’s a tad shocking at times, but there is a truth to it, a reality, and while it’s very much part of who the characters are, it’s also not done to be outwardly offensive.

The film is well-made, well-developed, and quite funny.  Matthau is hilarious, able to bring in enough W.C. Fields, snark, grouchiness, and charm.  Tatum O’Neal adds a bit of girl power, as the flame-throwing pitcher, daughter of Matthau’s ex-girlfriend.  And the film doesn’t dip too deeply into the mushy emotional issues, but treats them and deals with them enough to give moderate depth to the characters.

It’s brilliant when at the end of the big game, Matthau hands out cans of beer to all the kids.  You see kids drinking and smoking and riding motorcycles.  It’s funny, too, because Jackie Earle Haley, as the bad boy is quite good.  I hadn’t seen one of his childhood films since he made his big comeback in Little Children (2006).

The film is a bit of a classic.  And certainly it spawned two sequels and a tv show.  I don’t know if we’ll go there or not.  The sequels don’t seem to be quite as good as the original.  I probably have seen them, but it’s been a long, long time.

The kids did enjoy it and were asking for more.  I have to say: It’s pretty damn good.

Changeling

Changeling (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Clint Eastwood
viewed: 06/01/09

Director Clint Eastwood’s film Changeling is an adept and effective film about a fascinating, horrifying story.  Adapted from facts about a nototious series of murders from 1928 known as the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders and the true life account of Christine Collins, a single mother whose son disappears, only to be “brought back” by the insanely corrupt Los Angeles Police Department several months later.  However, the boy that the LAPD brought back was an imposter, a 10-year old charlatan.  Collins, played by Angelina Jolie in the film, fights the system and is sent to a menal institution by the police chief.  It’s an outrageous, outraging story.  Actually very sad and horrid but fascinating as well.

I’d read an interesting article in The New Yorker around the time the film was released about another story of a disappeared child and a man who specialized in imposture.  The story was linked loosely to the story that Changeling covers, but is a contemporary story and one that is much more psychological and strange (read it here).  I predict that this too will be a movie in the near future.  It’s too fascinating itself for no one to have optioned the story for production.

Changeling though is less psychological, more a film about crime, corruption, misogyny, and a courtroom drama.  Jolie is lovely in her period clothes, and I was struck more than once by the fact that the film’s entire aesthetic could have been gleaned from the paintings of Edward Hopper.  Jolie looks like she stepped right out of one, pale, muted colors, yet also somehow lurid and rich.

The film is effective and interesting, certainly.  Eastwood handles the material sturdily and manages to evoke the sensibilities that he looks for.  Eastwood, though, for all his praise in media, is not an auteur, but at best an effective director who can make a movie, make it well, but doesn’t really elevate the material.  Okay, I’m saying this but how many of his films have I seen?  Not a lot.  So sue me.

For me, this film was interesting, largely due to the horrible story and reality beneath it, something that I’m surprised James Ellroy didn’t manage to dive into himself, full as it is of the gruesome underbelly of Los Angeles and the brutal murders of young boys that uncovered the sickening corruption in the LAPD.  Right up his alley.  Maybe not enough sex.  Good film.  Not great film,  but good film.

Up

Up (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
viewed: 05/30/09 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA

Pixar has been, since 1995’s Toy Story, the tops in the biz regarding digital feature animation filmmaking in the United States and doubtlessly the entire world.  Even with their weaker efforts, they are still miles ahead in the storytelling and development, visual aesthetics, character creation, and vision.  Their model is traditional narrative storytelling, much in the mold of classic Disney films, without the musicality, and certainly with their own modern voice, evolving away from the classic Disney model, creating a Pixar model that is pretty much digital feature animation’s current gold standard.  And I doubt that there are many that would argue that point.

There is more quality work that goes into their productions, and it’s clear that the leaders and primary directors there, Brad Bird (Ratatouille (2007) and The Incredibles (2004)), John Lasseter himself (Cars (2005) and Toy Story), and Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc. (2001)), the primary director here too, these guys are avid artists, historians, and rich thinkers, bringing a great more to every product that Pixar delivers than 100,000 Shrek‘s (2001).

Pixar shoots for the moon on their films, trying to deliver movie magic.  From WALL-E‘s (2008) touching the stars to the floating house lifted into the blue beauty of the sky in Up, they’re striving for something bigger, not just visually, but as a film that effects people, moves them, and makes them feel.  And it is this passion and artistry that really does raise Pixar above the others, much like the cloud of balloons attached to the house in this film.  And like the main character of the film, Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), the small old widower, they can blow raspberries at the madding crowd below them if they had such a desire.

But, like WALL-E, Up strives for movie magic, shoots very high, yet ends up cloying a bit in its reaching for those heartstrings.  It doesn’t hit that magic point, but you can’t really fault them for trying.

The film is charming, and the characters are fun.  The best of the characters is the dog, Doug, who has a collar that allows him to speak his thoughts, goofy and occasionally unfocused as they are, but is really the star of the show.  The story is evoked effectively, telling of a life-long relationship between Carl and his now deceased wife, setting him up for his relationship with Russell, the abentee-fathered scout who ends up as a passenger on the house.  Carl strives to take the house and himself (the house sort of representing his deceased wife) to their long-fantasized trip to South America.  It was interesting that their vision of their fantasized “lost world” was the spitting image of the lost world in The Lost World (1925) which I’d seen at the Castro only a few weeks before.  (Sometimes seeing this many films has the pay-off of recognition that would be otherwise unnoticed.)

The adventure turns into a bit of a thriller when they encounter Carl’s childhood hero, adventurer Charles Muntz, a hero like the adventurer in The Lost World, who is scoffed at for his discoveries and heads back to the jungle to bring proof of his findings.  Unlike The Lost World, Muntz has been mired in the jungle for a lifetime, trying to catch a giant colorful flightless bird and has turned evil.  And the ruthlessness of Muntz seemed a bit more nasty than was necessary.  It seemed a bit out of tone with the rest of the film and the resultant thrills and action felt a bit forced.

But it’s quibbling to say that Up isn’t a five-star film, the magic was unachieved.  The film is fun and delightful, wonderfully realized, and much, much more rich than any of the other animated films due out, many of which seem to be all about aliens, looking more and more generic all the time.  Pixar makes a better film than others probably 99 times out of a hundred and Up is certainly among the majority.   Outside of the coming release of Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film Ponyo (2008) (due soon I hope), it’s doubtful that much will challenge it.  My opinion that Coraline (2009) is the best animated film since Spirited Away (2001) still stands true, as well.

Finally, I’ll say that the movie’s 3-D qualities were absolutely unnecessary and perhaps ultimate proof that this industry-driven fad needs to end.  There’s been this push to make all digitally animated films 3-D of late and it’s a waste of time and energy and a waste making all those 3-D plastic glasses.  Luckily, Up really didn’t cater to throwing yo-yo’s at the audience or have any corny blades or sharp objects poked out at us.  The kids both enjoyed the film, largely without their glasses on.  And I think they would have enjoyed it more if they hadn’t needed them at all.  I know I’m not alone in my opinion on this topic, but who knows.