Pixar Review 28: La Luna

la lunaIf you can believe it we are in the home stretch of my Pixar reviews.  Only 5 left till Good Dinosaur and Sanjay’s Super Team. I’ve been reviewing the Pixar films since April and it has been a real treat and challenging because it’s hard to write about movies you really love and have it not just be hyperbole.  At least it is for me.

Well, today we have a very special animated short to talk about.  One of my favorites- La Luna.  It is directed and written by Enrico Casarosa and was based on the Italian fairytales his Grandpa would tell him. He also used Italian cartoonist Osvaldo Cavandoli who was famous for his line sketch style animation as inspiration.

la luna6La Luna is about a little boy or Bambino who sails with his Grandpa and Father to a spot where they climb a latter to the moon and set about their work of scraping the stars from off the moon.  (Doesn’t that description just sound lovely?).

la luna3In the audio commentary Enrico says he picked a Grandpa and Father for the boy because he grew up in a house with his maternal grandfather and his Dad and I guess the two didn’t get along very well.  You can see that dynamic in the short with the 2 men snipping at each other in a sweet kind of way.

But really the greatness of this short is in the animation.  The stars and the light is so beautiful. In many ways it feels like a bedtime story, like Goodnight Moon or something like that.  It’s lovely to think about someone sweeping stars off of the moon.

la luna7Michael Giacchino gets back to his Italian roots with a lovely score that reminds me of the great Ennio Morricone.

There are moments where it looks like watercolor and where the characters look more 2D than CG.  There are no other words to describe it but BEAUTIFUL!

EXR 1920x803, 4 channel image (A B G R)

I love the way the stars look like little light bulbs and clank together.  In many ways they reminded me of the memories in Inside Out in sound and appearance.  You can feel the sense of wonder from Bambino as he looks at each glowing star.

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This is just a stunning image.

la luna13It’s not the most complex as far as story.  It’s basically a Grandpa and Father showing a little boy how to do a job but that job is so magical and special that it doesn’t need anything more.  It’s like if someone’s job was to bathe an angel.  Yes it’s ordinary but it’s an angel!  I mean wow!

la luna2As I’ve rewatched the Pixar shorts I can put them into several groups.  There are the jokes (Presto, For the Birds, Knick Knack), technology advancing (Adventures of Wally, Tin Toy, Geri’s Game, Day & Night), and great artistry (Boundin, Partly Cloudy, Red’s Dream).  To me La Luna is the greatest of that latter group.  It is an artistic joy to watch and I love it.  Definitely in my top 5 of the Pixar shorts.

2011 was also a very good year for animated shorts.  All 4 nominees were completely lovely and the winner The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore is wonderful.  In fact, I wish it was a feature film.  It’s 15 minutes as a short and there’s enough there for more. So the fact La Luna didn’t win that year I am ok with.  It certainly was a much better year in shorts than feature films with Rango winning which I did not care for.

la luna12What do you think of La Luna?  If you haven’t seen it there are versions of it online but none that I could download.  I believe it is on the Brave DVD so you can see it there.  I wanted to do another short before the Brave review called The Legend of Mor’du to go with Brave so that’s why I reviewed this one here.  Next up is the much maligned Cars 2.  I just watched it and honestly guys it’s not that bad.  In fact, I enjoyed it! So you will hopefully enjoy that review as I am sure it will be a perspective you don’t get every day.

But nearly everyone I know agrees, La Luna is one of the best.

Pixar Review 18: Inside Out

inside out6Feeling a little emotional guys?  I am because I’m so happy at the amazing movie I just saw!  I LOVED Pixar’s latest movie- Inside Out.  I know it sounds like hyperbole but it may be my favorite Pixar movie.  Yes, it may even be better than my beloved Up.  I really believe that is true.

Inside Out is great in every way.  I loved the characters, world, humor, story, everything.  There is nothing I would change.  If you are expecting criticism in this review you will be sorely disappointed.

I am going to do my best to keep this review spoiler free.  My thought is to then go back in a couple of weeks, once most you have seen it, and post a spoiler review about the small details and goings-on of the plot.

Basically the story of Inside Out is about a girl named Riley (love that Pixar picked a girl).  She is a happy 11 year old who is still a little girl and hasn’t grown out of making monkey sounds with her Dad and being goofy.

inside out12Unfortunately Riley’s parents are moving her from her hometown of Minnesota to San Francisco, California.   This naturally brings up a lot of emotions for a young girl and in this movie those emotions look like…

inside out5In the world of the story our minds (not brains) are made up of a mission control of sorts that are run by our 5 emotions:

Joy voiced by Amy Poehler

Sadness voiced by Phyllis Smith

Fear voiced by Bill Hader

Anger voiced by Lewis Black

Disgust voiced by Mindy Kaling

All the voicework in Inside Out is first rate.  What I found so remarkable is these characters should be very one-note.  They are after all emotions.  This should make things very predictable, even grating, but they aren’t at all.  Sadness is an especially dynamic character and you come to realize that great relationship between joy and sadness in our lives. It’s brilliant.

inside out 17The world of the mind is not only staffed by emotions but also is the receptacle for all different kinds of memories.  The memories are little glass balls that glow with whatever emotion the memory entails (a happy memory being yellow for joy, fearful memory purple for fear etc).    There are also memories for data, long-term, short-term, even a hilarious joke of a song that you can’t get out of your head!

inside out8There are also core memories that are the most important for forming Riley.  Those core memories are then the supports for the personality islands.

inside out9Riley’s personality islands are goofball, honesty, family, friendship and hockey.  (I know this sounds complex but it really isn’t).

The 5 emotions are responsible for keeping all the memories in check, the islands floating, and making sure Riley is ok.  Unfortunately things go awry when the core memories are lost along with Joy and Sadness.  This creates a delightful parallel story between Riley who is all the sudden without the emotions to cope with this huge change and the journey of Joy and Sadness getting home and helping Riley.  Plus, Disgust, Anger and Fear have to try and manage Riley as best they can without Joy.

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Riley speaking before her new class
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Joy and Sadness lost in the department of long-term memory
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Anger, fear and disgust trying to keep things together.

Joy and Sadness end up going through imaginationland, as well as several other parts of Riley’s psyche and subconscious that I won’t spoil.  But along the way they meet an old imaginary friend of Riley’s called Bing Bong voiced by Richard Kind.  This was an unexpected, unpredictable and wonderfully dynamic character.

inside out11I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to uncover on your own.  Let’s just say all the plot strands end up in an ending that is as good as the beginning of Up.  For real….

I cried, it made me think about my own emotions and feelings, and it made me laugh really hard.  Everything has layers in Inside Out including the jokes.  For example,  there may be a joke about the subconscious that may go over a kids head but anger getting red, fiery and steamed up will make them laugh- so something for everyone in nearly every scene.

One thing that Pixar does so well (and old school Disney did also) is take kids seriously and this movie does not ‘cutify’ Riley at all.  She is a real person with feelings and emotions that affect her family.  Seeing into her mind is the equivalent of seeing into her heart and it is a lovely place.  She is creative, different, normal and vulnerable.  We also get little peeks into the command centers of other characters.  They aren’t that different from Riley (again that respect for kids.  I love that).

inside out 14And like I said the ending is perfection.

From an animation standpoint it is stunning.  I loved the way the emotions were drawn so that they looked a little fuzzy at the edges, a little ephemeral. I think Riley and her parents are some of the best humans Pixar has done and the world with the memory globes is gorgeous.  There are scenes where we get into dimensions where the animation is astonishing and surprising and I loved the way they did the ‘memory dump’ and the almost charcoal like globes down there.

inside out4 The music by Michael Giacchino does the job but isn’t quite as good as the score for Up which is one of my favorites of all time.  It didn’t make me think of my Grandpa like Up did but I am thinking about what my core memories are.  We all have them.

And like I said all the voice performances are perfect.  The emotions should be one note and predictable but they aren’t.  Just like most emotions they are layered and complicated.

But again also very funny.  I laughed my head off.  I loved a scene where they found tiles of opinions and facts.  They get spilled and the conductor tells them ‘they often get mixed up”.  That’s the kind of humor we get all over the place (or pizza being on broccoli!).

Very rarely do I see a movie more than once in a theater.  The last time I did was Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is a top 10 movie for me (I saw it 3 times in a week…).  I guarantee you I will see Inside Out at least 4 times in the theater and will pre-order it on blu-ray as soon as I can.  I LOVED it.  I couldn’t wait to see it and now I can’t wait to see it again.

Your kids will love it.  You will love it.  It’s one of the greats.   This will definitely be my favorite movie of the year.  I can promise you that.

Overall Grade- A+

Here is my youtube review