The Art of Up Review

P1500119This is the last in my little series of art book reviews I am uploading before I go on vacation.  I hope you have enjoyed them! You guys all know my favorite movie, not just animated, is Up. It’s a movie that for whatever reason really spoke to me when I first saw it and it continues to do so on each rewatch. To me it is about grief and remembering our loved ones but moving on too.  It embraces a spirit of adventure and travel while still feeling remarkably intimate and close. I just love it. So naturally when I heard there was an art book for Up I had to have it!!

One cool thing in this art book is to learn to the Pixar creators it was their chance to make their version of Peter Pan. I have never thought about that before. Pete Docter says in the preface “odd as it was the image of a floating house captured that feeling of escaping the world…4 years later more than 300 of us are floating along in our studio-sized house, making this movie. And although from time to time I still long to escape from it ll. I’m so happy to have had the chance to work with these amazing people. As Carl discovers, it’s the people you’re with who make the adventure worthwhile.”

P1500120In the introductory essay you learn about how the creators were inspired by the notion of a ‘coming of old age story’ and the desire all of us have to escape. We learn they started with the idea of a floating city and then it evolved to just one man. Pete Docter says “the story has simple beginnings, in thoughts like, ‘We get a kick out of old people. IS there anything fun we can do with an old person’. Pete had evidently drawn an old grumpy man holding a bunch of balloons and that inspired them. Isn’t that interesting?

Then they got the idea of a couple and the life they had together. Then when she is gone Carl feels all this regret “Carl had led a very simple life, he felt he had not fulfilled her hopes and dreams. She died before he could. So he has this guilt throughout the journey, thinking ‘all I want to do is fulfill this wish for Ellie. I missed this”.  I loved reading this because it is the true reason I love Up so much. This journey of self-forgiveness that Carl goes on is so moving.

And then he says “There is a strong moment when Carl’s wife gives him absolution, a reminder that ‘the life that we lived together was a great adventure-and I was not wanting more. You are my greatest adventure’ I love that”.  I love it too! As much as people love the opening montage I think I love that moment with the scrapbook even more.

And this is all before the first chapter of the book! The first chapter is called Seeking Simplicity and it is mostly about the characters and overall art design of the film. The book gives you tons of concept art and sculptures the characters and scenes of the film.

P1500121Then next we get a chapter about the house and the meaning of home to the artists.

P1500132It’s really cool to see all the thought that went into every detail from the weather veins to the stove, picture frames and lamps inside. “Pete wanted the house to feel claustrophobic because Carl doesn’t ever leave it, and his world has become very small. But then for the tepui and Muntz’s lair, the scale had to feel grand”

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Next we get a chapter on the The Tepuis in South America and the beautiful Mountain waterfalls that inspired the film.

P1500129I love that we get quotes throughout from the entire team behind the project from art directors, editors and designers and it is all beautiful work.  It is clear they were all inspired by Pete Docter’s vision. This section is long and it also includes more character design from Russell, Kevin and Dug.

P1500125Throughout the book we get lots of storyboards and concept art and it is all a joy to look at!

P1500128The Art of Up is really only for people who love this movie and were inspired by its vision. As that includes me it is wonderful to own. I love seeing the progression of an idea of a floating city and Pete Docter’s desire to escape morph and change into something truly special. The heart and passion that he had for this film clearly trickled down to all involved. The art work is beautiful the text is inspiring.  It’s a perfect companion to a great movie! So if you like Up get this art book. I know you will love it too!

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Did the Right Film Win? 2009 Animated Oscars

Hey guys!  So 2009 was a very strong year for animation.  It was a year with 5 films nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and all 5 I enjoy.  There were also strong films that I personally think could have gotten a nomination in another year like Ponyo (I know you’all disagree with me on that one but oh well!), 9 and A Christmas Carol, to name a few.

Not only are the 5 films nominated very strong but they are also really different so I had a lot to say about each.  I ended up making 2 videos about them (my editing software was also giving me all kinds of grief so I got up what I could in 2 batches).  The first video is about Princess and the Frog and Secret of the Kells.

Basically I’m hot and cold on Princess and the Frog.  There is a lot I love about it and then things I really don’t like.  I love the animation, the character of Tiana, vocal performances and 3 of the songs.  I don’t like the voodoo elements, the convoluted story or Prince Naveen.  He is not Tiana’s equal.  All in all, that puts it in the middle of my Disney rankings. It’s certainly worthy of the nomination and worth a watch even with some major flaws.

Secret of the Kells is beautiful and looks like illustrations from a book.  It is only lessened in my opinion because I think Song of the Sea by the same team is much better.  Maybe an unfair comparison but I can’t help it when they are so similar.  Nevertheless, Secret of Kells has a beautiful look to it.  I like the story and the lead character Brendon is very appealing.  The Aisling of the forest is beautiful with stirring music from Kila.

The next video has the remaining 3 films- Fantastic Mr.  Fox, Coraline and Up.  You all have heard my thoughts on Up ad nauseam but I did get a little emotional when talking about it and how it reminds me of my Grandpa who I love.  It’s a special movie to me and I filmed the review several times but each time I started to tear up.  That was my honest response so I left it in. 🙂

Fantastic Mr Fox is a very creative film directed by Wes Anderson.  I love the world building and the story is a lot of fun based on Roald Dahl’s book.  I really like the characters like Ash, Mr and Mrs Fox.  The story is unpredictable even for someone who has read the book and it is extremely creative.  It is actually my favorite Wes Anderson film and while I don’t find it super funny I do enjoy it.

Coraline is a film from Liaka and I liked it much more this g0-around.  I always enjoyed it but for whatever reason I really was charmed while watching it this week.  It is directed by Henry Sellick who did Nightmare Before Christmas and it has the same dark tone and style of that film.  I love the character of Coraline.  She is sincere, quirky, endearing, inquisitive and in the end loving.  She ends up getting presented with another version of her family through this magic portal and it leads to some big scares but also a huge heart.  I love that she comes to accept her parents for who they are, even though they aren’t very good people in a lot of ways.  She still loves them anyway.  It’s really surprising and visually inventive.

In this case, I clearly think the right film won because Up is my favorite movie.  If I was going to pick a second place I would pick Coraline, but I can see people’s arguments for all 5.  What would you pick?  Thanks so much for your comments and for watching the videos.  It has been a great series both on the channel and this blog and next up is 2010 where my Tangled got snubbed (wa, wa, wa,….).  I look forward to watching the Illusionist for the first time.  Thanks!

Pixar Review 25: Up

up_posterIt’s really hard to write about your favorite movie, or at least it is really hard for me.  So has been my challenge for the last week or so as I’ve faced writing about Pixar’s beautiful film Up, my favorite movie (animation or not).

To this day I have never met anyone in my real life who doesn’t like Up, and it is both my brother and my favorite movie and we are as different as can be.  It was also nominated for best picture not just animated film and receives  wide-spread acclaim from critics and fans with a 98% on rotten tomatoes with only 5 rotten reviews and 276 positives.  On the notoriously tough to please imdb Up has a 91% of user reviews a 7 or higher, which is truly remarkable.  You get the idea. I’m not alone in loving this movie!

I like Up so much when I threw my dream party look at the cake I had made (it was an open house).

up cakeSo why do I love it so much? It’s tough but I will do my best to describe.

Have you ever lost someone you love? Have you ever felt the pangs of regret that you wish you had said something or done something differently with the person who is gone?  I certainly have and that is the message behind Up.  It is what makes it special.  It is what moves me so much.  It is also a reminder that we need not feel such regret because the people we love are an active part of our lives as long as we live their dreams and make them proud.

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To begin with in Up we get introduced to Carl and Ellie as little children.  Carl is watching a filmstrip about Charles Muntz his hero.  He tells the audience “adventure is out there”.  This energizes Carl and he gets a balloon which is a hint of things to come. On his way home he finds a girl named Ellie in an abandoned house.  She also loves Muntz and dreams of going to Venezuela and seeing the Paradise Falls. She chronicles all her dreams in an Adventure book and has a section called ‘Stuff I’m Going to Do’.

up17 up15This is another theme of the movie- adventures and the power of big dreams to motivate us whether they are accomplished or not.

Ellie tells Carl he must take her to Paradise Falls ‘cross your heart. Cross it!’.  Then we see what happened with that promise.  A full life plays out and this is my favorite section of film ever. If you think of it from both the journey of a couple, of a life, and from Carl’s perspective of not keeping his promise to his beloved it is so moving.  I’ve seen it so many times and it still makes me cry each time.

The thing is about regret is it can make you bitter and resentful.  So has happened to our elderly Carl.  He is lonely and talks to Ellie as if she was sitting right beside him (I love that throughout the movie because I believe the dead are with us cheering us on).  A commercial developer has taken over the land near his house and they want him to sell.  He tells him “you can have the house…when I’m dead”.  You get the feeling he is just waiting to die and he see’s Ellie’s ‘Stuff I’m Going to Do’ and is overwhelmed with guilt at never having taken her to the Falls.

up18Through various contrivances he is going to be forced to assisted living but he decides to instead embrace the spirit of adventure and use a million balloons to take his house to the Falls.  This is so beautiful when it is first taking flight.

Unfortunately for Carl he is not alone in the house but his neighboring boy scout Russell is a stow away.  Russell is a lonely but eager kid who wants nothing more than to get his final badge in assisting the elderly.

up13There’s some dangerous weather but they eventually make it close to the Falls where they come in contact with a rare bird and some talking dogs!  Some people don’t like the dogs.  I do and think their fascination with squirrels is very funny especially when their voiceboxes go bad.

The most friendly dog is named Dug and he bonds with Carl and Russell quickly.

up9Russell names the bird Kevin and it turns out it is the very bird that Charles Muntz has been hunting all these years.

up kevinCarl gets to meet Charles Muntz and it turns out he is not the hero of his youth any more.  Originally they were planning on the eggs of the bird be youth serum for Muntz but it was taking up too much of the plot so they decided to leave the Muntz/Carl plothole feeling audiences would forgive them one such problem and for the most part they do.  I certainly do! Plus, our villain Charles Muntz is voiced by the great Christopher Plummer so I can’t complain about that.

up10The key is through all of these adventures Carl never looses his purpose of honoring Ellie.  He talks to her throughout and is even willing to abandon Russell in order to get the house to the Falls for his beloved.  I just love that.

Again, you can feel the weight of his grief melting as he goes on this adventure. And then he looks at the Adventure book and see’s for the first time a note from his wife.

up6Here’s the scene in French but you get the idea.  “Thanks for the adventure.  Now go have a new one”.  Make my heart melt.

In that moment Carl knows he did keep his promise to his Ellie and to me that is just as moving as the opening section.  I cry every time (like literally I just watched it again and cried). He forgives himself and has a whole new energy to go and save Russell from Muntz.  It’s a perfect scene in my book.

To me Up is a perfect movie.  The emotional journey Pete Docter takes you on should be something anyone who has lost a loved one can relate too.  I certainly do. Every time I watch it I feel like I get a hug from my Grandpa who I miss everyday of my life. He was my hero and I hope he is proud of me and my little life adventure.

It’s not only incredibly moving but also funny and sweet.  We get a lot of humor from the dogs, Russell and Kevin.  The relationship between Russell and Carl is sweet and grows organically through the story in a believable way.

up4The voice performances from Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson and others are first rate (how has Ed Asner managed to play the grumpy old man for the last 40 years!).  And the music by Michael Giacchino is one of my favorites in all of movies.  It is literally pitch perfect.

It is obviously not the most realistic stories.  For instance, it would take much more than one night to blow up all those balloons but if you can just go with it you are in for something special.  The script is the typically witty dialogue of a Pixar movie.  It is funny and sweet and will take you on a journey if you will let it.

Ever since Inside Out I’ve been thinking about Up and how both movies are about memories.  How we deal with those memories and not have them become debilitating is a challenge whether you are 11 or 71 (or however old Carl is!).  And I just love how we learn in Up the adventure of life is the greatest tribute we can give those who have past on.  We never forget but we keep on living and embracing whatever comes our way!  It’s the spirit of adventure!

It’s so rare a movie will teach you something about life and be a true moment of clarity.  Those films are more than just entertainment.  They are practically scripture in my life.  Up is such a movie.  It teaches me about loss, love, marriage, grief, adventure, life and everything else.

So yes Up is my favorite movie.  It is a movie I could watch every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of.  It’s just that kind of movie to me.  Something that comes around a couple times in a person’s life and is a true inspiration.

Thanks to the entire Pixar team for making such a beloved movie!

Overall Grade- A+

AMC Animation March Madness

Over at AMC Movie News they are doing a fun project in honor of March Madness which is a college basketball bracket tournament but in this case it is Animation Madness!  They have selected 32 animated films and you have the chance to vote on different pairings at their website

Here John Campea and the team debate the value of different movies and what their picks would be.  I especially liked when all the girls started singing Little Mermaid (I would have done the same).  Some of the pairings are unfortunate as films would go a little farther if not initially up against such strong competition.  But here’s what they have to say.

I watched Akira tonight so I have seen all of the films in the bracket and they are all worthwhile although I would have made a few changes but there isn’t a bad film in the bracket IMO.  So I have filled out my bracket with their 32 and I also created a bracket with my own 32 films.  The interesting is that despite being very different I ended up with the same final 4, 2 and winner on both!  I guess my favorite animated movies are Up, Little Mermaid, Spirited Away and Fantasia however you shake it.

AMC Bracket-

amc bracket2

My Best 32 Bracket

my bracket
My top 32 Bracket

It would be fun if a bunch of my fellow bloggers put up their own brackets.  You might be surprised with how things work out.  Brackets are different than making a list because you are thinking about 2 movies at a time instead of an overall top 10.  Anyway, it’s all in fun so go and vote for your favorites and share your brackets.

Happy Bracketing!

Most Romantic Disney Movies

Happy Valentines Day friends!

valentinesTonight I am going to see Song of the Sea at the theater but I thought I might give you some romantic inspiration Disney-style.  There have been many great couples in Disney but which one’s are the best for Valentines Day?

Here we go!

12. Nightmare Before Christmas-

Got to pick something different but the love story between Jack and Sally is actually quite sweet. Gives us hope that even the strangest of us have a match.

jack and sally2

11. Bambi

I don’t give enough Bambi love on the blog.  It really is beautiful.  The instant love trope would be brought out so many times by Disney but this was the first and it introduced us to being twitterpated long before twitter!

10. Rescuers Down Under

I think the only Disney Canon with a proposal in it? Help me out if I’m wrong.  Bernard tries over and over again to propose to always be thwarted. I love how Bianca has such faith in Bernard even with the rugged Jake around.

Proposal-in-The-Rescuers-Down-Under

9. Snow White and the 7 Dwarves

Hoping your prince will come?  Why not watch Snow White sing about it?  Have a little hope on Valentines if you are currently single. When the Prince sings One Song it is one of the more underrated Disney musical moments.

8. Tarzan

Tarzan and Jane have lovely chemistry together as they try and understand each other’s world view. Hey and maybe it will help you ladies think twice about those ape-men in your life 😉

tarzan and jane

7. Aladdin

The whole movie is basically a guy trying to impress a girl who has sworn off men.  Perfect for Valentines Day!  We also get a magic carpet ride, A Whole New World and one of the best Disney kisses.

aladdin and jasmine

6. Cinderella

I feel like you almost have to put Cinderella on a list like this.  I mean it’s Cinderella finding her Prince Charming…but I actually think it’s more about a woman getting rescued from an unhappy life.  But it is a beautiful princess falling instantly in love with her Prince and getting married at the end.  Can’t go wrong with that.

Another underrated Disney song-

Pretty much these next 5 are equally loved by me so they are ties for first place!

5. Tangled

Disney’s stab at a romantic comedy and it is great. The banter between Flynn and Rapunzel is so well written . They have great chemistry and we see them grow together the entire movie.  When they get to the lanterns it is such a lovely moment.

tangled flynn and rapunzel

4. Lady and the Tramp

Probably includes the most iconic Disney romantic moment and the scene that made spaghetti synonymous with a hot date.  It is such a sweet and gentle movie that will make even the most grumpy person smile.  I dare you not to smile!

3. WALL-E

Another one I think you might have to be made of stone to not appreciate.  Wall-e simply loves Eva. It’s as simple as that.  He will do anything for her and it is sweet and innocent and completely lovely.  As Hello Dolly tells us in the movie ” it only took a moment
To be loved a whole life long”

walle and eva

2. Beauty and the Beast

Tale as old as time, tune as old as song.  Bitter sweet and strange finding you can change. Learning you were wrong. Certain as the sun rising in the east…Beauty and the Beast.   Yep. It’s the time when one heart understood another despite him having a ‘hideous’ appearance. We all hope someone will see our heart and love us flaws and all.  No movie exemplifies that hope better than Beauty and the Beast.

1. Up

Usually if people ask I tell them Up is my favorite movie.  It’s certainly in the top 3.  It’s a movie I could watch once a week for the rest of my life and never get sick of.  What it does in the first 10 minutes is my favorite moment of film ever. To show a whole life of a couple is something that always makes me tear up and I’ve seen the movie a lot.  But what moves me even more is how Ellie remains a palatable force in the movie.  Carl talks to her and you feel her presence.  When I first saw Up it was like a hug from my Grandpa who I miss dearly.  It reminded me that he is close by and rooting for me.

up cake
This is how much I love Up. I had this cake made for my housewarming/birthday party when I moved into my house.

If you want to go live action either of the Parent Trap movies are excellent choices with great chemistry from the leads.  Why not have a party and watch both!

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What are your favorite Disney romances? What did I miss?

Snow Day Movies

Best Snow Day MoviesSo I’ve heard of this little thing called Snowmogeddon that many of you are experiencing.  It is gorgeous here in Utah so go figure! As many of you are stuck inside with travel restrictions I thought I would help you out and suggest some great movies for watching on a snow day.  I figure you either want something you can cozy up with, something long or something cold.

For some reason I always think of making popcorn, hot cocoa and brownies when there is a blizzard outside.  Yum!

I am also specifically not picking any Christmas movies  because most people don’t watch those in January.

Here we go!

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy-

lord of the ringsWhat better for a day stuck inside than a good trilogy and it’s hard to top Lord of the Rings.  You could even watch the extended editions with all that time.  What Peter Jackson did truly fits the word epic. They hit every movie lover need- great action, beautiful worlds, good performances and a battle against evil that has real heart at the core. When you get to the final scene with Samwise, Frodo, Gollum and the ring it is so satisfying.

2. Up

up_posterPerfect time to watch a movie about a floating house when you are stuck in the house!  I can’t think of a time when I wouldn’t want to watch Up.  It’s sweet, funny and touching.  I love the opening sequence more than any other piece of filmmaking I’ve ever seen.  I love that a character passes away yet her presence is felt throughout the film.  It’s a reminder to us that those we love and have lost are still a part of our lives. It’s also very funny and has some nifty action, a good villain, great voice performances and a perfect score.

3. Shining

shiningGot a little cabin fever?  I can’t think of a more appropriate and terrifying movie than Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  It is the only horror movie I like because it is about a man going insane not some outside force attacking.  The artistry is a huge step above the typical horror movie and there is a lot of symbolism that can keep you thinking.  Plus, great performances from all involved.

4. 101 Dalmatians

101 dalmations

My tails froze and my nose is froze and my ears are froze and my toes are froze

Of course I have to include a Disney and I almost went with Lady and the Tramp because that is a very cozy movie but I decided on 101 Dalmatians because it is warm, funny and has a lot of scenes in the snow. Cruella is one of Disney’s best villains and the dogs get really close to getting caught many times.  The scene getting into the van makes me always hold my breath.  Cruella’s plan is so outrageous it also gives us some great laughs.  One of my favorites and a rare time where the sketch style is actually a benefit to all those spotted puppies.

5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

ferrisWhat is a snow day but an unexpected day off, so this is a perfect film for the occasion.  Ferris’ antics are obviously over the top but there is a real heart to the film which I actually find quite moving.  There is a theory that the whole day is planned by Ferris because Cameron is going to commit suicide and it is all set up to get him to the moment with the car and confronting his father.  I don’t know if that is true or not but it makes sense.  It’s one of those rare pictures which balances comedy, great writing, likable performances, 4th wall jokes and pretty intense drama. I like it more each time I see it.

6.  Frozen

Frozen-movie-posterHow could I not put it in?  Let the cold never bother you anyway and watch one of Disney’s most satisfying movies and one of the best musicals in a long time.  I love the relationship between the sisters as I have 3 sisters and trying to figure out what’s in their heads is really hard.  I thought the ending worked and the villain twist surprised me, which is hard to do in a fairytale.  They also used just enough of Olaf to be funny without overdoing it.  I know it has its detractors but I love it!

7. Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice

Technically this is not a movie but a miniseries but I figure you have 6 hours when snowed in why not watch Colin Firth stare longingly into Lizzie’s eyes…Sigh?  This is the standard by which all Jane Austen adaptations are measured.  Andrew Davies is such a great director for period pieces and the whole cast is engaging with the exception of Susannah Harker who is a rather blank Jane.  I love Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie and of course Colin Firth with the staring, eloquence, and a little dip in the lake we won’t soon forget.  Other great miniseries to watch are North and South (my favorite book), Wives and Daughters, Little Dorrit, Downton Abbey, Persuasion/Emma/Sense and Sensibility.  They are all great!

8. Groundhog Day-

groundhog day

It’s only a few days away from Groundhog Day so why not watch a hilarious comedy about the holiday? Bill Murray is at his best as a cranky weatherman named Phil who is forced to cover the groundhog day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Then he lives that aggravating day over and over again.  It is funny but there is also a nice heart to the story where he learns to see people in a new way including Andie MacDowell as the love interest.  He starts looking at her very cynically but as the days continue he understands her and starts to think a little less selfishly.  Terrific writing and directing by the great Harold Ramis.

9. Fargo-

Fargo_movieposter

I admit the ending I have to look away.  It’s pretty bloody but aside from that a perfect mystery set in cold Fargo, North Dakota. William H Macy is great as the man who’s plan begins to unravel.  Steve Buscemi is so creepy as one of the kidnappers. But the real star is Frances McDormand as the pregnant sheriff Marge who is one of the most likable characters in recent memory.  She is smarter than everyone else in the room but everyone discounts her because of her sex, way of speaking and being pregnant.  It makes you root for her and smile at the same time. Great direction by the Coen Brothers making the cold landscape of Fargo practically a character in the story.

10. 7 Brides for 7 Brothers

seven bridesA classic musical directed by Stanley Donnen and starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel as a couple who marry on first sight which gives Keel’s backwoods brothers a bad idea for getting their own brides.  It is silly and over-the-top premise but it works almost in spite of itself.  The engaging cast of mostly dancers helps keep it likable and light.  It also has some of the best dancing in any Hollywood movie of its era. The barn raising scene alone is amazing.  And it is a perfect musical to watch in a blizzard because the girls get snowed in by an avalanche!

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There are a lot of other movies I could have picked.  What are some of your favorites? Please share in the comments and stay warm!