Finding Dory

W.W.D.D: What would Dory do?

13 years on from the incredible Finding Nemo and our fish friends are back – but this time Dory is the focus. Our favorite Paracanthurus (Blue Tang) is back. The phrase above is not just my new mantra for living, it’s the motto of the movie. At one point a character even asks himself, What Would Dory Do? For Dory is one of Pixar’s greatest creations – truly lovely, totally optimistic with a tenacious heart of gold. What is truly Pixar about both her onscreen features is how her having memory loss is handled – it is not her main character trait nor is it treated as a problem that needs ‘fixing’. It is part of who Dory is, yet something she does not allow to completely control her. Her much awaited sequel really does not disappoint.

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The Good Dinosaur

‘Mummy, why is that lady sat over there crying so much?’

2015. The year Pixar granted us with two movies. After years and years of development hell The Good Dinosaur emerged in cinemas almost 4 months after Inside Out. The close to cinematic perfection that is Inside Out. With those two pressures alone the bar was set high – whilst The Good Dinosaur doesn’t get a place on the podium for best movies of 2015 it certainly deserves a rosette for good effort.  The main idea is so Pixar in its originality, the central characters so endearing that it’s truly unfortunate how ill-served it is by the underdeveloped storyline. Yet, even with such a shallow storyline, the pathos is still being created. Which is why I was the ‘lady’ in the question above that was uttered by a small child sat near me in the cinema on Sunday. The question is, will children really understand how truly depressing much of the film is?

65 million years ago a meteor did not hit Earth. The dinosaurs were not made extinct. Two Apatosaurus farmers are watching in awe as their three eggs hatch. Their children are about to be born. There’s Libby, Buck and finally Arlo. As the three children grow up the differences between them quickly become apparent to their parents, specifically how different Arlo is two his older siblings. Libby and Buck swiftly adjust to life on the farm and perfect their chores, so much so that they are rewarded with a muddy foot-print on the family tree. Arlo does not. Arlo is shy and timid, terrified by most things including the  chickens he has to feed everyday. Arlo’s father gives him some extra attention and finds him a purpose, to get rid off the pest that has been eating their food supply. They set a trap and Arlo waits in excited nervousness for the pest to be caught. When Arlo next checks the trap he find a feral cave-child. When Arlo finds himself unable to kill the pest his father rebukes him, and forces him to chase the pest through a ravine. On the way tragedy strikes and Arlo soon awakens to find himself far away from home and desperate to get back. 

The majority of the film is of Arlo’s journey home. After slowly befriending the pest, even naming him Spot, the pair work together to get Arlo home. Their friendship is portrayed in such a beautiful way, so heart-warming and joyus. Both Arlo and Spot are really lovely characters who you find yourself truly rooting for and willing for their survival. This is the main success of the film and the main reason to stay engaged with it through its rather facile storyline. Arlo and Spot drift from one misadventure to next, meeting some ‘interesting’ characters and frequently running into danger. It’s at this point in the film when it becomes…strange. There’s a sequence which proceeds Arlo and Spot’s ingesting hallucinogenic berries that rivals that sequence in Dumbo. Other strange, occasionally wonderful, set pieces occur. Their joining up with a family of T-rex’s is wonderful. Thunderclap and the pterodactyls are not.

Overall, however, there is enough here to make it worthy of watching. It has the best of intentions, some gorgeous landscapes and two truly lovely leads. Their friendship is one of the studio’s best.

It’s not Pixar’s worst (Cars) or its best (Inside Out or Toy Story) but comfortably in-between.

Sanjays Super Team Pixar Post

Sanjay’s Super Team

The 7 minute short which precedes The Good Dinosaur is absolutely delightful and hopefully ground-breaking in terms of representation. Without dialogue, as most of the Pixar shorts are, we watch a young boy called Sanjay be torn between wanting to watch his cartoon (representing the modern world) and his father’s want for his son to pray with him (representing tradition). The film starts with a card stating ‘This is a (mostly) true story’ and it really comes across throughout. For Sanjay realises that the superhero’s adventures that he watches on tv share a lot with the stories of the Hindu gods. His mini-journey of discovery, attempting to align the two parts of his life, is fantastically done.  The fact Pixar have made a film which diverts from their usual representation is crucial. Long may it continue!

Inside Out

Pixar proving that it really does know us Inside Out…

This film is Pixar’s best outing yet. It’s so clever, moving and beautifully told – in the way only Pixar an master. An outstanding treat of a film for both kids and adults. Both silly yet serious, it manages to articulate the traumas of growing up in a way that both reflects them for the kids but prompts self-reflection from the adults. It cannot be emphasised enough how universal the film is, with a multitude of jokes that will appeal to all markets. It’s witty, yet warm and oh-so wise. Joy. Sadness. Fear. Disgust. Anger. These are all emotions that we feel, often simultaneously, yet this film makes us consider the true power of these emotions and how they are all equally important – in a manner that will make you giggle and possibly shed a tear or two.

11-year-old Riley lives in Minnesota with her mum and dad. For Riley, everyday is a great day. She loves her family, friends, hockey and goofing around. With Joy (Amy Poehler) at the helm in the Headquarters -Riley’s conscious mind- to influence Riley’s actions and memories. Joy, along with Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), use a control console to interact with Riley. Even after 11 years, they still cannot understand the purpose of Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Yet Riley’s life quickly changes, with her family moving to San Francisco for her dad’s work. Whilst Joy and the other three emotions are trying to negotiate Riley’s well-being upon moving, they most also deal with Sadness who has started to touch some of Riley’s happy memories, transforming them to be sad. When trying to fix one of these memories Joy and Sadness end up being transported away from Headquarters into the labyrinthian maze that is Riley’s mind.

It’s immensely hard to find the words to explain just how extraordinary this film is. In typical Pixar-style it has created a film with a premise that seems so obvious, the idea of our emotions having personalities, yet manages to create something so beautifully poignant, entertaining and moving. Riley’s turmoil is so well reflected, it will bring back evocative memories for all. For the parents of the audience it could only be doubly heartfelt – an opportunity to see inside your child’s mind!

How these aspects are converted onto the screen are what makes Pixar so innovative. We have the Train of Thought, Personality Islands and the dreaded Memory Dump. A stand-out sequence has to when Sadness, Joy and Bing-Bong (Riley’s long forgotten imaginary friend) stop by the production studio for Dreams. It’s just so meta, with the revelation that dreams are actually created in a movie studio style-operation, reflecting on the manufacturing and perception of moving image. All of this is incredibly astute, but told in a way that is accessible to all ages. But what really makes us care about the events of this film is the characterisation. All the characters are fully developed and three dimensional – Riley is portrayed as such a lovely kid going through a real crisis, her loving parents doing all they can to help and their bond is so endearing. The emotions do steal the show here – they each have nuances and quirks yet are all untied with their tender treatment of Riley.

If you decide to go to the cinema only once this Summer, this is the film to see. It’s conceptually daring in both emotion and intellect, so comforting and simple but also affecting and thoughtful. A masterpiece.

Mini-Review: Lava

lava

Like all Pixar movies this film starts with a short, a beautiful love story called ‘Lava’. Told through song, a lonely volcano expresses his need for a companion he can love. It’s a beautiful sequence, the colourings and textures of the island landscape with the camera panning over so elegantly create an almost mythical tone. It’s hard to believe how far, animation-wise Pixar and its technology has developed since ‘Knick-Knack’ (1989) one of its earliest and similarly themed shorts. A timeless and universal theme presented in a extraordinary setting and style – setting you up perfectly for the main picture.