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Top Ten: Pixar
June 27, 2009, 9:17 PM
Filed under: film


Since Up, I’ve been revisiting the Pixar canon.  I can’t think of a film studio, animation or otherwise that has so consisitently put out such a quality and innovative product.  By my count they’ve made 6 great films, 4 good ones, an ok one and one I prefer to ignore.  Up was their 10th film, and what better number to rank?  Let’s count ’em down.


Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  Even setting aside how creepy a car world without humans is, (Is it a post-global warming world?  Where do babies come from?) Cars is easily Pixar’s worst effort.  Sure, Finding Nemo had a fart joke, but Cars seems to make up for lost time with the tractor tipping scene (among others, I still think the Piston Cup/”he pissed in what?” entendre is one of the films lowest moments, and the tattooed Porsche?  I could keep going).  Not to mention the barrage of pop culture references, that run the gamut from groaners like Bob Cutlass, Darrell Cartrip, Jay Limo and Arnold Schwarzenegger the Hummer, to Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater (possibly Pixar’s worst casting decision) employing his catch phrases “Git-r-done!” and “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!”

Some of the small-town stuff works, but even there each character seems to be caricatured.  From the Mexican lowrider who runs a tattoo shop to the hippie VW Minibus trying to push his organic fuels.  The flat character development, overabundance of potty humor and prevalent pop culture references add up to a film that feels like it would be more at home at Dreamworks rather than Pixar.  A disappointing effort from John Lasseter, who up until then had been nearly flawless.  I’m dreading the sequel.


Far from the disaster that is Cars, Finding Nemo is actually a good film, even if it feels a bit flat. I think my biggest issue for the film is just that the humor doesn’t work for me, at all.  In a less generous mood I may feel compelled to compare Dory to Jar-Jar.  “I can speak whale!” is perhaps funny the first time, but not the 37th, most of Dory’s jokes get run into the ground and I just found it annoying.  Also, the turtles talking like surfers?  Why didn’t they just have them say Cowabunga while they were at it?

The film itself is OK, but the plot doesn’t really stand out for me.  The animation is exceptional and it was Pixar’s best looking film at the time of it’s release.  I did enjoy the bits with the fish in the fish tank, and the seagulls were funny.  Not a terrible film by any means, but in Pixar’s canon it fails to stand out for me.  I really don’t understand why this is the one that really caught on with audiences, becoming the highest grossing animated film of all-time.


I’m not as high on Ratatouille as most Pixar acolytes.  I love the Anton Ego scene as much as anyone.  It’s up there with some bits I’ll touch on later as one of Pixar’s best moments.  But I feel like the film takes too long getting there.  The middle definitely drags for me and at times it seems like there is just too much voiceover.  Still, it’s a very good film, it’s a testament to the consistency of Pixar’s work that a film this good would only be two spots from the bottom.  It’s one of their best looking, and the high moments are very very high.


I wasn’t a huge fan of Monster’s Inc the first time I saw it, but I revisited it recently and it was alot better than I remembered.  The film is very dense, like all Pixar films there is alot going on you don’t always pick up the first time through.  The monsterworld conceit is inventive, and the way they turn it around in the end is very Pixar.  This was the first film not directed by John Lasseter, and Pete Docter filled in just fine.  It’s consistently entertaining and consistently funny, as you would expect any film featuring John Goodman and Steve Buscemi to be.


The one that started it all.  It still holds up wonderfully.  The animation doesn’t look as impressive as it did nearly 15 years ago, but that’s beside the point.  Pixar has always been about story and character more than anything else, and they are just as good as they ever were.  It really showed Pixar’s talent at creating believable worlds and entertaining characters, and making us think about things we usually don’t in ways we usually wouldn’t (what do Toys do when we’re away?).


The rare sequel that is better in every way than it’s predecessor.   So many inventive sequences, from the video game opening to the isle of Buzz Lightyears.  The collected toys is another example of Pixar using their imagination in a provocative way.  Wayne Knight is fantastic as the greedy toy collector and Jessie presents one of Pixar’s first strong female character.  The montage of her remembering her relationship with her owner is one of the first times Pixar tried something out of the norm, and it can be added with the Anton Ego scene as one of their best squences.  Unlike Cars 2, Toy Story 3 is a sequel I cannot wait for.


I feel like this is one of Pixar’s most underrated films.  Perhaps the best they’ve done at realizing one of their themes, certainly the best until the last few years.  A unique repurposing of Seven Samurai. It works both as an indictment of oppressive government/management and a celebration of imagination, innovation and working together.  Fitting for a Pixar film eh?  Again, a consistently entertaining and amusing film (the bug related jokes kill me) filled with a cast of unique and well realized characters.


Brad Bird’s first film with Pixar and the first time they brought in an outside director.  Could they have made a better choice than the man behind The Iron Giant?  The Incredibles has deeper human relationships and is a more honest portrayal of family than most live-action films.  It is also, in my opinion, the greatest superhero film ever made.  It’s indictment of the overdone egalitarianism present in society has garnered Bird comparisons to Ayn Rand, which is absurd.  Nobody ever mistook Kurt Vonnegut for a right wing nutjob after writing Harrison Bergeron.  It appears Mr. Bird is moving to live-action with 1906, hopefully he’s not abandoning animation for good.


Perhaps ranked slightly higher than it deserves cause it’s still new to me, but I don’t think so, and even then I couldn’t see it ever falling out of the top 5, which leaves it in great film territory.  I’ve covered this film in greater detail previously on my blog, but I feel the need to reiterate this is both one of Pixar’s funniest and most entertaining films and the opening montage is possibly their best sequence to date.  Carl may be the deepest and most fully realized character in their oeuvre, which is saying something.


My favorite Pixar film so far.  I’m just going to be regurgitating thoughts I’ve probably expressed somewhere else and alot of this will seem like hyperbole.  It’s Pixar’s best looking film, they tried to capture a realistic look with the cinematography and the succeeded in spades.  The silent opening is unbelievable.  Their ability to inspire empathy with a rusty old robot is astounding.  The relationship between Wall-E and Eve is fantastic.  The environmentalist and anti-consumerist messages appeal to my sensibilities.  To date it’s their most fully realized film, and a wonderful turn around from Finding Nemo for Andrew Stanton.


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