What follows is a reworking of a post originally published in 2007. It's two years later and you know what that means: Pixar has given us two more classics. UP brings their feature film count to ten. You know what Ten means: Top Ten Time!
Pixar by Preference
Cars (John Lasseter, 2006) 117 min.
Pixar's only dud. Chief among its problems: the anthropomorphics were forced. Let me get this straight: Cars as bugs on windshields of cars as cars who act like humans and they even sleep in hotels for cars -- What? What? It's not quite Shark Tale in the realm of painful "they're just like us!" pandering but it's not 'good' either. I would give it a second chance except it's also Pixar's longest feature... too long by about 23 minutes. Thankfully, they seem to have reversed their bloated running time trending. It peaked here and began coming back down to 90 minute levels.
Best character: n/a
Oscar noms: 2 (Original Song and Animated Feature)
09 A Bug's Life (Lasseter & Andrew Stanton, 1998) 96 min.
Not as memorable as the other films but a solid entertainment.
Best character: Heimlich "finally, I'm a beautiful butterfly!"
Oscar noms: 1 (Score, Musical or Comedy)
08 Finding Nemo (Stanton & Lee Unkrich, 2003) 100 min.
Pixar's biggest hit and the appeal is obvious. It's consistently funny and it looks like a
Best character: Dory, possibly the best celebrity voice casting ever for a toon. In non-Pixar efforts the casting is usually only about the marquee value of the name. Pixar almost always does right by casting. It's character first. Ellen DeGeneres's whole comic persona serves the fish and not the other way around.
Oscar noms: 4 (Animated Feature*, Score, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)
Toy Story 2 (Lasseter, Unkrich and Ash Brannon, 1999) 92 min.
The last time I made a Pixar list I asked if it was as great as some claim? But unfortunately I didn't seek an answer for myself. I loved its basic story concept but I don't remember it well.
Best character: They're mostly holdovers but I do remember that that Barbie sequence was bananas.
Oscar Noms: 1 (Score). 1999 was the year that prompted the Academy to create an animated feature category, which became an official category in 2001. The collective critical response to Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant and Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke which were all released stateside in 1999 was basically along the lines of 'these animated movies are as good as any live action movie'. AMPAS decision seemed like a good move at the time, but now the category has become a ghetto preventing films as rich and lauded as WALL•E from landing in the Best Picture category where they belong.
Very Good. Sometimes Great.
06 Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson) 96 min.
This ranking might be too high or too low. But the film is brand spanking new. I'll need time to settle with it... float back down to earth. I always feel high in the sky after a Pixar... even the ones that don't include helium balloons. Our Vodcast Review
Best character: Carl Fredricksen. I love how square his face is, how it ages and how expressive it remains throughout the film, despite being as boxed up as his life in his old house.
Oscar noms: We'll know in January 2010. I'm going to guess three (Score, Animated and one Sound categories)
Monsters, Inc. (Docter, Unkrich and Lee Silverman, 01) 92 min.
One of the most underrated films of 2001, arguably the best cinematic year of the decade. How can this be underrated when it made hundreds of millions and people generally like it, you ask? Because they should love it. It's got all the Pixar strengths in abundance: inventive screenplay, memorable characters, complicated gags, glorious production design. Those people (including Academy voters) who thought Shrek was better? They're monsters! My screams when it lost the Oscar could power Monstropolis for a year.
Best character: Boo
Oscar noms: (Original Song*, Animated Feature, Score, Sound Editing)
04 Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 07) 111 min.
Left the movie theater with a huge smile on my face... interrupted only by an occassional shudder from the heebie-jeebies. You know, hundreds of rats... in a kitchen... touching food! Pixar is totally gourmet. You always feel that the films are crafted with great skill and love. They make a mint but it's plain as day that's not their soul purpose. It's not an assembly line. One hopes this anti fast-food approach eventually rubs off on the increasingly soulless direct to DVD Disney.
Best character: Gusteau
Oscar noms: 5 (Animated Feature*, Score, Sound, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)
For the All Time Lists
03 Toy Story (Lasseter, 95) 81 min.
I'm not sure if it's the 99th best film of all time as the AFI claims but I'm glad animation is represented on that list. We were both excited to see it as we were ahead of the populace on the Pixar curve. I don't remember how I obtained it but I had a bootleg VHS tape of all of the Pixar shorts that had been made before they risked going into features. I had already converted my whole family to the cult of Pixar and even considered buying stock in the company went it first went up for sale even though I was a poor college student (Oh, to have done so). As long as I live I will never forget the first time I saw the film. I went with my brother. The moment that lifted it into a complete comedic classic was 'The Claw' My brother and I literally hurt from laughing. That's a good kind of pain.
Best character: Buzz Lightyear
Oscar noms: 3 (Score, Original Song, Screenplay... and a special Oscar for John Lasseter for making it all happen)
02 The Incredibles (Bird, 2004) 115 min.
From my top ten of 2004 review: "I saw The Incredibles three times within the month of its opening. And every time something else opened the following month that only looked sort of appealing I thought to myself. "Self, you can always go and see The Incredibles again"
... Gah. Pixar is so awesome. Group hug!
Best character: Elastigirl. She keeps this family together... and not just with those rubbery arms that can literally do so.
Oscar noms: 4 (Sound Editing* Animated Feature*, Sound Mixing, Original Screenplay)
01 WALL•E (Stanton, 08) 98 minutes
One of the best pictures in recent years from any medium or genre. Since it's still fresh in mind I'm guessing we've discussed it enough for awhile. I was wild for it as you know. See my annual awards for further proof.
Best character: Read my ode to EVE here if you missed it.
Oscar noms: 6 (Animated Feature*, Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Screenplay)
Next up for Pixar? I hope they don't spoil their status as "most consistent studio on the planet" but they're moving into two pictures a year now, instead of one. When Disney sped up in the mid 90s, things started going downhill.
2010: Toy Story 3 which will be directed by Lee Unkrich, who is finally getting his own movie after co-directing three of their giant hits.
2011: Newt about the last remaining male and female blue footed newts... who hate each other and Pixar's first fairy tale (moving into Disney's realm, eh?) The Bear and the Bow
2012: Brings a weird double feature: the one I'm least excited about, Cars 2, and the one I'm most excited about John Carter of Mars.
Pixar shorts top ten, a bonus list. Here's my top ten.
- For the Birds (Ralph Eggleston, 2000) 3 min. Oscar winner
- Knick Knack (Lasseter, 1989) 4 min.
- Boundin' (Bud Lucky and Roger Gould, 2003) 5 min. Oscar nominee
- Tin Toy (Lasseter, 1988) 5 min. Oscar winner
- Geri's Game (Jan Pinkava, 1997) 4 min. Oscar winner
- Luxo Jr (Lasseter, 1986) 2 min. Oscar nominee
- Lifted (Gary Rydstrom, 2006) 5 min. Oscar nominee
- Presto (Doug Sweetland, 2008) 5 min. Oscar nominee
- Red's Dream (Lasseter, 1987) 4 min.
- One Man Band (Mark Andrews and Andrew Jimenez, 2005) 4 min. Oscar nominee
Your Pixar Experience
Which was your first in theaters? Which film has shifted the most in your opinions about it over the years? How would you rate them on a scale of dud to all timers? Or are you, like Armond White, tired of hearing about their awesomeness? If so, how soon do you think a backlash will happen?
related post: UP Vodcast