Wednesday, July 02, 2008
It's called emotional truthiness
We've gotta take care of some house-keeping and then I'm going to give you my two cents on Pixar's new film "Wall-E." Because everyone wants my two cents on "Wall-E."
First, if you'll look to the right you'll see my links updated. Included in the list is Nik Dirga's blog, "Spatula Forum." Nik is an old editor of mine now living the adventure with his wife and spritely young boy in New Zealand. You'll be hard-pressed to find better pop culture analysis and commentary on the Web.
Also on the list is Traci Gunderson's blog, "The G-Funk Era." Traci is an old high school aquaintance who I'm sure I would have hung out with much more often had I known what a wickedly sharp wit she had. Her blog is brilliant. Now if only Hamblin would start one.
So, onto other things.
Becky and I took the girls to go see "Wall-E" on Saturday. The film is wonderful. Like most Pixar films -- well, all of them except for "Cars" -- "Wall-E" pulls off the seemingly impossible high-wire act of being fun, smart, exciting and really funny without alienating adults or boring children. And it's gorgeous. The computer animation is litterally breath-taking in many spots. Pixar makes other computer films out there look like junior high computer club projects. It's amazing.
It also got me thinking about Pixar's long string of success. Their films aren't just good by animated film standards or family film standards or even comedy film standards. They're just plain good by major film standards.
And I realized it's because every one of their films -- whether its about talking toys or talking fish or talking ants or talking rats or monsters or superheroes -- is emotionally honest at its core. With the exception of "Cars" of course, which only seems to get worse the more you watch it.
But regardless of the plot or the characters, there's true emotion organically embedded in each of their films. That means you sit through the movie and never hear a false note, never feel manipulated and never feel pandered to. Remarkable for any film in this day and age.
And if you think about it, emotional honesty is what makes most of the great films out there great. Whether it's Michael Corleone running away from and then embracing his familial destiny or Rick Blaine coming to grips with his past and finding a way to do the right thing in World War II-era French Morocco, great films ring emotionally true.
Romantic comedies live and die on this principal -- or should. Imagine a world without films like "Made of Honor," "Runaway Bride" or "The Notebook." It would be so pleasing. Most romcoms fall flat or just plain suck because they go through these impossibly back-bending plot conventions and genre requirements.
You know, you've got the hoary R&B musical montage at about the half-way point (usually Aretha Franklin), you've got the gay male best friend (really? every single high-society gal that has some "important truth" to learn about herself before she can make good with the love of her life has a gay best friend every step along the way always quick dispense fashion and relationship advice?), you've got the mistaken infidelity and finally the chase to the airport/bus station/dock and/or wedding to confess true love. "The Holiday" anyone?
In contrast, look at film like "When Harry Met Sally" or "Say Anything." Had "Say Anything" been a conventional romantic comedy Diane's dad would have found remedemption and/or been found innocent at the end of the film and attended the couple's wedding. Instead, Lloyd shuts the door on him pretty good at the federal penatentury ("I'm the distraction that's going with her to England, sir.") and he and Diane take off for Europe far from having a secure relationship. It's brilliant and miles away from sentimentalistic. It feels real-life.
But enough about that. I'll end my rant complaining about summer TV. It's the summer of the reality show. Every night on every channel. It's killing me. And they have that producer think-tank, lowest-common-denomonator, completely common-sense-insulting stank about them.
I mean "Greatest American Dog"? Really? You're a broadcast network television station and you're going devote 12 hours of primetime to the search for America's greatest dog? Which will actually end up being a search for an astoundingly out-of-touch, wealthy, emotionally stunted dog loving American with waaaaaay too much time and money on their hands who believe their pet is actually a child. In the commercials one woman actually calls her dog her soul mate. Her soul mate. Please, someone find this woman help her connect with society around her, with our human fraternity, with the real world. She's in need of serious help.
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