Saturday, July 01, 2006
104. One Car's Family
I'm torn. Not really, but still, my sudden ability to visit the multiplex gratis, no more cave since I'm not an emptor, is putting a (happy, I'll admit it) dent in my Humble, that is, Home, Viewing. Network, Pride and Prejudice (the newest one, I believe, although it seems someone on the large or small screen is taking a run at Austen--in the nicest possible way--every six months or so; there may, then, be another version after the Keira Knightly one I have), and Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew (which I Netflixed about a month ago, and still haven't got around to seeing it)--all wait for me while I go galumphing off (calloo, callay, yeah yeah) to see Cars.
Whee, that was fun. Cars, I mean, not the preceding alarmingly punctuated paragraph.
Two--no, three--quick things:
(3) (I thought of it last, and it's the most obvious): Pixar knows how to make computer cartoons. The quality of the light, the POVs, the sheer fun and speed--and, as always, the courage to slow down a cartoon to convince us we're not seeing toys/monsters/fish/cars, but characters--and hence, the voice talent--and the quasi-modest tendency to quote other cartoons (see #2)--all of this and more--like the beautiful backgrounds, and grab-ya-good sound FX--have yet to let us down. The accompanying short, "One-Man Band," was a little jewel all by itself. My music-teacher spouse, who didn't want to see a cartoon, was ushered into Pixarworld with savage-breast-soothing perfection.
(1) I mentioned it in passing in #3, but let me linger just a moment on those background details. I can still watch Pinocchio, despite its typically heavy rotation in our house when the children were small, because there's so much going on in the corners, up there on the high shelf, where dim carved faces peer, and a soft light plays on the edges. It is something Disney--along with Miyazaki, and now John Lasseter--knows about children: their love of small, almost-hidden images, of cunning clockworks and even the dark at the top of the stairs. Watch Cars closely. There's much that seems unimportant because it's so small--unless you're small yourself.
(2) I haven't looked around the web, but I'm sure all the Toon-Heads out there have been quick to point out that Pixar works best when it borrows. How many old cartoons are there from the 1930s and '40s that feature toys that come to life when no one's around (although usually in a toyshop, not in Toy Story's intimate space--the home--where such (literally) animating magic brings both joy and anxiety, if not terror)? And watching Lasseter's car-universe, I was immediately reminded of an old Tex Avery, "One Cab's Family" (1952), with the cab-child who wants to be a hot rod. I suppose all those years of repeat cartoon viewings pay off, especially when I'm watching another cartoon. So everyone who remembers that one gets another reason to smile at this bright, fast, and beautiful movie. Like everybody over 40 who loves animation, computerizing the process worried me for a long time--and I guess in some ways it still does. But on its own terms--leaving behind nerdy tech-comparisons (or more fundamental aesthetic ones)--a computer-cartoon like Cars not only keeps me plugged in to that part of my brain that has dutifully remembered all those oldies/goodies, but further reminds me that, as in music and movies in general, there's really no such thing as oldies, just goodies.
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