With the recent announcement that Pixar, those purveyors of flawless (?) animated family films, was once again going back to the base for a sequel to the fan favorite Finding Nemo, a question has arisen among cartoon connoisseurs. To paraphrase said sentiment—are the masters of mainstream computer animation looking to be more creative, or more commercial? Posited another way, the issue becomes one of corporate interference, business model meddling, and a true lack of pundit perspective. Granted, John Lasseter and the gang stumbled a bit with Cars 2 (seen by many as made for merchandising reasons only) and Brave (which may have won the Oscar but few true converts), but for the most part, their reputation has remained unsullied…
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Racism is an ugly, ugly thing. There is no excuse for it, no way to argue out of its sickening sensibility. Time and temperament can change. So can people and perspective. But to make rash, ridiculous decisions based on skin tone, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or any other superficial stricture is the most mindless of judgment calls, and to attempt to defend such dumbness is the height of hopelessness. People should be based on who they are as human beings, not predetermined misread stereotypes. And yet we are currently embroiled in a clash over same sex marriage, only fifty years removed from a time when “colored” folk had to use segregated social facilities - if they were allowed in at all.
A debate has been raging on the Internet over the past two weeks, a war of words between a certain select group of critics and their equally astute peers. It all centers around a recent poll by Indiewire (as part of their Criticwire brand) dealing with, and we quote, “Overrated Masterpieces.” Now, if that tag isn’t confusing enough (if something is considered a “masterpiece,” can it really be “overrated?”), many of the answers were. As pointed out by Calum Marsh in his Film.com response “The Movie Isn’t ‘Overrated,’ You’re Just Lazy” several of the opinions offered were nothing more than dismissals and assertions. While the framework of the piece may have allowed for such shortcuts, Marsh argues that many of the conclusions can be summed up in the following way: I’m right, everyone else is wrong.
It could be one of the more interesting Oscar years ever. When the Academy decided to snub both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for their highest directing honors, it seemed to suggest a desire to move beyond the slow, steady slog of ceremonies and given accolades (and their accompanying predictability) to actually acknowledge something beyond the rote and the routine. Complicating matters further was the desire to include a formidable foreign film entry among the other Best Picture nods. Yet even within that anomaly, the same old malaise sets in. By Sunday night, the 24th of February, 2013, we will learn if an upstart indie set against the backdrop of a Katrina like Gulf Coast can really compete against a blood slavery exploitation revenge flick, as well as the usual end of year fare.
This was a film series that should have been nothing but a gimmick. 1964’s 7 Up was a short and none-too-serious look at a gaggle of 14 English schoolchildren from a variety of backgrounds. The narrator made a lark of it, intoning about the children’s styles of play and pointing them out after the other (“there’s Nicholas…and Tim”) as though he were identifying different species of animal in some amusing wildlife short. What ideology existed in the short seemed to come from the filmmakers’ reflexive expectation that the rich kids would be assured of powerful places in society, while the poorer kids would have a harder time of it. The three prep-school boys reciting in plummy tones the list of exclusive institutions they were sure to attend were set in direct contrast to the orphanage boy asking a simple question: “What is a university?” There were hints of something deeper here, particularly its version of the old Jesuit maxim: “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.” But it didn’t seem to be anything made for longevity.
Eight films on, director Michael Apted (who worked as a researcher on the first film) has created something for the ages. The Up series is like a living, breathing cinematic experiment. (More than a few of the people appear to feel they are being watched under a microscope, and resent it.) But after each seven-year delay, when Apted and his crew returns to interview those of the original 14 still talking to them, the drama of it increases in small increments almost scientific in tone. We see person turn not just from children into adults, but from characters into people. By the time that the current installment, 56 Up, comes around, most of those involved have left so much of themselves on the screen that the impending clouds of sickness and mortality begin to carry an almost unbearable weight.