timepiececlock: (How Many Stars - Young Spock/Uhura)
[personal profile] timepiececlock
If you move past the fact that the only female character with speaking lines disappears 15 minutes into a 97 minute movie (and that includes the short that opened it) and that it creates a world entirely devoid of women or girls except as backdrops or objects of loss (not even the frelling dogs)--and I'm sure we'll all move past that because it's a familiar hurdle with Pixar--then I can report that this is a beautiful, moving film.

It's a little darker than WALL-E, and a little sadder. I cried at two separate points; not a lot, but my eyes were significantly wet and I had to wipe them. It's still an uplifting film, still full of wonder and adventure and grace, but there's no denying that the emotion of loss permeates this story.

There's something reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki's work when you watch it: gorgeous vistas, brilliant colors, and sky. So much sky! Balloons, dirigibles, airplanes! And old person and a young person on an adventure together, experiencing the wonder of flight. It's not quite as funny or cute as WALL-E, but I'm not sure it's supposed to be.

There's no doubt that the Pixar studio has some of the finest writers and storytellers in the film industry today. Now they only need to live up to that potential, and open their magical world to the rest of us. It looks, as always, like a beautiful place to play.


WARNING: COMMENTS NOW CONTAIN MOVIE SPOILERS!

Date: 2009-06-05 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ryanitenebrae.livejournal.com
See, despite Ellie not being on screen for the most part, her presence is felt throughout the film in a huge way, and she acts as not just a catalyst of the plot or a piece of motivation, but genuinely as a charater, in my opinion. I felt like I knew her as well as I did Carl and Russell.

Date: 2009-06-05 11:18 pm (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
Crumbs. I can't help but think that if this were a classic Disney movie, if this were The Lion King, the lead hunter dog, at least, would be female. Or the dog in the commercial would be female. (I'm trying to be vague to avoid spoilers.) If this were a Hayao Miyazaki film, the child would be a little girl, or the adult would be an old woman.

Date: 2009-06-06 12:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ryanitenebrae.livejournal.com
This is true, but I feel that changing Carl's gender would change Ellie's identity and gender, as for the plot to work, it has to be the deceased person who truly craved adventure, and. . .that works so well with Ellie, and she's such an amazing character, dead or alive, and so is Carl .. .and I wouldn't want to change their story.

Russell, yes. Russell could easily be female. The dog thing, though. . .well, if Dug was female, the others would be, as the Pack is set up to be bullies, and cross-gender bullying is rather rare in media.

At least we got a non-white Pixar main character in Russell?

Date: 2009-06-06 01:04 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
The dog thing, though. . .well, if Dug was female, the others would be, as the Pack is set up to be bullies, and cross-gender bullying is rather rare in media.

That doesn't even make sense to me. Are you saying that because the media doesn't do it, that they shouldn't? Or that I shouldn't expect it, because its' unlikely?

Of course it's unlikely that they'd write it that way and of course they don't do it enough. That's part of my whole point. I mentioned the Lion King specifically because the three hyenas were led by a female, in almost the same character roles within the story. So it's not like it's not without precedent.

I don't want to debate that with you, though. I'm actually really emotionally stressed right now about a completely separate issue as I type this, so if you keep replying with "yeah but..." justifications I'll probably bite your head off, and then I'll feel like crap later. So, just, let's get off this track of conversation, okay? It's a beautiful movie. Let's talk about that.

Date: 2009-06-06 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ryanitenebrae.livejournal.com
No, no, no. . .that wasn't that I meant.

I'm so sorry. I tend to not edit things, and just follow my train of thought. I meant that if Dug were made female, at least some of the pack likely would be as well, as male-on-female bullying codes differently in people's minds then does single-gender bullying, but there is no reason whatsoever that either couldn't have been the case.

Anyway, I'm really, really sorry. I didn't mean to sound as if I was justifying anything but Carl and Ellie, and I just. . .I was just impressed by how Ellie felt like she made such an impact without being present, and. . .I'm sorry. I didn't mean to seem confrontational, or anything, and yes, it was an amazing film.



ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
I was just impressed by how Ellie felt like she made such an impact without being present,

She did. =) I feel like that relationship was the emotional core of the story from Carl's perspective, and when paired with that wonderful score, it brought a more heartfelt reaction from me than most animated films are capable of doing. That is Pixar's strength, and why they're able to make such fantastic films beyond the technical innovation.

While I was sitting in the theater at the end of the film, watching the credits, I tried to imagine if Pixar would still be making such moving and ambitiously written stories 10 or 20 years from now. I wondered if they'd ever lose their heart and soul and become generic movie garbage, and if we'd all look back on the glory days of Pixar. Or if it was possible that they'd make 20 or 30 years of fantastic movie canon and we'd someday look at their studio as one of the finest bodies of work in cinema.
From: [identity profile] ryanitenebrae.livejournal.com
Yeah, I agree - I mean, it is astounding that the change of Company hands didn't faze them, and that they're actually capable of making good sequels(though we'll see if that's consistently true over the next few years), but they still may fall off course. I hope fervently that that does not happen, however, and right now, there's no reason why it should other than my own cynicism. I do wonder what will happen once Lassetter retires, but that probably won't happen any time soon.

One of my favorite things about Up is that Ellie never becomes a MacGuffin - she's always there, she's present, she's honored, she's a distinct emotional force throughout the story, and it's her final message that is able to give Carl the strength to both overcome Muntz, and to finally let her go.

Also, I found Russell's role in the film interesting. In any other film, he'd be used largely as comedy relief, I feel, but rather it's Carl's bonding with him that allows him to finally continue to live his life and move back to the city rather than remaining in South America, which I feel shows that he is honoring Ellie's memory by obeying her command to go find his own adventure.

Date: 2009-06-05 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flutingfrenzy.livejournal.com
Excellent, I was planning to see it this weekend anyway. Now that I have some idea of what to expect, I'll probably enjoy it even more.

Date: 2009-06-05 11:15 pm (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
Irrel told me before I saw it that "people said they cried even more than for WALLE" and since I didn't personally cry for WALLE, but totally understood why someone might, I took that into consideration. I thought I'd share the same feeling here so people would know what to expect. The commercial makes it look like just lighthearted adventure film, but it's actually more serious than WALLE, Finding Nemo or Toy Story was. I think, in part, it's because the lead character is older, and his view of the world is so different from the boy's. Not in a bad way, but in a way that speaks to a long life and full experiences. The two characters balance each other beautifully.

I also think the little boy is drawn as Asian American (though with animation it's tricky to tell), which, if deliberate, is something that pleases me. Let me know if you think so, when you see it.

Date: 2009-06-05 11:48 pm (UTC)
ext_15084: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mackiemesser.livejournal.com
I also think the little boy is drawn as Asian American (though with animation it's tricky to tell)

Yep, he is (and voiced by an Asian-American boy). I can't find the article where it's mentioned, but this (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/movies/17murph.html?_r=1) article contains some brief descriptions of character designs that are pretty interesting.

I think Pixar's lack of female characters--I guess one could include Kevin, even though she doesn't actually speak, but she's definitely a significant part of the story--stems from a similar issue I encountered working in the video game industry: because the majority of the people working for the company are male, that's what they identify with. I remember a number of situations where I would talk to different departments and point out some issues with female characters (especially clothing), game scripts, and game play. They mostly recognized the clothing stuff, but the rest of it was a shock to them. Pixar is, I think, a bit more aware than that, but they still work in s Silicon Valley environment. Hopefully, they'll read the articles that have been written about this lately and do better.

Date: 2009-06-06 03:52 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
stems from a similar issue I encountered working in the video game industry: because the majority of the people working for the company are male, that's what they identify with. ... Pixar is, I think, a bit more aware than that, but they still work in s Silicon Valley environment.

Hm. While that's true on a visual sense, these movies were written by script writers and designed by film directors. They exist in the movie industry, not the game industry, so I feel they should be judged as well as any comparable studio of children's work. Most animators at Disney over the last 60 years have been men, and most high powered positions in the movie industry are held by men; Hollywood is not really that much more diverse than the gaming industry. Given that in this one issue Pixar is actually *worse* than the established children's film companies like parent group Disney (which deliberately and regularly alternates the genders of its protagonists and nearly always creates films populated by male and female characters), I don't think they get to have the excuse that most groups have. It's just something they need to fix. I've done some reading, and I know that it will be another two years before one of their films is released with a female lead. She's a princess, by the way. Make of that what you will, if you make anything of it.

Date: 2009-06-06 06:30 am (UTC)
ext_15084: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mackiemesser.livejournal.com
Well...sort of. If you look through Pixar's history (http://www.pixar.com/companyinfo/history/1984.html), Lasseter was a Disney animator who joined the Lucasfilm computer effects group, which was spun off, bought by Steve Jobs, and became Pixar. So many of the Pixar team, especially founding members, come from a hardcore computer geek background, many of the scripts and concepts are created by these computer geeks (they don't have screenwriters, per se, the way a traditional Hollywood movie does), the company is based in Silicon Valley instead of Hollywood as most other animation companies are; that's why I think they share a number of similarities with gaming production houses.

Does that make it OK, and mean I'm perfectly fine with it? No, but I am familiar with how clueless that type of guy, and that type of culture can be, and it's more of a "grit your teeth and whack them upside the head with the Clue!Frying Pan again" situation. Because it takes a few thwacks before it sinks in. If you consider that their first feature film, Toy Story, is, in animation terms, relatively recent--1995--they do have a lot of growing up to do, and hopefully they can do it quickly. Disney has also had the advantage of cribbing their stories from fairy tales, which do tend to focus a lot on females/princesses. Other animation studios (because I'm not sure which children's film companies you mean, so I'll stick with animation as I'm more familiar with that)--Dreamworks is probably the next most significant since Bluth went under--of an age comparable to Pixar, they don't have a whole lot of female-centric stories, either. So I guess I'm a little perplexed why Pixar is getting singled out in the media as if they were the only ones with this problem (although I'm beginning to think it's part a backlash phenomena starting to hit Pixar since they haven't had a flop yet, and that tends to make media writers cranky).

As for The Bear and The Bow,/i>, to be honest, I don't mind she's a princess. I'm not ready to assume that princess = automatic suck, as there have been good animated films with princesses in them.

Date: 2009-06-06 06:42 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
So I guess I'm a little perplexed why Pixar is getting singled out in the media as if they were the only ones with this problem (although I'm beginning to think it's part a backlash phenomena starting to hit Pixar since they haven't had a flop yet, and that tends to make media writers cranky).

I haven't seen many Dreamworks films, not nearly as I have with Pixar. I've seen Shrek, and the Moses one... but looking at their computer animated film list on wikipedia, of the 12 movies, 2 have female leads (Bee Movie, Monsters vs. Aliens.) That's....16 percent, about. Which is, when you get to it, 16 percent better than Pixar's 0%.

I think that the fact that there's been none in the fifteen odd films is why it bothers me so much. I expect it to be a low number. But NONE? That's why I target them for this particular rant. And when their stories are, in other ways, so delightfully human and aware and sensitive and filled with people of all colors, it makes it stand out more, to my eyes.

Date: 2009-06-06 07:24 am (UTC)
ext_15084: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mackiemesser.livejournal.com
Hmmm...I haven't seen either Bee Movie or Monsters vs. Aliens since I don't particularly care for Dreamworks animation--they fall a lot on the miss side of hit-or-miss for me and I don't like the way a lot of their animation looks. So I don't know if in those two movies the female characters are really leads or if, going by the ad campaigns, they are co-leads.

If they are co-leads, I think you could read a few Pixar films (Wall*E,/i>--inasmuch as the robots were sorta-gendered--Finding Nemo, The Incredibles) as having female co-leads (and there were significant female roles in A Bug's Life, and Monsters, Inc.). But, as I said, I haven't seen the Dreamworks films and so don't know if that's an apt comparison.

Can I ask where you're getting 15 films for Pixar? The sources I check show them as having released 10 feature films.

Date: 2009-06-06 07:37 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
I just double-checked, and the number is ten. I must have gotten that number mixed up from something else; I remember looking it up about 3 months ago, but clearly the wrong number stuck in my memory. Thanks for double-checking that.

I haven't seen either Bee Movie, Monsters vs. Aliens, or Bug's life. I thought that the Bee Movie had a female lead from what I remember of the trailers, and from reviews I've read people have said that M v. A is a team film with a female lead/main character as the audience focus (like Incredibles is a team film with a male lead.)

As I said, I haven't seen Bug's Life, but I consider the little girl in Monster's Inc to be as effective as the absent Ellie is in Up--important, but not part of the main duo by any means. *shrug* Also, not a speaking part. For the Incredibles I read it as the two main characters are the male hero and male villain, and the others are all support. Same for the father/son in Nemo, where the blue fish was a supporting character behind the two leads. WALL-E is the best that I think Pixar's done so far on this topic, but there's still a clear dividing line in terms of whose name is the title and whose isn't, which is about the clearest line you can get for this sort of thing.

ETA: I also find Dreamworks animation to be somewhat off-putting visually. The character design doesn't work as well for me, though it's hard to pinpoint why. And I feel like they're more gimmicky, and cater to a less discerning viewer.

Date: 2009-06-06 08:41 am (UTC)
ext_15084: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mackiemesser.livejournal.com
The thing I remember most about the Bee Movie trailers and ads is that it was mostly about Jerry Seinfeld. The Wikipedia plot summary seems to indicate his character is the main one, with a female supporting character.

I don't agree with your assignment of lead/not lead, but it's a tremendously subjective area in interpreting movies and film criticism (and TV), in general. I think there's room to read the characters in either way, or perhaps even in a third way. But I don't think there's an absolute, single way of viewing any of the movies and characters we've discussed because of how different experiences color how we respond to and weigh the importance of them.

A big chunk of my visual problem with the Dreamworks computer animation is that it still retains a lot of the plastic-y, hard looking surfaces that were an early hallmark of computer animation. Pixar has managed to achieve a striking, soft translucency to its animations that is visually much more pleasing to my eye. Also, Pixar's textures and fabric/hair/fur movements are really impressive (There are some extras on, I believe, both Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles discussing the technical challenges involved in making Sully's fur and Violet's hair move in a naturalistic manner. I, um, tend to geek out on those kinds of things.)

Date: 2009-06-06 03:57 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com

Yep, he is (and voiced by an Asian-American boy). I can't find the article where it's mentioned, but this article contains some brief descriptions of character designs that are pretty interesting.


Thank you for the link! I will read it. =) And I'm glad to know he was voiced by a comparable actor, too. That's very cool.

Date: 2009-06-07 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flutingfrenzy.livejournal.com
I've seen it now! It was absolutely wonderful. I didn't cry for WALL-E either, but I totally kept crying in the theater today. So embarrassing.

I thought Russell looked Asian too, and I see from the above comment that it was indeed deliberate. Pretty cool.

Date: 2009-06-07 03:54 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
I cried in the first montage (oh my, the music!) and again when the house almost burned. They put so much emotion into Carl's facial design, it broke my heart. And that piano music finished the job.

I liked that Carl was designed so square why Russell was so rounded.

Date: 2009-06-07 04:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flutingfrenzy.livejournal.com
Hey, that's when I cried too! Also when Carl gave Russell the Ellie badge. Aww, I'm kinda tearing up right now just thinking about it.

warning

Date: 2009-06-07 01:46 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
A heads up: this thread now contains spoilers. =)

Date: 2009-06-06 12:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3circledsun.livejournal.com
Hi. I stumbled across your journal and find you interesting. Mind if I add you?

Date: 2009-06-06 03:55 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
Thank you. You may add me, of course. =) I don't guarantee that I will reply to comments, however, and I generally do not add new people to my flist.

Date: 2009-06-06 12:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gojira007.livejournal.com
I somehow doubt I'll like it more than "WALL-E", but that's mainly because "WALL-E" proved such a special thing to me, for reasons beyond craft or content, that it's embedded itself pretty firmly in my mind.

Still, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it despite your problems with it. I just wish you didn't have to have those problems with it...:(

Date: 2009-06-06 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gojira007.livejournal.com
In the event that last sentence might be misunderstood, I mean that I wish PIXAR did indeed pay better attention to giving its movies a feminine perspective/cast members.

Date: 2009-06-06 03:56 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
Thank you, and I got what you were saying there. =) I hope you enjoy it when you see it--the two movies are different, and I understand if someone likes one more than the other. I find it quickest to compare the current movie to the last movie, when I'm writing reviews, even if they're essentially apples and oranges.

Date: 2009-06-06 04:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gojira007.livejournal.com
I have no doubt I'll like it; I've yet to see a Movie from Pixar I DON'T like. ^_^

Date: 2009-06-06 04:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] run-atreyu.livejournal.com
Re. the female character thing, the only thing I've ever seen on Up was a post about it on OhNoTheyDidnt and the only comment I made was "oh, another animated movie with a male lead and absent female characters, how excellent." I don't see movies much anyway, but I sure as hell won't be going to any until they start giving young girls some characters on screen. It's so depressing that this is 2009, for god's sake.

Date: 2009-06-06 03:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] goldy-dollar.livejournal.com
I really loved 'Up' but after the first ten minutes of "yay, Ellie, she's great, excellent!"... female characters entirely disappeared. I think Carl's love for her was beautiful, but I still feel like there easily could have been more female character for girls to identify with and there... weren't.

Date: 2009-06-07 01:52 am (UTC)
ext_10182: Anzo-Berrega Desert (Default)
From: [identity profile] rashaka.livejournal.com
Yes. I was disappointed that the dog, Doug, wasn't female. Then I was hoping the mean dog with the broken translator would surprise us with having a female voice. Like, I was *hoping*, you know? As a desperate grasp for something. I mean Whoopi Goldberg voiced the lead hyena in Lion King. But the only female character was one who didn't speak, and even when they go back to the town at the end, all but one of the Wilderness Adventure kids was was male, and the one that I'm not sure about could have been either. The club announcer was male, too. Why not just call them Boy Scouts if they're all going to be boys, anyway?

Anyway...it didn't ruin the movie for me, but it certainly irritated me. I knew going in that the boy, the old man, and the dog were male. I didn't know that every single voiced character in the cast would be male! And I barely count Kevin as a female character, because Kevin--while important--was not as pivotal to changing events as the the two old men, the kid, or the talking dogs. And she wasn't personified the way the dogs were.

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