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Patrick R

"Cars sucks." - A Pixar Thread

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Now you have to watch The Incredibles before Monday!

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Well, it's a couple days early, but I may as well do it while I'm ill anyway:

 

I'M ABOUT TO WATCH CARS

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Ha ha, no.

 

What strikes me immediately is how Pixar have extremely limited themselves with character animation with the vehicles thing. Also, it lends itself to some pretty dull environments and action.

 

The way they separate Lightning from Mac the truck is painfully contrived - 'there are naughty cars who like to make other cars fall to sleep on the road but there is also one of them who sneezes a lot, so Mac falls asleep and then wakes up again at the precise moments that cause him not to realise he's dumped Lightning out the back'.

 

EDIT: woof, an hour in and I am very bored. This is so slow and rote!

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Yeah, the film lengths steadily creep up from Toy Story onwards. Cars is 1h57m :(

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Bwah ha ha! Following in Toy Story 2's footsteps, Cars comes to a dead halt about halfway through for a incongruous song about how sad it is that the car town isn't visited by other cars anymore.

 

EDIT: Okay, finished. Maaan what a slog. Two hours of lazy cliches. And that final race where they have to do about 200 laps in a circle has less drama than Phantom Menace's pod-race.

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When Somebody Loved Me is maybe the only one of those sections I will stand by. I actually think that one works well.

 

Anyways I finally got around to Nemo (It's been a busy few months, I've had some home renovation stuff going on). I think I liked it more then Toy Story 2? Toy Story 2 was the better movie but I had more fun with the stupid jokes in Nemo. And bravo to whoever cast Ellen DeGeneres as Dory. Perfect casting there. And kind of gutsy for the time if I remember correctly.

 

So is it better then Zootopia? No, but now's a good time for a tangent! My biggest issue with the Pixar movies so far is that most of them boil down to: "I think thing is bad/I have not thought about thing! *Stuff happens for about an hour and a half* "Oh, thing is not so bad/I have now thought about thing!". Where as Zootopia for all it's issues (more or less summed up here: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2016/03/03/zootopia-review-a-muddled-mess-of-racial-messaging...-and-cute-animals ) has the growth of it's characters primary defined by their actions. In Zootopia it's "I did something to someone/Someone did something to me" *Hour and a half or so goes by showing the consequences of this in various ways* "I see how I hurt this person/This person sees how they hurt me. We can be better". Hence the Is It Better Then Zootopia scale. So far there's rarely any real consequence for any of the characters actions, it's just the characters reacting to whatever random event has happened to them.

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So are you on the Zootopia marketing team or what?

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I feel vindicated by The Incredibles because it is a real-ass superhero action movie that children can also enjoy instead of a children's film for children-ass children. It only makes the bad puns in all the earlier films stick out that much more. It's not even just that it doesn't talk down, it's that it's (relatively) highly sexualized (especially regarding Elastigirl's body) it's got tons of henchmen being killed, gunplay, torture, suicide attempts.

 

To be honest, having no real memory from my first viewing, I was kind of shocked, even though it's all presented in a rather clean-cut four-color tone. It felt like Brad Bird had successfully moved the tone a couple steps away from Pixar and a couple steps towards The Simpsons, particularly with the family's dynamic. Was there any hub-bub over this being Pixar's first PG film? Or by 2004, did G and PG already basically mean the same thing?

 

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the much ballyhooed (at least in my circles) Ayn Randian vibes of the movie were not overbearing. It's vaguely fascist in the way most superhero movies are fascist, but Syndrome is an evil capitalist, not an evil philanthropist or government worker. And it doesn't go out of it's way to vilify the government that regulated superheroes. It feels like Brad Bird wrote a draft of it, took a step back, realized he'd accidentally said some fucked up shit, and walked it back a bit. The character of the government contact feels like a result of that.

 

But really, what's incredible about this are the action scenes. Legitimately about a half dozen of the best action scenes of the decade are in this movie. It makes me even more angry at how thoroughly mediocre the four thousand other superhero movies released since have been. Is there a post-Incredibles superhero movie that understands the fun and potential of super-powered action scenes

 

All the action is similarly inventive, well-composed and clearly laid out in strong character beats. The first superhero moment of Captain America kind of gets there, though not as good and this YouTube video stupidly cuts out the great Simpsons-esque where the kid gets thrown into the water as a distraction.

 

My only real problem with The Incredibles is that, thematically, it's just a real-ass superhero movie with some pretty basic superhero movie themes. I don't really have anything but the shallowest emotional investment in anything happening. But that's not really a problem, it's just something The Incredibles lacks that my other favorite Pixar movies have. It's still probably the best superhero movie ever made, as dubious a distinction as that is.

 

EDIT: "I feel vindicated by The Incredibles because it is a real-ass superhero action movie that children can also enjoy instead of a children's film for children-ass children" is maybe the dumbest sentence I have ever written.

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So, has Cars ground this thread to a halt? We should have moved onto Ratatouille a week ago...

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Well I watched it and I'm not going through that torture alone so get to it!

 

I just watched Ratatouille for the first time since I saw it at the cinema, and I still don't like it. It jumps from arbitrary plot point to random contrivance throughout, can't decide if it's about the rat world or the human world, and is full of under-developed characters. The best bit in the film is the wordless sequence where Remy first learns how to control Linguini, it feels like a good Pixar short. In fact, if the film kept Remy silent, jettisoned his existential angst storyline, such as it is, and bothered to give Linguini a personality, it would probably work much better.

 

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to say anything positive. It looks great, is nicely directed and has some lovely animation and character design (down to all the minor and background characters).

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Oh man I watched The Incredibles and man this movie is... Whew this movie sure is, um, uh, I kind of hate it? It feels like Andrew Ryan commissioned a propaganda movie. I'm going to have to think on this but if you want my take on it as I was watching it start here: https://twitter.com/VAbsurda/status/714257474019135488

 

What was particularly Ayn Randy about the Incredibles? Not really challenging you or anything I just don't remember anything about the movie. I do remember some hints of poking at the whole "everyone is special so nobody is" idea (actually I guess that's the whole villain's agenda), but it never really resolved it?

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Well, this thread is unheal I mean, we're a bit behind our schedule here. :P

 

Maybe talk about "Cars" for the next two weeks to give people the chance to catch up? I mean, that movie is basically the thread title. :|

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Ha ha!

 

Yeah, I'm all for waiting to let people catch up, assuming they actually want to! Or everyone could just blitz their way through Cars and Ratatouille in the next week...

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What was particularly Ayn Randy about the Incredibles? Not really challenging you or anything I just don't remember anything about the movie. I do remember some hints of poking at the whole "everyone is special so nobody is" idea (actually I guess that's the whole villain's agenda), but it never really resolved it?

 

Well the whole thing about super heroes being oppressed and Dash wanting to play sports but he's just too good so we can't let him do that! is like, very much out of the Ayn Rand playbook. The closest it comes to subverting that is with the insurance agency taking the place of big government but honestly that's hardly a daring move there, and a lot of it still play into libertarian views of how the government works. It feels like the only reason that it isn't the government is that someone at Pixar didn't want to get too political. And I recall there being more but honestly it's not something I want to spend brain space on, and most of the articles I can find on the subject are from places like reason magazine.

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The only dialogue in The Incredibles that is pro-Randian comes from the villain and a kid trying to weasel out of trouble with his mom. Calling The Incredibles pro-Randian is like calling Captain America pro-Hydra.


The closest thing to a Randian Übermensch in the film is Syndrome, the villain. The conflict is entirely about responsible use of power, not whether some people were born superior (in comic book tropes, Syndrome's supergenius is just as much a superpower as Mr. Incredible's strength). The narrative directly refutes Syndrome's (and Dash's) Randian belief (and Mr. Incredible's temptation) that having power puts you in a special moral category which entitles you to ignore the rules that apply to everyone else.

When Dash gets in trouble for his bad behavior at school, his self-justifying cry is, "But dad says our powers make us special!" He mistakenly thinks that his special powers should put him in a special moral category. His mother rebukes him with the phrase "Everyone's special" which in this context has the same meaning as "all men are created equal" that is, all people should be equal in the sight of the law, all people deserve to be treated the way we treat those who are special to us.

Dash misunderstands this, thinking that affirming the moral worth of everyone and holding everyone to an equal moral standard is the same as trying to handicap his abilities. When he says, "If everyone's special, then nobody is," he really means, "If I'm special, I should be allowed to get away with behavior that gets other people in trouble."

The ending of the movie, in which Dash's conflict with his mother is resolved by using his speed but not to misbehave at school and not in a way that endangers his family, makes it clear that the movie's message about power is not the objectivist "Excellence vs. Mediocrity" but rather "Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility."  And the entire family, in the end, agrees that they need to be held accountable and use their powers on the same terms that a policeman uses a gun.  This is a movie where trial lawyers and lawsuits help rein in the anarchy of super powers unaccountable to the rest of society and in the end the world is better for it.

 

In fact you could make a better case that The Incredibles is an allegory about the need for rational gun control laws than that it is in any sense pro-Randian. Superpowers are guns, the villain is a kid who got mad because adults wouldn't let him play with guns, his irresponsibility causes guns to be outlawed for a while, his evil scheme is to sell guns to everybody, Dash gets in trouble for bringing a gun to school, and the happy ending is that the protagonists are allowed to use guns again under strict government oversight.
 

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The ending of the movie, in which Dash's conflict with his mother is resolved by using his speed but not to misbehave at school and not in a way that endangers his family, makes it clear that the movie's message about power is not the objectivist "Excellence vs. Mediocrity" but rather "Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility."  And the entire family, in the end, agrees that they need to be held accountable and use their powers on the same terms that a policeman uses a gun.  This is a movie where trial lawyers and lawsuits help rein in the anarchy of super powers unaccountable to the rest of society and in the end the world is better for it.

 

I watched the movie again and I think this makes a lot of sense, though I think the "Excellence vs. Mediocrity" idea is still addressed as a state of mind rather than pushed as an ideal value system. I think a significant  part was about how Mr. Incredible tries to resolve his midlife crisis through reaffirming his exceptionalism and reliving the past. But the only way he could indulge in unrestrained use of his powers (in a way that doesn't endanger his family or anyone else) was in this isolated island as part of a weird honeypot trap Syndrome set up for him. He and Dash attach a value system to being super and fear being mediocre, at the cost of Bob's job, badly injuring his boss, etc.

 

Also I guess Syndrome's whole "if everyone is super then nobody is" thing isn't about making him a villain for glorifying mediocrity; his deal is really wanting to be super then feeling extreme spite when he can't be. He like embodies an obsession with being exceptional.

 

I like that there were characters that handled having powers differently, how Violet's powers don't have the same kind of coolness that super strength or speed have, so she just generally feels like a freak instead. Her arc is totally different from Dash's or Mr. Incredible's, though definitely kind of bland and simple.

 

Also the visuals looked so bad on rewatch :[. I'm 3D spoiled.

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I think that the execution of the film finesses this point, but my friend who absolutely hates The Incredibles criticizes the movie for having its villain's supposedly evil plot be "give everyone superpowers" and the resolution be the sabotage of that plan, the villain's death as a callback joke, and the restriction of superpowers to those who are born with them. Presenting this as the right and normal state of things is very troubling to her, no matter how intellectually dishonest Syndrome was with his plot. Note, for instance, that the movie doesn't end with Mr. Incredible returning to his boring job and accepting his role as a father, it ends with him gearing his family up to fight another villain, which undermines the whole "it's more important to be responsible than to be exceptional" reading.

 

I don't know that I can defend that interpretation more than that, because it's not mine, but I know that some people have problems with The Incredibles and it's not just a misapprehension of the movie's themes. Its blend of sensationalized superhero action and personalized family drama makes it an absolutely dynamite film, but it has to choose one of those paradigms for its ending beat and I think the choice of the former undoes it a little bit.

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I think that the execution of the film finesses this point, but my friend who absolutely hates The Incredibles criticizes the movie for having its villain's supposedly evil plot be "give everyone superpowers" and the resolution be the sabotage of that plan, the villain's death as a callback joke, and the restriction of superpowers to those who are born with them. Presenting this as the right and normal state of things is very troubling to her, no matter how intellectually dishonest Syndrome was with his plot. Note, for instance, that the movie doesn't end with Mr. Incredible returning to his boring job and accepting his role as a father, it ends with him gearing his family up to fight another villain, which undermines the whole "it's more important to be responsible than to be exceptional" reading.

 

Syndrome doesn't want to give anyone superpowers, he wants to sell weapons to a few people after he retires.  Syndrome himself has Maker superpowers (in the tradition of Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Lex Luthor, Doctor Doom, Hank Pym, Amadeus Cho, Ray Palmer, etc).

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And again, the film villainizing the exceptional capitalist and not the regulatory government kind of takes it far out of Ayn Rand's territory.

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