With the year winding down and my plans to see any movies that most might regard as solid, quality material have dwindled, I’d like to take some time to discuss three of my favourite movies this year, starting with my #1 and working backwards. I’m sure most people have seen the three movies I’m going to mention but I want to talk again about why I loved them, and why you should see them. Starting with…
Toy Story 3
I was absolutely wary of a third Toy Story from the moment I saw the trailer; the first movie is one of my absolutely favourite movies of all time and a delight to watch every single time; the second one really taps into mortality and love and abandonment in a very ‘retro’ Disney way (Pinocchio, The Fox and The Hound, Bambi) and while it is touching and real, didn’t grab me quite as much as the first one. If we are believers in symbolic logic then, one might assert that the third movie would further dwindle in quality; and when I read a plot synopsis, I felt that the movie would feel like straight-to-video sequel drivel. My hopes lifted when I heard however, of the return of the original cast and crew. In loving hands, perhaps the movie wouldn’t be a total loss. Yet, I still wanted to see the characters I’ve loved since 1995, all over again.
The funny thing is, a) this is an animated movie; b) this is supposedly a kid’s movie; and c) it is about plastic TOYS. Yet, a) you forget almost instantly it’s animated; b) the retro ‘playing’ style of the kids in the movie as well as throwback toys from anywhere between the 1970s and the 1990s, and c) only Pixar could make you care this much about a bunch of old pieces of plastic.
The gift of Pixar as I’ve said before, is their walking of a line between ironic, clever jokes for the grown-ups, and un-ironic heart. There is no doubt that this movie’s funny; it is hilarious. The escape plot, which is both insanely smart, and as ludicrous as the fish tank escape in Finding Nemo, plays out like a choreographed dance scene with each move and cut fluid and perfect, despite a few comical setbacks. It’s a key scene and one of the most enriching, clever things you’ll see on screen in 2010. And yet, the final scene never fails to draw tears at the memory of leaving one’s own childhood behind and moving onto grown up things; it’s a recurring theme in popular culture; the Velveteen Rabbit, Puff the Magic Dragon, and the Chronicles of Narnia have all dealt with issues of childhood maturity and the shedding of that imaginary world; in this film, that was once so important to both Andy and his toys, and is left forgotten and when it is rekindled, it’s the sweetest goodbye; there is no better ending to a movie like this.
Getting to that amazingly heartfelt ending though, is a scary and tumultuous journey in itself; so much so, that we forget how innocent it really is. But what I love about Pixar too, is their use of imagination in demonstrating the limitations of its characters. Pixar, instead of creating human actions for non-human protagonists, never ignores that they are what they are; and the species of fish and bugs in Finding Nemo and A Bug’s Life, the dog mannerisms in Up, the rats in Ratatouille and the toys in Toy Story all share this commonality of subtley reminding the audience – these are not people; these are toys. They must escape without being seen, they must protect themselves from the garbage or resign themselves to the attic, they must use the fact that they’re made of plastic or plush to their advantage. And they always do. Even the villains (and in this movie, the most villainous of perhaps all Disney villains is so ruthless, you’ll forget he’s a pink plush strawberry-scented huggable Teddy Bear).
Because these characters have been such an integral part of my childhood, and because this movie is executed without any sequel garbage and was given the studio’s full heart and talents, it is a constant reminder yet again of how Pixar never makes a bad movie. And this is maybe my favourite Pixar movie yet, and my favourite film of 2010.