The Best of Pixar, Volume 2

Happy Wednesday, b-rollers! It’s hotter than a certain afterlife destination here in DC, but I am happily ensconced in an air conditioned room and I hope that you are, too.

And now, right on schedule, here is my list of the Top 5 Pixar films! Try to contain yourselves, b-rollers…

PS: Forgotten the first part of my Pixar rankings? Click here to refresh your memory!

5. Toy Story 2
Do you know what makes this movie just a little bit better than the first Toy Story, ITHOOBR (in the humble opinion of b-roll)? It’s that scene, that marvelous scene in which we see a doll named Jessie (wonderfully voiced by Joan Cusack, yet another unexpected but inspired choice) evolve from beloved toy to discarded relic, all in a span of about two and a half minutes. And as if that’s not enough to break your heart, the entire scene is wordless and set to a Sarah McLachlan song. If you’ve seen one of those ASPCA commercials in which a montage of sad puppies gaze forlornly into the camera to the tune of “Angel,” you know that this is a recipe for uncontrollable sobbing. Anyway, not only does that scene perfectly set the tone for the third installment of this magnificent franchise (not that we knew this at the time), but it also gives Toy Story 2 an emotional edge that the first film doesn’t quite have, while still maintaining the humor, sweetness, and exhilaration that make Toy Story so wonderful. It’s the rare sequel that improves upon the original.

4. Up
Perhaps you’re beginning to see a pattern emerging, yes? Yeah, me too. No, seriously – I didn’t notice it until I put my list together, but there’s a very clear line of demarcation: The top 5 films on my list have all made me cry (buckets), and the bottom 6 did not. It’s not that I enjoy losing my composure in public; I just feel a certain awe to any filmmaker who can move me that much. And it’s clear that in the past several years, Pixar has upped (no pun intended) its game – no longer are films just funny and sweet and action-packed. They’re human and (occasionally) heartbreaking. And while I’ve cried more at other Pixar films (see #1 and #2), none was as poignant as Up. Sure, the film takes you on one hell of a ride, but it’s all about those first eight minutes, as you see a whole love story begin, endure, and devastatingly end before your eyes. What a beautiful film. (Note: For my original thoughts on Up in my “Best of 2009” list, click here.)

3. Finding Nemo
If a list exists somewhere of Pixar’s funniest moments, Dory the fish should own that list. Absolutely own it. From the whale-speak to “Es-cap-ay!” to the constant memory loss, Dory just might be Pixar’s most hilariously original character. The rest of the film is spectacular too, as Finding Nemo strikes a perfect balance of everything Pixar does well – it’s funnier than Up and Toy Story but more emotionally nuanced than The Incredibles or Monsters, Inc. And it has perhaps the most useful life lesson of any Pixar film: Just keep swimming. Indeed.

2. Toy Story 3
The third (and final?) Toy Story takes the runner-up position in a very tight race for Pixar supremacy. I’ve seen this film twice now – once in 2D and once in 3D, and as lovely as the 3D looks, the main benefit in my opinion was the ability to cry more inconspicuously behind pseudo-hipster glasses – and I found it a rich and rewarding experience the second time around, too. The entire film is beautifully plotted and the voice acting (from Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, et al) is superb. I even thought it was funnier than the previous two Toy Story films – Buzz’s flamenco dancing and Ken’s fashion show might be two of the best things I’ve seen onscreen all year. What I loved most was the way the characters grew up from first film to last – Andy most obviously, but he wasn’t alone – and by the final minute of this film, I felt like I had grown up (again), too. Maybe that is why everyone leaves this movie in tears.

Are you shocked? No, probably not. Regular visitors will know that I have often proclaimed WALL-E as the best film of 2008 (and one of the b-roll Top 10 Ever). As much as I loved Toy Story 3, it still couldn’t top WALL-E. ITHOOBR (see #5 if you forget what that means), WALL-E is a work of art, a stunning masterpiece. It’s amazing to look at (and looking is what you’ll primarily do; the first thirty minutes are near-silent, but still captivating). It’s surprisingly funny; the amount of humor that WALL-E can squeeze out of a simple “Whoa!” is wildly impressive. It makes you fall madly, hopelessly in love with a hardly-verbal robot (and, then, his sleek yet also quiet counterpart). It takes a simple Hello, Dolly melody and turns it into an epic love theme. Everything about this film is perfect. The final scene of WALL-E is the equivalent of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows forest scene for me: Every time, I say, “I know how this ends; of course I won’t cry.” And every time, I sob. It seems like every Hollywood film nowadays is packed to the gills with regurgitated ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! elements: explosions, slapstick, broadly sketched characters and cooked-up catchphrases. There’s something so refreshingly simple – yet original – about the adorable little robot joyfully floating through space, or humming “Put On Your Sunday Clothes,” or trying to hold hands. Pixar’s produced an incredible roster of films; WALL-E is their finest thus far.

So – thoughts? Comments? Am I totally, completely wrong? Holler back, b-rollers!

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