Monday, June 25, 2012

Top 10: Pixar Movies

With the latest Pixar film, Brave, in theaters, it's time to dust off the Top 10 column and ask the question:  What are the ten best Pixar films produced?

I've seen Brave, it's a solid D+, but lacks any originality.  Even still, Brave marks the studio's thirteenth production, and almost every Pixar film, save for the three exceptions that wont appear on this list, have been a 10 out of 10 effort from the famed animation studio that kick-started the CG-animation craze.  They are allowed a misstep every now and then.  However, I'm gonna cut the chatter and look to greener pastures, of the great Pixar films of the past.  Here's the list:

10.  A Bug's Life
Often one of Pixar's more forgotten efforts, A Bug's Life was their second film, and the animation seems dated compared to what Pixar is doing now.  However, technology is not what makes a good movie, it's story and character, and A Bug's Life continued the tradition of Toy Story with a unique premise of a bug's eye view of the world from the bugs themselves.  There is a cast of eccentric, yet lovable characters, in particular the circus bugs, and many laughs to be had.  While the film lacks some of the depth of Pixar's later offerings, the sheer imagination on display makes A Bug's Life worth it.

9.  Finding Nemo
I love Finding Nemo, but it is what I believe to be the most overrated Pixar movie.  It's a funny movie with a ton of heart, being one of the first Pixar films to deal with the toughest of adult themes -- those of death and loss.  However, since Finding Nemo, Pixar has outdone the film in both imagination and thematic exploration.  Though that is not to say that Finding Nemo is not worth the ride.  Ellen Degeneres' vocal performance is top notch, and she manages to bring to life one of the funniest and most original characters in the Pixar cannon -- not to mention the film is highly quotable -- but for the reasons listed above, this is why it is only number nine on this list.

8.  Wall-E
This film is often considered one of Pixar's crowning achievements, and you wont find any arguments from me.  The sheer audacity to make an animated film with no dialogue for the first half hour, when the primary audience is children, shows not just the mastery of Pixar, but how far they had come since the first Toy Story.  There was a confidence with Wall-E that showed the maturation of the studio.  The themes provoked more thought than any Pixar film that had come before it, I even stood notice to papers getting written on it in college classrooms, that is how far reaching the appeal of Wall-E was.  However, what made this film special, is the characters of Wall-E and Eve.  This is a love story about two robots, and it was beautiful and believable.  Like great Chaplin movies, Pixar needed no dialogue to make audiences feel emotion and to laugh, and this is why Wall-E is a masterpiece.

7.  Ratatouille
Brad Bird's second film with Pixar was one of their more pleasant surprises.  How do you make a movie about a rat who wants to be a chef not just plain gross?  Pixar did it with their usual blend of humor and emotion.  Ratatouille played towards a younger demographic than many Pixar films, and its G-rated appeal made the over-the-top villain obsessed with proving a rat was helping cook, or the almost improbable circumstances of a rat being able to control a human being by tugging on their hair, all the easier to digest.  Ratatouille is an honest film about being yourself that is pure, innocent, and yet another masterpiece.

6.  Monsters Inc.
This is one of Pixar's more forgotten efforts, and yet I absolutely love it.  The world of Monsters Inc. is what I believe to be the most imaginative that Pixar has ever created.  The idea that monsters are actually afraid of humans, was just brilliant.  Not to mention, Billy Crystal and John Goodman make as good of an odd couple as Tim Allen and Tom Hanks.  Sprinkle on top the highly emotional storyline, and you have a breathtaking cinematic experience unlike any other film before or after it.

5.  Toy Story
 This is a hard film to beat.  The original Toy Story was what started it all, and is what separated Pixar from every other animation studio in the US.  They made a film that was funny, heartfelt, and yet genuinely thought provoking.  It was a film that examined the importance of friendship through the lens of humor targeted towards children, however the real charm of the film comes from the vocal performances from Tim Allen and Tom Hanks.  The charm that these two actors brought to the characters of Buzz and Woody -- not to mention the rest of the fabulous ensemble (Don Rickles, I am looking at you) -- Toy Story managed to become more than just a kid's movie, but a great movie in general.

4.  Toy Story 3
It's rare for a sequel to be as good, if not better than the original, but for the second sequel to be as good, if not better, is an even greater rarity.  Toy Story 3 capped off the Toy Story-story with such emotion, it is even greater than the original.  Here's why:  Toy Story 3 was the full summation of three films, it was finishing the journey we started back with the first film with Woody, Buzz, Andy, and the rest of his toys.  In so many ways, this film was not about Andy having to give up his toys and move on into adulthood, but it was about growing up in general and having to move on when the time comes.  All of this was wrapped in a wonderful adventure of the toys having to escape a dangerous daycare facility, the laughs and fun were on full display.

3.  Toy Story 2
Now, to me, this is the best of the Toy Story movies.  Toy Story 2 is just the funniest of the bunch, the jokes were all pitch perfect and the adventure aspects were handled with such larger than life scale that they were awe-inspiring.  I especially love the ending where Woody and Jessie are having to escape a plane taking off from the tarmac, leaping onto Bullseye at the last second.  However, it's the reveal of Zurg as Buzz's father that was the most priceless moment, parodying The Empire Strikes Back; not to mention the intro of Tour Guide Barbie and Rex running behind the toy car, being seen in the rearview mirror like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

2.  Up
What makes Up such an unforgettable experience, is that it is first and foremost one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.  The humor runs the gamut from making observations about the elderly to about the canine variety, while always retaining its G-rated charm.  Mix that with one of the best movies about learning to move on after the death of a loved one, with a G-rated Raiders of the Lost Ark-type adventure and you have one of the most enjoyable movies of the past decade.

1.  The Incredibles
This is how a Fantastic Four movie should be.  With the proper dash of mystery, action, humor, and familial drama, The Incredibles are a family of superheroes that manage to distinguish themselves from any comic book superheroes because they are infused with that Pixar charm.  The characters are all flawed. but genuinely lovable.  Of course, what makes The Incredibles Pixar's finest film is that there is nothing about I do not like.  It's original, taking an approach on the superhero genre that had never been done before, looking at the boring, mundane, day-to-day grind of being a super, and comedy ensues.  A genuine master work.

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