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June 30th, 2007


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12:49 am - Worth waiting in line for


I had no desire or need for Apple's latest expensive shiny expensive new expensive toy, but something that I did go a little crazy about this week was Pixar's new film opening today, Ratatouille. I researched for a Thursday night midnight preview screening (none in NYC), chose the theater with possibly the largest screen (certainly larger than the Ziegfeld when the theater's depth is taken into consideration), and made two special trips to purchase advance tickets.

I just got back from a late screening and it was totally delightful. Pixar's animation keeps getting better and better, richer and more detailed, but rarely does it come across as show-offy, just incredibly proficient. My favorite of Pixar's amazing attention to detail: as you can with mice (and possibly small rats), you can just barely see our small hero's tiny heart beat in his furry chest after he's been running or been threatened with being drowned in the Seine. This is Brad Bird's third film, he also wrote and directed The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. His films are characterized by their good humor, sentimentality, and many unpredictable plot twists (including several in the final minutes -- of course there's a happy ending, but it's nothing you would expect or could guess). Although it's only voice work, it's one of Peter O'Toole's finest performances, especially his closing soliloquoy.

The only thing I didn't anticipate was how hungry for some good food the film would make me, and unfortunately we just missed the last seating at Momofuku Ssäm, a block away. Popcorn and Peanut M&Ms just don't cut it for this film.


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[User Picture]
From:scream4noreason
Date:June 30th, 2007 09:03 am (UTC)
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I cannot wait to see this film!!
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From:curt_holman
Date:June 30th, 2007 12:39 pm (UTC)
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I think Ratatouille has less in common with other Pixar films than with live-action "foodie films" like Big Night and Tampopo.
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From:thornyc
Date:June 30th, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)
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Well, yes. Except for the talking rodent thing.

But I agree with you that Ratatouille is more adult (starting with the title and the concept), and may not captivate or be a favorite of small children as much as other Pixar films, and Bird's other films. Unlike The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, there's no children as principals in the film. There's less slapstick, and long stretches of patient exposition or setting up of a punchline (the whole "big kiss" scene).

(I was also surprised it was rated G, given the trigger-happy old lady, the woman shooting her lover, Collett'e threatening use of knives, the exterminator's scene, and the sexual innuendo.)

I loved your review -- but what did Sweetness think of the film? And where do we get a glimpse of Linguini's boxer shorts? I'll have to look for that next time.

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From:luna_littleone
Date:June 30th, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC)
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Johnny and I are going today as we went and saw Cars as our first "date" movie. So can't wait.

How was the animate short before hand?
I love the fact that they still show the shorts before the movie. :)
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From:thornyc
Date:June 30th, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
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I had actually seen "Lifted" previously in a screening of all the Oscar-nominated animated shorts, and was surprised to see it pale in comparison in their company -- "Omigod, Pixar isn't going to hands-down win the Oscar for animated short this year!"

However, it was very well received in front of an enthusiastic, Pixar-loving audience.

And, looking back on it, it's remarkably funny even though there's no dialog!

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From:kukla_red
Date:June 30th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
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David and I saw this last night and we really enjoyed it. (All except for the 2 screaming babies in the theater - honestly, who brings infants to the movies at 9 PM??)

The story was fun, the annimation was amazing and the music was good too. It was great hearing Peter O'Toole do his thing.

One thing that sort of bugged me a little was how incredibly realistic the backgrounds looked - all the inatimate objects - and how "cartoony" the people and the rats looked. In hindsight, it sort of looked like an old-fashioned cartoon overlaid on an almost filmed backdrop.

But a minor quibble - go see the flick!
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From:thornyc
Date:June 30th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
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I think the stylization of the rats and especially the humans is quite purposeful -- it's called the "Uncanny Valley" effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley), the closer animation gets to an actual human's appearance without being perfect, the animation takes on a creepy vibe (remember the humans in the early Pixar film Toy Story?). Besides, weren't the expressions and contortions of Linguini, Skinner (the short head chef), and Anton Ego far better than any actor could have done?

I deliberately chose a late screening to avoid not bad children, but bad parenting.

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From:kukla_red
Date:July 2nd, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)
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Believe me, if a baby is screaming in a theater I never blame the baby. I raised (well, am still raising) 2 children and I am proud to say I never let them create a disturbance. They both know Mom's "look of death".

By the way, have I mentioned I work in the rather large building next to the Ziegfeld Theater? I get to see them setting up the red carpet for the premiers all the time. I never stick around for the fuss though. I can do without the screaming insanity. What is the theater like on the inside? David and I figure it must be nice since it is used to showcase so many big movies. Of course, we could be wrong about that.
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From:thornyc
Date:July 2nd, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
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It's a nice big single-screen theater, the type they don't make anymore, preferring googaplexes.

The screen's big, but actually not that big considering how deep the theater is. You'd have a "bigger screen" experience at many of the newer 'plexes here in NYC.

It looks like a cheap Italian restaurant or bordello inside. Lots of red velvet, flocked wallpaper, chandeliers.

It's also famous for one of the worst floor layouts in the city. Like most theaters in midtown, it has no lobby per se, and to get to the theater you have to walk through the concessions stand room -- which, given the size of the theaters, is jammed with long lines. Meanwhile, people who have already gotten their seats are coming out and trying to get to the bathrooms, also located off the concessions area. It's always a horrible gridlock for any opening or weekend screening.

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From:lolitasir
Date:June 30th, 2007 02:11 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the review. I need to go see this.
From:viviane212
Date:June 30th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
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me too. Let's go next week?
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From:theotherqpc
Date:June 30th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
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of course, i can't wait to see this film. video podcasts and articles i've read on the film mentioned the Uncanny Valley hypothesis in regards to the rendering of food - how the animators had to find the "sweet spot" in order to make the dishes look both realistic and appetizing.
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From:thornyc
Date:June 30th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
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And here I thought it would be the offal on Momofuku Ssäm's menu that would get your attention!

[User Picture]
From:theotherqpc
Date:June 30th, 2007 08:35 pm (UTC)
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oh, no doubt that turns me on, but i've already read about Momofuku and Momofuku Ssäm ;)
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From:deafdyke
Date:June 30th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
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Sadly, unless an open-captioned version is shown, I'll probably have to wait until the DVD is out to see this. I couldn't help but notice that critical reviews often made comparisons between the plot of the movie and Bird's own sensibilities, which raises the bar both on the aesthetic accomplishments of detailed animation and the more subtle complexities that cartoons usually eschew in favor of cliche characters and stock endings.
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From:thornyc
Date:June 30th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC)
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According to Fomdi, two screens at AMC 25 (42nd St.) have closed-captioned screenings -- do you not like that method?

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From:tycho_anomaly
Date:July 1st, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
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Jeff and I loved it, even with a theater full of kids (all of whom stayed interested). Be sure to check out this very interesting interview with Patton Oswalt (who did the voice of Remy).

...isn’t it cool how even the inanimate stuff is a character? We were talking about how the floor of the kitchen, the way the tiles are kind of warped and bent, like you know that floor’s history and see the hot soup that got spilt on it and then got cleaned up and the cold winters and the hot summers where everything was shifting.

And the stones of the streets of Paris… like everything has a biography. Does that make sense?

And that’s personality. The animators have to build from the ground up and Brad Bird told me something really interesting, he said “When you do computer animation, the computer wants everything to be brand new and clean and straight lines. You have to teach it what aging and weather and human traffic do to things, because it will try to correct all of that and make everything really clean and perfect.”
From:viviane212
Date:July 1st, 2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
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For those who are interested, Terry Gross of Fresh Air intereviewed Brad Bird and Patton Oswalt on Thursday:

http://tinyurl.com/3yty44

They sound like they have a lot of fun together.
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From:kukla_red
Date:July 2nd, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for posting this! I heard about it but I couldn't catch it. I did hear Brad Bird interviewed on WNYC's show Studio 360 (at least I think that was the show). He sounds like a kid who is just having the time of his life. I hope he keeps making movies - so far, he's doing great.

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