I’ve been looking for the Hot Blog or “Blanky Weeks to Oscar” piece in which David Poland predicts that Pixar’s Up will win the Best Picture Oscar. Because that’s what he’s been saying in conversation and presumably believes and intends to state in well-ordered prose sometime fairly soon. If he’s saying that Up should win, fine…no problem, his opinion. But if he’s serious about Up actually taking the Big Prize then I’m flabbergasted.
Up will be lucky to be Best Picture nominated. Enough people believe this may happen that I’ve allowed myself to be goaded into predicting that Up may wind up as one of the ten. But I don’t think it should, and a lot of others feel the same way. My argument all along (and here we go with the old Rio Grande routine) is that animation is Mexico and live-action is the U.S. of A., and never the twain should meet.
Mexican artists should be proud of their own turf and celebrate their unique flavor and culture and personality and brushstrokes…the wholeness that is theirs and theirs alone. Did Luis Bunuel need to be embraced by the mainstream Hollywood industry to feel validated? Of course not, and neither should Pixar or Disney animated features (among others) need the endorsement of the Best Picture category to feel as if they’ve really made it. The Best Animated Feature Oscar is a huge honor. It should be more than sufficient.
But even if people are determined to ignore this reasoning, Up — as I said during the Cannes Film Festival several months ago — is “a fairly square and tidy thing…a spiritually uplifting ride that is nonethless too immersed in buoyant punchiness and mainstream movie-tude, which basically boils down to Pixar’s always-front-and-center task of giving the family audience stuff to laugh at and go ‘oooh’ and ‘aahh’ about, to finally matter all that much. It’s too entertaining, to put it another way, to sink in all that deeply.”
The Up themes are, of course, universally stirring. Perhaps too stirring or, put another way, too all-over-the-map. You’re really working all corners of the room when your film is about warming your heart, the blooming of love, finding your dreams, making a family, dropping your guard, standing up for your friends, finding courage and fulfillment, nurturing the past (as well as letting go of it) and embracing the now. It’s like Up is a politician saying anything he thinks will strike a chord with voters and thereby get himself elected.
Up revels in this thematic smorgsasbord “and in a peppy, delightful and at times Chaplinesque way,” I noted. “Particularly in a silent sequence that tells the story of loving marriage over the course of seventy years or so. And without going cheap or coarse. It’s about as good as this sort of thing gets.”
But I sure didn’t see Up as a metaphor for anything in my life, I can tell you. It’s just a high-strung animated story with a lot of gee-gosh stuff going on and some recognizable heart-and-spirit issues propelling the two main characters.
And I really and truly think there’s something ill-advised about a film creating a morbidly obese adolescent character, Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai), since the Up makers knew full well that this balloon-shaped kid represents a high percentage of American kids today, and that this would subliminally be seen as a kind of endorsement of obesity, which is as dangerous and deadly as drug usage. Would Pixar have gone with a Russell who snorts heroin or sips whiskey out of a flask? Of course not, but an obese Russell is fine because half the kids in the malls today look like him so what’s the problem, right? Our life, our country, our culture…diseased and heading for a fall.