About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I Have a Buzz Up My Woody

Toy Story 3 may be the best movie I've seen so far in 2010.

It demonstrates that if Hollywood were to try, if it were to care, that it could make movies that were actually good. The people at Pixar care. They don't always succeed, and I haven't been as big a fan of Up or Wall-E as others. Not that either of them was bad, but I just didn't think they were as good as some of the fuss and bother had them to be. And when I see Toy Story 3, I'm seeing the difference between true greatness and some nice tries.

Why do I love this movie so much?

Well, the most important thing might be the characters. They're toys, but we really and truly and deeply care about them. There's something about the performances of the voice actors that goes a little bit deeper than the usual. Way back when the first Toy Story came out not every actor was lined up for these animation voicing jobs like it is now. That's a long time ago, it is, and we were just getting to Robin Williams in Aladdin or to Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the Toy Story movies. These are real performances with heart and soul, and even so many years after the second Toy Story movie, we fit right in with these people -- yes, people -- kind of like we find the way to our favorite seat in the living room when we go back to the old family homestead.

And Pixar cares about the script, so the characters we care about aren't let down by writing that goes through the motions. The script fot this movie has the same qualities as some of the best scripts for The Simpsons. If you get the cinematic allusions that are thrown around to things like Cool Hand Luke, then you have something added, but you don't have to get the allusions in order to enjoy the script at the basic plot level. If you understand what it means when we're told those might not have been Lincoln Logs in the box, well that's a very nice joke, But the line works at another level even if you're not sure entirely what's meant by it.

With a real story to tell about real people, the film can include a lot of pop culture riffs without just being about them, which is a fault that I think Dreamworks Animation can fall prey to a lot of the time.

Most of you probably know the story from other reviews, but in brief Andy the human owner of our toys is about to go off to college. His toys end up donated to a daycare center, and there is disagreement amongst the toys over whether they were supposed to end up in the trash as Andy's discards or in the attic for some possible next generation of Andys. But they all know that Woody was going into the college box as one of those childhood memories Andy would keep with him in the next stage of his life. The daycare center turns out to have some issues; the new toys are left to the devices of the youngest toddlers who can play a little rough. So can they escape before Andy goes off to college?

It's not a complex story, but the emotions cut a lot deeper than the description of the plot. I was crying at the end. Yes, me, fortysomething and crying at Toy Story 3.

And because there are real characters, real emotions, a good script... When we get to the overloud overlong climax of a lot of Hollywood extravaganzas these days, let's think Transformers of the 2nd Narnia movie, we don't care. It has all the emotional impact of watching somebody else play a videogame. Here, there's never any doubt that our toys are going to survive but it's still gut-wrenching when it looks like they're going to go to that great trash-to-energy plant in the sky.

As good as that brief bio section at the beginning of Up is -- and is there anyone who doesn't love those opening ten minutes -- Toy Story 3 is that level all the way through.

I saw this at Clearview's Ziegfeld on Saturday June 19, 2010. The Ziegfeld is the last big single screen movie theatre left in New York, and I wish they were showing Toy Story 3 in 2-D. The glasses give an extra dimension on the screen but at the cost of shrinking the dimensions of the screen itself. I'm not sure I'd have lost as much seeing this on some smaller screen for $4 less as I would have on a 2D movie. That being said, for my $20 for the opening weekend at the Ziegfeld, we did get to see Buzz and Woody live in person between the coming attractions and the movie. I could have gotten my picutre taken. I did get a pat on the back from Buzz as he headed down the aisle. And there's that $20 thing. I don't want to pay $20 for a movie on a regular basis, and I think this may come back to bite Hollywood. There are some movies where I might be very happy to save some money, not have the 3-D, and not be paying so much. Hollywood and the theatre owners want us to be able to see movies in 3-D all the time with every screen digitally equipped to do it. But at least for me, there are going to be some movies I might skip if my only choices are the premium-priced 3-D because I'm just not going to think the movie's worth the extra bucks. I'm not sure 3-D should be seen as Hollywood's salvation, because I think they might lose a few admissions here and there that won't be noticed -- it's always hard to miss what you don't know you could have had -- even if they gain a little extra lucre on some of the admissions they do have.

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