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Cars 2 (#110 of 6)

Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

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Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Every Pixar Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best

Heavy on training montages and intergenerational torch passing, Cars 3 is an old-fashioned sports film at heart. Swap out the talking cars for boxers or baseball pitchers and Pixar’s latest would sit comfortably next to such films as Rocky Balboa and Trouble with the Curve, twilit dramas about a fading athlete struggling with age-old conundrums: how to know when to retire and how to do it with dignity. It’s the sort of counterintuitively mature theme that’s marked Pixar’s best output, but while Cars 3 may be the least objectionable entry in this series to date, it never hits the bittersweet emotional highs of films like Up and Toy Story 3. On the occasion of the film’s release, join us in revisiting the Pixar canon, ranked from worst to best.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature

With Pixar Animation Studios having won this award six out of eight times since the category’s inception back in 2001, conventional wisdom would suggest that Brave is a favorite to take this year’s prize. But Pixar’s reputation ostensibly took a major hit last year, when Cars 2 failed to even secure a nomination. And given how modestly the studio’s latest nominated feature has performed on the awards circuit up to this point, this year’s race may lend credence to the notion that the Pixar pedigree has seriously weakened. Though Brave is notable for being the only film in the Pixar canon with a female protagonist, offering a different take on the well-worn princess tale than we’re accustomed to from a Walt Disney property, the generally well-received film did take some slack upon release for its surprisingly conventional storytelling.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature

Putting aside the Academy’s shocking diss of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin in this category, I was with Eric here at first: “I guess we should never underestimate this branch’s desire to make the category look like it deserves to exist.” The branch, after all, passed up Cars 2 and Happy Feet Two, films few seem willing to go out on a limb for—and Winnie the Pooh, well, that wasn’t exactly the second coming of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. But after rallying to see the five films that made the final cut, I’m thinking that singing penguins might have actually legitimized this category.

The most delightfully animated feature in this bunch, Kung Fu Panda 2 is still at best a slab of warmed-over holiday seconds, and one whose statistical chance of winning is perhaps smaller than Demián Bichir’s. Then you have Puss in Boots, another glossy trifle from the House that Shrek Built that frequently, if shamelessly, brought a smile to the face of this recently anointed cat person. A better dissertation on family than either of them is The Cat in Paris, the wafer-thin but quaint account of a young French girl who discovers that her kitty moonlights as a jewel thief’s partner in crime. The film gets my personal vote by virtue of being the most unpretentious and least corporate-looking nominee in the category.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Animated Feature

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Animated Feature
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Animated Feature

The “Drudge siren” headline this year is that Pixar’s uncharacteristically horrible Cars 2 will, after a completely unbroken, eight-for-eight string of nominations (and, in most cases, also wins) stretching all the way back to this category’s inception back in 2001, probably keep the house that Woody built completely out of the race. And that’s despite the presence of enough eligible candidates to allow for five nominations. The rules are vaguely worded, but say any year in which “16 or more animated features are released, a maximum of 5 motion pictures may be nominated.” Given they had to include The Smurfs, Mars Needs Moms, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked among their finalists to reach that benchmark, one would’ve hoped the Academy put that all-important “maximum” in all caps. Still, it would be worth it for a five-deep slate to include all three of those cartoons for especially moronic children if only just to make a point to Pixar: Class up or ship out.

Understanding Screenwriting #77: Super 8, Cars 2, Larry Crowne, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #77: <em>Super 8</em>, <em>Cars 2</em>, <em>Larry Crowne</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #77: <em>Super 8</em>, <em>Cars 2</em>, <em>Larry Crowne</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Super 8, Cars 2, Larry Crowne, Page One: Inside the New York Times, Follow Me Quietly, Desperate, The Malta Story, Some Late Spring-Early Summer Television 2011, but first…

Fan Mail: David Ehrenstein, to no one’s surprise, objected that I said that in The Tree of Life “The poetry overpowers the characters and story.” His point was that there should be room for a Cinema of Poetry. I agree there should be. The problem I had with the film is that Malick did not structure his poetry in as compelling a way as he could have. With a little more attention to connections via not only characters and story, but visually and thematically, the film would have been better.

Olaf Barthel raised several interesting points, specifically in regard to my references to Kubrick. He pointed out that the unreality of certain films, and it is true not only of Kubrick, is part of their artificial style. That’s true, but if the artificiality becomes distracting, then there is a problem. He suggested that the only way to solve the problem is for the filmmaker to do everything. I’d suggest the opposite. Kubrick tried to do everything, and it meant that he probably was not getting the collaborative input that can be so crucial to making a film.

A note for my Portuguese-reading fans. My book Understanding Screenwriting has now been translated into Portuguese. It was published in Brazil in May by the Zahar publishing company under the title Por Dentro do Roteiro. Erik de Castro, a former student of mine who is now a writer/director in Brazil, helped with the translation and tells me that one line is funnier in Portuguese than it was in English. I was making fun of Lucas’s silly names and wrote of Count Dooku “try saying that name out loud and not laughing.” In Portugeuse Dooku means something really dirty. In Brazil the name was translated in the subtitles as Dookan, but people heard it anyway and laughed.

This is the first official translation of one of my books. In the early ’90s there was an unofficial translation of Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing. I found out about it from a student of mine. Maguy was a French woman who went back to Paris during one of the vacations. She was talking with some friends of hers from the Ecole Lumiere film school. When she mentioned she attended Los Angeles City College, one of her friends asked her if she knew me. She said she did, but asked how they happened to know of me. The friend said they were reading Storytellers in class. She asked if they were reading it in English. Many were, but the teacher had provided a French translation. Maguy asked to see it, so they went off to the library where it was on reserve. She read about five pages of it and later told me it made no sense at all. So that’s the French: they love Jerry Lewis, Sharon Stone, and me in a bad translation.

Super 8 (2011. Written by J.J. Abrams. 112 minutes)

The Tree of Kaboom: I saw this one two days after I saw Tree of Life (see US#76) and because of the similarities I was struck immediately at how much more textured this is than Tree. We are in small-town America, with a bunch of pre-teen boys, one of whose father is not perfect, and right away we are dealing with death. In this case, it is the mother of Joe Lamb, who will turn out to be our main character. She has died, and we see the ways people are grieving. The actions and emotions are much more specific than anything in Tree, as are the physical details of the town, the houses, the rooms, the streets. Film is a concrete medium not an abstract one, and the details here are very particular.