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Snarcasm: Pixar Is So Average, You Didn’t Even Notice

pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Most people aren’t movie aficionados, and most of those people aren’t even sure what the word “aficionado” means. But they do know a good flick when they see it, and more often than not, Pixar churns out some great pieces of entertainment.

Since I’m the most biased person alive to comment on this particular “think”piece about Pixar movies from Indiewire, take everything you read here with no salt at all, because that’s bad for your sodium intake in the first place.

Charles Kenny gets in some choice hits with his write up, “Pixar’s Films Are Average and You Know It.”

Why so salty, Charles? None of us are trying to pull a fast one on you, pal.

Lauded, showered with praise and awards, raking in billions at the box office, and beloved by audiences everywhere.

That’s right, and what better way to cut Pixar down than to start by building them up…with obvious observations and facts?

Seriously, you’ve already proven that Pixar movies are anything but average on every merit above. But I have a feeling you’re about to “explain” why none of those things that matter actually matter, even though they clearly matter.

by digging just a little bit beneath the surface, it’s regrettably obvious that Pixar’s films are far from cutting edge: they’re rather average.

If this article had a mascot, it would be Mr. Peanut with a New Yorker on his lap.

The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, but everyone believes he’s wearing the
finest robes.

“I bet my third grade analogy makes you feel far from cutting edge, hm?”

Seriously, I can never get enough of these contrarian regurgitations that insist their argument is good because most people will disagree with them. It’s like watching a guy eat asphalt because surely no one believes that’s good because I’m the first to think of it.

This may be hard to accept

Ya, and for good reason.

The argument is based purely on artistic merit and creativity

Believe me, no one is questioning how creative you’re being for making a lot of this nonsense up.

 Box office grosses are no indicator

Box office isn’t everything, but it is something. There’s a reason Pixar movies make more and more money, and it’s because they’re a trusted brand. Your argument is that they’re average movies, so why dismiss cultural relevance for the sake of making your argument seem a hair less crazy than it truly is?

Awards are not an impartial form of measurement

No one expects them to be, but we have basic rules of statistics to measure true consensus. We’re talking about people watching hundreds of movies a year consistently praising movies from one particular studio. To dismiss that because awards in and of themselves are a subjective matter should get the award for lamest duck.

Taste is personal and just because you think Pixar’s films are the best doesn’t mean they actually are the best

Who decides, then? You? I really hope not.

The studio does not make bad films

Cars 2 would like to have a word with you.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Secret of Kells, and My Neighbor Totoro all lie much closer to generally accepted animated excellence

A few things. First, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a masterpiece and in my opinion, the greatest animated film, period. Secret of Kells is great, and Neighbor Totoro is an eventual classic, but it’s the latter half of this sentiment that raises annoyingly loud alarm bells.

Generally accepted animated excellence? How are these films any more “generally accepted” than Pixar’s high points like Toy StoryIncrediblesFinding NemoRatatouilleWALL-E, Up, and Inside Out? It’s confusing because you can’t seem to decide on what imaginary audience is determining what’s “good” or “bad” when it comes to animated movies. You’ve said it has nothing to do with awards, box office, or personal taste, which leaves us with virtually nothing else.

In contrast to these films, Pixar’s are remarkably safe.

Unlike my intelligence after reading this drivel.

So yeah, we have to believe (now) that when Pixar made a movie about a rat using a human to cook food in Paris, or when they did a whole thing about robots falling in love within the backdrop of an environmental message, or when they made Fantastic Four actually look good, and so on, they were avoiding risk.

On the bright side, people who’ve never actually watched a Pixar movie might agree with you.

They convey a narrowly defined range of themes,

OK, assuming that’s true, you’re evaluating Pixar’s catalogue, not any one movie. By that logic, we can then say Snow White is lesser because Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella also have princesses in them. Welcome to Charles’s world, gang.

they are content to reuse a ‘house style’,

Charles doesn’t elaborate on this (probably because he’s too busy trying on those emperor clothes he was talking about earlier), but my guess is that he’s slapping every Pixar movie with a demerit because their consistently good movies do the same consistently good things. The horror.

and sequels aside (another demerit),

I think Charles invented his grading system after watching Idiocracy.

So yes, Pixar movies are “average” because some Pixar movies are sequels. We won’t even talk about how the Toy Story sequels are highly praised and celebrated because oops! That’s subjective! Didn’t you hear that only Charles’s subjectivity holds any value?

their stories are far from unique to filmmaking as a whole.

We’ll just leave out all of the technological innovations made possible because of Pixar since the late 80s. They get credit for nothing, despite routinely delivering some of the most beautiful visuals and stories of the 21st Century—oops! I’m being darn subjective again!

As a result. no Pixar film has pushed the artistic envelope

I want to meet the person who reads that sentence and actually agrees with it. Pixar has never pushed the artistic envelope? Right, and the Pope is an atheist.

they have appeared to without actually doing so.

The Pope prays, but does that really mean he thinks God is like a real thing? Nahhhhh.

They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of their technology.

“They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of the technology they use to revolutionize animated filmmaking. Trust me.”

What Pixar’s films haven’t done, is inspire others to make a creative leap.

Yeah! Not even Walt Disney Animation Studios….oh wait. Or DreamWorks…oh wait. Or Blue Sky…oh wait.

I love how Charles’s rubric for being “average” has everything to do with him assuming no creative person has ever been inspired by Pixar. And as you can imagine, he says nothing to back this up. Not even an anecdote.

The other problem I’m seeing here is Charles’s narrow criteria for what qualifies as artistic merit. It’s not enough to him that something is competently made and original. Apparently, it also needs to be flamboyant and provocative, but that’s just not what Pixar movies set out to do. But because he’s limiting literally ever other piece of criteria for what makes a film above average, he’s constructing a false narrative that just about anyone can see through.

The Looney Tunes and MGM shorts of the day developed as rapidly as they did because the teams behind them were determined to outdo each other creatively. Today, animated films (and especially CGI ones) do not compete creatively, but rather financially.

Charles, if you really think MGM and Looney Tunes weren’t interesting in getting paid for their work, then there’s literally nothing I can do for you. The idea of relevance and popularity tying into financial success is such a basic concept, I’m at a loss for words. Do you really think that Pixar and DreamWorks aren’t competing creatively? Because even when DreamWorks produces an unimaginative dud like Home, guess what happens? They don’t make money.

But what am I supposed to expect from a guy who thinks Pixar movies are “safe.”

any artistic developments as a result are rather coincidental.

Let’s apply this to any other scenario. I walk into a deli and tell the sandwich guy: “Oh, well you’re only using that brand of salami because it’s 9 cents cheaper than the other brand. And the fact that it tastes so good is just a coincidence.”

He’s either going to roll his eyes at you (like most everyone would) or write an overlong Snarcasm about it (like me). Either way, none of us win.

After all, no studio was inspired to create a CGI film because of Pixar’s artistic genius, they saw a concept that was profitable and wanted a piece of the pie for themselves!

Guys, I think I figured it out. Charles meant to write this as a satire essay for his eight grade history class, but oops! Indiewire got their independent wires crossed and published it by mistake. Happens all the time.

But yeah, the real nonsense here is that Charles makes a sweeping assumption that no studio has ever mimicked Pixar because they genuinely saw something creative that they want to replicate themselves. Either Charles is the NSA incarnate, able to monitor all animated filmmakers instantaneously, or he really needs to get those clicks, guys.

To get to the crunch of the issue,

Uh…no comment, I guess.

you have to consider how Pixar’s films are viewed by the general population.

Except you already said we can’t do that because we isn’t smart enough like you.

Their films appeal to all, and in turn are remarkably popular. This is possible primarily because the films are average.

I bet watching Charles do math in his head is adorable.

OK, so the idea is that if people really like something, it might mean the movie is average, so in your head, that means they’re average. Are we done with this yet?

They do not appeal to anyone in particular,

What? Are we on some sort of contradiction carousel?

Look, I get his point (despite him not explaining it well). He’s trying to say that Pixar movies appeal to everyone on a surface level, but they don’t actually make people think or feel. That’s dead wrong to the point of absurdity, of course, and mostly because he doesn’t use any examples to refute the most basic opinion people have about Pixar movies to the point where there are memes about how the movies are emotional: that they appeal to them in unique, deep ways.

For Charles to downplay all of that because he hasn’t had those experiences is more sad on his part than anything else. It also makes me wonder if he watches these movies while texting the entire time.

Next, Charles uses a quote from Simon Cowell that has nothing to do with Pixar to explain how “average tastes” work. I know I was joking before, but that eighth grade book report theory is just getting more and more plausible. At one point he says that Star Wars is artistically average which is…eh, what’s the point.

Imagine if Pixar released a film with casual abandon of all financial goals.

I love how you seem to know everything about the creative process of some of the world’s most creative people. See, Charles has the gall to claim that these guys are hacks who are only in it for the money. Can we all agree that he can keep that moronic opinion to himself?

At the end of the day, it’s fine to look to Pixar as a model for certain things such as its CGI technology,

CGI technology? I mean I figured out a long time ago that you have no idea what you’re talking about, but this is almost too on the nose.

to look to them as a creative leader and innovator is wrong.

Well, if being “right” is agreeing with a bunch self-righteous, unfounded assertions that waste everyone’s time, then you get an A+, sir.

They do not reside on the cutting edge of feature animation, and to accept such a belief is to drink some very strong Kool-Aid.

Said the guy who probably has no idea what Jonestown is.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles on a different Indiewire post:

The other Pixar film from last year, Inside Out, blew everyone away with its sheer originality and emotional themes and quickly became a favorite. It is currently sweeping all awards before it and is well on it’s way to the status of a classic film.

Hmmm, well methinks Charles has some explaining to do.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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Review: ‘Krampus’

krampus review

The most interesting thing about Krampus is probably how refreshing it is to see a horror Christmas movie that sidesteps the usual suspects (such as a directly murderous Santa Claus). But while Krampus isn’t actually very scary or even funny, it captures something just as welcome as horror comedies go: it’s fun mayhem.

In European folklore, Krampus is the evil shadow of Santa Claus. Rather than fulfill the happy wishes of children, he comes to satisfy their darkest desires with his band of merry murderers. A child who has become disenfranchised with how Christmas shapes his dysfunctional family tragically discards his Christmas list, which earnestly asks Santa to make everyone in his life happier. As a result, Krampus (and a magically frenetic blizzard) is called upon instead.

That said, little of Krampus is seen until the end of the movie, as we spend more time focusing on his “little helpers.” Thankfully, they almost steal the show with their remarkable practical effects and a willingness for the movie to inflict violence on just about anything in its way, creating a tension that mashes well with the chaos captured in an early scene that satires the greed of holiday shopping.

It can be easy to discount Krampus as a whole for a few rotten eggs, namely some of the performances and its odd “PG-13” rating. But it finds its groove with an inspiring throwback animation that cleverly tells the story of Krampus within a new context, coupled with a dreadful (in a good way) performance from the grandmother, played by Krista Stadler.

While Krampus may not ignite the sort of pre-Christian folklore that deserves more cinematic attention, it may prove that holiday horror is a genre worth larger budgets that keep it off the discount bin.

Grade: B+

Extra Credits:

  • Michael Dougherty directed and co-wrote Krampus, and the comparisons between this and Trick r’ Treat are obvious. The superior film is pretty obvious.
  • This is a much better cast than I think the movie deserved. Adam Scott and David Koechner play quite well together, and the relationship between Scott and Toni Collete’s character is actually quite touching.
  • It’s subtle, but the sibling relationship between “Max” and “Beth” was written so well, I was quite sad they didn’t spend much time together outside of the first act.
  • No spoilers, but I adore the ending. I wish more movies would be brave enough to let their final act match the rest of the film.

This week on the podcast, we review Krampus in more detail, get our feet wet with some movie news, read your comments from last week’s show, and get down to business on our favorite animated movies.

I’m joined by YouTube sensation, Maria “Cineclub” Garcia; Film writer, Adonis Gonzalez; and digital illustrator, Kayla Savage.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is your favorite animated movie that wasn’t made by Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks?

Go on…Review: ‘Krampus’

‘Home’ Review, DreamWorks vs. Will Ferrell, Lex Luthor

home reviewhttps://jonnegroni.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/home-review.m4a

This week on the Now Conspiring podcast, Adonis and I share our thoughts about Home, the latest DreamWorks movie that feels like it’s ripping off Lilo and Stitch 13 years too late. We also talk about the strange similarities between DreamWorks movies and Will Ferrell movies. As in, we can’t decide how to like them.

Hope you enjoy the show. If you do, consider rating us on iTunes (and subscribing if you haven’t already). We appreciate your awesome words, and all feedback is good feedback when you’re a podcast about conspiring.

Questions of the weekWhich do you like better? DreamWorks movies or Will Ferrell movies?

Best Animated Movie Of 2014

Best animated movie of 2014

This week on Now Conspiring with Jon and Maria, we debate the best animated movie of the past year. From How to Train Your Dragon 2 to the recent release of Big Hero 6, which film do you think deserves top praise?

Also on the show, we finally discuss whether or not  Interstellar is actually worth watching, along with an impromptu overview of the surprise hit, Whiplash. And stick around for some awesome discussion over the future of Toy Story 4.

Introducing for the second week in a row, guest Sara Peery! Hope you enjoy the show.

What’s your favorite animated movie of 2014?

Watch The First Five Minutes Of ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2’

The upcoming sequel to How to Train Your Dragon won’t be arriving in theaters until June, but that won’t stop us from getting a quick sneak preview of the first 5 minutes.

Judging by this short intro and the trailers so far, this is shaping to be one of DreamWorks Animation’s best films yet, and that’s not just because they found a way to incorporate sheep-stealing into dragon racing.

Check out the first 5 minutes of How to Train Your Dragon 2 below!

Obviously, it was a treat to see what’s changed in the 5 years since the Vikings allied with the dragons. As Hiccup explains it, the dragons have moved in and become part of everyday life for the Vikings, and it was great to see what the gang has been up to lately, though Hiccup was mostly absent until several minutes in.

From what we can see, Hiccup has been exploring the world with Toothless and has even taken up cartography. This will no doubt play into the plot of the film, which I’m definitely expecting to be just as good as the original film.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 flies into theaters June 13, 2014. 

Thanks for Reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

 

Review: ‘Frozen’

Disney is a strange company, but in the best way possible. They’re bold enough to buy the Marvel franchise, hire Pixar’s mastermind as their creative director of pretty much everything at this point, and continue crafting movies that stay true to the Disney tradition, at least by most loose definitions of the term.

By this tradition, I mean the continuation of the Disney princess phenomenon, including its most recent renaissance (as they say) of the classic Disney Princess movies reinvented to capture the cutting edge animation that reached new heights in the late 80s with The Little Mermaid, only to reach full form thanks to breakout 90s hits like Beauty and the BeastAladdin, and Mulan.

frozen
The rise of Pixar brought on a new age, however, with the onslaught of yet another renaissance in animation — one that rendered any other offering by Disney (ironically) obsolete.

Pixar was their critical and family-driven darling, and the mouse studio didn’t really have the creative direction to answer this problem for quite a while, even when DreamWorks came into its own with the introduction of Shrek and those frankly despicable minions.

This is all to say that Disney plays the long game when necessary. After the tempered success of Princess and the Frog in 2009 and Tangled a year later, it became more than clear to me and others that Lassetter’s Disney was on a true comeback, beginning with Bolt and carrying on today to Frozen.

You see, Disney has been experimenting over the past few years with what I call the “Disney-Pixar-Dreamworks” trilogy. They’ve taken the strongest elements of each animation studio and developed full-fledged Disney movies with them.

One might argue that this all started with Meet The Robinsons or the aforementioned Bolt, but these movies were mere precursors to what Disney would ultimately settle on creatively. No, this all started with Tangled, a new take on a classic Disney character named Rapunzel.

The checklist is simple:

1. Does the movie have a Disney Princess and/or fantasy setting?

2. Are the animation and storytelling in sync, as it is with Pixar?

3. Does it contain lovable side characters that shape the marketing campaign akin to Dreamworks?

This list is a complete yes to the “trilogy” that is Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen. And it shows in how Frozen in its most basic components is a mixture of several movies and concepts: It has the character relationships of Shrek, the plucky female from Tangled, and the Broadway musical effort of Wicked (complete with the plot of two sisters at odds with each other).

This is no complaint, as Frozen manages to also maintain its own originality and charm between the pages, mostly thanks to the ambitious retelling of The Snow Queen (though the similarities between stories is slim at best), a story that isn’t told often enough complicated by Disney’s best soundtrack in years, perhaps since Mulan or Lilo and Stitch if you’re an Elvis fan.

 

frozen

The Snow Queen is an old Danish fairytale most audiences have never heard of, centering around two sisters who happen to be princesses living in a kingdom Disney has deemed Arendelle. The oldest sister, Elsa, has magic powers of no explanation: she can turn anything into snow or ice for reasons the audience is never clued in on, thankfully. As she grows older, her powers become harder to control, and for reasons I won’t spoil, she shuns her doting sister, Anna, for the majority of their childhood.

The opening sequence to Frozen is clearly gunning for the same emotional beats of Up and its first eight minutes, offering a lively, albeit sad look at the broken relationship between these two girls. You don’t have to be a sister or have one to feel the cloying sentiment in this number, aptly called Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

frozen

After an unfortunate incident, Elsa unintentionally curses the kingdom with an eternal winter (even though it’s summer), covering the land in snow and paranormal snow creatures. She runs away in order to isolate herself and is pursued by Anna and some of her new friends, a group of misfit characters to put it kindly.

Plot-wise, the story is strong and well-written, focusing more on its comedic timing than anything all that dramatic, but the music seems to be the tool that delivers the film’s most poignant moments, including some key lessons meant to empower young girls, including a twist on the romantic love story that is sure to delight parents.

The characters, for the most part, are likable and effortless in their inclusion as this is Anna and Elsa’s story.  When we are introduced to Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, who have a friendship reminiscent of Han Solo and Chewbacca, the movie succeeds at making them a worthwhile addition without distracting from the main plot. Even Olaf, who should have been annoying in hindsight, provided the levity and fun required of him in a film that could otherwise be deemed dark and heavy-handed.

frozen

The only complaint worth lodging at Frozen in my view is the ending, as it goes with many animated movies of recent years. It’s not terrible in any sense, but it is a slight let down in how the film builds and executes, aside from a minor twist on the material involving the impact of the two sisters and their relationship. For every other character, there’s little for them to do by the final minutes.

Other than that, Frozen is a fantastic installment in the Disney archives, providing a new and fun adventure that children and nostalgic young adults like myself will enjoy thoroughly.

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