Sunday, November 25, 2007

Brad Bird iz in my base, killin my dudz

Subject: Cinema
Brad Bird is in my head and I can't stop feeling like he's lecturing me.

I've gone on a few times about "The Incredibles" and how it feels like the ultimate expression of midlife crisis for me, and just how f*-in' jealous I am of the whole Pixar experience that I wasn't good enough to join back in the day. As my Youtube demoreel so obviously illustrates.

"Ratatouille" showed up this weekend, along with the first anthology of Pixar shorts, so I was compelled to watch them right away. First, I unwrapped my copy of "The Iron Giant", which I hadn't seen for quite a while, but was glad to finally have an excuse to.

There wasn't as much there to make me feel like a personal failure like Bird's Pixar films do, but it's still a whole lot of awesome that is rarely seen in the American-produced 2-D animation market in the last 10-20 years or so. I could almost extrapolate a sort of "big, scary, nobody understands" relationship from it, but it would really be quite a stretch, so in reality, I'd say it didn't really apply to my thesis for tonight, and that I'd just plain recommend it for it's simple honest awesomness. Which is so rare in American animation.

The Pixar Shorts disc I immediately selected the Commentary track for, because I saw most of the classics back in the day when Pixar shorts were the ideal for which all of us animation students ascribed to. I've already mentioned that John Lassiter came to speak to my animation class right around the time "Tin Toy" came out (he co-won the student Academy Award with my department head some years previously), and that Craig Good, another old-skool Pixarian, personally slapped me down for one of my naive pronouncements in the old proto-Usenet newsgroups when I mouthed off about animation one time. So as much as I sucked, I owe a lot of what I learned to the early days of Pixar. The commentaries I guess brought me back to those days, and I guess I got more nostalgia than insight, though there can be a bit of insight in nostalgia if you think about it...

"Ratatouille" itself, of course, rocked. It had everything going right for it, and it kicked it up a notch (Emeril joke) by doing the details so incredibly well. And add the bonus of a beautifully rendered Paris, and it's no wonder I was captivated.

But of course, like with "The Incredibles", I couldn't help but project my own message on to it. The theme of "Anybody Can Cook", and the illustration of the complexities of the world of being a chef, was instantly symbolic of being an animator to me. There's absolutely no escaping that parallel. It could apply to any sort of artistic or creative imperitave, sure, but "animator" was screaming at me.

I kind of knew that's what it was going to do to me, so it took a whole couple of days before I could bring myself to watch it, but I was determined to. And surely enough, while the credits rolled, I broke down much like I did during "The Incredibles". Only this time not so much out of jealousy, as much as I feel like a bit of a failure for not being so capable of having taken to heart such simple, basic, ultimate truth as that silly little rat was told by his imaginary apparition of an obsurdly obese French chef told him. How crazy, yet how simple and how true. And how much I'm beating myself up over it again.

It's something to say that the techniques and style of the animation and storytelling didn't make me get all annoyed like "Crappy Feet" or other mo-cap films did. (Late in the credits, there was a little anti-mo-cap placard that whizzed by that was hilarious and I really need to get a screencap of), and inversely actually made me totally emotionally relate to what was being expressed (for better or for worse). In a lot of ways, it's kind of an obvious ploy -- fellow in the rat race wants to be an artist. How hard is that to portray? But I'm a total sucker for it, because it's real for me and I can identify with it.

As a one-off, it would have been just something I would have given a bit of snarky commentary towards and that would be that. But mixed with my reaction to Bird's previous mid-life-crisis-a-thon "The Incredibles", it's like he's been speaking to my psyche directly. And I wish I could say that's been a good thing. I love it a lot, but I'm totally distraught as an outcome, and I find myself feeling even more like I've missed the boat by not trying harder back in the day to meet Pixar's expectations instead of selling out to the corporate drudgery that pays the bills for me these days. *sigh*

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