For Reel

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
April 10, 2016, 10:10 pm
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Director(s): Pete Docter, David Silverman & Lee Unkrich
4 Stars
Monsters, Inc.If Pixar’s output in the last decade has rapidly sent Monsters, Inc. down the list of the studio’s best films, it might be their effort most worthy of rediscovery, seeming all the more prescient in a world that’s seen an incredible recession since its release. Monstropolis faces an energy crisis­—”kids these days” aren’t scaring as easily, and as a result their world is on the brink of catastrophic blackouts and power failures. The way that cultural leaders fight this problem is not to recognize an alternative (that laughs are actually a more viable source of power), but to invest in fear-mongering and, in an extreme example, finding methods of extracting screams in a way that is more mechanical and efficient, but ultimately inhumane. What makes the picture really special is not just the way that it explores these serious global concerns in a world of colorful monsters, but how it discusses what it means to be a child. That Monstropolis is viewed as a world of production—the other side of the closet is a workplace, where a conveyor belt of endless doors resembles a grand factory—suggests that a child’s ultimate fear is that of the adult world, the greatest unknown of all. Monsters, Inc. imagines a world where kids don’t scare as easily (that is, their relationship with Monstropolis less distant), arguing that a child’s relationship to this world of mass production is becoming inseparable.

Inside Out (2015)
July 10, 2015, 3:52 pm
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Director(s): Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen
5 Stars
Inside OutPixar is no stranger to gutsy family entertainment, with a track record involving narrative risks such as imagining an old curmudgeon as a hero, or through the visual sophistication of an entire first act rendered as a silent comedy film. And yet Inside Out feels like the coup de grace, the first full-bodied adventure that gets even richer at the point where previous outings have settled for routine action sequences involving third act villains. Through the brilliant depiction of its hook (that the five “core” emotions of an 11-year-old girl are personified), this is a film that can successively navigate ideas such as the difference between sadness and depression without leaving an aftertaste of pretentiousness. Director Pete Docter is the most feeling of Pixar’s storytellers, and his very sentimentality is key to the film’s accessibility–even an imaginary friend who momentarily risks becoming the film’s Jar Jar Binks is given a poignant send-off in the film’s most poetic and brutal moment. As a whole, the picture serves as a beautiful resetting of expectations for young audiences, a film with truly honest aspirations. Whereas many children’s films continue to display the idealistic attitude of, “you can do anything”, Inside Out actually feels like a realistic conversation about how to cope and live a healthy, emotionally-balanced life.