Up (Co-directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, written by Bob Peterson)
It seems like every time Pixar releases a new movie, I have to carefully consider two things: where this ranks in Pixar's library of classics, and where it ranks in my list of all time favorite movies. With Wall-E and Ratatouille, both lists faced seismic changes, and with the release of Up, Pixar has predictably done it again.
Up is so much more than the previews let you imagine, and it once again shows the brilliance of Pixar as a whole. It's part comedy, part adventure, part action, part drama, part romance, and all totally life affirming and fun for everyone. It's not even just the completely obvious sections of genius, such as the creation of the brilliant comedic character of Doug the talking dog or the completely charming (and silent besides music) montage of Carl and Ellie's life together, but in the details as well. Watching what the dogs are doing in the background on the Spirit of Adventure. Catching pop culture references anywhere and everywhere on the screen. Non-verbal bits of communication amongst characters. Up tells a better tale with what it doesn't say than most movies do with entire screenplays.
Every character in the movie is on par with the best Pixar has created, but Carl, Russell and Doug are every bit as brilliant as the cream of the crop characters. Peterson's inclusion of intelligent dogs who could speak via a special collar was a truly inspired decision, allowing for endless opportunities in terms of hilariousness and a strangely touching look at the relationship between a dog and his master, with Doug and Carl's relationship being impossible not to love especially if you have ever owned a dog.
I could go on and on about this movie, from the better than ever animation to the once again brilliant score by Michael Giacchino to the superb voice acting, but there is no reason you shouldn't just see it. It's far and away the best movie of the year so far. Also, make sure you show up early as the short before the movie is hilarious and strangely touching as well - the perfect pair to the movie that follows it.
Good Bye Lenin! (Directed by Wolfgang Becker, written by Wolfgang Becker and Bernd Lichtenberg)
As a person who doesn't necessarily go out of his way to see foreign film, I have to admit the reason I saw this was entirely because of my current obsession with composer Yann Tiersen. Having listened to the score numerous times over the past few weeks, the movie had a head start in terms of developing emotional resonance with me.
The mere fact that this German film is a remarkable one helped quite a bit as well.
It's about a family torn apart by the divide created by the Berlin Wall after World War II, and what happens when the matriarch of the family (a big figure in the world of Socialist Berlin) goes into a coma and misses the fall of the wall and Germany's speedy transition into a western influenced country. The main character is the woman's son Alex, who does everything he can to extend her life by convincing her that nothing has changed and that the wall never fell. A lofty and difficult premise, but one that works incredibly well and does a lot (through humor and very well done dramatic scenes) to demonstrate what it was like for Germans when the wall fell, and the unsaid longing for things to stay the way they were.
Daniel Bruhl, the actor who portrays Alex, is just an impossibly good actor. His performance in the movie is the backbone of the entire film. Swiftly alternating between bringing a levity to tough situations, exhibiting inhuman amounts of patience to scenes, displaying what it is like to be young and in love, and seeming real in his ability to genuinely care for everyone, the guy is a revelation. The fact that Hollywood hasn't attempted to bring him over and force him to act in nearly everything is ridiculous to me.
This film is also quite brilliant visually, with Wolfgang Becker creating some truly dynamic images throughout the film. Between Becker, Bruhl and Tiersen, I am just completely perplexed how this was not a launching pad for some elite careers in Hollywood. Of course, that's probably why I am writing a blog instead of running a movie studio, but that's neither here nor there.
If you have no interest in foreign film, don't see this movie. It's fully subtitled and in German, so if you are unwilling to go that route, skip it. But if you are open-minded when it comes to that and want to see a wonderful little movie, check this out.
Good Bye Lenin!: A-