Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tip of the Top

It's widely acknowledged that Pixar routinely cranks out the best in animated movies. Every one of their releases has been commercially successful and usually critically acclaimed. Now that the number of releases has reached double digits, I thought it would be a good time to rank the catalog of Pixar films. Here's my list from bottom to top:

10. Toy Story 2 (1999): One of the chief appeals of the Pixar stories is how original and creative they are. Therefore a sequel almost by default will place last.

9. Cars (2006): Didn't like this as much as many did. The story and characters were good, but not great. And unlike most of the Pixar collection, repeated viewings did not increase my affinity for the movie or reveal more than originally met the eye.

8. Finding Nemo (2003): Nemo is ninety minutes of pure entertainment joy. Unfortunately, it's a 100 minute movie and the ten minutes that should have been left on the cutting room floor put place the film in the bottom half of Pixar's top ten.

7. Toy Story (1995): You always have a special place in your heart for your first love. And most of us were smitten when Toy Story appeared on the screen. But like a first crush who in hindsight was more cute than beautiful, it doesn't compare with what was to come.

6. A Bug's Life (1998): A movie that I feel is too often overlooked in the Pixar oeuvre. The visuals, the cast of characters, and the plot are all uniquely appealing. The only reason it doesn't rank higher is that the other films are just so danged good.

5. UP* (2009): The asterisk indicates that unlike all of the other movies, I've only viewed UP once. I expect this to change after it becomes available on DVD. The movie has a bit more heart and soul than previous Pixar productions along with the usual top notch comedy, characters, and plot.

4. Monsters Inc. (2001): For some reason this movie doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Of all the Pixar stories, it's the tops in terms of pure creative genius. The characters are tremendous and the world they inhabit a work of wonder. Good music too.

3. WALL-E (2008): Yes, it carries an environmental message about as subtle as a two-by-four to the head, but who cares? It packs a visually stunning, imaginative, and even emotional punch that's hard to match.

2. Ratatouille (2007): Another visual masterpiece largely seen from the viewpoint of a rat. Only Pixar could pull off something like this and they do it amazingly well. Well-developed characters, a highly original storyline, and rich scenery where the tastes and smells of a Parisian restarant just about waft off the screen make Ratatouille an absolute delight.

1. The Incredibles (2004): The penultimate (thanks Lars) peak of the Pixar production pyramid. The look, the feel of perfection. For the kids and I suspect even more for adults. I don't know how many times I've seen this movie already, but I'd be willing to watch it again (and again) at the drop of a hat. The story is intriguing, the characters complex, the writing is witty and sharp, and the settings spectacular. It's got this great early to mid-Sixties sort of visual and audio vibe going that's irresistible. Buddy's island lair is the kind of place James Bond villains could only dream about being wickedly cool enough to construct. And the Incredibles' family abode is a modern dream house. Throw in few suitably subtle messages on family and personal excellence over equality of outcomes and you have one of the best movies that any studio has produced in the last twenty years. It will be tough for Pixar to ever top The Incredibles. But I can't wait to watch them try.

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