Brave: A Review


I’ve been a fan of Pixar since before they began making feature films. The shorts Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy, in particular, were groundbreaking. Though they both look dated now in terms of the technology, they both managed to completely change my expectations of what animated films should be. While Disney soldiered on with more traditional forms of animation (and made some wonderful films like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and the underappreciated Hunchback of Notre Dame), Pixar was busy inventing the future of the art.

The obvious bit was the animation. Toy Story brought their vision of 3D animation to the masses; it was beautiful. But the real beauty wasn’t just the animation, it was the writing, the story, and the heart that managed to capture adults as surely as it did children. They turned big profits, earned critical acclaim, and took home awards by the armful. All of it well-deserved, as far as I’m concerned.

There are few more stirring moments in film over the last decade than the opening of Up. Although the “Jessie’s Song” sequence from 1999’s Toy Story 2 would give it a run for its money.  The beauty of Wall-E wasn’t just in its spectacular opening sequence, but in its wonderfully rendered love story about a couple of robots. For that matter, Ellen Degeneres is hilarious as an absent-minded fish in the touching and utterly hilarious Finding Nemo.

The point is not to give a Pixar’s Top 10 Moments list. Nor is it to suggest that they haven’t had some misfires (for me, Monsters Inc. and Cars were largely uninvolving and Cars 2 was a complete wreck). The point is that Pixar has a habit of telling great stories told with an artistic flair and they absolutely changed the face of animated entertainment.

Does Brave live up to the Pixar reputation for excellence? Absolutely.

While Brave isn’t the absolute best of Pixar’s films, that is merely an issue of having set the bar so ridiculously high.

Brave’s story is perhaps more straighforward than most of their best movies. It won’t shock you with originality, then, but what is familiar is still told with a fresh vigor that is infectious. Princess Merida and Queen Elinor have the same kind of parent-child tug of war seen in Finding Nemo, grounded both in the growth and maturation of the young character and the parents’ final understanding of their childrens’ need for self-determination and growth. As I said, somewhat standard stuff, but it’s the twists, turns, and characters that carry us through the films.

In Brave, the filmmakers resisted the temptation to give us the entire plot and all the good bits in their trailers. The audience, then, actually gets to experience the movie without too much in the way of existing expectation. I would love it if other movies followed suit.

And don’t forget the animation. Pixar continues to put out the absolute highest quality animation in the industry and Brave manages to bump the bar up a few extra notches. The texture of fabrics looks more real than anything I’ve ever seen before and Princess Merida’s hair may look violently, unnaturally red, but each of the strands looks real and every bounce and shake moves as it would in the real world. The bark of trees, the toothy texture of the earth, the delicate blades of grass, and flowing water are all such amazing analogs to their real-world counterparts that it is easy to get lost in the rendered world.

Now, the Celtic world of Brave is entirely window dressing. Just the tiniest bit of flavor without the baggage of striving for authenticity. If that matters to you, you’ll find yourself disappointed; for the majority of people, it won’t even register. What will register is that the story is a fun and touching ride, the characters are people you hope will find their way, and the final act brings the kind of emotional swell that Pixar delivers better than anyone this side of Spielberg at his tear-jerking best.

I would suggest that Up is the more artistically fulfilling and that both Wall-E and Ratatouille are better realized, but Brave certainly earns a position with movies like the Toy Story films, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. That’s pretty good company and worlds better than most of what is being shown in theaters this year.

Bottom line: if you’re a Pixar fan, you’re probably going to love this movie. If you find Pixar films either too simple or too emotionally manipulative, avoid at all costs. This isn’t the one that’s going to change your mind.

Currently Convinced: The Justin Bieber Edition

I am currently convinced that this could be proof that God has not forsaken us.

Indeed, Justin Bieber is starting to hit the Britney Spears trend. His original deluded fans are growing out of their age range, and new fans are hard to come by. I have never understood how or why he was popular. At best, he’s a YouTube creation using a heavy dab of Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. He has the sex appeal of celery. He also really doesn’t have any songs anyone knows. I defy the average person on the street to name one of his hits.

I am not joking when I say this: the first time I saw Bieber, I thought it was a joke. His thin voice, his ridiculous “choreography,” and his hideously juvenile songs were so bad that I thought I was supposed to be laughing. If memory serves, it was on the Today show a few years back, and the laudatory reaction from the Today staff finally clued me in that this was no laughing thing. People, apparently, were paying this guy to make records.

He may well be a perfectly nice kid, but everything about his music feels like something the neighbor kid does to torture the adults on New Years Eve. “Hey, I can put on a show!” Nothing about him convinced me that there was talent to be nurtured or an original voice to be heard.

So, yeah, maybe we can all put this shameful moment behind us and embrace the Post-Bieber Era.

I know I will.

Alec Baldwin Hates Reporters

Alec Baldwin

Journalists beware: Alec Baldwin is coming to get you.

Photographer-bashing Alec Baldwin found a new target Wednesday, rolling his mountain bike over a television reporter’s foot outside his East Village apartment.

The Emmy-winning “30 Rock” star then used the bike to knock the “Inside Edition” reporter aside as she asked Baldwin a question about his latest public meltdown — a fight with a Daily News photographer.

“Ouch, my back,” the 5-foot-2 woman said after her brush with the hot-headed Baldwin. “He shoved me and ran over my foot.”

Bad Baldwin. Bad, bad!

Alec Baldwin is a Jerk. But You Knew That Already.

Alec Baldwin

I have to say this for Alec Baldwin: every time you start to forget that he’s a jerk, he’s right there to remind you. He’s like his own, walking, talking public service announcement proclaiming himself unsafe for polite company. Or even reasonably polite company.

“Yes, thoughtless little pig Alec Baldwin chooses to be a star and celebrity and then assaults a guy for taking his photograph. He wants the millions and the fame but none of the hassles that go with the deal.”

Yes. Yes, indeed.

Read the rest.


Alec Baldwin’s tweet on the subject isn’t what you might call helpful:

Alec Baldwin Tweet
Alec Baldwin Tweet

You probably can’t read that. It says, “A ‘photographer’ almost hit me in the face with his camera this morning. #allpaparazzishouldbewaterboarded”

Nothing says class like Alec Baldwin.

Surprising Stone Roses Hijinks

Stone Roses Poster

Here’s the timeline: In the early 90’s, the Stone Roses made pretty music. In the mid-90’s, they fell apart in an unsurprising mess of egos and general rock band stupidity. Now, in 2012, they would like another paycheck, please.

Well, that’s how I see it, anyway.

I actually enjoyed a good number of the Roses’ songs– “Fools Gold” and “I Wanna Be Adored” being the top of their catalog for me– but imagined that the band members were probably insufferable jerks in person. I don’t even mind that they wanted to cash in on some un-fulfilled Stone Roses love still percolating in the hearts of their fans. Still, the idea that them embarking on a world tour would end up in smooth sailing is a bit funny to me. I expect that this particular report from the Beeb is just the beginning of a story with twists, turns, ego outbursts, and much drunken, aging rock star tom foolery. Please, Lord, let this be the high point of the tour.

Singer Ian Brown appeared on stage alone at the Heineken Music Hall, to tell the crowd the gig was over.


Brown reportedly said: “I’m not joking, the drummer’s gone home.”

Or, at least I hope that’s the way this goes.

Either way, I did get to work tomfoolery into a post and that fills me with almost as much happiness as the wocka wocka guitar work to be found in “Fools Gold” below.