...or the amazing chronicles of everything that I like and stuff.
Confession time: I had little faith in this movie. The trailers did not inspire me, and the joke-y fake commercials (for kilts and records and stuff) that Pixar released outright annoyed me. I didn’t know what to make of any of it. It felt like the movie wanted to be something big and dramatic but then you had jokes that fell flat (the old dude lifting up his kilt just made me cringe) and smelled of bad Dreamworks fluff. And then there’s the film’s somewhat possibly troubled production: the first director, Brenda Chapman got replaced by Mark Andrews during production, which did not inspire confidance (though, to be fair, that could be for any number of reasons unrelated to the quality of the work Chapman was doing). And yet, it should be noted that both are credited as directors of the final product, so it’s not like Chapman was erased from the movie entirely.
But yeah, I walked in with doubts. And then something happened…
Those damn PIXAR shorts, I tell you. Once again, after the last trailer played itself out and the usher closed the theater doors, the screen lit up with the PIXAR logo and we were treated to La Luna, honestly one of the loveliest shorts the studio has ever produced. Gorgeously shot, animated and paced, it is simply, only, completely breathtaking. I mean look at that image up there! If nothing else, La Luna is worth the price of admission. But that’s not fair because, as it turns out, BRAVE is really good…
So the Short film ended and I was so in awe, so happy with what I’d just seen, I decided to let go of all preconceptions I had about BRAVE and to just enjoy what ever PIXAR had in store for me.
BRAVE is a film, first and foremost, about a mother (Elinor) and a daughter (Merida). The mother has expectations and the daughter is not in the least bit interested in meeting them. That isn’t to say that Merida is mean-spirited or anything, she just has different aspirations. Obviously the focus of the movie is on her, but Elinor is a huge part of the proceedings and very central to the movie. In any case, the big reason why this movie worked for me is that I liked, respected and rooted for both characters equally. How great is that? The mother is not evil, the daughter is not a brat. Their agendas just happen to clash at this point in their lives. Mistakes (really really grave mistakes) are made, lessons are learned, and in the end… well, let’s not give away the end…
There is no bad guy in this movie, only bad decisions, only inner turmoil. It’s an interesting choice and it feels refreshing. In fact I’d be tempted to tell you this movie is a family drama if it wasn’t so funny. But it’s funny. There are a dozen side characters that get their moments, most prominently the king (husband and father of the two protagonists) and the three princes. Because, oh, yeah, the daughter in question is a princess. This is a princess fairytale, get with it.
A lot has been said about the fact that this is the first PIXAR film centered on a (or two, in my humble opinion) female character. PIXAR have always been great with female characters, to be fair, even if they have so far been relegated to secondary parts. Helen Parr/Elastigirl (The Incredibles) and Colette (Ratatouille) come to mind as very strong and well written female roles (better written, in fact, than many female leading roles of the same period, be they animation OR live-action). That being said, there is no denying that BRAVE is a movie where the fairer gender just shines. Merida and Elinor are fantastically portrayed, deep and complex characters that love eachother deeply but have reached a point where communication has simply seazed to function. They’re at an impass and the movie really resonates when that turmoil between them finally reaches boiling point. Given that the two characters are voiced by amazing actresses (Kelly MacDonald and Emma Thompson), any scene they have together resonates. I’m glad my nieces will see this, I’m glad they have these women to look up to.
This movie is also absolutely gorgeous to look at. that’s an easy statement to make about a PIXAR film but here they have yet again completely outdone themselves. I could smell the fresh forest air and the morning dew. I could feel the sun on my face. I wholly believed in this world, and I thought it was beautiful.
Some of the ads for the movie want you to believe that it’s epic and it’s not. They want you to believe that it’s full of action and it isn’t. There is seriously barely any. It’s a very personal, gorgeously shot, fairytale/drama about a princess who is at odds with her Queen’s expectations of her. And it’s funny, not always ha-ha funny, but if anything, always charming-funny. I could have done without the old dude lifting his kilt and saying feast your eyes, but in context it plays better than in the trailer…
The film’s structure is very loose, and this is where the movie sometimes leaves a little to be desired. It doesn’t feel as tight as other PIXAR efforts, like there could have been another pass or two done to the script. Still, as I write this, I wonder what I would cut and I can’t think of anything. There is a big plot point half way through the movie the forces a sort of division, give the movie an episodic feel. Thing A happens, then thing B, thing C, all the way to Z. And, pfffff, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not a movie that flies by you à la The Incredibles or Up!, whewre everything is so tight and every story beat just punches you in the face with it’s effectiveness. No, BRAVE takes it’s sweet time and invites you to do the same. You’re rewarded if you accept the pace.
At the end of the day I don’t think this will be remembered as an all around classic like Toy Story or Up!, movies that feel timeless upon the very first viewing, with incredible resonnance, but it’s a very strong, if loose, effort by the greatest movie studio operating today.
And hey, the three princes are very funny.
A bunch of peeps I know saw it last Summer at the Fantasia film fest and they all loved it. It’s one of the few I missed out on and it’s coming out in February. There’s a trailer out there that I refuse to see. I’m going in this one clean.
Andrew Stanton follows in the footsteps of fellow Pixar wizard (yes, they are wizards, be silent) Brad Bird and makes the jump to live action. He’s adapting pulp classic The Princess of Mars, the first John Carter adventure, published around 1917 or something. People will inevitably accuse it of ripping off Avatar and Starwars and stuff. These people will have the whole thing ass over tits. John Carter was seducing otherwordly princesses before it got cool.
-The Cabin in the woods
When Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard team up to take horror genre conventions for a spin, you stop whatever you’re doing and you bask in their collective genius like the puny lesser human that you are. Or at least I will.
-Marvel’s The Avengers
Joss Whedon is given amazing toys and ressources to pit Iron Man and Hulk and all their buddies against something probably mean and rude. I’m there.
Ridley Scott returns to the world his Alien franchise takes place in. I think this movies happens before all that stuff though. In any event it’ll look great. Also it has Michael Fassbender in it and I’m at least 5% gay for him.
It’s Pixar doing a movie not involving cars, so I’m in.
-The Dark Knight Rises
Um. You really need a description?
Ryan Johnson did an amazing film called BRICK, then he followed that up with a fantastic and completely different film called THE BROTHERS BLOOM. LOOPER is his third film, that’s enough for me. But hey, when it’s about future Bruce Willis being time machined back to the present to be assassinated by his younger self (played by regular joe Joseph Gordon Levitt) it seriously garantees my ass in the seat.
-The motherlovin’ Hobbit
(that’s not an official poster, there isn’t one yet)
I just like their hairy feet.
(that’s not an official poster, there isn’t one yet)
Quentin Tarantino is doing a cowboy movie about an escaped slave seeking vengeance or justice or something equally badass. Look, it’s Tarantino and he’s in my top five. I’m going.
That’s it for now. I’m sure I’m forgetting a thousand movies but it’s 6 AM and I really should find my keys.
Later, film lovers