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Some Ramblings - Up
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Looks like times and themes have taken a strange direction when it comes to the recent Hollywood movies. While almost every other mainstream blockbuster is based off some comic book, it is only in the recent animation movies that more mature and adult themes seem to be explored. How is that for cinematic irony - real life characters portraying cartoon characters, and more and more animation characters donning real life characters. The situation is akin to how desktops have gotten a lot smaller and compact, while laptops ballooned in every possible direction, with bigger screens, larger keypads and wider touchpads. If one wants to explore the subtleties and the niceties of every day life, the make believe world of animation is it, as the mainstream has focused on bigger, louder and grander things, too busy to accommodate and appreciate the little things in life. What better examples than the recent features from the Pixar juggernaut - Wall-E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, even Cars - to illustrate the fact that the content (and not to mention, the fantastic presentation) in animation has wised up a lot from the traditional Disney ventures. To touch upon the evils of consumerist gluttony (Wall-E), to take to things that the heart truly desires (Ratatouille), to slow down the frenetic pace of life to realize the tranquility in the triviality (Cars), the world of hand-drawn characters and computer generated images is becoming the new test bed for revisiting the traditional values of every day life - camaraderie, care, social concern and self-realizations. Who would have thought animation would soon become the lingua franca of pioneers and enthusiasts who want to test out new ideas, from existentialism to environmentalism, while the real world movie remain stuck in the cob web of commercialism devoid of any innovation and imagination. Welcome to the brave new bizarre world!

From the stables of Pixar (who else!), 'Up' treads (soars along) the same route as Wall-E and Ratatouille before, in it, it is an adult theme wrapped in kid-friendly packaging, with superior technology serving as the nice bow-tie flourish on the top. Make no mistake, animation movies, ironically, are never about the animation, the dazzling rendering or the super computers at work behind the scenes. Like the mainstream format, they too are story dependent, plot bound and drama driven. But what makes an animation movie tick is the poignancy of simplicity reflected in it. Watching a man wail at his kid being abducted by the goons might not stir the heart strings as much as looking at a little fish lose its child to a deep sea diver. The simplicity of the latter registers more than the complicated nature of the former. Therefore in animation, any complicated theme can be reduced to its bare simple essentials to resonate with the audience. As an example, a rat has more interest in the making of the food than in the consuming of it. Becoming a chef in a famous Parisian restaurant is its lifelong dream and realizing it forms the movie. Notice how the complexity of the theme (the logistics, the plausibility, and even the acceptability of an ordinary house rat as a great chef) is distilled into a simple theme of someone who sets his sights on an impossible dream, goes against his tribe, sides with his instincts and follows his heart. It is this simplicity that the makers at Pixar never lose sight of, with most of their movies conveniently reduced to simple universal themes that have broad appeal across ages, sexes, and geographical boundaries.

'Up' is another such universal theme of following up on one's dream, regardless of the age. It is about a geriatric old man and an enthusiastic little kid bandying together and heading to a place that the old man always dreamed of, since he was a little kid himself. And how they head there and what they learn from each other and from the surroundings during the journey makes up the rest of the movie. The first few minutes of the movie, after the prologue, is as touching and as moving as has ever been rendered in animation or enacted in flesh and blood, depicting the near life cycle of a wide-eyed adventurous kid turning into an old cantankerous man against some of the most beautiful background music scored in recent times, all without the aid of a single spoken word. The shapes of the main characters too are not without any thought. The old man, as a little kid, is drawn round and wide, with large eyes and a constant smile. As an old man, his face becomes box-like, square jawed and tight lipped, indicating his conservative and withdrawn (into a shell) mindset. The little side kick is a convex lens shaped rendering resembling a balloon, replete with high, squeaky, helium voice, representing the lighter and the frothier side of life. With an unusual pair caught in an outlandish adventure, together with dogs whose collars can transform barks, shouts, growls and yelps into human sounds, a colorful bird which develops a great liking to chocolate and ?? exotic location in South America (that very much looks like the Angel Falls in Venezuela), 'Up' is true to its name in content and spirit, upholding the tradition and reputation of its makers.

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More Ramblings on films
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Quantom of Solace
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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