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 Post subject: Ratatouille
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 5:50 pm 
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I know that there are other threads about the trailers and sneak preview of this movie, but I'll just start afresh.

This movie was very well done. Great story/character development, effective voiceacting, excellent animation...but I didn't love it. It was like gourmet food. Sophisticated and quality material, but not as fun as a big juicy burger and fries (like The Incredibles). But maybe I'm getting too picky.

What do you guys think?

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 11:47 pm 
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I loved Ratatouille. The characters were so much fun and I felt like they really pushed a lot more into physical comedy then they have before, and it was really hilarious.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:15 am 
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I actually really disliked this film. While very technically impressive and often very funny, I felt the heart of the story was shallow and self-centered. Listening to others around me praise the film has been turning my stomach into knots, so I'll just have to get this out of my system.

The core idea of the protagonist's story: Of putting an artist's acceptance of his talents in the eyes of strangers (in this case, the critics) before the survival of his family is a despicable notion and goes against everything I believe in as an artist and storyteller. I feel that it is our job to help enrich the lives of all people through our works, no matter how disapproving they may be of our life's decisions, and not simply pander to the ones we deem to have "finer" tastes. Who cares about what the vocal minority think? Is being critically-acclaimed requisite to creating great art? I firmly believe that the answer is no, especially in the realm of family entertainment, and I imagine that many other artists, including the filmmakers, would agree. So why should we care for characters who believe otherwise and never change their tune? Why should we believe that being a superstar is more important than the act of creation itself? Simply because it fits well in the plot structure? Why was none of this actually explored in the film? To me, the film feels like a selfish act, and not a generous one.

What's worse is that because the film is so well-executed in all its technical aspects, including the acting, art direction, animation (which was superb), and direction, all of this marvelous work is used in service of such a poorly-conceived message. It made me nauseous and gave me a headache, especially knowing the hard work that went into the making of this film, even by a few of my friends. I really hope the higher-ups at Pixar get it together, because if they continue with this kind of disrespect for the general audience who made them what they are (something that began with Cars), they will quickly follow in the footsteps of the fading Disney magic, where everyone at the studio is so busy slapping each other's backs to notice that the kids have lost interest in the work they do. I am never sadder than in seeing fallen heroes, but I suppose we just move on to new ones.

Sometimes I get the feeling that Brad Bird (incidentally one of my favorite directors) is a bit like The Iron Giant as a weapon, a machine of a man who has the talent of ten directors, but one who cares little about the viewpoint of the storyteller, working much harder to simply be true to the characters who inhabit his world, however morally ambiguous they may be. As an artist, I applaud him for such attempts at objectivity, but when something is marketed squarely for the family audience, namely my brothers, sisters, and parents, and is clearly trying to state some kind of message, please leave that ego at the door and do what is right for the situation. Some things are best left for different venues to handle.

Strangely enough, I just watched Live Free or Die Hard and I was relieved of my pounding headache. Perhaps I'm becoming a conservative curmudgeon, but I felt that the new Die Hard film was a wonderful old-school antidote to what made me nauseous about Ratatouille. Die Hard 4 reminded me that in the crazy Hollywood melting pot, some people are still out there doing it right, however unexpected the source.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 10:42 am 
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***Please Don't Read this if you intend to see the movie and haven't yet- I get fairly specific about certain scenes, although I wouldn't necessarily call it a spoiler. Anyway, fair warning***



I disagree with your reading of Remy's motivation, Kazu. When Remy was reunited with his family, they were surviving quite well without him- well enough to throw together a big party on short notice to welcome him back, but BEFORE that, when Remy and Emil reunite behind the restaurant, the very first thing Remy wants to do is share with his brother everything he's learned about food. He wants to improve the quality of life for his family, rather than allow them to settle for mere survival.

I accept the critic's role in the story because that's the game you play in the restaurant business. Being critically-acclaimed does is not a prerequisite to art (or food) being great, but it is necessary for a restaurant as big as Gusteau's once was to thrive again.

Overall, I was really impressed. I really bought the animation (the rats were really rats, as opposed to big mice, which I think was brave because people are generally so put off by rats). I loved, LOVED, they device they used to represent taste. I thought the writing was actually very carefully executed- there were lines and scenes that made me squeal with delight, and the critic's review at the end I thought was especially thoughtful because it acknowledges the fact that criticism (as in critic's columns in the papers) is often more about public humiliation than about objectively reviewing the art or craft. (Is Christopher Knight still writing in the LA Times about how he hates everything?). I had a lot of fun, myself.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:46 pm 
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wow, I am surprised at such a strong reaction Kazu, especially followed by praise for a summer blockbuster which was probably well crafted but written by the numbers.

I saw Ratatouille as a lighthearted film, that's perhaps why I am surprised at such heavy feelings it left you with.


Spoiler alert (watch the movie first before reading this)


I never really felt that Remy is pandering to the critic in his decisions, but merely doing what every fiber of his beings is made for.

I feel that Remy comes around to understanding the value of his family and his father comes around accepting his son's wishes.
It's Remy's father that tells him "let's do this, we'll help you cook" at the end ...

Remy's gift and talent is being a great cook. I didn't feel it mattered wether Ego tried his food or not ultimately.I mean it's a nice surprise that the villain ends up being the one who heroically takes a stand for the rat ... but didn't feel that that was a key factor to Remy. In fact one way or the other the restaurant is closed.

Remy takes a stand for his own art ... he is willing to risk his own life to be a cook, pretty much through out the story. Remy's arc in the movie is pretty subtle, but it's aout his acceptance of his other half self, the rat half. Acceptance of his roots and family.

More generally I felt Ratatouille ended up being the kind of movie who has a light tone ... with less character arcs and messages or structure than your run of the mill animated movie and I felt it refreshing because of that.

And I find it scary overall that we should hold up animated movies to this unfair standard of having to teach our kids how to live ... why cant' also these movies just be fun and entertaining? This is a fun comedy ... it's a cyrano de bergerac story ...

Futhermore I don't see any scary messages being taught here ... if anything I see a movie with a lighthearted one: anyone can cook ... ok ... anyone can make comics ... anyone can be what they choose to be ... Remy chooses to be a cooking rat.
In the end I didn't feel he chose to be a cooking rat to please one critic ... and I didn't feel he chose to be a cooking rat while renouncing his family.


I liked Ratatouille because of its slower pacing, lighthearted tone and because of its relatively unortodox structure ... it reminded me of some Miyazaki movies that way. I don't think Miyazaki set out to have a message while making Laputa, Tonari no totoro or Whispers of the heart.

Life is more complex than any perfect 3 act structure formulaic movie.
I am very scared of the american movie goer getting slowly lulled into always expecting very specifically structured movies.
Yes it works, yes it's comfortable but I don't see why we can't break away from it and take a chance sometimes ?


Just some of the cuff thoughts, all these things of course can be very subjective.
We can just agree to disagree ultimately, but given the strong negative reaction you had from the movie and some of the really strong statements you made, I felt it might be worth expressing my feelings about it ...


Enrico

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:52 pm 
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But you see, there is a difference between what is said and the actions that are shown. All that is technically told to me in the film is well and good, all points that I can agree with, but none of that is actually displayed in the actions of the narrative itself, and the whole thing left me with a bad feeling in my stomach.

The film touts the motto "anyone can cook", but why is Linguini relegated to being someone's puppet, never learning to cook or understanding the passion behind it? Remy seemed predetermined to be a good cook because he was good right out of the gate. His development as a character happened before he entered the restaurant, and the rest of the narrative suggests that it is in the recognition of his talents that the true worth of being an artist lies. And why should someone work so hard to impress someone whose very opinion caused the death of his mentor? If the struggle is in seeing a rat becoming a cook, then the story was over at the beginning.

I was hoping so much for a film like Kiki's Delivery Service, something light, which talked honestly and quietly about the spirit of an artist, but instead the film felt so weighed down with excess baggage about acceptance and approval that it just made me feel gross. My strong personal reaction comes from the fact that such a wonderfully crafted film feels like it insults people like my family and their struggles, meanwhile making the pursuit of the artist seem so trivial in the eyes of an outsider. It is, whether intentional or not, very divisive. I wish I didn't feel this way, but because I hold the heartfelt storytelling of Pixar's previous films in such high esteem, it really hurts me to see something like this.

As for the comparisons to Die Hard, I don't think the enemy in entertainment is formulaic storytelling, but a lack of honesty in storytelling. As storytellers it's our job to look past the surface elements and get better at simply communicating. Regular everyday people are a lot smarter than many artists give them credit for, and Ratatouille just feels like a film that treats kids and parents like saps.

Also, if I hadn't been spending the last two years dealing very closely with the balance of art and communication with a family audience, I wouldn't be quite so worked up. :)

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 Post subject: Taste Viualization
PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 2:27 pm 
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Quote:
I loved, LOVED, the device they used to represent taste


Gee, thanks blackunicorn :oops: :oops: :oops: :D

Now that the movie is out, I guess it's OK to post this.

http://www.gagneint.com/Final%20site/An ... ouille.htm

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 2:30 pm 
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blackunicorn wrote:
He wants to improve the quality of life for his family, rather than allow them to settle for mere survival.


What's wrong with mere survival? There are plenty of people in America working their asses off just to survive. Serving these people this kind of message as a respite from their toils presents a severe lack of empathy with the people who support the artists' work.


Michel, the tasting scenes were among my favorites in the film. I hope you guys don't take my vehement reaction to the story personally. I felt that the love of craft put into the film was worth way more than the story deserved, and it is one of the sources of my frustration.

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Last edited by Kazu on Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 2:45 pm 
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No sweat Kazu. Every one has his/her own opinion. It's what makes the world go round and keeps it interesting. The points you make are valid and not mean-spirited. I can totally appreciate that.

Personally, I loved it. I saw it at the Pixar wrap party. It was great to see the movie with all my friends. I loved the wrap party and I love the fact that Brad Bird always calls me up with he's doing a feature! :wink:

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:09 pm 
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Michel, your work enhanced this movie immeasurably. One of my favorite scenes was the one where Remy and Emile meet each other again in Paris, and Remy tries to teach his brother about taste. It makes the point, visually, using your wonderful effects, that Emile had the capacity to understand, but maybe not the motivation. That fits my belief in "talent" perfectly. I hate the notion that talent is some kind of god-given quality that either you have or don't, and I was worried that maybe the movie was suggesting that--that great artists are kind of like superheroes; somehow above humanity. Remy was a great chef simply because he cared!


Kazu--this is an interesting criticism of the film. I think Brad Bird is presenting an argument between the ideas that tribalism is bad, but that loyalty to family is paramount; not an easy subject. Remy--who's so selfish that he resents his role of keeping his family out of mortal danger--eventually comes around, I was glad to see.

The movie actually argues against the hegemony of pleasing critics--at the end they've lost everything in terms of respectability (the restaurant is ironically shuttered when it receives its 5-star rating), but they find a happly place for themselves, where the rats get their own tables, and that's far more pleasing to us than the 5-stars and the critical acceptance could be. Because we care about the characters, including Remy's family!

I suppose the movie is more about Remy accepting his roots, and balancing that with his calling, than about him becoming an artist (like "Kiki's"). I do wanna see DIE HARD now!

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:31 pm 
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p.s. congratulations to you too Enrico!

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:58 pm 
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Neil- thanks man ... I agree with many of your points.

Michel- congrats your animation rocked ...

Kazu- I am just surprised at how personal you're taking the story and at how completely vehemently negative you feel about it.
You also state your points in a very strong and objective way, without leaving any space in your mind to other possible readings of it, or at least other intentions ...

I really don't read the things you're reading in this story .. As Neil stated as well, I don't think it's about pleasing the critic at all ... it's about accepting his family and roots ... once he does that his family accepts him for what he is and only then he goes on with their help to cook the meal ...

Maybe we'll just have to agree to disagree

e

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 5:44 pm 
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Geez, I wish all the threads I started got replies this involved! 'Tis interesting to see the different reactions you guys had.

And holy cow Michel, Brad Bird calls you when he does a feature!? I'm not really sure I'm worthy to even be posting around here!

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 5:46 pm 
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I liked the scene in the movie where Remy is offered the chance to go home to his family or back to the apartment with Linguini, and instead he chooses to walk off by himself down his own path. If the choice is between his art or his family he chose neither. Or something perhaps in between? That’s the feeling I walked away with. But that might have been me projecting my own experiences into it. I got the sense that part of the message was that both your family and your passion are important…and ideally you can find a place for both or mix them together like flavors of food.

When his family showed up begging, he was annoyed but still willing to steal for them because they were his family. And sometimes your family annoys the heck out of you and will never be able to relate to your crazy art stuff (even as an artist I relate to the brother still not getting the food combination thing).

Even though I enjoyed the movie, I think Kazu actually makes some good points about the mixed messages in kids' movies. I totally relate to being insulted by the theme of a movie that all their friends love. And I agree it would have been nice if Remy had to work to become a great artist. But then again lots of people are naturally gifted and only need to find the right environment to thrive. Maybe all Linguini needed was rollerskates to become the perfect waiter? Um...yeah...

Too many movies and books love to celebrate the “chosen one” who is born with that extra special talent that makes them the hero. But it didn’t distract me too much while watching the film. In fact more often than not I was impressed that the over-used stereotypes (like the short badguy and the dumb brother) ending up occasionally surprising and enjoyable.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 6:44 pm 
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I only get so worked up because of what a film like this means for us storytellers. A while back I staked my life on the act of creating good stories. If I can't tell a story well enough to reach an audience, then I starve, and perhaps, so does my family. To me, it is more a matter of survival than in reaching beyond it, and perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe Disney believed this too, as did Miyazaki, when they staked the survival of their studios on the stories they told. Taste, quality, and peer approval are subjective, but the story of life is universal, the stories of survival are all we really know (every other Pixar film and all the great Disney films are about life and survival), and there is nothing wrong or unoriginal in retelling the tale of life time and again.

If Pixar, once champion of great storytelling and where their motto is supposedly "story is king", can't quite get the stories right and is later confused as to how it got things so wrong, then where else do we look to guide the way here in the States? I get the feeling when the company sees diminishing returns on films like these, they'll wonder what went wrong and stir up all sorts of confusion, and sadly very close to the circle in which I work, inevitably leading to less jobs for everyone. Hopefully my rants (which are already garnering me some hate mail) will do a little something to help us see this whole thing a little more objectively, rather than celebrate the fact that the artists have succeeded in stealing the toys away from the kids.

I am glad we can have a nice discussion about this here, though, especially with folks who worked on the film. Thanks guys. You do know I still love you dearly, right? :D

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Last edited by Kazu on Sun Jul 01, 2007 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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