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Why Movies Matter: “Up”

I posted about this in my Tum­blr, but I needed to do a full, proper post. John Gru­ber linked to a story in the Orange County Reg­is­ter that while absolutely heart­break­ing, also reaf­firmed the decency of reg­u­lar peo­ple and the power of film.

Essen­tially, a lit­tle girl, dying of a rare form of can­cer, really wanted to see Pixar’s “Up.” Sadly, she was too sick to get to the the­ater when it was released. So her mom cold called Pixar, Dis­ney, who­ever, and man­aged to reach some­one who sent a REAL PERSON to their door, with the movie, some toys, etc. and allowed the fam­ily and the lit­tle girl to watch the film together. A few hours later, she passed away.

If you haven’t seen the film, I won’t go into too many spoil­ers, other than to say, it is the very essence of life, death, hope and rebirth. It’s a beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful film and while some might find its sub­ject mat­ter a bit macabre for a last wish (espe­cially since the trailer really didn’t make it out to be what it is), I think it’s perfect.

The fact that this lit­tle girl hung on, just so she could see her last movie — a movie she had wanted to see — and the fact that Pixar sent some­one to the girl’s house with the movie, so she could watch it, per­fectly encap­su­lates why movies are so important.

Through­out my life, but espe­cially in col­lege, I’ve often had con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple who just don’t under­stand why I’m so pas­sion­ate about film. The impor­tance of film is eas­ier to argue than the impor­tance of tele­vi­sion (in that, the aca­d­e­mic study of film is so par­al­lel to the aca­d­e­mic study of lit­er­a­ture, whereas the basis for tele­vi­sion study often depends on the soci­o­log­i­cal aspects of tele­vi­sion, rather than the tex­tual con­tent of the shows them­selves), but I know many, many peo­ple who under­mine or dis­miss its sig­nif­i­cance. I truly believe that film can have a trans­for­ma­tive effect greater than any other medium.

I saw “Up” last week with Grant and Nik Fletcher, who vis­ited with us for a few days before going to The Big Nerd Ranch. The UK doesn’t get “Up” until Octo­ber, so Grant and I waited to see the film until Nik arrived.

It was worth the wait. The film is per­haps the most “adult” Pixar film to date (though WALL-E is cer­tainly close), on so many lev­els. I’m sure kids love it, but it is truly an exam­ple of a film made for adults. It is wonderful.

After hear­ing Matt rail against it on The Flick­cast, and hear­ing from oth­ers that it was depress­ing, I was slightly ner­vous it might break the streak of “awe­some.” Of course, I was wrong. For the tenth time, I sat in a the­ater and watched a Pixar film on the big screen. For the tenth time, I walked away over­joyed. This time, I also had tears in my eyes.

To be sure, “Up” is a tear-jerker, but it is also immensely beau­ti­ful and pow­er­ful. I saw the film two days after what would have been my grand­par­ents 64th wed­ding anniver­sary, and the day after the third anniver­sary of my grandfather’s death. I was reminded so much of my grand­par­ents in the film — espe­cially see­ing Carl adjust to life with­out his beloved Ellie. When my grand­mother died in Jan­u­ary 2005, my grand­fa­ther was by her side the entire time. For the major­ity of the few days lead­ing up to her pass­ing, I was with him. Sit­ting next to him as he held her hand. It was heartwrench­ing, yet beau­ti­ful. See­ing some­one say good­bye to his wife of nearly 60 years. See­ing real love as it exists at the very end of life.

Up” cap­tured that kind of love. It encap­su­lated what it is like to wit­ness that kind of love.

The movies mat­ter because they have the abil­ity to take the most per­sonal and dif­fi­cult of expe­ri­ences — los­ing a loved one (or even watch­ing some­one lose a loved one) — and put it on screen for the lessons and the feel­ings of that expe­ri­ence to be absorbed by every­one in the the­ater. Movies are larger than life, but the power is that they can bring the real emo­tions from life, to a much big­ger place.

I’m ram­bling at this point and los­ing my coherency. Regard­less, I can’t think of a more per­fect film for that fam­ily to watch together. I hope lit­tle Colby enjoyed it.

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4 people have left comments

Austin - Gravatar

Austin said:

Great post. Mix­ing a sen­ti­men­tal appre­ci­a­tion of film with an aca­d­e­mic under­stand­ing of it. Too often peo­ple think the two are incom­pat­i­ble. I think Pixar has taken up where Dis­ney left off. I can’t wait to see Up!

Posted on: June 22, 2009 at 5:50 pmQuote this Comment
VIc­tor Agreda Jr - Gravatar

VIc­tor Agreda Jr said:

Agreed, 100%. It not only shows the grav­i­tas even a “kids” movie (we both know that’s deroga­tory to this work of art) can have, but that suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies can have com­pas­sion. Bravo to Pixar for their unre­lent­ing humanity.

Posted on: June 29, 2009 at 2:04 pmQuote this Comment
William Frantz - Gravatar

William Frantz said:

Great story about the sick lit­tle girl, but I thought UP was just awe­ful. I could hardly sit through it. The Incred­i­bles is my favorite adult-oriented Pixar title. Great story, well writ­ten, believ­able chain of events… UP started well then quickly became just one unre­al­is­tic plot device after another.

Posted on: January 26, 2010 at 3:25 pmQuote this Comment
Jesse McCarthy - Gravatar

Jesse McCarthy said:

Haven’t seen “Up”, but now I want to, so thank you for the rec­om­men­da­tion and the mean­ing­ful com­men­tary on the power of film. If you’ve never read “Gil­gamesh”, you should (maybe do “Gil­gamesh the Hero”, a kids’ ver­sion). Based on your appre­ci­a­tion for the emo­tional qual­ity of good movies, this ancient epic about friend­ship among equals will prob­a­bly affect you greatly.

Thanks again for your post, Christina.

Posted on: December 23, 2011 at 8:37 pmQuote this Comment