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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.


Alltop, all the cool kids (and me)


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June 2009
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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