Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Ten Films Of The Decade: Number 2: WallE

WallE is so many things. I’ve described it before as 2001 as made by Buster Keaton. And while it does contain Kubrick’s vision and Keaton’s grace, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s lyricism rivals Tati. It’s tone poem like meditative beauty on par with Malick. The most ruthless critique on consumer culture since Dawn Of The Dead. It’s the harshest satire of humanities shortcomings made since Brazil, and the most forgiving towards them since Magnolia. And one of the most improbably touching love story (when you think about it, its basically the story of a trash compactor and an IMac falling for each other) imaginable.

But perhaps the most stunning thing about WallE is that no matter how many superlative films and filmmakers I compare it to, the fact is it doesn’t quite do justice to WallE. It’s an increasingly rare thing, a film that is thoroughly, almost defiantly itself.

It’s a movie that’s tough to write about, because it speaks so loudly for itself. Stanton is the poet at Pixar (Finding Nemo the movie that’s probably my least favorite from Pixr works much better when viewed through a similar tone poem lens) Sure I can write about the way the way that “Sunday Clothes” juxtaposes first with space and then the ruined earth, in the film’s stunning opening (and how much does the philistine in me love the fact that Hello Dolly, is apparently the last film in existence. When asked why that film Stanton answered “Because WALLE has terrible taste, which kind of fills me with joy). The way Stanton’s poet’s eye meshes with Gabriel’s minimalist score. The way WALLE’s personality slowly asserts itself, without ever having him portrayed as anything machine like. The way Stanton so gracefully weaves the story into the background of the film (with a similar confidence that Cuaron possessed in Children Of Men) but to truly get the affect you have to see it for yourself.

Many say that WallE loses its way once it reaches the Axiom and the sad last remenants of humanity left to rot in luxury there in. And I can understand the appeal of having the whole movie being set upon that dead earth, simply following the last spark of human creation around as it sifts through the rubble. But I can’t help but feel that’s a little crazy. Because make no mistake, all the redemption and happy endings in the world can’t hide the fact that the sequences on The Axiom are absolutely fucking vicious.

Like I said in my Children Of Men review great science fiction is always about the here and now and WallE is no exception. It’s a startling direct indictment of the way we live now. Consumer culture frankly scares the piss out of me (And on a related note has made it hard to consider Idiocracy either a comedy or a piece of science fiction). This is admittedly a somewhat hypocritical statement coming from someone whose collection of books and films is constantly threatening to overrun my living space, but at least I’d like to think that its somewhat redeemed by the fact that I at least know why and what I’m collecting. Most people accumulate just because they don’t know what else to do. I work two retail jobs which means I spend up to sixteen hours a day staring at the empty hungry face of mindless consumption, and brother it ain’t pretty. Romero hit it pretty square on the head with Dawn Of The Dead. If you don’t believe me, go to Costco some time and watch the people push their 20 pound bag of Pork Rinds on a hand truck. Go to your local Bartertown known as Walmart (I seriously am just waiting for them to install a Thunderdome) and tell me I’m wrong. Spending any amount of time in a big box store would turn Mother Teresa into a misanthrope.

We’ve always known this. This isn’t new. People have been talking about the emptiness of this lifestyle since the fifties. But instead of getting better it always feel like its getting worse. People aren’t rising above it, they’re getting bowled under by it. Its infantilizing us and its doing it with exponentially greater speed. At least Willy Loman had the ability to get so pissed off chasing the brass ring he killed himself, today he’d probably shrug and go back to watching The Biggest Loser.

And that’s why I find WallE so incredibly moving, the way it shows the rebirth of human curiosity and creativity with a simple question of what dancing is. And the way it shows moving to even someone who is as much of a luddite as myself, Man’s creation saving itself from itself. Sacrificing to give us one last second chance. Its rare I make it to the magnicant end credits (Which contrast the development of art and man with perfect metaphorical beauty) without tears in my eyes. Not because of the buttons it so shamelessly (and masterfully) pushes, but because that’s the ending we need to have, and I don’t know that we will ever be lucky enough to get it.

WallE isn’t just a movie, I love, its one I’m in awe of.


Emily said...

Great work here! First of all, I completely agree with putting WALL-E, The Prestige, Royal Tennenbaums, and Children of Men on a decade list, but more importantly, fantastic explanation of why WALL-E is a true Great Film.

I watched it last Christmas with my 4 year old niece, who of course was smiling and laughing throughout. I was crying within 10 minutes (specifically, when WALL-E tries to hold his own hand). How many films can have that power?

And yes, I too find myself saying "the first 40 minutes of WALL-E are beyond amazing, the second 40, good" but you make some excellent points as to how and why they are what they are. I love this odd little twist of the 'human babies' becoming the innocents that now have to rebuild the future.

Sigh. This movie may very well be the thing that finally makes me buy a Blu Ray.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Hey Em, thanks so much for the kind words!

Ironically enough WallE was what convinced me to start buying Blu Rays (Though I have yet to pick up a player). The difference between my DVD and my buddies Blu on a good TV was incredible.

Troy Olson said...

It's great to see others so moved and appreciative of this film. It's sure to be in my top five of the decade as well.

I could watch the scene of Wall-E and EVE dancing through space, or the montage of Wall-E first following around EVE, or the montage of Wall-E taking care of the closed-up EVE on an endless loop and have a constant smile on my face. That two robots could personify the joys of companionship so well is a testament to those geniuses as Pixar. Anyways, instead of reiterating all of the points you made, I'll just second your viewpoints on it as you made them so well.

Alas, this was also the film that pushed me to BluRay and I agree that it truly makes a difference (hell, even my wife noticed the difference, and she tends to scoff at the need for all this expensive upgraded technology). There's truly a 3D quality to the picture with the BR and the TrueHD sound is amazing in the right setup.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Nice points Troy.

Rewatching it, what really impressed me is just how machine like WallE and Eve are through the whole movie. It doesn't take the easy way out by humanizing them too much. It really earns its happy ending.

Troy Olson said...

Nice point there -- Pixar does a fantastic job in general at making the non-human protagonists characters in their own right, not just, in the case Wall-E and EVE, humans anthropomorphized (is that a word?) into robots.

Kschenke said...

I'm one of the few people out there that liked the humans in this film. Mostly, I loved how the three main humans recapture their own humanity simply by spending a few moments with our sweet little hero. That he has the power to show them what it really means to be human.

God, I do love that movie.