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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anticipating WALL•E

I think I first heard about Pixar's new movie WALL•E from this article in February 2007. The writer, Jim Hill, tends to hype up all Disney projects whether or not they deserve it. But this- this sounded special. A love story between two robots on an abandoned Earth in the future. And not just that:
Now keep in mind that all I've described here is just the first third of "WALL E." Which plays out with little or no dialogue. By that I mean: The age-old trash-picking robot and the sleek new scanning droid may beep & boop at one another. But -- with the exception of the music & the dialogue that we hear coming from that VCR that plays "Hello, Dolly !" -- that's it. The rest of this section of Pixar's 2008 release is (in effect) a silent movie.
At that point, I ran downstairs and started yelling excitedly to my mother about this upcoming movie. (No one else was around to yell excitedly to.) Pixar doing a serious science-fiction story in the talented dialogue-free style of their short films? That's exactly the sort of thing I'd want to be able to do if I were them. Nothing like it has been done before, and there's no good reason not to. That makes it brilliant.

And that anticipation was mixed with disbelief. Surely Disney would never let such a movie be made! How could they sell a movie so unconventional to the general public? Would they even try to? No, more likely the marketing department would start their meddling, and dilute the movie to the point where they know how to deal with it. I said to everyone I could find that if this movie were made with even close to the ambition originally intended, it would be a minor miracle and likely one of the best animated movies ever.

And then was the long wait. Half a year later Ratatouille was released, another Pixar masterpiece, and as I sat there with my family the teaser for WALL•E, which I'd earlier seen for myself on the internet, came on the big screen. It wasn't a conventional trailer, but the fact that my family was there, watching the trailer for such a movie, gave me shivers. It was real. This idea which I thought could never be made wasn't just an idea. It was actually coming, and my family might even see it.

WALL•E didn't seem like just another movie to me. This was my movie.

Months passed. Every so often a new little clip would show up on the internet, which I'd excitedly show to whoever'd look. Sometimes they'd say "That looks cute.", and sometimes I wouldn't get any reaction at all. Myself, I watched those clips over and over.

Then the movie got closer, and the reviews started coming in. Right from the very first ones, it was clear that this was exactly the movie it was supposed to be. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive, but they talked about how ambitious and unusual and dark and meaningful the movie was!

And then the movie was actually released in America, and it did great at the box-office. You've gotta love a world where a science-fiction love story with a speech-less first third can do great at the box-office. There's some merit there.

It wasn't going to come to Israel yet, of course. So I kept reading reviews, I kept watching clips, I spoiled everything in the entire movie for myself and wanted more.

Then the date that I'd seen for when it was coming to Israel wasn't quite truthful. It was only coming to a film festival on that date, and would come to actual theaters the next week.

And then we couldn't go until next Monday. (We could have gone without my father, but my father likes science-fiction and occasionally sings "Hello, Dolly" thinking it's amusing and I really really want him to see this movie.)

So that's when we're going. Monday.



Hello, please to meet you. I have to say you are the first blogger I have ever happened upon on the internet whose content I have actually been interested in reading.

Unfortunately I have to start with the bad news. I was only searching for someone who might share my opinion that Wall-e is not a spectacular film as it represented by the critics. We will have to wait and see what you think.

On a more positive note, I think we might have similar interests in figuring out video game theory. I will need to read you posts about game theory in more depth to figure out what you think, but for the mean time I will guide you to some posts I had made on the topic.

Videogame Design


Speed Racer

Program Design

Why I hate kyler A very good explanation of myself.

I hope to comment on more of your blog in the future.

Unfortunately I have to start with the bad news. I was only searching for someone who might share my opinion that Wall-e is not a spectacular film as it represented by the critics.

Ha! This blog post was so the wrong thing to click on.

I've gotta go to sleep so I don't have time right now to read through your blog seriously. But just a casual glance tells me that we're going to be disagreeing a lot. I look forward to it.

You're a fan of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? This is so perfect! I hate you already! Wow.

But to get back to the topic: I definitely am going to say what I thought when I see the movie.

Since sarcasm is difficult to really understand over the internet, I can't tell whether the comment about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is simply you implying an understanding of my blog facetiously, or if you genuinely dislike this book, in which case I am curious.

Oh, I detest the book. As someone with Asperger's Syndrome, I take its misrepresentation of Asperger's Syndrome as a personal offense. It disturbs me to think how many people have only heard of Asperger's Syndrome from that book, and think that we're unemotional twits to be pitied.

I think when that book made it on my list, I put it there since I felt I had many traits in common with many of the thought processes described in the book. I didn't put it there because I thought it was an accurate portrait of people will Asperger's.

I think your blog however has provided me with a fairly accurate representation of you.

WALL•E is phenomenal. If you haven't seen it, see it. If you've seen it, see it again. If you've seen it again, c'mere and we'll discuss its brilliance together.

Turns out I didn't know everything. I knew all the quirky little details, but I didn't understand that it would all fit together with such clarity and vision. I didn't know what the movie was about. I didn't know that nothing in the movie would be wasted, that it would be a brilliant work of art, that it would make me cry three times.

My parents didn't like it so much. They and Kyler and everyone else who says this is not a spectacular movie are wrong.

I'll have to do a detailed analysis when the DVD comes out. This movie needs a detailed analysis. (I really would pick it apart right now, but I suspect some people reading these comments won't have seen the movie yet. What are you waiting for, you culture-haters? See this movie!)

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After rereading your comments and reanalyzing the film myself, I have to admit your right, that it is a well focused vision of "directives" VS life.

You have actually almost changed my opinion of the film.

The main hangup that I still have that keeps this film from being spectacular for me was the moment of crisis near the end when Wall-E is being squished.

In the theater I didn't feel any deep emotions around this event. There are many reason's this could be, though I suspect it was because the filmmakers failed to thoroughly convince me that Wall-E was in danger.

I don't think we can really argue that point, since what I felt in the theater, is what I felt in the theater. I accept that it must have really hit a chord with you.

Thanks for almost changing my mind about the film. Apparently searching the internet for opinions is sometimes useful.

No, I actually agree with you that there was little sense of danger there. No one really thought Wall•E was going to die there. It would be better if we did, though we've seen that sort of moment so many times in movies I don't know how it could be convincing.

But the moment is brilliant symbolically. Wall•E has this little dream of his that keeps him going, and the programming is trying to squash him down and stop him from getting there. If it were just Wall•E himself vs. the system, he'd die right there and never do what needed doing. But his sheer determination is inspiring to the humans, and that's the message- that the people he inspires can put in the effort involved and break the system.

By the way, I hope you've realized by now the point of the lighter they kept showing us- a little spark lights it, and then it can be used to start a fire, which spreads and burns things down. It's a clever little metaphor.

It's occurred to me that (though this will sound strange) Wall•E is the mirror image of A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick's point was that humans have been programmed by society, and lost their humanity in the process. Andrew Stanton (the director of Wall•E) is giving the solution: love and determination and hard work can break down the programming.

The reference in Wall•E to 2001 doesn't remind me of the apes in 2001 as much as it makes me think of the march in A Clockwork Orange, which had exactly the opposite purpose. There, the march (set to "Pomp and Circumstance") showed that though the walk (in which the protagonist is led around by a bunch of officials) looks like an inspiring event, it's actually leading to more of society's programming and loss of humanity. In Wall•E, the music is without irony: A few steps taken are an important event, when those steps go against the programming. And those few steps can bring all the programming down.

Another comparison to be made is between the two movies' usage of music. In A Clockwork Orange, old music was what made you feel better about where you were. In Wall•E, old music make you understand that there was once something better to strive for. Each movie has two main musical themes which repeat. A Clockwork Orange had "Singin' in the Rain", about how nothing should make people unhappy. And then Kubrick used it ironically so Alex could brutally rape someone without it getting to him. The other theme is no less than Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the greatest work of music in history, which triumphantly declares that humanity is great and can achieve absolutely everything. And Alex listens to that (getting very emotional about it) as a reassurance that yes, we are great, and no evil act he performs can change that.

Now compare that to Wall•E's two songs, both minor songs from an old musical no one particularly cares about anymore. To balance out "Singin' in the Rain" is "Put On Your Sunday Clothes", and as A Clockwork Orange ended on its song to tell you that humanity was doomed, Wall•E begins with its song to tell you that there is hope. The message of "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" is to revel in little things. This song is used ironically as well- Wall•E hums it to himself as he rolls through a destroyed world. But rather than making him ignore the world around it, it inspires him to find something to enjoy in it. The other theme is "It Only Takes A Moment", a love song which nobody (not even those who've seen the musical) remembers, to balance out the "Ode to Joy" which everyone knows. Where Beethoven's Ninth is a triumph, "It Only Takes A Moment" is an expression of longing. Wall•E is just as emotional about his song as Alex about his, but for the exact opposite reason: it makes him feel empty, understanding that life is only worthwhile if he does things in the name of love.

See, the problem with A Clockwork Orange's world was it didn't have that tiny little spark of life Wall•E has. If there were one person as pure and driven as Wall•E in it, the entire system set up and criticized in that movie might have fallen down!


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