Riding High

Main Cast: Edward Asner, Jordan Nagai

Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

Everything is at sixes and sevens here at Casa Maine with all of the packing for my move to my new penthouse in the sky at Nakatomi Plaza; a domicile which I have named, appropriately enough, Condo Maine. While the condo is something over 10,000 square feet, it is still a significant downsize from my current digs and Leah, head of my consumer products division, is going to have to find new quarters for MNM enterprises. I will be able to take the recording and broadcast studios with me (there being a great space in the old board room). We’re going to have to remove that tacky model of a bridge that’s in the middle of it though, or perhaps redecorate it with some sequins and some model limousines painted in divine shades of pink. I think I still have some MNM fashion dolls left in inventory that we could put in the dryer and shrink down to size – perhaps a little parade of Vicki Lesters in her famous film outfits rolling across the bridge and then we could do some stop motion animation for a credits sequence to my new Zoom Channel offerings. The public can never get quite enough of me and I need to fill that demand.

collection pixabay
I know I can’t take them all, but some of my collections are so delightful!

I’m repurposing shipping cartons from Lesterene cosmetics, Vickiwear fashions, Maines Manes wigs, and all my other fine collectables into packing for my household goods. Given the downsize, obviously not everything can go with me. Therefore, I’ve decided to have an estate sale, open to the public where people can come and buy some of my excess tchotchkes and take a little old style Hollywood glamor home with them and put it on their mantels or in their curio cabinets. I’m also going to take the chance to redesign most of the principal rooms and get appropriate new furnishings – one does get tired of the same old same old. I am busy looking for just the right new interior design firm who will jump at the chance to make a showplace that’s sure to land them the cover of Architectural Digest. I’ve been scrolling through various design sites looking for inspiration. The Blue Mosque, The Brighton Royal Pavilion, and The Versailles Hall of Mirrors all seem to have the subtle flair that I think will show off my lifestyle to best advantage. I’ve engaged the IATSE technical crew from the Pantages, currently on furlough due to Covid, to do the packing for me and I’ve hired a documentary crew under the brilliant Mr. Michael to shoot the whole process for a possible limited run reality show on Home and Garden TV. He’s busy shooting B roll of a lot of burly guys bent over boxes as they pack all seven sets of my Sevres china. The contrast of the big men and the dainty teacups gives it real visual appeal.

I was exhausted, so I slipped into the home theater with a large watermelon margarita in order to get some weight off my feet and to enjoy a film in relative solitude while the rest of the household is in an uproar. My choice was the Pixar film Up from 2009. I had somehow missed this in both theaters and on video over the intervening decade and, as a home relocation is on my mind, it seemed like it might be the perfect companion piece for the evening. Pixar studios, when not engaged in cash grab sequels, has been among the most consistently excellent movie making outfits in Hollywood over the last couple of decades with an attention to character, story, and design that puts most live action to shame. Up is no exception. Not only did it win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature that year, it was nominated for Best Picture, an honor very few animated films have achieved.

As Up begins, we meet Carl, a quiet young boy of the mid-20th century, taken with the exploits of the dazzling explorer, Muntz, he sees in the newsreels at his local cinema. He meets Ellie, a raucous girl of roughly his age, also interested in exploring and form a friendship. We fast forward to their adulthood, wedding, and in a brilliant five-minute sequence, their lives together as adults with their triumphs, disappointments, and eventually Ellie’s decline and death in old age, leaving Carl a widower and a grumpy old man. He remains in the house he and Ellie shared, despite the rest of the block being razed for new development. It’s clear market forces are trying to force him into a retirement home, but he has other plans. As the balloon man for the local zoo, he has access to a rather infinite quantity of helium balloons so when the men in the white coats show up, he releases them and he and his house are carried away, heading for the tepui of South America that he and Ellie had dreamed of someday seeing in their shared passion for Muntz, the intrepid explorer. What Carl hasn’t realized is he has unwittingly also carried along Russell, a young scout with his own taste for adventure and soon this unlikely odd couple is facing aeronautical and land dangers and coming face to face with a fabled beast (dubbed Kevin), and an old friend (or maybe an old enemy) with a pack of dogs fitted with radio collars that allow them to talk. The story continues to careen in fantastical ways until everyone ends up with more or less their just desserts.

Like most Pixar films, Up is witty, marvelously inventive, well written (by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter) and directed (Pete Docter) and can be enjoyed on multiple levels by every age group. The young will respond to the colorful set pieces and pratfall humor. The middle aged will respond to the sentiments regarding maturity and dreams deferred. The old will see themselves in Carl and understand his motivations and the causes of both his curmudgeonliness and the deep heart and love buried within. Pixar’s films have never been afraid of exploring the emotional nature and truth of humanity within their surreal and sometimes wacky worlds. I think that’s the secret that has allowed them to become so incredibly successful over the years.

The voice cast is led by Ed Asner (who has been playing curmudgeon with a heart of gold since the days of the Mary Tyler Moore show more than forty years ago) who absolutely captures Carl’s emotional state and various ambivalences. It’s a brilliant performance, even if Carl seems to have been based physically on the elder Spencer Tracy rather than on Asner himself. Christopher Plummer plays an equally aged antagonist. Jordan Nagai is the golly gee wilikers Russell. It’s wonderful to see a Japanese American actor playing a Japanese American character who is just an American and whose ethnicity has no bearing on the story whatsoever. Russell is obviously Asian in look, but Carl never remarks on it and there are no ethnic stereotypes or jokes anywhere in the film.

Like a lot of other Pixar films, Up made me feel. The bittersweet montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together, the dashing of long held dreams, the ridiculousness of the conversations of the talking dogs, the bonding of two disparate characters, both in need of someone in their life – it all made me feel happier about being a human being by the time I reached the end of the film. By all means, if you had missed this one the way I had, go find it and give it a look.

Painted mailbox. Electrical storm. Bottle top badge. Voice transmitter on the fritz. Previously unknown bird species. Quad cane tennis balls. Dirigible dining. Merit badge ceremony. Old adventures and new adventures.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

More Pixar

Coco ~ The Incredibles ~ Cars

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