The new Blu-ray Disc (BD) version of Up — released on the same day as the BD of director Pete Docter’s debut effort, Monsters, Inc. — is a revelation in at least one regard: it demonstrates that 2D is better.
Because Pixar is known for so reliably hitting balls out of the park, every time, it’s hard to think of what possible angle to take in a review as its latest slugger, Up, trots merrily around the bases of the multiplex, dances its way toward the hefty box-office returns that await at home plate, and basks in the warm glow of the adoration of millions of fans. For three years now, there have been stories in the financial press alleging that Pixar’s latest is due to underperform because a) nobody wants to see a silent movie about a lonely robot; b) children don’t want to play with plush rats; or c) nobody loves old people and fat kids. That’s one reason why it’s such good sport to watch the movies rake in the dough year after year.
The genius of Clint Eastwood is evident in the fact that nobody else could get away with this. Gran Torino is by most measures a pathetically undercooked melodrama, relying on stock characters, trite dialogue, and a lot of awkward performances by untrained amateurs and unseasoned pros. The backdrop of tradition-rich Hmong families struggling to adapt to the American midwest without losing both their culture and their souls is the kind of social conflict that could drive any generic indie picture, and Eastwood himself plays the kind of character whose arc can be described in a half-dozen words: crotchety coot gets heart of gold. Eastwood doesn’t even turn in an especially adept performance from a technical standpoint, although I guess he never really does. He hasn’t much range. Despite that, he’s one of the greatest stars in contemporary cinema — a laconic, iconic presence who’s come to represent both artisanal and populist impulses in American film, to simultaneously articulate conservative and liberal ideals, to split the difference between the gruff misanthrope and the sensitive man of letters. That’s how, even when he’s thrown a slow, wonky pitch like Gran Torino, he manages to pretty well knock the ball out into the bleachers just the same. The guy heading into the theater to clean up cups and popcorn bags nodded at me as I left and muttered, “Clint was robbed by the Academy, right?” That’s star power.
Old men are ugly. Young women are beautiful. There’s the nut of House of the Sleeping Beauties, in which the film’s director, Vadim Glowna, plays Edmond, a depressed, regretful businessman who still laments the long-ago death of his wife and daughter in an automobile accident that he suspects may have been an act of suicide. To help assuage his ennui, a buddy (Maximilian Schell) suggests that he visit an unusual kind of brothel, where lovely young women are stretched out, nude, in bed, thanks to the effects of a powerful tranquilizer that they allow to be administered by the mansion’s Madame (Angela Winkler). Hope they’re well paid. The scenario, based on a story by the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata, stops short of rape fantasy — penetration is expressly forbidden, though Edmond tests the boundaries by sticking a meaty finger into one woman’s mouth.