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Lasseter talks to baby boomers through the dashboard speaker of my 64 Valiant
Cars is the best animated movie I've seen since "The Lion King" maybe better.
We saw the trailer last winter, but my only point of reference was other talking machinery cartoons -- "The Brave Little Toaster", etc ..and that annoying PBS train cartoon. I didn't expect that much.
Then I heard John Lasseter (the director) on NPR. He was born in 1957, and I realized that his POV growing up in a car society was similar to mine. Drive ins and car hops are cliché, but he spoke about family drives and long trips on pre-interstate roads -- it struck a chord. I realized this was going to be a great movie.
Cars blew us away, from the opening to past the credits (you gotta stay and watch). The story is good (B+), the characters are great (A) and the visuals are unbelievable (A++). But the soul of the movie makes it different.
I remember taking route 19 up to Lake Erie before there was an I-79, and taking 301 to Carolina Beach before I-95 existed. Often we'd caravan with my cousins and share cottages. The trip was always half the fun playing car games in the back seats, while our dads played games on the highway. My uncle disappeared from in front of us once and my mom exclaimed. "Good Lord he's flying!" Dad replied "He's just familiar with this road." It was as much a justification for the speed as it was a rationale for why he couldn't keep up.
it was about big American Iron, and rest stop rendezvous and stopping for sodas and ice cream in the middle of nowhere. It was about experiencing how big America was.
Cars goes right to the heart of that, to Route 66. You sense of the size of America, and how cars move around in its parts, and how we're losing the uniqueness (and the awareness of that uniqueness) to interstate homogeneity. There are subtle, visual hints to the heavy-handed way the interstate slices through the country side, and there's even a brief preachy/diagrammatic point, but only for a few moments. It makes those points with character development and a good story. The power of the film -- the way it really gets to your heart -- comes from the way Lasseter uses the visuals and develops his characters. The visuals are positively breathtaking. The scene where the cars race down country roads, in and out of shadows, past waterfalls and up a mountain revitalizes the lost joy of just going for a ride.
And the character development is augmented by the CG. More than just cartoony facial expressions and over the top dialogue, the cars are displayed with fantastic realism that makes the chrome shine realer than real, and the engine rumble stir your soul. When they pan across the chrome Hudson logo, it's like the helicopters coming at you playing Wagner in Apocalypse Now.
My dad ran big, bland Mopar station-wagons, while my uncle had a sleek red Chevy Impala convertible. Dad's second car was always a Valiant/Dart, but uncle Rich rotated a parade of wild, unique, and fun cars behind the Chevy. A huge yellow Pontiac Catalina convertible, an early 60's Cadillac Fleetwood, a mid-fifties Ford coupe a lot of junkers and nothing very "nice". I remember his Hudson the most though.
Paul Newman voices the Hornet. He's great; so is the carit's the soul of the movie. Like other movies, there are variations in character development, but this movie seems to augment and parallel character development with drawing complexity. Shallow characters have forgettable details, while well developed characters are remarkably catching. Richard Petty's (Sr.) high-wing Roadrunner is lovingly detailed, while the Michael Keaton (bad guy) car is a non-descript mid-80's Regal or Cutlass. His character is shallow, like its representation. Even Lightning, the protagonist gains detail after his "awakening."
My dad had a big box of old Popular Science magazines I read all the time, cover to cover. And I mean old. There was "Gus's Garage", and "Say Smokey", and of course, the car tests. I excitedly read the 1949 road test of the "Hundred Mile an Hour Hudson". It was full of superlatives, and the pictures were thrilling, even fifteen years later. Right around 1965, I'm twelve, and everyone's introducing their "fastback" models the original Dodge Charger, the glass-back Barracuda, the Mercury Montego and the AMC Marlin (the fastest looking rambler ever). And Uncle Rich shows up with a sleek, low, baddass, fast- lookin' 49 Hudson fastback. It was dark and ominously un-shiny, and grey inside, and smelled vaguely like the basement at the old drugstore. And as I remember, it never ran very well or for very long.
But man it looked fast .
Paul Newman is Hudson Hornet cool. Knowing his skill as a racer made it even better for me. The Hornet's even got blue eyes.
If you like cars, you'll love the movie cars. Check out NPR's Click and Clack as the Dart and the Tradesman; they're a hoot. Tony Shaloub revisits his Italian chef persona from the EXCELLENT "Big Night" with amazing energy. George Carlin's VW van is a welcome throwback to the persona that made him famous. And Cheech Marin plays a metal-flake painted low rider with and over-the-top accent. The rock formations still have me thinking (of course there's Cadillac Ranch), and the signs in the town go by so quick you can't read them all (just like when you're passing through). And there're a ton of other cameo's and little sight gags/inferences that'll make you laugh and then want to see it again (and again) just to see what you missed.
Btw. DVD rendering will NOT do this film justice You gotta see this in the theaters, or at home on HDTV feed.
Gavras film is an excellent depiction from a unique point of view
I think I am the first person from the USA to comment on this film. We saw it as part of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers festival. There were only maybe 50 people at the screening we attended, and there were only two screenings. This is so unfortunate.
This is an excellent film, and exemplifies, I think, the role of the arts in raising society's level of conscience and effecting social change. It galls me that a mind set is growing, (sixty years later) that refutes the occurrence of the holocaust. All the pictures, names and movie footage in the world will never change these people's minds; convincing them is not the issue. But when you take on the large institutions of society, when you make them accountable and demand that they fess up to their inadequacies, and that they not allow it to happen again, then you get the kind of permanent, positive change that is not eroded by a capricious shift in the political winds.
The amazing thing about this film was the powerful effect it achieved with very little, if any, shocking footage. We are conditioned to look away from all the "standard" holocaust images - the drawn faces, the gaunt skeletons, the bones in the ovens, the piles of shoes and personal effects. Instead, Gavras uses Gerstein's involvement with the engineering side of the issue, and paints a chilling picture of the magnitude of the killings. The project management meetings where they discuss the efficiency improvement strategies for gassing people and cleaning out the chambers are eerily similar to meetings I and many other Dilbert-types attend on a regular basis. The final scene at the camp where all the SS facilities officers chorus their concerns over decreased KILLING efficiency is ridiculously chilling. These guys could be whining about their bottom line numbers at a board meeting for any major corporation.
Gavras hammers home the numbers with the repeated scenes of empty trains going and full trains coming - and you never see a person in the full ones, only closed doors. Think about the numbers. A million people a year is nearly three thousand a day. Instead of making his point with stark images, the way so many other films have, Gavras keeps hammering the shear logistics, the size of the camps, the amounts of the gas needed, the HUGE numbers of people that had to be transported. Think of how big a train with a thousand people is - that's over three times the capacity of the biggest airliners. Gerstein's confrontation with his old friend, the transportation officer, points out how people could vilify certain nazis (SS and Gestapo), and yet remain conveniently ignorant of their own complicity.
The Vatican issued a watered down apology in 1998, admitting partial culpability and asking forgiveness. There are still many who believe that the diplomatic tightrope the Vatican walked was the best course. The conversation between Cardinal Maglione and the German ambassador is accurately taken directly from the Vatican archives. But Gavras makes a valid case that the arguments against outing the German killing machine were weak. That other protests had yielded positive results (look up the 1943 Rosenstrasse uprising) and that the motivations for not acting more decisively were based in part on anti-Semitism, along with diplomatic prudence.
Gavras trys to show that many people who could have acted knew all the facts and chose not to act. I remember, around the time Gavras' released "Z", how the protesters at the 1968 democratic national convention chanted "THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!" It didn't matter then, and Gavras makes the case that it didn't matter during the holocaust; the political powers of the world move at their own pace.
Now, sixty years later, we have the last of the actual participants dying off. WWII veterans here in the USA are dying at a rate of 1500 a day, and their ranks are dwindling. There are fewer and fewer left to tell the story or be held accountable. It is incumbent on us, however, to uncover the cover-ups, identify the systems or methods that allowed such atrocities to happen, and make the changes in our society's structure to ensure they don't happen again. Gavras' film effectively does this. Like the principals in the film, we now know the real story. Like the principals in the film, how we act with this knowledge will be judged by future generations.