Incredibles 2

B and I finally carved out time to see Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to one of our favorite Pixar movies. I’ll try not to have spoilers in this piece, although, with world-wide box office receipts around a billion dollars, there are probably not many people left to spoil.

Like all Pixar features, Incredible 2 is preceded by a short; Bao, written and directed by Domee Shi, is the first Pixar short to be directed by a woman. It covers decades of family life in a few short minutes in a rich, culturally significant context. I would not have imagined an animated dumpling could be so adorable!

Incredibles 2, like the original film, is also built around family life. Superheroes with special powers still have to deal with adolescent angst, homework help, division of paid and unpaid work, and child care and rearing. Because we have had grandbaby ABC living with us for most of her almost fourteen months, I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Incredible baby Jack-Jack, who is still very much a baby in his behavior, movements, and reactions, superpowered or not.

I also appreciated the themes of the use/misuse of media and celebrity. Although the script must have been written years ago, these issues are especially salient right now.

As always, I recommend staying for the credits. While there is no bonus scene, there is a great medley of superhero theme songs. I especially enjoyed Elastigirl’s.

 

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Finding Dory, family, and memory

I love Pixar.

I love that they have a short before the feature film. Before Finding Dory, there is Piper, the wordless story of a young sandpiper learning to find food on its own. The animation is so stunning that in the first moments I thought it was photographed rather than animated. The story is also incredibly endearing, which is another Pixar trademark.

I love that there are bonuses, like references to other Pixar films and little final scenes after the credits. It was a shame we were the only ones left in the theater to see the special Finding Nemo flashback scene at the end of Finding Dory.

What I love most, though, is the richness of the storytelling. All Pixar movies work on multiple levels. They certainly appeal to children and impart life lessons as all worthy tales do, but they also appeal to adults across the age spectrum with further layers of meaning.

Finding Dory is about finding family, both in the sense of family of origin and the family that we can make for ourselves through deep friendship. The resilience of family bonds in the face of great challenge is on full display.

For me, there was an additional family connection. One of the key elements of Dory’s character is that she suffers from short term memory loss.  In this film, there is an added element of vivid distant memories that re-surface.  It reminded me of the stage of Alzheimer’s disease where the person can’t remember what happened a minute ago but can remember what happened many years before.

It was especially poignant because my 91-year-old dad just lost his last sibling, who like their father and two other siblings, had suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. We have also known other people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and are familiar with the frustrations, fears, and dangers it causes, both to the persons with memory loss and the people around them.

There isn’t a cure, just ways of compensating and adjusting as best one can, moment to moment, trusting that , somehow, the bonds of family will be strong enough to draw us together and back to ourselves.

 

Lava and Inside Out

In keeping with family tradition, my daughter E and I went to the movies this morning to see the Pixar film Inside Out, which premiered yesterday.

One of the many things I love about Pixar films is that there is a short before the main feature. This one is called “Lava” and is a love story – with volcanoes. E and I, sitting here in Honolulu, with our spouses thousands of miles away, both got teary. It is beautifully rendered and so touching.

Inside Out is the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley as she moves to San Francisco from Minnesota and what is going on inside her head, as told through her emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. We also occasionally get glimpses into other characters’ emotion quintet, which is both enlightening and entertaining.

The best adjective I can come up with to describe the movie is poignant. Having once been eleven and having two daughters who were once eleven, I found myself empathizing with Riley as she tries to navigate a difficult situation. Yes, E and I did some more crying.

At the end of the credits, the filmmakers dedicate the movie to their children, asking them not to grow up, but, as E and I discussed later, that wasn’t really the point. Growing up is complicated and necessary and one’s own work and responsibility. E and I talked over lunch about how undesirable/impossible it is for parents or anyone else to make someone happy – or even to be happy a lot of the time. We were both glad that the emotion is named Joy rather than Happiness.  Joy is deeper and more able to integrate with the other emotions than happiness could ever be.

Wishing you all as much Joy as possible,
Joanne