Monday, January 24, 2011

My Favorite Pixar Movies

It’s time for me to admit an innocent pleasure: I’ve loved just about every film made by the experimental film company, Pixar. Many of my readers could have probably guessed that I have a soft spot for Pixar films and have no doubt throughly enjoyed many of the same films themselves with their friends and family. However, so throughly enjoyable are these films that I want to take this space and acknowledge some of my favorites, in case you missed them the first time around or at least so we can have the pleasure of considering them yet again, together.

Toy Story

I loved everything about Pixar's first film and its Pirandelloesque scenario of “toys” exiled into some terrifyingly meaningless limbo. “Buzz” Lightyear is an astronaut whose rational, positivistic outlook is challenged when he finds himself imprisoned with a menagerie of fantastic creatures in the incomprehensible alien landscape of a giant child’s bedroom. 

This film begins the cycle of “collapsing allegories” where bewildered protagonists encounter seemingly symbolic characters  (such as the cowboy Woody, voiced by Clint Eastwood, who claims to be in Hell for the prostitutes he killed). Yet the further the narrative progresses, the more problematic interpretation becomes, until an overdetermined semiotic saturation point is reached and the hypernarrative implodes into a purely asemic cinema.

Favorite Moments
  • Mr. Potato Head’s Oedipal ocular castration
  • Woody’s “tears in rain” speech
  • “Hell is other Toys” –Woody


This wonderful picture also made film history, being the first feature film to be rendered entirely from direct neural imaging from the director’s John Lasster’s brain. The control process by which the director’s vision was rendered by slave brains was at this point quite crude, which accounts for the film’s relatively low resolution and the occasional images of the director’s mother’s nude breast, typical of early ENGRM films .

A Bug’s Life

This is by far the least popular of Pixar’s films, no doubt because it is Pixar at it’s most nihilistic, depicting a brutal class struggle that eschews any Marxist soteriology in favor of an unending Master/Slave dialectic. A devastating and brutal film, even by Pixar standards, which presents the mind numbing reality of mass death as well as any documentary on genocide, well before its notorious final shot, which reveals the action of the film and the new “triumphant” hegemony of the ants as taking place on the face of the dead child from Toy Story. Men, gods and any kind of normative ideals are killed for mere senseless sport in this film, on a scale that is incomprehensibly vast and meaningless: truly, a bug’s life. 

At the same time it has, I think, the most catchy songs of any Pixar picture, composed and performed by Bruno S, who has the title role as Flick. 

Many critics denounced the film’s unrelenting nihilism, which they felt particularly inappropriate for a film aimed at children “who ought to be learning the optimistic truths of dialectical materialism” and counter to the spirit of solidarity, in favor of a “decadent fashionable pessimism." 

Monsters, Inc. 

Pixar’s adaptation of Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté is cinema at its most Sadean. Udo Kier is at his most lovable as Scully.


Set in the world of Gary Numan and his Tubeway Army, Cars is as much a tribute to Bunuel in its structure as Kubrick in its content. Gary Numan stars as Numan, a former astronaut who ostensibly suffers from post-mission amnesia, who now hosts an award winning children’s television show whose theme is “things have faces and we wipe the faces off.”

Dissatisfied with his job and his icy sadistic relationship with Nico (played by Deborah Harry), Numan circuts the city looking for “forensic clues that are the condition of the possibility for an antinomial murder yet to happen.” When he discovers that his bosses are just giant cockroaches (Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson, in cameos reprising their roles from A Bug's Life) he quits his show and takes a caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel. 

Even though it is not clear that anything happens at the snowed in resort (anything that wasn’t going to always already have happened anyway), Numan is arrested and sent to an unusual prison apparently run by the Residents. After the eyedrops and maze of naked women have their salutary effect, Numan is released into the Marines, where he becomes a donut-eating crack shot who assassinates the President. For this he is immediately given flowers and award and the camera pulls away for its final shot of Numan being applauded by an audience of Numan clones on a planet where Gary Numan (or rather, anthropomorphized cars that look like Gary Numan, as all the characters in the film are indeed rendered as anthropomorphized cars) are the only form of life. 

Favorite Moments
  • Numan teaching children that the face in the mirror is a stranger and you should not listen to anything it says.
  • David Bowie’s cameo as Grady.

In many ways the negative critical response to this film documents its success as a film where “identification with the action on the screen is questioned, indeed rendered impossible. Cars holds a mirror to its audience, but its audience are a bunch of fish or sapientless lichen and see nothing” ( “Asperger’s –the movie” Unwatchable Weeky).

It also marks the only collaboration to date between Randy Newman and Gary Numan.  

Finding Nemo

In this feature length adaptation of Heidegger’s  Gelassenheit  (“Discourse on Thinking”) an amiable little clown fish goes in search of his lost child, encountering many lovable characters along the way whose illusions about life and existence are utterly destroyed. 

Favorite Moments
  • The surfer turtle dude who talks for a solid thirty minutes, recounting each of the films of Ingmar Bergman before dying of a deliberate on-screen heroin overdose.

Nemo: Then what are we to wait for? And where are we to wait? I hardly know anymore who and where I am. 
Gill: None of us knows that, as soon as we stop fooling ourselves.

Pixar had already acquired a reputation for uncompromising and relentlessly existentially honest children’s films that were only sometimes appreciated by the general public. As one exasperated reviewer related their child’s reaction:

“Why, mommy? Why? Why? Why?”
“Why, what, dear?”
“No, mommy –why.”

The Incredibles

Another bold and outrageous film that dares to ask if a family with extraordinary abilities should be limited by slave morality. With Alejandro Jodorowsky as Zarathustra. 


Pixar’s most conceptual film is an esoteric meditation on the process of its own becoming. Remy the rat pulls on Linguini the idiot's hair to control his actions, just as director Brad Bird yokes the slave brains that animate and render the film in an unholy creative union that is beyond pleasure and pain. 

Even as someone who embraces cinema and expression at its most extreme, the idea of a rat cooking food for people is just unbearable.  


This film tells the story of its titular robot who is no sooner released from a robot insane asylum than walks into Bier Himmel where EVA is being mistreated by her robot pimps. As the pimps treat everyone universally badly, WALL*E and EVA escape to Post-Consumer Earth, which is a wild wasteland, having been fought over in successive atomic wars by apes and men.

Things look up for the couple as WALL*E gets a new job on an extermination team, retasked by Starship Troopers as a mass grave digging machine. However, things turn for the worse as WALL*E’s superiors are revealed as to be themselves giant cockroaches. EVA returns to prostitution and the Earth is destroyed. 

This was unfortunately Bruno S. final film, as his brain was destroyed by filming.

All these wonderful family films are included in Pixar: God is Dead: Everything is Permitted, A Collector’s set, in 10 discs or Rights Managed Recoverable Memory Engram Concept.

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