*Inside Out*

In what is perhaps the worst year for movies in my life, the new Pixar feature stands out as a welcome relief.  Even by Pixar standards it is more adult than usual, with the main theme being the precariousness of mental health and the ease of slipping into depression.  Voluntarists will object.  Every scene is gorgeous, the inside jokes are rife, and I enjoyed the ongoing pokes at Silicon Valley, most of all the dreams of unicorns.


Although more adult than usual for Pixar doesn't mean adult.

I'm not quite sure what you mean. I'm a childless adult (no nieces or nephews either) and I greatly enjoy Pixar films. They maintain a sort of childlike wonder without being juvenile like many other animated movies. To each his own of course, but most Pixar movies do not fall neatly onto one side of an adult/child dichotomy. My favorite of theirs is The Incredibles, which is not merely a great kids' movie, but a great movie, period.

The Incredibles is every bit as good as the better tier of 'adult' movies, Pixar's best ever for sure.

Saw Inside Out, it's terrific. Very emotionally moving. And it just broke Avatar's record for non-sequel opening weekend box office.

The Incredibles made me want to vomit too.
It was the film equivalent of a "Worlds Greatest Dad" mug. Sure, the most banal middle class family in the entire universe is secretly full of superheros with awesome powers. "Just like YOU, banal middle class family! You too are secret superheros!"

You totally missed the point of that movie, which was actually quite Ayn Randian/Vonnegutesque in its depiction of the state forcing extraordinary people to hide their gifts so that no one can be more special than anyone else.

Meh. The family in question didn't seem very "extraordinary", in terms of personality. IMO, most really extraordinary people are eccentric in their interests and pastimes. They didn't seem all that "oppressed" when they were hiding their powers either. IRL, the actually extraordinary would probably depressed and shooting heroin, sort of like Leo in "We the Living".

Where is the Like button? I need a Like button.

@ Hazel: You're a pretty dark person it seems, we bring different priors to the movie theater.

"Pixar movies do not fall neatly onto one side of an adult/child dichotomy."

They sit very securely in between. Man-child is probably the best description of their style/audience.

The serious people do not watch Pixar films.

Serious people don't take them too seriously

The truly serious people do not watch... films... at all. Instead, we sit around stoically, reading philosophy and discussing serious things.

Pixar movies are more adult than most movies.

I dunno, I think Mad Max, Ex Machina and even Jurassic World can be appreciated on a few levels.

Tom June 21, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I dunno, I think Mad Max, Ex Machina and even Jurassic World can be appreciated on a few levels.

Apparently so - I am told Jurassic Park is all about how sexist and racist America still is. No doubt it is because they are flying the Confederate flag somewhere in Southern Carolina.

Still I hate to comment because I have not seen Inside Out yet. But how can you go wrong with the dreams of unicorns? Clearly that is what the new Mad Max lacked.

Not only are they flying it, but it's not at half mast like the state and federal flags are for the shooting victims. It can only be lowered by an explicit act of the legislature.

JW might be sexist (from someone's point of view) but it's not about sexism. The main female character acts tough but can't handle a crisis and ultimately wishes to be saved by and consequently swept off her feet by the manly hero. It could hardly be more traditional.

Ex Machina, exactly, and indeed anything with the sublime Alicia Vikander who is putting out six movies this year, including one with the no-less-sublime Eddie Redmayne in a cross-dressing role.

I thought "Her" was superior to "Ex Machina", if you like sci-fi.

"Ex Machina" is pretty cool, but it's ultimately an action flick, and a lot of it makes no scientific or technical sense (like, why bother making an anatomically accurate body?). "Her" is more of a philosophical exploration of the meaning of articifical intelligence to humanity.

Her was supremely silly. Not sci-fi either but another instalment in a narrative that is highly in demand because people have a hard time accepting the normality of, you know, rubbing their genitals in solitude. Of course, everybody does it and it's good for you in a number of ways and even if it weren't it's still a harmless pleasure so why not, but surely you personally are not some American Pie degenerate who would actually engage in such perversions. Now if you are in love with your smartphone and hold it in your hand as you prance in the meadows, that's a different thing altogether. A love story, rub whatever you want.

As to the anatomically accurate body, they did address it, in that piece of dialog about a grey box having no imperative to interact with another grey box. In another part of the plot, they make it perfectly clear why he makes not just anatomically correct bodies but, specifically, beautiful women.

Did you actually watch 'Her' ? They get past the romanic relationship pretty quickly. That's not what the movie is about at all.
Ultimately the AI becomes far too intelligent to maintain a relationship with a mere human, transcends time and space, and disappears into some quantum singularity where it becomes (effectively) God.

Also there were other technical things that seemed implausible, like programming perfect reaction times for the AI's responses to questions. There's no real technical reason to that. I don't think a real "AI" would need to accurately simulate a human being either. The Turing test just isn't that good a measure of what counts as intelligence.

Maybe I'm just more fascinated by the idea of an AI as a completely alien consciousness than by an AI as an exact replica of a human consciousness. Humans are interesting enough, but if you want to interact with another human there are plenty of them around without spending billions of dollars creating one. A truly alien being though, now that's interesting.

Did you watch it? The whole thing is about Joaquin Phoenix pretending his phone is a person, beach strolls, mountain getaways, acquaintances playing along for "double" dates the way people have "conversations" with toddlers' toys, a prostitution enthusiast hired to impersonate the phone, and in the end the OS hooks up with another copy of the OS and walks away, leaving Joaquin Phoenix to reinstall the firmware and you to wonder what everyone involved had been smoking.

She didn't just "hook up with" another OS. She evolved into a hyper-intelligent being that was no longer capable of communicating with a human being.

>it's ultimately an action flick

What the hell? Are you confusing "Ex Machina" with "Mad Max"? There was only one "action" scene in Ex Machina, and it was basically just a small tussle.

Ok, well maybe "thriller" is the word.

As to why the robots in "Ex Machina" had a gender, Nathan (the maniacal Steve Jobs character who made Steve Jobs seem reasonable in comparison) was a pervert and only wanted women who he could have total control and domination over. And when he was unsatisfied with their behavior, he could wipe their memories and start over. But he also wanted Jay, the young programmer brought in to perform the Turing Test, to be under his control, too. Everyone and everything had to be subordinate to him. And while he gave the robots the trappings of sexuality and being physically attractive, their skins were an illusion the robots were using to enable humans interacting with them to mistakenly fill in gaps and not fully comprehend their robot nature: Self-interested machines seeking their own agendas just as we ruthless humans do.

But the robots though certainly made to appear attractive were still robots at heart (or microprocessor). I don't know why Nathan didn't program the robots to follow Asimov's number one rule of robotics that a robot may not harm a human either intentionally or through inaction. That to me is a plot hole large enough for a robot invasion to pass through. But it is still a thought-provoking movie commenting on how humans interact with and perceive technology and ascribe emotions and personhood to things that don't possess them.

It's also a movie that begs the question of what will become of our society once robots reach this level of technical and intellectual sophistication. Asimov has some good books on this topic in which the robots are so sophisticated that humans cannot tell the difference between them and other humans.

Too in for me. I got the feeling it was a movie meant to entertain moviemakers more than a general audience.
Beautiful animation, interesting concept, but ultimately a missed opportunity.

Surely, 2015 can't be the worst year for movies. Although, it probably ranks somewhere up there in the top 3. But the year ain't over yet.

Mad Max and Jurassic World were such mind-numbingly stupid movies, but that was to be expected. Visually spectacular? Yes. But, wow, how many brain dells does one have to start clapping at the end of Jurassic Park? (the audience in the theater I saw it in, actually started doing that. But maybe that had to do with it being the Sundance Cinema?).

Nonetheless, 2015 cannot be the worst year, since "What we do in the shadows" was released this year.

Max Max did interesting things with pure in-camera effects. I saw the 40-year-anniversary of Jaws in the theatre recently, and it was amazing for similar reasons, although the latter was certainly more subtle in its exposition of motivations and characterizations.

This is one of those areas where utility has increased greatly for most people, I am awed by most of the movies I go to.

It's interesting that the older most people get the more they seem to not experience these gains, whether because of decreased novelty-seeking, brain plasticity, nostalgia, signalling, or developed tastes. There was an interesting Sumner thread in which he professed (confessed?) to gaining little utility from technological advance.

I'm not surprised the tablet is my 3 year old boy's favorite object in the world, but I was a little surprised that my 1 year old girl feels the same (we limit access of course). I'm also reminded of the Third Worlders who prefer cellphones to indoor plumbing.

I think it may have more to do with marketeers getting a lot better at what they do. Lots more data to figure out who the target audience is, what their tastes are, and how to meet those tastes. Unfortunately for us cursed with too many brain cells...we are rarely the most profitable target audience.

The same thing is happening with TV (more like, has already happened many years ago). Which is why TV channels which were targeted towards "learning" have turned into reality TV channels. The "average" isn't over in movies and TV ;)

Another reason might simply be that teens and tweens just have more disposable income these days, and hence they drive the market more.

Either way, I think its hard to argue that the quality of storyline and characters hasn't diminished substantially, while the quality of explosions, gratuitous sex scenes and proportion of hot actors (i.e. bad actors) hasn't increased exponentially in the last 15 years.

Imagine, we went from Saving Private Ryan to...Fury...in a little over 10 years. In 10 years time they won't even bother and just have a 2 hour long non-stop explosion and shooting movie. Wait, that was the plot of Fury Road!

I think its hard to argue that the quality of storyline and characters hasn’t diminished substantially,

I would have to vehemently disagree. I remember the 1980s, even great shows like Seinfeld or Cheers are barely watchable next to today's shows. Even aside from the improved production values generally, stuff like The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad are allowed to do things with story arc and timing that just didn't happen back then.

That said, it's possible the average quality hasn't improved, or has even gotten worse, but there are so many more shows now that the top few percent of shows are still much better.

You're not comparing like with like. Shows like Breaking Bad didn't exist back then. They are a recent development. And surely the exception.

Exactly, shows like Breaking Bad didn't exist back then.

I don't know what else to compare Seinfeld or Cheers to, because I don't watch much TV. But I think TWD is a better TV show to the extent we can compare across genres.

There's always exceptions. The whole genre of "thriller TV show" didn't really exist prior to the 2000s. And I won't deny that there are good ones (although I will deny that TWD is a good show. Its usually how I identify people I shouldn't talk to...if they say they like TWD :) But I'll make an exception for you)

But in the overall "universe" of TV...there's again a convergence towards the "video game" model of entertainment. Those features of quality that I define as such, are becoming more scarce. Endangered even.

I suspect this has to do with the Netflix and internet options available, so that people have more choices, but not necessarily in what is being produced new.

Yeah, you're probably right there's a lot of terrible shows. I find more than 99% of TV totally unwatchable, even most things that are popular. But since there are probably 100x as many shows, the exceptions are better. It's like globalization.

TWD is well-executed for what it is, some of the later episodes are very good. More than anything it really gets in your head. There's a whole part of my brain now devoted to worrying about zombies :)

Part of the difference is just how we experience TV. When I was a kid you had to actually be in front of the TV at a certain time, which seems insane now. When my wife and I met we caught up on all but the last couple seasons of Lost (overrated but still kind of awesome) while DVRing the second to last season.

Also, if you don't like explosions, why see Fury Road? It's not intended to be Saving Private Ryan Part 2, you could have seen American Sniper instead.

I thought FR had a great story, as post-apocalyptic explosion-centric movies go, but the complaints about that and the Transformers movies seem akin to people complaining that the ninety different kinds of fruit available in today's supermarkets aren't always as fresh as the three kinds the peddlers.had in their carts in the old days before refrigerated transport.

No the complaints are that it's basically like watching a video game. It has about as much to offer as that.

It's not like complaining about fruit at the supermarket. It's the opposite. It's that almost every movie is the same these days.

Either way, the amazing thing is the ratings these things get. Huge rating and huge earnings. So clearly they are doing something right. I'm just trying to figure out of people in general have gotten really so stupid over time...or if it's just teenagers displacing others over time.

That's a great example, though -- no one would have said any move was like a video game in the 1980s. Movies have become like video games because video games have become our highest form of entertainment.

Movies today are more diverse than ever, I once knew a girl who literally never watched a movie twice and yet watched several a week. I think she was the reason Netflix invented throttling because she always had stacks of them, I had no idea so many movie even existed before that.

I don't disagree that video games have become our highest form of entertainment.

I would disagree on the "movies are becoming more diverse". Netflix makes our choices more diverse because it has a big library of movies. But the new movies coming out, don't seem "diverse" to me. They seem to be converging on the "video game" level of entertainment.

I'm not making a value judgement on this. As I said earlier, clearly they are producing what people want. The problem with that, is only mine (and apparently some others), who don't like what the "average" numbskull likes.

The "average" isn't over in movies.

Because video games in the 1980s were incapable of being like movies. Of course no one would have said that, no matter what the movies were like.

Jurassic world was terrible. It slightly redeemed itself in it self conscious awareness of how much it was ridding on the original. All I could think of at the end was that Jurrasic World was the new hybrid monster, a silly ridiculous mess, and the only reason the people/movie got saved was from Trex/raptors i.e. Jurassic Park.

As a psychology major and someone who suffered from depression, I am very much looking forward to Inside Out, perhaps it will give us a common vocabulary to discuss mental health on a broader level.

With Star Wars and a new bond film to come, and ex machina in the rear view mirror, that's a strange call from TC.

Ok, to be sure Star Wars could be terrible. But the last Bond film was great and this will be the last with Daniel Craig.

Ex Machina is hugely overrated.

I keep thinking it's the same movie as The Machine, free on Netflix, because they appear so similar. But I'm told this is isn't the case. But whatever the case, the sense that I've seen it already has made me completely uninterested in Ex Machina. No motivation.

Being a Bond fan, I cannot understand why people liked Skyfall so much. Yes, it had some cool scenes, but it took itself too seriously, which forced me to watch it as a serious movie instead of a silly Bond movie were you expect silly things.

I could not help noticing the stupid decisions made by the characters (yes, let us play "home Alone" at my family retrreat against the professional assasin squad that is coming to kill me; I just hope they do not launch a rocket into my couse from that military helicopter they have, and that my booby traps work OK). I sincerely hope they either lighten up for the next installment or that they make a true smart film.

I thought it overrated as well. Casino Royale was much better.

And when they play it seriously, it highlights all of the terrible plot holes. Casino Royale was swiss cheese.

I find myself thinking every year that it has to be the worst year for movies. It has been pretty boring for sure. I guess it's all about expectations - expect every movie to be awful and you might be surprised how much you enjoy it.

Inside Out, incidentally, contains what I'm sure is the closest thing to a hellscape I've ever seen in a Pixar movie.

A hint for those who've seen it, without spoiling it too much for others: the worst fate imaginable is to be forgotten.

Have you seen Clouds of Sils Maria, Blackhat, or Mad Max? Those have been the highlights for me thus far. Desperately awaiting a chance to see the new film by Mia Hansen-Love.

Blackhat ???
Is there another actor in existence less convincing as a computer hacker

Elizabeth Shue as a theoretical physicist.

Denise Richards as nuclear physicist!!! Forget which Bond movie.

I took my 10 year-old daughter to see it, but it's really a movie intended for adults that can also be watched by children. And for me, as my youngest daughter is leaving childhood, it really hit a nerve.

"I saw a really hairy guy in San Francisco. He *looked* like a bear..."

Facts and opinions - who can tell the difference?



I saw Inside Out this weekend as well. I was surprised by how didactic it is. It felt very much like a movie made by some parents to teach other parents what the first group of parents thinks the target group should know about children of a certain age. Everything Pixar makes is highly competent and this was no exception; but I found this movie to have fewer actual laughs and less plot than I expected.

Only 'Oliver Twist' for you, eh? 'Slumdog Millionaire'? No one cares.

Those stories are way more common than the story of the perfect middle class childhood that is idealized in film and television.
Those stories are the reality of how the vast majority of kids actually grow up. The idealized middle-class childhood is something that never, EVER, actually happens to anyone, but every kid THINKs is what everyone else is experiencing, because of the way it is depicted in the movies.
You have to take into account that kids exerpeience everything from being bullied or abused or excluded due to being a member of a racial minority. Or deaths in the family, health problems, mental health issues in the family, substance abuse problems in the family, car accidents, being the victim of theft. Divorce. Child custody disputes. The stars really have to align to get through childhood without at least a few of those things happening.

I left out witnessing violent crime, which happens to a lot of kids in poor urban communities.

Yes, I get it now, you are a documentary kind of person. Nothing wrong with that, but some folks like a little fun/levity/fantasy/positivity when they go to the movies. Especially Disney/Pixar movies. You might be happier seeing different films.

I dunno. I might still like it. I turned it off after 5 minutes. But I'm planning to watch the rest, so maybe it will get better.

I just got turned off by the unrelenting focus-grouped normality of everything about the character being introduced. It was like watching a breakfast cereal commercial.

It gets kind of sad in the middle, maybe that will appeal to you more. But it's still about an 11 year old white girl who's parents are together so maybe not.

Also, there is a very large group of kids in the country who grow up without dealing with any of the traumas you listed. Divorce is probably the most common one on your list, but not every kids movie has to be about a kid with divorced parents (er....does it?). And as far as the racial bit, are you saying you don't like movies about white kids?

I don't like movies in which the protagonists are emblematic of a kind of banal idealized white middle class existence.
Most rom-coms fall in this category, for example. It's not just that it excludes members of racial minorities, and it's not about money. Heck, I loved Moonrise Kingdom, where the protagonists are the children of the rather wealthy. I'm more that it's overly idealized. It's fake.

Fair enough, to each their own. If departures from 'reality' are too 'fake' you should stick with documentaries and mumblecore. Pixar isn't gonna do it for you.

The "fake" part isn't the fantasy aspect. The fake part is the characters' personalities.

Again, a kids/adults cartoon movie from Disney is probably not going to be your thing. It ain't Bergman.

You are missing the point. You grow up without traumas, good for you, but you need to be aware you have no idea what struggling through life feels like. It's a ubiquitous obsession, to be admired for heroically facing terrible hardships despite being perfectly comfortable. Everybody wants to be a Taylor Swift, a healthy wealthy young white heterosexual whining all over the Internet that she writes songs because otherwise she would go insane. You want to see hardship, go volunteer at the burn unit or spend a while in Indonesia with forty-dollar monthly incomes and no air to breathe. Yes, many kids are privileged. If they don't know they should be grateful for that, they grow into smug adults convinced they somehow deserve what they happen to have from birth.

I am very aware I have no idea what it's like to grow up struggling through life. I'm very grateful for that luck, and I have tremendous sympathy for those who were not as lucky as me.

But I still can enjoy a fun movie about non-traumatized people. If you can't, you should probably avoid Pixar movies.

Just out of curiosity, but did you have *anything* traumatic happen to you in childhood?
Death of a grandparent or parent? Any serious injuries or accidents? Bullying in grade school?
Ever had someone steal your bike or your toys? Ever been punished unjustly for something you didn't do?

Well, I was 18 when my first grandparent died, but even if I was younger I don't know if that's really 'traumatic', grandparents are supposed to die when you are pretty young...

I totalled a car when I was 16 but wasn't hurt. I broke an ankle playing basketball. I had to deal with a bully or two once or twice. 'Normal' childhood stuff. I consider myself very lucky to have a pretty trauma-free childhood. And I'd wager at least a plurality of childhoods are like that. As to how many people realize how lucky they are to have grown up trauma-free, I can't say. I am very aware.

I call BS on this. Everyone has traumas. Some people deal, some people are all whiny about it. One doesn't need to grow up in Indonesia to understand hardship. People hedonically adapt. The happiness meter only goes so high and it only goes so low.

I'm pretty sure I've had a relatively high level of hardship for a western white guy, but I don't think that makes me superior to somebody who thinks having a pet dog die was a big deal. This conversation is heading in the wrong direction, and it's uncharacteristic of some of the people involved.

I'm just not sure what this conversation has to do with the movie. If you don't like movies about people who have generally trauma-free lives, that's your right, but then don't see Pixar movies, romcoms, or most other American movies.

+1 to Lord Action.

I think if you've experienced any sort of hardship, then watching the stock characters of white-middle-class-normality as protagonists in movies holds very little interest. You're taking that kid from the burn unit an expecting them to relate to miss princess whose "core memories" consist of scoring a goal in hockey. Not to mention kind of throwing back on them that their life is shittier than average. Nobody wants to watch a show about how someone who is objectively better off then them has it so bad.

Which is why no one went to the movies in the 1930s. /s

Inside Out doesn't posit the protagonist 'has it so bad', it's a specific take on how all of us have varied emotional inner lives and the importance of memories. And in the end it's a bleeping cartoon for kids (and adults). Obviously you are not the target audience.

Also, you are generalizing your own preferences to the wider world. Just because you don't like movies about nontraumatized people doesn't mean others who have some trauma in their past don't. Is this not obvious to you?

You're completely overestimating the extent of the trauma that I'm talking about. Most people have some sort of "negative" memory from childhood, even if it's something pretty mild like having divorced parents, or having a grandparent die. Those negative memories are usually a pretty big deal to them though. The stock characters I'm talking about by contrast seem to have unrealistically perfect lives. They aren't just "nontraumatized", they are idealized. They are devoid of any meaningful emotional content to their personality. Having a stock character whose most important childhood memory is scoring a goal is an example of that. It's like it's deliberately designed to AVOID triggering any meaningful emotions from the audience.

Well, watch the rest of the movie, she has some traumatic memories in there too. In fact (spoiler alert) one happy memory turns out to be a sad one too.

Or not, sheesh. You're pretty didactic here. Your dislike for certain kinds of movies is pretty nongeneralizable.

"Everybody wants to be a Taylor Swift, a healthy wealthy young white heterosexual"

Great. Then what's the problem with making movies about what everyone wants to be like?

Life ain't all about problems and shortcomings. Just because you or I have experienced problems or shortcomings, doesn't mean we should resent the fact that there's lot of people out there who have had great lives. And not simply due to luck. Maybe...due to something they have, that we lack, or at least should strive to have.

Aiming for something "better than you", used to be a "thing" in the past. ;)

Now it's a dirty thought to acknowledge that there's people better than you, who maybe you should learn form, or emulate, or strive towards. Now it's all about "if it doesn't depict my imaginary struggles, then its prejudice against me!"

Mom's old advice is still the best advice: "find friends that are better than you!" Even in imaginary cinema or literature, read about someone better than you.


I am actually moving back to Silicon Valley later this summer for family reasons after living in "red" country for over a decade. Have the atmospherics in the Bay Area changed so dramatically since the early 2000s - with all-veggie pizzerias, separate cans or bins for each type of recyclable, and bans on plastic bags - that I'm better served staying away?

Yes all of those things are in evidence, better just forget your family and stay away.

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