What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Pete Docter’s UP? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
Director: Pete Docter
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Written by: AJ Unitas and Kevin Winzer
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon and Emily Dunbar
UP’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Up, the film that mandated the Pixar rule that adults should cry as much possible.
The film follows human boy, Carl Marx, whose dream is control the means of production so he can go to Paradise Falls, New Jersey, just like his hero, Vladimir Lenin. One day a homeless girl named Ellie breaks his arm. They naturally fall in love, and before you know it, she dies. Like all great relationships.
Anyway, the neighborhood’s getting gentrified, which doesn’t sit right with Carl, who knows a thing or two about sitting. In fact, the thought of capitalism drives Carl so bonkers, he assaults Bob the Builder, and with no other options, flees the country in a pitiful excuse for an escape pod. Little does Carl know that a pre-diabetic cub scout has stowed away to earn his badge for the mile high club.
Maybe it’s those glasses, because Carl can’t see they’re heading into a tornado, or why kids love cinnamon toast crunch. They narrowly survive, and land right where they wanted to go, without having to ask for directions once, Karen. They go the rest of their journey on foot and take the house with them, since there’s no valet. But not before befriending a talking horse and famous American actor, Kevin Bacon, who, legend has it, was six degrees taller than everyone in Hollywood.
But not so fast and the furious 15. A group of other angrier, more talkative horses all want a piece of Kevin’s bacon. Cause I mean, who doesn’t? Unable to get a selfie, they take Carl and the scout to their leader, because that’s what minions do best.
They’re taken to a Blimpies where they learn the Pepsi Twist: Lenin has been in New Jersey this whole time, trying cast Kevin in a snuff film. Carl tells the boy scout not to be a narc, but his blood sugar spikes and he blabs. They make a sweet escape, remembering that horses don’t float.
But just like my ex wife, Lenin is two steps ahead and has lit the house on fire. Kevin gets birdnapped, so Carl goes back to his original plan of–I guess, dying in the wilderness after two days. That is, until he finds an Amazon Nook, giving him the proper motivation to enter the third act. A battle royale ensues, but not without some warm-up stretching. Always stretch. Carl lets his house go to shit, and Lenin realizes he could have learned something from Kevin Bacon: namely, how to get your foot loose.
Carl reunites Kevin with his bulimic children. And back in the big city, which has probably been freaking out nonstop that someone was able to just fly away using balloons, Carl gives the boyscout some worthless tin that’s at best, extremely heartwarming.
Up illustrates the dangers of being trapped by nostalgia, which wasn’t cured until 2067 by Dr. Millie Bobby Brown. When his F.W.B. dies, Carl metaphorically enshrines her in the house that they built together. He keeps everything exactly as it was to preserve her memory, and to keep her ghost happy. Outside, the world may keep truckin, but Carl clings to the past, even though he may be in the Matrix. The house itself symbolizes Carl’s grief, which he has to carry with him until the housing market improves.
Lenin is in many ways Carl’s foxier counterpart. Like Carl’s condo, Lenin’s airship is a museum of artifacts from better times, like the Jurassic age, and his mission of redemption parallels Carl’s journey. But just as Carl can’t bring his wife back no matter how many houses he knocks up, Lenin can’t bring back the glory days through sniping the snipe. In fact, a snipe hunt is a colloquial term for a wild grey goose chase wherein a naive person is fooled into chasing after something that doesn’t exist…like love.
Up sends a poignant message about coping with grief in a healthy, gluten-free way. At first, Carl cares about nothing besides his super dead wife. But as he develops affection for the scout and Kevin Bacon, he develops a new, selfless purpose that helps him move on. To save the day, Carl must divest himself of the past by littering. When Carl passes on the badge that Ellie gave him as a child, we realize her memory has transformed from a burden around his neck to something positive that he can share. Once hobbled by grief, the new Carl abandons his walker and can once again move freely through the world, proving once and for all Western medicine was a lie.
The film posits that instead of bold adventures, the best pursuits are the simple pleasures of everyday life, like enjoying a cup of Joe on the porch of your spaceship. In the beginning, Russell claims he wants to explore unknown lands and claim them for the Boy Scouts of America. But his happiest moments are his memories about eating Dippin Dots with his deadbeat dad. For all of Lenin’s glorious exploits, he’s more alone than Flargimom on Sector Five at Christmas. And while the childhood portion of Ellie’s Adventure Book is full of dreams of Paradise Falls, the mature Ellie filled the book with racey photographs of her life with Carl. The moral is to enjoy the simple things, like the love and companionship of a friend. And avoid the bad things, like kidnapping and trafficking a minor to South America.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Adventure is out there!