Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Animation: Toy Story 3 and Pixar on Netflix Watch Instantly

I usually try to pick films that you don't realize are available for viewing on streaming services or on the internet, but today I'll point out a film that you probably already know about.

Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, USA, 2010, 102 minutes)
Netflix: In this installment of the Pixar animated franchise, toy cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), his astronaut pal, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their friends cope with their owner's departure for college -- and their new home in a day-care center. Joan Cusack, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton and Ned Beatty also lend their voices to this delightful sequel that earned a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Netflix link.

I think Toy Story 3 is a great film, so by all means watch it if you haven't already.  So instead of writing about the film itself I thought I'd lead you to some links related to some interesting discussions about the film and the nature of current journalistic film criticism and so-called fanboy culture.

As you may know, Toy Story 3 received almost universal critical praise, and the series as a whole almost achieved a perfect 100% rating across the board at Rotten Tomatoes.  But the third film finally got a negative review from New York Press critic Armond White, which can be read here.  The fallout from that review, and its impact on the Rotten Tomatoes rating has been interesting.  Pixar fanboys, in particular, reacted very strongly against White's review, even leading to a petition to ban his reviews from the Tomatometer ratings system.  Coverage of this response can be found at the Wall Street Journal, Pajiba, and Something Old, Something New.

A whole separate post could be dedicated to a discussion of Armond White's work in general, but for now I'll just suggest reading Roger Ebert's withdrawl of his general defense of White after defending his review of Project 9, and this great meta-review of White's Toy Story 3 review by Paul Brunick in Slant Magazine.  But more important to me that whether White is a good critic or not is how this controversy reflects how films are currently discussed in the age of the internet.  To my mind, I'd much rather have people read individual critics like White (and agree or disagree) than to have them believe that they understand the quality of a film based upon the Tomatometer rating.  The Tomatometer is a helpful tool, but one thing that it is not designed to measure is perfection (again, refer to the Pajiba entry in regards to how the Tomatometer numbers are calculated).  Far more troubling to me than the idea that someone didn't like Toy Story 3 is the assumption that aesthetics are quantifiable, and that there is a tangible difference between a Tomatometer rating of 100% and 99%, (which is where Toy Story 3 is right now, with 246 fresh ratings and 3 rotten ratings).

Once you're finished with Toy Story 3, you might want to check out the other Pixar feature currently playing on Netflix Watch Instantly, Up (Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, USA, 2009, 96 minutes), as well as the following documentary on Pixar produced in 2007.  Below that I've embedded an amusing Disney promotional film about the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Pixar Story (Leslie Iwerks, USA, 2007, 88 minutes)
Netflix: Go behind the scenes at Pixar Animation Studios with this Emmy-nominated documentary tracing the creation and history of the groundbreaking company and featuring interviews with founders Ed Catmull, John Lasseter and Steve Jobs. Assembling rare Pixar footage and conversations with animators, producers, directors and voice actors, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks takes viewers on a fascinating tour of the outfit that forever changed Hollywood animation. Netflix link.


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