Over here at Trash Talk! we’re going to take a look at pop-culture through an artistic lens, more specifically exploring the dichotomy between high-art and low-art in movies, TV, comics, and video games. What’s fine cinema, and what’s trash? Sometimes the line may be thinner than you think.
So, while watching Pixar’s latest, Monsters University, I had a realization. This “kids” movie is probably the best thing I’ve seen all summer. It’s one of the few summer flicks I’ve watched that I enjoyed without reservation. Not only is the animation fantastic (not surprising, CG animation has taken huge strides over the years), but the “acting” is spectacular (which is to say that the animation is not only pretty, but has nuance), and the storytelling is solid (it starts out a generic college romp, with monsters of course, but takes some intriguing turns along the way). Obviously, this is Pixar we’re talking about. Since the first Toy Story they’ve been masters at making movies for “all ages.” That all ages tag is thrown around a lot, typically on inane sugary movies targeted at energetic tots, whose adult parents roll their eyes at. Recent family movies have tried to remedy this by throwing in some winks and nods towards adult humor (usually thinly veiled sexual innuendo and copious fart jokes, y’know, real high brow stuff).
Pixar, however, has mastered the all-ages market by crafting stories that are literally relevant to people ages 1 to 100. They create likeable, relatable characters that have to confront loss, friendship, growing older, family, with the occasionally more complex idea like nature preservation, or death. These are experiences and questions that don’t leave you when you become an adult, and Pixar’s movies prove that good storytelling is something that shouldn’t be reserved for adults only. I love great narratives, and I list Wall-E as one of my favorite films along with other flicks like The Dark Knight, and Reservoir Dogs.
Pixar aren’t the only storytellers that spin tales for all ages. The classic Batman The Animated Series told dark, gothic stories that successfully bridged the gap between child and adult. In the same vein is the aptly titled (but sadly more short lived) Spectacular Spider-man, which I still hold as the best interpretation of the character on or off screen. Then there are shows like Adventure Time. Well it has its fair share of veiled sexual innuendo’s and fart jokes, they’re not incongruities forced in to placate adults trapped watching the show with their kids. They’re part of the show’s overall aesthetic, and it doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body. It’s a jovial, light-hearted exploration of children on the verge of teenagerdom and adulthood, which includes flirting with the innocent burgeoning of sexuality, and finding bodily functions hilarious.
The one thing all these disparate narratives have in common is solid, inventive, and surprisingly thoughtful storytelling. The message is clear, a good story is transcendent, not matter what age you are, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. What are some of your favorite family friendly movies, TV shows, comics, or video games? Are you intoxicated by Pixar, or do you still pop in an old episode of Invader Zim now and then? Let me know in the comments below!