Toy Story 3: Pixar's Best Since Nemo

To Infinity and Beyond!

The theater in downtown Berkeley was half empty. Judging from this and the trailers we’d seen, we looked at each other slightly concerned.

Our concern went away very quickly. Starting with the usual Pixar short, titled Day & Night we were blown away. The short is hard to describe because of its simplicity: it consists of two characters (“Day” and “Night”) that walk through the screen and see in their “transparent” bodies the world they are living in projected (I hope this description makes SOME sense).

The brilliant and thought-provoking short led to a classic Toy Story-style opening, that quickly got us hooked. The glasses sure help the delivery but the movie hardly seems to force any “3-D kung-fu” moves that have become such a staple lately.

But in the midst of the ever-improving animation, the story (written by Little Miss Sunshine‘s Michael Arndt) continued to show why Pixar is one of the best studios out there. A whole slew of new characters get introduced in this movie and the bulk of it takes place in a new environment: a daycare where the main characters get played with (read abused) by a bunch of crazy toddlers.

I won’t give out much about the movie here. There is lots of laughs: the now-famous Spanish-talking Buzz Lightyear, resulting from a reboot of the figure in the movie, is hilarious! There is also lots of special moments that may make you shed a tear… I know someone who did. šŸ™‚

I know the string of perfect reviews for Pixar movies has been broken. But I don’t care. The story and the delivery of the closing movie for the Toy Story series was amazing: it’s, simply put, the best movie they’ve put out since Finding Nemo.

Curse you, George Lucas!

Image from FilmSchoolRejects.com

Remember that scene in Finding Nemo, where one of the aquarium fish gets all upset at the water cleaning system and raises its fist in anger yelling: “Curse you, AquaScum!” Well, THAT is pretty much how I feel about George Lucas these days!

Let me clarify: I grew up on Star Wars. I can remember as if it were today, back in 1977 when Episode IV opened… I was heartbroken b/c theaters in Caracas wouldn’t allow underage kids into movies like it for the evening shows, even if they were in the company of adults (can you guess that was my case?)

I had the movie in Betamax and it still probably holds the record for the movie I have watched the most times EVER! Star Wars toys, Star Wars whatever: you name it… I loved it! And then came Episode I, which I was cheering to in the theater when the Star Wars theme started… I hated Episode II, but I still forgave Lucas. Episode III was meh… better than Episode II, but… anything is better than Episode II!

Which brings me to a couple of years ago: I proudly introduced my son (4 years old at the time) to Star Wars… and he liked it! What did I feel? Proud, of course! What self-respecting dad who grew up feeding from the manna that George Lucas sent us from Star Wars heavens wouldn’t? Little did I suspect two years later I would be abhorring Lucas’ work as much as my wife did early on in the process…

As it turns out, Lucas’ work became my son’s obsession: from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed, his conversation is PACKED with Chewbacca growls, Darth Vader breaths and light saber sounds. It’s amazing how Lucas has been able to reach out to two generations so seamlessly. I guess he’s to be commended for his brilliance with The Clone Wars, a big part of the reason behind the millennials’ fascination with Star Wars! But if you ask me, all I think about these days when my son starts to tell me something about Star Wars on the way back from school is: “Curse you, George Lucas!”

Are you another former Star Wars fan? Can you relate?

Howard Zinn: "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train"

Sunday afternoon is always a good time for a good documentary. Today, it was time to sit down and watch Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Until not too long ago, I admit my ignorance: I had no clue who Howard Zinn was… until I walked into a local Berkeley coffee shop with one of our new advisors at the Diabetes Hands Foundation and saw her pointing at his image on the wall, saying: “Howard Zinn! He’s one of my heroes…” I knew I had to find out more about him.

It turns out Howard Zinn wrote a seminal book titled A People’s History of the United States, a book where he sought:

“…to present American history through the eyes of working people, rather than political and economic elites.”

I learned there was a 2004 documentary about his life (good that he was alive at the time -he passed away in early 2010) so I decided to watch it today. As I watched the documentary, I live tweeted it:

Here’s a POWERFUL thought from Zinn, not unlike what Ghandi said in the day:

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

He inspired me to write this:

Forget about trying to please everyone and focus on doing the right thing.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Howard Zinn. Have you read about him/his work?