Mark vs Cancer

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Up and a Che'

Over the past two weekends, I've seen two very different masterpieces of sorts.

The first was Evita, performed live at the Arvada Center. It was a perfect setting--comfortable theater, exquisite scenery--and we had the perfect seats, front and center. The acting and singing were superb, bolstered by the excellent source material. Forget Madonna and Antonio Banderas: Evita is a gripping tour de force of the human condition. It's really so many things: a classic rags-to-riches story, a fable about the perils of ambition, a geopolitical epic, a haunting love affair, a poignant tragedy.

But I think the true genius of the story is in the character known only as Che'. Che' floats in and around Evita throughout her mercurial young life, sardonic at times, sympathetic at others. He is sort of a conscience, sort of a narrator, sort of a pest. He is not Che' Guevera, though his name is clearly meant to evoke the revolutionary ghosts of South America. In the opening scene, which inauspiciously is at Eva Peron's funeral, Che' emerges indinstictly out of a crowd of mourners, and the meaning is clear: he is the embodiment of the People, the common masses from whence Evita herself came. He sings, voice dripping with sarcasm:

"Oh what a circus, oh what a show
Argentina has gone to town
Over the death of an actress called Eva Peron
We've all gone crazy
Mourning all day and mourning all night
Falling over ourselves to get all of the misery right

Oh what an exit, that's how to go
When they're ringing your curtain down
Demand to be buried like Eva Peron
It's quite a sunset
And good for the country in a roundabout way
We've made the front page of all the world's papers today

You let down your people Evita
You were supposed to have been immortal

That's all they wanted, not much to ask for
But in the end you could not deliver

The second masterpiece was Up, Pixar's new film. It's a crazy tale about a bitter old man and a chubby boy scout who float their house to South America for one last chance at adventure. It's a risk--really, an animated movie starring an old curmudgeon?-- as most Pixar movies are, but it's one that works on every level. It's hilarious and slap-sticky for kids; it's rich and adventurous for escapists; it's poignant (but not overly sentimental) for the dreamers and lovers in all of us. It was deeply symbolic and metaphorical without being heavy-handed. I left with the feeling of exhilaration you have when you've allowed yourself to be swept away in the powers of a master story-teller.

"Adventure is out there," the movie says. Regardless of age or personal history, you can chase your dreams and yet find joy and meaning in whatever your current circumstances. And you might meet up with some mad scientists, goofy dogs, and prehistoric birds along the way. Or maybe you'll realize the true adventure was in giving all of your heart and soul to the woman you love.

I'll tell you what: nothing is more certain in this life then a Pixar movie being nearly perfect in every way. They are visual feasts, computer animation that is both crisp and lush, expressive and human. The voicing and characters are always spot on. But their true magic is in their storytelling. The Pixar guys get it. Their multi-layered stories are able to delve into the heart of the human condition in ways that few other movies can. They maintain their child-like wonder at the world around them, and yet give voice to some of our deepest adult fears and hopes.

Every single Pixar movie, at some point, hits you right in the heart. I have trouble even narrowing the list of my favorite five. I guess I'd have to go with Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Wall-e, Toy Story 2, in that order. And now I might have to vault Up to the top of that list. That's pretty good company to be in.


princess jen said...

We loved Up as well... Judging from your description of Evita, I'm guessing I should skip the movie and wait until a production comes to Salt Lake.
Any news about the book yet?

Lisa said...

Only you would come up with the title, "Up and a Che'" -- nice. I haven't checked in on you guys in awhile. A few comments:

-"Up"--Steve took the kids and the rave reviews are still coming.
- I was captivated by the play-by-plays of Joy's games--go Joy!
- We still have the old-school Tooth Fairy coming to our house. 25 cents it is!
- Hope all is well with the family-say hi to Liz for me!