Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving.
Let's talk Coco....
Immediately, I'm going to tell you I LOVED it. Loved, loved, LOVED it. See it, see it twice.
Wait, I have to say more? Seriously?
Ok...well, I can try...
The storyline is fairly simple, little Miguel living with his shoe making family in Mexico wants to be like his musician great-great-grandfather, Ernesto de la Cruz. He accidentally lands in the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos, as souls are crossing over to see their living families. In order to get back to his family (his living family) he needs his dead family's blessing. And I will say not another thing until you get to see it.
The film is steeped in Mexican culture in the best sense. I cannot stress this enough. Mexican culture is....a tricky business. We either look really good or...not so good. And I think Pixar captured the best without overly sugar coating Mexican culture or patronizing it, either.
I read reviews noting that the storyline was typical and you saw the twist coming. In some ways, yes, but I don't see that as a criticism. For one thing, I think a lot of reviewers tend to forget they watch movies for a living. Whether they've studied story structure or not, you get the sense of story structure in a vague sense after awhile and can anticipate certain parts of the story. So, personally, I think the story was in good Pixar levels of shape. There was a fair amount of juggling characters and storylines and you didn't feel the pull of one person's journey over another's. Pixar always manages to intertwine all that nicely.
I think the sign of a good piece of cinema (as opposed to a good movie) is not just a theme, but shading of theme. What I mean by that, is when a movie is so good, people bring their own themes to it. Whatever the individual audience member saw, or sometimes what they really needed to learn, fits into the movie. Coco's theme is definitely about family remembering your ancestors, but there are also themes of the price of ambition, determination, forgiveness, death and faith (in an abstract sense, not in a religious sense).
Here's another interesting thing about Mexican people...being related to a few myself, we're all into humor, and a morbid people (hence a holiday celebrating our deceased ancestors). Being Mexican and Irish, I feel like I've had an abundance of morbid and funny in my life. And Pixar movies are always funny, no doubt about that, but I felt it a little more in Coco. And very much that sense of humor that comes with being kind of morbid. Yes, it's how you make a movie set in the land of the Dead work, but there was also such a range of humor. Even in moments where the story was really ramping up, things would happen or a character would say something that wasn't laugh out loud funny, but funny in such a real and organic way, I'm not even 100% sure it's the cultural humor that got infused into the story or just a side effect of trying to keep death light...
Pixar, while a top rate animation company, has never been as focused on music. They've never had a musical film, per se, but this movie is pretty close to it. Music is, obviously, the focus of the story, and of Mexican culture, so Pixar had to really get this aspect right. Which....they did. Not only was the music great (despite entries from the Lopez's of Frozen fame- I just think they tend to be a little too "Broadway" for my taste) but also diverse. The diegetic music (the music within the story, not score) hit a broad range, and the score by Pixar favorite Michael Giacchino, just from my listening, was beautifully authentic.
A few last things I'd like to say about Coco, but I don't know if I can put it into words. Another thing that made this movie magical lies in its ability to take the traditions of Dia de los Muertos, and MAKE them magical. But at the same time, I don't know that anyone could accuse it of being exclusionary in any way. I read an article by an Asian author who wondered how Coco managed to invoke her own family while she had no prior knowledge of Dia de los Muertos traditions. There is something to be said for that. I'm Hispanic, yes, and while I didn't grow up in Mexico quite this steeped in the culture, there were definitely aspects of the movie I inherently understood by proxy. Certainly, Abuela's use of her chancla (her shoe) as a weapon cracked me up.
And it may be that connectedness that made this movie so special to me, but that's what makes it so special on the whole.
Olaf's Frozen AdventureBefore I forget, the movie was accompanied, not by a Pixar short as usual, but the highly anticipated "Olaf's Frozen Adventure", a 30-minute short taking us back to Arendelle and our friends from Frozen.....if you aren't so sick of Anna and Elsa yet.
In the short, Anna and Elsa realize they don't have family traditions to celebrate the season, so Olaf takes it upon himself to ask ALL the citizens of Arendelle about their own, so he can offer the girls options. This goes predictably wrong, but with a nice ending.
One thing you should know about me as an audience, I'm an easy movie crier. I had NO expectation that this was going to make me misty, I just like Olaf. And.....big baby over here got misty. I think focusing on Olaf in this way was the best idea. He's a great mix of sincere and mentally blank without being stupid and cloying.
The music in the short was just ok. I felt like it was lip service to the concept of Frozen. I could almost hear the executives complaining, "But it's Frozen, so there must be songs!"
You can tone it down.
One of my main criticisms of Frozen is that the songs are mainly in the first half of the movie, bloating the first and second acts. in a half hour short, they really could have done with...maybe one song that had verses and themes. Save it for the sequel, which incidentally, should just be about Anna and Elsa going to therapy for all the trauma their separation has cause because YEESH!
So, in conclusion....see Coco. See it 20 times and bring tissue. ALSO, stay until the end of the credits! You should anyway, but you should this time.
See you all soon!
If you have any comments or questions, PLEASE feel free to leave them at the bottom of the page!