Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ratatouille, Warts and Paintball Welts

While the rest of the nation simply watches their summer drift away, waiting for Labor Day, Utah celebrates Pioneer Day on July 24th. The holiday plays almost like a repeat of Independence Day, with barbeques, fireworks, parades, and other forms of summer recreation. At any rate, it’s another great excuse to get out of work and do crazy stuff before the summer is finished. This year’s Pioneer Day was no exception.

I started off by catching Ratatouille, which, if you’ve been following my blog since June, I predicted would be the best movie of the summer, you might remember. In short, I was not disappointed, my prediction affirmed. This movie is flat-out gorgeous. With the barrage of movies that have hit the cinema this summer, overblown, F/X epics, pea-brained animated flicks, and unfunny comedies, Ratatouille is a huge breath of fresh air, so far away from its so-called competition in quality, maturity, and richness that to classify it as one of the summer breed would just seem… wrong.

That’s not to say that Ratatouille is without its flaws. It is not better than, say, The Incredibles, in terms of character, humor, or mad-cap action. The characters do not blend into each other or attract us as effortlessly as past Pixar creations have. But what it lacks in characters it makes up for in pure, infectious love for its subjects: namely, cooking, Paris, and rats.

This love literally resonates from every meticulously rendered surface, from every carefully animated movement. No CG animation studio out there even comes close to this kind of atmosphere. In one scene where Remy, the main protagonist, scurries through a Parisian apartment and emerges at the roof, bursting onto a stunning panorama of night-time Paris, my jaw literally dropped. And the film never relents in its pursuit of that same rich vibrance.

Honestly, there are very few laugh out loud moments, the interests are mundane. But just from the sheer daring of Pixar in creating something so lovingly crafted, so mature, so not Surf’s Up or Shrek, without annoying jabbering sidekicks, mind-numbing potty jokes, or over-reliance on pop culture satire, I left the theater with a smile on my face and an inexplicable fondness for fine cuisine and Paris (this is a miracle in and of itself: I am not a French fan at all. Got a D- in high school French…). A few people with me complained that it was not as good as Incredibles or other Pixar films. Personally, I think it’s unfair to compare it to other Pixar films. Not every movie can be The Incredibles. That’s like saying that Kobe Bryant isn’t any good because he isn’t as good as Michael Jordan.

Rather, we would do well to compare Ratatouille to its current competition. There can be no denying that Ratatouille, as genuine movie magic art, rises and shines above anything else in current release. I still say it’s the best movie of the summer.

Anyway, after catching Ratatouille, I went paintballing with some crazy farm kids, hardcore paintball fanatics. In short, I rarely got a shot off on anyone else, but I did walk away with some of the best injuries of the game. The first came as a paintball from a high-powered gun found its way under my mask and tagged me on the chin. Blood and yellow paint splattered all over the inside of my mask, which, I imagine, must have looked pretty cool. In a later round, a ball found that soft spot on my inner thigh, leaving a plum-colored, “O”-shaped bruise. It was beauty, but I was just glad I hardly felt it. The last came in our last round of play. I was out of balls. My buddy was waiting behind me, ready to fire. I spotted a ball on the ground, made a dash for it, bent over to pick it up, and POW! I got stung right up where no paintball should ever go. So I turned around, loaded, and nailed my buddy from 5 yards away. I’m sure he felt that… Male bonding is a strange thing.

After going home and licking my wounds, I concluded the holiday by getting five warts on my right foot cut or frozen off. Let me tell you: it hurt like a mammajamma! Everything hurt, from the anesthetics to shaving off the tops of the warts with a scalpel to searing them with a pressurized stream of liquid nitrogen. The bright side of it all: I get to wear flip flops to work. My office mates are all envious. The down side: I have to tell everyone I had warts. Nobody wants to touch a guy with warts. I think deep down inside, they still harbor that schoolyard stigma that warts come from frogs or being dirty or whatever. They can think whatever they want. At least I get to wear flip flops…

How was your weekend? Anyone catch Ratatouille? Anyone out there celebrate Pioneer Day? Anyone out there have warts? If you do, don’t touch me…

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