A thing that happens at the beginning of every awards show is someone (or someones) will come out and perform a thing, be it a monologue or a song. Sometimes, it’s an instantly iconic and obviously brilliant performance, like when Neil Patrick Harris opened the 2013 Tony Awards. (You can watch it here. It’s honestly incredible, and mesmerizing, and superheroic, really. Above all else, I just don’t understand how, in the middle of all that running and jumping and dancing and singing, he never for even one single second got winded.)
Other times, it’s clearly a disaster, like when James Franco and Anne Hathaway opened the 2011 Oscars. (A funny note: If you search “worst awards show opening” on YouTube, the very first thing that comes up is a video of Franco and Hathaway. The best part, though, is that it’s not a video that’s been ripped from somewhere else that someone titled something like “THE WORST AWARD SHOW OPENING EVER!!!!MUST SEE.” No, it’s not that. Instead, the video provided and linked to is by the official YouTube channel for the Oscars.)
I mention the awards show opening tradition because this column is, in a sense, its own awards night. But it’s better (worse, actually) and bigger (smaller, actually) and more significant (less significant, actually) than the Tonys or the Emmys or the Oscars or the Grammys. Because it’s the Pixies, which is a thing that we made up as a way to talk about a bunch of stuff that’s happened in different Pixar movies.
(The whole reason for this, obviously, is because, after nearly a decade and a half of waiting, we’re all finally getting a sequel to 2004’s fantastic The Incredibles, a movie about a family of superheroes learning how to be a family of superheroes.)
(If I can jump back in the conversation for a second, let me say: Anne Hathaway is one of the stars of the new Ocean’s 8 movie, and she is fantastic in it. She very well might be the best part of the whole thing. I hope that soon nobody ever even mentions her Oscars night blunder.)
(In fact, I think all of the blame there should be placed on James Franco from here going forward.)
(Oh, additionally, since we’re wandering around Hathaway land right now: One of my favorite things to think about is how Hathaway played the doe-eyed fashion assistant to the terrifying and vicious Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada in 2006 and then, in 2015, she played a woman who had started and was running her own internet fashion company in The Intern. My sincerest hope is that, in like 40 years, we get a remake of The Devil Wears Prada, except it’s Hathaway in the Miranda Priestly role.)
(Here come the Pixies.)
The Pixie for the Character Who Wasn’t Actually the Best Pixar Character but I’m Going to Say He’s the Best Anyway Because, Whatever, It’s Time We Won a Thing
This goes to Miguel from Coco, who technically is not actually the best Pixar character but I’m going to give him the award anyway because, I mean, sometimes cheating is OK. It’s just that we finally got some Mexicans into the lead roles in a Pixar movie, and so I’m going to lift that up whenever I can.
(The actual 11 best Pixar characters: (1) Woody from Toy Story; (2) Wall-E from Wall-E; (3) Joy from Inside Out; (4) Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story; (5) Sadness from Inside Out; (6) Dory from Finding Nemo; (7) Miguel from Coco; (8) Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.; (9) Edna Mode from The Incredibles; (10) Carl from Up; (11) Mater from Cars.)
The Pixie for the Scene That Everyone Knows Has to Get the Pixie
Two things here.
First: This goes to the Love Over Time montage scene from Up, which very well might be the most masterful four-minute stretch of any movie in the Pixar universe, a statement that should carry a mammoth of gravity with it given that the Pixar universe is stuffed fat with brilliant moments.
In it, we get to watch Carl and Ellie fall in love (yes!), get married (yes!), buy a home together (yes!), renovate a home together (Ellie was cutting wood in her wedding dress, which is how you know she was every bit as great as Carl thought her to be), decide to have a child (yes!), lose a pregnancy (NO!), find out that they can’t have children* (NO!), decide they’ll build a house on top of a mountain so they can get away from everyone and just be in love alone (a little weird, but I can understand it, what with the trauma they had to endure), and lose their savings time and time again (no!). Then we get to watch Carl realize he needs to take Ellie on a trip to see the world since all of a sudden they’re old and they were never able to save up enough money to get their dream house (yes!), only for Ellie to fall too ill to travel right before (WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!) and then pass away (WHAT THE FUCK I WAS JUST TRYING TO WATCH A MOVIE ABOUT A CUTE OLD MAN WITH A FONDNESS FOR BALLOONS?!?!??!?!?!???!). It’s a perfectly written, perfectly animated, perfectly choreographed, perfectly crushing bit.
Second: It’s wild that possibly the best scene ever in a Pixar movie happens in a movie that only barely makes it into the “Pixar’s top 10 movies” conversation. It’s ninth, and you can maaaaaaaaybe sneak it up to eighth if you’re feeling very generous. That’s as high as it can get, though. It doesn’t even sniff a podium finish—the top three being Wall-E (gold medal), Toy Story 3 (silver medal), and Finding Nemo (bronze medal).
*The thing about them finding out that they aren’t going to be able to ever have children is just a guess on my part.
The Pixie for the Movie That Wasn’t a Pixar Movie but Should’ve Been a Pixar Movie
This one goes to Shark Tale, which was not a Pixar movie but should’ve been a Pixar movie. And since we’re talking about sea movies …
The Pixie for the Pixar Movie That, If You Only Know the Mechanics of Its Entry Point, You’d Think it Was a Revenge Movie Starring Liam Neeson
A husband and wife are enjoying a nice afternoon out while their children nap nearby. They’re laughing and flirting and having a good life. Then the wife spots a killer. Then the killer spots them. He charges in to kill her children. She tries to stop him. She fails. The killer kills her and also all but one of her children. In theaters this summer: Finding Nemo.
The Pixie for the Most “Nice Try, but No Thanks” Idea in a Pixar Movie
I understand the sentiment behind Ratatouille’s “anyone can cook” life lesson. I really do. (It’s not that hard, given that Anton Ego, the movie’s most famous and most vicious food critic, has a monologue in the final minutes of the movie where he literally explains exactly what it means.) BUT, I mean, I don’t know if this is me being a species-ist or not, but I just can’t find a way to talk myself into being cool with the idea that rats are preparing my food at a restaurant, is all. It’s just a little too far to ask me to walk, really. It’s a little too far to ask anyone to walk, I’d guess.
(That’s not to say that Ratatouille is not a good movie, because it super is. It’s probably the seventh or so best Pixar movie of all. I just don’t want those little rat fingers on my tortillas, is all.)
The Pixie for the Best Wardrobe Insight
This goes to Edna Mode’s “No capes!” speech in The Incredibles, where she fusses at Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible about the impracticability of capes by running through a list of a bunch of superheroes who were done in by their capes. (A thing I always wondered about this scene was: Did each of the superheroes that Edna mentioned actually die during their cape-based accident? I think so, because after she asks Bob if he remembers Thunderhead, a superhero who got yanked into space when his cape got caught on a missile, Bob says, “Thunderhead was not the brightest bulb in the …” The “was” there seems to imply that Thunderhead no longer exists, right? And if he doesn’t exist, then that means he’s dead. And if he died, then that means the others died, because what else would be the point of Edna bringing them up then, right? And that’s super fucking gnarly, particularly when you remember that one of the examples Edna gave was a superwoman who got sucked into a jet engine turbine while she was flying next to a commercial airplane.) (SHE WAS LITERALLY WAVING AT PEOPLE IN THE PLANE WHEN SHE GOT SUCKED IN AND SHREDDED!) (That’s wild.) (Imagine you were one of those people she was waving to.) (Imagine you’re on your plane minding your business, and then you look out of your window and you get very excited because there’s a superhero flying next to your plane. You wave at her. She waves back. Everything seems great. And then blam-o! She’s been obliterated into little more than a blood cloud.) (Smh.)
The Pixie for the Most Incongruous Celebration
This goes to the dad of one of the archers during the big archery scene in Brave. What happens in the scene is the firstborn child of three of the “great leaders” in Brave are having an archery contest to see who gets to marry Princess Merida. The last person to go—a doofy, buck-toothed fellow—accidentally shoots a perfect shot into the center of the target. His father, celebrating how his son will now be royalty (meaning his family is now royalty), decides that what he needs to do in that moment is do a tiny dance for a second, at the end of which he grabs his kilt, leans over, and then shows (and shakes) his old man butt and balls at not only the two other fathers who had sons competing, but also all the other men and women and children who were standing nearby. (If you pay close attention, you can see two little kids react to what they’ve just seen. One of them grabs hold of her mother and starts crying into her skirt. The other cocks his head to the side like a confused puppy, which is a very understandable reaction given that he’s all of a sudden staring at a 70-year-old’s scrotum.)
The Pixie for the Most “There’s No Fucking Way This Is Happening” Moment
This one goes to the end of Toy Story 3 when Woody and Buzz and everyone are sitting on that conveyor belt waiting to be fed to the giant furnace that’s incinerating all the trash. It’s just so perfectly pitched that it really, at least for a moment, feels like they’re all going to die.
(You know what it is that does it? It’s the part when, as they’re all fighting and climbing and trying to make their way back up against the current of trash, Jessie yells at Buzz Lightyear, “Buzz! What do we do?!” Her eyes are giant and terrified and waiting for him to insta-come up with a plan that she knows is going to save them all. And Buzz, “the world’s greatest superhero,” looks at her, and he’s totally lost. He blinks once, then lowers his head, and reaches for her hand and holds it, and when he does so, the implication is clear: “Die. That’s what we’re going to do.” She looks at him, he looks back at her and nods a tiny bit, then she blinks a heartbreaking blink and turns around and reaches out to Bullseye, her horse, who is kicking and bucking back trying to escape the fire. He stops fighting, and then, one by one, they all just decide that that’s it, that they’re all going to die. It’s really, really, really overwhelming, and I very much remember sitting in the theater with my young sons doing my very, very, very best not to cry.)
(Also: I felt like doing a Michael Jordan fist pump when the claw dropped down and saved them and then they showed the little squeaky toy aliens doing the “The claaaaaawwwwwww” line.)
(Another also: We’re not giving away a Pixie for the best Pixar villain, but if we were it’d almost certainly have to go to Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, who, in addition to sending Woody and the gang off to die after they saved his life, also mentally and physically abused his underlings, pressuring them to run what amounted to be a toy prison where toys were routinely tortured and mutilated by children.)
The Pixie for the Character Who Seems the Worst but Turns Out to Be the Best
This one goes to Sadness from Inside Out (the fourth-best Pixar movie), who, at the beginning of the movie feels like little more than a gigantic bummer but then by the end of the movie has worked herself into the most interesting, most complex, most thought-provoking character of all. (The revelatory thing with Inside Out is that, while other Pixar movies definitely moved in and out of sadness, they almost always positioned it as something that was there as a way to arrive at a different point, or a different feeling. With Inside Out, they treated it as a natural thing, as a feeling that could be absorbed and experienced without rocking the entirety of a character’s existence. It was really profound stuff.)
The Pixie for the Movie That Already, Even Just a Handful of Years After It’s Come Out, Already Looks Very Prophetic
This one goes to Wall-E, a movie that peeks forward at what human life will be like after we wreck the planet and become machine-dependent. It is so profound and ambitious and overwhelmingly beautiful that its star, a trash compactor robot with a Herculean work ethic and an even more Herculean commitment to his girlfriend robot, says only a few different words throughout the movie (two of which are “Eva” and “Wall-E”) and still becomes entirely and wholeheartedly lovable.