You Don’t Find Memories; Memories Find You

On Tuesday, I took The First Five to see Pixar’s latest, Monsters University.

The film struck me as both charming and technically impressive — descriptors so frequently attributable to Pixar’s films that I feel simultaneously unoriginal in using them and ungrateful that I don’t recognize how extraordinary it is for a studio to deserve them so regularly — and it also struck me as walking the fine, weird line of prequelism with confidence and humor. (Prequels always confuse me. I’m watching them with preexisting memories and opinions regarding the characters and their relationships, and I’m being forced to reevaluate and sometimes even to replace my understanding of those memories, characters, and relationships as I go along. I’m never quite sure how to react.)

What the film did not do was strike me as particularly memorable. I enjoyed it. So did my kids. And I thought it had a uplifting (if basic) message at its core. But the finer cinematic details are already oozing away from me, and with the exception of an action sequence or two, I’d be very surprised if I retain much more than the “charming, technically impressive” glow I have right now.

I’ll remember the brilliant marketing campaign. And I’ll remember the amazingly anthropomorphic  short, The Blue Umbrella, which SDG nailed by describing it as “a glimpse of Old Pixar at the height of its powers, innovating and experimenting, ” featuring the company’s “astonishing new photorealistic rendering process” and producing a piece that is brimming over with a “joyous, lyrical spirit.” But the film itself? I don’t think I’ll remember that. Not really.

What I will most definitely remember, though, are David’s theatrical  antics.

Let me set the stage: David’s not very big (at the moment). And he doesn’t weigh much (yet). And he’s a mind-boggling, relentless ball of energy. Seriously. The kid never stops moving. (Sometimes I go downstairs at night and peek into the bedroom where  he and his brothers are sleeping. As any parent with toddlers can tell you, that’s just mind-blowingly reckless, because nothing is guaranteed to wake a youngster as quickly as someone trying to not wake them. But every now and then, I just like to see what David looks like when he’s not moving.)

So, that’s David. And Tuesday night, he was sitting his light-ish self down on a theater chair. You know, those strange contraptions that require you to weigh something in order to keep the seat down? (In other words, nothing like this.) The brochures describe that particular feature as “an automatic self-rising gravity lift mechanism for quiet, maintenance-free operation.” For Bantamweight David, though, it was anything but maintenance-free.

It was like watching someone on a full-body stair-stepper. First, he would scoot up to the very, very edge of the seat, which was the only way his limited bulk could counter the “self-rising gravity lift.” Then, as the seat sank with almost infinite slowness, he would edge back from the lip in a doomed attempt to attain a “traditional” sitting posture. By the time he reached the middle of the seat, though, his uneasy alliance with gravity had deteriorated, and he’d hang for a moment or two in limbo as the self-rising mechanism grappled with the question. Eventually making up its mind, it would slowly, inexorably rise, trapping him within its jaws and looking for all the world like some strange, furniture-tinged Venus Fly Trap — his arms and legs protruding from its maw as he craned his neck towards the screen. (The anthropomorphism I was experiencing may have colored my perceptions a bit, but that darn thing sure looked like it was grinning up at me as David’s brightly-colored Crocs jutted from its mouth.)

He’d stay in this collapsed position for several hilarious moments before gathering his body beneath him, clambering out of his strange SeatMonster, sliding ’round to the front of the seat, and beginning it all once again. Perhaps most impressively, he somehow managed to watch the screen intently throughout this entire process. …except for the film’s surprisingly creepy foray into HumanWorld, when he covered his ears and turned completely around in the seat to ensure that he would see and hear nothing. (I’m not sure “Keeping your eyes glued to the screen while pounding root beer through a straw plunged into a soda fountain cup still trapped in the cup holder on your seat as you endlessly battle that same seat’s self-rising gravity lift” is an Olympic event. But it should be. I know I’d watch it …’cause I already did.)

The upshot? Pixar is responsible for one of the most memorable movie-watching experiences I’ve had this year. Sure, it wasn’t for the reasons any of us were expecting. But that doesn’t make it any less memorable. Or any less dear.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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