Number One: Toy Story 3
Three things possibly lowered my expectations. The first was the trailer. To me, it made Toy Story 3 look like it should have been direct-to-video. Looking back, though, the trailers seemed purposefully vague. Perhaps they knew that it needed no real marketing. Simply its title and the word Pixar would guarantee an audience.
My second reservation was the idea that third movies can't be great (though I do know that there are exceptions). This is the new benchmark. Nobody can ever again say that third movies are always horrible. You can, however, say often.
The third is related to the second. The first two movies are so good - how can they possibly strike gold a third time? But perhaps I forgot that Pixar has done it again and again. For me, their only disappointment was Cars. I will still watch Cars 2 this summer. Why? It's Pixar. Cars, while it didn't speak to me, was still better than so many other movies.
With the first Toy Story movie, I really liked it, but didn't love it right away. The thing that sticks in my mind the most is actually a couple CGI scenes. One of them is simply when the car pulls into the gas station. On the big screen, it looked amazing. Upon watching it on a TV, I was much less impressed. It was the first time that I really "got it" when people say that special effects are so much better on the big screen. I confirmed this when the first two movies were rereleased in the theaters a year or so ago. That scene looked cool again.
I haven't seen Toy Story 2 nearly enough times. For some of you, that might be a funny thing for someone to say. How many times do you need to see a movie? With movies like these, lots. There's so much to see. I saw it in the theaters then when I first got it on DVD. I showed it in class the year I "taught" computers, but I was probably grading papers while it was on. But then I didn't see it again until the theatrical rerelease. I had forgotten how cool it was.
Spoilerish here: Toy Story 3 starts pretty darned good. And then it does something rare in movies. It gets better and better as it goes along. And I have to admit that they really sucked me in in the final, climactic scene. For a brief moment, as the toys approached the incinerator, I was actually concerned. I started to wonder if they were actually going to let the toys die. I knew it couldn't be a sad ending, so I wondered if they were going to try some kind of toy magic reincarnation type of thing where the toys live on in other versions of themselves. And yes, I know how silly that sounds. But man - they sucked me in. I was there.
And then the final ending is... perfect. There was no better place for the toys and no better way to show it. It's perhaps the most perfect movie scene since the opening of last year's Up. Pixar is just brilliant. For a while, I fought with making Toy Story my top movie. For some reason, it felt like I was giving in to "The Man" or something. It's a freakin' kids movie! It's a stupid cartoon! But, dammit, Toy Story 3 was incredible, and I've happily accepted that. I'm perhaps happier with picking this as my Number One movie than I have been in a few years.