The geniuses at Pixar are probably making the best animated films today, and it isn’t hard to see why after watching the guided tour that comes with the bonus disc of last year’s hit. Pixar world headquarters is basically a marriage of a well-funded tech start-up with Termite Terrace, the anarchic Warner Bros. animation house that produced Bugs Bunny and other classic Looney Tunes. A youthful staff in eye-gouging hawaiian shirts zip around the massive building on scooters, while a staff monkey rolls about in every scene. It’s one of those workplaces where a bit of anarchy and a lot of individualism is tolerated in exchange for long, long hours.
Also included on the bonus disc is a new short starring Billy Crystal’s one-eyed monster, “Mike’s New Car”, and “For The Birds”, Pixar’s Oscar-winning short, as well as an “outtake” reel and “The Monsters, Inc. Company Play”, a gag from the film that took on a life of its own. There’s also a multi-language clip reel showcasing the languages the film’s been dubbed into, and much more. The film that comes with all this stuff is a benchmark for computer animation, but the package is a testament to Pixar’s corporate culture, and the best recruiting tool you could imagine.
Kissing Jessica Stein
Basically a gay comedy for straight people, Kissing Jessica Stein is magically set between those two comically fertile worlds - the twentysomething urban single and the Jewish family. The titular Jessica is a disaster, a Jewish Mary Tyler Moore crossed with Phoebe from “Friends”, whose neuroses have reached critical mass, and whose love life has turned so nightmarish that she asks herself the million-dollar question: Why men? The big joke is how eagerly her family embrace her new “lifestyle choice”; the bigger one is how that choice doesn’t change the fact that Jessica is a confused mess. A modest little comedy with a good script and a great performance by Jennifer Westfeldt as Jessica.
Angels Over Broadway
A fantastically odd 1940 film set in New York’s desperate world of losers and hustlers, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., a very young Rita Hayworth, an incredible cast of character actors, and a script by director Ben Hecht that pushes the envelope for baroque, stylized wordplay. There’s not much plot, but an awful lot of words, and an immediate, gripping suspense that doesn’t, alas, get well served by the ending. Incredibly entertaining, though, for anyone who’s curious about the oddball products of Hollywood’s golden age.