Tag: opinion

Every Pixar Movie Ranked *

Pixar Animation Studios

Vox Media has an updating list of all the Pixar movies, ranked by their Culture team from worst to best. They have been doing this since last year. So it is interesting to see the list updated with every Pixar release.

Since the release of its very first feature film, Toy Story, in 1995, Pixar has become one of Hollywood’s most celebrated animation studios. Ranging from superhero adventures to tales of a lonely robot on a post-apocalyptic Earth, the studio’s 22 movies to date have earned plaudits for being artistically adventurous and telling stories ostensibly aimed at kids that have just as many adult fans. 

Yep, absolutely. I whole-heartedly agree. I and my family had recently watched Onward and had thoroughly enjoyed it. So when Vox says lets take a look back at the high highs and low-ish lows of the acclaimed animation studio”, even I want to attempt that. I do not agree with Vox Culture team’s ranking. So I want to put my own rankings out there.

* Nope, not gonna do that. I can’t rank all of them. There are 22 — how can you ever say if The Bug’s Life is worse than Cars 2. So, I will just give out my top ten; this is not a commentary in any sense. I am not a film critic. I can’t explain why one is artistically better than the other. What I can say is why I like, nah, love each movie in here.

10. Cars (2006)

As far as I can recall, this was one of the early movies I saw from the Pixar studio and I was left completely mesmerized. It was also the first time I realized how emotional an animated movie can leave you. The story was wonderful, made me emotional at many moments. And it wove the same magic for my daughter. So this remains a special movie, to this day; doesn’t matter if it is actually a good movie or not.

9. Onward (2020)

We watched the one the most recently as we were stuck at home for more than 3 months. And the fun we had as a family throughout was completely unforgettable. It made us laugh, made us cry and at times even terrified. It made us forget about all the terrible news that was spread through the world outside — makes it a very special movie for me.

8. Monsters Inc. (2001)

Again, another of the early movies from Pixar. I wasn’t a parent then, but it made me aware for the first time what parenting would be. As I watched Sulley and Mike struggle to keep Boo safe, at the same time growing closer to her, it made me worried and equally excited for the parent that I was one day going to be. I fell in love with Boo as she expressed myriad of expressions through her toddler face.

7. Inside Out (2015)

This has to be one of the smartest and most creative animated movies ever made. Such a creative story stitched into a brilliant movie. The colours, the characters, their journeys alone and together. How they drove the central human character was fascinating. This was again a movie that made me realize what I need not do around my daughter as she reaches adolescence one day. The story was clever, the execution was top-notch and the emotional attachment was to the point.

6. Wall-E (2008)

Another clever movie from Pixar. The first half without any spoken words was absolutely brilliant. I still can’t fathom how the studio made us fall in love with a squarish droid. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t have any human features. But he expressed so many emotions that many of the well-paid actors fail to do. Wall-E’s struggle to express his love for Eve had me root for this lovely droid throughout the movie. Wish humans didn’t arrive later in the movie to spoil what could have been the finest movie of all times.

5. Toy Story (1995)

Another movie that I watched way back in my teens when I had started to believe I had become too grown up to watch animated movies any more. Pixar prove me wrong — boy what a masterpiece this one is. A movie with a brilliant story that also teaches you so much. Still being so much fun at the same time. Toy Story completely defined the roadmap for future animated films — they had to cater to the kids and the adults with a kid within at the same time. This movie did it so perfectly.

4. Coco (2017)

I love music. And I love getting emotional while watching a movie. Especially if it weaves stories around families. So Coco fit just the right spots for me. Boy, oh boy. Such a wonderful ride it was. Those mesmerizing colours. The peppy, moving music. The story that has you gripped throughout. Coco was an experience of a kind. Again, such a meaningful movie that teaches you the importance of a family. I had a tear rolling down my cheek during the final reunion song.

3. Finding Nemo (2003)

Another film that touched my yet-to-be-a-parent’s heart. I was rooting for the worried, clown-fish dad throughout his transformation. And I can’t recall how many more times have I rooted for this guy since then. I watch this movie every now and then with my daughter. She loves it; she asks me many questions about what plays out in the movie. I pull her close to me into a hug and answer her to the best of my abilities. Knowing very well, that soon she too would want to explore more and I would have to stop being overprotective and let her do that. Anyway, see that’s what even thinking about this movie does to me.

2. Toy Story 3 (2010)

There’s just so much to love about this movie. The friendship, the bond that we’ve seen grow over the 3 movies, comes so close to a culmination here. Full of laughter. Full of life-lessons. Full of heartbreaks. This is one hell of a movie – not just an animated one. Period. As Woody looks at Andy walking away while sitting close to Bonny towards the end, am sobbing away with joy. There are so many plots here and each one betters the last. This one is a string of masterclass at film making, one after another.

1. Up (2009)

Just with that masterful opening montage, this one enters my top ten list any day. I had a lump in my throat right at the beginning. The movie follows it up with weaving such a beautiful story about Carl and his relation with Russel and the many friends he makes over their journey to Paradise Falls. I loved each character in this movie. Russel. Kevin. Dug. Even Muntz for that matter. The movie had me empathize with this antagonist too before he goes all bat-shit crazy, that is. And of course, finally Carl. I loved Carl so much that I had one character based on him in my fictional short story series. Up will always remain a very special movie for me.

Best Moments from other movies

There are of course many other movies from Pixar that didn’t make the list but have some brilliant scenes. When She Loved Me song from Toy Story 2. All the action sequence from The Incredibles. Speech on criticism and creativity in the finale from Ratatouille. These movies could very well have made the list, just for these scenes. But, for me, the others on the list are just very close. So these remain the honourable mentions.

Put a price on that “sure”

There are three important rules you should live by if you want to survive in this world. First, always look over your shoulder. Second, never trust anyone. And third, never say sure”.

Not to the shopkeeper that wants you to share your mobile number with him. Not to the neighbour that wants you to help him get some work done in his home. Not to your parents when they message you asking you if they can call now; they tell you it’s not urgent. You should listen to them. Not to your wife that wants you to promise her you would do something for or with her. Not to the politicians that want you to vote for them. Not to the boss that wants you to submit the revised estimates urgently. Not to the friend who wants to add you to a WhatsApp group of batchmates from school.

Because your sure” is a promise that you know you won’t be able to keep up with. Don’t make any of these promises before you know what you are getting into. Follow their questions with some questions of your own; all should start with a why”. Get them to be specific. Evaluate and decide what you are signing up for with your sure”. Never ever lend an easy sure”.

I have decided to actively be back on Twitter again. In a way, I never was off Twitter; I have been a passive contributor on Twitter for more than a year now. During that time, Micro.blog became the place that I was most active at. However, recently I have found that the platform just doesn’t attract me. It has got nothing to do with the product or the community there. Both remain brilliant. It is the diversity (or the lack thereof) that just doesn’t fit my lifestyle, my routine.

My timeline is never active when I am. Even those who are active in my timezone do not share my interests and my culture. It is frustratingly difficult to become part of this wonderful community.

I had casually pointed out this challenge during my interaction with Jean on Micro Monday. I am afraid the things haven’t improved much in the 18 months since. I have made many attempts to overcome this. I tried to inspire people that I know, that I am friends with to join the service. I built Micro.Threads to check on the conversations that I missed while I was absent. I even tried to change my routine to better fit in. It was this last attempt that made me cognizant of the limits I was going to to just be an active participant at the service.

I know there are people from my timezone, of my interest that are very much active on the service. I am sure there would be a thread somewhere listing all such folks. But that thread cannot be discovered or be searched for. Those folks cannot be easily found. I have come to realize that neither of these is a challenge with Twitter. No doubt, Twitter has its own set of challenges. But, at least, I can participate as per my routine.

Lack of diversity and discovery remains Micro.blog’s Achilles heel. It’s a wonderful community on there; it just isn’t inclusive enough for me to fit in.

Book Review: The Mystery of the Blue Train

The Mystery of the Blue Train is a typical Poirot mystery, just not presented in her signature intriguing style. There are just too many shifts to the points of view of the supporting characters. The clues are perceivable, but they aren’t backed by any information that is revealed earlier. There were many moments when I knew what was being narrated was important, was a clue to something. But I could just not put my finger on why that was so. The resolution towards the end too did not feel very natural; it felt rushed, forced.

With the way the novel is structured, it felt as if Christie began writing this somewhere in the middle when Poirot is introduced, reached towards the end, and began to wonder how to tie the woven mystery up. All the side characters and their backstories were penned at that point and spread across the novel.

As a whole, the story just didn’t feel coherent. It wasn’t boring; I don’t think Christie can write a boring mystery. But it just wasn’t one of her finest works. I have heard even she has acknowledged this fact.

I was completely surprised and equally frustrated, to read the only NYTimes reporting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation. PM urged citizens to stay at home to dissuade Hindus Pilgrims to flock to the sacred site of Ayodha,” the report read.

Here’s the full transcript of the PMs address to the nation. I do not find any political or religion-based overtones in the speech. Why, then, should you report as if there is?

The PM called for resolve” and restraint” from citizens. I think same is needed from publications. These are not the times to be on the left or the right of the political spectrum. Let’s all first come out of this pandemic together as unscathed as possible. There would be a lot of time again for the political debates.

Is there anyone who can easily find the one emoji that they do not use very often? How many of the 1500+ emojis can one possibly use? There is a limited set of emojis I use regularly. And because they are front and centre every time I open an emoji keyboard, they tend to get used even more often.

Even the way they get categorized is horrible. Which category do you think you will find a loudspeaker in? Objects, you say? What about a balloon? Now the answer to that might differ based on which platform you use. Android puts it under Activities” while iOS puts it under Objects. Not just do the emojis vary across platforms, even the simple thing like how to categorize them varies.

I think the emojis need a better, simpler replacement. I do not think memoji is that – it calls for too much effort before one starts to use them. Maybe the whole emoji set needs a complete reset. Anyway, how many of the myriad face emojis can you correctly identify and use? Do you know how many we started with? Just two – a smiling face and a frowning face. Now that is manageable.

I’m glad that Android exists

On a recent busy Friday morning, I hopped into my cab on my way to the office. I was about to isolate myself by plugging my ears with an audiobook. Right about that time, I heard a voice in Hindi, a local Indian language, giving directions to my Uber driver. It made me pause and ponder on how ubiquitous the technical solutions have become. A large section of society has learnt to start carrying these powerful devices along. And this change alone has made some complex businesses more accessible.

Many, especially Apple, mock Android for being a cesspool of cheap, sluggish devices”. But it is Android that has put this change on the fast track. I spent my hour-long ride by being a lot more attentive than isolated. I decided to look around to the individuals, running small and medium businesses, using digital solutions. Almost everyone was flaunting some form of an Android device.

Uber drivers for managing their rides and the routes. Small shop owners for accepting digital payments. Delivery-only restaurants for accepting orders. Food delivery agents running around on bikes to find the next order to be delivered. Part-time service experts on the look-out for their next housekeeping jobs. And many more individual or small group ventures.

There is no doubt that the always-connected1 and accessible Android devices have enabled all these use cases. The two combined have also managed to pull millions of more people into the digital age. Sure, iOS might be the more secure, more private platform that’s better for everyone. But it is not for everyone because it is not affordable to everyone.

We need to credit Google for fostering a platform that attracts more and more OEMs. This makes the platform a lot more usable for the majority section of the world. And they continue to lessen the needs of the platform, recently with the introduction of the Go edition. No doubt, it suits and assists their business model. However, it doesn’t matter. They do that so, in their own words, even the most affordable Android smartphones are as sweet as can be”. I’ve come to believe that. Kudos!

Yes, let’s make the technology affordable for more people so that they too can benefit from the new-age advances. And while we do that, let’s also make the same affordable technology powerful. Because when we do that, we open more ways the people can earn, can learn, can connect, can be part of the world.

  1. There is a parallel story of how a business tycoon reshaped the Indian telecom market with his launch of aggressively priced mobile data plans.

I am not a gamer. I cannot play a single-person shooter. I was ok with this particular style of gaming when it was on desktop, with a keyboard and a mouse. On mobile, I am terrible. I just can’t make sense of the direction or speed. And completely pathetic in multiplayer situations.

Same applies to the racing games. It was ok till it was simple lane following games, like Road Fighter. But then they become a lot more real.

Actually, the quest to be more real with the gameplay and the graphics killed this form of media for me. It made the controls a lot more convoluted to be fun any more. Arcade-type games had some breezy liveliness to them. But gradually, gaming became a lot more serious, a lot more pro for my casual taste. These pros ruined the arcade in a way.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there do not exist casual games. There do. However, most of them are ruined by the freemium model. And I am not the first one complaining about this.

But what that meant was even the casual gamer in me had recently died — pushed way back for the fear of the effort it would take to find that one good, clean casual game. Like Monument Valley or Alto’s Adventure.

So I was pretty excited with the announcement of Apple Arcade. I am especially pleased with Apple’s aggressive pricing and push in the non-US markets and the initial reviews of the games. These sound like the games that match my taste.

I hope these stay the way they are currently. I hope the pros do not ruin the Arcade again.

I wonder what the purists think of the recent computational photography trend.

Google started it with its all-in-cloud touch up of the photos. And then they moved it on-device in the camera app. Every photo one took was stitched together from multiple shots with different settings. And eventually each OEM made their cameras smarter, AI-driven”.

Latest iPhone 11 stitches a single photo from 4 under exposed frames taken before the shutter button is clicked, one normal picture and 1 over exposed frame. They call this process semantic rendering. What follows is some heavy processing. Here’s snippet from the The Verge’s review of iPhone 11 Pro review.

Smart HDR looks for things in the photos it understands: the sky, faces, hair, facial hair, things like that. Then it uses the additional detail from the underexposed and overexposed frames to selectively process those areas of the image: hair gets sharpened, the sky gets de-noised but not sharpened, faces get relighted to make them look more even, and facial hair gets sharpened up. Smart HDR is also now less aggressive with highlights and shadows. Highlights on faces aren’t corrected as aggressively as before because those highlights make photos look more natural, but other highlights and shadows are corrected to regain detail.

What you get as a result is an extremely clear picture with each object in the photo appropriately visible.

But with so much processing of each image, should this even be called photography any more? Here’s Wikipedia introducing the term.

Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

What we do with our smartphones is neither an art nor is it creating a single image.

All parts of the photos are independently captured (and even pre-captured) with the best suited settings, processed post-capture, with even some live sections including audio recorded. This is not creating an image” any more.

Someone might say it all started when the digital photography became mainstream – when the physical limitations of the analog methods did not constrain the person with a camera in his hand. However, what we capture is no longer a single image anymore. A more apt term for these might be visual memories”. Common people are interested in doing just that, they don’t care if they are called photographers.

Let Photography stay an art.

Effectiveness of Customer Service Representatives

I have met two types of customer service representatives. There is a section that is trained to listen to what the customer has to be say and serve her rightly. It may, at times, involve sailing through the tirade that the angry, unsatisfied customer unleashes on them. They wait for the right moment to pacify them with a solution that does actually solve the problem that she has.

Then there is another section that neither calms a customer down nor solve her problem. They just passively ignore the blabber and just move on to what they had to do right from the beginning — lead her to another queue.

Both these sections pacify the customer by making her tired.

But there is another section, though in minority, that I come across with a pleasant surprise. They do not listen to your tirade – they even engage, if necessary. They make you realize that your anger is unjustified at the moment, at the place and is against a person that does not deserve to be shouted at. They pacify you by not making you tired, but by tersely moving on to the actual problem that should be addressed. It demands a degree of confidence in one’s knowledge and experience and belief in understanding the customer need better to belong in this group.

Which section fits the standard schooling of customer care, is more effective in addressing the customer needs is undoubtedly debatable. I believe majority of the people may prefer the patience and calmness of the first group. But at times, it is the concise interaction of the final group that is beneficial for all parties involved.