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Keeping Memories Alive
I’m always surprised when I meet people who haven’t seen Coco (2017), Pixar’s last truly great film. (For now, anyway.) The film is an example of Pixar at its best, combining beautiful animation, cultural reverence, tight pacing, and wickedly smart plotting into a perfectly balanced blend. Stories that manage to hide their villains in plain sight respect the intelligence of their audience and find clever and creative ways to subvert an intelligent audience’s expectations. These are the types of stories in which you aren’t sure what direction it might go, but you don’t care. Coco earns your trust and keeps it. Like learning how an oft-imitated magic trick is done, an audience, in retrospect, might not appreciate the sleight-of-hand of a razor-sharp screenplay, but this is assuredly a film capable of exerting the strongest of grips on an audience.
My memories of the film aside, there’s a more important reason I’m recommending you watch Coco this weekend: A dear friend of mine and one of Movie Night’s earliest supporters, Jill Dicus, recently said goodbye to her mom, Margie Maybee, for the last time. It’s been heartbreaking for everyone who knew Jill and Margie and how much they loved and supported each other.
Jill and I were discussing Coco recently (unfortunately, when you’re a cinephile, everything tends to turn into a conversation about movies at some point), and I was moved by her recollection of the film and how it resonated at this time, how its meaning changes as life goes on. Jill graciously agreed to commit some of her feelings to paper for Movie Night this week. Margie’s contribution to the lives of everyone around her through her doings and her wonderful children and grandchildren can hardly be adequately appreciated in a weekly movie blog post. However, still, this week’s post is dedicated to Margie Maybee. We’ll miss you.
The first time I watched "Coco," my cat was very sick, and I was convinced he would die. I watched on my sofa with my sick cat in my lap and cried, "screw memories of dead loved ones," I thought, "You can't cuddle memories!" As my cat recovered from his illness, I reflected more deeply on the film in conversation with my mom. I realized that I knew very little about my ancestors beyond those whom I had personally met; she shared with me stories of her cool, childless Aunt who lived in the big city, and her father who died before I was born, and a few of her own adventures that I had never heard before. I am so grateful to have heard those stories and encourage you to engage in a similar conversation with someone you love.
A couple of weeks ago, my mom died. I miss her voice, and her laugh, and her hugs. It's true that you can't cuddle memories. But I will always remember what a beautiful and strong woman she was and how loved she made me feel.
Written by Matthew Aldrich and Adrian Molina; Directed by Lee Unkrich