I am going to post a series of short essays about where I was in my life when I first saw a certain film and how it tied in to that moment. Intensely personal and very much biased to the faults of my memory, they are more recollection than film review.
I simply have the most difficult time watching Pixar’s Up. It’s not that the film is horrible or unwatchable. Hardly. I think it’s possibly their best film with the exception of Wall-E. It’s just that the first five to ten minutes are completely unbearable and I’ll explain why.
In late May of 2009, my father, who was ill with all manner of problems, began coughing up blood in copious amounts. Deep, rich, brownish coffee grind blood that comes from so deep inside that most of us never know it’s ever there. Much more important than the cut on the finger blood and almost as sacred as the monthly blood of future mothers, it came out of him in convulsions and wouldn’t stop.
He had spent the night doing this, crying out for his elderly mother who was in the next room who called out for him, neither being able to reach the other. It was only on the morning after that one of the vagrants he let live on the second floor of his home alerted anyone outside to what was happening. When my mother, his first ex-wife, arrived and saw the human wreckage that was Dad he was rushed to the ER of perhaps the worst staffed hospital in the state of Georgia. Because of his worsening condition, my father received a complimentary upgrade from the windowless ER room to the ICU suite, complete with a sweeping window overlooking the street corner. They decked him in the finest array of tubes and scopes and sensors and this man who once towered over me in my youth now laid shriveled up and engulfed by warm sterile blankets on a bed that growled and beeped.
It is important to know that this man who once pushed 250 lbs. was then a mere 90 lbs., give or take. His large glasses slipped off his face even when he was completely still. He lay in the bed for almost four weeks and I was solely responsible for every medical decision on his behalf. It was the second day in the ICU that I sat in my car in the parking lot of the hospital and broke down in sobs because I knew my dad was going to die.
About two weeks in to his stay my family suggested that we do something that resembled normal to try and take our minds off of the matter at hand. That activity was, of course, going to see a movie; specifically: Up.
The story is this: An old man wishes to fulfill his wife’s life-long dream of traveling to South America, so he retrofits his home in to a helium dirigible to travel there and the adventure happens. ...And it has a talking dog, and heart-felt moments and is utterly brilliant and wonderful... And the wife dies in the first five minutes in a montage that not only reminded me of my then current predicament, but forced me to imagine my future wife who sat right beside me in the same calamity. So I shamefully broke down in the goddamn theater, gulping down my emotions as to not disturb the other paying theater-goers.
Otherwise; I loved the talking dog.
I can now watch the rest of the film without conflict. I just have to fast-forward a little past the inciting incident. But, even then, when throughout the film Carl Fredricksen looks at his home held aloft by balloons, his reminder of his lost Ellie, I’m reminded of the last real interaction I had with my father. I walked in and his eyes turned from the nurse towards me and from underneath the breathe mask I could see a smile on his face and he winked at me. I asked him if he liked my haircut. He nodded shallowly and with care.