Movies – The Ten Best of the Decade Part 5 – “Finding Nemo”

All top ten lists are subjective: it’s a matter of taste, and more to the point, movies are about catharsis.  Each movie taps into a person’s individual experience, or lack thereof.   And each of us has different ways of being reached; sometimes, you’ll stumble across a movie and although other people may like it, even love it, because of your personal experience, it hits like a freight train.

That’s the power of the movies people don’t often talk about, that moment when it feels like the filmmaker is speaking to you and only you.  It’s always worth remembering movies are communal experiences; that’s why we go to see them in the theater, to have an experience with other people.  Some movies touch on subjects so broad a huge swath of people have that one-to-one freight train experience.

But to be honest, human beings are so different, and films are so hard to make, that it’s rare, and more often just a few.  The moments that sweep you off your feet, leave you staring at the screen or walking out into a humid night, after entering in the golden hour, your hands shaking, your mind buzzing, those are hard to find and they get harder to find as you see more movies.  I’ve seen countless movies over the years and “Finding Nemo” is one of those rare movies.  I’m certainly not unique in loving it: it is, to date, Pixar’s most successful feature.  But my reasons for loving it are my own.

Due to various circumstances, my father was a single parent who raised me largely by himself until I was a teenager, and as a result, I grew up in the movies.  My dad and I have fairly different tastes in some respects: he loves Hollywood, my tastes trend increasingly towards the foreign and obscure.  But as hard as our lives could be, there was always time to go to the movies.  Whether it was taking me to see “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” on a cold, rainy day I had off from school, or the absolutely electrifying moment when comic books and movies met for me at the AMC in Arlington where they were screening “Batman”, some of my best memories involve sitting next to my dad in the dark, watching the story play out.

And there’s a second layer for me personally, in that one of my father’s favorite comics, and one of the first filmmakers I remember my father introducing me to, is Albert Brooks, who voices the hero, Marlin.

So it’s a movie, something I have an emotional attachment to, about a single father, something I have an emotional attachment to, voiced by a comic I have fond childhood memories of.

And then it opens with his wife and almost all of his children murdered despite his best efforts, a scene which ends with this heart-broken man deciding to dedicate his entire life to his one remaining child.

I was a wreck.  Of course I was a wreck.  Even writing this, six years later and never having seen the movie since, I’m nearly in tears.  How couldn’t I be?  Andrew Stanton didn’t set out to strike right on one of the most sensitive nerves I had, of course, but that’s what he did.

And that’s why “Finding Nemo” is on this list.  I haven’t seen it since, although I loved it.  Honestly I’m not sure I could bear to.  But that’s the lesson, really.  That moment, that striking moment of catharsis that people will take away and hold for the rest of their lives, can come from any film if the director and writers take care in their craft.

Next – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

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