The moral of “Ratatouille” is delivered by a critic: a gaunt, unsmiling fellow named Anton Ego who composes his acidic notices in a coffin-shaped room and who speaks in the parched baritone of Peter O’Toole. “Not everyone can be a great artist,” Mr. Ego muses. “But a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Quite so. Written and directed by Brad Bird and displaying the usual meticulousness associated with the Pixar brand, “Ratatouille” is a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film. It provides the kind of deep, transporting pleasure, at once simple and sophisticated, that movies at their best have always promised.
Its sensibility, implicit in Mr. Ego’s aphorism, is both exuberantly democratic and unabashedly elitist, defending good taste and aesthetic accomplishment not as snobbish entitlements but as universal ideals. Like “The Incredibles,” Mr. Bird’s earlier film for Pixar, “Ratatouille” celebrates the passionate, sometimes aggressive pursuit of excellence, an impulse it also exemplifies.
The hero (and perhaps Mr. Bird’s alter ego) is Remy (Patton Oswalt), a young rat who lives somewhere in the French countryside and conceives a passion for fine cooking. Raised by garbage-eaters, he is drawn toward a more exalted notion of food by the sensitivity of his own palate and by the example of Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), a famous chef who insists — more in the manner of Julia Child than of his real-life haute cuisine counterparts — that “anyone can cook.”
I was impressed with this film on many levels, especially the incredible attention to details. Bird’s framing of Ego was superb. Go! Brad Bird directs (he also lead the Incredibles).
Apple’s iPhone has received no shortage of hype since it was announced earlier this year. From a technology perspective, I find the multi-touch interface most interesting. It cleanly addresses many small screen issues, including navigation and zoom in/out.
Having said that, I believe the real paradigm shift is the activation process. Years ago, while replacing a dead phone, I stood at the usual cell phone counter for quite some time while the customer in front of me went through a long activation process with Verizon’s representative. What a waste of time.
Apple has dramatically simplified (assuming it works) the activation process by baking it into iTunes. Buy the phone via bricks and mortar or online, sync and activate with your mac or pc and get on with it.
In many ways, Apple has pulled an identity-ectomy (identiectomy?) on AT&T. They are selling phones via AT&T’s channels, but the user experience (and therefore brand and stock price leverage) is all Apple. AT&T will get the fumes, but this is Apple’s win. I’m no fan of AT&T [rss].
Finally, two years ago, while on travel, I spoke with someone who should/would know. This person told me that the iPhone was due later that summer (2005). I wonder if Apple scrapped an early version and decided to wait for the right time and place in terms of technology and software? If so, that takes guts, particularly given the pieces that need to be in place for a launch.
A New Book Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games”>by Tenant Bagley. A fascinating look at the Cold War battles between the CIA and KGB, among others. Bagley’s perspective is largely one of “counter-intelligence”. He includes some fascinating tales, including the Soviet’s use of plants and “false borders”. The book also provides an interesting look at Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. Well worth reading.