‘Inside Out’ is sophisticated and entertaining; ‘Myopia’ opening at MIA

PIXAR
“Inside Out” director Pete Docter was born and raised in Bloomington.

Pixar’s new animated film “Inside Out,” opening Friday, has Minnesota roots. Director Pete Docter was born and raised in Bloomington. His mother was a music educator, his father a retired choral director at Normandale Community College. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School and spent a year at the U before leaving for California Institute of the Arts.

Hired by Pixar in 1990, Docter skipped his own graduation to start work as one of the company’s first three animators. Today he’s a Pixar star whose films include “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Wall-E” and “Up,” which won two Oscars and a Golden Globe.

At an “insider access” screening on Tuesday (open to the public, but with higher than usual ticket prices), the film was bookended by special features: a tour of Pixar Animation Studios in San Francisco and a live Q&A from Australia with Docter, producer Jonas Rivera and Amy Poehler, who voiced the lead character, Joy.

The screening also included the short that will play before “Inside Out” in theaters. Made by James Ford Murphy, Pixar’s animation head, “Lava” is a love story about volcanoes, a product of Murphy’s fascination with volcanoes and Hawaiian music.

Thanks to “Lava,” we were dabbing our eyes and sniffling before “Inside Out” began. The feature opened the waterworks all over the theater. Pixar is brilliant at bypassing our defenses and going straight for the heart. We know we’re watching digitally generated cartoon characters, but we don’t care. “Inside Out” is even more openly about emotions. The main characters are emotions: Joy (voiced by Poehler), Sadness, Fear, Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust.

The film is set inside the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. Most takes place in “Headquarters,” a control center in Riley’s mind where Joy and the others guide Riley through her day from a high-tech console. It’s a vast and colorful world with many moving parts, safe havens and perils. (Here’s a terrific trailer.) Like all Pixar films, “Inside Out” is not aimed at children or dumbed down. This is sophisticated material, some verging on the abstract, presented in the most entertaining way. We can imagine this film being used for years and years to talk with kids about their feelings.

Riley’s emotional journey is the arc of the film. During development, many possible plots were considered and discarded, including one about Riley wanting to be a turkey in a Thanksgiving pageant. The Pixar team finally settled on a twist that would break anyone’s heart: leaving Minnesota. It seems Pete Docter has his own fond memories of big backyards, forests and frozen ponds. 

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Looking at the Dakota’s music calendar, it feels like the old days, the Bandana Square days when jazz was all you heard. Along with presenting Kurt Elling on Monday, Lowell Pickett has booked a ridiculous number of top national acts now on tour. Click the links FMI and tickets. 

• This Friday, June 19: the Bill Frisell Trio. Frisell has been at the forefront of jazz guitar since the 1980s. His trio includes fellow guitarist Tony Scherr and drummer Rudy Royston.

• Next Tuesday and Wednesday, June 23-24: Cécile McLorin Salvant. Spectacularly gifted, born to sing jazz, tapped by Wynton Marsalis to tour with his holiday shows, still just 25 years old.

• Thursday, June 25: Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The sounds of traditional New Orleans.

• Sunday, June 28: John Pizzarelli. The personable, engaging guitarist, singer and radio host (“Radio Deluxe”) has breathed new life into the Great American Songbook.

Becca Stevens

• Monday, June 29: Becca Stevens. Everyone loves this young singer-songwriter who cares little about boundaries, going where inspiration leads. Elling has called her one of his five favorite jazz vocalists; her latest release, “Perfect Animal,” is poised, complex, alluring pop. Stevens can play almost any stringed instrument and she has a lovely, haunting voice.

• Tuesday and Wednesday, June 30-July 1: Charles Lloyd Quartet. A freshly minted NEA Jazz Master, Charles Lloyd just released a new album, “Wild Man Dance,” on Blue Note. At 76, he’s a legend whose live performances are superb on many levels: musically, emotionally, spiritually.

• July 5: Vinicius Cantuaria Sings Jobim. Beautiful, tuneful, seductive music from the Brazilian singer, songwriter, guitarist and percussionist. Think sun and beaches and whispers in your ear. Tip: this would be a great date night.

• July 23: John Raymond New York Quartet. A Minnesota native, trumpeter-composer Raymond moved to New York in 2009, worked with the best musicians he could find, played all over and started recording. The New York Times called “Foreign Territory,” his new release, “a substantial leap forward.” Although we still like to claim Raymond as our own, he’s on his way to belonging to the world.

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, June 18) at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Third Thursday: “Myopia.” Big deal alert: It’s opening night of Mark Mothersbaugh’s exhibition at MIA, and the artist will be there. Say hey or at least eyeball the founding member of Devo who has had a parallel career as a visual artist for 40 years. With music by DJ Jake Rudh. 6-9 p.m. Free.

Photo by John Engstrom Photography
“Putting It Together” starring (L-R front row, seated): Gabriel Priesser, Vicki Fingalson; (back row, standing) Paul Coate, Emily Gunyou Halaas and Jeffrey Madison.

Tonight through Sunday at Concordia’s E.M. Pearson Theatre: The 2015 Skylark Opera Festival ends with the final performances of Stephen Sondheim’s “Putting It Together” and Puccini’s “La Rondine” (The Swallow). The Sondheim is a musical review featuring five characters at a Manhattan cocktail party and songs from many of his musicals. With Paul Coate, Vicki Fingalson, Emily Gunyou Halaas, Gabriel Priesser and Jeffrey Madison. Operetta’s romance meets opera’s emotion in the Puccini, which is receiving its first-ever Twin Cities production (and is sung in English). With Cecilia Violette López, Won Whi Choi, Lindsay Russell and Norman Shankle. 320 Hamline Ave., St. Paul. All performances at 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-$45).

The weekend

Friday at Homewood Studios: Tad Simons Book Launch and Reading. Many of us know Tad Simons as a journalist and really good writer for Mpls/St. Paul magazine, Twin Cities Business, City Pages and so on and so on. Turns out he’s also a writer of short stories whose first collection, “The Bleeder,” is out right now. Listen, pick up a copy and shake his hand. How anyone writes fiction is a total mystery. 7 p.m. Free.

Saturday and Sunday at the Southern: The 3rd Minneapolis One-Minute Play Festival. A play in one minute, as in 60 seconds? This incarnation of the popular national project founded by Dominic D’Andrea (who partnered here with Walking Shadow) features 90 brand-new one-minute plays commissioned from 50 established and emerging Minneapolis playwrights including Trista Baldwin, Steven Epp, Khary Jackson, Derek Miller, Janaki Ranpurna, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil, Levi Weinhagen and Stanton Wood. 8 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($18).

Tickets please

Better jump on this. On Thursday, July 9, at the MIA, Jake Rudh – “Transmission” DJ, radio host for the Current and Devo super-fan – will moderate a conversation between Mark Mothersbaugh, whose exhibition “Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia” opens June 18, and Minneapolis-based filmmaker Chuck Statler, the “godfather of the music video.” Statler and Mothersbaugh have known each other since their days at Kent State in the early 1970s; Statler was directing music films for Devo and Elvis Costello before MTV was born. How can this not be fabulous? Reserve here ($20/$16 MIA members).

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