Roughly thirteen months ago, most of us had to alter the way we live our daily lives when the pandemic shut everything down. A… lot has happened since then, but in March 2020 I was already in a state of change: after almost four years at the largest movie theatre in my city, I’d decided I needed, you know, disposable income. I had just started the process of accepting a government job when COVID turned off the lights and I both counted my blessings for not having to go on financial assistance and worried for my friends who were still popping popcorn and ripping tickets at the time of the shutdown.
Disney released the odd thing like ONWARD (2020) and it was… odd to have a new release in the palm of my hands— at home — for free. I didn’t rush to watch it. I didn’t rush to watch anything. Part of this lockdown life still feels like we’re just waiting for everything to unpause. Still, I didn’t exactly miss the theatre-going experience. I had actually become jaded to it. I don’t know if that advent of streaming had made people more comfortable crossing the line of decency in the movie theatres, but it’s the best hypothesis I can manage. Talkers and cell phones in every single showing, no matter what the showing was, had left me exhausted and ready to embrace at-home distribution.
And yet once I had new releases on my TV ready to play, I hesitated. The world was still on pause—how am I supposed to enjoy a movie right now? I began to worry that I might be falling out of love with movies. I didn’t feel compelled to watch new ones and I didn’t miss the endless marathon of irritating people who attended theatres. Was it all over for me?
Of course, the short answer is: no. I’ve seen a handful of films from 2020 (admittedly less than I would’ve during a regular year) and enjoyed plenty of them. But to bring this long winded preamble to its point: THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES is the first time watching a film in the past thirteen months where I felt bummed I couldn’t experience it in the theatre. I watched it on a 58-inch 4K TV and I still felt cheated out of the true scope of its visual splendor. I suddenly remembered: Right! This! This right here! This array of colors over there and that action sequence over there and these characters—these beautiful characters! These are the reasons I like my films big, loud, and the only light source in the room.
In case you can’t tell, I have nothing but gushing words for THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES. It is an explosion of creativity that feels both well-focused and on glorious, unfettered display. The film is written and directed by Mike Rianda and Jeff Lowe, both alumni of the television show GRAVITY FALLS (2012), which, if you haven’t seen, needs to be your immediate priority right now. I’m not kidding. It’s on Disney Plus. It’s only two seasons. It’s a masterpiece. And you can tell the visual and comedic talents brimming in that show transferred well into MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES, aided by the sharp minds of producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The film is a constant joy for the senses. I can’t praise it enough.
In my estimation, Sony has usurped Pixar as the current animation studio to watch (and that’s saying something given that Pixar just released SOUL, which is as top tier as Pixar gets). Not bad for a studio that used to have the business model of annoying yellow minions or buying up IPs like Angry Birds or… Emojis. If Sony continues to invest in talented artists who want to tell their own stories, not write within the boxes of the latest mobile game Sony just bought the rights for, then I’m sure Sony will find a lucrative niche in this market, especially if they let Phil Lord and Chris Miller produce whatever project excites them. A sequel to the impeccable SPIDER-VERSE (2019) is on its way and I don’t know a soul not excited for that one.
Go watch THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES. It’s the best film I’ve seen since the pandemic locked us all inside. And watch it on the biggest screen you can.
THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES is now streaming on Netflix.