Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Inside Out

Dinner and a Movie

Inside Out and Outside In

By Steve Herte

What an interesting weekend! I tried to write my movie review Saturday after my gardening was finished but I was dissatisfied with it. I was gushing and I can’t think straight when I do that. Knowing that my family was going to get together at my brother’s house for Father’s Day I wanted to get my writing done early but it didn’t sound right. I gathered all the facts I needed, saved what I had and put it aside.

It wasn’t any easier picking it up after a dinner of sauerbraten, red cabbage, potato dumplings and potato pancakes with apple sauce, three bean salad, chicken in gravy, good wine and three-layer chocolate mousse cake. But I kept at it. Friday’s movie lived up to every bit of hype I’ve seen (an extreme rarity in today’s movie world) and I was energized. Now it’s your turn. Enjoy!

Inside Out (Pixar/Walt Disney, 2015) - Directors: Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen. Writers: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen (story). Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley & Pete Docter (s/p). Cast/Voices: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Paula Poundstone, Bobby Moynihan, Paula Pell, Dave Goelz, Frank Oz, Sherry Lynn, Lariane Newman, Lori Alan, John Ratzenburger, & Josh Cooley. Color, 94 minutes, PG.

Riley Anderson (Dias) is born and opens her eyes on her delighted Mom (Lane) and Dad (MacLachlan). The scene changes to the control headquarters inside Riley’s head. As a baby, the first emotion to appear inside Riley is Joy (Poehler) and she has to learn how to work the control panel. She pushes a button and Riley smiles at Mom and Dad. Then Sadness (Smith), who cries when hungry or wet, joins Joy. That's followed by Fear (Hader), caution crossing a wire with her wagon; Anger (Black), when she doesn’t get what she wants; and Disgust (Kaling), while she’s being fed broccoli for the first time – which Joy counteracts with encouragement on the “airplane into the hanger” motion initiated by Daddy. Joy’s control builds “core memories” (golden globes stored in Headquarters central) and they in turn create causeways to “islands” leading from the tower and floating above the Pit of Forgetfulness.

Everything is peachy while Joy rules in Riley’s mind, until the family has to move to San Francisco. The new house is a real fixer-upper and the movers are delayed for nearly a week (Riley has to use a sleeping bag on the floor) but Joy keeps Riley upbeat. Sadness keeps trying to touch the “golden” memories Joy has stored up, making them blue and melancholy, and in one scuffle, both are accidentally sucked up the tube leading to the endless maze of Long Term Memory. Fortunately, Joy had convinced Sadness of the fun it is to be read the manuals and she now knows the way through the maze. Unfortunately, Sadness has gone into despair mode and has to be dragged by Joy.

It’s Riley’s first day of school and starts off fine, until Sadness touches a core memory and Riley turns melancholy. The tussle between Joy and Sadness happens before Riley goes home, and Fear, Anger and Disgust are left in charge. This makes her moody and her attitude cues Mom’s version of Joy (Lynn), Fear (Newman) and Sadness (Alan) to try involving Dad in the non-conversation. Dad is clueless and the result is an argument, ending in Riley being sent to her room.

On their way back to the Headquarters, Joy and Sadness meet the Forgetters, Bobby and Paula (Moynihan and Poundstone), who are busy vacuuming gray memories from the shelves, sending them down into the Pit of Forgetfulness. Also on their way they meet Bing Bong (Kind). He was Riley’s childhood invisible friend. His head is a pink elephant, his body is cotton candy, and he has a cat’s ringed tail, and can make dolphin sounds. She and he traveled in his “rocket” – actually a red wagon with two brooms attached to the sides.

Bing Bong seems to know the way but whoops, he cannot read. “This is a short-cut. I take it all the time. See? (he spells) D.A.N.G.E.R., Short-cut!” This takes the trio into Abstract Thought and the maintainers arrive shortly after they enter and shut the door, intending to clear out the contents. This transforms Joy, Sadness and Bing Bong into Picasso-esque versions of themselves. “That’s the first stage of three!” cries Sadness. Then, they become two-dimensional abstract figures and lastly single lines before they figure out how to climb through the door on the other side of the enormous building. But they miss the Train of Thought. They have to travel through Imagination Land and Childhood Memories to get to the next stop.

Meanwhile, under the manipulations of Fear, Anger and Disgust, Riley is becoming more distant from her parents and friends; the islands of Goofball and Friendship crumble, and she eventually steals her mother’s credit card to buy a ticket back to Minnesota and the Island of Honesty crumbles. The journey’s getting harder and harder for Joy and Sadness because the causeways are disappearing along with the islands. Not only that, but when Riley falls asleep, the train stops and they have to awaken her with a scary dream to get it started again.

Bing Bong gets arrested when he’s blamed for stealing a piece of a cloud house owned by Fritz (Ratzenberger) and is imprisoned with all of Riley’s fears in her Subconscious. Sneaking down the long stairway, Joy and Sadness get the two Subconscious Guards (Goetz and Oz) to lock them up as well. Inside, there’s a huge stalk of broccoli, grandma’s vacuum cleaner, and the solution to their problem, the scary and huge Jangles the Clown (Cooley) asleep with Bing Bong imprisoned in a cage made of balloons. They escape with the unwitting help of Jangles and achieve the scary dream, waking Riley – much to the dismay of the Dream Director (Pell). But things are getting worse. The last island, the Island of Family, is beginning to crumble, the train runs out of track and crashes, Joy and Bing Bong are hurled into the Pit of Forgetfulness and Sadness is crying her eyes out while floating on a rain cloud.

Inside Out is easily the best creation to come out of the minds at Pixar. It’s the perfect entertainment vehicle: no violence, no sex, no vulgarity. It’s tremendously funny, ingenious, exciting and clever, colorful to the extreme, and engaging. Even the baby in the theater stopped crying to watch. Finally: a new concept for a plot in a desert of remakes and unoriginality, which includes a maximum “Wow” factor. I laughed a lot, got teary-eyed and was on the edge of my seat. I’ll admit, it surpasses Ratatouille as my favorite Pixar film so far. One of my favorite scenes is when Joy and Sadness finally splat on the window of the Headquarters Tower, Disgust insults Anger until he blows his top and she uses him as a blowtorch to break the window and let Joy and Sadness in.

A big lesson learned by Joy is being taught to the audience. Sometimes Sadness is the emotion to take the controls. Make sure to stay for the credits. The camera takes us into the minds of other characters, a dog, and (funniest) a cat, to see what’s going on in their heads. For this marvelous film not to affect you, you would have to be either comatose or deceased. This film is a definite must-see.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

The Chester
45 East 33 rd St. (between Madison and Park Avenues) New York

The Chester has two locations, one in Chelsea and this one on the East side. The website makes the place look very attractive and the menu has enough interesting dishes to lure me there.

Outside, it’s all glitz. The silver marquee over the door sports the name embossed in gold, as do the window tops. The front windows are open to the street (called natural air-conditioning in New York) and I enter through the main door and walk up to the Captain’s Station. The young lady leads me to a table by the window with a view of potted boxwoods and the closed liquor store across the street.

The two young ladies at the next table greet me, and Christine, our mutual server, arrives with a bottle of tap water and the menu. Christine is not your usual waitress. She’s savvy, perceptive and down to Earth. “Talk to me!” she says. “Do you have Beefeaters?” I ask. “Yes.” And I order my favorite martini. It’s perfect, except for the glass. I explain to the ladies at the next table, “It’s hard to look like James Bond when your martini glass has no stem.”

Sipping my drink I look around. The Chester is an airy bistro walled in medium dark wood with comfy chairs and bare-topped tables. There are six video screens on the two walls of the bar at the other end of the room showing various sporting events but not competing with sounds, thank you very much.

The menu is a two-sided card with Oysters, Starters, Entrées, Pasta, Artisanal Pizza, Salads, Desserts, and Sides on one side and drinks and wine list on the other. There is only one drawback: The font for the descriptions of each dish, drink or wine is somewhere below eight points and impossible for me to read. Thank goodness the ladies at the next table have better eyes than mine and were kind enough to read what I couldn’t.

Not wanting to impose on the ladies too much, I told Christine I had a good appetite and planned a three-course meal – no matter what the description said. Christine asked me the order in which I wanted the dishes and I told her, explaining I eat slowly and had lots of time. I had also chosen a wine, the 2011 Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from Ravines vineyard, Finger Lakes, New York. Having been to the winery on one of my summer trips I knew it would have deep fruit flavor with spicy, smoky overtones. And, yes, it did.

My first course, meatballs – slow braised, dense, flavorful globes, drizzled with panko (Japanese wheat bread-crumbs), Parmesan, and ricotta in a rich, thick tomato sauce – got approval nods from the ladies at the next table and they giggled when I tasted them and said, “Oooh! They’ve got a lot going on!” Indeed they did. Obviously a combination of more than one meat, they required a knife to cut them, and the sauce gave them a piquant tartness. The toasted baguette slices helped get every drop left in the square iron skillet they were served in.

The next dish was pesto pappardelle – homemade noodles green with a five-herb pesto, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon. Served in an artistic over-sized bowl it was a unique experience. Normally, a pesto dish is on the sweet side, but the five herbs added an intriguing spicy flavor that hinted at bacon (even though no bacon was in the recipe). Delicious. I could tell it was homemade because I had to cut the noodles. They must have been a foot long or more, but were no problem for me.

The main course was the only one I chose that fit the “Traditional American” cuisine advertised by the website. It was “stout-braised short ribs” – on a bed of puréed parsnip, pear, beet oil and herbs. The meat was nicely blackened and crisp on the outside and collapsed with a fork into delectable shreds. I almost wished I had ordered a side dish. When I finished it, Christine came over to check up on me and said, “You’re my hero! Any dessert?”

Online, the only dessert I wanted was the one I ordered, the s'mores – Classic s'mores, bruléed marshmallows in graham cracker sandwiches with rich dark chocolate sauce. It’s the ultimate finger-food sweet. I didn’t even have to think about an after dinner drink. Christine was already there. “Espresso Martini?” “Yes!” The great finish to an amazing dinner, it consisted of Ketel One vodka, Godiva Kahlua and espresso coffee.

When these two were finished, Christine repeated her plaudit of admiration and I thanked her. The Chester was a wonderful dining experience but Christine and my two dining friends made it homey and welcome. I was so happy I forgot to ask for a business card.

I’ll just have to return sometime.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.


  1. Pixar has done it again. This is one of, if not THE best Pixar film since The Incredibles. The amount of heart and soul the actors and the animators and everyone else worked on the film put into the movie is how every great film is created. It will make you remember the grand days of old for Pixar and will leave you with a grin on your face, parent and child alike.

    Watch Inside Out Movie Online Free

    1. From Steve:
      In an age where nearly everything is a sequel or a remake it's stunning to see such imagination still exists - in addition to the visual and vocal artistry.