DESPITE ALL the McDonald's Happy Meal toy tie-ins, all the limited-edition sugary cereal and the other marketing to tots, "The Incredibles" writer-director Brad Bird wants the world to know that his PG-rated, animated film -- Pixar's first non-G-rated cartoon -- isn't baby stuff. Same goes for all animation, in fact.
"There's an automatic feeling that I can't wait for it to end -- the day cannot come fast enough -- when people stop assuming that animation is for kids," says the filmmaker, known for his work on such grown-up fare as "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill," where he gave himself the obscure title of "executive consultant." ("I consult on executives, and I basically advocate not having too many of them," he jokes.)
"Animation is seen as a kid's medium," Bird says, "which I think sells it short tremendously, and seen, oftentimes, as a 'genre.' It's an art form that can do any genre."
He's even ready to chide, albeit politely, a reporter who, against the advice of his wife, admits to having allowed his 5-year-old to watch episodes of "The Simpsons."
"See, I think I'm going to have to agree with your wife on this one," he says, with the tone of someone lecturing a guy who takes his kid to strip bars. "I'm proud of 'The Simpsons' and of being a part of it for the first eight seasons, but it's not intended for little kids." Of the bluenoses who have attacked the show -- and, by extension, him -- in the past, saying things like "I'm quite offended at that, as a mother," Bird says "Maybe, as a mother, you should be. Why don't you get the kid to bed and watch it yourself, because I think you're going to laugh."
Of course, he still wants everybody to see his new movie -- maybe just not right away.
"Who is the audience for 'The Incredibles'?" he asks rhetorically. "Who isn't it for? Okay, so maybe little sensitive kids should probably not go and wait a few years, and parents should take the PG rating seriously. I don't want to get letters from people who assume that animation is for little Buffy who likes Barney the dinosaur."
"This film is not gentle like Barney the dinosaur," he continues. "It will, hopefully, put you on the edge of your seat, as well as making you laugh. It's meant to rock you, and if you're not ready to rock, don't go see the movie. But I do think that even little Buffy, give her a few years and she'll love 'The Incredibles.' It's like 'Star Wars.' It's supposed to knock you around a little bit."
Berlin, a city that has inspired so many artists, including the poet Rimbaud; Walter Ruttmann, who made the 1927 poetic documentary "Berlin: Symphony of a Great City"; and Wim Wenders, whose 1987 "Wings of Desire" was a glorious tribute to the city, full of angels who read the thoughts of the living.
Now, Berlin's the subject of "Living in Berlin," a film series that runs through mid-January at the Goethe-Institut Washington (812 Seventh St. NW). (It's in conjunction with a photographic series, "Antoinette: Berlin Stories," featuring more than 100 life-size pictures of Berliners by photographer Antoinette, which runs through February.) The six-film series kicks off Monday at 8 with Antje Kruska and Judith Keil's 2001 "Queens of Dust," a docu-drama about three women working as cleaners in Berlin but still holding on to personal dreams.
The Monday night series continues Nov. 22 at 6:30 with Romuald Karmakar's "196 BPM" (2002), a 62-minute show about a nonstop dancing weekend with 1 million techno music fans from around the world at Berlin's annual Love Parade.
On Nov. 29 at 6:30, it's Igor Paasch's "Let It Rock!" (2002), a 72-minute film about the revitalized inner-city district of Mitte. This documentary portrait features 150 interviews and music from Berlin-based Westbam, the Fall, Moog Cookbook and Baltimore-born composer Philip Glass.
The remaining films are: Till Hastreiter's "Status Yo!" (123 minutes), a 2004 German-Swiss production about Berlin's hip-hop subculture, which features hip-hopper Yan Eq, Dec. 13 at 6:30; Thomas Arslan's "A Fine Day" (2000, 74 minutes), about a German-Turkish 21-year-old named Deniz, who lives in Berlin's Turkish community and dreams of a show-business career, Jan. 3 at 6:30; and finally, Hannes Stoehr's "Berlin Is in Germany" (2001, 95 minutes), about a former East German prisoner Martin Schulz, who experiences the post-Berlin Wall Germany for the first time in 2000 after 11 years in prison, Jan. 10 at 6:30.
Admission is $5. For more information, visit www.goethe.de/washington or call 202-289-1200.
The Freer Gallery of Art's "Discoveries" film series starts this weekend. Running through Dec. 19, it's the Freer's third annual showcase of new films from Asia. This year's offerings are six innovative works from across Asia.
Sunday at 2, it's Tian Zhuangzhuang's 2002 "Springtime in a Small Town" (116 minutes), a Chinese film about a love triangle between a sickly landowner, his wife and his old friend, a doctor who comes to stay at their dilapidated estate in a town devastated by war.
Nov. 19 at 7, the Japanese film "Nine Souls" (2003, 120 minutes) will screen; it's a comedy about a prison breakout that has a brutal side and is directed by Toshiaki Toyoda. Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien's 2001 "Millennium Mambo" (119 minutes), about a young club hostess (played by mega-star Shu Qi) who stakes out a better life, screens Nov. 21 at 2.
Sri-Lanka filmmaker Satyajit Maitipe's "Scent of the Lotus Pond" (141 minutes), showing Dec. 5 at 2, is the story of a modern-day Buddhist parable about sexual obsession. And Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's 2003 "Cellphone," screening Dec. 10 at 7, is a comedy about a TV host who uses his cell phone for extramarital dalliances. The film was a hit in China. And finally, the 2003 Indian film "Anaahat" ("Eternity") (90 minutes) screens Dec. 19 at 2. Amol Palekar's film is about a childless king and queen who must, by law, allow another man to spend the night with the queen in order to produce an heir. For more information, visit www.asia.si.edu/events/films.asp or call 202-633-4880.
Some works from the prodigious Iranian corner can be seen at the National Gallery of Art's East Building. Saturday at 3:30, it's the Washington premiere of Marziyeh Meshkini's 2004 "Stray Dogs" (92 minutes), a fictional film based on Meshkini's experiences with the children of female inmates in Afghanistan, who are forced to live in prison. The following Friday, Nov. 26, Meshkini's 2000 "The Day I Became a Woman" (78 minutes), three short stories about the cycle of a woman's life, screens at 12:30. Two films by Samira Makhmalbaf round off the weekend: "The Apple" (1998, 82 minutes), Nov. 27 at 12:30 p.m., is the surreal story of twin sisters imprisoned within their family home for many years by their disadvantaged parents. It's followed at 2 by the 2000 "Blackboards" (85 minutes), about two women who break away from their group of fellow teachers to take a journey of their own. Visit www.nga.gov/programs/flmmide1.shtm#five or call 202-737-4215 for more information.
-- Desson Thomson
and Michael O'Sullivan