In case you’re new to Medium Cool, BGinCHI is here once a week to offer a thread on culture, mainly film & books, with some TV thrown in. We’re here at 7 pm on Sunday nights.
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Join Medium Cool on Sunday, April 24 at 7:00 EST for a Q&A with John Lingan, author of the forthcoming biography of Creedence Clearwater Revival, A Song for Everyone (Hachette, August 9, 2022). John will be there in comments to field questions and chat about the book and the band.
In this week’s Medium Cool, let’s talk about the films of Wes Anderson.
I can’t think of an American filmmaker who divides opinion more than Anderson (OK, maybe the other Anderson (Paul Thomas)). That a film like Don’t Look Up was nominated and The French Dispatch wasn’t is an indication. Anderson’s films are often dismissed as style over substance, and I could not disagree more.
So, it’s clear what I think, but I’m curious what you all think. From Bottle Rocket to the aforementioned film from this past year, what about it?
Can this blog get any whiter?
Chacal Charles Calthrop
just a quick warning that Wes Andersen is easy to parody:
Mike in NC
I never get tired of watching “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. A brilliant satire.
@Chacal Charles Calthrop: My favorite parody is one of those SNL short films, “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders.”
@Mike in NC: Same but there are few of his films that I didn’t enjoy. I haven’t watched the French dispatch yet, but plan on streaming it. I loved Moonrise Kingdom.
The still for this post (from “Rushmore”) a reminder of one of the ways that film is a nifty reworking of “The Graduate.”
John Waters? Woody Allen? David Lynch? Zack Snyder? Oliver Stone? Tod Browning?
@JPL: See what you think about French Dispatch. I wish it had veered away from its New Yorker roots more and toward some of the profound relationships and storytelling in parts of it.
I agree on Moonrise Kingdom. The first 5 minutes are beautiful visual storytelling. So much interesting stuff in that one. Took me several watches to get the feel for it.
@NotMax: Is there someone who doesn’t like John Waters?
Otherwise, yes, good list. I’m not a Lynch fan, personally. But boy does he have his defenders.
Steve in the ATL
@schrodingers_cat: I was discussing this same issue with some of my prep school mates at the club after squash and …you know, never mind!
@Steve in the ATL: Good one! LOL.
Shall also toss Andy Warhol into the mix.
@Steve in the ATL:
“Between chuckers” also works.
twee to the max
“He would have made a fine labor secretary”
West of the Rockies
Don’t forget Charlie Kauffman. Anomalisa was very odd and a terrible first date movie, I can report.
Steve in the ATL
@trollhattan: it would be, but it’s not the season when I’m in palm beach
Wes? He actually made the death of a child in India twee.
But the other Anderson is worse—he actually thinks he’s intelligent.
Maybe it’s a NC thing, but I also really liked Grand Budapest Hotel.
Yeah, very white. But I find WA entertaining in occasional doses.
I enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I don’t know if I’ve seen any other of his films. He certainly has his own visual style, and it can get in the way of the story if he’s not careful.
@schrodingers_cat: We could link some Vampire Weekend songs if you want.
I’m going for an extreme minority position right away: I HATED The Royal Tennenbaums. I to this day don’t know how I was supposed to take pleasure in such unlikable humans.
Moonrise Kingdom is definitely my favorite, and I like The Royal Tenenbaums quite a bit as well. Couldn’t get into The Life Aquatic or the Darjeeling Express, and I haven’t seen the most recent one.
On the twee-ness of Wes Anderson: He designed the cafe at the Prada Foundation museum in Milan. It has the general aesthetic of his movies. When I was in Milan for work, I went to check it out out of curiosity.
WA’s visual style is so distinctive it spawned this web site, where people take “accidentally Wes Anderson” photos of things all over the world.
Can’t really jump in here. Have never seen any of his films or even portions of them.
I really like Kogonada’s short video essays.
This one on symmetry in Anderson’s films is terrific.
@azelie: I don’t like either one of those films. Total style over substance work there. Without a strong script his films are cartoonish.
Bottle Rocket and Moonrise Kingdom are by far my favorites of his.
I’m sure you are aware of the Chicago Magazine article.
Also Fantastic Mr. Fox.
I realize I’ve never seen one of his movies. I tried watching “Royal Tennanbaums” and “Isle of Dogs” and couldn’t get more than 15 minutes into either of them..
@Omnes Omnibus: I have no idea what that is.
Probably the only director whiter and more twee than Wes Anderson is Whit Stillman, director of films such as Metropolitan.
That said, I loved Anderson since Rushmore and think that Grand Budapest Hotel is a great film. What set these films apart for me is that they have great heart, a sensitivity that bursts through the sometimes rigid formalism of the production and direction.
Anderson’s work has a coldness that reminds me a bit of the Coen Brothers, who often seem to embed their work with little markers to remind you that they are making a movie, and that any emotions that you might feel are little more than reflexive responses to audio and visual stimuli.
Anderson also reminds me a bit of Woody Allen, without the baggage of scandal, in that actors seem to love, love, love, appearing in his films, even in small roles.
And I might also say that Anderson reminds me a bit of Hitchcock. Hitchcock was a master of cinema, and yet some critics and viewers thnk that he was satisfied in mining a particular genre of film, and had no great desire to take on more challenging subjects. Anderson seems content to churn out his perfect little miniatures, like the pastries in Grand Budapest.
Anderson has been criticized for the weakness of his female characters, when he has women as significant figures at all in his film. I guess this is true to some degree, but I love Olivia Williams in Rushmore and Saoirse Ronan in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Really looking forward to Anderson’s upcoming remake of Shaft.
O. Felix Culpa
@Steve in the ATL: You made me laugh. Literally.
I’ve only seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and Isle of Dogs (2018).
Isle of Dogs has a dynamite soundtrack that I often borrow from Hoopla Digital. The story also takes place in Japan, but I kept thinking about American xenophobia the two times I saw it.
I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. Strong visuals. Willem Dafoe’s character; Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes was unctuously marvelous. Wes Anderson gets very good actors who, I think, enjoy the over the top and right up to the line of ridiculousness roles they play.
All that said, the scenes on the train were genuinely chilling.
Have only seen a few of his movies, and you kind of have to be in a mood for the twee, but I am glad to see a discussion of his films.
Moonrise Kingdom is at our local arthouse theatre later this month, and it will be a little sad to see Bruce Willis, having learned of his aphasia diagnosis.
Theatre has been showing several Anderson films, but I just got back; missed most of them. Rushmore and Grand Budapest up soon.
@Brachiator: Hitchcock is the greatest film director who ever lived
@schrodingers_cat: A sample.
That’s a wonderful line. The pastries are so emblematic of that movie.
Steve in the ATL
@zhena gogolia: right. We’ll just pretend Kevin Smith doesn’t exist.
And of course, some of his films are works of animation.
@Steve in the ATL: Don’t you dare take Clerks away from me!
Steve in the ATL
@O. Felix Culpa: I am here to serve. And give Omnes props for the excellent Vampire Weekend reference! Would the judges also have accepted Ben Folds Five?
@Yutsano: Heh, I have an inordinate love for that film but totally agree with your character assessment.
Steve in the ATL
@Yutsano: how about Yoga Hosers?
@Brachiator: I was just going to write that the only director I dislike more than Wes Anderson is Whit Stillman! Not especially due to their whiteness, but just…. bleaghh. And I love movies. i really do…
@Omnes Omnibus: Ugh.
Perhaps after Billy Wilder and Kurosawa.
But yeah, he is in my pantheon. I have run across some Youtube videos where people react to his ‘classic” films, but they are always his American movies, such as Rear Window, Psycho, and Vertigo. I keep suggesting that they watch some of his British masterpieces.
@Steve in the ATL: More bonus points for Weezer.
@AndyG: the only Stillman movie I’ve seen is Love and Friendship. A real snooze
@AndyG: I like Stillman. Metropolitan was his best, but I like the others as well.
@Steve in the ATL:
This is our wheelhouse.
O. Felix Culpa
@Steve in the ATL: The things one learns on Balloon Juice. Truly a full-service blog.
@delk: HA! I did not. Irony…….
FWIW, CNN is airing Roadrunner, documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain at 9 eastern. About half an hour from now.
Here’s a free online source (via Live News Chat) for CNN, if you don’t have cable. (And just watch then; they’re just interviewing Ryan Lizza now … how much trouble is Biden in??)
A jackal shared this site, several years ago.
Steve in the ATL
@Omnes Omnibus: #Crackers4Life
@Brachiator: Though not cartoonish.
@Omnes Omnibus: Barcelona my favorite.
Steve in the ATL
@Mike E: fair point!
@Omnes Omnibus: Metropolitan is the only film I can think of that name checks J. Press. Hmm…maybe s_c does have a point….
Musically, Wes Anderson reminds me of Beirut.
I would like to see a thread upcoming on movies and other forms that have dealt effectively with warning of impending fascism. Or depicting its effects. Can be old movies, too.
We seem to live in a nation full of perpetual adolescents, and the casually educated.. Got to somehow get a message across to them, and entertainment is a good medium.
@Brachiator: Which brings to mind this VW Take Away Show. It features the song Walcott, which is about a vampire outbreak on Cape Cod. I love the whole Take Away Show series.
@Elizabelle: Great suggestion.
Someone mentioned Whit Stillman. Love his work (we’re near-contemporaries—he’s half a year my senior—although unlike him I’m the scion of Southern California proles). As to Wes Anderson, I like his work, and his fanatical attention to detail: in The Grand Budapest Hotel there is a brief shot of a newspaper headline, onscreen for a couple of seconds, max, above an obituary that includes a sly Nabokov reference that cannot have been seen by a theatre audience.
I saw The French Dispatch in Santa Cruz last Thanksgiving, the first time I had set foot in that theatre since my college sweetie and I took her former roommate there in 1974, having stuffed her full of LSD, for a screening of Zardoz (she enjoyed it unreservedly as I recall). As to The French Dispatch, people who like Wes Anderson films sill adore it; those who do not will detest it.
Big Picture Pathologist
Seeing ‘Rushmore’ in 1999 was one of the most unexpectedly joyous experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater.
‘Moonrise Kingdom’, ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, ‘The Life Aquatic’, and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ all had their moments of entertainment and wonder to varying degrees.
‘Tenenbaums’, OTOH, left me cold.
@Elizabelle: There were a ton of movies in the ‘30s and ‘40s about this. Since Reagan, in the US, movies tend to celebrate fascism more.
James E Powell
Loved Grand Budapest Hotel & I generally like Wes Anderson’s movies. He doesn’t always hit it, but I like that he swings.
@Brachiator: I was going to say Belle and Sebastian. So twee his movies make me break out in hives. Spare me movies about rich people moaning about how hard their lives are. I wanted to punch every character in the face in Darjeeling Express
Yep. Excellent stuff.
Will go with “Moonrise Kingdom” as the one that has aged well in my aged brain. I think he understands the pubescent brain very well, and I don’t mean that in a creepy way, dang it. “Quirky as fuck” is what ties his works together, at least those I’ve seen.
@zhena gogolia: A woman after my own heart.
I have only watched trailers and have never felt that they were aimed at me. So I have given them a pass.
@Omnes Omnibus: Thanks.
@Yutsano: with you 100%. That’s not to say that I haven’t found mild amusement in other of his films, but man that film was painful.
@zhena gogolia: Agree with you, although Brachiator’s choices are also good. Also, like you, can’t comment directly to the subject here because, to the best of my knowledge, I have also seen none of Anderson’s work.
@schrodingers_cat: I’m not sure I’ve even seen trailers. The reviews were enough. But of course I could be wrong! I’m kind of allergic to the Coen brothers as well, except for O Brother Where Art Thou.
When Licorice Pizza dropped from $19.95 to $6.95 we watched it. Meh.
@zhena gogolia: Not watched any Coen brothers movies either, other than Fargo.
I don’t think WA is just style over substance, but even when I enjoy one of his movies, I still don’t care a bit about his characters.
@Raven: Even the name sounds twee.
@schrodingers_cat: Licorice Pizza is by a different Anderson. Paul Thomas Anderson. Who is Maya Rudolph’s partner.
@Yutsano: Yes, but … Gene Hackman saying “We can swing by her grave too” (on a trip to the cemetery to visit someone else’s plot) still cracks me up.
James E Powell
All my cinephile friends loved it, but I didn’t like it at all. It’s on a long list of “maybe I need to watch that one again” films, but I’m in no hurry.
Check out Sherman’s March by Ross McElwee .
@Elizabelle: Ah, thanks.
O Brother, Where Art Thou is an oddball comedy of a prison escape film loosely inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. Good songs.
I love the Coen Brothers. Have not seen all of their films, but they’re excellent filmmakers.
Come on people. Raising Arizona? The Big Lebowski? Fargo? Blood Simple?
Ethan Coen wrote a good book of short stories, Gates of Eden. One story about some seriously unambitious mobsters.
Magnolia was so good, I even liked Tom Cruise.
I don’t think I’ve seen the most recent one, but I’ve loved the Coen Brothers’ films.
@debbie: Haven’t seen it! Haven’t seen most of PT Anderson’s films; just caught Boogie Nights (at the arthouse) in the last year.
Lots of movies out there to catch up on. And they’re wonderful to see on a big screen, especially if it’s a first time.
Arthouse had Dr. Strangelove today at 2; couldn’t attend. Am going to see The Thin Man later this week. I think they’ve acquired a wine and beer license. If so, some bubbly might be in order for that one. Or suds …
@Raven: Loved Sherman’s March. Time to see that one again.
@BGinCHI: That is delightful!
@trollhattan: chukkas, quoth the polo pedant
@Elizabelle: I loved Sherman’s March as well!
@Reboot: Voice to text isn’t always perfect.
If a film dealt effectively with warning of impending fascism, would we know?
I mean, wouldn’t an effective warning of impending fascism presumably prevent fascism to the extent that we would never know the warning was effective, or even necessary?
Now that a welcome onset of nap time has run its course, looked up W. Anderson’s filmography. As with others above, haven’t seen a one of them.
@NotMax: Start with The Grand Budapest Hotel. I implore you.
@debbie: Aimee Mann soundtrack, and John C. Reilly stood out for me, but Cruise was really good as the ironically $cientologist-like pop guru.
Very late to this (sorry Sunday night is the rare time we actually have for watching movies).
My wife absolutely adores Wes Anderson films. I love SOME of them. We are both very aware of how twee and painfully white they are. But they still have incredible charm, creativity and humor. The night that we got married we went and saw Moonrise Kingdom at the theater in Mammoth. So that one will always have a special place in our hearts. I also really loved Life Aquatic and Rushmore. The rest all sort of blend together in my mind. Still haven’t seen French Dispatch yet since we are both still a bit irritated that Anderson chose to have a theater release even when Covid was still pretty bad. Not sure how long we will hold this grudge.
The other Anderson (Paul Thomas) is probably my personal fave director out there. His movies certainly aren’t perfect, but they are pretty much perfectly targeted to me with their mix of music and nostalgia. Boogie Nights and Phantom Thread are two of my fave movies of all time. Also really liked Punch Drunk Love, but not sure how well it holds up nowadays that I’m over toxic masculinity and dudes throwing temper tantrums.
@trollhattan: I wish Magnolia had been about an hour shorter. But agreed on Cruise (who was so good in that role) and the killer soundtrack featuring the brilliance of Aimee Mann and Jon Brion (engineer/producer).