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July 30, 2009

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Earthworm Jim

I dunno about corporate holiday parties, but yeah, this annoyed hell out of me too. Vanairsdale's line about how the images are "divorced from narrative context" is particularly idiotic, since that's basically the fucking definition of a fucking trailer. I'm sure he would also complain about a three-act trailer that spells out the entire plot of the film. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. These are people who've been dying for an excuse to launch a full-scale Anderson backlash. As if anyone cares what side of that fence, or any other fence, they happen to be on.

Tom Russell

Wes Anderson has never made a bad movie, and likely never will. No matter what idiocy is spewed in his general direction-- what was that B.S. about the supposed racism in his treatment of minorities?, and can we all declare a moratorium on the word "twee"?-- he will still continue to make great films that will be appreciated for many, many, many generations to come.

Alfred Gates

tom - nothing like reacting to overdone hyperbole with the exact same thing, huh?

Christopher Campbell

I've never had a job where I got to go to a corporate holiday party. I guess the closest were the in-theater parties we'd throw for our staff when I was a manager at a cinema.

And I'm not dying to shit on this movie. I'm just disappointed that Anderson is making this movie that I have no interest in, because I've otherwise excitedly followed his career since the beginning. Yeah, it's a personal and picky complaint and I used the internet to express it. Strange.

Tom Russell

Alfred-- I don't think it was hyperbole. I loved Bottle Rocket, I loved Rushmore, I loved Life Aquatic, I loved Darjeeling Limited. Was cool on Royal Tenenbaums at first but it grew on me. Those are the movies he's directed (one-two-four-five-three), and in my opinion they're all great.

Where's the hyperbole in that?

Ryan Kelly

Glenn, since you were one of the very few to give "Darjeeling" its credit (I smile every time I look at the DVD cover and see your pulled quote calling it "A thing of beauty"), I thank you for taking these pre-emptive hater fanboys to task. Anderson has grown so much as a cinematic artist since "The Royal Tenenbaums" (I know that's not a popular sentiment, but I believe it) --- his last two features are among the best made by an American film maker this decade; certainly the most joyous, youthful, and exuberant. Of course people are hating on his latest --- there is only one type of animation that is tolerable to the public, and that's Pixar-esque grotesquery.

As for the trailer itself, movie looks delightful and I simply can't wait.

Tom Russell

Ryan-- while I won't go along with your Pixar slam-- those films are beautiful, especially Ratatouille; perhaps you meant Dreamworks-esque grotesquery?-- I will agree 100% with everything else you said.

When I first heard about Wes Anderson doing an animated film, I was, I'll admit, fairly trepeditious. That trailer confirms that the film is still made in his inimitable style, shot compositions and all. More than that, it seems less like a departure or a lark and more like a deeper probing into the delicate, slightly fetishized (I use the word as a compliment) hand-made just-so aesthetic. Watching the fur bristle on the face of the foxes was incredibly charming and seems to elevate this quality of Anderson's work from table-top cut-ins to the world of the film itself. I am extremely excited about this new film, and since Mr. Anderson has more than earned my trust in his previous cinematic adventures, I don't think it will disappoint.

bill

Glenn, one thing I love about you, and your blog, is that you fiercely defend Wes Anderson, and then all the other Anderson fans congregate around you. Anderson is an immense talent, and the fact that so many people dismiss him outright is downright shocking to me.

Ryan, I'm one of the very few Anderson fans who thinks that "The Life Aquatic" is his best film. So unusual and funny and heartbreaking.

STV

Glenn, my criticisms were for the trailer, not the movie. I specifically said some of the images look great, and that Fox isn't taking the same care in marketing the film that Anderson and his animators clearly took in making it.

It's posts like this that make me love the Internet even more.

Bruce Reid

I've never encountered VanAirsdale or Campbell before, but a quick site search showed Campbell at least to be a big Anderson fan every other time he's mentioned the director (as he indicates above). His post on the trailer was one of those blogger reaction round-ups I never quite understand the purpose of, but his selections were more balanced than "bad faith" or rallying an Anderson backlash would suggest.

Glenn Kenny

Well, I had to do SOMETHING to get a comments thread started around here...have you looked at the three posts below this one? One or two nice observations aside, it's all crickets.

Let's allow that I've overreacted, have been unfair, and so on. (This is gonna sound like the Delta House hearing scene in "Animal House.") For all that, would Campbell and Vanairsdale argue that the "full-fledged Anderson backlash" Earthworm Jim predicts isn't a distinct possibility, at the very least? I can certainly feel it—"We got him on the ropes with 'Darjeeling Limited,' now here's are chance to really take care of Mr. Twee"—and that being the case why wouldn't Campbell and Vanairsdale air their thoughts keeping that context in mind, maybe even making explicit mention of it? But they don't, which suggests to me that they're deliberately placing themselves in the advance guard of said backlash. Or am I just paranoid? Or projecting? Or what not?

Tess

I'm commenting.

Ryan Kelly

@ Tom, no, I meant Pixar, but you can replace 'Pixar' with 'Dreamworks' if you're so inclined. To me it's just semantics at that point. The point is that that to most people animation now means something that was made on a computer. One of the posts on that blog says "I don't like stop-motion animation. It creeps me out", or something to that effect. This is more or less the Pixar/Dreamworks effect, where calculated product replaces ingenuity and imagination. We're getting to the point where people object to something made by hand, something with a human touch, simply because it wasn't made on a computer. This is disconcerting (and, for my money, the best use of 3D animation has been George Miller's "Happy Feet").

And I love your observations on Anderson, Tom. I too love the way everything in Anderson's films feels delicately placed --- of course he couldn't, but the objects feel like they were all designed and painted by him, and placed ever so delicately. Him doing animation will just help him continue with that idiosyncratic aesthetic.

@ Bill, yes, I know you're a fellow Anderson-fan! My absolute favorite right now is "The Darjeeling Limited", but I certainly don't object to "The Life Aquatic". It's a great movie, also, one that examines cosmology as uniquely as "2001", but in its own way. And surely if Murray was nominated for "Lost in Translation", then he should have WON for "The Life Aquatic".

And as for Campbell and STV, perhaps if they devoted as much time and attention to the actual finished product as they do to trailers, we wouldn't be in this discussion right now? I find it distressing that TRAILERS tend to encourage more net-discourse than actual movies do. Of what use is critiquing a marketing campaign?

Lint

Wes Anderson's style and taste have so wormed their way into pop culture that a backlash is futile. Barring a freak accident or a too-early fatal illness, Anderson is going to be around for another 30, 40 years, will probably make another ten to 15 films, and if cultural accreditation is to be believed, hasn't even made his masterpiece yet.

Tom Russell

"We're getting to the point where people object to something made by hand, something with a human touch, simply because it wasn't made on a computer."

It is an unfortunate state of affairs, I'll grant you; and as a proponent of hand-drawn animation (the greatest animated film of all time, for my money, is "Sleeping Beauty"), I too am annoyed that it has fallen out of favor.

But to me, Pixar's films, especially Brad Bird's Pixar films, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, _have_ that human touch. The films might have been made with a computer, but in their hands the computer and the technology are tools-- just like the ink and brushes used in hand-drawn animation.

Look at the scene in Ratatouille in which the chef rushes out to stop the soup, freezes in the door-way, and then his upper lip curls ever-so-slightly. It's a beautiful, charming detail-- specific and idiosyncratic and artful. That film in particular is full of those touches, full of those moments where you can feel that human touch. I think Pixar demonstrates ingenuity and imagination in spades; there's nothing, to my mind, calculated or homogenized about their work. But maybe that's just me.

JC

"Well, I had to do SOMETHING to get a comments thread started around here...have you looked at the three posts below this one? One or two nice observations aside, it's all crickets."

Yeah, Glenn, it often seems like the longer your article is, the fewer comments it gets. I could be wrong, but I think it might come down to whether you write about an artist, or merely a singular piece of work (as in, a not highly visible, or well-seen art film). In the case of a single (particularly more obscure) film, you might just be encouraging posters here to seek out the film, but by the time they do, the blog entry has long since passed. It's easier to get into a conversation about an artist's body of work, of course.

It's interesting, though, how you're so seemingly determined to generate large numbers of comments. As far as I can tell, you don't make any money off this blog, but I guess it's legitimate to want a reasonable amount of response with regards to the amount of effort you put in to a single entry. (Rest assured, though, that I'm sure the entries are well-read, regardless of whether they received responses.)

Anyways, outside of recent releases, I think you'll often find that people are more liable to latch onto something that has a bit of a negative bend to it, either to pile on the criticisms (it's often much easier to sort of what doesn't work in a film than what does), or to jump to a film and/or filmmaker's defense.

And, quite frankly, the backlash you see coming for Anderson's new project will be dwarfed tenfold by that of Quentin Tarantino's latest. Distinctiveness (as in, when you see one of this or that director's films, you absolutely know who made it) seems to breed an awful lot of animosity in certain folks.

John M

I tend to think the backlash against Wes Anderson has as much to do with his emulators as it does with him. Anyone see that Running with Scissors movie? Yeesh. And, Tom Russell, "twee" will be retired when tweeness goes away--we appear to be a long way off.

I like Wes Anderson--Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, and Darjeeling Limited, in particular--but I don't feel like he's grown a much as an artist. The settings change, but the emotions and dynamics just won't budge: the open-hearted melancholy mixed with sad, sad privilege. It gets a little tiring. I'd like to see him work outside the parent-child dynamic--that might be really interesting.

Tom Russell

I like Yasujiro Ozu but I don't feel like he's grown a much as an artist. The settings change, but the emotions and dynamics just won't budge: intergenerational conflict and accepting the disappointments in life. It gets a little tiring. I'd like to see him work outside the parent-child dynamic--that might be really interesting.

Tom Russell

You know what, that was snarky and not very constructive. What I meant to say was, I find the concept of "artistic growth"/"stagnance" to be of dubious merit, especially when applied to creators with a very specific/particular/peculiar vision or style. Some an approach to the career of an artist often leaves us unable to appreciate the nuances, the small differences between films, which is often where the true artistry lies in the first place.

In such a view, one Ford Western is indistinguishable from another, and Mel Brooks should have abandoned spoofery. No, sir, I don't like it!

Tom Russell

Er, that should be "such an approach".

Zach

I think Wes has had to deal with plenty of backlash already; it seemed to get out of hand with The Life Aquatic, and abated only slightly with Darjeeling.

For my money, he's one of the best young American directors, but I don't think he's made a film yet that rivals the sheer ingenuity, humor, and pathos of Rushmore (Tennenbaums came close, mostly due to the masterful work of the great Gene Hackman). The Life Aquatic was a fine, charming movie, but it was also his most straightforwardly comedic, and I thought it faltered when it went serious.

Darjeeling was a step back in the right direction, but it's a movie in search of a workable third act - the first third is as close to perfect filmmaking as any American has come in the past several years, which unfortunately serves to underscore the flaws of the remainder.

Still, this is (for me) mere nitpicking - his movies are always a joy to watch.

It is too bad that he's gotten so much flack for the insipid, cut-rate imitations (the dreaded Twee virus) that have followed in his wake. But that's not on him, even if he has to suffer a bit for it.

Oh, and Fantastic Mr. Fox looks great. Don't nobody worry about the haters - as Katt says, that's they mothaf***in job, to hate.

JF

@ Tom Russell: While I agree with your general point, it sure would've been nice if Brooks had quit spoofery about a decade before he did and spared us all Dracula: Dead and Loving It and most of Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and maybe, depending on the level of nostalgia I have for my pubescence, a lot of Spaceballs.

It's great and all to see a director come into his own (a certain other Anderson, for my money, didn't really come into his until Punchdrunk Love), but W. Anderson has seemingly been there for 4 films now. If he gets even better, that's cool, but what we've gotten so far is enough. This forthcoming one, regardless of how the studio botches the marketing, looks to be an interesting transplantation of his animation-influenced style back to its origins.

John M

Boy, Tom, classic film blog comment: defend a director by sarcastically praising one who's generally thought of as unassailable.

The Pialat-Swanberg Defense for the win!

(And Mel Brooks hasn't made a good movie since Nixon was in the White House...apologies to all you swooning Spaceballs fans...)

Alfred Gates

Hyperbole? "Wes Anderson has never made a bad movie, and likely never will." Hmm....even directors I love beyond belief I can admit there is the very likely possibility they will make a bad film at some point.

"he will still continue to make great films that will be appreciated for many, many, many generations to come."

Thank god that Wes Anderson will be continued to be loved for generations and generations. Look, I think he has made a few very good movies and a few amazingly flawed ones. This isn't about that per se, more about what seems to be praise spurred on by the slight hint of criticism, that any critique should be met with the blazing guns of out and out praise and adoration (or in this case, instantly regretted snark as well).

And forget that other Anderson, he hasn't even made a good movie ever so at least Wes has the upper hand in that one.

JF

By "that other Anderson" I wasn't referring to Paul W.S.* Anderson, Alfred. I was referring to the guy who made that amazing milkshake picture one hears so much about.

*I've always assumed the W.S. stands for Wombat Shit.

Alfred Gates

Yes, I knew who you meant. And yes, Paul Thomas Anderson is a hack who makes shit movies of shit frogs flying out of the sky and shit milkshakes and is shown up by Anger Management, a far better look at the anger underlying the Adam Sandler character than a movie pinching a brilliant Harry Nilsson song could ever do.

John M

Good thing you're not hyperbolic, Alfred.

Alfred Gates

Sometimes one must adopt the dominant language of the discourse if they have any expectations of being heard.

Tom Russell

John,

You'll note that I thought better of the sarcasm, which was not being used so much to defend Anderson as it was to punch a few airholes into your argument, and then, in the very next comment, restated my position sans-assholeness. That point being, *regardless of the director under discussion*, that "so-and-so isn't growing as an artist" is a lot of hogwash and an ultimately destructive approach to looking at the career of said artist. I've actually said this same thing, in various ways, on various websites and blogs and even on the dreaded twitter.

Long ago, audiences were able to better appreciate small differences. Cary Grant did the same thing film after film, and audiences and critics alike were cool with that because he did that same thing very very well. Edward Everett Horton was always Edward Everett Horton and Eugene Pallette was always Eugene Pallette.

Nowadays, Cary Grant would be pressured to "stretch" and "grow" and to "stop repeating himself". As would John Wayne. And Horton. And Pallette.

Now I'm not saying actors and directors can't demonstrate variety and a wider range, only that, if somebody is good at something-- as Grant, Wayne, Horton, Pallette, Ozu, Brooks, etc. are, and as I believe Wes Anderson to be-- why not let them do that something they're good at? And why are we as a culture so focused on Variety, Difference, Mobility, Growth that we can't appreciate the little differences? Isn't a personal vision, expressed in film-after-film, manifesting itself in small subtle differences, isn't that what auteurism is about?

Whether you agree with me on Anderson or not, and whether you agree with me on this point or not, I hope you can at least see where I'm coming from on this.

Steven Santos

@Tom Russell: You're asking people to understand where your argument is coming from while dismissing those who look for something else out of a filmmaker as "hogwash". The first step to having your argument respected is to respect the arguments of those who disagree with you. If everyone one of us only appreciated filmmakers as you see fit, that would be a) boring and b) the moment when appreciation of a filmmaker turns to apologia and then, finally, hero worship. I don't see what that has to do with auteurism.

Every one of my favorite directors have made several movies that didn't work, which I think makes them more interesting. I can acknowledge that Wes Anderson is a talented filmmaker with a strong eye for visual detail without needing to feel that he was touched by the hand of God for every idea he ever came up with or yelled "Action!" on a set. You can appreciate a filmmaker's work, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't train a critical eye towards it just because he's one of your favorites. The creative process of filmmaking is too complex and obstacle-laden to think that any director is capable of hitting it out of the park every time he goes to bat. This thread is basically turning into the "you're either with us or against us" style of argument, Zach's comments being the only one that stood out for appreciating Anderson as a filmmaker, while still acknowledging the many flaws in his work.

Personally, I prefer a director to challenge himself rather than work in his safe zone each time out. Isn't that what being an artist is about? By your definition, Tom, should I also appreciate that Woody Allen makes a movie every year, rehashing the same tired material, without actually having anything new to say?

I appreciate someone like Robert Altman more, who made different types of movies and completely misfired half the time. But, at least, the movies that worked as well as the ones that didn't work had an adventurous spirit to them, as opposed to Anderson's failures which come across as a filmmaker trying way too hard to call attention to how exquisitely he can frame a composition or block a scene, as opposed to having anything interesting to say about, you know, life outside of his movie references.

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