Monday, October 15, 2012


While I do not agree at all with French’s belief that the Royal Tenenbaums’ is an, “incomprehensible and largely unfunny,” and “an invitation to thoughtlessness, a cultivation of the irrationally wilful,” with no significant depth or message, I find his writing style refreshing after suffering through Ebert’s review.
French spent more of his time researching Anderson’s inspiration for the film, ( “Anderson's attraction to eccentricity stems, he says, from reading back numbers of the New Yorker, and indeed over the years that magazine has had quite a line in urban oddities. The cartoons of George Price, George Booth and Charles Addams, for instance; the stories of JD Salinger and the profiles of Joseph Mitchell (most especially his classic portrait of the tramp-philosopher Joe Gould). Salinger's Glass family of disturbed former child prodigies are, like the Tenenbaums, half-Jewish and half-Irish, and would appear to be Anderson's conscious or unconscious models.) and posting his not-so-subtle perspective, rather then  creating an Anderson biography, as Ebert attempted.  I find this technique more direct, organized, and successful.

French, . "Geniuses with nothing to declare." Royal Tenenbaums. 16 2002: n. page. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. <


I’ve always believed that Rushmore was directed towards adults moreso then teenagers. The main character, Max, is at an age of confusion and awkwardness that watchers can connect with by reliving their own clumsy teenage memories of first love and loss, without the sharpness of pain, regret, or humiliation, which teenagers can experience, but instead humor. However, Ebert’s seem too displaced from Max’s age. He writes, “The movie turns into a strategic duel between Max and Blume, and that could be funny, too, except that it gets a little mean when Max spills the beans to Blume's wife, and feels too contrived.” Teenagers are pretentious and childish. I think that Anderson’s decision to have Max tattle on Blume develops his character, not detracts from it.
Ebert also says, “But their film seems torn between conflicting possibilities: It's structured like a comedy, but there are undertones of darker themes, and I almost wish they'd allowed the plot to lead them into those shadows.” I believe that it’s that in between that makes the film so watchable. Max is stuck in a time of self-discovery or identity-confusion, depending on whether you view the glass half full or half empty. Though he might do some horrible things, like we all are capable of when backed into a corner, it’s still obvious that he’s a great kid. Wes Anderson succeeds in developing a character’s redeeming and connectable qualities within times of rivalry and brutal mistakes- he humanizes his characters.
I only agree with one of Ebert’s phrases. He says, “Up until this point, even a little further, ``Rushmore'' has a kind of effortless grace. Max Fischer emerges as not just a brainy comic character, but as a kid who could do anything, if he weren't always trying to do everything” That’s Max in a nutshell.
For the most part though, Ebert’s writing is writing is awkward, unconnected, and disorganized. He oversimplifies the themes, and focuses on the history of the directors more then the film that he is reviewing.  His writing feels unbalanced and, without depth or structure, his review ends up seeming unsophisticated and rushed.

Ebert, Robert. "Rushmore." Chicagosuntimes, 05 1999. Web. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. <>.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What's not to love?

Everyone remembers their first Wes Anderson film. His movies are full of quirk, and filled to the brim with a style that is completely him. They’re easy to fall in love with, and do exactly what, art is supposed to do, “– evoke a curiosity about ourselves, and the lives of others.”

I had been dancing around, or rather dodging, his films for a while; I thought that I was too cool for the silly CGI shark and sea horse in Life Aquatic, the petty criminals in Bottle Rocket, and Max, the snarky teenager with a Mrs. Robinson complex in Rushmore. However, once I accepted that ignoring him was only going to slow my falling for his films, there was no going back.

The first of his films that truly connected with me was the Royal Tenenbaums. It is about a family of genius’ lost in the world of adulthood- one that I was, and still am, terrified to begin. They return to the home they grew up in, brought together by the most unlikely of sources- their father, Royal, who had helped to tear them apart.

Years after my first Wes Anderson film, I like to think of myself as a seasoned fan. After all, I have decided to create an entire blog dedicated to exploring his techniques, films, characters, and everything in between. When I started searching for other’s reviews of him to get an idea of how to begin, I was taken aback. For every one person who had fallen for his outlandish, but completely loveable style, as I had, there were ten criticizers who described his films as unsophisticated, oppressive, and valuing style over substance.

Reviewers of Anderson’s films believe that his style appealed to a certain type of person- the typical of such being white, middle class, artistically-contained, and confused in what direction their life should take. They believe that, “he is fascinated with arrested spiritual and emotional development, and the pain and humor accompanying it, but he is not interested in the interior ideas behind it.” This, they believe, creates a Peter Pan effect, where his movies are stuck, “in a state of perpetual pubescence.” They confuse his style with that of a child’s play. “He does this on two levels: Within the story itself (like children, his characters yearn for greater significance in the world), and, mirroring this, within the film’s aesthetic (a kindergarten-esque extremely literal style contrary to grown-up ideas of sophistication).”
While I do agree that his films are reminiscent of childhood, a time where everything possesses mystery and grand importance, I do not believe that that makes them oversimplified. His characters usually have or are undergoing great change and emotional drama, and, to cope, they hide their emotions within themselves. Casual observers can mistake their emotionally-muted facades for artless, uncomplicated mistakes-the exact opposite of the carefully-crafted truth.

Another critique of Wes Anderson is that he uses other races as “caricatures”or “novelties” to make his world seem more exotic. His characters may be privileged, and sometimes presumptuous, but that doesn’t make them outwardly racist. Can you title them as being arrogant just because they are completely immersed in their own world?
Like them, I am lucky to be socially advantaged. This summer I went to an anti-oppression training which enlightened me about my place in the world. I had never dwelled on what privileges I had, but instead had taken them for granted. After the training I felt lucky, and a bit guilty, that I felt safe, educated, economically stable, and was white, when so many people in our country suffer from predjudice and inequality every day.
However, I do not believe that Wes Anderson is exaggerating class or racial issues by the characters in his films. His main theme is, “the heroic rising of the weird individuals creative will under the oppressive weight of tradition and history. Break free and do your own thing.” If anything, he is fighting against oppression. Beyond that though, you shouldn’t expect him or his films to be a beacon for the socially disadvantaged, or judge him when they aren’t. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and you shouldn’t expect him to.

Just as his characters are intricate and thought out, so to are his directing and filming techniques. His easy-to-identify aethstetic has made him one of the most recognizable directors of our time. I absolutely love his preferred gang of actors that have become as familiar as friends to me, his filming style that evokes elements of childhood, and his deadpan, witty scripts. You can tell that he puts his whole soul into his movies, and it pays off.
But to say that he develops his filming techniques at the expense of his characters is just not the case. They are not too curious to the point of seeming undemensional or unrealistic. His backgrounds of pastels, symmetric shots, slow-motion sequences, light 60s rock, and lengthy gradual-panning scenes that remind one of stage plays emphasizes, not deters, from his storyline.

I can understand that maybe, like all movies can, his films just don’t jibe with your tastes; but it’s one thing to dislike a director’s style, but quite another to feel so strongly about it as to write scathing reviews that rip apart his techniques and plots. “When they say a movie is ‘too smart for its own good,’ as if we’re trying to show how great and cool we are… well, that’s just not the case.”