Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#1 Fantastic Mr. Fox

Well this is my first movie I am officially blogging about. I tried to watch this movie 3 different times and due to technical difficulties (once the disc was scratched and once my XBOX 360 wouldn't read it). I am really glad that not only did I stick with it and find a clean copy was sent to me by Netflix. I loved this movie. Shelly wrote on Facebook or maybe on this blog questioning why this movie isn't in the top 250. I totally agree with her. I only needed about 3 min to get over the animation that normally would have driven me crazy but with this movie it just worked. I am already a fan of Wes Anderson films just based on the 3 I had already seen. I still have 2 more to go though. The characters were lovable, the story was cute and sophisticated all at the same time. There is nothing about this movie I didn't like. Even the soundtrack was entertaining to me.

I give this movie 4 out of 5. I can't wait to keep going with Wes Anderson movies. I currently have Life Aquatic on my entertainment center and I have Rushmore coming in the mail, if it's not already here.

More to come!

Matt and Lebowski


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Current Director: Pedro Almodovar

Current Director Project: Pedro Almodovar

Almodovar's Filmography
(Only includes completed/released/available feature films)

The Skin I Live In (2011) Soon to be released theatrically
Broken Embraces (2009)
Volver (2006)
Bad Education (2004)
Talk to Her (2002)
All About My Mother (1999)
Live Flesh (1997)
The Flower of My Secret (1995)
High Heels (1991)
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Law of Desire (1987)
Matador (1986)
What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
Dark Habits (1983)

The next director is my pick, and it's Oscar-winning Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar.  When I was devouring all things film in high school in preparation for going to film school, I really began to dig deep into independent films, which weren't all that easy to find in Waukesha, WI in the 80's and 90's.  (No Netflix yet!) One of the few directors I could find was Almodovar, and I became a big fan.  Again, like Anderson, despite the fact that I was a fan, I still didn't see a lot of his films so I am really looking forward to chewing on this project. 

Almodovar films Shelly needs to see: The Skin I Live In, Bad Education, All About My Mother, Live Flesh, The Flower of My Secret, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Law of Desire, Matador, What Have I Done to Deserve This? and Dark Habits.

Almodovar films Matt needs to see: The Skin I Live In, Broken Embraces, Volver, Bad Education, Talk to Her, All About My Mother, Live Flesh, The Flower of My Secret, High Heels, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Law of Desire, Matador, What Have I Done to Deserve This? and Dark Habits.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wow! What a Wonderful Wes Weekend!

I had the opportunity to watch some movies this weekend, so I chose to complete my Wes Anderson filmography, since I only had three to watch in the first place. I totally enjoyed this experience and saw a couple of great movies out of the deal.  I look forward to the next director - my choice this time!


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Based on the book by Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson's first foray into family entertainment.  Mr. Fox (Voiced by George Clooney) is a family man who has reluctantly given up his chicken-stealing past at his wife's (Meryl Streep) behest.  When he ventures back into his former trade, he finds himself in a war with the owners of the farms who he poached things from, and the conflict threatens not only his family, but the wildlife around him as well.

I absolutely loved Fantastic Mr. Fox.  I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't begin this with some trepidation based on its "family friendly" themes, but my worries were assuaged almost immediately.  Fantastic Mr. Fox is as much an Anderson film as all of his previous work, if not more so, with the stop motion animation serving as a perfect tool for his theatricality.  Almost every "Andersonism" is in the film, from eccentric characters to hapless plans to the staging of the settings.  There's even a character that dresses oddly and yearns for approval.  Fantastic Mr. Fox has incredible voice talent (rare in an English animated film) that is drawn from Anderson's cache of repeat actors: Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Defoe among them, and stars Clooney and Streep were great first-timers.  

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a typical Wes Anderson film that just happens to be animated.  I watched it with a dumb grin on my face from start to finish and was laughing through a lot of it.  Anderson and Noah Baumbach's script was brilliant and the humor was both subtle and strange, like most of both of their films.  I absolutely loved this movie and count it among my favorite Anderson films, if not my favorite.  Sheer brilliance.  I normally really hesitate to rate films at the lowest or highest on my rating scale, but even typing "4.5" doesn't do my feelings justice.  Fantastic Mr. Fox earns a well-deserved 5/5.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: 5/5 stars


The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a famous ocean adventurer and documentarian (modeled after Cousteau) who has several recent failed films under his belt, he's lost his best friend and colleague to a jaguar shark and the issues he's been having with his personal life are contributing to his general malaise.  When Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) shows up claiming that he may be his son, Zissou is inspired to renew his commitment to hunt and kill the animal that killed his friend, with Ned and his trusty crew behind him.

I enjoyed The Life Aquatic, and have found that Wes Anderson's films have two effects on me.  I either love it from start to finish and enjoy myself immensely, or I spend the film enjoying the experience, yet wondering how much I am really going to end up liking it.  The thing about Anderson is that he's so unique and, in my opinion, subtly brilliant, that even when I think I may be having misgivings during the film, by the end of the movie I realize how much I really did like the film.  The Life Aquatic falls into the second category for me: I enjoyed the film but it wasn't until those crucial five minutes after the film when I absorb and process the film that I realized how much I enjoyed it.  I think that some people (maybe a lot of people) don't think that a film is successful if they have to think about "how much they liked it" but I think that can be one of a film's assets. 

The typical Anderson touches were in full force in The Life Aquatic, including the eccentric characters, goofy costumes and uniforms (I can now confirm that Owen Wilson is usually the cast member who ends up having the most unique uniform, if you count his smashed in face in The Darjeeling Limited a uniform) and extremely theatrical elements.  And by theatrical I literally mean theatrical - Anderson not only doesn't hide that a set looks like it could be on a theater stage, but he accelerates this aesthetic.  Anderson is always brilliant with his music choices, and the music in The Life Aquatic was exceptionally fantastic.  Other than some compositions by Mark Mothersbaugh and a few other songs, all of the music was songs by David Bowie, all on acoustic guitar, translated into Portuguese and sung by Zissou crew member Pele (Brazilian singer-actor Seu Jorge).  The Life Aquatic also involves a lot of stop motion animation, which obviously paved the way for Anderson's later film, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

One thing that I love about Anderson is that he has amassed a talented and unique group of actors who are insanely loyal to him, and The Life Aquatic features several of them: Murray, Wilson, and Angelica Huston among others.  There are other actors who work on his films less frequently, but I really feel like they do some of their best work by taking a chance with Anderson and working on a film outside of the mainstream: Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums, Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling LimitedThe Life Aquatic introduced Cate Blanchett and Willem Defoe into the Anderson fold and both were wonderful.  In fact, it was Willem Defoe's Klaus Daimler (again with the awesome names) that made me laugh really hard several times, and it was his role that was the underdog looking for approval that Anderson always includes in his cast of characters.

I definitely enjoyed The Life Aquatic, but I think I appreciated it more, if that makes any sense.  There wasn't a gut reaction of abject pleasure, but it is a great film. 

The Life Aquatic: 3.5/5 stars


Friday, November 11, 2011

Bottle Rocket (1996)

Bottle Rocket (1996)

It's so funny that I count Wes Anderson among my favorite contemporary directors, because when I look at his filmography, I realize that I've only seen half of his films.  (And his filmography isn't that long...)  My excuse for that is that I really don't have an excuse beyond the fact that I've been meaning to get to the unseen films (sometimes for years) and other things have "just come up", which is why I was thrilled when my brother picked Anderson to be our first subject.  However, if I look a little more deeply into my admiration for Anderson's work, despite only having seen three of his films, I think that is a testimony to how great a director he is.

Bottle Rocket is Anderson's first film, which stemmed from a short feature of the same name.  It stars future Anderson go-to guys Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and is a simple story about simple people (literally) trying to find their place in life.  Owen Wilson plays Dignan, a hapless former landscaper whose adulation of his former boss leads him into even more hapless criminal activities.  Anthony (Luke Wilson) is fresh out of a mental hospital and his loyalty to Dignan leads him (reluctantly) into his lame escapades.  Their friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) rounds out the trio and serves as Dignan's foil.

Though Bottle Rocket didn't have the depth and full-bodied stories of Anderson's later films, it is so charming that its shortcomings are easy to forgive.  The characters were slight, but still interesting and diverse in personality.  Though Dignan is a complete boob, his earnestness earns both the loyalty and respect of his friends, but its the few people who marginalize him that he wants to impress the most, and that makes him kind of tragic.  Anthony, the supposed "mental case" turns out to be the most rational one of the group and is the real leader due to his strength of character and being an overall mensch.  It's Bob who is the least developed, but he just wants to be included, after years of being bullied by his older brother, even as an adult.

Anderson is always described as "quirky" and even though that term is greatly overused, it's admittedly a good descriptor of his work.  One can see Anderson's unique style in Bottle Rocket, though it's not quite as vibrant as his subsequent work.  Bright, primary colors, eccentric characters, the brilliant use of music - they're all there, as is the mostly ever-present last shot in slow motion and at least one character with a desperate need to impress a father figure.  I don't normally laugh out loud during Anderson films, but Bob's name being Bob Mapplethorpe had me laughing every time they said it.  It's just absurd enough to be brilliant without being over the top. 

I can't say that Bottle Rocket is one of my favorite Wes Anderson films, but like a few other directors, even his worst film would rate better with me than the best offerings of most other directors today.  "Not my favorite" equates to a strong 4/5 rating from me.  I really liked Bottle Rocket and am glad that I finally watched it.  It also served as kind of a sweet reminder that Owen Wilson isn't a douchebag as long as he's working with his old buddy Wes.

I can't wait to see the next one!

Bottle Rocket: 4/5 stars


Current Director: Wes Anderson

Current Director Project: Wes Anderson

Anderson's Filmography:
(Only includes completed/released feature films)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Rushmore (1998)
Bottle Rocket (1996)

The first director in our rebooted Great Directors Project is Wes Anderson because we wanted to start small.  Matt picked him, but Wes Anderson also happens to be one of my favorite contemporary directors, which makes it a crime that I still have to see three of the films he's done.  (In a relatively small filmography, at that.)  

Anderson films Shelly needs to see: Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Bottle Rocket.

Anderson films Matt needs to see: Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Rushmore.

I, for one, am totally jealous of my brother because he gets to experience Rushmore for the first time.  What an awesome film. 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Beginnings!

I am SO thrilled to be starting this project with my brother Matt.  It's such an awesome process and I look forward to having someone kick my ass in gear to keep going.  I'm starting tonight, Matt! 


My first blog

This is an exciting moment for me because this is my very first blog post. I'm not saying this is just my first blog on my sister's site either. I am saying this is my first blog ever overall. I never really thought I had very much to say about anything at all, so I was quite surprised when Shelly asked me to partake in this project of hers. So thank you Shelly.

This project is really exciting and near and dear to my heart for a number of reasons. Firstly, my family has always been into movies of all decades and 9 times out of 10 I was left out of the conversation because I was too young or too stubborn to watch "older" movies. I have since tried to expand my movie knowledge by watching movies for a movie club that Shelly started and even run a three screen theater where I see most of the newer movies.

I am excited to get started and will start blogging when I get my first movies in from netflix and the library. Thanks Shelly for this opportunity.