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Posts Tagged ‘Wes Anderson’

Weezer followed their brilliant first album (the Blue Album) and arguably even more brilliant second album (Pinkerton) with a MAJOR fall-off in their third (The Green Album…5 years later) and exponentially worse albums following that one (Maladroit and Make Believe). Wes Anderson, to be fair, produced one excellent movie (Bottle Rocket), then two UNBELIEVABLE movies (Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums), and has followed them with two not nearly as good movies (The Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited) that still have some strengths. In both cases, critics have praised their mediocre work based solely on the brilliance of their previous greatness. But for me, enough is enough.

When Weezer stopped making albums for 5 years (from 1996-2001), I was devastated. Throughout high school and the beginning of college I was absolutely obsessed with them. Their first two albums were unequivocally the soundtrack to my life for the better part of six developmentally crucial years. When they announced that they were doing a comeback tour playing small venues across the country, I almost wet myself, and their performances did not disappoint. It filled me with hope that the band that had given me so much to sing along to and relate to had more to give…

Then came the Green Album. Critics praised it as a return to greatness for the band that they’d lambasted and then turned around and 69-ed. They were mentioning it among the best punk albums in recent memory.

The only problem was, not only wasn’t the Green Album a punk album (writing 2-minute songs does not a punk album make…Oi-sland in the Sun? No) … it wasn’t even good. At all. Pumped as we were for the heavy riffs of “Hash Pipe” and the sunny Beach Boys harmonies of “Island in the Sun,” the unfortunate truth was that these and the 8 other songs were all really F-ing boring. Rivers Cuomo even referred in interviews to creating a “formula” for writing his idea of perfect pop-songs…an OBVIOUS (read “totally beaten to death”) combination of early-Beatles songwriting with Nirvana’s distortion. But the pop formula fell flat, and the distortion did not make up for the elephant in the room, their total, utter lack of emotional substance.

Maladroit followed and was somehow even worse because they tried to re-capture the “darkness” of Pinkerton, but instead just made the sissiest nu-metal album ever. Make Believe I didn’t even buy. The first 2 minutes of “Beverly Hills” made me throw up in my mouth, and the Peter Frampton guitar solo made me spew it everywhere. Horrible. In just a few short years, my favorite band became a hollow charicature of itself and decided they liked it that way…

I’m older now, and I thought these kinds of attachments to my youth couldn’t have the same impact on me anymore, until I saw The Life Aquatic. For the previous 3 years, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums had been duking it out on my DVD player to claim the undisputed rank as my absolute favorite movie of all time. And then along came Life Aquatic, perhaps Anderson’s most visually stunning movie to date, and with an incredible all-David Bowie soundtrack played by the previously unknown Seu Jorge.

But watching the movie, there was a familiar feeling…much like what I’d gone through in college with Weezer…Anderson had created a formula for himself: beautiful sets, colors, costumes + memorable location + same cast of characters + daddy issues. The piece of the puzzle that he left out, is the piece that made me love his first three movies…that the characters used emotional absence to disguise their overflowing pain, jealousy, longing, etc. Instead, in Life Aquatic the characters were just…empty. The movie goes on and on, but all that really changes is whether the characters are walking in regular or slow motion.

= ?

I found the same to be true of Darjeeling Limited. This time around, I came into the theater with much lower expectations and found the beginning of the movie to be hilarious (Bill Murray’s cameo opening, Frances ordering the meal for everyone, Jack smashing the perfume bottle, etc.) … but their characters never change. The whole movie was just an excuse to use Anderson’s “look at all the people in the different rooms” shtick on a train (for that I could’ve just watched his new AT&T commercials…blech). And then the big “plot” payoff of the movie is revealed when in the very last scene of the movie the characters jump on the train and leave behind their emotional “baggage” (metaphorically represented by their actual baggage…barf).

So, Wes Anderson, hear me now…you’re mailing it in, my friend. Your movies look and sound beautiful, but your characters have lost their depth and it makes me wonder if maybe you have too.

But, in the immortal words of Royal Tenenbaum …

“that’s just one man’s opinion.”

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Feast of Love: I strangely like Greg Kinnear. I don’t understand why. There really is no specific quality that I can pinpoint. I guess I like him in the same way that people like vanilla ice cream. Or Bill Pullman. In any case, he stars in this new romantic comedy alongside Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell and Selma Blair. The movie looks a lot like Kinnear: bland but likeable. This is playing at the Angelika.

Bill Pullman
I get very little respect.

The Kingdom: A group of American government agents are sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate a murder. I at first thought this was going to be a political thriller, but now it appears to be a straight-up action movie. Lots of stuff explodes. Jamie Foxx yells. Jennifer Garner cries. Jason Bateman says something funny. This is playing at the Pavilion, Cobble Hill Cinemas and the United Artists on Court Street.

The Game Plan: In the tradition of such great films as Kindergarten Cop, The Pacifier and Mr. Nanny comes this new comedy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I don’t know who the genius that came up with the “muscular dude + cute kids = movie magic!” formula is, but we have him to thank for this. The Rock plays a quarterback who is surprised to discover that he has a kid. He has to put his life of partying, bachelorhood and illegal dog fighting aside in exchange for childish shenanigans. I like The Rock. In a time when most action movies cast actors that would be eligible for senior citizen discounts if they chose to see their own films, I think The Rock is a candidate for the new generation of action stars. He’s made some interesting choices, one of which is the new Richard Kelly movie Southland Tales (try to make sense of the trailer, I dare you). So Rock (can I call you Rock?), if you’re reading this, and clearly you are, stop starring in crap like The Game Plan. This is playing at the Pavilion and the United Artists on Court Street.

Lust, Caution: Is it me, or has Ang Lee gotten a whole lot sexier? First he made controversy with Brokeback Mountain and now this. Lust, Caution has earned itself an NC-17 rating. Ang, you’re making me blush. The film takes place in 1942 Shanghai. The Japanese have invaded and are occupying the Chinese city. This is getting a lot of mixed reviews thus far, but I think it will undoubtedly be an interesting film. We saw Into the Wild at the Sunshine tonight, and there was a premiere for Lust, Caution. So I think it’s playing at the Landmark Sunshine.

Trade: You’ve written letters. You’ve harassed Hollywood producers and studios. Finally, your prayers have been answered. Yes, that’s right, it’s the Kevin Kline movie about sex trafficking that we’ve all been dying to see. It’s playing at the Angelika.

The Darjeeling Limited: This is my pick of the week. But I’m still a little trepidatious. While I love Wes Anderson and all the wonderfully quirky films he’s made, I’m getting a little tired of the whole “estranged family reuniting on a strange journey” story. All the same, this looks like it will be an entertaining trip in familiar territory. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman star as the three brothers who travel through India together. This opens on Saturday and is playing at the Regal at Union Square and the AMC Loews at Lincoln Square.

Darjeeling Limited

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