Tuesday, September 2, 2008

DJG / Extended Weekend Watcher

The Darjeeling Limited * * * *
Directed by: Wes Anderson / 2007

There is a unique artificial flavor to the film look and language of Wes Anderson, writer-director of ambitious, interesting, creative and playfully moody coming-of-age films like "Bottle Rocket", "Rushomore", "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou". Though, I don't completely agree, his films could be tagged with "Style Over Substance", as exaggerated and eccentric characters in scripted speak and style involve themselves with interiors and exteriors that feel right out of a paint-by-number catalog. Even the films' music, props, illustrations, design and typography fit into a snug corner of the film world known as Wes Anderson. He is like a really great one-trick graphic design pony in some regard. With ease, Anderson's fine-tuned film output seems to speak softly and carry a big schtick. Five films deep into the palette, fans "get it" and know what they are getting. He may seem a bit stuck, and can be easily picked at, but I will gladly pay my admission to be glued to his enjoyable films repeatedly. I mostly find myself marveling at shot-for-shot art direction in perfect pitch, imagining how incredibly and playfully exhausting and complicated it would be to execute his vision(s), even if there are multiple slow-motion scenes to the tune The Kinks. Very few find themselves in-between as an Anderson fan, you either like him or you don't. I like him and just simply eat his films up like my favorite pizza buffets, even though I know I'm just getting another piece of ol' pepperoni. With his latest, "The Darjeeling Limited", Anderson fuses his world to that of India as three brothers take a spiritual and redemptive train journey in hopes to lighten the baggage of family frustrations, bitterness, hurt, and to just do a little bit of growing up. A country ripe in culture and color, I find India to be an excellent and interesting move for Wes Anderson to make transfer his look and language to another world. It's not a perfect movie, but remarkably it works and is oddly compelling and refreshing. By the end of the film's tracks I just want to start over again, or just watch his other films for the up-teenth time. Wes Anderson's next movie move is to take his world into the completely artificial landscape of stop-animation with "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." All I know is that it's another wise Wes move for his look and language, and will surely suck me in repeatedly with winning wit, charm, style and even some substance.

Elizabeth * * * *
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur / 1998

When I say I don't do "Period Pieces", one could think that means any film not made in the present. To me that means any film depicting the time of castles, knights and queens (I have a na├»ve grasp on history and old stuff.) except for "Monty Python and The Holy Grail", "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and "Braveheart". Actually, it means most all films depicting life/time before the mid-1800s, I guess? I’m stupid. My history skills stop working as math skills deplete in me past the last century mark. I suppose my "Period Pieces" have to come equipped with a lot of childhood and extra-strength F-U-N…and battles ‘n’ blood. I love castle architecture and artifacts of the period, but my idea of a "Period Piece" is nothing more than dimly lit rooms with stuffy conversations by backstabbing, sex-crazed murderous jerk wads in awfully uncomfortable looking clothing who say they are under God, yet do and think the opposite. Every other person is a Lord of Lolly Pop, Sir of Sorry, Priest of Poopy Butt, Norfolk of Nothing and Queen of Quack. Most all "Period Pieces" snore me after the first ten minutes and I always end thinking that the story wasn't anything special and felt just like all the others. I feel that the overrated "Marie Antoinette" would have been great as a silent movie and if the end credits would have been spray painted on a “beheading blade” as it came down to announce the end of an era and of my butt hurting. I've also stayed away from rounding out all of Martin Scorsese's films because I don't care to get involved with "The Age of Innocence", even though I do have an itch to see it. I don't get how people can dislike creative science-fiction or fantasy and I don't get how people can actually like "Period Pieces". To each his own, but it is a complete mystery to me. It's hard to not let personal tastes and belly aches get in the way of great filmmaking. I think that "Elizabeth" is indeed great filmmaking with its beautiful art direction, lavish sets and incredible cinematography always peering from unique vantage points and through screens and fabrics, centered around the always impressive Cate Blanchett. If it were not for these highlights, I would have just sat in a pile of drool. Though, “Elizabeth” is a movie I would see again because I could.

The Brood * * * *
Directed by: David Cronenberg / 1979

A summit at Camp David needs to take place immediately. I'm proposing for David Lynch and David Cronenberg to play in the sandbox together, co-writing/directing/concocting what will become the darkest and weirdest horror-thriller film ever. Just three days ago I watched the original "The Wicker Man" and thought it to be one of the weirdest things I'd ever seen. How naive of my still-young film watching eyes to think such things? "The Brood" now officially triumphs Robin Hardy's "The Wicker Man" in the weird department. Come to think of it, I still need to see pretty much all of Cronenberg's early work and I totally forgot how weird and obtuse David Lynch films are. To mix David Cronenberg with that of David Lynch right now, while they are possessed by the powers of their film making prime, one can only imagine the screen magic that would spark. I'm glad I picked up "The Brood" brand new for three bucks at a local close-out store (Yep, cheaper than the Wal-Mart bins!). It took a little bit of time to convince me, but my mouth kept gaping bigger and bigger until the ninety minutes were up. Not bad for a film as old as my mouth is. And I'll definitely never look at small children in "onesy" snow suits and sleepers the same way again.

-djg

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