I’m not really trained to write about film. I never took a film class. My diploma says that I’m trained to write about books, and I probably still can, but motivation even to read since graduating college has withered and died. This is my disclaimer.
I rented The Royal Tenenbaums maybe in middle school, maybe in ninth grade, possibly but doubtfully as late as tenth. I remember our local theater critic gave it four out of four stars—a rating I had only seen awarded once before, to Ghost World, a movie that (as a disaffected young woman who wore glasses) I was obsessed with. We must have rented it at Hollywood Video, because we didn’t like Blockbuster. I know it was unlike anything I had ever seen. I hate to use the word “quirky” or “unique” because now those words seem trite to me, especially in the context of independent film. I remember thinking “yes,” as in, “yes, The Royal Tenebaums is going to change my taste in movies permanently.” I went out and bought Elliott Smith’s self-titled and listened to it all the time because Luke Wilson/Richie Tenenbaum’s suicide attempt moved me.
I saw Rushmore and adored it. I saw Life Aquatic in theaters and found it gimmicky. I put off Darjeeling Limited for a couple of years, then saw it and remember feeling a feeling I can only describe as “oogey”—spoiled white dudes gallivanting around and taking in what I assume is supposed to be “exotic wonderment.” I believe that at the time, I was in a class that dealt heavily with colonialism because I know I used much of the film’s vintage Bollywood soundtrack to write a paper about E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Edward Said’s Orientalism, and some other things I can’t remember that may have had no business being in the paper. But I digress; I found Darjeeling Limited not only uncomfortable but gimmicky to the point of self-parody; it was too “Wes Anderson.” I half-heartedly watched Fantastic Mr. Fox this past summer, but remember little of it.
But then something happened. I stumbled across a trailer for a new Wes Anderson movie, Moonrise Kingdom, which is to be released later this year (May 25, according to Google). The trailer led me toward the local library’s online catalogue, and a couple of weeks ago, I finally saw Bottle Rocket, Anderson’s first feature-length film, for the first time. Bottle Rocket and thoughts about Moonrise Kingdom got something ticking in my brain—Wes Anderson seemed like he had lost his way, but Bottle Rocket proves that “his way” has evolved from something quite different. Furthermore, Moonrise Kingdom seems like it will be a return to the Anderson that I like better.
I must say, watching Anderson’s films mostly in order (with frequent re-viewings of Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaums in between), the more films he releases, the more confused about him I feel. And because I am young and idle and can more or less construct a sensible sentence, I decided that I should blog about my feelings on Wes Anderson films. So the project at hand is to watch all of Wes Anderson’s extant films (and though the library’s Criterion Collection grants me the original Bottle Rocket short, I think I will leave it out for late fees and lack of patience) in order. I have been reading up on Anderson, and I will try to incorporate professional criticism of his work in with my own ham-handed observations. If I had been cool and taken a film class in college, the forthcoming posts would probably be more exciting because I’d know about things like camera work besides, “This shot with the handheld camera made me feel like puking.” It’s a personal project, I suppose, to help myself capture my complicated feelings about his films. Ideally, these posts will build on one another and entertain recurrent themes in the films.
As I say, and will continue to say, I have no formal film training. If you want a fantastic analysis, I suggest Matt Zoller Seitz’s excellent five-part video essay, The Substance of Style, which aided me greatly in this project.