Sunday, February 15, 2009

We Can't Wait #3 Fantastic Mr. Fox

Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring A bunch of clay and famous peoples' voices
Synopsis Mr. Fox steals from some grouchy farmers and gets caught underground with his family. What is a fox to do?
Brought to you by American Empirical Pictures and 20th Century Fox
Expected Release Date November 6th

Whitney: So this movie has had an IMDB page for over 5 years. I'm expecting big things, Mr. Anderson! It's an interesting project because, like Where the Wild Things Are, the book seems far too short for a feature. Also, sexist and probably a little racist. So what will a filmmaker that has known to be anything but brief, sexist, and racist do with such a project? I don't know...but I'm stoked to find out.

JA: I love Wes Anderson, but like many I've been ready for him to shake things up. Step out of his hermetically sealed suffocatingly precise framed bubble. A stop-motion animated retelling of a Roald Dahl story.... well that could be a shake-up, I'd say. Unless he molds the story to fit inside his bubble, which seems entirely possible since the meeting of Anderson and Dahl is such a no-brainer now that we're confronted with it. Speaking of Mr. Dahl, I've always considered myself a rabid Dahl devotee, but I'm terribly embarrased to admit that I've never read this story. Thirty lashes of the whip for me.

Joe: Oh boo-hoo hermetically sealed blah blah too precise blah. Wes Anderson can keep on remaking The Royal Tenenbaums for his entire career and I'd be perfectly happy. Those movies (large portions of The Life Aquatic notwithstanding) bring me so much joy. But I'll certainly welcome a diversion into animation and adaptation and the weird sadism of Roald Dahl. At the very least it'll get everybody up off his jock.

Fox: This film is actually about me. It's true!

Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Darjeeling, Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic

I guess we have to have the "Wes Anderson needs to 'shake things up'" debate every time this young visionary makes a new movie, and... I just don't get it. The man is a visual stylist, so his work is gonna mirror his previous stuff. Tell me you watch other stylists like Godard or Antonioni and don't feel automatically transferred into their world again. Lastly, The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Ltd. are masterpieces, and anyone who wants to dispute that can meet me in a private IM chat room at the time of your choosing!

Whitney: I agree that people are too hard on Anderson because of his similar style across films. And that seems ridiculous to me, too. Just like the man he worships - Federico Fellini - he has chosen a form of expression that seems true to him and he's exploring it. I think there's much more to explore.

JA: I guess the thing with Anderson is that his world is so specfic and he adheres to it so... specifically... that it gets to feeling a little stifling sometimes. Since you brought up Fellini as a comparison I'll just say that yes, you watch a Fellini movie you know it's a Fellini movie, but Fellini's films are much looser and natural feeling. The best comparison auteur-wise with Anderson is Hal Ashby since Anderson's spent half his career ripping off I mean "making tribute" to Ashby and even Ashby's films have more freedom than Anderson's. By freedom I just mean spark and life; Anderson's characters can be such arch characters. Sometimes nobody seems human. I am a big fan, don't get me wrong, and when his stuff works it really really works. But I do think it's good for him to be trying something different.

Nathaniel: Agreed. There's staying true to yourself and there's limiting yourself --diminishing returns if you repeat yourself too often. Stray too far and you've left the stifling comfort zone for something that's not even you. It must be tough to be a hugely acclaimed talented and wealthy not-even-40-yet film artist. And I mean that with the barest minimum of snark since I'd like him to succeed.

And there's this related note: 2009 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for animation. Coraline already set her eyes on next year's animated Oscar. Who can challenge that resourceful 3-D lass who won't trade her eyes for buttons? Maybe Miyazaki (Ponyo on the Cliff) or regularly nominated Pixar (Up). Perhaps the first black Disney princess (The Princess and the Frog) voiced by Anika Noni Rose (!), the feature adaptation of that creepy memorable Oscar nominated short ("9") and more, too.

In case you missed any entries they went like so...
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We Can't Wait:
#1 Inglourious Basterds, #2 Where the Wild Things Are, #3 Fantastic Mr. Fox,
#4 Avatar, #5 Bright Star, #6 Shutter Island, #7 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
#8 Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, #9 Nailed,
#10 Taking Woodstock,
#11 Watchmen, #12 The Hurt Locker, #13 The Road, #14 The Tree of Life
#15 Away We Go, #16 500 Days of Summer, #17 Drag Me To Hell,
#18 Whatever Works, #19 Broken Embraces, #20 Nine (the musical)
intro (orphans -didn't make group list)

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11 comments:

Arkaan said...

The Darjeeling Ltd. is one of the decade's worst films and a little racist to boot. It's the kind of film to make me retroactively devalue his earlier work.

There. I said it.

NATHANIEL R said...

don't hold back now Arkaan.

but as to the racism... isn't part of the point of the movie that these brothers have an extremely limited view of what they're seeing? or am I reading too much into it?

John T said...

All right, I've got a guess for what will be Number One, but I'm having trouble trying to guess Number Two. Hmm...

Arkaan said...

Up to a certain point, yes. You see this in all Anderson's films (well, not Bottle Rocket). But here it's done to such a ridiculous extent that it becomes offensive. I'm thinking of the funeral sequence in particular, where Anderson allows the boys to have a bonding moment scored to The Kinks as a result of their failure to save a cute little Indian boy. The cute little Indian boy doesn't have any dialogue, of course, because unless you're upper class and white in Anderson's world, you don't have anything to say (again, in his earlier films, this kind of hermetically sealed vacuum actually suited the film much more - though I'm afraid to watch any of them post Darjeeling, lest my anger infect them as well). But he makes it a tableaux - "ooh, watching this poor family suffer is allowing my superficial engagement of other people to attain weight."

But after a certain point, it's less insightful, entertaining and just really obnoxious. Empty formalism, unfunny humour, banal eccentricities.... I think the film wants you believe what you post, Nathaniel, I just don't think it does it, and in the end, it comes off very poorly.

But Cate Blanchett is in his next movie, so I'll watch it. The last Blanchett movie I didn't see in theatres was The Shipping News, and we agree that one didn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I completely agree with Arkaan. Anderson has always treated non-white actors as set mute set decorations in his previous films, but I only found it offensive in Darjeeling. For one, he fails to treat the brothers' failure to engage with their foreign surroundings without any kind of irony. And most glaringly, the way he employs the death of the Indian boy as some kind of healing cultural experience is really offensive.

-Jason

Kurtis O said...

I respect Wes Anderson as an American auteur but I just can't get into his work. Never could. I didn't even bother to see "Darjeeling" because I know by now that I'm simply NOT a Wes Anderson person. He's a very polarizing, love-him-or-hate-him filmmaker, is he not? When I meet new people (who talk about movies, of course), I can almost gauge how well we'll get on by whether or not they're Wes fans.

That said, this is the first of his projects that has me intrigued. His style, as much as it turns me off, seems perfecto for animation.

RJ said...

Absolutely not. I cannot take another Wes Anderson movie.

Marshall said...

Arkaan that's absurd. Nathaniel, that's exactly right. That point of attack is even less fair than the slightly less ridiculous attack against LOST IN TRANSLATION, where at least then the cultural differences were all played for laughs, so I could see how small-minded people would consider it racism.

THE DARJEELING LIMTED was great, it's one of the films of 2007 that has really stuck with me, but I have no problem admitting it's lesser Wes. THE LIFE AQUATIC, on the other hand, may be his best film. Sometimes I certainly think so.

Also Arkaan, why would a dead child have any dialogue?

Arkaan said...

He wasn't dead the entire time, was he? But more to the point, I think that's just an example Wes' myopia.

I to like The Life Aquatic.

The Narwhal said...

In mentioning great animated movies coming out next year, don't forget The Illusionist by Triplets of Belleville director Sylvain Chomet. It's just slightly the behind Fantastic Fox on my anticipated list and I love all things Wes Anderson.

Carl said...

I'm with RJ, Arkaan, and the others on this (except for the racist claim) - Wes Anderson is not my cup of tea. After seeing "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" we felt that a cinematic pickpocket had reached into our billfolds and stolen a couple of Hamiltons, not to mention two+ hours of our lives that we will never get back. As the Gecko would say, "We've been duped!" Never again.