Though I haven’t seen his newest film, one thing that my experience with his four earlier films has unequivocally shown me about Wes Anderson is that each of his films is better that the previous one. Case in Point? The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Not only is it the best film of his that I have seen, it is certainly also in my list of top hundred favorite movies. What does it have going that makes it so great? A lot… It features: Yet another great role for Bill Murray in this, “senior statesman does indie” phase of his career, a great soundtrack that is not only fairly original but quite fetching and very well placed (primarily consisting of Mark Mothersbaugh music and Seu Jorge’s Portuguese covers of Bowie songs, two of the handful of major actress that I actually like (Angelica Houston and Cate Blanchett), Willem Defoe and Jeff Goldblum in some of their best roles, a great bunch of sets (the cut-away ship still makes a big impression on me, even my third time through the movie), a great story, pirates and, not only Michael Gambon but also Bud Cort as the Bond Company Stooge (the only appearance of his I have seen aside from Harold and Maude)! All in all a fun band of characters out on a ridiculous mission.
The Life Aquatic is the story of Steve Zissou, an oceanographer and filmmaker (in the mold of Jacques Cousteau) who is rather incompetent and is on the verge of being washed up when his chief partner is killed by a mysterious “shark”. Zissou decides to make his next project the pursuit and destruction of this animal. Joined by Owen Wilson (who may be his son), and having to contend with his wife (who has been the brains behind his career and who was/is involved with his rival…), Hennessy (an arrogant explorer who hogs all of the grant money) and a reporter who is writing a piece on him that may or may not turn out to be positive. He takes his crew on an adventure that goes wrong in every way possible with misadventure around every corner, an awkward love triangle, not enough funding and pirates! All in the hopes of getting some vengeance and restarting his career.
Oh, and did I mention how great the life-size cut-away ship is?
In the same vein (sort of) we watched Explorers. One of my favorite kids movies. It stars young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix as two of three boys who discover, via Tron-like dreams, a plan for a circuit board. Making this board gives them a wonderful little device that enables them to travel wherever they want to. Of course, as in The Last Starfighter and This Island Earth, the dream is a set up by aliens to establish contact with appropriate earthlings. One of the few movies with kids as main characters that I can stand, as they aren’t as terribly portrayed as usual. In fact, they are pretty well and it is the non-kid characters that come across as ridiculous… Especially the aliens (um, spoiler) who are done in a way that would seem somewhat clever and fun if it wasn’t overdone to the extent that it is. But all in all, a fun kids movie that is reminiscent of The Goonies.
Six weeks with nary an update? What have I been up to all of this time? Well, I will use my cross-country move this month as an excuse (Oregon to Vermont, for those who don’t know). But now that I am all done moving, all settled in and unemployed… It leaves me little excuse not to catch up with my movies. But one thing that I noticed… I canceled my old internet account (15 or so years seems enough), without realizing that a lot of the screen shots on this blog were actually stored there. So any posts from March 2007 or before may not have any images now! I don’t know if I will re-upload them, as I don’t know if anyone even looks at posts over a year and a half old anyway… But I did lose some Russ Meyer caps, so we’ll have to see. Anyway to things somewhat more recent, though still dating back a ways.
Some months back I watched Layer Cake. It seems odd that I hadn’t brought it up yet, but that does seem to be the case. Regardless, I had not originally been interested as I assumed that it was just another new thing on par with those recent remakes of old British crime movies. But no, I was wrong. it’s actually pretty great. It was the first (and so far, only) movie I’d seen with Daniel Craig and it was all around enjoyable. And it makes yet another great British crime movie, this time with the always engaging story of an old pro who wants to make his last big score and go straight. Of course, there are forcing acting against our unnamed protagonist to stop him from getting straight… And they involve terrible double-crossings, Serbians, Ecstasy (with an X) some great violence and a great twist that I didn’t see coming at all. In addition to a great job by Craig, it also features great roles for Colm Meaney and Michael Gambon. Highly recommended.
We also watched one that we had queued forever, as it sounded like something that we would want to see, but didn’t know if we would ever get around to it. Well, we did. The Straight Story. I dunno. it was charming great and fun, not much else to say about it. One of those based on a true story of a man who travels hundreds of miles down the highway on a riding mower to see his estranged and dying brother. So you see lots of scenes of his nay-sayers at the beginning, and spend lots of time watching his rather slow progress. But it’s a sweet, if a little odd, story.
We also watched Once. A charming love story about musicians… I know that sounds terrible, but it actually isn’t. A street musician in Dublin meets a girl and they start an awkward relationship as he tries to put together a good demo.
And then The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. Another one based on a true story, this time about the editor of Elle who was felled by a terrible stroke that left him unable to do much of anything except for blink. Using his blinking eye, he dictated a book and this is the story of how that came about. It is filmed from his perspective and it includes interactions with visitors and therapists and his fantasies, memories and dreams. It is a fascinating story, that could seem terrible if it wasn’t so well portrayed. As is, it seems more uplifting and invigorating then depressing. His writings and thoughts are very intelligent and thoughtful and the movie is incredibly well shot. it is just a great film that is very engrossing, though-provoking and wonderful to watch.
Then in the self-biography vein, we watched 51 Birch Street. Another one of those documentaries where there was a family member who had a long history of filming the family, and then something happened. In this case, it was a son who filmed his parents. His mother who he was very close with and his father, who he was not. When his mother died suddenly, his father quickly hooks up with an old secretary of his from decades back and they decide to get married and he sells the family home. It is basically the son using his old footage and some new footage to understand how his father could move on so quickly from the death of his wife of over fifty years and leave the home that had been the family home for so long.