Monday, October 15, 2007

Appreciating Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson has a new movie out (technically a feature film and a short film), and it is now fashionable to bash him. Slate ran a poorly-researched puff piece calling him a racist… er… or rather… someone who mishandles race in his films. Both Slate’s Dana Stephens and Fresh Air’s David Edelstein managed to use the word “twee” in their reviews, which indicates to me at least that they’re all using the same Word-a-day calendar. (This coincidence isn’t as baffling as the year 1999 when all business and financial journalists suddenly decided to describe every executive as “a man who looks like he was raised on organ meat.” But I have digressed.)

I have a fondness for Wes Anderson, because he reminded me what a director does.

Let me explain – I don’t like to really comment on movies until I’ve waited a week, because more often than not my impressions change drastically as more time passes. As much as I may enjoy Michael Mann or Ron Howard films while watching them, they completely evaporate after a night’s sleep. Seriously, I know I’ve seen Last of the Mohicans and Ransom, but I do not remember a blessed thing about either of them.

I had the opposite experience with Rushmore. I saw it in the theaters, and walked out thinking, “That was pretty good, but nothing super special. Still, it was an enjoyable little movie.”

But over the next couple of days, I found myself thinking about the film more and more. I wound up going back to the theater to see it at least twice more.

My like for Rushmore grew to love which in turn grew into something bordering obsession. I bought the soundtrack. I actively sought out the movie poster. If someone built a Max Fischer action figure complete with velvet curtains and put it on eBay, I’m sure I would have bid on it.

It culminated in my purchase of the Rushmore screenplay, which I passionately tore through during a lunch break.

For those of you who loved the Rushmore screenplay, I commend you. However, the screenplay I read was crap. Bad dialogue, poorly contrived situations, and a weak conclusion.

Just to prove I wasn’t insane, I re-watched the movie with the script close by (for reference).

And it lined up perfectly. The movie was everything in the script, plus enough goodness to make it a quality experience.

Every once in awhile, I forget that for every person you see on the screen, there are about twice as many people behind the camera. I forget that not only are there writers and lighting technicians, but there are directors who hold everything together and guide all parties in the same direction.

And, whether you like his films or not, he is able to guide many different people in the same direction to create a singular vision of art.

Sometimes it is easy to forget. Directors like Wes Anderson help us remember.

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