The Agony and Ecstasy of Wes Anderson

     
    Since his modest crook-comedy debut “Bottle Rocket” in 1996, Anderson has quickly found his place under the “hipster” rug of shame beside such other arbitrary mythological indicators as veganism, shopping at thrift stores, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and enjoying independent music. 

    But Wes Anderson’s films are not just scoffed at, they’re vehemently despised. And I’ve never really understood why. Aside from enjoying Anderson’s dry humor, endearing characters and brilliantly indulgent sets, I’ve always thought his movies were mostly unassuming, heartwarming fun. Yet, now, the mention of Wes Anderson is met with a hatred typically reserved for snuff, or, say, Michael Moore. 

    So why do these quiet, nostalgic movies attract such unadulterated hate? My first inclination would be that, stylistically, Anderson’s borrowed heavily from classics past: everything from Orson Welles and Hal Ashby to Godard and the French New Wave. But given film’s brief history, the line between homage and theft has always been sort of vague. And if this were the case, Quentin Tarantino would be equally derided for his generous sampling from the classic Spaghetti Westerns and Seijun Suzuki’s absurd and stylish yakuza B-movies. 

    No, the hatred stems from a deeper source: a point of no-return that plagues modern culture like some oozing, venomous, blog-savvy fungus. It is a dark nether-place known only as “cynicism,” and it is plainly outlined in the Cinephiliac’s economically-titled “Why I Hate Wes Anderson.”  

    The first major gripe in the article, and one that I’ve most often encountered, is that Anderson’s characters are generally apathetic, unenthusiastic and unrealistic. This, in itself, seems like a blatant contradiction. I have trouble calling to mind a modern character more real than Bill Murray’s emotionally vacant, washed-up oceanographer/stoner Steve Zissou of the “Life Aquatic” — easily Anderson’s most hated film. And maybe you didn’t have an unsettlingly articulate overachiever in the vein of “Rushmore”’s iconic rebel scholar Max Fischer at your high school, but I certainly did. 

    Other cop-out arguments include that Anderson’s plots “never really go anywhere,” that his characters are never developed and that his movies aren’t funny. For one, the characters are developed — albeit through subtle, often non-conventional means rather than sweeping character arcs and explosive melodrama. As for Anderson’s scripts, I suppose everyone has expectations upon walking into a theater. In my experience, it’s more enjoyable to have as few as possible. I think Anderson’s films are hilarious, though my track record for gauging humor has never been great; I’m still honestly trying to understand why everyone thought “The Hangover” was so damn funny. 

    The unnamed author ends his or her article: “If stuck in a room with either a Tyler Perry movie or a Wes Anderson film, I’d break both DVDs and slit my wrists to escape the slow torture I would have to endure by watching either.” 

    Like I said: oozing fungus. 

    The simple truth is that these films should be neither worshiped nor abhorred. Wes Anderson is a gifted filmmaker with a knack for clever writing and immaculate detail, not to mention, the lost art of the movie soundtrack. 

    Also, “Moonrise Kingdom” just looks fantastic. Expanding on “Fantastic Mr. Fox”’s extremely successful attempt at family comedy (which even managed to turn the heads of Anderson’s ardent critical naysayers), the film is a runaway love story starring mostly children that looks as vibrant and perfectly cast as any film he’s done. And whether Anderson’s style is in your own personal taste (and, like anything, it’s certainly not for everyone), it’s impossible to deny that films this adventurous and visually engaging are few and far between in modern film. It’s perplexing why these cynics seem to target genuine attempts at innovation, rather than the increasingly homogenized mainstream. 

    Anderson’s most vocal opponents will likely always be those who haven’t any interest in watching his films in the first place. It’s reassuring, after all, to picture some affluent, white cotton suit-wearing film school grad taking his work far too seriously and earning shallow accolades from a pompous, self-denying fanbase. However, this is simply not the case with Wes Anderson and his gorgeous, subtly hilarious brand of cinema. 

     

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