Movie Review: The Royal Tenenbaums

 

This year was the year for me to familiarize myself with Wes Anderson’s filmography. I started the year with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, revisited Moonrise Kingdom, stayed at The Grand Budapest Hotel, and met one quote-unquote Fantastic Mr. Fox. I saw this film over the summer and didn’t get around to reviewing it until now.

Three gifted siblings reunite after several years and deal with family issues.

I want to live in the Tenenbaum house, not necessarily with them. I’ve always liked really large houses since I was a kid. The floor plan that was included with the Criterion Collection print was very detailed, as usual with any Anderson work.

I know this sounds strange but I think there’s too much quirkiness in this film. Granted, each character has their own distinct traits but it doesn’t create a cohesive whole. Then again, the entire family isn’t really together in the traditional sense.

It was at a little more than an hour into the film that it started to lose steam. Then came Margot’s montage and the bathroom sequence. These are the two best sequences of the film in terms of telling a story. On the one hand, you have rock music playing over a series of life events (something that doesn’t come to mind when I think of Wes Anderson) and the other has mellow music with a serious course of action, coupled with some brief flashes of life.

Somehow, this is only one of two Wes Anderson films listed in the 1001 Movies series (the other being Rushmore which I have yet to see). I can’t say which is the better of the two listed but I will in the Rushmore review, whenever that will be. I think this was put on the list early on as a way to get some representation of his work. I expect that The Grand Budapest Hotel will be added to the list in time.

While it is considered one of the more popular films of Wes Anderson, it’s not one of mine.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Advertisements

Movie Review: Tarzan

 

Recently, our Film Club included this on the fall semester roster because Chris Buck, co-director for this and Frozen, will give a lecture at our school in a few weeks. I’ll provide more details later in future posts but I’d thought it’d be appropriate to have some further context for this review.

A human raised by apes meets his own kind and is torn between two worlds.

As a kid, I didn’t see Tarzan until a few years after the release. It was on one of those six-hour recordable tapes with Mulan preceding it; this tape vanished from the family collection last year for reasons I won’t get into. Aside from that, I saw it and thought it was an OK film for Disney and not necessarily a childhood favorite. I didn’t know that it was the end of the Renaissance. I grew up thinking that Disney always had great films but have since learned otherwise.

What’s immediately apparent is the detail in the scenery. Thanks to Deep Canvas, a technique used to make CGI sets look like traditional paintings, it provides a lush and rich texture to the whole film. It still holds up well today, though a careful eye will notice the difference between what is done by the computer and what is hand-drawn.

Another strong aspect is the music. Most people I know have memorized the lyrics to the songs. I’ve had moments with friends where someone will queue one of the songs and everyone in the room will sing along because why not. The instrumental sections have a strong focus on drums, typically associated with the jungle landscape. After all, this did spin off into a Broadway musical.

At the same time, I have found that even with a considerable gap between viewings that some feelings have not changed, like disliking the side characters. I never connected with Terk or Tantor as a kid and still don’t. I felt that they weren’t around adult Tarzan to support him when he needed it. It felt like it was hastily fulfilling a requirement to have at least two non-human sidekicks for the human protagonist like in some prior films, such as Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Pocahontas. At times, I forgot that they were part of the film.

Clayton’s character is a bit unfocused. Sure, we know he wants to hunt gorillas but he retreats from the story at moments where he should have some moments in the spotlight. His conclusion, even when Tarzan allows him to live, isn’t that satisfying because there was not enough time for his character to develop, apart from “I kill things for cash because I’m greedy and heartless.”

Going back to the scenery, there were moments where I couldn’t find a focal point because of the large amount of detail. One instance in particular is where Tarzan looks out to the ocean and sees the ship sail away. Even though the foliage framed the moment quite nicely, I was more focused on the leaves than the emotional moment taking place. When I did look at Tarzan, there was not enough contrast for me to clearly distinguish between him and the trees.

Within my social circle, I appear to be in the minority where I don’t love the film. I do appreciate its place within the Disney canon and some well-executed aspects. It’s not high on my list of favorite Disney films, either from the era or all-time; probably towards the middle.

6/10

Winner of Best Original Song and Technical Achievement in the Field of Animation

Movie Review: The Nutty Professor

 

I found this on the list and figured it would be a while before I could find a copy. The remake was available in most stores I visited but the original was not to be found; that is until this past weekend. One copy on tape for fifty cents, couldn’t pass it up considering the scarcity.

A totally inept chemistry professor goes from Jekyll to Hyde in order to woo a student.

This was my first Jerry Lewis film. All I knew about him was that he was a comedian, he has a telethon every Labor Day, and the idea that the French find him hilarious; whether the last part is true, I don’t know. Once he started talking, my heart sank as the voice grated on my ears.

I never liked obnoxious comedic voices or crossed eyes for the sake of getting a laugh. Seeing Jerry as the professor, I cringed. I started to question the inclusion of this film on the list, thinking they needed at least one of his films. I found out afterwards that this was one of three.

But then I found a shot where his back was toward the camera. It dawned on me that I looked like that (in the back). The diction, the mannerisms, his introverted nature, it was me. Remove the whine in the voice, correct the eyes, thicken the frames on the glasses, close the mouth, and it’s me. I was surprised because of this connection.

Do I have moments where I wish I wasn’t socially awkward or was suave and sophisticated? Sure, but I wouldn’t put Buddy Love as the paragon of “cool”. But in the world of opposites, he is in every way the Hyde whether we like it or not.

During the scene where they talk about the senior prom, I got confused. For most of the movie, I assumed that this was college solely because of the title “professor”. But when the term “senior prom” was mentioned, I became uncomfortable as it turned into high school. After some rationalizing and a few more minutes with the film, it turned out to be college. Do they still throw senior proms in college or was that something only done back then?

Aside from the acting, I liked the use of color, especially for the Purple Pit. Even though I saw this on tape, it still looked vibrant.

Did I like this film? Somewhat. Even with the strange connection, it wasn’t laugh-out-loud. I make it a point to watch the original version of a film first before the remake, just to understand what the remake might do better or worse. This is one of the few where I wonder if the remake improves upon the original. That remains to be seen.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: The Atomic Cafe

 

I don’t know about you, but that outfit wouldn’t suit me. Too lifeless and intimidating. I’m sure some decals or stripes would make it more fashionable. Then again, I wouldn’t know.

Using original archive footage from films and themed music, we get a grim view into the attitudes of the atomic age.

For the time this documentary was made, the shorts and newsreels could be found in libraries or in abandoned storage areas. Now, there are whole YouTube channels dedicated to this kind of content and DVDs of atomic-era shorts (I happen to own one). From today’s standpoint, this could easily pass as a YouTube playlist without the ads every few seconds.

The movie has been described as “darkly humorous”. I expected it to reach levels of Dr. Strangelove; not so much, though it does end in a similar fashion. It’s rather dry until an hour in when we see children and young adults discussing what to do. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. The information presented is a product of the time. Sure, we know better now but not so back then.

Speaking of duck and cover, the eponymous short is featured.

 

 

I found it entertaining and horrifying at the same time. The fact that the bomb can drop at any moment and that this precaution practically does nothing for long-term side effects. Besides, what are the odds that you’ll have to protect yourself from monkeys with dynamite on fishing poles? At least it has a somewhat catchy tune.

Now, it could replace The War Game on the 1001 list in terms of content and style. But is it enough? Probably not. If this kind of thing interests you, you can find it online. Otherwise, it’s a curious history lesson.

6/10

Movie Review: Daft Punk’s Electroma

I’m not a large Daft Punk fan by any means but I am familiar with some of their work. I’ve seen Interstellar 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem but was the only film I had seen from them. I came across this after watching a fan edit of “Touch (feat. Paul Williams)” on YouTube with clips from this film. If you’ve seen that fan edit, then you’ve seen the entire film in under nine minutes.

Two robots want to become human.

This is a slow burn, considering the film is only 74 minutes long. There are long tracking shots, long periods of pure diegetic sound, and no dialogue other than the lyrics in the songs. In fact, there is no Daft Punk music in this Daft Punk film. Surprised?

The compositions are well-constructed, though there is a rather suggestive sand dune. There are some moments of queasy-cam and potential seizures with a faulty fluorescent light that lasts for more than five minutes. The light drove me crazy and I normally don’t have a problem with flashing lights.

Actually, the removal of the “human” masks is a reflection of how I feel about social engagements. I feel like I have to wear a human mask so that I can blend in with other people. After the engagement, I get rid of the mask and accessories as fast as I can so that I can be more comfortable.

The pacing of the film can easily be trimmed by half and still carry the narrative forward, notably the long hiking scene. When it was screened at Cannes, a lot of people left during the hiking scene. I understand that the two robots are walking into the desert but I do not need to be with them every single moment. But I am.

The challenge, among many, here is trying to read the facial cues. There are no eyes or eyebrows to look at. With HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, at least he spoke. It’s all in how the head is positioned. In real life, it would drive me crazy as I need to learn how to read the facial cues. The music and the robots’ actions were the only other cues I could follow to analyze emotion.

If you appreciate minimalism of any kind or a slow burn, then you might enjoy this; keyword being “might”. It will test your patience, much like Wavelength, only with Daft Punk and more camera movement. Headphones are a must.

6/10