Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Decade in Review (#3).

As I've said before, Wes Anderson sort of keeps making the same movie over and over. Lucky for me, it is a movie I like. My favorite of the Anderson variations, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, hit theaters Christmas 2004.

Aquatic is about a past-his-prime sea life documentary filmmaker (the titular Zissou, played by Bill Murray) trying to make one more great film while he hunts the shark that killed his best friend. Along for the ride is Zissou's adult son (Owen Wilson), who he has just met for the first time. He's also dealing with investors (represented by a bond company stooge), his estranged wife, some unpaid interns, a rival (and more successful) documentarian, and pirates. All that in 119 minutes. When Zissou says, "This is an adventure," he ain't kidding.

Anderson is usually a very meticulous director, but Aquatic is a little sloppy in places. I didn't know what to make of that the first time I saw the film. Then my good pal Eric McGinty pointed out that movie is edited like one of Zissou's documentaries. Sloppiness with purpose--I can totally get behind that.

This is one of my "watch anytime" movies. Heck, I keep a copy of it on my iPhone. Murray is great (as usual) as Zissou, as is the rest of the cast--especially Cate Blanchett (playing a feisty and very pregnant reporter) and Willem Dafoe. The production design is funky and detailed, right down to the fantastical sea life (created by stop-motion-animation genius Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas).

I'm particularly fond of the several filmmaking in-jokes. Zissou's scrappy crew isn't that different from the gang I make movies with. Team Zissou even uses the same 16mm camera as I do (Aaton represent!).

(I recently realized that Aquatic has basically the same plot as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. With a little of Trek III thrown in there, too. Bonus. Then again, maybe it's just that both movies are paying homage to Moby Dick.)

Honorable mention: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

After making a name for himself with live action movies, Anderson tried his hand at animation with The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). He chose to go totally retro with stop motion (no computers), and the results are spectacular--Fox is a beautiful film.

That said, the story is fun, too. It's kind of an Ocean's 11 thing, recast with animals. Appropriate, as George Clooney voices Mr. Fox.

Tuesday: "Well, first you've got to change the title."

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