Sunday, 20 April 2014

Kolobos



Title: Kolobos
Director: Daniel Liatowitsch, David Todd Ocvirk
Released: 1999
Starring: Amy Weber, Donny Terranova, Nichole Pelerine, John Fairlie, Promise LaMarco, Llia Volok

Plot: Five strangers are brought together to spend three months living in a Big Brother style house under the pretence of being part of an anthropology-related experimental film. However soon it becomes clear that not everything is what it seems.



Review: One of those films I have been meaning to watch for the longest time, only to get delayed by other titles taking priority on the viewing pile but more largely because it has hardly the most memorable of titles. Title aside this equally not the most talked about movie out there, with almost minimal reviews and while it might not quite be on the same obscure levels as "The Long Lunch" it is certainly under the radar. Now while 1999 might have been an incredible year for cinema, I can sadly report that now having finally watched this film that this was not one of the better ones to come out that year.

The sole film to be directed by the Swiss duo, before following it with individual features which saw Liatowitsch directing the MMRPG documentary “Avatars Offline” while Ocvirk wrote the DTV zombie movie “Last Rites” both then disappearing from the movie making scene altogether. This film would also invariantly be a forerunner to the more remembered “My Little Eye” which essentially gave us the same film while perhaps taking a more unique approach by being shot from the perspective of the surveillance camera, while here directors Liatowitsch and Ocvirk opt for a more traditional route as the house setup serves more as a reason to bring the characters together than anything else.

Frustratingly the first hour of this film is pretty solid, with the group all being introduced via selection of audition tapes as we meet failing stand up and self-convinced funny man Tom (Terranova), struggling b-movie horror actress Erica (Pelerine), college drop-out Gary (Fairlie) and fast food worker Tina (LaMarco). This group are also joined by artist Kyra (Weber) who is looking to move on from her recent time spent in a halfway house for her increasingly dark visions which she channels into her artwork. All of the main cast are likeable in their roles even if there are a few moments were some of the cast overplay their part, yet at the same time it is hard to not place these moment equally on clunky dialogue. It is equally interesting that this group of fame hungry wannabe’s all looking for their ten minutes of fame would get just that by appearing in this film as none of them would go on to do anything else following its release, with the exception of Weber who fittingly plays the group outsider. Weber perfectly portrays Kyra who spends most of the film unable to tell if Faceless is real or one of her visions, much less if she is responsible for what is happening in the house.

A relatively short film at 90 mins, but boy did that last half hour drag which is even more surprising considering how the tension is slowly cranked up in the first hour, with ghostly visions of a faceless figure around the house, let alone a hand creeping out from under the bed. However once it hits the one hour mark the film suddenly hits a downward spiral from which it never recovers as the house turns into a deadly funhouse of booby traps as the group find themselves being picked off one by one by the faceless killer known simply as Faceless (Volok).

While the final thirty minutes are pretty formulaic I really can’t fault the film makers originality here, which when it comes to the death scenes it really has in spades with the detached head turned into a mirror ball being a particular highlight. Still from flying buzzsaws to an acid shower the death scenes really do for the most part deliver, while an antler impalement feels overly familiar to the infamous splinter sequence from “Zombie Flesh Eaters”. Each of the deaths are handled well even with the limited budget, with the buzzsaw death being especially memorable partly becomes it comes out of nowhere and secondary because of how the victim is left to writhe while the rest of the group believably freak the hell out.

Frustratingly during the final half hour the film dissolves into a standard stalk and slash format and while the deaths might be oozing in originality, there is a sense that the film is being rushed towards its conclusion (not that it moves any quicker trust me) with death scenes becoming increasingly sloppy or rushed. This of course brings me to my next issue and that’s with the ending which makes absolutely no sense as if you’re like myself you find yourself bouncing between two different ideas of what it all means, while also with the sneaking suspicion that the film makers are trying to be smarter than their script allows, much like opting to call the film “Kolobos” (the German word for mutilated) over its alternative and more fitting title “Haunted House”.

Irritating for how it throws away a promising setup, this is one worth more a curious rental than being actively sought and while the duo never choose to follow it up, it remains a tantalising prospect of what they could have achievd with perhaps alittle more focus and a tighter script.
 

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Fountain











Title: The Fountain
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Released: 2006
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Mark Margolis, Stephen McHattie, Fernando Hernandez, Cliff Curtis, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy, Ethan Suplee

Plot: Three stories set in the past, present and future which intersect and run parallel to each other, based around the themes of love and morality.


Review: After flirting with mainstream film making with “Requiem for a Dream”, here Aronofsy returned to the arthouse roots which he established with his debut film “Pi”, while it also turned out to be his most troubled production to date, with his original concept having to be scraped when Brad Pitt pulled out over creative differences with Aronofsky combined with a spiralling budget which forced the studio to pull the plug on the production. Refusing to give up on the project, he instead reworked the script and recast the film with Jackman and Weisz taking on the lead roles (both working at reduced rate) which would allow him to work within the new budget of $35 million, a considerable drop from the original $70 million budget which had been assigned to the film.

One of his most personal films it is also the film which tends to divide opinion the most, with most of its detractors choosing to write it off as pretentious nonsense. It is also far from the easiest of films to explain, yet strangely at the same time it is still surprisingly a straightforward film to follow when you see it all on screen which was one the things which surprised me the most about this film the first time I watched it. After all here is a film which switches between Spanish conquistadors searching for the tree of life, a modern day scientist Tom desperately searching for a cure for his cancer-stricken wife and finally a man in the distant future travelling towards the nebula of Xibalba inside a self-contained bio-sphere. Aronfsky though rather than give any real reason for these genre hopping antics, instead wrote it off as being “Because it’s fun” which I’ve a feeling was also Zack Snyder’s reasoning for making “Sucker Punch”.

Even outlining these plots as you can see is confusing enough, even before Aronofsky starts to interweave them over the course of the film which works fine for the past and present segments, with the conquistador sequences taking place in the story which Tom’s wife is writing. Sadly the links to the future segment seem largely more forced and also the more art house moments of the film, as they consist mainly of a bald Jackman sitting around in his bubble, eating bark from the tree in its centre and having conversations with Tom’s wife, though the link between her and this future character is never properly explained and much like the moral of the film is left frustratingly obscure.

To his credit Aronofsky manages to bring something different to each of the segments, from self-flagellating inquisitors, conquistadors battling mayan’s through to Tom pushing his team to explore every more radical procedures in the search for the cure for his wife’s cancer, there is unquestionably a lot of different elements at play which does help to give it a mini-epic feel despite the minimalist timeline. At the same time Aronofsky manages to convincing portray the enduring love between Jackman and Weisz without things getting overly sacturine sweet, especially with the present day scenes which are played with a mixed of tender and frustrated moments as Tom tries desperately to speed up his search for a cure, while trying to make the most of what time he still has left with his wife.

As the two leads both Jackman and Weisz are engaging to watch and convincingly play each of their three alter-ego’s, even if most of the heavy lifting is left to Jackman whose performance here made me wonder how Pitt could ever have managed the range which Jackman achieves here, while ensuring that each of his three alter-egos’s remain strong throughout, even the navel gazing antics of spaceman Tommy, who is saved more by the stunning visual effects than by anything really happening on his particular story thread.

Returning once again to soundtrack the film Clint Mansell teams up with the Kronos Quartet, bringing a sense of familiarity to the films soundtrack especially after their soundtrack for “Requiem for a Dream” burned itself into the general conscious and perfectly suit the tone of the film, while this time they are further complimented by tracks provided by Mogwai with the soundtrack really coming into its own during the more spectacular set pieces like the supernova or human plant transformation.

One of Aronofsky’s weaker films but still well above the mathematical theory nightmare which was “Pi”, while the film only further suffers due to it being more of a personal project than one designed for mass audience consumption. At the same time while it has numerous good ideas and memorable sequences, the composition ultimately is where the film comes undone with too many ideas being thrown around and not enough structure to satisfactorily tie them all together, as Aronofsky prefers to leave it up to audience interpretation than confirm what anything is supposed to actually mean. Yes it might be very pretty to look at, but it is also a film which walks a tight rope between being a mini-epic and pretentious tosh making it really one for the completists than the first time viewer.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Elwood's Essentials #7: The Wrestler








Title: The Wrestler
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Released: 2008
Starring: Mickey Rouke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Margolis, Todd Barry, Judah Friedlander, Ernest Miller, Necro Butcher, R-Truth

Plot: Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Rouke) a professional wrestler long past his prime and now reduced to wrestling in small venues, is forced to face up to the end of his career after suffering a heart attack. Now he is forced to come to terms with a life outside of the ring, while attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter (Wood) and his relationship with aging striper Cassidy (Tomei)



Review: Last weekend was the source of much excitement, mainly thanks to “Wrestlemania” which this year celebrated 30 years, which even the fact that it was being hosted by the franchise killer, wrestling relic and DTV star Hulk Hogan it did little to my general enthusiasm for the event, as yes I’m a wrestling fan. So what better time to revisit this film, along with the fact that “French Toast Sunday” have declared the whole of April to be “Darren Aprilofsky” as part of their ongoing season of director dedicated months.

When it was first announced a lot of people dismissed this film believing that it would another hokey feel good sports movie, which is kind of understandable seeing how it is set in the world of professional wrestling. However what Aronofsky gives us instead a much more moving and even more surprisingly respectful look at the world of professional wrestling. Here Aronofsky doesn’t question the appeal of a sport were matches are pre-determined, but I instead keeps the focus purely on the wrestlers, stepping behind the curtain as he shows us scenes of wrestlers discussing how their matches will play out and tactics to ensure that they get the best reaction from the crowds.

Randy despite being long past his 80’s glory days when we meet him, Randy is still making a living off his past glories as fans still worship his in ring performances no doubt with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Meanwhile outside of the ring his situation is far more grim as he finds himself forced to sleep in his van when he fails again to make the rent on his trailer park home, while being forced to make ends meet working a low wage supermarket job. He is also a character truly brought to life via a career best performance by Rouke who embodies this character while only adding further depth thanks to the similar struggles that both Rouke and his fictional counterpart have. It is also very much a less is more style of performance were even the smallest of gestures speaks volumes.

Interestingly though Rouke almost didn’t take on the role as it had originally been given to Nicolas Cage, who depending on whose version you believe either stepped down to allow his friend Rouke to take on the role, knowing aswell that Aronofsky truly had Rouke in mind for the role. Cage on the other hand has gone on record to state that it was more to do with the time commitment required to achieve the look required. I would prefer to believe the first version. More amusing through would be the claim made by Hulk Hogan that he was also offered the role only to turn it down, a claim later dismissed as being yet more of Hogan’s usual bullshit when Aronofsky went on record to state that he had never offered him the role.

Rouke though is the perfect choice for Randy, even more so when he fully embraced the wrestling world, throwing himself into eight weeks of intensive wrestling training for the role which really helped when it comes to the wrestling sequences, especially when he frequently performs in these scenes with real-life wrestlers including a memorable hardcore match (wrestling with weapons) against Necro Butcher were the two wrestlers essentially brutalise each other with a variety of creative and painful looking weapons including one highlight which sees Randy using the prosthetic leg handed to him by a member of the rabid crowd. These wrestling scenes are only further added to by being filmed at live wrestling events including events held by the indie fed’s CZW and Ring of Honour, who along with both TNA and WWE were happy to show their support for the film and in many ways it only adds to the realism while further highlighting the respect which Aronofsky shows the sport.

More interesting though is the fact that here we have a sports movie which doesn’t follow the rookie or the underdog getting their shot at the big time as here Aronofsky chooses to make a film about someone at the end of their career a prospect which Randy continually ties to avoid by working out harder and increasing his steroid intake to keep up with the younger guys he is competing with. Ultimately Randy is forced to face the inevitable when he suffers a heart attack and the prospect of no longer being able to wrestle, while a haunting meet and greet alongside his fellow former greats only seems to highlight the future which awaits him as he surveys the damage they like himself have done to their bodies out of love for their sport.

It is equally interesting that the closest person to Randy is the aging stripper Cassidy, who like Randy is also facing the prospect of her own career coming to an end as she struggles to hustle private dances from clients who favour the younger girls. Together though they provide each other with a prospect of a life outside of their professions and while there is hints of a developing romantic interest between them it is an interest which ultimately only goes as far as a spontaneous make out session, quickly followed by regret on Cassidy’s part. This angle is far from the most interesting aspect of their relationship with the scenes of Randy reminiscing about his glory days and Cassidy helping Randy to reconnect with his daughter and in many ways finding happiness through their unorthodox friendship being far more fascinating to watch.

Unquestionably though this film sees Rouke at his career best, it only makes it more of a shame that he didn’t win the much deserved Oscar he was nominated for as he joins the wrongfully snubbed actors club which also includes Ryan Gosling in “Drive” and Tilda Swindon in “We Need To Talk About Kevin”. At the same time Rouke receives great support from both Tomei and Wood who are both able to hold their own while only adding to the emotional journey Randy finds himself on as he ultimately has to choose between doing the sport he loves which could ultimately kill him or to settle into a life outside of the ring. Even for non-wrestling fans this is still a gripping film, which for the established fans this is touching homage to the world of spandex clad heroes, as this truly is the "Raging Bull" of Wrestling movies.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Grizzly



Title: Grizzly
Director: William Girdler
Released: 1976
Starring: Andrew Prine, Christopher George, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey, Richard Jaeckel

Plot: When a giant grizzly bear starts eating the campers at a state park, it is up to park ranger Michael (George) to hunt it down.



Review: If ever there was an example of the importance of editing it would be this film. For here is a film which in its TV cut is a tepid and boring movie while in its uncut form, it’s actually quite watchable even though it’s lingering around the ass end of okay in this stronger form. Frustratingly it was the TV cut which I watched first, which left me wondering why I got so excited about watching it in the first place, a fact which I’m sure was more down the prospect of seeing a film with a giant killer bear, especially as I do love creature features and couldn’t remember actually seeing one with a killer bear.

One the last films to be directed by Girdler, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for his tenth film. This would be the first of his two ventures into the creature feature genre, while more surprisingly it would also become one of the top films of 1976. This success of course could have been largely thanks to the massive success of “Jaws” which inspired countless imitators in a trend which continues even now, as directors continue to try find new and ever more inspired ways to add to the already primal fear most people have regarding certain animals. None however have shown the balls that Girdler does here with this film which is essentially a straight clone of “Jaws”, even though it could be argued that Bruno Mattei came close with “Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws”.

From the start Girdler tries to make the revel of the creature a slow burn by shooting from the bears perspective (or bear vision if you will) and by having a stage hand swipe at thing with a bear paw glove. Unfortunately the big revel never really comes perhaps thanks to Girdler choosing to use a real bear, which needless to say isn’t the safest creature for you to put next to actors, so as a result the bear footage often comes off looking like wildlife stock footage than anything specifically shot for the film. The biggest failure though comes when any character is attack by the bear, which usually descends into shaky camera shots and what can only be described as watching someone getting bear hugged by someone in a questionable looking bear costume. Despite the real bear never seemingly being anywhere near the actors, Girdler used a length of green string and a kitchen timer to shoot the actors with the bear, with the bear believing that the wire was the same as the electrified fence used during breaks in filming, while the trainers also got the bear to mimic roaring by tossing it marshmallows (who knew that bears liked them) and adding the sound in post production. However now having seen the film it makes you wonder why they went to so much effort with the real bear, especially when it never seems like the actor and bear are ever in the same shot.  

This leads me of course to the importance of which version you watch, as if your stuck with the TV version, this will fast become a painful film to sit through, as each time the bear attacks it suddenly cuts or even on a couple of occasions just fades to black. The uncut version on the other hand is a lot more fun, thanks to the occasional bursts of gore that it provides making the bear attacks a lot of satisfying to watch as limbs are torn off and even a small child loses a leg, all scenes missing from the TV version which cuts out all of the gore and leaves only the half decent attack on the ranger station intact. Thankfully though if you’re stuck with the TV version, the cut segments can be easily found on Youtube which honestly are also the best parts of this film, which really do save it in many ways from being such a grind.

Plot wise as I stated earlier in this review, the plot is essentially a blow for blow remake of “Jaws” with changes being made to suit the setting, so hence we get Michaels concern over a giant killer bear in the park being thrown out by his supervisor, who’d rather keep campers in the park rather than close the park while they hunt the bear, while also flooding the park with amateur hunters by offering a bounty on bear all actions mirrored by the mayor Vaughn. Equally mirrored is Michaels actions to hunt the bear which see’s him forming a similar team to Brody’s with naturalist Arthur (Jaeckel) and helicopter pilot and Vietnam veteran Don (Prine) taking on the roles played by Hooper and Quint. It’s hard to say if watching the film with this prior knowledge adds or takes away anything from the film, but it certainly makes it a curiosity to say the least, especially in these times were Mockbusters are being so regularly churned out which essentially do the same as this film and in many ways perhaps making this film the earliest example of the genre.

While the plotting may be the same as “Jaws” sadly the characterisation is far from the mark as this film lacks any of the likeable characters of that film, much less any ones which are memorable enough to actually care much about with the exception of Arthur but that could be more so do with his bear skin wearing antics, much less the lack of real insight he brings to the hunt despite being the so called expert.

Unsurprisingly in the wake of the film success this film would get a sequel of sorts almost ten years later in the form of “Grizzly 2: The Predator” which originally started out as a completely separate film entitled “Predator: The Concert”. Written aswell by the same screenwriter as this film Harvey Flaxman the film was never finished yet various incomplete cuts of the film do exist and it was via a review of that film by my good friend and bad movie critic extraordinaire The Great White Dope over at “Mecha-Blog-Zilla” that I came to find out about this film in the first place in a piece which I highly recommend checking out like the rest of his blog, even if he is currently on blogging hiatus there is still a wealth of great reading to enjoy.

A flawed film with a handful of interesting moments if your watching the uncut version but mainly it will just make you want to dig out your copy of the far superior "Jaws", especially as its doubt this will have you afraid to back into the woods anytime soon.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Detention



Title: Detention
Director: Joseph Kahn
Released: 2011
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Dane Cook, Spencer Locke, Shanley Caswell, Walter Perez, Organik, Erica Shaffer   

Plot: A killer dressed as the movie slasher Cinderhella is stalking the students of Grizzly Lake High School, leaving a group of co-eds to band together survive while serving detention.


 
Review: So once again I have found a film which makes me throw my hands up in despair, as I wonder how I can ever start to review it as if I thought “If…” was a tough film to critique, this one presented an equally daunting critical mountain to scale by the time the credits had rolled.
 
Unlike the aforementioned “If…” the issues presented by this film was less about the artistic directing choices, but more due to trying to figure out what it was exactly that I had watched, as director Kahn comes off here like someone has a heap of smart and witty things to say and show you, while at the same time too easily distracted to put them into any kind of logical order. As a result this film is the same sort of visual assault of ideas that “Southland Tales” took, yet in comparison even that film is more coherent than this one and yet despite the fact I’m still not sure I fully understood what this film was about I did strangely still enjoyed it.

The second feature film by Kahn after his forgettable debut and “Fast and Furious” on a motorcycle cash in “Torque”, he is no doubt better known for his work directing music videos and commercials, a field which has previously given us visionary directors like  David Fincher and Mark Romanek, with Kahn also bringing a level of visual flair to this low budget and self-financed horror-comedy which he choose to follow “Torque” with after being replaced by Vincenzo Natali (best known for “Splice” and “Cube”) as the director of the long mooted adaptation of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”.

Opening with a “Clueless” style monologue / rant by the school’s most popular girl Taylor (woods)…well that is until she is suddenly cut short mid “guide to not being a total reject” by the films killer. From here we cut to Taylor’s opposite Riley (Caswell) a cynical social outcast, whose sees herself being only one place above rock bottom which is currently occupied by the girl who performed oral sex on the school’s stuffed grizzly bear mascot. Riley’s world is shown as an endless hailstorm of crap, as starts the day with a half-baked attempt at a pill overdose, misses the school bus and has her iPod stolen by a hipster mugger. Both of these scenes are peppered with the characters breaking the forth wall and laced with sarcasm and acid tipped barbs while generally setting you up for the randomness which follows.

It is after the opening monologues that things not only just weird but downright random as plot devices start to fly off on a whim, with fewer still actually being seen though to any form of completion let alone followed with any kind of logical sense. So while the film would have worked fine as high school slasher with elements of social satire, Kahn feels inclined to cram in additional elements and subplots including alien abduction, mutations and time travel none of which are properly worked into the plot and frequently dropped in at random and more often without warning, leaving the viewer disorientated and frequently struggling to keep up with the amount of elements being juggled at any one time.

Still when taken apart and viewed for its individual parts there is a lot of fun elements at throughout the film, like the 90’s obsessed Lone (Locke), the star football player who for some reason is turning into a human fly (a very unsubtle rip off of Cronenberg’s 1986 remake) and whose father made him wear a TV over his hand as a child in a scene every bit as surreal as it no doubt sounds. It only makes it more of a shame that with so many random ideas on show here that Kahn can’t seem to manage the same delicate balance of surreal imagery and coherent storytelling that the likes of Richard Kelly and Greg Araki have frequently brought to their films and seemingly what Kahn was aiming to achieve here, only to ultimately end up with a frequently confusing but none the less fascinating car crash of ideas.

The cast assembled here are all pretty much unknowns, yet bring plenty of energy to the film, especially in the case of Caswell who as Riley is well deserving of a spin off, if perhaps a more focused one, as she makes for the perfect lead with her balance of sarcastic jibes and general despair at having to endure with being berated on a daily basis by the so called popular kids. Elsewhere the rest of the cast play their roles well, though frequently come off more memorable for their character mannerisms than for their performances.

Judging by how under the radar this film is, with the only noteworthy releases before it’s DVD release being the handful of appearances at various film festivals with its showing at Frightfest being how I came to discover it originally were its highlighted genre hopping antics caught my attention. So now having finally got around to watching it I can testify that it is certainly one of the more unique films I have watched of late, while its heavy flaws prevent me from enjoying it more and yet I still feel compelled to recommend you give it a curious watch, if only to experience it for yourself. So if you’re feeling uninspired by your current viewing and craving something different yet not too out there, why not give this a watch.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Rushmore



Title: Rushmore
Director: Wes Anderson
Released: 1998
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel, Brian Cox, Mason Gamble, Sara Tanaka, Stephen McCole, Connie Nielsen, Luke Wilson, Dipak Pallana, Andrew Wilson

Plot: Max Fisher (Schwartzman) a 15 year old student at the exclusive private school Rushmore, were despite being involved in every extracurricular activity going while academically failing every one of his classes. Things only become more complicated when he starts an unusual friendship with steel tycoon Herman Blume (Murray) who also has eyes for Miss Cross (Williams) a teacher at Rushmore who Max has been harbouring a crush for.



Review: Sometimes it only takes one film to completely change your opinion of a director, something none truer than with this film, for it was only after I saw it that I finally got what the fuss about Wes Anderson’s films was. Previously to originally watching it I'd written him off as being overrated based on my previous experiences with his work when I watched “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic”, both of which I now rate highly after returning to them with a new appreciation for Andersons work which this film gave me. It was with this film that I finally got it.

Easily the most accessible of Anderson's films to date and while it could be argued the same for “Fantastic Mr Fox”, the fact that Andersons’ version differs so much from the source novel, tends to be more of a distraction than some tend to care for. At the same time it still contains all the elements we now see as being the trademarks of his work making it little surprise that some (myself included) confuse it for being his debt which was instead the often overlooked “Bottle Rocket”. Based largely on the life experiences of Anderson who has admitted to sharing Max’s sense of ambition aswell as his lack of academic ability and a crush on an older women, while his co-writer (and reoccurring cast member) Wilson drawing on his own expulsion from school at fate which ultimately also befalls Max on his journey of redemption.  

Max really is the quintessential Anderson creation, as he speaks and acts with a mindset years beyond his age, while equally acting every bit the social climber, associating Rushmore as part of his identity even though he got in on a scholarship rather than his parents wealth and status like his fellow pupils. Perhaps because of this it would explain his needs to constantly lie about his background, telling people that his father is a brain surgeon rather than admit that he actually works as a barber. Also because of his mindset Max frequently seems more comfortable around adults than anyone his own age, with the exception his right hand man Dirk (Gamble) and perhaps because of this the unusual love triangle actually works better than you would expect, even if the chances of anything actually happening between Max and Miss Cross is solely in his head. Things of course only escalate when Blume becomes involved with Miss Cross leading to a tit for tat game of revenge between the former friends, as brakes are cut, bees crammed into closets and bicycles run over as each tries to top what the other inflicted on them.

It could be argued that if Miss Cross shot down his first advance that this would be a lot shorter film, but instead she tries to encourage a friendship between them perhaps because of how Max reminds her of her deceased husband. The friendship between Max and Blume is surprisingly more believable perhaps due to the curiosity which Blume has about Max, while for Max it could be equally seen as another aspect of his social climbing, especially when Max is seen taking notes when Blume tries to impart words of wisdom upon the Rushmore students at the start of the film, advising those students who don’t come from money to target those that do.

While their friendship and the effects of this love triangle has on it is largely the focus, Anderson is also keen to chart a more personal journey for Max as he is forced to find himself after his expulsion from Rushmore after an ill-advised attempt to build an aquarium on the school baseball field which forces him back into the public school system with Max’s journey climaxing in the production of his latest play. At the same time it is fascinating to see how Anderson manages to make us root for a character who we should really despise with his frequent lies and egotistical drive,  yet somehow we can help but root for him.

Undoubtedly though the strength of the film is in its casting with Schwartzman embodying the role of Max, a role which Anderson felt at one point could never be cast until a chance introduction by Schwartzman’s cousin Sofia Coppola, who would in turn benefit from the career revival which Murray’s casting received. Murray whose career had in many ways stalled in the wake of “Ed Wood” only to revitalise it with this film, which not only marked the beginning of his frequently collaborations with Anderson which has seen him appear in every film which Anderson has made since. Murray’s involvement in many ways would also play a key part in production not only by his agreement to work for scale, but also by writing to Anderson a blank cheque to cover several shots which Disney who produced the movie refused to fund.

While the film is largely carried by Schwartzman and Murray, with Williams appearing occasionally to stir up emotions in the two men vying for her affections, the film also features numerous colourful supporting characters, such as the surprisingly feisty Margaret Yang (Tanaka), a foul mouthed scot (McCole) and the pipe smoking Rushmore dean Dr. Guggenheim (Cox) who is frequently driven to despair by Max’s antics. These characters and the numerous other who we meet throughout all heightening the film and adding to the already slightly surreal world which Anderson creates here and one which he continues to base the films which followed in.

A perfect starting point for newcomers to Anderson's films while containing enough of his quirks and unique style to still appeal to the established fans. This film heralded and still does even now an fiercely unique voice in independent cinema and is the film I always urge the detractors to watch before they make their final decision on Anderson's films, so if your still scratching your head over his appeal why not give this one a go, you might just find yourself re-evaluating your opinion.

For more Wes Anderson related writing this month make sure you show some love to the nice folks over at "French Toast Sunday" aswell as for other fun film related writings.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spin-Off - Margot Tenenbaum: The Wilderness Years




Recently I discovered the rather hip “Cinematic Corner” which is also currently hosting a “Spin-off blogathon” taking a minor character from one film and giving them a film of their own.

Now while I know that most of my regular readers may expect me to choose the cool as ice dropship pilot Corporal Ferro from “Aliens” especially given my obsession with Collette Hiller, however I felt that I pretty much covered the character in my “One I would save” post. I also tossed around the idea of Christopher Lambert’s ice cream man and underground militant Walter Mung from “Southland Tales” but ultimately I decided (and perhaps inspired in part by this month’s ongoing “WesAndermarch”) I decided to choose Margot Tenenbaum.



One of handful of truly interesting roles Gwyneth Paltrow has had, while at the same time also being one of the fewer roles were she truly embodied the character, in a role the likes of which we sadly haven’t seen her play since, as even though her role is largely consistent of hiding out in the bathroom and smoking she is still one of the more memorable members of the Tenenbaum clan.
True Margot could be considered to already be a leading character seeing how she is one of the three Tenenbaum children, yet at the same time she is also the one that we know the least about, outside of the occasional snapshot moments from her life which Wes Anderson chooses to show us, perfectly tying in with her secretive nature while at the same leaving her the character I most wanted to see more of.

So what would a spin of film focus on? Well the original film covers the early years of her life pretty thoroughly, including her success as a playwriting child prodigy and underdeveloped artist, aswell as her detached relationship with her adopted father, who openly reminds her of her adopted status by introducing her at social gatherings as his adopted daughter. Her childhood also includes her running away with her brother (and future boyfriend) Richie, aswell as a second attempt which lead to her loosing part of her finger, which is revealed to be the result of a wood chopping accident when she found her birth family. The rest of her life up to the impromptu family reunion is briefly covered in the private detective report commissioned by her husband Raleigh, which are shown in a series of intriguing snapshots of key moments of her life to the current day. 



Because of Margot’s secretive nature  of course only makes a spin off film covering these moments all the more interesting, especially when she is one of the few characters in the film which we still feel that we don’t feel that we truly know by the end of the film outside of the bare bones of her character.  

So what would a Margot spin-off be like? Well first I would like it to focus on those years we the snapshot moments from, especially as these are the ones which pose the most questions and to continue on from were the film leaves off would only potentially lead into romantic comedy territory which honestly would not suit her character in the slightest, even if the idea of a romantic film centred around a incestuous (of sorts) love affair is an amusing pitch to say the least.

With Margot not being the chattiest of characters, this spin off would have to be voice over driven, especially as I always imagined the internal monologue of Margot to be full of witty comments and observations, even if she may seem sedated on the surface.

Margot equally makes a great candidate for a spin off if only to give us the alternative view point of key moments from the film such as the divorce of her parents as well as more importantly her witnessing the Richie’s in game meltdown following her marriage her to Raleigh. While she seems unmoved during the scene it would be interesting to see if she ever felt anything for him at that moment, much like when she first felt anything for him, especially when she seemingly cares little for anyone person as seem by her frequently switching from one partner to the next even when she is supposedly married it does little to slow her down with such scenes certainly benefiting from the insight that only she could provide, to explain if this her trying to work out the frustration of her stalled career or if she just enjoys living by her own rules.

Needless to say when it comes to listing Wes Anderson's memorable creations, it is impossible not to include Margot and even though he continues to add new and ever more curious characters to the list, Margot forever remains one of my favourites and one more than worthy of her own spin off, which if not for the reasons stated atleast to see Paltrow don the iconic look once more.
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