Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wes Anderson: Cinematic Genius

Wes Anderson: Cinematic Genius

Everyone has style, this style can be seen in everything we do.

It can be seen in the way we walk, talk, dress, and act. We all have it and love to use when we are creating things for others to view; it acts like an invisible signature. This is abundantly true for Wes Anderson: he has a unique style that is easy to pick up on in his movies. The tw

o movies I decided to watch and review are The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore. These movies have several commonalities between them and easily stand on their own as great movies. This usually is not the case but I can honestly say now after watching them each twice, that I love these movies! I can also honestly state that many other people love these movies as well; both of them won several awards ranging

from Independent Film Awards to AFI awards.

As a digital artist interested in videography I love everything about movies, whether it is the technology behind it, the way in which the shot it, the people involved, or the cinematic style. Style is something I have not really paid close attention to in the past. Looking back I have seen it but never really paid attention to who created the movie and thus have not truly studied a directors style. I have always had a few favorite directors such as Michael Bay, Frank Tarantino, and James Cameron. These are all famous directors of large budget films; which gained recognition and status through their large budgets. The movies they created had some of the best special effects ever created, which is something almost everyone loves. I would like to state that this is not truly the directors style, although there are certain aspects of their movies that hint on their style. Nothing as apparent as Wes Anderson’s style.

Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums plot can be attributed to Wes Andersons personal history. Wes Anderson was born in Harris County, TX on May 1st, 1969 and raised by his mother and father in Houston TX. His mom was a archeologist and his father was an advertising executive, he had two brothers named Eric and Mel. By the age of ten his parents had a divorced; at this point in time he started to focus his attention towards writing school plays. Wes started attending St. Johns High School, a prep school that ended up being the inspiration for Rushmore. During Wes’s high school years he started to shoot movies on an 8mm film camera. After high school Wes attended the University of Texas in Austin, where he met Owen Wilson in a play writing class. They became good friends and started writing and producing movies together.

This is the case for the two movies under my scope, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums were both written and produced by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Owen and his younger brother Luke would end up becoming the stars in Wes Anderson’s movies. Starting with Bottle Rocket 1996, although Owen Wilson did not act in Rushmore Luke did; they were featured in The Royal Tenenbaums together. I think Owen and Luke Wilson are both very talented actors; although I enjoy watching Owen Wilson a little more since he has more leading roles and usually stars in Comedies. Where as Luke falls into dramas. Which is what I would classify Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums as; dramatic comedies.

Digging into these movies I would like to talk about the characters and how they relate to each other in both movie. Rushmore is centered around two main character, Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman), Harem Blume (Bill Murray); these characters evolve with the movie. Max is part of a broken family, he attends a prep school named Rushmore in the begging of the movie. As I stated earlier, Wes attended St. Johns High School which was in fact a private prep school just like the one in Rushmore. I believe Max Fisher is a personification of Wes Anderson as a young adult. Although I could not imagine Wes or anyone being as unique and extraordinary as Max Fisher. If I were to have to sum up Max in one word it would probably be the word I have been using through out this discussion; extraordinary. Max is much more than that though, he is also a sociopathic, manipulative, witty, hard working, creative individual. As the story develops you start to get to know Max as a real person, rather than just an extraordinary individual. I believe this differs from many movies; most movies are about normal people becoming a hero or you have extraordinary character who stays that way and just kicks ass through out the flick, and then finally you have normal characters staying normal and doing ordinary things. At first Max comes of as being a rich kid with book smarts, but rather that is what he portrays at his prep school, Rushmore. While attending Rushmore, Max falls in love with a third grade teacher, Ms. Cross. Also during this time he becomes business partners and a close friend to Harem Blume. After Max gets kicked out of school for building an aquarium on the baseball field for Ms. Cross; without permission from the school. He has to attend a public school were he still personifies Rushmore kid to his classmates.

As the movie continues you as a viewer get to see Max reveal his true identity to his close friends, Harem Blume, Dirk Calloway and Ms. Cross. Max is not wealthy and does not have the book smarts he day dreams about in the very beginning of the movie. He is actually filled with street smarts and understands the way people think. Thus Max evolves into a sociopathic, manipulative juvenile when he finds out about Ms. Cross and Herman Blume. This is the climax of the movie where Max tries to destroy Herman Blume. After getting released from jail Max max really starts to change; he ends up becoming a caring individual in the end. He starts to realize who he really is and concentrates about what he really cares about; play writing. This clarity in his mind brings the movie to an end. This transformation of character is the main focus in Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. The Royal Tenenbaums is about a dis-functional family of unique once extraordinary individuals. This movie has several characters and an impressive cast: The father Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), the mother Etheline Tenenbaum, Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) as one son, Richie (Luke Wilson) as the other son, Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Palthrow) as the daughter, and finally Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) as the wanna-be Tenenbaum. Each one of these characters is extraordinary and unique individuals with their own back stories.

In my eyes Royal Tenenbaum is the true main character in The Royal Tenenbaums. Although to be clear, I should fill you in on some of the background information first. The movie starts out much like Rushmore, where Wes Anderson introduces the main characters, including Royal Tenenbaum. Royal is introduced as a farther that has to explain why he and his wife are splitting up. They split up but don’t actually file for divorce. Thus Royal’s wife gets the children and the house and Royal is left out of the family. He visits here and there and spends some time with his some Richie; doing daring things such as gambling and riding dump trucks. He does not hang out with Chas or Margot for some reason I have yet to understand. He was a true “dick” towards them; Royal would introduce Margot as his adopted daughter. At the end of this opening scene he attends her play; he ends up critiquing the play in a rude way and finally exiled from the his family. The movie then skips forward 22 years, and has another introductory scene of the actors as the older Tenenbaums. After being exiled for two decades, Royal finds out his wife has been proposed to by another man; Royal also finds out that his children have all moved into his wife’s house. Around this time he meets with his doctor and he tells him his health is declining and Royal might be seeing the light sooner than later: Royal has always wanted to be a “Tenenbaum” again so he contacts to his ex-wife.

This scene is hilarious, Royal tells Etheline he is gonna die in a short time and needs to see his children again. Etheline ends up crying historically which makes Royal feel bad and thus tells her the truth that he isn’t truly dying that quick; she freaks out on him and then he takes back his truth and says he really is dying quickly; which as a viewer one knows this really is not the case but rather a lie still. I believe this is the true Royal Tenenbaum; a manipulative lier filled with heart. Royal is aloud back into the family, although he is not living with them yet. He is still living in his hotel suite. Which he ends up getting kicked out of for not having sufficient funds. So Royal talks Richie into getting Etheline to let him back into the house because he is getting really sick. Chas reveals he truly hates his father and does not want him in the house. After some diliberation Etheline decides to let Royal back into the house and family. Once in the house Royal acts like he is on his death bed and has his children visit him on it. Everything seems to be coming together but then Royal confronts Ethiline’s lover Henry and he reveals the truth to Royal’s family; thus he gets kicked out again. This reality turns Royal into a loving un-selfish father. He ends up serving Etheline with divorce papers thus letting her marry Henry. The marriage ceremony ends up being the most climatic scene in the movie. Eli is high on mescaline and crashes his porsche into the Tenenbaums house, while Royal saves Chas’s children, although he did not have enough time to save their dog Buckley. Everyone comes together to analyze the accident and Royal ends up getting the fire dog to replace his son Chas’s dog. This journey Royal and his family go on through the movie really defines Royal as a character. In the end of the movie Royal ends up dying and everyone attends this once lonely mans funeral.

Character development is definitely part of Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson’s writing style. The other aspect I can easily recognize in Wes Anderson’s movies is his directing style; the way in which the movie was actually shot and framed. This could also be attributed to the director of photography in both movies: Robert Yeoman, who was the director of photography in both movies. I am going to refer to Wes Anderson, although Robert Yeoman might be responsible for the following. Usually the director and director of photography act as the same part, but the director has the final word. Going forward I would like to point out my favorite film technique Wes used in both his movies; he ends his movies in slow motion. Slow motion is not often used and if it is, it usually is in action movies. The way in which Wes uses it close his movies really hones in on his characters and dramatizes the ending. I think it is more more dramatic in The Royal Tenenbaums. The last scene in The Royal Tenenbaums is Royal Tenenbaums funeral. The whole family attends it, when the funeral concludes they all exit, and this is where the speed of the film changes into slow motion. They all leave the frame of the shot, which reminds me of the end of a play. When the actors and actresses come out to take a bow. The last thing you see in this movie is the Tenenbaum gate for his family’s resting place. The use of slow motion and final image really dramatize and brings a closer to the film.

Now stepping back from the ending of each movie I would like to discuss how the movie is actually shot and the color used for each character. Both movies did not uses a steady cam, which gave some of the shots a documentary and real time feeling to them. Although this was for some of the more complex and animated shots. The rest of the movie had to have been shot on a dolly or a crane. Most of the shots of the characters were straight on. I noticed that the shots usually started static, and then dollied or paned with the character. Most of the shots were long in nature, but there are certainly shots that do not last more than a second. These shots tend to be part of the characters background or montage. I noticed the way in which Wes Anderson and Robert Yeoman used color and framing. This is easy to see in The Royal Tenenbaums, each character in the movie has a “warm” color. For instance the scenes with Margret often have a washed out pink color associated with it, while Chas has red, and Richie has yellow. Although when Richie tries to kill himself the color if the scene is cold and filled with blues and purples. The change in color really hones in the viewer to understand it is not a happy scene. This is true for the other colors I mentioned; for instance I mentioned Margret has a washed out pink color associated with it. I believe this color personifies her as a character; a slightly depressed, confused, mellow individual. The use of color and framing is very important and easily recognizable in Wes’s movies.

Wes Anderson’s movies really emphasize character development. One of my favorite parts of both movies is the introduction. Both movies start in a way unlike any other movie. They start out by introducing the main character; it gives the viewer a background history and a peak into their life. In Rushmore you are introduced to Max, through montage. You see all the clubs and activities he actively participates in. The shots are all static with text. After watching the intro I understood Max truly loved Rushmore. This is also true for The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes introduces the family members in a similar way; although Alec Baldwin, the narrator, tells the story of each child prodigy. For example he narrates Chas Tenenbaums bringing up. The shots are static for the most part and have the same exact text as Rushmore.

I really enjoy watching the introduction to Wes Anderson’s films; it is unlike any other movie viewing experience. This is also true for the entire film. There are plenty of niches one can pick up on through out the movie. For instance there is one similarity between the two movies I have not yet mentioned and really enjoy. It is slightly different for each movie, so it would follow the movies plot. In Rushmore, you see Max evolve over a school year and since Max is interested in play writing. When the scenes change you see a curtain with a title stating what month it is. The Royal Tenenbaums resembles a book, so when the scenes change you see the chapter of the book. This is just another thing I adore from Wes’s films. I am sure there are many other things one could pick up on in all of Wes’s films. In conclusion I highly suggest picking up any of Wes’s films; especially Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.

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