Tag Archives: Wes Anderson

The Year of the Snub

Update: I’m being told that Mr. Pauls is still dead. Thoughts and prayers continue to go to his family.

Alright, since I’m contractually obligated to mention Mr. Pauls in every posted written in January, I’m glad to get this out of the way.

So: on to our annual “Oscar” preview blog post, which has become a bit of a tradition around here. We here at the lighthouse enjoy watching movies, but we enjoy EVEN MORE talking about movies we haven’t yet seen. So with that in mind, let’s look at the contenders: So we’ve got eight movies in the “Best Picture” category this year, just to keep us on our toes. Nobody knows how they end up with the final number. I hear it involves the masons and the ghost of former president of the MPAA Karl Malden, (known as “Hot Karl” to his friends), but I shan’t comment on the process. As we like to say, it is shrouded in mystery, as it should be, as all great mysteries are.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Well, I think this is a Mountains Beyond Mountains new record. At the time of the writing, I have seen only one of the eight best picture nominees. I think other years I average around three, but gosh I’ve really let my local theatre down this time. And the only one I have seen is “The Grand Budapest Hotel” way back in March 2014, not because I was gunning to get all my Oscar noms in before the big day, but because it is a Wes Anderson movie, and by God I just love that guy and everything he’s all about. Even though I may not always love all of his movies to the same degree, I’m just glad we have him in the world, working away at his projects and producing something on a semi-regular basis for me to enjoy. It’s always fun to meet another Wes Anderson fan, because when you do you’ve met a kindred and you have all this shared vocabulary and experience that you can quickly short-hand. “Where’s that red one gonna go?” “Let me tell you about my boat.” “On the run from Johnny Laws. Ain’t no trip to Cleveland”. “You get the rich kids in the cross-hairs and you take them down.” “I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about”. I could keep going. I’ve only seen “The Grand Budapest Hotel” that one time in the theatre, but I recall lavish set pieces, wonderfully dry humour from Ralph Fiennes’ character, and rich narration from F. Murray Abraham which took me right back to that summer of 1984 when I saw “Amadeus” in the Clear Lake theatre with my brother and Dad. I really should see it again, and I plan to. Wes Anderson movies are one of the few things that I tend to revisit again and again, although the two that seem to get the most attention from me are Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The Grand Budapest Hotel would get my vote for “Best Picture” this year, not only because it’s the only one I’ve actually seen, but because I can’t imagine what an Oscar win for this movie would do for Wes Anderson and his group of regulars. Open some doors? Allow him/them to do more? I certainly hope it doesn’t change their aesthetic. I know it’s uncool to mention him, but I think of Wes Anderson as I think of Woody Allen. Both are artists that do their thing and make just enough money to let them to keep doing their thing year after year. Some of their things connect with a wider audiences and are considered “hits” while others don’t and are forgotten by everyone except the most loyal of fans. Oh gosh, I could just talk about Wes Anderson all day, but we’ve got another seven movies to get through today.

"Take your hands off my lobby boy!"

“Take your hands off my lobby boy!”

American Sniper

Right. Ever since I saw “Silver Linings Playbook” I’ve really come to love Bradley “Coops” Cooper, but there’s NO WAY I’m going to sit through a drama about an American Sniper, unless you can prove to me that a character says at one point, “Sniper? I hardly KNOW her.” Plus, Jennifer Lawrence isn’t in this, is she? My wife is still convinced that the Coops and Jenns are doing it and how could I argue?

Pew! Pew! Pew!

Pew! Pew! Pew!



I think fans of a certain age will remember the anticipation of 1989’s Batman. I still remember its release date: June 19, from all the promotional posters leading up to its release. I saw it three times in the theatre. The first time was after the last day of grade 9. You remember that weird half day where you’d go in to clean out your locker and pick up your report card in the morning? My friends and I took the bus downtown to the long gone Northstar theatre that afternoon and were blown away by what we saw. It was the first “comic book” movie I ever saw that took its subject seriously. (Okay, I mean compared to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, 1989’s Batman looks a bit goofy, but at the time it captured all of our imaginations). I went back a couple of weeks later and took my little brother who I felt HAD to see this movie in the theatre. The third time was at the end of August (it was still in theatres in August, you guys) when I dragged my parents to see it. I think my Dad was kind of interested because I spent all summer talking about how excellent it was, and if you remember my Dad did this thing where he would go to a theatre and “preview” a movie for my brother and me before letting us see it ourselves, and so this was a little bit of a “passing of the torch” moment for my Dad, I think, because here I was, previewing the movie for him. Needless to say, my Dad loved it too, and as it turned out it would be the only Batman movie he would see, since the sequel would come out a year after he died. Another thing about this movie (that my 15-year-old self probably didn’t appreciate) was that Prince wrote all original songs for the soundtrack. The soundtrack was by Prince, you guys. (Orchestrations by Danny Elfman, it was a Tim Burton movie after all, but STILL). I imagine this meeting between Prince and a couple of Warner Brothers producers, taking place a year earlier at Paisley Park.

Prince: “You want me to write the theme tune, sing the theme tune? Star in this screamer?”

Producers: “Oh gosh no. Just the music. The music would be great. We are thinking something dark, something moody.”

Prince: “I have just the thing. In fact, I just finished filming my own feature length Batman movie where I play all the parts. Oh, you’ll never see it. No one will ever see it. It’s just for me.”

Producers: “Um, why are all the doors locked in this room. Wait! What’s that purple gas coming out of those nozzles in the ceiling??!!…wait!!!!.”

[end transcript]

And that’s how the world got “Batdance”.

Look, I don’t know anything about Birdman, except that it stars Michael Keaton playing a guy who used to play a superhero, and I hear that Edward Norton gets a boner in it or something. Hats off to you, good sir! Can’t wait!

Oh screw it! Let's just watch Batman again.

Oh screw it! Let’s just watch Batman again.



Richard Linklater is a bit “hit and miss” with me. I saw “Slacker” back when it played in our local “art house” theatre in the early 90s. It came out in the same year as one of my all time favourite movies, “J.F.K.” and there is one scene in “Slacker” where they just let this Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist talk and talk and it’s just wonderful. “Dazed and Confused” was equally marvelous, launching the career of friend of the blog, Matthew McConaughey. Then somehow Linklater got caught up with that shady character, Ethan Hawke, and was tricked into filming all those talky European style movies where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walk around and ride on trains and look out windows, and all the while you just want them to stop talking or maybe keep walking away from the camera or maybe get off the train and accidentally cross another railway track and get HIT BY THE SOUTHBOUND EUROSTAR or something, but they just KEEP FUCKING TALKING. I’m sure Linklater’s done other movies too, but how can we ever get over the TAINT left by those 17 films with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? This new one stars Ethan Hawke too, which immediately puts it into the category of “movies I’ll never see unless you trick me into watching it”. And you know how movies like to pride themselves in saying that “No animals were harmed in the making of this film”? Well what about kidnapping a 6 year old and holding him against his will for 12 YEARS, forcing him to act in a feature length film for just a week out of every year, like that creepy guy in Austria a few years back. We shouldn’t be celebrating this movie, we should be prosecuting the producers for child endangerment. Who does Linklater think he is? Prince?

Milk carton images during the 12 years of captivity.

Milk carton images during the 12 years of captivity.

Imitation Game/Theory of Everything Ah yes. Isn’t it always the way? If one company produces a movie about a tortured British math genius, you just know a rival company will be producing another version of another tortured British math genius in the same year. But which one is the  splashy Armageddon, and which one is the critically favoured Deep Impact? Which one is the fan favourite Volcano and which is the ill-fated Dante’s Peak? Which one is Academy award-winning Capote and which one becomes merely  the also-ran Infamous?

Benedict Cumberbatch (left) as Alan Turing and Eddie Redmayne (right) as Stephen Hawking

Benedict Cumberbatch (left) as Alan Turing and Eddie Redmayne (right) as Stephen Hawking



I have not seen Selma, but this is as good a spot as any to talk about the year of the snub. Although this movie got a “best picture” nomination, it got precious little else, as if the Academy were saying, “We really like this movie, but we can’t tell you about one part of it that is actually worth talking about, but Oprah had something to do with it, right? So let’s nominate it because who wants to get on the bad side of Oprah? Stedman found out the hard way and let’s just say he isn’t around anymore.” People are saying that there are no “people of colour” (which is different than “coloured people”, please take note Benedict Cumberbatch) nominated in any of the major categories, and all of the nice big award categories are filled with so many white dudes, it looks like an insurance company picnic in Topeka Kansas in the 1970s, PLUS THE LEGO MOVIE WASN’T NOMINATED FOR ANIMATED FEATURE. Okay, to be fair, it looks like all of the actress and supporting actress nominees are women this year, so that’s progress, right? And actually, aren’t these “actor” and “actress” categories a little discriminatory in our newly found “post gender” world? Why not just nominate 10 people in each category, regardless of sex or gender, race or creed, and see what happens? Or why not get creative with the categories, we could have a “men with the nicest beard” category, or “lady with the nicest smile” category. I’d like to vote on that. (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence get my vote in each category. Jennifer in the smile category, obvs, although why couldn’t the Coops be in the beard and the smile category at the same time? and who’s to say that Jenny Law couldn’t grow a nice beard if she took the right hormones. I mean, she can do anything!) But I’m getting off topic here. Getting back to Selma: I haven’t seen it. I checked out a “Sisters of Selma” PBS documentary from the library, but I haven’t watched it either. I’d like to, though.

Bearded AND Smiling. Don't ever change, Coops!

Bearded AND Smiling. Don’t ever change, Coops!



All I know is that J.K. Simmons is winning all kinds of awards for his role as a music teacher in this movie about a music teacher who teaches music to a boy called WHIPLASH. I suppose it’s a prequel to the Iron Man movies, which I think is the first time that a movie from the Marvel Universe has been nominated for a best picture. I bet Stan Lee has a cameo as the school’s cranky janitor. Will the post credits scene give us any insight into the upcoming Inhumans movie? Will we get a cameo from Agent Coulson or Nick Fury? I hate when they cast the same actor in different roles in the same universe, and they’ve done that again since J.K. Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in those Sony Sam Raimi movies, but I guess they don’t really count because Sony owns the rights? I guess that’s how they get around Chris Evans playing the Human Torch in those terrible Fantastic Four movies and also playing Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America in those excellent Captain America movies. I wish those Fantastic Four movies were never made, but just today I see a teaser trailer for some new Fantastic Four movie was released and it doesn’t look terrible.

I don't know WHAT happened at that music school to produce THIS.

I don’t know WHAT happened at that music school to produce THIS.


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Arcade Fire’s newest album, “Reflektor” is released on October 29. What is the term the music industry likes to use? Dropped? It’s gonna drop people! Watch out. So if you were a musician, could you refer to your body of work as your droppings? Does anyone know where that term came from? Anyone? I blame the rap world. (I don’t even know what that means.)

But that’s not why you dialed in today, is it? No. You’re here for the latest droppings from Mountains Beyond Mountains. A lot going on in the editorial offices this week. Fort Building! Late nights! Workshops on how to respect diversity. (A side note: maybe the instructor shouldn’t have kept using the term “low man on the totem pole” when describing something, right. Racist!)

But back to Arcade Fire. (Or is it The Arcade Fire.) Oh life, so full of ambiguity!

This is a perfect time to link to that old chestnut, the “Who is Arcade Fire?” tumblr account that gathered up our collective ignorance after they won the Grammy for Best Album way back in 2011. I know it’s old, but it’s still kinda makes me smile, IF ONLY BECAUSE I KNEW WHO ARCADE FIRE WAS THEN AND I FELT A LITTLE SMUG. (not to be confused with SMAUG, in theatres at Christmas, motherfuckers! I am told it is pronounced SMOOOOAUUGGG, so make sure you get it right, lest you look like a dummy.)

I knew who Arcade Fire, but just barely. I love their song “Month of May” off of The Suburbs because they talk about “2009, 2010, I want to make a record of how I felt then.” because when I think of Arcade Fire, I think of 2009, 2010 and what was going on in our lives. A lot of changes in that period: we successfully adopted our baby girl, we became friends with a group of new people, my wife changed jobs after coming off maternity leave, and I finally joined the digital age and got an iPod. In a weird way, each of those events had a hand in making me into an Arcade Fire fan, and so when I listen to Arcade Fire in general and The Suburbs in particular, I am taken back to the summer of 2010 when The Suburbs was released. (I can’t quite bring myself to say “dropped”, I’m sorry).

Before that time, I was vaguely aware of who Arcade Fire was. I knew (thought) that they were Canadian, but if I had to say from where, I would have said Ottawa, which would have been wrong. I knew that they opened for U2 on the Vertigo Tour in 2005 and almost got a chance to see them but instead we got some forgettable band called “Dashboard Confessional” in Milwaukee that year. (Apologies to any Dashboard Confessional fans out there. Why do I say such hurtful things?) The only song I knew of theirs was “Rebellion (Lies)” from their first album, probably due to osmosis from heavy radio rotation.

So when the new Arcade Fire album was released, I was surprised at the buzz I felt coming off of people I knew who were fans of the band. In fact, I remember one friend going to a couple of different record stores to actually buy the physical album so that she could listen to it in the car ride out my in-law’s cottage. I was happy for them, but didn’t actually pay much attention to any of it. I played around with the interactive video for “We used to wait” where you can upload of picture of your childhood home from Google Street view and then it incorporates it into the video, but I was using our ancient iMac and it didn’t seem to work properly so I took people’s word that it was cool. I did borrow their second album, Neon Bible from the library just to see what the fuss was all about, and I lightly listened to it, noting that “Intervention”, “No Cars Go” and “Keep the Car Running” were standouts for me on first listen.

That September, Arcade Fire was scheduled to play a concert in our city. I was asked if I wanted to go and I said, “No thanks.” because (and this is the geekiest excuse ever), it fell on choir night (but also because, like I said before, I didn’t really know them), and that was fine.

But then a couple of weeks before the concert, I was asked again because there was an extra ticket purchased and I thought, “Why the hell not?” and said I’d go. I felt like I needed to bone up on the band and cram three albums’ worth of material into my headspace in 14 days. I asked around which songs were people’s favourites, and it was really difficult to get a consensus, but I sort of get it. Being a huge U2 fan, I have my favourites, but to actually choose one or two songs to represent them at the expense of others? Pretty difficult. I focused instead on listening to the new album, reasoning that they will probably play a good number of songs off of it. I tried my best to be “ready to start” but I’m not sure anything would have prepared me for that night. (see what I did there?)

A night or two before the show, I was called again, asking if I wanted to have a floor ticket instead of being up in the stands (apparently someone who had a floor ticket decided that they would have preferred sitting). I was worried it was going to be more money, and I wasn’t prepared to pay more for a band I barely knew, but when it turned out the tickets were the same price, I jumped at the chance! A  floor ticket! I had never stood on the floor before for a concert. I had floor seats when there were actual seats, but this would be a new experience for me.

So the night of the concert came, and not only did I have access to the floor, my friends offered to pick up me. (My wife had to work that night, and still regrets to this day that she missed the concert. She too was not a fan, but has subsequently become as big an admirer as me. I don’t remember what we did with our daughter. There must have been a babysitter involved at some point.) I felt like I was a concert winner. Floor ticket! Chauffeur service! I half expected to arrive and be ushered backstage for a meet and greet.

It would be weird to review a concert three years after the fact, but the reality is that the night remains for me to be one of those really special, memorable nights for many reasons, not the least of which was to experience a wonderful concert with the most amazing vantage point in the whole arena. We were pretty much in the center a few people back from the stage, so when the band came on (all 17 of them or whatever) they completed filled our line of vision. It was like watching a 3D IMAX movie but without the glasses. I immediately got into what the lead singer Win Butler was all about, and I pretty much instantly fell in love with his wife, Regine, in everything she was doing on stage. It’s no coincidence that when I started this blog a few months later, I would take as it’s title an Arcade Fire song sung by her. And the opening band Calexico, was perfect too. I knew more of them than I actually did of Arcade Fire going in. (I had a couple of their CDs in the ol’ iPod). During their set, Calexico played a cover of Love’s song “Alone Again Or” which was featured in Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket” and I mistakenly thought that Calexico was on the “Bottle Rocket” soundtrack for a while after that. I have since bought Love’s album Forever Changes that has the original version. At one point during Arcade Fire’s set, the horn section from Calexico came out to perform “Ocean of Noise”, which was so cool because Calexico actually recorded the original version for their Funeral album. Maybe Arcade Fire will trot out David Bowie for Reflektor in their upcoming tour?

It was a cool rainy night, and I had my MEC windbreaker on over my t shirt and decided to take it off and tie it around my waist instead of trying to hold on to it. This worked out okay for the first little while, but I felt the arms of the jacket loosening no matter how many times I tried to tighten it, at one point the jacket fell down around my ankles. I wasn’t about to bend over “mid song” and try to tie it up again, so I left it until there was an appropriate break. That break came a couple of songs later between encores. I had just retied the jacket around my waist when I got pushed hard from behind. It wasn’t the person doing the pushing’s fault, he was just riding the wave of a surge of people trying to get as close as possible for the finale. If my jacket had still been around my ankles, I surely would have tripped and fallen to the concrete floor with the possibility of getting trampled in the process. As it was, I just stumbled a couple of steps ahead, and without thinking, turned around and pushed as hard as I could back and the surge pulsed to another part of the floor. I was moshing, people! A minute or so later, this dude with muppety hair came bouncing in to our “personal space” and threatened to knock me and my friend over, so I sort of created this weird, mostly ineffective barrier between this muppet and my friend. My motivations were two-fold. Sure I didn’t want my friend to suffer the same fate as I did with the windbreaker incident, but more selfishly, she was my ride home and if she got knocked to the ground where would that leave me? Luckily, the muppet moved on and we could enjoy the rest of the concert without incident.

I could go on and on about that evening, but its hard to find the appropriate words sometimes and “amazing” and “awesome” get overused, so we’ll just have to rely on our memories of that night, Prince style.

After the concert, I made a playlist on the iPod. It’s still one of the most played lists to this day. Since then, I’ve listened to Funeral, Neon Bible and The Suburbs front to back, and even tracked down their EP. I’ve stayed up late to watch them at Coachella (online, silly), and PVRed them on Austin City Limits and the late night talk show circuit. I’m not sure when exactly I became a “fan” but seeing them live that night in September was a huge part of that transformation.

Which brings us to today.

In September, the first single was released. I first heard it in a hotel room in Minneapolis, appropriately enough, on that same friend’s iPad, the one that got me the floor ticket to the concert in 2010. It sounded like a dance mix, which stands to reason, as James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Union Sound Hall produced it. But it also distinctly sounded like “Arcade Fire”, so I was pretty excited. A few days later, the official video was released, and the song grew on me even more.

Last night, someone I follow on twitter was talking about how much he was enjoying the new Arcade Fire album and I thought to myself, “Show off. He must have got an early copy somewhere”, but then I heard that a rough version of it leaked onto Youtube, and the band decided to release a much higher quality version themselves.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this morning. It’s been playing in the background in my office as I’m working. I’m not going to do a “track by track” review as I sometimes do, because I haven’t been able to give it my full attention. I CAN say that I am really enjoying what I’ve been hearing so far, and can’t wait to delve more deeply into it in the next few days and weeks. It starts off strong with “Reflektor” and other standouts so far are “It’s never over” and “Bring on the Night Time”. It’s a two album release, with a combined playing time of 1 hour 25 minutes. I haven’t quite got through the whole thing yet, so THIS REVIEW IS IN REAL TIME, people! (Porno has just started. I like the groove of it). Just one of the value added services we offer to you the reader.

Instead of just a static album cover, the album is being streamed over the pictures of this crazy looking Brazilian film, “Black Orpheus”. I have no idea what the connection is, except the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice seems to be a recurring thread amongst these songs. Oh, and speaking of literary references, I just found out last week that the line, “Never Trust a Millionaire, quoting the Sermon on the Mount” is actually taken from an essay by George Orwell and that George Orwell is one of Win Butler’s favourite writers.

I haven’t been following the Black Orpheus movie that closely, but it seems like your typical “boy meets girl” kind of thing, EXCEPT THAT OVER “It’s never over” THE BOY IS DRESSED LIKE A ROMAN GLADIATOR AND HE IS IN A MORGUE OR SOMETHING. (Spoiler).

Okay, and “Afterlife” has a pretty nice “New Order” vibe to it, which is making this writer very happy indeed. “Can we just work it out? Can we just work it out?…..”

And I think that’s all I got for now.


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A poorly kept secret: My Wes Anderson mixtape

Well it’s Wes Anderson week around here at Mountains Beyond Mountains. Last week we ranked the movies (not an easy task) and told a little personal story about each one. On Friday his new movie, “Moonrise Kingdom” finally opened in our city and I was lucky enough to see it with a group of friends. Somehow, MBM’s press passes must have been lost in the mail, and we were unsuccessful in winning a pass to the Wednesday night preview. Nevertheless, at 8:10 p.m. the figurative curtain went up. Now I know members of the fanbase are dying to know where it ranks in my personal list. This is a tough one, my heart wants to stick it right at number one because I loved it so much. But I think after the dust settles it will be a solid number three behind Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, two sentimental favourites that may never be unseated. But placing it in front of “The Life Aquatic” and the others may prove controversial to some, but let the chips fall as they may. Anyway, lists are dumb, right?

Same, but different.

Being immersed in Wes Anderson’s universe for 90 minutes last night inspired me to go ahead and finish off a little side project that I’ve been working on over the past few weeks. That’s right. I’ve been secretly putting together a mixtape of songs from Wes Anderson movies to be sent out to platinum circle members of the fanbase (one disc per household).

There are many ways to approach a mix tape like this. I could have easily gone all instrumental, as Anderson has used many classical and jazz standards, as well as original work from Mark Mothersbaugh and Alexandre Desplat over the years. I could have done a CD of  all his non-english songs, creating a “world music” tape. I could have gone chronologically, starting with songs from Bottle Rocket and ending up with songs from Moonrise Kingdom. I could have chosen songs that were memorable in the scenes they were used. (In that case I would have to use Elliot Smith from Tenenbaums, yuck. Not yuck to Elliot Smith, but yuck to the scene). In the end I decided to just stick with pop songs (an earlier incarnation had the CD opening and closing with two short Mark Mothersbaugh pieces, but I thought that was kind of cutesy and took them out in the end. I do have Van Morrison’s “Everyone” (track 16) which sounds almost like it was remixed by Mark Mothersbaugh. It fits really well played over top SPOILER! Royal’s funeral. You may be interested to know that this was actually Wes Anderson’s THIRD choice for this scene. He wanted “I’m looking through you” by the Beatles but due to George Harrison’s recent death, there was tumult in the Beatles camp and the rights were not secured. This is the same reason why the original version of “Hey Jude” is not in the movie. Anderson’s second choice, “Sloop John B” by The Beach Boys was also denied. Even though it’s a third choice, I think it works really well in that scene.

My only rule was every movie had to be represented at least once but beyond that I didn’t care if one movie was more heavily represented over another. Think of this as just a mixtape a friend is giving you which happens to be made up entirely of songs from Wes Anderson movies.

Throughout the movie “High Fidelity”, the characters espouse varying and sometimes conflicting “rules” about making a mix tape.

Here’s one example of mix tape “gone wrong” from that movie:

Now I’m not expecting this tape to become a “conversation stimulator” as Jack Black’s character hopes, but I do hope that people put it on once in a while and listen to it for fun. My main concern (as with all of my mixtapes) is the flow. How is the flow? Let me know!

There are 19 tracks and I don’t think I’ll take up too much of your time talking about all of them, but I’ll mention one or two things about some of them. The disc starts out strong and then kind of takes you on a contemplative journey in the middle part and gets strong again and ends wistfully. The hope is that you’ll want to listen to it again as soon as it’s over. I burnt it last night and have played it through two or three times since then and am quite happy with it.

Regrets? I sort of wish I did include one of two instrumentals, just to give it that much more of a Wes Anderson feel. I especially like this little piece “Let me tell you about my boat” from “The Life Aquatic”. Here’s the scene in which it appears:

My wife also has two complaints. She cannot stand track 12. Seu Jorge recorded a bunch of David Bowie songs in Portuguese and some of them end up in the movie. Marla thinks having any of these songs in the middle of the disc kills the flow. At the last minute I took out “Changes” by him and the disc felt diminished. I stuck in “Rebel Rebel” instead and I think it works better. I also really like the transition from having this guy sing a David Bowie song and then BOOM! the next track is actually David Bowie singing “Life on Mars”. I think that is my favourite transition on the tape. There’s always at least one song that you want to skip over on a mixtape, and I guess this is that song for my wife. I like it though.

Her second complaint was that I didn’t include “A quick one while he’s away” by The Who. Now this is an almost a 9 minute song and it’s so crazy I don’t know how I’d ever lead up to it and I sure as heck don’t know how I’d ever get out of it, transition wise. Granted, its use in Rushmore is brilliant. Anderson uses only the last 3 minutes of the song in the movie, during the escalating revenge montage between Blume and Max. It includes a patented slo-mo bit and you can Max without shoe laces at the very end (as I mentioned in my other Wes Anderson post). It’s so great it gets an honourable mention and I’ll link it below but it didn’t make the mixtape.

A couple of surprises:

This mix tape was a poorly kept secret on my part, but I was really excited about doing it and I started talking about it with people with whom I meant it to be a surprise. But it actually worked out better because one member of the fanbase lent me her copy of the “Royal Tenenbaums” soundtrack so I could browse its listings and she even emailed me a MP3 of “Over and Done With” by The Proclaimers, a crucial song from Bottle Rocket that proudly sits at track 15. I think the disc is stronger because of these additions.

Speaking of transitions, I also love the one-two punch of “Alone Again Or” by Love and “These Days” by Nico. (tracks 7 and 8, respectively). I think “Alone Again Or” is probably my favourite song on the whole tape. I talked about its significance to me in my last post around the time Bottle Rocket came out and then I kind of forgot about the song for a little while. It was not until I was at the Arcade Fire concert back in September 2010 that my love of this song was rekindled. The opening band, Calexico, did a cover of it and I turned to the person I was with and shouted over the music with a huge grin “BOTTLE ROCKET! THIS IS FROM BOTTLE ROCKET!” as I gestured madly at the stage. I’m not sure if she understood what I was on about (it was quite loud in there) but she smiled and nodded her head as if she did. I didn’t realize at the time that Calexico was doing a cover and I thought for a while that Calexico was actually on the soundtrack, but that was wrong. On my tape, the next song is “These Days” sung by Nico. This song didn’t register with me until I had listened to the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack a few weeks ago. The person who lent me the disc said that this is song that puts her in a Wes Anderson mood more than anything else. Those comments haunted me as I assembled the track list and in the end I decided to add it. Why the hell not? It’s grown on me and I like its placement between “Alone Again Or” and “Ruby Tuesday”. It satisfies the “flow” requirement. And I also read a cute story about this song as I was researching the mix tape. It was originally written by Jackson Browne in the 1960s and he forgot that he signed away the rights for it to be used in movies and tv. He went into the theatre to see the Royal Tenenbaums and in the scene where Margot gets off the bus he thought to himself “Hey, I used to play the guitar like that.” and lo and behold before he knew it he was listening to his own song being sung in a new and very different way!

One final thought and then you’re free to go. I wanted to wait until I saw “Moonrise Kingdom” before I included one of its songs. So last night, the song that left the biggest impression on me was “Le temps de l’amour” by Francoise Hardy. It’s played in a sweet scene between Sam and Suzy and that’s all I say about that. It appears as song 17, for those keeping track at home.

1. Me and Julio down by the school yard. Paul Simon. Royal Tenenbaums

2. Where do you go to my lovely? Peter Sarstedt. Darjeeling

3. Here comes my baby. Cat Stevens. Rushmore

4. This time tomorrow. The Kinks. Darjeeling

5. Oh Yoko. John Lennon. Rushmore

6. Concrete and clay. Unit 4+2. Rushmore

7. Alone again, or. Love. Bottle Rocket

8. These Days. Nico. Royal Tenenbaums

9. Ruby Tuesday. Rolling Stones. Royal Tenenbaums

10. Strangers. The Kinks. Darjeeling

11. Gut Feeling. Devo. The Life Aquatic

12. Rebel, Rebel. Seu Jorge. The Life Aquatic

13. Life on Mars? David Bowie. The Life Aquatic

14. Play with Fire. Rolling Stones. Darjeeling

15. Over and Done With. The Proclaimers. Bottle Rocket

16. Everyone. Van Morrison. Royal Tenenbaums

17. Le temps de l’amour. Francoise Hardy. Moonrise Kingdom

18. Street Fighting Man. Rolling Stones. The Fantastic Mr. Fox

19. Ooh la la. The Faces. Rushmore


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This is an Adventure

“This is an Adventure.”  Steve Zissou

Wes Anderson’s latest movie, “Moonrise Kingdom” just played in competition at Cannes. In fact it opened the festival. I’ve never really understood it when you hear about movies showing “out of competition” at film festivals. What’s up with that? It would be as if Tiger Woods showed up at the Masters and said, “Hey fellas, I’m just going to hit the ball around a little over here, but I’m not going to keep score or anything. You guys go on ahead without me.”

It doesn’t matter that it didn’t win, right? Who cares what those snobby Mediterranean audiences think anyway? I’m totally looking forward to seeing it when it eventually plays here.

I’m the furthest thing from a hipster. I usually only get “into” something after it has jumped the shark, or sold out, or gone off the air, or broken up, or whatever sad metaphor you want to use. I can say, however, that I’ve been with Wes Anderson from the beginning (well, almost the beginning). I also realized I have an almost Rain Man like ability to remember where I saw each of his movies the first time and with whom.

Wes Anderson movies. There are certain hallmarks that we’ve come to expect from them. A certain colour palate, well placed slo-mo, meticulously selected pop songs from the 60s and 70s on the soundtrack, unconventional characters and plotting, wholly imaginative and yet familiar created worlds.You either love them or you don’t. I guess it’s like most things, it comes down to personal taste. A couple of years ago, when “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” was in theatres, I was chatting about Wes Anderson to a friend and we both realized that we loved his movies, but when we ranked them, it turned out she had his movies in almost exact opposite order to me. But that’s what we do, don’t we? We’re listmakers. I guess it’s like trying to decide which dessert off the dessert cart you’d like the best. All of the movies are pretty damn good, even the ones I don’t really care for all that much.

With that in mind, why don’t I tell you my list? Will you indulge me this self-indulgent trip down cinematic memory lane? I think I’ll go chronologically.

Bottle Rocket (1996) Cinematheque, Winnipeg (Rank: #2)

From left to right, Ed, Jon and Trevor

When I worked at the downtown library, there was a group of us that got really close and would end up doing things socially outside of work from time to time. One Tuesday afternoon Gail came up to me and said there was this funny sounding movie playing at Cinematheque after work and would I be interested in checking it out? I’m always up for a movie, then and now, and the two of set off for the late show. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie and identified so strongly with its characters. Anthony, recently released from a mental hospital. Now who does thatsound like? His loyal and faithful friend, Dignan? That could only be my best friend Ed. And Bob Maplethorpe, the friend with the car? That was our friend Jon. It really felt like how lives would have gone if we had decided to turn our attention to a life of crime. And in the middle of it all is this sweet unexpected love story between Anthony and Inez that you are totally rooting for. Gail and I could hardly talk on the way home, we were laughing so hard and remembering all the great lines and scenes. Gail was a little older than the rest of us. (30 when we were in our early 20’s) but she really fit in with the group, she was such a sweet person and when you work with someone, age didn’t matter so much. A few years later she developed ovarian cancer and we lost her at the maddeningly young age of 41. At her funeral, someone played a hauntingly beautiful version of “Alone again, or” by Love, and I can’t help but think she asked for that because of Bottle Rocket, since that song is featured prominently in one scene. Whenever I think of “Bottle Rocket” I think of Gail.

Rushmore (1998) Silver City St. Vital, Winnipeg (Rank #1)

With friends like him, who needs friends?

This time I knew who Wes Anderson was, and I had doggedly made all my friends watch “Bottle Rocket” when it came out on video. Most of my friends liked it, although I’m sure to what degree. Anyway, I had gathered a large group together to see Rushmore. I was aware of the so-called “sophomore slump” and was partially ready to not like what I was about to see.

But I loved it.

This was Wes Anderson fully formed. The Mark Mothersbaugh score was the mortar to all of the off-beat bricks that make up this wonderful ensemble cast. And oh my God, Bill Murray. I’ve always loved Bill Murray, but I had never seen him so understated, so reserved, so awesomely funny as Mr. Blume. This movie marked the beginning of a friendship and working relationship between Bill Murray and Wes Anderson that continues to this day. Bill Murray has had a role in every Wes Anderson movie since.

My friend Ed and I love detail in movies, comics, books, everything really. Ed loved all of the little touches for which Wes Anderson soon became known. In the scene when Max is arrested and held overnight, Ed noticed that they that taken his shoe laces, as if he were on suicide watch or something. I never noticed that the first time, but I always see that on subsequent viewings. It’s the little things, isn’t it?

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Towne Cinema, Winnipeg (Rank: #6)

Their relationship was frowned upon, but what isn’t these days?

A lot of people consider this to be their favourite Wes Anderson film, and for many people I know, it is the only Wes Anderson movie they’ve seen. So it comes to some people’s surprise that I rank it lowest. I think a lot of it had to do with expectations. I enjoyed Bottle Rocket so much, and Rushmore so much more, I couldn’t imagine how excellent his third outing would be. My friend Ed had seen it a few days before me and called me up. “Trev, you’ve GOT to see it. It’s incredible. In fact, I’m going to take my parents next week to see it. Why don’t you come along with us?” First of all, Ed isn’t really a gusher, and secondly, I’ve never really known him to take his parents out to anything, so my expectations were at ceiling height to begin with. To me, I guess Anderson’s sophomore slump was actually his senior slump.

Although there are some great moments in the movie, like the scene where Royal takes his grandsons out for a day on the town, the sum total felt less than its parts. I know this sounds crazy, but it felt like it was trying TOO HARD to be a Wes Anderson movie. I know that’s like coming out of a McDonalds and complaining that your Big Mac tastes too much like a Big Mac, but there it is. Also, it felt to me like this was the movie where the secret was out that Wes Anderson was a cool guy and everyone in Hollywood wanted to work with him. Even Ben Stiller was in this movie, and that usually for me spells box office poison. Bill Murray was there, sure, but his character was such a sad sack I just felt bad for him the whole time. I was underwhelmed throughout most of the movie, and was on the fence about it. I mean, it was a Wes Anderson movie, after all. But then we got Richie’s suicide attempt scene and that put it over the edge for me. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always felt squeamish when I’m presented with suicide scenes in movies or TV.  And in particular I can’t stand scenes involving wrist cutting. There’s something reptilian in my brain that just reacts viscerally whenever I see that, I can’t explain it. And so I kind of felt like throwing up after that scene, to be honest. I think I’ve gotten better over the years,  but it didn’t win Royal Tenenbaums any points in my personal ranking scheme. Which is a shame, really, because there is a lot to like. “So what did you THINK?” Ed asked me afterwards. “Um, well, it was okay,” was all I could manage. I knew I should have liked it, and that it was technically a “GOOD MOVIE”, but it just wasn’t for me, I don’t think. It’s telling that it’s the only Wes Anderson movie that I haven’t gone back and watched multiple times.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Grant Park Cinemas, Winnipeg (Rank #3)

Let me tell you about my ship.

My friend Kaj has his birthday in early January, and a tradition we have if he’s in town is to go out for supper and a movie. Sometimes it’s just the two of us, and sometimes there is a group. This year, (January 2005), there was a group of about 10 and the movie was “Life Aquatic”. I went in with the lowest expectations of any Wes Anderson movie to date. I still felt emotionally bloodied and bruised after “Tenenbaums” and wasn’t sure what to expect. Happily, all my reservations were unfounded, and I just fell in love with this picture. 

When I was a kid, I would watch PBS every Monday night for “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”. I was probably around 12, the magic age discussed in the movie.  Steve Zissou, Bill Murray’s character, is clearly based on Jacques  Cousteau, if Jacques Cousteau ever had a mid-life crisis. Cousteau’s ship was called “The Calypso” and Zissou’s was “The Belafonte”, naturally. Wes’s brother, Eric Chase Anderson’s production designs never felt more alive and realized than in this movie, in my opinion. One of my favourite sequences was where Zissou simply says, “Let me tell you about my ship”, and we’re treated to a wonderful cross-section tour of all the nooks and crannies that the Belafonte has to offer. I turned to Kaj at this point and said, “I want to be part of Team Zissou. I want to be the ship’s librarian on the Belafonte!” It felt like you actually could. His crew was such a diverse collection of misfits, that I don’t think you would need to make a very strong case to him. “Well okay.” Zissou would say. “Let’s get you fitted for a speedo and a glock. Wait, do librarians get glocks? No, let’s get you a laptop and a librarything.com account. You’re okay with a Mac?”

Steve Zissou is not an easy protagonist to like. He’s selfish and manipulative, and yet I couldn’t help but come to love him and root for him as he tries to make sense of the death of his longtime partner from a Jaguar shark attack. Oddly enough, this is probably the Wes Anderson movie I’ve rewatched the most times. Oh, and it has JEFF GOLDBLUM!

Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority on this one. After the movie ended, one of Kaj’s friends said to him, “I wish I enjoyed that movie as much as your friend Trevor seemed to!”

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Globe Cinemas, Winnipeg (Rank: 5)

“Look at THESE assholes!”

I saw this one with Ed. At this point, the Wes Anderson “look and feel” was firmly established, and unlike the Royal Tenenbaums, I was happy to spend a couple of hours  in his universe this time. You know how sometimes you just really feellike a Big Mac? I know this sort of trivializes the film, and it’s not meant to. I just mean that it makes use of slo-mo, Kinks and Rolling Stones songs, and the spiritual and mundane mix so well that you stop noticing that it is a Wes Anderson movie and quickly get invested into these three brothers and their attempt  to create a spiritual journey for themselves. The short film, Hotel Chevalier, sets the stage for what is to follow, and I feel bad for American audiences who did not get to watch the short when the Darjeeling Limited was originally distributed. I recently rewatched this film and actually enjoyed more than I did the first time. I rank it second to last, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. It just means that when you rank things you love, they can’t all be in first place, right?

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Cinema City, Polo Park (Rank: 4)

Wes Anderson and friends on the set of “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

Wes Anderson has been accused of being all style and no substance. Whatever, man. For this one, Anderson makes a feature-length stop motion film based on the Roald Dahl story. The interesting thing is that even though you’re watching a bunch of furry animals running around, you know instantly that you’re in a Wes Anderson movie. All the elements are there: recurring cast (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, to name a few), cool soundtrack, familiar colour palate, detailed production design, quirky characters. I saw this one with Ed, his wife Dilara and their son Eddie, who would have been four at the time. When it was over and the lights came up. Eddie turned to me and said, “I want to get the DVD!” Me too, Eddie, me too.

So there you have it. My chronological relationship with Wes Anderson films. Do you agree, disagree? What are your favourites? Looking at the rankings below, it seems weird to see the movies laid out this way. Maybe a cluster would be a better representation. Rushmore at the top, a cluster of Bottle Rocket, Life Aquatic, Mr. Fox and Darjeeling, with Tenenbaums at the bottom? In any event, I am very much looking forward to “Moonrise Kingdom”.  Kaj has already expressed an interest in seeing it with me when it comes out, but I have a feeling I may see it more than once in the theatres. That would be a Wes Anderson first for me.

My rankings:

1. Rushmore

2. Bottle Rocket

3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

4. The Fantastic Mr. Fox

5. The Darjeeling Limited

6. The Royal Tenenbaums

? Moonrise Kingdom

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