This past weekend, my sister and I dove back into the wonderful world of Wes Anderson and came out with another gem. This was great, considering the previous film, The Royal Tenenbaums, rubbed us both the wrong way. We were starting to worry that all of the early Anderson would be that way. But Rushmore laid those worries to rest. It was a beautiful thing. And it brought to mind a theme common in some of our most beloved childhood cartoons.
Rushmore follows the character of Max Fischer, a fifteen-year-old attending Rushmore Academy. Max is something of a go-getter at his school, taking on more extracurricular activities than he probably has classes. On top of everything, Max is also a brilliant playwright, and he takes on the role of director in just about everything he sets out to do. He becomes the de facto leader of any activity he takes up and all those involved gladly follow him.
But I don’t want to write specifically about him, much as I loved his character. Instead, I wanted to focus on one of the film’s themes; a vibe it gives off that has worked well in many films and TV shows. That theme is the representation of kids having more agency in their world than would be usually assumed, or of a world run by kids — a Kid Civilization.
So I know this topic seems like a pretty surface-level thing to cover, which doesn’t really fit with the whole “Depth of Field” thing I’m going for here. And it would be! But I’m not just rehashing everything you’ve already read about Marvel’s latest timeline announcement, so just…rest assured, pal.
Okay. So Marvel.
If you haven’t heard about Marvel’s crazy five-year timeline of films announcement due to that coma you must have been in, here’s what’s up:
Captain America: Civil War (May 6, 2016)
Doctor Strange (Nov. 4, 2016)
Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (May 5, 2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (July 28, 2017)
Black Panther (Nov. 3, 2017)
Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (May, 2018)
Captain Marvel (July 6, 2018)
Inhumans (Nov. 2, 2018)
Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 (May 3, 2019)
Yeah. Kind of a lot to announce. And so far in advance!
You probably think documentaries are boring. Even if you actually really like documentaries, this understood fact of society is probably always in the back of your head. If you watch a documentary, you feel like a boring person. If you suggest a documentary to friends for movie night, they tell you to go back to the Library of Congress. But, I mean, who doesn’t want to hang at the Library of Congress?
Maybe these things aren’t true for you! Maybe you have super cool friends who don’t mock your taste in media. But the cultural representation of documentaries is that they are dry, dull, boring pieces of media made for old people who don’t know they’re boring.
These are dirty lies, and I want to talk about why.
This stigma operates primarily on the assumption that facts are boring, that history is boring. Which is ridiculous. Improbably fascinating things happen everyday, and we love to hear about them. But a documentary is about more than presenting facts and history. A documentary is still a film, after all, and therefore a piece of art. A documentary takes facts and history and creates art. A film has the incredible privilege of being able to tell a story at the precise pace that an artist wants, revealing new information only when the artist feels it creates the most meaning for the audience, and for the film as a whole.
There are some films that are meant to be watched at certain times of the year. Halloween is nearly upon us, and I’m sure there will be many a viewing party for Hocus Pocus, Friday the 13th, and of course, Halloween. At Thanksgiving, we’ll all watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and on Christmas, we’ll all watch It’s a Wonderful Life. But there are some films, at least for me, that became associated with a certain time of year for almost no conceivable reason. This weekend, my sister and I sat down to watch a movie that has become a fall favorite for us: When Harry Met Sally.
There is absolutely no reason that When Harry Met Sally should be associated with the fall. The film takes place over a period of several years, and depicts every season at some point during the story. Nothing terribly important to the plot is tied to the fall. In fact, some of the film’s most important, climactic moments occur on New Year’s Eve. But we don’t feel compelled to watch this movie on New Year’s Eve, or in the summer, or at any time of the year other than fall. Why?
Honestly, I don’t really know. My best guess is that the DVD box art–a shot from a particular scene in the film when Harry and Sally are walking through a park in the fall, many-colored leaves falling all around them–may have subconsciously become the iconic representation of the film for my sister and me. It probably also has everything to do with our mutual love of fall as a season. If a person hates fall, they may not associate this movie with fall. Unless they hate the movie, in which case they’re a terrible person, and not to be dealt with.
Also, this is a romantic comedy, and fall is just cuddle weather. Y’know? It’s cool and crisp, and there are hoodies and warm drinks and pumpkin spice. That can’t be just me.
Last Friday, my sister and I took a break from our backwards run-through of Wes Anderson’s filmography to watch a film about roller derby. Because Ellen Page.
That film was Whip It,and it’s really more than a movie about roller derby. It’s also about being a teenager and feeling trapped in your hometown and feeling burdened by parental expectations and finding something you love and a place to belong. It’s really a fun movie. But none of that is the subject of this post. No, what interested me most about Whip It is that it was directed by Drew Barrymore, who also plays a role in the film.
This got me thinking about directors who also act (or actors who also direct, whichever you prefer). There’s a history of this happening way back through the timeline of filmmaking, and it doesn’t just stop at one person taking on two professional roles, there are also directors who make fun little cameos in their movies. That’s actually one of my earliest memories about film.
This past weekend, my sister and I had our parents over for dinner. After dinner, we decided to watch a movie. Our parents had never seen “Fantastic Mr. Fox” or “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. After fifteen minutes of searching various Video-On-Demand services to find out which one they wouldn’t be able to watch on their own, it turned out they had neither, and we settled on “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.
Okay, so, a warning: over the course of this blog, I am going to come across as an absolute Wes Anderson fanatic. And I am. Sort of. But lately, my sister and I have been going backwards through Mr. Anderson’s filmography because we hadn’t seen any of his films, but always wanted to. They are amazing and you should watch them (if you want, I don’t care). So the fact that his films are so fresh in my mind is going to make this fact of my character even more exaggerated. I swear I like other directors.
Anyway! We settled on Grand Budapest, and I had already seen it, so with the story already known to me, I was able to perceive all the little gems I missed on my first viewing. And man. Are there gems.