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The O Factor - Was Owen Wison Responsible for the Wes Anderson Phenom.
July 26, 2005 2:38 PM   Subscribe

In The O Factor (Slate), Field Maloney asks if Owen Wilson was the key to the Wes Anderson phenomenon.
posted by willnot (77 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The suggestion is that Anderson is too insular about the worlds he creates without Wilson's writing collaboration to act as a moderating influence. Given that Life Aquatic was the only movie so far that Wilson didn't co-write, it seems like a pretty big stretch.

Still, it's an interesting speculation and it seems to make sense in a way. I thought Life Aquatic was a major homage to Buckaroo Bonsai which was extremely insular in its own right. I loved Buckaroo, and I even sort of liked Life Aquatic, but it did leave me cold on a number of levels.

But then, so did Rushmore the first couple times I saw that. It was only after repeated viewings that I came to love Rushmore so much. I've only seen Life Aquatic once, so I'm reluctant to pass a too early judgment on the film.
posted by willnot at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2005


I think it's a valid question, but another way to look at it is that Anderson's directing is an influence on Wilson's comic bent and style. I mean, look at the dreck Wilson has been involved with sans Wes: Wedding Crashers, Starsky and Hutch and on and on.

I had trouble liking the Life Aquatic as well, in spite of the fabulous costumes, set design, and as usual, fonts.

From the article:
What if Owen Wilson, America's resident goofy roué with the broken nose and the lazy nasal drawl, was the rudder keeping USS Anderson on course, steering its captain away from solipsism and ironic overload?


Heh, ironic overload indeed. Very, very true in that Wes got a little too comfy with the 'insularity' as you mentioned willnot. It cuts both ways. Anderson makes Wilson smarter and Wilson humanizes Anderson's ironic kick and makes it more accessible.
posted by tweak at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2005


Before this turns into a Wes Anderson hatefest, it's important to remember that he's made four (4!) films so far. Three of which (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tennenbaums) are generally considered instant classics. That's not a bad record.

I, for one, LOVED "Life Aquatic", but there seems to be a feeling that it was a mis-step. Whatever. It was worth it just for all the scenes with the interns.
posted by ColdChef at 3:23 PM on July 26, 2005


He's complicated, isn't he?
posted by kenko at 3:25 PM on July 26, 2005


For the record, I loved Life Aquatic (though I probly need to see it 6 or 7 more times before I have a definite opinion on it) and Starsky and Hutch, and think both are shining beacons of hope for US film.
posted by signal at 3:34 PM on July 26, 2005


Captain Neato.
posted by billysumday at 3:36 PM on July 26, 2005


Also for the record: Wedding Crashers was freakin' hilarious. It wasn't Citizen Kane - or The Royal Tennenbaums, for that matter - but it was a fantastic popcorn flick.

And Vince Vaughn's a way better foil for The O Factor than Ben Stiller.
posted by gompa at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2005


billy that article has been discussed here—I'm certain of it—though I can't seem to find the thread.
posted by kenko at 3:43 PM on July 26, 2005


kenko: Interesting. Never saw it on the blue, as far as I can remember. Though I do think the Slate piece is a bit of a retread of the n+1 article. Specifically, that Anderson needs a good story for his films to work: There’s another problem with the pirate attack. It robs the movie of its plot. Anderson needs plot. It’s what kept Rushmore and Tenenbaums honest, saved them from being precious versions of the Naked Gun movies. Without tugging insistently at plot’s emotional strings, he can’t keep us coming back for more.
posted by billysumday at 3:49 PM on July 26, 2005


i barely laughed once at the life aquatic where i thought rushmore and tenenbaums were hilarious. i realized it was the O factor when i realized wilson didnt collaborate on this one... oh well, it was fun while it lasted...
posted by GleepGlop at 4:09 PM on July 26, 2005


Man, I'd be happier if Anderson's films didn't have Wilson in them - I've loved the latter three, but find Wilson the weakest point of all of them. He always plays the same character, and it just seems to be himself, sucking in his cheeks and being all breathy and weird. I can't even describe it because thinking about it makes me irritated. And in some ways, I thought Life Aquatic had a bit of an edge over at least Royal Tenenbaums, so I guess the O Factor didn't work on me.
posted by livii at 4:13 PM on July 26, 2005


What a bitchy article.
posted by VanRoosta at 4:19 PM on July 26, 2005


I haven't seen The Life Aquatic yet (it's in my netflix queue) but it seems to me that it's so much of a team thing that makes these flicks work. Most directors that I enjoy have their clique of actors that they run with such as P.T. Anderson.

I like tweaks comment "Anderson makes Wilson smarter and Wilson humanizes Anderson's ironic kick and makes it more accessible."

Anyone read about Wes Andersons potential new flick (it's in preproduction so i'm sure anything can happen) the animated Roald Dahl tale Fantastic Mr. Fox? No cast yet but I'd hope it has the wilson brothers in it and perhaps Murray.
posted by freudianslipper at 4:20 PM on July 26, 2005


The Life Aquatic will grown on people. It's too good to go unloved forever.
posted by dong_resin at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2005


that article has been discussed here

I think this might be the thread you mention. Personally, I really enjoyed The Life Aquatic but then again, I always planned on being a Cousteau when I grew up.
posted by Staggering Jack at 4:24 PM on July 26, 2005


I read it this morning -- it's quite lazy criticism. the whole idea that Baumbach won't argue with Anderson because he's intimidated by Anderson's success is just speculation. Zissou is certainly different from other Anderson films. and yes, Wilson is probably underrated as a writer (as an actor I think he's brilliant).
but the Slate story is mostly speculation

and also, what ColdChef said
posted by matteo at 4:27 PM on July 26, 2005


I'm with willnot regarding Banzai. I can't imagine anyone familar with the earlier film not thinking this while watching Life Aquatic. However, I don't think it's an homage; I think it's a rip off. Buckaroo is better in every way and on every level. Aquatic was shit start to finish.

Since Wilson wasn't one of the writers on LA, I'd guess that he is what made the earlier stories more interesting. How to tell for sure? Team Wilson up with Baumbach and see what happens.

Baumbach's films are all better than Life Aquatic, also. Well, Kicking and Screaming and Mr. Jealousy, anyway. At least they were funny.
posted by dobbs at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2005


but I do agree that the Anderson-Baumbach writing duo doesn't look good on, ahem, paper -- Baumbach's work is witty and literate but very slight.
posted by matteo at 4:40 PM on July 26, 2005


Dobbs: I agree with you re: Baumbach's two films being better than Life Aquatic. Therefore, I think we can construct an interesting pyramid of talent.

Wilson+Anderson=Good
Baumbach=Good
Anderson+Baumbach=Bad

We have to assume, for the sake of the equation, that Anderson is Bad. Baumbach does not possess enough Good to overcome Anderson's Bad. Wilson, however, does. In every circumstance, he has shown to have so much Good so as to outweigh Anderson's Bad. Therefore, Wilson is the Best, followed by Baumbach, and finally Anderson pulling up the rear.

With similar procedures I do not doubt we could quantify the quality of all art, and all artists.

Jello shot, Miami? Grape?
posted by billysumday at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2005


Buckaroo Bonzai? Are you kidding? Isn't The Life Aquatic a direct homage to the life of Jacques Cousteau? Like the boat practically being a replica (including the underwater observatory)? Zissou's personality? What happens to Zissou's son? The balloon, the helicopter, the lack of actual oceanic knowledge? Anderson ripped off Cousteau's life wholesale, not that that's a bad thing, and introduced him to a whole new generation of people. The Life Aquatic is a great movie, the humor is subtle, but that doesn't make it less funny.
posted by cyphill at 4:47 PM on July 26, 2005


I loved the The Life Aquatic as soon as I saw it, for me that and The Royal Tennenbaums are more enjoyable than Bottle Rocket and Rushmore but then again, I've only watched those once. I think the music is what caught me in life aquatic though, not Owen Wilson...
posted by nile_red at 4:57 PM on July 26, 2005


Life Aquatic was my Wes Anderson movie, so I believe Owen Wilson doesn't have anything to do with Wes' popularity.
posted by benkolb at 5:06 PM on July 26, 2005


Therefore, I think we can construct an interesting pyramid of talent.

I assume you were being facetious, as talent is multidimensional.
posted by kenko at 5:15 PM on July 26, 2005


Of course there are parallels (and thefts) from Costeau's life, but they're a given, no?

The similarities to Buckaroo Banzai are far too numerous to ignore, however. Yes, Anderson seems to have tipped his hat slightly with the closing shot (and perhaps the casting of Goldblum), but had there been as many elements stolen from a more popular movie, I'm sure critics would have called him on it. (That said, I rarely read reviews of movies I know I'm for sure seeing, and even less of movies I've already seen and hated so I can't say if he was called on the BB issue. Willnot's mentioning it was the first I was aware that anyone but myself saw the similarities.)

The last time I was so disgusted with such a blatent ripoff was while trying to watch CQ. That one, however, I had to turn off for fear of throwing the tv across the room.
posted by dobbs at 5:18 PM on July 26, 2005


My flatmate knows nothing of this Anderson fellow you speak of, but goes to everything Owen Wilson appears in.

She calls him her "Butterscotch Stallion".

Me, I passed by that headshot poster for Crashers before it came out and thought it was was Paris Hilton's face for a sec, with the makeup and the pout-mouth.

p.s. - dobbs - I loved CQ; tell me what it was 'ripping off' so I can see that too (besides all of Mario Bava, which I have, which is why I liked it).
posted by bartleby at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2005


look at the dreck Wilson has been involved with sans Wes

Do see The Minus Man, a non-comedy in which Owen Wilson is excellent.
posted by Aknaton at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2005


I liked Life Aquatic okay (Who the hell ever thought that Bill Murray would turn out to be one of the greatest actors of his generation?). It clearly didn't hold together as well as Anderson's first three films, but that's not saying much given how good those are. I thought Anderson's reach exceeded his grasp somewhat with Aquatic , which is fine, I'd much rather see an artist overreach than pitch the same old shit.
posted by Ty Webb at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2005


I love Anderson. From Rocket on. Rushmore was brilliant. Tennenbaums was so eerily similar to my own family that my wife studies it for insights into my childhood.

I especially loved Aquatic and purchased the DVD. It just keeps getting better. It takes me back to lazy Sunday afternoons dreaming about living aboard the Calypso or chasing down Rhino with Marlin Perkins. The film is a delightful tribute to those timeless shows.
posted by tkchrist at 5:30 PM on July 26, 2005


bartleby, David Holzman's Diary.
posted by dobbs at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2005


Aknaton, you are batty for recommending the unwatchable "Minus Man." I recommend "Behind Enemy Lines." It won the "O Factor" an award for "Best Running."
posted by oldleada at 5:45 PM on July 26, 2005


The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou (the correct name of the film)...is just like that quirky. Either you like Anderson's quirkyness or you don't. For me, he's gotten better.

Bottlerocket really missed for me arcing characters and storyline to hold onto.

Each of his films (to me) has gotten better...funnier. At first I found his stuff...awkward - a three act structure with four acts. As he's continued, I'm finding him better and better. Royal Tennenbaums breaks completely the hollywood film formula (Wanna bet that the Island lays everything out in minutes 10-19. Minutes 1-10 were to introduce you to the characters and how 'future' the world is.)

His stuff has a misstep. It's almost misleading.

And have you seen Starksy and Hutch? Owen Wilson is funny...but not that funny...nor is Ben Stiller in that film (or in envy. Or dodgeball. etc. These guys have made films that are just as worthless as films like 'wedding crashers.')
posted by filmgeek at 5:47 PM on July 26, 2005


Of course there are parallels (and thefts) from Costeau's life, but they're a given, no?

"thefts" is a bit tendentious, no?
posted by kenko at 5:53 PM on July 26, 2005


Owen Wilson was the key to the Wes Anderson phenomenon?

Preposterous.

Owen Wilson wasn't in Rushmore.
posted by Relay at 5:55 PM on July 26, 2005


cyphill: Yeah, as somone who started out with Ranger Rick and quickly moved on to National Geographic, I thought the point of the media-friendly adventurer who could spin a good yarn about questionable tales of the sea was obvious.

I'm certainly a fan of Bonzai and never saw the connection. Plot, character and setting, these are the key.

Plot: The key conflict in Bonzai is good vs. evil. The key conflict in Aquatic is man vs. awareness of his own incomptence.

Character: Buckaroo is an uber-renaissance man, a scientific genius, an athlete, and musician. He surrounds himself with loyal, highly competent renaissance men. The plot starts with Bonzai's greatest triumph to date.

In contrast, Zissou is a man of few talents, no great intelligence or physical prowess, and even minimal skills in his chosen field. He is surrounded by disloyal men and women only slightly more competent than himself. The plot of Life Aquatic starts with Zissou at the bottom of his career, the death of his mentor, a critical bomb of a movie and minimal funds.

Setting: Eastern United States vs. Indian Ocean. But most importantly, Bonzai plays the setting straight except for the existence of the Bonzai comics in the film. Early on, Aquatic doesn't exactly break the fourth wall, but reveals that it certainly exists and we are looking into a stage presentation.

The two movies exist in completely different genres. Bonzai is pulp, rather like early Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage and Indiana Jones. Bonzai is a man of superhuman intelligence and ability who protects us because the government is unable to. Aquatic is a mid-life melodrama like Death of a Salesman in which a man is forced to grow up and confront his own mortality.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:01 PM on July 26, 2005



Bottlerocket really missed for me arcing characters and storyline to hold onto.


I thought I was the only person who absolutely did not like Bottle Rocket. At all. It's good to have company.
posted by Vervain at 6:14 PM on July 26, 2005


KirkJobSluder - sure, Zissou is like a funhouse mirror image of Bonzai, but even when trying to show how they're different, you do an excellent job of showing just how similar they really are. Virtually all of the same elements are in place (just twisted and skewed).

It's like Anderson (or whomever) sat down and said OK, let's take this interesting cult movie from the past and turn it inside out. For the person who linked to the story about Anderson being the spokesman for the hipster generation, it's a very hipster kind of thing to do.
posted by willnot at 6:18 PM on July 26, 2005


How completely odd...I just watched 'Life Aquatic' for the first time tonight, and then this thread appears. Weird.

I love Anderson's work, especially 'The Royal Tennenbaums' (brilliant!). 'Life Aquatic' was a big, squishy, chaotic mess of a film that somehow seems to work. I think I liked it a lot, but I need to sleep on it.
posted by UseyurBrain at 6:35 PM on July 26, 2005


I'm pretty sure that they've publicly said that Owen Wilson didn't get a writing credit on Life Aquatic only because he brought slightly less to the table this time round (and a lot of his writing, Rushmore aside, always came from improv-type work anyway), and also because Baumbach was there as well. And, well, the Butterscotch Stallion probably didn't need it to help his career.

Anyhow, what I really want to see is a Wes Anderson/P.T. Anderson/Paul W.S. Anderson co-production featuring Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Jack Black and Luke Wilson Vs. Predator.
posted by flashboy at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2005


I love Anderson's films but was cool to Life Aquatic. I've only seen it once, though.

I'm surprised at the comments about the Stiller/Wilson comedy team. I haven't seen all the movies they've done together, but Zoolander is one of my all time favorite (stoopid) funny movies of all time.
posted by btwillig at 6:47 PM on July 26, 2005


Ah, that should read, "one of my favorite (stoopid) funny movies of all time."
posted by btwillig at 6:50 PM on July 26, 2005


Am I the only one who recalls the speculation that Wilson is, in fact, "Rance"?

I've always thought that there was "more there" with Wilson that was immediately obvious; of course the early posts in Rance's blog underscore this.

I've not read that blog in a long while, as it descended into a morass of short story competition and whatnot, but the speculative notion that Wilson was the better half of a writing duo does not seem even remotely far-fetched.

That isn't to say that he's some sort of genius, or even an idiot-savant -- rather, I suspect that he may simply be a very intelligent, and also very funny, creative person who happend to have chosen comedy over drama or literature as his area of engagement.
posted by spincycle at 6:55 PM on July 26, 2005


Am I the only one who recalls the speculation that Wilson is, in fact, "Rance"?

I've always thought that there was "more there" with Wilson that was immediately obvious; of course the early posts in Rance's blog underscore this.

I've not read that blog in a long while, as it descended into a morass of short story competition and whatnot, but the speculative notion that Wilson was the better half of a writing duo does not seem even remotely far-fetched.

That isn't to say that he's some sort of genius, or even an idiot-savant -- rather, I suspect that he may simply be a very intelligent, and also very funny, creative person who happend to have chosen comedy over drama or literature as his area of engagement.
posted by spincycle at 6:57 PM on July 26, 2005


I'm with willnot regarding Banzai. I can't imagine anyone familar with the earlier film not thinking this while watching Life Aquatic.

Ha! I am very familiar with Buckeroo Banzai, and it never even crossed my mind. I guess I was too caught up in the Costeau connnection. (The hats! Don't forget the hats!)

(Who the hell ever thought that Bill Murray would turn out to be one of the greatest actors of his generation?).

I may be the only person on earth who loved The Razor's Edge and thought Murray was perfect (even though it was terribly unfaithful to the book.)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou (the correct name of the film)...is just like that quirky. Either you like Anderson's quirkyness or you don't

I can't agree with that. I adored his first three movies and felt there was a natural progression as he increasingly found his own style, his own vision. And then, The Life Aquatic was a huge misstep. It was quirky but also cold and very forgettable. Even if I never saw The Royal Tannenbaums again, it would never be anything but clear and fresh in my memory.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:59 PM on July 26, 2005


The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou (the correct name of the film

Sorry, filmgeek, but it's Steve Zissou.

I'm not normally so pedantic (well, usually not) but it's rather funny to be told the "correct" name of a movie by someone named "filmgeek" who then gets the name wrong.
posted by livii at 7:02 PM on July 26, 2005


Relay writes "Owen Wilson wasn't in Rushmore."

He co-wrote it, though.

You didn't even read the Slate article, did you?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:03 PM on July 26, 2005


Ok, I watched about 45 minutes of BB and had to turn it off, I thought it was just terrible. So can anyone explain why TLA is a rip-off? From what I understand, the plots are not alike at all. From what I saw, the characters don't resemble eachother. So what's the deal?
posted by cyphill at 7:08 PM on July 26, 2005


Rushmore is one of the most brilliant films that I have ever seen. It might even make my Top 5. Bill Murray should have gotten an Oscar nomination for that movie.

The Royal Tannenbaums has the funniest first 20 minutes of a film that I think I can ever recall. While the rest of the film is good, it can't match the first 20 minutes pace - but I can hardly blame it for that.

I think the McCartney/Lennon comparison might be a good one for Anderson/Wilson. Iron sharpens iron, but it also creates some sparks.
posted by spock at 7:44 PM on July 26, 2005


I'm not normally so pedantic (well, usually not)

Wait, wait, what's the distinction between "not normally" and "usually not" here? Are you trying to say you're usually not normally pedantic? What the hell is that supposed to mean? To hell with you man, I think filmgeek is right, it's The Aquatic Life of Stephen Zazzoo
posted by nanojath at 7:49 PM on July 26, 2005


I think hipsters are the new zombies 1

1. which are the new pirates, which are the new ninjas, which are the new monkeys1a.

1a. which are, of course, hipster memes thus self-validating the existance of said hipsters.1b

1b. self awareness and irony being, of course, hipster themes often found in hipster literature in the small fine print of endless amounts of footnotes ala eggers/foster wallace.

posted by Staggering Jack at 9:10 PM on July 26, 2005


So can anyone explain why TLA is a rip-off

I don't think it's a rip-off, but I do think it was clearly influenced by Buckaroo Banzai.

Understand that I only saw The Life Aquatic once, so this is from a poor memory and I may be filling in some holes that aren't actually in that movie. Still, basically:
  1. Both seem to come into the middle with a lot of back-story that all the characters know but we don't
  2. Both center around scientist/superstars
  3. Both have a small group of team members to back them up
  4. Extending past the immediate main people on their teams, they both have people who mention being part of their fan club armies. At least, I think The Life Aquatic had that
  5. Both star Jeff Goldblum
  6. And Finally, if there's any doubt, just look at the final credit sequence. They are so similar and so obviously a hat tip that there's no way to miss it.
There may be more than that. Like I said, I only saw Life Aquatic once.

By the way, just to throw another wrench in, the DVD commentary track for Buckaroo Banzai says that BB was strongly influenced by Dr. Strangelove. Which I never got when watching it the first few times. But, after hearing that, I can certainly see it.
posted by willnot at 9:40 PM on July 26, 2005


The article seemed fairly convincing to me. His unchecked preciousness is certainly what's bringing Anderson down. As far as I'm concerned, it's been downhill since Rushmore. (I wrote about Life Aquatic here.)

FWIW, I adore CQ.
posted by muckster at 10:07 PM on July 26, 2005


willnot: I think if you look deeper at most of those coincidences, they seem to be pretty superficial. For example, the whole point of Bonzai is that he's the perfect pulp fiction hero, and playing pulp fiction heros straight on the screen is funny as heck. While the whole point of Aquatic is that Zissou isn't a scientist, he's a figurehead. You might as well make the more obvious link to Broadcast News, another movie about cults of personality and figureheads.

Likewise, while Jeff Goldblum is in both movies, they play radically different characters with radically different relationships to the protagonist. New Jersey is a comic foil for the protagonist and the rest of Bonzai's crew. Hennessy serves two roles against Zissou. Hennessy is Zissou's romantic and professional rival. But secondly, Hennessy symbolizes the way in which gonzo explorers are displaced by professional scientists.

I think the only story in which characters do not have a backstory unknown to the audience is the Book of Genesis.

I guess my skepticism is because the sources for both Bonzai and Aquatic were the bread and butter of my imagination as a kid. To me, it seems obvious that Bonzai was playing off of pulp fiction and comic books, while Life Aquatic is playing off of personality-centered nature documentaries. Everything in Life Aquatic from the crew in the background to the fan clubs were part of the history of these groups in the 70s and 80s.

Or for that matter, would you say that the Crocodile Hunter is living a life based on Buckaroo Bonzai?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:52 PM on July 26, 2005


Kirk, you're stretching. I mean, I don't know willnot from Adam and we both saw LA and thought of Buckaroo Banzai (with an A), not the most obvious film for anyone to pay homage to.

While you say willnot is looking too much at the surface, I say you're looking too deep. A sentence or two summation:

A well-known renaisance man and his band of wacky sidekicks go on a quest to end all quests. In the process, they're met by a long lost "relative" to whom they become enamoured and enamouring.

This is the story that both films tell. The credit sequence makes it obvious that Anderson had BB in mind when making the film. It's ridiculous to argue otherwise given the makeup of that scene. One without the other, fine, I'd say you have an arguement, but a loosely mimicked plot and a *very* similar closing shot which, in both cases, has nothing to do with the rest of the movie? That's more coincidence than I can stomach.

The major difference between the two films is that Buckaroo succeeds at what set out to do whereas LA is just a mess hoping to skate by on, I don't know, charm, maybe.
posted by dobbs at 12:00 AM on July 27, 2005


FWIW, I adore CQ.

Out of curiousity, have you seen David Holzman's Diary?

It's a film I've probably seen 25 times or more. The first 15 mins of CQ so steal and sully that 60s masterpiece... ugh. Well, I was very angry while watching it and had to shut it off out of disgust.
posted by dobbs at 12:04 AM on July 27, 2005


sorry, what movie is CQ? i scanned the thread for references, but didn't see any.
posted by firemouth at 7:04 AM on July 27, 2005


CQ
posted by willnot at 7:29 AM on July 27, 2005


Haven't seen it, dobbs, and can't find it on Netflix. Just from the IMDB description, I can see obvious similiarities. This is not surprising; CQ "steals and sullies" any number of movies, most obviously Barbarella. What surprises me is that you wouldn't give a movie a chance that clearly references something you like. To me, this would be a reason to watch. If you turned off CQ after 15 minutes, how can you know that it "steals and sullies?" Could it be an homage? You don't know where Roman Coppola takes it in the end, so perhaps your disgust was premature.

I find CQ absolutely delightful. It's as close to candy as the movies get--beautiful to look at, smart without being precious, and very amusing. Sofia is getting all the attention, but CQ pays off repeated viewings much better than Lost in Translation.
posted by muckster at 8:12 AM on July 27, 2005


Well, I thought The Royal Tennenbaums could've been written by John Irving. How's that for a rip off?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:48 AM on July 27, 2005


muckster, if I recall correctly (and it's possible I'm not), Coppola stole scenes, shots, plot points, and even dialogue (and made them all worse), all in those 15 minutes. (Right now off the top of my head I'm hearing "bring your life into focus" as one of the scenes/lines. Was that in CQ?) I frankly couldn't take it anymore. And yes, I'm aware of the "tribute" it pays to other films, but (and this may be revealing my ignorance of those other films) they seemed more "in spirit" than anything else, no? If his homages to those movies were as poorly executed as the ones to DHD than I'm very glad I turned it off.

I have no problem with people lifting from other sources (I do it all the time in my own writing), however, there's a difference between paying tribute and stealing. As with BB and Aquatic, I feel that had Coppola stolen from a better-known film he would have been raked across the coals. There seemed to be no shame in the 15 mins I saw--it was just looting and gutting to "improve" his own product, which is not something that interests me or that I'm willing to support.

And no, you won't find DHD on netflix. It's not on DVD.
posted by dobbs at 10:17 AM on July 27, 2005


dobbs: I think you are stretching because you can claim that hundreds of films mimic the plot of Bonzai including Batman Begins, Twister, a dozen James Bond movies, Kung Fu Hustle and a few episodes of CSI.

1. Rennasaince men/women? Check
2. Wacky sidekicks? Check
3. Quest? Check
4. Rediscovery of a long-lost "relative"? Check.

Congratulations, you have just listed four plot elements that are ubiquitious (individually, and in combination) in cinema. Saying one is mimicks the other because they both have a hero, sidekicks, a quest, and the plot twist of a lost relative is a non-starter.

Even at the surface, this comparison fails. LA lacks a renaissance man. The quest structures are radically different, and the quest in LA is a MacGuffin and not a central part of the plot (the discovery of the shark provides emotional closure, but not plot closure). The difference between, "twin sister of lover" and "long lost son" seems huge to me on the surface.

But perhaps most importantly, three of the four plot elements are ubiquitious in personality-centered nature documentary, and the fourth is present in biographies of Cousteau. So what is more probable? That LA is what it obviously appears to be on the surface, a parody of personality-centered nature documentaries and Cousteau in specific? Or that it's a remake of BB, in spite of lacking a common plot, character or setting?

The credit sequence makes it obvious that Anderson had BB in mind when making the film. It's ridiculous to argue otherwise given the makeup of that scene.

The credit sequence is one scene using a motif that has been used in serval other movies, including 8 1/2 (among others).

One without the other, fine, I'd say you have an arguement, but a loosely mimicked plot and a *very* similar closing shot which, in both cases, has nothing to do with the rest of the movie? That's more coincidence than I can stomach.

Well, we've already established that the plots, characters, and settings are radically different, unless you reduce them to such absurd generics that you can just as easily claim a link between Empire Strikes Back and LA.

But while the closing shot of BB fails to relate to the rest of the movie, the closing shot of LA returns Zissou to his home, surrounded by his reconciled relationships with family and friends. The closing credits of LA may be influenced by BB, but LA gives it narrative meaning with a beginning and an end.

As a fan of both nature documentaries and BB, LA is just so obviously grounded in the former, and not in the latter, that I can't imagine arguing otherwise.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:21 AM on July 27, 2005


I thought The Royal Tenenbaums could have been written by a J.D. Salinger slowly sliding into dementia. Which isn't to say that I didn't like the film very much.

That article was mean-spirited and, as someone on this thread mentioned, bitchy. My favourite aspect is Maloney's class-baiting. Owen Wilson gets down and dirty in that rich vein of middlebrow America (which is Good) but Anderson and Baumbach prefer those snotty French auteurs (which is Bad). I think that Maloney simply likes Wilson better than he likes Anderson (which isn't tough, given that Wilson has such an affable persona, and said affable persona is on view in a string of movies) and gone on to write an article justifying those likes and dislikes.
posted by palinode at 11:17 AM on July 27, 2005


I didn't see that as class-baiting, palinode, and I didn't think the article was mean-spirited at all. It was merely trying to give Wilson his due, and it offered a new angle at considering Anderson's development. It's common criticism that Anderson has gotten too air-tight for his own good, lost in whimsical self-referential worlds. Wilson's middle-brow interests weren't cited because the author considered them superior per se but because they effectively balanced Anderson's high-brow pretensions. "Justifying their likes and dislikes" is precisely what critics are supposed to do.
posted by muckster at 11:39 AM on July 27, 2005


Kirk, we'll obviously have to agree to disagree.

And for the record, I never claimed LA was a "remake" of BB. I said it ripped it off. Big difference. You seem to be arguing that the films aren't identical; no one claimed they were. I (and willnot, I believe) find them similar in too many ways for it to be coincidental.

In addition, the closing credits of 8 1/2 are in no way similar to those of either BB or LA. They're over black, for starters. Perhaps you're referring to the last shot, but even that's a huge stretch as the central character is absent and it's a lone figure in a spotlight in the middle of a stage/circus ring. In addition, the final scene (which features the main character joining hands with others and walking in a circle) flows out of the rest of the film, thematically if nothing else.

You're of course going to disagree but, whatever, to me the parellels are obvious.
posted by dobbs at 1:17 PM on July 27, 2005


dobbs: And for the record, I never claimed LA was a "remake" of BB. I said it ripped it off. Big difference. You seem to be arguing that the films aren't identical; no one claimed they were. I (and willnot, I believe) find them similar in too many ways for it to be coincidental.

Can you come up with a similarity beyond the closing credits that is not so excessively vague and fuzzy that it can apply to hundreds of other films?

You seem to be saying that LA is a rip off of BB because it has a hero, supporting characters, a quest, and a lost relative. When you consider that the first three are requirements in most genres of fiction and non-fiction, and the last one as phrased is an extremely common plot device, it looks less and less like a coincidence.

In addition, the final scene (which features the main character joining hands with others and walking in a circle) flows out of the rest of the film, thematically if nothing else.

And the final scene of LA flows out of the rest of the film, both in terms of plot and theme.

You're of course going to disagree but, whatever, to me the parellels are obvious.

Of course, they are obvious to you. The huge number of occult messages pointing to the premature death of Paul McCartney and his replacement in the band is obvious to other people. However, in both cases a close examination reveals little more than wishful thinking, and a willful disregard for alternative and better interpretations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:01 PM on July 27, 2005


Hmm, quest? Supporting characters? Hero? Lost Relative? Buckaroo Bonzai is such a Shakespeare rip-off.

And you know what? Shakespeare ripped everyone else off. Kirk's right, I can name dozens, if not hundreds of films that use all those themes, they are prevalent in modern culture. So, all you have is the credit shot, and Jeff Goldblum, not very convincing. If your going to say that someone ripped off a film ,the burden of proof is completely on you.
posted by cyphill at 2:29 PM on July 27, 2005


Batman Begins, Twister, a dozen James Bond movies, Kung Fu Hustle

Except for these films lacking the band of wacky sidekicks to the hero, each with specific areas of expertise, the fan clubs, the letters from fans, the long lost relative (who may or may not be who the central character thinks they are), and the similar closing credit sequences, I'd agree with you.

And the final scene of LA flows out of the rest of the film, both in terms of plot and theme.

Who said anything about the final scene of Aquatic?

I'm talking about the closing credits of both films which feature characters walking towards the camera, with the hero in front and the other characters, including those who were killed during the film, flanking him.

Tell me, can you name another film in which dead and living characters march together over music towards the camera as the end credits roll? (I'll give you a hint: it's not 8 1/2. Oh, I see, you were wrong about that so decided to ignore it in your rebuttal. :)

And I must say, having never done a search for it before, I'm hardly surprised to see over 600 web sites come up when searching for both films on google and over 200 when you add the word credits. (I know, I know, everyone's deluded except you.)

If your going to say that someone ripped off a film ,the burden of proof is completely on you.

Well, see, here:

Supporting characters? Hero? Lost Relative?

I didn't say hero. I said "well-known renaisance man".

I didn't say "supporting characters". I said "band of wacky sidekicks" and then added that they each have their specialty.

I didn't say "lost relative". I said "lost 'relative'", meaning we're not sure, nor are the characters, how/if these people are truly connected. It's never fully resolved.

I also said fan club. And fans. And then there are letters from fans. I considered adding that the characters are famous because they're profiled in various media (comic books, movies, etc.)--oh, and I didn't mention it, but each of those characters' "companies" is responsible for putting out that media.

In addition, I don't remember LA as well as I should, but I believe they both had helicopter rescues by fans though I may be remembering that wrong so don't hold me to it. I also recall vaguely that they both invent things to partially fund their expeditions, but again, I could be wrong. (And yeah, SZ was a failure at it, but the inventing and reason for it are my point.)

If your going to say that someone ripped off a film ,the burden of proof is completely on you.

And if you're going to tell me I'm wrong, at least read what I said and don't take the words from the person I'm disagreeing with and pretend I said them.

I'm not saying that these films are "the same" in the way Die Hard and Under Siege are "the same", nor in the say Seven Samurai and The Dirty Dozen are "the same". I'm saying they're the same in what makes them very different from the many other films that they could be similar too. I'm saying that if there was no Buckaroo Banzai then there would be no Steve Zissou--or, at the very least, it would have been a *very* different movie.
posted by dobbs at 3:02 PM on July 27, 2005


Oh, and they're not just sidekicks. They're employees. :)
posted by dobbs at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2005


I can get over 49,00 google hits when I search for Life Aquatic + Finding Nemo (and 700 when I add the term credits). That doesn't actually mean one wouldn't exist without the other.
posted by Staggering Jack at 3:40 PM on July 27, 2005


1. Steve Zissou is not a renaissance man, in fact, he's portrayed as an arrogant ass the entire movie. He is an empty figurehead, a symbol of the failures of adulthood.

2. Tons of movies have a band of wacky sidekicks with specific characteristics. Why? Because that way you can label characters and give audience members a very specific notion of the person without giving that person tons of screentime. Movies have always done this, before Buckaroo Banzai, after Buckaroo Banzai. Plus, the characters are based on many of Cousteau's own men, who often had little or no experience in their industry. You might notice that all the men dress alike, that's because Jacques' did the same, you might notice that the men are way more interested in making the film successful then scientific, often, the same could be said for Cousteau.

3. The whole point of Owen Wilson's character is to remind Zissou about something he once had in his own personality, the fact that SPOILER he dies in the end /SPOILER is EXACTLY like Cousteau's son, Philippe. These are the two reasons Ned is there, that's it. Why do you think his character is only really developed in relation to Zissou?

4. Cousteau had HUGE fan clubs, you can quite easily look this up online. These clubs created a legend of Jacques, one he himself could never live up to. Considering that TLA is BASED on Cousteau, I'm going to connect that, rather then to BB. And the fan clubs serve the purpose of reminding Zissou of his failure, he hasn't made a successful film in years and they all know it.
(there was no rescue by helicopter, but I chose not to harp on it because you said you weren't sure)

I can't be sure that Wes Anderson did not steal from BB, but I am sure that the movie is based on the life of Jacques Cousteau. Many of the characteristics you mentioned form BB relate to Cousteau too, does that mean BB is a ripp-off of Jacques' life? No. I think it's equally absurd to imply the same thinking to TLA, especially without much specific evidence to back it up.

(I'm sorry this is poorly written, I just got off work a while ago, and I'm exhausted)
posted by cyphill at 3:55 PM on July 27, 2005


I got 13,000 hits when I searched for "life aquatic" + nazis! We can make a game!
posted by cyphill at 3:57 PM on July 27, 2005


I can get over 49,00 google hits when I search for Life Aquatic + Finding Nemo

Staggering Jack, yes, but did you read any of the links? I opened about 15 of the links and not one of them didn't notice the similarities: "How dare you steal from Buckaroo Banzai.", "all the way up to the Buckaroo Banzai-style closing credits", "There's even a tribute in the end credits to the cult classic Buckaroo Banzai.", "On the other hand, the final homage to Buckaroo Banzai helps make the point. ", "Secondly, if you ask me, the alternate title of this flick should be The Undersea Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.", "Oh, and by the way, it's about TIME that someone did something from influences of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eigth Dimension. That film was waaaay ahead of it's time and truly took the consciousness of formula to new heights. I only hope that the little obvious nod in Aquatic..."

Shall I continue?

Steve Zissou is not a renaissance man, in fact, he's portrayed as an arrogant ass the entire movie.

"A person who excels in multiple fields, particularly in both arts and sciences." That's the definition I'm using. Yeah, Zissou's an ass and an idiot but are you suggesting that he's not a filmmaker and a marine bioligist and hasn't been a success at both at some point? He's got films, a fucking fan club, and people who are disappointed at his current state of affairs. He's obviously done something right in the past in multiple fields, no? Without granting the filmmakers this backstory there is no movie.

And where have I denied that much came from Cocteau? I haven't. In fact, I said they were a given. It would be idiotic to argue otherwise. Hell, Cocteau's even mentioned in Rushmore; obviously Anderson's interested in him.
posted by dobbs at 4:51 PM on July 27, 2005


dobbs: Well, I think there is a big reason for some of the commonalities. Both films are different approaches to looking at the cults of personality and celebrity in the 20th century. BB is an amalgam of multiple sources, comic book heros, Hollywood pulp heros like Gene Autry whose on-screen heroic persona became difficult to distinguish from their off-screen persona, and science celebrities such as Feynman and Einstein.

Cousteau certainly became a science celebrity, had his merry band of assistants, a fan club, and received thousands of letters. The paternity issue is one that has plagued explorers since Perry.

About half of the claimed coincidences are explained by the fact that BB and LA are influenced by the same real-life source material. A retinue, fan club, and fan letters are staples of celebrity, and questionable paternity claims slightly less common.

And I must say, having never done a search for it before, I'm hardly surprised to see over 600 web sites come up when searching for both films on google and over 200 when you add the word credits. (I know, I know, everyone's deluded except you.)

Of which, only one of the first five claim any influence beyond the closing credits. Meanwhile, there are 26,300 documenting the more obvious links between LA the life of Jacques Cousteau.

I'm talking about the closing credits of both films which feature characters walking towards the camera, with the hero in front and the other characters, including those who were killed during the film, flanking him.

The march back to the ship is the final scene, and extends naturally from the previous scene. And the dead characters don't come back in LA.

I didn't say "lost relative". I said "lost 'relative'", meaning we're not sure, nor are the characters, how/if these people are truly connected. It's never fully resolved.

Well, it is resolved in about four lines of dialog in BB. Which is part of the whole joke. In the BB world, the plot device of identical twins separated at birth is entirely reasonable and doesn't require much in the way of exposition.

In addition, I don't remember LA as well as I should, but I believe they both had helicopter rescues by fans though I may be remembering that wrong so don't hold me to it.

Never happened in LA.

I'm saying that if there was no Buckaroo Banzai then there would be no Steve Zissou--or, at the very least, it would have been a *very* different movie.

Yes, yes. It's not as if there was not a famous documentary film-maker who became an international phenomenon in the 60s, with a society named after him, (including a branch for kids), and was an iconic figure for his trademark red hat more than a generation before BB was made.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:52 PM on July 27, 2005


dobbs: Shall I continue?

Please do, I find it interesting in the same way I find bigfoot sightings interesting. The fact that Google can turn up 600 posts with a bad interpretation of a movie, does not make that interpretation good.

That's the definition I'm using. Yeah, Zissou's an ass and an idiot but are you suggesting that he's not a filmmaker and a marine bioligist and hasn't been a success at both at some point?

Well, they establish early that he's not really a marine biologist. His success has come from being a figurehead for other people.

And where have I denied that much came from Cocteau? I haven't. In fact, I said they were a given. It would be idiotic to argue otherwise.


Well, this is the first I've sean Cocteau's name dropped in this discussion. I don't think Anderson is much influenced by that filmmaker.

However, you seem to be insisting that the existance of Zissou as a renaissance man is lifted from BB, the employees are lifted from BB, and the fan club and fan letters are lifted from BB?

I think it's much more likely that Banzai and Zissou independently lampoon explorers as celebrities.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:06 PM on July 27, 2005


cyphill: It should be noted that the whole crew of strapping men, each with their own little personality quirks is a staple of exploration/adventure non-fiction. It pops up in the books of Byrd and Thor Heyerdahl for example.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:23 PM on July 27, 2005


Dobbs, I don't want to reiterate what Kirk said, but you if you watched TLA, you have to realize that Steve is not a Renaissance man at all, I'm perfectly aware of the definition of the word and it's plainly obvious that Steve knows nothing about what he's doing at all. From what I see in your last post, the only point your defending is your search and the credits.

Are you familiar with Wes Anderson's films? Both Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums ended with shots of the characters all in one scene. In Rushmore they were led in front of the camera in groups while dancing, in The Royal Tenenbaums they filed out one by one towards the camera. I saw the running at the end of TLA as another version of those two shots. awes Anderson tends to reuse a lot of the same concepts (repetitive costuming, detailed sets, his brother's paintings, the font futura) maybe that's why it's so hard for me to grasp your argument.

On another point, that I really don't think is that pertinent, you do realize that a google search yielding 600 hits is miniscule, right? Especially when half of all google hits are noise (generally).
posted by cyphill at 5:38 PM on July 27, 2005


I'm hardly surprised to see over 600 web sites come up when searching for both films on google and over 200 when you add the word credits....Shall I continue?

Dobbs, my above comment about the 49,000 hits was just to emphasize listing the number of hits a google search gets is a poor way to to make a point. As you pointed out, it's always the actual content, not quantity of hits, that usually matters. Or something like that.
posted by Staggering Jack at 5:55 PM on July 27, 2005


And here I was thinking the end of Life Aquatic was sort of a happier version of the last shot from The Seventh Seal.
posted by muckster at 9:11 PM on July 27, 2005


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