Isle of Good Boys
September 21, 2017 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Wes Anderson's latest movie is a stop-motion animation, set in a future Japan where dogs have been banished to an island made of trash. Trailer #1
posted by chaoticgood (104 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean, I get misty and "we don't deserve dogs" about 6-second dog videos on Twitter. This trailer, same thing. Will I be able to handle a full movie? Time will tell.
posted by supercres at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


OK fine, take my money. Here, take some more of it. Hang on, I'm going to go a make some more to give to you.

This fucking guy. When he hits, he really creams it.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


nope. i can't deal.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:37 AM on September 21, 2017


Isle of Dogs? Is this the sequel to Muscle of Dogs?
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


God bless autocorrect; I had no idea what movie that was and assumed something horrific.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:43 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I love me some Wes Anderson and will see this but;
Movie about Japan and Japanese dogs but the dogs are mostly played by white dudes and have English names.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:45 AM on September 21, 2017 [23 favorites]


I think the "Directed by Wes Anderson" card at the end of the trailer was pretty redundant. I mean, obviously.
posted by zixyer at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I feel like we've reached maximum Wes Anderson. It's Wes Anderson being TOO Wes Anderson. I reached this level right around Darjeeling Limited. This same thing happened to me with Tim Burton. You start to feel stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.' There's a lot to enjoy here, but it also feels like I'm being bludgeoned in the head with everything. I'm sure I'll watch this.
posted by Fizz at 11:56 AM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


Isle of Dogs. I love dogs. Nice. And the voice credits at the end. Holy cow.
posted by ldenneau at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2017


I'd be onboard if it was about cats instead of dogs. I don't want to watch dogs for that long.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:58 AM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


12/10.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:00 PM on September 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


Looks a lot like the second half of Up.

This same thing happened to me with Tim Burton.

I feel like Tim Burton is kind of the opposite. Like, "I used to be with [Tim Burton], but then they changed what [Tim Burton] was. Now what I'm with isn't [Tim Burton] anymore and what is [Tim Burton] is weird and scary. It'll happen to youuuuuuu!" (That change happened for me around The Nightmare Before Christmas, speaking of stop-motion; YMMV.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:06 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


I love me some Wes Anderson and will see this but; Movie about Japan and Japanese dogs but the dogs are mostly played by white dudes and have English names.

The dogs are all obviously honorary cockneys.
posted by dng at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's going to be tough for Anderson to kill this many dogs in only one movie, but based on his earlier work I'm sure he's up to the challenge.
posted by haileris23 at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


Oh look, a movie about how great dogs are. I'll probably go see that.

"Because he's a twelve-year-old boy. Dogs love those."

Okay, I'll almost certainly go see that.

[mushroom cloud, dog does a fourth-wall take] "Wow!"

This is the greatest movie in the history of cinema, I'm pretty sure.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:17 PM on September 21, 2017 [11 favorites]


I'm sure the trailer's not showing everything, but by my count that's one female human and one female dog. What the fuck?
posted by MsVader at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2017 [18 favorites]


This looks gorgeous.

Apropos nothing, I recently re-watched All Dogs Go To Heaven with my 3 year old and it... was not as I recalled it so much. I mean, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise aren't bad but dang, it just wasn't as touching as 5 year old me recalls it being... it's actually a bit dark and adult in more scenes than I can count. Not bad, if you get me, just different.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2017


I love me a good stop motion quadruped, but was anyone else troubled by the mushroom cloud?
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 12:21 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Movie about Japan and Japanese dogs but the dogs are mostly played by white dudes and have English names.

There are also several movies about Japan made by Japanese directors and played by Japanese people with Japanese names. (One of my personal favorites is After Life.)
posted by fairmettle at 12:23 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


The proper spelling is Goodboyes.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:25 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm sure the trailer's not showing everything, but by my count that's one female human and one female dog. What the fuck?

Then again, maybe the ratios are off. Both Tilda Swinton and Yoko Ono are each the equivalent of ten Ed Nortons, or five Jeff Goldblums, so the final tallies might be more even. (What the Tilda Swinton to Bill Murray ratio would be, I have no idea, but it'd be a lot closer. And can we assume that Frances McDormand and Bob Balaban cancel each other out?)
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2017


Movie about Japan and Japanese dogs but the dogs are mostly played by white dudes and have English names.

There are also several movies about Japan made by Japanese directors and played by Japanese people with Japanese names.


That's not really an argument. There are also plenty of movies about America made by American directors and played by American people with American names.

Why can't a movie set in Japan be played by Japanese people and have Japanese names, regardless of who makes it? Especially for a market that has little exposure to Asian Americans in general.
posted by numaner at 12:34 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


>I'd be onboard if it was about cats instead of dogs. I don't want to watch dogs for that long.
posted by lefty lucky cat

Eponysterical
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 12:40 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Conversely, if Wes Anderson was going with that cast why set the movie in Japan? It's set 20 years into a dystopian-ish future. There's no reason Trash Island couldn't have been, say, Staten Island or one of the Florida Keys.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2017 [12 favorites]


and have Japanese names

Based on the cast title card they have Japanese names.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2017


the dogs don't
posted by numaner at 12:44 PM on September 21, 2017


Based on the cast title card they have Japanese names.

You mean the one at the end? Thats just the actor's names in Japanese. I don't see character names for anyone except the dogs and the main character, although I assume the character names are probably mostly Japanese.

Conversely, if Wes Anderson was going with that cast why set the movie in Japan?

This seems like the weird part to me. Based on the trailer there seems to be no reason to set this in Japan.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm ambivalent about this and I like Wes Anderson. Setting the movie in Japan is, um, risky for a director who's shown such a limited range of voice for his characters, especially when the Japanese government seems to be the villains, at least of sorts anyway. But we'll see, there might be a reason that makes sense and isn't dismissive, but I'm not thrilled by the choice offhand.

From the trailer it sounded like the excuse for the dogs speaking English is that is, in the world of the film, Dogspeak = English and is different than Japanese. That's a guess based on the comment made by the dogs not understading what the boy says at one point.

Six women listed in the cast, Scarlett Johansson getting the top slot.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:49 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I mean, it does have some Japanese actors. So maybe the American actors play the dogs and the Japanese actors play the humans? I don't know, still seems a little weird.

And Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen in a movie set in Japan doesn't exactly give me confidence, but then again its not like they're writing the script.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:51 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm still going to see this because Wes Anderson + stop motion + dogs, and at least he's not whitewashing established stories. We'll see if ScarJo is playing another Asian woman, but if she had no qualms last time, I don't expect her to this time.

There's a really fucking low bar of acceptable whitewashing in Hollywood, and at this point if I want to enjoy anything having to do with Asians I have to compromise. So this barely passes my own bar.
posted by numaner at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2017


I don't know if Scarlett Johansson is Japanese in the film as she speaks English unlike the Japanese characters it seems, and, knowing Anderson, it'll probably involve some enormous quest Johansson's character takes to find the boy and his dog due to being inspired by his story.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2017


This looks terrible and insensitive on like a million levels. I'll probably get high and watch it once I don't have to pay money to do so.

(Good to know that dogs love 12 year old boys.)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


Wait, what?!?

(watched the trailer and that's all I got)
posted by sammyo at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2017


I mean I'm fine paying money to get high, but not fine paying money for this movie.

Someone needs to tell Wes Anderson no. He's clearly that type of creative. Some creative people self-limit/self-curate and some creative people need someone else to do that for them by telling them no. He's clearly the latter type of creative.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:59 PM on September 21, 2017


So we're upset that they're whitewashing stop motion dogs? Is that where we've landed on this one?
posted by Naberius at 1:02 PM on September 21, 2017 [54 favorites]


We'll see if ScarJo is playing another Asian woman, but if she had no qualms last time, I don't expect her to this time.

Oh, and for what it's worth, the character Johansson played in GitS wasn't Japanese exactly, her ghost is Japanese, but her shell was racially changed and brainwashed into forgetting her origins. It's an important plot point and gives some excuse for Johansson, but of course doesn't fix the larger problem of switching the character in the first place, even if it does self-indict that change.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:02 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


So we're upset that they're whitewashing stop motion dogs? Is that where we've landed on this one?

I'm not we, but I would have gone for appropriation before I would have gone for whitewashing

IDK mostly I just think it looks stupid and bad
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oo oh oh, I do have something else.

Kobayashi should have been voiced by Pete Postlethwaite.
posted by sammyo at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2017


Wes Anderson's shit in general, and his company of actors, tends to be super super white with an occasional comic token. It's maybe defensible in some contexts (like in Rushmore, yeah, the fancy prep school is white af) and then in other contexts it's just painfully twee-racist
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


This thread turned out to be even more depressing than the Donald Trump ones.
posted by dng at 1:17 PM on September 21, 2017 [24 favorites]


It's not really whitewashing, but the setting seems like something it would be easy to mess up done this way. And at least 3 of the names attached have a (IMO) dodgy history with race stuff (Anderson, as Rock 'em Sock 'em says; and Murray and Johansson in Lost in Translation, although I suppose that could be more Coppola's fault).

It _could_ be fine, but my expectations are low based on the history of the people involved. And again, it just seems like it makes it easy to mess up for no reason, given that the main story sounds like something that could be set literally anywhere.
posted by thefoxgod at 1:19 PM on September 21, 2017


Argh why don't they caption these trailers if they want my money? I couldn't even make it halfway through.
posted by AFABulous at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Movie about Japan and Japanese dogs but the dogs are mostly played by white dudes and have English names.

It might be too early to tell if this is a movie about Japan, but I'm going to guess it's about Japan about as much as Fantastic Mr Fox was about Britain or Grand Budapest Hotel was about Hungary. Which is to say that we'll be getting heavily Anderson-stylized caricatures of places whose places in a creative vision has little to nothing to with working as a bearer for authentic/accurate transmission of culture, let alone something by people with a place in that culture.

If that turns out to be the case, I think it's an odd criticism to focus on whitewashing -- I'd think that higher up the priority chain would be the question of whether outsiders should caricature (even charmingly) at all. I'm imagining for comparison Disney producing a live "It's a Small World" and the question of nationally/ethnically matched casting obscures plans to preserve the iconic ethnic presentation of the show. That isn't a perfect comparison, as it's not hard to imagine a production of a genuinely pluralistic and authentically cast/produced live Small World vs the WASPy lensed original, and it *is* hard (for me, at least) to imagine a Wes Anderson movie that doesn't have the WA caricature lens. But perhaps by comparison one could also imagine valuing the ethnodiverse production and still maintaining an affection for the original.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'd think that higher up the priority chain would be the question of whether outsiders should caricature (even charmingly) at all.

Yeah, thats pretty much my take (and I'm not 100% sure of the answer). But I can say that among Japanese I know, they're a little less likely to give American art the benefit of the doubt on this question in the Trump era. When you know there is a sizable group of Americans who support white supremacy / racism, it's harder to be sure that what you're watching is "lovingly caricatured" vs "making fun of us". [Especially when its originally written in a foreign language]

I suspect (a) it is possible to do it fairly well, (b) some people will dislike it regardless, and (c) this is not the right director or actors to do it well.
posted by thefoxgod at 1:36 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Kobayashi should have been voiced by Pete Postlethwaite.

Pete wasn't available, for some reason.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't think I'm upset about the whitewashing-that-could-be-simplified-as-appropriation. ... Disappointed, I think, is where I'm at.

Oh, and for what it's worth, the character Johansson played in GitS wasn't Japanese exactly, her ghost is Japanese, but her shell was racially changed and brainwashed into forgetting her origins. It's an important plot point and gives some excuse for Johansson, but of course doesn't fix the larger problem of switching the character in the first place, even if it does self-indict that change.

Yeah all my white friends were trying to tell me this too. Which is at the point in the conversation where I just tell them, "you'll never get it, because you're not Asian". Like that one episode of South Park where Stan took the entire episode to learn from Token that he'll just never get what it's like being black, except I don't think my friends learned that lesson.
posted by numaner at 1:39 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Uh... maybe judging the movie from the trailer is a little bit hasty.
Maybe not but maybe.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:41 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I like how every shot is symmetrical and center-framed. It's like he's developed his own cinematic language.
posted by bhnyc at 1:51 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Or like he saw Kubrick and thought "this has potential, but it could be WAY cuter."
posted by contraption at 2:17 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Uh... maybe judging the movie from the trailer is a little bit hasty.

If trailers are valid as reasons to pay money to watch a film, they're valid as reasons to think a film sucks
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2017 [12 favorites]


Man, I don't know if I can. I spent a whole flight watching A Dog's Purpose doing my best not to be all weepy and failing miserably. (yeah, public crying - that's a good thing - hrmph)

- says the guy with 20 lbs meathead corgi/chihuahua/bully thing cutting off the blood flow to his lower legs.
posted by drewbage1847 at 2:39 PM on September 21, 2017


IDK mostly I just think it looks stupid and bad

they're good dogs Wos
posted by The Bellman at 2:42 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


Tough crowd. I thought it was cute.
posted by octothorpe at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2017 [11 favorites]


So we're upset that they're whitewashing stop motion dogs? Is that where we've landed on this one?

I'm upset because this film written and directed by an American and set in/near Nagasaki includes a cutesy mushroom cloud and threatens its protagonists with radiation contamination. Anderson can Apocalypse Twee if he wants, but he could have extended the rest of the world the courtesy of setting that adorable explosion in the US.

I was prepared to be charmed. Stop motion animation + dogs is usually an irresistible combination for me, but watching it left me more concerned than excited.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 2:52 PM on September 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


Conventional explosives make mushroom clouds, too, in the unlikely case that changes anyone's opinion.

Declaring "explosions in Japan" off-limits to white artists is approaching self-satire.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:59 PM on September 21, 2017 [14 favorites]


So we're upset that they're whitewashing stop motion dogs? Is that where we've landed on this one?

Declaring "explosions in Japan" off-limits to white artists is approaching self-satire.

If you all have points, feel free to make them. This kind of criticism of other people's points (without actually saying anything substantial yourself) adds basically nothing to the discussion
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


And yeah, if Wes Anderson gets credit when his visual shorthand goes well, he can surely get criticism when his visual shorthand reminds people of mass slaughter
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2017 [15 favorites]


While it's probably not universal, I know several Japanese who have visceral emotional reactions to mushroom clouds, whether they are technically depicting a nuclear/atomic explosion or not. (My wife is one of them). At least in a serious/depressing movie it doesn't change the mood, but when used in an otherwise lighthearted film it can really ruin things. Many people there associate that image with Hiroshima/Nagasaki, even though it can of course mean other things.
posted by thefoxgod at 3:10 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I consider myself a big fan of dogs, stop-motion, dystopias, and Wes Anderson, but this trailer did nothing for me.

The dogs were incredibly generic (and gendered?!), and the use of standard English for dogspeak is questionable. Although the setting is grim and dark and oh-so-edgy cool, trying to tell us that feral dogs love being hugged around the neck by 12 year old boys is a preposterous and hackneyed attempt at tugging heartstrings.

I've read Plague Dogs, We3, and The Knife of Never Letting Go, and all of them have far stronger bones and characters to build a movie from.
posted by redsparkler at 3:18 PM on September 21, 2017


I wouldn't go so far as to say Wes Anderson's general body of work is any more racist than, uh, the vast VAST majority of Hollywood--which is to say, whiteness itself and mass media culture is pretty problematic in a lot of ways, but I quite like the "twee" stuff even if I've never had access to the kind of upper-class white background he's coming from by a long shot. I do find some of this a bit questionable, more than usual, and I think it's worth talking about that even if you're the sort of person who is probably going to see and enjoy the movie itself. So, yeah. I'm generally good with the tone of his work, but I think there were some poor decisions made here. If I really loved dogs, though, I'd probably see it anyway. I seem to have missed the gene that makes people find dogs irresistibly charming, so that's enough to make me think I'll probably pass at least in theaters, but I might watch it streaming at some point.
posted by Sequence at 3:19 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Declaring "explosions in Japan" off-limits to white artists is approaching self-satire.

I didn't declare anything off-limits to white people. I said it was problematic for an American to set something that looks like a nuclear explosion in Japan -- and in Nagasaki, of all places. I'm a (non-white) American, and I would think twice before doing anything that could scan as "Oh, hey, remember that time my country dropped a nuclear bomb on your country? Yeah, that would be a great plot device for my boy and his dog movie."
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 3:19 PM on September 21, 2017 [8 favorites]


FWIW, it looks like all the dogs are played by American actors (or, presumably, Spanish actors for the Spanish version, etc) and all the Japanese humans are played by Japanese actors, most likely speaking in Japanese.

I'm definitely going to see this when it comes out - Anderson's films are a special and persistent pleasure. I must remember to avoid the Metafilter threads, though.
posted by Grangousier at 3:33 PM on September 21, 2017 [14 favorites]


I feel like we've reached maximum Wes Anderson. It's Wes Anderson being TOO Wes Anderson.

Could this be any more Wes Anderson? And the answer is none. There is none more Wes Anderson.
posted by jonp72 at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2017


This thread is painful.

This is exactly what I would expect from Wes Anderson, no more or less white-centric than allllll his previous films. I've loved them all though, with all their flaws, and this one has dogs?! I'm sold.
posted by liquorice at 4:49 PM on September 21, 2017 [11 favorites]


Isle of Dogs tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.
"Atari" is not a name that a person would have. It is the name of a video game company named after a bit of terminology from the game of go, and is like naming a Russian character "Check" or something. I was originally going to say like naming someone "Checkmate," but actually that would be an extremely rad name to have.

"Megasaki" isn't really a name either? I mean, conceivably it could be if you tried hard with contrived naming conventions and stuff, but it mostly comes off sounding like "Nakatomi"-level "sounds close enough."

Not saying that the storytelling can't be good, but, uh, stuff like names feels like usually it's good to at least do a little research? I mean, it's conceivable that it'll ultimately wind up being an Avatar/Korra-esque well-researched thing that seems to demonstrate a genuine fondness for, familiarity with, and understanding of the cultural backdrops that they're drawing from, but it's also entirely conceivable that lol hollywoo whitewashing
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:05 PM on September 21, 2017 [8 favorites]


I expected more shibes!
posted by emeiji at 5:25 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


My 12-year-old son and I loved the trailer and will be seeing this. I wonder if the locale was inspired by the actual trash lsland in Japan...
posted by davejay at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


Names from fiction set in dystopian futures are frequently discordant with modern practice as part of their worldbuilding. No one today would name a male child "Peeta" but it's not like Suzanne Collins doesn't know anything about English-speaking American culture.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:28 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


Folks who are sad that their fave is being critiqued might slow down a moment and take seriously the critique and not decide that there's nothing problematic about their fave.

What you like and what you find charming could reflect something about your worldview, maybe a problematic thing, and it's worth thinking about.

Nobody has tried to offer a full-blown take-down of the film because they've only seen the trailer, but it surely raises some red flags. It would be great if Anderson rose above some of his usual conceits, this time, and didn't poke so many people in the eye while being (in some eyes) charming.

I'm not optimistic.
posted by allthinky at 7:04 PM on September 21, 2017 [11 favorites]


I'm going to say I think he set this one in Japan because it's based on a very real and adorable phenomenon that exists there, but yeah, this was disappointingly typical Wes Anderson, using international settings as vague exotic backdrops and women and people of color as set dressing. I can't watch his films without being immensely bothered by this, and I don't see this one being too different. I get the frustration around threadshitting in excited fun threads about cute things, but I'm still surprised and disappointed that the most-favorited comment in this thread is the one giving people's concerns about racism and orientalism a "political correctness gone mad!"-style dismissal. Meh.
posted by capricorn at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


Hm, I was being sarcastic above. Why is every shot is symmetrical and center-framed! This is an animation, it looks stupid to not move the camera. I get it is stop-frame, but he can probably afford the necessary equipment.
posted by bhnyc at 7:40 PM on September 21, 2017


Hm, I was being sarcastic above. Why is every shot is symmetrical and center-framed! This is an animation, it looks stupid to not move the camera. I get it is stop-frame, but he can probably afford the necessary equipment.

Previously.
Subsequent to previously but previously from now.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:48 PM on September 21, 2017


I'm going to say I think he set this one in Japan because it's based on a very real and adorable phenomenon that exists there, but yeah, this was disappointingly typical Wes Anderson, using international settings as vague exotic backdrops and women and people of color as set dressing.

I saw the beginning as a cross between cat island / rabbit island (shameless plug) and Battle Royale, all previously covered on Metafilter. I thought that looked great! This is right up my alley, I've seen (and pretty much enjoyed) every movie Wes Anderson has made. I'm not instantly sure that I can say that about any other director. I can also look at the wikipedia page and seen the top billed cast as:
Bryan Cranston as Chief
Edward Norton as Rex
Bill Murray as Boss
Jeff Goldblum as Duke
Kunichi Nomura (first 4 have character names and links to actor pages, 1 does not.)

If you look at the cast page on imdb you have to go down 14 names before reaching a Japanese one.

I'm not saying that the scary robot bad guy dogs with glowing Scut Farkusian yellow eyes have a cool Japanese name. I'm just saying that I won't be surprised if they do.

The coolest thing about Japan that makes it different than anywhere else in the world is the presence of Japanese people and their culture. Why not more of that in the main cast? Will white American audiences really not go see movies not explicitly about them?

I don't think Wes Anderson is a racist filmmaker, I think he's great! I also think that his movies are pretty white centered. Which is fine?(I loved Danny Glover in The Royal Tenenbaums) Like most Hollywood movies. Which is not fine.

Wes Anderson is seen as an auteur and I (possible wrongly) think he has a fair amount of creative control over his movies. It would have been nice to see more Japanese people/dogs/roles in the trailer. Maybe the movie is different and the trailer is not representative. But if so, why does marketing think that they shouldn't emphasize excessive minority roles to American preview audiences?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:33 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Names from fiction set in dystopian futures are frequently discordant with modern practice as part of their worldbuilding. No one today would name a male child "Peeta" but it's not like Suzanne Collins doesn't know anything about English-speaking American culture.
On the other hand, imagine a foreign director setting a thing in not-that-far-in-the-future America, where the main character is a woman named "Elizaguth" with the intention of sounding like a normal name
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:15 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


with the intention of sounding like a normal name

Really begging the question there.
posted by mark k at 9:24 PM on September 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


isle of dogs (2018) dir wes anderson
posted by Panthalassa at 9:27 PM on September 21, 2017


I came into this thread expected a lot more discussion about Anderson's continued tokenization of women. They literally only exist to interact with/pine over/be pined over by his male protagonists.

But yeah his deciding to set this in Japan to fetishize some design cues but heavily Anglicize the dogs (if "dog-talk" is English and "human-talk" is Japanese how come all their collars are in English?), complete with big bombs outside of Nagasaki joke, is also problematic.

Wes Anderson is up there with Edgar Wright for me in people I would love to see direct someone else's script but their white-boy myopia has gotten tiresome after their nth movie about just that.
posted by thecjm at 9:38 PM on September 21, 2017 [15 favorites]


(kudos to mark k for not only deservedly calling me out, but also properly using "begging the question")
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:41 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am blushing at your gracious comment, DoctorFedora. I am not normally vain but being able to use "begging the question" properly is a source of secret pride and it is so seldom appreciated!
posted by mark k at 9:48 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]



I don't think Wes Anderson is a racist filmmaker, I think he's great!


I think he's both
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:26 PM on September 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


I came into this thread expected a lot more discussion about Anderson's continued tokenization of women. They literally only exist to interact with/pine over/be pined over by his male protagonists.

I get what you're saying, but I think that does simplify things a bit more than is accurate. The lead characters in Anderson's films generally are myopic white males, so their relationships with women is necessarily informed by their own blind and foolish behavior. The women in the films often provide the moral sensibility of the movie, which the men must come to understand. That is, of course, not at all a new relationship for Hollywood movies. That's been a traditional role for women in varying form and fashion, so this isn't a innovation by Anderson or something worth celebrating exactly, but it does have some sense within the context of his stories.

How this plays out shifts from movie to movie. In Moonrise Kingdom Suzy's perspective frames the story and her viewpoint, particularly towards her mother and her mother's relationship to her father and Captain Sharp, is the central complexity which the movie gravitates around. Suzy's desire is to leave home, which she sets out to do. Her relationship with Sam, echoing that of her mother to Captain Sharp, provides some escape, but only temporarily. Suzy's direction was movement away, but Sam's direction was movement towards, a search for home and place. His story is wrapped up at the end, while Suzy's longing for change has only been momentarily saitsfied. That ambivalence is what gives the ending of the movie its weight. Sam may have more screentime, but Suzy is the heart of the film.

In Darjeeling Limited there is a similar ambiguity involved with the mother and her relationship with the three man-boys who are the main characters of the film. Along with that, Hotel Chevalier, the short that sets up Jack's story in the movie, carries a similar fraught relationship that informs how Jack views his mother and leaves an air of uncertainty to the whole. Rita's relationship to Jack is more along the surface lines suggested, but complicated by an added depth suggested about her story that the boys never even seek to uncover. We see glimpses of a relationship between her and the Chief Steward that remain opaque. This kind of suggestion follows the rest of the film in pointing towards how blind the boys are and all the relationships they are missing in their self centered perspectives. The women in the movie are marginalized in terms of their screentime, but their importance to the three leads is significant even as their perspectives are left ambiguous. The very ambiguity surrounding them provides more interest about them than tokenism alone as they aren't able to be fully encompassed by the boys story.

I won't defend Rushmore, since my memory is its too far into male fantasy to go much beyond what you describe, but I haven't seen it recently enough to say more than that. Life Aquatic and Royal Tenenbaums are grounded by Angelica Huston primarily, but also have the additional orthogonal perspectives of Blanchett in Aquatic and Paltrow in Tenenbaums. They too are not the focus of the films of course, but their importance goes beyond tokenism, though perhaps not entirely beyond some level of commonplace.

The issue, for me, is less about tokenism as such and more about the continuing focus on white boy myopics as it does start to enter Woody Allen territory at some point, where too much else is rendered lesser by the lack of attention and makes secondary the problems of anyone but the boys. That's the design of the films and informs their strengths and weaknesses. Almost any of the films alone would be fine, but the body of work feels increasingly oppressive due to its narrow focus. If Anderson's films weren't so singular and fantastic this likely wouldn't be noticed as much, but the fantastic elements further seem to isolate his films from the "real" and can make the elaborate construction seem as much a wall blocking sight as set for displaying it.

Some of Anderson's problems with race come by rendering racial difference as at best a background issue to the "important" story about white boys trying to figure their shit out, but also by making race almost feel like an affectation, not something that informs one's existence as much as a whimsy one might undertake. Darjeeling Limited particularly has some issues in this regard, where there is, at best, a mix of some interest in difference and a few moments of sensitivity, though from a white perspective, but some far more questionable choices as well that seem more directorial blindness than from character. The fantastic leans heavily towards the exotic when dealing with other cultures in a way that Edward Said spoke of in his book Orientalism.

Anderson is an amazingly talented filmmaker, but his very uniqueness is burdening his works with that continuity of vision. No Wes Anderson film really can stand by itself without immediately referencing everything he's done before, layering his films with a history one has to dig through to see what is being exhibited in any one of them. That's the side of auteurism that isn't as much discussed, but which is as important as the more celebratory aspects.

if "dog-talk" is English and "human-talk" is Japanese how come all their collars are in English?

Good question. I don't know, I was just guessing on that aspect. it could be the dogs are American somehow, or that they "see" the names as they'd have them in English, or something else entirely.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:44 AM on September 22, 2017 [13 favorites]


Oh, and one should note too, that surface appearances to the contrary, Anderson really isn't much of a sentimentalist and the animals in his films haven't always ended the movies happily. While I assume from this being a stop motion animation film it'll have the tone of Fantastic Mr Fox, anyone who really can't abide seeing a dog hurt may want to peruse some reviews before attending the movie as pet death is something Anderson has as an element in several of his films.

Whatever this movie is, its premise and trailer suggests it'll be something a bit different than what he's done before in a number of ways, maybe not to the good, but he's odd, so who knows?
posted by gusottertrout at 4:07 AM on September 22, 2017


If you're going to say Anderson doesn't use women as tokens in Life Aquatic, I will remind you that there is a woman who walks around topless and barely ever speaks throughout the entire movie for no reason.
posted by sockermom at 5:17 AM on September 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Heh, no, no absolutes. I'm just saying women in his films aren't only tokens in the usual sense of the term. There is a purpose to a number of the characters that goes beyond appearing for the sake of having them. It isn't to dismiss the concern over women in his films entirely.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:31 AM on September 22, 2017


The issue with women in Wes Anderson movies is that the almost always fit neatly into very specific archetypes - mother or love interest. And his male/female cast ratios reach Tom Clancy levels of imbalance. Everything else is a boys club (literally in some cases).

The same is true for his PoC characters. It's not that his films are whitewashed and PoC don't exist. It's that they are almost always in service industry roles. Hotel staff. Housekeepers. Man-servants. Sometimes they're background, sometimes they're the protagonist (yes the protagonist in Grand Budapest Hotel is a PoC but he's still a bellhop). But either way PoC don't really get to do anything else, since um Danny Glover being an accountant in The Royal Tenenbaums? (And even that casting felt like an excuse to make Etheline seem worldly and Royal say weird racist slurs).

Anderson's rich white boy myopia is very showing in both of these cases. Women are mothers or objects of affection. PoC are on the periphery cleaning for you. It's not that he ignores them, it's that he's found all these fantastical roles for white men to play, and fantastical worlds for them to inhabit and master, but everyone else is pigeonholed. He has such an imagination but can't imagine anyone other than a world full of white men.
posted by thecjm at 6:06 AM on September 22, 2017 [13 favorites]


So much Meta-curmudgeonry on display, here...it's an anime about dogs, come on.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


I came to this thread to complain silently about Metafilter crapping on everything that is delightful in this life, but thecjm's note about PoC is so very, very true. Pos are on the periphery cleaning for you.

Look at the settings for every Wes Anderson movie: wealthy white prep school, 1950s Moonrise Kingdom, wealthy escapees from a JD Salinger novel traveling through India. It's almost structurally impossible for PoC in those settings to have agency.

That said, here is a defense of Anderson from a self-described Ethnic Militant [warning: Atlantic article]

Some of my best friends are white people. If anything, I actually think Wes Anderson movies are highly ethnic movies about highly distinctive white subcultures: in The Royal Tenenbaums, he "gets" the subculture of cerebral slightly Judeo-Hibernians. Once we give up on the idea that white people are the center of the universe, which we should, it makes sense to have a Tyler Perry of the white man. That's Wes Anderson.
posted by craniac at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


I found Fantastic Mr. Fox creepy. Something about the stop-motion world seems to just double down on the parts of Wes Anderson I don't like. I feel like maybe this movie is doing that too. The dogs are a way to dodge the problems with race and gender that have plagued his movies, because they give him a "lighten up, it's a movie about dogs" way out. The stop-motion lets Anderson be his most bespoke-diorama-making visual self, while avoiding the implications of having human actors in front of us. It feels like Anderson has realized that people have him pegged as a white-male-centric auteur, but rather than really address that, he's applying his interests in fonts and symmetry to some shallow Japanese style elements, via a seemingly charming story about dogs.

While typing this I just realized why I think Wes Anderson stop-motion is creepy: without human faces from real actors to balance the overstylized sets, it's like we're watching him play with dolls to make an action movie.
posted by daisystomper at 9:24 AM on September 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


This is might be a mistake, but here goes:

I think Anderson makes great (strange-ish, interesting occasionally funny) movies about white guys. If I want to see a movie not about white guys, I do not seek out his movies. He produces a specific product and there are times I look for that, times I don't.

He is definitely better when someone else is writing 'with' him - though I think "Darjeeling" was poop - and agree with upthread that it would be great if he just directed other people's scripts. That said, I think this looks like it might not suck. Then again, it's a trailer and the whole point of the thing is to make it look appealing.

(I understand the arguments against, but I'll wait for the reviews before I decide.)
posted by From Bklyn at 10:12 AM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


it's like we're watching him play with dolls to make an action movie

ok but that doesn't make it sound like a bad thing
posted by numaner at 2:48 PM on September 22, 2017


Jesus, I thought "don't read the comments" was what was said about other sites. But, hey, yeah, let me reflexively boycott this film--for which only a trailer is available--due to its whitewashing of animated dogs.
posted by the sobsister at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


Jesus, I thought "don't read the comments" was what was said about other sites. But, hey, yeah, let me reflexively boycott this film--for which only a trailer is available--due to its whitewashing of animated dogs.

cool opinion, contributing a lot. A+++++++
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Once we give up on the idea that white people are the center of the universe, which we should, it makes sense to have a Tyler Perry of the white man. That's Wes Anderson.

Yes, that's a great way to put it. When he sticks to these kinds of white subcultures (as I mentioned above, like rich prep schools) I am very tolerant of it being, you know, about white people.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also the idea "oh it's just about dogs"

Dogs are obviously super important to people's emotions and to American culture. Dogs are almost more human to a lot of Americans than humans are. They're super important. They're part of "everything that is delightful in this life."

They're either important enough to hold that deep sentimental place in the American heart, or they're "just dogs." But they can't be both --- they can't be important when it justifies white defensiveness, but then unimportant when it justifies white defensiveness.

In other words, if dogs are so petty and unimportant --- if this film is so petty and unimportant --- why could you possibly care if other people are criticizing it?

"This doesn't matter, how dare you criticize it" is a fundamentally dishonest way to approach this discussion.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:31 AM on September 23, 2017 [7 favorites]


The reality is that white supremacy operates, in part, by holding up white people as more human, more deserving of sympathy and attention, than non-whites.

This is a movie that largely functions to direct sympathy towards Anglo/white-coded characters (who are so good that they get to be dogs, a reified species). It was made with millions of dollars and will be promoted with millions of dollars, in the hope that it will be seen by millions of people. It will influence a lot of people, and since it's vaguely kid-directed, it will likely influence a lot of children who are still forming their ideas about the way the world works. That's a big deal. The fact that basic humanness is white-coded by default drives racism in the US, and is also kinda a big deal.

If your (general you) feeling is that we're just supposed to shut up and accept this trailer as normal and not worth commenting on, because criticism makes you uncomfortable (eg "is a big deal") but the treatment of race in a multi-million dollar project isn't a big deal, then you're a huge part of the problem with white supremacy in the US. Your position is that thoughtless white sentimentality is important and worth defending. Everyone else can just STFU because everyone knows racism in the US is not a big deal...at least not when compared to white sentimentality
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:44 AM on September 23, 2017 [14 favorites]


Jesus, I thought "don't read the comments" was what was said about other sites. But, hey, yeah, let me reflexively boycott this film--for which only a trailer is available--due to its whitewashing of animated dogs.

This is how I feel exactly; however as an Asian American, I feel gross about the fact people are willing to hand wave away a real conversation about how Asian culture is portrayed in an American film. The fact that the usage of "white-washing" is laughed at, although I don't see much talk about cultural appropriation which to me might be more apt in this case.

I've resisted commenting on this thread for a while but I couldn't manage to keep quiet about this long enough. Look, I adore a few Wes Anderson films. There are some problematic tropes that are common in other films as well about women, yes. But the adoration of his filmmaking style wasn't enough to cover this trailer and the theme of what this film stands for.

While I can see "ha ha -- film about cute dogs! yeah!" is enough to ignore all thoughts about race and culture in America, but to me, it is real. Upthread it was mentioned that the subject of Isle of Dogs isn't unique to Japan -- it's not based on a real event or another story set in Japan (or maybe, even from Japan), but rather just made up here. It could really be set anywhere else and the premise still holds up very well, especially in this day and age. Hell, there are trash barges floating around near Brooklyn all the time anyway.

To me, the question really strikes me. Why Japan? Why the fake names? Why are the dogs speaking English and humans speaking some Japanese? I get it -- the mysticism and orientalness of Japan is SUPER appealing to foreigners especially Americans -- and it's a fun backdrop, yet most of the time inaccurate. This isn't anime -- anime is animation done IN Japan, FOR Japan, that happens to appeal to lots of foreigners.

And it certainly does rub me the wrong way about how attached some people are to things that delight them to the point that any criticism, even some that might have enough merit to even sort of intellectually discuss them becomes "what's the big deal." It's not a "yeah, I a fanboy/girl of his films, but I think there might be a point to this even though I don't really get it," but a "RAAGGH THIS IS JUST ABOUT CUTE DOGS WHATS THE BIG DEAL" and this can certainly be parallel to comics/video games having problematic themes about women or race and yet we know all about how a portion of the audience reacts to any changes to "their" medium.

I don't want to take a full on "Metafilter really doesn't get Asian Americans" stance, but the last few threads that were pertinent to our identities in pop culture (lol, gits, lol), didn't go so well for most of us either.
posted by xtine at 12:00 PM on September 23, 2017 [15 favorites]


To me, the question really strikes me. Why Japan? Why the fake names? Why are the dogs speaking English and humans speaking some Japanese? I get it -- the mysticism and orientalness of Japan is SUPER appealing to foreigners especially Americans -- and it's a fun backdrop, yet most of the time inaccurate. This isn't anime -- anime is animation done IN Japan, FOR Japan, that happens to appeal to lots of foreigners.

Listen, this is everything he doesn't do, and no doubt. I hope he doesn't... screw the pooch and makes a good movie (where good means not what it looks like this just might be)
posted by From Bklyn at 3:29 PM on September 23, 2017


Well I want to find a theater that will allow me to bring my dog.
posted by Grandysaur at 5:32 PM on September 23, 2017


Jesus, I thought "don't read the comments" was what was said about other sites. But, hey, yeah, let me reflexively boycott this film--for which only a trailer is available--due to its whitewashing of animated dogs.

*shrug* "Don't read the comments" usually means "People online are saying shockingly offensive things they'd never say in person". Some people are posting unexpected reactions to a Wes Anderson movie trailer - I'm not sure how that brings this thread to a "don't read the comments" level.

Like the trailer? Cool, leave a comment about it. Don't like the trailer? Cool, leave a comment about that. Want to complain about other people's comments? I mean, whatever floats your boat, I guess, but it's not out of line for people to post their civil reactions to the content of a post. People decide whether or not they want to see a movie based on the trailer all the time. It's kind of the point of making a trailer for a movie.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:45 PM on September 23, 2017 [8 favorites]


So much Meta-curmudgeonry on display, here...it's an anime about dogs, come on.
How the fuck is this an anime?

If this were an anime about dogs that had been dubbed into English, like all of the Studio Ghibli stuff, maybe we'd have a different conversation about how animated stories about or from Asia, specifically Japan, tend to have few Asians or Asian-Americans doing the voice acting and how the limited opportunities presented to Asian-American actors has knock-on effects w/r/t diversity? If this were an anime about dogs we wouldn't be talking about Wes fucking Anderson, but maybe ANNO Hideaki or WATANABE Shinichiro or OSHII Mamoru or MIYAZAKI Hayao or KON Satoshi or TEZUKA Osamu or SHINKAI Makoto. If this were an anime, we'd have a bunch of people kvetching about whether it should have been dubbed or if it's better subbed or did they cut anything for American audiences or if the translation's any good.

This is not a fucking anime.

And to say that it's "Meta-curmudgeonry" when Asians and Asian-Americans bring up the very fact that this movie seems to trade in the gross exotifying Orientalism that shit like Madame Butterfly, South Pacific, Miss Saigon, The Last Samurai, Lost in Translation, Memoirs of a Geisha, Doctor Strange, Batman Begins, and Eat Pray Love do, where Asians are little more than props, after so many discussions about how outright fucking erasure just happens with whitewashing 21, The Last Airbender, Ghost in the Shell, Aloha, Dragonball Evolution, Speed Racer, Death Note, and The Martian or goddamn yellowface in recent movies like Cloud Atlas...

There is a staggering amount of unexamined racism coming from the white people in this thread. Unabashed, even, because hey, it has things that "everybody" loves so how dare any Asian-Americans get uppity and raise the issues they have about it? They should feel bad about complaining, sit down, and shut the hell up, like the model minority is supposed to.

---
I don't want to take a full on "Metafilter really doesn't get Asian Americans" stance, but the last few threads that were pertinent to our identities in pop culture (lol, gits, lol), didn't go so well for most of us either.
MetaFilter has not, does not, and given this, will not.
posted by anem0ne at 6:42 AM on September 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


If you look at the cast page on imdb you have to go down 14 names before reaching a Japanese one.

I'm just glad that two Asians, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, are given near top billing. I'm sad that Asian-American actors Emma Stone and Jim Sturgess weren't involved.
posted by anem0ne at 6:49 AM on September 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Jesus, I thought "don't read the comments" was what was said about other sites. But, hey, yeah, let me reflexively boycott this film--for which only a trailer is available--due to its whitewashing of animated dogs.

Oh the caucasity.

The "don't read the comments" should have been placed up top warning Asians and Asian-Americans away given how nasty the white commenters are here.
posted by anem0ne at 6:52 AM on September 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Ugh
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:09 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm just glad that two Asians, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton, are given near top billing

i loled
posted by numaner at 5:38 PM on September 27, 2017


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