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Tag Archives: Bill Murray

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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Directed by Wes Anderson (2004) Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Wilhelm Dafoe

When I saw The Darjeeling Limited, I was really happy that I had finally figured out Wes Anderson’s appeal.  I figured The Life Aquatic would be the same sort of movie, similar in tone and soundtrack, with the fun quirky characters and interesting plot.  Much to my chagrin, The Life Aquatic just wound up as a pretentious mess of celluloid.

I feel like Anderson was reaching too far with the French New Wave references.  I thought that it was nice to have the ship introduced like the factory in Tout va Bien, but I the slightly-off sound effects got on my nerves and I found the dialogue to be awkward rather than clever.  More than that, the film felt awkward and poorly paced for the entire run time.  For every witty line, there was a two to five minute awkward scene to get through.  The performances were fair, and I particularly liked Owen Wilson as Ned, but the over-the-top quirk factor for the cast as a whole was part of way it was so grating.

The high points are the Brazilian Portuguese David Bowie covers and the fact that Henry Selick got a paycheck, but other than that, I don’t have much to recommend about The Life Aquatic.

Rushmore

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Directed by Wes Anderson (1998) Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

So, awhile back I whined about not really understanding Wes Anderson hype.  I think I understand it a little better, to say the least.

Max Fischer’s (Schwartzman) only passion in life is to go to his prep school Rushmore.  However, he’s more interested in joining school clubs and putting on plays than doing well in school.  His sharp attitude helps him to befriend beleaguered Rushmore-Dad Herman Blume (Murray).  Added into the mess, he’s smitten with new teacher Rosemary Cross (Williams) and willing to go to extreme measures to get her affection.  Unfortunately, Blume and Rosemary have started dating on the sly.

There’s a lot to like about this movie, but its all the little things about it: the club montage, the elaborate stagings for Max’s plays, the falling-in-love over a Jacques Cousteau quote.  It’s all in a weird little world, where things tend towards whimsy and cleverness.  But you already know that.

I hate being last to the party on these sorts of things, but writing a movie-blog involves a lot of catch up to be done.  There are so many movies out there and only a lifetime to see them in.  That doesn’t even account that people have different lives, not even taking into account generation gaps.  I feel like Rushmore is a high school movie–that’s when people discover it the most and relate to it the best.

Max is earnest in both good and bad ways, much like the teenagers we’ve all been (or known).  He’s passionate, but stupid and really short-sighted.  But he is likable, if only for being clever and strangely charming.  Compare that to Herman, who’s really a man-child but is also kind, just more world-weary.  When it comes down to it, it’s the relationship between these two that bring the movie together.

 

Lost in Translation

Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola (2003) Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

How terribly underwhelming.

Every once in awhile I hesitate to post my opinion about a movie, half because I know my tastes may change or I just need to see a movie again to really appreciate it.  The other half is just that I’m a wimp and putting my opinion out there over something that’s really popular is scary.

Criticizing this movie will probably bother me endlessly, not only because I have a friend in the class we watched this in, who said this was one of his favorite films.  And I only got enough courage to know that in his recitation, no one liked it.  

So.  The plot, as it were, is that Bob Harris (Murray), is a morose celebrity, in Japan to do a scotch commercial.  While at his hotel, he meets fellow spiritually-unfulfilled American Charlotte (Johansson), who had tagged along with her husband on a business trip.  While I thought the Bob Harris-centric parts were successfully written and funny, and the cinematography was gorgeous, I have some issues to address.

A) While Lost in Translation is a movie about alienation, it does it wrong.  Coppola picks the most Westernized country in Asia and presents it in a very Western fashion, although in a perverted light.  Everything she picks as alienating in this country, Japan got from other cultures and just made it their own. Not only that, but everyone in Japan with a decent education understands some English.  There are so many other countries where feeling the culture-shock would be more appropriate, especially in Asia.  In fact, Japan does have a strong tradition of isolationism and wariness around foreigners, but that is never addressed by this movie.

B) I have no appreciation for Scarlett Johansson’s character or performance in this film.  Possibly biased from her “Ur Durr” performance in Ghost World, I felt like she wasn’t giving too much that a moody teenager couldn’t give.  As a philosophy major from Yale, why would she expect some instant connection when she visited the Buddhist shrine? Shouldn’t she have a larger appreciation for the world’s religions at that point to know that not everything will resonate as spiritually important? Furthermore, why a Buddhist shrine, when Shintoism is the more prevalent religion in Japan? I know they’re both majority religions there, but Shintoism is Japan’s “native” religion. Shinto never even gets mentioned in this movie, unless you count that one trip to Kyoto– unrealistic in it’s own way (it would not be a logical day trip, for instance, even with using the Bullet Train).  And after one visible trip outside of her hotel room before meeting Murray’s character, she decides to just lock herself up in her room? What the fuck! You’re in fucking Tokyo, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO DO!

I’m just so glad that they focused more on Bob Harris in the latter half of the movie.

Right now, I feel like Lost in Translation could have left a more positive impression on me had I seen it when I was younger or older, or not going through my own First World Problem.  In terms of cinematography, it’s gorgeous, but I can’t call this a very great film or even a very good one.

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