Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

[Guest Blogger Mitch has a few things to say about the new Wes Anderson trailer.]

I'm always trying to tell people precisely what it is I like about Wes Anderson's movies and my friend Carla hit the nail on the head earlier today, when I posted the trailer for his new (stop-motion!) movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox on Facebook. There is a little scene where the Jason Schwartzman fox is getting ready for the caper and says, "I don't have a bandit hat, but I modified this tube sock."

The vocabulary of that one line alone perfectly sums Anderson up. First, there's the purposely-banal choice of "bandit hat" over the more exciting, but overused term "mask." To say he "modified" it implies a much funnier, more methodical process than simply cutting eye and mouth holes. This over-sophisticated phraseology, when paired with the image of the actually crudely cut sock tells us a lot of about how seriously Schwartman's character takes himself. (A fair criticism of Anderson would be that most of his characters speak in the same self-important jargon.) The joke obviously hangs on it being a "tube sock," because "sock" alone wouldn't be enough to hammer this dichotomy home.

The Meryl Streep fox also has a great, overly verbose line: "If what I think is happening is happening... it better not be." This is one of Anderson's favorite tricks -- telegraphing a familiar, cliche line structure and then sabotaging it with something far more potent. Another example of this is Dennis the Menace's line in Rushmore: "With friends like you, Max... who needs friends?"

I'm still looking for the perfect phrase to characterize Anderson's style, though. "Surprising Banality?" "Poetic Banality?" Any ideas?

[And as someone commenting on your facebook pointed out, the tube sock line is followed by "You look good" -- "Yeah. I do." That is kind of wonderful because it is delivered with a childlike unconsciousness of ego, just a statement of fact, which is adorable.]


Jason said...

Good question. What DO you call it? I feel like "Deadpan" has to be in there, because that is a big part of what makes those types of lines work as well. *Everyone* in Anderson movies is deadpan. It's brilliant.

sweets said...

Mr. fox in the face book ohh very interesting. Mr. fox.

Mikey said...

I'll be looking forward to see if they retain the moment from the book that stayed with me - as the animals are finishing their collecting Badger, who initially doubted the enterprise, turns to Fox and says "I love you Foxy."

The stop motion here really fits this movie into something I've been trying to write about for a while: Be Kind Rewind, Eagle Vs. Shark, Napoleon Dynamite, Juno - they all align within a certain aesthetic. There's a kind of hipster/indie cache - everyone wears Chuck Taylors and somewhere the Moldy Peaches are playing. There's a lo-fi graininess, kind of, I don't know, faux analogue? It's not quite whimsy or nostalgia, it's smarter and sharper than that.

I was going to post this in Freeform Comments but it actually fits in with this line of thinking quite nicely: David Keenan wrote an article on "Hypnagogic Pop" in the latest issue of The Wire.

The 80s post-"Ghostbusters generation" might provide a route through this - after all, Bill Murray is the common denominator, and they don't really come any more deadpan. (Ghostbusters also turns up in Be Kind Rewind).

Telosandcontext said...

There's no chance that this movie is going to be good. Too many hipstery factors at play.

Mikey said...

Dang, I had a reply written and then I realised it was just another link to another article followed by more words that almost make sense if you look right, which is all I ever do.

Suffice to say, I agree with Telos but will likely still watch this (on DVD, unless it's a slow cinema week).

jennifer said...

i will no doubt be seeing this movie with geoff & sara. i don't care if it sucks & i don't care about wes anderson.
there are not enough movies about animals fucking with the man,
nor enough movies with rats! (which, by the by, black rats have brown eyes, not red. get your facts straight anderson!)