Monday, March 03, 2008

Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest

Despite being best friends, honorary brothers, movie soul mates, and co-owners of the same brain, thanks to all of the different commitments in our lives -- be they related to work, church, family, or friends -- my Li'l Bro Li'l Random and I rarely get a chance to hang out. So recently, we decided to accept the fact that randomly deciding to get together wasn't going to cut it, and actually implemented a plan to give us a chance to not only hang out and let the two halves of our shared brain synch up, but also to indulge in our common interest in strange, off-beat, off-the-wall, dark-and-twisty motion pictures without having to suffer through the griping, bellyaching, and general ridicule that comes when we watch these films with those of more mainstream tastes. And so, we have designated Thursday nights as The Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular, Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest.* The hope is that we can not only indulge in the dark and twisty films that we both want to see, but also that each of us can introduce the other to some weird and wonderful cinema which we have fallen in love with but which has slipped by the other's weirdo-radar. In other words, I make him watch Living in Oblivion and The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra and he makes me watch The Beach and Wise Blood. It all evens out in the end.

Anyway, I was planning on making a special post-Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest** blog post each Friday to explore in-depth what it is that has given a film the Odd Squodd Stamp of Approval -- or Disapproval, even. After all, not all quirky films are created equally, and many try too hard and fall short of the mark. But, we'll discuss those if and when we come to them. But I'm afraid that I got distracted while composing this post, and then had too many things going on Friday to finish it up, so I decided I'd just do my inagural Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest post on a Movie Monday, and strive to do better about more timely reviews in the future.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the first of what I hope will be many, many, many Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest selections: The Darjeeling Limited.

The Darjeeling Limited is the most recent film from Odd Squodd favored director Wes Anderson, the mastermind behind such films as Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, and, my favorite, The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson is one of those directors that generates a lot of strong feelings, both positive and negative, especially as his oeuvre expands in size, but not necessarily in scope and style, or so say some detractors. There is also a camp who insists on labeling him as "pretentious," and telescope that onto his fans, claiming that Wes Anderson fans only like his stuff because it's "cool" or "indie" to like Wes Anderson.

And if I may take a moment to get up on my soapbox, I positively hate it when someone dismisses anyone's love for a particular artist of show or song or what-have-you as merely a byproduct of a mindless, follow-the-pack herd mentality. If you want to talk about pretension, to me real pretension is condemning another person for their tastes while simultaneously denying that they have any individuality. And yes, I have been accused of only liking certain things because they were popular; I have been accused of disliking things because the were popular; and, as a far of quirky and off-beat media, I have been accused for only liking things because their "pseudo-intellectual" nature made me feel smarter than those around me. And while I'm sure there are those out there who do feed into this last accusation, claiming that those who don't enjoy the same sensibilities that they do are obviously dense or misguided or downright idiots, that has never been a factor for me. Heck, I gave Bubble Boy and Kung-Pow: Enter the Fist four stars on Flixster, so it's kind of hard for me to be a full-on film snob. I can't say that enjoying the work of any "indie" director has ever made me feel smarter than those who didn't, mainly because, unlike others, I'm smart enough to realize that IQ and taste don't necessarily have a direct correlation***. I enjoy films like The Darjeeling Limited not because they make me feel smart, or special, or elite, but because they make me laugh.

But, I digress . . . a lot.

The Darjeeling Limited is a story of three brothers (Anderson regulars Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman and Anderson newcomer Adrien Brody), estranged and out of contact since their father's funeral a year earlier, who have now come together at the request of the eldest brother on a train in India to embark on what he terms a "spiritual journey," a journey that is hampered by the brothers' dysfunctional relationships with each other and those around them.

This film is a bit of an odd duck, somehow managing to feel like a typical Wes Anderson film and yet not at the same time. Like his other films, this one has a bit of a timeless feel to it, modern technology such as an iPod seeming almost incongruous with the retro styles surrounding it. And it does touch on same of the same themes as his earlier films, with family dysfunction running rampant. But the claustrophobic atmosphere conjured up by the cramped setting of the train kept the characters in such close proximity that they were never able to break away from each other for long, heightening the tension for not only the characters but for the viewers as well. And at times there is a greater sense of tragedy in this film than in Anderson's earlier work; about halfway through the film the brothers the serio-comic film took a huge shift to the serio side of things, almost jarringly so. But the tragic scenes served a greater purpose in the film than just tugging at the heart-strings, serving as a catalyst of the brothers to grow closer and move past the loss of their father.

In the end, all I can really say about this film is I liked it a lot; not as much as Rushmore or The Royal Tennenbaums, but a bit more than The Life Aquatic.

This one gets the Odd Squodd Stamp of Apprvoal; do with that what you will.

*Name subject to change as soon as I come up with something better
**Boy, that name practically rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
***Although I will admit to often questioning the intelligence of people who find Larry the Cable Guy or pretty much anything starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans funny, but that's mainly because I can feel brain cells being killed off every time I see their stuff and have to assume that anyone who can sit through a full movie with them would have to be brain dead by the end . . .


Goobygal said...

AHHH the Lost Skeleton of Cadavra!

Skeleton: You must find the atmosphereum.
Animala: Amish Terrarium. Must find Amish terrarium.
Dr. Paul Armstrong: I don't understand. Why does she need an Amish terrarium?
Betty Armstrong: Don't the Amish live in open air, like us?
Dr. Paul Armstrong: Of course, Betty, it's absurd. Putting the Amish in glass cases would be inhumane.

And who can forget Rowr!