November 26, 2009
His films have always seemed hyper-real, from art direction and design to the behaviors and banter of his characters. Having watched four of his films in theaters– some more than once– I consistently heard and watched the divisive quality of his heavily marketed, “quirky” films on the audience. Half the audience cracks up at the twisted looking-glass humor, while the others shift in their seats and grumble at the perceived failure of the jokes.
The challenge of appreciating Anderson’s work depends on how willing the audience is to acknowledge their own faults in the self-deprecating humor that drives his movies. What better way to disguise that premise than behind fuzzy animals with human qualities.
During a preview screening for Fantastic Mr. Fox, the room lit up with peels of guffaws from a variety of people, including the little ones. Everyone was getting the humor. This PG-rated film captivated the kids even with its primitive effects (the current CGI-reared generation of kids are far removed from the Gumby crowd). This accomplishment stems from Anderson’s adept use of pacing and his faithful use of his chosen medium. Even the explosions during the animals’ battles with the human farmers are of the stop-motion variety (painted cotton balls). No CGI cheats throughout!
The film also does not sugarcoat that animal behavior with innocent cuteness. The sharp delivery of dialogue between the characters sometimes slips toward wild unpredictable primal behavior, which wittily treads the line of silliness and danger. It inevitably leads to some cruel scenes with real consequences, which builds up to an ominous encounter with a wolf. The scene is laden with danger thanks to the simple, often humorous and sometimes emotional way the violence unfolds earlier in the film. It recalls the scene in the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou when Zissou finally catches up with the jaguar shark but without the melodrama.
I had my trepidations when I first heard Anderson was working on an animated film. Then the trailer never did the film proper justice, as the characters are so much more laden with hang-ups than the sound bites used in the preview might have you think.
Watching the movie unfold felt like you were watching Anderson’s masterpiece. Unlike, so many movies for kids*, this movie felt organic and authentic, and what do kids need most put true, heart-felt honesty, even if that truth might have its dark places. As Fantastic Mr. Fox continually reminds us, “We’re wild animals.”
November 26, 2009
Vampire Weekend have a new video. This time for the second promotable track from their upcoming full-length Contra (due out Jan. 12). Watch it here:
Their first single was “Horchata,” and they once had a free mp3 download of the track on their website. Now the same video above dominates their site (a large file that may load slow on some computers, so the link above moves best). You can still download the “Horchata” mp3 at We All Want Someone to Shout For. Check it out, here, with lyrics included.
I’m still kicking myself for missing them at the Gleason Center in Miami Beach during their last tour. I had not given their debut album a proper chance at the time. All the critics couldn’t stop talking about their African roots music, which grated my sensibilities while listening to the album via Napster. The influence really is not as pronounced as most critics might have you think (although they sing “Peter Gabriel” in their track ”Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” that doesn’t mean it sounds like “Biko.”*). Needless to say, the album later grew on me and I picked up the vinyl at Sweat Records. Here’s to hoping they return to South Florida for their second album!
*By the way, you can hear Peter Gabriel’s version of the song here (thanks again, Will). It’s a collaboration with Hot Chip.