Saturday, August 4


My Two Andersons

Royal, the Royal Tennenbaums:
I'm not talking about dance lessons. I'm talking about putting a brick through the other guy's windshield. I'm talking about taking it out and chopping it up.
Barry, Punch-Drunk Love:
I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.
In this corner, weighing in at 111 pounds and wearing aqua blue trunks, the only man to have tamed Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, the Wilson brothers and Kumar and Dipak Pallama, ladies and gentlemen lets hear it for the man they call the "Next Scorsese," Wesley Wales Anderson!!!

And in this corner, weighing in at more than 82 pounds and wearing frog-green trunks is the one man who could conquer William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, and of course Philip Baker Hall, please give a roaring welcome to the "Commando from San Fernando", Paul Thomas Anderson!!!

They're both writer-directors under the age of forty, saw their first feature films hit the big screen in 1996, and have developed their distinct styles in three more features since. They each have a new film coming to screens this fall. And they coincidentally share surnames. Some would say Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson are already champion filmmakers, while others would say they're both still up-and-coming challengers. Still others strongly prefer one over the other. And some haven't made up their mind yet. For four nights starting tonight, Frisco will host matches between the two filmmakers' films on the big screen. Ringside seats will be at the Castro Theatre. It's a chance to see these films on the big screen again and discover how the last few years have treated them. I know I've seen a few of these films over and over, but most just once, and perhaps even then only on home video. But that's not going to stop me from trying to make predictions on the outcome of each bout:

August 4: Boogie Nights vs. Rushmore. I think this is likely to be the most decisive match-up. A KO by Rushmore in an early round. For me, Boogie Nights fell into the trap of the overly-sprawling period piece trying to cram too much history into a single film's running time. The salacious content of the history couldn't save it from its unfocused structure. While Rushmore is currently my favorite film directed by ANYone named Anderson (yes, including Lindsay Anderson, whose If... was surely an influence on this "school film"). Still, I haven't seen Boogie Nights in nearly ten years so who knows...

August 5: Magnolia vs. the Royal Tennenbaums. This is a tough one. I'm wondering if Magnolia might win on points in a late round, maybe even the twelfth. On first viewing, I found the three-hour film to be intelligent and cathartic, but I was living in a foreign country and pretty much starved for any movies that might be a change of pace from blockbuster action and lowbrow comedy. Since then I've read almost nothing but dismissals of the film when it comes up, written by critics I usually trust, to the point where I've really begun to wonder about my own initial opinion. On the other hand, While I liked the Royal Tennenbaums and even rewatched it once or twice, I've also found it a bit of a cold, uninvolving film, in a way that Rushmore certainly isn't. So we'll see how that plays out.

August 7: Hard Eight vs. Bottle Rocket. Though in neither case were these films my introduction to their respective makers, in both cases I've seen them only once and have only a rather foggy memory of a few scenes, and a general feeling that I liked them. They say it's a bad idea to bet on the draw though, so I'm going to give a slight edge to Bottle Rocket to win on points.

August 8: Punch-Drunk Love vs. the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. For this one I'm going to say Punch-Drunk Love. Quite possibly in a knockout or a T.K.O. Though Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performance is way too over-the-top and under-motivated for me, it's a small part that barely mars this bold, sweet film. The sound design alone would have convinced me to follow PTA wherever he's going next, as long as he's bringing Jon Brion along with him. On the other hand, the Life Aquatic made me wonder if Wes Anderson might be treading brackish water, recycling elements from previous films and just plopping them onto the larger canvas of the open ocean. It deserves the second look I never gave it when it came out, but my expectations are not high.

Still, any of these match-ups could end up in an upset. I might not be able to attend each bout, but if you do, why not share how they turn out in the comments below?

Brian, Brian, Brian,

I'm going to give you nothing but negative emotions with this post. First, the closure of PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE really left me deflated for an otherwise enjoyable film. I'll watch it again one day, but it just left me as too much a misunderstanding of 'misunderstood guy' for me. Long story we can share over coffee.

But this part's going to be worse. Bring on the envy my friend - But should friends ever really feel envy for each other? Here's what I'll have a chance to see at the Manila Film Festival - Fatih Akin's THE EDGE OF HEAVEN and the animated film PERSEPOLIS!!! Plus, not one, not two, but THREE Thai films!!! One you and I have already seen, Joe's new film, but the others are Ratanaruang PLOY, and Sasanatieng's THE UNSEEABLE. And let me turn the screw a little more, Amir Muhammad's VILLAGE PEOPLE RADIO SHOW!!!! Before you start fuming, recall that you did ask me to report back in your response to my comment to your last post. And take solace in the fact that my night-owl work schedule might keep me from catching some of these. Hope all's well w/ you. See you back Stateside in two weeks.
Hi Adam,

Other goodies worth seeing in Manila are Raya Martin and John Torres' sophomore features films.
Adam, Adam, Adam, no worries on negativity. Not usually being a "plot" guy, I honestly don't remember the details of the finale to Punch-Drunk Love well enough to say anything more than that they must not have been objectionable enough for me to overcome my delight in the film's atmosphere, tone, and risk-taking performances.

And actually I don't consider your tantalizing peekhole into the Manila Film Festival schedule negative either. I may be a tad envious, but that's outweighed by my feeling a) more than content with the local cinemagoing opportunities in the next few months (more on that in a future post), b) happy for you that you get to see these films now, and c) optimistic that they'll come to Frisco screens in due time. For the record, the one I'm most eagerly anticipating is Ploy.

Oggs, is Martin's follow-up to a Short Film About the Indio Nacional playing the festival too then? That one I'm extremely eager to see, and not very optimistic that I'll actually get a chance.
Yes Brian, it's entitled "Autohystoria." By the way, Raya has a blog ( too, with very interesting nuggets on what's happening in Philippine cinema. John Torres (who won in Vancouver for Todo Todo Teros) will also premiere "Tilted Screens and Extended Scenes of Loneliness: Filiino on high Definiton" in the Digital Lokal section of the festival. Oh yeah, Tarantino is being awarded a Life Time Achievement award (which will bring a lot of interest and attention to the festival, hopefully). The festival will be ended with the screening of SEA Waves, an omnibus by the region's best directors (Weerasethakul, Martin, Lav Diaz, Ratanaruang, etc.)

Agree with your evaluations by and large here: especially with regards to HARD EIGHT and BOTTLE ROCKET, both of which strike me as "blueprint" films comprised of striking scenes/elements which haven't yet been integrated into a larger design.

But I fear you're selling THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS short, the film which seems to me to be the most comprehensive, sui generis in the whole program. RUSHMORE has the kinetic energy of a showman hitting his stride, but if TENNENBAUMS doesn't have the same sense of restless invention (though the diorama-like 'scope compositions are certainly striking...and tenderly fitting to the characters' flattened lives) it also feels like he's given himself more room to explore the magic and loss in the film's enfolding relationships. For more on this, consider Kent Jones' affectionate essay for Criterion:§ion=essay

Both TENNENBAUMS & MAGNOLIA obviously expend a lot of energy on keeping up with such a big cast, but with PT Anderson it somehow feels like a chore to me where with Wes it's all farcical ballet.

That said, THE LIFE AQUATIC worries me too--seems like an artist's cry-for-help, drowning in themes and a voice which suddenly seem somehow "fixed"--whereas I found PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE a wholly refreshing blast of hot air, like when "serious" rock musicians re-discover the pleasure of a well tuned pop song...

Looking forward to your fall preview!
Ahhhh, I knew Brian was too even-keeled and well-balanced of a man to ever throw off kilter with my lame envy-blasts.

Oggs, thanks for the suggestions. Did you see anything at the CCP the week previous? Caught a film that's Tagalog title escapes me (It means "Temptation") but that unimpressive film pretty much escaped me too. (Although my co-worker was excited to see in the audience quite a few members of the cast from the ZAZA ZATURNA musical.) ENDO, however, was lovely, as far as I could gather from it not being subtitled. I still enjoyed how the film felt, and I enjoyed the music.

Finally saw Joey Gosiengfiao's TEMPTATION ISLAND last night at Cinemaone's Kool Pinoy Klassics, and was excited to catch up with director Joyce Bernal in the audience, whom I met in Udine a few years back when they brought her crowd-pleaser MR SUAVE. I'm bummed, though, that my work schedule prohibited me from being awake to see Christopher De Leon's KAKABAKABA KA BA? today since that's my second favorite phrase in Tagalog. (My favorite phrase is asking if the elevator is going down.) The language where alliteration abounds!
A very clever way of staging the Castro's tribute to the Andersons!
Hi Adam (and sorry to Brian for turning this Anderson tribute to a discussion of the past exciting few weeks in Manila),

Yeah, caught several films in CCP, and more in Megamall (all of which I fervently blogged about). I'm glad you got to watch Temptation Island (you should've seen Bedspacers or La Paloma --- people keep on comparing Joey Gosiengfiao to Almodovar or Waters, but there's much more to the guy than camp despite his films being drowned with campy elements). Hopefully, we can meet each other in Cinemanila; maybe I can give you something Brian would be more envious of (like a DVD copy of a Filipino classic), hehe.
Bottom line is that both of these filmmakers deserve to be seen on a big screen and the near-death of rep makes this all too rare.

I wish I could attend all eight films, but had to step out of the Castro after the matinee of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, and will have to miss the other two days because of the WEALTH of fine programming with which we are "bedeviled". It ain't Hell on Frisco bay for nothing!

The only person I'd be envious of is any one who can get to all of the great offerings around town this week and/or divide themselves in two for conflicting film screenings. Now that would be a super power!
BTW, RUSHMORE on the big screen was better than I could have imagined: I laughed, I cried, I made a plan to buy a red beret.

The tingle factor doesn't get enough mention on this blog!
Funny you should say that miriam, since I've been planning to mention it first chance I get, re: the Royal Tenenbaums.

As it turned out, it had Magnolia up against the ropes early, and never really let up. What can I say, Max, other than that you were right. I really responded to Tenenbaums this time, with all those spine-tingly/lump-in-throat emotional reactions, as well as a great deal of intellectual satisfaction. Perhaps it comes from my current personal circumstances; I'm soon to move out of the home I grew up in, where I've been living for the past few years while my parents have been living out of state. But they return this fall. My family is really nothing like the Tenenbaums, but isn't anyone who hasn't quite fulfilled as an adult all of the dreams (however unrealistic) he or she had as a child, in some sense a Tenenbaum? So many moments had me awash with just the sort of genuine feelings I'd previously lamented had been lacking in the film, that I could barely believe I'd ever thought that in the first place.

I went back to my records, and it appears I hadn't seen the Royal Tenenbaums in its entirety as many times as I thought I had (or nearly as many times as Rushmore). Just once prior to its original theatrical engagement (from the front row of the Kabuki 1, really too close to truly appreciate Anderson's compositions) and once on DVD with the commentary on. No wonder I'd remembered it as a distancing film; I was remembering it through the extremely distancing device of a commentary track! A good one, as I recall, but still...

Then again, my biggest initial reservations about the Royal Tenenbaums may have been the degree to which the film (seemingly) intentionally makes you feel like you've been thrown into an epic novel, at about page 563. Sure, the wonderful "Hey Jude" intro gives you a barebones summary of what happened on pages 1-562, but after that, there are still plenty of moments that seem to draw their emotional weight from deeply felt prior experience with these characters that the audience hasn't really been privy to. But if this might be a handicap for an initial viewing of the film, it surely isn't for revisitations. Scenes with big emotional payoffs that hadn't quite seemed earned before, suddenly did on this viewing. There were a couple of moments/characters that still didn't feel quite fleshed out enough for their screen prominence (namely Raleigh St. Clair), but I'm now ready to agree that, yes, it may be an even better film than Rushmore. I totally understand why it inspires the kind of passion that brings people to the Castro dressed as Ritchie or Eli or Margot.

I didn't notice anyone in Frank "T.J." Mackey or Quiz Kid Donnie Smith garb at the Magnolia screening, though. I'd completely forgotten how extensive the prologue is; it's practiaclly three little short movies (hearkening back to an earlier era of moviegoing). The "regular" part of the movie began, and I was rivited. The way PTA (with the able assistance of Aimee Mann/Harry Nilsson) makes the introduction to his characters absolutely POP! It's the only time the filmmaking prefigures the audacity of Punch-Drunk Love, and for a little while I'm thinking that Magnolia might even give my now-greater-esteemed the Royal Tenenbaums a real challenge. But no, it soon becomes evidenter and evidenter that it won't.

Magnolia felt almost like the opposite of Tenenbaums. Its characters' situations seem compelling on a first viewing, in part because PTA infuses the scenes with a sense of urgency through his excellent casting (nearly all these actors are inherently watchable, even Tom Cruise in this role if only because we can't help but wonder if he's playing himself a little bit...or a lot bit) and great music, especially Mann's songs. And in part because he's had a narrator (though he's a magician and we really shouldn't trust what magicians say) tell us to expect mind-blowingly glorious coincidences.

But viewing it again seven years later, once I started remembering where these characters' arcs actually were leading, I found myself caring less and less about watching them get there. Still, I really hope I can make it to Punch-Drunk Love, and to give the Life Aquatic another chance, on Wednesday.

Finally, Oggs & Adam, I love to see the comments here going off in unexpected directions! Please, continue to speak about the Manila Film Festival and Pinoy films as much as you desire. I love being able to glean more information about this national cinema that may well be my most embarrassing cinematic blind spot. (I don't think I've ever seen more than 3 or 4 films from the archipelago).
Man, I been slacking. Perhaps tomorrow I will venture across el Bay. But I _do_ have a final. And I own both films. Plus this new TV is pretty. Then again, The Castro is even prettier. This last one is almost a tie, with a slight nod to _Punch Drunk Love_, but in the other matches I'd take _Bottle Rocket_, _Rushmore_, and _Magnolia_. Piece of cake.
I came in a tad late to THE ROYAL TENEBAUMS, so last night because I knew the friend I was visiting had it on DVD, I asked him to indulge me by letting me see the bits I missed. (Turned out it was about 70 seconds.)

Do I have to tell you that, even in the correct aspect ratio on a large screen tv, it broke my heart?

Brian, I have always thought your family was quite a bit more Tenenbaum-esque than most. Two words: theatrical productions. You may not realize that most siblings don't make performance art together, but they don't.

I think you would have loved NOTHING LASTS FOREVER at YBCA. It was swoon-alicious.
Ryland, it sounds as if you like the Life Aquatic more than the Royal Tenenbaums. (either that or you really love Magnolia). Do you mind explaining that one to me sometime? Maybe I'll see you tomorrow...

ISL, one things for sure: my happily married parents do not resemble Royal and Etheline and Royal to any significant degree. For example, by dad was never disbarred...

I would have loved to taken one of the empty seats at the Nothing Lasts Forever screening, but I was across the street watching Jean Renoir's choreographing of the French Revolution. Can't see everything.
You could have dug deeper to find something to pin on dad, but that's not your way.

I blew off the Kiarostami on Saturday for BOOGIE NIGHTS and was of two minds about it. Wished I'd stayed for MAGNOLIA on Sunday rather than running to the interesting-but-not-arresting Ophuls, but don't tell anyone, okay?

Anyhow, "I'm saving that for later." is my new way of thinking of it.

The whole trick of the PFA, I think, is to pick a major series and a minor series for each calendar. I was going to do the Kiarostami, but I got sucked into the Ophuls and, oh, was out of commission for a week or so. And there's the real world, too.

And now the Castro seems thoroughly in play again as the YBCA continues to flower . . . ?
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