Saturday, August 4, 2007

My Two Andersons


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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?