A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)

A little whimsy goes a long way, but too much is a bad thing if it turns terminally twee. The unique sensibility of Wes Anderson has kept it going for 20 years now, culminating in the best picture and best director nominations for The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2012). Though Bottle Rocket was a box office flop, it was an auspicious debut for Anderson, as well as for its then-unknown stars, Luke and Owen Wilson. (The latter also co-wrote the screenplay with Anderson.) Bottle Rocket inevitably became a cult film, building on what seems like a sly parody of Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992) mixed with a bit of Coen brothers tongue-in-cheekery. All that it lacks is Bill Murray -- it's the only Anderson film in which he doesn't appear -- but his special above-it-all manner is aptly supplied in Bottle Rocket by James Caan. Anyone coming to this movie in search of characters with fully fleshed-out backstories -- like, why was Anthony (Luke Wilson) suffering from the "exhaustion" that led him to commit himself to the posh, low-security mental institution from which he "escapes" at the movie's beginning? -- is going to be sadly disappointed. The effect is more shaggy-dog than Reservoir Dogs. It's a film that features among other things, a heist on that least likely of targets, a book store, and probably the most thoroughly planned and ineptly executed robbery ever put on film. It's also one of those movies that are perhaps even funnier when you try to remember them afterward and figure out what the hell you just watched.

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