American Empirical Theory: “It’s a theory, it’s probably wrong”

One of my favorite filmmakers is Wes Anderson. There are a broad number of people who feel the same way; unfortunately at this point most of them are “hipsters” who see his films as clever and cool. Most of these people do not understand how much he was influenced by J.D. Salinger, Francois Truffaut, and Woody Allen.

All that said, to express my great love of his films, every single one of them. A few have a lasting impact on my life. The thing that is wonderful about Anderson is that he can appeal to such large audience, people who like British pop music, who like comedy, who are into fashion, etc. He really is a master at his craft; he is involved in the writing of, direction, editing, acting of all his films.

Now to the theory. American Empirical Pictures is the production company started by Wes Anderson, thus The American Empirical Theory. Over the years I have run into many people who “love” Wes Anderson films, this is great. The theory states that most people, who know Anderson’s movies, typically prefer their first experience to the other similar experience. Whichever Wes Anderson movie a person sees first, it usually ends up being their favorite. I know this to be true for me, I saw Rushmore for the first time in 2002, and this is still my favorite film by Anderson. Rushmore spoke to me on many levels including private school, perceived exclusion, misguided energy, etc. It also started my love of Jason Schwartzman and reignited my love of Bill Murray. My wife saw Bottle Rocket before any other Wes Anderson movie and this is her favorite. On Christmas Day 2004, my cousin Jered and I went to see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, his first Wes Anderson film; as far as I know it is still his favorite. A recent conversation with our friend Jessica revealed that The Royal Tenenbaums is her favorite Anderson film, and it was her first exposure to his films. I find that only about 50% of the people I talk to about this theory have seen every single Wes Anderson film, so it is obviously not scientific. As with any theory, there are exceptions, some people I have talked to have a different favorite Anderson film then the one they first saw. I believe them. If you do, by any chance test this theory, you will find that the vast majority will say that The Royal Tenenbaums is their favorite; this is because it was and is the most popular and widely known of all the Wes Anderson films. This is a situation that the popularity is justified; Tenenbaums is a fantastic film that has many characters inspired by Salinger’s Glass Family, which I love.

I think the thing that stands out to me is that it is the experience of seeing a Wes Anderson film for the very first time that makes thevery first time that makes the impression on people. It is new and exciting and refreshing, like listening to The Beatles for the first time, or your first bite if ice cream. You have never seen artistic expression like it and now you are hooked. Tenenbaums was a movie with Luke and Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Bill Murray, these actors are typically slap stick comedy guys, and this movie was not that. People still loved it and thought it was funny.


P.S. Sorry about the lack of any The Fantastic Mr. Fox footage, I could not find any that I liked.


The Hardest Geometry Problem in the World

I have an extreme bias towards every Wes Anderson does. I like all his movies and cannot look at them very objectively. I know many people who also love or at least appreciate Anderson, from film snob buddies to my cousin whose favorite movie was Deep Blue Sea until he was 16.

In all the conversations with all these people I have developed a theory about what decides your favorite Wes Anderson. I would guess that around 90% of anyone I have ever asked “What is your favorite Anderson film?” The answer is nearly always the same; it was the first one they ever saw. This, of course, is not always true, but usually. I am not talking about people who have just seen one of his movies, but several. For example, my favorite is Rushmore. I saw it and loved it, something new and funny. For my wife it was Bottle Rocket, which she watched in college. My cousin’s favorite is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou which we saw on Christmas day in 2004. My theory is that when you see a Wes Anderson film for the first time, you have little idea what’s coming. Since Anderson made these quirky films others have come along that imitate his style, but when you sit and watch his movies and you realize how funny and warped and damaged the characters are, its new and exciting, something that cannot be repeated.

Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but I have found this to be pretty standard.

“I saved Latin……….what did you ever do?”

by Jesse Fyler