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.


Girls with Gumption: Top 5 Favorite Actresses

I believe that other then my mother, women in movies helped me narrow down what I should do to become a good man. It helped me realize what kind of woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This may sound sad, but I do not mean women like Jessica Alba, Katherine Heigl, or Megan Fox. These are the women I try to avoid. I mean the women I admire and make me laugh. I found my leading lady and each of these women helped with that.

There will be some that people think are missing; I can hardly stand Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, or Laura Linney. They just bug me in almost everything they are in. I see where people call them great, but I disagree. These are the women who stand out to me the most.

5. Cate Blanchett – Regal, funny, beautiful, etc. Blanchett has so many great qualities it is no wonder she played Queen Elizabeth twice. Most people know her for either that or for her role as Lady Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While these are great parts, I love her for her roles in The Missing, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Aviator. These movies stand out to me because she shows strength and courage in The Missing while being in a desperate world. Her comedic timing and chemistry with Bill Murray is flawless in The Life Aquatic and I hope Wes Anderson uses her again soon. The Aviator may seem an odd choice because she was only playing Katherine Hepburn (who will come soon), I think she played it perfectly and was by far my favorite part of the whole movie. I will stop there.

Other notable performances – I’m Not There,Babel, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

4. Ingrid Bergman – When the word legend is used to describe an actress this is one of the few times I agree. Ingrid Bergman is the leading lady of leading ladies! She is soft, determined, and doesn’t let men decide anything for her! Her role in Casablanca is probably the most important role of any character before the 1960s. She is the entire reason there is a story, not because she is a damsel in distress, but because she is deeply loved by a man who has hardened his heart. She is the only person who really knows him. Plus she is witty and terribly adorable in that film.

Other notable performances- The Bells of St. Mary’s, Notorious, Joan of Arc.

3. Natalie Portman – cute, upbeat, dangerous, and amazing. Portman really is able to be so many things and be them very very well. She has played a Queen, a Lady, a rebel, and psycho. She has depth of character that was first seen in Leon (The Professional) and most recently seen in Black Swan and Thor. Her choices of roles has been meticulous, it has paid off. She commands focus and awe in epic science fiction, romantic comedies, thrilling dramas, and comic book movies. Her career will be better than any woman before her.

Other notable performances- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, V for Vendetta, Hotel Chevalier, The Other Bolyn Girl.

2. Katherine Hepburn- Smart, really really smart. Hepburn has an intelligence and air that makes you tremble and feel warm all at the same time. No woman has ever been as good in a romantic comedy as Hepburn was in The Philadelphia Story, she is sad, strong, confused, brutal, and absolutely lovable, she owns the show even with James Stewart and Cary Grant right next to her. My other favorite role of hers is in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? She is modern, motherly, holds convictions, and holds her own against Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier. I love her so much!

Other notable performances – Morning Glory, Adam’s Rib, The African Queen.

1. Kate Winslet- Master of her craft. Winslet is my favorite actress because of her performances in film, her work out side of film, and how she handles her personal life. She is classy or crass whenever the situation calls for it. She has been so much more then Rose in Titanic that I almost forget about that movie. My three favorite roles of hers are Juliet in Heavenly Creatures, Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Iris in The Holiday. These three roles are significant to me beyond her roles recognized by the Academy because they are unexpected and perfect. In Heavenly Creatures she plays a young woman who has a dangerous imagination and was obviously the acting of a future star. As Clementine we see her break out of her common casting and blow us away as an adorable, mean, neurotic to Jim Carrey’s quiet, boring, weak Joel. She was the star of the movie hands down. The less obvious choice here is The Holiday; it was one of my favorite romantic comedies of the last decade. She is so perfect in this movie, she starts out as the stereotypical lonely woman, and doesn’t take the usual path to turn everything around. She isn’t desperate, she is wonderful. Watch this movie, and you will even like Cameron Diaz…maybe.

Other notable performances- Sense and Sensibility, Quills, The Reader, Revolutionary Road.

Preview: Top 5 Favorite Comic Book Heroes


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