Against my better judgement, I decided that Moonrise Kingdom make to my end of the year list I did. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Moonrise Kingdom a lot, but it is this weird love/hate relationship I have with the movie. Wes Anderson has basically distilled his certain look and craft down to a fine science, knowing what makes his movies truly his and filled with the usual themes and subjects we associate with his movies. It’s a veritable check list of items that he uses to make sure it is his movie, while offering us up some wonderful whimsy.
I wasn’t fully certain that I was prepared to see Hyde Park On Hudson, the latest Bill Murray film in which he portrays FDR during the crucial summer of 1939 when King George the VI was visiting America to solicit help in the tumultuous affairs that were brewing in Europe. I thought, it’s a bit odd to see Murray having to be aplomb as our 32nd President, odd in that he is mixing the lovable witticism of his personality with that of the polio stricken President. I knew the setting in which the film was taking place and who the players were in this film, but I don’t think I was prepared to see a movie that doesn’t focus on the most important meet-up in world history at that time. No, Hyde Park on Hudson is more about the relationships and civility of the people who all met on that faithful summer of 1939 at the estate of FDR’s mother. The King and Queen of England, Franklin and Eleanor, and FDR’s distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley.
Also Bill Murray’s FDR gets himself a little hand jibber action on a meadow. Just thought I should put that out there immediately.
I fucking love Bill Murray. That’s all I got for the opening of this post and frankly it is all I need to open this post. Bill Murray is the man, everything he does is amazing, except for like Garfield and Osmosis Jones, but all if forgiven for his body of work. It’s also like 100 degrees outside, Fahrenheit not Celsius or Kelvin, so Meatballs seems like a proper choice for today with it’s theme summer camp shenanigans and wholesome, raunchy 70s humor. Also Bill Murray is in this movie as he is the shit, as I stated earlier.
Wes Anderson has made the most Wes Andersony movie ever. That is not a bad thing mind you, so don’t let that opening be misleading. If you love Wes Anderson films, you will love his latest offering, Moonrise Kingdom. If you are unfamiliar with Wes Anderson and his idiosyncratic filmmaking, here is a bullet list of the stuff you will see in his movies….all of them:
Kids acting like adults
Adults acting like kids
Strained family dynamics
Esoteric musical choices
Scenes that are dead center framed
So much whimsy
Magical setting that seem created in a different world
Bold type font
Bill Murray being fucking awesome
This bullet list is pretty much the expectations you will have when you go into a Wes Anderson film, but all these elements used in someone else’s movie, doesn’t seem right. All these things are uniquely refreshing and cohesive when given to Anderson, but it sometimes strays into the familiar territory that leads me to the impasse of Moonrise Kingdom.
Bill Murray is the man. There is no debate about this as it is a fact. Sure the man has made a couple of movies that were horrible, Osmosis Jones anyone? When you take a look at the mans filmography, there is no denying that he is an artist and one of the best. Who doesn’t get excited when a movie you are excited has Bill Murray as part of the cast? What I like most about his films are the ones where he plays a more subtle and subdued character. He doesn’t need to be loud, comedic or even the center of attention, rather the films where is not the Bill Murray we associate with in past film are some of his best roles. So Broken Flowers, a film by auteur Jim Jarmusch, is the perfect compliment of subtle directing with skillful acting.
Everybody get up it’s time to slam now
We got a real jam goin’ down
Welcome to the Space Jam
Here’s your chance, do your dance at the Space Jam
Thank you Quad City DJ’s for getting me up and getting me ready for the Space Jam. 1996 was one of the top years in my life. I was coasting through life and seemingly innocent in my ways. I thought that it couldn’t get better until I saw the above trailer for what would end up being one of the greatest sports film in the history of cinema. At the age of 11, I was pretty confident about that assertion, I mean who was going to crush the hopes and dreams of a little kid? Assholes Nick, assholes were going to ruin your fun. You couldn’t meet a teen or kid or whatever who wasn’t basically losing their collective shit when two of the greatest things in the world were coming together in one movie that would essentially be the encapsulation of the 90s, Bill Murray and Basketball. Shit yes.
Yeah that’s right, letting the good times roll with the sequel to Ghostbusters. I will admit that the second one wasn”t the greatest and frankly, the inferior Ghostbusters, but damned if it isn’t entertaining. Getting the gang all back together after saving New York from a giant Marshmallow monster wasn’t enough, this time the stakes are inevitably raised higher and the monster equally imposing.
With all the ghosts and monsters out there running around tonight on Halloween, some of them might be actual ghosts and not some little kid as a Power Ranger (is that still on). You to protect yourself and what better way to protect yourself from the ghosts then the power of “unlicensed nuclear accelerators” proton packs wielded by paranormal investigators. Got to call the Ghostbusters.
Now this might seem crass or tasteless to post a comedy about military service on Memorial Day. Personally, while other hoorah military movies might serve to sate those who want action oriented war movies, I am not necessarily looking to be reminded about a ragtag group of soldiers that singly handily win a war. I am not being insensitive about the actualities of war and the toll that it takes on society, but some days we need a little something different instead of being bombarded with symbolism and explosions. I get enough of those things when watching CNN or Fox.
So with my explanation on the Memorial day choice of Movie of the Day out of the way, now I can start enjoying the remainder of the weekend. What better way to spend a Monday than watching Bill Murray movies, Stripes being one of my favorite comedies. You got Ivan Reitman directing, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis acting side by side in movie reminiscent of old Sgt. Bilko shows, and multitude of side characters all versed in comedy. Let me say though, the last third of the movie is where the movie kind of falls off track, but still an enjoyable movie.
Now I will probably catch a lot of flack for actually liking this overrated movie. I will agree that the movie got a lot of praise that is questionable. I guess it was due more to Bill Murray having this rebirth in film all of a sudden and showed that he can be more than just a funny man. Still though the movie had a fantastic, although hipsterish soundtrack, and had fucking Bill Murray. I mean come on man, it’s Bill Fucking Murray.
So a quick rundown of the movie for those that haven’t seen this. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an aging actor who goes to Tokyo for some photo shoots and endorsement deals. While dealing with the inevitable white person culture shock that goes on, which is the crutch of the comedy, we are introduced to another character named Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson. Charlotte is in Tokyo as well with her photographer husband, played by Giovanni Ribisi. Scenes unfold that cast shadows on both Bob Harris and Charlotte’s marriages as each are going through difficult time and arguments. Both Bob and Charlotte eventually talk after countless encounters in the bar of the hotel where Charlotte invites Bob out to meet her friends and get into random situations as foreigners.
Both form a close bond on an intellectual and generation level. Each share an unspoken emotional connection to one another during the outings in Tokyo. One night Bob ends up sleeping with the hotel vocalists and Charlotte confronts him over a lunch date and there is uneasy tension. After a fire alarm goes off in the hotel, Charlotte and Bob both reconcile, claiming they miss one another too much. So on the final morning of Bob’s departure, he hugs Charlotte and watches her retreat sadly back to the hotel. On the way to airport he spots her in a crowded street and gets out to confront her one last time. They share an embrace and an inaudible whisper.
I really enjoyed the movie more for the relationship between Bob and Charlotte than I did for the situational comedy that Sofia used to hammer in the concept of Tokyo being this strange place. A lot of the humor is derived from the Japanese people being weird and small than Bill Murray. I get that he is a foot taller than most people and can’t use their showers properly. I understand that their hookers for some reason like to have their pantyhose ripped. I understand that poking a bit of fun at a culture that is not our own can directly show differences between the two. The movie just uses a lot of these situations to create awkward comedy scenarios. The reality is that Sofia might have been showing exactly what she went through shooting in Tokyo or maybe taking accounts of other actors and their experiences there. It’s that those scenes kind of outweigh the other scenes that showed cultural differences in a more serene and less tiresome way.
My favorite scenes are primarily with Charlotte and her adventures. Her solo travel to a Japanese garden gave us a look at Japanese life in a more reverent way. She observes a wedding, priests praying and life just passing by. It is a lot more effective to me as a viewer when I am not being assaulted with constant reminders of white people being in non-white locations and situations.
Now that I am off the rant of situational awareness and comedy, I can talk about the best aspect of the movie which can be summed up in one picture…
Worth the price of admission
Alright seriously, the second best part of the movie is the relationship that Bob and Charlotte have and the development of their bond. Giving credit where credit is due, Sofia Coppola does an amazing job getting me invested in the characters. I found myself sympathetic to both Bob and Charlotte and the personal problems that each of them faced. Both have a relationship that is in question and both manage to find one another amongst the bustle of Tokyo. Although they have many conversations during the movie, it is the times when they don’t say anything and just revel in one another’s presence that solidifies their relationship. The final ending is touching in that we don’t need to hear what Bob says to Charlotte. In our minds we already know what they are saying or what we want them to say.
The movie is a gem and should be viewed by everyone. Does it deserve all the praise that it gets? Sure, but I think the best aspect of the movie is the acting between Scarlett and Bill Murray as each make you believe that what is happening on screen is genuine. One last thing to note is the beautiful soundtrack that Sofia put together. Bringing together bands like Air, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Phoenix, Death in Vegas and Bill Fucking Murray himself. I will leave with one of my favorite songs off the soundtrack by Air called Alone in Kyoto. This is really what exemplifies the feeling of being alone in a mysterious new place. Also a very properly named track for a movie about being in Tokyo (yes i am aware it says Kyoto, but Kyoto is just an anagram for Tokyo).