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Thread: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

  1. #1
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    The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

    Wes Anderson’s vanity project finds him regressing from the perceptive dissertation on American families that was “The Royal Tenenbaums” to the arch callowness of its precursor “Rushmore” and the result is a slight, intermittently amusing picture that dares you to get it but smugly predicts you won’t. It’s droll to a fault, with no real perception behind its drollness; in fact, there seems to be little worth examining behind its mellow cynicism. Bill Murray (cashing in on the world-weariness that made him so sympathetic in “Lost In Translation”) plays a fading Jacques Cousteau-like documentarian who rounds up his quirky crew for a voyage to find the mysterious “jaguar shark” that has killed his partner (Seymour Cassel); joining him is a young man who may be his bastard son (Owen Wilson) and a journalist (Cate Blanchett) on whom both father and alleged son develop designs. Anderson is content to let this loose framework remain unexplored in order to push his loopy characters and offbeat sidebars to the forefront and while some of the performers are admittedly funny (especially Willem Dafoe, who, from “Wild At Heart” to “Shadow Of The Vampire”, always seems to be able to bring the audience in on the joke; and Anjelica Huston, whose deadpan is truly in sync with Anderson), whole sections of the film—such as an assault on the ship by Filipino pirates and the rescue of hostages—appear to be crafted as mere indulgences to be celebrated for their homage-filled zaniness. Anderson has a good eye for staging what he wants and, given something to say, it’s clear he can make an impact. But it’s also possible his time to leave a mark may have come and gone. The cute underwater effects are by Henry Selick and Robert D. Yeoman’s cinematography is quite good, moving from exquisite, colorful clarity for the interpersonal scenes to gritty and grainy for the mockingly-staged “action” sequences.

  2. #2
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    I know "it's a free country" and all that. But ideally, this forum is all about fostering debate and discussion amongst cinephiles. I doubt very much that all that interests you is having your comments read by others. Why not respond to the long review of this film posted by Mr. Knipp a week ago? Or at least post your comment, as written, in the thread he created? This would generate a email telling him there's someone else with an opinion about the film he watched and took the time to review (I haven't seen Anderson's film yet). Bix, I've long thought you're one of the members who puts across his opinion most clearly and eloquently. Wish you'd interact a bit more.

  3. #3
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    Typically, I've preferred to post a "review" of a film I've seen separately and tended not to respond to others' because, in general, I'm not comfortable criticizing others' work unless that critic is being compensated for writing. I tend to want to respect others' opinions, or, if I disagree, keep my opinion to myself, less I seem like I'm chiding someone who isn't asking for it.

    I felt in this case it was probably better to post my comments separately because they were independent of Chris and were not comments on his review. It would, I think, appear rather awkward to post a separate review after his, almost a "Hey, lookit my review!" grab for attention. Also, I don't read reviews of films before I see them (I'm easily influenced) so I was unaware of his post until I posted mine and I only read his afterwards.

    On the other hand, if someone wants to debate me on the merits of what I've written, I'll reply because frequently my remarks are called into question and I find myself elucidating on them. (I remember the vehemence of your disagreement on my post of "Ararat", Oscar.) Sometimes it's a defense.

    Part of the reason I post here is because I spend an inordinate amount of time writing these reviews and I want them to be seen. (In fact, I've decided to stop writing about film on DVD and concentrate only on films I see in the theatre because it takes so long to write a review that I get far behind; if I still wanted to write about every film I see, I'd be writing about "Mean Girls" which I saw in May!) I tinker with them for hours--even days--trying to shorten them to the smallest set of words possible. When I'm done, it's only because I can't re-read the damn thing again. (Of course, six months later I'll find something more that could've been edited out.)

    So I guess I just want the fruit of my labors to be read. Selfish, I know. But I have the writing jones and this is a place I can convince myself it's worth the work.

    But, you know what? I'm flexible. I have no problem posting on an already-started thread if it makes discussion more palatable. As long as if I disagree with the original thread that I'm not seen as some contrarian for the sake of being contrary. Because, in this case, that's exactly how I feel I'd be seen. I think "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" is a dud and I don't want my thoughts to be taken as slights on Mr. Knipp's review.

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by bix171
    in general, I'm not comfortable criticizing others' work unless that critic is being compensated for writing. I tend to want to respect others' opinions, or, if I disagree, keep my opinion to myself, less I seem like I'm chiding someone who isn't asking for it.

    I can only speak for myself but I bet others also appreciate having their views challenged. A retort or "contrasting point of view" will at the least help you sharpen your argument. It can sometimes amplify your understanding of a film or topic. I wouldn't think you took my reply to your All the Real Girls review as a sign of disrespect. I wouldn't want to dis a fellow Ramones fan. Gabba Gabba Hey!!!

    I don't read reviews of films before I see them (I'm easily influenced)

    Good practice. I decide on what I what to watch mostly based on who is the director and who's being quoted on the film's advertisements. I do take note sometimes of the rating given to a film by a critic I like, without reading the review until I've watched the film. The Chicago Reader webpage, for instance, has a very useful page listing all the films "Now Showing", with an "R" next to the recommended films and a "CC" next to the Critic's Choices. I don't mind knowing whether a crit or writer likes or recommends a film or not. I want to know as little as possible about the plot and the critic's interpretation of the film. I particularly avoid long reviews by favorite critics (Rosenbaum, Hoberman, Jones, etc) before I watch a movie.

    I remember the vehemence of your disagreement on my post of "Ararat", Oscar.

    I'm most fond of exchanges which amount to debates. The potential to learn from others cannot be underestimated. I remember you called Atom Egoyan's film "labored". It helped me realize that I experienced the development of his approach by watching all of his features when they were released. (Egoyan has been a "darling" of the Miami Film Festival since his debut). It makes me, by experience not by skill, more receptive to his complexities. I think now that, for several of his films to register completely upon first viewing, one needs to be familiar with his kaleidoscopic approach. It's a hinderance, no doubt.

    I spend an inordinate amount of time writing these reviews and I want them to be seen. I tinker with them for hours--even days--trying to shorten them to the smallest set of words possible.

    The time and care spent shows. This approach to critical writing was perfected by Robert Christgau, on his Consumer Guide column in the Village Voice. I know you're familiar with "the Dean of Music Critics".

  5. #5
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    I finally watched the film. Brief comments here:
    http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...s+&postid=8227
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 12-30-2004 at 02:16 AM.

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