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General discussion about what's out for the couch.
274

What am I missing here??
Topic by: Kenyon
Posted: November 11, 2002 - 9:44 PM PST
Last Reply: January 20, 2003 - 9:45 AM PST

author topic: What am I missing here??
Kenyon
post #1  on November 11, 2002 - 9:44 PM PST  
(1) The Royal Tenenbaums. OK, I've watched it twice, and still don't think its anything other than pretentiously quirky. (I'm not sure why I'm embarrassed to admit that - but there it is.) Any help for this clueless gal? A whole bunch of you liked it a lot - so let me have it!

signed,
cowering
Dwoodwoo
post #2  on November 11, 2002 - 10:51 PM PST  
I'm the same way on this movie, Kenyon. Felt the same way about Rushmore...but that movie had the saving grace of the excellent Max Frisch players doing stage versions of "Serpico," et al. Anybody wanna step up and explain this movie and its virtues?

dennis!



> On November 11, 2002 - 9:44 PM PST Kenyon wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> (1) The Royal Tenenbaums. OK, I've watched it twice, and still don't think its anything other than pretentiously quirky. (I'm not sure why I'm embarrassed to admit that - but there it is.) Any help for this clueless gal? A whole bunch of you liked it a lot - so let me have it!
>
> signed,
> cowering
> ---------------------------------

BCarroll
post #3  on November 12, 2002 - 10:19 AM PST  
Hi. I judge comedies by how much I laugh. I smiled a couple times at Owen Wilson's antics but overall I thought Tennebaums sucked big time. Pretentious BS. I only sat thru the whole thing because it had received such rave reviews I thought it would get better. I was disappointed too cuz I had high hopes for such a great cast. By comparison I had just watched Zoolander a few days before and despite being totally stupid I cracked up totally and was 10 times more entertained than RT.
dpowers
post #4  on November 12, 2002 - 1:07 PM PST  
yeah this is ridiculously long!!! and i wasn't even sure they really made all this work, but okay i'll defend /a>. (i haven't read salinger's stories about the glass family to whom the tenenbaums are related. i'd feel more comfortable defending rushmore as a trick shot version of catcher in the rye, because i've read that.... anyway so read every instance of "is" as "i think" and you get the picture.)

however "i think" you can unlock royal tenenbaums with a few keys:

the world:
a little princess (1995, alfonso cuarón)
family: pull my daisy (1959, robert frank & alfred leslie)
anomie: written on the wind (1956, dir. douglas sirk)
games: bottle rocket (1996, wes anderson) and kikujiro (2000, takeshi kitano)

THE WORLD: during the colonial era, white kids grew up all over the world, and because of the various real empires that existed, foreign places could be romantically domesticated in the imagination: a little princess does this -- an orphaned child revisits the india of her memory in quite exotic and colorful ways.

we're kind of far away from these fantasies, it's hard to imagine invading iraq because spies in red trenchcoats have ridden their stealth camels to baghdad and discovered a secret army of wild-eyed genies and an underground magic carpet factory ... but that world is much bigger than ours, and i think it shows us a little more honestly, as the product of our dreams.

in tenenbaums the kids are the product of expectations, but the "real" expectations that are set for them are from the audience's dreams.

FAMILY. birth and death mark the history of families. the division of labor defines the edges, i think, of who is and isn't "part of the family." yet, tradition and job sharing are themselves only sort of a pain in the ass, despite the insistence of moralists that the radioactivity of a nuclear family oughta be enough.

pull my daisy, a short film by artist alfred leslie and filmmaker robert frank with a narration read and written by jack kerouac, effectively captures the remainder, the elusive feeling of beauty that communal trust can create.

royal tenenbaums relies heavily on this vision of family beauty, from a weird angle -- rather than kerouac the poet looking at it, we get a narration that could easily be the sensitive youngest child playing it out with dolls.

(pull my daisy isn't on DVD but you can rent it at a lot of video stores, on a tape called "films of alfred leslie." in san francisco, into video has copies of it at their two stores.)

ANOMIE. last night, on pbs, a documentary about president jimmy carter talked about his brother, billy. it said billy was incredibly bright, that he read a book a day and died with "over 20,000" books in his attic, and that it was after people started painting him as First Shlub that he went out of his way to live up to it.

whether or not the tenenbaum family was real in some version of our world, or their relations happened as the movie described them, a key theme to all three of the anderson/wilson movies so far is how many extra times brainy-slash-rich kids live out their lives and how hard that makes it for them to settle on one "reality" to inhabit.

this is kind of a standard melodrama theme -- "my life had no meaning until The Tragedy" -- but since owen wilson's texan character in tenenbaums actually crashes a little convertible car, that's a direct invitation to fit written on the wind's spins on family rivalry and losing touch into the puzzle.

nick ray's stuff goes here also but he doesn't care about the family aspect, so, fergit 'im.

GAMES: in anderson's and wilson's bottle rocket, owen wilson's giddy character is so burning with game- and life-joy that the consequences of the various levels of his recklessness are just more fuel for his fire. in that film the other characters are witnesses and accomplices to his craziness.

in tenenbaums though the only witnesses are us, and the scope of the games the family is playing with each other and with themselves are a little hard to define -- they're so ambiguous that the tag "manipulative" won't stick, even when gene hackman is bedridden -- is he deceiving them? we saw him go to the doctor. isn't he really ill? what's the point of setting up the bed?

this kind mixing of sentimentality and ruthlessness into "game" is also explored in takeshi kitano's road trip movie kikujiro. near the start of the film, kitano gambles away the trip money at the race track, based on the kid's advice. the scene is very stylized, emphasizing the attraction of playing the game over its consequences or alternatives.

anyway i think the stylization of the royal tenenbaums isn't just quirky but is the result of the blur that this crazy group of people has created around themselves, in their desire to play with each other and in their honest confusion about what is "real."

okay that's it. i really don't know if the movie entirely supports this reading. "but officer, i swear, the light was green when i started crossing..."
dpowers
post #5  on November 12, 2002 - 1:20 PM PST  
oops that first paragraph is supposed to have a pretty link like this:

the royal tenenbaums

and then no bold. some characters disappeared in there!
Dwoodwoo
post #6  on November 12, 2002 - 5:40 PM PST  
Okay, Powers, putting Tenenbaums side-by-side with Franny and Zooey or any of the Salinger "family" stories gives some perspective on what the filmmakers might have been going after. But what's up with all the visual hyperbole? And heart -- was there anything in this movie that was so touching as, say, the Catcher in the Rye scene where Phoebe covers for Holden Caulfield when his cigarette smoke nearly gives away his secret return home? "I just lit one for one second. I just took one puff. Then I threw it out the window."

dennis!



> On November 12, 2002 - 1:20 PM PST DPOWERS wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> oops that first paragraph is supposed to have a pretty link like this:
>
> the royal tenenbaums
>
> and then no bold. some characters disappeared in there!
> ---------------------------------

dpowers
post #7  on November 13, 2002 - 1:46 AM PST  
> putting Tenenbaums side-by-side with Franny and Zooey or any of the Salinger "family" stories gives some perspective on what the filmmakers might have been going after. <

well that's good because it didn't help me at all. what was i doing while everybody was reading salinger, i don't understand it.

> But what's up with all the visual hyperbole? And heart -- was there anything in this movie that was so touching as, say, the Catcher in the Rye scene where Phoebe covers for Holden Caulfield when his cigarette smoke nearly gives away his secret return home? <

i really do think the design craziness was about separating the family's reality from ours, romanticizing the whole world, to be able to give them totally goofy personal histories and to make it hard for us to play judge on their somewhat oddball emotional geographies. no stage-real world and no convincing lies about emotional truth, it's all fake right from the get-go, so the family can be as ridiculously emotional or distant as they want, nothing is unusual.

maybe that answer the other question about the film's heart. the characters may have sucky lives (sorta) but the movie loves them, the writers loved them. even through the design scheme, the movie delivered to me a similar love glow about the characters, to what i got from love streams or the killing of a chinese bookie.

on the other hand i can't believe I'M saying but both of you are taking the movie too seriously! didn't you like how it looked? apart from purpose or form or anything, wasn't their house fun?

i have a feeling that people will look back at the royal tenenbaums in five years and be stunned at how it mixes satire with gushy romantic everything with kinda buddhist be-what-you-are.

no though, about looking for something a little softer to hold, all the softness in the movie is annotated. that could be nice -- instead of luke wilson and gwyneth paltrow having a tragic separation and perfect reunion, there was a mistake, it made everyone nuts, and then it was okay and blissful.
dpowers
post #8  on November 13, 2002 - 11:57 AM PST  
i wrote --

> i really do think the design craziness was about ... romanticizing the whole world ... to make it hard for us to play judge on their somewhat oddball emotional geographies. <

sort of like lola montes. there's something of peter ustinov's ringmaster in gene hackman's royal. no kindness though.
Kenyon
post #9  on November 15, 2002 - 2:51 PM PST  
> On November 13, 2002 - 11:57 AM PST DPOWERS wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> i wrote --
>
> > i really do think the design craziness was about ... romanticizing the whole world ... to make it hard for us to play judge on their somewhat oddball emotional geographies. <
>
> sort of like lola montes. there's something of peter ustinov's ringmaster in gene hackman's royal. no kindness though.
> ---------------------------------

Oh no! Don't compare TRT with one of my favorite eye-candy movies! Oh, alright, go ahead.

I am very impressed/overwhelmed with the high level of dialogue and commitment shown in your (esp. powers) responses. So, even though I don't "get" much of it - it sure sounds good. (My problem, of course, not yours.) Well - anyway - I'll just leave my review at "don't bother to rent the "bonus" disc, unless you are a slobbering fan of the film. what a waste of a rental slot!!"

listening and learning - kenyon
harrizonn
post #10  on January 20, 2003 - 9:45 AM PST  
> On November 11, 2002 - 9:44 PM PST Kenyon wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> (1) The Royal Tenenbaums. OK, I've watched it twice, and still don't think its anything other than pretentiously quirky. (I'm not sure why I'm embarrassed to admit that - but there it is.) Any help for this clueless gal? A whole bunch of you liked it a lot - so let me have it!
>
> signed,
> cowering
> ---------------------------------

i believe you have to see a Wes Anderson movie as if you're
watching a home movie... you love all the characters and there are lots of interesting little things that you think only you notice, but really the whole family understands them in the back of their heads.

and they're funny and beautifully shot with great music and costumes and sets.

i *heart* wes anderson

steven

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