"THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU"
AN ODDBALL-COMEDY IF THERE EVER WAS ONE
Cast & Creators:
Wes Anderson .... Writer & Director
Noah Baumbach.... Writer
Bill Murray .... Steve Zissou
Owen Wilson .... Ned Plimpton
Cate Blanchett .... Jane Winslett-Richardson
Anjelica Huston .... Eleanor Zissou
Willem Dafoe .... Klaus Daimler
Jeff Goldblum .... Alistair Hennessey
Michael Gambon.... Oseary Drakoulias
Noah Taylor .... Vladimir Wolodarsky
Bud Cort .... Bill Ubell
Seu Jorge .... Pelé dos Santos
Robyn Cohen .... Anne-Marie Sakowitz
Waris Ahluwalia .... Vikram Ray
Niels Koizumi .... Bobby Ogata
Pawel Wdowczak.... Renzo Pietro
Matthew Gray Gubler.... Intern #1
A BUD CORT MOVIE!!! A BUD CORT MOVIE!!!
Hold still: I'm going to coin a term, here, I think. It'll only hurt for a minute... Just a sec... Wait... Hold STILL! There! That's got it! "Oddball- Comedy." There, now that wasn't so bad, was it? "Oddball- Comedies" have always existed, just like "Screwball- Comedies," or "Film- noir." Labelling doesn't really help you or the film, except when you're coming up dry at the video store.
Screwball- Comedies were, of course those delightful films by guys like Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Preston Sturges, featuring very young, very lovely, very kooky ladies, like Katherine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert and Myrna Loy, alongside up- and- coming young leading men like Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart and sly older guys like William Powell and Spencer Tracy, made in the mid- Thirties through the mid- Fifties, with a few others here and there.
The best are films like "Bringing Up Baby," "The Philadelphia Story" and "Sullivan's Travels". They're generally pretty sexy, within the absurd constraints of the time, with the erotic payoff always off- screen, and usually after the end of the film, by implication. You had to have more imagination, to get a nut, in those days...
Oddball- Comedies, by contrast, are those focusing more on the male lead, who is always a borderline personality, though you'd hardly notice it, with all the other weirdo's in these films, including some actual psycho's. Bud Cort was the uncrowned, but undisputed king of these films, beginning in the late 60's, until they sputtered out in the early 80's, with a few odd odd ones here and there in other decades.
"Harold And Maude," is the gem of the genre, and the prototype for a whole new type of comedy in American films, one scratched at by Hollywood fliks such as "A Thousand Clowns," and "Harvey," but really only ever achieved by those pix with a genuine Indy feel, even if made by a big studio. "Brewster McCloud" was another gem, starring Bud Cort. They pretty much defined "Cult- Classic," too. Don't know if any of them ever made any money.
The no- dough thing may be due to some of the best things about my little oddball comedies: They're small, usally low- budget flicks; featuring unknown or rebellious directors, frequently writing their own scripts; unknown and usually odd- looking actors, many of whom went on to, well, nothing; and a very dark, OK, lets say it, BLACK humour that frightens off a lot of dummies.
Dummies hate to think. It scares them. They love to see hot chix eviscerated in teen- screamers like "Halloween," but throw in a sardonic twist, a bit of social commentary, and an actual, written screenplay, heavy on the dialogue, and whoa, dude, too much! And so it goes, direct to video, these days, thank Gawd.
Cuz now you can discover what I grew up munching popcorn on, in the dingy cinematheques of New York City, circa 1970+. As a young, alienated punk kid, these movies spoke directly to me. When I see them now, as a broken- down old fart, I feel... REALLY OLD!!! HOLY SHIT BUD CORT LOOKS AWFUL!!! I have to get up in the middle of the film to go look in the bathroom mirror, just to see if I look THAT bad. I do.
I go back to my seat and there is my old, weird friend Bud, underneath that old, weird face, showing every line from his horrible car accident that pretty much squelched his non- career at its' non- height, and all the reconstructive surgeries since, plastered all over a fifty- foot silver screen. And I see the original spirit of a real original, brimming with the same insane joy in the pain and stupidity of life as poor old Brewster and Harold, strange young kids just thirty odd incredibly short, painful, stupid years ago. And it is good.
As good as finding an obscure, tiny old toy, a remembrance of lost Christmas, stuck in a box or a bin, as precious as memory itself. Better than some damned old girl named Madeleine. Every time Bud appears on the screen in this film, I feel the weight of thirty years lifted off my heart, and I am as young as he was, as I remember him, as he is, withal, even today, and as I am, too. So I go get some jujubes.
One, or two, things about Oddball- Comedies: They're not violent: Though they may deal with violence, they explicitly reject, and mock Hollywood's formulaic violence, where waving a gun solves all your problems. And sex, well, the Oddballs rarely get laid. But that's how it is in real life, right? And that is the ethic of these films: Odd, but Real.
Not everybody is beautiful, or strong, wise, brave, lucky or even properly recognized for their deeds. As in real life, Oddballs just keep plugging away. But they are heroic in that they stubbornly cling to their oddness, no matter what: Something most of us only wish we had the courage to do, instead of conforming to an utterly false "norm," which oppresses us all. Worse than shoes, even...
Oh, yeah, the other thing: They're not gratuitously gross, or mean- spirited, or deliberately "politically- incorrect," like Farrelly films, for example: Oddballs are by nature gentle things, with a razor's edge. They're adult, intellectual comedies, not mindless, adolescent goofs. And the writers and directors share, or admire, or have genuine and respectful curiosity for their characters.
They're not made out to be grotesques, or idiots, or sicko's, as in John Waters' execrable trash. The film- makers don't mock their Oddballs, or condescend to them, or distance them: They inhabit them. They make us see their odd reality. It's just damned good honest story- telling. Like Homer and his Oddballs, or Chaucer and his, or Melville and Moby. A whale of a tale! Yo- ho- ho!
Oh, yeah, they create an absurd, magical, beautiful undersea world in this movie, as you might hope, from the title. And the music is really good, as in most of these Oddball films: David Bowie, Iggie Pop, Brazilian, some digital stuff. The sound and special effects are unusually good for an Oddball. So, Hollywood's good for something. I guess.
I'd like to thank the Academy, or, wait, fuck the Academy... I'd like to thank the writers and the director and the casting director of this film, Douglas Aibel, for stitching together the bleak 1970's and the, lets face it, even bleaker 2000's, via Bud Cort. It's a reminder of the eternal oddness of the so- called Human Spirit, and the choke it gives each and every one of us every time we actually, fully experience something. Aw, fuck, just go see this movie. And all of Bud Cort's films. And all of the writer/ director's films
Why? WHY?? BECAUSE I SAID SO, GODDAMMIT!!! Respect yer elders, ya little PUKE!
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