Blind Spot 79: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

When it comes to director Wes Anderson’s work I’m a bit of an agnostic. Some of his films I really enjoy like his animated films, with The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom being my favorites. Then there are others which I am more lukewarm on like Rushmore and The French Dispatch. This month’s Blind Spot entry belongs in the latter with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It has some of Anderson’s quirky style but I mostly found it dull without an engaging story.

This film centers on Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) of the title who leads his eccentric group of explorers under the sea to film nature documentaries like a Jacques Cousteau type of character.

Included in the crew is Zissou’s estranged wife Eleanor (Anjelica Houston), his son Ned (Owen Wilson)  and a pregnant reporter covering the shoot named Jane (Cate Blanchett), among many other characters (Willem Dafoe, Jeff Golblum, Michael Gambon and more all have small roles on the ship).

For his latest documentary, Zissou is trying to hunt down a “jaguar shark” that killed his friend Esteban. Unfortunately, Anderson’s script meanders away from this central plot too often making it hard to stay invested. To be frank, I tried watching the film 3 times and each time found myself fighting sleep and I wasn’t that tired. The story just didn’t do it for me.

The production design of the ship is impressive and the cinematography by Robert Yeoman is full of whimsy but none of that matters if the story isn’t interesting. Same goes for the performances which are all well done.

I would recommend one of Anderson’s other films over this one like Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr Fox. Those have far better stories than this underwater tale.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

Blind Spot 77: Barry Lyndon

There’s always something intimidating about a Stanley Kubrick film. You know you aren’t going to get something run-of-the-mill or mainstream. It’s going to challenge me and be fresh and inventive. He’s an impressive director because he tackled so many different genres from comedy (Dr Strangelove) to scifi (2001: A Space Odyssey) to the film we are talking about for this blind spot choice Barry Lyndon– a historical period piece.

To be honest, as a big fan of period pieces I expected to like this film more than I did. I came away from it feeling it is handsomely mounted and well-made, but emotionally distant and bland.

I’m not saying Barry Lyndon is a bad movie. It just didn’t do a lot to excite me or draw me into the story. I think it is one of those classics I’m glad I’ve seen but can’t ever imagine watching again.

It tells the story of Barry Lyndon who is a rogue in 18th century England who fights in war and then woes a rich widow to take advantage of her social status and connections.

Barry Lyndon is over 3 hours which usually isn’t a problem for me with period pieces. I recently watched the 2006 Jane Eyre and the 1995 Pride and Prejudice which are both over 4 hours with enthusiasm. The problem was I just didn’t feel that attached to Barry or any of the other characters. Again, it wasn’t bad. Just not that engrossing or interesting.

I can see why it won Oscars for score, costumes, art direction and cinematography. All of that is exemplary and very well done. The acting is also excellent by Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, and more.

I appreciated the intermission, and I did enjoy the second half more than the first because war movies aren’t my favorite but again the characters and story left me flat. Someday they should do a movie from Lady Lyndon’s perspective because she is treated terribly by Barry and others. The narrator (Michael Hordern) sometimes gives us insight into her and other characters, but I could have used even more.

I had read Barry Lyndon is “one of the best and most influential films ever made” so maybe my expectations were too high? I guess I can see production-wise but the characters and story were nowhere near on that level in my opinion. If it’s a favorite of yours let me know why and what I missed.

6 out of 10

If you enjoy what I do please consider supporting at patreon where you can get tons of fun perks. https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies