Monday, December 7, 2009

The Fantastic Misters

Over at the Fug Nation HQ, the girls have been dilligently monitoring George Clooney's progress from smirking, terrible Batman to fox. How apropos that the Cloons, who is known by the people who know these things, as a foxy kind of guy, is now playing a real fox. Even better, he's doing it in a Wes Anderson-directed adaptation of Roald Dahl's book The Fantastic Mr. Fox, thus bringing together three of my favourite pop-culture creating men. Clooney, Anderson, Dahl: The CAD! Wait, that sounds weird. We'll figure out their sassy acronym later.

Let's take them one at a time, shall we? Clooney, being the biggest star for the older-than-twelve set (Dahl being the biggest star in the under-twelve set, of course), used to annoy the living daylights out of me. Remember when ER was huge and George Clooney was starring in those dippy romantic comedies that aren't really all that funny? Yeah, that was annoying, wasn't it? Right around the time of Three Kings, though, something switched. El Clooneria has made an interesting late-career choice to go funny and political, and that movie was the first flick of his that won me over. Since then, he's gone on to star in several Coen productions - generally a win, in my books - and usually plays disgruntled soldiers, bank robbers, or other unsavories. In fact, looking over Clooney's resume since the mid-'90s, there have been few straight shooters; he loves a loopy morality. Maybe playing Batman did something to him after all.

Wes Anderson can also be sort of a hit-or-miss enterprise. His films are generally precious, sometimes working and sometimes not so much. I loved The Royal Tenenbaums, because it's required by law for people under thirty to love it and identify fiercely with one or more of it's characters. (I'm a Margot, thanks for asking, although I aspire to one day be an Etheline.) Same with Rushmore, which perfectly captured the insecurities and arrogance of high school love. Some of Anderson's later works have been...uneven, especially the oddly paced and highly affected Life Aquatic, which wasn't all that good. But I do admire his aesthetic sense, because everything onscreen seems to have a story. His liveliest movies are practically three-dimensional; his flimsiest can barely muster one.

And then we have Roald Dahl. I'll be honest - those illustrations used to scare the crap out of me. Especially those for The Witches, which I read on vacation (in a cottage with strange closets) and which terrified me. His books balance whimsy with sheer pant-shitting scariness, often with bright children fighting off awful adults. I read a piece in the Globe recently about how Dahl wooed children's imaginations by writing about their suspicions that adults are nothing more than overgrown, beastly children, more like than not imbued with power and strength they use only for evil. As a current adult, it's not a flattering portrait, but hey - he called 'em like he see'd 'em. The best adults in Dahl's worlds are crafty, caring and educational: they teach their young charges that the world is going to try to mess with them, and the best ways to mess with the world right back.

So. To combine these three incandescent people into one project, the recently-released Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is plus animation and a lovely warm colour scheme, and which is a children's movie, which I also enjoy (yeah, I know), and those whole thing just seems ripe with the fruits of potential amazingness. I'm not going to oversell it to myself - I learned my lesson with the heartbreakingly mediocre Life Aquatic, thanks - but I do want to see it. Movies that inspire, books that move mountains, children who grow up to be George's a serious case of the warm 'n' fuzzies over here.


  1. Have you seen Fantastic Mr. Fox? It's like the hip, bookish 20-something's duty to want to see this film. I'm almost embarassed to admit that I'm kind of over Wes.

  2. I'm not sure I'm over W. And (smirk), but I have to admit an especial fondness for animated childrens movies. Chicken Run might be for kids, but it totally rules.

  3. Maybe I'm just over that whole twee cinema aesthetic. I hated 'Where the Wild Things Are.'

  4. I didn't even want to see that one. Mostly because I only want classics, not (excellent word, bee tee dubs) twee aesthetics and fake divorce stories, which, apparently, that was.