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William Holden in Picnic

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« Beauty vs Beast: Defriended | Main | Milos Forman (1932-2018) »
Sunday
Apr152018

Isle of Dogs Goes Wide. 

What did you see this weekend? We'll skip the charts this week but let it be known that The Rock had another #1 opening weekend ($34 million for Rampage), horror hit A Quiet Place closed in on $100 million, and Isle of Dogs went wide in its 4th weekend and has a cumulative gross of $18 million. That means it's going to be about as succcessful as Fantastic Mr Fox and The Life Aquatic (i.e. his second tier successes) with his tier 1 biggest hits by a large margin being Grand Budapest Hotel, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Moonrise Kingdom

I've been a bit sad that the inventive delights and storytelling nuances of Isle of Dogs aren't being discussed as thoroughly as the film's take on Japan...

While some of the conversations about cultural appropriation have merit, one complaint I'm not jibing with revolves around the American exchange student Tracy (voiced perfectly by Greta Gerwig) as an example of the "white savior" trope. I have been annoyed by that trope enough times in the past to know that I can see it when it's there (in fact for years I was annoyed that other people couldn't see this common trope) but I never once got the sense that Wes Anderson views Tracy as the hero/protagonist or even as someone who we're meant to not find annoying. In some ways she can be read as a joke about loud entitled know-it-all Americans. The "savior," if we have to go to that loaded term, is clearly Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin), the Japanese boy who travels to the titular garbage dump to save his dog and inspires others to rise up. If you're open to different viewpoints and nuanced takes on the movie, Japanese journalist  is an absolute must-read. I love this particular point that she fully explores in her essay:

As I walked out of the theatre, Anderson’s decision not to subtitle the Japanese speakers struck me as a carefully considered artistic choice. “Isle of Dogs” is profoundly interested in the humor and fallibility of translation. This is established early, by the title card: “The humans in this film speak only in their native tongue (occasionally translated by bilingual interpreter, foreign exchange student, and electronic device). The dogs’ barks are translated into English.” From the start, Anderson points to the various and suspect ways in which translation occurs. Official Interpreter Nelson, voiced by Frances McDormand, works for the government, but her reliability is thrown into doubt when she starts inserting her own comments—“Holy Moses!”;“Boy, what a night!”—while on the job. In one scene, she’s casually replaced by a little boy. The simul-talk devices, meanwhile, are shown to be operated by shadowy men in white starched shirts. This is the beating heart of the film: there is no such thing as “true” translation. Everything is interpreted. Translation is malleable and implicated, always, by systems of power.

The whole article is fascinating and made me want to see the movie again immediately with new understandings of several of the Japanese elements that I didn't get as an American watching it. 

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Reader Comments (23)

Loved A Quiet Place. I liked the amazing craft of Isle of Dogs, but the story/characters never grabbed me.
I spent the week at a local film festival, so it was a pretty active week. I saw The Day After, which I mostly hated and Tully, which is really wonderful until a horrifically bad final 10 minutes. Also went to Support the Girls, which is really sweet and has a great performance by Regina Hall. I liked Godard Mon Amour a lot. First Reformed was not my kind of movie at all, so I'm pretty cold on that one. Oh, Lucy! was a lot of fun and I hope it gets a wider audience.

But, I want to give a big shout out to Good Manners, which somehow does not have American distribution yet, I think. It's (spoilers) a Brazilian Lesbian Werewolf Melodramatic Horror Musical. And it somehow works pretty well. Very much enjoyed it.

Also, I rewatched Paddington 2 and I can't imagine that leaving my top 10 at the end of the year.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

Decided to enjoy the nice weather Friday/Saturday instead of watching movies, but I ended up seeing Agnès Varda's FACES PLACES today and it was great.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Finally saw Love, Simon. Very difficult to get into because of the perfect family, perfect friends, perfect neighborhood “I’m just like you” hook. Also felt bad when Nick Robinson tried to dance. Nonetheless, very fun, warm movie with a pleasant ending. (And shout-out to the fully realized sister role/actress).

Very interesting take on Isles of Dogs which I’m still waiting to see. But to comment generally on discussions of appropriation: as you suggest, they are essential and so many people viscerally reject the concept that it happens and it matters. This fuels the desire to point out every time it happens to demonstrate that it is a ubiquitous problem. But it is always important to keep going in analysis: are depictions caricatures, do they paint a negative or distorted view of a group, does it support an overarching and racist theme of the movie, etc.

Things are understandably (unfortunately) polarized right now and I understand the anger behind “oh great another problematic depiction of a nation/gender/race” when so many people are feeling targeted for discrimination of violence. Films reflect our cultural values back at us. It’s important to engage with and acknowledge it, which the article you shared does well.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

They are trying to sell us Love Simon as every gay boy's story and quite frankly it's patronising,if i have to see one more male beauty fight with his emotions i'll explode,why not cast someone who is not stereotypically good looking,that's when gay men do struggle when they don't fit.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I saw Eli Roth's Death Wish.

And whilst it's not good, it is sly enough to avoid being a neo con wet dream.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

Just now, New Wave: Dare to Be Different about this little radio station in Long Island that made a small but important dent in the world of popular music in America.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I saw two outstanding movies this weekend, Thelma and Tea and Sympathy.

I was surprised by how much I loved Thelma, since I was left cold by Joachim Trier's prior two films. But it was the most original film I had seen in a long time, and it kept me guessing until the last scene. I am still thinking about how Thelma controls the people she interacts with in the film.

I really like Deborah Kerr; it's too bad so many of her films can be hard to find. Tea and Sympathy was a fascinating rumination on traditional masculinity in the '50s (I understand that it was toned down from its original source material, and I wonder if Minnelli made it because he related to the central character).

I also saw Venus, which seemed interminable because it was so uncomfortable to watch.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Saw Isle of Dogs for a second time and really loved it. I’ve never been this caught up in a Wes Anderson film or in a Bryan Cranston film performance but I thought both of them were super. So gorgeous and mannered without any of his tics getting in the way. I’ll be very happy if that stays in my Top 10.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

Caught the matinee of Isle of Dogs and loved it. It occurred to me while watching it I've never seen a Wes Anderson movie theatrically before.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I saw "Ready Player One" which I enjoyed for it's cultural references- but it kind of bothered me that there was no place for one Latino kid in it's band of heroes.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I saw Lean on Pete. This has a remakable performance by Charlie Plummer, but is definitely a heavy downer until the last ten minutes. The first part of the movie is great with Chloe Sevigny and Steve Buscemi at the horse race tracks, then it turns into a different movie. The young man Plummer is a great actor in the making.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

"Blockers" was big-hearted and character focused in a way that felt genuine, not studio-tooled. Would not be at all surprised if Kay Cannon has a "Terms of Endearment" style breakthrough in the near future.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I watched/not watched Isle of Dogs in our local cinema. Because of airline delays and a big academic conference in between, I slept though the film. So embarrassing to my friend who I invited to watch the film with me. He is not into Wes Anderson (although he liked Moonrise Kingdom) but he watched it all the way through and told me it was clever but it was not his thing. I need to see the film again obviously.

April 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

I saw Beyoncé’s Coachella performance which was probably one of the greatest shows if all time and a masterclass in black history and activism,

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

markgordonuk, thank you. thank you. thank you.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjig

I don't mean the film is bad,just the cutest guy in class as usual,what about the geeky black kid,the closeted jock,the goth,the over weight kid,hows it feel for them,who quite often don't have the looks or confidence that Simon obv has.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMARKGORDONUK

I always take a little nap during Wes Anderson movies. Good naps. The parts I saw of Isle of Dogs were good fun.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

Thanks for directing us to the New Yorker article about The Isle of Dogs. That was really interesting.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

jig & mark -- but have you guys ever seen movies? ;) i'm kidding but it's part of the movies since time began that actors tend to be really good looking and successful movies (and tv shows) tend to star good looking actors. so complaining that Simon is good looking seems defeatist. would people have bought tickets?

adri -- you're welcome. glad you liked it.

April 16, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Hasn't anyone at Simon's high school ever seen, or even heard of, Will & Grace? or RuPaul's Drag Race? And as for the Waffle House and Homecoming scenes, anyone who can make it through those scenes unscathed shoud donate their bodies to ShoeDazzle so their stomachs can be used for shoe leather.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Finally saw Molly's Game. WTF, Academy? Why wasn't Chastain nominated for BA? Plus, Idris Elba, who should basically be in everything.

Excited for my first trip to the Tribeca Film Festival the end of this week.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I totally agree with Nathaniel about the complains about Simon as too good looking- his parents are gorgeous, he lives in a picture perfect house- it's a movie- it's a feel good fantasy

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjaragon

Saw Born Yesterday and I think I actually understand how Holliday won Best Actress over Swanson and Davis, as perfect as they bother were. She was pretty genius.

April 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

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