Guest Post – The Magnificent Andersons: Paul Thomas vs Wes

Let’s be honest: 2012 has not been that good of a year for the movies.  True, the year isn’t over yet, and the end of the calendar year is typically littered with the films that studios are looking to win Oscars with.  But as of now, the year has been terribly underwhelming.  Sure The Avengers was a lot of fun, but it honestly wasn’t much better than any other Marvel Comics film.  Beasts of the Southern Wild is a solid Sundance film that got far too much hype out of that festival.  Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was good, but it was also little more than a retread of his own film from thirty years ago, Alien.  Even one of my favorite films of the year so far, The Dark Knight Rises, simply pales in comparison to its predecessor.  However, there are two films that have been released this year that stand tall among the rest.  Both were made by innovative auteurs.  Both of those auteurs made their breakthrough in the 90s.  Both auteurs have been praised for their droll sense of humor.  Both auteurs have been praised for their utilization of popular music in their films.  And oddly enough, both auteurs have the same last name.  Those auteurs are Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson, and their films are The Master and Moonrise Kingdom, respectively.

While those films may not be the absolute best films of either director’s career, they serve as reminders that the Andersons are at the forefront of American cinema.  The Master picks up where PTA left off with his 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood.  It’s a gorgeously filmed and expertly performed epic about the American relationship between commerce and religion.  Moonrise Kingdom is a return to live action for Wes, after his hilarious venture into Claymation with his loving adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Whereas PTA’s recent films have been bleak, Moonrise Kingdom is a touching love story about two runaway kids that highlights his eccentric humor and his stylistic quirks.

Frankly, the two directors are very far apart, at least when it comes to visual style.  And while PTA is known for injecting humor into his films, they are unmistakably dramas that touch on subjects ranging from human avarice to drug addiction (Punch-Drunk Love aside).  Wes Anderson’s films are tragicomedies, films that maintain a morose sense of humor, typically set against the backdrop of a neurotic/broken family.  So while their films are largely different, the two men have some striking similarities apart from their surname.

In 1996, both Paul Thomas and Wes released their debut features, Hard Eight and Bottle Rocket, respectively.  For Hard Eight, PTA expanded on a subplot he used in his 1993 short film Cigarettes & Coffee.  He was allowed to do this after that short became a Sundance sensation, and investors at the Sundance lab gave him enough to make a feature.  In 1994, Wes Anderson directed a short named Bottle Rocket.  Academy Award winning director James L. Brooks saw it, and found Anderson the financing to expand his short.  Both Hard Eight and Bottle Rocket were met with positive, if unspectacular reviews.  It wasn’t until their second films, Boogie Nights and Rushmore, that the filmmakers received the acclaim they are now used to.

Since then, both directors have received Academy Award nominations (although PTA has three more).  They also have both been called the next Martin Scorsese by a man that would have some authority on the matter: Martin Scorsese.  Both Paul Thomas and Wes would be the first men to admit the influence that the great Scorsese has had on them.  Boogie Nights at times feels like the collaborative film Robert Altman and Scorsese never made, while Wes frequently employs the use of Rolling Stones songs in his films (sound familiar?).  Paul Thomas is well known for his use of music in film as well.  In fact, PTA and Wes mailed each other back and forth on ideas for songs that could be used in Wes Anderson’s most iconic film The Royal Tenenbaums.  This is the only time the two are known to have collaborated.

As far as American directors are concerned, Scorsese had quite a few extraordinary directors that he could have picked from as a standard bearer for the new generation of American auteurs.  Darren Aronofsky, Alexander Payne and Quentin Tarantino would all certainly qualify.  But for many film enthusiasts, the Andersons represent the cream of the crop.

About the author: Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast and owner of www.movieroomreviews.com and writer of movie reviews. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.

If anyone would like to be featured as a Guest Post, just give me a yell!

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12 thoughts on “Guest Post – The Magnificent Andersons: Paul Thomas vs Wes

  1. ckckred says:

    Both directors are two of the best working today. Yeah, I agree that 2012 hasn’t been a very good year for movies so far.

  2. Hunter says:

    I’ve liked most of the films I’ve seen this year….(the main exception being Flight. Did NOT like that). The only one I’ve seen that you’ve mentioned is The Master, though. I think it’s the best so far.

  3. mikes75 says:

    It’s odd to say seeing as how it’s almost December, but I think it’s early to write off 2012. Along with The Master and Moonrise Kingdom, there was Argo, Amour, and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, just to name three additional ones.

  4. Jason Capri says:

    I’ve seen less than in previous years, which means there was surely a lot of crap that I just didn’t want to see… but man, there are/were some good movies this year. In addition to the two you mentioned I have seen and enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, Argo, Seven Psychopaths, Looper, The Grey, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And there is still some good stuff coming. I think that 2012 will go down as a quite good year.

  5. Awesome post and great analysis. Love both Andersons; different styles but very talented men.

  6. Both of these are great at what they do, I am more a PTA fan than a WA fan though. I just dont really enjoy the hipster chic… Getting old.

  7. zackmandell says:

    Thanks so much for your comments. @Scott Lawlor: I agree. PTA’s films are efforts that come across as much more “serious” film making, even though there is plenty of thematic overlap between him and WA. Tonally, their films are pretty much diametrically opposed, which works more in the favor of PTA. I am also tired of “hipster chic” in pop culture at large, and WA is certainly guilty of propagating that phenomenon, but his talent as an auteur transcends the bearded, thrift-store t-shirt wearing, vegan/freegan, Mother Jones subscribing, uber-chic, Derrida-quoting, anti-establishment, hipsters who have so fervently adopted Wes Anderson as their flag bearer. I think that WA is more of a victim of this forced adoption than a proprietor of said hipster ideals, but that could be another article entirely. Thanks again and I appreciate the discourse!

  8. zackmandell says:

    Also, 2012 is not over yet, but I am a little skeptical of the Oscar bait movies that are yet to be released. I’m wary of D’jango Unchained. I hope it lives up to the hype!

  9. ruth says:

    Well I’m sure glad Paul W.S. Anderson isn’t included, ahah. I’m not familiar with Paul Thomas’ work yet, and have only seen a few of Wes’ work but I really like Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. I should give Magnolia a try one of these days, a bit curious about that film and Cruise’s performance, and The Master as well.

    • zackmandell says:

      @Ruth: Yes! WS Anderson is a different beast altogether… You will probably like “Magnolia.” It’s a darn strange film and it has one of Tom Cruise’s best and most unique performances do date. Great work of film making all around. Thanks for reading!

      • ruth says:

        Yes, a different beast as in ‘hack’ ha..ha.. I will definitely give Magnolia and a few of PT’s work a try. That’s the thing with films, there’s always a filmmaker one would ‘discover.’ I’ll see if after seeing that one I want to venture to his other work. Thanks Zack.

  10. zackmandell says:

    oh yeah, there are always going to be fun and interesting film makers to discover. Yeah, WS is a pretty big hack, but it’s amazing that he still makes so much money doing it. I don’t know if that says more about the filmgoing public than it does for his film making skills, haha. Hopefully you will enjoy PT’s other work!

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