“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the first real awards-contender of 2014. It received a warm 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am devoted fan of Wes Anderson. A statement made recently caught my attention. “Quentin Tarantino is a hack because he copies himself, Wes Anderson is a hack because he copies himself.”
At the time my rebuttal was weak and I was not as prepared for that statement as I am now sitting here writing this post. I understand why someone would make that statement, but I have to disagree. The statement is an irrational generalization. Filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino will always have their detractors. The same way people out there will always argue that Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick were overrated.
If you buy a ticket to a Tarantino film at this point you kind of know what to expect. You’re not getting conformity with directors like Tarantino or Anderson, but you can’t just put these two filmmakers on trial.
I had to ask this person what he meant by copying? Does he mean that Wes Anderson copies his own style or substance? From his explanation it sounded like both. Every Wes Anderson film will fall under similar categories: Drama/Comedy. Every Quentin Tarantino movie can fit the bill of action/comedy. Another person you can give this description to is arguably the greatest filmmaker of all time – Alfred Hitchcock who rarely strayed away from suspense.
What about substance? Would you say that all of Tarantino’s film share the same morals? You can yield some strong comparisons between his films. What about Wes Anderson? Same situation. Every Wes Anderson film is about a controlling character accepting that he can’t always control everything (paraphrased from “The Wes Anderson Collection” by Matt Zoeller).
I didn’t really think this guy was making the statement about either. Because apart from style and substance there is execution or how the story is told. “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglourious Basterds” are different stories with the same style, substance, and execution.
I about flipped when this guy said that David O. Russell is one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers because all of his films are different, but he was right. “American Hustle,” “The Fighter,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” can all be described as a tragedy masked over as a comedy, but they are about entirely different situations.
Another person in the room said that “What makes a director great is their ability to be different.” Citing Martin Scorsese and how he was able to go outside of the gangster genre to bring us “Shutter Island” and “Hugo.”
Every single one of these directors mentioned so far have their gimmicks. Every single film today is taking inspiration from every single film made before it. But let’s talk personally – David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese all these great filmmakers didn’t just fall into that category. They learned where their talents were from film-to-film and they used that knowledge of what works to fuel a new story.
It’d be a weird statement to make saying that “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” are alike. Yes they use the same scripting techniques and production techniques, but they are two completely different stories conveying a similar moral.
“The Royal Tenenbaums” is about Gene Hackman’s character learning to accept that he can’t always control fate. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is about Mr. Fox learning to accept that he can’t always control fate. Does this make “Fantastic Mr. Fox” bad? Not at all.
It is a myth to say that hearing a moral for a second time is a bad thing. As human beings we all emotionally attach ourselves to specific works of art, this all ties in psychologically to our fears, our regrets, everything about ourselves. Through all the style and execution someone may not be able to grasp the moral to “The Royal Tenenbaums” but they may able able to see it with “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
The aforementioned statement in the first paragraph is incorrect. It’s always refreshing to see filmmakers tackle a new genre or a new subject. What has made Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino so popular is that through artistic expression they have tapped into an audience. Who knows how a Quentin Tarantino romance would turn out or a Wes Anderson superhero film. One thing for certain though is that those filmmakers would take what they have learned from their previous successes and build upon that.
You can say that all filmmakers emulate themselves. Spielberg, Hitchcock, Capra, Scorsese, Kubrick, Joel/Ethan Coen – you could spend hours comparing scenes and visuals from their filmographies.
All art is subjective. Some pieces connect more than others. Directors will keep emulating what works, not just from themselves but from the other great films of the last century. As long as their is an audience for it, these films will keep being produced.