When Wes Anderson released his 1998 sophomore feature “Rushmore” to almost universal acclaim, it was clear that the seeds of his now-trademark style had not yet fully blossomed. Yet they had certainly been planted: the perfectly symmetrical frames, meticulous color schemes and abundant doses of melancholia and deadpan humor all began to take root in Anderson’s quietly mesmerizing film, a funny and evocative look at young manhood and the perils of idealism. This was a decided point of contrast from his more naturalistic debut film “Bottle Rocket,” a picture every bit the equal of “Rushmore” in its own humble way. Anderson’s particular style of filmmaking would extend to polarizing extremes in his next few features, most notably his “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” which has grown in stature and emotional resonance since its 2004 release to become perhaps the director’s most overlooked film.
But one could argue “Rushmore” is really where it all began. It is impossible to understate the impact that Anderson’s serious human comedy had on a certain contingent of indie culture-inclined youths upon its initial release. It’s also tough to deny that this is one of the Texas auteur’s most enduring and emotionally affecting pictures: there are scenes we remember for their droll, loopy comic rhythms, as well as isolated moments that are stunning in their blunt cruelty. Max Fischer, the film’s restless protagonist, was lovable because he dabbled in every possible extracurricular activity (even beekeeping!) while still failing hopelessly in his academic pursuits. One of Max’s most revealing traits was his propensity for writing and producing stage plays (Anderson reportedly performed a great many small-stage productions himself at St. John’s, the prep school that served as the real-life inspiration for Rushmore Academy). Max’s adaptation of “Serpico” is something to behold, and his wild variation of the “Apocalypse Now/Platoon” war story helps to bring the story’s many moving pieces together in glorious harmony towards the film’s climax.
And now, unearthed from the treasure trove of pop culture that was MTV in the late 90’s, comes an MTV spot directed by Anderson, where he and his co-conspirator Jason Schwartzman lovingly lampoon other big flicks from that year.
The four-minute clip was created for that year’s MTV Movie Awards and features a lot of the old “Rushmore” gang. This includes Max’s young gofer Dirk Calloway, his sort-of love interest Margaret Yang and that knife-happy Scottish brute Magnus (sadly, Brian Cox’s Dr. Guggenheim is not featured). Anderson devotees will delightedly note that their hero’s signature mise-en-scene was more or less fully developed by this time. Still, it’s always interesting to see Anderson’s impossible-to-imitate method applied to different genres. We particularly dig Anderson’s nifty and characteristically cute take on that year’s noisiest, most explosion-heavy flick, Michael Bay’s “Armageddon” —especially considering the “The Grand Budapest Hotel” director has gone on record saying he admires Bay’s gift for directing action. Makes you wonder what his take on “Bad Boys II” would look like.
Check out the whole four-minute cut below. [via The Directors Series]