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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: Moonrise Kingdom



MOONRISE KINGDOM (Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo Pack) (Three and a Half  Stars)

U.S.: Wes Anderson, 2012 (Universal)

Once upon a lovely little time that we’ll never get back again and that most of us never knew, there was a boy “khaki scout” named Sam (played in the movie Moonrise Kingdom by Jared Gilman) and a choir girl named Suzy (played by Kara Hayward). And his scout troop and her choir were in separate camps or places on an island called Penzance. Sam and Suzy were young, no more than children really. But they behaved like adults — just as the adults around them behaved like children:  Ed Norton as the scoutmaster, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as the bemused Bishops, Bruce Willis as the careful local Sheriff, Captain Sharp, Harvey Keitel as Commander Billingsley, and Tilda Swinton as a mean woman improbably addressed as Social Services. There is also a Narrator played by Bob Balaban and he‘s the one who gets to say “Once Upon a Time“ or the equivalent.

Sam and Suzy were in love and they ran away, and made their own little world of tents and books out in the wilderness — as much wilderness as you can have on an island called Penzance that‘s imagined and photographed by director-writer  Wes Anderson and cinematographer Robert Yeoman, bathed in light and memory as if it were a huge, whimsical, beautiful toy.

But you can’t run away when you’re a middle-class child, at least not for long or too far. Fairly soon, the whole island is up in arms, searching for Sam and Suzy. Outside Penzance, the waters are getting stormier and wilder. A hurricane is brewing, and the music we hear — that Sam and Suzy heard when they fell in love — is Benjamin Britten’s “Naye‘s Fludd” (or “Noah‘s Flood.”) Is God angry? Or is it just time for a flood, or a fludd? “Moonrise Kingdom“ is what the runaway children call their little world, their happy little refuge. The movie is ours, for a while, if we want it to be.

Wes Anderson makes pictures that are like big beautiful whimsical toys, few more than this. He and his co-writer, Roman Coppola (son of Francis) swim out into a dream and a storm, and they wave to us. The children behave like….grownups. The grownups behave like children. (I said that.) The music flows over us — not just Britten‘s music, but Mozart, Schubert, Saint-Saens, Hank Williams. Hank, who also died young, like Mozart and Schubert. (“Jamabalaya Kleine Nachtmusik?”)

This is a movie that, it must be admitted, will probably mystify the average viewer. But what’s wrong with being mystified? What’s blessed about being an average viewer? This is also one of the best Amereican films of the year, even if it’s a little odd. (What’s wrong with being odd?) Anderson’s toy is its own little world, and vice versa. As we watch it, we’re children again, briefly. Look for the horizon. Walk through the forest. Feel the sun.  Hear the thunder. Wait for the flood…

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon