(And, yes, they had a previously viewed video sale, so Steve jotted down several titles, which he will pick up when we drop these off.)
One of the movies we picked, then, was "Bottle Rocket." Steve actually had seen this before but hadn't enjoyed it. (I know that's not a striking recommendation for repeat viewing, but let me go on.) It's by Wes Anderson, the director of "Rushmore," which I loved. Having now seen "Rushmore" twice (my doing), plus the DVD commentary and behind-the-scenes interviews and documentaries, Steve understood more of what "Rushmore" was trying to do and wanted to see "Bottle Rocket" again to see if he understood it better, too. I wanted to see it because I hadn't before.
I do recommend that you watch "Rushmore" before "Bottle Rocket," even though chronologically they go the other way around. (They don't have anything to do with each other, plotwise or characterwise, so it doesn't matter.) Neither is very Hollywood-ish; Wes Anderson and his scriptwriting/acting friend, Owen Wilson, bring a quirky humor not as often laugh-out-loud as inherent in the characters' bumblings. "Rushmore"'s main character is 15 years old and doesn't do well academically and has problems fitting into his school and peer groups. That's completely understandable. "Bottle Rocket," on the other hand, deals with late-20s screwups with a penchant for crime (but no talent for it) -- not as immediately lovable. Steve says that when he first watched "Bottle Rocket," he knew the characters were idiots, but he wasn't sure the filmmakers knew. They do.
And that is what I enjoy about Anderson and Wilson's films. The characters are never black and white, so that you pity and admire them by turns or at the same time. By the end, even though you disagree with some of their choices, you like them. And, what's even more refreshing, they like each other. Just when you think there couldn't be a reconciliation, there is, and it's never hokey. Often funny, but believable, at least in their offbeat world. I've found life is nothing so dramatic as movies -- a sworn enemy in a movie is a monster, a demon; in real life, a sworn enemy is another loser human like me. Eventually, we usually realize that.
I also like that you never know what's going to happen next. Their movies follow no formulas. Despite the subject matter, this is no normal big-heist movie. And, in the realm of relationships, the friendships weave in and out of focus, just like in real life instead of in a typical buddy movie. It reminds me of the way a friendship trio I was in in college would regularly divide into 2 and 1. Sometimes I would be with one friend, sometimes with the other, and sometimes left out. That's just how life is, and "Bottle Rocket" refuses to simplify it.
This is not to say that "Bottle Rocket" is my new favorite movie. I just enjoy watching the untypical but still enjoyable. We watched the Wim Wenders "Wings of Desire" again recently (I had watched it in German class). The movie "City of Angels" is loosely based on it -- except "Wings of Desire" has pretty much no plot, is in three languages, switches thematically from black and white to color (but with less fanfare than "Wizard of Oz"), etc. "Wings of Desire" is a good movie, and it makes you feel artsy and intellectual to have seen it, and it's certainly unHollywood, but it's not fun to boot. That's what's nice about "Bottle Rocket." I'm excited to see what the Anderson-Wilson team comes up with next.