Review of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom

When it comes to director allegiances, most artists I know will put Wes Anderson on their lists — he’s certainly on ours! Jeremy and I were eager to see his latest, “Moonrise Kingdom,” and we were even willing to shell out $20 to see it in the theater — with popcorn in our laps! (We typically wait to see movies until they come to the library, Redbox, Netflix, or our local cheap-o dollar theater.)

You probably already know the story: 12-year-old orphan Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), reared in the foster care system, falls in first love with 12-year-old Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) on an island off the coast of New England in 1964 during a “Khaki scout” camp. They write letters to each other all year and plan to run away together the next summer when Sam’s back at camp — which is where the film picks up. The rest of the movie involves the couple running away, exploring first love, and being chased by a crew of khaki scouts, the girl’s parents, local police, and social services, with a climax on the top of the spire of a church during a hurricane (a bit of drama for your buck).

As in all Anderson’s films, the cinematography is gorgeous (interesting lens filters and colors, angles, and settings). His characters are dynamic — in every scene, ALL of Anderson’s characters have motivations, desires, and obvious back stories. His writing shows without telling, and the dialogue says nothing more and nothing less than is needed.

Oh yes, and just like every single story he has every made, “Moonrise Kingdom” includes eccentric, dysfunctional family relationships. His characters are true misfits, sometimes painfully so. (Sam is called “emotionally troubled” and has bounced around from foster family to foster family because of his antics, while we see Suzy shoot one of the khaki scouts with a bow and arrow and, in an earlier scene, fight a classmate in the middle of a lecture.)

Sam and Suzy display more self-knowledge than any of the adult characters, however — they are the grown-ups and the grown-ups are the children. They pursue love in spite of family opposition while Suzy’s parents struggle in a marriage without love (it might not help that Suzy’s mother is having an affair with the local police officer).

Yet one of the charming features of this film is watching Sam and Suzy’s puppy love unfold. Even Jeremy found his heart warmed by the loyalty Sam and Suzy display toward each other throughout the drama of their running away (ending with their spur-of-the-moment wedding in a khaki scout chapel by a rogue khaki scout leader played by Jason Schwartzman).

[THIS NEXT PART IS A BIT OF A SPOILER]
And while all these things make the film enjoyable, we did find one element, as believers, that troubled us. Watching two young lovers read library books together at a camp fire and hike across an island as they are being chased by khaki scouts and parents at every turn is truly endearing.

However, there are a few highly suggestive scenes during the time when Sam and Suzy camp together that made us uncomfortable. You saw part of this scene in the previews — Sam and Suzy strip down to their underwear to swim in the ocean. After that, they dance on the beach (still in their underwear), and you cannot help but smile. Then they move closer and kiss, and Suzy notices Sam’s erection and mentions it, saying she doesn’t mind. Then, in the next scene, they are waking up inside their tent to a helicopter and angry mob of pursuers on the beach — and they are lying in the same sleeping bag together, still in their underwear.

Now, initially, Jeremy and I saw this part in different ways. I imagined that nothing happened — they simply slept close to each other in their underwear. It was a (mostly) innocent interpretation. Jeremy, though, assumed that they had sex.

“If the adults in Wes Anderson’s films are children and the children act as adults,” Jeremy said, “then I think it would be safe to assume that they DID have sex. If we saw two adults act out the same scene on the beach and then we saw them wake up together in the same tent, we would assume they had sex.” Point made.

Furthermore, we were concerned with the medium of film portraying this adolescent sexual exploration. Yes, every person goes through a sexual awakening around the age of twelve, and most adolescents explore. The scene is honest in that respect. But is film the best medium to show this? With child pornography as rampant (and as evil) as it is, and without being able to choose the viewers of this movie, are these scenes at all exploitative? We can assume that Anderson did not have this purpose in mind when shooting these scenes, however, we cannot assume that every watcher will view these scenes as innocently as we viewed them.

Our view is, why contribute to the problem in any way? Why even walk the line? There is no need to add anything else to the pornographic imagination. We would prefer if Anderson had either made it more vague or just stuck with the truer puppy love feeling we think he wanted to portray in this movie in the first place.

[SPOILER OVER]

All in all, we found the movie to be funny, engaging, and interesting. In all of his movies, Anderson seems to ask the most basic question: if all our relationships are dysfunctional, are relationships worth pursuing at all? Unlike a director like Woody Allen, who would say that because relationships do not work, we should chuck them and live alone, Anderson continues to say that we need each other. We need relationships, and we need them in spite of (and perhaps because of) how messed up we are. Obviously he has not given up hope that relationships are worth it, even if he cannot put his finger on exactly why.

We find this so redemptive! Personally, we would say it like this, Wes: we are sinners. We are all messed up, and so our relationships with each other are messed up. We cannot help but hurt each other. But Jesus came so that we could experience freedom and forgiveness from our sin, and so that we could live in redeemed relationship with each other (by the power of his Spirit — we’ll explain that more later, Wes). We think relationship is possible only through Jesus, and that’s the answer you’re looking for.

…We are praying Wes Anderson finds his answer soon! In the meantime, see “Moonrise Kingdom” and rejoice in the redemption that can be found in it.

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An Arts Revolution & the Documentary “Press Pause Play”

We all know that technology has changed things. New technologies have changed how we cook, how we heat our houses, how we make clothing, how we grow vegetables, and even how we go to the bathroom.

But this recent influx of technological changes in our global culture has been unique. We are connected to people thousands of miles away from us through the Internet, people who we might never have met, and we can stay connected to them at a lower cost than ever before. In the last seven days, this humble blog has gotten hits from 22 different countries around the world. (Actually my brain started smoking when I thought about that fact too hard.)

In the past ten years, arts technologies have also taken major leaps forward. It used to be far too expensive for an ordinary person to own a professional quality camera; today, most people can take HD video and photos on their phones. It used to be too complicated for anyone outside the industries to use graphic design or movie editing programs; today, they are cheaper and simpler, and they’re taught as high school electives. Musicians had to go to a studio in order to record and produce tapes and CDs that sounded professional; today, anyone can record and mix an EP in a home studio.

Of course with technological change comes cultural change. As technologies become cheaper, easier to use, and more widespread, the number of artists experimenting with the new technologies grows. The arts have experienced a democratization. Anyone can do it, right? Just look at Etsy: anyone with a paint brush and yarn are now able to sell their paintings and scarves online.

But the question remains: does more art mean better art? The documentry that we’re featuring today, “Press Pause Play,” asks this question. Both Jeremy and I found it fascinating and it provoked a lot of discussion for us about what makes art ART (if you know what we mean), and also how this new cultural movement allows for truly good artists to rise to the top, as mastery of craft and focus on one medium becomes more important in distinguishing true art from mere experimentation (we hope).

The whole documentary is online at Vimeo, and features interviews and commentary from such notable people as Moby and Seth Godin. We hope it makes you think. You can also download the film for free here. They have a Paypal “donate” button and I’m sure they would appreciate a few bucks if you download the film.

Our A to Z Artistic Inspiration

At the start of every new year comes a fresh start, and as practicing artists, we need to take advantage of it!

Resolve to muster your courage and try something new. Or submit your work to a contest or magazine. Or just keep trudging along in writing that manuscript. (Are these examples hitting close to home for anyone else or just me?) And if you have no resolve to keep creating, read this excellent article by Kendall Ruth, published on The Curator entitled “Listening Past Writer’s Block” (don’t worry, it does apply to other mediums as well)

To push you along, here’s part 2 to our earlier inspiration post. From A to Z, here are some of our favorite ways to stay inspired in our art and some of the things and people who inspire us most.

A to Z Inspiration

 Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

This is THE BEST book we know of that will help stuck and fearful artists move forward. The only thing it lacks is the gospel, but its depth astounds us. Five stars and two thumbs up!

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Bake Something New

The idea is to try a new recipe, which will hopefully be a flaming success (so to speak), which will give you confidence (and snacks) to try something new artistically. Try baking bread from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day (one of Liz’s favorite cookbooks!).

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Critiques

When was the last time another artist (particularly one in your medium) critiqued your work? Critique is essential for the growing artist. If you want to create your best work, you need to seek out other artists who can give you honest feedback about your art.
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DesignSponge

Get inspired to make your house a work of art by checking out DesignSponge‘s daily design and DIY posts.
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Eavesdrop

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote The Great Gatsby, was famous for eavesdropping. He’d sit behind couples on a train and write down their conversation verbatim to study what makes good dialogue (and it’s possible their words would end up in the mouths of his characters). You never know what you might overhear that would give you an idea for a new direction on a project.

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Host a Film Night

Popcorn, friends, and a thoughtful movie are all you need to have a great discussion at the end of the night. Consider seeing “Tree of Life” (at Redbox), “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (in select theaters), or an old classic like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” or Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator.

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Get out and About

Everyone needs a change of scenery. Take a sketchbook to the park or your computer to a coffee shop. Or just go for a walk in your neighborhood — the fresh air and exercise will do your right brain cells good.

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Go to a House Concert (or play one!)

This recent trend of house concerts is a lot of fun. Musicians get an intimate stage and the chance to connect with fans more personally. Plus the publicity they get is authentic and relationally-based — the best kind of marketing. Local to Colorado Springs, Fuel Friends music blog hosts house concerts with musicians like David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) and Joe Pug.

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Invest in your Art

How you spend your money tells you what you value. Is your art worth spending money on, in your mind? That should tell you how important you feel your art is. Treat yourself this January, and stop by Dick Blick or Hobby Lobby and pick up a new set of pens and brushes or just go ahead and buy that letterpress set with your Christmas money. Maybe buying a new desk is in order, or a new chair, one you want to sit in. Investing in good supplies makes you want to make art with them and helps you (and others in your life) place value in your art-making.

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Keep Junk out of your Workspace

Unless you’re a found-object artist, you have no excuse for keeping junk in your art-making space. Do NOT pile bills, books, dishes or anything else on the desk you use for writing or painting. If you designate a clutter-free space for you to work on your art, and you’re more likely to sit down and get to work

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Kill Perfectionism!!

Can you tell we struggle with this? Perfectionism kills artists. It keeps you from being able to keep producing lots of work because you are afraid you won’t produce your BEST work. So pull out your ninja sword, and let this monster die a quick death… daily.

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Listen and Subscribe to Podcasts

We love podcasts because they fill otherwise empty, brainless time (for example, when Jeremy’s searching for the perfect iStock image or when Liz is chopping vegetables or folding laundry). Our favorites include The Moth (live storytelling), the Acts 29 Network (a Christian church planting network), Car Talk (hilarious car advice on NPR), and the New Yorker’s Fiction readings (authors reading short stories).

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Collaborate Across Mediums

Seriously, this is so encouraging for us. When we get stuck, it helps to have someone else speaking into your work, owning your work as half theirs. Our parables book came out of us collaborating in writing and sculpture, and we’re now approaching editors about publishing it. You never know where a collaboration will take you!

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The Library’s New Releases Section

Our library (and probably yours too) has a section for all new books they’ve acquired, which are often books hot off the presses. We have made a habit of stopping by and browsing titles and covers to look for books that pique our interest – and we’re never disappointed. We always come away with arm loads.

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Open a Book

Reading is so inspirational, whether you’re reading a book to learn new art-making techniques or to study master artists or just to immerse yourself in a good story. Get a library card, or buy great (read: cheap) used books on Abe Books (Liz’s fave online bookstore).

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Pinterest

Pinterest is an online bookmarking community (a pin board) of interesting ideas, arranged by photographs. They have every category you can think of, from artwork to recipes to DIY ideas to book recommendations, and I (Liz) could spend hours browsing.

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Be Quiet

It is essential for artists to have quiet so they can remove themselves from the hectic hum of postmodernity and reflect from a broader vantage point. Turn off all your electronic devices for a day so you can get some thinking time.

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Establish an Art-making Routine

We hate to tell you this, but art won’t happen on its own. You need to spend regular time in your studio or at your desk pounding out art. Establishing a routine is the best way to make sure this happens. Jeremy has “art night” on Thursdays, and he used to make himself a pot of coffee each Thursday to prepare himself for the work ahead of him. Liz aims to write at least 500 words every day during the work week, and sometimes she’ll begin by reading another book or article to get her mind going.

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Steal Shamelessly

Picasso once said (supposedly), “Bad artists copy; good artists steal.” We’re not advocating copyright violations. Rather, the point is to study others’ art so that you can master their techniques and incorporate them into your own work and your unique style.

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Make a Spot of Tea (or Coffee)

Who’s to say it’s a bad thing to use caffeine to jumpstart creativity? Give it a go, chaps.

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Use Noisetrade!

Founded by Derek Webb and a few other Nashville-based musicians, Noisetrade is our favorite free LEGAL music downloading website. The musicians post their music themselves, and in exchange for downloading their music for free (or for a tip), you give them your email address and/or post their CD on Facebook — free marketing for the musicians and free music for you. Doesn’t get any better!

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Visit an Art Museum or Gallery

Seeing visual art in person can help spark new ideas. We often bring a camera and take photos of our favorite pieces. We also write down the artists’ names and look them up online later. Jeremy has folders and folders filled with photographs of visual art that inspires him, and when he’s experiencing a creative dry spell, he turns to these photographs for that extra burst of inspiration. And if you need extra incentive, both the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs and the Denver Art Museum have free days (and all the local galleries we know of have absolutely free admission)!

Worship (& Enter the Worship Circle)

For me (Liz), singing is freeing. It helps me relax, and I find that when I spend time worshipping God through song, ideas abound! My favorite group for this BY FAR is Enter the Worship Circle‘s folksy community worship. They also have a Chair and Microphone series where individual band members record intimate worship – just them and God. There’s nothing else like it!

Re-eXamine Old Notebooks

The assumption here is that you’re already carrying around a notebook or sketchbook with you everywhere you go, so you can catch new ideas as they come to you (you can’t put eavesdropping into practice quite as well without a notebook handy!). The second step is to go through old notebooks when your creativity has run dry. Often a brilliant idea you thought of on the bus ride home won’t be helpful until months (or years) later.

Take a Lesson from the YMCA

I (Liz) love the YMCA. I love my membership, which makes me get out and about AND exercise semi-regularly. I love how community-minded the Y is, which is not such a bad idea for us artists to consider. Let’s ask ourselves, how can we serve our local communities with our art? I love that I can take yoga classes, a separate hobby from my writing, and that I can meet a truly diverse set of people doing it, which means I have a chance to interact with non-artists and not get stuck in an art bubble, so to speak. Connect the dots and take a lesson from the Y!

Zoo Photography Adventure

Okay, we admit it, we were reaching for a Z here, but the point remains: photography adventures are tons of fun! Maybe decide to take photographs of found letters and make a collage to spell a word when you get home. Or maybe just go on a hike and take a photo of everything that takes your breath away. You’ll get outside, and you’ll be training your eye at the same time. (They also make for great dates, guys)

So get out there and make some great art, friends!

Animation! Isaac King’s “Second Hand”

“The term “second hand” refers to the ticking hand on a clock; it also describes re-used items. Would you rather save time? Or save stuff? This film examines the imbalance and waste created by these modern obsessions.” (Issac King)

Just a quick post today: the blogging equivalent of a “re-tweet.”I saw this video on CartoonBrew.com and loved it. It’s called “Second Hand” and it’s a film by Isaac King (whom I know nothing about). The animation is both unique and well done. The story-telling is superb, and the themes are timely. (Also the soundtrack is pretty sweet.)

If you follow this link, there’s a good (and short) write up by Amid Amidi, editor of Cartoon Brew.

Enough said, watch and enjoy! -Jeremy

One Minute Racist

“The imaginary work must have such an effect on us that it enlarges our own sense of reality.” Madaleine L’Engle Walking on Water

I love this little bit of film. It’s not particularly well-animated, it won’t win any awards for “best cinematography.” But it’s a good story. Presumably this is a true story. It’s a personal experience, and one completely foreign to me. Through it, my sense of reality is widened. One ingredient for good creative works, it seems to me, are true and relatable experiences – told honestly. Completely unlike the recent blockbuster Avatar (which in spite of having incredible special-effects left audiences longing for an unattainable fantasy) One Minute Racist leaves it’s viewers solidly in reality, pondering real things and hopefully looking to make reality a better place.

Found this video on www.cartoonbrew.com one of my favorite sources for inspiration. So many of the works on this site are independently produced, fueled and funded by the passion of the artists. Definitely check it out.

Jeremy