Moon Children

Crossing The Field Of Innocence
Crossing The Field Of Innocence

The trappings of childhood are usually designed to prepare us for becoming adults, and the toys and books and clothes that we grow up with often stand in for the equivalents we adopt later in life.  The people we meet – and the relationships we forge as children – set the tone for the way we interact with the world as we get older.  We’re fortunate that adults are put together just as well as kids are, only with different toys, books and clothes to surround themselves with.

This, in a nutshell, is the central thesis of Moonrise Kingdom: regardless of the age we reach, we are really no more insightful about the world than our children, and our relationships are just as simplistic and/or complex.  There will always be a parent or mentor above us looking to chastise / be jealous of us for doing what we think is right.  In many ways, this is a thread that you can pull through all of Anderson’s work, to the point that even his working adult name is diminutive, both in the shortened form of “Wes,” and in that he will always be Ander’s son; he will always be a fully grown child.  Even Anderson’s co-writer for this film, Roman Coppola, is Francis Ford’s son, bringing this thematic element to the construction of the movie itself.  While Anderson often blends the world of the film and the world that created the film, this aspect of metatext might be the reason to include a narrator that talks directly to the audience, as well as interacts with these childishly adult characters.

Perhaps the most childish are the adults that spend a good portion of the movie searching for Sam & Suzy.  Laura & Walt Bishop live in what appears to be a giant dollhouse, and they play at parenting and being lawyers the way kids do.  Laura’s temper and violent physical outbursts toward her husband perfectly match the actions of an angry and confused 12 year old.  Conversely, Walt is quiet like a shy little boy, entirely reserved from years of coping with his abusive girlfriend.  This has led to his inability to do accomplish anything; he makes suggestions that he will ride a motorcycle or chop down a tree, but never engages in either activity.  The only time they engage each other is when discussing law, an act that mitigates this stunted arguments of adults acting like children; otherwise, they are physically separated, each in different rooms / depths of focus / beds.  They each play roles neither are particularly good at, nor do they fully understand.

Randy is probably the most childish, playing boy scout well into middle age.  His interactions with children are all based in camaraderie, delivered as friendly leadership moments among peers.  He offers no real guidance when they do wrong, and instead gives suggestions for how they can follow the letter of scout law more closely.  His own ability to wear this identity himself is much like his uniform: ill-fitting.  He is trying to teach the young scouts how to remain as such forever, but their own survival skills seem to have come from elsewhere.

Captain Sharp is no better; his policeman’s uniform resembles that of a little league outfit (right down to his ball cap), and as neither he or Randy have children of their own, they struggle to break out of the rolls they set for themselves when they were kids, and yet have no real idea how to do this.  You can easily imagine Captain Sharp saying “Police Officer” when asked what he was going to be when he grows up, and has thus been one ever since, not knowing there are possible alternatives.

At the center of all these childish adults are Sam & Suzy, each of them comfortably taking on the roles of a couple where not even their parents can do so.  They plan their individual escapes with an inventive amount of detail and preparation, and quickly consummate their budding relationship, something the adults are unable to do.  Their physical and emotional intimacy creates a counterpoint for the distance that exists between everyone else.  Unlike the childish cigarettes that Randy wields, held in the most dainty of manners, Sam smokes a wooden pipe.  Suzy reads to Sam – who listens attentively – where her parents can barely talk to each other without using a bullhorn.  The children seem particularly skilled in assuming their roles in this relationship; Sam’s training as a scout has made him the perfect at surviving in the wilderness away from people, while Suzy’s rage and intelligent sweetness makes her a perfect complement in sharing intimacy and fending off danger.

Both manage to pantomime adult mating rituals with comic outcomes, but the results carry more sweetness and beauty than any other examples of affection that are shown in the film.  Getting to know each other’s tastes, dancing to pop music, and even their first awkward motions toward physical contact not only mark a counterpoint to the Suzy’s parents, but is a perfect analog for the experience of dating everyone goes through.  We all feel far too young when we first experience someone physically, and we each feel as if we’ve wandered into some uncharted territory, on the ledge of a precipice or ocean, and in spite of what anyone may already have called it, there is an urge to shout out our own names to make this world our own.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” Captain Sharp asks Sam after he and Suzy are “rescued” by the bumbling search party, and this offers a little insight into the plight of the adults in this film.  Longing for a time when their lives could be simplistic – like when they were children – only drives their childish behavior more.  They each live with regrets they can never take back, and this motivation leads to their desire to stymie the progression into adulthood they think these children are foolishly making.  What they are ignoring, however, is that Sam and Suzy are already grown up; any effort the adults make is too late.  What scares the adults in this film the most isn’t that the kids are growing up to fast, but that they themselves haven’t even attempted to do so.

What sells Sam and Suzy’s adult behavior in terms of the films assembly is the careful use of cinematic tropes and references that not only correspond with the time period of the film, but include the deft incorporation of a narrator, played expertly by Bob Balaban.  The unnamed narrator not only breaks the fourth wall by addressing us directly while also appearing as a character in the film, but his careful monitoring of the environmental elements that are at play make him very well equipped to move between our world and theirs.  It his this character who not only fills us in on what is happening, but does the same for the adults when they are at a loss as to how to find Sam & Suzy.  In much the same way that Greek plays unfold, The Narrator both describes the action, but intercedes upon this action, and Balaban’s performance in this capacity as an actual meteorologist is perhaps the only true grown “adult” in the film.

Meanwhile, Sam, Suzy and the other scouts perfectly adapt their behavior to match those of the movies they are imitating, weaving elements of westerns, 50’s romantic dramas and war films into their perceptions of how they should behave.  The adults, however, continue their childish pursuits of a High School drama, until the storm strikes, at which time they try to step out of their roles to become adults the children really need.

More than anything else, the film is a mash note to the biggest influence in Anderson’s life: Young Adult novels of his childhood.  While there are some elements of this in his film version of the children’s book The Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as certain elements of The Royal Tennebaums (Margot essentially re-enacts a bit of the storyline of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler when she runs away as a child to live in a Museum), Moonrise Kingdom takes the ideas from this and a number of similar books (My Side Of The Mountain, Bridge to Terabithia, etc.) and remixes them with an Andersonian sense of how they all influenced his own childhood.  It’s clear that Anderson never managed to grow up, or, rather, spent his youth already grown up and had to wait in real time for his own body to catch up.  This has very clearly left an indelible impact on him, and it is no wonder that this movie is set in the ’60’s, when Anderson himself was born.  We are being asked to see this as a melting pot where his great loves – film, books, and the blurred line between childhood and adulthood – was born.

As with any Wes Anderson movie, the details in this film are flawlessly assembled.  There is a hand-made quality to everything he does, so much so that even the few CGI moments seem painless by comparison to the way some directors use the effect.  His Ozu references are just as beautiful as his nods to Encyclopedia Brown, and his musical selections are not only dead perfect, but work in a sort of Peter And The Wolf manner, helping track characters and story elements deftly and beautifully.  While it is impossible to say if this is my favorite film of his, perhaps that is not the point.  This is another chapter in the story he is constantly telling, a new iteration of a story that seems to share qualities with every film before it.

While you could never argue that each film is identical to each other, a simple glance at any scene from any of his movies screams Anderson in a way that is immediately identifiable, and it is this that I have come to love from a man who has a love of making movies that is only outmatched by his completely self-conscious desire to control every element of their artifice, and remind us that yes, we are not only watching a film, we are watching a Wes Anderson film.  And a damn good one, too.

Facebook Post: 2012-10-23T10:58:19

Our penultimate Halloween Spook-tacular is here, with the legendary Vincent Price! Ten stories read by the master of Halloween, with extensive footnotes and information about him and the authors of these tales. Available for stream or download! Curl up with a loved one and prepare to be scared!

Facebook Post: 2012-10-21T11:22:32

This year’s stroll through The Punk-In Patch is chock full of the songs just right for our annual Halloween Spook-tacular, including tracks by Siouxsie And The Banshees, Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live, The-Front, Black Eyes and Neckties, Jay Reatard, GG Allin & The Motor City Bad Boys, and Mr. Iggy Pop reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart!” Over an hour of Halloween fun, guaranteed to make you SCREAM!

Facebook Post: 2012-10-20T13:33:41

Our Halloween Spook-tacular continues with Mr. Iggy Pop performing a fantastic reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart!” Also featured in this stroll through The Punk-In Patch includes Satan’s Pilgrims, The Cramps, The Sawyer Family, Scratch Acid, Dead Moon, The Fall & NoMeansNo! Get in the holiday spirit by streaming or downloading this holiday, Grumpy Punk approved show. IF YOU DARE!

The Conundrum Of Clothing

Minus The Glasses, I Have Dressed Like This Often
Minus The Glasses, I Have Dressed Like This Often

One of the many hurdles I’ve had in my life has been that of fashion.  I’m terrible when it comes to putting together an outfit to wear in public, and for years my default solution to this was to include a bow tie and a funny pair of pants, topped with some sort of sweater when appropriate, and thus hoping for the best.  I’ve often had to explain that I did not grow up wearing bow ties and funny pants, but adopted this look when I got older.  As a kid, my parents gave me jeans, t-shirts and regular bowl haircuts.

But the point is that I had not real sense of style; coordinating colors, matching shirts with pants, or understanding what was and wasn’t seasonally appropriate was somewhat beyond me.  Occasionally I would add a hat into the mix (non-ball cap, of course), and this would draw further confusion as to my overall appearance.  I remember one girlfriend in particular who would groan when I would show up with a hat, and she would ask me to take it off once we arrived anywhere we went.

During my tenure at The Bookstore, my dress code required button-up shirts, slacks & ties, an outfit that I was ill-suited to provide for my employer at first.  I remember my mom mailing me a box of ties she picked up as a sympathy gift, and I struggled for ages trying to figure out how to keep them around my neck properly, something I never learned growing up.  Our family has always managed to give new meaning to the idea of casual fashion, and ties were never a part of the experience.

I eventually found some shirts that did not match the ties at a thrift store, and had some marginal success locating some pants that maintained the appearance of slacks without actually being slacks.  (Full disclosure: they were “borrowed” from the stock uniform issues by various fast food jobs I’d held prior to that.)  The biggest problem I had was matching the shirts to the pants, which seemed to be beyond my ability.  I wrestled with this every time I worked, and I would get advice from my boss or my girlfriend at the time in the form of, “Don’t wear that.”

Why?  Tell me what I’m doing wrong!  Of course, little would come of this request.  Fashion, so I suspected, was an, “You either got it or you don’t,” quality, which I lacked entirely.  My temporary solution became black and gray pants coupled with white shirts.  Just about any tie could go with that.

Years passed, and I began to pick up the smallest tidbits here and there about what I should (and, more often, shouldn’t) be wearing.  I would resort to the “all one color” solution when it came to matching, or by wearing all wild clothing that would elicit random compliments that did not connect to the little I knew.  As my clothes became more and more monochromatic, I withdrew further and further from a desire to know (or care) about what fashion was really all about.  From what I could gather, you either had to be gay, a regular GQ reader, or employ a team of consultants to “look good,” and whats more, the cost of “nice” clothing was extremely repellant to me.  You want me to spend how much on that pair of jeans?  $80 for shoes you have to replace in a month?  Not playing the game made more sense to me, and by consciously making the decision to drop out of fashion, I was ironically playing the least attractive fashion card there is.

As with many things in my life, dating and women drove my continued fashion frustrations.  Clearly, there was a correlation between the clothes I wore, and the women I met, and more to the point, I was regularly being told by girls I would date that they found my appearance to be less that desirable (ironically, only after I met them).  The solution finally occurred to me one night, while drinking with a number of girls that I had become friends with.  They had launched into a lengthy discussion of clothes, and I began to tune out as I usually did in these circumstances.

However, when one of them mentioned that they had found something for one of their boyfriends, solving the conundrum of clothing finally struck me: have one of these girls take me shopping!  It seemed the perfect compromise to having fashion-conscious friends that I had no idea how to talk to.  About once a year I would arrange one of these shopping trips with one of the girls I knew, and they were more than happy to accommodate.  What girl doesn’t like having a doll they can dress up any way they’d like?  While I was never very good at figuring out how to arrange the clothes on my own once I got home, at least having the clothes in my possession increased my chances of looking good.

When I met my current girlfriend, I was at first a little unnerved by the fact that she would regularly buy clothes for me when I wasn’t around.  The items she bought were quite nice, and while I did have a few things that looked good before I met her, I often felt that my old wardrobe didn’t match up very well with the excellent selections she purchased.  However, I was also nervous about maintaining my own identity.  A lot of the clothes she got for me weren’t exactly part of any style that I had ever maintained, and while they were clearly very nice clothes, it was a look that I had never worn before.  I slowly began to incorporate a shirt here, or a pair of pants there, hoping that I wasn’t veering too far off into the realm of Not Me.

Around the time that we moved in with each other it finally dawned on me that I was worrying for no good reason.  Not only was I making a commitment to her that I felt good about, but it was clear that she was not trying to change who I was, but rather attempting to clothe that person in cool looking threads.  The things she was buying were not particularly far off from some of the styles I’d fooled around with in the past, and now I finally had a woman to take me shopping – and to go shopping for me – in a way that really made me look as good as possible without having to struggle too badly with these abstract fashion concepts I seemed perpetually in the dark about.  Little by little I weeded out all the lame non-dress pants, the falling-apart shirts, and the stupid socks for things that actually looked awesome, and I even beefed up my shoe count to a respectable number instead of relying on one pair of black shoes to go with everything.

There are still times when I have a little fashion freak-out, and feel absolutely baffled by how to make myself look decent.  Today, as I was dressing for my second day of work, and I had a near meltdown, going through three different shirts before I finally convinced myself that I’d landed on something that not only matched but was work-appropriate.  But these moments are rare, now.  One of the incredible comforts of finding a long term partner is that problems like this are no longer things you need to face alone.  A huge worry that has troubled me for most of my life – my own fashion – has been resolved entirely in a way where I don’t have to think about it and I get to look good.  That’s rare in this world, and I owe it all to my girlfriend.

This hasn’t, however, solved the problem of my own fashion nonsense.  I look at clothes, and they still confuse me.  I have no idea why some things match while others do not, and understanding how to determine color coordination is still a big mystery.  What’s funny to me is that, much like art, I can recognize good fashion when I see it, but I have no idea how I could ever go about assembling it on my own.

Facebook Post: 2012-10-15T21:29:15

I understand how impressive the jump Felix Baumgartner made actually is, but much more awesome is the engineering that went into making the feat possible, designed by people who have gone largely uncredited. And when he’s sponsored by Red Bull, aren’t they basically setting up a really terrible platform for a much more extreme version of Jackass?

Facebook Post: 2012-10-15T20:28:27

Every new “enjoy” on our page brings us one step closer to world domination, and with our annual Halloween Spook-tacular currently underway, this is the time to give us a little digital love. We’ve got scary stories, a trip through the Punk-In Patch, plenty of monster songs (that are NOT The Monster Mash), and when it’s not October, Audio Essays of every variety. We’ve got hundreds of shows available for stream or download, so the best time to get involved is NOW. Enjoy!