Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

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McCrutchy
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#101 Post by McCrutchy » Fri Mar 30, 2018 3:34 pm

knives wrote:Out of curiosity why those two states?
Probably because California was mentioned in the article, and I always think of New York and California as two sides of the same coin. I originally included "Texas, Canada and London", but that's woefully incongruous (I almost thought of Toronto at the time, but I was also of two minds about using London next to Toronto for obvious reasons), and because the post was already long, I shortened it to just the two states.

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knives
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#102 Post by knives » Fri Mar 30, 2018 3:43 pm

McCrutchy wrote:
knives wrote:Out of curiosity why those two states?
Probably because California was mentioned in the article, and I always think of New York and California as two sides of the same coin. I originally included "Texas, Canada and London", but that's woefully incongruous (I almost thought of Toronto at the time, but I was also of two minds about using London next to Toronto for obvious reasons), and because the post was already long, I shortened it to just the two states.
That two sides of the same coin thing is what brushed me to be honest. Texas, as you seem aware of, has a massive Asian population and would make the example seem less like nose flipping at Democrats.

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mfunk9786
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#103 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 3:45 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:I think there’s an implicit “for example” there.

I haven’t seen the film and don’t know anything firsthand about Japanese culture, and so am passing no judgement for or against on that front, but when it comes to articles like this one: I can’t help but think that there was an editorial meeting where it was decided that they needed a take on the cultural appropriation angle as that gained steam online, but needed it ASAP to coincide with the movie’s release in NY/LA, so with no time to actually do the work to find an actual Japanese citizen or anyone with any kind of relevant expertise, this is what we got.
The author was tweeting about this being a curiosity of hers from the day she saw a screening of the film, so no

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colinr0380
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#104 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 3:45 pm

I must admit that I'm less concerned about the 'Japanese-ness' of the film than of whether the idea of an island of ostracised dogs bears any similarity to the robot island in an episode of Futurama!

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mfunk9786
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#105 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 3:52 pm

It’s funny how dramatic so many non-Asian folks are being about these quite complimentary and thoughtful articles. No one has come out with a flamethrower, with any intention to disrespect the film or accuse Anderson of any ill intentions, but the backlash to the “backlash” is being treated like it’s nuclear material. Frankly, I’d say the infamous “cultural appropriation” review and this Vulture article are maybe even too polite to the film, even though I still wouldn’t classify the film as racist on any level myself.

Wes Anderson isn’t going to go have a sad and then never make a movie again if people get too mean, I promise

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knives
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#106 Post by knives » Fri Mar 30, 2018 3:57 pm

That makes it sound like he has quite the bathroom difficulties.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#107 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:03 pm

If there’s anyone on Earth who doesn’t go to the bathroom, it’s this guy

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McCrutchy
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#108 Post by McCrutchy » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:12 pm

knives wrote:That two sides of the same coin thing is what brushed me to be honest. Texas, as you seem aware of, has a massive Asian population and would make the example seem less like nose flipping at Democrats.
Interesting that you read a partisan political sentiment into it. I mean, not only was California mentioned multiple times, but if I recall correctly, New York and California are the two mainland states with the largest proportion of Japanese-Americans (and looking further. Wikipedia, admittedly not exactly a gold standard of accuracy, seems to agree). But even more appropriately, New York and California are the states with the two cities where most films not opening wide usually open first. There were no political motivations.
Last edited by McCrutchy on Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#109 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:13 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:It’s funny how dramatic so many non-Asian folks are being about these quite complimentary and thoughtful articles.
Are you referring to anyone in particular here? I feel like most of the discussion around this topic on this forum has actually been remarkably tame and reasonable, and I haven't seen any deranged groups of twee stop-motion fans losing their minds about it elsewhere (not that I've been searching for it either). I think you yourself said when this conversation first started that it was important not to extrapolate a handful of responses one might find irritating into a phantom army of irrational actors.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#110 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:25 pm

No, I’m mostly referring to Twitter responses to these articles. Both Domino and myself should be staying off Twitter.

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Big Ben
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#111 Post by Big Ben » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:25 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:It’s funny how dramatic so many non-Asian folks are being about these quite complimentary and thoughtful articles.
Are you referring to anyone in particular here? I feel like most of the discussion around this topic on this forum has actually been remarkably tame and reasonable, and I haven't seen any deranged groups of twee stop-motion fans losing their minds about it elsewhere (not that I've been searching for it either). I think you yourself said when this conversation first started that it was important not to extrapolate a handful of responses one might find irritating into a phantom army of irrational actors.
It took place on the wonderful hellscape known as Twitter.com. While there weren't many articles criticizing the film there were certainly many more responses attacking the authors of said articles. There was no widespread condemnation of the film itself. In fact the film is doing really well at the specialty box office.

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knives
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#112 Post by knives » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:36 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:No, I’m mostly referring to Twitter responses to these articles. Both Domino and myself should be staying off Twitter.
I think it was Ben Franklin who said only the stupid can speak in 240 characters or less. Not being on twitter is always the right choice.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#113 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:38 pm

I've never been more obnoxiously smug and self-satisfied about any decision in my life as I have been the past year or so about never having signed up for Facebook or Twitter (and that's saying something). Every time I follow a link to a Twitter battle on a topic like this and read down into the responses, I feel like a six-year-old on a field trip to the farm who wandered up to a window into the slaughterhouse next door.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#114 Post by Shrew » Fri Mar 30, 2018 5:47 pm

Yeah, the Twitter takes and responses here are far hotter than either Chang's review or Yoshida's article.

That said, there's always going to be a difference in the responses of Asians (who will feel comfortably represented by their home media and treat benign foreign takes on their culture as curiosities) and Asian Americans (who are legitimately underrepresented in media, politics, and business, and will view all American images of Asia as potential challenges). Using Asians to beat down Asian Americans isn't productive.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#115 Post by John Shade » Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:02 pm

So we've learned from this article in the first paragraph that the author misinterpreted The Darjeeling Limited, and in the last paragraph that Japanese people are excited about the movie. The rest has basically been summed up, except for the idea that the Finns (?) can't be culturally appropriated (weirdly the other day I wondered if Anderson had set this in France, since he lives there, if the same types of criticism would exist).

I stay off Twitter and am waiting to see the film; there's been a lot of talk of Kurosawa, and yet the whole thing reminds me more of Miyazaki, who I know Anderson has spoken of fondly for a few years--even talking about visiting the museum on the Fantastic Mr Fox commentary. All of this rant is to say, I could see Anderson thinking of Isle of Dogs as some inverted Porco Rosso, at least on a basic conceptual level. Miyazaki brought airflying pigs to Italy, Anderson brings an island of dogs to Japan.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#116 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Mar 31, 2018 2:37 pm

domino harvey wrote:He may or may not be right, but why is that a news story?
Seriously. Debate on whether he's right (he isn't), but he doesn't have a particularly important relationship to this film or Anderson that would make it newsworthy, and this isn't even thoughtful or considerate criticism, it's just a bunch of tweets that make him look like an obnoxious twit.

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whaleallright
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#117 Post by whaleallright » Sun Apr 01, 2018 2:39 pm

If I can ignore all the hot "cultural appropriation" takes on this film (and I have), I'm sure Anderson can and will do the same.

I loved this movie—it had far too much visual and narrative detail to appreciate on one sitting, so I'm looking forward to seeing it again, and again. That said, my biggest disappointment was akin to that referenced in a recent Alexandra Horowitz piece in the New York Times (she's the expert on dog behavior and cognition): he doesn't really let the dogs be dogs. They have a decidedly human intelligence and outlook (and they don't greet each other by butt-sniffing, a major oversight). I guess that's in keeping with the film's role as allegory (something I wasn't expecting and that I have mixed feelings about), but it made the film seem a little more conventional than I had been hoping for. I recognize this is maybe an arcane (or should I write "arcanine"?) reaction.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#118 Post by Ribs » Sun Apr 01, 2018 8:39 pm

So much has been claimed about how Fantastic Mr. Fox reinvigorated Anderson's filmmaking with a new level of aesthetic sophistication but it strikes me that, now that film is only slightly away from being the midpoint of his career, it actually brought out a substantial narrative shift; his films since then, inclusive of it, all have these incredibly overbearing structures divided into clear chapters that actually have a clear narrative "arc" the characters go one from, more or less, the start. Royal Tenenbaums excepted, it feels to me that his first five films have a fairly lackadaisical storytelling style, just sort of going on until the plot moves forward, with relatively static characters not really propelling the stories on their own. The refined visuals have brought increasingly refined structures, those too being so exact and precise and clearly whittled down to exactly what Anderson wanted. It is because of this precision that I expect a lot of this unease about the film's cultural politics have arisen: Wes Anderson pre-visualizes his films, writes them with his team of friends and colleagues, and still chose to not only make the decision of how this film treats in particular the Japanese language but proudly flaunt it in a title card, complete with a joke for a laugh. The entire film and his entire filmography suggests a man who thinks things through almost to a fault, but this one decision almost calls that entire school of thought into question.

This was fine.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#119 Post by whaleallright » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:19 pm

his films have been exceptionally narrationally self-conscious (with voice-over narration, chapter titles, etc.) since Rushmore—he just keeps upping the ante. I do think that the somewhat pat, almost diagrammatic character arcs are a consistent weakness in Anderson's films. honestly I haven't really been strongly affected by the sentimental aspects in his films since Rushmore (with the exception of a few moments in Moonrise Kingdom and Budapest). but I still call myself a big fan, because I find the films' intricate design is exciting and even moving in itself. I found Fantastic Mr. Fox kind of emotionally inscrutable (I was confused as to what the nominally pro-social message was supposed to be, if indeed there was one) but spectacular to watch.

since I'm deliberately avoiding any of the hot takes on this film, I guess I'll just respond to the last post, to say that reading through it I have absolutely no idea what the author finds objectionable about the film. the poster alludes to "this one decision" (to not translate much of the Japanese?) but fails to specify its negative effects. I find this sort of thing pretty common, a vague suggestion that something is "problematic" with an implied ellipse where the actual work of identifying the problem should be. who or what is harmed by Anderson et al's treatment of Japanese language or culture?

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#120 Post by Ribs » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:46 pm

That the Japanese characters are not given their own voice, making them inferior to the dogs and American characters? I feel it is problematic, I did not say you need to. Why are you avoiding reading the “hot takes?” If you feel as secure as you apparently do that it isn’t problematic, why are you not willing to entertain a dissenting view? Can you not understand that some people can find faults in this stuff without it being a witch hunt or wishing that it should never have been made? The tone of this stuff isn’t really that; if you read the two main articles that were being discussed upthread you’ll find two measured opinions of people who clearly want to love the movie more but find it difficult considering this context. It maybe could have been done differently or with more care, but seeing as the film is what it is it’s essential to interpret what it does and doesn’t do right with regards to this set of choices as a useful tool going forward to avoid such trepidation. No one is wrong in how they feel.

I also deliberately wasn’t stating that I had a problem with it, but rather that the decision of the film was done in a way that seemed to really inspire a reaction, to me.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#121 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:08 pm

Personally, I never felt like the Japanese characters were "inferior." It feels very much like a film made by a Westerner, which felt like the point. It's inherent in the fact that it's Anderson making the movie, but it's deliberately designed to be an outsider's view of Japanese culture, partly because he has everything filtered through translators or translating devices, and yet (as usual for his films) he packs in a dense amount of detail that probably gets lost among anyone who isn't a cinephile or that familiar with Japanese culture. Honestly, it felt like the film went the extra mile of getting the cultural details right, almost to a fault. (Indeed, Kunichi Nomura, one of his screenwriting collaborators, was called on to do just that.)

Not too long ago, I was listening to a podcast on "cover songs." It was partly to promote a new book on the subject, and the author mentioned that his idea of a bad cover was one that was too faithful to the original. One of the hosts countered this argument, using examples like Yo La Tengo who are known to perform quite a few faithful covers. For him, this created a revelatory historical context for the music and the artist. (This is especially true in punk.) You can see see everything that flowed into the band that you might not have guessed before.

This was the sensation I got from the Japanese context and the way it worked with the film references. It's possible the influence of Japanese filmmakers on Anderson has grown thanks to a passionate audience in Japan. (That alone would create a dialogue between him and the culture, bringing him to a country he didn't know much about prior to his film career, as well as putting him in direct contact with Japanese collaborators and filmmakers.) Regardless, when one sees all the blatant references to Kurosawa's films, one realizes that the visuals don't introduce anything that new - they seem to fit so comfortably within an Anderson film because the impression in his aesthetic was already there.

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Brian C
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#122 Post by Brian C » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:40 pm

I watched Bottle Rocket again today for the first time in years, and it turns out Inez's Spanish dialogue isn't subtitled either, a decision that I've never once heard anyone suggest as problematic. Indeed, it seems as though this whole "but the dialogue isn't subtitled!" complaint is a brand new rule just now made up in an effort to justify the predetermined decision to criticize Isle of Dogs. So filmmakers be aware, you're not obligated to subtitle all foreign dialogue, even if there's no real compelling reason to do so. Maybe just to be safe, we should make sure no one talks in any kind of recognizable dialect or accent, also.

At any rate, I loved every second of Isle of Dogs, so to answer mfunk's question, I guess it's for me. Anderson's detractors have long described his work as overly fussy to the point of being constrictive, but I get the opposite feeling watching them - to me, they're wildly and thrillingly inventive, and this one perhaps most of all. I agree that this is a very dense film, but far from finding this alienating in some way, I felt it (as always) to be engaging, even participatory. People complain that filmmakers don't trust their audience when they dumb stuff down, but then filmmakers also get criticized when they rely on audiences to keep up ... sometimes you just can't win, I guess.

Anyway, as I alluded to, the criticism over lack of subtitles makes no sense to me. For one thing, virtually all of the Japanese dialogue except for Atari's when he's alone on the island is actually translated, and it makes perfect sense within the story why that dialogue wouldn't be translated. For another thing, what exactly do people feel they're missing? I would guess that even a child of perfectly average intelligence would get enough of the gist of what Atari's saying to follow the story. But mostly, I can't for the life of me understand how this decision is "problematic" even in social justice terms - I get there's a vague notion that it "others" the Japanese characters (really mostly character, singular), but the process by which this occurs is hazy to me. After all, Japanese really is a foreign language that people who don't speak Japanese do not understand.

I've read a lot of complaints about the character of Tracy Walker, too, and while I don't presume to speak for Japanese audiences, I wonder if that character won't be better received in Japan. It seemed to me that making the loud, brash busybody character an American was one of the film's jokes, and one that foreign audiences all too familiar with our boorishness will pick up on more easily than a lot of us Americans, especially since she's a secondary protagonist, clearly far behind Atari in terms of both the filmmakers' sympathy and actual amount of heroism performed. And I wonder if some of the film's critics haven't picked up on this on some level too, and that's a reason for their discomfort with the character - for all the railing against American cultural hegemony, a movie that makes a joke at our expense is maybe deep down still a bridge too far for some people.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#123 Post by Ribs » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:46 pm

K, but half the movie wasn’t in Spanish and it wasn’t concieved as a ode to Latino culture and there isn’t a title card at the beginning making a joke out of the fact that the characters’ agency has been co-opted by the people who speak American. Also: who cares if we did or didn’t have this discussion twenty years ago for a movie with wildly different context? We as a culture appreciate things differently and certain behaviors that were acceptable then would result in legitimate boycotts now.

I don’t understand why people are so quick to jump in and convince people they actually weren’t offended! It’s great that you like the movie! I wish he had made less of an effort with the whole languages conceit as it probably would have made me less uncomfortable!
Last edited by Ribs on Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Brian C
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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#124 Post by Brian C » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:49 pm

Ribs wrote:I don’t understand why people are so quick to jump in and convince people they actually weren’t offended! It’s great that you like the movie!
I'm just saying that the particular offenses taken seem not real well thought out if not outright disingenuous.

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Re: Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)

#125 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:41 pm

I’ve heard enough opinions from people I respect, including folks here, that maybe seeing this again is in order. Brian, you make some very compelling points indeed, particularly about Tracy.

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