Avocado Weekly Movie Thread (6/20)

Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, your place on the Avocado to discuss films with your fellow commenters. Want to make a recommendation? Looking for recommendations? Want to share your opinions of movies, both new and classic?

This week sees the wide release of Wes Anderson’s latest film, Asteroid City. It is about a group of travelers who arrive in Asteroid City (located in the California-Nevada-Arizona desert) to attend the Junior Stargazer’s convention when something unexpected happens. That’s not all though. Asteroid City, it turns out, is actually a long running stage play, and from the beginning there’s a framing device about the creation of the play… which is also, actually, presented as a stage play itself. And… well, this is a Wes Anderson film, after all. There might be another level beyond the play of the play.

Anderson is best known for composing scenes that are artificial to a heightened extent, often for comedic purposes. The color palette is loud and garish. The composition does not follow the standard rules where actors are supposed to stand, and your eyes wander to scenes that by all rights should be barely noticeable in the background. You get close ups of actors’ faces, who stare back at you uncomfortably with motionless faces.

Oftentimes they look like Edward Hopper paintings come to life.

When you step into a Wes Anderson film, you don’t want realism. You want candy-colored dollhouse worlds where everyone’s using technology from the 1950’s.

It’s notorious enough that it’s become a recent meme.

That’s a little superficial, though. If the visuals were the only thing that made a Wes Anderson film distinct, we probably would’ve tired a long time ago. I think it’s the magic that if you pare the plot down to its elements and made things more realistic, you’d be left with a depressing indie drama that most people would ignore. The visuals are what keep the viewer from falling into deep despair.

Even Anderson is aware of his memetic status, and lately he’s been using his notoriety to screw with audience expectations. The artifice itself is a hook to draw you into other, more uncomfortable themes.

Bonus prompt: what films have used overt and intentional artificiality to great effect?