Bottle Rocket: Midnight June 22-23
Fantastic Mr. Fox: 10 a.m. June 23, 9:45 p.m. June 24
At The Belcourt
As Wes Anderson fans around Nashville wait with bated breath for his much-acclaimed latest Moonrise Kingdom to finally hit the Belcourt next week, the theater will be unspooling what I consider his best films: his 1996 debut Bottle Rocket and his previous film, the 2009 Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox. Hopefully, this will keep all you hipster wolves at bay for one more week.
Bottle Rocket will be shown as a midnight movie this Friday and Saturday night, which makes sense considering the cult rep it gained when it was first released in the mid-‘90s. Set in Anderson’s native Texas, Rocket features co-writer and future Anderson collaborator Owen Wilson as a wannabe career criminal trying to corral his friends (his brother Luke Wilson and Robert Musgrave) into becoming a team of well-oiled outlaws, in hopes of winning the respect of a landscaping thief (James Caan) and joining his crew for a big heist.
Dismissed by audiences as another Tarantino knockoff upon its release, Rocket now seems like the perfect, deconstructive antidote to all those cynical, skuzzy crime tales that came out post-Pulp Fiction. Much like the filmmakers who made those films back then, Rocket showed a crew of guys indulging in their desperado fantasies. Of course, once they find out when it comes to committing to the criminal life, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. (No wonder this is one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films.)
A bumbling bandit is also front and center for Anderson’s version of Fox, which The Belcourt will be playing this weekend as a Saturday-morning kiddie matinee. The director gets George Clooney to voice the title character, a furry family man who reverts back to his bird-stealing ways by raiding nearby farms, raising the ire of the vengeful farmers and putting his family and neighbors (which includes Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Jason Schwartzman as their ornery son and Bill Murray as Fox’s badger attorney) in harm’s way. Despite its stop-motion animation, Fox is Anderson’s most relatable working-class film since Rocket. The man took a beloved children’s book and made the liveliest, most sympathetic study of male midlife crisis that didn’t star Jack Lemmon.
Essentially, Bottle Rocket and Fantastic Mr. Fox both deal with the same thing: delusional but dedicated protagonists who believe that putting themselves in dangerous situations will bring some sizzle and excitement to their lives. Ultimately, reality comes knocking them upside the head, reminding them that living a stable, humdrum existence every day is adventurous enough. Say what you will about Wes Anderson as a filmmaker who often paints detached, twee portraits of the miserably overprivileged, the man knows when to keep it real when the time calls for it.