Reviewing Movies Like it’s 1999: Rushmore

Reviewing Movies Like it’s 1999: Rushmore

Greetings and salutations- my name is Dylan Reynolds- I’m a filmmaker- distributor and occasional film reviewer/ blogger and I’m stoked to have been invited by the to write some movie reviews.
So that’s all fine and good… Now what the hell do I write about?

I kicked around some ideas… I could have gone with cult flicks- or keep it to the mainstream/ theatrical arena- I could have focused on tried and true classics or dug through the bargain bin looking for the misfit toys of the cinematic world (whether deservingly so or perhaps finding an underappreciated gem along the way).  But the reality is that I kind of wanted “to do it all” and then after reading Brian Raftery’s book “Best. Movie. Year. Ever.”  I came up with what sounded like a pretty fun “movie watching goal” for the year of our Lord 2021.  
And so here we are with my inaugural column for “Reviewing Movies Like it’s 1999”- where I will check out some flicks that were released in a given month in what has been acknowledged as either the best- or perhaps the last “great”- year of movies…  1999.  So come along with me and eat some ‘member berries… before all the Y2K hoopla- the 9/11 attacks- Iraq War part deux- the Great Recession- “Me Too’s”- and whatever the hell 2020 was all about.  Visit a simpler time where we still had a lot of problems (whether obvious or just bubbling under the surface) but hey- at least we had some good movies to watch.  Which yes- means I’m going to revisit the “99 heavy hitters” like your Matrix‘s and Being John Malkovich‘s- divisive offerings like American Beauty and Eyes Wide Shut– cult favorites like Galaxy Quest– fun “guilty pleasures” like Deep Blue Sea– and just to prove that “all that glitters ain’t gold” I will even watch Baby Geniuses.

And what better way to start things off than by cheating a little?  Rushmore was actually given a “limited theatrical release” in December of ’98- probably at some Laemmle’s in LA and New York- and then gradually rolled out to more theaters throughout January before “opening wide” in February where you could watch it at a mall cineplex.  So for arguments sake let’s consider Rushmore “the first quintessential movie of ’99”- mainly because it feels like the first film that encompassed the themes that can be attributed to the other top tier movies of the year; the social/ personal isolation and disaffective status of the American white male.
Courtesy of hipster poster child Wes Anderson (and for the record he’s not “that Anderson director” of video game movies nor the “prestige” filmmaker of the other ’99 biggie Magnolia).  Instead Wes has his own quirky style which (if we’re being honest) owes Hal Ashbey’s Harold and Maude a beer.  Like that underrated classic of 70s New Hollywood- Rushmore involves the unlikely relationship between an older adult and adolescent who “march to the beat of their own drum” and help teach each other how to “live” and rise above their depressing existence- complete with dark/ oddball humor and Cat Stevens/ 70s folk music needle drops.  Now even though- especially with this film- Anderson was clearly inspired by American cinema of the 70s- his “eye for composition” which ranges from blocking/ lens choices and art direction- is so uniquely his own thing that there is a very definitive “Wes Anderson style” which can be cribbed/ copied but there’s nothing quite like “the real McCoy”.  It reminds me a bit of the “David Lynch style” which can be quickly identified by even the most casual of “film nerd” but ultimately anyone that is not David Lynch (or in this case- Wes Anderson) are creating a “Diet Coke” version of their work.  
What struck me most while watching Rushmore is that besides helping cement the whole “Wes Anderson brand/ aesthetic” that would continue to evolve with the Royal Tenenbaums and all the way to the Grand Budapest Hotel- the film seemed to provide the template for many forthcoming “indie festival darling studio pictures”.  These are films produced by the “indie labels” of major studios (think Fox Searchlight- Sony Classics- Disney’s Miramax etc) for a 5-10 million budget and anchored by some movie stars (probably headlined by a young “up and coming” talent with a veteran actor co starring in an attempted “career resurgence”… in this case Rushmore more or less began the “Bill Murray renaissance”).  The storylines for these studio backed “mainstream indies” can be described as “quirky dramedies about the struggles of various dysfunctional characters and situations which ends in a ‘feel good triumph’… usually in the form of a dance number”.  As such- you can see the DNA from Rushmore in flicks like JunoLittle Miss SunshineNapoleon DynamiteLady BirdBooksmart and probably a bunch of others that “came and went” post their Sundance premieres.
I started going to college in ’99 and Rushmore became one of those staples like Fight Club where it seemed “everyone had a copy or poster in their dorm room” and thus I saw it a number of times back in the day but haven’t really felt the need to revisit it since.  Overall I appreciated the film then/ now and with some hindsight I can respect the template it formed for the aforementioned “studio indie films” that came in its wake.  But for me Rushmore is just “so damn clever and so sure of its cleverness” that I can’t truly be engaged/ invested in its storyline or characters.  And I guess that’s my feeling about Wes Anderson’s work in general…  I’ve checked out all of his movies- he is such a unique talent that his films demand to be given “at least a watch”.  But I’m often standing back and admiring his movies like they were a painting or other “work of art” that again- I can respect/ appreciate for their obvious merit- but it doesn’t exactly contribute to being a rewatchable for me.  I’m not saying Wes Anderson movies are “one and done” viewings but let’s just say that I may go out of my way to “watch the new Wes Anderson movie” whenever one comes out but I won’t put in the same effort to watch it a second time.  Then again- I’m one of those weirdos who will watch Ghost of Mars dozens of times over even though I don’t really like it… so take that sentiment for what it’s worth.
Alrighty- first review is done man!  I got a couple more flicks I want to review for January- so let’s all dust up our Van Der Beek “I don’t want your life” impressions because I’m watching Varsity Blues next… originally released January 15, 1999

Click To Watch Rushmore HERE

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