Don't Encourage Us

Asteroid City (2023)

Episode Summary

In this episode of "Don't Encourage Us," the hosts dive into the whimsical world of the fictional Wes Anderson film, "Asteroid City." Taking inspiration from the distinctive style of Anderson's cinematic universe, the hosts explore the intricacies of the film's quirky characters, meticulous set designs, and emotionally resonant storytelling. With their signature blend of humor and insightful commentary, the podcasters dissect the film's unique aesthetic choices, discussing how Anderson's idiosyncratic vision manifests in the creation of "Asteroid." From the carefully curated soundtrack to the meticulously crafted symmetry within each frame, the hosts analyze the film's every detail, offering listeners a delightful journey through the imaginary cosmos of Wes Anderson's imagination. Whether you're a devoted Anderson enthusiast or a casual film buff, this episode of "Don't Encourage Us" promises an engaging exploration of "Asteroid" and its place in the director's illustrious filmography.

Episode Notes

In this episode of "Don't Encourage Us," the hosts dive into the whimsical world of the fictional Wes Anderson film, "Asteroid City." Taking inspiration from the distinctive style of Anderson's cinematic universe, the hosts explore the intricacies of the film's quirky characters, meticulous set designs, and emotionally resonant storytelling. With their signature blend of humor and insightful commentary, the podcasters dissect the film's unique aesthetic choices, discussing how Anderson's idiosyncratic vision manifests in the creation of "Asteroid." From the carefully curated soundtrack to the meticulously crafted symmetry within each frame, the hosts analyze the film's every detail, offering listeners a delightful journey through the imaginary cosmos of Wes Anderson's imagination. Whether you're a devoted Anderson enthusiast or a casual film buff, this episode of "Don't Encourage Us" promises an engaging exploration of "Asteroid" and its place in the director's illustrious filmography.

Watch out for the Asteroid City trailer.

Check out Ferry and Ferry: The Series and play with Pika.

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Episode Transcription

Speaker 1: This opens up another, I think, interesting question. I think about movies in general, like how much of the onus should be placed on the viewer really trying to figure out what the plot's about. Like, is there a level where it becomes too much? And what is that, what is that point where it becomes too much, where things aren't just like laid out for you?

I've always found that interesting. And what great movies do is they find that perfect balance between showing you everything or telling you everything and letting you figure out that background. Welcome

Speaker 2: to Don't Encourage Us, the show where we talk about the big ideas behind fiction projects of all different kinds.

Books, movies, TV shows, video games, nothing's off limits. I'm your host Mighty Man, and I'm here with my co host, the world's ugliest dog. Yuck. How you doing yuck? Terrible

Speaker 1: as always I guess. I'm being the world's ugliest dog. It's

Speaker 2: not a good fate. Just keep that doghouse on your head. That's all we ask. So today we're discussing the Wes Anderson film Asteroid City.

But first, what's been on your list this week?

Speaker 1: Uh, my list, I finished the show Undercover, which I'd spoken about the um, that show Ferry, which was that show from Holland. Oh yeah. This show is really interesting because it looks at it from the other perspective of the undercover agents. It's better brought in to take him down.

So it's really, yeah, it's a really, it's a really great show. It's I think it's actually better than the original series that I'd mentioned the movie. It just gives you a different, a different take on the same show focusing in on the agents. It's great. Really. I really enjoyed it. It's three seasons. Is

Speaker 2: this a companion series made by the same people?


Speaker 1: Yeah. It's a companion series made by the same. I guess that show must have been such a huge hit for Netflix or something that they decided to go with the, the agent side. I

Speaker 2: love that. Wow. What a great idea.

Speaker 1: Yeah, it's really good. All the actors are great and him in particular. Like I think I mentioned in the other episode that he's like a cross between like Walter White and Tony Soprano.

And he's really like a force and extremely volatile. Just never know what he's going to do at any minute. He can switch on a dime from being super friendly and charismatic to like explosive and violent. It's uh. It's really good. I highly recommend you watch it. I think you'd

Speaker 2: like it. That's so interesting.

So are we at a point, and this is a real question for you. Are we at a point in terms of technology and culture where we could and would enjoy going back? And making companion series for classic sitcoms and television shows. Like could I use AI to make realistic looking digital animation to make a companion series to friends called Gunter.

You know, where he's got this whole like rich life with like friends and a supporting cast and occasionally like real his friends and occasionally the characters from the TV show friends show up at his job and like make his life a little bit difficult and then they leave is, is that, is, can we do that now?

I think

Speaker 1: we're, we're almost there. There's um, a company called Pika, I think it's Pika labs, P I K A. And the AI video that they're able to create now, it's just mind blowing. From even a year ago, it's getting to the point now where, yeah, I think you could use all of these AI tools in the very near future to create any spinoff show you wanted.

If let's say an AI can analyze all the scripts of a show, understand all the characters, you load in all the backstories as well, and then you have it right. Let's say a pilot episode around one particular character with its own plotline that does exactly what you're saying. And then have another AI create the visuals for it.

I think, I think we're almost

Speaker 2: there. Wow. So I can finally have my Knight Rider companion series, Bonnie.

Speaker 1: The dream, your dreams do come true. Yeah, I think you could do it. But I love this idea of having a companion show. It's kind of, I guess, what happened with Better, uh, Better Call Saul, right? With, uh,

Speaker 2: yeah, right. With Breaking Bad. You know, I never really thought of it that way, but that is exactly what it is.

That's so interesting. And, and this

Speaker 1: is what that show undercover. And I remember maybe, I don't know when it came out, maybe a year or two ago, I had put it on, but I didn't really give it a chance. And then this time I saw the cover image because Netflix is so good now at figuring out what I actually like to watch.

It knew that I watched that show Fairy. So the image that it used for Undercover was that guy and the other actor from the show. That's what it showed me, so it knew that I had watched the other show, so it used a still from the show to get me hooked into watching Undercover or else I would have never watched it.

I would have thought it was a completely separate show. Wow. It's brilliant. You

Speaker 2: and Netflix are getting really close. We are. How's the sex? We are. Eh. Is it good? Fulfilling? It's not that

Speaker 1: good. Okay. Because what am I, a grumpy dog or whatever? Ha ha ha ha ha

Speaker 2: ha ha. You're yuck, the world's ugliest dog. But even the world's ugliest dog deserves love.

Deserves it, but maybe doesn't get it.

Speaker 1: That's for another episode. But

Speaker 2: yeah. Um. I hope not. Yeah.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So I, I really, I really think it's a great idea and there are other characters in that show too that I think would make for their own great spinoff series. You could probably take this whole universe and just turn it into kind of like an MCU because the characters are so interesting.

The topic is one that just leads for, like, countless variations on the plot, this idea that there's a drug kingpin, his rise and fall, then rise again, the undercover agents who are going after him, kind of like The Wire did, right? Where it did, like, the reporters, the drug dealers, and then the, the police.

Same idea you could apply to this show and I think it would be a huge hit or continue to be interesting I'm just wondering now if they're gonna do like a US spin off or if Netflix is kind of shying away from that because it's having so much Success with these foreign shows right?

Speaker 2: No reason to remake them.

No reason to spend that money Yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 1: And the dubbing is so good the actors who actually do the voice work You forget completely that you're watching something that's been dubbed. That's how good it's gotten. So they actually get, and they're very consistent. So one character is always voiceover, like the voiceover is always done by the same guy.

There's never any weird switches that they're using, like switching over to another actor. So you recognize that character throughout. And if they're a good voice actor, or a great voice actor, then it just makes the show all that more

Speaker 2: compelling. That sounds great. So, give me the names of the shows again, and they're on

Speaker 1: Netflix.

On Netflix. One's called Ferry, F E R R Y, and then the other one's called Undercover. And

Speaker 2: that's, that's it. That's all they've done so far is those two shows. Two

Speaker 1: shows and a movie called Ferry, because I guess the first season or series called Ferry, which the show was such a hit that they did a movie, but then there's also Undercover, but I'm not sure exactly in which order that they created these.

I don't know if Undercover was done first and they're like, oh, this guy's really, really interesting or actually, no, I think Undercover was done after the Ferry series. But yeah, check it out.

Speaker 2: So if you miss Sopranos and the Wire, then this might be the entertainment package for you. I think so. That's great.

Well, I spent a little time backpacking. We had a few days off here, so I went to Big Bend National Park. Have you heard of this? Have you seen this? Where is that? So it's one of the least visited national parks, but only because of it's very remote. So you know how Texas has kind of two bumps at the bottom along the Rio Grande, right?

The smaller further north, uh, bump is, uh, exactly like the bowl of it is the location of Big Bend National Park. It's a lot of desert. And it's the only national park that completely encompasses a mountain range. Uh, so I spent about five days backpacking through the Chisos mountains up there, exploring very radically different climates and biomes.

It is really exciting and inspiring place. And I just thought it'd be interesting to talk for a minute or two about inspiring creativity. From time and nature, right? Does that spark creativity for you? So have you spent much time in nature and have you found that transforms your brain enough that you can think of creative

Speaker 1: ideas?

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I have spent a lot of time in nature, I guess, just hiking, but not going on those longer adventures, like love to go on, but I noticed that it gets me thinking in a completely different way. Where I'm collecting, connecting a lot of ideas together that normally I wouldn't because I'm so distracted by technology and devices all the time.

It's almost like it's, my brain is not being filled by notifications or an overload of information. So it's just wandering and it makes me think of a time before the smartphone or when you were connected to devices where you could just be really creative and have ideas just kind of come together in ways that you wouldn't.

Wouldn't expect them to so yeah for sure. I mean, I think that creativity is not only like Stories or movie ideas or commercial idea. I think it's just creativity around life like next steps in life or different Mm hmm. I think it just broadens the amount of options that you feel are available to you If that makes sense, makes

Speaker 2: total sense.

Yeah, no, I like how you were beginning to describe it as if spending time in nature opens up space in your thinking, and then your creativity can combine ideas and thoughts in that space. And you're right. That is very much how it was when you had downtime. For all these electronics, you know, all these devices were everywhere because your mind would wander, right?

There would be empty space and it would collect ideas and connect them in ways that you wouldn't normally do or, or expect. And then that would lead to creative ideas or insights or thoughts about how you want to handle a situation differently. Very much so. Yeah. I think that's a big part of what you sparking creativity.

Speaker 1: Really getting into that flow state. Which is so hard to get into in modern society. It reminds me of what Bill Gates says he does every year. He goes on a two week retreat into nature and just goes by himself with a stack of books that he, he wants to catch up on. And he's just cut off completely from his devices altogether.

And he says some of the biggest ideas that he's had from Microsoft have come from those, those retreats where he's completely in nature and just, you know, getting ideas from all of these different books. That he has and just like combining them all into new, into new ideas, new products. So it's so interesting, incredibly valuable for someone who's obviously so tech focused and his whole life revolves around it.

Having that retreat is really his most productive time.

Speaker 2: I love that. So for me, I agree with everything you said, and I think I benefit in the same way, but this recent trip, because of the nature of Big Bend National Park really reminded me and made me really conscious of one of the great benefits of this kind of time in nature for me, which is novelty.

So Big Bend National Park, they call it geologist heaven. It's full of lots of different kinds of rocks that were formed different periods of time in different ways out of different minerals. So they look and feel very different. You experience them very differently when you walk over them, uh, as you transition through radically different worlds, essentially from different time periods in earth's history, the, there are fossils from all different periods of life.

On earth all throughout the park and you can attend. They have a new fossil exhibit where it talks a lot about that stuff and educates you. And also the climate changes radically. The first day I was there, it was just straight up desert. Right. It was just exactly what you would expect. Then you move into semi desert grasslands.

There's desert scrub. There's woodlands there. I mean, it just goes on and on. And interestingly, as we went through the mountains or went up into the mountains, the trees get bigger, the forest gets more lush, you have bears, you have. Deer, there's some water up there. There's more moisture available at higher altitudes.

And you get all the way up to this point where it's like windblown ridges that look out over hundreds of miles of different plateaus and desert and all the colors from that. And then you hike back down on the other side of the mountains. And again, it's like a whole nother world. Every, you know, so many thousand or a hundred feet you go down.

Uh, it just changes so radically that I found that so stimulating. It's so like interesting. It's almost like being on a different planet every day. Uh, so that really sparks a lot of refreshing, you know, it like invigorates my thinking and my mind, because every time I would have run out of something to think about, there's a new type of plant or an animal or new tracks or new colors or new rocks or formations or new vistas is really, really stimulating.

Speaker 1: Yeah, I totally see what you're saying, and that's the same thing happens to me hiking. It's the same idea where everything's so new, where you really have to pay attention where you're walking at every second, that you don't have space in your mind for the worry or anxiety or like the, the pressure of everyday life.

It's really an amazing. And I think that we should all do more of it really, it would really help us in a lot of ways, creativity, lowering anxiety, lowering stress, and really just kind of getting a better sense of yourself and where you, where your next steps should be. It's re evaluating your, your life, I think.

Right. Really great for

Speaker 2: that. And coincidentally, the desert environment prepared me for today's film, which is set in sort of a pseudo desert. So for those of you who haven't seen it, Asteroid City came out in 2023. It's one of, uh, Wes Anderson's films. It's actually his most recent film. Had a budget of about 25 million.

And the current box office take is around 54 million. So modest success. Uh, I've heard before it said many times that if you want to know the true budget of a film, you start with their budget, they report, and then you generally double it for marketing and advertising. Do you think that's accurate in this case, this film maybe didn't have as much advertising as other films do.

Speaker 1: What do you think? It's hard to tell because they might've done a lot of advertising that was really targeted on. As opposed to, let's say, billboard advertising, television advertising. Super Bowl

Speaker 2: commercials. Yeah,

Speaker 1: exactly. So they might have spent a lot, actually, on advertising that maybe wasn't targeted towards us, so we didn't see it that much.

Speaker 2: Okay. Yeah. Cause I, I really didn't see a lot and I noticed it cause I like Wes Anderson's work a lot. So I was kind of looking for, uh, marketing for this film and I really didn't see it. Not a huge financial success, but it was well received, well reviewed, and it had a lot of famous actors in it. That was crazy.

How many? It was just

Speaker 1: incredible. Like from Willem Dafoe. Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks. I mean, every big name, Ed Norton. I mean, it just goes on and on and

Speaker 2: on. Yeah, Jeff Goldblum. Jeff Goldblum. Jeff Goldblum had a kind of a bit part. Yeah. Did I miss him somehow? You might have. It was easy to do. Um, so we'll, we'll talk, we'll give a brief summary of the plot, but this film features an alien briefly, and it also has different levels of, I guess, reality.

There's a little bit of a, it's similar to one cut of the dead and in the sense that there's sort of different levels of the story and in one level, Jeff Goldblum played the actor playing the alien right now. I remember it was very just a short. bit. Yes. Very, very, very brief. So yeah, yeah. Jason Swartzman as usual, Wes Anderson, one of his favorites.

And I thought he did great in this film. He's so such a talented actor. When you give him smart dialogue, he can deliver it so, so well.

Speaker 1: He gets the tone really, he really,

Speaker 2: really gets it. I think I see why they, why they work together so much. He is an, he's just a great actor for Wes Anderson.

Speaker 1: He's he's the son of.

That woman who played Adrian, Rocky, and also, she was the wife of Al Pacino and the Godfather. Oh, okay.

Speaker 2: Fun fact. Kind of Hollywood royalty.

Speaker 1: Yeah, and I think she's like, Nicolas Cage's cousin or something? There's like some other connection there. So yeah. Yeah. They've been in Hollywood a long time.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I'm just gonna hit a few of the actors.

You mentioned Scarlett Johansson, uh, Margot Robbie, or Ro Robbie? Is it Robbie? Robey? How are we doing that? Robbie, okay. Uh, Adrian Brody, Uh, let's see, Tom Hanks, Ed Norton, Brian Cranston was featured pretty heavily in this one. Matt Dillon had a lot to do. Tilda Swinton, um, Willem Dafoe. You mentioned Steve Carell had a really interesting part.

I thought maybe he was going to turn out to be an alien or something, but that kind of went nowhere. Jeffrey Wright, real standout for me. Jeffrey Wright's a great actor, but he doesn't always get parts that I think play to his strengths and help him shine. This one I thought was really good for him. I

Speaker 1: just rewatched Basquiat, that movie from the late nineties.

He was incredible in it. I think it's his breakout role.

Speaker 2: Yeah, he is an excellent actor and he's one of those actors that brings a lot of quality to a production. I guess let's say actually the whole production, frankly, like I think he was in Westworld and he did so well in that. And that's where he really got my attention.

But since then, now I'm starting to think he's criminally underutilized. Definitely. The MCU is using him as their watcher character in the animated stuff. And I imagine the watcher will transition to live action at some point and Jeffrey Wright will play him. But the watchers written as kind of a boring character so far, I mean, and that's fairly true to the comics, but it's a waste because Jeffrey Wright is so good.


Speaker 1: know, I think of him like I do Willem Dafoe and Kevin Bacon. where there's, they're almost so good and can play anything. It's kinda like, yeah, of course they're great kinda like, um, people started thinking of Meryl Streep. It's like the greatest actress of all time because she can just basically just play anything and people take it for granted, but then if you take a step back you're like wow, these.

People are so incredibly talented and so underutilized in a lot of ways, like you said, they just kind of run, run circles around a lot of other more well known actors.

Speaker 2: Yeah, absolutely. Like they have a real presence, even when those other actors are in the scene for sure. Uh, Rita Wilson, Liev Schreiber, who I hadn't seen in a while.

Uh, let's see. There were a lot of. Younger actors who were very good as well. Like the kids I thought were performed extremely well. Um, there are other actors you would recognize, but I'm not gonna list every single one. Uh, anybody else? Rupert friend. Was that an actor you knew? He played Montana.

Speaker 1: Yeah. He was a cowboy.

Yep, he was in Homeland. He's a really well known British actor. Um, Maya Hawke, Ethan Hawke's daughter was in it. Oh

Speaker 2: yeah, uh, Sophia Lillis played, uh, I think that was the teacher she played. She was good as well. Uh, so yeah, a lot of talent in this film. Hope

Speaker 1: Davis. She's like a big indie actress.

Speaker 2: Yep, so let me ask you this question too much talent.

Was it bad for the

Speaker 1: film? I have very strong feelings about this this film. Um, we're gonna keep it to the talent Um, I would say yeah, because it's very distracting. It is distracting watching a movie Where there's so many famous people that yeah, it becomes an exercise in waiting for the next famous person to pop up and get used to their character, but by the time it happens in this movie, you're on to something else.

Speaker 2: You miss dialogue. Yeah, it's like flipping through a yearbook looking for your friends. It takes away from the film. I

Speaker 1: think flipping through a yearbook is probably the best analogy here. I think this movie to me was like flipping through a yearbook, like a comedian's, a comedian who has a great set, who has a lot of short jokes, where you start laughing at one, but he's already into the following joke.

And it's happening the entire time where you're not even getting a chance to catch up on what happened previously. That's what I thought of this movie in general, but we can get

Speaker 2: into that. I think that's a good point off the bat. So how about a quick summary for those audience members who have yet to watch Asteroid City?

And before you give your quick summary, I'm just going to say, I don't think you actually need to see this film. If it doesn't grab you, if the trailer, if our description, if my partner's amazing summary does not suck you in, if you're not super excited, I don't think this is a must watch, even if you're a Wes Anderson fan, like I am.

This summary,

Speaker 1: is that a fair? Yeah, I think that's a fair. I think in terms of summary, I don't know, I can't really give a great summary because I was really, I don't know, disappointed in this movie overall. I mean, I would just kind of summarize it as it's a documentary about a play called Asteroid City, which is about a science, basically a science competition that's happening in this town called Asteroid City.

Jumps a lot between the creation of the play itself and the actual play that's taking place in the desert. And it's about this group of parents and kids and just kind of a hodgepodge of characters that come together when an alien suddenly lands and steals an asteroid. Yeah, I know this is going all over the place, but it kind of,

Speaker 2: it kind of spotlight for my partner?


Speaker 1: I mean, speaking of spotlight, yeah, it was, um, yeah, it's a movie that kind of, it's like watching different vignettes kind of pieced together with masking tape. So if you had an entire film class come together to create a movie. And each one of them had kind of a, a different point of view, but you had a director and a set designer that took all of the characters and dialogue that they had come up with and created a movie from that without, without actually, um, doing any real editing or trying to edit for like a, a very cohesive flow of a narrative.

That's what you'd have where the editor wasn't doing his edits. Let's see, what else can I say about the plot? Yeah, so it's just going back and forth between the documentary of the guy who wrote it, which is played by Ed Norton, the play itself, which is about the science competition, the characters within that competition, they're all super smart kids, it has the Wes Anderson quirkiness thrown into the mix.

An alien land, or an alien shows up, steals an asteroid, chaos ensues, the government gets involved, the characters are quarantined, um, eventually the quarantine is lifted, it seems like no one really makes any significant progress in terms of their character, everyone kind of stays the same, and there's a motif running along the story, which is of a photographer and his kids, and the burial of the Thank you.

of his wife's ashes, which brings Tom Hanks into the mix. That's, that's pretty much it.

Speaker 2: So audience, you should completely know everything that happens in this film. Now you, I

Speaker 1: mean, I mean, it's one of those movies that I can't really get if I were to give like a real synopsis of it, I'd be like, okay, it's a documentary about a play that's being put on in the In the desert and it's following two narrative lines, one, the writer and the other one, the actual characters in the play.

Yeah, I think

Speaker 2: you did a good job. I mean, basically it's, uh, Ryan Cranston is a 1950s TV show host of an episode that is discussing the making of a play, which is called Asteroid City. And our view is the audience shifts between this 1950s TV show hosted by Ryan Cranston, where he talks about some of the scenes, the actors and the writer.

Uh, between that and the actual play itself, which is a very stylized, uh, very fake kind of surreal world that's set in the desert or a city that's set in the desert, very small town. And it's as if a play was brought to life. So you have limited sets, you have, uh, it's almost like painted. Background scenes, you know, like the coloration of the asteroid city is very much a, um, I think it's designed to remind you that it's supposed to be fake as if you were looking at painted sets and backgrounds on a stage.

And the actual play follows our main character, Jason Schwartzman, who plays a dad of four kids. He's brought one of those kids for this science competition you mentioned. They also brought the ashes of his wife and the kid's mother. He has to tell the kids that their mother died. Tom Hanks plays the grandfather, the father of the mom who died, and he shows up.

And then the other colorful cast of characters are there for a variety of reasons, whether they live in the town, they're there for the competition, or they're part of the military that comes to deal with the fallout from the brief alien visit. Wes Anderson, I guess, wrote and directed this so that the audience would be reminded regularly that what they're watching is not happening.

It's part of a play. It's part of a TV show. Like every time I started to get pulled into the story, something would remind me that the story is not really supposed to be happening, even within the context of the film. Like for example, there's a moment where the characters are talking, they're sort of waiting in line to use the shower outside or whatever, and Ryan Cranston's character, The TV announcer who's not supposed to be in the play accidentally, supposedly is in the scene and the actors stop acting to address that.

And he's like, Oh, I'm not supposed to be here and steps away. And I was like, why do that? Except for, I guess Wes wanted, Mr. Anderson, I should say, uh, wanted the audience to be reminded in that moment that like, Hey, don't get too sucked in. Like this isn't a world you're supposed to be engrossed in, which still is very odd.

Any thoughts about any of that?

Speaker 1: Always a better synopsis than mine. Congratulations

Speaker 2: on that. I just piggyback off of yours and then I cherry pick key points so that I look smart. That's my strategy in life. Anyway, go ahead. Great job.

Speaker 1: Um, I felt like, yeah, this movie, it would be great to watch if it was muted.

I've never said that about a movie before. Wow. Yeah. Because it's visually But visually, it's absolutely incredible. So, it looks like a movie where every single shot could be framed. Every still of that movie is frameable. The composition of every shot, the color palette, the way the actors are moving within the frame in very limited ways to not interrupt kind of the composition that they've set up originally.

Great observation. The objects in the foreground. And in the background, small details like a real estate vending machine, things are that are very absurd that you would see in, in a place like MoMA, right? You could see that real estate vending machine in MoMA as a statement piece from a modern artist, right?

But if you're looking at this as a movie, That has a really strong plot line where there's any type of character arc for the, I know you could argue that yes, there's, there's certain specific plot points that happen, but I feel like they're set pieces, like when the alien shows up, um, the Jason Schwartzman character telling his kids that the, that their mothers died, there are certain points that are supposed to get this kind of emotional reaction, but visually this movie is too distracting.

It's For you to really be able to get sucked into it, and like you pointed out a second ago, it draws you out continuously, reminding you that what you're watching isn't real. Which I think what a great movie should not do. If they want to establish that there's a play, yeah, that's great. But there's no reason to pull you back out of it in order for you to, I don't know, to make a statement or to be quirky.

So, I thought the dialogue, it's Wes Anderson dialogue, but I think his earlier movies like Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. Were visually well done, but they also had really strong narratives behind them, and you really felt for the character, especially in Rushmore. Yeah,

Speaker 2: Rushmore, yeah, very immersive, and you live in that world for the length of that film,

Speaker 1: for sure.

And this feels more like, he's taking all of the elements that make his movies unique, pushing them all together. But not really focusing in on the characters and having really famous actors in it just to have very famous actors in it, you know what I mean? So there's, there's so many things that are extremely distracting with this movie and have the effect that they have is that you just can't really get immersed in that world.

It's impossible. And the fact that they're telling you not to get immersed in the world is really, really bad for this movie. I couldn't watch it all the way through. Which is not a good sign for any movie like this, which is so visually stunning. It's like the, the visuals overtook the acting completely.

Oh yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah. What did you, most of the time there are some shining moments where that's definitely not true, but it is, it does strike me a little bit of that. It's almost like they constructed. A story, they realized it had a problem and they decided to lean into the problem and hang a lantern on it. You know, like, okay, yeah, this, there's too many layers here.

It becomes disjointed. It's gonna pull the audience, uh, out of the story. And they realized that maybe in the script stage, and they thought, all right, we'll just double down on it, then we'll just make that a stylistic choice and it'll become part of the art. And I just, yeah, I didn't dislike this movie and I really want to hear your strong.

Negative opinions. If you haven't already given them, I thought it was adequately entertaining to keep me engaged. Like I did watch the whole thing, but it felt very much like there was either a lot more here that could have been more entertaining or there wasn't. And it was all just sort of color and, and visuals.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Um, so much color, so many visuals that, that it was just really, really hard to get into. Um, and in terms of, I mean, the quality of the acting was, I have no complaints. You know, they're all, you know, A list actors. So you're not sure really lousy acting. But there was no one who I was really rooting for and that's really what I need for from a movie No matter what the genre is either I'm rooting for them to win or rooting for them to lose There was none of that and in terms of the structure of the script There was not the sense of like there's a question and then there's an answer which is very satisfying To keep you engaged in it.

This was, like I mentioned earlier, it just seemed like a pastiche of all of these different ideas rolled into one, where things just kind of happen. It seems like the director doesn't need to connect them, or he feels like he doesn't need to connect them. Because it looks good on the screen.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah.

And it doesn't need to end them either. So when fiction writers submit short stories to magazines, or these days websites, or different competitions, or places to be published, a common rule they'll encounter is no vignettes. Yeah. The main character had, I think, an arc and some of the other characters did, some of the kids did, and they reached a satisfying conclusion, I guess, and as much as within the context of this film and the extent of character development that you can expect, uh, but a lot of the characters just sort of stopped being in the film after a while, like they had a bunch of scenes and it seemed like they were doing stuff and then they just weren't in it anymore.

So those felt like vignettes almost or almost like sketches.

Speaker 1: Yeah, and I thought the camera movement was brilliant. But with the way the camera was moving so quickly from let's I remember that scene where they're all outside at like, I guess picnic tables or something having a discussion, but you're getting these little snippets of their discussions.

But nothing's ever really capturing you about each one of them. Things are just kind of moving along. He's forcing you to watch something for a few seconds and moving to the other character. And I was so distracted by how great that camera movement was, that I didn't feel like anything that was happening on screen was more interesting to me than that.

Like watching the visuals. Again, just really distracted me. So that's what, I mean, it was such a polarizing movie for me in my head. Like one side of me was like, Oh my God, how brilliant is this set design? And the framing of this movie, the camera movement, all of those elements are so incredible. How can this be such a bad movie plot wise?

Couldn't, couldn't you have a great plot that also has these elements? Without me thinking like, oh, this would be better in a different format altogether, like this would be better hung up on a museum where I actually see the stills from the movie, Asteroid City, that would be way more interesting to me than watching the movie and that's probably not a good thing, if you're making a good movie, you know?

Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's so interesting when you have a clearly talented director and storyteller and this is what they put out and you don't know if they thought, Oh, this is chef's kiss. Perfect. Right. This is exactly what I wanted. Or they were like, well, it's done. Let's move on. Like that. That's fine. It didn't quite all come together, but it's good enough.

Right. Right. It's got all these famous people in it. I can't shelve it now. Yeah,

Speaker 1: exactly. We're in it. I mean, in, in just things happening. Like you said, like things happen kind of seemingly randomly so that you get a really good sense of like what's happening visually on the screen, but you're not really following it or engage with the action on the screen, like the random dancing that kind of happened at one point.

Yeah. Yeah, where a, a young kid just starts singing a song and then Right. The teacher starts dancing with one of the other characters and then it just cuts off and goes to another scene. . So there was so many scenes like that where like, it looks great. Yeah. Like the little girls holding the oil cans. I remember that was one scene and that was them on screen for about two seconds and it cut to something completely different.

So it was all of these moments that was, were like, oh, wow. That was so fascinating what I just saw. But what just happened and why was that even there?

Speaker 2: Yeah. If you really analyze the film, which I don't want to do today, I think we're getting close to being done with this one, but if you really do analyze the film, you can pull from the scenes, you know, meaning for each character to give them kind of an arc and to explain why it's important that that beat in the story, that that would happen, but it, the way it was executed.

Didn't really elevate some of that stuff to the level of being entertaining and engrossing like you have to dig for the meaning you have to work for it. And that's fine. I guess if it's a novel or something that you're going to dissect, but not if it's something that you're going to sit and watch for an hour and a half or two, a couple hours, right?

And try to take it at the pace it's coming and get something from it. It just, it, unfortunately, as interesting as it was, sometimes it was a little bit of a rubber necking. Car crash interest. Um, not to that extreme. That's not fair. Fender bender, rubbernecking, a fender bender. Perhaps you don't have to

Speaker 1: call the insurance company,

Speaker 2: but maybe you don't, you don't think about it later too much, right?

Speaker 1: This opens up another, I think, interesting question. I think about movies in general, like how much of the owner should be placed on the viewer really trying to figure out what the plots about, like, is there a level where it becomes too much? And what is that, what is that point? Where it becomes too much where things aren't just like laid out for you.

I've always found that interesting and what great movies do is they find that perfect balance between showing you everything or telling you everything and letting you figure out that background. But I think where this movie missed was The part where they weren't telling you or enough about each character for you to really Become engaged or understand their backstory enough.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's really interesting I guess a really great film works on multiple levels of analysis and attention pain Though Rushmore you can watch it and you can enjoy it on a very surface level or you can analyze it more deeply I think that's what makes watching it over and over very enjoyable for people who like to do that.

This film, I don't think, is as good at the most common level, right? At our kind of dumb level, right? We, we normally would watch a film. It's a little bit janky and it doesn't quite work. And I, I guess, I'm going to give it the credit of. If I really sat down and sketched out the scenes and the characters and thought about how they're developing and why things happen at certain points in the film, that I might uncover a masterpiece, but I'm not going to do that because it didn't hook me on that first level.

I read a long

Speaker 1: time ago in a screenwriting book about how the best action movies are paced and how the greatest ones have really intense action scenes followed by. scenes of calm and exposition, then followed again by really strong action to give the viewer a sense to really kind of reflect on what they just saw in relation to what they're seeing now and kind of make that like connect those puzzle pieces together and then they're ready for an other really intense action scene, which then will do the same thing until the end.

And if you think about we talked about Mission Impossible. The latest one, it seemed to do that perfectly. You've

Speaker 2: already forgotten the name of, continue. Ghost Protocol

Speaker 1: Recall.

Speaker 2: Nailed it. Now that's more of a comment on the name of that film. Yeah. Not my memory. But

Speaker 1: yeah, that movie, you know, that one with Tom, whatever.

It did that

Speaker 2: really well is Tom control control. Yeah,

Speaker 1: yeah. Oh yeah, there's another name,

Speaker 2: but

Speaker 1: I think that that movie did that brilliantly. If you think about the way that movie was structured, these really, really intense action scenes followed by these moments of exposition about the characters of the plot or giving new pieces of information, then again, followed by.

Really intense action so that you would be able to sit through something that's that long, really take everything in, understand the character's motivations and why they're doing what they're doing. And understand backstory more and understand like where you're headed next because you imagine a movie like that, what was just nonstop action, you'd never be able to follow anything.

It would be completely exhausting. And I think a lot of those movies that are made, like, I guess you'd call them still direct to video, do that where it's just nonstop action because they don't want to develop the characters too much. There's a good guy. There's a bad guy. There's a really simple plot that you can follow and how do you get from point A to point B as quickly as possible with the most amount of violence or action within the two.


Speaker 2: I got a quick question. The son, the one who won the science competition, there was a scene towards the end where he was making out with a woman. Was that his peer or was that the scientist? Okay, that was, that was his peer. That was the, uh, gotcha. Okay. Sorry. It just went by. And then in that moment, for some reason, I think there was, I was distracted by other things on the screen.

See, see what I mean? And then once it was gone, I was, yeah,

Speaker 1: totally. This could have been the most profound movie that we've ever watched. And both of us like never picked up on any of it because we were like looking at the top right corner of the screen, like watching a red light bulb or something. And this is actually I wonder how

Speaker 2: they made that fake cactus.

That's really cool looking. Wait, what happened? We're going to, we're

Speaker 1: going to get the script and actually read it. And like, it's just going to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It'd be like, this is the greatest thing I've ever read. What movie is this? And it's going to be like, oh, Asteroid City. Wait a minute.

That's what it was about

Speaker 2: We did a show on that

Speaker 1: What the heck wait for part two everybody once we understand what this movie is really about

Speaker 2: Oh, man Yeah, so, uh, last thought I had, uh, and you're welcome to jump in with last thoughts you have, but this is more of a question. How is this film relevant to today? Specifically, you mentioned, for example, MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, for those of us who don't live in the cool blocks of New York City.

Uh, the real estate thing. Right. Like there was some commentary around land, land ownership, obviously relevant down there in the Southwest. Uh, so what, what do you think was relevant to today? This film being set in the past, it had a real 1950s aesthetic to it. I'm sure that was intentional. So it all seemed very past tense.

So what's, what elements of it are relevant to a modern audience? I

Speaker 1: think the universal. theme of what would happen if we encountered, I think that never, that never gets old for any audience and what we would do. And obviously this was a whole tongue in cheek way of handling it, but I think that was an

Speaker 2: independence day factor.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I think that, I think that one would resonate with anyone. I mean, at least that that was the part that really kind of, if there's any part that pulled me in, it was that. Um, other than that, I mean, I think just like the universal themes of kind of loss, like the kids dealing with their, their mother being gone.

I thought that was, that was a theme that kind of would resonate today as well as it would in any other time. But those are the two for me. What did you feel?

Speaker 2: Okay. You know, yeah, there was, there were efforts at introducing heart with the loss with parenting, right? The struggles around parenting with the two, uh, Scarlett Johansson and Jason Swartzman both had kids.

They both struggled with parenting those kids. Uh, that was a common theme and I think that's probably relevant. There's also this idea of like forming connections, romantic connections after you lose a partner. I don't know that I like how that was handled. I think that's just my personal values. So I'm not going to dump that on the film.

And if you enjoyed that, I think that's totally fine. But it seems like kind of questionable to me, like not only the way that Jason Schwartzman's character parented and also Scarlett Johansson's, but also the way they related to each other around. Grief, loss, you know, connecting, it was, I don't know, it just seemed very dysfunctional in a not particularly amusing way, more of a sad way, which didn't match the set.

Yeah, I would agree with that. Yeah, so I didn't, didn't care for that. Tom Hanks, you know, his relationship with his, uh, son in law. It was fine. You know, I mean, Tom Hanks is a great actor. There wasn't a problem there, but the writing and the arc of that character, I thought didn't really line up with modern sensibilities in a way that was particularly relevant to modern audiences.

So I thought that was a bit odd. The relationship between humans and technology was featured a lot, but again, the 1950s aesthetic kind of pulled any relevance today to today out of it. For me, it made it more comic book y.

Speaker 1: Another thing about this movie that was kind of off putting was that they were trying to cram in so many different themes into one movie.

Like almost like there were so many different characters just in general throughout the movie that that made it very difficult to watch for me as well.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And they were celebrities. So you got the yearbook phenomenon going. You're like, who's that? I got to look at every face on the screen, every single scene to see if Tom Cruise made it in this one.

Speaker 1: Isn't that just the fundamental issue that a lot of directors have with famous. Hollywood stars, is the audience going to really connect with the character in the film? Or are they going to think about it as like Brad Pitt in this movie, in this role, right? Yeah. Is it going to create a disconnect with having someone so famous in a movie?

And this movie did that so much with so many famous people that it's just Really kind of it

Speaker 2: is a problem to watch I hate to make casting talented actors a problem But every single scene he was in I had the thought oh, that's Tom Hanks Tom Hanks Tom Hanks everybody round of applause right and then by midway through the scene to his credit I was immersed in his character again, and he was the father in law, right?

So that was great. But every single time he showed up I was like that's Tom Hanks Tom Hanks. Look look

Speaker 1: Do you think it's because this film didn't give you a chance to really understand that famous actor in that role or get you used to them in the role. So it's just like, right. Like they

Speaker 2: weren't in it long enough.

Yeah. So

Speaker 1: it's just

Speaker 2: like. For an uninterrupted period,

Speaker 1: yeah, and another flash and another flash where it was almost like that's a

Speaker 2: great point. Yeah You don't want to use famous faces if you're gonna have a character that pops in and pops out like this film has so many Of absolutely. Yeah, that is an issue.

Speaker 1: It's like watching a televised award show Where you're, where you're watching these famous people in front of you, but also in the background and you're like, Oh, wait a minute, isn't that Al Pacino who just walked by or this other person? Right. It's we are

Speaker 2: the world.

Speaker 1: Yeah, exactly. So it was kind of like, we are the world as a movie.

Speaker 2: There you go. There's the quote for the front cover of the DVD. We are the world of the movie.

Absolutely. So on that note, uh, anything else that you wanted to say about Asteroid City? I'd say Did you get your pound of flesh? I

Speaker 1: think I did. No, I, I think, you know, I'll give it a lot of credit for the visuals, the camera moves, the cinematography in general. But as a movie as a whole, I really wouldn't recommend it unless you want to watch it with the sound off.

Just to see how great it looks. How about you? Yep.

Speaker 2: Go watch Rushmore again. He's made some great films. I'm, I'm a fan. I think he's great. Royal Tenenbaums, fabulous film. This is not a must watch. But it's a must.

Speaker 1: Hopefully we saved you some time. But it's a must listen podcast.

Speaker 2: Sure. Yeah. Well, cause we didn't bother to get famous people, right?

So you can really get engrossed in the show.

Speaker 1: You're welcome. We should get a voice impersonator.

Speaker 2: No distracting visuals. This is the perfect entertainment method. All right. So any questions for the audience? I personally would love to hear, did you like this film? I just, yes, no. Like, did you enjoy this or not?

Because I think that's a hard question to answer. It's hard to say no. And it's hard to say yes. But I'm going to force it. Force choice. Yes

Speaker 1: or no. I would, I would ask them, would this movie have worked if the actors weren't so famous?

Speaker 2: Hmm. Would it have worked at all or worked

Speaker 1: better? Let's say two things.

If it was in black and white. And the actors weren't famous. Would you be able to watch this movie and would it work as a movie, taking out those two distracting elements we kept talking about? Oh man,

Speaker 2: yeah, that's mean. This is becoming a Saw situation. It's a mean show. Yeah.

Speaker 1: Get used to it.

Speaker 2: Alright, any other questions for the audience? I think that's it. All right. So thank you to the people who made this project, everyone involved. I think there was a lot of hard work that went into this film and getting it just the way it is. Whether that's right or not, I don't know, but they certainly got it to a very specific place.

Thank you to the listeners. Thanks. We're sticking around to the end as always, please stay away from those like and subscribe buttons. You don't want to encourage us at all. If you want to reach the show, you can hit us up at don't encourage at gmail. com. You're welcome to flame us on YouTube or Instagram or Twitter or X or whatever they're calling it this week.

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