ah, I remember the other thing I was going to write. I said Ridley Scott ought to have won Best Director for "Black Hawk Down" -- not, just to make this perfectly clear, that I don't think the Oscars are a nausea-inducing celebrity circle-jerk fraud. What I ought to have said, to clarify, was Scott should have won among those who were nominated. In reality, Christopher Nolan (who was not nominated for the prize, if memory serves) deserved to walk away with it for "Memento."
Back to the Tenenbaums. For once I'll actually follow through on writing something I say I'll "get to later," just to keep you guessing. 1994's "Pulp Fiction" was like a sledgehammer to the head, in terms of its originality (of course, to film buffs who could see through Tarantino's references, probably twasn't as oridge as it was to the rest of us). And of course it's spawned countless imitators and Tarantino himself hasn't really recovered. "Jackie Brown" was serviceable, but nothing spesh. "The Royal Tenenbaums" crept up on me. I left the theater the first time having thoroughly enjoyed myself but scratching my head. Nonetheless (or perhaps for that very reason) I was back in the audience a few days later, seeing it again. Now I've seen it a third time.
What separates Tenenbaums, in my mind, is its originality in emotional tone. It represents something new and significant, but what that is I'm not quite sure. What's impressive is, despite its brilliance, Tenenbaums is a flawed film, similar in that respect to Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia." Wes Anderson was aiming high; ain't nutin' wrong with that. It's hip with a capital "H" and ironic but there's also a sweetness, a sadness and a strange emotional depth to the film. (Although Richie's attempted suicide, though aided poignantly by the aforementioned "Needle in the Hay," is emotionally flat and shallow, which kind of points to the problems inherent in the film's tone, problems that remain so abstract to me at this point that I more sense than grasp them.)
No one else has really responded to this sentiment of mine, but I love Angelica Huston in this film. There's a barely suppressed joy that finds expression in her walk in the park with Royal. And in general there is the sense of an infinite sweetness beneath her cool, emotionally wounded exterior. And she's a great, concerned, practical mother. I'm not sure why I respond to her performance like I do (pretty much all the performances in this ensemble are spot-on, Hackman at the top of the list, of course). I think one of reasons is she reminds me of an ex-girlfriend.