Tuesday, August 15, 2006

STEELY DAN VS. WES ANDERSON

Mssrs. Fagen and Becker, resident smart asses, give Wes some unsolicited career advice after recently sticking it to his former collaborators Owen and Luke Wilson:
Let's begin with a quick review of your career so far, as it is known to us and your fans and wellwishers in general.

You began, spectacularly enough, with the excellent "Bottle Rocket", a film we consider to be your finest work to date. No doubt others would agree that the striking originality of your premise and vision was most effective in this seminal work. Subsequent films - "Rushmore", "The Royal Tenenbaums", "The Life Aquatic" - have been good fun but somewhat disappointing - perhaps increasingly so. These follow-ups have all concerned themselves with the theme we like to call "the enervated family of origin"©, from which spring diverse subplots also largely concerned with the failure to fulfill early promise. Again, each film increasingly relies on eccentric visual detail, period wardrobe, idiosyncratic and overwrought set design, and music supervision that leans heavily on somewhat obscure 60's "British Invasion" tracks a-jangle with twelve-string guitars, harpsichords and mandolins. The company of players, while excellent, retains pretty much the same tone and function from film to film. Indeed, you must be aware that your career as an auteur is mirrored in the lives of your beloved characters as they struggle in vain to duplicate early glories.

But, look, Mr. Anderson, we're not trying to be critical – dammit - we just want to help.

Enter the Faboriginals©, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan©. The muse is a fickle mistress at best, and to leave her high and dry, with just a "lick and a promise" of the greatness of which one is capable - well, sir, it's just plain wrong. It is an Art Crime© of the first magnitude and a great sin against your talent and your Self. We just don't want to see it go down that way.

[snip]

The other change that we would have to make would concern Mark Mothersbaugh. Everyone in Hollywood knows that he is a first class professional musical supervisor. Obviously you and he have a lot of great history together and we can imagine there is a certain rapport both professional and personal. But we certainly can't work with him, anymore than he would consent to work with us. Same thing for the mandolins and the twelve-string stuff and the harpsichord, they're out. You yourself may be partial to those particular instruments. We're not. Remember, we saw “Tom Jones” in its original theatrical release when we were still in high school, we had to listen to “Walk Away Renee” all through college and we fucking opened for Roger McGuinn in the seventies, so all that "jingle-jangle morning" shit is no big thrill for us, OK?
OK, I know all you cooler than shit indie hipsters will probably take Wes's side in this admittedly juvenile fracas, but I have to say I'm with the Dan on this one. Wes' movies are increasingly mannered and annoying.

And if you're gonna reflexively dismiss Steely Dan as themselves examples of mannered and annoying lite jazz, don't bother. I've heard it all before.

And John Darnielle's got my back on this one (scroll down).