Movie Bloggers Roundtable

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The Movie Bloggers Roundtable is a new feature where I join up with four esteemed movie bloggers and we share our thoughts on a certain subject. Everyone on the panel will share their thoughts and feelings on the topic of the day and then we share them with you. The panel may change from post to post and hopefully we will get a wide range of opinions and perspectives.

Today’s roundtable discussion is a simple one but also one that I find very intriguing. Both Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson have movies due out in 2014. Both have received praise for their very unique styles of storytelling. So today we are going to focus on these two top-tier filmmakers. Joining this roundtable is Charles from Cinematic Film Blog, Caitlin from Heart of Cinema, Josh from J.James Reviews, and Nostra from MyFilmviews. Now I can easily say that I LOVE THESE BLOGGERS and if you haven’t been frequenting their sites you should. So this week’s question is a simple one:

Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson?

ANDERSONS

Keith (Keith & the Movies)

There were many things that drew me to asking the question. For me, both Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson are clearly and unquestionably talented filmmakers. They each know their craft and whenever their names are attached to a project it deserves attention. That being said, the two couldn’t have more different styles. PT Anderson takes a more salty, unflinching, and sometimes downright dirty approach to storytelling. Many of his films combine a rawness and eloquence – a combination that would otherwise seem impossible. Characters play a big role in a PT Anderson film and while I don’t always care for them, he has a way of making them compelling. Unfortunately for me not all of PTA’s pictures work in every regard. Take his highly praised “The Master”. It is a film featuring three entrancing performances but the story itself sputters under the director’s indulgence. I see that in other PTA films as well.

Then there is Wes Anderson, a gutsy filmmaker with a dedication to his unique style that could be perceived as overindulgent itself. Personally I find Wes Anderson’s style and method of storytelling to not only be unique but refreshing. He is a rare filmmaker who can actually make funny movies, something that has become a rarity these days. But there are always reocurring themes, some of them fairly dark, that Wes Anderson is able to poetically meld with his offbeat humor. Then there is his visual style which shows itself in odd period designs, a fascinating color palette, and careful attention to detail. All of these things come together to form truly satisfying cinematic experiences that I look forward to each time they hit the big screen.

So Paul Thomas or Wes? The funny thing is my favorite movie from either of their filmographies is unquestionably the brilliant “There Will Be Blood”. But when it comes to the films they have made and their individual cinematic styles the choice for me is an easy one. Wes Anderson makes me laugh, he makes me think, and he always makes me love being a movie fan. He may never direct a $800 million summer blockbuster but that is fine with me. He makes movies that I care about and I’m always wondering what he has in store for us next.

Charles (Cinematic)

Over the past two decades, few directors have created the impact in the movie world as the two Andersons (Paul Thomas and Wes). Both Andersons emerged in the mid-90s with big dreams set on filmmaking. Paul Thomas Anderson had gone to New York University to leave only after a few days after finding disgust with his film professors, deciding it was best to learn by himself. Wes attended the University of Texas where he met Owen Wilson, who co-wrote and starred in many of Wes’ projects. Paul and Wes’ first theatrical releases (Hard Eight and Bottle Rocket) came out around the same time (1996, though Hard Eight debuted at Cannes that year and entered screens in 1997). While neither picture was a box office hit, they helped launch both directors to greater funding for their sophomore projects. Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, a Martin Scorsese-Robert Altman-ish look at the adult film industry back in the 70s and 80s, brought the director to the film spotlight, with comparisons being made to GoodFellas and Short Cuts. Wes Anderson’s second picture, Rushmore, a coming of age story based on Wes’ and Wilson’s high school experiences, took a quirky look at teenage adolescence and became the template for the director’s future projects.

Since then, the two Andersons are certainly among the most influential people in contemporary cinema. Their style is so unique and just about impossible to imitate (how many filmmakers could make a picture in the same vein as There Will Be Blood or Moonrise Kingdom). While neither Anderson has received wide mainstream acceptance, both have proven themselves to be master directors.

While I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson and love the wildly idiosyncratic worlds he constructs, Paul Thomas Anderson would get my vote as the best filmmaker working today. Paul hasn’t made a single movie short of greatness and ambition. Even if you don’t like the unexpected climax of Magnolia or the dream-like pace of The Master, there’s no denial that Paul Thomas Anderson has put a hell lot of effort into his work. Wes has always been consistent as well and I will defend him to the edge (even The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which I think is criminally underrated), but his movies don’t quite stir me up emotionally as Paul Thomas Anderson’s work.

Caitlin (Heart of Cinema)

Wes Anderson vs Paul Thomas Anderson seems like such a hard choice because of their completely different approaches to film-making. I love Wes Anderson’s style and aesthetic approach to his films – the use of colour/props/scenery/costume is all unique and instantly recognisable. On the other hand, Paul Thomas Anderson is clearly far less eccentric, more concerned with drama and strong characters (particularly in The Master and There Will Be Blood). I appreciate both styles and part of me thinks it is an impossible task to separate the two simply because of how different they are.
If I had to pick just one though, I think I would go with Wes – just because I can’t really think of anyone with a style like his whereas PTA could probably be compared in more ways to other directors. Wes is so distinctive and fun and I don’t think he lets the style overtake the substance with his films. There is always a good story and good cast behind the colour and eccentricity. Plus, I adore The Royal Tenenbaums and will never forget watching it for the first time!

Josh (J.James Reviews)

Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson? When Keith first asked the question, I had an immediate reaction: “Wes, obviously. No one would select Paul Thomas.” Then, while trying to explain my answer, I compared the two directors’ filmographies. While I haven’t yet seen Wes’ newly released The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) or PTA’s There Will be Blood (2007), I have seen the rest of their movies. I initially thought to argue that Wes’ best and worst are better than Paul Thomas’. Except I can’t honestly do so. While The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) are truly terrific, so are Boogie Nights (1997) and Punch Drunk Love (2002). Plus, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) is probably a little worse than Magnolia (1999), though neither movie is bad, per se. Nor can I argue that Wes gets better performances from actors, or that he’s artistically superior. Both directors generate note-perfect performances from their cast. Just as both always use their medium deftly, to further their story and help cement intended emotion.
In other words, both Andersons are remarkable filmmakers whose films I always appreciate and often adore. Still, I prefer Wes. Why? It must be personal preference. In the end, I simply enjoy Wes’ quirkiness, humor and wit more than I enjoy Paul Thomas’ psychological acuity, nuanced characters and observational style. I cannot fairly say one is better than the other, but I can argue that one of them entertains me more. It mightn’t be the best reason, but it is the only one I have.

Nostra (MyFilmviews)

Answering the question which director I’d prefer is a difficult one, but not for the reason you might think. The reason why is a simple one: a couple of years ago I wasn’t a fan of either of these directors. Sure I enjoyed PT Anderson’s Magnolia (which I still plan on rewatching), but I never was as mesmerized by Boogie Nights as others had been. His Punch-Drunk Love (2002) I did not finish watching and although I have seen both his latest two movies, There Will Be Blood and The Master I will have to admit that I was not crazy about them. They are both beautiful movies to look at, but their stories are of the type you would mainly see in older movies. They remind me strongly of something Lawrence of Arabia, wanting to present something epic with a pacing we are not used to anymore. Although others might look forward to seeing his next movie Inherent Vice I will eventually will be checking it out, but won’t be in a rush to do so.
Then there is Wes Anderson. Except for Bottle Rocket I have seen all his feature films, but the movies he became big with were not the movies I got anything out of. Rushmore bored me, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatica with Steve Zissou were simply too weird for me. It is with The Darjeeling Limited I slowly started enjoying his work and I feel that he has grown as a director in his career by making his movies more accessible. Although weird, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was a great movie. When I saw Moonrise Kingdom at a festival for the first time I realized that he is now a movie maker whose work I really appreciate. You will be able to recognize his style instantly: The way the camera moves, the use of color, constructed sets, symmetry. With the Grand Budapest Hotel it seems that all those elements came together perfectly and to me that movie is already one of my favorites this year.
So PT Anderson or Wes Anderson? I guess the answer is clear. Especially with his later work I think Wes Anderson makes movies I get a lot more enjoyment out of and in the end that is why I watch movies. Of course there is a time and place for watching the type of movies PT Anderson makes, but if you would put me in an empty cinema and force me to watch a movie from either director I would not have to think for very long.

So what is the consensus?

4 of 5 chose Wes Anderson over Paul Thomas Anderson

FOX DANCE

I want to thank Charles, Caitlin, Josh, and Nostra for participating in this second Movie Bloggers Roundtable. You have heard our thoughts, now we want to hear yours. Do you like the feature? More importantly, which of these two fantastic filmmakers do you prefer and why? I’m a bit surprised at the outcome. How about you? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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49 thoughts on “Movie Bloggers Roundtable

  1. Wes Anderson. I admire him because he’s more the artist. His cinematography shapes each scene like an artist. His films are like looking at an oil painting. I love his sensibility and devotion to colors and juxtaposition. That’s why he’s better than Paul Thomas Anderson. Great series. 🙂

    • I’m with you Cindy! There truly is an artistry attached to his pictures. PT may be a more serious storyteller but Wes impresses me more on multiple levels.

  2. Gun to the head choice, PT Anderson, for Boogie Nights, an audacious film that plays like gangbusters and left me breathless. The Grand Budapest Hotel is still lingering in my head, but except for Fantastic Mr. Fox, I have found Wes Anderson’s films are more eccentric than exceptional. I still think they are worthy, but none until the latest (which Keith was not enthusiastic about) has held me in its thrall.

    • Absolutely respect your perspective on it and I expect many others to share that view. They are polar opposites in terms of filmmaking style yet both have done a great job of defining themselves in the world of cinema. PT is usually too abrasive for my tastes. Wes is more creative and a risk taker. But as I said, my favorite movie between the two is from PT. There Will Be Blood Is a modern masterpiece in my eyes.

  3. First of all, this is a great series. I love the idea of the Roundtable!

    Secondly, my choice here is easy and that’s PT Anderson. Admittedly Wes’ films have never really done much for me at all (Although I haven’t seen Fantastic Mr Fox yet) and so the choice is naturally easy, however I will maintain that PT Anderson is quite possibly the best director working today… the Coens being amongst the few who could challenge that. ‘Magnolia’ is in my top ten favourite films of all time, and ‘Boogie Nights’ will always entertain me.

  4. Thanks for having me, Keith.

    Everyone else . . . great thoughts! Charles, I totally agree that PTA’s movies are more emotionally moving than Wes’, by the way. 🙂

  5. Fun stuff guys! Wish I had seen more PTA’s movies but I’d think there’s more substance in his films than Wes. I have to see more of his stuff before I can answer tho. Great roundtable once again Keith & the gang 😀

    Btw, I’ve got my review up for Guy Pearce’s Breathe In & a comedy I think you’d enjoy, as I know you don’t care for a lot of *comedic* offerings these days.

    • Thanks Ruth. PT is definitely more coarse than Wes which doesn’t always work to his Mickie’s advantage. Still he is a very capable filmmaker and he has earned his big following.

      Will definitely check out your reviews. The comedy you mention has me very intrigued! 🙂

      • Seems that a lot of PT’s work is pretty heavy isn’t it, but I’m very curious to check ’em out, esp. Magnolia which a lot of people seem to praise.

      • Magnolia is good but man it’s been a long time since I last saw it. I remember so little about it. I can’t recommend There Will Be Blood enough though. Daniel Day-Lewis TOWERS!

  6. I think choosing one of these two directors is damn near impossible, not only because i love and respect both Wes and PTA, but that Wes has created his own genre of film. Wes makes these lovingly intricate, sadly humorous films, while PTA makes emotional epics full of larger-than-life performances.

    It’s like comparing a horror movie to a comedy. Each may be great, but are far too different to select a favorite.

    That said, an excellent read regardless. I was shocked with the results!

    • I was shocked too. I really thought PT would win it. But not only did Wes win among the roundtable but most in the comments section has leaned towards him. Quite the surprise.

  7. This is a great question because they are both so unique and unquestionably themselves behind the camera. They construct films that could ONLY be filmed by themselves, and despite being so different they are also very similar in that they love creating layered films that appear to be something they really are not.

    I, for the record, would probably also choose Wes, but they are both very talented, albeit very flawed.

    • It’s a bit uncanny isn’t it? Two drastically different filmmakers (stylistically) yet there are some striking similarities.

      Thanks so much for taking time to read!

  8. Thanks for having me on. I’m a bit surprised that I was the only one who picked Paul Thomas Anderson, I thought he was going to get the most votes.

  9. For the sum total of their filmography I’d have to go with Wes Anderson, but if I was to choose my favorite single film it would be Boogie Nights by Paul Thomas Anderson.

  10. This is tough as I love both filmmakers. They have yet to make a bad film as I’ve enjoyed all of them. I love the technical brilliance and dark edge of P.T. Anderson but I might have to go with Wes since there’s more humor into his work and far more diversity into his characters and stories.

    • Wonderful comment about Wes Anderson’s diversity of characters. I think that is something that really puts him over the top with me also. They cover a wide range and they are always so distinct despite their quirks.

      Thanks so much for taking time to comment. Great words.

  11. Very interesting topic for discussion guys. It’s very difficult to choose one as they are both so different. I’ve seen all of their films with the exception of The Grand Budapest Hotel, so I have a good frame of reference to work from. I love them both and have rarely been disappointed in their work.

    To be honest, I’m very surprised that the votes were so one-sided but I’d have to agree with Charles on this one. Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted some magnificent pieces or work. So grand and ambitious that I reckon they will go down as cinematic classics. Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood and The Master are outstanding pieces of work and for those films alone, he gets my vote. I feel I’m doing a disservice to Wes as he’s one of my favourites working today. Damn!! Can I not just pick Paul W.S. Anderson? I mean, Resident Evil is a work of genius for sure 😉

    • Resident Evil, huh? 😉

      I knew PT Anderson with top your list. I remember you being a big fan of practically all of his work. Personally I have always responded stronger to Wes Anderson’s work. PT certainly has a cinematic brilliance about him. For me “There Will Be Blood” exemplifies that. I’m just not as big on “Boogie Nights” and “The Master” as most.

      I’m with you, I’m surprised at how one sides the conversation has been. To be honest I expected PT Anderson to win it.

  12. Wow, I’m surprised to see a 4-1 ratio here. Personally, I would go with PTA without question. Wes Anderson’s work has grown on me — I really enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel especially — but nothing of his has connected with me the way that There Will Be Blood or The Master has. I can’t wait for Inherent Vice.

    • I was surprised at the 4-1 tally. That said, PTA is starting to catch up thanks to the comments section. Still a cool discussion. Both are well respected modern filmmakers with their own unique style of filmmaking. And “There Will Be Blood” is a masterpiece in my eyes.

  13. Nice idea Keith, I enjoyed reading the different views. For me it’s PT Anderson easily – and I haven’t even seen The Master (though I appreciate you mention faults above). I think there’s a variety and a depth to his work that puts him well and truly above Wes Anderson as a filmmaker. PT’s next step always interests me.

    • PTA definitely has a following and the brilliance he has shown is deserving. Personally I tend to be pushed away by some of his work. That said, There will be Blood is nothing short of Phenomenal!

      • Agreed! Not quite in the same league but I also really rate Punch Drunk Love; a very interesting low-key movie with some great performances; I wish more people had seen it!

  14. Pingback: » Movie Review – Tokarev Fernby Films

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